HC Deb 23 January 1984 vol 52 cc629-30
26. Mr. Fisher

asked the Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts what representations the Minister for the Arts has received in the subject of the Arts Council's grant for 1984–85.

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

My noble Friend has received a number of representations, both before and after the announcement of grant for 1984–85.

Mr. Fisher

Would the Under-Secretary of State confirm that the representations of the regional arts associations show that they are in despair over the Government's policy, which once again ignores the regional case? When are the Government going to end their anti-regional bias in arts funding?

Mr. Waldegrave

I have to say that I have answered this question from the hon. Member previously. The balance of spending, and the Arts Council's decisions on spending on the regions versus London and the south-east, have steadily moved in favour of the regions over the past 20 years. These decisions, which continue in the same direction, must be for the Arts Council to take.

Mr. Jessel

As the Arts Council budget has been increased by £8 million from £92 million to £100 million, which is an increase of approximately 8 per cent. at a time of 5 per cent. inflation—which is a 3 per cent. increase in real terms—may I ask whether the Arts Council is pleased?

Mr. Waldegrave

I can say that the answer to that is yes. I think that the House and all those who are concerned about the arts, particularly publicly funded arts, should congratulate my noble Friend on the settlement that he has achieved this year.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Will the Minister ensure that the Royal Shakespeare Company's regional tours are fully funded? Is he aware that the most recent tour of the Royal Shakespeare Company regional organisation to my constituency in Workington was a sell-out, a resounding success, and will he ensure that it is always supported with whatever finance it needs in the future so that we in the regions are enabled to enjoy that which would otherwise be available only in parts of London?

Mr. Waldegrave

No one doubts the importance of what the hon. Member has said, but I must say, as to the purpose of the Arts Council, that the decisions on how much money to spend on which aspects must be for the Arts Council.

Mr. Stanbrook

As the grant to the Arts Council increases continuously, there seems to be no need for us to increase revenue and penalise those who enjoy the arcs. Would my hon. Friend therefore confirm that there is no intention to reintroduce musuem charges?

Mr. Waldegrave

It is a matter for the individual trustees of the museums to bring forward proposals, should they want to do so, to introduce charges. I believe that one museum has made such proposals recently.

Mr. Buchan

That last answer, I think, will cause a lot of anxiety throughout the museums in Britain. We had expected at least a rejection in principle of the concept of payment for museums—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] For the reasons that were given by the House when the then Prime Minister tried to bring it in 10 years ago.

I come to the question that is being asked about 1984–85. Is it not the case that every single metropolitan local authority in Britain is concerned because they recognise the great collapse that there will be in their revenue? Is not the Minister being complacent in believing that this would be funded centrally, and is he giving the guarantee that, if the metropolitan authorities' income collapses, as is suggested, because of the actions of the Government, Her Majesty's Government will make up the money?

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman has asked two questions there. On the first point, what I have said will be no news at all to anybody who knows the museum situation. That has been the policy for some time now. On the second point, my noble Friend has issued a consultation paper, and he made an interesting speech yesterday in Newcastle on the matter. He has reaffirmed that the intention of the Department of the Environment to abolish the metropolitan counties does not derive from any wish to diminish funding for the arts. and he is willing to consult about the maintenance of reasonable spending on the arts.

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