HC Deb 14 June 1984 vol 61 cc1076-165

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Donald Thompson.]

[The following documents are relevant: The eighth report from the Education, Science and Arts Committee, Session 1981–82 (H.C. 49-I) on public and private funding of the arts and the Government's reply thereto (Cmnd. 9127).]

3.47 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Neil Macfarlane)

The whole House will be glad that we have an opportunity today to debate the important issue of the arts and heritage. It is perhaps one of our national characteristics that many of us, most of the time, have only a passive awareness of our country's rich heritage. As we walk past buildings that earlier generations created with skill and aesthetic sense, we do not always pause to look at them and to reflect upon their achievement.

Equally characteristic, although numerically much smaller, are those groups in our society that remain vigilant to the cause of our heritage when they see that cause threatened. We in government are well advised to listen to what they say.

I have no doubt that a number of concerns will be voiced in today's important debate. I hope that I can demonstrate that the Government are committed to caring for the arts and heritage. I welcome this opportunity to review the actions that we have taken to bear out that commitment. In a complex society such as ours, however, it is possible—indeed, it is proper—for the Government to play only a partial role in the overall protection of the heritage, and I hope that other contributors to the debate will address themselves, as I shall, to governmental action and to the role that other bodies can and should play.

It may be helpful if I indicate the definition of the term "heritage" that I shall be using for the purpose of the debate. The wording of the motion, the tremendous variety of subjects that come within the term and the overlap between many Government Departments underline the fact that the definition is wide.

There is much which we have inherited from our predecessors and for which we stand as trustees for our successors. In the physical as opposed to the intellectual sphere we all share an environmental inheritance that we must seek to safeguard. The Government, and especially my Department, are conscious of their responsibility for environmental protection, for preserving what is sometimes called the natural heritage, but we are to concern ourselves in this debate with the built heritage and not the natural heritage. However, buildings do not exist in isolation from nature. Many of the most evocative images in Britain are a synthesis of both. For example, we have only to think of the House ranged alongside the river Thames. I shall concentrate on the architectural legacy from the past as well as on the arts.

I shall at the start of my remarks refer to one further distinction. In practice, the arts do not exist independently of the built heritage. The interconnections between them are many and obvious. The built heritage is part of the physical environment and the arts have their place primarily in the realm of the intellect. That distinction and the interconnection of the two spheres are reflected in the allocation of responsibility within Government to two separate Departments whose policies are always implemented in close co-operation. I am pleased to speak for both today, and I shall follow the terms of the debate in dealing first with the arts, and secondly with the heritage. Thirdly, my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, will deal with the many issues that will be raised in the debate.

It is inevitable that much of the interest in the Government's treatment of the arts concerns money. No arts organisation ever has enough money and every organisation always wants more. Costs are a constant worry. However, the Government's record should be considered objectively. There has been a significant increase in the amounts made available to the arts over the past few years. Central Government expenditure, mainly in England, on libraries, museums, galleries and the performing arts has grown from about £150 million in 1979–80 to a planned figure of over £250 million in 1984–85. That is a far from negligible increase and it has more than kept pace with general inflation.

Local authority support for libraries and museums in England adds nearly £400 million a year to the Government's support despite overall constraints on local authority spending. We should remember that these sums do not represent the totality of arts activity.

Happily, there are still large areas of the arts that are self-supporting or, at least, not part of the expenditure programme of my noble Friend the Minister of State. There is, for example, the large arts output of the BBC and independent television companies, which is costed at well over £100 million per annum in respect of the BBC. There are the success stories of record and publishing companies and of professional and amateur arts activities which, for various reasons, do not draw a direct subvention from public funds. This adds up to a completeness of provision which stands comparison with that in any other country. Taken overall, we can legitimately claim to be a world leader in the arts in many areas including literature, the theatre, dance, music and many of the crafts. Our television is generally recognised to be the finest anywhere and the film production industry has recently had remarkable success.

This does not sound like the record of a Government who are failing to honour their commitment or who are unconcerned about the state of the arts. Indeed, the reverse is true. Our general intention, in line with our manifesto commitment, is to safeguard the heritage and to give adequate support to the performing arts. The figures show that that has been done but I am not a supporter of those who argue that the amount spent on the arts should be doubled or trebled almost irrespective of the consequences. The fact remains that we can give only what we can afford.

There is a strong argument for the cost-effectiveness of the arts in that they can generate economic benefits that are greater than the financial input. However, any Government face hard choices over the lack of limited resources and claims that always exceed the sums that are available. It is my contention that within these overall limits distinct improvements have been achieved. Over the past four years, the national heritage memorial fund has proved itself to be a powerful body in support of our heritage. The provision for national museums and galleries has been maintained, and in some respects increased, to take account of their particular needs, notably in conservation and in the maintenance and improvement of their premises.

I shall deal later with the steps that we have taken in taxation to demonstrate our commitment to the heritage. I stress that the heritage exemptions from capital taxes, provided to facilitate the retention of heritage property in private ownership, are now worth several millions of pounds a year.

Many people have expressed anxieties, particularly about the effect on the arts of the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties. a believe, however, that the recent announcement in the House, and by my noble Friend in another place, of an additional £34 million of central funding in 1986–87, to compensate for the withdrawal of the top tier of local government support for the arts, has significantly reduced that concern.

It is fair to say that the flood of criticism which preceded the announcement has now largely receded. I make it clear that the £34 million is not intended to be a total replacement of the sums at present being spent by the GLC and metropolitan counties on the arts, although it represents a very substantial part of this.

It has always been the Government's intention that the lower tier authorities—district and borough councils—should assume some of that responsibility, especially when they are relieved of the substantial precept from the GLC and the metropolitan counties. It is right that arts activities of an essentially local nature should look to local support. Often, this will be in partnership with other bodies such as the Arts Council or the regional arts associations, which are making great progress.

If that support is not forthcoming, it must, to some extent, call into question the need for the activity. Local support is a necessary part of any arts activity, and this is particularly true in such areas as community and ethnic arts. The Government have secured the viability of arts activities which have a larger significance, often a regional or even a national significance, by ensuring that the finance for them will be available through central mechanisms. Given the extra support now promised, there is no reason why the arts world should any longer feel disturbed about the abolition of the top tier of government.

The Arts Council will play an important role in bridging the gap. It will receive almost half the additional sum to be made available—some £16 million extra in 1986–87. My noble Friend has great confidence in the Arts Council to discharge its enlarged responsibilities effectively. It has already shown how imaginative and forward-looking it can be by the careful strategy review set out in "The Glory of the Garden".

Clearly it is not my duty to defend or support the particular policy decisions involved in that document—they are rightly matters for the council itself. Individual decisions are not yet settled" and the council has given notice in good time for representations to be made.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)

The hon. Gentleman has said that it is not up to him to make comments on the Arts Council, but a great many of the council's decisions were undertaken after the Government's decision that a certain amount of the grant was to be earmarked. That is, in fact, telling the Arts Council what it should be doing.

Mr. Macfarlane

That is riot a fair comment. Certainly there is a need for close collaboration and co-operation, as with any organisation funded by the Government. I was saying in the context of the debate that it is not my function to defend or support the Arts Council at this moment. I believe that the way in which the overall exercise has been handled, and the general support for the council's thrust in the direction of more help for the regions, certainly should give every hon. Member much confidence for the future.

Similarly, detailed arrangements are now being settled, as outlined in the recent announcement, for the major provincial museums and galleries directly affected by the abolition of the GLC and metropolitan counties. The differing circumstances of those various institutions call for tailor-made administrative and funding mechanisms, which are to be discussed with all the parties concerned. I cannot yet announce the arrangements in each case, but I can assure the House that, in the Government's view, satisfactory arrangements will be made to maintain the important provincial museums whose sources of funding will have to change with the abolition.

The determination with which the Government have tackled, and will continue to tackle, this issue is not the only side to our commitment. The House will recognise that only a year ago grave concern was being expressed about the deficit problems of the Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

We had a financial scrutiny of the affairs of those companies which was not only hard-headed but realistic. The scrutiny recognised that they were, if anything, underfunded, and in consequence the Government provided an extra £4.1 million, not merely for those two companies but for four other major opera organisations: English National Opera, Scottish Opera, Welsh National Opera and Opera North. That sum represents a significant addition to the Arts Council's overall base line which in the current year has reached three figures—£100 million—for the first time.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Was the Minister surprised at the findings of Priestley? Will he ask the Arts Council to ask Priestley to study other companies in the arts world? He will probably find that they are all cost-effective.

Mr. Macfarlane

I will come to that point later. The hon. Gentleman's comment will be noted. I believe that what I have said so far shows that we have provided further evidence of the Government's support for the arts over the past five years. At the same time, our concern to limit the overall levels of public expenditure remains strong.

It would be unrealistic to expect a substantial increase in arts expenditure in real terms in the near future. Instead we believe that there are significant opportunities for support from other sources, notably business sponsorship. This is a theme my right hon. and noble Friend has eloquently developed on many occasions but more recently he has announced a new scheme to encourage such sponsorship—the business sponsorship incentive scheme.

It is too early yet to see how the incentive scheme will develop, but it is an attempt to encourage business money by an element of matching public funding. Within defined limits my noble Friend has said that he will be prepared to contribute 25 per cent. to every 75 per cent. put down by business. We believe that such a formula could unlock additional money for the arts from commercial sources which I should have thought would be widely welcomed in the House. Moreover, we are not asking for charity; business sponsorship is a practical proposition, involving advertising possibilities, access to a substantial consumer market, and distinct social and other advantages to the firm concerned.

Business sponsorship in many forms is an important supplement to public arts funding. I commend my noble Friend's initiative and I hope that the House will similarly favour it. The Government have also played their part in other ways by encouraging the development of private support, for example by pump-priming the appeals launched by the Roal Academy and the Courtauld Institute.

There is not time today for me to touch on further themes in the arts. My hon. Friend will do so later. I think we can look at a picture which is developing and improving, and far from deteriorating.

There is an impressive list of achievements in terms of the opening of new museums and facilities at the national institutions alone—for example, the Science museum's national museum of photography in Bradford; the Boiler House and the Henry Cole wing at the Victoria and Albert; the refurbished Egyptian wing at the British museum; and the new Turner gallery under construction at the Tate, generously endowed by the Clore Foundation.

The development of the new British library—and the British Library is a major national asset in itself—is now proceeding apace on the Euston road site. Public lending right has been introduced — another pledge fulfilled — and has been widely welcomed as an important step forward in giving due recognition to authors.

We are determined, as I have said, to maintain and improve our historic assets, just as we wish to encourage development from our roots in the present. In that direction too, through their support for the living and contemporary arts, the Government are determined to maintain this country's leadership. This, we believe, can be done by a plurality of funding, both public and private. Much has already been achieved, but more remains to be done.

I hope that I have said enough to demonstrate the depth of the Government's commitment, and the way in which the arts are being helped to meet the challenge of our present economic circumstances. It is not a negative or a depressing picture.

Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

I do not believe that I heard my hon. Friend touch on the problems surrounding university art museums. They have a special difficulty, being funded as they are through the university grants. I hope that recognition of their special needs may be taken into account when setting the Government allocation to the University Grants Committee in the future.

Mr. Macfarlane

I note what my hon. Friend has said. I agree that it is a most important dimension which constantly involves the attention of my noble Friend. I fully accept that they are an important aspect of galleries in this country. In so many areas of the arts we can claim not merely national but international success — the standards of the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre; the high esteem in which British contemporary dance is held; the Nobel prize to William Golding; the success of films like "Gandhi" and "The Draughtsman's Contract", all of which received funding from the British Film Institute; the international acclaim of the standards in our major museums; the importance of exhibitions such as the "Genius of Venice" at the Royal Academy.

Those, and many others, are instances of success, and they rely, for the most part, on the mixture of public and private help which I have talked about. That is the path charted, and one that this Government are determined to follow.

I come now to the heritage, for which my own Department has traditionally carried responsibility within Government. That continues to be the case, despite the establishment this year of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, to which I shall return.

In a period when great restraint has had to be applied to total public expenditure, we have none the less recognised the need to maintain a substantial allocation of resources for heritage purposes. In the first full financial year of this Government 1980–81, my Department's heritage allocation stood at £41 million. The provision in the current financial year, 1984–85, is £64 million, a substantial cash increase which also represents a real increase if price movements are excluded.

At the same time as maintaining our direct commitment, however, we have also acted on our conviction that the Government cannot be the fount of all wisdom and money, and that we must join in a wider partnership with other groups and bodies dedicated to the heritage.

For the past four years, an important influential body has been quietly getting on with the job of giving substantial financial help to the preservation of our heritage. This is the national heritage memorial fund, under the most effective chairmanship of Lord Charteris. In association with the Government, from whom it has received an initial endowment and annual topping-up grants, and yet independent of Government in its own selection of projects on which to spend its money, the fund has acted as an effective long-stop on behalf of the nation in response to particular threats to the heritage.

It played a key role in the action over Canons Ashby, Belton and Calke abbey, and—as its annual report shows—has been active in providing resources for a large and varied range of causes. For example, as hon. Members can see from the annual report, the NHMF was involved in a rescue operation to preserve more than 2,000 acres of the heartland of Exmoor over Warren farm estate, assisted in the purchase of two Gainsborough landscapes, contributed substatially to the exciting recovery of the Mary Rose, and assisted in recovering important relics from our industrial past such as the evocative Quarry bank mill.

The legislation under which the fund was established, the National Heritage Act 1980, also provided for my right hon. Friend and the Minister with responsibility for the arts to allocate resources for accepting property in lieu of tax. Over the past four years, my Department and the Office of Arts and Libraries have jointly administered the acceptance-in-lieu arrangements, and in that period over £6.5 million has been spent on this account.

In the current financial year, 1984–85, the ceiling on acceptance-in-lieu has been doubled from the previous figure of £2 million to £4 million. The House will recall that, on the basis of this increased allocation and also additional payments to be made to the national heritage memorial fund in 1983–84 and 1984–85, the Government were able earlier this year to agree the acceptance of Calke abbey and its allocation to the National Trust. Here indeed was a remarkable legacy of earlier generations—a "time capsule" has often been the description — which it proved possible to save from being dispersed and lost.

I am aware of the argument, which was heard at times during our consideration of the offer of Calke abbey, that there should be no ceiling placed on acceptances-in-lieu, and that there should be no requirement that the cost of the tax revenue forgone should be matched, as it is now, by payments to the Inland Revenue from the allocation jointly administered by my Department and the Office of Arts and Libraries.

I cannot accept this argument. To forgo tax revenue is equivalent to increasing public expenditure, and it is only proper that it should be controlled in the same way that other forms of public expenditure are.

Acceptance of property in lieu means of course that that property passes out of private ownership. In the case of Calke abbey, the Government have agreed that its future control should rest with the National Trust, and the country is fortunate indeed to benefit from the existence and expertise of the trust, which has long played an important role in the wider partnership of which I have spoken.

Sir David Price (Eastleigh)

Is my hon. Friend aware that a number of us who have supported him until he made his last point do not agree with him on the narrow Treasury bookkeeping that his Department should be held responsible for in-lieu acceptances? It shows that as always the Treasury is a bookkeeper and not an accountant.

Mr. Macfarlane

I had a feeling that I should not carry my hon. Friend with me knowing the arguments that he has advanced in this matter on many occasions. He must have regard to the wider issues involved. I have no doubt, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if he catches your eye later he will have a chance to try to convince me. I believe that there are many examples now, such as other tax measures, which show that there are attractive possibilities.

In heritage, as in society generally, however, this Government recognise the importance of private ownership. The historic houses were built by families for their own use. The maintenance of private ownership preserves a vital connection with the past, and carries the prospect that the houses will be looked after in future with the sensitivity and dedication that personal responsibility encourages.

We have taken several steps to support private ownership, including the extension of capital taxation exemptions for maintenance funds in the 1980 and 1982 Finance Acts.

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would it be possible for the Minister to read his brief with a little more verve?

Mr. Macfarlane

I was referring to the steps taken to support private ownership, including the extension of capital taxation exemptions for maintenance funds in the 1980 and 1982 Finance Acts, and for gifts to charities in the Finance Act 1983. Those specific measures have been reinforced by other, general, changes which we have introduced, such as the reduction in the rates of income tax and, most recently, the reduction in the rates of capital transfer tax.

In the past few weeks we have also made known our intention to provide a heritage exemption from VAT. After the announcement in the Budget that VAT was to be extended to building alterations and improvements—it has always applied to repairs and maintenance — widespread concern has been provoked about the implications for historic buildings.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

I hope that my hon. Friend will accept that many of us think that the provision is far from satisfactory. Although we appreciate the sentiment which prompted the announcement, we do not believe that it goes even a tenth of the way that is necessary to meet the problem.

Mr. Macfarlane

There are always arguments to be made. If I may develop my remarks about those elements, I hope that my hon. Friend will see that we have taken some steps in recent weeks, following the various comments from many quarters. I hope that he will see that we have been impressed by the representations. Certainly there were forceful ones from the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, which made it very clear to us that the imposition of VAT on alteration work could have an adverse effect on both the amount and the quality of work done to our historic buildings. Therefore, the Government intend to table an amendment to the Finance Bill which will allow substantial relief to the owners and developers of those historic buildings included in the statutory list compiled by my right hon. Friend. I know that the relief does not go as far as some would wish, and clearly my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) is in that category. Certainly the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission would argue that very forcefully.

I know that the relief does not go as far as some would wish, but any case for special relief from taxation has to be considered very carefully in terms of implementation and—if it is not to raise expectations in other cases—the danger that the cumulative effect of a number of concessions may undermine a Budget strategy. But no one should underestimate the quality of tax relief that will flow from the amendment to the Finance Bill. I ask my hon. Friend to contemplate that and to look at the figures closely, because it is a substantial concession of direct benefit to the heritage.

I turn to the major institutional change which we have made in heritage matters and which underlines our determination to remove Government interference from the world of heritage generally. I refer, of course, to the establishment in April this year of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, which is now under the chairmanship of Lord Montagu.

The setting up of the new commission was, of course, provided for by the National Heritage Act 1983. As the Minister with responsibility for taking the legislation through the House, I found it a rewarding experience. I was delighted that the House was united in a constructive concern for the heritage, and many useful amendments to the Bill were made in Committee. Indeed, during the passage of the Bill numerous refinements were introduced, from changes in the title of the commission to adding a requirement that the commission should have a concern with historic gardens.

The legislation followed on from wide discussions with all the various interested groups. The consultation document had suggested that the activities concerned could best be performed by an agency outside the mainstream of Government Departments, which could unify the various functions, provide a forum for the expert professionalism required, and draw together the public and private sectors in a common cause. Those broad aims were widely supported.

In the course of paliamentary consideration, it was decided that certain major functions would remain with my Department—responsibility for the royal parks and the occupied and unoccupied palaces, such as the Tower of London, Hampton Court and Kensington palace, which themselves attract about 5 million visitors—and that the Secretary of State should have the same responsibility for listed historic buildings, the accelerated re-survey, scheduling ancient monuments and determining appeals and inquiries.

The remit of the commission is none the less an extremely challenging one. It is responsible for giving professional advice to the Secretary of State on listing and scheduling. It is also responsible for making grants for the preservation of historic buildings and ancient monuments, and for rescue archaeology, totalling about £25 million. Those grants go to major buildings, such as the Castle Howard mausoleum and Canons Ashby, to conservation and town schemes, such as those in Liverpool, and to a range of individual archaeological digs. The commission is also responsible directly for the care of about 400 national monuments, spanning the prehistoric at Stonehenge, the legacy of the Roman era in Hadrian's wall, and mediaeval and later buildings, such as the 17th century Audley End. To tackle that remit, the commission has a budget of £52 million in the current year. In the short period of its formal existence, it has already set about its business with verve and determination. I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members will have seen the publicity launching the commission and the English heritage initiative, which aims to tap the great reservoir of concern for the heritage. It is greatly to be hoped that Lord Montagu and his fellow commissioners will succeed in winning widespread recognition for the activity and effectiveness of the new body.

