HC Deb 23 January 1959 vol 598 cc559-656

11.5 a.m.

Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)

I beg to move, That this House welcomes the increasing interest of the people of Great Britain in the arts; endorses the principle that artistic policy should be free from Government control or direction; proclaims the importance of maintaining the nation's cultural heritage; commends the patronage of enlightened local authorities, charitable trusts, industry and commerce; and, while grateful for the increase in Government support for the arts, draws attention to the inadequacy of the present scale of purchase grants to museums and galleries, and urges a substantial increase. It is my hope that this Motion will stimulate as much discussion as possible upon the needs of the arts in Great Britain generally. At the end of the Motion I call for a substantial increase in Government grants in a somewhat narrow field, that is, in the present scale of purchase grants to museums and galleries. By restricting the Motion in this way, however, it is not my intention to convey that by carrying out its terms the Government will be discharging all their duties in satisfying the needs of the arts in Great Britain.

Most hon. Members will agree that in recent years it has been increasingly felt throughout Britain that the State should play an even greater part in supporting all branches of the national arts than it does at present, but to determine the exact rôle that it should play is a somewhat complex problem, and one which should be determined with extreme care. I would hesitate to suggest exactly what the State's function should be generally in respect of the arts, but I think that it would be the general view of the House that for the arts to flourish they should be as free as possible from any form of central direction or control. The price of the total dependence of the arts upon the State would be a very high one. It might well be that by making arts totally dependent on the State we should eventually suffer a Pasternak.

But there is one field in which it is universally accepted that the State has a proper function, and that is in the collection and preservation of works of art in museums and galleries. In my view, there is an unanswerable case for an extension of the purchase grants to museums and galleries, and it is because this is undoubtedly a matter for the Government, and is so urgent—and I hope that the Government will appreciate the urgency—that I have restricted my Motion accordingly.

It has been a matter of pleasure to us all to see, ever since the war, increasing signs of a general interest in the arts. One continually hears of young people taking an added interest in matters of culture and the arts. We find that television and radio programmes are concentrating more and more upon discussions of the arts, and newspapers are finding it profitable to discuss such matters. There is better education now in the country, there is more leisure and a higher standard of living, and it may well be that all these contribute to the added interest that is being shown, in particular among young people, in the arts generally.

At our great national galleries and other great collections the attendance has gone up year by year. The National Opera House, which we now have through the assistance that various Governments have given since the war, and which gives 300 performances a year, has recorded attendances over the last few years of about 80 per cent., which is a great record for this form of entertainment.

Orchestral concerts are reporting that more and more people are patronising them. Classical gramophone records are showing record sales. There is no doubt, in my view, that there is a new and somewhat exciting aesthetic demand in Britain, one which I know we would welcome and one which we should strive to protect and encourage. Unfortunately, it is true to say that all over the world, no matter in what country, the arts cannot flourish and many of them cannot exist without patronage.

In Britain, the patronage of the State is something new, something that we are just learning about and experiencing, but there are four main branches of patronage which we have in the arts in this country. We have national, municipal, industrial and private. I believe that twenty years ago private patronage was the biggest of those. Now it is the least. It may well be that it is the high incidence of taxation which has prevented the private owners of wealth from subscribing to the arts to the extent that once upon a time they did. I think that this is a pity, because the private patron in the past was sometimes willing to take an exciting and adventurous risk in stimulating the arts in a way, possibly, that the Government or local authority would not be prepared to do.

There is, of course, a great case which one could put forward for some assistance in the form of tax relief in this matter. One does not expect that one would have what is found in the United States, where gifts to galleries or museums or matters such as that are regarded as charities and deductible for taxation purposes. I do not expect that any Government in Britain would be able to do that. It is, however, possible today for a private patron to make a deed of covenant for seven years and it is deductible for Income Tax purposes. Unfortunately, it is not deductible for Surtax purposes, and it may well be that if an enlightened Chancellor of the Exchequer were to make that small alteration in the 1946 Act it would stimulate far greater support from the private patron.

One of the most encouraging signs since the war has been the interest shown by local authorities generally in the arts, in particular in drama and music. It would be invidious to single out any individual local authority, but perhaps I should mention the Belgrade Theatre, in Coventry, and the proposed new theatre at Nottingham, which is being erected at local authority expense. In the field of music, there is the Festival Hall, with its £60,000 deficit which is being borne by the London County Council. All over the country, we find local authorities giving support to our great orchestras, many of which could not survive without this support.

Near my part of the country, in Lancashire and in Cheshire, local authori- ties have combined to give an annual fixed grant to the great Halle Orchestra. In Birmingham, the Birmingham Corporation gives an annual purchase grant to its art gallery of £12,000 a year, which, I should say, is almost as much as the Government give to the National Gallery. In Wales, I think it is right to say that practically every local authority, many of which, of course, are finding it extremely difficult to get any money, are subscribing in some form or another to the arts generally. In South Wales, we have the encouraging sign of large county councils and other local authorities combining to assist the Welsh National Opera Company. From my point of view, one of the most encouraging signs is the new interest which is being shown by local authorities in the repertory companies.

I attach a great deal of importance to the repertory companies which we find in the provinces, and it has been extremely sad to notice during the last few years how these have been declining and how many of them have been shut down. I think that it is a great thing that local authorities are now showing an interest in this form of entertainment, which is so important for the future of our theatre, and are giving it every possible form of support.

So far as trusts are concerned, the House will know the National Art-Collections' Fund which has done such sterling work for fifty years, the Carnegie Trust, which has worked so well, particularly for the libraries, and the Pilgrim Trust, which has done such good work in that direction. The latest one is the Gulbenkian Foundation and we hope that the arts will greatly benefit by this vast trust, which now has a committee under the chairmanship of Lord Bridges to decide what to do with its funds.

Since the war there has been the emergence of something new in the shape of patronage of the arts, and that is the recent emergence of the great industrial and commercial concerns. This, I think, is probably the most exciting thing. Independent Television has announced that it will give at least £100,000 a year to the arts. A brewery company has recently covenanted for a period of seven years to pay the Old Vic £45,000. These are large sums of money. Naturally, they will, in the main, be granted by way of deed of covenant, and Sir William Williams, the Secretary-General of the Arts Council, in his excellent foreword to its recent Report, suggests that if, in fact, they could make direct grants which would be tax deductible, the support from these great industrial concerns would increase tenfold.

I hope that this new form of patronage will play the great part that used to be played by the private owners. I think that they are in a position to be more adventurous. In the past, many of the private owners may have been accused of being eccentric in their patronage, but by the eccenticity of what they supported they very often brought about some great new work of art.

As I have said, the Government, who are answerable to the taxpayer, and the local authority, which is answerable to the ratepayer, may well find it difficult to subsidise adventure, and I think that these large concerns which are prepared to assist the arts may be just the thing to do that.

Government support, which in many ways is regarded as being the major support, is something which, in the field of art generally, is quite new. We have, of course, had the support of the Government for some time regarding museums and art galleries, but for the Government to go into art generally is an innovation. Possibly the major achievements of State aid to art since the war have been in connection with the Arts Council. When one thinks of the Arts Council one automatically thinks of Covent Garden, the National Opera House, and of the operations which have been going on in the last few years for the preservation of historic houses and their contents.

The preservation of these historic houses and their contents is an extremely important thing. In fact, very few people have given enough credit to the Government for the last Measure. One of the conditions, of course, of State aid to these historic houses is that the public shall have access to them. Many of the houses are now museums and art galleries which are accessible to provincial populations. Of course, they are more than museums, too, because in many cases they are homes, and, as such, something which are essentially unique and very English—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker, British.

This Motion expresses gratitude for the increase in Government support for the arts. I do not know whether the words of the Motion are acceptable, but I think it right that gratitude should be expressed. Expressing gratitude does not mean that one is satisfied and that one is saying that everything has been done, but I think it only right that the House should realise that total expenditure on the arts in 1945–46 amounted to £1 million. Out of that sum, £800,000 was used for the maintenance of national museums and galleries. Today, the figure is £7 million.

As far as the Arts Council is concerned, I personally should like to pay a great tribute to that body. It is frequently under fire, but had it not been for the support of the Government, through the Arts Council, Covent Garden, Sadler's Wells Opera, the Old Vic and some of our symphony orchestras would not have survived. As far as the subvention to the Arts Council is concerned, in 1945–46 the amount of Government grant was £250,000. In 1958, it was £1,100,000, and in the last year there was an increase of £150,000 at a time of financial stringency.

I submit that, although those figures may not, in fact, be as much as we would like to see, nevertheless they show a very encouraging rise. Ever since the war the amount of Government money which has been given to the arts generally has steadily increased. I greatly appreciate the problems of the Arts Council and I have been somewhat impressed by Lord Bridges's suggestion that there should be not just an annual grant but something in the nature of a quinquennial grant. That would enable the Council to plan ahead instead of living from year to year.

I also think it would be as well if there were two separate grants instead of just one grant—for instance, a grant to Covent Garden, to the National Opera House, and a grant to the other arts generally. I believe that by so doing it would remove the feeling that music, drama, the visual arts and poetry are, so far as the Arts Council is concerned, in competition with opera and ballet.

I have frequently said that Covent Garden receives eight times as much as the whole of Wales receives for all the arts. I know that in many ways it is unfair to put forward that criticism, but one is rather forced to do so when trying to get a little more money.

I should like the grant to Covent Garden to be a dignified grant. It is a national asset of international repute and renown, and in the last few years it has produced some of our finest ambassadors. Now that we have this great National Opera House, I feel that it is really not our duty but our privilege to uphold it with all the traditions necessary.

I should like to see something done about a national theatre. I know that many hon. Members in the House cannot remember as far back as 1949, when the House voted £1 million for the building of the National Theatre. I believe that it would now cost about £2 million to build. It is nearly eight years since Her Majesty the Queen Mother laid the foundation stone of the National Theatre and, as far as I can gather, we are no nearer to it today than we were then. It is in many ways a great pity that we were unable to acquire Drury Lane for the National Theatre. We could have had Covent Garden and Drury Lane, the great centres of national entertainment. I know that the Government would like to assist in the matter, and I hope that it will soon be found possible to do something about carrying on with the National Theatre.

I have mentioned, I hope not in a critical way, certain matters, but I think it right to say that there have been most encouraging signs over the last few years of Government support for the arts gradually becoming more and more. In marked contrast to the rising expenditure on the Arts Council and the historic buildings there is the incredible parsimony of the State in its relation to those artistic institutions for which it has been responsible for the longest period and for which Ministers are directly answerable to the House—the museums and the galleries. While expenditure has risen elsewhere, purchase grants to the museums and the galleries have been pitifully inadequate, and, so far as their purchasing power is concerned, absolutely derisory.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

Will the hon. Gentleman make it clear that he is referring throughout his speech to the national institutions, accepting that the Government have no responsibility as yet for the provincial galleries?

Mr. Thomas

Certainly. I am sorry that I did not make that clear. I am talking about the purchase grants which the Government give to those national institutions for which they are directly responsible, the institutions which are Government Departments. As I say, I am sorry I did not make that clear to the House.

The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, and the trustees of the main galleries and other great national collections have repeatedly called attention to this matter. I do not know whether it is generally known that the National Gallery has a purchase grant from the Government of £12,500 per year. In 1900, the grant was £5,700. It is obvious that such a sum is hopelessly inadequate for any serious purchasing policy. The Tate Gallery gets £7,500.

It is known that since the war pictures have risen in value possibly more than any other commodity. A picture today, even of second rank, may well cost from £30,000 to £40,000, and if one of them comes on to the market a gallery which is anxious to acquire it has to go begging to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a special grant. In fact, money is being wasted. The Waverley Committee, which recommended that there should be a restriction on the export of works of art, made the recommendation on the assumption that before there was restriction the national galleries should be allowed to negotiate freely for the purchase of pictures that they wanted.

Unfortunately, it is impossible for the national galleries to negotiate freely inasmuch as they have not enough money to effect a purchase. The only way in which they can get a purchase is to go to the reviewing committee and get a picture stopped from being exported, and eventually try to get from the Chancellor of the Exchequer a little extra money to enable them to buy it. Meanwhile, the picture is ready for export and the price has gone up and up. The galleries are paying and we are paying an inflated price for many of the pictures that we buy in that way. If only a sufficient sum of money could be given to these galleries they could negotiate freely before the pictures go or are thought to be ready to go for export. They could purchase in competition with other buyers and it is to be hoped that they could go and purchase abroad.

I cannot say how much I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will be able to say that the Government appreciate this problem and are prepared to do something to conserve the artistic heritage and preserve the great reputations of our museums and galleries by making purchase grants which will conform to current prices.

11.34 a.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)

I beg to second the Motion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) has done us all a valuable service in choosing this Motion. Among the preoccupations of politics, we find very little time to discuss the fine arts. This Motion gives us an opportunity not only to do this but also to direct our thoughts into practical channels. In his admirable speech my hon. Friend has dealt with a wide range of topics. He has covered all the urgent considerations on this subject, such as the manifest inadequacy of the purchase grants made by the Government to our national institutions. If I do not cover the same ground, it is because I can say compendiously that I wholly agree with all that my hon. Friend has said.

I am conscious also that many hon. Members want to take part in this debate, so I will come as quickly as I can to the points with which I am particularly concerned. As my hon. Friend indicated, we face a dilemma in the modern patronage of the arts. In the old days, when the arts depended upon private patronage, this problem did not exist, because there was such a multiplicity of patrons, even though some of them might be small, that there was no danger of any attempt to control or to canalise the artistic expression of a country. Nowadays, when high taxation has almost, though not quite, destroyed private patronage, we have nothing with which to replace it without exposing ourselves to the risk of control of the arts, which has been such a terrible feature of the first part of the twentieth century. We saw it horribly exemplified in Ger- many and Italy before the war, and we have seen it in Russia for thirty years past.

We cannot take it for granted in any country that the State in some way or another might not try to influence the development of thought and expression, and we must be very careful in everything we do to safeguard the freedom of the arts.

In modern times, there are four ways in which the arts can be helped. They are: direct grants from the Government; indirect grants from the Government or from other bodies; the purchase of works of art; and concessions in respect of rates and taxes. My hon. Friend has dealt very fully with direct grants, and I want only to say how strongly I agree with him about the inadequacy, indeed the absurdity, of the purchase grants to our national institutions. That speaks for itself as a matter of figures. I only want to add one point about which I have concerned myself for many years in this House.

It concerns the fantastic fact that the Reading Room of the British Museum closes at 5 o'clock every day. That means that this great national treasure-house of books is only available to the professional, whole-time scholar, and not even to him after 5 o'clock in the evening. Our other great national library, the Bodleian, has been open in the evening for many years past. What the Bodleian can do the British Museum can do. This is solely a matter of money, and there has never been any suggestion to the contrary. The matter is under the control of the Treasury. It has always been made plain that the Trustees of the British Museum are only too anxious to open the Reading Room in the evening provided funds can be made available. I put it to my hon. and learned Friend the Financial Secretary that the Government can, and in modern conditions should, introduce that change without further delay.

Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in 1900 the Reading Room was open until 8 o'clock in the evening for most months of the year?

Mr. Bell

I am indebted to the hon. Gentleman for telling me. I was not alive in 1900—I do not know whether he was—and so I was not aware of the opportunities I was missing at that time. I am keenly aware of the opportunities which are denied me now.

I pass to the next category, which is that of indirect grant. That is the British way of avoiding the danger of State intervention. As my hon. Friend has said, the Arts Council has been the chosen vehicle. I do not wish in anything I say today to diminish the esteem in Which the Arts Council is held or to criticise the way in which it discharges its functions—functions which, by their nature, are bound to be invidious and difficult. They discharge them very well and have done an immense amount of good for the arts in Britain. I hope that the grant, which at present stands at £1,100,000, as the years pass may grow.

A thought I want to put to the House today is that there is a severe limitation on what can be done in this way. Whether it be the Treasury itself, or a body like the Arts Council on behalf of the Treasury, we are dealing with public money and, when dealing with public money, there is a natural tendency to play safe. My hon. Friend made a very attractive suggestion about a separate grant for Covent Garden. I think that might solve one of the problems, but I looked at the figures in a recent year of the Arts Council's dispensations, and noted that in England and Wales it distributed £648,000. Of that £648,000, it gave £395,000 to Covent Garden and Sadlers Wells, £22,000 to the Old Vic, and nearly all the rest to a few nationally known orchestras, theatres, musical festivals and companies. To small art societies throughout the country it gave £6,000, and to poetry societies £1,800. We cannot blame them for that as they have to choose—this is the limitation inherent in the system—between institutions which are (a) in existence and (b) of some established repute. In that field they perform a very useful function.

The third category is the purchase of works of art, and that is where industry has been able to help so greatly. In a slightly oblique way, one could treat the preservation of historic houses as coming into that category. All I say on that category is that, while well aware of the almost confusing multiplicity of channels and methods which exist, I should be a little worried if any great clarification were introduced because, if purchasing through public or semi-public funds were rationalised too greatly, I should think that there was a considerable risk of artistic freedom being imperilled. I see here some safety in the jungle.

Fourthly, I come to a category in which for some time I have been interested. That is the method of rate or tax concession. Here it is important to keep in mind the relative magnitude of the sums concerned. I am very glad indeed when I see that local authorities are helping the arts by direct grant, paying a deficit on a theatre, helping an art gallery or something of that kind. Let us remember, however, that the sums involved there are relatively small when compared with the sums which local authorities forgo by rate exemption. That may be very large indeed. Over a good many years past the scope of rate exemption has been narrowing in a way which has worried a great many people. I am glad to say that the Pritchard Committee has been set up to look into that aspect of help to the arts and also to scientific societies.

In 1843 this House passed an Act, unopposed at every stage, to grant complete exemption from rates to societies instituted exclusively for the purpose of science, literature or the fine arts. It put in some precautionary phrases to ensure that the exemption was not abused, to the effect that they must be supported by annual voluntary contribution in whole or in part. Before passing from that, I should like to refer to the fact that the Bill passed through all stages of this House without opposition possibly because, as the mover said on Second Reading, there was a great disposition to give relief in this way if the parties were not prevented by the law.

I am sorry to say that the great disposition seems to have faded on the part of local authorities because they have been struggling extremely hard in the courts during the last few years to get rid of those exemptions. Hon. Members in all parts of the House will have plenty of illustrations in their minds. The London Library is a very obvious case, and there are others, such as the Royal Academy of Music, which has lost its exemption after two generations. The Royal College of Music is being attacked in the same way. I have to declare an interest there, because I happen to be appearing for it. Everywhere, in all parts, this attack is being made, and it is on a very big scale. It would be a tragedy if this system of rate exemption were to be narrowed, or lost.

