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Olympic Games 2012: Arts Funding

Volume 696: debated on Wednesday 28 November 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What is the impact of the spending overrun on the 2012 London Olympic Games on spending on the arts.

My Lords, the Government have consistently demonstrated their support for the arts. Over the next three years the Arts Council will receive an increase of 3.3 per cent above inflation. The overall lottery contribution of £2.175 billion to the Olympics represents just 19 per cent of lottery income from the time we won the bid to the Games themselves. The arts can still expect to receive around £500 million of new lottery money between 2009 and 2012.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply, but is he aware that there is a need for a single government department, even if it means embracing the arts as well as sport? While there is little in common between the two, we have seen a considerable amount of money being transferred from the arts to the 2012 Olympics. What assurances can he give that no more money will be transferred? Can he say when the money forgone will be returned after 2012?

My Lords, my department is rather proud of the settlement it got for its work, including the arts, over the next spending period. As I indicated, it will receive 3.3 per cent above inflation when other departments are finding life more difficult than that. With regard to when the money will be repaid, there is a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Mayor of London to ensure that those resources that are diverted from the National Lottery to expenditure on the Olympic Games will be repaid when the returns come in from land sales and rents after the Olympic Games are over.

My Lords, as the Minister is no doubt aware, one of the factors in London winning the Olympic bid was the agreement to a Cultural Olympiad to be rolled out across the country from 2008 after the end of the Beijing Games. Does he accept that funding for that has inevitably been damaged by the raid on the good causes lottery fund as well as the continuing ongoing diversion of money from the arts by the special Olympic lottery games?

My Lords, as I have indicated, we have taken great care to protect core funding for the arts. We conceive of the Cultural Olympiad as an important part of the build-up over the years to the Olympic Games, and of the Games themselves. We have substantial plans. It would take me far too long to read out the full programme now, but I am happy to put it in writing to the noble Baroness. I assure the House that the Cultural Olympiad is important and will be fulfilled throughout the period of the Games and beyond.

My Lords, in reply to the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, the Minister said that the Government had secured the core funding for the arts. Does that amount to a commitment that there will be no further cuts for arts funding until the Olympic Games period has expired?

Well, my Lords, we are talking about a period after 2009 in any case. No changes will be effected to these budgets until full consultation has been carried out and there has been time for people to adjust to the new funding position. We are diverting substantial resources from the National Lottery towards the Olympic Games, but then of course the Olympic Games fulfil exactly the criteria of what the National Lottery was established for and why people contribute so significantly to it—apart from the chance of winning. It is a major project of significance to the nation. What could be a larger project than the Olympic Games?

My Lords, would my noble friend accept from me that the arts committee is on the whole very pleased with the settlement that the DCMS was able to secure in the Comprehensive Spending Review? However, taking into account the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, could he ensure that the plans in train for the Cultural Olympiad are made clear fairly quickly, because there is equally some anxiety about the amount of time that will be left to put these plans in place?

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her remarks. She is well placed to make a judgment on these issues. We have protected and improved in real terms core funding for the arts, but my noble friend is right in saying that we must move beyond a list of desirable objectives with regard to the Cultural Olympiad to their rapid realisation. The department will of course bend all its efforts to that. What we do have is a most promising list of projects for the nation; the issue now is to establish the funding for that and to draw up final plans. We should recognise that the moment that Beijing hands over the Olympic torch to London there will be an enormous shift in emphasis, and public support for expenditure on the Olympic Games.

My Lords, I must first declare that I am a member of the British Olympic Advisory Board and that as a part of that I am really excited for London about what could happen. Does the Minister agree that educational programmes form a crucial part of many arts organisations’ budgets, particularly those in music and the theatre? In the light of the Government’s wonderful new initiative regarding music in primary schools, will he monitor arts organisations’ educational budgets and ensure that they are not cut because of any shortfall caused by the funding of the Olympics?

My Lords, of course those organisations take responsibility for monitoring the work for which they are responsible. The noble Lord will recognise, too, the very important role played by the Department for Children, Schools and Families with regard to the issues of music and the arts in schools. However, the noble Lord is absolutely right to draw attention to this matter. The whole point about the Olympic Games, as well as their exciting the whole nation, is that in particular they should excite the youth of the nation in terms of both the sporting opportunities and the wider, Cultural Olympiad as well. We have those objectives in mind.