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Access to the Arts

Volume 623: debated on Thursday 16 March 2017

We seem to have moved on very quickly, Mr Speaker.

The Government are committed to ensuring that the arts are accessible to everyone, regardless of their background, and not just to the privileged few. That is why the Government’s culture White Paper, which was published a year ago this month, sets out a range of commitments to increase access and participation, including a new cultural citizens programme for young people.

Will the Secretary of State read the report on access to the professions by the all-party group on social mobility, which I chair? During our evidence sessions, we heard a great deal about how many young people are completely denied access to the arts and media because they are not prepared, or cannot afford, to take a series of unpaid work placements. That is really limiting access, so will the Secretary of State seriously consider the report’s recommendation of banning unpaid internships lasting more than one month?

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his work on the all-party group; I will look carefully at the points that he has made. This Government have done much to change the culture of unpaid internships. I for one have never taken on an unpaid intern; I have always made sure that there is fair recompense for people who make a valuable contribution to my office.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the Royal Opera House regularly screens performances right around the country—I am particularly familiar with the ballet—which means that anyone can see them locally, without having to come to London.

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. The screening of the Royal Opera House’s productions across the country has widened access. I feel very strongly that we should have fantastic regional arts. Last Friday, I saw some fantastic arts in Hull, the city of culture. That amazing work was about ensuring that the arts were getting to everybody.

Will the Secretary of State look at some of the work that we did when I chaired the Education Committee on young people’s access to the arts, including access to museums? What we found was that if a child from a more deprived background did not go on a school visit, they did not go at all, whereas middle-class children went with their parents. It is vital that we encourage schools to take kids to the arts and to museums.

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. This Government made a manifesto commitment to keep free access to museums to ensure that access is available to young people, whatever their background.