HC Deb 13 April 1972 vol 834 cc1412-4
9. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a further statement of Government policy on the arts.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The 1972–73 Estimates (Class IX) show the broad headings of the expansionist policy for the arts being pursued by the Government.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

In view of the vast sums of money that are being spent in regional development grants, which will eventually amount to £300 million—which I certainly welcome—what plans have the Government for keeping expenditure on the arts in the regions in proportion to this increase and so improving the quality of life in the regions?

Mr. van Straubenzee

On many occasions my noble Friend has been on record as warmly encouraging provision for the regions. I am sure that my hon. Friend will have noticed, for example, that the Arts Council has increased in the forthcoming year from £466,000 to £700,000 its grant to the regional art associations. That is a decision of the Arts Council, but it shows an important trend.

Mr. Strauss

Is it not ludicrous that the Government should have two Bills before the House, one introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer relieving taxpayers of a tax burden of more than £1,000 million and the other introduced by his right hon. Friend imposing for the first time in our history a tax of £1 million on visitors to museums and galleries? Will he not prod the Chancellor of the Exchequer and ask him to relieve his right hon. Friend of the promise made by the Minister responsible for the arts two years ago, in entirely different circumstances, to impose this £1 million taxation, a great part of which is paid for by children for whom the right hon. Lady has responsibility?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The House will have ample opportunity at the further stages of the Bill in question for discussing these matters. The Standing Committee sat for nine happy sittings and on each occasion the arguments of the Opposition were decisively repulsed.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Will my hon. Friend make it quite clear to his noble Friend in another place that the needs of the regions are of great importance? although the Arts Council has apparently been persuaded to increase its allocation, perhaps a little more could be done in that direction, since the Arts Council needs a shove from both sides of the House?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I will convey those sentiments to my noble Friend. My hon. Friend, who follows these matters closely, will recall the discussion in another place at the end of last month in which my noble Friend expressed sentiments with which he would warmly agree.

Mr. Faulds

May I support my right hon. and distinguished Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss). Instead of making further statements, will not the hon. Gentleman retract on past policy? Will he not have the gumption to withdraw the Museums and Galleries Admission Charges Bill in view both of the near unanimous opposition to it and the great damage it has done to the relations of the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend with the trustees of the various institutions?

Mr. van Straubenzee

If the Bill were to be withdrawn it certainly would not be withdrawn in answer to a supplementary question.

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