I say this now because the Pritchard Committee must be in the middle of its deliberations and it may be put forward to the Committee that rate exemption or concession as a method of helping the arts is an anachronism, or inappropriate, at a time when help is given by Treasury grants or by the Arts Council. That would be quite wrong and very dangerous because of the limitation on the work of the Arts Council which I indicated earlier. It can only help what exists and concentrate its help on a few nationally known and public bodies. Inevitably, it cannot devote a considerable proportion of public money to small local bodies which might fizzle out in a few years so that the Arts Council would be made to look foolish.

As was pointed out in this House in 1843, the great advantage of rate exemption is that it helps the body coming into existence as well as the established one. It helps the spontaneous development of societies which are instituted for the promotion of the fine arts, whether visual or musical or of any other kind. That kind of help can only be given by rate exemption or tax concession. The amount of money which in that way is given to foster the fine arts exceeds all that given by direct grant from public local authorities. I think the House would lose its proportion in considering the picture if we did not consider that aspect today and try, so far as we can by debate in this House, to influence the Government and the recommendations of the Pritchard Committee by emphasising the organic part which can be played in the spontaneous development throughout the country of the fine arts by exemption from local rating and exemption, where it applies, from national taxation.

Those are the only considerations I want to urge upon the House, because I agree generally with what my hon. Friend said and I know many other hon. Members, on both sides of the House, are wishing to take part in the debate. I hope the House will pass the Motion. Slightly anticipating, I must confess that I do not greatly mind whether it passes the Amendment appearing on the Order Paper or not, provided that we have a good debate and that at the end of it Government assistance for the arts is notably increased.

Mr. Speaker

May I tell the House that I have noted the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) and other hon. Members, to leave out from "commerce" to the end and to add: notes that for some years the grant to the Arts Council has barely kept pace with rising costs, thus rendering the support and diffusion of opera, ballet, music, theatre and the arts generally throughout Great Britain impossible; accepts that the time is overdue for a comprehensive scheme of assistance to provincial museums and galleries; draws attention to the inability of the national institutions to carry out their obligations on account of grossly inadequate purchase grants; and urges an immediate and substantial increase and the appointment of an interdepartmental committee to review the situation of the arts in Great Britain and to make recommendations. I would not like it to be moved now, because I think it would have the effect of restricting the debate, but the considerations which the Amendment contains are all relevant to the Motion which is before the House, and if the hon. Member cares to make his speech on the Amendment now he may do so. Then if it is desired at a later stage, the Amendment could be moved and seconded formally and I would then put the Question to the House.

11.55 a.m.

Dr. Bamett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

I am grateful to you for your advice, Mr. Speaker, and, of course, I gladly follow it. None the less, I have the feeling, having listened to the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas), that there is nothing in my Amendment, nor in the speech of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), which would suggest that they could not also accept the Amendment.

Indeed, I think it must be apparent to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House generally—and I hope it will be very apparent to the Financial Secretary before the debate is finished—that in all quarters the House is determined to make it clear that a remedy is required for a state of affairs which is quite confusing, and that it is not only money for which we are asking. We are asking for the Government to do something which perhaps Governments sometimes find difficult, namely, to think very carefully and take advice before money is paid.

I think that all of us would be happier to know that what is suggested in the last part of my Amendment would be acceptable, namely, that a committee should be set up to review the situation. I am not wedded specifically to the words in the Amendment, "an interdepartmental committee". I used those words in preference to "a Royal Commission" because a Royal Commission takes a long time to consider evidence and report. The objection that is sometimes held to having the matter pondered by an interdepartmental committee is that Ministers may have some influence with those who sit on that committee, and that if Ministers are too cautious about the financial resources they may so influence the members of the interdepartmental committee.

I do not accept that that is possible on a subject like this. I think it is very unlikely that Ministers would wish to impose any pressure, or, if they did, that they would be successful. Therefore, I think that by and large we should ask for an interdepartmental committee to consider this matter. It would advise the Government and the country very well indeed and would not take too long in coming to certain conclusions.

I know that the Treasury feels that it knows all about the problem. It has said so. But, of course, the Treasury is quite wrong. It knows what is happening to the national institutions. It knows what are the income and the outgoings, and it is aware of the problems associated with the great national galleries and museums. But the Treasury certainly does not know what is happening throughout the country at large and it is time that it did know.

No Ministry has the power to ask for information or to demand information from local authorities on how they are using Section 132 of the 1948 Act. So far as I know, there has only been one attempted survey and that was in the boroughs in Greater London by a subcommittee of the National Council for Social Services in London.

Therefore, there is need for information, and the Government and the Treasury should not say, "We know all there is to know about the problem", but should accept our plea that we are anxious to find out all that there is to be found out, and that as this is taxpayers' money, more of which we want to see spent on the arts, we should do the most careful thinking at the same time.

It has been pointed out to me that there is a most attractive and interesting leader in The Times this morning on this very subject. I had not noted it myself at breakfast, because I was in a hurry to get to the House, but I want to deny that I wrote it. It was written by someone who has given much more thought to the subject than I have.

May I say that in listening to the hon. Member for Conway, I could find nothing, so far as he went, with which I could disagree. When he made a plea, as did the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South, that we must be careful how we administer the arts and not make mistakes such as have been made in other countries I found myself in particular agreement. I remember trying to test the situation once in the House by asking the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), when he was Prime Minister, whether he would appoint a Minister of the Fine Arts. I thought that that would be the best way of finding out whether there was any danger to any of us.

I still remember with great pleasure the look of disgust on the right hon. Gentleman's face when he said, "Certainly not." Therefore, I think we may leave it that our method in Britain is one to which we are accustomed and that we do not want to see the risks of nepotism and undue influence on creative artists in our country. We never shall, I hope.

I was also interested when I heard the hon. Member for Conway mention, very attractively I thought, the way in which the local authorities in Lancashire and Cheshire have supported the Hallé Orchestra. I remember being disturbed about this when Manchester had given notice that it was to cease its subsidy. As always, I took my troubles to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), who said to me, after some thought," Well, I am President of the Lancashire and Cheshire Federation of Trades Councils. Bring Mr. Barbirolli along. You can speak to our organisation and we will see what can be done." We did. A most interesting situation arose and a remarkable debate took place among the 104 delegates. Of that number, 100 voted in favour of taking back the advice to their local authorities to find money for the orchestra; four were against. I think that £26,000 extra was found for the Hallé as a result. I look back on that incident with great pleasure. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South is not here, I publicly express my gratitude.

I think that I have made it clear that it is not simply a matter of "to pay or not to pay", but "to think or not to think". We want both thought and money from the Financial Secretary today. How much money he will give us I do not know. He should have told us, and then we could have told him whether it was enough while we were making our speeches. Of course, we are all going to guess, and there have been rumours in the last few hours about this matter. We shall have to consider what he says when he replies to the debate.

I do not like the word "gratitude" which appears in the Motion. The exact words are: … while grateful for the increase in Government support … I must say, however that the hon. Member for Conway qualified that in his speech. We were all very sorry when the Government made a most serious mistake and embarrassed and humiliated the country a few years ago by trying to save £30,000 as a result of which sections of our national institutions like the British Museum and the National Gallery had to close down for a time. It was not worth it, and it was a mistake. Luckily, it did not last too long, but it lasted long enough to be thoroughly annoying and humiliating. The trustees of these great institutions had to choose between dismissing cleaners and doorkeepers and dismissing their skilled staff. Skilled staff cannot be replaced easily. Therefore, the skilled staff were kept but we did not have the unskilled staff to man sections of the galleries.

The hon. Member for Conway spoke of the increase in the grant to the Arts Council. He did not, however, mention that in 1950–51 it was £675,000 and that it went up £200,000 in the next year. In 1951–52, it was £875,000, and then a most unfortunate thing happened the year after, when it was cut to £585,000.

Mr. P. Thomas

I think that, during those years which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, there was a special grant of £300,000 for the Festival of Britain.

Dr. Stross

That is true, and that, in part, accounts for it.

If we think of the value of the money and of the inflationary tendency, it can easily be proved, and it may be that one of my hon. Friends will prove it arithmetically, that, taking the cost of living and rising prices into account, there has been no real increase in the grant to the Arts Council. If that be so, we will have to look at the issue and see what really is happening to the Arts Council.

We should ask ourselves that question. Every year, the Arts Council presents a most carefully considered budget. Of that, I think there is no doubt, but every year the estimates are cut. I do not think that the Treasury likes doing this: indeed, I am sure that it hates to do it, but there is a fault here in the structure of the way in which we administer the arts.

The Treasury is responsible, and is also the keeper of the nation's purse. If anyone is to set a good example, then surely the Treasury must do so. Whenever there is need for stringency, the Treasury must set an example. This means that the arts are cut at a time when the nation does not want them to be cut and believes that if there is to be economy, they should be the last to be subject to economy.

That is a thought which I have had for a very long time, and I think it is true and also very embarrassing for the Treasury. I think it also fits in with what the hon. Member for Conway said—that we should hand over as much as possible the administration to bodies of a type like the University Grants Committee, and I will a little later make suggestions with reference to the provincial galleries and museums and the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries. The Government have to strengthen and enlarge it, and this body may very well be a suitable medium for this purpose.

The taxpayer as a whole really asks for two things, or hopes for them. First, that the money spent by public grants will give the highest possible standard in the arts, and, secondly, that the arts will be presented as widely as possible. I hesitate to use the word diffusion, because I have been criticised, but it is understood in the sense that the provinces also wish to have a share in these matters. There is no doubt that, for very little money, the Arts Council has been most successful in establishing high standards, and in holding—and I think the Council would use these words itself—established strongholds here and there in the country. So far as diffusion is concerned, it has not had the money, and it has been quite impossible. We feel that in years gone by the Council has been restricted to certain fields, and we know that its regional offices closed some years ago.

Last year, the net figure available to the Arts Council was £760,000, and of this opera and ballet took £531,000, which really does not leave very much for the rest of the Council's activities.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. J. E. S. Simon)

What does the hon. Gentleman mean by the net figure?

Dr. Stross

After office expenses, its own salaries and administration costs have been paid. We could take the total figure, but it would make no difference, in fact.

I would put it this way. If we take the figure of £1,100,000 and subtract the amount that must go to Covent Garden for opera and ballet, it does not leave very much to fertilise the field for all the other things which have already been mentioned by the mover and seconder of the Motion—drama £70,000, poetry £1,800, and so on—and for the grants of £50 to quite a number of art societies, many of which, in fact, have had to cease. All this is commonly understood and commonly accepted.

We have heard a great deal about Covent Garden recently, and we have had the advantage of studying its accounts and seeing the report which was issued a week or so ago. I have a feeling that, in about one and a half hours' time, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will tell us that the Government cannot allow Covent Garden to close, for that is the danger. If the Government cannot allow Covent Garden to close, but think that it must go on with its present mounting debt—I think it is £165,000—I hope that the Financial Secretary will not think that this is a great and virtuous action to take.

We cannot allow Covent Garden to close. It is one of the windows exhibiting the culture of our country. We all want it, and we are getting it at half-price or even at one-third the price compared with other countries. It is doing very well for us—extraordinarily well—but it could do a great deal better if it had some more money.

Let us suppose that the Financial Secretary gives Covent Garden more money today. How much shall it be— £150,000 extra, £100,000 extra, or something in between? How will that bear on what happens to the Arts Council? Will it be given through the Arts Council, but earmarked for Covent Garden? If so, good for Covent Garden, and we shall all be pleased, but what happens to the rest of the field and the Arts Council's work generally? Would that really mean that two-thirds of all the money handed to the Arts Council must go to Covent Garden? As the hon. Member for Conway and the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South said, it would be just as well to take over this national institution—for it is a national institution—put its financial support on the Votes and deal with the Arts Council separately. If the Financial Secretary would give some consideration to this, he would please us all very much indeed, as well as himself, because I am sure that he, too, would like to do it.

I have not time to dilate on the excellence of Covent Garden; there are other hon. Members who know that subject better than I do, and I am sure that they will discuss it later. I only want to add, in reference to the Arts Council grant, that last year, if there had not been an increase, either the £120,000 subsidy to Sadler's Wells would have had to go or the subsidies to the orchestras would have had to go, and either would have produced a dreadful state of affairs. To lose Sadler's Wells, or to have a number of our orchestras close down, would have been unbearable.

Our suggestion—and I think this is likely to be accepted by every hon. Member in the House—is that the time has come when consideration must be given to making either a triennial or quinquennial grant to the Arts Council, with a built-in formula against inflation. It is no good saying to the Arts Council today, "We recognise the problems and difficulties of Covent Garden, but, so far as you are concerned, do not ask for any more for the next two or three years. You must stay as you are."

What will happen? We shall inevitably have a crisis in the great orchestras during the coming year. The great orchestras are a new phenomenon almost, certainly in the number of them available. Between them, they cover the whole country. They now go to factories, and they play to our schoolchildren. The nine great orchestras between them are well worth having and they cost very little. To support them, £1 million is needed, and they earn all of it themselves except about £150,000.

The Financial Secretary must be aware that, in Britain, our great orchestras play twice as often as similar orchestras do on the Continent. That is hard work, but they have to do it to survive. They are literally living on a shoestring which is wearing very thin. The performers are not very well paid. I believe that the minimum wage is about £13 a week, and, if extra work is not available through teaching and other ways, that is the wage a performer receives for many years until he moves forward to the front rank. There is not much time for rehearsal and there is certainly not much time for teaching the people who must follow on.

Whatever the Financial Secretary says today in his speech, I hope that we shall not go away at 4 o'clock feeling that, in a few months or a year, we shall again have a crisis in the Arts Council because it cannot support the orchestras.

If the Financial Secretary is seriously concerned to assist in the diffusion of the arts, he should accept the suggestion of the Arts Council that an additional £3 million a year required to present and house the arts throughout the country is quite a modest sum. It has been said that the total spent by the Government is nearly £7 million. That includes certain sums for aid to the Royal College of Art, and so forth. In this particular year, it includes the remarkable eight paintings, which came from the Chancellor and were handed over to the nation through the machinery of the 1956 Act. That accounted for just over £1 million. It includes, also, over £1 million spent on historic buildings.

Turning now to the enjoyment of the Arts—I spell that word now with a capital letter—we should think in two terms. I refer, first, to the £1 million made available through the Arts Council and, secondly, to assistance through the Ministry of Education to assist local authorities by a grant to their museums and galleries if they make them available freely to the population. If local authorities spend money and do work in these institutions, they can come to the Ministry of Education and obtain certain grants. Some of them for many years have taken advantage of this, but some have not.

Even if we take the whole £7 million, it represents only 1 per cent. of the cost of education in this country, and it is one-tenth per cent. of our budgetary income. It is not possible today to discuss this matter with direct reference to education, but it is the very essence and fragrance of education. Would it be so dreadful to say that 1½ per cent. or 2 per cent. of our educational expenditure should be devoted to the support of the arts? It is no good saying that it is the public wish which has removed the private patron, and it is up to the public to find someone else.

I hope that the Financial Secretary will not dilate too much about the third force. What he must do is to see that a good example is set by finding some money and so encourage a third force to emerge. The local authorities need encouragement. They have powers to spend money now as a result of the 1948 Act, but what sort of example has the Government been giving them? Not a good one, I suggest. We look forward today to hearing that a good example is at last to be set.

I want to say a word now about our great national institutions. The £150,000 a year asked for by the National Gallery is not, in my opinion, at all out of the way. Again, I hope that the excuse will not be used that £1 million worth of paintings were handed over during this last year to the National Gallery. They are great paintings, but no Government in the world would have allowed them to leave the country and be sold outside. Of course, the National Gallery is delighted to have them, and they improve the collection; but they do not make the collection or fill in the gaps in the collection.

If the trustees are to be more than mere receivers of great paintings which come perchance from time to time by this means, if they are to do anything more than that for us, they must have money to buy. Moreover, they must buy within the next ten years. If we wait for more than ten years, the paintings will not be available for the National Gallery.

Mr. P. Thomas indicated assent.

Dr. Stross

I see that the hon. Member for Conway entirely agrees. I am not surprised. It is common knowledge. We all agree, and everyone knows about the situation.

I imagine, also, that the Financial Secretary himself will say that he agrees. The Tate Gallery asks for a modest £40,000 a year, together with a lump sum payment for arrears—for which I do not blame it; it may get it or it may not. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will accept that these sums are not out of the way and that the money would be well spent.

Now a word about the provinces. The taxpayer understands that we must give first thought to the Metropolis. London is a very great city. It is the centre of the Commonwealth as well as of Britain, and the great national institutions tend to be housed here. A great deal of money has to be spent here. Some paintings and works of art are so rare, so expensive, or so delicate that they must never be allowed to travel, if one can help it, or be taken out of their conditioned rooms. It is right that people should come to see them, and no one would ever dream of asking that they should be moved about and taken to the people. That is understood.

Nevertheless, is it any wonder that our constituents ask, "What are we to get out of this?" They cannot often come to London. Some of them have never in their lifetime been to London. There may be a gallery of some sort in their own area, and they ask why they should not have a better one. Why should they not have a share? If there is to be a national theatre, can they not have a promise that the companies will come to them so that there will be, as it were, a subsidiary of the national theatre in their area?

I am speaking now of the way the Arts Council speaks. People ask, "Why can we not have a subsidiary in our area and have an interchange of companies and plays? Do that first before you build a new building or have another new theatre." In other words, they want a living national theatre. They are not at all averse to a new building, but they want it to be part of a living mechanism.

We go to our museums to study and enjoy our past history. What is happening in this direction? There are about 800 galleries and museums throughout the country, about half of them owned by local authorities and the other half in the hands of trustees, having been founded in the last eighty years in the main by private benefaction. Money has changed in value and many of them are desperately hard up. It is true to say that the roofs leak and fabrics decay and that the material is not properly cared for any longer in many because the funds no longer allow the payment of skilled curators. This is not good enough for those in the country. We know that many of them are so poor that they have had to close. Why does not the Government organise, administer or set up a body which will take care of this problem?

I have mentioned a standing commission. That is precisely the sort of body to do this work. At one time I thought that the matter should be left to the Ministry of Education. When the late Mr. George Tomlinson was Minister he tried, first, by a Libraries and Museums Bill, which the A.M.C. did not like and was withdrawn, and then, later, by a Museums Bill, to bring about the betterment of which I am speaking. A small section of local authorities thought that museums would be interfered with by education committees and they objected. They said that they did not like it, so the chance was lost.

Today, the Museum Association is attempting to cover the country with a network of regional organisations. One has been started in the South-West, and it is doing very well. If the Association succeeds—and it certainly will succeed—in establishing regional organisations, although it has hardly a penny, these regional organisations would be very suitable recipients of assistance to be given through the medium of the standing commission. But a standing commission without executive power is not worth having. It would not be fair to the standing commission if it did not have executive power. We would then have duplication of the University Grants Committee. There are areas where there is neither a museum nor a gallery. As a result of my proposal they would have a good one. The regional organisation would give an interchange in each region of material and technical advice.