In this context, I think it appropriate to mention the agreement which has been reached over the future of the historic buildings division of the Greater London council. the Government's proposed abolition of the GLC has given rise to widespread concern in the capital and elsewhere about the future of the council's historic building division.

The care and protection of London's heritage is rooted in the history of our capital city. The Government wish to preserve and enhance London's heritage and have listened sympathetically to the views of those arguing for the retention of the historic buildings division as a unified organisation. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission shared that view and my right hon. Friend and I were delighted to be able to reach an agreement in principle with Lord Montagu that the historic division should be absorbed into the commission. There is, of course, a great deal of work to be done on the details of the transfer and working through all its many implications. The important point is that the Government have responded positively to the views of those intimately concerned and connected with London's heritage, and I am encouraged by the welcome they have given to our decision.

Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

Is the Minister aware that he has now spoken for 12 minutes on historic buildings? Is he further aware that people who work in the arts, who work in the regional arts associations, and who make up the audience for the arts in Britain are looking to the debate for a lead from the Government on the arts? Will he turn his attention to the arts? Is he aware that, according to the Order Paper, the Select Committee report on the arts is considered to be relevant? Will he direct some of his comments to that report rather than to historic buildings?

Mr. Macfarlane

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has been in the Chamber all the time——

Mr. Fisher

I have.

Mr. Macfarlane

—but I remind him that this is a wide-ranging debate. It covers many issues within the arts and the heritage. I have also said that my hon. Friend will touch on some of those subjects in his reply to the debate. When we are debating the arts and the heritage, it is clear that there are many subjects requiring coverage by myself and by other right hon. and hon. Members. If the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) will wait until he has heard the remainder of my speech, he will see that I have been able to demonstrate to the House that it is a wide-ranging debate. I shall touch upon many subjects. He must understand that the narrow confines of what he wants to discuss will have to be absorbed in the far wider interest outside this House.

In respect of the metropolitan county councils, the Government have received many representations about the future of the archaeological units which have been set up and funded by those authorities. I would not wish to underestimate the importance of those organisations, but I cannot accept that it necessarily takes a whole tier of local government to ensure their continuing operation. This is an excellent example where local authorities can take direct responsibility for assessing the needs and priorities of their own areas. The metropolitan district councils have the power to get together to perform functions which are of concern to them all and to devote resources to those functions accordingly. It is also up to those councils to decide for themselves what they want to do. Meanwhile, project-based finance for individual rescue archaeological projects will continue to be available from the grant programme of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission.

Another of the institutional changes which we introduced through the National Heritage Act 1983 was the setting up of the armouries, as the National Museum of Arms and Armour, under a board of trustees. That, too, is an example of the partnership approach of co-operation between the Government and those who are intimately concerned with that aspect of our heritage.

The Armouries is the oldest public museum in the country and, as well as containing a fine collection of arms and armour, it is an acknowledged centre of world-wide expertise on the subject. There was no overriding reason to keep the museum as an integral part of my Department and it now has the opportunity to be funded and to manage its own detailed affairs independently of my Department and to bring together whatever experience and expertise may be right and necessary for it to develop and broaden its horizons.

Mr. Buchan

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is absolutely disgraceful. The entire arts world of Britain has been trying to hear from the Government what they propose to do about the living arts. We are having a debate on the arts and heritage. We have dipped back into history, claiming even the Venetian painters of the 15th and 16th centuries as ours, and have talked about heritage, but we have heard nothing about the main burden of the arts. Having waited 25 years, we are entitled to hear about it, even from this lot.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

Order. The contents of the speech, so long as they are in order, are not a matter for me.

Mr. Macfarlane

I recognise that the hon. Gentleman may not be fully devoted to the arts and heritage and may feel a sense of frustration having to sit and listen to the Government's record. It is the finest ever, since my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) took over, with others of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department of the Environment. It is a successful record. I well understand why the hon. Gentleman feels disgruntled and dismayed at such a great record.

The Armouries is an illustration of the way in which public and private interests can work together to preserve our heritage. Recently, I was delighted to announce the success of a public appeal to save the Southampton armour. The year before it had been sold at an auction and was destined for America. The Armouries immediately launched an appeal and the public responded magnificently. No less magnificent was the response of the national heritage memorial fund, which contributed half of the sum required, with a further substantial sum coming from the national arts collection fund. Now, and for the future, that superb suit of armour is on display for all to see.

Chatham historic dockyard is one of the most illustrious names in our Navy, but with the announcement that the Royal Navy was to leave Chatham came a general realisation that there, too, was an important and extensively preserved piece of British history. Behind the facade of a working naval dockyard, and underneath the grime of centuries of use, lay an almost intact Georgian dockyard. The vast majority of the British people were not aware of this and might have remained unaware had the departure of the Royal navy led to the destruction of Chatham's historic character

The Government were not prepared to let this happen and, with the advice of a consultant study into the potential of the historic dockyard, and with the ready and welcome co-operation of Kent county council, they have facilitated the setting up of a private trust to manage and promote it under the concept of a living dockyard. The general public should be able to see and appreciate the hustle and bustle of a dockyard in action and watch the actual business of rope, sail and flag making being carried out in the original buildings. Other buildings, such as Medway house, the port admiral's residence and the oldest surviving royal naval building, will need to be adapted to suitable new uses. In other words, it is not intended to be a dead museum. It is intended to develop it with new uses and industries as a fitting and lasting tribute to our naval heritage. The chairman, General Sir Steuart Pringle, and an impressive board of trustees are setting about this task.

The project is also important in respect of financing. The Government have given the trust an endowment of over £11 million pounds, but there the Government's funding ceases. It will be for the trust to secure its own sources of longer-term commercial and institutional investment. Once again, the guiding principle behind this initiative has been one of partnership, allocating equally important roles to the public and the private sectors.

I have already explained that the setting up of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission has not affected my Department's direct responsibility for the care and management of the royal palaces and the opening of the so called "unoccupied" palaces to the public. They include the Tower of London, Hampton Court palace and Kensington palace. Last year the number of visitors to these palaces was some 5 million, and the income from those admissions was in excess of £6 million—an increase of 9 per cent. on 1982. The palaces are in a sense big business, and we see the need to ensure that their revenue-earning capacity flourishes in order to contribute towards the cost of their upkeep.

I shall shortly be appointing a commercial manager seconded from the private sector to assume responsibility for the trading operation at the palaces, to build on last year's achievement of an increase in sales receipts of about 28 per cent. We hope that he will bring the necessary commercial expertise to enliven display and presentation and to improve the range and profitability of goods sold, consistent with the need to maintain standards of quality and good taste that are so important to that aspect of our heritage.

I should also draw the attention of the House to the number of developments that we have recently made at the royal palaces. The latest and most eye-catching development of recent years is the court dress collection at Kensington palace, which was opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret on 23 May. The public have a unique opportunity of glimpsing something of a world that has largely passed away—the world of dresses and uniform once worn to court. Costume worn to the courts of eight British monarchs is on display, but the nucleus of the collection consists of over 400 items of uniform dating from Queen Victoria's reign.

The magnificent assembly of costume is on loan to Her Majesty the Queen from Mr. and Mrs. Aubrey Bowden and is displayed in rooms at the palace by gracious permission of Her Majesty. In addition to the rooms in which the collection is displayed, there are four rooms that have been restored to appear as they may have been at various times in the 19th century. I was pleased to learn that 800 visitors came to see the collection on the first day that it was open to the public, and that 6,000 have visited in the first two weeks of its opening.

In May 1983, Her Majesty the Queen opened the first phase of a new wall walk at the Tower of London. This adds a new dimension — that of height — to the experience of visiting the tower. On 2 April this year, the second phase was opened. Visitors now obtain new and fine views of the Thames and of the white tower and other buildings within the tower precints from the top of the inner curtain wall.

The new section of the wall walk enables the visitor to go through the Wakefield tower built by Henry III in the 13th century. Refurbishment of the first floor room of this tower gives the feel of what it might have been like in Henry III's day. From there, visitors walk along the wall to the Lanthorn tower where there are new displays commemorating the Tower of London in the Victorian period.

There is also a model of a Victorian yeoman warder wearing full state dress——

Mr. Cormack

My hon. Friend is treating us to a brief that is purely descriptive and which could have been given by an information officer from his Department. May we please hear about the Government's thinking and philosophy? This is a serious debate and we have been waiting 25 years for it.

Mr. Macfarlane

I hope that I am demonstrating to my hon. Friend that the Government's record in the past five years has ensured that many of these developments and projects are coming to fruition. The policy and philosophy has developed over several years. I hope that it will demonstrate that we are ensuring that such developments attract tourism and interest and are part of this country's heritage. I am certain that everyone must consider his attitude to the philosophy of the arts and heritage, but it is also important to demonstrate what is available in this country, and to harness it.

Mr. Fisher

I have a question for the Minister, arising from that reply. Has he read the Select Committee report and, if so, will he direct his attention to some of its recommendations?

Mr. Macfarlane

If the hon. Gentleman will wait, he will discover that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West will cover all of those points during the debate. The debate ranges over all the points mentioned in the Select Committee report, as well as the arts and our heritage. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bear with me while I try to demonstrate the Government's record. I can understand his frustration. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to proceed.

Mr. Fisher

Have you, or have you not, read the Select Committee report?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not query my reading habits.

Mr. Macfarlane

The royal parks in central London and at Greenwich are an important dimension to a prized part of our heritage. No other western European country has such an area at its heart. The royal parks are more heavily used and deeply appreciated than ever before. This year they look magnificent and I pay tribute to the bailiff and his staff.

There is hardly any need for me to remind the House that the royal parks were all originally the personal property of the Sovereign. They still are. Successive royal owners have improved the parks and the passing years have witnessed different characters emerge for each of them.

Features have been introduced and have become accepted as part of the natural appearance of the parks. Other features and usages have appeared, been a part of London life for a short while, and have sunk back into oblivion. That fascinating and chequered history presents certain problems for today. As with many of our historic monuments, they are layers of history in the fabric of our parks. Unlike many monuments, however, they are not just to be admired, visited and studied; they are there to be used, if not for hunting deer as originally intended, then for pursuing a love of the countryside and green space.

One major problem affecting our heritage landscape has, of course, been the terrific loss of trees, not least through the depredations of Dutch elm disease. This has, of course, affected the royal parks, too. Our commitment to caring for the heritage can be seen from the fact that while over the past decade some 12,000 trees were lost in the parks, about 13,000 new ones have been planted and are now growing to maturity.

Mr. Tony Banks

Will the Minister acknowledge the GLC's role in creating new parks? I apologise for the fact that I missed some of the hon. Gentleman's speech, but he has been speaking for a very long time about the steps that the Government are taking to lessen the impact of the GLC's abolition. If the Government have their way and the GLC is abolished, who will be responsible for constructing new regional parks in London? We must look to the future as well as living off the past.

Mr. Macfarlane

I am not so sure that the hon. Gentleman is totally convincing when he says that the GLC has taken great care. The GLC's historic buildings division undoubtedly enjoys an enormous reputation, but it was removed from county hall in November 1982 to make way for the organisation covering the women's committee and the ethnic minority groups. I am not 100 per cent. certain whether those in the historic buildings division and local London parks felt that they were desperately wanted by the GLC.

Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman has raised an important point, and the district and borough councils have a role in developing a policy. Indeed, that is clearly outlined in our policy for streamlining the cities. However, the royal parks are an important part of our heritage.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

A moment ago my hon. Friend the Minister referred to royal parks in, I think, central London and Greenwich. I am sure that he would not wish to leave out those in my constituency, such as Bushy park and Home park, Hampton Court, which are certainly not in central London or Greenwich. Indeed, they are further away from central London than Greenwich is.

Mr. Macfarlane

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I was talking about the centre of London, but I certainly acknowledge the important role that all the royal parks play in our heritage. I am certainly glad to have my hon. Friend's approval on that.

I think that the House will be interested to know that we are anxious to preserve the unique character of the royal parks and that we also have to make allowance for appropriate modern developments. We also have to balance those developments and recently my Department commissioned consultants to undertake a series of historic surveys of the royal parks. Most of the reports have now been received—copies are in the Library of the House—and are being diested by my Department.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)


Mr. Macfarlane

I shall give way in a moment. At the end of the day, following this exercise, we should have a much more up-to-date and sharply defined understanding of the components that make up the individual character of each royal park, and an idea of the priorities for action.

Mr. Flannery

One cannot intervene, because the Minister is speaking so quickly. I wish to return to something that he said about 30 seconds ago, which now seems far in the distance. I refer to the trees that he mentioned. It is a peculiar attitude to adopt to conservation and our heritage that there should be a Wildlife and Countryside Act—which is really an anti-wildlife and countryside Act—and that the countryside should be turned into prairies on a grand scale, so that there are 1,000-acre fields and farmers can do exactly what they want, yet the Minister can say that the Government are deeply concerned about a few trees. That seems to be an almost infinitesimal number to boast about compared with how many have been wantonly destroyed throughout the country.

Mr. Macfarlane

In the context of the royal parks, it is not an infinitesimal number. They are an important dimension to the royal parks, and I was merely providing some statistics which may or may not be of interest to hon. Members. I was trying to demonstrate the Government's role and their record—[Interruption.] The Government have a role in ensuring that the parks are well husbanded and that the trees are replaced in what is, after all, a most important part of our heritage. The same is true elsewhere. That is why my Department, the Scottish Office, and the Welsh Office have been working closely with local authorities to ensure that those parts of the country whose trees have suffered from the various diseases and ravages have them replaced.

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

Is my hon. Friend aware that the very serious problem that has been created for the heritage and the environment as a result of Dutch elm disease has given some artists, and particularly sculptors, an advantage. It has released a lot of timber for carving, because that disease affects only the bark. I speak from considerable experience, as my son is a professional sculptor and uses tons of elm for carving. The availability of that wood is a great advantage to sculptors, and I hope that the Government will ensure that it is passed on to them.

Mr. Macfarlane

My hon. Friend, as always, has an interesting commentary to make on most facets of the arts and heritage. In the case that he cited, one person's loss is clearly another person's gain. I am sure that my hon. Friend will accept that there is much that we must do to restore the great losses that we have suffered over the years. Trees are an important component part of our heritage.

I referred earlier to the support given by the Government to the appeal launched by the Courtauld Institute, which represents another important part of our heritage—[Interruption.] Opposition Members may not think that that is so, but I am glad that I still have the attention of the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan), as I had thought that he was a reluctant attender of this debate. The exciting outcome of that initiative is, of course, to be seen in the proposal to house the institute and the fine Courtauld collection in the north block at Somerset house, which as been accepted by the House. The Fine rooms—which were built in the 18th century to house the Royal Academy, the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries—have, sadly, lain empty for over a decade.

In order that the splendid rooms in the north block of this impressive building can again be used in a way similar to that originally intended by its architect, Sir William Chambers, the Government have agreed in principle to lease the north block to the University of London, restricting the use of the Fine rooms to artistic or cultural purposes. Hon. Members will know that a Bill has recently passed through the House to enable my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to do just that.

The Courtauld Institute intends to install 80 per cent. of its excellent art collection in the Fine rooms, and the rest of the north block will be used to house its libraries. Other rooms are to be used for teaching and as offices. The institute will eventually be opening the Fine rooms to the public, who will be able to appreciate not only the artistic and cultural pearls offered by the institute, but the interior of this important part of Somerset house. But there is no question that the Courtauld Institute will do other than justice to one of the most historic and beautiful buildings in London.

I have spoken of the major examples of our built heritage such as the royal palaces, the Tower of London, Castle Howard and Stonehenge, but that heritage also consists of a much larger number of smaller and less conspicuous buildings from all periods of our history—buildings which serve as ordinary family homes, or are used for commercial or industrial purposes. If their place in our heritage history is to be properly appreciated, it is necessary that they should be properly identified and protected.

That is the purpose of the statutory list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest, the compilation of which remains the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The first listing survey of this country was carried out in the 1950s and 1960s. During the course of its completion, however, there was a shift in perception of what constituted our architectural heritage. In particular, greater importance was attached to the more ordinary dwellings of the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as to the great variety of architecture produced in the Victorian period. In 1970, the Historic Buildings Council proposed new criteria for selecting buildings, and these were approved by Government, with the result that a second national survey, a resurvey, was set in hand.

When we came into office five years ago, only about a third of the country had been resurveyed. Lack of progress was beginning to jeopardise the usefulness of the exercise. We therefore decided on an acceleration of the resurvey, which should secure its completion within the next three years—some 20 years earlier than would otherwise have been the case.

The exercise is a major undertaking in terms of staff effort, and we decided that the programme should draw on the resources of both the public and private sectors. About half the field work is being carried out by the staff of 20 county councils and two metropolitan districts which had the expertise, and the staff available, to make a quick start. This phase of the programme began in 1982, and is already about half complete. The second phase began work this year, using 11 private sector firms of architects to carry out the field work in 22 counties and to prepare draft lists. In each case the field workers are supervised by the Historic Buildings Inspectorate of the new commission and the draft lists are considered by the inspectorate and my Department before being issued by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

This use of private firms is, indeed, an innovation in this field. Hitherto all listing work had been carried out by public officials — professionals who had built up considerable expertise over many years in the evaluation of historic buildings. But private sector architects include among their number many who have for years been closely involved in conservation work, bringing new life to old buildings by updating them for today's needs while preserving their historic interest and painstakingly restoring architectural or historic features.

Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)

Will my hon. Friend recognise that it is essential to be selective in the process of preservation? There is a danger that we may preserve so much that we become fossilised by our own history, to the detriment of putting up new and exciting modern buildings.

Mr. Macfarlane

I am aware of the anxiety that many people have expressed and I shall come to that in a moment.

It is impossible to say exactly how many buildings will be listed by the time the whole exercise is complete, but it is likely that the total will be in the region of 400,000. This would represent an increase of over 40 per cent. in the number of listed buildings at the start of our accelerated programme. The completion of the resurvey is of particular importance. Much of our heritage is lost through lack of knowledge, and greater awareness can bring benefits to owners and to the wider public who see listed buildings in our towns and villages.

The inclusion of a building in the statutory list has the effect that no significant alterations or extensions to that building and no demolition may be carried out without obtaining listed building consent. During the past five years, my Department has continued to encourage local planning authorities to be diligent in using their powers in respect of listed building consent.

We have also implemented a strengthening of the powers safeguarding scheduled ancient monuments and areas of archaeological importance. There is already a system of scheduled monument consent, introduced by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 which replaced the previous system of notification.

I have also stressed the importance of proper identification and assessment of the many examples of our built heritage, and this purpose underlies the compilation of the statutory list of historic buildings and the schedule of ancient monuments. In this context, I must also mention the work of the Royal Commission on historical monuments, which was established just over 75 years ago wth the remit of making an inventory of ancient and historical monuments and constructions.

In the years since its establishment, the Royal Commission has gained a high reputation for its scholarly recording of the heritage. I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Royal Commission's chairman from 1972, Lord Adeane, and to say how saddened I was by the news of his death on 30 April of this year.

Lord Adeane gave unstinting service to his country, and it was indeed fortunate that a very formative and challenging period in the history of the Royal Commission coincided with his chairmanship. I am glad that the important work of the Royal Commission continues to progress, helped particularly by the computerisation of the national monuments record.

I have addressed the theme of today's debate so far from a national perspective, but we should not forget that our artistic and historic legacy is of world-wide interest.

Mr. Cormack

My hon. Friend has been speaking now for six minutes short of an hour. He has not yet mentioned the report of the Select Committee, which some of us spent two years slaving over.

Mr. Macfarlane

My hon. Friend must surely understand that there are many hours to go in the debate and many things to be discussed.

Mr. Cormack


Mr. Macfarlane

I shall give way again in a moment, but I must point out to my hon. Friend that the Government have responded fully to that report.

Mr. Cormack

After 18 months the Government gave a brief reply to the report. It has not yet been debated in the House and we have had no reference at all from my hon. Friend to the Government's reply. It is not good enough. It is treating the Select Committee with total contempt.

