§ 4.8 pm
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)
I beg to move,That this House regrets the prolonged delay in response by Her Majesty's Government to the Third Report of the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts in Session 1980–81; deplores the effect of the Government's economic policies on the life and work of the Arts; and urges a reconsideration of its policies so as to increase the funding available for Arts and heritage purposes.A debate on the arts and our heritage is an extremely rare occurrence in the House. I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for doing your best to defend the time available for the debate. That such a debate is a rare occurrence is due to the fact that the subject is not normally, and should not be, one of party political dispute.
It is common ground that the arts and our heritage are of supreme importance to our country, and not only because of their civilising qualities. Their well-being should be seriously valued by the Treasury in the light of the vast income that they generate by way of tourism. But, general agreement cannot prevent criticism of the conduct of arts affairs.
A year ago the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts under the able chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) embarked on a detailed scrutiny, as a matter of the utmost urgency, of the dangers threatening the retention in this country of our cultural inheritance of works of art. Its report was unanimous and was widely welcomed. However, despite the fact that with one major exception—that of providing for tax credits when the value of the work of art surrendered in satisfaction of capital transfer tax exceeds the current tax liability—the reforms favoured by the Select Committee would not involve legislation, there has not so far been any response from Her Majesty's Government.
That is the more extraordinary in that it is allegedly the Government's policy to do everything in its power to encourage the retention of our cultural inheritance. What has emerged from the Select Committee's investigation, however, is that although the legislative means of carrying out the policy already exist, current administrative practice—for which the Office of Arts and Libraries is in no way to blame—is such as to lead to its frustration.
Responsibility for that state of affairs must be laid yet again at the door of the Treasury, whose extensive memorandum "Capital Taxation and the National Heritage", far too hastily issued in December 1980, did not find favour with the Select Committee which recommended its withdrawal "forthwith". The basic problem is that the Treasury and, above all, its almost autonomous limb, the Inland Revenue, has a vested interest in the preservation of as many administrative deterrents as possible in the way of those members of the public who would otherwise be eager to play their part in the retention of our heritage. Urgent as those genuinely constructive 604 solutions were when the Committee considered the problems a year ago, they have become even more pressing today.
I turn now to specific matters. Confusion still reigns concerning the consequences of the system whereby sales of heritage objects by private treaty take place to British public institutions and bodies. The fact that by statute, the proceeds of such sales cannot be subjected to capital transfer tax is now common ground. Indeed, the principle can be traced in statute as far back as the Finance Act 1921. That exemption meant that in negotiating a price to be paid, approved institutions were afforded an advantage over all other purchasers, the benefit naturally being shareable between the vendor and the acquiring body.
The confusion has arisen because a practice—and only a practice—was promoted in 1957 by administrative as distinct from statutory means to establish the apportionment of the benefit at a fixed percentage in every such transaction—25 per cent. to the vendor and 75 per cent. to the purchaser. The truth is that the Treasury and the Inland Revenue have no authority nor status to intervene in that way between independent vendors and independent purchasers. The fact that bargaining between such bodies is properly free and unfettered has only recently been brought to public notice and, is by implication, I believe, accepted by the Select Committee. Indeed, a number of sales of works of art by private treaty have recently taken place which have not conformed to that improper Treasury pretence. In practice, lower-priced items, sometimes of the greatest heritage significance, are sold on the public market rather than to public charities as the Treasury rules give virtually no benefit to the owners, whereas the higher-priced objects can give highly taxed owners over-inflated rewards for their possessions. I am sure that the Minister, if nobody else, knows what I am talking about.
I turn to one of the most disgraceful aspects of Treasury administration acting through the Inland Revenue. Although the law was designed to facilitate exemption from capital transfer tax of fine works of art in order to stem their flow on to the market for fiscal reasons, the administrative interpretation of the stipulation requiring "reasonable public access" at present frustrates the very purpose of the legislation. The Select Committee made it perfectly clear that there is an unfair anomaly as between works of art in great mansions, which can be readily opened to the public, and art treasures, sometimes only two or three items, in modest flats and houses. The existence of a list of viewable objects that the public may see by appointment is treated by the Inland Revenue as a last resort for exemption purposes. Instead, it usually insists that before exemption is granted owners must offer long-term loans of their possessions to often reluctant museums. Many owners, not caring to be harassed by the Inland Revenue in that way, therefore decide to sell on the open market, with the frequent result that the objects leave Britain and go overseas. This should and must be mitigated by an appropriate ministerial guideline to the Inland Revenue.
The key issue considered by the Select Committee was that of the discharge of tax liabilities. Even now, it is not generally understood that, while works of art accepted in satisfaction of capital tax are not themselves subject to such tax, in computing the tax liability to be discharged by that surrender the Treasury claws back 75 per cent. of the tax which would have been payable had the object not been exempt. That is a ludicrous situation.
605 In view of the evidence that these "take it or leave it" terms are not sufficiently attractive to tax debtors in such circumstances, the Select Committee recommended that the administrative clawback, which has no statutory basis, should be reduced to 25 per cent. Undoubtedly if the Government were to accept that percentage, the worries of those who seek to retain our heritage would be greatly diminished. As any attempt to assist such a cause in that way would undoubtedly go against the Treasury's renowned philistinism, will the Minister for the Arts not persuade his colleagues in Government to overrule the entrenched Treasury mandarins for once and split the difference to an equitable 50–50? And I hope that the Select Committee would find that acceptable?
Everyone understands that the Treasury and the Inland Revenue are not concerned about the heritage in the way that the Minister certainly is, and that they surreptitiously welcome its disposal for taxable cash. In this, alas, they possess tacit allies in Sotheby's and Christie's, those vultures of the art world—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Too strong".] The epithet is well merited—which are after the exorbitant commissions that they charge both to seller and buyer alike.
One of the problems of heritage retention in Britain is the buying power of foreign institutions. This was recently and dramatically highlighted by news that the Getty foundation in California now enjoys an income of some $55 million which, under federal law, has to be spent annually to preserve the foundation's tax-free charitable status. Think what a serious challenge that is to the retention of works of art in Britain. The writing is clearly on the wall, and the Government should waste no more months or years but should take immediate steps along the lines so wisely recommended by the Select Committee a year ago.
Another area in which the Government's response has been more than tardy is that of public lending right. The framework for a scheme was eventually established by legislation, but the administrative details have had to await further discussions with interested parties and, finally decision by the Minister. Three years of pretty intermittent consultation have ensued and we still await the outcome. That was not the timetable promised by the Minister's predecessor. The Registrar has been appointed and we wish him well, but we wish him also early and full employment. Public lending right cannot be paid until the registrar has asked for and received applications for author registration and until the first sample of loans from the 16 selected libraries have been taken. None of that can start until the House approves the administrative scheme.
It now appears clear, however, that the Minister is resisting the principle of reciprocity of payment—that is, the payment of British PLR to authors in any other country whose scheme makes payments to British authors. In two years of operation, the West German society for the payment of library loans has already paid £80, 000 to British authors and a further £20, 000 is held over for tax reasons, so British authors are already some £100, 000 better off. As the Minister is well aware, the West Germans are now warning that if reciprocity is not introduced "difficulties may arise"—in other words, if a British scheme does not provide for payments to German authors, the Germans will feel obliged to stop payments to British authors.
The point here is that Britain is likely to be the gainer from reciprocity because of three factors. First, more 606 British authors would receive payments from Germany than would German authors from our public lending right. Secondly, the West German PLR is on a more generous scale. Thirdly, payments to the estates of dead writers not intended to be covered by our scheme means that a wider spectrum of authors is eligible under the German scheme.
I would not describe the reluctance to introduce reciprocity as understandable. It is, however, caused by the special problem of the English-speaking book market in the United States. But there is no sign whatever that the United States Government is even contemplating a public lending right scheme. Under the Reagan Administration, there is not the remotest likelihood of it. The right hon. Gentleman really should do the equitable thing and accept reciprocal payments with countries that have a reasonable PLR scheme. There is one other point on this matter.
The Minister would be well advised to listen to the arguments put to him that the limit paid out to any one author from the pool should be £1, 500. His idea of a £500 maximum payment for any one book could mean that one or two popular authors would scoop the pool. The right hon. Gentleman and his predecessor have both been well advised by the Writers Action Group. On this matter, too he should listen to them.
A great deal is heard from Government propagandists about how well the Government have done for the arts. But everyone who actually works in the arts knows that the financial pressures on them are more severe now than ever. The Government are trying to spread euphoria simply because the cuts are less than some people feared. That is hardly a cause for self-congratulation.
What kind of record has this Government got:? I mentioned earlier the need to make critical comments on the conduct of arts affairs. Pledged in Opposition not to make—all hon. Members remember the phrase—"candle end" savings in the arts, one of the Government's first acts in office was to cut £1.5 million from the Arts Council's previously announced cash grant for 1979–80. The strains that the cut imposed cast a financial shadow into 1980–81. They prevented the Arts Council from taking full benefit from the grant in that year, which had been scarcely generous to begin with. In 1981–82, and again in 1982–83, the grant to the Arts Council has fallen below the rate of inflation.
I wish that the Minister's predecessor, the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), were present to take part in the debate. Ah! He is. His head is hung lower than is his wont. If, perhaps, someone will awaken him, he will take part. I am glad to welcome him because we all have the greatest admiration for his record in the arts.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted capital and revenue figures to make the 1981–82 increase for arts organisations look bigger than it was, and then—I am sorry to have to level an accusatory figure at him—blamed the Arts Council for cutting out clients, as it had to do to make ends meet. I think his article in The Sunday Times was one of those little things that one day he will come to regret. The right hon. Gentleman said that he knew nothing about the cuts. One wonders, in that case, why his assessor wz s present at the critical Arts Council meeting that made the decisions. Nobody has suggested that he was not.
But for 1982–83, the present Minister quotes revenue figures without the capital because, this time, that calculation makes better reading. It is all a question of presentation. Even the better figure, however, leaves the 607 Arts Council grant a good 3 per cent. down in real terms. No one can deny that. Sadly, the Arts Council tends to be the scapegoat for governments' inadequate funding of the arts. All hon. Members saw how much stick the poor Arts Council got when it decided, in December 1980, to cut grant to 41 of the companies that it had been subsidising. The expectation was absurdly abroad that somehow the Council could stretch the amount it was given annually to support an ever-increasing number of commitments. Anthony Field has explained—and as finance director of the Arts Council, he should know—that the Arts Council was over extended because, in the years of relative prosperity, it took on 300 to 400 theatre and dance groups on the experimental and fringe edges of the arts as well as subsidising the major arts organisations, which is its prime purpose.
And misguidely, in those years, the Council had taken on the grant support of amateur youth organisations such as the National Youth Orchestra, the National Youth Theatre, and the Youth Brass Band, all of which did admirable educational work among young people in fostering both artistic skills and artistic appreciation. But those organisations were more properly the direct responsibility of the Department of Education and Science. It was not the Council's job to fund amateur activities. It should never have been talked into doing so. The Council's concern is professional work. Those, like the director of the National Youth Theatre, who have been stridently vociferous in attacking the Council, have intentionally misunderstood the demarcation. It would have been an unacceptable anomaly to have maintained the marginal grants for these amateur educational activities while having to terminate the funding of professional companies.
There are other areas in which the Arts Council, because of inadequate funding to do all that is expected of it, has had to draw in its horns. The Council has withdrawn its grant to the New Fiction Society, set up eight years ago to help increase sales of new fiction and to give a needed fillip to the chances of a new writer being taken up by a publisher. The New Fiction magazine had an influential circulation. But all that, has had to be abandoned. The Arts Council has had to take the usual stick because of that.
Another practice, of value to new composers, has been severely curtailed. The four independent London orchestras had been receiving special grants towards presenting modern works in their regular programmes, as, I am sure, the right hon. Gentleman is well aware. That subsidy was needed because new works require more rehearsal and because such concerts usually draw smaller audiences—an unfortunate fact of musical life. So an effort to sponsor and support contemporary composers has suffered most damagingly.
Again, a body named Artlaw Services had been established to give information and advice to artists on art-related legal matters. This advice covered everything from contracts to copyright, obscenity, landlord and tenant problems and so on. The Arts Council was driven to withdraw grant aid in 1981–82 from such a valuable service to artists who are at a philosophical and practical disadvantage in dealing with the denizens of the business and legal world whom they have to encounter.
