HC Deb 16 July 1979 vol 970 cc1018-9
18. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what proportion of the Arts Council's expenditure is devoted to the artistic activities of young people.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Separate statistics are not available. Arts Council support is given on the basis of artistic merit, irrespective of the age of those involved, and many young people benefit from attending or participating in the activities made possible by Arts Council support.

Mr. Price

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is a danger that some activities supported by the Arts Council are overused by tourists from abroad and are not so much available, because of their high cost, to young people without much money? Will he at least ask the Arts Council to try to ensure that the grants paid to community arts, if they must be cut, are cut no more than those to Covent Garden or the Royal Ballet?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not understand the relevance of the hon. Gentleman's reference to the tourist trade. Tourists are young as well as old. I agree that the community arts movement should have its fair share of support, but that is a matter for the Arts Council and not for me.

Mr. Adley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many young people are interested in industrial archaeology? In the light of his previous answer, will he agree to meet a deputation of people who might be able to persuade him to change his mind on the answer he gave to question No. 16?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am always willing to listen to the voice of youth, in however unlikely a guise it appears. I should be delighted to see a delegation from my hon. Friend and his associates.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Had the Minister been able to take time off from his onerous duties to attend the recent public forum on drama held by the Arts Council, he would have heard the interesting statistic that over 50 per cent. of young people throughout the countries of Britain have no access to any form of live theatre. Will he ensure that in the course of the savage reduction in public expenditure on the arts community theatre and access theatre are not reduced by the Arts Council?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I would not presume to dictate to the Arts Council what it should do. Furthermore, I do not agree that the recent cuts in the arts budget could be fairly described as " savage ". The arts grant for this year has not been substantially reduced. I am aware of the need for new theatre, and I shall do what I can to encourage it.

Mr. Faulds

May I ask the Minister whether he realises that in addition to the damage caused by Arts Council cuts, the Government's cuts in public expenditure are likely to lead, according to the secondary heads' association, to the dropping of music and art from school curricula—Is he proud of that philistine achievement?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I think that the hon. Gentleman is seeing more bogies. A declaration by secondary heads of what they fear might happen is not evidence of what is happening. I have seen no evidence of the unfortunate results which the hon. Gentleman seems to be adumbrating with some relish.