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Arts (Funding)

Volume 517: debated on Monday 25 October 2010

I am pleased to say that last week I agreed with the Chancellor a package of cuts that will limit the cuts in funding for front-line arts organisations and museums to just 15%, a figure that compares very favourably with many other parts of the public sector.

Can the Secretary of State say what discussions he has had with his colleague the Secretary of State for Education about protecting the arts at universities and the teaching of art at school?

We have had considerable discussions with the Department for Education, with which we share a belief in the importance of cultural education. However, the Secretary of State for Education has made it clear that the best way to secure that is not by ring-fencing money going to schools, but by giving heads the discretion to use the money as they fit. By doing that, we are confident that heads will understand the extreme importance and value of arts education.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that at a time when the amount of public money available for the arts has inevitably had to be reduced, it is all the more important that we should try to increase business sponsorship and philanthropy? Does he agree that Arts and Business has an exceptionally good record in that area, and that it would therefore be rather strange to cut the amount of money going to it at this time?

I thank my hon. Friend for his well-informed question. He is absolutely right that at a time like this, boosting philanthropy and other sources of income for the arts is extremely important. Arts and Business has done some valuable work. Obviously its funding is a matter for the Arts Council, which operates at arm’s length. However, I am pleased to be able to tell him that before the end of the year, we will be announcing a package of measures designed to boost philanthropy and help to strengthen the fundraising capacity of arts organisations—something that will be helpful to them in difficult times.

Does the Secretary of State recall saying in January of this year:

“I want people to say that on my watch the arts not just weathered a very, very difficult period, but also laid the foundations for a new golden age”?

Last week we saw a 30% cut in the Arts Council budget and a 15% cut to the British Film Institute. Does the Secretary of State understand that his role last week as Chancellor’s little helper, rather than the champion for the arts, makes his words seem pretty hollow? How many arts organisations does he think will go to the wall as a result of the cuts?

May I start by welcoming the hon. Lady to her position? She brings with her considerable showbiz panache—something that, despite his many other talents, the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) tried but failed to do for many years when he was doing her job.

The hon. Lady has only been doing the job a short while—[Hon. Members: “So have you.”] Indeed. I will perhaps forgive her for not understanding how the figures work, because after the lottery changes introduced by this Government—changes that the Labour party opposed every step of the way—the actual cut in the arts budget is less than 12%. Perhaps this is a moment for the Opposition to review that policy; otherwise there will be two parties in British politics that want to throw a lifeline to the arts and one party that wants to take it away.

We have already heard that changes to the national lottery have meant more money for the arts, but does the Secretary of State agree that we could go even further, were we to change the taxation regime for the national lottery to a gross profits tax regime? That would bring in yet more money for the arts. Will he tell the House what progress is being made in that direction?

I am very happy to do so. I agree with my hon. Friend that there is a big opportunity if we change the taxation regime for the national lottery. When we were in opposition, Camelot gave us undertakings that it was prepared to indemnify the Government against any reduction in Treasury revenues, were such a change to be made. If it were still prepared to do that, I am sure that we could make fast progress.