HC Deb 16 July 1979 vol 970 cc1014-5
15. Mr. Jessel

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is the total financial support to be provided from Government sources for opera, ballet, concerts and theatre in London in the current financial year.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

Arts Council support for these activities will amount to about £14 million.

Mr. Jessel

As London is the musical and theatrical capital of the world, and our live arts attract a great many foreign visitors, thus bringing in foreign currency, will the Government encourage industrial and commercial sponsorship of the arts?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I certainly accept the remarks with which my hon. Friend prefaced his question. It is the policy of the Government to encourage private sponsorship of the arts and steps have already been taken in the Budget which should be conducive to that end.

Mr. Buchan

What steps in the Budget are conducive to this end? Do the Government intend to leave the sponsorship of the arts to Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola and the beer barons? Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the Cabinet should rescind immediately the monstrous and philistine VAT at 15 per cent, which will clobber every theatre in London and elsewhere in Britain?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

My reference was to the general reduction in income tax which will enable private individuals to devote more of their resources to sponsorship of the arts. It is immaterial to me where the money comes from, as long as extra money is provided for the arts. It is our policy to maintain a balance between public and private support.

Mr. David Price

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that we have a very strong provincial tradition both in music and the theatre in this country? In this we differ very strongly from France. Will he do everything he can to encourage support for the provincial theatre and provincial music, as well as for arts in the capital?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I agree that we have a very strong tradition of regional arts in this country and the Arts Council has now devoted a major part of its efforts to supporting those arts.

Mr. Faulds

Since 8 per cent. VAT on the arts was attacked by both the right hon. Gentleman and myself when the Labour Government were in power, how is it that suddenly 15 per cent, is acceptable to the right hon. Gentleman now?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It is a question of balance. The increase in the rate of indirect taxation is what has enabled the rate of direct taxation to be reduced.