HC Deb 13 July 1972 vol 840 cc1835-7
20. Mr. William Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the total sum of money allocated to the Arts Council since its inception.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Since its inception in 1946 the Arts Council has been allocated £89,991,000 including, subject to Parliamentary approval, £13,670,000 for 1972–73.

Mr. Price

Why does the National Youth Orchestra receive tens of thousands of pounds a year while the National Youth Brass Band has consistently been refused a penny? Why is it that if I had been one of the Archangel Gabriel's middle-class harpists I should have received all the help I could have needed but that if I had been a working-class trumpeter outside the Pearly Gates I should not have got a penny from anywhere? Why does not the hon. Gentlemen tell the Arts Council that it is time the working class saw some of the money?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I do not think that when thehon. Gentleman gets there he will find the harpists in Heaven exclusively drawn from the middle classes. The short answer is that this is essentially a matter for the Arts Council and must remain at matter for the Arts Council. [Interruption.] If we have an Arts Council charged with the administration of the money, it must make sense for such decisions to be left to it.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is it not a fact that the statistic my hon. Friend gave—[HON. MEMBERS: "Cherub. You will be there."] We are not talking about the upper classes playing harps. Is it not a fact that the statistic given by my hon. Friend shows that the highest sum ever paid for the support of the arts in this country has come from the present Government. Could my hon. Friend use some of his notable oratorial skill in the country so that the comparatively minor Museums and Galleries Admission Charges Bill can be seen in its proper context?

Mr. van Straubenzee

It is undoubtedly true that the increase in the recurrent grant to the Arts Council in the current year, subject to approval by the House, is 15.9 per cent.

Mr. Faulds

In view of the effects of VAT on various of the activities carried out under Arts Council auspices, when can we expect a detailed announcement of the necessary increase in Arts Council funding? Will the Government extract their finger?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The hon. Gentleman always expresses himself so elegantly that it is not easy to match him. The Government's position has has already been made clear. I have no further announcements to make at present. Anyway, the VAT side will be dealt with by my hon. Friends at the Treasury.