HC Deb 10 December 1984 vol 69 cc731-2
28. Mr. Proctor

asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts what encouragement Her Majesty's Government give to private sponsorship of the arts; and if he will make a statement.

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

My right hon. and noble Friend the Minister for the Arts has recently launched an incentive scheme designed to encourage companies to look into the benefits of arts sponsorship. The first 12 winners, who raised more than £500,000, have just been announced.

Mr. Proctor

Is my hon. Friend aware of the growing concern of certain companies and corporations at the activities of the Inland Revenue "hit" squad in its office, which is examining their accounts with specific regard to sponsorship of the arts? Will he make representations to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor about this and also about the general need for tax reform to encourage private sponsorship of the arts?

Mr. Waldegrave

I have not seen those representations, but I shall look into the matter. On the broader point, the Select Committee made some recommendations, which are still under consideration. I remind my hon. Friend that the Government have made some reforms, especially of the covenanting regime, which have given a great deal of help in this matter.

Mr. Pavitt

In discussing this issue, will the hon. Gentleman give special attention to sponsorship by tobacco companies leading to the sale of lethal cigarettes, which cause nearly 100,000 premature deaths per year? Will he discuss with the Chancellor the fact that a further 1p tax per packet of cigarettes would provide enough money to cover not just arts sponsorship, but all sports sponsorship?

Mr. Waldegrave

Unfortunately, the tax regime is not the responsibility of my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister for the Arts.

Sir David Price

Does my hon. Friend agree that private sponsorship of the arts should be regarded as a welcome addition to support for the arts and not as a substitute for proper public patronage?

Mr. Waldegrave

I thoroughly endorse that view. We know that a range of arts have to rely on continued public sponsorship. Nevertheless, pluralism in funding is vital. That is why we are keen to see more private sponsorship.

Mr. Buchan

In view of the wise words of the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price) and of the Minister's reply, is it not disgraceful that public subsidy has fallen so short under the present Government that, after one of the most brilliant years in the history of the British theatre, a desperate crisis faces the English National Opera, the Royal Exchange theatre in Manchester and even the National theatre itself? Is that not an indictment of the disgraceful level of funding provided by the Minister for the Arts?

Mr. Waldegrave

No, it is not. Those three situations are all different. However, it is not the fault of the Minister for the Arts that the English National Opera, for instance, is in difficulties. Arts funding under the Government has kept up with inflation at a difficult time. That has been a considerable achievement.

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