HC Deb 06 May 1975 vol 891 cc1199-200
10. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a supplementary grant to the Arts Council in respect of the burden of VAT on the living arts.

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

No, Sir. The hon. Gentleman will recall that the burden of VAT was imposed on the living arts by his Government. The present Government's grant-in-aid to the Arts Council for 1975–76 takes account of VAT as the liability for this was known by the council's clients when they applied for subsidies or financial guarantees for the current year.

Mr. Hannam

Does not the Minister agree that the costs of running and maintaining the living arts and the theatre are now approximately double the increase in grant that he has given to the Arts Council? Is not his ineffectiveness in failing to persuade the Chancellor to give the living arts relief from value added tax sufficient cause for his own resignation and the appointment of someone like Lord Goodman who can at least tell the Prime Minister where he gets off?

Mr. Jenkins

I do not think that Lord Goodman is likely to agree with the hon. Gentleman. On the point of substance that the hon. Gentleman raised, I must point out to him that the figure granted to the Arts Council was precisely the figure it asked for. If it feels at any time that the sum which it has been granted is inadequate, no doubt it will be letting me know. Neither the Arts Council nor anyone else, other than the hon. Gentleman, is considering my resignation. Certainly I am not.

Mr. Strauss

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the present grants by the Arts Council to the living arts are sufficient to maintain existing standards in spite of the imposiiton of VAT and the increased cost of living? If these various bodies find that they are unable to maintain those standards, will my hon. Friend give sympathetic consideration to any appeal that may come to him?

Mr. Jenkins

Yes, we are watching the position very closely. It is, of course, true that the incidence of inflation on the arts is severe. We are keeping in very close touch with the problem and if we and the Arts Council reach the conclusion that the matter should be looked at again I am sure that my right hon. Friend, in consultation with myself, will be ready to do so.

Mr. Freud

Irrespective of who is to blame for the present situation, is the Minister aware that it is becoming increasingly pointless for schools to teach Shakespeare, Milton and other classics when the children cannot see live productions of these works?

Mr. Jenkins

I do not think that is true. If the hon. Gentleman has a specific case in mind to show that there are not enough performances of Shakespeare, I shall be glad to know about it. However, from my experience I would have thought that the number of performances of Shakespeare in the last year had increased rather than declined.