I hope that the Financial Secretary will give consideration to that point. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South spoke about rates. There is an interesting example in Bath, the Holburne of Menstrie Museum, on this point. Bath supports this museum to the extent of £100 a year, but takes from it £275 a year in rates. The income of the museum is £1,800 and it is running at a deficit of £1,000 a year. Its sinking fund is now practically exhausted. The museum authorities cannot get anyone to come in as curator, because they cannot afford to pay a proper salary. Bath makes a lot of money out of its Roman Baths, and I am surprised that it cannot find money to assist this museum.

I have given that only as an example of the varying attitudes. In this country, as in every other, the material future depends upon workers, management, technicians and scientists. If the world had not any artists, I am not sure that people, like Members of Parliament, would find life worth living. It is not much fun or very delectable to come on to this earth only to eat, drink and sleep and to fight and struggle merely for bread and shelter. The artist plays his own special part in the world, and, judging by the speeches which have been made, we shall be unanimous in our view that he has a very high place in our thoughts. We think highly of him. His place is in no way inferior to that of the scientist or laboratory technician, and we shall do everything in our power to ensure that he is fully appreciated.

12.24 p.m.

Sir Hamilton Kerr (Cambridge)

I am sure the House is most grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) for having used his good fortune in the Ballot to raise the question of State aid to the arts; likewise for the efficient and attractive way in which he presented the case. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) echoed the mood of conciliation. I believe that Disraeli once said, You catch more flies with a teaspoonful of honey than with a gallon of gall. Most of us, in the course of our Parliamentary lives, discover that the rapier of wit, which flicks but does not wound, scores points more effectively than the bludgeon of invective.

In addition, we are told, if we are to believe the newspapers, that the attitude of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench is changing towards the arts.

Just over a week ago I was in the great game reserve in Nairobi, Kenya. Apparently wild animals in this reserve do not connect the presence of human beings with petrol fumes and therefore it is easy to get close to the most ferocious-looking lions or to the most timid zebras or giraffes without disturbing them. And so I feel that even some of the lions on the Treasury Bench will not feel like eating up a tough but somewhat decayed back bencher like myself who presses for increased aid to the arts. The lion may even give a friendly wink from time to time.

It has often been mentioned in our newspapers that the main problem which has faced our great national and provincial galleries has been rising prices. It is an open secret that rising prices have been due to the trend of inflation throughout the world. Wealthy men have often preferred to purchase works of art rather than industrial shares. Gold and copper shares may fluctuate in value, but a fine painting by Rembrandt, a set of chairs by Chippendale, a salver by Paul Lamerie, or a Brussels or French tapestry continually rise in value. This continued rise in prices has presented our museums with a terrific problem.

The second factor has been the diminishing number of fine pictures, which has urged potential purchasers to concentrate on pictures which are still on the market, notably the French impressionists and post-impressionist schools of the nineteenth century. Now, every Greek shipping millionaire must decorate the saloon of his yacht, or his house in Paris, with French impressionist paintings, and every cinema star of standing must follow that example in their villas in Beverley Hills or Santa Barbara. One wonders what poor Cezanne would have thought of some of the prices of up to £¾ million which have recently been obtained at Sotheby's. For Cezanne often left his pictures in the rain under the shelter of a haystack.

These factors present our galleries with twin problems to surmount.

First, the tremendous price has often meant that our galleries are unable to purchase fine pictures which come on to the market. It is true that in the past the generosity of the Chancellor of the Exchequer has often enabled a grant to be given to buy valuable works of art. This has meant, however, that continually these works of art and their purchase have depended on the political mood, or the mood of the Chancellor of the day, and the leaders of our great museums have had to sit with a begging bowl at the door of the Treasury.

Secondly, as other hon. Members have so vividly described, it has meant that the directors of our great museums have been unable to make purchasing plans ahead. They know what pictures are likely to be available, but they have not the funds with which to purchase them.

Therefore, two remedies are essential. First and foremost, greatly increased sums of money should be made available to our galleries, both national and provincial, say, through a central body, like the Arts Council, for purchases. Secondly, the wise suggestion of Lord Bridges, himself a former chief of the Treasury, namely, that grants should be based on a five year basis, as university grants are now, should be implemented.

May I turn briefly to another problem—that of the National Theatre. It seems to me a strange reflection that this country is one of the few which does not possess a national theatre. We know that in France the fame of the Comédie Française draws thousands of visitors every year to its doors. We know that in Germany the drama is held in such high esteem that even Hamburg spends more each year on the theatre than we spend altogether in this country. I am told that even Kenya and Uganda now have their national theatres.

The project of a national theatre was broached as far back as 1904, when William Archer and Granville Barker developed the idea. The idea then took shape by the Act passed by the House in 1949, when £1 million was made available for a national theatre. As one of my hon. Friends has recounted, Her Majesty the Queen Mother laid the foundation stone as far back as 1951, on a site opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum. But a more suitable site, one of the most beautiful in Europe and easily assessible, has since been found next to County Hall. During the period of waiting the attitude of the L.C.C. has been beyond praise, and particularly that of Sir Isaac Hayward. I want to pay personal tribute to him.

In addition to having the site available and the money voted, the policy has been outlined. The Old Vic and the proposed National Treatre would be amalgamated, and Lord Chandos already presides over a directory committee. I think hon. Members who recollect his performances in the House will agree that he combines the financial acumen of a Rothschild with the Elizabethan ebullience of a Walter Raleigh. So if any project can go ahead, this is one. Its policy has also been outlined. It will produce classical plays and modern plays of quality. It will provide, in addition, a centre for the study of the dramatic art and conference halls and centres where stage lighting, scenery and customs can be studied.

But I hear my hon. and learned Friend say, "That is all very well, but how much will it cost?" Here I think one must be frank. The sum of £1 million was voted by Parliament in 1949, but the cost would most certainly rise to £2 million with the building prices prevailing at the present time. In addition, I am told that the running costs per year would be about £200,000. In case my hon. and learned Friend starts to flinch, as if struck by a lash, at these figures, let me say that there are palliatory conditions. First and foremost, the National Theatre could doubtless earn a great deal from performances not only in London but in touring throughout the provinces. It could earn much-desired foreign currency by tours in America and Europe. It could earn more by television, and by the sale of such things as long-playing records.

What, therefore, can be done? I want to make a suggestion which I trust will not evoke immediate Whipsnade-like snarls from hon. Members. I have been told that, when Parliament set up the Independent Television Authority it laid aside the sum of £750,000 which that Authority could call upon in case of need. I believe that not a penny of that sum has been touched. The great television and radio authorities, both national and independent, have been generous in the past in their donations to the arts, and I wonder whether this sum would be forgone by the Independent Television Authority? It would provide almost the extra £1 million required to start the theatre or, alternatively, it would provide the running costs for the first three or four years. There, briefly, are the points I want to make about the National Theatre.

I end my plea for the arts with a personal plea to my hon. and learned Friend. I believe that Horace Walpole once wrote of Lord Burlington: Never was protection and great wealth more generously or judiciously diffused than by this great person who had every attribute of the genius of art and artist, except envy. My hon. and learned Friend need have no envy. Let the only envy be that aroused in the breasts of those patrons and artists in less fortunate lands who in future will look towards this country as a model patron of the arts. May therefore the gracious mantle of Lord Burlington fall this afternoon on the shoulders of my hon. and learned Friend.

12.35 p.m.

Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)

I shoudd like in the first place to join the other hon. Members in paying by tribute to the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) for having raised this subject, which, as far as I know, has never been raised in the House before. We are all exceedingly grateful to the hon. Member and grateful for the opportunity to have the kind of discussion which is very rare that in which we do not fling abuse at each other but all join together in trying to achieve a common purpose. It is in that spirit that I want to make such remarks as I make today.

I want to deal largely with the artist and musician of today—the man who is alive and is working—rather than with the paintings which are so badly needed by the National Gallery and with the old buildings which need to be preserved.

What is the Arts Council given? Let us get this in proportion. The Arts Coun- cil is given today £1,100,000 a year, which is approximately one-five thousandth of our Budget. If my mathematics are correct—and I am not very good at mathematics—it seems to me about the same as if someone with an income of £1,000 a year were to give 4s. a year for his artistic enjoyment, for all the music he listened to, all the pictures he saw, all he enjoyed of artistic value. I do not think that is very much, and I believe that many of us feel that it could be greatly increased.

How does that affect the artist? I do not know whether it is possible to say exactly, but I should be surprised if the average artist—and I am not speaking of the successful artist, who has arrived—earns very much more than £10 to £12 a week. Possibly he earns £15 a week, but certainly he earns less than very many skilled workers, and, after all, art is a highly skilled profession. I know that it is customary to laugh at many modern pictures and to say that they are just daubs which anybody could do, but the great artist has to work and study very hard to be able to achieve perfection of technique.

In the past, these artists depended on private patrons, but the private patrons today are disappearing for two reasons—partly because of taxation and the shortage of money, but also because many of them are so terrified of buying any modern pictures that they tend to buy "safe." They buy the old picture by an established artist, or, sometimes they buy the excellent reproductions of old pictures which are available today. They do not, therefore, support to anything like the old extent the artist who is working today and who needs money to be able to carry on his art.

Somebody has to step in and replace the private patron. I am delighted that some of the bigger private companies have done this and are doing excellent work in encouraging various kinds of art. I am bound to say that I am a little more suspicious of I.T.V. I know that one should not look a gift horse in the mouth, but I am doubtful about having what I might call the crumbs which fall from Sunblest, Ready Brek and other things which we have to see on television every day and which are not highly artistic. I cannot say that I.T.V. has brought a great deal of art into our homes.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

Surely the hon. Member will agree that Sir Kenneth Clark. Sir Gerald Kelly and others have given frequent, admirable programmes on I.T.V. which have led to an extension of appreciation of good paintings in the homes of this country?

Mr. Dugdale

I was thinking of the advertisements. I agree that there have been many excellent programmes, many quite as good as those on B.B.C., but to these have been added the advertisements, which are perhaps not so desirable from an artistic standpoint. I do not want to go into that in detail. All I would say is that we cannot rely altogether on them, and that their grant does not remove the need for an increased State grant.

The State today does, of course, give money, and here I would pay great tribute to the Tate Gallery for its purchases of works by young artists. In that way alone it has done an immense amount of good in encouraging art here. Provincial galleries, too, have done what they could, but it is not enough, as they are desperately short of money—far shorter of money than the Tate, even in proportion to their size.

I should like to suggest three or four things that we might do to help the artists of today. The first is to give more grants to the galleries, particularly the provincial galleries. Secondly, the Ministry of Education should have a sort of "library" of young artists' pictures that could be shown in many schools that do not today see anything of modern artistic development. I am sorry that the Minister of Education is not represented here today—after the busy day he had yesterday, I can quite understand why—but I hope that any suggestions made today concerning his work will be passed on to him. This is a matter that concerns education very closely.

Next, the Government and the London County Council might encourage something similar to what one sees in Paris—sales of pictures in the streets. I know that it rains here, but it also rains in Paris, yet all down the banks of the Seine one finds pictures constantly on sale. In London, this is done for only about two or three weeks in the year. That is the only time that these artists have to sell their pictures, other than in galleries, which are often very expensive and exceedingly difficult for artists to use. I was delighted to read of a new gallery—opened only yesterday, I think—with which Sir Kenneth Clark is associated, and which is to sell pictures of modern young artists on a non-profit-making basis. I believe that to be very desirable indeed.

Fourth, the Government should concern themselves much more than they do with the decoration of their buildings. Many Government buildings put up today are plain, austere, well-built, but without decoration. In particular, I would suggest that that very energetic Minister, the Postmaster-General—a man who has many ideas but who, perhaps, may be short of one at this time—should see whether he could not get some decoration done by artists and sculptors in some of the bigger post offices. That, indeed, applies to all Government buildings. The Germans do it a great deal. They decorate their public buildings very much more than we do, and it is one way, I think, in which we could encourage the arts—

Dr. Stross

I wonder if my right hon. Friend remembers that a few years ago the right hon. Gentleman who was then Minister of Works and now is President of the Board of Trade, answering my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) with reference to the great Post Office at Marylebone—

Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)

Newman Street.

Dr. Stross

Yes, Newman Street—said, quite clearly, that there was money available and that certainly there would be an embellishment of the building, and that substantial sums of money would be spent in that way?

Mr. Dugdale

I am very glad to have heard that, and I think that it reinforces my case. I hope that something like that will be done to many post offices.

Schools come into the same category. I am glad to say that in my own constituency a new comprehensive school has a piece of modern sculpture in the main quadrangle, and I hope that other comprehensive schools will do the same. The T.U.C. set a notable example by holding a competition for a piece of modern sculpture for its new headquarters. I hope that the Government will do as much as they can in that direction.

I turn now to the musicians. If anything, their case is worse than that of the artists. As hon. Members know, as a result of a recent award orchestra players' pay has been raised to £13 10s. That is not a very large sum of money when one considers the years of training necessary—and it takes many years for a musician to be competent enough to play in a leading symphony orchestra. Out of this he has to buy his own instrument, and that is a very expensive matter. I am informed that the kind of violin used by someone in one of the leading symphony orchestras costs about £100; a horn costs £150, and a bassoon, £300. When a man has to equip himself with an expensive instrument like that, £13 10s. a week is not a very satisfactory salary.

Sir L. Plummer

Does my hon. Friend think that this information was in the possession of the editor of The Times, when he asks this morning: What is to be the taxpayers' safeguard against the possible rapacity of some of the artists' unions?

Mr. Dugdale

Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford and my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, I have not yet had an opportunity of reading this famous article, but it has now been very well advertised here and I shall certainly read it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central spoke of symphony orchestras and the very hard work that they put in. I have mentioned how small is their pay. I will not add more about their work except to say that one thing those orchestras do not have that orchestras in foreign countries have is, to use a football term, "reserves." Foreign orchestras take reserves with them, so that if a man is worked too hard or falls sick he can be replaced. Our own orchestras cannot afford that and have to do the maximum amount of work with the minimum number of players.

Naturally, we welcome the pay increase that has been granted, but the result is that our orchestras are in a very bad way—in a far worse way than are orchestras in foreign countries. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central talked about nine symphony orchestras in the country, but they are rather like the ten little nigger boys; they are beginning to disappear; I think that my hon. Friend has miscounted by one. The Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra has had to close down as a result of the pay increase. That increase was fully justified, but the fact remains that it has resulted in one of the leading orchestras having to close down altogether. The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) is present in the Chamber. I am sure he will agree with me that it is most unsatisfactory that the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra should have a deficit of £8,000. That is not at all a satisfactory state of things for one of the leading orchestras in the country.

I want to compare this position with that obtaining in other countries. Let us consider Germany. Whereas there is a Government subsidy of £100,000 per annum in respect of all our orchestras, Germany pays £100,000 to the Berlin Orchestra alone—and the German Government subsidises not seven or eight orchestras, as here, but 70. It may be said that the Germans are a very musical nation, and look at things differently. Let us turn to Switzerland. I do not think Switzerland can be said to be the most musical nation in the world, but six orchestras are subsidised in a country very much smaller than ours, where we subsidise seven.

It may be asked, "If the people do not really want these orchestras, why subsidise them? If they do not like good music, why should the orchestras be subsidised?" I should like to tell hon. Members an interesting story of something that happened towards the end of the war in order to disprove that suggestion. At that time, when we had a great many troops stationed in Cairo, there was a suggestion that concerts should be given.

Lady Russell, who was the wife of the Police Commissioner there, arranged these concerts. She said that they would provide only the very best music—the music of the great composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, and Handel. There was to be no compromise. It was not to be just "tea-room" music—only the very best. She was told that nobody would go to listen to them. In fact, while those concerts went on no fewer than one million British soldiers attended them. That is a very large number. It may be said that in Cairo at that time they had little to do and that they would have welcomed any kind of entertainment. But still they did go, and they enjoyed themselves. These soldiers represented a cross-section of the people of this country.

I wish to say a word about foreign tours. Not only are they good for the musicians, but they add greatly to the prestige of this country. I hope I am wrong, and I speak subject to correction, but I understand that the only grant made for foreign tours is one of £6,000 a year, which comes from the British Council and not from the Arts Council. To me, that is lamentable. The Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra last year made a tour of Asia which was guaranteed up to 300,000 dollars. And that was for one tour. Of course, the Americans are richer than we are, but there is no doubt that a tour of that character added greatly to American prestige, and a similar tour by a British orchestra would add to British prestige.

Today the arts, and particularly the living arts, need a considerable increase in the subsidy which is paid to them. I have already explained how small I think is the present subsidy, and other hon. Members also have referred to that. I hope that the Financial Secretary will look at this matter in proportion, and bear in mind the vast expenditure made in other directions. I know it is easy to say, "Well, of course, if we just add a little extra here or a little extra there, someone else is bound to ask for a little bit more". But we must have some sense of proportion regarding the value to this country of the arts, and the small amount which is devoted to them, and the value of other activities for which large amounts of money are provided.

The second thing that I should like to see—it was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central—is grants made for a longer period, perhaps a period of five years. As my hon. Friend said, it is very important that such grants should be guaranteed against inflation.

The third thing has not been mentioned before. It is that the responsibility for the payment of these funds should be removed from the Treasury. I mean no disrespect to the Financial Secretary or to the Chancellor of the Exchequer when I say that. Many notable Chancellors have supported the arts. The late Sir Stafford Cripps did a tremendous amount; Lord Waverley was another, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) did much to help the arts. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is very conscious indeed of the needs of the arts. In the few names I have just mentioned I have left out a leading ex-Chancellor, the Lord President of the Council, who is a great lover of the arts.

The Minister of Works (Mr. Hugh Molson)

The Lord Privy Seal.

Mr. Dugdale

Yes, the Lord Privy Seal.

In the past, Chancellors of the Exchequer have indeed revealed a great love for the arts. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a great deal to do, much more than he can possibly manage, and, as every Chancellor will know, it is very difficult to give the requisite amount of time to one detail such as the needs of the arts. I think that this matter should certainly not be handed over to any "Minister of Fine Arts". That would be a great mistake. I should like to see the Minister of Works made responsible. The right hon. Gentleman has not such a vast amount of work to do as has the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I hope that my suggestion will be considered.

Today in this country we have some of the finest artists in the world and we are very proud of them. We all take pride in the fact that the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells and other great artists and companies pay visits to all parts of the world. Hon. Members will remember that when the first performance of "The Turn of the Screw," by Benjamin Britten, was given in Venice, there were 27 curtain calls—an indication of the enthusiasm for British art and music which exists in other countries. Although he may be described as a controversial figure, we all recognise that Henry Moore is recognised as one of the greatest artists in the world, and many people are proud of him. But it is not enough just to be proud. We have to do something to show our pride. The best thing that we can do is to give to the arts that these artists represent the money they so desperately need.

12.55 p.m.

Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)

I am glad that the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) has welcomed—as has the whole House—the Motion which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas). I will convey the remarks of the right hon. Member for West Bromwich to my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General, as I am his Parliamentary Private Secretary, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend is seldom lacking in ideas.

