§ 11.7 a.m.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
I beg to moveThat this House views with concern the lack of co-ordination of Government encouragement of, and expenditure on, the fine arts in Great Britain, the financial stringency from which public and private bodies responsible for encouraging the arts suffer, the present role of the Treasury, an the apprehensions voiced in Reports of the Royal Fine Art Commission and other organisations; and, in view of the need to stimulate the practice and enjoyment of the arts, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into these and other relevant matters.When, after 15 years, to my amazement and concern my name was called by you, Mr. Speaker, the other day as having won the Ballot, I did not appreciate what I was letting myself in for, because the immense amount of advice which I have received, some of which I asked for, was of such a broad nature that at times it occured to me that this was not properly a subject for an ordinary debate on a Private Member's Motion. Indeed, scanning through the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and coming across Southey's remark about The arts babblative and scribblative", I found myself in the great difficulty of discarding or having to discard so much advice and guidance which I had received.
I do not think that a debate like this can possibly start without drawing the attention of the House to the Motion on the arts, which, curiously enough, was moved just over a year ago by the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas), 694 now Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, and, to some extent, I hope that this debate is a consequence of that debate. Furthermore, I should like to pay a special tribute, not only to the work on that occasion of the hon. Member for Conway and to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), who, I am sorry to say, is so indisposed that he cannot attend today, but also to people outside the House, notably the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, whose work in connection with the fine arts and the arts in general and his work for the Gulbenkian Foundation, I suppose, is the most important written material available to a Member attempting to speak on the proposal for a Royal Commission. On the same day as that debate, on 23rd January last year, The Times, in an editorial, made a strong plea for the appointment of a Royal Commission, at any rate for an inquiry of a very general nature, into the general aim of the effort, both financial and phyiscal, in the arts in this country. If the House will bear with me, I will quote from that editorial. It said:More money the arts in Great Britain undoubtedly need. But what is needed even more is the most searching and comprehensive inquiry possible as to how it should he spent. … It is safe to say that anything the Government announces today will only he a holding (possibly a stalling) operation. How much greater service they would do to the arts—and to education—if they would also announce that they were setting up an authoritative body to answer them.I shall have to move about chronologically. I would not like the House to suppose that this demand for a Royal Commission or some form of inquiry is of recent design. The Romanes Lecture by Lord Bridges certainly did not suggest a Royal Commission, but it did suggest some form of co-ordination, some body to act as adviser to the Government. Then, on the occasion of the debate last year, the Amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central did ask for an inter-Departmental committee. Earlier than that, on 12th March, 1957, the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, asked the Prime Minister whether he would set up a Royal Commission and was supported by my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) and by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward).
695 The Prime Minister, in rejecting that suggestion, referred—I think quite rightly—to the disparate field of the arts which makes the construction of a Commission so very difficult. On 17th June, 1958, my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) again urged the Prime Minister to appoint a Royal Commission and was, in turn, supported by Lord Boothby and by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White).
Earlier than that, in 1955, there seems to have been quite a lot of agitation for some form of inquiry. The Museums Association formed a joint committee in that year with the Arts Council, the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, and other bodies, which submitted a memorandum to the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking for a Royal Commissionto look very fully into the whole question of the finance and administration of all museums and art galleries in the United Kingdom, with special reference to those situated in the Provinces.I am advised that either today or within the next few days the Association of Municipal Corporations will submit a memorandum to local authorities on the subject of the establishment of regional councils or bodies, to try to improve the general quality and presentation of exhibitions in museums. This, I believe, will necessitate a strong degree of co-ordination which at present does not exist. Again, in 1955, the general purposes committee of the association demanded of the Government a central body which would be responsible for the distribution of Government funds on behalf of the arts.
I think it is necessary to portray what has been the persistent demand over the years in the attempt to get co-ordination of effort and finance. There seem to be three main objections, not only held by the Government but also outside, against such an inquiry. I think a very popular one is that if we decide to establish a Royal Commission, during the functioning of that Commission there will be a tendency for all effort, all development in the art world, to stop. I cannot really think that this is a serious argument. We are a reasonably efficient nation in monetary technique, and I should have thought that that could have been catered for.
696 The other objection seems to be that a Royal Commission is rather too pompous a body to establish for the arts. That is a matter I would not presume to advise hon. Members about. Personally, I think that if there is one subject which needs a very high body indeed to inquire into it, it is the arts. I have been intrigued by the reply given in 1956 by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the general body which I said was established by the Arts Council, the Carnegie Trust and others, in arguing for an authoritative body to advise the Government. In his reply, the Chancellor said that there was no need for an inquiry, since the material facts were already known, and the financing of museums in the provinces was essentially a local matter. I hope to demonstrate that, whatever may have been the evidence upon which the Government were working then, they would probably take a different view now.
My own preference would be for a Ministry of Fine Arts. I know that it is not a very popular view, and I know that it is usually ascribed to people who are francophile or have a centralising attitude. It would be a mistake if one considered such a Ministry merely on the French practice. As far as I can gather, there is much to be said for the Dutch system, in which a permanent Arts Council not only advises the Government and answers Government inquiries, but also has the right to initiate proposals on its own.
I do not propose to deal with the question of a Minister of Fine Arts today, if for no other reason that if we did discuss it one might get support from the wrong sort of people. However, I think that is one of the many questions which might well be examined by a Royal Commission.
I do not feel particularly dogmatic about a Royal Commission, though I think it is the right way of going about it. There is a case for what I might describe as an Albemarle type of committee. But some type of inquiry is necessary. There is lack of order in the way in which we as a nation discuss the arts. One of the great weaknesses demonstrated today is that the impact of all this financial and administrative effort is really so very slight. I will talk about that at great length later on.
697 I assure the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that I do not want today, except in one particular case to which I think he would be personally agreeable, to ask for additional financial aid for any group of the arts. That is not my motive in my approach today. Nor do I want to decry the present efforts of the existing agencies. Lastly, and I hesitate to say this because it is not in my nature to be agreeable in these matters, I do not particularly want to censure the Government themselves.
However, it is important to demonstrate to the House why I think there are reasons for assuming that Government co-ordination is lacking, why in the general sense such an inquiry is needed and what measures I think should be taken so that the arts can be fully enjoyed. I shall try to show that the prevailing idea of the relationship between art and the people is based on out-of-date ideas. We ought to face that those who are interested in the arts, applied and otherwise, who feel that there is a lot of colour lacking in the lives of many people, are up against the innate Philistinism of our people. There is a traditional Puritanism in the country, and I have even heard it said that it is a Benthamism.
Be that as it may, there is something wrong with the efforts made to see that all the people are at any rate made aware of what the arts can provide in their lives. I shall not attempt to demonstrate how that works out in practice in the provinces, but there should be no doubt that the provinces are very much up against the intellectual arrogance of London. I fully accept that in London we have to have the national institutions, but I do not accept the attitude of Government effort, and to some extent private effort, that London should be the cultural centre of the country.
There is a strong case, too, for co-ordinating art, science and industry. I claim no originality for that, because that very great servant of this country, the Prince Consort, thought of that when he was instrumental in establishing the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Design is probably the co-ordinating factor among art, science and industry. I want to put to the House a few ideas 698 about the nineteenth century concept of design which at present hag-rides our industry. It seems a pity, for example, that the Institute of Directors seems to be sublimely unconscious as a body of the importance of design in industry. The nineteenth century concept of applied art was that art was brought from the studio and applied to the project, whereas the proper approach, I suggest, is that the designer is an essential and integral member of the industrial team.
The demand for better things is awakening and an institution like the Council of Industrial Design should not in any way be restricted by financial parsimony. That it should have only seven industrial officers for a country like this seems quite incredible. One example of where the Council could do useful work is the deplorable state of the gift and souvenir industry of this country.
Some years ago, a friend of mine invited me to look over the showrooms of a very old, reputable and successful china manufacturer. When I saw what was on display in the showrooms, I was appalled and, taking advantage of the fact that it was a friend of mine, I said so. He said, "You have to realise that we depend very much on what our travellers say the public want and I can tell you, my dear Snow, that what the ornament-buying public wants, as a rule, is a crinoline lady, preferably in red". That is the sort of position and mechanics which the gift and souvenir trade has.
§ Mr. Snow
I shall deal with Alsatian dogs in a moment.
The subject of design must be considered in the light of what is possible. The training of design students is not well catered for in this country. I am advised that whatever provision we have in this country—and that is largely restricted to the Royal Academy of Arts and the Central School—does not bear comparison with the Hochschülen of Germany and the Gewerbeschülen of Berne, which are both equipped far better—indeed, all those institutions in Germany and Switzerland are—than their equivalent in this country. We must 699 understand that competition in design of user and industrial products is of in-ceasing importance. In passing, I ask the Government seriously to consider the importance of exhibiting at the Trienalle in Milan this year. The fact of the matter is that many people who are deeply concerned with design and the fermentation of the demand for good design feel that we are beginning to be the Old Curiosity Shop of Europe.
As to the training of students, I have heard the view that there might well be museums of design and reference libraries of design, modern, industrial and the fine arts, British and foreign, in this country. They would enable students to acquaint themselves with the development of design technique. I have heard it suggested that there might be a concept of museums from 1890 to the present day, not too much overlapping with the Victoria and Albert Museum, to infuse into students the idea of the relationship of art, engineering and science.
A distinguished painter and teacher wrote to me the other day and said:A high standard of aesthetic appreciation among the public as well as among experts is not only a sign of civilisation but vitally necessary to life of a manufacturing and exporting country.That is a truism, and it is important to understand that there should not be too much emotion about the arts and that we should see them in the true perspective of our economic life.
I am also indebted to a South African lady who sent me some notes of a paper which she had written for her academic associates on the subject of increasing the impact of the artistic endeavour in the country on the ordinary people. I hope that I shall carry hon. Members with me when I say that almost every Member present today will know of street after street in his constituency where no tangible evidence whatsoever of appreciation of modern design, modern art and modern decoration will be found in the houses. One does not wish to be too dogmatic about that. Personally, I think that the rather pretentious Georgian décor of houses in Chelsea and South Kensington is every bit as irritating at the three-piece suite set-up often found in ordinary homes. I am saying that the impact at ordinary consumer 700 level is very small and is largely restricted to people whose hobby or personal interest is in the arts.
This South African lady, Miss Margaret Browne, said how important it was to encourage the idea that the growth of perception and the inquiring awareness of surroundings were not artistic problems, but were problems of life and communal living. She said:Intuitive response is vivid in early years and is sometimes lost once adulthood is reached—a sad thought.Our problem is not only to have an efficient and co-ordinated effort, as it were, from above, but to have a large degree of attack—and here I am addressing my remarks to the Minister of Education, whom I am glad to see present—a stimulation of discrimination at, if not the child level, then certainly the population who will be applying the arts to their homes.
The Journal of Education says:Popular vulgarity and artistic refinement exacerbate each other.We must try to make the language of the people who are trying to make our lives more colourful and trying to improve our homes comprehensible to ordinary people.
Hon. Members will have heard of the story of the headmaster who asked a teenage girl to describe the Monroe Doctrine and was a little surprised when she said, "Gentlemen prefer blondes". That is an indication of how different the language was in each case. Somehow the arts must make a great impact on the intelligence of children who live in a predominantly scientific age.
The problem is not confined to this country. I read the other day that in Japan, where they are rebuilding their administration and their educational system, they are concerned that the old cultural factors in family life, the great importance of and the interest in flower arrangement in Japanese homes, should not be lost in the general resurgence of post-war Japan.
I feel that where the Government go wrong is that they do not encourage those predominantly voluntary agencies which are trying to do this work. They pay too much financial attention to what I would describe as the establishment of agencies, which receive the major part of Government support. Let me give 701 an example. During the week, I carried out a small experiment with five Conservative and five Labour hon. Members. I asked them what they knew about the British Academy. The answers were distressingly similar. One on each side knew roughly what it was all about. One thought that he had heard about it, and three had never heard of it; yet last year the British Academy received £60,000. That is a considerable sum of money in these days.
Of that £60,000, £42,000 was for the financing of overseas archaeological excavation work, the balance being used for erudite literary work and administration. I have no desire to attack the British Academy. I prefer to attack things I understand, and I do not understand the British Academy. I should have thought that there was a case for re-examining the allocation of this money to see whether the expenditure might not be more profitably channelled through such agencies as the British Council and the British Museum. Per contra, there are many organisations, people who live more closely to the ordinary people, which have tried over the years to stimulate the discriminations that I have been talking about. The Society of Education to the Arts is an example.
That is a small but distinguished organisation. When one realises—according to a letter that I received—that it hopes to receive £100 by way of help this year, one wonders why there is this disparity between financing the British Academy and a small but distinguished organisation which is trying to help ordinary people. When one reads the work of Franc Cizek, Marion Richardson and Barclay Russell, one wonders why this financial activity by the Government is not directed to those agencies which, with some encouragement, might stimulate and help the objectives to which I have referred.
The Treasury has somehow become a Ministry of Fine Arts. Admittedly it has not a big secretariat which deals with fine art, but it has nevertheless become the arbiter of art in this country. If the Financial Secretary is doubtful about the evidence on which I base that remark, let me give him one or two examples. Let us consider the disposal of the Chatsworth treasures. If the Financial Secretary took time off to con- 702 sult some of the directors of our national art institutions he might be surprised to learn their reactions to the way in which these treasures were allocated to the various institutions.
Next let us consider the complete unpredictability of the picture market, and the position in which galleries like the Tate and the National Gallery are placed when a valuable picture suddenly comes on the market. A lot of haggling goes on in the Treasury, and the various directors become anxious about whether the picture will be lost to the nation, or exported, and so on.
There is a case in point at the moment. I understand that on 27th March Mr. and Mrs. Andrews will put up a Gains-borough for sale by Sotheby's. It would not be right to mention the price. I have heard that if the sale is completely uninhibited it will be sold for a considerable sum. We cannot afford to let that picture go out of the country. One of the jobs that a Royal Commission could do would be to see whether arrangements could be made to clarify the position and secure the national interest when a picture like that suddenly comes on the market. I understand that this picture has only just been let out of the owning family where it has been since Gainsborough painted it. No National Gallery or Treasury can predict that sort of thing happening, and a Royal Commission might be able to advise on such a matter.
Another point is the purchasing power of museums. I understand that Southampton has more money at its disposal than the Tate Gallery. That may be a good thing, but it is surprising.
The taxation of artistic endeavour in this country needs very careful and close scrutiny. I am indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) for some observations because of his specialised knowledge on the question. Would it not be possible to give some form of tax allowance for artistic effort by private individuals or industry? Industry is doing a great deal for the arts at the moment. The John Lewis Partnership has, for a long time, been one of the main supporters of Glyndebourne and other companies. I would not like to say anything that would prejudice the present position with regard to taxation, but it needs looking into. My hon. Friend tells me 703 that there is no insuperable difficulty to prevent the Treasury defining the sort of charities which Parliament would be prepared to allow for tax purposes. An advisory committee might be a very useful instrument for the Government to have at their disposal.
I am glad that the Minister of Education is present. I was intrigued to hear that Strawberry Hill had been redecorated and to some extent rebuilt at the expense of his Department. However, except by special arrangement the public have no access to it. I understand that it is in the hands of a religious organisation. It should be possible for one to use the building. I see the case for an organisation using Strawberry Hill, but there ought to be more flexible arrangements about public access.
I now turn to the question of the provinces, with which I would like to deal in some detail. I realise that many hon. Members wish to speak in this debate and I will try to keep my remarks as short as possible. I believe that the operation of Section 132 of the Local Government Act, 1948, is very poor indeed, and I think that there are two real reasons for that. The first is that the permissive expenditure under Section 132 is largely on entertainment, and entertainment can be, but not often is, it is true, applicable to the arts.
I have details of a very serious case which is an example of the attitude of local authorities. The details were sent to me by the Midlands Art Association. This is a question of buildings not being provided for people interested in the arts and the applied arts. Of course, under Section 132 expenditure on buildings for the arts is allowed, but do the local authorities really understand that? A report on one case was sent to me recently by the Secretary in question. It states:In one case that I know of personally the local authority has actually reduced what amenities there were in this direction: a fine concert hall—the only one—has been stripped of its organ and let out to a private individual as a roller-skating rink because it did not pay. This is in spite of protests on a large scale organised by the local arts club which has been striving for years to build up a fund sufficient to acquire premises for an arts centre. This club has 400 subscribing members and 25 affiliated societies and its activities can never be conducted without the thought of money.704 The whole attitude towards the provinces seems to me to be well stressed by an observation of a highly cultured Oxford lady who referred to the general atmosphere of the provinces and to the habit of people going round and airing their Nonconformist consciences. Mr. Richard Hoggart very wittily said that there might be a worse foundation than that attitude—for instance, "a high-pitched Oxford cultural wine-taster approach." It is a fact that the attitude towards the provinces tends to be of a highly patronising nature. Mr. Hoggart also said to me when I saw him last week that the provincial amateur art-drama groups do not always put on "Dear Octopus".
Then we have the case of the towns which are busily redesigning and replanning their town centres. I made copious inquiries recently at almost every possible level to find out what happens if a local authority, in redesigning its town centre, wants to put up a work of art in the form of a monument or a statue. All I could find out was that under the Public Health (Amendment) Act, 1890, there was authority to locate and erect a monument, but no one could tell me at the Ministry, at local government level or at association level, what authority there is in an ordinary municipality for expenditure on erecting a monument.
I want to put the question to the Financial Secretary, and perhaps he will put me wise on it. What happens if a town is replanning its centre or wishes to encourage the arts? From what source of financing can money come for prizes? I know that under the Ministry of Education there is a permissive right of local education authorities to spend up to one-half of 1 per cent. of the cost of schools, but I cannot find any equivalent authority for municipalities.
Section 132 of the Local Government Act, 1948, with its present restrictions and with, I believe, the present misapprehensions on the part of many local authorities, is simply not being used. In the County of Staffordshire, in which my own constituency lies, only 5 boroughs out of 8 use Section 132 at all, and only 5 urban districts out of 14 and no rural districts at all use it. Yet the population in the rural districts is greater than 705 that of the combined boroughs and urban districts.
The Arts Council informs me that whereas it was anticipated that under Section 132 of the Local Government Act, 1948, local government expenditure would probably go up to £15 million, in fact it runs at a rate of £250,000. I do not know whether the figures are accurate, but the Ministry of Housing informs me that that is the precise information.
