HC Deb 15 June 1972 vol 838 cc1713-5
22. 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 in the light of recent developments.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I cannot usefully add to the reply I gave to a similar question by the hon. Member on 13th April.—[Vol. 834, c. 1413.]

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Now that the Prime Minister has established that the Philistines are sitting opposite and that we are the party of the beautiful people—[Laughter.]—can my hon. Friend tell us what plans the Government have for special aid to British orchestras, which are likely to meet increased competition from their heavily subsidised continental counterparts when we enter the Common Market?

Mr. van Straubenzee

This is essentially a question for the Arts Council, which is charged by this House with disbursing these funds. It is doubtful whether members of the main British orchestras would want to become full-time, salaried players, as is the position with a number of their continental counterparts.

Mr. Strauss

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the best contribution he and his colleagues on the Front Bench could make to the arts in this country and the public appreciation of the arts is to refrain, before it is too late, from imposing an entrance tax on those who wish to see our national treasures?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I find that a large number of people see very clearly that this Measure, combined with greatly increased resources for our museums and galleries, makes a great deal of sense.

Mr. Faulds

Knowing the talent for toadying of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) who is perhaps more beatific than beautiful—is it surprising that we saw this as a planted Question and, as I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) assumed, we thought that the opportunity was to be taken of announcing the abandonment of that miserable, mean little Measure, the Museums and Galleries Admission Charges Bill? Does the hon. Gentleman realise that when we form the next Government—as we undoubtedly shall—we shall make it speedily clear to the trustees, whose responsibility such matters are, that we shall welcome their decision to abandon this piddling little scheme?

Mr. van Straubenzee

That supplementary question shows that the hon. Gentleman does not listen, because on the last occasion he asked me exactly the same question I explained that such a move would never be made at Question Time, and I suspect that it would not be made at that time by any subsequent Government. However, we are apparently talking about the next Government from the other side of the House and have therefore moved into the realms of fantasy. Perhaps we should get on.