The purchasing power of the American tycoon presents a danger that works of art which are still in this country, riches mainly of the eighteenth century, whether from the English school or imported from France or Italy, will, in the end, be taken from us unless something is done. I am not suggesting to my hon. and learned Friend the Financial Secretary that the British taxpayers' money should be spent in the way in which the American millionaire is indirectly allowed to spend the money of the American taxpayer through cutting his own taxation. But so long as it is possible for works of art to be so purchased by Americans, it will be exceedingly difficult for any patron of the arts in this country, be it a private individual—there are few of them now—or even a company or a municipality, to compete against the great drag from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean; a drag which results in the payment of fantastic prices which may ultimately be regarded by history as ephemeral.

I would not suggest that the money of the British taxpayers should be spent at that level, but I think it was the right hon. Member for West Bromwich who complained at the attitude of the Treasury of "buying safe." I suggest that the Treasury should buy safe. Perhaps it may be possible to provide an incentive in some way to enable an individual or a company to support new artists who have not yet been tried out by history. Some such kind of individual incentive should be provided and it may well be found that in the long run the Treasury would not be involved in any expenditure because the pictures and objects of art so purchased might prove of greater value than gold or dollars.

I believe that it would help the London art market to maintain the pre-eminence which it has recently achieved in the art markets of the world. The London art market has tried to help the museums and galleries of this country, but often it has been found that our museums, either because of a lack of money, or because of the system, are unable to give prompt replies, in the way that similar organisations in the United States can do, at the moment when it is known that a picture is on offer for sale. In many cases there is an immediate reply from America, and often a man is sent to London by the next aeroplane. I understand, despite this, that the control of exports of works of art is working well

I am not so sure that the Finance Act of 1956, for which we were very grateful, is working as well as it might. Pictures can be taken in lieu of duty from houses still occupied by their owners but this concession has, up till now, applied in the case of only two great houses. There was the "Picta," by Van der Weyden, from Powis Castle, and the great Chatsworth collection. It is a great pity that all these should have gone to London, and I strongly support the argument of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) for a greater appreciation of the needs of the provinces.

If a grant in aid were recommended by the Committee presided over by Lord Cottesloe, could it be made available to the major provincial galleries? I wonder whether my hon. and learned Friend can say, too, whether there is any legal objection to a major provincial gallery benefiting under the Finance Act, 1956.

Mr. Simon indicated dissent.

Mr. Tilney

I am glad to see that my hon. and learned Friend nods.

I gather that there is no legal objection, for there is a grave lack of balance in the distribution between works of art and the distribution of our population, and temporary loans are not a sufficient substitute for permanent ownership. Loans may stimulate the benefactor, should there be one rich enough, but familiarity is the thing which educates, and it is education which so many provincial centres want. Benefactors are hard to come by, and even for municipalities and companies some of the great masters are completely out of reach.

Yet it is the quality of the great masters that is wanted; not the quantity, which is in such great supply in rather bad calibre in so many provincial galleries. In Liverpool, we are lucky enough to have the Simone Martini, and Glasgow has its great Rembrandt, but at least £10,000 must be spent for any picture of great rank today, and the figure is generally much greater than that. This means that a work of Botticelli, Rubens, Raphael, Rembrandt, Poussin, Veronese, or Titian is completely outside the reach of the provincial purse.

But who should decide where such occasional gifts, received under the Act, should go? Who should advise the Chancellor of the Exchequer? I understand that a committee known as the Sheffield Conference, called together by the University of Sheffield after the hullabaloo which was raised when the Chatsworth pictures left the North of England to come to London, has suggested that the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries should have that job. That Commission supervises generally on questions relevant to national museums, promotes co-operation between them, and inspires benefaction.

I suggest that, as well as those functions, it should be given the job of seeing that there is a proper spread of works of art among the provincial centres, as there is in Holland, Italy and France, and I suggest that to that body should be co-opted not representatives from the provinces, but, say, two people who really understand provincial galleries and know what are their needs.

I now come to what the standards of a provincial gallery should be in order that it should rank for such a grant. I believe that they are six in number. First, the gallery should be in a university city—a centre of a large population, and a nucleus of a federation of museums and galleries such as has already been started in Bristol. Secondly, the premises should be adequately maintained. Thirdly, the gallery should already have works of international importance. Fourthly, it should have a staff of scholarship and experience, and enough of them to do their job. Fifthly, it should have facilities for research, such as we have in Liverpool, with our Simone Martini and many works by Alfred Stevens and by Sickert. Finally, it should have the necessary laboratories and scientific staff for cleaning and preservation.

If those standards are adopted I suggest that there are about 12 major centres of population which could be given an opportunity of ranking virtually as national museums in their own right, and to them I suggest should be added the Fitzwilliam and the Ashmolean. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will look into this matter very carefully. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer might then go down in history as having brought to the North some of the beauty he is so used to in his own native Devon.

I want, finally, to comment upon buildings which are now put up with no adornment of any kind. We have seen them in one or two university cities, especially in the provinces. I am told that although there is no reason why a university should not, out of its private funds, contribute to the cost of building, if the building is designed on a scale which exceeds that laid down by the University Grants Committee, that "Committee will not finance it. This applies to the accommodation—that is, the dimensions of the professors' rooms, and so on, and also the outward design. As one of my friends has said: The University Grants Committee would not contribute towards the finance of a building finished in Portland stone, for example, or embellished with stone lions! If that edict had prevailed three or four centuries ago where would our great colleges of Oxford and Cambridge be today? Surely the humanities and the atmosphere which they engender have been to some extent helped by the embellishments of art, from which all the subsequent generations have benefited.

1.8 p.m.

Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)

Although it is now becoming rather like an incantation, I want to add my own warm congratulations to the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) and those who, like the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), have supported him. There are no votes in culture. The hon. Member for Conway might easily have chosen a much more demagogic subject to raise today, instead of which he has chosen the subject of the arts— a subject which, to my knowledge, has never before been debated during the thirteen years that I have been in the House; certainly not in the form in which it is being debated today.

The very word "culture" has always been somewhat deplored in this country. During the war, however, it was equated with civilisation, and we reacted towards the arts and against the philistinism which the Nazis represented, and we now recognise that the arts are enjoying a revival and a dissemination comparable to the dissemination of reading when the effects of the Education Acts began to operate in this country.

The reason why, today, we have been perhaps concentrating on the plastic and visual arts in great measure has been, of course, that with the development of the lithograph and of new methods in production more and more people have had access to the representations of great works of art, despite the fact that the Government have failed to keep up with the provision of works of art and the making of those works of art accessible to large numbers of people in the way in which private patrons did in the past century and long before that.

First, I want to declare an interest in this matter. I am a vice-chairman of the British Council, which is concerned in great measure with the advertising, if that is the word, of British arts abroad. Everyone knows that, certainly during the whole of its post-war existence, the British Council has worked under a twofold disadvantage. First, there has been the paucity of its budget; and, secondly, it has been exposed to violent and ill-informed attacks by the Daily Express on the one side and Moscow Radio on the other.

The Daily Express has represented the British Council as consisting largely of people who are merely concerned with Morris dancing, whereas Moscow Radio has accused it of being primarily concerned with espionage, and the public image that has emerged has been that of a rather ineffective intelligence agent hurrying from a session of espionage to engage in a bout of Morris dancing.

I am quite sure that that picture is wholly false. In fact, turning to the major work of the Council, today the Council is engaged in the teaching of English to 100,000 students, many of whom are teachers. While I do not want to dwell on this matter at the moment because it is, relatively speaking, a side issue, I want to say that the work of the British Council, which has been so misrepresented, and which has been described as esoteric and abstruse, consists, in fact, in the projection of the British way of life and manners and thought and also of the British arts.

I should like to say, in passing, that while the Daily Express, in particular, has attacked the Council for engaging in what it described, in effect, as esoteric activities, I think that it would be as legitimate for the British Council to send out lecturers to describe the Anglo-Saxon fertility rites in Suffolk in the ninth century as it is for Mr. William Hickey to discuss its modern counterpart in Chelsea last night. I say that because the point that I want to emphasise is that the British Council, with its limited resources, is doing a tremendous amount of good work which everyone who has seen the Council represented in action knows all about.

The British Council is doing that with resources which are really derisory when one compares them with the nature of the work and with what the Council seeks to do. For example, although the total budget of the Council has risen in 1958–59 from about £3½ million to over £4 million, in the case of the visual arts and music the budgets are £34,000 and £17,000 respectively. That itself, sinister as it is, is made even worse when we consider that it is bad enough to send out, for example, symphony orchestras with inadequate means. But when it purports to represent the British contribution to music as a whole, it is obliged, because of its limited resources, to convey a false picture of the state of British music.

It seems to me that when an organisation like the British Council is trying to represent British music or British plastic arts, when the resources are so limited that it gives a completely inadequate expression of what it seeks to represent, then the very purpose of advertising, announcing and describing the nature of British art is frustrated, and the foreigner will certainly get a wrong and, indeed, a deplorable representation of what British music and British painting may well be. Next year, the British Council is sending out an exhibition of British painting to Moscow. I am quite certain that the amount of attention that it will attract will be as great as the attention which has been attracted by the exhibition of Russian art at Burlington House.

The point is that all this cannot be done effectively unless there are adequate resources to carry it out. Consequently, I would say that one of the direct means by which the Government can help, not merely by the publication of British art and not merely by the sending out of British art in the form of good exhibitions but also by stimulating those very artists responsible for the material of these exhibitions, is by increasing the grant to the British Council for the visual arts and for music.

It is quite impossible to expect the culture of the country to thrive and develop unless there are adequate financial means for its doing so. It is the common observation of everyone that never before has there been so widely disseminated an interest in the arts of every kind as there is in Britain today. I think that London is certainly the equal if not ahead of any continental capital, certainly of any city in the United States, in the variety and the strength of its artistic activities.

The conclusion one can readily draw from that is that there is a very wide audience of people who have been educated in the arts since the war. Since the excellent agencies of the Government, like A.B.C.A., have been engaged in stimulating and spreading interest in the arts, there has been developed today a great audience for the arts which is not being supplied with the means to gratify its taste. The reason is, of course, that the opportunities which the Government have for stimulating the arts have not been fully taken.

I want to say something on the question of the purchase of paintings, which is one of the issues which has been raised and which has been in the forefront of this debate. While I wholeheartedly endorse the demand that the Government should make available in one form or another more money for the supply of works of art, particularly in the plastic arts and visual arts, I cannot help feeling that one of the most important things, after the provision of the money, is to make sure that the money so acquired is properly spent and is used for the most suitable purposes.

No one can guarantee, first, that the wisdom of those who buy the works of art will be such in the first instance that the work itself will be of intrinsic and enduring value, and secondly, no one can absolutely guarantee, although the trend today is for the value of any work of art to rise, that in purchasing a work of art of that kind ultimately its value will not fall.

I should like to emphasise something which has not been discussed during the debate, but which I regard as of major importance. I think that most people connected with the world of art know that the value of a picture is inflated by the picture dealer. The people who handle pictures in the commercial galleries are not engaged exclusively in those activities merely to promote enjoyment of the arts and to give pleasure to the people who stroll in to see the pictures. They are there to push up the value of the pictures, and they will do everything in their power to do so.

It is well known that the value of a picture has been inflated by publicity, propaganda, and also by certain picture dealers getting hold of very rich people, industrialists—I say that without any disrespect—whose experience has, perhaps, been more concerned with industry than the arts and, having done so, they create a fashion for a certain kind of picture. They work hand-in-hand with interior decorators, and so one gets an absolute inflation of the value of a certain type of picture.

It is well known, for example, that in the United States at one time there used to be a great interest in the purchase of old masters, particularly old family portraits, with which American millionaires could decorate their houses and also give the impression that they had descended from a long line of British aristocrats whose portraits had been painted by some of the masters of the late eighteenth century. Today, because of the change in the style of interior decorating, the fashion has been directed towards the impressionists.

The result is, of course, combined with the question of the remission of taxation, as has already been mentioned several times, that the value of the impressionists' pictures has been pushed up to the astronomical figures which have already been quoted. The most striking example which occurred recently in this country was that on 26th March, 1958, when Cézanne's "Gardener" went for £25,500. It was an admirable picture, but certainly not one of the most important of Cezanne's works. In my view, the price paid for that picture exceeded its real value.

Dr. Stress

Was not a higher price paid recently—£220,000?

Mr. Edelman

I am obliged to my hon. Friend, who has underlined the point I am making.

I would have no special objection if these pictures when acquired in that way were publicly shown and made accessible to a very large number of people.

Mr. Rees-Davies

For the sake of the record, may I rectify that? I think that the hon. Gentleman was referring to a water colour which fetched £25,500, whereas it was an oil painting which fetched £250,000.

Mr. Edelman

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman, who has once again underlined my point.

The point I wish to emphasise in this connection—it is an important point—is what is to be done with the money once it is given. It is not enough merely for the Treasury to increase the grant. In the United States, for example, some of the impressionist paintings which have drifted there, and which are now hidden away in back rooms and possibly in the cellars of the millionaires' houses, are as useless and as valueless to the community as a whole as the gold hidden away in Fort Knox.

In other words, there is a very great danger that if, for example, the Treasury—I hasten to reaffirm that I am on the side of the hon. Member for Conway and even more on the side of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross)—is to inject into the market another £100,000 of purchasing power for pictures, we have to be extremely careful that that does not merely become a pasture for the picture dealers.

We all know that there are probably very many thousands more Corots in existence than Corot ever painted. The same is true of a large number of modern pictures which, for one reason or another, lend themselves to imitation, copying, reproduction, and, in short, to faking. We have to be extremely careful about that.

I will conclude by making two or three suggestions as to how best we can ensure that the money made available is used to its best advantage. Before I say that, I wish to point out that, quite apart from the danger of this artificially inflated value of pictures, there is also the further danger of the coterie, the danger of a certain group of people who have access to public money and who are responsible for developing collections, developing a taste for, or having an affiliation or sympathy with, a particular artist or with a particular style and using the resources to purchase that kind of picture to the disadvantage of the mass of artists who are producing such works.

To obviate that danger, I suggest that when the Treasury considers the problem as a whole, consideration should be given to setting up a fine arts council to represent all the arts, which would consist of a wide representation of people—not merely art experts and art historians—interested in the arts and occupied with them. Once that was established, the Treasury and the Government should make sure in some way that the trustees or the directors of the various institutions responsible for the application of the money should be rotated fairly regularly to prevent the crystallising of taste in the wrong way which I have endeavoured to describe. There should be a more rapid turnover of trustees, possibly a complete change every seven years, to prevent the congealing of taste in an undesirable form.

The second point I wish to make—and I should like to underline what the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) said earlier—is that if the Government were to give some tax relief to institutions or corporate bodies which acquire works of art on the condition that the works should be put on public display or made available to the public in some form or another for a certain period of the week, then, I think, institutions of that kind—Courtaulds is an admirable example—would be encouraged to spend more money on the acquisition of works of art.

Finally, I come to my last point, which is that if a body which acquires a picture is to avoid, on the one side, the danger of merely following a fad or a fashion, and if, on the other side, it is concerned with a programme of development in order, in the case of a picture collection, to develop a wide variety and a representative assortment of pictures, then it seems to me that a quinquennial grant is necessary rather than merely a yearly budget which may prevent the directors of that gallery or institution from planning ahead.

It would also have a further advantage which has not so far been mentioned. It has always been the practice of patrons in the past, whether private or galleries, to encourage young artists in particular by maintaining them, or, for example, by paying their rent and helping them out even by giving them a salary to keep them going. It is quite clear that if an institution has merely an annual grant it is incapable of making the necessary plans ahead to give a young artist some security of tenure.

I offer these few suggestions in the belief that they are constructive. I believe that the debate today has been a most wholesome one and that it will prove salutary for the arts of our country.

1.30 p.m.

Mr. John Hobson (Warwick and Leamington)

I would like to add my congratulations to those of other speakers to my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) and to congratulate him, in particular, on bringing this subject before the House today.

I agree with my hon. Friend and with the terms of the Motion in expressing gratitude for the increase in the amount of money which is at present being made available by the State for the promotion of the arts. That does not mean that I necessarily think that the money is enough, but it must be a subject of gratification that the arts today are receiving benefits from public funds to the extent of about £7 million compared with less than £1 million paid in 1938 and in 1946.

Before the debate began, I had doubts whether the present system of distributing public funds was satisfactory, but I was impressed by what was said by my hon. Friend that the jungle of agencies through which public funds are now distributed ensures diversity and secures that the money is not concentrated too much on particular subjects and among coteries such as were referred to by the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman).

Nevertheless, I have doubts whether it is proper that the distribution of the major part of these funds should be wholly the responsibility of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I recognise that the present Chancellor is in the great tradition of Chancellors who have had the future prosperity of the arts at heart. I know that my hon. and learned Friend the Financial Secretary devotes great time and attention to any question which arises concerning the arts, and that his heart is in the right place.

If I may continue the zoological analogy of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr), those Ministers are two exceedingly benevolent watchdogs of the public purse when it comes to questions of the arts, but if we are looking for gifts I am never quite sure that we would expect to get them from even the most benevolent of watchdogs.

A great deal of thought ought now to be given to whether it might not be proper to channel through the Ministry of Works the funds that the State is making available to the arts. That Ministry has shown itself, so far as architecture and buildings are concerned, to be an organisation that can do very much in that direction.

I absolutely adhere to the principle that artistic policy should not be the concern of the Government. That would be fatal. The exhibition now in Piccadilly is an admirable example of what can happen to a country that allows its art to get into the hands of a bureaucracy. We must have diversity and we must not allow the Government to dictate taste. Since the Government have become a patron of the arts, however, it might be as well that the watchdogs of the public purse should not be the persons responsible for distributing the money.

I turn to the question of purchasing pictures. When one considers the number of agencies now purchasing pictures with public money, one sees what a jungle there is of such agencies. The Ministry of Works is a buyer for British embassies and public buildings. The Arts Council has assembled a number of pictures for the purposes of a travelling exhibition. The British Council has bought a number of pictures for the purpose of a travelling exhibition overseas. The National Gallery is a purchaser in extending its own collection. The Tate is a buyer of pictures, and even the Victoria and Albert Museum is a buyer of pictures.

When funds are so limited, it might be desirable for the needs of those institutions and of local galleries to be met by allowing the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery to be the sole agents for the public buying of pictures, the Tate buying the modern and the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery the other pictures. It will have been observed that the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art suggested that the National Gallery should be provided with funds out of which it could buy pictures for local galleries. Could not the purchasing of pictures be concentrated in these two agencies? They know where the best pictures are and as soon as pictures become available they hear about them.