If we take the individual cases of small towns in my constituency, we find that Lichfield spends .26 of a 1d. rate and Tamworth .2 of a 1d. rate in this direction. These are negligible figures when we realise that the permissible expenditure is a 6d. rate. I believe that much of the trouble is due to the fact that local authorities are afraid of public opinion in the matter of expenditure on the arts. I think that one of the duties of a Royal Commission should be to draw to the notice of the local authorities that they should try to do these things and that their duty lies in providing this sort of amenity and education for the people. I do not think that the mere repeating of the word "entertainment" is very helpful.
I cannot believe that in big cities like Manchester. Birmingham and Liverpool there is not the demand for the bigger forms of visual art, for instance, ballet. Is it really improbable—I am the greatest possible admirer of the lady in question—that another Ninette de Valois can be found in the provinces? Is it not an established fact that if a lady of that dynamic character were found we could have the equivalent of a Royal School of Ballet in Manchester and Birmingham? I am sure that in the provinces the demand is there and that the people in the provinces look with envious eyes towards London. Millions of people cannot afford either the time or the money to come to London to enjoy these amenities.
I do not think that successive Governments have done their duty in seeing that these amenities are provided or encouraged. The Arts Council, the major agency through which Government expenditure takes place, would, I know, like to institute some form of arts information service so that there might be an organisation, an office, through which local bodies, local authorities and individuals 706 could seek advice about the inauguration and institution of art amenities.
I do not want to talk so very much about the newer forms and the old forms of getting these influences to bear on the broad mass of the people, but in passing may I say concerning the new memorandum on the organisation of provincial museums which, I understand, is going out and which needs financial provision, that the government are to some extent dependent on the advice of the Standing Commission on Museums.
Although I do not want to be unduly critical, I wonder whether the Government ought not to look at the composition of that Standing Commission. Its membership is composed of the vestigial element of the aristocracy in this country. The members of the Commission are civilised people, many of whom own remarkable collections of pictures. Indeed, one of them was most courteous to me and showed me his private collection. But I doubt very much whether the people about whom I am talking have a close enough contact with the ordinary people. I think that their attitude of mind tends to be one of conservation rather than popularisation of what the museums and art galleries of this country can provide.
Some of these provincial museums could be so good, but because of the lack of financial and technical advice they are very poor. I have in my constituency the Johnson House Museum. People will say that I am probably not very prudent when I say this about my own constituency, but I think that that museum is a disaster. When we consider how important a figure Dr. Johnson is in our history we should realise that we ought to do something better. It is not merely a question of finance; it is a question of technique and general advice upon the way in which to present what we have got to the best advantage, and also of securing loans from national galleries. I believe that the Tate Gallery could help in this matter.
I now turn to that newest of instruments for bringing the arts to bear on the people, namely, television. Hon. Members who have studied the various reports from the Independent Television Authority and the B.B.C. will know that their expenditure on cultural matters runs at a very high figure. For the 707 year ending 31st March, 1959, cultural television programmes from the B.B.C. cost £2½ million, and at present the Independent Television Authority is giving to various groups grants running at about £150,000 a year. Those two figures are in no way comparable, since they relate to different activities but, as the I.T.A. fully realises, the encouragement of the repertory theatre is important because it is the nursery of television programmes.
"Monitor", which is probably the best cultural programme of all—and which I wish would come on a little earlier on Sunday evenings—has a viewing rate of 2½ million people, which is a remarkable achievement. The A.T.V. series of programmes by Sir Kenneth Clark, called "Is Art Necessary?", had a viewing figure estimated at just under 2 million, and for the other programme, called "Five Revolutionary Painters", the average figure was 2,400,000. These are remarkable figures, and show what can be done if the problem is tackled properly.
The direction in which I believe expenditure is going wrong, and where the results are bad—and here I address myself to the Minister of Education—is in school television programmes. I understand that both the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. address their activities to about 40,000 secondary schools, but they believe that not more than 1,200 make use of the programmes. The combined expenditure appears to be running at about £300,000. One of the jobs of the Royal Commission would be to try to define what part television plays in education, and weigh up the pros and cons. I can foresee objections by the schoolmastering element of the population, but I think that as a technique of instruction this is an important medium, which should receive Government attention.
I turn to the question of co-ordination between various Government Departments. Why is it that the Royal Fine Art Commission—which, incidentally, has nothing to do with fine arts—is not consulted before major Government projects are put in hand? We heard references this week to the fact that the Commission was not consulted by the Army authorities in connection with the erection of barracks, but as a major example 708 I would take the construction of the motorway, M.1. The Commission was not consulted about any of the landscape issues, with which it is deeply concerned, and until the last minute it was not consulted about any of the many bridges which cross the motorway. No one disputes that it is a major engineering achievement, but the Commission was called in far too late on the question of bridges, although by a small adjustment here and there in many cases it could have produced a much better effect.
Next, I take the question of agriculture. Under present legislation the Minister of Agriculture can provide 50 per cent. of the necessary cost of new farm buildings, but there is no provision for their design, in order to ensure that they have some relationship to the demands of the countryside and the general picturesqueness which is desirable. That is another question which should be looked into.
To sum up, I should like to explain why I think that a Royal Commission or its equivalent is necessary. I take the two main points of my Motion, namely, co-ordination, and practice and enjoyment. In the matter of co-ordination, the Commission should examine the Government's effort in the light of the educational domestic and economic requirements of the country, and in regard to practice and enjoyment it should examine the relationship of commercial production of designs, decorations, ornamentation and furnishing for the home, and thus encourage discrimination, thereby influencing commercial production.
It should then determine why the impact of art effort and expenditure is so slight, and then go on to determine the extent to which the provinces, especially those vast peripheral estates outside our big towns and cities, need decentralisation from national cultural centres. Finally, it should see whether the terms of reference of the Royal Fine Art Commission ought to be changed so as to ensure that it is automatically called in for consultation before a project is put in hand.
I have talked at great length upon what I believe to be an important subject, and I ask hon. Members to support me in asking for a searching 709 inquiry on the lines of a Royal Commission.
§ 11.57 a.m.
§ Sir Hamilton Kerr (Cambridge)
I am sure that the House is grateful to the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) not only for the thoughtful and constructive speech that he has given us, but also for having used his good fortune in the Ballot to raise the question of the arts and their administration. Last Christmas the hon. Member sent me a most attractive card showing the facade, spires and sculptured splendours of Lichfield Cathedral. It had been drawn by one of his Tory constituents, and it provided an admirable example of collaboration in the service of the arts.
Rumour also has it that the hon. Member sometimes pairs with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford (Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport), whose voice echoes so often in Chaliapin-like splendour across the Floor of the House, like a signal gun calling rival armies to battle. My hon. and gallant Friend has assured me that if he had been here, and able to speak, he would have engaged in a sonorous and melodious duet with the hon. Member for Lichfield.
The hon. Member has urged Her Majesty's Government to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the administration of the arts. I admit that there is an argument against this. It may be said that a Royal Commission would take a certain time to report, and it would stop things being done. I therefore suggest that we should first urge Her Majesty's Government to carry out the pledges contained in their election manifesto and, secondly, to conduct a searching inquiry into the arts, as phase two of the same operation. I believe that such an inquiry would yield the most interesting results.
This country has been favoured by two main factors. First, unlike the rest of Europe, we have not been fought over in wars since the seventeenth century. Our cities have not been burnt, and our museums and great houses have not been ransacked. We should probably all admit that the air raids of the last war, although severe, could not compare with the damage done by a long-fought land battle.
710 Secondly, we have been favoured by men of wealth who have had the intelligence and taste to accumulate collections of works of art, which, in many cases, they have bequeathed to the nation. It seems to me that our country thus resembles a fine, sheltered, old walled garden, where the most beautiful fruits have ripened in the course of centuries.
As the hon. Gentleman remarked, one of the main problems confronting those who wish to assist the arts to gain their right place is public indifference. At times, many of us who fight for the cause of the arts feel somewhat like an air-raid warden, armed with a single stirrup-pump, trying to put out about 500 incendiary bombs at the same time. Indeed, our opponents are clever, active and ruthless. Very often the bombers are overhead before the air-raid siren has even been sounded. But we must not be discouraged. I take courage from the aphorism of Oscar Wilde in "An Ideal Husband", when referring to politicians in England, thatUnless a man preaches morality at least twice a week to large popular immoral audiences he is simply over as a serious politician.Let us continue to preach the cause of the arts and of beauty to an indifferent country. Certainly a most admirable development has taken place. If my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister can say with truth that the wind of change is blowing through the jungles of Africa, it is certainly blowing through the corridors of Whitehall. The present Solicitor-General, in a debate in January last year, announced the largest single contribution ever made by a Government to the service of the arts. I remarked at that time that I had just come back from the National Wild Game Reserve in Kenya, where it is possible to drive up in a car to the most ferocious lions or most timid zebras and take photographs, because they do not associate human beings with the smell of petrol and tyres. It is no more dangerous than shopping in the toy department of Harrod's. I claim today that the attitude of the Ministerial lions on the Front Bench has likewise changed considerably. They no longer growl when we make requests for increases. More often than not, they encourage with a friendly wink the approach of the too timid hunter.
711 And so I claim that, firstly, the Government should implement their promises which were outlined in the election manifesto. The most important one refers to museums, and says that particular attention will be paid to the provincial museums. The Museums' Association requested Her Majesty's Government to have a Royal Commission to survey the existing resources. This request was refused, but, undeterred by this refusal and encouraged at the same time by the findings of the Bridges Committee of the Gulbenkian Foundation, it proceeded with its own slender resources, and I think that this preliminary investigation is already beginning to yield important facts.
The first fact is that there are many large centres of population without museums. Secondly, in many other centres, the works of art shown are all of very inferior quality and badly displayed. Thirdly, outside London, there are virtually no masterpieces whatsoever, except in one or two well-known centres. On the other hand, in the realms of archaeology and science there is a wealth of material but a great shortage of people able to deal with and understand it. These facts show the necessity of an inquiry. The museums have made valiant efforts in the provinces to organise themselves GP a basis of self-help in nine separate regions. The south-western region has set a fine example; it is already operating. I believe that the north-west will follow suit and, likewise, the south-east.
When we consider the question of museums and the help given to them, we must not consider them merely as examples of the life of the past but as examples of living tradition. I had the honour, together with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), to talk to the Museums' Association last year. I remarked that I had just returned from the Federation of Rhodesia and had there seen the admirable museum at Salisbury where, side by side, Africans and Europeans studied the arts. I had seen on the same afternoon the running track at the multi-racial university where hundreds of Europeans cheered a young African who had defeated Gordon Pirie. If in Africa sports and arts can form a link between the two races, surely, even more in England, they can provide a healing 712 bond between the peoples of all classes and interests. Therefore, I press the particular claim of the museums, and the provincial museums, and I particularly refer to the findings of a committee, over which I have the honour to preside, which published a pamphlet entitled The Challenge of Leisure. In this we suggested that there should be an emergency fund of £75,000 for five years given to the museums.
I must deal with the second point in the election manifesto—dealing with the National Theatre. All of us who have studied the problem feel that the Old Vic should be the natural basis on which any future organisation should be built, with its great prestige, its resources of skilled directors, and its very fine artists—if I can employ a military term, a sort of "mass of manoeuvre" to help the dramatic arts in this country.
There are two important phases in the development of the National Theatre: to build up an effective grid in the provinces so that people can see the best works of art produced in the country and likewise the best actors; and, secondly, to provide a centre in London which can act as a training centre and a base of operations not only for productions in this country but for those tours overseas which earn for us so much prestige and so many foreign dollars.
Next, I see on the Opposition Front Bench the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), who is a governor of the Film Institute, like myself. I want to make a special appeal for the Film Institute which carries on a great tradition, yet preserves a vital part of our country's history and culture, in the form of its film archives. It would welcome very much any extra help that the Government could give.
I have mentioned these three items merely as a sort of first-aid operation, the application, as it were, or a tournequet to stop the patient bleeding to death. Phase two should be a further inquiry into a variety of subjects, which should be as exciting as "Gulliver's Travels" themselves. As to finance, we might study whether we should adopt the American taxation laws, which give special privileges to those who endow national galleries with their works of art, whether deeds of covenant to 713 charities should be allowed as deductions from super tax, whether gifts to museums should be deducted from Income Tax, as in America, and, another important point, whether the Historic Buildings Council is receiving sufficient grants at the present moment.
In the realm of patronage, there is a new circular from the Association of Municipal Corporations urging local authorities to take advantage of the 1948 Act, but I think that another idea might well be the setting up of an arts bureau where the leaders of industry and the leaders of the trade unions could be in touch with artists of all kinds to ensure that industry has the best design and the best setting for its activities.
Finally, there is a whole variety of other subjects, such as town planning, in which qualified architects could be more extensively used.
It is obvious to all of us who have studied the problem that the people of this country are entering a new rhythm of life. We are told, when we read our history books, that the people of Athens owed their brilliant civilisation to the fact that slave labour existed. The citizens of Athens were able to improve their bodies in the stadia and improve their minds by discussing philosophy or hearing the masterpieces of their playwrights, or seeing the triumphs of their architects, because the essential work was done by the slaves in the mines and the homes.
Today the machine is taking the place of the human slave. We are entering the so-called age of leisure which surely has its immense difficulties and dangers also. As some one has most aptly said, modern life in industrial nations is a deadly conspiracy against true leisure. We are all too often inclined to believe that modern inventions will bring human happiness and to neglect the old principle that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us in the development of our own resources. The Chinese, who understood these things well, have a wise proverb which says, "If you have not enough money to buy a loaf, buy half a loaf and a rose." We are asking for a little more money for the rose this morning.
Having tried to carry out the principle enjoined on all speakers—"Tell your audience what you are going to say, say it and then repeat it"—I end with the 714 plea to Her Majesty's Government, first of all, to implement their election pledges and, secondly, to conduct an inquiry into the administration of the arts.
§ 12.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)
I should like to add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow), not only upon introducing this fascinating subject, but upon his very persuasive and far-ranging speech. Very naturally, my hon. Friend concentrated on the needs of the provinces.
I do not dissent from what my hon. Friend said, nor from what the hon. Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) has just said, about the needs of the provinces. I am merely sorry that on these occasions we always seem to get an antithesis between the provinces and London hon. Members from the provinces seem to suggest that somehow or other in the field of the arts London is getting more than its share. I would say to my hon. Friend—I am not speaking merely as a London Member—that inevitably London will be the cultural centre of Britain and of the Commonwealth, but it will be a centre from which the periphery can and should draw strength, and to strengthen the arts in London will be strengthening them in the country as a whole.
I think that we in this country are all too conscious of our changed status in the world. We all recognise that in terms of power there are now only two great nations, and we look to America and Russia—particularly to the United States—with some humility at their vast wealth, their great natural and technological resources and their military strength. I think that we are apt to foget that in the field that we are discussing today this country is second to none in the world, that we enjoy a cultural heritage and tradition as rich and great as any nation, and for this living tradition of ours we command the respect of the rest of the world. Indeed. I think that when it comes to the United States we command not only respect but reverence. Here the humility is theirs.
I believe that in this cultural prestige—to use a horrible but convenient phrase—we have a national asset, which is not only a social asset but in a very real sense an economic and political asset 715 too, and, frankly, I think that we do not exploit it enough. Many of us hardly recognise that it exists. Certainly the Government do far too little to nurture it.
I am not asking that we should merely concentrate on preserving and embalming a dead past, however glorious that past may be. What we have to do is to sustain and nourish a flourishing present, because seldom before in our history have the arts in Britain flourished so vitally over so wide a front.
I do not want to go into a long catalogue, but today we have in Britain several painters who have an international reputation, and that has not often happened in the past. We have in Henry Moore probably the greatest sculptor in the world. We have an exciting crop of new young playwrights, and we certainly have a wealth of talent in the acting profession. We have a Royal Ballet which compares with any company in the world, and I imagine that in Margot Fonteyn we have the greatest ballerina of all. Even in the field of music, which has not often been our strong point, we have in Benjamin Britten one of the most vital creative minds at work today, and certainly in Sir Thomas Beecham we have the greatest conductor in the world.
So it is for the present of the arts that we are making this plea as much as for the conservation of the past. The people whom I have mentioned represent the peaks and the peaks can always look after themselves, but it is on the lower ranges and among the foothills that the help and encouragement is needed. In this respect the responsibility of the Government is not only to assist the practice of the arts but, as my hon. Friend put it so well, to assist and encourage the enjoyment of the arts by the population as a whole.
In this connection, I should like to quote one of the concluding paragraphs of the Report to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1959, entitled "Help for the Arts." It states:What is lacking, and still seems to be lacking, notwithstanding the significant advances made in recent years or months is adequate support or patronage. Even today, far too few people seem to recognise the place which the arts should play in the life of the nation as a whole, or if they recognise it, show a marked reluctance to meet the cost.716 This is still true, though I certainly welcome the substantial advances that were made a year ago. But that paragraph was written after those increases in Government expenditure were announced.
What we have to do now is to live down our niggardly past. We have years and years of it to make up for. In this connection, I think one must really look at our attitude to our great national institutions. This is an enormous subject and one has to pick one's examples, but let us look at the British Museum. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the British Museum is the greatest museum in the whole world. I would remind the House that it is an institution for which the Treasury has the direct responsibility.
The British Museum has been understaffed, and grossly understaffed, for years and years, to such a point that its cataloguing of manuscripts has become thirty years in arrears. This makes life extremely difficult for students and researchers who go there and want to consult the vast treasury of material that there is. The Financial Secretary said to me in reply to a Question not very long ago that more staff was being provided for the Museum and, in particular, to help with the arrears of cataloguing. I should like to know whether the British Museum is to be staffed on a scale which will enable it to overcome the arrears in a reasonable period of time.
The British Museum was very seriously damaged during the war by Hitler's bombs. Today, fifteen years after the end of the war, not much more than half the war damage has been made good, and still masses of the treasures of the museum have to be hidden away because parts of the museum are still closed or under repair. This again shows a lack of enterprise and lack of urgency in dealing with the problem.
On many occasions in this House I have raised the fact that the Museum reading room closes at 5 p.m. every day. I gather that there have been some moves in this direction. Perhaps the Financial Secretary might tell us the position which the negotiations have reached. I understand that there will be an experimental late opening perhaps on two nights a week.