I wish now to examine the damage to some of the more prestigious operations. The Royal Opera House is to get 608 £9.5 million for 1982–83. A good figure in the circumstances, say the Government. But the Royal Opera House is buying talent in competition with international opera and dance houses overseas. The Paris Opera's grant is nearly £30 million—for which it gives fewer performances than the Royal Opera House. Both the chairman, Sir Claus Moser, and the general administrator, Sir John Tooley, have warned that opera and ballet at the Royal Opera House face a bleak future. It is no wonder that Covent Garden has to cancel productions to stay afloat.
The Royal Ballet's dancers are so badly paid by international standards that they are starting to look abroad for jobs. Other British dance companies pay their dancers even less, not because they want to or because they are mean minded, but because they are too hard up to do better.
What of the Royal Shakespeare Company, one of the finest professional outfits in the country? The Arts Council has scraped the barrel to find it a 17½ per cent. increase for 1982–83. It had asked for a 30 per cent. increase. Even that splendid company says it needs that 30 per cent. to maintain its programme and method of operation, to cover its work at its two theatres in Stratford—I know them fairly well—and its first season in its new home at the Barbican and the Pit. No one knows yet the quality of work that will be turn up there.
The British Film Institute holds a priceless archive of early film. It is on nitrate stock, vulnerable to decay and total loss. To ensure its preservation, it has to be transferred to acetate stock. Here again, the money made available is not enough. The total preservation budget of £675, 000 is calculated to be less than half of what is needed to preserve this endangered and irreplaceable national film heritage.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (East Grinstead)
Surely the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that this programme be halted and scrapped. Is it not going ahead with all possible speed?
§ Mr. Faulds
It is going ahead with all possible speed, but, unfortunately, with not enough speed. More stock comes into their vaults each year, and the programme that it was hoped would be completed by the year 2000 is simply not feasible within that time scale. That organisation needs twice the amount of money that is presently available, and if it does not get it, much of that valuable stock will not be there come the year 2000. The hon. Gentleman should know that better than anyone. I am arguing for an enormous increase in the funding of that operation.
The Minister has had clear warning from the national museums and the art galleries. The V and A already does not open at all on Fridays. The National Gallery and the Tate may be reduced to opening only a small number of their rooms. Dr. Wilson of the British Museum warned the Select Committee that if its funding were not increased, the museum would have to close down in two years. What a comment on the Government's conduct of its responsibilities in this regard!
§ The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Paul Channon)
In reading out that large catalogue of insufficient moneys for 609 the arts, is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that when the Labour Party was in power things were better in real terms?
§ Mr. Faulds
As the Minister well knows, there is an accumulation of problems in the arts. We were the innovators, in that it was we who first introduced a Minister for the Arts. We should be given due credit for that. So far, no arts Minister has yet been given the funding that his responsibilities require. I hope that the Minister would agree with that. I hope that future arts Ministers will be more fortunate in terms of funding so that they can do the job properly. Later I shall make some suggestions in my speech about this very problem.
Let me finish this catalogue of woe. I have'nt yet done! Many arts and cultural activities in both the academic and public sectors are being eroded by the reduction in funds under the Government's present economic policies. Universities and local authorities throughout the country are cutting back on arts, theatres and library spending. Education authorities in all parts of the country are retrenching by imposing cuts on drama and music teaching, under the duress of the Government's damaging economic restraints. The Advisory Council for Adult and Continuing Education has warned that finance for adult education has been cut by more than one third in real terms over the past few years. Indeed, there is a danger that the entire service in some areas might be discontinued.
Community arts are being denied funding, yet community arts have been such a heartening growth area over the last few years. This is a vital area where every effort is made to arouse interest and participation in all sorts of artistic activities among the mass of the apathetic and, so far, unaware majority. The future of artistic life in this country depends on that work and on a greatly expanded and more effective educational approach to exciting and infecting people with an interest in the arts.
When the Government first came into office, there were great expectations of a boom in business sponsorship. The Minister will remember that the Government placed considerable reliance on the response of the business community. Lord Goodman, the chairman of the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts—and he should know—is on record as expecting no growth in the present trading climate. Sothebys is pulling out because of the recession. How many more companies will find it impossible to continue their funding for arts purposes? In any event, it is irresponsible that arts organisations should have to rely on such a fickle source of financial support. Only in the last few days, a well-known music organisation—the Nash Ensemble—has been told that it will not now receive promised sponsorship for a concert because the chairmanship of the company involved has changed. What sort of a basis for forward planning is that?
All this is happening in an industry that is a huge net earner for Britain. The £3½ billion tourist industry relies heavily on the arts in attracting overseas visitors. The arts contribute to the economy directly through VAT and income tax, quite apart from the substantial exploitation income derived from royalties world-wide. Investing in the arts—I use that phrase purposely—is not just investing in the quality of life, important though that is, but it is investing in Britain's prosperity. What is so absurd about Government stinginess in this area is that we are talking about peanuts in money terms. The entire arts scene in this country could be transformed at a fraction of the cost of 610 a Trident missile or at the cost of three miles of motorway—[Interruption.]. I am glad that I have the Minister's agreement. For the Government to regard spending on the arts as some kind of virility test, and for them to be as penny-pinching as they can be, is quite ludicrous.
§ Mr. Jack Dormand (Easington)
I remind my hon. Friend that in some cases, the regional arts associations depend heavily on local authority contributions. The Minister should have been the last to say what he did, in view of the fact that the wretched local government legislation now being pushed through the House is squeezing local authorities, which are thereby unable to make the kind of generous contributions that they have made in the past.
§ Mr. Faulds
My. hon. Friend is quite right to criticise the Minister on that score. I made a fleeting reference to it, but it is all part of the damaging picture of the overall effects of the Government's policies on the life and work of the arts throughout the country.
Let me make a few suggestions. In an admirable lecture to the National Theatre a year or so ago, Sir Roy Shaw said that in general the arts are under-subsidised, under-patronised, under-valued and under-distributed. I am sure that the Minister agrees with me and Sir Roy on that. Does he agree with the simple proposition that the 0.1 per cent. of national expenditure that government spend on the arts is simply not enough, and that this Government and ours who will follow must greatly increase that minute proportion—[Horn. MEMBERS: "When?") As soon as we are given a chance of going to the country. I wish that the Government would do so, because while they may have an unhealthy experience, the country would have a healthy one
Does not the Minister agree that there are other areas of need for financial subvention which will inevitably require public moneys either from central Government or from local authorities in the near future? The British film industry is near collapse. The Royal Academy cannot for ever exist on a profferred begging bowl. There is an accumulation of oral history interviews that needs a body to collect and collate in a new archive. What is happening about that? A policy decision must be taken, backed by the necessary funding, to take the performing arts on to the shop floor. Incidentally, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone), who regrets that he cannot be present, was an innovator of that policy.
The National Trust may need bailing out with its heritage of properties, and perhaps, because of that, may have to be subsumed in the new heritage quango to be set up by the Secretary of State for the Environment.
There will have to be a rescue operation to keep alive and keep open London's West End theatres that are coming under increasing risk because of the vagaries of ownership and expiring leases. The great university museums of Cambridge and Oxford, London and Glasgow will inevitably have to be given direct support from the Exchequer. There is no way in which that will be avoided. So one could go on. The Scottish museums need funding. The Welsh museums need funding.
These matters are not fantasies of my fevered mind—they are the real problems of Britain's cultural life 611 in the 80s and 90s of this chaotic century. I believe we must meet those challenges with a drastic review and reorganisation of our arts responsibilities.
Two radical approaches are essential. First, we must require of local authorities a mandatory raising of an arts and heritage rate at some national figure, which should be used to finance the work of enlarged and reorganised regional arts associations across the whole range of arts life; theatre support, greatly increased community arts that would allow ordinary and so far non-artistic folk to do their own thing in whatever medium pleased and excited them, youth and adult education in arts response, expenditure on the heritage of old houses and collections, industrial archaeology in which I believe trade unions should play a greater role, the recording of local history, the regional touring of national companies and any number of related and relevant activities. Those enlarged and properly funded regional arts associations should be made democratically accountable by involving in their running local administrators and the practitioners themselves, as well as the more hard-headed local authority representatives.
The second radical innovation that is needed is a greatly enlarged ministry. I hope that the Minister can bring that about and, if he cannot, I hope that, whoever his successor may be, he will. Such a ministry would not be responsible just for the small range of performing arts, museums, art galleries and libraries and crafts as at present, but would be a cultural and heritage ministry that should take over the whole range of the heritage—houses, archaeological sites and all the rest—from the Department of the Environment whose Minister really has quite enough on his plate without those.
We should rescue films from the Department of Trade where the once great British film industry languishes and withers away. In that ministry, perhaps we should consider the inclusion of tourism, because all these matters are related.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
I am most interested in the hon. Gentleman's suggestions. There seems some doubt as to their exact status. The hon. Gentleman speaks from the Front Bench. Are we to take it that these are now the policies of the Opposition or personal reflections which, however interesting, have no political validity?
§ Mr. Faulds
I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to be a little patient. I assure him that these are not my fantasies but are matters being considered by various arts bodies within the Labour movement. I hope that, with my admirable advocacy, they will be adopted as party policy, but let us wait and see. We can but hope.
I hope that I have the backing of the right hon. Member for Chelmsford in wanting to see these changes. A little nod in affirmation will do. No nod is forthcoming. Such a Ministry should have its own departmental funding and, of course, a seat in the Cabinet, which the right hon. Member for Chelmsford was once fortunate enough to have. On both the arts and heritage, the Minister should retain that invaluable British device—the arm's length principle.
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman 612 to take three quarters of an hour in a three-hour debate and then to expect the House to listen to him summing up as well? If everybody does that there will be time for only three speakers.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
Order. It is in order, of course, for hon. Members to speak for as long as they like but I remind the House that this debate will be interrupted by private business at seven o'clock.
§ Mr. Faulds
I assure the hon. Member for Twickenham, on his plea that he be allowed time to speak, that I have spoken for only 35 minutes and not for three quarters of an hour. I am about to terminate my observations and I hope that he will bear with me for another moment.
§ Mr. Faulds
It is indeed.
The retention of that "arm's length" principle is essential. We do not want in Britain a Minister with control of decisions that should be taken in the practice of either arts or heritage matters. If such a ministry is established in those circumstances, then and only then will there be real hope for our sorely beleaguered arts life, under the present policies of the Government, and our endangered treasury of the heritage. All those who follow these matters are aware of that. I hope that I carry the Minister, his predecessor and the House with me in these arguments.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Before I call the Minister to speak, perhaps I should say again that this is a three-hour debate by general consent and that all hon. Members should remember that when making speeches.
§ The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Paul Channon)
We have heard a wide-ranging speech from the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds). I shall attempt to be briefer, knowing that there are many hon. Members who wish to participate in the debate. The hon. Member for Warley, East often reminds me of Mount Vesuvius: he sits quietly for months behaving, himself and being perfectly reasonable and just occasionally blows his top.
I view the motion with sorrow rather than anger. Most hon. Members are strongly in favour of the arts and are delighted to debate them. It is a great pity that this debate should be on a critical motion of this sort, which is unparalleled in the history of British arts debates. I hope to show that the motion is unjustified. It is the greatest pity that we must debate it in this way. I wonder whether anyone will vote for this preposterous motion. It will be interesting to see whether any hon. Member goes into the Lobby to support it.
I well remember in 1964, during an American election campaign, Senator Barry Goldwater's election slogan:In your heart, you know he's right.The hon. Gentleman knows in his heart that he is wrong.
§ Mr. Channon
Nevertheless, I shall take the debate seriously and write to those hon. Members I cannot reply to—clearly I shall have little time to reply—with the leave of the House.
The House knows that I cannot say anything today about the Select Committee's report because the 613 Government have not replied to it. There has been an intensive study within the Government. There are seven Departments involved, which is not unprecedented. They include Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and I can name them all if required. Of course, the Government will speak with a united voice when they reply. I cannot believe that delays of this sort are unprecedented. Of course, I shall note what is said in the debate, although that may have the effect of further delaying our reply—unless the debate is to be a charade and I am to press ahead with our reply, which is on the verge of completion, without paying any attention to this debate.