They would have to provide different types of picture for local galleries, for British embassies and for overseas exhibitions by the British Council. They could see that the publicly-owned wealth of pictures in this country was suitably distributed and regularly changed, and that when we sent an exhibition overseas it was representative of that section of British art which it was desired to show and was not merely the minor exhibition—if I may refer to it in this way—that the British Council can afford with the limited funds at its disposal.

That leads me to the question of provincial galleries and museums. I want to put in a very special plea for them because the public money available from the State to support them is almost negligible. There is about £2,000 a year from the Victoria and Albert Museum to subsidise local purchases to the extent of 50 per cent. Local galleries are of great importance. They are essential to schools and universities and cater for millions of people who can never get to London to see our great collections. We are fortunate that they have managed to carry on upon the meagre funds they have.

I was most interested in the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) and I heartily agree with him. I have three suggestions of my own. More should be done to see that the vast stores that some of our national collections have, but never display, are made available for local museums. The British Museum has a marvellous collection of great variety, but probably shows a smaller proportion of it than any other national museum. Many of these treasures are capable of being transported without damage and without risk. They should be sent on temporary or permanent loan to exhibitions in university and other towns throughout the country.

There is a similar point for the Victoria and Albert Museum. For instance, it has a unique collection of Hispano-Moorish plates of the fiftenth century. I think that it holds almost the whole world supply. It has 15 of them and exhibits two, always the same two. The other 13 are no doubt carefully preserved and are available in the vaults of the Museum, but nobody ever sees them. I have not the slightest doubt that large number of such treasures in the collections in London could with great advantage be lent to our provincial museums and galleries. Of course, it requires a little organisation and I think the suggestion of my hon. Friend that it should be done through the Standing Committee on Museums and Art Galleries an excellent one.

A second point about provincial galleries is that there is such a wealth, a multitude, of articles of every sort and description that is available which comes through the markets in London that it is extraordinarily difficult for provincial museums and galleries to learn of them. That is one of the problems which curators of local museums and galleries have. Many of those articles come into the London art market and are eventually exported. Many of them are what is known as exempted articles—death duties are not payable on them until they are sold. If the local museums could purchase them with the benefit of remission of death duties, that would greatly assist local museums to acquire what they need.

The same problem does not arise with the large national collections. Large national collections know where all the best things are and owners know which of the national museums are likely to be interested in them. Owners probably offer them to museums and galleries first, but an owner in Northumberland with an important but second-class work probably would not have the slightest idea that the Ashmolean or the Museum of Wales had any particular interest in his work. Through ignorance of that fact it goes into the auction room. In that situation, the local gallery, which is interested, cannot purchase the item by public auction with the remission of death duties.

I made a suggestion on these lines in the debates on the last Finance Bill, but it was not acceptable to the Government. I hope that a solution to this problem may be found, because it affects the quantity of works of art at present being exported. By this means, many articles could be diverted into local museums which otherwise would be bought by buyers from abroad.

The third point by way of help to local museums is, of course, that more money should be provided for them. That goes without saying. If they are to survive and to improve it is necessary that some additional help should be given from central funds, including the suggestion I have mentioned, that the National Gallery should have a fund for the purpose of buying pictures for local galleries.

I turn now to one of the developments which have taken place since the end of the war and which, I am sure, has done more to promote an interest in applied art than anything else. That is the opening of our great country houses. Since the end of the war, the Englishman's castle has ceased to be his home. It has become a place of exhibition. That is greatly to the benefit of everybody because everyone can see pictures, furniture, china and all the decorative arts in the situation in which they were intended to be seen. They can be seen in the provinces.

Country houses are a great benefit to provincial students and schools. They are unique in the world as there is no other country which enjoys the wealth of beauty to be found in our country houses today. They are a great attraction to visitors from overseas. It is, however, quite obvious that with taxation at its present level there is bound to be a continuing break-up of these wonderful collections and the properties in which they are housed.

Chatsworth was only a single example. I am sure no one really feels very happy at the result of those wonderful pictures being torn away from the house in which they have been for so long and from the ownership with which they have always been connected. Most of all, people are unhappy that those works should have been removed from the North of England, where there are not many works of that standard, and been brought into our national collections in London.

Much has been done as a result of the Gowers Report and we are grateful for all that the Ministry of Works and the Historic Buildings Council have done, but there were some recommendations in the Gowers Report which were not put into operation and which I think could now be reconsidered. One was that an owner who, out of his own pocket, spends sums of money on the maintenance and repair of such houses and their contents should be allowed to set that off against tax, not merely to the limit of his Schedule A assessment, but against the whole of his liability for tax assuming, of course, that he makes the collection available to the public.

On this subject, I can do no better than to quote the Chairman of the National Trust, which also has great responsibility in preserving our country houses and their contents. On 7th November, he said: It is taxation that sends valuable pictures across the Atlantic, that cuts down beautiful trees and cheers on the dry rot on its career to victory round the joists of every great house we know. There are limits of expansion beyond which the National Trust cannot go. This is a national problem created by the Government and the Government itself should take a larger measure of responsibility for the problem it has created. The Gowers Committee, ten years ago, recommended taxation relief for approved expenditure on repairs and maintenance of the great historic houses and their contents, and relief from death duties on the houses, their contents and amenity land, provided they were not sold. Although widely welcomed these recommendations were not put into effect; the Government prefer the system of direct grants on a much smaller scale. It is quite plain that the system of direct grants, although of great assistance, is still inadequate to deal with the problem. I have always found it impossible to understand how one can have a remission from death duties for the contents of a house provided they are not sold and yet not have the same benefit for the house itself and its amenity land. After all, these houses are a burden on their owners and the public is obtaining great benefit from them.

I should have thought, provided they were not sold—provided no one was cashing in on them—it would be to the benefit of the country to retain them as the repositories of works of art and to assist in so doing by treating both the contents and the property in the same way, that is, by giving a remission of death duties so long as the public have access and the property itself is not sold. That recommendation of the Gowers Committee received wide support and I hope the Government may find it possible now to reconsider it.

One last point concerns the control of the export of works of art. In Christie's and Sotheby's, in London, we have a world art market which is absolutely outstanding. Works of art are being sent from all over the Continent of Europe and from America for sale in this country. Many of them are works which have previously been exported from this country. This is greatly to the benefit of the country not merely from the financial point of view, but because it brings large numbers of visitors who are interested in the sales and makes available in the country many works of art which is of particular benefit to the experts at the museums. They have a unique opportunity of increasing their expertise, learning what there is for sale, and seeing all the different types of article in which they are interested. So that that market should operate, it is necessary that it should be as uncontrolled as possible.

During the last few years, following suggestions made by the Waverley Committee in 1952, there has been a control on the export of works of art. Before it can be exported any antique more than a hundred years old, with a value of more than £500, has to be referred to an expert to see whether it is of national importance and ought to be retained in this country.

That is the form of control as it now exists. The Waverley Committee sug- gested that the limit should be the same as to age, namely, one hundred years, but that the financial limit should be £1,000 and not £500. The Committee suggested that the figure should be fixed high and that it could be reduced later if need be and if experience should show it necessary. But what the Government did was to fix the figure low at £500.

I should have thought that in view of the rise in prices generally since that time that low limit could well have been raised. When one looks at the last year one finds that 55 per cent. of the applications for export were within the limits of £500 to £1,000, but that they actually involved only one-fifth of the total value of the goods concerned. Not one of those applications was refused. Only one was referred to the Reviewing Committee, the majority of whom decided that it was a work that could be exported. One can well see that, apart from documents, which are different, the lower limit of £1,000 is perfectly safe as far as works of national importance are concerned.

In the early part of this century if the word "culture" was mentioned the tycoons reached for their cheque books. In the intervening period some Germans whose names we know reached for their pistols. Today, because of financial stringencies, when the word "culture" is mentioned we must look to the Treasury to search its coffers and see what it can produce. I very much hope, and am in high expectation, that we shall have some good news from my hon. and learned Friend the Financial Secretary.

1.42 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)

In adding my congratulations to the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) on using his success in the Ballot to introduce this Motion, I do so with sincerity but with some envy, because for two or three years I have been ballotting, with singular lack of fortune, for the opportunity to introduce just such a Motion. My consolation is that I could not have hoped to introduce my Motion so felicitously as the hon. Member for Conway has done today.

Perhaps a word of explanation is needed to supplement what my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) said about the reason why some of us felt it necessary to table an Amendment. For my part, I could not find it in my heart, with the best will in the world, to express my gratitude to this Government for what they have done in the field of the arts. I do not want to inject any party politics into this debate, but compared with the record of the Labour Government in the extremely difficult period of austerity following the war, the record of the present Government in this field is miserable.

I cannot forget the mean museum cuts which the present Home Secretary introduced when he was at the Treasury. I cannot forget the refusal of this Government to provide the miserable sum of £50,000 to save a number of provincial museums from the danger of extinction. I cannot forget the Government's assassination of the Crown Film Unit. Nor can I forget the stolid rearguard action that they have been fighting over the years against the repeated demands and the unanswerable arguments of the trustees of our national institutions for increased purchasing grants. I can only hope that that resistance may come to an end in some measure later this afternoon.

This is a vast subject; yet in spite of that, almost every aspect of it has been covered in one or other of the speeches which we have heard so far. The most one can do at this stage of the debate is to try to concentrate on the points where one thinks the priorities lie. I would say in passing how strongly I support the suggestion of the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) and of my right hon. Friend with regard to the embellishment of buildings and the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central for the provincial museums, I would add that the Government have a responsibility not only to see that existing museums do not die, but to encourage local authorities and others to provide museums in those desert areas of Great Britain where none exist today.

I should like to say a word about opera and Covent Garden. In the first annual report issued by the trustees they ask for a grant of £500,000 per annum. This is something like half as much again as they are currently receiving. They say in that Report: It is no exaggeration to say that, from one financial year to another, we have never known whether we shall have the wherewithal to survive"— That from our national opera house, in a country which has a great tradition in culture and the arts.

There is a widespread feeling in this country and particularly in this House that somehow or other Covent Garden is an extravagant institution. Like so many other things in this country, we get our opera on the cheap compared with other countries in Europe. Both the Paris and Vienna opera houses get a subsidy of approximately £1 million a year, and if Austria can afford £1 million for the Vienna State Opera, I should have thought that the least we can do is to provide £500,000 for Covent Garden.

Covent Garden was re-established after the war, thanks to the initiative of Sir Stafford Cripps, at a time of extreme economic difficulty, and the foresight and courage which he showed then have been amply repaid by the record of Covent Garden in the years since then. I would not support the suggestion made by one hon. Member opposite that Covent Garden should become another national institution, but I do think there is a lot to be said for the Minister of Works taking over the fabric of the building which, though beautiful, is out of date, and the cost of maintaining it is one of the most difficult items which the trustees have to face every year. Better still, I would like to see the Government build a modern opera house. I do not suggest that Covent Garden should be closed down, but I want to see as well a modern opera house such as are to be found in Germany today.

Probably the most immediately important item is the question of purchase grants. References to this subject have been made repeatedly in the periodical reports that the trustees of the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery have published. I do not want to go into those arguments in great detail. But I think the House should reflect upon what it is we are starving. These two galleries, which are complementary to one another, and which together represent the finest collection of painting in the world, have long been starved for money. They are visited by over 1,500,000 people every year. I would say in this connection that I strongly deprecate the suggestion that has been made—not in the debate today—that the public should be required to pay for admission to the National Gallery.

If these galleries are to retain their status in the world they must have the facilities to go on purchasing works of art. They cannot become static institutions, and I do not believe that it is even sufficient to say that we must merely fill the gaps in the national collections. It is the function of those institutions to buy good and outstanding paintings wherever and whenever they can. The National Gallery has asked for £150,000 a year and the Tate Gallery asks for £40,000. These are extremely modest amounts, and I would hope that they are the least that the Financial Secretary is going to offer this afternoon.

I do not accept the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) that the injection of this additional sum by the Treasury must somehow contribute to the inflation of prices in the art world. When we think that the additional sum for which we are asking represents less than one-quarter of the sum paid in one half-hour one morning at Sotheby's for seven impressionist pictures, one gets some idea of the scale of the matter.

I should like to put one argument which may appeal to some of those who have not been completely convinced by the aesthetic argument. The purchases in the past by the trustees of these institutions have been a magnificent investment for this country, and the current report quotes one year a century ago—the year 1857–58—when the National Gallery acquired for less than £30,000 pictures which are today worth £3 million. In 100 years they have increased in value 100 times.

The only other subject with which I want to deal in any detail is that of the British Museum, which was touched upon by the 'hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) who seconded the Motion. He raised a matter which I have advanced in the House to the Financial Secretary on more than one occasion. It is the hours of opening of the British Museum Reading Room. The Reading Room of the British Museum is probably the finest library in the world, and this Reading Room closes every day of the week at 5 o'clock. Therefore, the only opportunity for any part-time student in normal full employment to have access to the British Museum Reading Room is on Saturday afternoon. This is not good enough.

When I asked a Question about this, the Financial Secretary replied to me that the trustees of the British Museum, while they would like to do this, have various other priorities for any additional money that might become available, and he said that the extension of hours would cost £50,000 a year. I have been going into this, and I discovered that at the beginning of this century, the Reading Room was open until 8 o'clock at night. In 1905 the hour came down to 7 o'clock, and progressively it has been reduced until it is now 5 o'clock in the afternoon. In Moscow, the library which is equivalent to the British Museum Reading Room is open until midnight seven nights a week.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is not only a question of the Reading Room, but that the whole question of the opening hours of all museums and galleries in this country needs to be reviewed? It has not been touched on at all. Why should we not have a late night at the Tate Gallery once a week? Why should we not have a late night once a week at the British Museum Reading Room? These are matters which have not been mentioned, but surely they are most important questions.

Mr. Robinson

I think the hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) has done very well indeed in getting in his speech in the course of an intervention. I do not dissent from anything he has said; I am merely concentrating on this one point, and I want to go into the matter further.

I asked the Financial Secretary what were the priorities which the trustees were so concerned about, and his answer was that they wanted money for more accommodation, more staff, and for the maintenance of existing services, and that they would regard this as an extension of the services. They also want more money for purchases and more money for printing, and all these are very desirable things. Why do they need money for all these purposes? It emerges that the British Museum is probably more starved for money than any other single institution in the country.

I have been going into the figures of the annual grants, and it is quite clear that, allowing for the fall in the value of money, the grant to the British Museum is substantially less today than it was before the First World War. This is taking no account whatever of the increase in the spread of education, the increase in interest and scholarship and all the other things, because of which one would have expected the Museum services to have expanded. No wonder the trustees, much as they would like to keep the Museum and Reading Room open in the evening, decided that the £50,000, if they had it, would be better spent on some of these things. One thing they might do is to get on with the cataloguing of the Additional Manuscripts, which stopped short in 1923, thirty-five years ago, leaving thirty-five years' of arrears. Is it not disgraceful? I hope the Financial Secretary will pay very considerable attention to this.

These two institutions—the National and Tate Galleries, which I take collectively, and the British Museum—one might have thought, would have been the favourite children of any civilised Government. They are institutions which are administered by trustees of great distinction and responsibility, who should be given the money they ask for, within reason, in order to do their job, and provide the services which the public ought to have, and then be left to get on with that job, with, perhaps, an avuncular eye from time to time to see that the administration is efficient and economic.

That, however, is not the attitude which we take. There is no question about it that, as far back as one likes to go, Government after Government has been incredibly mean and parsimonious towards the arts in this country, and it is just not good enough in this post-war world, when private patronage has virtually faded out. This is an important matter, for our traditions and culture in this country are a very considerable factor in our prestige in the world. For this reason, if for no other, it is the duty of the Government to see that the arts flourish and are not starved in this country.

2.7 p.m.

Mr. Norman Panned (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

I cannot claim the knowledge, experience or appreciation of the arts which have characterised the earlier speeches in this debate. I am afraid that I would have to be classified as a Philistine, and it is in view of that fact that I introduce what may be considered a sordid commercial note into the debate. In doing so, I disagree with an aside made by the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson), who said he strongly resisted a suggestion that a charge should be made for entry into art galleries and museums.

I do not agree with that point of view. I cannot understand why, if a charge is made for visiting historical buildings like the Tower of London, Hampton Court and ancient castles, a charge should not be made in respect of museums or art galleries. It seems to me it is equally important that the public should have knowledge of the traditions and history of this country as that they should have knowledge of its art.

We have been told today that historical buildings benefit from grants on the understanding that they are open to the public, but I think almost invariably they are open to the public at a charge. I believe, also, that on the Continent it is quite a common thing for a small charge to be made as an entrance fee or admission fee to art galleries. Certainly, it is true in Paris, and the Louvre, in particular, has always had a charge.

In my earlier days, it was two francs, and although it is now up to 50 or 100 francs, I have never heard that it has deterred people from visiting the Louvre. I should imagine that the figures for admissions to the Louvre compare very favourably with those for the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery here, and its prestige is certainly as high. I cannot understand why those who benefit from visiting the art galleries and museums should not contribute to their maintenance.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that the present Minister of Housing and Local Government, when he was Financial Secretary to the Treasury, had this point put to him by an hon. Member on the Government side and he replied that, when an experiment along these lines was made before the war, the cost of collecting the admission fee almost reached the total amount taken".— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1956; Vol. 550, c. 930.] He came to the conclusion that there was nothing to be gained from imposing a charge.

Mr. Pannell

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, but I submit that conditions have changed very much since that time before the war. There has been a great redistribution of wealth and what might have been an onerous charge—it could not have been less than 6d. before the war—would be well within the capacity of people to pay today. I am not suggesting that a charge should be made which would cover the cost of galleries and museums. The charge would be a nominal one only for the purpose of increasing or maintaining the collections.

It could be argued that it would be contrary to tradition to make a charge for admission, but tradition is constantly changing. There was at one time a tradition of benefactions by wealthy people. That has gone. Now there is a wider distribution of wealth. I do not think that anyone would be deterred from visiting an art gallery or museum by a charge of 1s., which is only a fraction of what he would have to pay to go to a football match or to the cinema.

I have received, and no doubt other hon. Members have received, from the Museum Association a list of certain art galleries and museums in the provinces. I have taken out one or two figures which illustrate the position. I regret that I have to mention first the City of Liverpool, one of whose constituencies I represent, because it shows up rather badly in this connection. The total expenditure of the Walker Art Gallery was £50,000 and the attendance figure was 126,000. That is 8s. per head for every person who entered that building. That is the highest in the country, indicating, perhaps, a comparative lack of appreciation of that quite remarkable collection of pictures. The total amount that the Liverpool Corporation is able to spend on new acquisitions is £3,000 a year.

I take that extremely bad case to illustrate my point. If an admission charge of 1s. were made for entry into the Walker Art Gallery, the corporation would receive an income of £6,300. Here, I will answer the point made by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood). I cannot think that those who would wish to see that collection would be deterred from doing so by an admission charge of 1s., and the collection costs would be only a tiny fraction of the £6,300. If the corporation allocated that money not to reduce expenses but solely for the purpose of new acquisitions, it would then have £9,300 available instead of £3,000.