717 But we ought not to be thinking merely of opening the reading room. The whole Museum ought to be open till 10 o'clock at night. Let us offer something to people who find themselves in London for the evening, something a little better perhaps than a striptease club or a cinema in the Tottenham Court Road if they want to entertain themselves at a slightly different level. To this sort of institution in almost every other country in the world there would be full public access at all reasonable times.
I wish to say a word or two about purchase grants for our national museums and collections, particularly the National Gallery and the Tate. We welcomed the recent increase of, I think, £25,000 a year for five years to the National Gallery to compensate for the loss of part of the Lane Bequest pictures. I do not think we could buy one picture of the average quality of the Lane pictures for £25,000. Some probably we could not purchase for the total amount given for the five years. Nevertheless, it is a step forward.
We have these two magnificent collections of pictures and we cannot leave the matter there. Not only are there gaps in the collection about which we have heard a great deal—particularly the Impressionist gap, which is very serious indeed—but it should be the task of any collection, not only to fill gaps, but to go on collecting outstanding works of art. The level of existing grants both to the Tate and the National Gallery does not enable the Trustees to do that. The Tate Gallery in the last Report of its Trustees was asking for a once-for-all grant of £100,000 to make good arrears, especially in twentieth century art which it has been unable to acquire because of lack of funds in the past. Only in the last twelve or fifteen years has the Tate had a grant at all, and it now gets £40,000 a year.
There is a feeling abroad that money spent on purchases of pictures is rather in the same category as defence expenditure that it is money which has gone down the drain. That is not so, it is acquiring a national asset which more often than not appreciates than depreciates in value.
There has been some extremely wise purchasing in the past, especially in 718 connection with the Tate Gallery. The House may recall that there was a fund which resulted from a grant made by Mr. Samuel Courtauld in 1924 for the purchase of modern pictures. This was in the hands of the Tate Trustees. I have with me the list of purchases out of the Courtauld Fund, mostly made in the two or three years following 1924. It is a most remarkable list of pictures. But for this fund we should have hardly any Impressionists at all in our national collections.
The Trustees bought the two famous Van Goghs, "The Yellow Chair" and "Sunflowers," for just under £2,000 in 1924. At a very conservative estimate, they are worth today a good £100,000. The Trustees bought a Degas, "Miss Lola at the Cirque Fernande," which is now in the National Gallery, for £3,350. The estimated value of that picture today is £125,000. They bought a Cezanne landscape for £4,500, which is now estimated to be worth £150,000.
The most remarkable purchase of all was the Seurat "La Baignade," which cost £4,000 in 1924. That picture is now estimated—these can be only approximate estimates—to be worth £600,000. In other words, in thirty-five years it has appreciated in value one-hundred-and-fifty times. That, I would guess, is a slightly better investment for the nation from the point of view of capital appreciation than our acquisition of shares in Anglo-Persian Oil. This is perhaps a slightly mundane aspect of the problem, but one which should not be forgotten when we are asking for more Government support.
We should remember that the Tate Gallery is a gallery of modern painting and sculpture and, as categories of works become no longer modern, they graduate, so to speak, from the Tate to the National Gallery. Many of these pictures so wisely bought thirty years ago are now in the National Gallery gracing its walls.
The problem which was posed by my hon. Friend was, how are we in future to distribute the support which Governments are to provide for the arts? I agree with my hon. Friend that an enquiry is needed. I am not sure that a Royal Commission is the right body to do this job, but I am sure the problem needs looking at. The present situation is not satisfactory.
719 There seems to be some doubt in the mind of the Government as to the precise function the Arts Council ought to perform and the precise function which the Standing Commission ought to perform. I hoped the Standing Commission would take on quite a new rôle when it was refurbished and revitalised a year or two ago, but there is little sign of that at the moment. Apparently it is still producing a quinquennial report. It has a staff of about half a secretary, or one and a half secretaries, and nothing more. Some of us hoped that eventually the Standing Commission, or some such body, might become a kind of University Grants Committee for the arts, the channel through which Government help for all museums and galleries might go.
I have a feeling that the Government and the Treasury are a little too ready to follow existing patterns however anachronistic they become. We know the Treasury adores annual accounting. It says that Parliament adores annual accounting, but that is quite untrue. Parliament, I think, has never complained about the University Grants Committee getting a quinquennial grant. I should have thought that triennial or quinquennial grants were equally appropriate for this help to the arts.
In the Labour Party election document, "Leisure for Living"—an admirable document which received a very good Press in many quarters not normally favourable to the party—we said what we would do for the arts if we became the Government. We recognised that another £2 million spent annually on the arts—about one-twelfth of the egg subsidy as it is currently running—would utterly transform the situation. That is what we would have done had we won the election. The party opposite also made some promises about the arts, but of course they were somewhat cagey promises. They gave the impression, however, that the Government were prepared to do a great deal more than they have done in the past. This is the time for them to implement their promises. I hope that we shall have some encouraging words from the Financial Secretary when he winds up the debate.
§ 12.28 p.m.
§ Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
It is with much trepidation that I rise to address the House for the first time and, therefore, I ask rather more than the usual indulgence from the House in the hope that hon. Members will bear with me if I do not put my points as clearly as they put theirs.
It is my privilege to represent Bournemouth, East and Christchurch, where hon. Members sometimes go, with many other hard-working citizens, when they want to relax. Bournemouth is principally a holiday resort. Essentially it is a place of recreation and leisure. Not only is it a place for holidays but it is a place for retirement, where many thousands of people spend their last days. I emphasise that it is one of the finest holiday resorts in the country, and yet recently the B.B.C. has been putting on television and the wireless shows advocating holidays abroad. I cannot for the life of me understand why this should be, when people can go to Bournemouth for a holiday at half the expense.
Bournemouth is full of amenities, and one of its chief amenities—none more important—is the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. It is in this connection, as it comes under the heading of the Arts Council, that I should like to make a special appeal and to put forward certain claims on behalf of the national provincial symphony orchestras.
Our orchestra was founded in 1893 and has about sixty-five full-time working musicians. At present it is on a tour in Wales, and its duty covers the southwest of England in this respect. It is a renowned orchestra, as many hon. Members know. Even the Financial Secretary made reference to it in answer to a Question from me last November, when he expressed his approbation of a performance which he had attended. Last November, the Bournemouth orchestra appeared before Her Majesty the Queen Mother at a Command Performance at the Royal Festival Hall.
As hon. Members know, in years gone by, when there were a number of rich men, relatively speaking untaxed, it was their custom to be patrons of the arts. In those days the general public had no 721 conception of art or culture. It was left to the wealthy to ensure that art did not die, and it was their interest that kept music, poetry, painting, sculpture, opera, ballet and the other arts alive and, in fact, thriving.
It is safe to assume that we might not have had the music of Bach, Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven if those great musicians had not had a patron who supported them with a stipend and provided them with an orchestra. The same thing happened with all the great artists of the day. They were commissioned by the well-to-do. In fact, they had patrons. This kind of thing continued until about forty years ago. The opera and ballet were supported by their patrons, and the great shows of Covent Garden fifty years ago were not a commercial success and could not have survived without the donations of the patrons of art.
The point which I wish to make, in particular, is that it is owing to taxation, especially Income Tax and Surtax, that it is no longer possible for any man to have such an income that he can afford to give substantially to the arts. The Government have taken all such money from such people. My point is that the Government, by taxation, have taken the money which the patrons would have given to the arts, and I therefore submit that it is the duty of the Government today to become the patron of the arts.
The principle of Government support for the arts was established some years ago and confirmed by the formation of the Arts Council of Great Britain. Postwar experience has demonstrated that the amount of support provided by the Government has not kept pace with the ever-increasing expenditure forced upon those responsible for maintaining the arts. The musicians employed by the provincial symphony orchestras are, in the main, engaged at the minimum rates laid down by the Industrial Disputes Tribunal in 1957. For the three grades of musician these are £13 10s. 0d., £15 10s. and £18 10s. per week. Although these rates are classified as minimum rates, in practice they have become the actual rates paid, as the managements find themselves unable, through lack of funds, to improve these rates. It has been established beyond all doubt that no symphony orchestra carrying out its 722 true function of supplying and developing the art of music can be regarded as a commercial proposition.
In the election manifestos, both the Conservative and Labour Parties stated their willingness to support the arts to a greater extent than hitherto. Representations have been made to me by those vitally interested in our orchestra at Bournemouth that the Conservative Party have never said how they intend to carry out their promise, nor do they seem to have any specific policy for defining for what purpose financial support should be given. I am sure that I speak for all five of the orchestra managements—the Scottish, Liverpool, Hallé, Birmingham and Bournemouth—when I say that I should like to see the Government change their present system of an annual consideration of estimates into some method which would permit us to know the extent of Government support for at least three or five years in advance
At the moment the grants-in-aid are deficit grants. This leads to difficulty in properly planning the purely artistic side of the orchestra's work and causes the managements to concentrate on making things pay. The managements must of necessity place an undue emphasis on box office receipts rather than on purely artistic results, and there is therefore a tendency, it seems, for the musicians concerned to be both overworked and under-rehearsed. I believe that the box office provides just about half what it costs to run an orchestra. The other 50 per cent. has to be supplied by municipal authorities, local authorities, the Arts Council, special groups and campaigns.
The immediate practical step necessary seems to me to be to consider how to support the orchestras in such a way that the managements are able to pay reasonable salaries to the musicians who make this profession their career. I am sure that we should all find it very difficult, if we were in such a qualified profession as are the musicians, to provide for a family on £13 10s. a week, as the rank-and-file musician has to do. On that salary he has to provide for a family, to see that his musical instrument is kept in good repair and to retain a certain social level. He has to provide himself with three working suits—full morning dress, full evening dress and a dinner jacket.
723 It is important that we should look at this question of their salaries. This cannot be done by the managements. Only through subsidy can their salaries be increased. The total amount of money required to keep the five provincial symphony orchestras "in the black" is mere chicken feed. One hundred thousand pounds a year would make it possible for the Scottish, the Liverpool, the Hallé, the Birmingham and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestras to plan good programmes over a period of years, pay proper salaries to their musicians and develop orchestras worthy indeed of the British nation.
I am informed that the battered town of Hamburg, which was laid flat during the war, today subscribes more to the arts than the whole of the British Commonwealth. The Government should take action to ensure that the musical profession is established in such a way that it offers an inducement to young people to make it their career. In post-war years, the tremendous strides taken in the mechanical reproduction of sound, broadcasting and television have resulted, as in the theatre, in a great diminution in the amount of work available to musicians. There is a real danger that the British orchestras could deteriorate because experienced and qualified musicians would need to emigrate in order to make a decent living from their profession.
In conclusion, I believe that there is a real golden opportunity for the Government during this period of reasonable prosperity to establish this country in the forefront of artistic endeavour. I thank all hon. Members for listening so patiently to my views. It is my urgent hope that the Minister will consider again how he can help put the national provincial symphony orchestras on a proper business footing.
§ 12.42 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)
I intervene for only a short time in the debate as I know that many hon. Members on both sides want to speak. I want to put only two points for the consideration of the House.
But first, I desire to congratulate most warmly the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) on his maiden speech. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is a formality 724 to do that whenever a maiden speech is made, and sometimes those who express the appreciation of the House do so as a formality only. I assure the hon. Gentleman that on this occasion I do not do it in that spirit. I am sure all hon. Members who listened to him thought that it was a well considered and worthwhile contribution to the debate. We all admired the enviable confidence in which he expressed his thoughts. I welcome him to that small group of hon. Members—all too small—who take an interest in the arts in the House of Commons. In that group, I hope he will play a considerable part in the future and help us in our endeavours to see the arts in this country flourish and more national money devoted to that purpose.
The first point to which I want to call the attention of the House is an aspect of the arts which is given little consideration and which, for that reason, lacks money and is in a serious condition. Everyone is agreed that we should have good opera and ballet in this country. The Government have devoted large sums of money, increased last year to up to £500,000, for keeping up the Royal Opera House and Sadlers Wells, for providing first-class companies to perform there, and for paying their salaries, production costs and overheads. The success of those companies depends not only on having a fine building in which to perform, but equally on the existence of adequate training facilities for those who are to sing and dance there. At the moment hardly any public money is spent for this purpose. This is an indefensible situation.
There are three bodies for the training of opera singers—the Royal College of Music, the Guildhall School of Music and the Royal Academy of Music, which train students to become singers. None of them is able—nor, indeed, does it attempt—to enable singers to reach the high professional standard required for opera singing. Those who want to be opera singers and qualify for the high-standard opera companies have to go to an admirable body called the National Opera School which is dependent entirely on charity. Its existence depends on the money it is able to raise by balls and film premieres and similar devices, but of course this does not bring in enough. The result is that the number of people who are able to 725 enjoy the benefits given by that school are limited. All this is ridiculous.
If we want to have fine opera in this country and pay for it, as we do by very large grants of money, we should provide for the few thousand pounds—I am told that not more than £5,000, or £10,000 at the outside, would be required—to enable a good official school to be established. That is one of the things which the Government should see to. We are in marked contrast here to Continental practice, where all such schools are fully supported by Government funds and everybody who qualifies for entry into them receives their training free.
The same thing applies to the Royal Ballet School. We have a very fine ballet company which has high international reputation, but except for a small capital grant of £15,000 a year for a limited number of years given towards the upkeep of White Lodge by the Arts Council, no public money goes to help pay the current expenses of this School. It is true that many pupils are able to go to the school on local authority grants, but that does not apply to all of them. The school has not sufficient money to cover its current expenses, and it too has to raise the balance required from charitable sources. Those responsible for it have to use every device open to them to raise money to keep the school going. That is all wrong.
I know that recently an additional piano was urgently required for the Royal Ballet School. Great difficulty was experienced in finding the necessary purchase money. This is an example of a situation which I invite the Government to look at and remedy by appropriate action.
I understand that for some technical reason it is impossible to put either the National Opera School or the Royal Ballet School in the category of a school entitled to receive direct grant from the Ministry of Education. An application was made for this to be done a little time ago, but was turned down. I do not know whether that is the way out, but some way should be found to provide the very small amount required to ensure that these schools, on which the success of our opera and ballet companies depends, have adequate funds.
726 My second point is a related one and more urgent. It is the training facilities available today for the actors, producers, designers and dramatists who form the base, the essential living part of our theatre. I am not talking about such bodies as R.A.D.A. and similar institutions which do excellent work. These bodies do only the preliminary training. The real training comes from the opportunities afforded to drama students to develop their talents in the repertory theatres. All the leading actors and actresses in the West End today acquired their present high standard by years of experience in repertory theatres.
For a number of reasons of which we are all well aware our repertory theatres today are in a desperate condition. Their rescue cannot await a Royal Commission. Emergency action is required. Last year, the Government granted substantial increases in the funds to be paid to the Arts Council, to be used in certain specific directions, notably opera and national museums. But they did not provide an extra penny for the theatre, although the position of the theatre, and particularly of the "rep" theatres is at least as serious as that of any other art forms.
Among the causes that have led to the decline of the "rep" theatre is simply the lack of financial resources with which to attract audiences in competition with T.V. and other forms of amusement and recreation. That lack of funds leads to two serious consequences. Productions are poor. They do not rise to the high standard that the public nowadays demands; and the theatres themselves are so forbidding through lack of repair and decent maintenance as to discourage all but the most passionate devotees of drama from attending.
The condition of these theatres was well described in the last report of the Arts Council, which spoke of:The dinginess of so many valiant 'reps,' too poor to afford a lick of paint or the renewal of seats ruptured by several generations of use.That is the situation of many of our "rep" theatres today. Will the Government do anything about it quickly? The importance of the "rep" theatre lies not so much in the facilities it provides 727 to people in the provincial cities to see and enjoy good drama, but in the fact that if the "rep" theatre fades out, a mortal blow is struck to British drama, as it is no exaggeration to say that the standard of our drama depends entirely on the training facilities available in the provincial "reps."
My plea, and I am sure that there is a response to it throughout the House—and I am sure the Financial Secretary and the Minister of Education who are present with us today are as anxious as anyone to see our drama continue to flourish—my plea is for urgent action to be taken. If the British drama should decay, as it will if the "reps" die, a great national asset will be destroyed. There is great prestige value in our theatre; in the high respect in which it is held throughout the Commonwealth and abroad.
This tragedy should be avoided—and I say this deliberately—at all costs. It may cost a lot of money to keep the "rep" theatres going, but if our drama is to maintain its present reputation, it is essential. A large responsibility rests on the local authorities. They should contribute, and much more than they have done in the past—but the lead must be given by the Government.
I ask the Government to remember that the total amount given by them to drama is far less than the grant given to drama by many cities—cities, not countries—on the Continent of Europe. I ask the Government to remember that drama is the art, above all others, which we should take steps to ensure flourishes in this country, because of our great literary and dramatic tradition. Whether drama flourishes or decays in the next ten years depends, as I say, to a considerable extent on whether or not the "rep" theatres continue to live, and to provide the essential training facilities for our actors, designers, producers and dramatists. And whether they live or not depends largely on the Government's willingness to take action, and to take it quickly, to rescue these theatres from the extinction that now threatens them.
§ 12.55 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Nugent (Guildford)
I am glad to have the opportunity to join in this very interesting debate, and I add my meed of praise to the hon. Member 728 for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) for giving us this opportunity as a result of his good fortune in the Ballot. I have not taken part in these debates before—indeed, I am a newcomer to debates on the arts. That has not been for lack of interest and enthusiasm but for lack of opportunity. Now that my Ministerial muzzle is removed, I am very glad to have a chance to say a word today.
I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary on the increase in expenditure on the arts that has taken place over the years. It is now more than double the amount in 1951. It was then some £3½ million and is now over £7 million. That is good, but having said something which, I hope, will put my hon. Friend in a good mood, I must warn him that I have said it in the spirit of faute de mieux. I wish to follow the admirable speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) and to ask for something more for our theatres.
Between the Financial Secretary and myself there is a strong bond of union, because both he and I are pledged in our election manifestos to do more for the living theatre—something which. I suppose, has never before appeared in a Conservative Party election manifesto. To me, at any rate, "more" in this respect means something more substantial. However, let me assure my hon. Friend that I come here, not in the spirit of Mephistopheles in Faust to demand him to pay up his soul, but quite the reverse—to give him a chance to redeem it. I want to hear him say something today to indicate that he will fulfil the promise that he and I have made.