Mr. Macfarlane

I am sorry if my hon. Friend feels aggrieved, but he must be fully aware that the Government have responded to that report. No doubt my hon. Friend will have an opportunity, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to advance his concern about it. He must understand that there are many important issues. I am anxious to demonstrate the Government's record in the arts and heritage generally. While the Select Committee no doubt fulfilled a most important role, he must understand that we have many responsibilities, most of which I am anxious that the House should hear about this afternoon.

We should not forget that tourism is an important and growing sector of the economy. In 1983 its turnover amounted to some £9 billion and it provided employment for around 1 million people. Foreign exchange earnings, excluding fares paid to carriers, came to nearly £4 billion. As tourism grows in its importance to our economy, so does the value of our heritage as an economic as well as a cultural asset. It is a massive selling point for this country. I hope that the hon. Member for Paisley, South, with his jaundiced approach, will acknowledge that the people who work in tourism create perhaps 1 million jobs.

In 1982 it is estimated that some 43 million visits were made to historic properties and some 52 million visits to museums and galleries. Surveys carried out by the British Tourist Authority showed that nearly 80 per cent. of overseas visitors visit historic properties while in Britain—a rich part of our heritage.

The historic richness of our country has been adopted by the British Tourist Authority as the central theme for encouraging tourism to Britain this year. This theme, promoted under the banner of "Heritage '84", has attracted considerable support from within the industry, and the coming months will see a wide range of special events.

There is a significant economic dimension to the protection of our heritage and to the fostering of the arts which we recognise and welcome warmly. But the amenity movement in this country, the realisation within our society that our history is a finite resource that must be properly husbanded, pre-dates the age of mass tourism, as does the Government response to this movement which we continue to develop today. We emphasise that the Government's responsibility does not mean domination. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my noble Friend retain important individual responsibilities for the arts and heritage.

At the same time, however, through the launch of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, for example, we have acted on our belief that the wider interest of bodies in this sphere is a strength, not a weakness.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford began the dynamic approach to the arts. It was continued by my noble Friend and by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. We in Government are vigilant and shall continue to fulfil that responsibility, which we recognise. I hope that in so doing we can widen and strengthen the partnership with those other groups in society who form such a valuable component in the arts and heritage. They also share our concern. I hope that everyone in the House, of whatever party, will be vigilant and act in any way possible to ensure that the arts and the heritage continue to thrive.

4.46 pm
Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)

We have waited 58 minutes for the end of this tawdry speech. I was angry when I heard that the debate would coincide with the European election. My anger was shared throughout the arts in Britain.

We have waited 25 years to have a full-scale debate on the arts. Among other things we have had the largest and deepest analysis of the arts by a Select Committee. There have been sheaves of comments about its report and about the crisis that is facing the arts. Yet this debate is taking place on a day when it was known that many of those who are most concerned could not be here. It is being held on a day when it is impossible for people concerned with the arts to come to lobby their Members of Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because there are so few Members here. The fact that some Conservative Members have been dragooned to sit still for 58 minutes of tawdriness is a sign that what I am saying is true. There are some hon. Members here who are concerned, including the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) who is keen that there should be more Dutch elm disease so that his son can get wood for his sculpture.

I am not sure whether the Government are playing a deliberate joke on the House. If they are, it is an insult to the House. I am not sure whether a civil servant in the Department responsible for the arts, libraries and museums is playing a trick upon the Minister. If so, the Minister has fallen for it enthusiastically.

The only other time I have heard a brief being read in the way that the Minister read his brief was the famous occasion in another place when a Minister turned over to the last page and read aloud, "The above argument will not hold water, but it will do for their Lordships." The Minister's speech was an absolute disgrace.

We are interested and concerned about the heritage, but only in so far as it stimulates and develops the present. It is not enough to say that the arts in this country are concerned with court dress in royal palaces in the 18th century. We are concerned not just about the number of trees that have been replanted in parks, but about young people who seek provision to express themselves. If there were any period in our history when it was important for us to have a debate on the arts, it is this period.

Two years ago I visited a local factory which produced aero-engines. Engines came along on a conveyor belt about 15 ft high—the shining steel glittering pillar of the central core of the aero-engine. I saw a new machine tool which I did not understand and I asked what it was. They said that it was called the library. It was a round drum, not far off the height of the bottom of the Gallery, with pieces of metal sticking out. I was allowed to see it at work. One man was supervising with a screen and a white coat. As the pillar came along an arm went down into the machine tool, took out one particular tool, cut a strip with it, returned it, chose another tool which automatically bored, returned it and chose another tool which automatically ground. The operation was entirely automated. There was a man there doing nothing but watching a screen. He was no longer using his hands to turn and twist metal, but watching a machine. I asked how many people had worked on that operation previously. I was told 73. Because of that machine tool, 73 people were out of a job.

The enormous development of technology can make for us a society in which our leisure can profitably be used. That used to be the hallmark of the Tories. The Tory gentleman was marked by his concern with the enhancement of leisure. There were gentleman then. In the Cabinet of this Government all the gentlemen have been sacked. Indeed, one of them is present. The Government are not concerned about the arts because it does not profit them. The Government only understand profit and loss accounts. To know the price of everything and the value of nothing is the hallmark of this Government.

We have waited 25 years to see whether the Government would begin to understand the nature of the society which they are corrupting and so shoddily treating, but there is not a glimmer. We have heard nearly 60 minutes of rubbish. Moreover, there was no sign that the Minister had read his brief in advance. It was not even well read. It was disgraceful.

I heard the anger of the arts this morning when 200 arts organisations came to discuss the arts with us. We heard anger about the cutbacks in support for the arts. There was no praise for what the Government are spending on the arts. Had they been able to do so, they would have strangled the Minister, and for once in my pacifist life I would have agreed with such a course.

This has been an appalling, shoddy, tawdry, ignoble day for the House of Commons. It is a disgrace. The Government are treating the arts with contempt. Furthermore, they are treating democracy with contempt by having this debate on the same day as an important election.

Mr. Flannery

Like the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), I was on the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts. I have listened to the Minister reading his brief for 58 minutes with a completely detached bureaucratic lack of interest and seen the way in which the Government have been glorified. It made me think of one particular instance when we were working hard to ensure that there would be a national theatre museum in Covent Garden. The Rayner report came out and we sent for Derek Rayner. All he wanted to do was to cut, cut and cut. He was an expert in that. There was no dispute in the Committee about the struggle that we put up for that museum. But that has not been mentioned by the Minister, who gave the impression that all was well in the world of the arts. In fact, the submissions that we received were so heavy that to carry them from home—up north in my case—was difficult. They showed the worry of the whole of the arts world about the break-up of the GLC and the metropolitan counties. That is the situation, and it is utterly contrary to what the Minister has so bureaucratically read out, without even reading it in advance.

Mr. Buchan

I agree with every word of that. Indeed, in a sense, my hon. Friend has taken the words out of my mouth.

There was a response to the Select Committee report, but it was shoddy and brief. It was like the 10 commandments — thou shalt not spend more money; thou shalt not give special concessions to business people. The recommendations say that there should be a Ministry for the arts, heritage and tourism. No, said the Government. The Minister should produce an annual White Paper for discussion. No, said the Government. Local authorities should be given a statutory responsibility and each local authority should make an annual return. No, said the Government. There was a whole set of recommendations relating to local authorities which in each case were rejected on the simple ground that the giving of statutory responsibilities to local authorities is not a matter for the Government.

But, of course, that is precisely a matter for the Government. It was suggested that every publicly subsidised organisation should give at least one free performance. That was rejected. It was suggested that businesses should be exempt from tax on a percentage of their pre-tax profits for all donations to the arts. Rejected. It was suggested that companies should devote up to 1 per cent. of new building budgets to purchases of works of art. Rejected. It was suggested that businesses should provide facilities for the display of works of art. Rejected. Even the propositions to advance their arguments on sponsorship have been rejected. It is a disgrace.

We are facing a number of specific problems, some of which the Select Committee explored and would have at least given us an opportunity to discuss to find a way forward. They have been rejected. We could have had the most fruitful of debates today if the Minister had at least instructed his office to give him a brief on the Committee's report. That would have been helpful.

Why are the arts so angry and why will they be so angry after this display today? First, there is the problem of money. The Minister boasted that for the first time the funding of the arts in millions of pounds is running into three figures. It is about £101 million. What he forgot was that part of that figure has already been earmarked by the Government for what they call prestigious national institutions and centres of excellence—to be precise, opera. That has been imposed on the Arts Council by the Government, and the Minister said that it would not be proper for him to discuss it today. Then when the hell is it proper to discuss that matter? That means that support for the rest of the arts has been cut. Other than the four national institutions for which the Government have earmarked funds, funding for the arts has been cut. There has been an increase of about 3 per cent.—only slightly more than half the rate of inflation.

I shall discuss the Arts Council report. We, the Parliament of Britain, are entitled to discuss that report. I should have thought that it was the Minister's duty to discuss the Arts Council report. That report fully accepts the Government's argument. When it comes to opera it says that it cannot intervene because the Government have decided that the money should be earmarked for national opera, and therefore the council cannot say that that area should be cut back. The very fact of earmarking has not only given more money to one section, which therefore means less to the rest, but that of itself has dictated the nature of the Arts Council's behaviour.

Hitherto we have believed in the arm's-length principle for the arts. We do not want the Government to intervene directly in the arts. We believe that we should have a buffer between the Government and arts organisations—the Arts Council. This is the first time that there has been such a direct intervention, and it means that there will be less money for the arts. A principle has also been established, that the Arts Council states in its report that it cannot interfere with something if it is clearly what the Government want. That is the heresy of the cracking of the arm's-length principle.

Two other heresies are involved. The first is connected with what is being done in relation to the local authorities. As we all know, the motive behind the scrapping of the metropolitan county councils and the GLC is personal political pique. In order to get rid of Ken Livingstone, the Government decided to scrap the GLC, and in order to appear consistent they had to scrap the MCCs, too.

On that cheap basis, all the arts have been thrown into fearful dificulty. The Arts Council states that its entire development programme depends upon matching money, and the matching funds can come from only two sources. The first source is business. There is an attempt to induce business to provide a little more money, because not enough money is being offered. The cigarette companies, which are fighting to stay in business, like to be generous to good causes. However, sponsorship from such a source may not do the good causes much good. Apart from that, business sponsorship is not working, so Government money has to he advanced to encourage it.

The real area in which matching funds are to be sought, so that the Arts Council can provide support, is that of the local authorities. Even though the local authorities are being cut, capped or abolished, "The Glory of the Garden" states: the success of the development programme will depend, in large measure, on the extent to which it attracts funds from other sources, in many instances on the matching basis referred to above. The development adumbrated by the Arts Council—limited as it is by Government earmarking—depends upon matching funds. On page 11, we learn more about the matching funds: To finance many of its proposals"— if the Minister had had the grace to look at the Arts Council report, he could have claimed credit for those developments— the Council will issue challenges to local communities to match its funding, at least in part, whether from local authority resources or other locally-raised funds. Local authorities are being given less money and they are being capped if they try to raise money themselves. None the less, if they do not match the Arts Council funds, the developments will not take place. The authorities do not have the money. They will be in an intolerable dilemma. They will have to decide whether to save an old people's home or a quartet, whether to build a nursery school or a theatre. That is what the cutting and capping will mean.

The question will no longer be one of priorities; it will be one of dictated priorities. Yet, rightly, the Government were willing to earmark funds centrally for opera. The earmarking of funds for opera should have been allied to an understanding of the necessity for our national institutions to play their role not as static centres of excellence, but as touring powerhouses for the regions, in areas whose local authorities have been enough given money to welcome them.

There is another heresy. The Government turned against Ken Livingstone in a fit of political pique, but they did not have an atom of understanding of what structures were to take the place of those that are to be abolished. They still do not know, and the arts, above all, will suffer, because the arts require wider support and organisation.

For instance, the Eden Court theatre in Inverness was supported by the Highland region. The relationship between regional and district authorities in Scotland was roughly equivalent to that between the metropolitan councils and the borough councils. That theatre was supported by the regional council and backed by three out of 10 district councils. There has now been a change in Scotland. When we predict what will happen after the abolition of the MCCs and the GLC, we base our prediction on what has already happened in Scotland. We can see the results of the removal of funding for the arts in Scotland from the regions to the districts. Local authority support for the Scottish national orchestra has been reduced by about one sixth already over the year because of this.

In order to save the theatre, the Highland region proposed to transfer its ownership and the loan fund charges which it is paying to its education department, so that the region could continue to support the theatre. One of the councils has taken Highland region to court to prevent that, so that it will not have to contribute to the regional funds to support the theatre. If the case goes against Highland region, the whole cost will fall upon one district council—Inverness.

If rates are raised over a wide area, the whole area contributes to the theatre. When the area is hacked into its constituent parts, only the district council is whose area the theatre is set will be regarded as the body which should support it. Funding will collapse. We are not making predictions. We are talking about what is happening in Scotland.

The Government propose to deal with the problem by setting up a joint board of some kind. They have not given the matter much thought. They have been thinking only about their scrap with Ken Livingstone. They have not thought this through. If they do that, we shall be confronted by the second heresy — taxation without representation. Even if the £34 million is and continues to be provided, there will be no democratic basis for that provision. In no sense will the wishes of the community be reflected. The amount will be dictated by the Government.

One of the few hard nuggets in the Minister's speech was that £34 million was to be provided to replace local authority funding. A number of problems are involved here. If the £16 million for local authority arts is provided on a continuing basis for district councils which were constituent parts of the abolished authorities, what will the other district councils say? If the Government continue to provide money for district councils which were formerly constituents of MCCs, but not for the rest of England and Wales, the other district councils will stop producing money—and rightly so, because all the councils will be on a par. The Government have not considered that dilemma. Do they mean to continue to provide £34 million for all the district councils chopped out of the MCCs or the GLC?

The arts are fearful about the consequences of rate-capping, cuts and abolition. They are also worried about the distaste felt by the present chairman of the Arts Council—and perhaps by the Government—for certain theatres. The list of theatres whose funding is to be withdrawn makes interesting reading. Among the touring companies, CAST Presentations, M6 Theatre Company, Mikron Theatre Company, 7:84 Theatre Company and Temba Theatre Company are all to be cut. All those theatres produce socially involved plays — what Conservative Members would call political plays. Temba Theatre Company is perhaps the most significant, professional, and best-known black theatre company in the country. The Arts Council document states that we must pay attention to the ethnic arts, but the Arts Council's one overt action—apart from pious words—is to cut funding for that theatre company. They are all touring companies, yet the Government and the Arts Council claim that they are embarking on a policy of regionalisation. There can be no regional development without touring companies.

Mr. Tim Brinton (Gravesham)

Although the hon. Gentleman has expressed an opinion on Arts Council policy, with which I do not necessarily agree, he is about to touch on a fundamental problem with all arts funding — that ultimately someone, at arm's length or otherwise, must take a decision on taste. If the hon. Gentleman is being critical of the present system — I suggest that the system faces more difficulties under budgetary constraint than under budgetary affluence — would he like to say what he would put in its place to secure the mutual balance that he seeks?

Mr. Buchan

If the hon. Gentleman will be patient, I shall deal with that at the end of my speech. The Opposition do not merely criticise. We have views and values that are not merely to do with price.

The Arts Council claims to be developing the regions. Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends who represent London constituencies were wrong to argue that London alone has been attacked to pay for the regions. The regions are also being attacked. The Arts Council has been accused of robbing Peter to pay Paul because it is doing precisely that—or, rather, robbing Peter to rob Paul.

What in the name of heaven is the justification given, by a Government and an Arts Council which have earmarked special funds for national opera, for cutting funding to Opera 80? Until this year the Arts Council has sung the praises of Opera 80. It is a small group comprising 15 musicians and 10 singers who alternate between forming the chorus or being the principals. It should be remembered that the Arts Council has praised Opera 80's touring policy. When the company asked whether the council wanted it to change that policy, the council said that it did not. The Arts Council's justification for cutting Opera 80's funding is as follows: Of the medium-scale and other small-scale opera companies which receive Arts Council subsidy—Glyndebourne Touring Opera, Kent Opera and Opera 80"— the council says— the first two have maintained high artistic standards". There is a nice little smear, bearing in mind the fact that every piece of Arts Council literature that I have seen on Opera 80 has said the opposite. The justification continues: partly through the Council's own influence, they have developed valuable links with specific regions. Opera 80 on the other hand tours nationally". The Arts Council does not have the courage to criticise Opera 80's standards, because it cannot justify such an allegation so it criticises Opera 80 for touring nationally and spending only a few nights in any one place and serving some venues no more often than for three performances every two years. Read with a different tone, that would be high praise. Opera 80 clearly gets around. That is what touring is all about. It is appalling that an attempt at arts strategy should be so blocked by elitist thinking and a failure to understand what purports to be the strategy. I welcome the fact that the Arts Council has produced a strategy. It has not got it right and does not understand regionalisation, but at least it pays lip service to regionalisation, so we might be able to build on that.

My right hon. and hon. Friends might be surprised to learn that I believe that the case for the arts, which the Government have so abjectly surrendered to the monetarism of the Prime Minister, should not just be based on the value and merit of the arts. The 73 men I mentioned at the beginning of my speech who are to become unemployed are symptomatic of the leisured society that we can and shall have and in which the arts will play an important part.

The economic argument might appeal better to Conservative Members. It has been used in regard to our heritage and should be used in regard to the theatres and music that are rejected by this most philistine of Governments. The arts pay. Some Conservative Members might have read an article in Stage and Television Today by Terence Frisby, who wrote "There's a Girl in my Soup", pointing out what happened to a £14,000 grant that he received from the Arts Council to put on a production. Actors are often unemployed for most of the year, but suddenly they now had jobs so they paid their national insurance stamp, from which the Government got revenue. They also paid VAT, from which the Government also got revenue. They paid income tax, from which the Government got revenue. Having received a £14,000 grant, £44,000 was paid back to the Government. That is the type of accounting that the leaderene understands—money in, money out. The arts are profitable, therefore, and they stimulate local economies. People are given jobs in theatres, even as cleaners.

Perhaps I should pick up the favourite argument in regard to the arts—tourism. Raymond Williams once asked why, every time we try to defend the arts, we start with the tourism argument. The answer is that when we are living with the forces of darkness we have to quote money at them or they will not listen. The arts generate an enormous income by way of tourism. I shall take the example of the Edinburgh festival. Industry and commerce provide £200,000. For each £1 that is put into the festival, £20 comes back through increased business because of the festival. It is worth noting that the local authority is being attacked for not putting in more money, although it is being hammered by the Government who are cutting the rates and capping local authority spending. Last year, London's arts were responsible for about £2 billion in tourism. It is suggested that tourism in London generates £4 billion and that half of that is stimulated by the arts. One of the greatest tourist countries is America, where people happen to speak English. Virtually every American who visits Europe spends some time in Britain because of the language. Americans go to Rome, Athens and Florence to see the past, and they come to London or other parts of Britain to hear music and see plays.

I was asked what Labour would do. We would respond to the Select Committee. I do not agree with a great deal in its report, but it should still be discussed so that, out of the argument, we might get a reasonably harmonious view of what should be done. We do not regard art and the heritage as isolated from the rest of our existence. The Minister for the Arts—who has now gone—said that we should be taking politics out of the arts.

Mr. Crouch

He was not here.

Mr. Buchan

Perhaps that was always the case. That is the answer—he was never here. That is a pity, because we could do with a Minister for the Arts. By the way, we could do with a Minister for the Arts rather than the Minister we have heard this afternoon. Above all, there should be a Minister for the Arts in the House.

We do not regard art as separate from life, nor do we think that it is sharply party political. The arts sharpen our awareness; they fray away at the nerve edge of our understanding and make us think and look. The one piece of activity that made people understand the desperate problem of homelessness in the country was not the do-good societies, the Labour party or the trade unions arguing about the percentage of houses being built, but a television play called "Cathy Come Home." Almost overnight it sharpened our awareness. It gave no answers, but it made us aware of the problem. It is up to us to produce answers. As to unemployment, a play, "Boys from the Blackstuff", was the most important political event.

