HC Deb 17 April 1962 vol 658 cc217-20
15. Dr. Stross

asked the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has for the further support of the Crafts Centre, Hay Hill: and whether he will make a statement.

17. Mr. Ridley

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make a statement about the future of the Crafts Centre.

33. Mr. Longden

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will continue an annual grant to the Crafts Centre of Great Britain; and if he will make a statement.

37. Sir L. Plummer

asked the President of the Board of Trade his plans for improving the facilities offered by the Crafts Centre. Hay Hill.

Mr. N. Macpherson

The grant has been paid to the Crafts Centre since 1948 to encourage the contribution of individual craftsmanship to the improvement of industrial design. My right hon. Friend has decided that the time has come to discontinue it. Accordingly the grant of £5,000 to the Crafts Centre will come to an end when the present lease of its premises at Hay Hill runs out at the end of the year. The grant of £750 to the Scottish Crafts Centre will be discontinued at the same time.

Dr. Stross

Does not the Parliamentary Secretary feel embarrassed at having to give an Answer of that type? Is it possible that the Board of Trade believes that £5,000 a year is such a large sum that we can sacrifice a shop window for the best craftsmen in the country who show the best textiles, the best jewellery, the best pottery and the best furniture? What on earth will happen to us if industry has nowhere to go to improve its own designs generally? This is shameful.

Mr. Macpherson

The Board of Trade has to consider the purpose for which we give the grant, which is to aid industrial design. We are certain that this is not the best way of giving the grant.

Mr. Ridley

Does not my hon. Friend consider that the Crafts Centre should be linked with the Design Centre, having welcomed the fact that it has done good work in the past twelve years? What plans has he to bring about this marriage, which seems to me to be of the utmost importance?

Mr. Macpherson

This has been considered, but, unfortunately, there is a shortage of accommodation at the Design Centre and considerable capital expenditure would be required. We have reason to doubt that this would be the way in which the Design Centre would itself spend the money if it were made available.

Mr. Longden

Cannot my hon. Friend reconsider the matter inasmuch as he might decide to reduce the grant by stages and not all in one fell swoop, so that the Centre could have time to make other arrangements? It would be preferable, of course, if it could make private arrangements.

Mr. Macpherson

We have linked this matter with the ending of the present lease at Hay Hill. If, however, the Crafts Centre made such representations. we should consider them.

Mr. Snow

Does the Minister realise that his statement this afternoon will be regarded as one more evidence of the Philistine attitude of the Government in matters of this sort? Is he aware that, whatever he may have said, the fact is that many industries receive their inspiration from the individual effort of individual craftsmen and that this decision of his is thoroughly unsatisfactory and not in the best interests of the country's industry?

Mr. Macpherson

I am well aware that industries receive their inspiration from individual craftsmen. The situation has, however, changed entirely since we started to give this grant. Many more individual craftsmen are available to give instruction in the arts colleges, schools, and so on, and many more firms have their own individual craftsmen or designers with a craft background.

Mr. Jay

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether this is a decision of the Board of Trade or of the Treasury? As he says that he does not consider this the best way of achieving these objectives, can he tell us what he thinks is the best way?

Mr. Macpherson

This is a decision of the Board of Trade, and, of course, the Treasury has been consulted.

Mr. Jay

Will the Parliamentary Secretary answer the second part of my supplementary question: as he has decided that this is not the best way of achieving this aim, will he tell us what he thinks is the best way?

Mr. Macpherson

The best way, as I have already indicated in reply to the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow), is the best use of craftsmen being made through instruction in arts colleges, and so on, and by individual designers with firms.

Mr. Snow

In view of that reply from the Minister, I beg to give notice that I will try to raise this matter on the Adjournment.