There are other cases which, perhaps, are even more significant. In Manchester, it seems that the arts are more appreciated, although, in passing, I must say that the Walker Art Gallery, in Liverpool, has only recently been reopened after a long period of closure. In Manchester, there was a total expenditure of £78,000 and an admission total of 502,000. The average expenditure per head was 3s. If a 1s. charge were made, the income to be derived from that would be £25,000 a year. Here again, the cost of collection would be insignificant, I am sure.

The total amount allocated by the Manchester Corporation to the acquisition of works of art for the art gallery is £5,000 a year. Let us say that £5,000 of the £25,000 would be lost in expenses. There would be £20,000 more, giving a total of £25,000 for the acquisition of new works of art instead of the present figure of £5,000. There are innumerable examples. In Birmingham, there would be an increase of £47,000 against an already relatively high expenditure of £12,000.

The National Gallery must be visited by hundreds of thousands of foreigners who would be perfectly ready to pay. The attendance is over 1 million, and the cost is relatively low, 1s. 6d. per head. If a charge of 1s. were made, there would be an income of £59,000 a year. This is to be compared with the £12,500 at present available for acquisitions. The total of those two sums would give the gallery £71,500, which would go far towards meeting its requirements.

I cannot see why the museums and art galleries should be an exception in this respect and why people who want to see them should not pay a nominal sum. The money raised, after deduction of expenses, should be used not for reducing the total expenditure on the museums and galleries but for the sole purpose of new acquisitions, which is one of the desirable purposes indicated in the Motion.

2.16 p.m.

Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)

Perhaps the hon. Member for Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) will forgive me if I do not follow his remarks closely, for two reasons: first, that time is running short; and, secondly, that I disagree so profoundly with him that if I were to express all my objections to what he had to say I should introduce a gall into our discussions which has hitherto been absent.

In passing, I will say that the hon. Member's argument about paying for admission overlooks the fact that the people who use the galleries already pay for them through their taxation and, in many cases, through the rates. The hon. Gentleman is asking that the users of the galleries should pay twice for the privilege of entry.

If the hon. Gentleman would not mind, I will now, for the reasons I have given, pass on to another subject in which I am interested and concentrate my remarks in the time available to me on the treatment of music in this country.

I understand that, when the smart boarding schools send out their tariffs, as it were, to parents of prospective pupils, their prospectuses always carry a line, "Music and riding extra". In this country, music is still regarded as an extra, something that is not on the curriculum, something which one has to learn quite separately and at one's own expense. The figures of subsidy to the seven great orchestras we have—I think it is seven—work out to an average of about £15,000 for each of them. Such sums are totally inadequate.

Our musicians are, on the whole, extremely badly paid. The apprenticeship they serve to their stern mistress is a very long and arduous one and no one, not even, I think, the fashionable conductors, enter upon a musical career primarily to make money. It is truly a vocation. The musicians themselves carry the burden because of the parsimony with which we treat music generally.

We have today had many statistics about the amount of money paid to other orchestras. It is really staggering that the Vienna State Opera receives £1 million a year from the State. The Paris Opera has £1¼ million from the State. The City of Hamburg gives more money to the Hamburg Opera than is given to Covent Garden, and the Bavarian State gives almost as much money to the Munich Opera as we give to Covent Garden.

There is a way by which we can extend music in this country without expense to the Government. In 1948 the Labour Government produced the Local Government Act, Section 132 of which entitles a local authority to expend a 6d. rate on entertainment, dancing, theatres, concerts and the maintenance of a band or orchestra and concert halls and the like. I am interested in this point, because I represent a London constituency. Although local authorities have permission to expend a 6d. rate, some of them are not spending a penny in this direction.

There are notable exceptions, however, such as Edmonton and Tottenham, which are spending 1 ½d. and 2d., and Walthamstow and Leyton, which widely advertise the musical entertainment which they offer to the citizens of the borough. But there are lamentable exceptions, in particular wealthy boroughs, like Marylebone, which make no contribution of any sort to the arts.

Those of us who represent London constituencies are proud of our football teams. There is scarcely a borough which has not a passionate loyalty to a local football team. I should like to see encouragement given to the possibility of showing similar loyalty towards a municipal orchestra, a repertory theatre or an art gallery. All these things could be provided under the Local Government Act, 1948.

I submit to the Financial Secretary that the Government are so used to sending circulars to local authorities telling them what not to do it would be a good idea if they sent a circular telling local authorities what they are allowed to do. One of the things which they are allowed to do is to spend up to a 6d. rate in the direction which I have suggested.

London is becoming a sleezy town with a lot of sleezy entertainment. Parts of London are occupied by hideous little cellars where nude shows go on, and walking through Soho now is an exercise which is not the most pleasant. This city, which used to provide a great deal of good and healthy entertainment for the people, is now becoming as commercialised as it could be. The trouble is that we expect people to go to entertainment instead of taking entertainment to the people. I see no reason why there should not be the same pride in a borough in what is going on in that borough as there is pride in what is going on in the nation.

This could be assisted and encouraged if the Government would take the lead in two directions. First, they should set local authorities an example by the way in which they treat the arts and, secondly, they have to remind local authorities of the powers which they have and, at the same time, remind the citizens that if a local authority fails to exercise those powers it is not doing its duty to the citizens.

I therefore join with my hon. Friends in congratulating the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) on the way in which he moved the Motion. Although it was suggested that the Financial Secretary will do no more than carry out a holding, possibly stalling, operation, at least this debate has made it clear to him that on both sides of the House there is a devotion to the arts and a determination to continue to press the Government to recognise that it is in our national interest as a great nation to encourage and foster the arts which are natural to this country.

2.25 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Nicolson (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)

The assumption which has underlain this debate is a correct assumption. It is that the public do not regret the expenditure of their money on the arts provided it is well spent and not over-concentrated in one particular area. I need say very little about the first proviso. I disagree with the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson), who criticised the Government for unwise expenditure and niggardly contributions to the arts. That is a charge which the Government do not deserve. Wherever the Government have been directly responsible for sponsoring the arts, either, for example, through the Ministry of Works in commissioning works of architecture, or through the Post Office in commissioning designs for posters, they have done their best to attract into their service the best talent available. Without their patronage the arts today would have been in a far more parlous state than they are.

With regard to the second proviso that the patronage should be widely spread, there is the danger of over-concentration on the Metropolis. I do not disagree with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross). London is one of the world's great cities, and it is inevitable that a large proportion of state expenditure on the arts should be concentrated here. Equally, we must not forget the provinces, and it is about the provincial aspects of patronage that I want to speak.

The provinces need help for two reasons. First, it is clear that the help which is available to them from private local sources is not as great as it is in London, with its great riches. Secondly, it would be deplorable if we were to deprive local communities of their sense of identity to which a local museum, a local orchestra or a local arts club can make a great contribution. With the ease of communication up and down the country, it is more possible for the people to travel to the centre and see its masterpieces, but it is equally necessary, in view of the growing interest in all branches of the arts, largely fostered by television programmes, that the children and adults who live a great distance from the Metropolis should be able to see examples in their own town of what they see on a television screen or read about in the newspapers.

It is important that the Government should give more help to local museums. It has been said many times today that local museums are in dire straits, but if one examines the casualty lists of museums one finds that very few have had to close their doors. What one does find is that the quality of the maintenance of their treasures has deteriorated through lack of funds. They are forced to sell many of their best pieces to keep going. They have been obliged to engage curators who are not of the first quality because they cannot afford the salary of a better man.

Some areas are without any museum. For instance, the Medway towns, which consists of a community of about 300,000 people, have no museum. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) will no doubt correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that there is no museum in the area of Margate and Ramsgate.

These are some indications of the way in which this shortage of money bears hardly upon the museums. What has been done so far by the Government to remedy the situation? The museums have no revenue whatever from the Arts Council. The sum of money at the disposal of the Victoria and Albert Museum for distribution among provincial museums for the purchase of new works of art amounts to no more than £2,000 a year. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Financial Secretary will be able to tell us in his reply whether there is any intention to increase that sum. It is also only recently that the President of the Board of Trade, when he was Minister of Education, was able to make it a great deal easier for museums to claim back through their local authority up to 60 per cent. of the expenditure upon maintenance. These two palliatives do very little to meet the crisis.

My hon. and learned Friend has no doubt heard of the strong efforts being made by the Museum Association to bring order into this rather chaotic situation. As has already been said in the debate, the Association intends to set up regional councils for museums. These councils will live or die by the amount of encouragement or discouragement which they receive from the Treasury. I am not asking that a large sum of money should be put at the disposal of provincial museums directly by the Government. I am asking that a fund should be set up to provide first aid for the most desperate cases. I suggest that this fund should be channelled first through the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries, which is the official body, and, secondly, through the new regional councils of the Museum Association.

It was my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Housing, when he was Financial Secretary, who suggested that these regional councils should be set up. He pointed out that it was extremely difficult for the Treasury to deal independently with 800 museums throughout the country. He said that if there could be a body with regional associations but sufficiently cohesive to form a group, with which the Treasury could deal directly, there was far more chance that the Treasury would make more money available for these emergency purposes.

I now turn to the only other topic with which I wish to deal in the debate. It concerns provincial orchestras. I happen to have one in my constituency. In recent weeks, Bournemouth has unhappily become known for a certain amount of cacophony, but it is a consolation to me, and I hope to my constituents, that we have also sponsored one of the finest symphony orchestras in the country. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra has acquired, certainly national, and probably international fame. It is in great difficulties. I can sum up the problem in the phrase used to me by its manager, who wrote: Instead of the managements of orchestras being in a position to concentrate on perfecting the art of music and providing the highest possible standards, they are faced with constant financial problems and uncertainty. That observation is true to a greater or lesser extent of all nine major symphony orchestras in the country, and it is particularly true of his own.

I give the example of the Bournemouth Orchestra because I think that it might be of some value to the House. It performs concerts in the West Country, west of a line drawn between Gloucester and Portsmouth. It is a large area, with few big cities in it and, correspondingly, few large halls suitable for the playing of orchestral music. The members of the orchestra have to travel very long distances. It is less possible for them than for other orchestras to make journeys abroad, for which they have no assistance at all from the Arts Council or from the British Council. They find it more difficult to journey to London for broadcasts and to make recordings, and they find, inevitably, with the great distances involved and the huge areas to be covered, that they are under-rehearsed and over-played. That is the reason for the complaint made in the letter which I have just read.

The only possible solution is that more money should be made available to them from public funds. It is depressing to see that when the Arts Council subdivides the total amount of money which it makes available to the nine orchestras concerned, it seems to take little account of the special regional difficulties of individual orchestras. The Arts Council will make available to the orchestra of a large city such as Liverpool or Manchester much the same amount of money as it will make available to an orchestra in a place like Bournemouth. The Council does not take sufficiently into account what the local population can raise among themselves.

We have recently introduced a scheme of sharing some of the burden on local authorities by inviting other cities in the area, such as Exeter and Plymouth, to contribute towards the total expenses of the orchestra. Nevertheless, it is placing upon a comparatively small and widely dispersed population a very heavy burden indeed. One result of it has been that the orchestra, which should be maintained at a strength of 75 if it is to give the service which it wishes to give, cannot afford at the moment to employ more than about 65. The musicians are paid low salaries for their skill and experience. I believe that £13 10s. a week is the average salary of a man who has spent many years in mastering a difficult instrument. It is impossible for them to have any form of pensions scheme or insurance against temporary disability.

We have therefore reached a position in which this orchestra, the loss of which would be a loss to the whole country, is faced annually by the problem of solvency. The Arts Council could help it to some extent by giving notice in advance of what subsidy would be available to it over a period of years ahead. All orchestras complain of this. At the moment, plans are being made, and indeed have to be made, for as far ahead as September, 1960, but the orchestras know no further ahead than April of this year what money they are likely to receive in the next annual grant.

This is our complaint. I am well aware that my hon. and learned Friend cannot order the Arts Council to make more money available to this or that orchestra or, indeed, to orchestras in general, but what he could do is to bear in mind the kind of problem which I have outlined in deciding what amount of money should be made available to the Arts Council itself. In other words, in assessing the total figure, I ask him to have a very clear idea of how it will be sub-divided.

If nothing can be done, there will be casualties. The difficulties, the differences, are purely marginal. A few hundred thousand pounds spread over all the orchestras could make all the difference, and the Government would, in this way, earn the gratitude, not only of all music-loving people in this country, but of every man and woman who has concern for the arts and wishes to see us remain in the forefront of the musical and cultural nations of the world.

2.40 p.m.

Mr. G. H. R. Rogers (Kensington, North)

I have only about three minutes in which to make my contribution to the debate, as I understand that the Financial Secretary wants a good deal of time in which to read out the noughts in the figures of the increase in the grant to the arts. I therefore propose to confine myself to one small aspect with which, as a painter myself, I am most in touch; and that is the plight of individual artists—especially the younger ones.

Before doing so, perhaps I may be allowed to say, by way of preamble, that in, say, a thousand years, when historians are looking at the history of our times, they will read, perhaps, according to our contemporary Press, that in some parts of the world hundreds of millions of pounds are being spent in sending rockets to the moon while people in India are starving; that in Britain, we spend over £1,000 million a year on arms, while Members of Parliament say, in this Chamber, how grateful they are for the expenditure of £1 million for the ballet and music.

In other words, those historians will see the colossal expenditure on the effects of the worst side of man's nature, while the flowers of the spirit receive a sum so small that no Chancellor can even budget for it. That is the position. The fact is that the sum about which we are now talking—and I am speaking now of the sum left for music, the ballet, the galleries, and so on—is so small that, even if raised to £5 million, which is what I think the Government ought to be prepared to spend, it could not be budgeted for by any Chancellor in the future.

That is all I propose to say on the general subject, because I am taking the time of my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood). On the question of the painter of today who is trying to make a living in a world where art is not much appreciated, it is all very well to watch dealers exploiting the value of the French impressionists who, in the main, could not sell their work when alive—in fact, Van Gogh and others were largely amateurs who never sold a picture in their lives; it is all very well to watch the dealers making huge profits, but what about our young artists who, although nowadays they do not live in garrets and starve quite so much—largely because most houses do not have garrets now—at least go short of the necessities of life while trying to establish themselves? They get very little encouragement from the community as a whole.

I recently came across a friend of mine. He lives in Chelsea, and happens to have a studio. Under a recent revaluation, the local authority rated his studio as a factory, and his rates went up accordingly. As a result, he was asked to pay in increased rates more money than he had earned in the whole of the previous year by the sale of his paintings. I helped him to get the rates reduced, but that attitude is typical of some sections of the community, particularly in the provinces, to the struggling young painter.

One reason for that attitude is lack of money on the part of the local authorities. That is why the younger artist is not helped enough. In London, his main difficulty lies in finding a studio, similar to those occupied in Holland Road, Kensington, where, in fact, a number occupied by well-known artists are being pulled down to make room for large blocks of offices which have a greater market value. No assistance is given to the artist to find somewhere to work.

Cannot the Government do anything to help local authorities and encourage them to build studios at a rent that young artists can afford to pay? It is of no use putting up expensive studios at rents they cannot afford. The Government should encourage local authorities not only to build studios, but to buy pictures when the young artist has them ready for exhibition.

I hope that the Financial Secretary will not be too much dominated by the dark shadow of the Chancellor, but will give thought to developing the living arts here, and see what he can do to help young artists.

2.45 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)

On 19th March, 1956, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I initiated a debate on the National Gallery, as a result of which the Government made a handsome concession. They agreed to increase the miserable allocation of £10,500 a year to the hardly less miserable sum of £12,500 a year. I find it very difficult today to join in the general gratitude expressed to the Government for their so-called generosity. On that occasion, the then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, now the Minister of Housing and Local Government, said that he intended to make a thorough review of the whole subject. The difficulty with the right hon. Gentleman is that he is always so thorough that he is very slow in what he does—unless it is in raising the rents of millions of our citizens.

Those to whom I really am grateful are the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas), who brought this Motion forward today, and those of our colleagues on both sides, like my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) and the hon. Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr), who, year after year, have brought this matter before the House and consistently brought pressure on the Government to treat the arts more generously.

Over the years, a mounting pressure has been brought to bear on the Government. It has been brought to bear by many organs of the Press. Papers like the Evening Standard, The Times, the News Chronicle, the Manchester Guardian, the Observer and the Sunday Times have all pleaded, month after month, for some relaxation of the Government's attitude.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, when he met the Press after a most successful tour of Wales a few days ago, spoke of the need to help the arts. He said: We have to face the fact that in a modern, democratic, non-feudal world it is wrong that we should have to rely upon a few wealthy individuals to finance these national enterprises. I think we have to do more as a community through the State for the arts and for museums as well. We shall make suggestions in greater detail later. We have, of course, referred to the subject in the document "The Future Labour Offers You," and the party will be later putting forward more detailed proposals.

We have now reached a desperate situation, and I believe that it is attributable in very great part to the economic policy of the Government. There has been an abundance of warnings to the Government on these matters. It must be almost without precedent in our political history that State-sponsored bodies such as the trustees of the National Gallery, the trustees of the Tate, and the members of the Arts Council should have spoken of the Government as strongly and as critically in their Annual Reports as these bodies have in the last few years.

The tragedy is that the spirit of neglect and parsimony that has dominated Government policy has been shown during a period of acute transition, when many works of art have been coming on to the market, and when, in spite of everything, there has been a growing interest and awareness of the arts. There is doubt that although the theatre and the cinema may be going through a period of decline at present, the interest in painting, sculpture, music and the ballet is probably now more widespread among us than ever before.

Unfortunately, I believe that the effects of the neglect will be enduring and that the present Minister of Housing and Local Government and the present Minister of Pensions and National Service have a very heavy responsibility for their policy in these matters when they occupied the position of Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Their policy, when in office, was in marked contrast to the policy of my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) and the late Sir Stafford Cripps.

During the period of neglect which has followed since the present Government took office, theatres have closed and been pulled down, works of art have been exported and the development of orchestras and operatic companies has been impeded. There must be many young men and women who might have contemplated taking up a musical career, but have been discouraged from doing so because of the uncertainty which hangs over the whole musical world in this country.

The hon. Member for Conway paid proper tribute to the new forms of patronage which have developed. The decision of the television programme contractors to help the arts was, no doubt, not entirely disinterested, but it was nevertheless welcome. The attitude of progressive local authorities, which has been referred to this afternoon, has also been extremely helpful. And I do not think that we should neglect to pay tribute to bodies like the Trades Union Congress and many commercial undertakings, as well as local authorities, who have set aside sums of money in order to incorporate works of art in new buildings for which they have been responsible.

But if this policy is to be continued, I believe that local authorities must receive greater encouragement than they have received during the past few years. I believe, too, that industrialists and others will have to be given tax concessions in order to help them to do the kind of things which hon. Members on both sides of the House have been asking that they should do.

