HC Deb 30 April 1984 vol 59 cc15-7
20. Mr. Flannery

asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts if the Minister for the Arts has received any critical representations in regard to the recent report of the Arts Council; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. William Waldegrave)

My noble Friend has received some representations about the position of individual bodies, but he is glad that in general the Arts Council's review of its priorities has been well received.

Mr. Flannery

The Minister has not answered my question. How many "critical representations" have been made? It is obvious to all hon. Members that there is deep feeling about the so-called "The Glory of the Garden" report, the name of which is a quotation from Rudyard Kipling. Have not many critical representations been made to the press? Will the Minister tell the House how many critical representations have been made and whether he has had any discussions with the Arts Council since the report was published?

Mr. Waldegrave

My noble Friend received 15 critical letters, 12 of which were about the Gateway theatre, Chester. The hon. Gentleman's account of the reception of the report by the press is unfair. If he reads the leaders in The Times, the Financial Times, and The Sunday Times—Bernard Levin's articles and others—he will see that the report was on the whole welcomed as challenging and interesting.

Mr. Sims

Will my hon. Friend invite the Arts Council to reconsider the criteria on which it issues grants to theatres? Is he aware that the Churchill theatre in Bromley — which is one of the best-designed theatres — has established a reputation for well-produced plays which attract large audiences, and yet is being rewarded for its efforts by losing its Arts Council grant?

Mr. Waldegrave

Individual institutions should make representations direct to the Arts Council, not to my noble Friend or myself.

Mr. Fisher

Does the Parliamentary Under-Secretary accept the criticism that of the £5.5 million grants reallocated, over £3 million is being reallocated from regional companies or projects? Does that not demolish the Minister's claim that "gardening" helps the regions? It manifestly does not.

Mr. Waldegrave

With respect, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. When we look at the development of the Arts Council's policy, as outlined over the next few years, we shall see that part of Maynard Keynes' original intention —to spread the arts through the regions—is being undertaken seriously for the first time.

Mr. Grist

Does my hon. Friend seriously consider that major London orchestras will wish to go to the east midlands or to disband?

Mr. Waldegrave

The Arts Council must negotiate that with the orchestras. The move to establish an orchestra in the east midlands was widely welcomed.

Mr. Buchan

As the regionalisation policy—which is phoney—is based on the assumption that arts will receive matching funds from local authorities, how on earth can they get those funds when the Government are cutting and capping funds and abolishing local authorities?

Mr. Waldegrave

The policy is not based solely on that. It is based on a reallocation of Arts Council resources. The Arts Council believes that local authorities will continue to fund the arts, and I have no doubt that they will.

22. Mr. Murphy

asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts if he will make a statement on the recent Arts Council review.

Mr. Waldegrave

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I have just given to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery).

Mr. Murphy

Does my hon. Friend believe, following representations that have been made, that adequate assessment of the role of private sponsorship was considered by the council?

Mr. Waldegrave

I agree with the implication of my hon. Friend's question. Sponsorship is an extremely important and slowly growing area. I shall draw my hon. Friend's point to the attention of my noble Friend.

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