I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Select Committee and its work in the arts. I also pay tribute to the British Library report which my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) accepted. I now look forward to the British Library getting under way. The Government took note of the ICCROM report which had a major effect and I particularly look forward to its major report on the funding of the arts which we will want to study with great care.
We are on the verge of final approval of the last White Paper to which this debate refers. I hoped to have an answer to the report within a month or even quicker, but I shall now have to consider what is said in the debate. I hope that it will not change things too much.
The hon. Member for Warley, East raised the position of the Minister for the Arts. Of course, any idea of an enlarged Ministry would be a matter for the Prime Minister of the day, not for me and, I suspect, not for him, unless he is promoted rather quickly. In case there is any misunderstanding, I must tell the House that I already have independent responsibility for the arts and the arts budget which will be separately identified in future public expenditure White Papers. I have my own Question Time and I am able to consult the Prime Minister directly. The hon. Gentleman will recall the Prime Minister's answer to him on this point on 2 February last year. I say that in case there is any misunderstanding by him or anyone else.
On the general question of the heritage, I cannot go into the details of the Select Committee's report. However, our firm policy is to preserve the heritage, both in public and private hands, for the benefit and enjoyment of everyone. I strongly believe that private owners should be helped to retain ownership of outstanding works of art, provided that they agree to care for them on behalf of the public and afford reasonable access to them.
There should be incentives to sell to public collections or, where appropriate, to offer them in lieu of tax. There is clearly an interest which must be balanced between that of the Government and that of the private owner. A number of the Committee's recommendations are concerned with where and how that balance should be struck. Obviously these are difficult matters of judgment about which the Government want to come to a decision very soon.
I recognise—it was borne in on me almost on the first day that I became Minister for the Arts—that there is bipartisan agreement in the House that we should have clear and simple guidance on the measures for protecting works of art. I assure the House that as soon as the Select Committee's report is published we shall move ahead to the publication of a simple guide, as I announced to the hon. Member for Warley, East some time ago. There will first be the reply. Later, simple notes of guidance will be 614 prepared. Perhaps I am in danger of leaking the Government's reply, but I do not think so, because I said this in an answer to the hon. Gentleman some time ago.
§ Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)
I want to be clear what the Minister means. Is he saying that he intends to delay publication of the simple guide until after the Committee's subsequent major report on the funding of the arts?
§ Mr. Channon
No; but if the Select Committee makes such fundamental proposals and the Government accept them all, no doubt it will have to be rewritten. But that is not our intention, and I hope that the simple guide will be ready in the not too distant future.
The hon. Member for Warley, East complains about the national heritage, the inadequate resources for it and the rest of it. Of course they may be inadequate. Hon. Members on both sides of the. House agree that more could be done. But I ask hon. Members to consider what the Government have done in setting up the national heritage memorial fund and the achievement of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford—
§ Mr. Channon
But the hon. Gentleman's party did nothing about it. It is just like public lending right. It may have been the Labour Government's idea, but nothing happened.
More than £12 million was made available to set up the national heritage memorial fund. It got £3 million this year plus £1 million for acceptances in lieu. Next year it will get another £3 million plus £2 million for acceptances in lieu—about £5 million in all—and that is a most welcome addition to the facilities available for protecting the national heritage.
When the Labour Government were in office—and I have to make these points since I am attacked—the national land fund was about the only creation that was any good. No specific fund was available. There was no declared level of funding. The extraordinary example of Mentmore shows what a muddle the Government got into in the absence of a fund of this kind.
§ Mr. Channon
As I understand the hon. Gentleman's motion, he is criticising the Government and me. I am saying what this Government have done, which is exceedingly creditable.
The national heritage memorial fund, by almost universal consent, has done a very good job. It has saved Canons Ashby. It has made grants for the national film archive, the Tunnicliffe drawings, and the "Mary Rose" trust, and many pictures have been saved. I could give plenty of other examples.
At the same time, the Government's indemnity scheme provides security for local galleries and other institutions when loans are being made or exhibitions are taking place that are in the public interest. Anyone who saw the Japanese exhibition at the Royal Academy will know what a help the Government indemnity scheme was to that exhibition. In addition, there are many regional exhibitions to which the Government indemnity scheme has been of considerable help.
Until now—and I hope that after today's debate is over we can return to it—there has been pretty well bipartisan agreement that both parties in turn when in office have 615 done their best for the arts and that Ministers of both parties have done their best for the arts. To hear the hon. Member for Warley, East talking, anyone would imagine that the arts had not had economic problems throughout history. Is there any moment in history when the arts have not had economic problems? Does the hon. Gentleman imagine that at the time of Mozart the arts did not have economic problems? There have been economic problems throughout history in dealing with the arts and artists. We are doing our utmost to try to help, within the resources available to the country, to do the best that we can for the arts, and our achievement has not been bad.
I have taken note of what the hon. Member for Warley, East said about public lending right. The public lending right scheme is with the printers. It will be published in a few weeks. I could give full details to the House, but perhaps it would be better to await publication. I have met the authors on all points except one, and I shall explain in detail why I have not met them on that when I speak on the public lending right scheme.
§ Mr. Channon
Half are justified, half are not, and the ones that are justified are unjustified because there are very good reasons for the course that I am taking.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Before the Minister leaves the national heritage memorial fund, does he agree that there is a problem with certain collections, especially of scientific papers? I refer specifically to Dr. Joseph Needham's great collection at Cambridge. There is great difficulty in finding a home for it. The national heritage memorial fund says that it may be outwith its remit, yet there is a problem. Could anything be done to reflect on solving it?
§ Mr. Channon
I shall examine the point raised by the hon. Gentleman and write to him about it. If other hon. Members draw my attention to other details, I shall take them up and write to the hon. Members concerned. I have only a few minutes at my disposal if other hon. Members are to have a fair share of the proceedings.
The national heritage memorial fund is an independent fund and represents a great achievement and an important step forward in protecting the country's heritage.
The third part of the Opposition's motion says that we should spend much more money on the arts and the heritage. In our private capacities, I dare say that the hon. Member for Warley, East and I will agree about that. When he was in office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford said that no Government had provided enough money. In our private lives, we can agree about that. But at a time of serious economic problems, can it reasonably be argued that the arts have not done well? I claim that the arts have done extraordinarily well at a time of economic difficulty.
I must make these points to the hon. Member for Warley, East. It is all very well for him to criticise me and my arts grant. Does he realise that there was one year after an economic crisis when in real terms the Labour Government cut the Arts Council's grant by 10 per cent.? Is he proud of that? If I had attempted to cut it by 10 per cent. in real terms, I hate to think of the criticism that I 616 would have had from the hon. Gentleman. When he looks at all the arts figures, taking into account the new responsibilities for the British Library and the new responsibilities of the national heritage memorial fund, I challenge the hon. Gentleman to name any year in British history in which more has been spent on the arts in real terms. If the hon. Gentleman can do that, I shall vote for his motion.
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
The present state of our local authorities is quite unprecedented. For the first time ever, the Hallé orchestra is under threat because Manchester corporation cannot find the £30, 000 which it has always given—and more in the past. This example can be multiplied many times. These are very important matters in the regions. I know that people in London may not think very much about them, but in the North-West they excite great passions.
§ Mr. Channon
I think constantly about them, and I am continually begging local authorities, in making their difficult dispositions, not to discriminate against the arts. Will the hon. Member for Warley, East use his influence with Manchester? It is not my party which is in control of that local authority. It is extraordinary that the Halle orchestra's grant should have been cut. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will take advantage of any opportunity that he has to discuss it with his colleagues from Manchester.
I am not pretending to be complacent. There are many problems in the arts. There always have been, and there always will be. But many developments are coming along, and many in the future outside London. I am passionately keen for there to be developments outside London.
The Bradford museum of photography is a great new museum which will be opening this year. New theatres will be opening in Plymouth, Swansea and Leeds this year. In Bath, I hope with the support of a large amount of private money, a theatre will open next year. In Leeds, a new Henry Moore gallery is to be opened, I hope, by the end of this year. In Nottingham, there is to be a new concert hall. In London, the Barbican is to be opened by the Queen next week. The Tate gallery is going ahead with its Turner extension. For the first time for years that huge hole behind the National gallery will be built on and we shall have an extension to the gallery.
I am delighted to tell the House that I have decided to allocate the papers of the first Duke of Wellington to Southampton university, they having been accepted in lieu of estate duty, subject to completion of satisfactory accommodation for them in the university library. So we shall be getting major archives outside London as well as all these other activities.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford set the ball rolling, and I am glad to be able to announce that it has been brought to fruition.
We have given extra help to the film archive. Contrary to what the hon. Member for Warley, East said, an additional £200, 000 has been set aside out of current and capital expenditure. The Henry Cole building is going ahead in the Victoria and Albert, which will see the most dramatic transformation in that museum in modern history.
§ Mr. Channon
I should like to finish in five minutes. It is unfair to the House if I give way much more. The hon. Member for Warley, East spoke for about 45 minutes—
§ Mr. Channon
It seemed like 112.
In recent years, under Governments of both parties, we have seen an enormous increase in access to the arts in touring opera and ballet companies and modern dance. Even as we speak, the Royal Shakespeare Company is in Newcastle. The subsidised theatre has reached new heights. Anyone who saw Nicholas Nickleby with the RSC, or Oresteia at the National Theatre knows that the subsidised theatre is at the top of the league for theatres.
§ Mr. Channon
For the foreseeable future.
In the commercial theatre, in spite of enormous problems, there have been a great many successes. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford started a campaign for business sponsorship. I have built on what he started and added to it. It goes from strength to strength every week. For example, there is the sponsorship by Barclays International of the Royal Ballet Company which is worth £500, 000 over four years and AMOCO's further support of the Welsh National Opera worth over £450, 000. The hon. Member for Warley, East spoke in unflattering terms about Sotheby's, but last week it announced support for an important poetry competition.
§ Mr. Michael Marshall (Arundel)
The hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) made a dangerous remark. He said that this was a hand-to-mouth way to go about things. I trust that my right hon. Friend will pick up that point. I remind him that companies such as IBM and Martini have been underwriting the Chichester festival for many years.
§ Mr. Channon
I agree with my hon. Friend. There are many examples and many new firms are coming in. I started a regional campaign and I have a booklet about that with me, which is a supplement to that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford. It advises arts organisations that sponsorship can be mutually beneficial.
The hon. Member for Warley, East said that company sponsorship would be fickle but the 41 companies cut off by the Arts Council last year thought that the Arts Council had been fickle. There may have been good reasons for those cuts. Sponsorship is not fickle. It has been an excellent supplement, not a subsidy, to the money that has been spent on the arts.
I have been asked about Government expenditure. I have shown that we are spending large amounts of money this year. The hon. Gentleman has not yet been able to tell me a year in which any other Government did better. I cannot prejudge the specific decisions the Government will take in future because a great deal depends on controlling inflation. I look forward to the continuation of public support for the arts without fundamental change.
British arts are as good as they ever have been. We lead the world in theatre, music, opera, ballet, painting and writing. The motion is palpable nonsense. The Government's policy on the arts is that they should be sustained at an excellent level. Central Government expenditure on the arts should maintain the centres of excellence. There should be more help in the regions. I have shown that there are exciting developments afoot.
I agree that the proportion of money spent by the Government on the arts is only 0.1 per cent. of the gross 618 national product. It represents a splendid deal for people in this country and is worth every penny that successive Governments have spent on the arts.
In view of what the hon. Member for Warley, East has said about Government support for the arts and the mean way in which we are supposed to be handling them, I have here a whole sheaf of press cuttings about the grants announced last December. They say, for example,Victory for arts in grants battle.Relief in the art world over higher grants.Arts leaders cheer up…Arts Council gets extra £6 million.Victory for the arts…Museums sigh with relief.Arts Minister announces 1982 budget: it's not all gloom.The Times said:In present circumstances the allocation is a reasonable one, and it should cause none of the predicted devastation.With regard to the opera house Sir Claus Moser said:I think the Arts grant is a terrific achievement by the Minister.I am not trying to be complacent, or show off, or blow my own trumpet. However, if the Government are unreasonably attacked by the hon. Member for Warley, East, I am entitled to reply and to show that he is wrong.
Those are just some of the quotations that I could read to the House. Even the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) was good enough, at Question Time on Monday, to pay tribute to me. I am grateful to her. Perhaps she is joining the SDP—I am not sure.