I have no complaint against the Arts Council for what it is doing. I think that it is doing well. As my hon. Friend—my indomitable hon. Friend—the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) is here today, perhaps, to say something, I should like to say that I do not think that the Arts Council is wrong to give a large part of its funds to Covent Garden for the opera and the ballet. It is quite impossible to produce good opera on a shoestring. Indeed, I doubt whether even the present arrangement is enough.
However, let praise be where praise is due. I am most grateful for the 729 action of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in financing Covent Garden on the basis of, I think, 43 per cent. of its annual expenditure. I hope that it will be enough. In the last year, productions have improved. I shall watch the position with interest—and I hope that I shall watch the opera and the ballet there with pleasure as well—and come back again if it is not enough. Therefore, I shall not aim my attack at that today.
I want to speak about the theatre generally. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall has made, if I may say so, an admirable start on this subject, and what I have to say will follow a similar line and, perhaps, develop a little further one or two of his points. There is dire need of help here. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will have read with care the Report of the Arts Council which says on page 8:Unless we nerve ourselves to such an approach"—this refers to a complete rehabilitation of the provincial repertory companies—in the near future the theatre outside London will be beyond recovery, and where it manages to survive as poignant as a museum piece.That is the opinion of that authoritative body, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will pay attention to it. The present amounts that are being given through the Arts Council are really no more than a token gesture to help the provincial repertory companies.
On the whole, I suppose, Members of Parliament are not greatly interested in the theatre. Some of us—those of us who are here today—enjoy it and appreciate it, and recognise it for the great national institution that it is. But I suppose that most of us are fairly accustomed to histrionic performances. Indeed, we have to sit and watch each other every day and it may seem like old stuff to us, somewhat like a busman's holiday, to pay good money to see somebody else putting on a show.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Sir Edward Boyle)
It also depends on the Whips.
§ Sir R. Nugent
The Old Vic, however, is not very far away, as the right hon. Member for Vauxhall will be 730 aware. It is always easy to get into the Old Vic and it never fails to give first-class entertainment. I am often to be found there myself.
§ Sir R. Nugent
I am not starting by seeking to justify the need for help from public funds on personal grounds of entertainment. I wish to start by a justification of the theatre as a national asset. The fact is that people from all over the world come to see our theatre. They come from the Commonwealth and from every country. Stratford-upon-Avon is the Mecca for millions of people all over the world who go to see Shakespeare's birthplace and, if they are lucky, to see a play in the theatre there. That is something that millions of people long to do. Most of these people hope to spend a few days in London and see some of the plays here as well. If they go to the Old Vic they will often see a performance at least as good as and sometimes even better than they will see at Stratford. If they are very lucky they might even get a ticket for Glyndebourne.
The English theatre and English acting are pre-eminent in the world. William Shakespeare is the greatest playwright there has ever been and, despite Voltaire's gibe about "The drunken barbarian of genius", he still is pre-eminent; his plays are translated into every language and are played in every country in the world and they have given enormous entertainment to generation after generation. It is England's honour and glory that we have been able in our history to produce a man as great as this.
The prestige value is maintained by the tremendously high standard of playing by our actors both here and abroad as they travel about the world. The drama is the pinnacle of English achievement in art form. Its prestige value is not passive; it is very active. There is no finer ambassador than a company of English players playing English plays abroad, and especially when they are playing Shakespeare.
The admirable pioneering effort of the Paul Schofield Company which played "Hamlet" in Moscow a few years ago created a tremendous impression there. 731 That impression was even greater two years ago when the Stratford Company went with Dorothy Tutin and Richard Johnson to play "Twelfth Night" and "Romeo and Juliet". The former was a most superb performance. These productions of Shakespeare, who is much loved by the Russians, made a tremendous impression there.
We tend to forget that the Russians are carefully taught that we in this country are a bunch of nineteenth century Philistines, and effete at that. The appetite for reading Dickens in Russia has to be seen to be believed, and the Dickensian image of the Englishman is what the Russian has. However, when a company of English players appears in Moscow and enchants the Russians with a perfect performance of their favourite plays, it takes a message that goes straight to the hearts of the Russian people and makes a far greater impression than squads of the most distinguished statesmen. It makes them realise that we in England have something that they admire and can share.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
To complete his admirable picture, will not the hon. Gentleman add that the tour of the company was subsidised by the British Council?
§ Sir R. Nugent
I am very glad to do so. It does great credit to the British Council. This is the best propaganda that we as a country could possibly have if we want to take the English message to all countries in the world.
My first point is well made, I think, that the theatre is one of our greatest national assets. Secondly, in our national life good drama well played has a unique value. To watch a good play is to have one's feelings caught by the performance. One's feelings are drawn into the plot and in the course of the play one is given an experience greater than is to be found in everyday life. Whether it be comedy, tragedy, romance or farce, it adds an enrichment to the lives of every audience that goes to see a good play well played.
Thus it is that since the days of the Athenian Empire every civilised nation has striven to have a high standard of drama. The theatre is the source of drama for the cinema and television. It 732 would be true to say that very few actors are capable of playing indefinitely to cameras alone. The average actor finds that playing to a living audience is an indispensable part of his work. Goodness knows to what mediocrity acting would descend if the wretched actors were confined to playing before cameras alone. The theatre is the training ground and, indeed, the living ground for the mass media type of entertainment—television in particular, and the cinema—which is enjoyed by so many millions of our people.
I submit that these are two convincing reasons why our national theatre is an asset to which we as a Parliament, including my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, must pay attention. We cannot afford to allow this priceless asset to deteriorate. The present state of the theatre which was referred to earlier by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall is good in London, with the exception of one or two plays which I should say would do the reverse to enriching the lives of the audiences which happen to be unlucky enough to see them. I should think the Lord Chamberlain must have nodded when he passed them. However, one must expect all sorts, I suppose, in a theatre with the kind of range that it has in London. But, in the main, the London theatre is good.
One hears one or two warning notes when theatres like the St. James's and the Stoll are dismantled. I look to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government to see that no more of our theatres are dismantled. But the economic pull is to use the sites for other purposes, if people have a chance. We must not ignore the significance of the warning we have had.
It is in the provinces that the real trouble lies. I entirely agree with the right hon. Member for Vauxhall when he says that the London theatre has its natural roots in the provinces. The provinces are the place of entry for most of our young actors and actresses, the training ground for the flower of the English theatre in London. Without the provincial theatre, and especially the provincial "rep", the London theatre would very soon shrink and fade away to something quite diminutive compared with what it is today.
733 In the provinces today, there are about 120 theatres in regular use, of which 60 are repertory theatres. In 1958–59, 18 of these 60 repertory theatres were helped by the Arts Council, receiving about £78,000. With the help of local authority contributions, this assistance provided them with about 6.5 per cent. of their annual expenses. It really is chicken-feed. Under one-third of the total received 6.5 per cent. of their annual expenses, with the help of local authorities. In 1959–60. the sum was increased to £87,000, spread over rather 27 theatres. It is not the fault of the Arts Council. The Council has no more money to give them; it has simply done the best it could. The Council's problem is that it has far too little butter to spread over far too much bread.
The picture of the individual "reps" is just as the right hon. Gentleman described it. I have an admirable repertory theatre in my constituency of Guildford. It is working in typical premises—old, tatty, uncomfortable, ill-lit, with every possible material disadvantage for the players who bravely struggle each week to put on good performances. As a rule, they are underpaid and overworked.
Apropos of under-payment, I remember an amusing incident which occurred at the Old Vic when Frankie Howerd was playing there in a very delightful performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream". He put on as good a performance as Bottom, I think, as any player has ever done. Her Majesty the Queen graciously visited the theatre on celebration night and, after the show, Mr. Howerd was presented to her. She was commenting to him about his playing Shakespeare, which he had never done before, and she asked him whether he liked it and whether he would go on doing it. He replied, "I have enjoyed it very much, Madam, but now, unfortunately, I have to go back and earn my living". He, of course, was a star.
I do not think the top salaries at the Old Vic are anything more than a Parliamentary Secretary receives. It may be that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is so inured to such miserly sums and to being underpaid and overworked that he may think such payment is sufficient. It clearly is not, and it does not provide 734 a solid basis on which to build the theatre which means so much in our national life.
The point is fairly made, I think, that although the Old Vic, which is, after all, the top in repertory, does manage to carry on somehow with first-class players giving first-class shows, in the provinces the situation is progressively deteriorating. Only the new theatres are doing well. Those "reps" which are fortunate enough to have new theatres have a tremendous advantage over the old ones. When I refer to the old ones, of course, I do not mean all of them. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) in his place. The Bristol Old Vic, of course, is a delight to go into. Even if there is no play going on there at all, it is enormous pleasure to sit in the place. But, in the main, provincial theatre premises really are "the end." It is almost impossible to put on plays which will delight and give that enchantment and magic which the theatre can give.
Television, of course, is the real competitor of the provincial theatre and "reps." I believe that people will leave television and the fireside and go out to the theatre if the theatre is attractive enough. If the premises are good and the players can create the magic illusion of the theatre, people will leave their firesides and be attracted out to see a play. The encouragement is even greater, of course, if the theatre has a restaurant and is able to offer a meal so that the housewife will not have to prepare an evening meal. If all these factors are present, they will combine to make it worth while to go out, but in our old theatre premises there is really every possible physical handicap to putting on a show which can attract anyone at all. It is greatly to the credit of supporters of "rep" throughout the country that these theatres are kept going.
As the Report of the Arts Council indicates, the first thing to do to help provincial "rep" is to have a comprehensive programme of rebuilding and renovating the theatres. This is basic. Whether anything more will be needed, we must see; but that is the first thing to do. I want my hon. Friend to consider this proposition. Will he make sufficient funds available to the Arts 735 Council, telling the Council that such funds will be available, and invite it to draw up a programme for rehabilitating and rebuilding the repertory theatres of our country so far as they are thought to be justified in such a programme?
There are about 60 of them altogether, and I do not say all of them should be rebuilt. All of them cannot be justified, but let us suppose that half of them, only 30, were renovated and rebuilt. That would form a fine foundation for "rep" in the provinces. I imagine that the cost of doing this would be about £250,000 each—not, I should reckon, an excessive sum in the circumstances. The job might be tackled on the basis of £1 for £1 grant from the Treasury, depending upon local authorities and voluntary sources being willing to produce their pounds. It might he tackled over five years, and then something like £750,000 a year would be enough, over a five-year programme and on a 50-50 basis, to rebuild half of our provincial repertory theatres.
I submit that £750,000 a year over five years is a very small sum to provide in order to refurbish, strengthen and rebuild the whole foundation of our national theatre. It is the fact, of course, that our theatre has managed without public funds for hundreds of years, but new features are coming into our national life. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) reminded us, the private patron is not there as he was fifty or a hundred years ago. Above all, we have to contend with the new factor of television which is making such an enormous change in the private and domestic lives of every family in the country.
My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, with the great Treasury traditions of caution behind him, may be inclined to say, "Let us postpone this. Things are not quite as bad as people say". I must remind him that the most striking feature of our life today is the continuously accelerating speed of change. Every year, the speed of change seems to accelerate. If we leave this situation which the right hon. Member for Vauxhall and I have described for another year and then another year, we shall soon find that the roots of the theatre in this country have died to such an 736 extent that the plant itself is withering away.
I ask my hon. Friend to consider this matter seriously. Over the past eight years, our party has had a great record in bringing about material progress. Now it is time that the Government, and indeed all of us, turned their attention to the cultural progress of our people. The theatre is undoubtedly one of the chief elements in this. I do not expect, naturally, my hon. Friend to give an affirmative answer to my proposition today, but I expect him to say that he will consider this problem and will bring it to the notice of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer so that together they may give the matter serious consideration. The whole House is deeply interested in it. We and many thousands of people outside want to know whether they propose to implement this very modest programme which I am advocating.
I should be happy if a Royal Commission were appointed, but the matter is much more urgent. Royal Commissions take years to report. It needs attention now. I most earnestly ask my hon. Friend to give us a favourable and helpful reply.
§ 1.22 p.m.
§ Mr. John Diamond (Gloucester)
The hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) was moved to talk about a small repertory theatre which he knows and which I know slightly. He has made an excellent contribution to our debate in asking for help for the living theatre. This is a happy occasion, in that we are all in agreement, except the Government Front Bench. I do not think that there is any broad dissent anywhere in the Chamber. It is, of course, the Government Front Bench to which we are directing attention.
I was particularly moved by what the hon. Member for Guildford said about active audience participation in the live theatre. I want to draw the attention of the House, with humility, to the fact that we are fighting a battle which we are gradually losing—the battle of the packaged arts, the unliving arts and television, which serves its purpose in many ways but, to a large extent, is a poor substitute for the enrichment about which the hon. Member spoke. Participation between the artists and the 737 audience is something which cannot be reproduced in any other way. An artist cannot give of his full capacity without a live audience and an audience cannot enjoy an orchestra, a play or ballet on television or on film in anything like the same way as it can in the living theatre.
We must be very conscious that in supporting television we are helping the very opposite of what we all want to help, namely, active participation in the live arts. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Guildford for directing attention to that and to the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) for drawing attention to the needs of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Both hon. Members are right. There is a very severe crisis looming in both these spheres, but until the crisis is as severe as it can be the Treasury will not be moved.
I speak with some feeling in this matter. I had better declare my interest. I am a director of Sadler's Wells, which has been going through a most critical period for some time. We are now on the edge of a crisis, but I freely acknowledge that the theatre and the orchestras are moving into an even more critical period than that which faces opera.
This Motion asks for the setting up of a Royal Commission. The hon. Member for Guildford made it clear that he thought that money should be provided for the living theatre, the repertory theatre, particularly in the provinces, now. My hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) will have noticed that all hon. Members know exactly what should be done. They have made suggestions to the Treasury about what should be done, but none of them needs the investigation of a Royal Commission. I entirely agree with everything that my hon. Friend said about the provision of further money, but I hope that he will not mind my making clear my own view. Where he failed completely to make his case was for a Royal Commission. The setting up of a Royal Commision would not matter to me in the least if it would do no harm, but it would do great harm to the cause that we all have at heart—the urgent rehabilitation of the arts before it is too late.
I also ask my hon. Friend to notice that all hon. Members keenly supported 738 him and were grateful to him—I add my gratitude—for making it possible, as we should do at least once a year, to urge the further encouragement of the arts. But he will also have noticed that very few Members made out a case for a Royal Commission—practically none. Such a Royal Commission would be a Royal Commission on life itself. It would be nothing short of that. What we are discussing is the quality of living and a Royal Commission would have to have terms of reference as wide as that.
This is an important topic—I can think of nothing more important—but I cannot see it being tackled by a Royal Commission. There is a whole series of aspects to this matter, each one of which is great enough for the consideration of a Royal Commission. We know enough about the facts. We have all the facts in my own limited sphere of opera. We know the needs fully. We know that all we need is a little more money, not such an awful lot. The hon. Member for Guildford and my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) know the needs of the living theatre, and the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch knows the needs of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. We know the needs of a whole variety of those who encourage participation in the arts. But I cannot see what further information of a useful kind would be produced by the appointment of a Royal Commission.
I am therefore most anxious, without wishing to detract in any way from the able speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth, that we should not be diverted from our attack on the Treasury by the suggestion for the setting up of a Royal Commission.
§ Mr. Snow
I take note of all that my hon. Friend has said, but he will have noticed that practically every hon. Member has plugged one particular interest. Part of my case is that we must see, from the point of view of the Government, the proper aim and general pattern of State patronage. It is because there is no such co-ordinating influence that I have tabled my Motion. I anticipated that, like my hon. Friend, most hon. Members would try to push their own points of view, which are in their own particular interests. That does not depress nor surprise me, 739 but, in my judgment, it merely reinforces the case for an inquiry.
§ Mr. Diamond
My hon. Friend is right in what he says about a number of hon. Members' speeches, and those who know most about the theatre and drama would make a special plea for them. It is only a little unjust because I said that I spend a good deal of my time in providing opera in London and the provinces, but added that the needs of the theatre and the orchestras are, if anything, more urgent even than those of opera and ballet at the moment.
I was going on, not to make a plea for my own particular interest, but to answer in detail the suggestion that there should be a Royal Commission. I was going to quote from what my hon. Friend said himself we ought to have; namely, if not a Royal Commission, then something like an Albemarle Report. The paragraph has already been quoted: it is from the Albemarle Report for the arts. It draws attention to the fact that what is lacking is adequate support or patronage. That is the essential thing. The Report was signed first by Lord Bridges and, secondly, by the Countess of Albemarle, and I do not think we need trouble the Countess a second time to put her views as to what is needed. I put the point because we do not want to be diverted. We are anxious to concentrate our attack on the Treasury, to encourage it in its march forward following its gentle start last year. I know in my own field of opera of no lack of co-ordination.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
This debate started upon the arts that were not living, but the last four or five speeches have been on the living arts—theatre, opera, ballet and others. Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that with regard to the living arts we have all the material in front of us, whereas on the "dead" arts—if I may use that phrase—such as museums and galleries primarily concerned not with the living arts, at least a fairly substantial inquiry into their whole organisation and administration is required, and that the two problems are really quite separate, and might, indeed, have been separately debatable?
§ Mr. Diamond
I agree that these problems are very largely separate, and 740 might well have been debated separately I agree also that any inquiry might cover the much-reduced field the hon. Member has spoken of, but that that would not be a topic for a Royal Commission. In fact, the Museums Association itself does not ask for a Royal Commission but for an inter-Departmental committee of inquiry, and that is a very different kettle of fish. I am quite sure that there is argument for that separate point the hon. Member has mentioned.
But, in the living arts, co-ordination exists. The Arts Council does a first-class job, it is an ideal instrument for the purpose and we do not want to do anything to prevent the Treasury getting on with its good work of giving more money for the need that is so pressing and so great.
There are three things in which we ask the Government's help. The first is in education, and we were glad that the Minister of Education was able to spend such a long time with us today. The spark within each one of us must be encouraged at school age, and, more particularly, in after school age, because interest in some kind of art does not develop in different people until later in life. The hon. Member for Guildford may have been interested in drama since he was tiny, but, for many of us who are interested in one particular art from the cradle, another interest may not develop until later years. It is in after-education after school that efforts should be made to encourage interest in the arts, and this can be done by encouraging amateur societies of all kinds all over the country. Unless we have that, our audiences are really not certain.
