§ 14. Mr. Strauss
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received from the 1155 Arts Council with a view to making available to the Council further funds in respect of the current financial year.
§ 20. Mr. Jessel
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on finance for the arts, following the latest report of the Arts Council.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
As I explained in the reply I gave to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham) on 8th December, additional provision is proposed for the Arts Council which will provide it with an increase of 31 per cent. over the previous year.—[Official Report, Vol. 902, c. 461]
§ Mr. Strauss
Although the increase is gratifying, will my hon. Friend give an assurance that the amount made available to the Arts Council will be sufficient to enable the Arts Council to ensure the opening of the National Theatre on the due date and that there will be sufficient funds available to enable the various enterprises that it supports to continue their activities without any significant falling off in standards?
§ Mr. Jenkins
The object of the additional funds, which I hope will be approved by the House, is precisely to enable the Arts Council to carry out those two purposes. It is my sincere hope that the Council with those additional funds will find it possible to ensure that the National Theatre opens on the due date and also that this occurs without milking or making impossible the operation of the theatre throughout the rest of the country.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
As the popular Press frequently draws attention to what appear to be absurd projects for which the Arts Council makes grants, what is being done to give a balanced picture of the purposes to which the Council's money is put?
§ Mr. Jenkins
Perhaps the hon. Member has read the Arts Council's report, which was published recently. No one reading that could get the absurd and unbalanced picture which is sometimes conveyed in the popular Press. If anything happens which is a little peculiar, the Press sees that as a very good story, but that is not the whole story. The 1156 Council has had very great success in supporting the arts throughout the country. It has supported art which has been seen by many people, but that is not news and we do not hear as much about it as we should.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
If the Chequers Guy Fawkes's strategy of investing in success is not entirely blown away by events later today, is it not reasonable to ask the hon. Gentleman to use every effort to see that first priority is given by the Government to investment in our greatest post-war success—the arts? Can he at least guarantee that the grant to the Arts Council in future will be sufficient to enable it to keep abreast of inflation and enable it to fulfil its existing commitments?
§ Mr. Jenkins
The proof of the pudding is in the eating and the supplementary grant I have just announced has enabled us to give the Council an increase of 31 per cent. over last year's figure. That is the best guarantee I can give the hon. Member for the future.