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Volume 177: debated on Monday 23 July 1990

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To ask the Minister for the Arts whether he has met the chairman of the Council of Regional Arts Associations to discuss the regional arts associations' future policy towards, and financing of, photography.

No, Sir. As I indicated to the hon. Gentleman on an earlier occasion, the Arts Council will be reviewing its support for photography as part of its development of a national strategy for the arts. The strategy will provide the framework within which the regional arts assocations will develop their own plans for photography.

Is the Minister aware that recently I invited several 12 to 13-year-old Indian girls to the House of Commons to improve their photography, no doubt breaking a few hundred rules of this place in doing so? Given the universality of photography, will he support my plea for more cash for the Arts Council to enable photographers to be employed in schools to teach children to improve their composition and photographic skills?

The hon. Gentleman has done much over a long period to promote photography. The Arts Council gives £500,000 of taxpayers' money to support photography in this country and there has been a 10 per cent. increase in the overall budget this year. The Arts Council has an education unit, and I shall bring the hon. Gentleman's views to its attention.

Given my right hon. Friend's encouragement of all aspects of the touring arts, will he consider encouraging the bringing together in one place of the history of photography and cinematography, including perhaps the works and artefacts of Edward Nuybridge, so that it can be taken around the country to encourage people in this form of the arts?

I note what my hon. Friend says. With the 150th anniversary last year of the invention of this form of art, much attention has focused on it. As my hon. Friend knows, the national museum of photography, film and television at Bradford does an outstanding job in promoting photography in this country.

You may be aware, Mr. Speaker, that rumours are circulating that today could be the Minister's last Arts Question Time. If that is so, may I take the opportunity—on behalf of the whole House, I suspect—to pay tribute to him? He has made many friends in the arts world and is respected as a person who listens and cares about the arts. Many hon. Members would be reluctant to see him go because of the many things that he has achieved in his time. He should not, however, confuse that praise for him as a person with support for the Government's policies.

On that point, and arising out of the funding question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes), will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that whoever is Minister for the Arts in the coming weeks he or she will be fighting for an increase in the arts budget in this budget round as the Arts Council is set for a real-terms cut in its three-year funding and without an increase the arts will suffer enormously?

I am not sure what to make of the hon. Gentleman's generous remarks and I am not clear how photography is linked with my future. The Government's record on funding for the arts is remarkable. Since 1979, there has been a 45 per cent. increase in real terms in the overall amount of money available to the arts from the taxpayer. That excludes the remarkable increase in the overall amount of private sector funds, which has been the fuel for the expansion of resources available to the arts.

In so far as the Government's record has been remarkable, it is largely due to my right hon. Friend's sterling endeavours. I hope that he will carry on in this job for many years and I urge him to do what he can to assist photography.

I shall do whatever I can to assist photography. All I can say is that an hour is a long time in politics.