HC Deb 23 July 1974 vol 877 cc1280-1
10. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make an additional grant to the Arts Council this year to meet the impact of inflation.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Hugh Jenkins)

The grant to the council already includes an element for inflation. In addition the £750,000 supplementary grant announced on 25th June in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) which relates to 1973–74 and to VAT will enable the council to help a number of its clients.

Mr. Hannam

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the grave financial difficulties facing the art world, especially music, the theatre and the film industry? When will he carry out his promise, given during the last General Election campaign in his eight-point programme for the arts, that he would give the Arts Council £20 million a year?

Mr. Jenkins

I expressed the view at that time that £20 million was a reasonable figure for the Arts Council grant and I still have that view. In my discussions with Treasury colleagues it is necessary for me to walk a middle path between being properly persistent on the one hand and not becoming a persistent pest on the other.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Will my hon. Friend, far from giving more money to the Arts Council, take good care, particularly in relation to the film industry, to see that he gets value for the money already given? He has increased the grant considerably. Does he not agree that while the work of the Arts Council is admirable there is an indication in some cases that the grant is almost too lavish?

Mr. Jenkins

My hon. Friend will be aware that the Arts Council does not receive aid in relation to the film industry. A grant is made to the British Film Institute rather than to the Arts Council. There is no indication that the grant is too lavish. If my hon. Friend has specific information of cases in which she feels that the grant has been lavishly expended, I shall be interested to receive particulars.

Mr. Money

Does the hon. Gentleman recall that in a Written Answer on 6th May he specifically said that he would provide for this special subject by means of consultations with his colleagues? What consultations has he had with his colleagues and what practical differences have those discussions made to the arts?

Mr. Jenkins

I have had considerable consultations with my colleagues and I fear that they get a little tired of seeing me. As a consequence of the consultations, the current grant to the Arts Council for 1974–75 includes an inflation factor of 11 per cent. and a real growth factor of about 3 per cent. I would have thought that, although in an imperfect world perfection has not been reached, we have not done badly.

Mr. Moonman

Is my hon. Friend aware that despite the mood behind some previous questions many people in the arts world and many hon. Members on this side of the House think that he is doing a first-class job? Will he ensure with regard to allocation of resources that whatever happens the regions will not suffer in any way?

Mr. Jenkins

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. We are taking special care for the regions and in a number of cases, of which I hope to give details shortly, we should be able to show that we are particularly endeavouring to push out from London towards the regions to give them every possible help.