§ Mr. Channon
I am only teasing.
Mr. Kenneth Robinson chairman of the Arts Council, said that he was grateful to me. I could read out a whole list of tributes the Government—and occasionally personal ones—to what has been done to help to keep the arts going in these difficult times. The motion is a preposterous sham. All of us want to debate the arts but it is ridiculous that we should have to waste our time debating this motion, and I ask the House to reject it contemptuously.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. So that there may not be too much disappointment, I repeat that 14 hon. Members—there may be more—are anxious to take part in the debate.
§ 5.5 pm
§ Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)
With regard to the Minister's remarks about the publication of his response to the report of the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts and the need to take the views of hon. Members into account, I urge the right hon. Gentleman not to allow the debate to cause any delay. I am sure that the views that will be expressed will be relevant but I do not expect them to change the way that the Government are going. I hope that the debate will hasten, rather than delay, the publication of the response. I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to allow the debate to be used as an excuse by those who, for malign reasons, want to delay the response. I hope that the publication of the response will come quickly so that the right hon. Gentleman can come before the Select Committee and discuss the matter with us.
The first part of my remarks this evening will be made in my capacity as Chairman of the Select Committee, which, while it has produced this report on this aspect., is 619 in the middle of what is probably the most substantial review of funding policy on the Arts since the Second World War. The report will not be printed for a few months yet. Whereas I shall address myself to the report, it is worth emphasising that the Committee is in the middle of considering issues wider than this one and that none of my remarks should be considered to be my words on the subject.
Of all the Select Committee's activities, this report on the arts and the previous one about the British Library are unanimous. There was no significant difference between us about the general thrust of what we were putting forward. The report was not on issues that involved as much money as others. However, it was one of the most critical reports that the Committee made not of the Minister or his predecessor, but of the sheer muddle that has been allowed to persist over the years. One might be able to argue about the 75 per cent.—I am sure that the Treasury will—and whether it is the right percentage, but the Committee was unanimous that the situation is intolerable.
One of the problems, particularly for Labour Members, is that over the last few years art has increasingly become a marketable commodity. It is used, wrongly and dishonourably, for speculation, private gain and tax evasion by a minority of people. Even though objects of art are used in that way, the Select Committee did not feel that that fact should stand in the way of having a sensible system of preserving for our people our national heritage, whether in public or private hands. That is the principle that underlay our report.
Some of the evidence that we received was horrifying. We heard evidence that individual civil servants, particularly in the capital taxes office, on the excuse of preserving every penny to which the Exchequer might in any circumstances be entitled, lost chance after chance of preserving items for the citizens of Britain. The actions of those civil servants were almost an incentive for the sale and disappearance of certain items abroad. The daughter of one of Britain's most distinguished artists told us about the activities of the capital taxes office after her father's death. It held up settlement of the estate for month after month and insisted that she hawked objects left to her round the museums before the estate could be wound up. That is one example of the way that individual civil servants pursue people. As my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) rightly said, they work to principles that have no force of law.
I am pleased to hear that the Minister is well on his way to issuing clear guidance on such matters. We shall be pleased to see his response to the report. I shall say no more on that topic. My hon. Friend put the issue clearly, and I agree with every word he said.
I make a plea about tax credits. It is a difficult issue. The paper put to the Committee by the former Minister of State, Treasury, was petty and hopelessly unsatisfactory. Select Committees should not be confronted with such small-minded arguments. It was a concatenation of tiny objections.
Certain works of art are of great value. Unless a tax credit system is available, works such as the Leonardo codex will leave the country. The Inland Revenue might raise difficulties, but I urge the Minister to continue to fight his corner.
620 I have one or two other points to make. The British Film Institute crisis is real. I acknowledge that extra money has been put aside for the BFI, but the chemicals eating into the films are working at a faster pace than the money is coming in through the right hon. Gentleman. The problem is temporary. Only old films are subject to the deterioration. A once-and-for-all injection of money could save part of our heritage. It is absurd for Members of Parliament literally to watch the films disintegrate in front of their eyes. I do not know whether the Minister saw the BFI film about the state of part of its stock. The money coming in is not sufficient to save it.
Now that the Minister is in the Department of Education and Science, I urge him to look at what is happening to the arts within individual local authorities. The rate support grant cuts are hitting areas where no statutory duty exists. The Select Committee may make recommendations about statutory duties, but that is for the future. In the interval, our municipal museums and art galleries—as well as the Hallé orchestra—are in danger.
Further, the arts in schools and our education system generally are increasingly being squeezed out, as the curriculum is squeezed. There is an unhealthy concentration on reading, writing and arithmetic to the exclusion of the creative subjects that should be taught in schools. If the trend continues, the RSG cuts will jeopardise our future artists and the clientele for the arts. I urge the Minister to use his influence within the Department.
My hon. Friends on the Select Committee will have heard me say this before. The narrow concept of the three Rs has no historic justification, even in this country. It was a mistake by an illiterate Member of Parliament in the early nineteenth century. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the original three Rs were, first, reading and writing—literacy—secondly, reckoning and figuring—numeracy—and, thirdly, wrighting and wroughting. The concept of education was that one-third of the time should be spent on creativity in schools. The only point of the literacy and numeracy was to move to the flowering of the individual's personality in creating things.
The Minister is responsible for the arts in education in schools and in further and higher education. He has received many submissions from the Gulbenkian foundation and others about the dangers of the arts in higher education completely drying up.
I am not now speaking as Chairman of the Select Committee. I am momentarily stepping aside from that position. Like my hon. Friend, I believe in the arm's-length principle. It is absolutely correct. For it to be preserved, it must be respected by Ministers of both parties and not abused. I mentioned in the House recently the dismissal of Mr. Richard Hoggart, who was deputy chairman of the Arts Council. The Minister answered off the cuff. I do not blame him for his answer or for the dismissal of Mr. Richard Hoggart. It has been said that, if the matter had been left to him, he would not have dismissed him. I do not know. The Minister has been reading newspaper headlines to us, so I quote what the newspapers say back to him. I understand the situation, if orders came from above, but such actions erode the arm's-length principle.
The Minister replied to me:All that happened was that a person who would otherwise have served 10 years on the Arts Council—an almost unprecedented stint—will not do so." —[Official Report, 18 January 1982; Vol. 16, c. 19.]621 On reconsideration, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that that off-the-cuff remark does not accord with the facts.
The full facts show that the Arts Council has had four vice-chairmen in the past 30 years. They have served for 13, 17, 15 and three years respectively. The last vice-chairman left to become chairman of the Tate. it is the shortness, not the length, of Mr. Richard Hoggart's stay on the Arts Council that is unprecedented. To say that Mr. Richard Hoggart's leaving has put the arm's-length principle in jeopardy would be to go too far, but a series of decisions to remove people of real stature, who have made a great contribution to the arts and culture of Britain, would destroy the arm's-length principle.
The Minister is reputedly looking for somebody to replace Mr. Richard Hoggart—a person who will eventually become chairman of the Arts Council when Kenneth Robinson retires. I hope that he will try to find somebody of real stature and not, as has been reported, somebody with a knowledge of money and business who will concentrate most of his time on raising money from private funds. It is important for the arm's-length principle that the Arts Council should have a chairman who can maintain the all-party agreement about arts policy that the Minister commended.
I regret that I have spoken for as long as I have. I conclude by commending the Select Committee's report—a unanimous all-party report—to the House. I hope that hon. Members will study it and that the Minister will, within a month, be able to respond to it.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price), the Chairman of the Select Committee, particularly on his all-party plea. When I heard that the Opposition had chosen the arts as the subject for this Supply Day debate, my reaction was one of delight tinged with anxiety.
I was delighted because we rarely debate the arts in the House, despite their enormous contribution to the spiritual and financial welfare of the nation. I was anxious because I feared that some hon. Members might wish to turn the debate into a party political occasion. I do not think that the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds)—for whom I have a high personal regard—did himself justice in his opening speech.
The arts are perhaps the only great sphere of our national life that we have successfully succeeded in keeping out of party politics. We argue fiercely about economics, social affairs and foreign policy, but those of us in this House and in the other place who have a care for the visual and the performing arts and for the preservation of our incomparably rich national heritage, have far more to unite us than to divide us when we discuss these matters. That fact is illustrated by the strength and enthusiasm of the all-party heritage group, of which the hon. Member for Warley, East and I have the honour to be joint chairmen. It is one of the largest and most active of all-party groups in Parliament. Unlike some all-party groups, it is composed entirely of parliamentary enthusiasts and it receives no subsidy or secretarial support from pressure groups outside Westminster.
Another indication of the way in which hon. Members of different political persuasions can work in this sphere has been illustrated by the remarkably united and friendly 622 progress that the Select Committee has made during its current inquiry into the funding of the arts. As the hon. Member for Lewisham, West said, it is probably the most comprehensive inquiry made by Parliament not just since the war but for the whole of this century.
These two examples well illustrate the importance of all-party accord on these matters. If that accord were shattered, it would be tragic. The nation would be the loser. It would also be tragic, because no one could impugn the non-partisan enthusiasm with which almost all Ministers for the Arts have behaved since the days of the much-loved and greatly respected Baroness Lee, the first Minister for the Arts.
Among Baroness Lee's most notable and worthy successors have been the two Ministers who have served the arts during this Administration. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) spoke with passionate eloquence both inside and outside the Cabinet. The quality and distinction of his period of office were so widely regarded that his departure was regretted throughout the whole of the arts world. His was a daunting act to follow, but the present Minister has brought his own qualities of quiet devotion and unobstrusive effeciency to his task. My right hon. Friend has already earned the gratitude and respect of those who were apprehensive when the changes of January last year were announced.
Both of my right hon. Friends have been notably successful Ministers in notably difficult times. When the more strident controversies have been long forgotten, their achievements in the establishing and sustaining of the national heritage memorial fund will be gratefully remembered. Perhaps here in parentheses I might refer to the Trojan work done by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), who piloted the relevant Bill through the House of Commons. The work of the Ministers in that regard, in fighting for the Arts Council budget against a voracious Treasury, and in establishing public lending right—in spite of all that was said by '.he hon. Member for Warley, East—will long be remembered and will be a proper and lasting memorial to their great achievements.
My right hon. Friends have had no easy task. I have often voiced my criticism of the Government's economic policy—and now is not the time to debate that—but I would say most emphatically that, however, questionable the merits of monetarism, my right hon. Friends deserve unreserved congratulations on the way in which they have battled to give the arts their fair share. Yet, in spite of all that, we cannot escape the fact that the arts today are in crisis, and it is a crisis of almost unprecedented proportions.
There is the plight of the commercial theatre in London where many houses may be closed permanently before too long. There are threats to our great university museums. These have already been alluded to, but they cannot be over-emphasised. There are threats to many local authority services, as in Hereford and Worcester, where only this week the council is being asked to chop £80, 000—or 40 per cent.—from its arts and museums service budget.
Wherever one looks one finds that the arts and our heritage are in dire peril. Never has their contribution to our national life been more widely appreciated. Never has the quality of dramatic and orchestral performance of our great national companies been higher. My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) and l bad the opportunity the other night of witnessing a marvellous 623 performance of "The Flying Dutchman". We were able to witness the quality that is produced by one of our great national companies here in London. Never have the treasures in our museums or great country houses been better displayed or more widely enjoyed. Yet all this is at risk.
It was for this reason—and conscious of the Government's stated objective of replacing public funding, where possible, by private subsidy—that the Select Committee decided to embark on its major inquiry into the funding of the arts. That inquiry is still in progress. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West has referred to it. It would be wrong of me or him or anybody else to anticipate what we might eventually recommend to the House.
One thing has been clear to those who have followed our public sessions and seen the variety of witnesses who have come before us, or read the numerous written submissions with which we have been positively deluged. It is that no one is unduly optimistic about the future. No one believes that, without a whole range of new opportunities and incentives, private or corporate patronage or sponsorship can ever supply more than a small fraction of the money that is needed to sustain the arts in Britain.
Perhaps this is the opportunity to emphasise that the arts, which take such a very small share of our national budget—the Minister referred to this—are not hungry parasites, always fed, never feeding, always taking and never giving. Without the high quality of our artistic life, the accomplishment of our performing arts and the stunning beauty of our great collections, tourism, which is our greatest growth industry, would go into mortal decline, forced to rely on the sunshine of our beaches and the gastronomic delights of our cuisine. That is why it is so lamentable that the Government have been so slow to respond to the report, referred to in the motion, that was presented by the Select Committee almost a year ago.