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

Near the beginning of his speech, the hon. Gentleman delivered a great attack on everything that the Arts Council had done. The first item was a defence of the arm's-length principle. I thought that the end of his speech would therefore be interesting, because I wanted to debate with him how we could ensure that the Arts Council did exactly what he wanted at arm's-length, or what new institution he would propose that would be under political control. That is an interesting point that my hon. Friends will wish to debate.

Mr. Buchan

I said that it was a major heresy. I accept that the breaching of the arm's length principle was a major heresy. As next Minister for the Arts, I do not want to tell theatre or music companies what to do. When the Arts Council fails to understand the import of some of its own policies, and when it can close down, for example, a black theatre, which was the leading black theatre in the country, I am entitled to intervene and say that it should be supported. It is they who have breached the heresy. As Shylock said, it shall go hard, but I will better the instruction. I would not intervene, but we must keep in reservation the right to protect and support the ethnic and community arts. One of the ways in which we can do this without intervention is to allow local authorities to take that kind of initiative. That is the answer that the hon. Gentleman seeks.

Mr. Crouch

The intervention of my hon. Friend has raised an important point. We would like to know where the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan), as a future Minister for the Arts one day perhaps, would stand on the question of the attitude of the Government towards the Arts Council as the impartial arbiter of decisions about what should be shown, and the use of Government expenditure to back the arts. For example, the Prince of Wales recently criticised modern architecture. He criticised piles of bricks in the form of modern buildings. Where does the hon. Gentleman stand as regards a recent pile of bricks exhibited in the Tate Gallery? Does he realise that there was one defender of that pile of bricks—myself?

Mr. Buchan

That does not surpise me. At least the speech of the Prince of Wales was more important for the arts in this country than the speech of the Minister this afternoon.

The real indictment of the Government is their failure to understand what is happening. No Government but the present Government could have put into the middle of the last Budget the capital tax allowance proposal without understanding what they were doing to the film industry. The film industry has been dealt a body blow by this announcement. The film industry awaits with intense apprehension what will happen. There is also the proposal to do away with the Eady levy instead of developing and using it for British-based productions. This country has the best film making and film-making techniques, yet we are helping to support the blockbuster American productions while ours have been gaining Oscars on smaller budgets, and that is likely to be evaporated by the Government. We cannot go on expecting cultural and commercial success from an industry which will be further starved of resources. I understand that Sir Richard Attenborough is having to go to America to seek finance for a film on Biko and the South African incident. I hope that at this late stage the Government may be persuaded to find a substantial source of long-term finance that will give the industry a sound base for future developments.

I wish to deal briefly with how we see the future. Under the Government, we see the future as grim. I want to give the Minister a word of advice on one point relating to heritage—the export of works of art. The Government should listen to some of the words of wisdom that came: out from the recent debate in the Lords. It can be done simply in one way if the period of time for which the Minister prevented a work from being exported were considerably extended. The Minister should also consider the French experience. The French, when any particular work of art comes up for sale, say that it shall not be exported, and this brings down the price immediately. While there is a danger that this might lead to smuggling, it should be examined. Not one word of the Minister's speech referred to this matter. It was not a speech, but an inventory. The hon. Gentleman might at least have mentioned it in his list.

As to the future, we think it is nonsense that the Minister with responsibility for sport should be present ostensibly to talk about the arts, while in fact he talked about royal palaces. Is there any worse indictment of the nonsense of departmental responsibilities than that? It is nonsense to have this variety of Departments. At present, the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Trade and Industry are involved and, in the case of broadcasting, the Home Office is involved. The film industry is involved I believe with the Board of Trade, because Mr. Harold Wilson, as he was, was president in 1947. We intend to pull these Departments together. The cultural implications are not separate from the financial problems for films. The Home Office responsibility in regard to broadcasting is untenable. We intend to deal with that by establishing a Ministry for the Arts and Communications in the widest sense, covering theatre, music, dance — at all levels — and broadcasting, television and films. For the first time, there would be what we have abysmally missed this afternoon — a powerful Ministry in defence and support of the arts, because the Minister would be in the Cabinet.

On the structure of the Arts Council, a simple proposition can be made. It is necessary to project two simple elements of democracy into the Arts Council. First, it should be made more representative. It should include elected representatives of various types of activity in the country from local authorities and the arts. Advisory panels should have the power to elect their own chairmen. I have been following with great anxiety what has been happening to the literature panel, which has a full-time director and a chairman who does not really believe in what is being done. That is intolerable. It could be avoided by giving the advisory panels the power to elect their own chairmen. The structure should be made more democratic and representative by means of such elections.

Secondly, the decisions made by the Arts Council should be made openly, and reasons for the decisions should be given. How could it have closed the black theatre if it had been required publicly to defend its decision? I believe in the democracy of public opinion. The discussions should have been public, and the decision should have been arrived at openly. Appeals should also be publicly and openly decided.

I am in favour of devolution to the arts associations. I think that art is civic and regional. It is not a kind of amorphous capital-based structure. All great art has been civic, whether it has related to Florence, Rome or Athens, or, indeed, at one time to London, until the Government started to break it up. Therefore, I should like to see it devolved to the regions in that way, and regional associations, too, should be made more democratic.

By a swift means we could double the money available to the arts—that is, by abolishing VAT on the arts. It is nonsense for us to charge VAT and then to lob subsidies at the arts. The abolition of VAT on that sector would immediately add £100 million to the arts. At present, central funding is costing £101 million. At a stroke—to quote the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath)—we could double the funds available to the arts, and that is what we shall do.

Of the eight European countries mentioned in the Select Committee's report, we come bottom of the league. America, with its massive business sponsorship of the arts, comes lowest of all, but let us concentrate on Europe. Austria spends twice as much per head of the population as we do; Denmark, one and a half times more; France, twice as much; and West Germany, five times as much. That is a shameful record for any Government.

The Labour Government, in the days when we started the Ministry for the Arts with Jennie Lee as Minister, trebled the amount spent on the arts. Unfortunately, the arts have fallen into philistine hands. In wanting to double the arts, what we propose is not a particularly ambitious project. After all, having done that, we shall be level with only the second lowest spending country on the arts.

Mr. Christopher Murphy (Welwyn Hatfield)

We recognise that the hon. Gentleman believes that he would be assisting the arts by implementing the proposals that he has put forward. How would he make up for the loss of revenue to the Treasury?

Mr. Buchan

Very simply. If we require revenue to pay for things, we must raise taxes, and there are more fair and socially just ways than VAT of doing that, such as by income tax. Incidentally, we are waiting to hear how the Government intend to respond to the demands of the Common Market to widen the VAT base. Will VAT be imposed on children's clothes and food? We shall see after today's voting in the Euro-elections what attitude the Government take on that. Conservative Members have no right to taunt us with the imposition of VAT. We shall have proper socially based taxes, and there are other wasteful expenditures in Britain that we could well do without.

I have taken slightly longer than I had intended over my speech, although only about half the time taken by the Minister. At least I have said something about the arts, while, with respect, he said nothing about them. The arts have been necessary for mankind since the beginning of time, and we have waited 25 years in this House to say so. The people who carved and painted bison and buffalo in the caves of Lascaux did not receive an Arts Council grant. There is something endemic in mankind that requires this form of expression.

The arts are important because people have more leisure time. They are important because, through the arts, people can sharpen their awareness of nature and life around them. It is often through the arts that people come to understand the meaning of life around them. We must respond to that. This is the country of Shakespeare, though it has fallen among thieves.

I shall not recite it, but I should like to tell the House of a poem by McDiarmid about returning to Glasgow after a long exile. He sees the buses and trams packed with excited people returning from Ibrox stadium, where Rangers play. He asks the conductor who gives him his ticket, "Has a big game been played?" The conductor replies, "Where have you been? There has been no big game. A big debate has been going on in Ibrox stadium. Professor Macfadyen has been having an argument with a Spanish character about some abstract principle of philosophy." Having been told that, he looks at the excited crowd and notices a newsboy, who is shouting, "Read all about it. Turkish poet's abstruse new poem". McDiarmid commented: …and holy snakes. The papers were selling like hot cakes. It is possible to think of a community and society which has rather higher interests in life than some of the things that have been shipped for money. I do not believe that work is the end or purpose of man. The vision that I have of 73 men who were sacked when an aero-engine factory closed down, is a vision of the future, and in that the arts must play a part.

5.35 pm
Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)

It is indeed rare to have the opportunity to debate the arts in this House at length. It is unfortunate that the debate coincides with the European elections, but there is, perhaps, even an appropriateness or symmetry about that, for both matters are of crucial importance to the future of the nation and to the continuance of civilised life, though that is not how the general public always perceive it.

I am glad, too, that we have an opportunity to debate the important report "Public and Private Funding of the Arts" and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) on the extremely important part that he played in drawing up that report, which continues to be of seminal importance in all discussions of art policy.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

The right hon. Gentleman may agree, in his usual fair and equitable fashion, that he has perhaps forgotten to mention the extremely valuable contribution that was made to the Select Committee by a colleague of ours, now sadly departed, Christopher Price.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I welcome that addendum to my tribute.

The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan)—he was on the wing but has momentarily roosted on hearing the sound of his name—should accept that it is a pity if, in these debates on the arts, too much acrimony—too much party politics, too much exaggeration—is injected. There are few enough hon. Members concerned about the arts. If we spend our time bickering among ourselves, we are not doing the cause of the arts a great service. There is a case for a certain amount of self-restraint in these matters.

Mr. Buchan

I do not want us to bicker among ourselves. We are not bickering with ourselves but with Conservative Members. The right hon. Gentleman is on the side of the angels, which is why he was sacked.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Whoever the hon. Gentleman is bickering with, I am delighted to know that he is not bickering with me, and I shall follow his example.

The scope and range of this debate is wide and one could make a lengthy speech. Indeed, they appear to be in fashion. I shall, however, be selective and confine myself to a limited number of points, though they are of major importance. The first concerns the manner in which central Government responsibilities for the arts are organised.

There are, mercifully, few in this House—I think none in the Government — who deny that the Government should have a major role in promoting the arts. In the early days of Conservative rule in 1979 there were some in the Government who argued that support for the arts should be phased out. That point of view dad not receive any support or encouragement from the Prime Minister.

There is no case for drawing the conclusion from Government policy of rolling back the frontiers of the state that Government support for the arts should cease. The frontiers of the state should be turned back from those places where it is inappropriate for the state to be. There must be permanent, continuing and widening state support for the arts. We cannot have great museums, a British Library or a great national opera house unless they are financed from central funds. The shape and form of the Government's role is a matter of great concern and interest to us all.

I have always believed that the Arts Minister should be in the Cabinet—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That is necessary if the arts are to be treated with the respect and importance that they deserve in Westminster and, even more perhaps, in Whitehall. Indeed, it was that conviction that led me to decline the position of Arts Minister outside the Cabinet when the Prime Minister offered it to me in 1981.

How are we to achieve that role for an Arts Minister? The Select Committee report shows the way. I was interested and pleased to hear the hon. Member for Paisley, South commit his party to appointing a Cabinet Minister with responsibility for the arts in the next Labour Government, whenever that may be formed. That is a slightly shadowy comfort, but I am pleased that the commitment has been made.

The Select Committee explained how the Arts Minister could be given a new role by bringing together responsibility for the arts, the heritage, tourism, libraries, films and broadcasting. Such responsibilities would fully justify a Cabinet position and representation at that level.

No one wants a politically interventionist Arts Minister. The delegation of powers to the Arts Council would continue if we had a full Arts Ministry. Detailed matters would be dealt with by the national heritage foundation. It is important to stress that, because the arm's-length principle is important and should be preserved. We do not want party political considerations to interfere with the administration of arts funds.

I should have welcomed a more positive and considered response to the Select Committee report by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. 'The report is an important document and the initial Government response to it was inadequate. I had hoped for a more detailed response to it today. We hope to hear more in the Government's reply to the debate. We had to wait 18 months for the Government's inadequate response to the report. I hope that we shall have a fuller and speedier response to such documents in future.

It is preferable for the Arts Minister to sit in the House of Commons — [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The House of Commons is the centre of our political life. An Arts Minister without a seat in the Commons or in the Cabinet is doubly devalued. I hasten to say that my remarks are not intended as a personal criticism of my noble Friend Lord Gowrie, whom the Under-Secretary so ably represents here. My noble Friend has not done too badly in difficult circumstances. I do not agree with the judgment passed upon his performance by the hon. Member for Paisley, South. After an initial disastrous decision to abolish the theatre museum, he changed his mind and it has been reinstated. It is not a sign of weakness for a Minister to change his mind when he sees that strong opinions go the other way.

Mr. Cormack

Would that it were more common.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I agree. I wish that it would spread to other spheres. I shall not detail which spheres I am thinking of.

Lord Gowrie has achieved a considerable increase in the Arts Council grant. I congratulate him on that. He has rescued the Government from some of the consequences of proposing to abolish the GLC and the metropolitan councils without having thought through the consequences of such a step. I was particularly worried about the effect on the arts of that action. My noble Friend has succeeded in obtaining substitute finance of £34 million, which will go much of the way to fill the gap left by the proposed abolition of those councils. I joined in the campaign. I joined ecumenically the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and Mr. Ken Livingstone.

Mr. Buchan

Good company.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not know whether it is good company, but it is a good cause—which is not quite the same thing.

A lesson can be drawn from recent events. If the arts world wants its voice to be heard it must use that voice and fight for the causes in which it believes. If that had not been done in relation to the GLC we should have faced a major crisis in arts financing that would have affected the whole course of arts in Britain.

My second argument relates to the Arts Council. I have no doubt that it is right for the Arts Council to review its strategy from time to time. The present chairman and secretary of the Arts Council have done that with more tact and finesse than some of their predecessors. We deceive ourselves if we obscure the basic problem. It is not the problem of devising strategy, but of increasing inadequate resources for the arts. That is the basic problem and no talk about strategy, aims or modifications can alter that fact. I agree with the excellent article by Lord Goodman which appeared some months ago in The Observer.

I hope that the Arts Council and the Arts Minister will continue to press for more resources. The Arts Minister has never been a political figure, from the time of Jennie Lee onwards, in the party political sense. The secret of being a good Arts Minister is to put the arts first, to abandon political prejudices and doctrines and to fight for the arts. We look to the present Minister responsible for the arts to continue that tradition.

We need resources, not only for the arts themselves, but because we should invest in success. Our great post-war successes have been in the arts. Successes in the arts reverberate in the balance of payment figures, but that is not the primary reason for supporting the arts.

I want to examine the strategy in the Arts Council document and make a number of criticisms. It is called "The Glory of the Garden", but there are some fairly deep shadows in it. I regret the reduction in the support for literature that is outlined in the strategy. In all conscience, it was small enough to begin with—1.5 per cent. of the entire Arts Council budget. That is why I was so keen to introduce public lending right, which did something directly to help authors.

My first criticism is that the Arts Council is proposing a really drastic reduction of virtually 50 per cent. in support for literature, and there are some especially mean economies. What is the point of withdrawing the grant for the English branch of Pen, and so reducing, out of all proportion to the savings, our influence in the wider international literary world? What is the point of reducing by 25 per cent. the grant to the National Book League, when we should be spending more not less on the effort to popularise and circulate books and to get people to buy and read them?

After all, literature is our primary art. In literature there has been an extraordinary flow of genius throughout the centuries from Anglo-Saxon times to the present day, and that flow has never dried up. It is extraordinary that the English language, which was a tongue originally spoken by a few thousand savages living on a fog-encrusted island on the edge of the North sea, should have become the language of the entire world in the age of communications. That is a tremendous, natural advantage to us and we should use it.

I strongly disapprove of certain other false economies, such as the attempt to cut the money allocated to the British Council or the money used to bring foreign students to Britain. Power in the 19th century sense has gone from us, and will never return—but influence remains, and it would be tragic if we failed to see where the strength of our influence lies. The time to become worried is not when we have too many foreign students coming to Britain—it is when they stop coming.

My second criticism, in which I am in entire agreement with the hon. Member for Paisley, South, is about the monstrous treatment of Opera 80 by the Arts Council. The avowed intent of the document has been to shift resources from the centre to the regions. Opera 80 serves the regions; it is virtually the only operatic body that does that and nothing else. It does it on a small and reasonable scale. It has about 50 people engaged in different capacities and it works exclusively in the regions. The company travels continually. That is not a reproach — we should be grateful for that. The idea that travelling around provincial English cities is some form of self-indulgence cannot be entertained by anyone who has travelled either north or south of Watford.

The Arts Council created Opera 80 and, in this financial year, increased its grant. What on earth is the point of suddenly turning around in the following year and saying that the company should have no support? The Arts Council certainly must operate independently, but it is not a vice-regal body that is immune from public criticism or opinion. I hope that the members of the Arts Council will follow the debate and pay attention to the views that have been expressed in the House and elsewhere in the arts world about the value of Opera 80.

Mr. Faulds

I entirely endorse the right hon. Gentleman's arguments in this sad case, but is it not a fact that a consideration that may have entered the Arts Council's decision in this unfortunate matter is that the local authorities in which touring took place were extraordinarily mean and reluctant to contribute any, or very little, funding to the project?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I certainly agree with the hon. Gentlman's general point that local authorities should do very much more to support the arts. I am reluctant to criticise particular authorities because the record is so varied. Some are excellent, but some are not so good.

My third criticism concerns music and orchestras. The grant for music is to be reduced by £750,000. Those excellent activities and festivals at Harrogate, King's Lynn, Stroud, Leeds and York are all to lose their support. Half of the cut is to fall on them, and the other half on the London orchestral concert board. What is to be put in its place? It is a crackbrained scheme to set up an eastern counties-based orchestra. That would deal a devastating blow to the sponsorship of the orchestra forced into that role. The sponsorship comes largely, if not entirely, because the orchestras are London-based, although they may travel to the regions.

If that policy is pursued, there will be a major deprivation to London musical life. It is rumoured—no more — that the Royal Philharmonic orchestra will be cast in the unenviable role of being turned into the eastern counties orchestra. I hope that it will not happen because the RPO has made more progress than any other orchestra during recent years. It has once again reached the high standards present under Thomas Beecham. It is the most popular of the four major orchestras and is in continual demand. It is hard-working and, last season, had 650 three-hour working sessions. It has raised audience figures at the Festival hall by 20 per cent. It has given 60 concerts in the regions and has a magnificent record on foreign touring. All that is a great achievement and should be rewarded by something better than being pushed into a dubious siding.

Mr. Tony Banks

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that it would be impossible for the Arts Council to force out the RPO, if that is the intended orchestra? We can only surmise that it is. The RPO will stay in London and the only effect of the Arts Council proposal will be to reduce the LOCB grant by £280,000.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The effects of the policy remain extremely clouded. I am against the principle of the policy. I am opposed to the cut in grant to the LOCB, which will put unfair financial pressure on the London orchestras.

My fourth criticism involves the Royal Court. Before the report appeared, a great deal of fuss was made about its future. That has subsided, but quite unjustifiably because the threat still exists. Sentence of death has been only temporarily postponed. It would be a major tragedy if the home of so much creative and innovative work in the theatre were to be abolished. It is to lose support from the GLC—although the GLC did not support it to any great extent — and the Arts Council now suggests that the Kensington and Chelsea council should come forward and support it. That is just a pious aspiration. That council has never given a penny to the Royal Court. [Interruption.] If people have behaved disgracefully in the past, there is no reason to believe that they will behave any better in future. We cannot base a policy for the Royal Court on the hope of some sort of metanoia in the Kensington and Chelsea council, especially in view of the way it has treated its own town hall. The council must face the implications of its policies and it should be in no doubt about the strength of feeling that has been aroused.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State devoted a great part of his speech to the heritage. The national heritage fund is working extremely well and I had the privilege of introducing the Bill that created it. I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for the way in which he took it through Committee so ably. The fund has been a major success in its concept and in its chairman. Lord Charteris of Amisfield is one of the outstanding servants of the arts and it is right that we should pay tribute to him.

