§ 4. Mr. Strauss
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the rise in the cost of maintaining those enterprises assisted by the Arts Council since he informed that Council that its Exchequer grant for 1958–59 would not be increased before 1962–63, he will reconsider his decision in respect of enterprises other than opera, whose claims he has recognised.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. J. E. S. Simon)
No, Sir. The triennium during which my right hon. Friend informed the Arts Council it could rely on the considerably increased annual grant being made available to it ends with the year 1960–61 and not 1961–62.
§ Mr. Strauss
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the letter sent out by the Arts Council to various receiving bodies states that the Chancellor had put a ceiling on the grant to the Arts Council for the years 1960–61 and 1961–62 on the basis of the year 1958–59? May we take it from what the hon. and learned Gentleman has just said that the information in the Arts Council letter is incorrect?
§ 10. Mr. G. Jeger
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what changes have since been authorised in the Royal Charter granted to the Arts Council in August, 1946.
§ Mr. Jeger
May I take it that the Charter still stands as originally given and that the clause which relates in particular to improving the accessibility of the fine arts to the public is still valid? Does the statement issued by the late Lord Keynes still stand, that… the Arts Council would be greatly concerned to decentralise and disperse the dramatic and musical and artistic life of the country and to build up provincial centres".Will the Minister draw these facts to the attention of the Secretary-General of the Arts Council?
§ 11. Mr. G. Jeger
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that while the grants to the Arts Council have been increased annually, its activities in the provinces have been reduced; and whether he will arrange for an independent inquiry into the work and administration of the Arts Council.
§ Mr. Jeger
Is not the hon. and learned Member aware that the Arts Council has closed down its regional offices and has reduced the amount of opera touring in the provinces from thirty-six to eighteen weeks in the year, and that the Secretary-General has announced that he proposes to put before the Arts Council the idea of throwing twenty provincial repertory companies—in his own words—to the wolves"? Would the hon. and learned Member cease covering up these reprehensible activities of the Arts Council and take up the matter with the Council so that its scandalous behaviour might be stopped?
§ Mr. Simon
I certainly do not accept for a moment the opprobrious epithets in which that supplementary question was clothed. The regional reorganisation was an administrative measure which saved about £20,000, which the Council undertook to apply only to expenditure in the provinces. Answering the second part of the supplementary question, the fact remains that expenditure by the Arts Council in the English provinces alone has increased since 1954–55 by over 50 per cent. Answering the third part of the supplementary question, the statement or the proposal, or whatever one might call it, by the Secretary-General of the Arts Council has not been considered by the Arts Council, according to my information.
§ Mr. Strauss
Does not the Financial Secretary agree that in so far as the activities of the Arts Council fall below what is required to support the arts in 560 the country, particularly in the provinces, properly, it is not the fault of the Arts Council but is because it receives insufficient funds from the Treasury?
§ Mr. Simon
I am satisfied that the Arts Council does good work within the funds which are made available. I am also satisfied that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his predecessors have treated the Arts Council extremely well in the way of grants. Indeed, apart from special grants for the Festival of Britain, the Arts Council grant this year is double what it was in 1951–52.