At the onset of our inquiry it became clear to us that there was one crisis to which we had to give our immediate attention. It was not that we ranked the visual arts above the performing arts, but theatres can be reopened, new opera companies can be established and the works of great dramatists and musicians can be rediscovered and reinterpreted. Great collections and works of art are truly unique. Once lost, they are lost forever.
Some years ago the infamous Mentmore sale drew graphic attention to that incontestable fact and last year the sale of the Leonardo codex from Holkham showed that the admirable safety net of the National Heritage Memorial Fund would not be strong enough to catch and to save our heritage should a great proportion of it come on the market in a short space of time.
Knowing of the presence and imminent operation of funds, such as the late Mr. Paul Getty's, whereby just one museum in the United States will have £25 million a year to spend on purchases, we on the Select Committee felt that the question of the retention of works of art in Britain and their acquisition by public bodies demanded immediate attention.
It was no good our sitting back and waiting while more and more hard-pressed owners felt obliged to retain their 624 productive acres and sell the Van Dycks to repair the roof—and all at a time when our national museums did not have the means to acquire those treasures.
The Select Committee therefore produced its interim report. It is brief, to the point and unanimous. I pay tribute to our chairman, the hon. Member for Lewisham, West. We have our Committee differences from time to time, but for the most part we work in close harmony and succeed in putting behind us inherited prejudice and dogma. The report is an excellent testimony to that fact.
Nine hon. Members from three parties unanimously came to one set of conclusions. We produced recommendations which were easy to understand, sent them to a Minister who appeared glad to have them, and we waited. And we still wait. We suspect that we wait because the Treasury is not prepared to open its mind to new ideas or to accept that it is the guardian of our national patrimony, which, if the Treasury does not act quickly, it will be a party to dissipating—and all in the cause of a blinkered fiscal exactitude which refuses to recognise realities.
We on the Select Committee recognise that owners who adopt a responsible attitude to their possessions and are prepared to guard and share them, should have their problems recognised. It should be recognised that the vast increase in the value of objects often bought for a paltry sum two or three centuries ago is not of their making, and it should be accepted that to conserve anything fragile, old and beautiful is costly and that it is also costly to insure and display it.
Because no Government could ever provide the funds to purchase all the works of art in private hands in this country, the prime objective of Government policy should be to encourage owners to look after what they possess, to show their possessions to the public as much as possible and always to make them available to scholars. If they have to part with them, they should be encouraged in every way to let them pass into national ownership, either in lieu of tax or as a result of a tax-free sale. That is why we made our eight recommendations and suggested that a tax credit system should be considered. I was delighted by what the hon. Member for Lewisham, West said about that.
It is always notable when hon. Members of all parties come together to make recommendations of such importance. There was a time when private ownership excited jealousy, but all the members of the Select Committee recognised what successive Governments have said—that the best way of retaining the national heritage is to encourage owners to retain and share.
There was a time when the Conservative Party was accused of being the philistine party. Despite the marvellous work of my right hon. Friend the Minister, we shall be in danger of acquiring that reputation again if the Treasury does not allow my right hon. Friend to reply to the report soon and to accept most of its recommendations. He cannot wish the Government to be coupled in the history books with those Cromwellians who allowed the incomparable collection of Charles I to be dissipated to the Russians in the cause of Puritan monetarism. Yet a refusal to accept the logic of our simple but urgent recommendations could be the prelude to a disaster of even greater magnitude. If any Government allow that to happen, they will be as guilty of condemning a great and productive industry to death by neglect as they would be if they refused to sanction the spending of another penny on any of our great nationalised industries.
625 Let us remember that a small investment—I use the word "small" advisedly, as it has been used before in the debate—still provides great dividends. An august institution, such as the Royal Academy, could be saved for posterity by less than 1 per cent. of what we have spent on British Leyland in the past year. We collect more in VAT from the repairs to listed buildings than we spend on assisting them and the budget for all our theatre and opera companies—and, indeed, the whole Arts Council grant—is less than a quarter of the most recent British Rail deficit.
Twenty years ago, three former Members and one current Member were authors of a publication issued by the Conservative Political Centre and entitled "Government and the Arts". They strongly recommended a change in ministerial responsibility, writing:The fact that the arts are one of the only beneficiaries of State spending still administered by the Treasury is an anomaly which can no longer be overlooked. This led us to reject the idea of an `Aesthetic Secretary to the Treasury'. For the Treasury's function is to curb and curtail; if we are to have a ministerial champion for the arts, he must be liberated from Great George Street".It is ironic that the present hon. Member who subscribed to that admirable pronouncement, so full of good common sense, is now the Financial—not Aesthetic—Secretary to the Treasury. Perhaps that should give us hope that, in concert with the Minister who has done so much in difficult times to uphold the arts, he will reply quickly to the Select Committee report and accept what it says. Those Ministers will thereby play their part in retaining the great heritage that we all wish to enjoy.
§ Mr. John Roper (Farnworth)
I am conscious of the time limit and I will not follow the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) in attempting to rewrite the history of the seventeenth century in terms of monetarists and Keynesians, although there is great scope for such a analysis.
The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West began by referring to the unanimity in the House on the subject of the arts. There is a great deal of such unanimity, but I suspect that in order to get this debate on a Supply day, the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) found it necessary to include ritual polemic in the motion. However, in spite of that polemic, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and the Opposition for having found half a day for a debate on the arts, because, alas, we have not had such a debate for a long time.
Although the hon. Member for Warley, East enjoyed his natural talent for hyperbole to the full in the criticisms that he made, many of them, together with many of the other issues that he raised, were justified, if somewhat overstated, and are supported in many parts of the House.
I commend the Select Committee on its report and its work. Those of us who have read the published evidence and memoranda taken by the Select Committee in its wider study of the funding of the arts will agree with what the hon. Members for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) and Staffordshire, South-West have said about its work. I believe that it will be of considerable importance to the House and to a wider audience. This report was produced 12 months ago because the Select Committee hoped that the response to it would figure in last year's Finance Bill. I hope that, despite what the Minister said about the possible delay because of this debate, the response will be included in this year's legislation.
626 If one considers the report, it becomes clear that the present position is profoundly unsatisfactory and misunderstood and in great need of clarification. I was glad to hear the Minister say that not only would there be a response, but, as he promised the Select Committee over 12 months ago, a much clearer statement on the matter. It is clear from the supplementary memorandum submitted by the Minister after he had given evidence to the Select Committee—which included the result of a survey carried out among directors of provincial museums—that those who must deal with tax relief on a week-to-week basis if not more frequently, are not aware of the position. If those directors, who are supposed to benefit from the tax concessions, are not clear about them, we certainly need further elucidation.
When the Minister produces his final response, he should also consider the time limit before works of art come under the scrutiny of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art. That time limit has been reduced from 100 to 50 years within the past three years. The Minister referred to the new Henry Moore museum in Leeds. Much of Moore's work would not come under the control of the committee. I believe that the Minister agrees. Therefore, the time limit should be reviewed and perhaps brought down further so that the work of our contemporary artists is controlled as well as the historical objects that are part of the national heritage.
Secondly, there must be a resuscitation of the Rockley committee, which seemed to disappear on the death of its original chairman. It was most helpful, both to galleries and to others, in acting as an independent arbiter that could resolve some of the problems in the negotiations referred to in the report.
Thirdly, I have some doubts about the Select Committee's suggestion that the so-called douceur should be increased from 25 per cent. to 75 per cent. I was surprised that the Select Committee chose 75 per cent. Perhaps it was put forward almost as an opening bid. By asking for 75 per cent. they might have persuaded the Treasury to grant them 50 per cent. It was clear from the Minister's supplementary memorandum that most of the museum directors believed that a figure between 25 per cent. and 50 per cent. would be appropriate.
In the memorandum submitted to the Select Committee by Mr. Saunders Watson on behalf of the Historic Houses Association, he did not ask for 75 per cent. but said only that theundoubted difficulties of arriving at this value, to which I have already referred, might to some extent be mitigated if the `douceur' was raised from 25 to 50 per cent.He went on in the next paragraph to say that it was not only a matter between the Treasury and the vendor. It also had an impact on the spending budgets of museums. If the douceur goes up to 75 per cent., unless there is an increase in Government grant to the museums, they can buy fewer objects with a spending grant: because they must pay rather more for the objects.
I hope that the Minister will take that point into consideration and that he will think twice before accepting the Select Committee's recommendation that the douceur should be increased from 25 per cent. to 75 per cent. However, I agree that there is a case for an increase, especially for objects with a low value. The proposal for a two-tier douceur is worthy of some consideration, although I suspect that the advantages are probably outweighed by the disadvantages of lack of clarity and the 627 need to have as straightforward a system as possible. That is why I advocate using the same system and rate of douceur both for sales by private treaty and for in lieu sales.
Some hon. Members have referred to tax credits. Despite the rather tedious objections put forward by the Treasury in its evidence to the Select Committee, in some cases tax credits could be valuable. Although the option of private treaty sales is available to owners, there would be an additional flexibility if tax credits could be provided. I hope that the Minister, when he responds to the proposals in a month, will consider the matter favourably and that there will be provision in the Finance Bill for tax credits for such sales.
I wish to emphasise the point made by the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) about the impact of local government cuts on arts spending. He referred to the Hallé orchestra, whose funds are now being cut in order to keep the Manchester city art gallery open. Manchester city council's original proposal was to close the art gallery. That would have been a problem for the citizens of Manchester and, because it is a regional art gallery serving the population of Greater Manchester and much of the North-West, it would have been a considerable blow to a much wider population. That demonstrates the problem of the major regional art galleries funded by one local authority—albeit a relatively large one—but serving a much wider community. Some of the proposals in the Drew report must be re-examined to find a more satisfactory way of dealing with them.
The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West referred to the problems of university museums and galleries, which are being caused by the cuts introduced by the University Grants Committee. I hope that the Minister will use his influence to ensure that the grant to university museums and art galleries is taken out of the UGC grant to protect them from the present round of university cuts.
I believe that there is unanimous support for our cultural heritage and the arts on both sides of the House. The Select Committee has shown the measure of unanimity on the matter that we are discussing today. The Government should take the Committee's report seriously. I am glad that we have had an opportunity to debate it today.
§ Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)
The debate is short and as many hon. Members wish to take part I shall confine my remarks to the minimum. The Opposition are always asking for more and more money to be channelled into the arts. Conservative Members would also like more money to be channelled in that direction, but we must remember that we are in the middle of a world recession. In announcing that the grant to the Arts Council for the year 1982–83 would be £86 million—an increase of nearly £6 million on the previous year—my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts showed what an enormous amount of work the council does for the arts and proved how successful he is in his present job.
I declare an interest in that I am the parliamentary consultant to the Society of West End Theatre. I shall confine my remarks to the problems of the West End 628 theatre, which is closely linked to tourism. It is estimated that last year tourism earned £4, 000 million for the country and that half the visitors went to a West End show.
On Friday I tried unsuccessfully to introduce a Bill to amend the Restrictive Trade Practices Act. The Bill had support from all sides. The purpose of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act is to help the general public. There is a Director General of Fair Trading. What could sound fairer than that? The Office of Fair Trading is investigating the West End theatre. Some people believe that that means that the general public will get a better deal and that theatre tickets will come down in price. On the contrary, the opposite is more likely.
The live theatre in Britain is the envy of the world. Because some of our theatres require subsidy to remain in existence some people erroneously believe that the theatre as a whole is uneconomic and dependent upon charitable handouts. Some theatre companies need subsidy to make up the difference between their operating costs and the income from the box office, but the West End theatre is a profitable enterprise and of enormous value to the tourist trade. It is calculated that the country takes from the theatre in various forms of taxation four times as much as the Government provide in subsidy to the live theatre. My right hon. Friend should contemplate that.
Not only does the West End theatre do a great deal for the country's prestige, but it helps to bring in a great deal of money to the Chancellor's coffers. Nobody can pretend that the West End theatre has had an easy time. This time last year almost a dozen theatres in the West End were empty—or, in theatrical parlance, dark. Today they are open and the prospects are brighter than they were 12 months ago.
