HC Deb 02 April 1974 vol 871 cc1082-3
11. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement of Government policy towards the arts.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

No one knows better than the hon. Member the problems of continuing and expanding support for the arts under present conditions. As announced in the Estimates, the Government will, notwithstanding, give additional financial support to the Arts Council, the museums and galleries, and the other agencies for the encouragement of the arts. The increase is significant in real terms after allowing for the effects of inflation. The abolition of museum charges has also created a favourable climate for the development of relationships of mutual confidence between all concerned.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

After all that, will the hon. Gentleman give a date on which he will do justice to authors and introduce a public lending right, in view of the fact that before I left office all the major difficulties had been cleared out of the way and the hon. Gentleman himself, during the election campaign, pledged £5 million of Exchequer money to this good cause after he knew all about the three-day working week?

Mr. Jenkins

The hon. Gentleman says that all the difficulties were cleared out of the way. He knows that that is not the case. He knows that a number of very considerable difficulties remained to be resolved. Having said that, in spite of the difficulties that stand in the way of bringing forward a plan for a public lending right—because although the hon. Gentleman pledged support in principle, he at no time announced any detailed proposals for introducing a public lending right—the Government have advanced discussions in progress, and in due course, and I hope not too long, we shall be introducing our plan for a public lending right.

Mr. Dalyell

As one of the difficulties was in the administration of bequests in relation to the Scottish Gallery, can this situation be sorted out?

Mr. Jenkins

I hope so, but it is not the only difficulty. We do not want another museum charges situation. We do not want a scheme in which the cost of administration exceeds the amount of money going back to the authors. It is to resolve that problem—and it can be resolved—that we are taking a little time.