HC Deb 03 December 1959 vol 614 cc1369-70
37. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what additional grant he has made available to the Arts Council for the special purpose of establishing a pension scheme for senior staff; what grades are affected; and if he will make a statement.

Sir E. Boyle

None, Sir. The Arts Council operates a contributory pension scheme which covers all members of the staff, except daily cleaners, provided they are within the prescribed age limits.

Dame Irene Ward

Whilst thanking my hon. Friend for that Answer, as there has been some difficulty recently about Questions on the Order Paper, may I ask him to indicate just how far he is prepared to go in answering Questions? Will he bear in mind that his predecessor last July inadvertently rather closed the door, and is my hon. Friend prepared to open it, in view of the general interest of the public in these matters?

Sir E. Boyle

Yes. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will try to make the position about this quite clear. My right hon. Friend and I should, in general, be ready to answer Questions asking for factual information about the Arts Council's activities when the facts are available and we should also be prepared to answer Questions asking whether my right hon. Friend will increase the grant to the Arts Council or earmark it for a specific purpose, though I am sure that hon. Members will not be surprised if our answer is normally that, so long as the Arts Council continues to enjoy my right hon. Friend's confidence, he intends to leave it free to decide for itself how much of its total grant it allocates to the purpose concerned. We consider that the reasons for certain decisions by the Arts Council, as well as its proposed course of action in the future, are matters entirely within the Arts Council's own sphere of responsibility. I think that that is a fair demarcation, and I hope that my hon. Friend and the House will accept it.

Mr. Jay

Why does this scheme exclude the daily cleaners?

Sir E. Boyle

I was rather puzzled about that myself, but if the right hon. Gentleman will allow me, I will write to him about them and explain.