The hit musical "Cats" shows that Britain can produce musicals every bit as good as Broadway. That show proves that if theatre managers give the public what they want, the public will respond. "Cats" is at the New London theatre which, since it opened, has been regarded as a graveyard where nothing can run. People said that it was off the beaten track, that there was no passing trade and that consequently it would never have a success. Now that theatre is doing record business. It proves that if managers in the commercial theatre give the public the entertainment that they desire, the audiences will flock there, wherever the theatre is.
We can learn much from Broadway. It is interesting to compare the chaotic method of selling tickets on Broadway with the ordered system which, by and large, operates in London. I say "by and large" because our system could be improved.
Prices for the New York theatre have escalated so much that it is almost pricing itself out of the market. Last year I went to see what was regarded as a great musical success, "42nd Street". I had to pay $50 for a ticket. That was not the black market price, but the price at the box office. That is equivalent to £25 and the ordinary citizen cannot afford such prices often.
In New York there is no effective control on ticket touts—or scalpers, as they are rightly called. In America one can buy tickets from brokers who charge no fixed fee. The broker can sell the tickets to whoever offers the most money. It is in that respect that the Office of Fair Trading has picked on the Society of West End Theatre.
In Britain there are ticket agencies, which for some strange reason are called libraries. They are found in big stores, hotels and offices and shops throughout the West 629 End. If one buys a ticket at an agency one pays the price of the ticket plus a fixed percentage. Many people find the service convenient and worth the extra fee. That fee has been held down by the Society of West End Theatre to protect the public, but the Office of Fair Trading says that it is not in the public interest to limit the booking fee as it constitutes a restriction on competition. That Act will entitle ticket agencies to charge whatever commission they can. The result, far from bringing down the price of tickets, will be to increase the price enormously, particularly for a smash hit. Ticket agencies would be able to set the sky as the limit.
The libraries also collect a strictly controlled percentage from the theatres for selling their tickets. If that "restrictive practice" as it is called, is removed, the producer of a flop could offer a higher percentage to agencies to issue tickets to his show. Unsuspecting people, having been given the soft soap from the person selling the ticket, would pay a great deal of money for a show that was not very good. I wonder whether that is what the office of Fair Trading wants.
The office is also concerned that the society negotiates with individual newspapers to ensure that advertising rates are kept reasonable. For over 20 years certain newspapers have published a West End theatre guide at an uneconomic rate because they regard it as a service to their readers. If newspapers could charge what they wanted the cost could be as much as £4, 000 a week. That would be excessive for many theatres. To tamper with the present arrangements could mean the disappearance of the West End theatre guide in some of our newspapers. That would be a loss to the general public. It is strange that theatres have to pay for that service. Newspapers do not charge for printing television and radio programmes or the runners at racecourses. They are free services.
The West End theatres have tried to help themselves. They have instituted the student standby ticket. Last year about 140, 000 tickets were distributed in that way. Recently they opened the Leicester Square half-price ticket booth. In its first year, 350, 000 tickets were sold. It is unbelievable that even those two schemes are questioned by the Office of Fair Trading. It is touch and go whether they will be referred to the restrictive trade practices court. I cannot understand why the schemes are thought to be against the public interest because they provide cheaper tickets to enable more people to go to the theatre.
The argument is that if the theatres' case is so good they can justify their actions in the restrictive trade practices court. I am told that it would cost £50, 000 before the case even got to court and that the total costs could be enormous. I am delighted to see the Secretary of State for Trade in the Chamber. I give him credit for choosing the right moment to come in. The Secretary of State has no power to prevent references to the restrictive trade practices court which the Office of Fair Trading considers to be significant. If, after investigating, the Office of Fair Trading decides that a practice is not restrictive the Secretary of State's approval is required for a decision not to refer it to the court. Why cannot the Secretary of State have discretionary powers to prevent references to the court of practices which although technically in breach of the law are not necessarily against the public interest?
Ministerial discretion would avoid excessive legal costs for an industry which can ill afford such costs. I hope that the Minister for the Arts will take this opportunity to have 630 a quiet word with the Secretary of State in the hope that they can come forward with a solution that would be of great value to the West End theatre.
§ 6 pm
§ Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)
Several hon. Members have said that when we have debates on the arts, which are rare enough, they seem to unite opinion across the Floor of the House. I am glad to be able to support the Minister and those on both sides of the House who have urged greater suport for the arts. I hope that what we say during the debate and in other debates that may follow will concentrate the mind of the Chancellor more dramatically than the minds of previous Chancellors. I do not distinguish between any of them because none of them has supported the arts as I thought proper.
We should perhaps have a reappraisal of our attitude—this applies to Governments of both the major parties—because we have never allowed the arts to flourish as I think they should. So many areas are ready for a new flowering of artistic activity. Unfortunately, they seem always to be cramped and frustrated by a lack of resources to mount shows and to invest the money that is needed. It is extremely expensive to put on a new show. There are problems apart from those involved in finding a suitable building. The other problems include the designing and building of the sets, the making of costumes and the mounting of publicity.
Outside the Government those who are willing to put their money into supporting the arts are rare birds. It is really only the Government and some large companies—it is rarely local authorities—that are willing to put money into supporting the arts. Some large companies think that it is prestigious to appear on the programme of the Royal Opera House as supporting its company. There are curious liaisons. It is odd that tobacco companies should support the Royal Opera or my friends in the Welsh National Opera. The money is welcome, but the correlation of singers and tobacco is curious.
There is a great deal going on outside the prestigious companies, and much more could go on with more support. It is sad that for some years we have had contraction and closure. As the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery) said, until recently about 12 theatres in the West End were dark. We are not seeing much expansion now.
In the past, resources have been put into creating theatres out of unlikely buildings. For example, the Engine House at Chalk Farm is now a theatre in the round. I do not know whether the Minister has visited it, but before disaster strikes perhaps he will. It is flexible and adaptable. In better times it was flourishing with exhibitions, Saturday morning shows and Sunday evening concerts of all sorts—classical and rock—to suit all tastes. Good food and drink were available. Those activities were in addition to the plays that were going on in the main theatre.
The theatre was sought after by leading experimental companies from abroad as well as by many of our famous companies. The Round House saw ballet and circus as well as leading drama companies such as Prospect, the National, the Royal Exchange Company from Manchester, when it was set up, and many others. It is now in danger. Unless the Arts Council, Camden Council and the GLC can increase their grants, the theatre will have to 631 close. Famous companies that played there have disappeared because of the economic situation, and that has been a tragedy for us all. The Prospect Company is one that has disappeared recently.
In my constituency the situation is slightly different. We are trying to reopen an old run-down theatre that closed for lack of support because of the type of shows that it put on. Its productions were outdated and its ambience was non-existent. There was nothing there to attract at all. It closed, but the public now want a theatre there again. However, we need £750, 000 to refurbish it and to bring it up to date. We hope that the work will start in April, but that will depend on the resources that come in.
The local authority is providing about £200, 000. The West Midlands county council has promised £100, 000. An approach has been made to the Arts Council for a grant from the housing the arts fund. Such grants seem always to be very small, but it is not known what the Arts Council can do. Nearly £20, 000 has been raised by an energetic local appeal.
An important victory has been won as we have won over the council. It would be sad if local enthusiasm were to fade because the work could not go ahead. There must be careful thought about how the theatre will be run. The old-fashioned idea of putting in a manager and bringing in third-rate touring companies is a dead loss. That is why the Grand did not flourish and why it was not successful in the past. The most crucial issue is who will be the director of the theatre. I hope that careful thought will be given to that aspect.
§ Mrs. Short
I rather thought that my hon. Friend had. The position of director of the Grand theatre at Wolverhampton would be a full-time job if it were done properly.
Theatres must relate to the people they hope to serve and must be seen to provide entertainment and mental stimulation that is relevant and exciting. They must cater for the entire age range. They must forge links with the schools and help to create the audiences and participants of the future. They must help also to bring on new talent. That is an important part of good teaching in our schools.
We must set ourselves clear objectives for the arts if they are to survive. First, they must be available and relevant to all—and not only to those who can afford to pay the high prices for the best seats that the West End theatres and opera houses demand.
Secondly, they must stimulate different art forms within the community, thus enriching what is conventional and what is new and different. They have an important role to play in those two areas.
Thirdly, there must be freedom for artists of all types to work without censorship and without fear of poverty. Artists may well have been considered to thrive in the past when they were poor and starving in garrets—for example, La Boheme—but we have rather different ideas today. Artists should be paid well for the work that they do. This predicates more resources for professional artists.
Fourthly, we must be prepared to provide good working conditions for artists in whatever sphere they work. Long 632 ago, as a predecessor of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price), I was Chairman of an Estimates Committee before the august Select Committees were set up. Such Committees had several reincarnations between the Estimates Committees and the Select Committees. When my Estimates Committee considered grants for the arts, its members went to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. We were staggered to see the slummy back-stage areas of what I suppose is the most prestigious theatre in the country. We were staggered to see the very poor conditions in the band room. I believe that, following the refurbishment of Covent Garden, the band room still remains. That is scandalous.
The conditions back-stage in most London theatres are poor. There are bare stone stairways, tiny dressing rooms, no proper ventilation or light and uncomfortable old furniture. They are shabby dumps. We must buck up our ideas about what we provide for our artists.
All this means more resources for the arts generally. These can come only from public funds. The peripheral sums that come from companies are welcome, but they can be quickly withdrawn. If the productions do not please, the subvention can stop.
Therefore, we must come back to support from public funds, from the Government and from local authorities. I remember that when Aneurin Bevan first introduced his idea that local authorities should provide help for the arts, he talked about achieving a sixpenny rate. He thought that that would be the minimum that any local authority should be prepared to find. However, that sixpenny rate was never achieved by any local authority. If one goes back over the figures published by the local authority associations, one finds that a 3 farthings rate was the average amount subscribed for support for the arts. Therefore, we have a long way to go in educating the local authorities about what should be done.
When I chaired the Labour Party's working party on the arts, from which my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) was pleased to quote, we were concerned that the entertainment unions, with their vast practical experience, should have a greater say in the way in which the arts were administered. We believed that there was a powerful argument for making the administration of the arts more democratic.
The arts are a vital and exciting part of the nation's life. They challenge our ideas and beliefs with an intensity that is not found in any other area. They appeal to the emotions and to the mind. In short, they deserve better from any Government. I am not castigating just this Government; I also criticise the previous Labour Government. None of us has supported the arts as we should. They deserve better. They should be not a peripheral activity for the few, but a stimulus to the creative activity of the whole nation, democratically organised and supported with greater resources than any Government have yet provided.
I hope that the force of the debate, which has been echoed by so many hon. Members on both sides of the House, will help to provide the additional resources.
§ Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)
I shall be brief because other of my hon. Friends wish to take part in this short debate. Like the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short), I warmly welcome the Opposition's initiative, although I regret the terms of the motion. I applaud the Select Committee's 633 report and I compliment the chairman, the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) and the other hon. Members involved in the Committee.
I shall deal with a point that has been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-West, (Mr. Cormack) the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) and others—the plight of our university museums. The situation in this country is without parallel. The principal collections outside the capital cities are universityowned—not only by the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, but by the universities of Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and London. The Ashmolean at Oxford and the Fitzwilliam at Cambridge and also the Courtauld Institute in London are recognised museums of major international importance. However, their operations depend essentially on the general funds of the universities concerned. The University Grants Committee allocations do not earmark funds for museums. The resources for the university museums, which are some of our major museums, come from only three sources.
The first source is a low proportion of the UGC grant made according to the decision of the individual university—that can vary. Secondly, there are grants from the area museums service towards particular projects in conservation or display. Thirdly, there are grants—the normal rate is about 50 per cent.—towards approved purchases, made from the regional fund administered by the Victoria and Albert museum, up to a notional limit per institution, which is currently £60, 000 per annum. There is an occasional extra grant towards special objects. The current problems facing universities, not only those at Cambridge, of which I am only too acutely aware, highlight the insecurity of the funding for university museums under the UGC proposals.
I am not making a constituency speech, but I shall refer specifically to the Fitzwilliam. I speak as a Friend of the Fitzwilliam and as the nephew of one of its former directors.
The Fitzwilliam can make reductions in expenditure only by cutting an establishment that is already conspicuously under-staffed. If, as appears likely, it has to achieve up to £40, 000 a year of savings by 31 July 1984 by reduction of staff, by that date it will be brought to the brink of closure to the public. That is the simple fact that I must draw to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts. Within two years it is possible that one of our great museums will no longer be able to be open to the public.