The next thing I would ask for is help towards forming a better public opinion. Will the Economic Secretary have a word with the Prime Minister? Every time the Prime Minister tells us that "we have never had it so good"—and I do not want to introduce politics into this—he proceeds to list the reasons, and these always consist of washing machines, television aerials and a number of other material things.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
The Prime Minister himself is perhaps the best of all of us in his appreciation of the arts.
§ Mr. Diamond
It is because I realise that this request would fall on fertile ground that I make it. We know, too, that the Minister of Labour is very interested in music, and the Cabinet at the moment—I do not want to make any controversial remark—contains a number of people who are interested in the arts. I am sure that the Economic Secretary himself is interested in all this. But would it not be much better for the Prime Minister and other senior Ministers, when they speak, to draw attention to the fact that the Welfare State really does not consist of the provision of physical and economic welfare only? It is time we all tried to draw attention to this. I know that the television aerial can be an instrument of education, but it can also be an instrument of a great and shocking waste of time as well. Let us say, when we are talking about a definition of the word "good", that we mean more than physical things, and do not let us leave out all things of aesthetic and artistic value.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I agree about this. Though I am not necessarily blaming the Press, if someone like myself makes a somewhat corny remark about Members opposite, it tends to get well reported, but if I make a speech about the arts that is not couched in the party context, it is very hard to get reported.
§ Mr. Diamond
The hon. Member is quite right, but we are really not concerned with Press reports today because we shall all have a very bad Press in The Times, which is solely interested in asserting the need for a Royal Commission. What we are interested in is a little increase in the Treasury grant.
§ Mr. Diamond
Everything I have said previously is to make the road clear for this request. I really think there is nothing else needed. We enjoy in this country fine artists of international repute. We have a considerable public interest in the arts, a complete acceptance that public patronage has come to stay. These things do not have to be argued; all that has to be argued is whether or not the Treasury is providing sufficient money.
742 There might be an argument as to whether the machinery is right or not. I believe it is very good machinery and very well applied in practice, but there is not enough money. We are not asking for a great deal of money. The figure of £2 million has been mentioned. I think half that amount is sufficient to get the arts out of the critical situation in which they exist all the time.
It really is not right that those of us who carry out this work—always in an honorary capacity, but it is satisfying and worth-while work—should all the time be forced, not only to cut down the original estimates, but to make a further cut knowing that we are quite incapable of being certain of providing art of a satisfactory quality unless we overspend and accumulate overdrafts. A few extra thousands would make all the difference in the world.
The Government do, and have to, contribute more each year. I want to make it clear that the arts need more money each year—not a lot more money but certainly more. I say that not a lot more money is needed, because one cannot provide the talent and the physical circumstances to consume a lot more money each year, and it would be wasteful if there were to be a great deal more. But there has to be a substantial increase in the current scale first. Could not the Treasury grasp this problem and give another £1 million now and from that basis encourage the arts by giving more each year? It is not a great deal of money, but it would make a vast difference.
I ask the Treasury also to reconsider at Budget time whether there is not now a case for encouraging wider patronage of the arts through an alteration of our taxation laws. We have the examples of Canada and America which for some time have given tax reliefs in that respect. The Report of the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income gave some encouragement to this idea and I think that in current circumstances the Commission would have been in favour of it. Its conclusion at the time was only slightly against such a provision. Now we have got to the stage where Government and public patronage of the arts is accepted as an economic liability, there is a great deal to be said for the belief that the 743 Royal Commission would have supported altering our tax laws so as to allow a contribution by an individual to one of the arts to be tax-free up to a certain maximum or a certain proportion of his income. If the Financial Secretary cannot say something about that now, I hope that he will refer to it later.
I am sorry that I have had to say what I did say about by hon. Friend's proposal for a Royal Commission, because I finish as I started by thanking by hon. Friend for giving us an opportunity once more to discuss these matters. I want him to realise that I entirely agree with him about the need. The suggestions which he and other hon. Members made were well-considered and sensible and showed ways in which money could usefully be spent to increase the work of the arts.
What I want to avoid is being delayed, put off, or in any way diverted by having to consider the terms of reference which a Royal Commission might have and which are beyond any human being's capacity. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be encouraging in his reply by promising more money for the arts.
§ 1.42 p.m.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
I thank the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) for initiating the debate and hope that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has come with an open mind, not merely with a Treasury brief, to consider the problems which have been raised. I am sick and tired of Treasury briefs about the arts. When one discusses these matters one finds it openly said that the Treasury as such, apart from the Treasury Ministers, approves additional expenditure on the arts but that it is the Treasury Ministers who are now dragging their feet.
We all know the part that Lord Bridges has played in trying to stimulate interest in the arts and increase expenditure on the arts. I realise that it is quite difficult for Treasury Ministers to refuse claims outside the arts and then suddenly to say that they intend to be generous to the arts.
However, the lesson of our times has been admirably put by several hon. Members who have pointed out that 744 coming generations are already taking a great interest in what the arts have to offer. Those of us with some responsibility for planning the future can look to them to support what we hope will be the Treasury attitude towards the furtherance of the arts.
I have one or two comments to make on how I see the build-up of the general public's support of the arts. In Newcastle-upon-Tyne, for instance, there is a very progressive young couple who run a brass and china and picture shop. They have recently started a small art gallery in only two rooms. They show about 30 pictures at a time, changing the exhibition every month. They have collections of Impressionists, mediaeval paintings and so on, and the other day there was a fascinating exhibition of Michael Ayrton's paintings. To understand what is in the minds of members of the public, one should talk to Mr. Marshall, who is the inspiration behind this art gallery. He has told me that the most appreciative people who visit that gallery are the miners from County Durham, who flock into the gallery regularly. He also finds great support from the industrial communities of Northumberland.
Mr. Marshall has established a sort of hire-purchase system for encouraging the purchase of these pictures. It is a great stimulus to people like myself, who want to further the provisions of the arts, to know that all over the country—of that I am convinced—there is growing up a genuine interest in getting the best, whether in music, art, drama, or opera. The Treasury should take its courage in both hands and go forward.
I sometimes go around schools and I am delighted to find that the Minister of Education's attitude towards the arts is progressive. There is something fascinating about going into a classroom and seeing relatively young children listening to B.B.C. music lectures and following their scores, thus beginning to get a proper basis on which to criticise all sorts of performances. By the time those children grow up, we shall have a tremendous demand and, if we fail today, there will be nothing for those children when they reach maturity. That is why it is so important that we should do the right thing now, because we are now making our mark from which the future can benefit.
745 I suppose that I have covered quite a wide span of life, but my mind goes back to immediately after the war when, in 1945, I went to Italy to talk to troops about their demobilisation and training schemes. I went almost immediately after the cessation of hostilities and I was fascinated by the Army School of Education on the arts which was established in the great City of Florence. I found that all over Italy, wherever our troops were stationed, there were men and women struggling to go to that arts school to get an appreciation of a new world, having triumphed over the enemy and having assured that the free world was to exist. I found it illuminating and inspiring to see just how much support there was from ordinary people in the Services who wished to acquire knowledge of new techniques.
If one goes further back, one can recall "Music for All", which was broadcast from Cairo in the dark days of the war. That programme was broadcast to meet the demands of the Services for good music, as opposed to jazz and other forms of entertainment which we all enjoy al times. The two can go hand in hand, but there was a demand for good classical music which was met by the establishment in Cairo of "Music for All". I make no excuse for trying to press my hon. Friend to see what can be done.
I want to say a word to my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), who was so fascinated by Covent Garden. He seemed to assume that I was not a supporter of Covent Garden. I am. I take great pride in having in the centre of London an opera house that provides good music, but I am a little surprised at my hon. Friend, because if he were to discuss Covent Garden performances with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour he would realise that musically Covent Garden could be very much better.
§ Sir R. Nugent
I did not comment on the quality of the performances because I felt that I should not take up too much of the time of the House. I will on some other occasion debate that with my hon. Friend. My comments will not be free from criticism.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I am delighted to hear my hon. Friend say that, because he gave the impression that I did not 746 want to see the musical performances in Covent Garden improved. I shall be delighted if the Treasury find some more money for Covent Garden, provided that that money is expended in the proper direction. Until Covent Garden establishes a musical direction of which everyone can be proud, my criticism will remain. I want the best in the centre of London, as well as in the provinces. That is not an unfair demand to make on the Treasury.
It may or may not interest my hon. Friend to know that today I do not intend to discuss the controversy between the Arts Council and myself. The hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth made a wide survey of important matters. However strongly one feels about it, an occasion like this should be devoted to developing the wider theme rather than perhaps a controversial theme, but when the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) came out with such a self-satisfied, or rather satisfied, approach to what is done by the Arts Council, my gorge rose. He may be satisfied, but the provinces are not.
I support the idea of a Royal Commission, but what I find so fascinating in public life is that when one asks for a Royal Commission it is refused by the Government. They refuse it because they are terrified—and this has been said publicly so I am not giving away any secrets—that a Royal Commission would recommend a much wider expenditure on the arts, and I am certain that it would. Now that we have got to the point where the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth has asked for a Royal Commission, I am pretty certain that the Financial Secretary will say. "What a pity it will be if we have a Royal Commission. It will take so long that it will be detrimental to the arts." After one has moved in political circles for some time, one always finds that there is some reason why one cannot have something one wants. The reason is always different, according to the circumstances at the time.
Though I support the suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman for Lichfield and Tamworth for a Royal Commission, I would prefer an independent inquiry. I do not want an inter-Departmental inquiry, heaven forbid, because I do not feel that I should be 747 able to express my views to such an inquiry.
I took the opportunity of giving evidence to the Gulbenkian Committee on the arts. We did not get very far with the particular controversy about which I am concerned, but I let the Committee know what was at the bottom of my mind and heart, and I am very pleased about that.
There are one or two points I want to make about the controversy between the centre and the provinces. As I have tried to show in the few illustrations that I have given, there are hundreds of thousands of people in the provinces who never get an opportunity—and here I support my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford—to see the London theatre, the Old Vic and the Stratford Theatre.
During the dark days of the war I remember the Old Vic Company, with its leading actors, including Dame Sybil Thorndyke, performing Shakespeare's plays in dreary mining villages in County Durham. One can talk about the dreariness of the repertory companies, but I can add to that by talking about the dreariness of the halls in which the Old Vic Company had to perform in County Durham. Some of the mining villages are very dreary indeed. The support that the Old Vic Company received was miraculous. I was thrilled to be privileged to read the reports about it. The halls were always full. The miners and their wives enjoyed the performances, and it is fitting and proper that if we are spending money on the arts the people in the provinces should also be able to see the best that is available.
My criticism—I will not say against the Arts Council, but against the powers that be; and anybody can read into that exactly what he likes—is that the provinces are neglected. If the Treasury gave more money the provinces would be better served. At the moment, they get far too little consideration.
Very little has been said about opera. I want to read the figures, because they are important and I want them on the record. I am a great believer in HANSARD. It may well be that when the Press reports of our debate today, or "Today in Parliament", or "The Week in Westminster" are presented to 748 the public, they may be found rather dull. Many people study HANSARD, and it is important to have the figures in there. I will not go through all the figures, because they cover the period 1930–58.
It is significant that in 1951–52, 69 per cent. of the Arts Council's expenditure on opera and ballet went to London and 31 per cent. to Scotland, Wales and the English provinces. In 1952–53, 86 per cent. went to London and 14 per cent. only went to Scotland, Wales and the English provinces. In 1953–54 71 per cent. went to London and 29 per cent. went to Scotland, Wales and the English provinces; in 1954–55, 66 per cent. went to London and 34 per cent. went to Scotland, Wales and the English provinces, and so on.
When we come to 1958–59 we find that 70 per cent. went to London and only 30 per cent. went to the provinces. I try to be fair. I know that very often people think that I am not fair, but then, of course, they cannot really see into my heart. I want to make the following point about these figures. For some reason best known to the Government, the Covent Garden grant has to go through the books of the Arts Council. I think it is very difficult for the Arts Council to make its case on the percentages between London and the provinces when they are taken over the whole field.
I think it would be very much fairer for those of us from the provinces who try to judge these matters if we could look at the whole picture and eliminate Covent Garden because, though I would like to see a very great improvement in Covent Garden, I fully realise that, on the whole, it is quite impossible for the Arts Council to do anything about it because it has not the money. I believe that this is all part of the Treasury mystique. The Treasury is a most peculiar place. I do not really want to have very much to do with it except to get a bit of money out of it.
There is only one other point that I want to make on this controversy between the provinces and London and the Arts Council. Quite recently Viscount Mackintosh was made a member of the Arts Council. I am very glad about that because in the eyes of this country Viscount Mackintosh is an extremely highly respected citizen who has 749 done a great patriotic service. He was made a member of the Arts Council in order to balance the regions or to give some sense of security to the regions compared with London. Unfortunately, however, according to the way in which the Treasury really behaves, he was never told this. I think that Viscount Mackintosh was never told this because the Treasury did not want to admit after certain of the controversies that I have raised that there was any reason for thinking that the provinces were not properly served by the Arts Council.
I cannot make up my mind about Financial Secretaries to the Treasury. The former Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who is now the Attorney-General, was, of course, a lawyer of great distinction and charm. But all lawyers have certain inhibitions. They always like to balance. They never like to say "Yes" or "No". They always like to take a sort of middle line, with one foot on either side of it.
I fully realise that the former Financial Secretary to the Treasury was a great supporter of the arts, and I have no doubt that he did his best to persuade the Chancellor to give more money to the arts, but he never wanted to say that he thought that London was getting a better share than the provinces. Viscount Mackintosh was made a member of the Arts Council to bring a regional balance, because, of course, it was very well known by the very distinguished lawyer that people in the provinces would be satisfied when Viscount Mackintosh was put on the Council. But he did not know that he was there to look after the regions.
Now we have a new Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and I can only hope that he will not be embraced by the kiss of death from the Arts Council and thereby made to think that the Council is doing what it ought to do for the provinces.
§ Mr. Diamond
As the hon. Lady has asked for the figures, may I help her by saying that for the coming year the amount to be spent on opera in the country, excluding Covent Garden, will be allocated, approximately, as to three-sevenths in London and four-sevenths in the provinces.
§ Dame Irene Ward
If I may say so, it is very unwise of the hon. Gentleman to provoke me, because I was really trying not to go into this controversy, and I have no intention of doing so. But I must say to him that, of course, Sadler's Wells is a London set-up, and it may well be that this is the way in which the matter is going to be arranged.
The Birmingham Orchestra was mentioned. Birmingham is a great centre of the arts. May I point out that, from the point of view of provincial opera, a very pleasing leading article appeared in the Birmingham Post? With regard to what the hon. Gentleman has just said, the Birmingham Post suggested that it would be very much better to have a touring company like the Carl Rosa which understands touring, and that, despite all the advantages which Sadler's Wells has got, the provinces prefer an opera company which knows touring rather better, perhaps, than does Sadler's Wells. I agree, of course, that we would welcome both Covent Garden and Sadler's Wells in the provinces.
Turning to ballet, I think that the provinces would very much like to see Margot Fonteyn. We feel that not all the money which is spent on ballerinas and on distinguished ballets should be spent in London, but that the provinces should also have the opportunity of having not a second company but a first company from the Royal Ballet.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
Before the hon. Lady leaves the very interesting point about London and the provinces, on which I agree with her to a great extent, may I ask her whether she has noted that the regional committees of the Arts Council, the Welsh and Scottish committees, seem to find it impossible to spend even the very modest sums allocated to them? I believe that the Welsh regional committee last year was more than 20 per cent. underspent on its allocation.
§ Dame Irene Ward
My attention has been drawn to that. I have, of course, a great belief in the power of the Scots and the Welsh to get more money out of the Treasury than the English. I am not in the least surprised, but all I can say is that, unfortunately, in this controversy between London and the provinces 751 England has come out worst from that point of view, perhaps because in a way it is much more difficult for the English to make out their case.
I have only one other bit of information that I want to put on the record. As I say, a very great deal has been said about the Arts Council and about London. I want to quote the Musicians' Union because I notice that in the world of trade unionism the big unions—and I am not saying this in any derogatory sense to the Musicians' Union—are always being quoted by hon. Members on this side of the House and by hon. Members opposite and that the Government pay a great dal of attention to the Transport and General Workers' Union, the National Union of Railwaymen, the National Union of Mineworkers and the rest.
On this occasion I should like the House to pay some attention to what the Musicians' Union says. I wish to quote a letter signed by Mr. T. Anstey, the Assistance General Secretary of the Musicians' Union, because I want to have it put on record in HANSARD. I would also put on record the fact that we have asked Mr. Anstey if he is willing to have this letter quoted. It was sent to the chairman of the Carl Rosa Trust, and even though I am one of the members I would point out that the integrity of that Trust is just as high as that of the people serving on the Arts Council. I have asked Mr. Anstey's permission to quote the letter. It is dated 9th February, 1960, and says:Dear Mr. Wilson, re Carl Rosa Trust Ltd., I am very sorry to learn, from the national Press, that the Arts Council has refused to approach the Treasury for a grant to enable the Trust to be reconstituted and to operate the plan that you had submitted for opera in the provinces. I do not think it necessary for me to tell you that our Union does not support the statement attributed to the Arts Council, that the amount of opera already being provided for the provinces is sufficient to meet all demands; and we hope the Trust will continue to press vigorously for a substantial grant to enable it to carry out its work in the provinces.That letter makes it clear that the Musicians' Union does not support the view of the Arts Council, and I hope that the hon. Member for Gloucester, who provoked me and is so satisfied with the Arts Council—and who is pre- 752 sumably a great supporter of trade unionism—will bear that letter in mind and realise that the Musicians' Union does not feel that opera in the provinces has been properly served by the new arrangement.
I represent the Carl Rosa Trust, and the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) represents Sadler's Wells. Sadler's Wells is not provincial. I only hope that this protest from the provinces, at the continual disregard of provincial needs in all branches of the arts, will be levelled in the most hard-hearted manner that it can be. I am not going to say any more on that, but if the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth, who moved his Motion so eloquently and ably, wants my support over the very wide field of all the arts, I shall he delighted to give it.