If the fund is to continue its work, it should receive moneys regularly. At present it receives ad hoc funding and it never knows what sum it will receive the following year. It needs a regular subvention of about £10 million a year. If it decides to keep money in the bank, it should not be penalised for doing so. The retention of funds is not a reason for reducing the grant. It must look ahead. It must be prudent for it does not know what demands may suddenly be made upon it. It is good housekeeping to retain some reserves in the bank. If I may so put it, it is Thatcherism in practice. I hope that the habit of putting savings aside for an emergency will not penalise the future funding of the national heritage fund. Let us never forget that if the money had not been filched from the national land fund in the 1940s, the resources of the national heritage fund would by now be akin to those of the Getty foundation and we should be in an entirely differeni position.

I shall make two brief but general reflections. First, the arts are more necessary now in our society than ever before. There is material affluence in certain parts of the country but as a nation we are suffering from spiritual starvation. The arts are playing the role in our society that religion played in other ages. They remind people of the higher values of which the hon. Member for Paisley, South spoke. They bring truth and beauty into people's lives. They bring knowledge and insight into human conduct. It is possible to learn more about the glories and miseries of old age by looking at a portrait by Rembrandt or by reading or watching King Lear than by reading a host of Government Blue Books. That is why it is so important that the Government should concentrate on arts education in the schools. So many parents want their children to have the opportunity that they were not able to enjoy.

Secondly, I direct a question to the Government in general and to the Prime Minister in particular. What good is the power without the glory? That question was clearly answered, even by Machiavelli, who did not think that it was worth much. What do succeeding ages remember of their predecessors? What survives as a living reality, defying the tides of time, change and decay? The answer is the arts. No Government can create artistic genius, which comes as a gift, which is uncovenanted and unheralded. We can merely appreciate it and stand in front of it in gratitude. But the Government can create a framework for the arts in which artistic genius and talent can flourish. Having originally set their hand to that task, I hope that the Government will now resume it with an even greater vigour and dedication than before.

6.4 pm

Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

It is a great privilege to be able to take up the remarks of the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas). No one can doubt the sincerity, high intelligence and eloquence with which he has sustained his case both as a Minister and since he left the Government. The way in which he has spoken this afternoon has raised the debate to the level at which it should have started when it was introduced by the Minister.

My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) made a most brilliant, subtle and skilful speech in showing how the Labour party approaches these matters. I do not think that there should be any shame in approaching the arts on a party basis. The most charitable thing that we can imagine about the right hon. Member for Chelmsford is that it was not because of his qualities in terms of the arts that he was sacked from the Cabinet. As his speech continued, the case for suggesting that that is exactly why he was sacked became ever more formidable. Every fresh and telling point showed how unfitted he would be to sit upon the Treasury Bench.

The right hon. Gentleman said that we should not return to party politics, and on that score I offer him my sympathy. Those who say that there should be no indulgence in party politics are usually those who have no party to which to turn. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is in that unlikely and unhappy situation. In any event, we were glad to listen to him. I believe that it can be said that his contribution was of benefit to the entire House.

The Government made a grave mistake when they chose to hold the debate today. No Government, whatever their majority, should treat the House of Commons with subterfuge and derision. Many right hon. and hon. Members feel that they must be in their constituencies today and I believe that it was an insult to the House to arrange for the debate to take place today. That message should be taken back by Ministers to the Government with the request that we should have another fresh debate on the arts to cover many of the subjects that will not be covered properly today.

Mr. Cecil Franks (Barrow and Furness)

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to suggest what we should be discussing today?

Mr. Foot

Many right hon. and hon. Members wanted to engage in the European elections by travelling to various parts of the country. It would have been better not to sit today. Instead of having one debate on the arts today, the Government should have arranged for a series of such debates to take place.

The Minister referred to the abolition of the GLC. The House will be aware that the GLC has control over some of the great London parks. I am especially interested in Hampstead heath because I live near it. I do not believe that the Government have given any thought to the future of the heath and the several other areas that are to be placed in the same position. When they made their fatal, miserable and squalid decision to abolish the GLC, they had no idea of what would he the future of the great London parks. What is to happen to Hampstead heath is a matter of no consequence to them.

The organisations that have protected Hampstead heath in the past, which have said that every inch of it is, in effect, holy territory and not to be invaded, destroyed or vandalised, will fight once more to protect it. They think that it is shocking and shameful that powers should be taken away from the GLC and that no consideration should be given to London's heath and park land. They do not think it satisfactory that powers should be distributed between various local authorities that do not have a common interest. The Government have found an answer to the problem. They know that they cannot produce a reputable answer for the House and the country. The community spirit that has protected areas such as Hampstead heath in the past will once more fight to sustain them.

Wales is another part of the country that is being grossly ill used by the Minister and his Department. There is to be a meeting on 21 June of the members of the Welsh arts council. They will deal with some of the dilemmas to which my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South referred and elaborated upon. It is reported in today's edition of the Western Mail that documents exist that reveal the discussions that are the taking place in the Welsh arts council and in the Government on how the allocation for Wales is to be determined.

Some organisations, especially the Wales Association for the Performing Arts, which has played a notable part in the way in which the arts in Wales have been built up over many years, have not been consulted about how this fresh, different distribution is to take place. As the Western Mail shows and as the Minister knows—he is no great friend of the Labour party — some associations are worried about the upheaval that is facing the arts in Wales. That upheaval is made all the more offensive by the fact that there have been no proper consultations. I hope that Ministers will assure the people of Wales that, before any action is taken, detailed discusions will occur so that all those bodies have every chance to shape the future of the arts. In the past, they have played a notable part in shaping the arts.

If the Government push that idea aside, they will add to the effects of the problems. The trouble is that a strong streak of barbarism runs through the Government which is illustrated by their elevation of money to the highest place in their estimate of what should be done. The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment stressed the fact—the right hon. Member for Chelmsford underlined this point — that the market place should determine those matters.

At moments of crisis, financial stringency, cuts in public expenditure, to which the Labour party is usually strongly opposed, and great upheavals in our society—there can be no greater upheaval than 4 million unemployed and no prospect of jobs for young people leaving school—the Government should not say that the allocation of money to the arts or sport should remain the same and that the cuts imposed on the arts should be at the same level as those inflicted on other organisations. The very opposite should be the case. At times of stress and strain, when people's lives are being uprooted, the Government should increase support, especially when they have at their disposal all the facilities that have been proved in practice. That is exactly what intelligent Governments have done in the past.

That is not a wild Socialist theory. There was intelligent Socialist community action at times of great stress in our country's history—for example, during the war, when greater pressure was placed on our resources than perhaps ever before. At that time, the sums of money spent on the arts, the provision of music, theatres and other facilities were vastly increased, because people could understand the point of such facilities. They wanted to live their lives to the full and, therefore, the Government said, "We shall go ahead with the expansion of those facilities."

The same occurred under Jennie Lee. She was the first and — I say this in the presence of the right hon. Member for Chelmsford—the greatest Minister of State responsible for the arts. She was operating at a time of great pressure. She was being told by everybody, including the Cabinet, that resources would not be spent on the things for which she was fighting, especially the Open University. She was told to fight the new fight, but the pressure for resources on the Labour Government were being piled up all the time. She had to fight to establish the Open University at a time when people were saying, "You should spend the money on other aspects, including other places in the education system." She fought and won, and we shall fight again and win to sustain the Open University, which was one of the great innovations in education of the post-war period. I hope that we shall receive guarantees from the Government that there will be no reductions in that respect

Mr. Buchan

My right hon. Friend may be interested to know that Jennie wrote to those who were present at our meeting this morning. She made the point that she had it easier, because she had a Government and a Prime Minister who allowed her to cover funding for the arts. That is not the case with the situation that we are facing now.

Mr. Foot

That is perfectly true, and we shall return to that point repeatedly. We are not prepared to see the Open University killed by a thousand cuts, as the Under-Secretary of State may wish to do. We know that the Conservative party was not an enthusiastic supporter of the Open University when it was established. We are determined to protect it and to ensure that it has the necessary money.

I am glad that the right hon. Member for Chelmsford referred to the cuts in expenditure on books and the facilities in university, polytechnic and college libraries. I ask the House to put what has happened in the context of the statement by the Under-Secretary of State about what the Government have done for the arts with "total success".

It is beyond my comprehension how Ministers who lead comparatively easy lives and top civil servants can put their names to a document that says that there will be cuts in the allocation of books to other people. The facts have been stated: In the 1978–79 academic year, the average expenditure on books and periodicals per student (full-time equivalent) in the UK's 53 university and university college libraries was £57.50. Four years later, in 1981–82, the figure for average expenditure on books and periodicals had risen by 20 per cent. to £69.06. During that period, however, the Retail Price Index for books rose by 53 per cent. and a comparable index for periodicals … by 45 per cent. Those are not my words, but are from the official account from those in charge. All this amounts to an effective reduction in real expenditure on books and periodicals of over 19 per cent. That is in the period to which the Under-Secretary of State referred as a "total success". That is why I do not overstate the case by saying that there is a strong streak of barbarism in the Government.

No Government at a time when young people are crying out for education and the right to be taught and to learn what the world is about should do such a thing. Every Government that did so should be ashamed of themselves for instituting such measures.

Mr. George Walden (Buckingham)

Will the right hon. Gentleman read, for the benefit of the House, the statistics on the cost of the administration of education during the same period?

Mr. Foot

I do not believe that that would alter the case. I am against most of the other cuts as well. The hon. Gentleman may defend in the House or anywhere else the cut in the supply of books to people in universities, but anyone who advocates that approach is a barbarian. That practice is barbaric. The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), will have a chance to respond at the end of the debate, and I hope that he will give a proper answer to the representations made by the National Book League and those who have detailed knowledge of how these matters work in practice.

Mr. Waldegrave

I am sorry that we have perhaps lost some of the atmosphere that was created by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas). The right hon. Gentleman has made tough remarks about Ministers and civil servants who put their names to documents. Is he sure that there was no year in which the allocation of books was cut when the Labour Government, of which he was a member, were in office?

Mr. Foot

I should be surprised if the hon. Gentleman, with all the resources of his Department at his disposal, could obtain figures comparable to those that I recited showing that in three years there was a reduction in real expenditure on books and periodicals of about 20 per cent.. I am willing to apologise to the hon. Gentleman if he can obtain such figures. I shall go into those figures carefully. If the hon. Gentleman cannot produce those figures, he had better return to the Cabinet and fight to get the allocation of money restored so that the number of books supplied is restored to the 1979 level. The hon. Gentleman should start to work on that matter in his Department.

I wish to raise one further matter, not because I believe that it is of prime importance, but because it has been raised in the House before and there have been arguments about it. The difficulty with a debate such as this is that we want to cover many different matters. We have had no opportunity to debate the Parthenon marbles, although questions have been asked in the House. The Government have said that they are not prepared to consider returning the Parthenon marbles as requested by the Greek Government.

The Minister referred to some of the great historic emblems and buildings in this country, but I will tell the House what was said by Alan Brien in an article a few months ago on this matter. He asked what we would think and how we would react if most of Stonehenge was re-erected in a special Hirohito annexe in Tokyo, if Nelson's column was by the Nile, if the Magna Carta was in the Hermitage in Leningrad, if bits of Blenheim palace and the Tower of London were scattered across Texas, if the frontage of the British museum had been evacuated to New York during the blitz for its safety and never returned, and if some of the Crown jewels were dispersed among Buenos Aires, Paris, Berlin and Harare.

When these matters were raised, instead of treating them seriously, and the Parthenon marbles are a serious matter to Greece, we had interruptions from the Conservative Back Benches—I am not accusing any hon. Members unless they wish to qualify—amounting to what I can only describe as sniggering vulgarities. They were reported in Greece and insult was added to injury.

The Government will have to think about those matters again. Much wider issues are involved. Our relations with democracy in Greece could be greatly improved if the Government could show the intelligence and magnanimity to deal with that matter in the same way as others have dealt with similar problems. I am aware that many other complicated issues are bound up in the problem, but they can all be dealt with if the Government have the imagination to do something. I do not expect that from this Government. Their attitude is all part of their streak of barbarism, but I expect a solution from the next civilised Government that we have, a Government who I believe will be able to tackle all the great issues that we have been discussing, in a truly imaginative manner.

If the Government wish to make some approach to us, I ask them to allocate time for a series of debates on the interlocking subjects that we are discussing today so that they can all be explored fully in the coming months, instead of offering us only the trumpery debate that we are having today.

6.23 pm
Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

It is an honour to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) and the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) who, although advancing different points of view, have spoken with great eloquence and have raised the tone of the debate. I was delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford could take part, and I shall comment on his brilliant speech.

It is good, too, to see the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent taking part in an arts debate. He would not expect me to agree with everything that he said, but no one is better qualified to speak on these matters. He is a master of the written as well as the spoken word. When history comes to be written, he will be remembered for his literature. I shall think always with particular affection of some of his splendid essays, in particular one on the good Disraeli.

My reaction was mixed when I heard that we were to have this debate. I was glad that we were at last to debate the arts. Important and enduring matters are so often neglected in the House. I could not help but think of the remark of T. S. Eliot that our only memorial may well be the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf balls. But I was angry, as was the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent, that this day had been chosen. I have spent the last 10 days on the hustings in the European campaign. It is not the easiest of tasks to generate enthusiasm and interest in it, but it has been an important task. It is one in which every hon. Member has not simply the right, but the duty to be involved. I believe that it is an insult to the electorate that the House did not rise for the day so that we could all be taking part in the elections in our constituencies.

I also felt extremely sad—and it grieves me to have to say this—that we were treated to that extraordinary diatribe from my hon. Friend the Minister. The Government have done the arts a double disservice today. I want to say some complimentary things about the Government—and that is what makes me all the sadder. It is sad, first, that they chose today to debate this subject, and, secondly, that they sent my hon. Friend, for whom I have a high regard and who I am sure is an excellent Minister for sport, to read for almost an hour at breakneck speed. While he was doing so, I could not help but reflect on that dear, departed man, John Betjeman, whom we all mourn and who did so much for the arts and heritage in this country. I thought of one of my favourite poems and I wrote a little parody of it, "I am a junior Minister; no tongue than mine is slicker. I have a hefty briefing, and I'll try to read it quicker." That is what we had this afternoon from my hon. Friend. He did himself a disservice, because when he helped to pilot the National Heritage Bill through the House last year he took care to master his brief, take an interest in the subject and debate the merits of the case. None of that was in evidence today.

This is an important subject and I should like to touch upon what I consider to be some of the salient facts. I said that I would say some complimentary things about the Government, and I want to set the facts in the context of a Government who have done good things for the arts and the heritage. I believe that we have had two exceptionally distinguished Ministers for the arts in my right hon. Friends the Members for Chelmsford and for Southend, West (Mr. Channon). They were men of different styles but of passionate conviction and commitment. Neither of them brought the arts into the party political arena. They both fought doughty battles. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford had the advantage in that he was in the Cabinet. My right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West also fought a valiant fight. He was highly regarded by all those with whom he came into contact, whatever their political complexion.

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford, I do not want to be critical of the right hon. and noble Lord Gowrie. There are matters to his credit. I echo the remarks made in another place the other day by the noble Lord Birkett who thanked Lord Gowrie for what he had done to try to rescue the Government from their problems over the GLC. Nevertheless, other problems remain.

The Government have not done justice to their record because there are many matters to which they should be turning their mind. I should like to concentrate many of my remarks on the Select Committee report with which I had much to do, but right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House are aware that the heritage is an abiding interest of mine. I was proud to play a small part in taking the NHMF and the National Heritage Bill through the House. I played a fairly active part in Committee, and I believe that the Government are to be congratulated on those two measures. They had the general and genuine support of hon. Members in all parts of the House. The measures were in no sense debated on anything other than their merits. Party politics did not—as it never should in these matters—enter into it. But although it is right to acknowledge with satisfaction that we have established the national heritage memorial fund, and although it is right to say that we can take credit for establishing the new commission, we have not thereby solved all the problems.

The memorial fund is, financially speaking, but a shadow of what it should have been had the resources of the land fund been properly transferred and incorporated. We have only to mention—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford did—the word Getty to realise the fragility of the safety net, which is all that it is.

Tribute should be paid to the present Secretary of State for Defence, because it was his initiative which led to the setting up of the commission. He was another Minister of passionate convictions in heritage matters. The commission has been set up but all the problems have not been solved. Briefing documents have been circulated to hon. Members taking part in the debate. The commission, while grateful for the significant demonstration of Government support that it has received, nevertheless makes a number of points. If it is to carry the responsibilities placed upon it, to meet public expectations, and undertake possible new activities such as those relating to the GLC's historic buildings division, it will need increased financial support in the future. The abolition of the metropolitan counties could leave a vacuum in heritage matters. Those are important points, and I hope that they will be taken into account. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), when he replies to the debate, will touch on them.

I hope that my hon. Friend will accept—I intervened on this question during the Minister's speech—that the recently announced concession on VAT does not amount to very much. Inasmuch as it is a recognition by Government that historic buildings have particular and peculiar problems, it is welcome. I went to see Ministers when VAT was first debated in the House. I urged that repairs should be exempt, or zero-rated. We have fought that battle against successive Labour and Conservative Chancellors of the Exchequer. Even at this late stage, while the Finance Bill is still in Committee, I urge the Government to give thought to the danger that the tax poses to our heritage—a heritage to which we all, Front Bench and Back Bench Members alike, pledge our affection and support.

I speak among other things as a trustee of the Historic Churches Preservation Trust, the largest private charity concerned with helping historic churches; indeed, it is probably the largest charity helping historic buildings. It is galling when we think that the money we give to historic churches—all of it given out of generosity, concern and commitment—is cut by 15 per cent. in its effectiveness, because 15 per cent. of the money that we give to the churches goes to pay the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Fifteen per cent. of the money that the Government give to the commission goes to pay the Chancellor. It is nonsense. Something should be done about it—and very quickly. I urge my hon. Friend to think about it and to say something about it at the end of the debate.

With regard to the general issues of the arts, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford made some extremely telling points when he was talking about the Arts Council's recent document. I cannot for the life of me understand the logic—there is no logic—in the decision on Opera 80. I cannot for the life of me understand why the Arts Council remains deaf to the requests from Wolverhampton for help for its theatre, which at considerable cost, and with great dedication by local people, has recently been restored. It is now receiving companies and bringing much-needed cultural entertainment to the people of Wolverhampton and beyond.

It is a great insult to the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts in particular, and to the House of Commons in general, that the Committee's unanimous report has been treated with such scant attention and respect. The Committee embraced all wings of both the major parties and had on it an eloquent representative from one of the minority parties, whom I am glad to see in his place this afternoon. His constituency escapes me for the moment but it has a most delightful and euphonious Welsh name. [Interruption.] I refer, of course, to the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Thomas). The members of the Select Committee worked closely together—my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Brinton) was greatly involved—for almost two years. We received reams of evidence and we saw multitudes of witnesses.

My friend — I am pleased to call him that — Christopher Price, who asked me to chair most of the Committee's sittings, nevertheless took the closest possible interest and played the most constructive part in our deliberations. Together the nine of us sought to examine the evidence, written and oral, on its merits. We produced a report in which there are over 70 recommendations. I do not for a moment claim that it is an infallible document; of course it is not. The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) was right to say that there are things in the report with which he might disagree. Nevertheless, nine Members of the House of Commons, after careful, close, detailed and long scrutiny, were able to come to certain unanimous conclusions which firmly kept the arts out of party politics and made suggestions for the future. But answer came there none for month after month.

The Parliament which had spawned the Select Committee died. Another Parliament was elected. Another Select Committee was appointed. But still there was no answer. It was not until January of this year, almost 18 months after we had published our report —and and well over 18 months after we had concluded our deliberations—that the Government produced a pathetic document. One can call it nothing else. It was pathetic, alas, and not prophetic.