Like the Friends of the Fitzwilliam and its director, I am strongly opposed to the principle of charging for admission. We have been through that course before. It would not be practical and would not have the results that some people think it might.
Occasionally university museums receive grants from the area museums service, which are subject to VAT, which is irrecoverable, either by the university or by private museums. With respect to my right hon. Friend that strikes me as a remarkable anomaly. If the museums are being charged VAT on the grants, it should be recoverable, as it would be in a normal business.
There is no longer any realistic prospect that local authorities responsible for museums, especially universities, can fund the standard operation of their institutions without recourse to the Government. Although applications for recurrent aid could be sifted, which I recommend, 634 surely that should be done on a different basis. Other aspects such as the national and the tourist interest as well as the general cultural interest should be borne in mind.
I return to the example of the Fitzwilliam. There are others like it. The number of visitors this year and last year will exceed 200, 000. Any form of charging would have reduced that number significantly. Unless there is a change in the way in which university museums are financed, by 1984 the prospects are that the Fitzwilliam, which is at present open only on limited occasions because of the shortage of resources, might have to be closed completely to the public. That would be a tragedy in which I am sure that the Government would not wish to be involved.
My right hon. Friend said that the Wellington papers had gone to Southampton university. Will he look again at the abominable decision by the Labour Government, whereby, contrary to the wishes of the Churchill family, the papers of John, the Duke of Marlborough were sent not, to Churchill college, Cambridge, but to the London museum?
§ Mr. Jim Callaghan (Middleton and Prestwich)
My hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) made a wide-ranging speech in which he listed a catalogue of woes. My speech will, reflect mainly the Select Committee's report, perhaps rather narrowly, and I shall bring out points on which I should like clarification from the Government Front Bench.
I am delighted to see that a member of the Treasury team is sitting on the Front Bench because I shall plead with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the hope that the Treasury can assist more positively in preserving our arts heritage. That has been done in the past.
Sir Roy Shaw, chairman of the Arts Council, has said:The arts have been under-subsidised, under-patronised, under-valued and under-distributed for decades".No Government—I am not being partisan about this—have realised that the arts are an industry generating more than £150 million. Tourists are attracted to theatres, museums and galleries and spend more on the arts than Governments provide in grants. Government expenditure on the arts is a tiny fraction of total expenditure, and Britain spends less on arts subsidies than any comparable Western country. I know that in these difficult times there is no point in pressing the Government to increase the arts grant, but I ask them, via the Treasury, to look afresh at the rules to help keep art treasures in Britain at very little cost to the Government.
From time to time we read in the press of people wishing to sell art treasures to meet taxes. Often, those treasures are sought by overseas bidders. We have heard that the Getty museum has £25 million with which to purchase works of art throughout the world. That puts British works of art at risk.
Some time ago, The Guardian reported that 11 pictures by James McNeill Whistler, worth about £150, 000, were to be sold by a university. It appears that the university was building an art gallery at a cost of nearly £1.5 million for which it owed £320, 000. Because of the proposed Whistler sale and that of other works of art, and especially in view of the circumstances surrounding the disposal of the Leicester codex by the trustees of the Holkham estate, I welcome the setting up of the Education, Science and Arts Committee because it recognises the problem of valuable works of art being sold abroad. I was delighted 635 to learn that the Committee was anxious about the possible loss to this country of a large number of important works of art and heritage objects still in private hands. There is indeed a major muddle in this matter which the art world is looking to the Select Committee and the Treasury to tidy up.
It seems that those who own works of art encounter discouraging delays by the capital taxes office when they seek to satisfy the conditions concerning exemption from capital taxes. The rules governing the conditional exemption of works of art, their sale by private treaty, or their surrender in lieu of capital tax liabilities are set out in the Treasury document, "Capital Taxation and the National Heritage", which is far from helpful and has no force in law but gives the impression that it contents are legally binding. No wonder that in the art world it is known as the "Yellow Peril".
I welcome the Select Committee's recommendation that the Treasury document should be withdrawn and replaced by one drawn up by the Treasury in conjunction with the office of arts and libraries. The new document should be readily comprehensible by family solicitors, other advisers who have clients needing guidance and indeed any intelligent layman. Comprehensible rules for the exemption of works of art from capital taxes should be drawn up as soon as possible. I think that the Minister said that the Government will consider this matter and produce a document to clarify the position so that even a layman such as myself will be able to understand the rules.
I fully support the Select Committee recommendation that, in return for exemption, an owner should be under an obligation to give a public institution the first chance of acquisition in the event of his deciding to sell. I also support the recommendation that in the event of the owner refusing to offer his art object to the nation the export reviewing committee should have the power to recommend the indefinite withholding of a licence to export.
The retention of many works of art of incalculable importance depends upon a sensitive and easily understood system which provides adequate encouragement for owners to retain their possessions, but which also encourages those who feel that they can no longer do so to sell their works of art to the nation without the penalty of capital taxes on the proceeds resulting from straightforward bargaining, or to surrender them in lieu of tax knowing that the price with which they are credited will be fair and reasonable.
Only through such a system will owners be prepared to consider not selling on the open market and thereby depriving the nation of a proper chance to acquire important art objects. Owners continually have to sell works of art to keep their houses running. The painting by Altdorfer from Luton Hoo, the Poussin from Chatsworth and the Leonardo manuscript from Holkham Hall are but a few highly publicised cases. The national heritage is subject to continual erosion in this way. I therefore urge that the recommendations of the Select Committee be accepted without delay, as they will make a significant
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton (Edinburgh, West)
I, too, welcome the Select Committee's report. I shall deal with just one point—educational facilities in galleries—as many colleagues wish to contribute to the debate.
The principal concern of the Select Committee was to save our heritage of important works of art through acquisition by our own museums and galleries of works which are put on the market and which might otherwise leave the country. In this respect, the Scottish galleries, particularly the national galleries in Edinburgh, feel that they have done very well and have received fair treatment in terms of purchasing grants.
The Scottish galleries feel that they have done less well, however, in terms of the entirely separate allocation for administrative purposes. The heritage is of little use unless it can be seen and enjoyed and generations growing up have the opportunity to learn about and from it.
In paragraph 10 of its report the Select Committee dealt with the contentious issue whether to exempt works of art from capital transfer tax unless they can be put on public display forthwith. In this connection, the position of the national galleries in Scotland gives rise to serious concern, as they are suffering a serious shortage of the staff resources necessary to make proper use of their collections. An independent committee, chaired by Dr. Alwyn Williams, which reported on the matter last September, laid particular stress on the educational value of galleries and museums. Recommendation 9.1 stated:The interpretation of collections should take an equal place with other essential national museum functions like acquisition, conservation, research and security.It further recommended:Museums need constantly to improve their presentation of collections to the public.Recommendation 9.16 stated that the national galleries in Scotland should each have an education department. In fact, there is no education department and, apart from a press officer, there are no adequate educational facilities. Elsewhere—for example, in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, in the Glasgow museums and, indeed, in the national museums in London—such facilities are provided.
The extent to which the resources of the Edinburgh museums have deteriorated by comparison with London has been substantial. Relative to their size, they perform much the same functions as the National gallery, the Tate gallery and the National Portrait gallery in London, but they have lost out in terms of staff wages and salaries because in the 1960s their allocation was increased only two and a half times, compared with four and a quarter times in London. In other words, for every additional £1 provided towards the running costs of the Edinburgh galleries between 1960 and 1970, an extra £1.75 was provided for the London galleries.
There is nothing new about that. That development was firmly rooted in the past. The allocation comes within the block grant made available to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I appreciate that there are competing requests. I hope, however, that the Minister will take up with the Secretary of State for Scotland my request that adequate provision be made for educational facilities from which countless schoolchildren will benefit.
The effect of the deterioration in resources on the Edinburgh galleries is that a minimal staff of trained and competent curators, who should be fully occupied with the 637 proper care of their collections and in generating the kind of exhibitions that involve a wider public in the visual arts in Scotland, are spending the greater part of their time on management for want of competent staff to operate in their place. More seriously, they do not have any resources to engage specialist schools staff, unlike other galleries in other parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
I am arguing for a marginal readjustment. Few resources would be necessary. I hope that this will be passed on to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Thousands of people visit the galleries in Edinburgh. Just as the Constable exhibition at the Tate and the Turner exhibition at the Royal Academ attracted people from all over the world, so the exhibitions of Degas and Poussin aroused considerable interest in Scotland.
I hope that a programme for schools and further education organised on a regular basis will be adopted I shall be grateful if my right hon. Friend will bear my suggestion in mind.
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Tickenham)
I hope my hon Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) will forgive me if I do not pursue his arguments. I wish to take up a point made by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) who said that theatre audiences should be wider. The hon. Lady may not have seen an interesting report entitled "The West End Theatre Audience" commissioned by the Society of West End Theatre and carried out by National Opinion Polls which stated in its conclusionsThe composition of the West End theatre audience is much more widely spread in socio-economic terms and consists of a much greater proportion of younger people than might have been thought".There is some way to go. Our theatre audiences, however, are already fairly wide.
The hon. Lady also said that she hoped that a theatre would reopen in her constituency. She will not mind, I trust, if I boast that a new theatre was opened in my constituency last summer by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales during his visit to the nine hundredth anniversary celebrations of the town of Twickenham. I refer to the Mary Wallace theatre. It is going well. Another good theatre is located at Hampton Court.
My constituency is second to none in its appreciation and enjoyment of the arts. Our buildings include Hampton Court Palace, Walpole's Strawberry Hill, now a Roman Catholic teacher training college, Kneller Hall, the Royal Military School of Music, where our army bands are trained, Marble Hill House, belonging to the Greater London Council, Orleans House, a museum run by the Richmond upon Thames borough council; and Ham House is just a ferry journey away across the Thames.
On the amateur performing side, there are three good choral societies based on Hampton, Twickenham and Teddington and a great range of musical activities for children and young people.
§ Mr. Faulds
The hon. Gentleman must not be so modest that he fails to admit that his constituents, unfortunate in many ways, are fortunate to have a talented musician as their Member of Parliament.
§ Mr. Jessel
I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman says. I also happen to be married to an actress. My 638 constituents also appreciate greatly the artistic events that take place in the West End of London. With eight railway stations leading to Waterloo, we are well placed to attend the many superb concerts at the Royal Festival Hall and adjoining halls and also performances at the National Theatre. Together with the Royal Albert Hall, the new Barbican centre, to open next week, and all the many theatres that comprise a tremendous wealth of artistic activity, London is the theatrical, musical and entertainment capital of the world. We are pre-eminent. It is hard for any foreign capital to compete with London. We should be immensely proud. We should be ready to blow our trumpet.
Although there are many issues with which I should have liked to deal, including European Music Year and exempt chattels, I shall sit down and allow time for other hon. Members to speak.
§ Mr. Tim Brinton (Gravesend)
As a member of the Select Committee, I was delighted to place my imprimatur on a unanimous report. I do not however wish to pursue that aspect in the few minutes of the debate that remain. Without sounding, I hope, too philistine or too gloomy in my prognostications, I should like to hazard one or two guesses about the course of future developments. I was impressed by the suggestions for reorganisation made by the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds). This is the crux of the whole matter.
Many hon. Members, not least my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) have enthused about their favourite arts. I wish to enthuse about two of my favourite arts. I am not so exuberant as my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham about the state of the West End theatre. There are still some darkened theatres in the West End. The prognostications that I have heard are gloomy. This is not simply a matter of money. Other factors are the state of the West End, the travel complications, even when the railways are not on strike, and the unappetising state of some theatres when audiences reach them. High rates are involved in maintaining these theatres. One therefore comes back to money in the end, but it is not the whole story. There is also the question of the environment in which West End audiences are asked to gather.
My second enthusiasm is the film industry. This industry is properly a matter for the Department of Trade. The artistic form of the feature film should, however, be considered in any discussion of the arts. Many people may disagree but I believe that the feature film made to be shown in the theatre is a vital part of our whole arts heritage. If the feature film ceases to be made, we shall lose something vital that television cannot replace. There is an urgent need to provide a seed bed of capital to attract further investment to keep the industry going. At the moment, it is almost dead. Whether this can be achieved through an Eady type of contribution from television for showing features or by other suggested means, there is not sufficient time for me to dwell upon. The debate should, however, contain some mention of the problems of the feature film industry.
