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Local Government Act

Volume 167: debated on Monday 12 February 1990

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To ask the Minister for the Arts what guidelines exist for arts funding bodies that seek advice on section 28 of the Local Government Act.

In July 1988, the Arts Council, in conjunction with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations—[Interruption.]

Order. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) has had his question. He need not discuss the matter across the Chamber.

In July 1988, the Arts Council, in conjunction with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, issued guidance on section 28 to arts organisations and other voluntary bodies. At the same time, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment issued guidance to local authorities.

Is it possible for one company to act within the law by being funded by local authorities to perform a play with a homosexual theme, and at the same time act against the law in the sense that the local education authority decides that the play is unsuitable for showing in its schools? If not, can the Minister have a word with his colleagues in Tory-run Kent county council, who, when offered the chance to host Britten's "Death in Venice", played by the publicly funded Glyndebourne touring company, decided that it was unsuitable for showing in the Kent and Sussex schools festival—possibly because it breached section 28? Other Tory authorities do the same. Surely the principle needs to be established, and everybody should be allowed the most liberal interpretation of it.

The only basis upon which section 28 can be flouted is if a local authority sets out an intention to promote homosexuality. I have no evidence that Kent county council in any way demonstrated that intention and there is no evidence to suggest that it was flouting that law.