As the Arts Council has pointed out, there is a great deal to be said in favour of the State not being the sole patron of the arts. I think the time is long overdue when we ought really to inquire into the extent of State responsibility in these matters. As my hon. Friends know, however, I am not at all happy about the suggestion of an interdepartmental committee. I should have thought the kind of body we need is one rather like that set up by the Gulbenkian Foundation under the chairmanship of Lord Bridges, to advise the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or whichever Minister is responsible for matters of this kind.

At this stage I wish to say to the Financial Secretary that I hope he will be able to accept the Motion moved by his hon. Friend, and also the Amendment which stands in the names of some of my hon. Friends, with, of course, an understandable reservation about the nature of the inquiry which would be set up. If the hon. and learned Gentleman is able to do that, I think we shall be able to end this debate on a note of unanimity which has not characterised all the speeches made so far.

Today we have discussed the great crisis in the arts and for a moment I wish to touch upon the position of the National Gallery, although, because of the lack of time, I shall not be able to discuss various other national institutions. I wish to remind the Financial Secretary that it is over three years since Lord Radcliffe expressed the view that the National Gallery ought to have £150,000 a year for ten years.

We heard from the hon. Member for Conway about the size of the grant which was received by the National Gallery in 1900–01—£5,700 a year. I wish to go further back than that. There were few years between 1865 and 1889 in which the annual grant to the National Gallery was less than £10,000 a year, almost the size of the grant paid today, in spite of the fact that at that time the purchasing value of money was about ten or twelve times what it is at present.

I do not think anybody can seriously doubt that we have starved the National Gallery and the other institutions during the past few years. Today we have heard about the gaps which exist in the National Gallery. At the moment, of course, it is completely beyond the power of the trustees to fill them. At home I have a rather elaborate filing system which sometimes works, and yesterday I looked up the newspaper cuttings about the prices of works of art during the past year.

All these figures which I am about to quote were taken from The Times: On 21st November, 1958, "15,000 gns. for a Bellini". On 10th May, 1958, "36,000 gns. for early El Greco". On 3rd July, 1958, "£33,000 paid for a Rubens sketch". On 16th October, 1958, "Seven Paintings make £781,000 in 21 mins. £220,000 for a Cezanne". When one sees figures of that kind, one realises how impossible it is for the trustees of the National Gallery to do the job as it ought to be done.

Every time this question has been raised in the House, the Financial Secretary has pointed out—I think a little over-complacently—the amount which has been donated by the Government in the form of supplementary grants for the purchase of particular works of art. I have always been disappointed in the hon. and learned Gentleman in that respect because he is an enlightened and sensitive person, and I have never quite understood his reasoning on this aspect of the problem. It is quite impossible for the Trustees of the National Gallery to plan the development of their collection on a basis of supplementary grants from the Treasury.

The weakness of the present position is threefold. First, there can be no planning; secondly, they can get these pictures only if there is a danger of a picture being exported, and thirdly, there is no provision at all for the acquisition of pictures to be bought in markets overseas. That policy, which has been forced on the trustees of the National Gallery, is in marked contrast with the Treasury Minute of 27th March, 1855, the contents of which no doubt are engraved upon the heart of the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Nor do I think the provisions of the Finance Bill, 1956, Section 34, are adequate. They are entirely fortuitous. They depend, first, upon someone dying; secondly, upon someone dying who happens to have a collection of pictures, and, thirdly, on someone dying who owns a collection of pictures which happens to meet the deficiencies in the National Gallery at that time. It is quite impossible for the trustees to develop, expand and maintain a national collection on this rather haphazard principle which has been dictated by the Treasury over the last few years.

I am afraid that the whole Administration of the National Gallery has continued to be fortuitous. The trustees are only going to be able to extend on the site in Trafalgar Square by virtue of the good fortune that the Canadian Government has decided that it does not want that piece of land. I should like to think that we were about to move into an era in which it was possible for our national collections to plan over a longer period, with adequate resources at their disposal. I believe that that will be the most economic way in which they can develop.

What I have said about the National Gallery is equally true of the Tate Gallery and the British Museum. You, Mr. Speaker, and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) know much better than I do the way in which the British Museum has been treated during the last few years, but I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) and the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) exaggerated when they referred in such scathing terms to the treatment meted out to the trustees of the National Gallery.

I hope that the Government will appreciate the importance of our local art galleries and museums. I do not think that anybody should underestimate their importance. If anybody is in doubt of that they should study the attendance figures at some of the provincial art galleries and museums. The difficulty is that the trustees of those institutions and local authorities are finding it difficult to maintain them in the way they should be maintained, and most are finding it extremely difficult to find the resources to expand and develop their collections.

I hope that it will be possible for the Government to give some sort of additional assistance to the museum and art gallery service in the provinces. I should like to see this done on an ambitious scale, in the kind of way envisaged by the late Mr. George Tomlinson, but as Sir Philip Hendy pointed out only last summer, it need not be on an elaborate scale, because the machinery exists at the Victoria and Albert Museum. But the museum at present has only £2,000 at its disposal to help municipal provincial museums in that way.

I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will take into account all the suggestions that have been made about the future of the Arts Council. It is extremely embarrassing for the Council to have to decide exactly what forms of art to support and what forms to neglect. If the Government really insist upon opera having priority over other forms of art they should give the Council a special allocation for the support of Covent Garden, entirely different from that which is given to it to help it in its work of diffusing amenities for art throughout the country.

There are many other issues which I would have liked to touch upon, but time is running out, and in conclusion I would merely point out to the hon. and learned Member that hon. Members on this side of the House believe that the Govern- ment's economic policy, with the industrial stagnation which has resulted, has put the country in a very difficult position. But that point is not accepted by hon. Members opposite, and if our analysis of the situation is not accepted it greatly strengthens the argument for a more generous treatment of the arts and the national collection as a whole.

But even if the position is as grave as we believe it to be, I would remind the Financial Secretary of the words of Viscount Goderich, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on 23rd February, 1824. He said: … we ought not to be niggardly in matters that regarded the promotion of the arts. As a mere question of money, I do not say that objections may not be urged against any such proposition, as that which I am about to submit to the Committee. But taking a more enlarged view of the subject, looking at the intimate connection of the arts, with all that adorns and ennobles man's nature, it appears to me to be consistent with the true dignity of a great nation, and with the liberal spirit of a free people, to give a munificent encouragement to the support and promotion of the Fine Arts. Those were the principles upon which the National Gallery was founded, and I hope that they will be the principles upon which the hon. and learned Member deals with this subject today, so that we may have, not what The Times referred to this morning as "a stalling operation", but something much more radical and generous.

3.3 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. J. E. S. Simon)

The House has shown that it is appreciative to my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) for using his good fortune in the Ballot to give us the opportunity of discussing the needs of the arts today. It has given rise to a notable debate, which was initiated by a very remarkable speech from my hon. Friend. I am sure that he and other hon. Members are right when they say that there is, today, a more widespread interest in the arts than there has been for many years.

We have moved a considerable way from the spirit which Sir Alan Herbert celebrated in his lines: As my poor father used to say In 1863 Once people start on all this Art Goodbye, moralitee! And what my father used to say Is good enough for me. Nor, indeed, can such an attitude be dismissed as Sir Alan's nonsense. The other day I noticed that no less a man than Herbert Spencer said, in all seriousness—although I admit that everything that he said was in all seriousness: French art, if not sanguinary, is usually obscene. Today, large numbers of people pay to see exhibitions of the works of Monet, Picasso and Matisse. The winter exhibitions at the Royal Academy have been thronged, and more than ever before are listening to concerts, attending opera and ballet, and visiting museums and galleries. The number of visitors to the National Gallery has doubled since before the war. The House has, in the debate this afternoon, shown its desire that we should foster and harness all this enthusiasm.

On the other hand, it seems to me important that we should not come to regard the museums and galleries as an end in themselves. I think that it is rather that heresy which vitiates the claim that it is in some way a national disgrace that there are gaps in the collections. Museums and galleries do not exist purely, or to my mind even primarily, for the scholar or the art historian. Their real justification is that they may open the eyes and ears, heighten the awareness, and deepen the experience of those who frequent them.

I agree with the point of view that was implied by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kensington, North (Mr. G. H. R. Rogers) that it is more important, or at any rate as important, to foster the production of new works of art as to acquire old ones. For that reason, I am sure that hon. Members are right when they stress the importance of supporting and fostering our galleries of contemporary art. I ought to say that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works, who has been present at most of this debate, buys contemporary paintings. Indeed, among others, he buys pictures by artists who are students. I do not know whether he has yet acquired a work from the hon. Gentleman opposite.

I myself would go further than that. I do not believe that we get a live contemporary' art and culture nor, indeed, the production of great masterpieces unless the arts are not only widely appre- ciated but also widely practised. In the words of Browning: I want to know a butcher paints, A baker rhymes for his pursuit, and, best of all, if a Cabinet Minister … haply mute, Blows out his brains upon the flute. It is against that background that I turn to consider the second topic which my hon. Friend raised, the modern instruments of patronage. Several hon. Members have mentioned the decline of the private patron. I think it is true to say that some of the richest part of our national heritage—particularly in one of its most characteristic manifestations, the beauty and diversity of our country houses—is mainly due to the enlightenment of a number of men of considerable., and in some cases very considerable, wealth.

The contents of these houses, and, indeed, much of the contents of our museums and galleries, are really the accumulation, the trophies and the bric-a-brac of that grandly acquisitive age. Modern levels of taxation have gone far to bring such a system to an end. I think it fair to say that those who advocate penal levels of taxation—taxation which is justified on political or social rather that on fiscal grounds—should at least be conscious of the injury they do to enlightened private patronage of the arts. But even if private benefaction cannot be today on the scale of former times, there is no doubt that many generous gifts, some of which have been mentioned today, continued to be made to the museums and galleries. Therefore let us make sure, by our general fiscal and social policies, that they may continue.

I am sure that the House will agree with my hon. Friend and other hon. Members who have pointed out that this source of private benefaction cannot any longer be exclusively relied upon. I think that the House has clearly approved of the commendation in my hon. Friend's Motion of the patronage of local authorities, charitable trusts, industry and commerce. Local authorities, as has been pointed out by hon. Members opposite, have the power under the Local Government Act to levy up to a 6d. rate for purposes which include the support of drama or of a symphony orchestra. Most large local authorities also have power under the Libraries Act to run museums and art galleries or support them or combine with other authorities in doing so. That is a field in which local initiative can achieve a great deal.

It seems to me fair to remind hon. Members that it is not right to knock exclusively at the central Government's door in search of subsidies for the arts. There are other public authorities with rights, opportunities and duties, and, indeed, with great achievements in this field.

Sir L. Plummer

As I raised this point, I wonder whether the hon. and learned Gentleman would ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government to remind some of these authorities of their powers, because it would seem from their lack of action that they have forgotten that they possess them.

Mr. Simon

I hope that the report of today's debate may go far to stimulate local initiative.

That brings me to consider the part which the Government should play in support of the arts. May I deal, first, with the instruments of Government patronage? I am quite sure that hon. Gentlemen are right when they say that artistic policy should be free from Government direction. The arts are, after all, the least suitable subjects for bureaucratic control. In this country they have long been administered by a large number of bodies, all of them enjoying a high degree of independence from State control, especially in matters of artistic policy. Many of them came into existence in the first place as a result of private benefaction, and only gradually came to be dependent, in greater or lesser degree, on financial assistance from the State.

Of the existing channels, the Arts Council covers the widest field, but it does not cover the whole field. The British Academy also acts as a distributing body. I am sure that the creation of a super arts council or committee as a distributing body would mean more centralisation and the concentration of artistic policy in fewer hands. I cannot think that such a development would be for the good. I think that has been the universal consensus of opinion in today's debate. On the contrary, I believe that the existing instruments of distribution work well and, indeed, to the general satisfaction of the public. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) is not with us today, because a debate on the arts without the hon. Lady is really like playing Sleeping Beauty with no one in the part of the Demon Queen. In view of recent controversies I may, perhaps, repeat what I said before, that the Government have full confidence in the way in which the Arts Council does its work.

I now turn to the considerations which affect the actual amount of money which the Government spend in this field and its distribution. The first point I make is that there is no limit to the amount of public money that an enthusiast can spend on his chosen projects. Hon. Members would not be here today if they were not enthusiasts for the arts. But this field cannot be viewed in isolation. There are many other calls on the Exchequer. The social services, for example, and the needs of those for whom they exist; education; scientific and industrial research; the security of our freedom and our cultural heritage; and, not the least, the claims for relief from the heavy burden of taxation which, as I have pointed out, can exert a deleterious effect in this very field.

Art is long, but not our purses; and I suggest that we should take as our motto the words of Pericles, We cultivate the arts without extravagance. In case hon. Gentlemen feel that this is a rather frosty doctrine, I would point out that Pericles could hardly be classed as a barbarian. I attach the same weight to the word "cultivate" as I do to the words "without extravagance". After all, we should be very pleased if we thought that we were at the dawning of a new Periclean age with Sophocles preparing a play for the local repertory, or Pheidias decorating the new town hall, or Apelles—among others, of course—painting the portrait of Field Marshal Lord Montgomery.

Dr. Stross

The hon. and learned Gentleman has quoted Pericles. Would he not accept that Athens, in Pericles' day, was probably spending about a quarter of its gross income on the arts?

Mr. Simon

I should think that very doubtful, considering the wars that Athens was fighting at that time.

The second point that any Government is bound to weigh in determining what sum should be spent on museums and galleries is the balance between Metropolis and province. Many hon. Gentlemen have mentioned that, and my hon. Friend the Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) drew specific attention to it almost in those terms.

Our great national institutions are, naturally, in the capital city, but the money to maintain them is raised from taxpapers throughout the kingdom although many of them have the less opportunity to enjoy their facilities. That seems to me to have some bearing on a question which was canvassed in this debate by the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North and my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) namely, whether it is desirable that the national museums and galleries should make an admission charge. There are many arguments, which I do not intend to rehearse; but it is arguable that it is not unreasonable to ask a visitor to pay some small contribution towards the cost of providing his enjoyment, at any rate when the facilities are not equally available to all who contribute, through taxation, towards their maintenance. I would point out that legislation would be needed in the case of some of the museums and galleries to permit of a charge for admission. If an approach were made on these lines, the Government would, of course, give it careful consideration.

I now pass to the actual support of the arts by the Government. I am sorry that hon. Gentlemen opposite have felt it appropriate to put down the Amendment. Perhaps I may adapt what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. John Hobson), and repeat something I said last summer. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central is a sort of parliamentary General Goering; as soon as he hears the word "culture" he reaches for the Order Paper. And here he is at it again. I hope that when he and his hon. Friends have heard what I have to say that they will feel it right not to move the Amendment. In the meantime, in courtesy to the arguments that have been put forward, I must touch, at any rate, on what the Government have done for the arts in the past before turning to our proposals for the future.

Direct Government expenditure on the arts has grown from under £1 million just before and just after the war and £3½ million in 1951, to nearly £7 million this year. That increase, of course, far outruns rising costs; it represents a real expansion of activity. More than £1 million goes to the Arts Council. It was said today by one hon. Gentleman that the first victims, the first to be cut back, in time of financial stringency were the arts, and museums and galleries. I am bound to point out that, even in these last two stringent years, we have seen an increase in the Arts Council grant amounting to £215,000, or one-quarter. This is a further evidence of the fact that the Government devotes formidable sums to the arts, and these sums are actually expanding. To them must be added the very considerable aid to the arts which is given by tax exemptions.

I therefore respectfully suggest to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, that the censorious terms of the Amendment are uncalled for. I very well understand hon. Gentlemen wishing to see more expenditure on the arts, but surely it is ungracious, as well as inaccurate, to refuse to recognise, with the main Motion, what has already been accomplished.

Having said that, I turn to the future. There are four main groups of problems. First, within the purview of the Arts Council there is Covent Garden, to which a number of hon. Members have referred. For the national museums and galleries there has been a group of problems connected with the development of the collections, needs for new buildings in the future, and so on. Thirdly, there are the purchase grants with which today's debate has been very considerably concerned. Finally, there is the problem of Government help to collections outside the national capitals, to which many hon. Members have referred, particularly the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood).

I shall deal with these in turn. My right hon. Friend has received representations from the Arts Council about the inadequacy of the grant to Covent Garden. This stood at £160,000 in 1951. Then, for four years, it was £¼ million. For 1958–59 it is £362,000; and now £½ million is suggested. The determination of the Covent Garden grant is a matter for the Arts Council within the total of its grant in aid. But I can report to the House that the Arts Council has reached agreement with the Board of Covent Garden on a new arrangement.

Under this, Covent Garden will receive for the next three years—in other words, we have passed now to a triennial arrangement—43 per cent. of its expenditure as approved by the Arts Council, subject to an over-riding maximum of £500,000. This arrangement will give Covent Garden some £450,000 next year. Also, as hon. Members obviously wish, it will enable it to plan ahead, with the further advantage that this arrangement will reward successful administration.

My right hon. Friend has taken account of the needs of this new scheme in fixing the Arts Council grant for next year, 1959–60, at £1,218,000—an increase of £118,000 on this year's figures. £20,000 of that increase will be earmarked for the reduction of the Covent Garden overdraft (nearly £100,000 of which represents accumulated deficits). Further annual payments will be made towards its liquidation as necessary. Let me emphasise that what has been done in increasing the Arts Council grant has been done deliberately to enable the Arts Council to give this additional aid to Covent Garden without curtailing its other activities. I think that that answers the point hon. Members asked me to deal with.

I turn to the second question, problems connected with the development—

Mr. John Diamond (Gloucester)

Before the hon. and learned Gentleman leaves the question of opera, I wonder if he could say whether it is proposed to extend the principle adopted for Covent Garden to Sadler's Wells, either in terms of percentage or if, as I imagine, that cannot be done, to extend the principle in terms of three years, so that Sadler's Wells can also look forward and arrange programmes in advance?

Mr. Simon

The grant for Sadler's Wells is, of course, a matter for the Arts Council, but, in addition, its case is being investigated by a committee which is being set up by London County Council, and it would therefore be premature for me to say anything more about that.

I was turning to the second question, problems connected with the development of the national collections. Those problems fall into two parts, staff and building. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central and the hon. Member for Rossendale raised the question of staff. The numbers employed in the national museums and galleries have risen nearly 200 since 1951. The estimates for 1959–60 will provide for a further increase of more than 90. I hope that will mean a better service to the public. The Ministry of Works services are now running at the level of £600,000 a year. A number of major reconstruction and development schemes have been undertaken, or are in progress. Air conditioning of six galleries at the National Gallery has been completed at a cost of £125,000 and the Ministry of Works is now engaged on a scheme which will provide substantially more exhibition space and will air condition four more galleries at a cost of over £300,000. Then, of course, there is the scheme which the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) knows so much about—the scheme for the construction of a new national library for the British Museum at a cost of what is bound to be many million pounds.