I should also like to mention the huge contribution made by broadcasting to the arts. It must be much more than £100 million a year. This does not come into our calculations in discussion of museums, galleries, theatres, music or anything else. I support the expressions of 639 concern that have been made. I believe that progress will be made only if there is a major rethink of the arts policy of this country. This is a matter to which the Select Committee report, when it is published, will, I hope, pay attention. It is a matter that hon. Members and all interested in the arts should consider. Until the arts are contained under one umbrella, in a practical form, they cannot begin to function properly.
§ Mr. Ken Eastham (Manchester, Blackley)
It is obvious that a debate on the arts covers a wide sphere. Hon. Members have been enthusiastic about the arts. Their message seems to indicate that we need more and not less. It is therefore a sad reflection on the Government that their first year in office saw a cut of £1.5 million in the grant to the Arts Council. This had a dramatic effect. It was felt particularly by the local authorities when they made applications.
A few years ago, certain approaches were made when Manchester was thinking of promoting the Palace theatre. In recent months, local government has faced a severe crisis. The financial crisis in Manchester has been so serious that it was touch and go whether the Manchester art gallery would close altogether. The same can be said about the libraries. A serious and savage cut in library services has had a devastating effect. These are the very services that cater for poorer people who cannot afford to buy works of art or pay fancy prices at some of the West End theatres. They are dependent on what local authorities can provide for them.
Manchester was nearly faced with the possible closure of the Manchester library theatre. It is terrible that that should happen in a community with a population of 2½ million, that wishes to enjoy these cultural activities.
It is not good enough Conservative Members saying they support expansion of the arts when, time after time, they go through the Lobby in support of these savage cuts. If Conservative Members are sincere about expanding the provision of art and culture, it is their public duty to support the Opposition from time to time when they are critical of some of the savage cuts that we have experienced during the Government's lifetime.
§ Mr. Esmond Bulmer (Kidderminster)
I declare my interest as a member of the executive committee of the National Trust. I hope that the suggestion of the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds)—that the National Trust might be subsumed into a huge new quango operated by the Department of the Environment—will for ever remain a figment of his fevered imagination.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing a debate on the arts, but I regret the terms in which the motion is couched. Central to the defence of the heritage is the need to get inflation under control. After all, inflation is the most virulent form of dry rot attacking the fabric of our great buildings. We must remember what the cost of repairs in the last 10 years has done to budgets aimed at keeping our buildings in good order.
Under the Labour Government, the return to industry as a whole was less than 2 per cent. net of inflation. There is acute competition for works of art because it has been so difficult to find good investments: even the British Rail 640 pension fund was forced down that route. Therefore, if we can reduce inflation and get a reasonable return for industry, much of the pressure that is currently causing the heritage to be dissipated will be reduced. That must be in the interest of everyone who cares about our heritage.
There is now no endowment that is theoretically large enough to allow the National Trust to accept a heritage house. The Government must reverse this situation; for I fear that the floodgates are about to open.
Let us consider what has happened to inflation in the last 10 years. I take a heritage house as an example. If that house had 4, 000 acres, the price of the land has increased from perhaps £1 million to £8 million, and the house and its contents are now probably worth between £2 million and £3 million. My right hon Friends may find landed on their desks at any time a Mentmore that is even more evocative, because the tax charges may be £5 million, £6 million or £7 million.
My right hon Friend must be prepared for that situation. He must talk to the Treasury about what he will do if he finds Blenheim, Chatsworth, Keddlestone, Holkham, Castle Howard or any of our great houses in the same situation as Mentmore. All of us who have been to the Loire know what happens when houses are stripped of their contents, and we all know how vital our great houses are as an attraction and inducement for tourists to come to Britain.
I hope that my right hon Friend, in his talks with the Treasury, will explore the "in lieu" provisions further. I hope he will consider whether the way in which the National Trust was able to support and save Hardwick Hall can be applied to future great houses. I am sure that my right hon. Friend has already taken on board the case for a tax credit. I am equally sure that he believes that prevention is better than cure; that there should be an incentive to keep scheduled houses in good repair. After all, we cannot compel people to repair these great houses in the way that they deserve. My right hon Friend is only too familiar with the arguments for income tax allowance for repairs and Government indemnity on insurance. I wish him luck in his conversations with the Treasury.
The good Lord agreed to spare Sodom if only 10 just men could be found. Sometimes, in conversation with the Treasury, one feels that if a loophole can be discovered through which one malefactor might pass, that is enough to stop an otherwise sensible provision for the relief of the heritage. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to convince the Treasury of the urgent need for special measures at this time.
§ Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark)
I join the general welcome for the arts settlement that my right hon. Friend has achieved. Britain is fortunate that it has general excellence in all areas of the arts. Some countries may have more specific excellence, but ours is general. The money that we obtain from the Exchequer is money well spent.
Of course, the concentration of funding is in London, with some to the provincial cities. Practically nothing goes to those who live beyond commuting distances from the largest provincial cities. Yet there are concert halls, theatres, civic rooms and even village halls where an imaginative spread of support for our artistic performance would be both appreciated and possible.
641 In times of depression—even more important, in areas of depression—well performed artistic work, whether dancing, music or theatre, lifts the soul. I do not mean obscure modern dance, theatrical performance with more social meaning than artistic content, displays of twisted monstrosities, heaps of coal or piles of things even worse in entrances to town halls; I mean excerpts from classical ballets, a Mozart opera or a Chekhov or Sheridan play. People will go to see the classics. Unless we make it possible for them to do so in all parts of the country—not just in London and the larger provincial cities—we shall deprive people of the enrichment that their taxes lead them to be entitled to expect.
My plea to my right hon. Friend, and through him to the Arts Council, is that we must provide a much wider range of classical excellence in the arts in all areas of the country. It is not fair to leave it to the local authorities, many of which are in the business of maximising their own investments in public buildings. For financial reasons, civic theatres often have to be used for pantomimes, boxing and wrestling matches. Local authorities look after the interests of their ratepayers.
I pay tribute to the excellent small local companies which put on fine performances of the arts, including fine amateur opera performances. Nevertheless, I repeat that people in the provinces—not the large cities—do not get much of a share of the professional arts that their fellow citizens in London and big cities receive.
The professional performing arts should not be a rarity for the provinces. My plea is that the Arts Council and the Minister should ensure that professional theatre, opera, concert and ballet companies get out to the smaller towns in Britain.
§ Mr. Christopher Murphy (Welwyn and Hatfield)
A former Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, said:God help the Government that meddles with art.As my constituency contains the splendid house he once owned—Brocket Hall—and as I was fortunate enough to live in part of it before becoming a Member of Parliament, it seemed particularly appropriate to quote his words. Any Government who meddle with art will probably create more problems for themselves than they will be able to solve. However, this Conservative Administration, rather than meddling, took deliberate and well conceived action to enhance our arts and heritage.
The motion refers to the Select Committee's report on the arts and one can glean an insight into the Government's policies on this fundamental subject from its evidence and conclusions. As befits a Conservative Administration, much emphasis is laid on the contribution that can be provided by the private sector while State involvement provides the necessary framework in which the key aspects of our heritage should be allowed to exist with maximum freedom and minimum Government interference.
The importance that is attached to the arts is clearly seen by the fact that they now have an independent voice in Government and from the creation of the Office of Arts and Libraries as a separate entity. That importance is further illustrated by the level of financial provision made available for the arts at a time of economic difficulty.
The importance attached to the heritage is also clearly seen by the passing of the national heritage memorial fund to assist the preservation and acquisition of items of outstanding value that might otherwise be lost to the 642 nation. That importance is further illustrated by the positive approach being adopted to administer and improve conditions for the care and maintenance of ancient monuments and historic buildings.
Undoubtedly, the campaigns to promote business sponsorship, spearheaded by my right hon. Friends the Members for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) and the Minister for the Arts have been beneficial to many arts organisations and the companies involved. The brief guides "The Arts are Your Business" and "Hove to Win Sponsors and Influence People" were well received. At the same time, the role of private patronage continues to be of immense significance to the arts. Certain taxation changes have proved helpful, and it is to be hoped that further advantages will be gained.
Other hon. Members mentioned the importance of "enlarging" the Department responsible for the arts. I add my support to that and add that there should he a full ministry for the arts and our heritage. Such a move would mean enhanced co-ordination and due recognition of their significance, particularly when one considers their value to the tourist industry.
I conclude as I began by referring to another former Prime Minister—Lord Palmerston—who was also a previous owner of Brocket Hall. He said:What is merit? The opinion one man entertains of another.The collective opinion of the House regarding the Government's record on the arts and heritage must certainly reflect considerable merit.
§ Mr. Channon
By leave of the House, I shall reply to the debate. The House will understand that I shall not have a chance of getting through all the matters that have been raised, but I shall consider them and write to hon. Members about the important aspects. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) raised the crucial matters of university museums and finance. Other hon. Members touched on that aspect, too. I shall write to my hon. Friend as soon as I am in a position to do so. I pay tribute to the museum in Cambridge. It is of international repute.
The hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) raised specific points. The national heritage memorial fund has dealt with the major contributions by attempting to rectify some matters that have been mentioned.
I thank my hon. Friends for their kind remarks find those hon. Members who raised issues connected with the Select Committee's report. I assure them that their comments will be carefully considered.
I assure the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) that I shall not attempt to worsen the timetable of the Select Committee. I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the need for no political bias in Arts Council appointments. My predecessors followed the same rule, and I shall do so. What I said to the hon. Gentleman in my answer about Professor Hoggart is right. Only three members in the whole history of the Arts Council have ever been reappointed in such a way that they would serve 10 years or more. Professor Hoggart did a wonderful job for the Arts Council. It is a privilege to serve on the council and one should occasionally move the members around. There has been a great fuss about this incident. In the brief time available to me, I can only assure the House that that is the truth.
643 We have granted more money to the film archive. I am in continual discussion with the British Film Institute. I believe that the film archive is one of our major problems.
I noted all the points made by the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) about the Select Committee. I shall certainly bear his remarks in mind when considering the matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery) made some pertinent points about West End theatres and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State listened carefully to his remarks. I shall make representations to him on my hon. Friend's behalf, although I feel sure that my hon. Friend will do so himself.
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) should remember that the last major debate on the arts was on her report. I managed to take part in that debate. I read my speech from that debate today to make sure that I had not said something that I would bitterly regret. Thank God, no one else looked it up. The hon Lady intended to write to me about Wolverhampton. I waited for her letter, and I am still anxiously awaiting it. I am not sure that there is much I can do to help, but I sympathise with her point of view.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) mentioned aspects that I will, of course, discuss with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. I hope to discuss them further when I am lucky enough to go north of the border to grant the Scottish Museum of the Year award. I shall then explore the matters further.
My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) told us how wonderfully endowed and represented his constituency is. I congratulate him on his immense services to the European Music Year. If and when it comes off, as I believe it will, it will be due largely to his 644 activities as rapporteur at the Council of Europe. He will earn a great deal of credit not only in Britain but elsewhere.
I also bear in mind what my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Brinton) said about the Select Committee on Broadcasting and about the film industry. I believe there has been some mild improvement in the British film industry recently. Those who have seen some of the recent films, such as "Chariots of Fire", will agree with that. It depends how one defines the film industry, but there is some sign of a modest resurgence which I certainly strongly support.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Bulmer) about historic houses, although they are not entirely my responsibility. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is well aware of the points that he made, and I shall certainly bear them in mind. That is a very important aspect.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. Alexander, rightly stated the need for arts support not only in but outside the big cities. The amount spent by the Arts Council outside London now represents 60 per cent. of its grant. I shall discuss that aspect further with the Arts Council. It is not an easy problem to solve in rural areas. I shall see what can be done to help my hon. Friend in the difficult task of trying to share the arts support grant round the country.
I also note what my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) said about meddling with art. I shall meddle with it a little, as he does, but I am grateful to him for mentioning my sponsorship booklets. If any hon. Member wants advice or wants arts organisations to have advice, the two booklets produced by the arts and libraries are well worth studying. I recommend them to the House.
I hope very much that the debate, which has been very friendly, will not end in a Division. However, if it does, I invite the House to reject the motion.
§ Question put and negatived.