I can see that temperatures can rise to great heights in a debate of this kind. I am a great advocate of my own point of view, but I realise that there are other points of view and that we must be tolerant. [Laughter.] I just want to put that on record. I notice that none of the hon. Members opposite who spoke for Sadler's Wells had a good word to say for the old touring company that learnt more about touring opera than Sadler's Wells or Covent Garden could ever learn, because they just do not know how to do it.
§ Mr. Diamond
Nobody on this side of the House was speaking for Sadler's Wells. I was speaking as a Member of Parliament interested in the encouragement of the arts as a whole, and I regret that the hon. Lady should show her hostility to me personally.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I am not showing my hostility to the hon. Member; I think he is absolutely charming. All I am saying is that he spoke in a very self-satisfied way, to the effect that everything was all right with the Arts Council. I just do not think so. I am looking forward to lots of changes in the future.
People who have spoken with special knowledge of all sorts of arts subjects have amply demonstrated that we cannot merely be satisfied with the usual Treasury answer, to the effect that it is satisfied with the machine as it operates today. The machine is creaking badly. It is old-fashioned, and it does not represent the demands of this pulsating new 753 world. Although the time will come when we have all passed away, we have a duty to the generation that is coming after us, and which is beginning to appreciate what art can produce in the way of a background to a civilised way of life.
I hope that the Treasury attitude will become progressive and up to date, and that as we have a young Financial Secretary to the Treasury he will side with youth and allow us to consider the whole problem from that point of view, and do the best we can to see that all the wonders of the world that are included in art, music, opera and drama, are available to those to whom they should be made available.
§ 2.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
I should like to join the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) who, in her temperate and moderate speech, congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) on having introduced this Motion. It is not often that we have the opportunity to debate the arts or even to concern ourselves with them. It is a long time since a Prime Minister moved the Adjournment of the House so that hon. Members might proceed to Drury Lane to see a performance of Hamlet. I understand from the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) that the Prime Minister has a benevolent interest in the arts. As a result of this debate I hope to see not merely another Royal Commission or inter-Departmental committee set up, but the satisfying of the basic need of the arts, which is quite simple, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) said—more money.
If we consider the financial background to the debate we find that one thing is quite clear. While we are spending £1,500 million on defence we are spending £1,500,000, or even less, on the arts. In other words, a thousand times as much money is being spent on weapons, which become obsolescent the moment they are manufactured, as on the arts, with all their eternal values. It is a further fact that while we have generally abolished poverty in the Welfare State, the arts are still beggars. One of the most humiliating events each year is the cap-in-hand approach to the Treasury for more money by individual organisations 754 which exist for the promotion and encouragement of the arts.
I agree broadly with what my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth said, but I cannot agree with his description of Britain today. I hope I am correctly paraphrasing him when I say that he referred to Britain as a Philistine country. One has only to go to any of the art galleries, public exhibitions, or even to exhibitions in small art galleries, to see how untrue that statement is. In fact, in purely statistical terms there has been a great upsurge of interest, especially in the plastic arts, and that interest is greater today than it has ever been in our history.
The Philistinism which is sometimes attributed to this country is a myth invented by French art dealers and German historians. The myth has never spread to Italy. One has only to go to the Royal Academy to see the history of British patronage expressed in the pictures shown there, which I am glad to say are being seen by tens of thousands of people each year.
There are two extraordinary aspects of this matter, extraordinary because they conflict so directly with each other. While on the one hand there is tremendous and expanding interest in the plastic arts, to which I will confine myself for a moment, the Government have in fact done little to enable the public in the broader sense to acquire those objects of art which would satisfy this great and developing interest.
Only the other day, I went to see an exhibition, which many hon. Members may well have seen, the Moltzall exhibition which is going to the City of Stuttgart. It was a very sad occasion, because this exhibition, which had been exhibited at the Tate Gallery, had been acquired for £1 million by the Stuttgart municipality, and we were really saying farewell to a collection which might quite as easily have been purchased for this country. The striking aspect of this is that a single municipality, the municipality of Stuttgart, was prepared to spend £1 million, which is almost as great as the whole of the annual grant to the Arts Council.
We do not have to confine ourselves to Germany. One need only look at Rotterdam. This city, so brutally 755 destroyed, has very wisely and understandably, and with great faith in the future, acquired an art collection for the price of £2 million. This is not only a demonstration of hope but a demonstration of the people's belief in the eternal verities of art. We all know that art in this country has to flourish on an extremely exiguous budget. One of the reasons is that the public organisation of patronage has not kept pace with the changes in the social constitution of the country.
At one time, the great patrons of art were the great families who bought objects of art in order, very properly, to beautify their houses; and one of the leaders of the patrons was the Monarch. When the Industrial Revolution came and, after that, the Welfare State revolution, there was not unfortunately any adequate organisation to take the place of this private patronage. There were bodies like the Arts Council, the British Council, in certain respects, and so on. I think that if there is any basis for my hon. Friend's wish to have a Royal Commission to investigate the nature of national patronage it lies in the question whether the existing bodies are really adequate to give the patronage which is so necessary today.
I do not necessarily go the whole way with the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth. I think that the Arts Council has a very difficult job to do. It is a small body and it has to make major decisions as to whether it shall spend small sums of money on minor works of art and distribute them to the provincial centres or whether it shall concentrate on providing supreme art in London. These are the difficult problems which have to be considered by the art directors and others concerned.
If we examine the position more closely, we find that it adds up to this: that the sums of money available are too small to provide that kind of public patronage which this country deserves. I endorse a suggestion made by my hon. Friend, which may not be widely popular. Today we have what to some extent is a natural hypocrisy when we assume that there is no direct public patronage to enable certain fields of art to develop. Many of those who reject the idea, which I should like to put forward, of a Minister of Fine Art do so 756 on the ground that public patronage, with its opportunity of undue control over the artists, the curators, the producers and even the writers leads to a State art which is inevitably bad.
I believe that detailed intervention by the State in matters of art, with control over the work of artists engaged in the plastic arts, is wholly undesirable. On the other hand, I see no reason why in the present state of art in this country we should not face the reality of the situation which is that, through a number of different bodies, State patronage has been diversified. It exists, but it is inadequate. I believe that if we had a Minister of Fine Art, associated with the Ministry of Education or possibly with the Ministry of Works, we should be able to get over the difficulty, which has been constantly referred to in this debate, and that the Treasury, now aloof, cold and indifferent to the claims of art, might be more closely and directly involved. The Minister would have some access to the Cabinet, he would have a greater opportunity of effecting decisions taken in connection with the arts, and I think that to have a Minister of Fine Art would be a good and desirable thing.
The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) said that, in the present state of art patronage, it is extremely difficult for any person—certainly in the plastic arts—to buy a work of art for his own enjoyment or for that of his family and friends in order to decorate his home, because some of the finest examples of art today have been translated into negotiable script to be used as if they were negotiable assets, and also, some are unfortunately tucked away in strong rooms never to be seen. All this is thoroughly undesirable. All this is something which is perhaps inevitable in the present state of affairs when heavy taxation prevents people from acquiring works of art or encourages them, when they have acquired a work of art in an inflationary age, to put it away in the hope that its value will appreciate.
Therefore, I think that a Minister of Fine Art, closely in touch with the Treasury, would be able to put forward a plan which has been touched on already but which I should like to develop in one special respect. While 757 I am not in favour of a total tax remission for those who acquire works of art, even if they intend to bequeath them to the nation on their death, as I think is the case in the United States, I think that it might be possible for the Treasury to give tax remission so that people in their lifetime may be able to enjoy the works of art which they purchase on condition that for six months of the year or perhaps alternate years they lend those works of art to a prescribed museum, art gallery, or whatever it may be.
In that way we would be able to encourage people to purchase works of art while at the same time discouraging the treatment of works of art as if they were merely another form of rare postage stamp which does not have any effect on the enjoyment and appreciation of the nation. In that connection I should like to refer briefly to the part which is being played by television in the country today and its relationship to the fine arts.
We have the Independent Television Authority which supervises a number of commercial companies and which, as everyone knows, has been making fantastic profits. It has been making fantastic profits because of the technique of commercial advertising associated with it and it has been providing the public, in my view, on the whole with a diet of morbid violence which is hound to corrupt public taste.
In order to raise its hat, as it were, to virtue, it occasionally puts on what are called "prestige programmes" so that by those means it may declare that the offering which it is giving to the general public is not as detrimental as, in fact, it is. It is perfectly true—this was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth—that programmes like "Monitor" on the B.B.C. are viewed by many millions of people—about 2½ million, I believe. This shows that there is a great desire on the part of the general public to consider, view and criticise works of art. That again, if I may say so, is in contradiction to the general charge of Philistinism which my hon. Friend levelled against the public.
While there is this demand for the best, it is true to say that commercial television is also catering for the lowest 758 appetites of the viewing public. I think it would be proper if television, which at its best, and sometimes at its most mediocre, tends to use the end product of the training which ballet dancers and actors and actresses receive in order to obtain its very substantial profits from the viewing public, made considerably more substantial contributions to the maintenance of the arts than it does today. I do not know in what particular way that might be done. Perhaps it could be done fiscally; it might be done voluntarily. Certainly it should be done. In that way many of the repertory companies which are limping along so sadly could be given great help.
§ Mr. Snow
My hon. Friend must be the best judge of whether it is fair or otherwise to accuse the Independent Television Authority and the programme companies of insincerity in paying some money out to the arts in order somewhat to balance their otherwise rather unpleasant types of programme and so forth. I am not here to represent or defend the Independent Television Authority, but it is quite open and frank about it, and when it spends about £150,000 a year it spends it on those agencies of the arts like repertory and technical organisations which assist it in its programme problems and the sort of things that it wants to put out to the public. I think that one should be a little careful about this.
§ Mr. Edelman
I am, indeed, extremely careful about it, and I believe that the amount of the contribution is wholly inadequate compared with the benefit which it receives from these sources. Take, for example, the Royal Ballet School to which my hon. Friend referred. I am familiar with it because I happen to be a member of the committee which is launching its appeal. It is appalling that it should be in the position of having to launch an appeal while the work it does, as expressed through the Royal Ballet, is rewarded by the pittances given to it by the commercial television companies which derive so much benefit from it.
It is not my purpose today, any more than it was the purpose of the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth, to engage in any of the controversies which might sidetrack the major purpose of the debate. My point in rising is to say, 759 quite simply, that the Government must supply more money—many millions of pounds more—to assist the arts. That is a crying need today. There are, of course, Philistines. They cut across all sections of the community. They cut across the parties. There are people who are always prepared to oppose the supply of money for the arts. However, I hope—I address myself to the Minister of Education—that a new David will arise who will slay the Philistine Goliath, and do it by hurling at him a pebble of perhaps £10 million.
§ 2.34 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
I enjoyed every word of the speech by the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman). To a very large measure, I agree with him, although I do not go quite so far as he does, certainly not so far as to call for a specific Ministry of the Fine Arts. However, he and I rather think along parallel lines on these matters.
I think that in opening the debate the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) rather hoped for a discussion en the fine arts rather than on what I think we can properly call the living fine arts.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I am much indebted to the hon. Gentleman. This has led, inevitably, to a somewhat ragged debate. We have had five or six speeches dealing with the ballet, opera, and the living theatre, and one or two speeches dealing with museums and galleries. I intend to devote my remarks solely to the latter. I hope it will not be felt that I have not an equal interest in the former. Since I received my war injuries and since I gave up my interest in sport, I have devoted my life to making a fine arts collection and to interests connected with the theatre. I deal with the subject of 760 museums and galleries now because it is there that I can perhaps make my most useful contribution.
You, Mr. Speaker, are directly involved in another capacity in one of the interesting developments of the fine arts. I refer to your capacity as a Trustee, with the Archbishop of Canterbury and others, of the British Museum. Therefore, the Speaker of the House of Commons has a direct interest in pursuing the betterment of our museums and galleries.
We must, first of all, realise that every one of us comes here with a plea for more money. I shall be the first speaker who does not merely plead for more money. I shall suggest constructive measures as to how this can be achieved. I believe that if we can discover how the public, too, can make a contribution to the future great age of leisure, we shall be able to conquer some of the difficulties which face us.
First, I must start the right way by making a plea for more money so that I am not in bad company. I wish to make a plea for an immediate start on the National Library. The British Museum has been called the greatest museum in the world. We treat it with contempt, as if it were a museum of no importance at all. It certainly is not treated as the leading museum in this country. I am certain that Sir John and others would be the first to agree that the Tate Gallery and the National Gallery and many other galleries get far better treatment today because they are concerned with French Impressionist paintings, the buying of the Chatsworth treasures and things of that kind which have an appeal to the public. However, I wonder how many hon. Members present could name the departments of the British Museum, or have recently looked at the Ethnography, Western Asiatic, Mediaeval. Gothic or Prints and Manuscripts Department, or have any idea of the conditions under which those departments work.
I believe that the British Museum can work satisfactorily in the future only if the library—after all, more persons are employed in the library than in the whole of the rest of the British Museum put together—is taken away as soon as possible and made into a first-class National Library. It should be called not the British Museum but the National 761 Library. As we have now got considerable capital behind us in this country and are afraid of delivering too much of that money back to the public because of inflation, this appears to be a good time to consider the expenditure of capital moneys on the Museum. We should start with a National Library now instead of putting it off for ten or fifteen years.
If we did so, there would be sufficient space within the British Museum for it to become a modern museum with a proper layout. So I come straight to the question of the Museum layout. First, the difficulty is that we have three different Ministries concerned. He has left now, but I was happy to see the Minister of Education present this morning listening very carefully to the debate. I wonder whether those in the Galleries were aware of why my right hon. Friend was following the debate so closely. It was because he is responsible for the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum, whereas the Ministry of Works is responsible for the British and the Natural History Museums. No one, so far as I am aware, knows who is really responsible for the Tate Gallery and the National Gallery, although to some extent the Treasury gives them some advice and generally it is the Treasury rather than the Ministry of Works which is responsible in that case.
If organisation there is to be for the future, I start by making the suggestion that there should be an examination as to the structure of that organisation. Whether one likes it or not, it must be of an inter-Departmental nature and a decision of Her Majesty's Government. I hope that in fact we might find in future that, whereas the British Museum will be responsible for antiquities, the Victoria and Albert will be responsible for its true purpose, fashion and design, and, whereas we shall find furniture and textiles remaining the responsibility of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the question of the fine arts going back to the days of antiquity will be the main prerogative of the British Museum.
I hope we shall really look at the position of the British Museum and other museums on the question of staffing. I have done so and have analysed the number of staff for each 762 of the departments in the British Museum and in the Victoria and Albert as well. It is not possible for these men to be able to do the work we are paying them to do. I refer to the keepers, deputy keepers and assistant keepers. I am not going into all the details, but in the ethnographical department there is one keeper, one deputy and two assistants, with a back log of work of years. The Keeper of Oriental Antiquities has two deputy keepers and two assistants. They have one secretary to help—a total staff of six. As a result, they are seven to ten years behind in dealing with the matters with which they would want to deal, cataloguing and the like.
How, in this modern age, can we expect six people to work with only one stenographer? It is not a feasible proposition. Dull as it may seem, and dull as it possibly is, the money that needs to be spent first is that which would ensure having a staff which can carry out the work they are sent to do, and they need the spending of £250,000 from the Treasury fund. The House is aware that there is plenty of material in the Museum. It should see that the money is spent in putting the organisation right.
I wish to suggest four points about the Museum. In the Rijks Museum and in the Uffizzi Museum there is superb display, but display in the British Museum is abysmal. That is not the fault of the Director. First, there should be an exhibition hall. Manifestly, that cannot be the subject of criticism of the display department. The people who study display are specialists in their own field. There is no one responsible for display. That person should not be attached to a keeper, but should be under the headquarters, under the Director.
The Museum also requires a public relations officer. There is no public relations in connection with the British Museum. One does not know whether there is an art exhibition on, or how to find out about it. It needs the techniques of the Uffizzi and an additional secretarial staff at all levels, particularly because of the "sting in the tail" to which I am coming. The Museum would get exhibition halls if we moved the library away into new library premises.
763 It is high time, as there is no staff association, for there to be not only policy discussions between the keepers, but policy discussions at lower levels between the staffs. Unlike other callings, they have no unions or staff association, and they have no link with this House. Unless we take the trouble, as I have tried to do—to talk to these men under their own conditions of work—we shall not be able to deal with the conditions in the Museum.
I put forward another suggestion which is completely novel. Those who wish to study in order to spend their future in the different opportunities which arise and are connected with the arts should be able to serve an apprenticeship in our museums. There is no objection, and I understand there would be no objection, by the keepers of these departments if people who go there to study oriental antiquities, drawings, the Gothics, or prints and pictures,—indeed the craft of furniture—took apprenticeship as students in those departments. Consequently, they would be working for nothing and getting Government maintenance grants from the Ministry of Education, but not otherwise being paid, yet they would be doing very useful service for those for whom they worked.
I turn to the question of money. I believe the age of leisure will be with us in about ten years' time. In about ten years we may find that we have a a great deal more time because the machines will be doing so much work for us. We have to prepare for that future. It is most important that the arts should not become a nationalised industry. It is very important that the public should pay all along the line for the pleasures they will enjoy so that they may learn that leisure and pleasure go hand-in-hand. I say this without fear of contradiction, after talking recently to fifty or sixty really able young professional men, every one of whom agreed that we should pay to enter our museums and galleries. I want to bring this out really good and strong. I have not the slightest doubt that, provided the arts were to get a fair deal in the future, there would be no objection whatever to a charge being made in museums and galleries of all kinds.
The greatest critics of this are the museums which are most neglected. The 764 Tate has no objection to a charge being made, because whenever it has a really good show the more expensive it is the greater number of people go to see it. I go to the Tate on a great many Sundays in the year. If they have a 2s. 6d. show, I find that it is packed out. Then I can get round the other galleries to my heart's delight and I have to pay nothing. When people pay they enjoy the function much more. I do not believe for one moment that the fact that one saves 6d. or a 1s. stops one going in, except for a few people who go repeatedly to the National Gallery on a winter's day to get out of the cold, and those people I want to keep out.