The document—Cmnd. 9127—began with one or two flattering remarks. It said: The Eighth Report from the Committee is an encyclopaedic document, its subject matter interwoven with many aspects of the country's economic, social and personal life … The Government welcomes the Committee's report as providing, perhaps for the first time, a serious and informed discussion of the whole area of arts funding and of the views and wishes expressed by the many authorities, public and private bodies, interest groups and individuals who are connected with the arts. That was fine. My heart leapt as I read it and I thought, "Here we are going to have something." But what was it? All the document says is no, no, no; every recommendation of substance was turned down.

It may well be, I accept, that there are recommendations in the Select Committee report which perhaps should have been turned down, but not every recommendation; surely there should not have been a consistent litany of negatives in reply to the 77 recommendations. From a Government who have produced such excellent Ministers for the arts, and from a Government who have very real achievements to their credit, it is depressing to find, when they are given a Select Committee report which recommends a number of things which should be music to the ears of a Tory Government—dare I say it, to a monetarist Government—such as tax incentives and special encouragement to business sponsorship — suggestions endorsed from the Labour Front Bench this afternoon - that the response is no, no, no. It is appalling that that should be the case. Even when we asked for an annual White Paper, the Government's reply was no.

It is important to stress that the Select Committee made it plain that the bulk of funding should remain the responsibility of Government and local authorities. We had a very interesting session in which the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) came before the Committee as a witness. We talked about those matters. We accepted that the arts have always been subsidised, whether by 18th century German princes, 19th century industrialists, or 20th century Governments. There has always been a balance and a return.

I do not want to drag the matter down to a low and mercenary level, but the Committee felt it only right to underline the contribution of the arts and our heritage to tourism. I am glad that the Minister included a short passage about that in his long speech. If he could make the point from the Dispatch Box, why cannot he draw the lesson from the report? Why cannot the Government accept that if the arts and our heritage are far more responsible than our weather and our cuisine for drawing people to these shores, that should be recognised. It is not simply a question of paying out money. Would London be such an attractive place without its west end theatres or its south bank? Would Stratford, where the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) lives, be anything other than a sleepy English town without Shakespeare and its theatrical associations? Of course, our heritage invites tourists who bring money. That money generates prosperity. I am sick and tired of people talking as if "giving" money to the arts is to dole out something for no return. In fact, that is often the most cost-effective way of helping the arts.

The report contains many suggestions for maximising the economic as well as the cultural efficiency of the arts. I shall quote some recommendations from the report. Recommendation 55 reads: Business companies should be exempted from tax on a percentage of their pre-tax profits for all donations to the arts. In addition, Donations from individuals to non-profit arts organisations of up to 10 per cent. of pre-tax income should be tax-deductible on an annual basis. That is done to good effect in Germany, where the Select Committee went to take evidence. Why cannot it be done here? The Treasury should produce a document on tax deductibility and the purchase of works of art which outlines the appropriate arrangements to be made by the Inland Revenue for its introduction in order to avoid abuse.

If we are not to stagger from crisis to crisis—from Calke to Belton, or from Belton to Calke, and perhaps even to Blenheim or somewhere else in the future—we must do one of two things, and preferably a bit of both. We should either give massive encouragement to individuals and corporations, as happens in the United States of America, or there must be a massive injection of public funds. Perhaps there should be, in the true British spirit, some of both. That is what the Committee recommended, and that is why the report was unanimous. That is why it is a great pity—I put it no higher than that, and choose my words with care and restraint—that the Minister did not deal with the report in his opening speech so that we could debate the matter against the background of the philosophy underlying the Government's reply.

The central recommendation has been proved correct in our debate so far. The Committee said that we should bring together arts and heritage and films and tourism under a Cabinet Minister. I echo the belief of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford that the Minister should be answerable to the House of Commons and have overall responsibility for strategic thinking and should fight in Cabinet.

There are two junior Ministers who deal with the arts. I yield to no one in my personal affection for both of them, but they are not sufficient unto the job and cannot cope between them, because they come from two Departments that have many other responsibilities.

Sir David Price

They come from the same Department.

Mr. Cormack

My hon. Friend is right. But they do not have the clout of a Minister in the Cabinet. I apologise for my slip about the number of Departments which have responsibilities for the arts, but until recently there was a Minister for the arts in the Department of the Environment as well as in the Department of Education and Science.

Provision for administration of the arts is not working well. I hope that the Prime Minister will read reports of the debate, or at least will have it drawn to her attention. I urge my right hon. Friend, when she reshuffles her Government, to give thought to the Commmittee's sensible recommendations and realise that the economic logic behind them is consistent with the good housekeeping of dear old Grantham. Let us have a Minister of Cabinet rank who can bring the strands together and argue in Cabinet and who can prove that we are being far too dismal if we imagine that T. S. Eliot's prophecy will ever come true.

We are a great and rich nation in terms of the arts and heritage. There is much to preserve and enjoy, and much still to create, albeit from dead elm trees. Heritage should never be regarded as a museum object.

Mr. Crouch

My hon. Friend might criticise the status and place of Ministers answering the debate, but he has raised a much more important question. I am sorry that our right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) is not here, because 14 new departmental Select Committees were created through his inspiration. Those Select Committees—my hon. Friend is a member of one of them—are servants not of the Cabinet, but of the House. They report to the House on specific matters of concern to the House as a whole. The debate has not yet finished and I hope that the Government have not had the last word on a subject referred to on the Order Paper as "relevant" — what is contained in the Select Committee report to which my hon. Friend has referred. This is a question of the new dimension and dynamic of this Parliament at work — the work of the Select Committees. I hope that the momentum will not be lost.

Mr. Cormack

I hope so, too. I am sure that my hon. Friend, whose interventions are always timely, relevant and pertinent, will forgive me if I do not follow him too far. I hope that my remarks have shown the importance that I attach to the document.

I must not be too lengthy in perorating or those right hon. and hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate will acknowledge my interest but castigate my long-windedness. These matters are of great importance. They are of far greater consequence than many of the contentious issues that divide us from time to time. We have a collective custodial responsibility for our rich heritage and for the lively and vibrant arts of this country. I hope that this debate will not, because of the sorry circumstances in which it has been called, be the last debate of this Parliament on the arts. There is much more to do and much more to discuss. I hope that the Government's reply will be a beacon, not something to be lamented as some of us have lamented the way in which the debate began.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. The debate has been of a very high level, but I should point out that those hon. Members who have been in the Chamber since the beginning of the debate are anxious to take part in it, and if hon. Members make very long speeches that will prove impossible.

6.50 pm
Mr. Clement Freud (Cambridgeshire, North-East)

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for your guidance.

I do not disagree with anything that has been said following the Minister's opening speech. Indeed, I join hon. Members in their eloquent condemnation of what the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) so rightly called the "lack of clout" of the two junior Ministers appointed to present the debate. I should make it clear that I am not in any way making a personal attack on them. All hon. Members admire and respect them both, but it is an insult and a signal contempt of the House by its Leader or the Prime Minister that the Government's side of the argument should be presented by the Minister responsible for sport. In "Who's Who", he has placed on record that his hobbies or recreations are swimming, golf, cricket and watching cricket. This debate should have been properly presented by someone with a deep and recognised affection for the arts.

There was a feeling on this side of the House, and perhaps on the other side, too, that as this day had been chosen for an important debate for which many of us had been waiting for years, hon. Members would feel it their duty to spend the day helping their political colleagues in the European election. There was a rumour on this side of the House that the debate might fall. Consequently, we made it our duty to prepare enough notes to ensure that there would be sufficient conversation to last at least until 10 pm. Following your request however, Mr. Speaker, I shall shorten my speech.

I was going to raise the need to accept, and to be seen to accept, the very real fact that mass unemployment is with us to stay. More people will have a lot more leisure, so this is the time when there should be massive investment in the arts, and not a contraction. I was going to raise the fact that a political lead is needed not only in financial terms, but in accepting that a fundamental change has taken place in the way in which we live and work. Unless that is accepted, we can expect more violence and vandalism, because there will be little alternative for those who have no job. I was going to argue for more money to be made available either through grants or through our voucher system, which is carefully set out in the Liberal arts policy document.

Those existing institutions that receive the lion's share of present finance are those that the majority of people do not attend. The Royal Opera House receives £20,000 as budgetary leeway on one single production. That sum could keep two or three provincial theatres or arts groups afloat. There is a need to tap the reserves of initiative and intelligence that are around. Those are the resources that people should be thinking of using. I was going to mention the wide range of exciting things that are around such as poetry readings in stations, which the Government should support.

The attitude in "The Glory of the Garden" is fraudulent, and at the beginning of a new era in arts provision, it must be shown up for the fraud that it is in providing no new money. The amounts being transferred to the regional bodies are minuscule. Instead of making greater use of democracy within the arts world, the regions are merely being asked to act as bank managers, dispensing funds in a centrally directed manner.

I welcome the fact that the Eastern Arts Association is given some recognition in "The Glory of the Garden", and that it is at last accepted that it is the least well provided for of the 12 arts associations. But if the Eastern Arts Association got the £2.2 million that is earmarked as development money over the next two years that would simply put it on a par with the average funding for the other regions, provided that they remain stationary.

However, I wish to discuss a phrase, which is inscribed in "The Glory of the Garden": we can dung and we can water, but we cannot create a single flower. I believe that the Government can create the climate for fertility: by rethinking their policy on VAT and its abolition and by looking at genuine tax concessions for sponsorship. I am a member of the new Select Committee which looked carefully at the possibilities of sponsorship and spoke to the Minister for the Arts about them. I have great respect for the noble Lord, and he has received insufficient praise for obtaining the money that he has from central Government. We all know how desperately difficult it must be to get money out of any Government, particularly this one. Our Committee found that, at best, business sponsorship could be doubled, which would mean an increase from 1 per cent. to 2 per cent. That would, at best, be a welcome irrelevance. The Government should also think about youth opportunity programmes and job creation in the theatre.

I listened carefully when the former Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) was asked how the money was to be raised. Let me make a suggestion: every Government Department has more press officers than it knows what to do with, and press officers even bombard junior Ministers' local newspapers with details of what they were doing on a certain day, what they said and how eloquently. Without any cost to anyone, those departmental press officers could be allocated to the regions, for the regions are perhaps worst at marketing, and the press officers are perhaps best at doing just that.

In "The Glory of the Garden" the benefits that will accrue to this country appear in heavy print. Paragraph 42 states: In the first phase of the development strategy"—— which is backed by substantial funds in respect of dance— the Council will be allocating £500,000 to Art in support of the programme outlined above. Half a million pounds might sound good, but it is about £800 for every constituency. In my case, it would be enough to have five dancers, three musicians and a minibus for one performance; certainly welcome, but I simply do not accept that it is enough.

The poor Royal Philharmonic Orchestra we hear may be shunted to Nottingham to serve the eastern void. That would be a total disaster. I represent an East Anglia constitutency, so I know; and I ask the Minister merely to look at the map to see the geographic disaster of that projected move. Not only is Nottingham 130 miles away from Chelmsford, 120 miles away from Ipswich and 140 miles away from Norwich, but there is no centre of music in Nottingham, and there will not be one. Will talented musicians leave the centre of the music industry and go to the provinces? Of course not. Standards in the provinces will be different and the Royal Philharmonic, which is such an admirable orchestra, will lose quality. It used to be rather unkindly said that the difference between Sir John Gielgud and Sir Donald Wolfitt was that one was a tour de force and the other was forced to tour. I am frightened that a concept of shunting a great orchestra into the provinces will result in a consequent loss of quality.

I want to give one instance of a theatre about which I know, because my wife worked in it and friends of ours run it. That theatre, in Harrogate, will have its whole six-figure grant cut. The reason for the cut—it is down in black and white in "The Glory of the Garden"—is that the development of drama provision is increasingly focused on Leeds and York, for which reason Harrogate will suffer. There is no mention of quality or of demand. It does not seem to be realised that by cutting this grant from Harrogate, a prospering local theatrical company will be reduced to housing second-class tours when such tours come along. That is why I want the Government to consider this again.

Let us discuss the bedrock of theatre—second-class or even third-class tours. The economics are important: people will no longer go out to see whatever rubbish is on, because they can watch considerable rubbish on television. So there has to be a reasonably qualitative input into theatre. The economics are that if a company does a tour, it will get about two thirds back from the box office and various sponsorships. The other third will come only from subsidy, because the British theatregoer is not prepared to pay more than a certain amount for a seat. That again, is why I ask the Government to consider the concept of "The Glory of the Garden" — without the glory of extra finance.

The poem at the beginning of the Arts Council document comes from Kipling, who is not my favourite poet politically, though onomatipoeically and patriotically there is much to be said for him. That poem could more properly have said: Our England is a wasteland and such wastelands come about By Governments of arrogance who know without a doubt That they are right and we are wrong — whatever are our views— And in arts the Tory's talent is the talent to abuse.

7.2 pm

Sir David Price (Eastleigh)

I shall come back to Kipling at the end of my remarks. My first point may appeal to the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud). Like every other right hon. and hon. Gentleman, apart from the Minister who opened the debate, I deeply regret that we are meeting here today at all. Because of the European election, this should have been a dies non. I do not make any constitutional point, but it would have been no more and no less than good manners towards the many people who are standing for election and to the electors.

Because you would like us to be brief, Mr. Speaker, I should like to concentrate on the national heritage aspect and ask straight away, what do we mean by the national heritage? This is a question to which the trustees of the national heritage memorial fund addressed themselves in their first report; they decided that it was unanswerable. That, incidentally, was much the same conclusion as was reached by those of us who were members of the Standing Committee which considered the Bill that set up that admirable body. The trustees decided wisely that they would let the national heritage define itself. That is what emerges from all our debates.

In their first report the trustees made a clear statement which is useful to the House in considering what we should do about the national heritage. I should like to quote in full what they said: The national heritage of this country is remarkably broad and rich. It is simultaneously a representation of the development of asethetic expression and a testimony to the role played by the nation in world history. The national heritage also improves the natural riches of Britain—the great scenic areas, the fauna and flora — which could so easily be lost by thoughtless development. Its potential for enjoyment must be maintained, its educational value for succeeding generations must be enriched and its economic value in attracting tourists to this country must be appreciated and developed. But this national heritage is constantly under threat. That is a statement of description and object round which I hope the whole House will unite and upon which any Government within the foreseeable future should basetheir policy.

The last sentence in that statement warns that the national heritage is constantly under threat. But it was ever thus. This is nothing new, when we consider the ravages of the first industrial revolution and when I think in my part of the world of the great railway going through the middle of the New Forest. People become annoyed about motorways. If there were no railway through the New Forest and the London and South-Western Railway Company were to propose putting a railway through the middle of it, it would today be laughed out of court. Yet that happened and some people now regard it as part of our heritage. So long as a thing is old enough, even if it has despoiled the countryside it becomes acceptable.

Let us consider current threats to the national heritage.In their first three reports the trustees have increasingly analysed and identified contemporary threats. They have also pointed out ways of countering them. I invite the House to support the various remedies of the trustees. Equally, I am encouraged that the threats to the national heritage are more and more widely recognised by Government at all levels and by the people.

Part of the wider recognition is an acceptance of the simple economic fact of life that the state alone cannot possibly make itself responsible for the upkeep of the entire national heritage, even under the most high-spending Government. The difference between a high-spending and a low-spending Government is marginal when we consider the total threat. Therefore, a partnership at all levels on a permanent basis is required between the public and the private sector. Indeed, as the trustees point out: the pressures which threaten heritage items apply to both the public and the private sectors, to institutional and individual owners alike. Therefore, I hope that a clear message will go out from the House that the preservation and the nourishment of our national heritage is a partnership of us all, all the people of Britain across the generations, townsmen and countrymen alike.

One of the most obvious features of the national heritage is our historic buildings and monuments. Here may I offer to my noble Friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, chairman of the new Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, our very best wishes for the future work ofthe commission. I am particularly attracted by its creation of a popular body of friends of the commission, appropriately entiled, "English Heritage". This has been one of the commission's first acts. Clearly the commission recognises the need for continuing popular support for its work.

Beyond the scope of the commission there is the ever-present problem of the cost and maintenance of privately owned historic houses to which my colleagues on the Select Committee drew attention. Again, I should like to refer to what the trustees said in their third annual report which came out recently: The future of the great house and its historically associated contents still poses the greatest problem so far as the man-made heritage is concerned. The cost of keeping such properties well-maintained and intact is very high. Many would have become unviable without considerable devotion on the part of their owners. It is our belief and wish that as far as possible such houses should remain in private ownership. We have previously stated our view that the most effective and most economical guardians of the national heritage are its private owners. The major problem here is taxation. Calke abbey has been saved, but the future of Kedleston is far from certain. We must alter the details of our capital taxation system if we are to make it possible for owners to pass the responsibility for preserving historic houses on to the next generation without a major crisis at every owner's death. I do not suggest that the system of acceptances in lieu of capital transfer tax is a failure, but I assert that it can and must be improved.

I also disagree strongly with the Treasury insistence that acceptances in lieu by the Inland Revenue must involve concomitant payments by the heritage departments to the Inland Revenue, in particular the smaller ones with tight budgets. That narrow book-keeping of such a mean nature, which is typical of the Treasury, has the effect of diluting considerably the potential strength of the in lieu provisions. I wish that the Treasury would learn to become accountants and cease to be purely book-keepers.

On paintings and other works of art there is no doubt, as the Trustees tell us, that The private treaty purchase is a very potent weapon in the defence of our national heritage giving a public collection an effective purchasing power well beyond the limit of its actual annual purchase grant. I am convinced, as many of my hon. Friends are, that the route of private treaty purchase could be followed more than it is. But it would assist that process if the douceur to the taxpayer could be improved from the current 25 per cent. to at least 50 per cent., as has been recommended by the Museum and Galleries Commission and by the Select Committee.

There is no doubt in my mind that the most important component of our national heritage is the natural countryside and coastline of Britain. Little of our countryside is raw nature. Most of it has had the imprint of man upon it over many centuries. I think immediately of the Chilterns, with their splendid beech woods, or the Peak District with its sturdy stone walls and farms. Much is worthy of conservation. In the immediate context of conservation we think of land management and planning controls. In the wider context we must involve ourselves in the whole range of environmental and ecological issues. They are central to the preservation of our national heritage.

We have received from the European Commission a document entitled "Ten years of Community environment policy." Its conclusion bears directly on the point that I am trying to make. A multitude of conclusions can be drawn from the report but the commission settled on one. It says: This is quite simply that the environment is the basic substrate on which we and everything we do or wish to do depends. We ignore or abuse it at our peril. That is the experience of Britain and of our European neighbours. The issues are mainstream, not peripheral—heaven knows, if I were to dilate on them, I should detain the House for the weekend because they are numerous arid important—to the conservation and the nourishment of our natural heritage.

Finally, let me say a brief word about the arts. As a provincial Member of Parliament I am pleased with the new strategy of the Arts Council which aims to strengthen the artistic life of provincial Britain. I agree strongly with a passage in the chairman's introduction to the new Arts Council's document: The arguments for the arts are either universal or they are untrue. If the support we give to the arts in London is justified—and I believe that it is abundantly justified—then so is comparable support for the arts in the other great areas of population. Artistic genius, as I have said before, is not a London monopoly, nor is the appreciation of the arts. So I look forward with hope — unlike the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East, who is in less than his habitually generous mood today—to the implementation of the Arts Council's new strategy. I want us all to share in "The Glory of the Garden". But may I offer the House another and equally relevant quotation from Rudyard Kipling to that selected by the Arts Council? Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees That half a proper gardener's work is done upon his knees. I add a further offering from Horace Walpole. Art and life ought to be hurriedly remarried and brought to live together. The Arts Council is trying to do just that and it has my enthusiastic support in that strategic purpose.

7.15 pm
Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

We have been extraordinarily fortunate today, which does not apply to other debates on other occasions on other matters, in that we have had a series of excellent contributions. We are delighted to welcome my highly regarded, much respected and much loved right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) to these counsels today. We have had an excellent contribution, as we would have expected, from the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), whom I always thought was the best Minister with responsibility for the arts that we have ever had, and it is a pity that he lost the job.

