HC Deb 03 December 1979 vol 975 cc26-7
26. Mr. Cormack

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he has any plans to make an annual grant to the Royal Academy.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

No. But I understand that the Royal Academy has been in touch with the Arts Council.

Mr. Cormack

Will my right hon. Friend have another think about the matter? I am sure that he will agree that the Royal Academy has contributed greatly to our cultural and artistic life, and it would be a tragedy if it went to the wall. Will he at least encourage the Arts Council to consider most sympathetically any request, and will he consider increasing the Arts Council grant to meet it?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am afraid that I cannot give the undertaking that my hon. Friend requires, because there has been no tradition of Government support for the Royal Academy. However, I recently read in the Sunday Telegraph—so it is likely to be true—that the postimpressionist exhibition at the Royal Academy is so successful that it is not likely to be facing an immediate financial crisis. Perhaps it is along those lines that the Royal Academy's financial problems can be solved.

Mr. Faulds

Just to make this a bipartisan occasion, will the right hon. Gentleman listen to the request of his colleague, who knows a great deal about these matters, and reconsider? Within the next few years public subvention for the Royal Academy will be necessary if it is to survive at all.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

If it were true that the Royal Academy could not survive without public subvention, no doubt a case could be made, but it should be made to the Arts Council and not to me. I am at present searching for money for existing institutions that are supported, and I do not believe that this is a good moment to add to the list.

Mr. Alan Clark

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Royal Academy has been a tenacious repository of recidivist artistic taste for the past century?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not have the connections of my hon. Friend, and I defer to his expert opinion in these matters, but I should not like to commit myself one way or the other.

Mr. Ogden

When the right hon. Gentleman is seriously considering which institutions will receive aid will he bear in mind that the majority of previous Ministers with responsibilities for the arts lost their seats at the following general election?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I trust that I shall be the exception that proves the rule.