HC Deb 15 February 1982 vol 18 c17
20. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the size of the Government's arts budget expressed in absolute figures, as a percentage of total public expenditure and as a percentage of the gross national product.

Mr. Channon

Central Government expenditure on the arts amounted to £174 million in the financial year 1980–81, which is the latest year for which all the relevant figures are available. The relevant percentages were 0.2 and 0.1; I have no reason to believe they will be much different in the present year.

Mr. Jessel

As that is only about £3 per head per year or 1p per head per day for each person in the country, is it not extraordinarily good value in enriching the lives of the British people and attracting visitors, who produce revenue?

Mr. Channon

It most certainly is. I am sure that my hon. Friend was pleased to see that the Government recognised that, among other factors, when they announced their grants to the arts last year.

Mr. Faulds

Does the right hon. Gentleman, as Minister for the Arts, not agree that that minute proportion of expenditure on the arts is simply not enough and not good enough?

Mr. Channon

In our private capacities I believe that we could both say that. I do not believe that the records of both our Governments have fluctuated much over the years. The Government recognise the need to continue to support the arts. That is why I was able to make the announcement that I did last December.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend not concerned that at times, through the Arts Council, he might be enriching the lives of the rich by taxing the poor?

Mr. Channon

No. I do not believe that I would accept that. There is much evidence that it is a modest amount of money. There is an increasing audience for the arts from all sections of society. I hope very much that that trend will continue.