My plan, to which I want the Government to give a little consideration, is that a charge of 1s. should be made for entrance to each of the major galleries and museums throughout the country, except of course for a child or adolescent under 18. Then there should be no charge. A student or other person still undergoing education should be able to present a document in order to get free entry. Every 1s. that goes into those tills should go exclusively and entirely to the purchasing grant of that museum and gallery and to no other purpose. That 1s. should be doubled by the Government. That is to say, the Treasury should guarantee to grant as much as the museum got. In this way, we should find a practical means of getting further moneys for the purchasing power of what is required by way of grant.
I believe something along these lines would be acceptable to the Treasury. After all, it would get a contribution. I should like to see in the Tate—which certainly would succeed in this scheme—a box in which as one entered one could put in voluntarily 1s. or a couple of shillings with the knowledge that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has got to double it. I think that it would appeal to the sense of humour of the British public and to their liking for the arts if they knew that every penny they contributed in that bequest would be doubled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We should then begin to see the people themselves contributing towards ensuring their pleasure in leisure.
There are many people who will visit the British Museum to see the glories 765 which it has when we are able to ensure that its layout is modern and when the authorities can bring it up to date, but they cannot do that until they have more space, more exhibition halls and more staff. This is my earnest invitation to the Government: please look at the general organisation and ensure that we have good management. Make sure, before giving fancy grants, that the staff are wisely employed.
May I make one comment about the provincial museums? Down below in the national galleries there are thousands of pictures. They may not be pictures for which one pays £250,000 each, but they are pictures which people who could afford it might want to own if they could go out into the world and buy them. I make a strong appeal to such people as Sir Philip Hendy to send their pictures to the provincial museums. Send pictures by good Victorian painters and the eighteenth century painters of this country. These will be good enough for most museums in the provinces, as a start. If such a policy were pursued, and if the museums said that they were willing to make a charge, throughout the country, to the people who wish to see these exhibitions, apart from the millions of tourists, I am sure that the public would respond. We could then go to the Treasury and say, "Look at the response. Will you not double this money?" It would be difficult for the Treasury to refuse.
§ 2.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
I should like to join with other hon. Members in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) on a masterly survey of the problem—a survey which deserved a fuller House. I do not wish to be discourteous to any hon. Member present, but it is a little depressing on these occasions always to see the old, familiar faces. It would be pleasant to see rather more of our colleagues attending when we have such matters under discussion. We all welcomed, however, the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle). We on this side of the House were delighted to find that he is continuing the campaign of his predecessor to civilise the Conservative Party.
766 Over the last few years we have made considerable progress in the problems we are discussing today. We have gradually got more money out of the Government, and this has been done largely by concerted action on both sides of the House. It is nevertheless rather discouraging to find that we have to run so quickly to stay in exactly the same place. The only encouragement we can derive is that the present Financial Secretary looks more like Mr. Cheeryble than Mr. Scrooge. We hope that he will justify that optimism to the full this afternoon.
The hon. Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr), whose work in this field all of us respect, and to whom we pay tribute, mentioned that he had had the privilege of being chairman of the Conservative committee which produced a document called "The Challenge of Leisure." I had the privilege of being the chairman of another committee, the Labour Party committee, which produced a document called "Leisure for Living."
I hope that the hon. Member will accept my assurance that it is only for the accuracy of the record and not in any sense of boasting that I remind the House of what The Times and the Guardian said about the relative merits of these two documents. The Guardian said:Leisure for Living 'deserves to be widely read. … Its quality does not lie in its specific recommendations, though most of them are welcome, hut rather in its state of mind, its maturity and taste, its zest for beauty, and its sympathetic understanding of problems unhurriedly discussed.The Times said:The superiority of Labour's [document] does not lie in the details of the measures it suggests. … It lies in the attitude of mind which the pamphlet evinces.My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) said that until the crisis is severe the Treasury will not move. I thought that my hon. Friend was perhaps taking a rather optimistic view because, over and over again from the Arts Council, we have had the warning of crisis and, although we have made some progress, I am afraid that there has been an inadequate response from the Treasury.
The Annual Report of the Arts Council for 1956–57 is called "Art in the Red". The opening paragraphs of the 1957–58 Report contain these words: 767The Sadlers Wells crisis of last spring revealed a situation which has been expounded for several years in the Annual Reports of the Arts Council. The last Report, 'Art in the Red', predicted that closures and calamities were inevitable unless the scale of public patronage of the arts was forthwith increased. The crisis of Sadlers Wells was a major demonstration of the need for bigger subventions for the arts, but there is a graver crisis in the offing.The last Report we had from the Arts Council, for 1958–59, is called "The Struggle for Survival".
We have also had a number of other documents. For example, we have had the Annual Report of the Trustees of the Tate Gallery, in which we are told that in order to repair the deficiencies in the collection a capital sum of £100,000 is needed. When we last discussed this question, just over a year age, the Treasury made a proposal for helping the Tate, but the trustees still insist, in spite of the additional subvention which they have received, that the £100,000 capital payment is required.
What is happening in the Tate Gallery, as other hon. Members have said, is typical of what is happening in all our national institutions. It is not only a question of filling gaps in the existing collections but also a question of stopping what is good from leaving the country. I am glad that other hon. Members have stressed this. To quote the remark of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), what is possible in Stuttgart and Rotterdam ought to be possible in this country. In order to stop these works of art from leaving the country, there ought to be more popular support from the Government, from local authorities, from industry and from private individuals.
We are faced with steadily rising prices in the art world, and it is becoming more and more difficult for private individuals to play their part, but it would be a pity on an occasion such as this if we did not express our gratitude to Mr. Alexander Maitland for the magnificent presentation which he has made to the National Gallery of Scotland and which is announced in the Press today.
We have also had the Quinquennial Report of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries.
768 I agreed with many of the points which the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) made about conditions in the British Museum. When a friend of mine, Mr. Paul Thompson, wished to write a history of the part played by Mr. John Burns in the development of the Labour movement in London, he found that the cataloguing in the manuscripts department of the British Museum was twenty-five or thirty years behind-hand. I put a Question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and in consequence he was able to announce that an addition to the staff is being made. That is only a very small instalment of what is required to give the British Museum the kind of help that it deserves and which we should give. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman stressed the point so strongly, just as my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) has been plugging away at the question of the reading room for many years.
The Quinquennial Report states that, although the Government gave additional grants in January, 1959, the Commission believes that… there will remain a considerable number of cases where special grants will be necessary".The Report goes on to discuss the position of the individual institutions, and we see a very depressing picture. One of my hon. Friends referred to the war damage which still remains to be repaired in the British Museum. That is stressed in the Quinquennial Report. The Standing Commission goes on to say, too, that the London Museum is crippled through lack of space and that the necessary finance ought to be provided to enable them to acquire a site and building on the South Bank. The Commission says of the Tate Gallery:The outstanding need is the completion of the building".It goes on to deal with the Royal Scottish Museum and says:The reconstruction of the north-east and north-west wings has become a matter of real urgency".In the case of the Welsh institutions the Committee refers to the grants which have been made and adds:We are of the opinion that there is a strong case for raising these grants substantially in future years769 Before I leave the national institutions I want to refer to the plea made by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet that there should be a charge for admission to the institutions. We discussed this subject in the House on a previous occasion, when the present Minister of Housing and Local Government, who was then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, convinced us that the revenue which would be obtained in this way would not justify the expense, the use of manpower and all the trouble which would be involved in levying it.
I found that a convincing argument. I am impressed, also, by the consideration that what one wants to do is not merely to provide the galleries and museums for people who are specially interested in works of art. One wants to make them available so that casual visitors can go into them and suffer no discouragement. It is similar to the principle that it is not only the abler pupils whom one wants kept on at school; we should seek to persuade the less able pupils to continue their education. It would be a retrograde step to put any discouragement in the way of people using our institutions or art galleries.
I hope that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will have something to say not just about the national institutions, but also about the provincial museums and art galleries.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I am glad to see the hon. Gentleman nodding his head. The provincial institutions are in a great difficulty. Some of them are owned by local authorities, which find it difficult, especially in these days of the block grant, to do everything which they want to do. Others are privately endowed, but in almost every case, with very few really honourable exceptions, our provincial museums and art galleries are being neglected. It is difficult to maintain the buildings. It is difficult to have properly trained staff in adequate numbers. It is very difficult indeed for them to make additions to their collections at the prices which are now the order of the day.
I hope that it will be possible for the Treasury to do something. I should like to see action on the lines of the Bill which was drafted by Mr. George Tomlinson when he was Minister of 770 Education. But whatever form it takes, any help the Government can give will certainly be welcomed.
I was very pleased that my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) concentrated on the position of the theatre. I suppose it is only natural to expect that any Member for Vauxhall would tend to concentrate upon places of entertainment, but my right hon. Friend made a very special contribution. On reading through the Report of the Arts Council, "The Struggle for Survival", one finds with regret how many theatres are disappearing. It is not only the disappearance of theatres in the West End of London because of development schemes. Week after week one sees in the newspaper that a theatre at Bedford has closed down, and then a theatre in another provincial town, and so on. Gradually, we are getting the disappearance of theatres throughout the country.
I should like to see two lines of action taken. First, I should like much more imaginative action on the part of local authorities. I thought that the London County Council did exactly the right thing when it insisted, when permission was sought to pull down the Stoll Theatre, that a smaller theatre should be included in the plans that were to be submitted. That example might well be followed in all parts of the country. Again, I should like to see local authorities giving the same generous encouragement that Nottingham is giving to the establishment of a civic theatre.
Secondly, I should like more generous help made available by the Arts Council, particularly to the repertory theatres. That subject has been dealt with by the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) and by a number of hon. Members from both sides of the House. Although we may welcome the help that the independent television companies give to various forms of the arts, we must realise that those companies themselves really depend for their survival on maintaining the drama, and it is in their own interest to do everything they can to help.
Nevertheless, we as a State have our own responsibility. It is sad to see small repertory theatres such as those at Colchester and Guildford, struggling 771 on year after year on a wholly inadequate budget. And one of the most effective things we can do is to press ahead with the plans for a National Theatre, towards the establishment of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) has worked so hard. It is only by having this network of provincial theatres linked with a national theatre in London that we shall show the country, and the theatre, the importance we attach to the preservation of the drama. That would be a most valuable contribution.
There is also the need for preserving our old buildings. That has been referred to today, but not, perhaps, at the length that many of us would have liked. Week after week we read or learn of an irreplaceable building falling into a state of dereliction or, possibly, being bought by the house breakers, and demolished. It seems that the funds and the powers available to preserve many of these buildings are wholly inadequate.
One important aspect of the problem is that to which the Historic Buildings Council called attention in its Report for 1958. It pointed out that, under the Act of 1953, the Minister of Works can make grants only for individual buildings that are of special importance. The Report added, however, that all over the country there are groups of buildings which, in themselves, form a unit of tremendous interest although the individual buildings making up the group are not of outstanding importance. The Report stresses the importance of the Government being able to help in such cases.
I agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth when he said that he did not want our country to become the Old Curiosity Shop of Europe. I have no doubt that Mr. Paul Reilly and the Council of Industrial Design will note that, and will be duly grateful to him for having said it. I hope that no one will think that I am unresponsive to the claims of the beauties of the past, but I entirely sympathise with my hon. Friend on this.
When we carry out our propaganda abroad to get people to spend their holidays here, I wish that we would 772 concentrate rather less on the Beefeaters and the Crown Jewels, the dreaming spires and pictures of sheep grazing under immemorial elms, and more on giving the impression that this is a country living in the present and looking to the future; telling people overseas about Glyndebourne, our ballet, our orchestras, the Mermaid Theatre, Henry Moore, Michael Ayrton, Christopher Lowe, and our modern designers.
I want public bodies, both the Government and local authorities, to give much greater encouragement in this respect. I should like the Minister of Housing and Local Government to recommend to local authorities that when they are putting up new civic buildings or new blocks of flats they should set aside some comparatively small sum of money for the provision of sculpture, landscaping and matters of that kind. I should like the Minister of Education to give exactly the same sort of encouragement to education authorities. I know that the Minister of Education feels very strongly upon this issue, but for goodness' sake let us urge upon education authorities to get away from pictures like "Drake's Boyhood", "The Laughing Cavalier" and "When Did you Last See Your Father?" and concentrate rather more on buying the works of young living artists and exhibiting them in the schools.
Good taste is infectious, and if we educate our children in good schools—and we are putting up some wonderful buildings—with good works of art around them, that taste will gradually spread into the homes and we shall have a gradual improvement in the taste of our people. Perhaps one should not overlook the fact that industry itself has a part to play in this respect. Furniture manufacturers and others must not assume that the public always wants the second-best or perhaps the third-best. When the public is brought into contact with what is good, as likely as not it will begin to accept pieces of furniture and other manufactured articles in a new idiom and begin to appreciate them, thus creating the market upon which ultimately the manufacturers depend.
In conclusion, there are, I think, four important requirements. First, as every hon. Member has mentioned today, we need more money. If we could have an allocation of £3 million or £4 million 773 a year in addition to what is at present spent, it would make a whole world of difference to our national institutions and to the general level of taste throughout the country.
Secondly, a good case has been made out for a review of our taxation policy. Whether we would accept the method which is applied in Canada and the United States is not for me to say, but certainly prima facie there is a case for reviewing our taxation system so far as it affects these matters.
Thirdly, we must have the opportunity of planning ahead. Like other hon. Members, I am not wedded to the idea of a Ministry of Fine Arts or to the suggestion of a Royal Commission, although I felt that some of my hon. Friends were a little unfair to my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth. What my hon. Friend is saying is that there ought to be some overall body which is above the struggle and can see what is the proper pattern that we should try to develop and what is the extent of the State patronage which ought to be given. That is very important. Whether it should be a Royal Commission or some other body like the University Grants Committee I do not know, but certainly we need some sort of body to review the whole field of patronage of the arts, and I would hope that it would be put on a quinquennial basis so that the various institutions themselves could plan ahead.
Lastly, we must seek—I hope that on this occasion we have done something towards it—to create a public opinion which will not tolerate the second-rate and the second-best but will demand the best and, by demanding the best today, will ensure that we discharge our duty to posterity.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Sir Edward Boyle)
I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) on his good fortune in the Ballot and on raising today this extremely important subject. Also, I am very glad to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) on his admirable maiden speech. He explained to me, before he left, that he had an urgent engagement this evening and regretted that he could not stay for the 774 remainder of the debate. In his absence, I am glad to be able to say, in reply to his speech, that the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra will receive a slightly increased grant from the Arts Council during the forthcoming year.
The subject which the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth has raised is one which we discuss in the House far too seldom. It is, to me, one of the most important subjects that we are ever likely to discuss on a private Members' day. I was fortunate in having been born into a family in which every member was given great encouragement from the earliest age to take a discriminating interest in the arts. My father had a more than ordinary amateur's knowledge of Florentine art, and my mother was trained as a cellist in Dresden.
No one realises more than I just how vital this subject is if we really want to have in this country a thoroughly civilised progressive Western democracy. I do not think it is too much to say that, as a country grows more wealthy, one of its first duties is to enable as many people as possible to enjoy wider opportunities for cultural experience. One cannot force people in these matters; they have to discover the delights of cultural experience for themselves.
If I had one criticism at all of the speech of the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth, it was that I thought he was, perhaps, a little too pessimistic about the degree of enthusiasm which already exists in this country for the arts. It seems to me that there has been a great upsurge of national enthusiasm for the arts since the war. Surely, there is today far more interest among young people in music than ever before, and far more interest in the fine arts. I well remember receiving a report from an inspector at the Ministry of Education on the numbers of young people attending the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery on a Sunday. I should have thought, too, that there was more interest in the practical arts, the applied arts, than hitherto. A great many young people today, when setting up home for themselves for the first time, take a great deal of trouble over interior decoration and making their homes as attractive as possible within the limits of their incomes.
I quite agree that there are still too many firms which do not take advantage 775 of what the Council of Industrial Design has to offer. I agree, also, that in the local authority world there are some who are inclined to regard all money spent on works of art as extravagance. I am afraid that this is true, perhaps, of councillors of all political persuasions, though I must say that decisions on these matters may sometimes be somewhat agonising. I could not help sympathising a little with the chairman of a county council when I was opening a school on one occasion. He looked with slightly mixed expressions at quite a fine piece of sculpture by a local craftsman and turned to me to say, "In some moods, I think I would rather have had the bicycle racks".
About one thing there can be no doubt. It is easier today for living younger artists to sell some of their works than ever before. It is certainly easier for musicians to have their works performed today. This does not apply only to musicians in this country. One has only to think of the publicity that the gramophone records of modern German music issued by the Deutsches Grammophon Company received in the gramophone magazines over here. I recall Sir Thomas Beecham—to whom the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) paid tribute—once saying, with regard to the echo in the Albert Hall, that the Albert Hall was the only concert hall in the world where a British composer could hear his work played twice. I do not believe that that is quite so true today as it was.
What is more, I am sure that this upsurge of enthusiasm will not die away. One reason is the greatly increased attention paid to art education in the schools. Here I should like to draw the attention of the House, as many hon. Members have done, to one important difference between this debate and previous debates on the arts. We have had the pleasure of the presence of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education practically throughout our proceedings. I am sure that that is very welcome to the House. We all know his own very great personal interest in this subject.
I thought that the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. A. Greenwood) was a shade out of date in suggesting that our schools were full of pictures of "The 776 Laughing Cavalier" and "When Did You Last See Your Father".
§ Sir E. Boyle
From my experience, it is much more common to see illustrations of French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. The only exception is East Anglia which I have heard described, not as the Bible belt, but as the Breughel belt. Undoubtedly, there is a great deal more attention paid in schools of all kinds to this subject than ever before. I am sure that many of us in this House will remember the extraordinarily fine L.C.C. exhibition of children's paintings two or three years ago. I shall always remember an extraordinarily moving portrait by a child in an educationally sub-normal school, which showed clearly how the most handicapped child can achieve something in this sphere.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) rightly referred to music in schools, and to the fact that children are given every encouragement to learn the printed notes for themselves and to take part in music together. I am encouraged to see children, in even the most elementary schools, playing in a percussion band, counting their bars and then coming in and making music together.
Last but not least, there is the wide range of school drama that goes on all the time. It is not too much to say that many of our best schools are in reality cultural centres in their neighbourhoods. That is true of country districts as well as of the towns. My hon. Friend also referred to what happened when children leave school. There are no less than 179 local authority art schools, and certainly provision for further education in art today is a good deal better and fuller than it was at any earlier time.