Mr. Tony Banks

That is what he thought.

Mr. Faulds

He thought it rightly. His judgment of himself was more than justified.

We also had an excellent contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) who has always taken a most sustained and informed interest in matters to do with the arts and the heritage.

I trust that the House will forgive me if I develop a somewhat autobiographical approach to the debate this evening, without, I hope, becoming too egocentric. In the long distant past the then right hon. Member for Huyton—if the House remembers him—took one of his more important policy decisions. He appointed me as spokesman for the arts for the Opposition. It was one of his best judged decisions, too. I think that it happened because I had fortuitously mentioned to his secretary who is now Lady Falkender that I had just picked up a rather rare figure of Gladstone made at the Watcombe potteries late last century. A couple of days later I was summoned to his office, and thus Mr. Speaker, are great decisions come to.

I served in that important post from 1970 to 1973 in opposition. During those three years I did on my own a great deal of policy preparation. I stress that because there was not much party support, although there were a few hon. Members who were profoundly concerned with the arts, let me say hastily. I am thinking of the hierarchy of the party. The outcome of those deliberations was the remarkable document "A practical arts policy". It was so titled because I did not adopt the approach that a magic wave of the arts wand would transform our society. I thought that it was a bit more difficult than that.

That paper concerned itself with a practical approach to some of the immediate and pressing problems of the arts and some of the means whereby arts and heritage matters in our rich country might be better pursued. That paper, published in 1973, argued the need to reorganise responsibility for the arts and the heritage into a new and enlarged Ministry. It is some validation of that document that the Select Committee made just such a recommendation nine years later in 1982. Had I become arts Minister, things might well have been somewhat different.

Mr. Crouch

In the Cabinet?

Mr. Faulds

Why not? How it needed a contribution such as mine, especially in foreign affairs considerations. But we shall not pursue that today.

One wonders, sadly, if it will be another nine years before that excellent recommendation of mine and the Select Committee takes place and that enlarged Ministry ever evolves. Other suggestions in my practical arts policy document have been carried out under subsequent Ministers with responsibility for the arts. There have been five of them since those days. Some of those suggestions are now also enshrined in the recommendations of the Select Committee, which did such excellent work—it has been referred to before—under Christopher Price and the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South.

However, in 1973—I continue my autobiographical thoughts—I was somewhat peremptorily sacked by Lord Rievaulx when he kept a promise that he had made to Mrs. Golda Meir at a dinner in Jerusalem that I should go from my shadow appointment because I had, in a quip of an intervention in a debate on the middle east, asked one of my colleagues—perhaps with more good humour than good sense—whether he was a Member of this House or of the Knesset. It is well known that our then colleague who is now in the Lords—and his final honours list proved the case—was open to certain powerful external pressure groups.

I then returned to the wilderness for a sojourn of some years. I refer to these Back Benches. However, in 1978, the admirable Callaghan, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) reappointed me as shadow spokesman. I got my just desserts.

By that time moneys had been made available to the Opposition party to assist shadow spokesmen. Well, I applied for a small helping. A year passed, so I applied again. I did not think that I was being too demanding. After two years, and with the helpful intervention of some leading supporters of a group called Arts for Labour, I was granted enough to pay for a research assistant whom I wanted to do a specific job in the arts and heritage area. In the interim, my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent had done me the honour of reconfirming my appointment, thus showing his renowned concern for and knowledge of the arts.

The purpose of my research was to include in the document that I planned to write — "A Long-Term Practical Arts Policy", or, in other words, the second volume—an examination of the fractionalised, indeed fissiparous set-up of the whole range of heritage and arts administration and funding and facilities provision with a view to organising a more coherent and constant national and regional structure.

I am not too sure that my attractive research assistant quite understood my intentions. Attractive fellows have their own particular brand of problems. The very matter that I was after was raised later in the Select Committee's recommendation 7 on the gathering of comprehensive statistical information on all aspects of arts funding and provision in the UK". So the job was done and perhaps better than I would have done it by the Select Committee, but I had intended to do that job before the findings were published.

I also intended to include in that, my second arts directive, to reiterate, on the basis of the examination that I have just referred to, the need for an enlarged Ministry to take the responsibility for all aspects of the heritage—the performing arts, museums, art galleries, films the entertainment aspects of the media — but not the information aspects; that would be very dangerous—and also tourism, because of its enormous and vital dependence upon the treasury of riches which this country possesses.

Subsequently the Select Committee came out with just that roll-call in its recommendations. I also intended to urge the need for much greater devolvement to the regions of the responsibilities for running and maintaining the range of heritage properties and sites. I wanted to see the setting up of more powerful regional bodies to run such responsibilities, and to conduct the support of arts and museum activities of all types, independent both in decision-taking and in funding, under boards of arts and heritage experts, with an infusion of local authority personnel—that would be essential. I envisaged the funding as provided 50–50 by national Government and the local authorities. That would have required the imposition of a very small mandatory rate for arts and heritage purposes on every local authority. We shall have to come to that one day, because so many local authorities are so remiss in their support of these issues.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Faulds

I am delighted to hear "Hear, hear". I hope that it came from the Conservative Benches.

That is a matter that we shall have to consider and I hope that it will not take another nine years before it is introduced. It would have been an extension, long overdue, of Nye Bevan's permissive sixpence, which so very few authorities ever raised.

There were other matters that I wished to discuss in my long term practical arts policy. Some of them appear—to my relief and delight— in the Select Committee's recommendations. However, my important document was never put together because history intervened and personal integrity demanded an honest response. In other words—some of my colleagues will recall it—the Prime Minister launched the avoidable lunacy of the Falklands exercise in which the British military had yet again to rescue the politicians from their failures— which they did superbly. But my party erroneously and, I think, ignominiously—I must say this, although my ex-leader is present—decided not to oppose the operation.

Knowing somewhat more about the history of South America than most of my colleagues in the parliamentary Labour party, I resolved to vote against the pursuit of such an unnecessary and misguided operation. I was actually on my feet in the Chamber at last, speaking against the war—having failed for some strange reason to catch the somewhat evasive eye of Mr. Speaker's feeble predecessor for five successive debates—when the PLP was taking that decision not to oppose the operation. I voted—and if I had known of the PLP's prohibition I should have done the same—as I had decided to do. I suppose that I merited the historic distinction of being sacked, with two of my colleagues, by that great libertarian my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent. I say that with great affection and warmness. It was an historic achievement. I understand how such things sometimes have to happen.

Mr. Foot

I would do the same again.

Mr. Faulds

I had hoped that my long fondness for our greatly respected colleague, the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent, and my detailed explanation of my reasons for opposing the party's erroneous decision—in other words, my greater knowledge of those matters—might have convinced him, but sadly I still have some work to do on him. I may pursue it on other occasions.

Once again, the outcome was that I was placed back, on the ample shelf which I still occupy. I recite this personal history Sir because nowhere else is it on the record. I may of course enlarge on all these issues when I come to compose my memoirs, where the art of sketching in acid will be much deployed. I make these claims to explain why I feel entitled to enlarge on a number of issues, on some of which I want to comment.

The Arts Council has received some stick because of the recent decisions spelt out in "The Glory of the Garden", the little pamphlet which I hope that most of my colleagues have read. I personally do not believe that the Arts Council's policy of giving regional gardeners more seed and fertiliser should be criticised. That is something that the Arts Council should have proceeded to years before. However, the weeding has been injudicious and misguided. The House has made its view on that clear this afternoon.

But the greatest flaw in the policy has been the Government's reluctance to provide greater horticultural funding to continue that image both for urban patios and regional allotments throughout the country. To change the figure, it is totally irresponsible of the Government to enforce on the Arts Council by financial restraints a policy of robbing Peter to pay Paul—in the phrase of my old and distinguished friend Hugh Manning, now president of British Actors Equity. Great damage is bound to ensue from such misjudged pressure from the Government on the Arts Council.

The abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties has appalling implications for the arts world and the heritage. It appears that, in their anti-democratic desire to remove Labour control from large areas of the country, the Government have not thought through the effects on the conduct of arts and heritage issues. The civil servants, poor fellows, have had to cobble together a set of collanders to contain the damage. The provision of £34 million, partly from the Arts Council, to replace the funding for a series of operations and organisations that will be destroyed in the demolition will not meet the need. Most of my colleagues understand that. Nor will it replace the excellent functions conducted by the metropolitan counties.

In regard to the Government's despoiling intentions on local government, abolition of the metropolitan counties will leave a vacuum in the heritage field. Their functions usually require a single integrated team and are not susceptible to being broken up and re-established as fragmented units at disrict level. That is especially true for the sites and monuments records and rescue archaeology. Archaeology is one of the matters that has largely been disregarded in this nonsensical reorganisation. The districts have come to rely on the expertise of the counties' conservation teams and archaeological units. It is extremely unlikely that any district will be able to afford to take over those teams on its own. Moreover, projects that have already been embarked upon are at risk. The sites and monuments records require continuing input to be of service to strategic planning. Current archaeological investigations will be left incomplete and unrecorded. Perhaps the Minister will deal with that point in his reply.

So far, the Government have made no real comment on co-ordinated work in this archaeological and the heritage field within the metropolitan counties, other than in Greater London. No proposals have been made to ensure that the archaeological work continues, other than statements that such work will be something for the districts to organise. In the rest of the country, however, such work is almost entirely carried out on a county basis. How can those integrated services be retained in the event of abolition? The districts have already declared their unwillingness or inability to support the continuance of that type and size of establishment. The support of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission is based on projects, not the direct funding of staff. If the Government dislike the establishment of a local joint board, may I suggest that they consider allotting £300,000 to enable continuation of the present service, perhaps operating as an independent trust in close contact with the districts?

I had intended to deal with the damaging implications of the imposition of 15 per cent. VAT on historic buildings repairs but the subject has already been dealt with. Having given a little on this issue, the Government must re-examine two aspects—the 75 per cent. requirement, and the external walls of the original structure requirement. The Minister will know what I am talking about, or at least I hope he knows what I am talking about—I am not too sure after this afternoon's performance. Unless those changes are made the result might be encouragement of unnecessary demolition and alteration rather than sensitive preservation. That is an important issue that has not yet been raised today.

We must also consider the ridiculous anomaly of imposing VAT on purchases of works of art for public collections. I can do no better than quote a letter sent to The Times by Lord Normanby, chairman of the national art collections fund, which has done a remarkable job over the years to keep treasures in Britain. He wrote: I doubt whether many people are aware that when a national or university museum or gallery buys a work of art at auction or through a dealer VAT has to be paid on the auction or dealer's commission. The only exception to this are municipal galleries. In the case of an overseas buyer, no VAT is payable. In effect, the tax is designed to favour the overseas over the domestic buyer, even when the latter is purchasing for the national patrimony. In the case of expensive works of art the tax payable runs into many thousands of pounds and reduces the chances of our public galleries competing successfully against, overseas buyers … The solution is simple—zero-rate VAT on purchases by all public museums and galleries. That action has been urged on the Government for months. The change is obviously necessary. Why are the Government so reluctant to make the necessary change? It is a small requirement that would make a world of difference.

All who are anxious about our national treasures know only too well the threat posed by the vast vacuum cleaner of the Getty museum. Each year, £70 million has to be spent because of American tax regulations. No outstanding masterpiece that comes on the market can avoid the risk of being bought up, regardless of cost because the funds are well nigh unlimited, for the Malibu collections. We shall have to re-examine our means of retaining such treasures because the number of properties coming up for consideration by the Export of Works of Art Committee, on the basis of the Waverley criteria, is increasing at a frightening rate. I believe that this year there have been more applications than in any other—about double. More treasures are bound to be lost abroad if new approaches are not adopted by the Government who must consider either the French and Italian method of forbidding the export of certain works of art or change our tax laws to tempt owners to leave or give such treasures to our national collections.

Sir David Price

Will the hon. Gentleman add to his category of fears about the Getty purchases the fact that the items go to Malibu, which is in an area of high risk for earthquakes? Great treasures could be lost to the world because of that. I have done quite a study of the earthquake risk there, and it is serious.

Mr. Faulds

I have made no such study, but I entirely accept the hon. Gentleman's point. That is an additional, if somewhat peripheral, reason for resisting the Malibu collections. I am sure that what the hon. Gentleman has said is right, but I do not want the treasures to go to Malibu, Massachusetts, Manhattan or anywhere else but to remain in Britain. Although my argument is strengthened by the hon. Gentleman's point, it is based on somewhat profounder reasons. The threat to the treasures is immediate, and the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench knows this as well as I do, and so must be the Government's action.

I must state my profound concern that the Government have treated with such disregard the excellent conclusions and recommendations of the Select Committee. Its members knew what they were talking about. One wonders — I think with justification — whether the Government and the Minister have either such knowledge or such concern. It is highly regrettable that they do not.

7.38 pm
Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

Several right hon. and hon. Members have referred to the European elections. I do not propose to be drawn into whether we should be sitting today but, as today is the day of those elections, I should like to refer to European music year, 1985. It celebrates the tercentenary of the birth of Bach, Handel and Scarlatti, all of whom were born in 1685. Therefore, 1985 has been designated a great festival year for music throughout Europe. It applies to the 10 countries of the European Community, all 22 members of the Council of Europe, Finland and Yugoslavia.

It would be nonsense to have a European music year for European Community countries only, leaving out other European countries with musical traditions like Austria, Spain and Norway. Thus, it is to be a joint venture between the European Community and the Council of Europe, the first of its kind. Plans are advanced. I believe that everyone will be fully aware of the year from when it begins next winter. The broadcasting and other media are already involved, professional musicians individually and through their orchestras. Organisations are alerted and making plans, and the Post Offices in all the countries have agreed to issue special stamps. I hope that every school throughout Europe, and in particular every school throughout the United Kingdom, will make a special effort with some concerts and other musical events in 1985. I hope that hon. Members will encourage their constituents, schools and musical organisations in their constituencies to participate. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price) has already begun to initiate this in his part of Hampshire.

A large number of new projects, international and national, needs supporting funds whether these are received from bodies like the Arts Council, the Government or other sponsors such as commercial sponsors. Two that have been proposed from the United Kingdom are, first, a Handel festival, because we have great links with Handel, who spent the bulk of his professional life in the United Kingdom, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, and, secondly, the European baroque orchestra which is to be set up. I hope that these find sponsors because it would be a great pity if the European music year were to consist only of events that were going to take place in any case. I am glad to be able to tell the House that I have been able to persuade the French Minister of Culture to invite the British Army band to perform in the open air in the Palais Royale in Paris in June 1985.

While on the subject of European matters, I wish to refer to the Elgin marbles, because the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), who has been present in the Chamber for most of the debate, but has temporarily left the Chamber—out of respect for his seniority, we must forgive that—said that the Elgin marbles ought to be returned to Greece. Many Conservative Members cannot accept that. The Elgin marbles were saved by British people from vandalism and decay. They were purchased legally. They now form an essential part of a great international collection. If they were returned to Greece, they could not be put up in the original place from which they originally came, the Parthenon. They are well looked after by the British museum, which will not part with them unless it is forced by legislation. A large proportion of us would never agree to forcing the hand of the British museum in that way, and I believe that our Greek friends will simply have to accept that one cannot always have what one wants, and that applies to them in this case.

Mr. Buchan

The hon. Gentleman must take on board the fact that there are certain—I think comparatively few—treasures in the world which are of immensely more significance, whether for the psyche, the religion or the history of a country, than their purely aesthetic value. Into that small category the Elgin marbles must come. I do not wish to go into the history. I know the history well. Incidentally, the Elgin marbles have suffered damage in the British museum. I do not blame the museum for that, because it knew not what it was doing in 1939. But that is not the argument. They were protected and respected by the British museum. However, they mean infinitely more to the Greek people than they do to us. Any study that we want to do, we can do there. Their aesthetic value will remain there, and the national value is something that we should he honoured to return to the Greeks.

Mr. Jessel

That is a matter of opinion. The Elgin marbles were falling to bits where they were in Greece. They were being pulled about by vandals, and they were saved, brought here, put together and kept.

Sir David Price

Can the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) give any evidence that, during the wars of Greek independence against the Turks, the Parthenon marbles, as a symbol, played any part at all? Indeed, all the historical records show the contrary. Can the hon. Gentleman show any direct racial connection between the Greeks who revolted with our help, and with great emotion in this country, against their Turkish oppressors and the Athenian Greeks at the time of Pericles?

Mr. Jessel

My hon. Friend is correct. If I may add a further point of history, the increasing disrepair of the Elgin marbles, and the neglect in which they had fallen, took place not only under the Turkish regime, which was in the early part of the last century, but hundreds of years before that, under groups of those Greeks who were there at that time. The Elgin marbles had been neglected through the centuries not only by the Turks, but by the Greeks, and it is the British who have looked after them, kept them in repair, cherished them and made them available for millions of people to see every year. They are a major asset to the museums of London.

Mr. Faulds


Mr. Jessel

London is one of the arts centres of the world, visited by more people than any other centre in the world. Indeed, London is the arts capital of the world, and it will continue to remain so after the abolition of the: Greater London council.

There is no reason why the arts should not continue to flourish in London. A certain amount of nonsense has been talked about this matter in the debate. Everybody knew., of course, when it was suggested that the GLC was going to be abolished, that the arts would have to be organised and provided for in a different way from hitherto. However, it was necessary to have a consultation period on it, that consultation period went on for months, and consultation means uncertainty. If there is not to be uncertainty, one cannot have a consultation period. The consultation period went on through the winter, the results were received, the Government decided, and funds are being provided. Plans for sponsorship of the arts through the Arts Council are going ahead. That was always the intention, and it is nonsense to say that it was not thought of.

Mr. Faulds

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, even if somewhat reluctantly and tardily. I had meant to comment on the earlier issue before he launched off into the other matter.

The question, not only of the Elgin marbles, but of a range of other national treasures in foreign possession, will have to be seriously examined at some stage by some British Government. There is no way in which the problem will go away. It is unrealistic of hon. Members on either side of the House to think that if they say no, no, no, often enough, other nations will not say, "We want that specific object, because it has particular cultural, religious or national significance to our country." When the situation arises, as it will do, that some of the countries are in a position to make requirements in terms of economic deals with certain resources, these matters will come up again, and we will have to be more realistic in our response. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. I hope that hon. Members who have already addressed the House will bear in mind that their interventions are at the expense of the time of other hon. Members.

Mr. Jessel

I think that I was wrong to give way to the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), but I respect him and I thought that he was going to make an interesting point. He said that the problem will not go away. I say to him that the Elgin marbles are not going to go away.

I wish to make two more points, the first concerning Hampton Court palace in my constituency. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State who introduced the debate, and who has among his other jobs responsibility for sport, and the old Ministry of Works job in the Department of the Environment, which includes royal palaces and parks, has been criticised for the length of his speech, and I must say frankly that he did try to pack rather a lot into it. Hampton Court palace and the two royal parks, Home park and Bushey park, as well as Hampton Court green, are well looked after by his Department. The buildings and the parks give enormous pleasure, not only to a large number of my constituents, but to huge numbers of people from all over the country and all over the world. It is a good effort, and the palace is well kept. The garden looked the best ever this spring, and I wrote to congratulate the Secretary of State.

The Minister will not like my final point so much. It is that one aspect of the arts which is in a bad way is poetry. My hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) spoke of how sadly missed will be Sir John Betjeman. We delight in his poetry. It makes wonderful reading. There has been much talk of the appointment of the next poet laureate. In my view, none of the names suggested is nearly good enough. They produce poetry which is largely tripe; it is not worth reading and it is not edifying in any way. A poet laureate should not be appointed for now and the post should be held in abeyance.

7.50 pm
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I shall, wherever possible, avoid reference to the GLC. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear".] I thought that would cheer up Conservative Members. In view of the exceedingly lengthy opening speech by the Minister, the whole debate has been somewhat constrained in that a large number of hon. Members still wish to speak. That demonstrates the need for much more time to be made available to discuss the arts. I hope that we shall not have to wait another 25 years for the next debate.

