HC Deb 02 February 1981 vol 998 cc14-5
20. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he proposes to take any new initiatives to support the arts.

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Paul Channon)

I propose to support the arts in every way that I can, within the resources available.

Mr. Canavan

Now that the Prime Minister seems hell-bent on further increases in unemployment, and therefore on enforced additional leisure time, is that not an additional reason for more Government support for the arts? Why is there not a Cabinet Minister here to answer questions about the arts, especially as the previous Arts Minister was a member of the Cabinet, until he, too, became a victim of the Government's unemployed policies?

Mr. Channon

At least I can agree with the hon. Member that we need to support the arts. If he looks at the Government's record he will see that a great deal has been done to support the arts. I shall continue to do my best to make sure that that is the situation.

Mr. Jessel

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the 21-nation Council of Europe has been asked by the European Parliament to set up a European music year in 1985, which will be the tercentenary of the births of Bach, Handel and Scarlatti? Will he be prepared to enter into discussions on how the United Kingdom Government might give this scheme every possible encouragement?

Mr. Channon

I am most interested in what my right hon. Friend has told me. I shall be delighted to discuss this matter with him and all other relevant people. I should be grateful if he would get in touch with me.

Mr. Edward Lyons

In view of the strong cultural traditions of the East European and Asian minorities of this country, may I ask whether the Minister is satisfied that ethnic minorities are receiving a proper share of the moneys available, in order to improve their activities?

Mr. Channon

I am not sure that I am satisfied about that. I shall make inquiries about the matter with the Arts Council and others, and I shall write to the hon. and learned Member.

Mr. Faulds

Will the right hon. Gentleman understand if I temper my welcome to him with an expression of real regret that we have lost the services of his predecessor, who showed considerable concern for and understanding of the problems of the arts world, and whose dismissal has saddened all those who care about the arts? I do not want to appear too grudging in my welcome to the Minister, because I have considerable personal regard for him— [Interruption.] I have considerable personal regard for him, having worked with him in Europe on cultural matters. How does the Minister think that the demotion of the job for which he is now responsible, from Cabinet status to a rather inconsiderable Minister of State, will further the interests of the art world?

Mr. Channon

Wherever I go in the artistic world, I am told that my right hon. Friend did a great job. I am happy to confirm what the hon. Gentleman has said. As regards the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I shall have independent responsibility for the arts, and I shall also have responsibility for the arts budget. I have my own Question Time and a great measure of independence. Indeed, I am the first Minister for the Arts—with the exception of my right hon. Friend—ever to have been given a separate Question Time. That never happened under the Labour Government.