HC Deb 15 February 1982 vol 18 cc15-7
18. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, further to his reply to the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) Official Report, 18 January, column 16, if he will list the organisations that have expressed appreciation of the increase in the Arts Council grant.

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Paul Channon)

There has been generally widespread appreciation of the grant settlement for the Arts Council for the coming year, both from the council itself and from many individuals.

Mrs. Short

While I appreciate the Minister's endeavours to improve support for the arts, may I ask him to bear in mind that large numbers of companies outside London are in great difficulty because their Arts Council grant has not kept pace with inflation? Is he aware that in towns such as Wolverhampton, where we are trying to reopen a theatre, the situation is especially difficult? Will he ensure that additional resources are given for such purposes?

Mr. Channon

I cannot say that I can find additional resources. All things being considered, the vast majority of people believe that the Arts Council has this year had a reasonable increase in its money. I shall willingly look into the question of Wolverhampton. Perhaps the hon. Lady will be good enough to write to me about it.

Mr. Faulds

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that there will be increasing disapproval throughout the arts world if Arts Council appointments or dismissals—come to that—are made for political reasons? Does he appreciate the risks and damage that such a policy might introduce in the conduct of the arts in the hands of less responsible successors to the job than I?

Mr. Channon

The hon. Gentleman may be counting his chickens before they are hatched. I share his view. I should strongly deprecate such a practice were it to take place, but it has not. I have just appointed four new members of the Arts Council. I have not the faintest idea of their political views.

Mr. Jessel

As Arts Council money goes to support orchestras that play at the Royal Festival Hall, which thereby benefits indirectly, is my right hon. Friend aware of the reports of forthcoming concerts in aid of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which is not a charity but a political campaign, and which many of us profoundly believe will increase the dangers to our people? Will he invite the Arts Council to renew its vigilance to ensure that none of its money is used, even indirectly, to support such ends?

Mr. Channon

The Arts Council would be the first to wish not to support a political campaign, from whichever side of the House it may come. I have not seen the report, but I shall make immediate inquiries and be in touch with my hon. Friend.

Mr. Greville Janner

Is the Minister aware of the tremendous problems of the Haymarket and Phoenix theatres in Leicester? If I write to him about them will he afford the same courteous consideraton to Leicester's problems as he has kindly agreed to do to those of Wolverhampton?

Mr. Channon

I am always delighted to receive a letter from the hon. and learned Gentleman. Will he do something for me in return? Will he make sure that his city council does not discriminate against the arts in its decisions for the coming year?

Mr. Faulds

I welcome the four appointments that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, but is he pretending that he is not aware of Dr. Richard Hoggart's political leanings?

Mr. Channon

Not until he broadcast them in the press.

19. Mr. Butcher

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proportion of the Arts Council grant for 1982–83 will be spent in the regions.

Mr. Channon

In recent years the Arts Council has allocated over 60 per cent. of its grants to support activities outside London. Grants to individual arts organisations for 1982–83 have not yet been announced, but the regional arts associations and touring as a whole will receive increases above that in the council's total grant-in-aid.

Mr. Butcher

May I urge my right hon. Friend to continue the support for regional arts associations and to ensure that we do not have an overbearing obsession with facilities in the metropolis but consider our humbler neighbours down the M1, such as Birmingham and Manchester?

Mr. Channon

I shall continue such regional support. The Arts Council is well aware of the need to do so. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that the West Midlands Arts Council grants are increasing by about £80,000, which I hope will be some help.

Mr. McNally

Is the Minister aware that there are grave concerns in Manchester about the future of the Halle Orchestra? Will he assure us that he is concerned about the orchestra's future and about its local authority and Arts Council grants?

Mr. Channon

I am very concerned, having read the reports in the press. I hope that hon. Members will persuade local authorities not to discriminate against the arts in their distributions for the coming year. I have read reports that Manchester city is to withdraw entirely the grant from the Hallé Orchestra. Luckily, the overwhelming majority of the orchestra's money comes from the Arts Council and the metropolitan council. I very much hope that its activities will not be damaged.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is the Minister aware of the great consternation in the Northern region following his intervew on BBC North-East last week, when it was revealed that the Northern region is substantially worse off than many other regions, particularly in support from the Arts Council? Do not the areas of highest unemployment demand the highest cultural investment? Will he draw that fact to the attention of the Arts Council and ensure that the Northern region gets a greater proportion of what is available?

Mr. Channon

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, it is difficult to make that case. I am deeply aware of the strong support for the arts in the Northern region. Northern arts are getting a grant increase of about 141/2 per cent. Apart from Scotland and Wales, the Northern region probably has the highest proportion spent on the arts.

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