Perhaps the most striking recent step in the development of the national collections is the purchase from the Canadian Government, at a cost of more than £1 million, of the Hampton site, in Trafalgar Square, for the ultimate use of the National Gallery.

I turn, next, to the second capital city in the kingdom. With the agreement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland I can tell the House of an important development in the Scottish national collections. In 1951, the then Government said that it was their intention that a Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art should ultimately be established on a site at present occupied by Government offices in Queen Street, Edinburgh. However, that was a long-term plan, and it was recognised that it would be many years before such a new building could be erected.

In the meantime, two things have happened. The first is that the Arts Council have reported to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the housing of the arts in Scotland, and that report will be published shortly. They have advised him that in settling their priorities they attach first importance to the early establishment of a Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Secondly, suitable premises have recently become available in Inverleith House, in the Royal Botanical Gardens. In those circumstances, it has been decided that Inverleith House should be converted forthwith to provide a temporary home for the Gallery of Modern Art. I hope that this gallery will be opened during 1959. The year 1959 will also see the opening of the new Department of Industry in the National Museum of Wales for which the first provision was authorised in this year's estimates.

I come now to the purchase grants for new acquisitions. My right hon. Friend has been urged from a number of quarters to increase substantially this form of Exchequer assistance, and, indeed, it was the universal refrain in today's debate. The arguments in favour of such a course have been fully developed today and I certainly need not repeat them. I do not think that it should be forgotten—and I repeat this in spite of the hon. Gentleman's warning against complacency—that the ordinary annual purchase grants are not the only form of Exchequer assistance towards new acquisitions. In addition, a great deal has been done to help the national collections to make more acquisitions by way of special grants and by the acceptance of pre-eminent works of art in satisfaction of Estate Duty. That is every bit as much a contribution by the general taxpayer to the needs of the arts as n ordinary annual grant.

In the ten years up to 1958 special purchase grants have totalled over half a million pounds, while pre-eminent works of art acquired under Section 34 of the Finance Act. 1956 have cost over £1,100,000. Hon Members will recall the recent special grant of £50,000 to the British Museum which enabled them to complete the purchase of the Dyson Perrins manuscripts, the unique Lycurgus Cup and the Ilbert watches.

I can now announce two further important acquisitions for the National Gallery. The masterpiece of the Flemish painter Jordaens, known as "Double Portrait", has been accepted in satisfaction of Estate Duty at a cost of £40,000. The second acquisition is what is probably the finest picture of the Italian Renaissance still remaining in private hands. The National Gallery Trustees have bought Uccello's "St. George and the Dragon" at a cost of £125,000. This sum is being advanced by the Exchequer, and a Supplementary Estimate will be presented to the House in due course. The Exchequer will contribute £60,000 towards the purchase, the balance being found by the National Gallery.

This will, I am sure, be regarded as one of the most splendid acquisitions by the Gallery in recent years. It does show that, with foresight by the trustees and adequate support by the Exchequer, the point has not yet been reached when masterpieces can no longer be secured in the market.

Perhaps this is a convenient point where I can express what I am sure is the pleasure of the whole House at the great honour done today to Professor Robbins, the very distinguished and able chairman of the trustees.

There have also been two acquisitions by Scottish institutions assisted by special grants. An important Renaissance jewel, containing a cameo portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots, is to be acquired by the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland at a cost of £3,571, £2,250 of which will be met by special grant. An edition of Barbour's "Bruce", printed in Edinburgh in 1616, has been bought by the National Library of Scotland with a special grant of £400.

My right hon. Friend accepts, however, that with all this, the case has been made out for a substantial increase in the annual purchase grants. In these matters, he has had the expert guidance of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries, which has fully endorsed the revision of the purchase grants which he now proposes, and which I am authorised to tell the House, both as to total and distribution. In total, my right hon. Friend will be inviting Parliament to increase the purchase grants to over two-and-a-half times their present level. Whereas the total of these grants now stands at about £125,000, in 1959–60 it will amount to £335,000.

The greatest needs are for the picture galleries, and it is here that the increases are most striking. Instead of their existing £12,500, which has been the subject of such derision today, the National Gallery will receive £100,000. The 1959 grant will, therefore, enable the trustees to pay off their share of the Uccello acquisition and still leave a substantial balance. Instead of the present £7,500, the Tate Gallery will get £40,000. The British Museum will have £100,000, the Victoria and Albert Museum for its own general purposes will get £40,000, and the smaller institutions are also provided for.

These are the purchase grants to be included in next year's Estimates, but my right hon. Friend is of the view that steps should be taken to overcome one of the difficulties that have prevented the national collections from planning their acquisition policy. There is uncertainty from year to year what the size of the purchase grant will be, and, that, again, has been the second theme that has been running through today's debate—the request for a triennial or quinquennial grant. To overcome this difficulty, my right hon. Friend has put forward a suggestion, which the Standing Commission has accepted. The purchase grants which I have announced should, subject to the necessary funds being voted by Parliament and to the policy of the Government of the day, be repeated in each of the following four years. The collections will, in fact, be able to plan their acquisitions over a quinquennium.

I come now to the last of the problems I have mentioned, the needs of the institutions outside London. First, there will be an increase from £9,500 to £35,000 in the provision for the Scottish national institutions. The Welsh institutions are financed somewhat differently, but it is intended that the grants in aid provided for the National Museum and the National Library of Wales should also be increased.

Secondly, there are the needs of museums and galleries in centres outside London, Edinburgh and Cardiff. These are not national institutions, and our aim here is to encourage action by the responsible authorities, which are, of course, mainly local authorities, rather than to take over their responsibilities from them. That again, I think, was the way that the House today urged the Government to tackle the problem.

It has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch and by the hon. Gentle- man the Member for Rossendale that there is already a small provision for grants administered by the Victoria and Albert Museum which enable provincial galleries in England and Wales to be given financial assistance of up to half the cost of approved new acquisitions. My right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Education accept the Standing Commission's view that the present annual grant of £2,000 to the Victoria and Albert Museum for this purpose is inadequate and they propose to increase it to £15,000. In addition, the scope of the grant will be extended to include oil paintings, which it does not at the moment. Here, the expert advice of the National Gallery will be available also.

It is right to tell the House that the Commission, while fully approving this method and, indeed, the scale of assistance, takes the view that the figure should be regarded as experimental and that, if the increased provision is fully taken up, its further increase will have to be considered. My right hon. Friend has noted this view, although he cannot, of course, commit himself as to future expenditure.

Provision for a corresponding expansion in the amount available for assisting local museum purchases in Scotland has been included in the £35,000 provided for Scottish institutions which I have mentioned.

It will, of course, be open to a provincial museum seeking to purchase a work of art stopped by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art to apply for help out of these increased grants. I think that this meets the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney). My hon. Friend did raise another point on the 1956 Act which I will deal with. The Chancellor proposes to ask the Standing Commission whether it will advise him in future on the distribution of pre-eminent works of art which he accepts in satisfaction of Estate Duty, and it will be entirely open to the Commission, if it accepts this task, to advise that a particular work of art should go to a provincial gallery.

My right hon. Friend hopes that he will by this new policy of purchase grants have enabled the national collections to plan their acquisitions ahead and to build up their reserves which can be used for important purchases, that is, the sort of purchases which may arise unexpectedly from time to time. The resources of the Land Fund still continue to be available for financing the acquisition of pre-eminent works of art offered in lieu of Estate Duty. In general, however, my right hon. Friend considers that the national collections should finance their acquisitions out of their annual grants, looking to the Government for special grants only in exceptional circumstances. I trust that the House is satisfied that my right hon. Friend has met in a handsome manner the claims which have been so forcibly and eloquently heard today.

Before I conclude, I ought to deal with the demand in the Amendment for the setting up of an interdepartmental committee or, as it is sometimes put in the alternative way, of a Royal Commission. With great respect, I share the doubts of the hon. Member for Rossendale about such a proposal. I venture to suggest that, at any rate at the moment, such a suggestion is misconceived.

In the first place, I think that the proposals, when they have been put forward, have been generally prompted by the thought that such bodies may be a means of bringing pressure to bear on the Government to spend more on the arts, particularly as a means of securing a quinquennial grant. I do not think that that is an adequate reason for setting up a Royal Commission or interdepartmental committee. On the contrary, it is the duty of the Government to make up their mind, in the face of other competing demands, how much public money it is proper to spend on the arts—receiving guidance in that matter not only from the distinguished bodies which have been set up for this purpose, but also from Parliament and the organs of public opinion. After hearing what my right hon. Friend has proposed in this sphere, [think that hon. Members will probably feel that that ground for inquiry, if indeed it were ever valid, has disappeared.

Secondly, we have already what is, in effect, a continuing Royal Commission—the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries; and, as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central said, that has recently been strengthened. Further, it is about to produce its quinquennial report. In addition, the Arts Council is well placed to survey most of the rest of the field. My right hon. Friend gets from those bodies, weighty and enlightened advice.

Thirdly, I think that the right way to tackle specific problems in the arts, some of which are referred to in The Times editorial this morning, is by limited and specific inquiries. We shall not easily get agreement among the supporters of different branches of the arts on priorities, but there may well be a good case for specific inquiry. Indeed, a whole range of inquiries is now in progress, as hon. Members know. The Arts Council is conducting an inquiry into the housing of the arts as I have already mentioned. The Gulbenkian Trustees have commissioned a committee under Lord Bridges to examine the needs of the arts as a guide to the Trustees in the distribution of their funds. The London County Council, as I said in reply to the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond), has set up a committee under Sir Frederick Hooper on London opera generally and Sadler's Wells in particular. There is the Roberts Committee on the public library service and the Pritchard Committee on the rating of charities, which will be concerned with a number of arts bodies, as has been pointed out. A Royal Commission or interdepartmental committee would merely duplicate most of that work. I trust, therefore, that the House will feel that the sort of inquiry which has been canvassed is not at this moment either appropriate or necessary.

I apologise for the length of time which I have detained the House and I am grateful to hon. Members for their patience and forbearance. It will be clear from what I have said that we are in entire sympathy with the sentiments of the Motion.

A Treasury Minister generally feels that the shirt of Scrooge fits him more snugly than the mantle of Maecenas. Nevertheless, I am sure that the House will feel that my right hon. Friend has been generous and far-sighted in the steps which I have described to the House. No Government has ever done more in a single operation in this field. We believe that we shall be putting on a new, firm basis those branches of the arts in Britain which look to the Government for support. We are doing this not only because we feel that the interest of the people of Britain in the arts has greatly increased and that we are thereby reflecting their general wishes, but also because we believe that our action will enhance the richness and variety of our national life.

3.45 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)

There was no need for the Financial Secretary to apologise for the length of his speech. Everyone here will agree that it was one of the most interesting and important we have heard from the Government benches for a long time. Although it is not possible at such short notice to come to final conclusions about what the Financial Secretary said, it is possible to make some comments and to ask him one or two questions.

The hon. and learned Gentleman started by saying that the Government's policy was the same as that of Pericles—to cultivate the arts without extravagance. Ideas about what is extravagance must have changed. The proportion of the income of Athens devoted to the arts was infinitely greater than the 6d. per head of the population, which is the contribution made today by the Government to the Arts Council.

Moreover, when the Financial Secretary spoke about the help given by the Government during recent years to the arts, he was greatly overstating the case. I for one cannot agree that during recent years—whatever the Government intend to do in the future—their contribution to the arts has been adequate. Indeed, so inadequate has it been that all the public-spirited people who sit on the various councils which look after our arts institutions have year after year in their annual reports been highly critical; and, indeed, made attacks on the Government as strong as any emanating from these benches. Anyone who has read those reports year by year realises that immense damage has been done, much of it irretrievable, by the very small grants given to our art galleries, opera, ballet and theatre.

We are not so much concerned today with the past as with the future, and however critical we may be of the Government's attitude to the arts in the past, we are glad that today—it may be partly because it is an election year; we do not know, and we do not mind what the reason is—the Financial Secretary has advanced a good deal beyond the point to which the Government have been prepared to go during recent years. In some directions the advance has been exceedingly good, and we are very pleased about that; but it seemed to me, listening to his speech, that there were many very serious omissions.

First, we are all exceedingly pleased that the principle has been accepted that the grants, in any event to some of our national institutions, shall not be on a yearly basis. For Covent Garden, it is to be on a three-yearly basis. Our art galleries are to be on a five-yearly basis. We have been asking for this for a long time, and we and the trustees of the organisations and the directors are, I am sure, gratified that that principle has been conceded.

I hope, however, that it will be taken further. Why confine it to Covent Garden, to the National Gallery and to the Tate Gallery? Why not Sadler's Wells? Why not all the repertory theatres in the country, who do not know from year to year where they stand? Why should they still have to work on a yearly basis instead of a triennial or quinquennial one, such as that which these bigger institutions are to enjoy? I very much hope that this principle will be extended to the—I say this deliberately—equally important minor enterprises in the country which are in receipt of Government grants.

I say "equally important" because, as the Arts Council has pointed out, if it were not for the fact that there exists, for example, these repertory companies throughout the country, there would not be the basis for the development of first-class theatrical talent at the top. It is on the small institutions that the excellence of the bigger and more important national institutions depends. I hope, therefore, that this principle of grants over three and five years will be extended.

We have been told that the annual grants to the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery will be increased substantially. I am glad about that, but they are still below the figures which the trustees of those bodies say are necessary.

Mr. Simon

The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. In the case of the Tate Gallery we have gone fully to the limit requested.

Mr. Strauss

The Trustees of the Tate Gallery said that in order to bring the collection up to date, and keep it up to date, they required an annual grant of £40,000, together with £100,000 to make up arrears. It is all in one paragraph—in one sentence. If the hon. and learned Gentleman now says that he will also grant the £100,000, he would be perfectly right in claiming that he is granting the trustees what they require—

Mr. Simon

It seems a great pity that the right hon. Gentleman should take this tone. What he was talking about was the annual purchase grant.

Mr. Strauss

I was talking about the extent to which the Government were meeting the requests of the Trustees of the National Gallery and of the Tate Gallery, and I said—and it is obvious—that much greater though the annual grant is to be, it does not come up to What these institutions consider necessary. The National Gallery asked for £150,000, but the Government are now granting £100,000. Of course, that is infinitely better than the £12,500, but I am entitled to say that it is not what the Trustees of the National Gallery say is necessary. Still, we are very grateful for these increases.

I want to turn now to an aspect of the Financial Secretary's proposals that worries me. I may have misunderstood him, but I thought that he said that the contribution to the Arts Council from the Government is to be increased to £1,218,000, to take into account the additional contribution that is to go to Covent Garden as a result of the change in the formula. If this is correct—and if I am wrong, I am sure that he will tell me so—it seems to me that, apart from the increased grant to Covent Garden, the amount available to the Arts Council for all its other purposes will remain the same. There will be no further increase, and the increase—

Mr. Simon

The fact is that there is a slight increase of, I think, about £7,000 in order to deal with the Carl Rosa debt; otherwise, what we have done is to increase the amount so that the Arts Council can provide for Covent Garden without in any way curtailing the activities of the Arts Council, whose grant has increased, as I pointed out, by £215,000 over the last two years.

Mr. Strauss

I have not the time to quarrel with the hon. and learned Gentleman by pointing out how inadequate that £215,000 was. That is for another day. I want to talk of the future. The fact has been disclosed by the Financial Secretary that the Arts Council will have at its disposal, for all its other purposes, the same amount as it had last year. In other words, the orchestras, for example, which are in a very difficult situation, cannot expect any further grant from the Arts Council this year.

But the aspect of these activities that worries me most, because it is the one in which I am most interested, is that there is to be no additional grant for drama. At present, through the Arts Council, this country spends £70,000 a year—that is all—on helping drama, and that amount is divided among 32 ventures all over the country. That sum of £70,000 is about the same as that which some of the smaller Scandinavian countries alone contribute to this art—

Mr. Rees-Davies

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that up to this time—and it is now five minutes to four—only he and the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) have taken this mean attitude, have engaged in heavy partisan politics, and have brought party politics into this excellent debate? Why does he do it? Why does he not show a generous spirit in this matter?

Mr. Strauss

I am entitled to express the concern—which I can assure the hon. Gentleman is shared by many of my hon. Friends behind me—that while the Financial Secretary has made some very important and much appreciated concessions, there are some directions in which he has made no concessions and about which we are gravely dissatisfied.

The theatres and the "Reps" —and I know one, the Old Vic, very well; it is in my constituency—have been working on a shoestring for years. They are barely able to cover their deficits. They have no money at all for capital expenditure for the payment of appropriate professional managerial help. They are not able to renew stage equipment and things of that kind. They are not able to install proper lighting systems. The result is that, despite extraordinary efforts and great loyalty and devotion by their staffs, the repertory theatres cannot help but produce the second best—

Mr. Simon

Since the right hon. Gentleman is taking that tone, he should remind the House that the Old Vic has had a very generous gift over the years by a covenant with Whitbreads and has also recently arranged another contract with the television authorities, which is a very useful source of revenue.

Mr. Strauss

I am not talking merely about the Old Vic, which is the most fortunate, as it is the largest of the repertory companies. On some other occasion I will develop the story of the difficulties caused to the Old Vic by the smallness of the contribution from the Arts Council during recent years. I am referring to repertory theatres all over the country, and I say that they have had to be content with second-rate productions because they have not had sufficient money to cover their financial deficits or to provide for capital investment.

We shall not be satisfied until these organisations get an adequate amount of money to cover their reasonable deficits. We say that they should all be enabled to feel secure to develop during the next three or four years free from the fear which has been hanging over them all, including Covent Garden, that they may have to close down next year through insufficient public money being available for them. Only then will the right atmosphere be created and the organisations able to be at their best. It is very important that they be provided by the Arts Council with sufficient money, within reason, to secure the capital equipment they so urgently require. At present, the Arts Council has been able to provide hardly anything for this purpose.

I have made these comments, without having had time to consider carefully the Financial Secretary's statement. But it is evident that the improvement in the attitude of the Government towards the arts, while most welcome, does not go anything like far enough. We are grateful for the opportunity that this debate has afforded to bring out an interesting exchange of views and to enable the Government to make an important statement of policy.

We hope that there will be opportunities for further debates on this subject during which the omissions in the speech of the Financial Secretary today will be remedied, and that then the Government will go much further than at present. We hope that they will be ready to make up the arrears caused by past neglect and do all that is humanly possible to raise the arts in this country to the high standard merited by our cultural heritage.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House welcomes the increasing interest of the people of Great Britain in the arts; endorses the principle that artistic policy should be free from Government control or direction; proclaims the importance of maintaining the nation's cultural heritage; commends the patronage of enlightened local authorities, charitable trusts, industry and commerce; and, while grateful for the increase in Government support for the arts, draws attention to the inadequacy of the present scale of purchase grants to museums and galleries, and urges a substantial increase.

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