It seems to me, in considering the arts, that it is not simply a matter of putting one or two big things right, but of making some advance along the whole of a very wide front. I want to deal first, with the living arts, particularly the living arts which are assisted through the Arts Council. I am sure that the whole House will be glad to learn that the Government propose that the Arts Council's grant next 777 year should be increased by approximately a quarter—by 23 per cent.—to a total of £1½ million. That is an increase of almost £300,000 on last year's figure. That is the first announcement that I have to make to the House. It is, of course, entirely for the Arts Council to decide in detail how the money should be spent—
§ Sir E. Boyle
I will exercise the same forbearance with my hon. Friend as she, on this occasion, has exercised with me.
The Arts Council has been kind enough to let me know some of the things which it has in mind. One thing which I am sure the House will be pleased to learn is this. It is the Council's intention to double its expenditure on drama, from approximately £80,000 in 1959–60 to £160,000 in 1960–61. I can assure the House that the lion's share of this increase will go to provincial repertory companies.
I shall not weary the House with too many details, but, for example, Birmingham and Nottingham will each receive £10,000 next year, compared with £6,000 and £5,500, respectively. Lincoln will receive £5,000 instead of £2,000. My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), who made such a fine speech, will be glad to hear that the grant to Guildford is to be trebled compared with this year. May I say that this was not prearranged, but I am very glad to be able to tell him that fact, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) that there was a very strong case for Guildford.
Furthermore, grants for music—and I think this is absolutely right—will go up by 25 per cent. The Hallé Orchestra—I do not think we have any Members from Manchester here—will receive £22,000 next year as compared with £12,000 this year.
The provision being made for opera end ballet, excluding Covent Garden, is to be increased by about 30 per cent., to over £300,000, of which roughly two-thirds will be spent on touring in the provinces. The Arts Council has arranged that the provinces should have altogether between 40 and 50 weeks of opera and operetta for 1960–61. In its view this is all that really could be absorbed at the present time. Most of it will be 778 provided by the two Sadler's Wells companies, and the total grant to Sadler's Wells will be increased from £205,000 to £275,000.
There will also be from 55 to 60 weeks of ballet for the provinces, half by the Ballet Rambert and half by the Royal Ballet, and the amounts allocated by the Arts Council for expenditure in Scotland and Wales are being increased as well. I wholly agree about the importance of keeping a fair balance between London and the provinces, and do not let us forget Scotland and Wales as well.
§ Sir E. Boyle
My hon. Friend has often raised the question of the Carl Rosa Company in this connection. Inevitably, I must disappoint her again, but I have seen the correspondence between the Arts Council and the Carl Rosa Company, and Mr. Charles Wilson, of Carl Rosa, has been courteous enough to furnish me with copies of his reply. I shall bear my hon. Friend's views in mind.
§ Dame Irene Ward
May I ask, without embarrassing you in any way, whether we can bring a deputation to you, in view of the fact that we are not allowed, even under democracy, to take one to the Arts Council?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I hope that the hon. Lady will remember that she is addressing the Chair.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I will certainly consider what my hon. Friend has said and let her have an answer soon.
I should like now to turn from the living arts—and I hope the House would forgive me for having gone into a certain amount of detail about them—to what I might call the more static arts, the collections in our national museums and galleries and libraries I will for the moment deal with national museums. In the debate last year my predecessor, the present Solicitor-General, said that the 1959–60 Estimate would provide for a substantial increase in their annual purchase grants. The annual purchase grant authorised in 1959–60 for the national 779 collections in England, Scotland and Wales, came to £363,000; and in addition to this there have been special grants, totalling no less than £188,000, to enable various of these institutions to make acquisitions of exceptional importance.
It was by this means that the National Gallery has been able to secure the very fine Rembrandt equestrian portrait, which I am sure we are looking forward to seeing in its new home when the necessary work has been completed, which, I can tell the House, will be in a very few weeks. The Tate Gallery has acquired a very fine Stubbs, and the National Gallery of Scotland has acquired the important set of panels of the Legend of St. Nicholas by Gerard David.
In addition the National Library of Scotland has been enabled to buy the books which I know the Trustees particularly wanted to save for Scotland on the lamented dissolution of part of the Signet Library. We have also helped the National Library of Wales with the purchase of part of the Gwysaney collection of manuscripts and the National Museum of Wales with a pair of Queen Anne wall sconces from Powis Castle.
I hope that this recital will remove any fears that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would regard increases in annual purchase grants as a reason for hardening his heart to pleas for special purchase grants. He feels that when a body of trustees approach him to seek a special grant they ought to find a proportion of the purchase price from their own resources. Subject to that condition, my right hon. Friend has never shown himself unsympathetic to an application for a special grant to enable a national collection to make an exceptional acquisition of outstanding importance when the price was beyond the scope of the annual purchase grant.
The hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth spoke about the Treasury exercising discrimination. I think that that would be inevitable anyway in the case of these special grants, no matter how the arts were organised. If extra money was wanted, a six-figure sum, for, say, a Rembrandt equestrian portrait, inevitably the Treasury would have to 780 come into it. My right hon. Friend makes up his mind on the individual merits of each case, after taking all the most expert evidence he can find, and that is the only way that these things can be done.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I would rather not say anything about that now, because that matter will soon come under review.
§ Mr. E. C. Redhead (Walthamstow, West)
While welcoming the hon. Gentleman's announcement about the increase in purchase grants for the national institutions, may I ask whether we are to understand that he is going on to indicate that there is to be something in that direction for the non-national institutions, whose purchase grants were raised from £2,000 to £15,000 last year?
§ Sir E. Boyle
I intended to divide my speech into three parts, first dealing with the living arts, then the national museums and galleries, and after that saying something about local museums and galleries, on which I have definite proposals to put to the House.
Coming to the present year, the total provision which Parliament will be invited to approve for national museums and galleries, excluding the science museums, in the Class IV Estimates, will show an increase of £350,000, or 13 per cent., as compared with 1959–60; that is without having regard to the special grants which I have mentioned.
That relates to what might be called the direct revenue expenditure of the museums and galleries, but we have also been considering building costs, which fall on the Vote of the Ministry of Works. The House may recall that the Fifth Report of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries, published a few months ago, recommended a number of structural improvements and extensions to many of our national institutions. At the Government's request, the Standing Commission subsequently gave us advice on the order of priority which should be attached to those various projects.
781 I am glad to be able to tell the House that, subject to Parliamentary approval and subject to the other needs of the investment programme, the capital projects to which the Standing Commission gave first priority will be carried out in an orderly, phased programme during the course of the next five or six years. It is our definite intention to carry out that programme in that time.
There were one or two specific questions about our national institutions. The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North, who has been so assiduous in raising the subject of the British Museum, will be glad to hear that, for an experimental period of nine months in 1960–61, the Front Hall, the Reading Room and the North Library of the British Museum will be kept open until half-past nine, instead of five-o'clock, on two evenings a week. We have approved fifty extra staff for the coming year, indeed, all the posts which the trustees classed as urgently essential, and we have agreed to all the staff for which they asked for the Department of Manuscripts. I am glad to say that the cataloguing is no longer quite so far behind currency as it was a few years ago.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I am delighted to hear that. Does my hon. Friend mean all departments, or only the North Library department?
§ Sir E. Boyle
I was asked about the British Film Institute. As the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) who takes an active interest in the British Film Institute knows, we are at this moment having a discussion with that Institute, but at any rate its provision for the forthcoming year 1960–61 is up from £80,000 to £97,000, an increase of 20 per cent.
Like the hon. Member for Rossendale, I should like to refer briefly to certain private gifts to public galleries, in particular to the magnificent gift of twenty-one 19th and 20th century French paintings presented to the National Gallery of Scotland by Mr. Alexander Maitland, Q.C. in memory of his wife. From what I have heard, almost every picture in this collection is of quite exceptionally high quality, and judging by the reproduction in The Times of today one can believe that to be true. There are 782 few pictures which to me make a stronger emotional appeal than the "Three Tahitians" by Gauguin, which is one of the principal pictures in this collection. A year ago my predecessor announced the Government's decision to provide a new Scottish National Gallery of modern art in Inverleith House, Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh, and these two gestures together show what a good thing it is when public and private patronage go hand in hand.
I ought to refer to the important collection of French pictures given, mainly to the Tate Gallery, by Mrs. Kessler about a year ago, and to the very fine 19th century French Gallery in the National Museum of Wales at Cardiff containing a delightful collection of French 19th century pictures left by the late Mrs. Gwendoline Davies. We are acquiring privately-owned pictures all the time.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the question of private collections, would he, or somebody in the Government, look at the position concerning the Burrell collection given to the City of Glasgow, one of the most magnificent private collections now in public hands? That was presented sixteen years ago and it is still not on view because there is no proper gallery for it.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I will consider that. Before we debate this subject again I hope to be able to visit some of these galleries, notably those in Wales and Scotland, which I have not had an opportunity of seeing.
Finally, I ought to refer to the truly magnificent loan of Rubens' "Adoration of the Magi" by an anonymous owner to the National Gallery. This picture, which is perhaps the most publicised of its kind, is there for everyone to see. No doubt one day we shall learn the identity of the lender, but at the moment we can only express our appreciation of this extremely generous loan.
I will now deal with provincial museums and galleries.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Has the hon. Gentleman anything to say about what the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) said about the need for a National Library?
§ Sir E. Boyle
As I think the right hon. Gentleman may be aware, the difficulty is that of a site. I can make no statement this afternoon, but that is the difficulty in this case. I will, if I may, write to the right hon. Gentleman and to my hon. Friend.
I hope that the House will forgive me if I do not give way very much for the remainder of my speech, because I want to devote sufficient time to provincial museums and galleries.
I begin by giving two pieces of good news to the House. First, hon. Members may recall that my predecessor announced in January last year that the annual grant to the Victoria and Albert Museum, out of which assistance is given to provincial museums towards the cost of approved acquisitions, was to be increased from £2,000 to £15,000, and that its scope was to be extended to cover oil paintings. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Education has suggested to the Chancellor that for 1960–61 the figure should be increased from £15,000 to £25,000, and this provision has been inserted in the Estimate. I am particularly glad about this, because anyone who has been at the Ministry of Education will know the admirable service that is given by the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is quite the best museum of applied art in the whole world. There is no one in the art world for whom I have a greater respect than the present Director, who has done a magnificent job.
The second piece of news concerns a subject which has been ventilated in the Press quite a lot during recent weeks. On 27th November last the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art advised that an export licence should not be given for the Rubens picture of the "Holy Family" if an offer to purchase it for £50,000 were made by a public institution in this country within three months. They went on to say that they would support an application for a special grant to the Victoria and Albert Museum of up to £25,000, if necessary, to enable a provincial gallery to acquire the picture. The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool wants to acquire the picture and is in a position to put up £25,000 towards it, including a substantial contribution from the Liverpool rate fund.
784 My right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Education have had to consider very carefully whether they would be justified in asking Parliament to approve, for the first time in history, a special grant to the Victoria and Albert Museum for the benefit of a provincial gallery. They came to the conclusion that it would be right to do so in the exceptional circumstances, having regard to two things; first, the importance which the Reviewing Committee attach to the picture as a work of national importance, and, secondly, and just as important, to the contribution made by the Liverpool ratepayers and other citizens and sympathisers.
In view of the time factor—since the three months' grace allowed by the Reviewing Committee ends today—the parties concerned have had to be informed in confidence of the Government's decision before any announcement could be made to the House. I understand that an offer of £50,000 has been made by the Walker Art Gallery, and I can say that if this offer is accepted a Supplementary Estimate will be presented very shortly.
We are, of course, going to limit special grants to cases of pictures which really are of National Gallery standard. We take particular note in this case of the remarkable achievement of Liverpool in being able to put up £25,000 from its own resources. I think that that is a very good example of what can be done by a progressive community and a progressive and forward-looking local authority.
So much for acquisitions by local museums and galleries. But, of course, as I am fully aware, the local museums and galleries are the part of the arts field where criticisms can most rightly be made and doubts can most easily arise. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) on this subject. Therefore, at this point, I have one further announcement to make.
I felt when listening to the debate today that there was not by any means unanimous or even, perhaps, majority support in the House for the specific suggestion of a Royal Commission. It seems to the Government—and we have considered this carefully—that there are 785 two objections to a Royal Commission. First, there is the point, very well expressed by the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) of defining its terms of reference, which, as the hon. Gentleman fairly said would, to be adequate terms of reference, have to be as wide as life itself. I thought that a just phrase.
Secondly, whatever we did while a Royal Commission, or any committee on the lines, as suggested by one hon. Member, of the Albemarle Committee, was sitting, would be done under the shadow of its possible recommendations, and therefore against the background of uncertainty and indecision. If a committee is sitting, the instinct of any Department is to say that it must await the decision of the committee. That is the difficulty about a Royal Commission or a committee. On the other hand, I recognise the need for doing something specific in the field of local museums and galleries.
We must get this matter into the right perspective. The capital and maintenance costs of such local museums and galleries are a local responsibility, and the present Government have always maintained, and continue to maintain, that this is right and proper. I am glad to say that this is backed up in a memorandum of guidance by the Association of Municipal Corporations, which reached me only this morning; and I have the secretary's authority to quote the memorandum in this debate as its official policy. Paragraph 5 of the memorandum says:The vitality of museums depends to a great extent on local initiative—indeed, a collection may be mainly of local rather than regional and national interest—and nothing should be done to centralise administration in such a way as to remove local responsibilities.That is true. But it has been suggested to the Government from various quarters that not all local authorities carry out their responsibilities with quite as much enthusiasm as might be desired—I have expressed it in that way deliberately—and that some local museums are in a bad way through inadequacy of funds. It has been suggested that there should be a general inquiry into the present state of these local institutions, so that the facts and the implications to be drawn from them should be fully and clearly presented to the public and the authorities themselves.
786 It is arguable that such an inquiry would serve a useful purpose if it were to establish authoritatively for the first time what these provincial museums and galleries contain; which of them are live institutions, needing help and encouragement; what are their essential needs, and how they can best be encouraged to help themselves by regional groupings and sharing schemes on the lines of the experiment now being conducted in the South-West. It is arguable that a report on those lines, by an independent body of standing, would be of great value to local authorities, in enabling them to form a clearer idea of the possibilities, and encouraging a more lively enterprise in the discharge of their responsibilities in this matter.
I speak with some caution; because we are talking of something which is the responsibility of local authorities, and as a representative of the Treasury I should point out that my Department is not in day-to-day touch with local authorities. We have had consultations on the matter, however, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is inviting the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries to consult the other interests mainly concerned in this matter, including the Museums Association and the various associations of local authorities, to consider whether it would be useful to promote a review of provincial museums and galleries on the lines that I have indicated and, if so, to recommend how best this can be done.
I must make it quite plain that there is no doubt that it is my right hon. Friend's idea that the Association of Local Authorities, as well as the Museums Association, should be very fully consulted in this matter, because these museums are the responsibility of local authorities. I hope that I have made plain exactly what kind of procedure my right hon. Friend proposes.
The willingness of the Government to sponsor such a review of local museums and galleries does not affect their adherence to the principle that the central Government should not assume financial responsibility for the capital or running costs of these institutions. But they hope that the House will feel that this proposal shows the Government's concern that interest in the arts should be fostered 787 not only in the three capital cities but in the main centres of provincial life. I hope that hon. Members will welcome this as a step towards the solution of the troubles of what may fairly be called the "Cinderella group" in the family of arts, and it is towards the provincial museums and galleries in particular that those who have advocated a Royal Commission have most reason to direct attention. I believe that the procedure I have suggested will prove of value.
There is only one more specific point to which I want to refer, and that point was made by the hon. Member for Rossendale. It concerns our historic houses. I agree that our historic houses are of very great importance. To some extent they are themselves local museums. One of the most encouraging features of British life today is the fact that many people and families who own cars for the first time are using those cars not only to go to the sea but also to visit our historic houses. I can assure the hon. Member for Rossendale that the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act of 1953 does not debar group aid of the kind to which he referred. Indeed, action has already been taken in one or two cases. The difficulties arising from such group schemes are purely administrative, and we do not rule them out in applying the Act of 1953.
§ Mr. Diamond
Is the hon. Gentleman going to say anything about the question of taxation, and the extent to which it will be considered at the appropriate level?
§ Sir E. Boyle
I do not want to say anything specific, except that I have taken due note of all the suggestions about taxation; indeed, we have a list of all the suggestions made at one time or another. I will not deny that in one way or another they all present a certain amount of difficulty, but the hon. Member can be certain that they will be taken fully into account before the next Finance Bill is framed.
§ Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Swindon)
May I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that there are very valuable living museums which are not houses? I am thinking particularly of the Stone Circle at Avebury, which is an ancient monument. These monu- 788 ments do not come directly within the scope of this debate but they are very much connected with it.
§ Sir E. Boyle
A number of grants made under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act are not just towards things inside the houses but towards, for example, monuments and objects of value outside in the garden. So far as it lies with me, I try very hard to help the Minister of Works in administering this Act in as reasonable and fair a way as possible.
We have had a most interesting debate, in which I know my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education has been greatly interested, and so have I. I should not like the House to think that now this debate is over we at the Treasury will say, "This is over for another year; now let's get on with framing the Budget." On the contrary, for the Government this debate is not the end of one year but the starting point of a consistent policy which we hope to carry right the way through this Parliament.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have referred in a good-humoured manner to the pamphlets which we sponsored at the last election. I would have said that that was a great moment in English history, and that we can take great pleasure and satisfaction in the thought that at the last election all parties committed themselves to doing more for leisure and taking a step forward in the arts. Those of us who have some degree of responsibility in this matter will certainly remain in close touch and consider what advances we can make during the years to come.
In view of the announcements that I have made and the assurance that I have just given, I hope that the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth will now agree to withdraw his Motion, or, failing that, to allow it to be negatived. I do not believe that a Royal Commission is the right solution. On the other hand, I am quite certain that this is a topic to which the whole House will rightly wish to devote more time in the future than it has done in the past.
§ Mr. Snow
I think the whole House has heard with relief of the additional money that is being provided for the various things that have been discussed today. I appreciate the presence of the 789 Minister of Education, and I am sorry that the Minister of Works has not been able to be here, no doubt owing to other duties. I sense the feeling of the House that my personal view about the necessity for a Royal Commission does not commend itself to the House as a whole.
In view of that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.