We are not indulging in frippery, because the arts are significant and not simply a minority interest. Tens of millions of people each year attend the theatre, cinema, ballet and concerts. Millions more involve themselves in arts activities in the home, school, evening classes and arts centres. Television and radio, and latterly video, bring a rich variety of art forms to the majority of citizens.

We are therefore discussing a subject that touches the majority, if not all, of our citizens. It is not a minority interest, and it deserves to be treated far more seriously. From the broadcasting point of view, the BBC is second only to the Government as the single largest funder of the arts. Every national newspaper employs arts reporters, critics and commentators, and television and radio present an impressive range of arts programmes.

The arts not only enrich our culture, but represent important areas of employment and—this will please Conservative Members—provide an important source of foreign exchange. Our debate is, therefore, appropriate, although, as hon. Members have said, it is unfortunate that it should coincide with the Euro-elections. As I have sat listening to what, at any rate in part, has been an interesting debate, I have had a heavy conscience knowing that I shall have to answer to my colleagues in Newham, North-West for not being out canvassing with them.

We should be pressing for an annual debate. We shall have two days, Monday and Tuesday, to debate the Defence Estimates. While I do not necessarily quarrel with that, if traditionally we have a day for each of the Army, Navy and Air Force, we should have a day for the arts. That would at least supplement the desire of my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan), who called for an annual arts White Paper.

I shall discuss two narrow areas. The first is the vexed and usually misunderstood issue of arts and politics, and in particular the need to achieve greater democracy in the arts. The second is the future development of cultural industries.

When the GLC was formulating an arts policy, it set out four priority areas. The first was the need for community involvement in the arts; the second was the unemployment crisis in London; the third was the need to forge closer links between the borough councils, ILEA and the education committees of the borough councils in London; and the fourth was the multi-ethnic nature of London's culture.

We specifically rejected the concept of art for art's sake because, in a society and city faced with widespread social problems, many of them exacerbated by Government policies, it seemed that if the arts did not direct themselves to those wider social problems, the arts stood in grave danger of being marginalised and treated as unimportant. For those reasons, I have always wished to see the arts related to the wider problems of society, such as homelessness, unemployment, poverty and urban decay.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South said, the arts can be used to communicate in a way that all the party political speeches can never achieve, by getting over important social messages that affect society. "The Boys from the Black Stuff' and "Cathy Come Home" were two examples that my hon. Friend gave, and he could have given many more.

One must argue politically on behalf of the arts. It is no good saying, "The arts are good and we are all in favour of them. Please may we have a little more money?" One must be far more assertive in arguing politically for more funds. We must make it clear that the arts are not a luxury in society. They are not the icing on the social cake, but an essential ingredient in it.

For that reason, I disagree strongly with the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), perhaps the only ancient national monument that the Minister did not mention in his opening remarks. The right hon. Member for Chelmsford was wrong to talk as though politics and the arts must be divorced. In fact, they must be closely identified. They are inextricably linked because, by arguing politically in a political forum, we who are concerned for the arts can achieve more resources. Being nice is not enough in a world in which those who take a more robust approach to politics achieve the greatest results.

Mr. Rathbone

Had the hon. Gentleman been here in the days of Labour rule, he would have heard exactly the same arguments being put to that Administration for more funding for the arts, even by some of his hon. Friends who have spoken in this debate. It is not as much of a party battle as he suggests.

Mr. Banks

I would not disagree with the hon. Gentleman. We could argue at length, for example, about the amount of money devoted to the arts by the last Labour Government and the amount being devoted by the present Government. Within both major political parties, achieving some political recognition for the arts—as it were, giving the arts political muscle — is an uphill struggle, and that is why I agree in part with what the hon. Gentleman said.

It is a ridiculous notion to suggest that the arts should be kept out of politics. The essence of public funding for the arts encompasses a series of political decisions. Ministers decide how much shall be spent on the arts compared with defence. Ministers for the arts, as much as defence Ministers, are not non-political creatures. Therefore, the arts are bound up with politics from the beginning.

Politics and the arts are closely linked because of the range of decisions involved in deciding what art forms shall be funded, because those decisions are also taken by politicians or by their direct nominees. We make great play of the arm's-length principle as it affects the arts and we constantly refer to the Arts Council. That body is made up of appointees of the Minister for the Arts.

I cannot believe that the present Minister would appoint people who did not share his values and outlook—not necessarily his party affiliations, but his outlook on life. The same can be said of all Ministers for the Arts. Therefore, the decision about what shall be funded is also political. While we say much about the arm's-length principle, the arm is connected to the body and, in this case, the body is the body politic.

Today's debate is about the arts and the heritage. Government Members do not see the arts as a heritage. They regard Britain as a vast antique shop. They believe that the arts should be a fondled, favoured and cherished pet that has to be funded.

It is not surprising that certain art forms, such as classical ballet and opera, are preferred by Conservatives. I do not criticise such art forms, but they are the preferred art forms of the British establishment. It is no surprise that they secure the lion's share of public and private funding.

Priestley could have been sent into any number of arts institutions in Britain, only to find precisely the same situation — that the arts are under-funded. They are organised inefficiently and need more money. Priestley was asked only to investigate the Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company because it would have been impossible for a Tory Government to allow the opera house or the RSC to hit the deck. The Tories have allowed many other institutions to hit the deck, because they do not have the establishment status of the Royal Opera House and the RSC.

Mr. Key

If the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) would speed up his speech a little, we could prove that his claim is untrue.

Mr. Banks

I shall do my best, but I should be helped if I were not interrupted again. I am trying to give Government Members food for thought so that the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) can marshall his arguments better than he usually does.

The Arts Council is dominated by middle-class, male values. That shows in its attitude to arts funding. Reference has been made to "The Glory of the Garden". That document eliminates political theatre. I cannot be convinced that that was not a political decision by the Arts Council, prompted by the Government.

Not only does the establishment control the arts' purse strings, but it decides what is art. Ballet is considered to be art, whereas ice dancing is considered to be sport. Classical music is art, and pop music is not. In terms of funding that is all-important. The definition of art is important to the funding pattern. When an art form is acceptable, it becomes acceptable to fund it. The people who arbitrate our artistic tastes allocate the money. They have a cosy, but powerful, position. When Government Members say that we must keep politics out of art, they mean that we should keep our politics out of their art.

The liberalisation of arts in terms of spending should cover a wider range of activities. More should be spent on the arts in the community and on arts education. The arts should be made more accessible to a wider social range of people. It is ridiculous to talk about building large institutions in which to enshrine arts activities. The Arts Council should go back to the old traditions of the council for the encouragement of music and the arts and take arts activities into factories, offices, pubs, clubs and parks. Political theatre touring companies have been particularly badly hit. Such companies try to find the audiences in front of which they feel most at home.

The Arts Council should be opened up to a far more representative group of people and be made more accountable. I should like to see direct elections to local and national Arts Council committees. I do not see why we should restrict democracy to a narrow range of human activity.

Politics and the arts are linked in another way—in the art forms themselves and in the way that they convey powerful social messages. That is why, over the years, writers, artists and musicians have been imprisoned, banned, tortured or put to death. Tyrannies have always been afraid of free artistic expression. Therefore, the maintenance of free artistic expression is central to the maintenance of democracy. Creative people are not isolated from the great social and political feelings and events in society because they express them in their work.

I shall have to leave out of my speech my views on the development of the cultural industry sector, which is most significant. In employment terms, that is where the future lies, not only for the arts, but for Britain's industry, because the cultural industry is just that—an industry.

Culture is not something off which we merely live. It must be something to which we add as we go through life., so that we pass something on to the next generation, for which we hope it will always be grateful.

8.6 pm

Mr. Cecil Franks (Barrow and Furness)

Some hon. Members, when they rise to speak on a subject, are recognised as experts. I make no such claim. My interest in the arts is that of a spectator, a member of an audience rather than a participant. Enjoyment of the arts is universal. I welcome today's debate, even if the choice of day is unfortunate. I regret that all Opposition Members have used the debate to politicise what should be a non-political subject. By making the arts a political football they are no friends of the arts.

I shall deal briefly with four matters. First, I wish to take up a subject mentioned by the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan)—the plight of Opera 80. The issue was taken up by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) and my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack). I am happy to add my voice to theirs. I remind the House that 205 other hon. Members have signed an early-day motion in that connection.

I could be asked why I am interested in opera. On some occasions I have asked myself the same question. When I first appeared before my constituency association 15 months ago opera was a long way from my mind. Two months ago I was invited by the Renaissance theatre trust, the arts association for Cumbria, to go on a Friday evening to the Coronation hall at Ulverston to listen to "Cosi Fan Tutti" performed by an opera company which to that date was unknown to me — Opera 80. In retrospect the comment made to me that it was "a labour of love" was unkind and unfair. In the event I spent a most delightful evening. About 630 seats in the hall were taken, as they were the night before and the night after for "La Traviata". It was learnt that week that the Arts Council had decided, in contradiction of every word in "The Glory of the Garden" to withdraw grant from 1 April 1985. Before the performance began, a dignified and brief appeal was made for the audience to sign a petition. Out of the 1,800 people who bought seats in the three days, over 1,100 signed the petition. A copy was sent to me. The audience came from all parts of the county and beyond, but travelling from Carlisle to Ulverston is not the same as travelling the direct route from Dover to London. It can be a long and difficult journey lasting, perhaps, two or three hours.

After the performance, I was asked to consider the plight of Opera 80, and I invite the House to do likewise. Opera 80 was the brainchild of the Arts Council some five years ago. It was formed specifically to tour professionally in the regions of England. It has not performed in London. The list of places where it has performed is long, and I shall not read the whole list. However, I shall mention a few so that hon. Members will get the flavour of what Opera 80 does. It has visited Ashington, Ashton-under-Lyne, Barnstaple, Billingham, Chesterfield, Crewe, Darlington, Doncaster, Exeter, Grimsby, Ipswich, Mansfield, Peterborough, Preston, Scunthorpe, Stafford and my constituency of Ulverston. Why should those small towns in far-away places be deprived of the very things that the metropolis enjoys in abundance?

The policy statement of the Arts Council says that the regions deserve a better deal in the arts. I agree with that statement. It said: Those taxpayers who live outside London have a legitimate claim to a fairer proportion of the council's funds. I echo those words.

What is the plight of Opera 80? Its grant of £235,000 represents less than 1 per cent. of the total grant of the Arts Council for opera, which stands at almost £24 million. Its grant was increased by £37,000 in the current year—the very year when it is proposed to axe Opera 80. The two policies are wholly inconsistent.

What is the record of Opera 80? Its seat occupancy of 89 per cent. is the highest of the five so-called touring opera companies. The seat occupancy of the English National Theatre is 64 per cent., of Glyndebourne, 75 per cent., of Kent Opera, 67 per cent., and Opera North—which is supposed to replace Opera 80 in Ulverston—can manage only 57 per cent. The great Royal Opera has a seat occupancy of 83 per cent. Opera 80 is the most successful of all the professional touring companies. Is seat subsidy the problem? It has the lowest seat subsidy, which is to be expected because it has the highest seat occupancy. The subsidy per seat is £8.89. Opera North, which is to take its place in Cumbria, has a seat subsidy of £19.63—twice as much. The Royal Opera has a seat subsidy of £25—although I believe the figure to be even higher.

Mr. Brinton

I have listened with great interest to what my hon. Friend has said about Opera 80, which I have not had the pleasure of seeing. I think that my hon. Friend's point is similar to that of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and one that I voiced earlier in the debate, and that is the worry about the arm's-length principle which, by its nature, must be selective and can cause problems.

Mr. Franks

I shall deal with my hon. Friend's point when I talk about the accountability or otherwise of the Arts Council.

It may be argued that the error of Opera 80 has been in its administration. What is the total administrative staff of that organisation, which has such a superb track record? It has two administrative staff, plus one half in the winter and spring when it tours. That compares with several hundred to back the Royal Opera.

It is interesting to note that only once during the past five years has the Royal Opera moved out of London. It went to the city of Manchester because the private and public sectors had combined successfully to invest £3 million in the renovation and restoring of the Palace theatre—the only large theatre in Manchester. Royal Opera went there for a week, there was a total sell-out, but it refused to go again. That company, which accounts for £12 million of the Arts Council budget for opera, is based wholly in the metropolis. The irony is that the most successful of all the professional touring opera companies is facing the axe. I urge the Arts Council to think again because there is inconsistency and contradiction between its policy document and its decision.

When I invited hon. Members to sign the early-day motion, two points came to the fore. First, the Arts Council has few friends in the arts world or, I suspect, in this Chamber. It has been seen in the past—and I hope that it belongs to the past—to be a self-perpetuating, unaccountable, autocratic, despotic body that disregards its professional advisory sub-committees. The Arts Council has a new chairman and a new secretary-general. I fervently hope that its past image will belong to the past. The criticisms from all sides of the policy document bodes ill for it in the future and for the arts in the regions.

One point has hit me forcibly during the past 12 months. During the whole of my adult political life, I have attacked and complained about this matter from a distance of 200 miles. I refer to the way in which every aspect of life is orientated towards London and the south-east. It is almost as though north of Watford there is a lesser breed of Englishman that the civilised Romans of the south must keep at bay by building a new Hadrian's wall. We are culturally alive in the north; we are industrially alive in the north; in every way we are part and parcel of this land. It is high time and long overdue that the concentration of effort, funds and resources to London and the south-east was brought to a halt and that other parts of the land had their fair share. That fair share, in the arts as much as anywhere else, belongs to the north, East Anglia, the south-west and places other than the city of London.

I recognise and accept that, as the capital, London has a special role. It is entitled to special recognition. But life does not begin and end with the city of London and its environs. I say that with all the passion and fervour that I can command.

Hon. Members have briefly touched upon the importance of art in the occupation of time. I wish to put a different aspect on the problem. In debate after debate we have heard about the problem of unemployment. I see that problem in a rather different way. I see the problem for the remainder of the century and beyond—beyond our lives, our sons' lives and our sons' sons' lives—to be one of leisure. The whole history of man has been a never-ending battle to spend less time in keeping life, limb and family together and more time in relaxation and leisure. We had the agricultural revolution, which was spread over two or three centuries. In the 1700s we had the industrial revolution. We are now in the midst of a third revolution, the technological revolution. We cannot will or wish it away, because it is taking place before our very eyes. For example, if British Leyland received tomorrow an order for 1 million new cars, the company would not return to the manning level per unit of manufacture that it employed in the past. That is the result of technological advance and the introduction of robots.

I believe that the four-and-a-half-day week will become the norm within the decade. Indeed, we shall probably have a four-day week. As an articled clerk 25 years ago I worked on Saturday mornings and a five-and-a-half-day week was the norm. Two or three years later, when I qualified as a solicitor and became my own boss, the five-day week was the norm. The four-and-a-half-day working week is virtually with us and the four-day week will come. We shall see retirement of men at 60 years of age and probably at 55. We shall see the retirement of women at 50, and why not? This will happen and more and more available time will have to be occupied. That is the problem of leisure and it faces the young unemployed. We neglect the young unemployed at our peril because they are our future.

The arts have a positive role to play and I regard them as an extension of the social services and not as a luxury. We have a traditional concept of social services—for example, home helps or the meals on wheels service—but the provision of the arts is in every possible sense an extension of the social services. We owe it to ourselves and to society generally to recognise that when we expend money and resources on the arts we are not indulging in some luxury or indulging others in luxury. It is our right, their right and the nation's right that provision is made for the arts. If we have a responsibility to the arts, in turn the arts must have a responsibility to the taxpayer. Neither one nor the other must seek to exercise a dictatorship. There must he a partnership involving the taxpayer and the world of the arts in a common interest, which is the betterment of man and his environment.

8.22 pm
Mr. D. E. Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

I endorse and warmly welcome the commitment to the arts and regionalisation of the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks). I hope that the Treasury Bench and the Arts Council will take his remarks on board. I endorse all that has been said by him, by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and by others about the need for the Arts Council to be accountable.

The history and development of the Arts Council reveal that it is another typical Britain quango. It became a statutory body in almost an accidental manner arising from pre-war and war-time arts activities. It has now become so enshrined as a statutory body that we talk about the arm's-length principle as if it were the only possible way of administering cultural policy in a democratic society. In most west European democracies and in the United States the structure and policy of arts funding is entirely different. When the council is indulging in its own exercises of cutting and laying down its own priorities, we should be questioning the nature of nominated bodies and the way in which their arts policy is operated.

In the course of our labours as members of the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts, which came to nothing, we considered the way in which arts are defined. There is a danger of talking about the arts in a way that we do not talk about the culture. We tend to recognise certain specific activities as being artistic without seeing art as a process. The Select Committee commended a Congress definition of the arts. It is one of the few things from the American Congress that I would commend. When the National Foundation for the Arts and Humanities was being set up in the United States, the following definition was adopted: The term 'the arts' includes but is not limited to music, instrumental and vocal, dance, drama, folk art, creative writing, architecture and allied fields, painting, sculpture, photography, graphic and craft arts, industrial design, costume and fashion design, motion pictures, television, radio, tape and sound recording, the arts related to the presentation, performance, execution and exhibition of such major art forms, and the study and application of the arts in the human environment. I suppose that the earlier references in the debate to parks came into that definition. I have quoted the definition because it is important for us to move away from a narrow base of discussion and to recognise arts as an economic and cultural activity, as a productive activity which is useful to society.

The arts relate to social services, as the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness suggested, as well as to education, leisure services, information services and the cultural industry. Art should not be seen as an activity which is limited to certain types of performance or to certain kinds of individual inspiration. The idea of the individual artist is one that belongs to a certain period of artistic creativity. Art is a production and process that has users and consumers and it should be seen as part of the overall public funding of culture, leisure and education.

When art is seen in those terms, the argument for a rarefied arts council that is dominating policy, limiting funding and deciding priorities can be regarded only as redundant. Likewise, the arm's-length principle becomes redundant. In that sense we are talking about part of the overall creative activity of society in a broad cultural sense and not about a rarefied activity that is unsullied by politics.

Having advanced a general argument, I shall direct my remarks to the crisis that is facing the clients of the Welsh arts council. It is an even more difficult phenomenon to handle than a British quango. It is known that Wales is the land of quangos, not the land of song.

This issue has been raised by the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), and I am grateful to him for making time in his speech to do so. It has been covered also in this morning's press, including The Stage and Television Today, in which a list is provided of some of the companies that may be axed. There is a major article by Sally Osman in the Western Mail, which is a typical Welsh leak.

The Welsh arts council is going against the very policy which apparently it has been developing. It is going against alleged regionalisation, which the Arts Council of Great Britain apparently favours. We are seeing, apparently, a Cardiff metropolitanisation or Swansea-based centralisation, especially in drama. The Arts Council is arguing in its development review that the highest possible standard should be available in Wales and should be accessible to the entire population. At the same time, it is proposing a substantial reduction in the number of drama organisations to be supported by the council. It is proposing a reduction in current spending of £500,000 and a redistribution of moneys. That redistribution will not be spread equitably throughout communities in Wales, whether in the Welsh-speaking community theatre or in the English-speaking theatre in the valleys.

The council is talking about "mainstream drama funding." It is looking to the centralised and expensive models of music and opera. It is stated, in a confidential document, that there is no reason why the same success should not be achieved in this field of the arts"— that is theatre— as has obtained in other disciplines such as music and opera. There has been in the past too great a proliferation of companies, and consequently a thin spread of the available butter. On what grounds can the Arts Council argue that there have been too many theatre companies? On what grounds—artistic access or provision for the audience—can the Arts Council argue that there have been too many companies? How can the Arts Council argue that possibly as many as 12 companies are due for the chop to establish two mainstream companies—one operating in the Welsh language and the other in the English language? None of those companies now exists.

In existence is the board of one Welsh language company, which managed to sack all its actors and technicians because of its financial incompetence. The board comprises the typical Welsh language elite, and I do not need to name them because they are familiar to my hon. Friends. Those people operate the cultural elite structures of Welsh-speaking Wales—the Eisteddfod and the Arts Council—and they are on the boards of various cultural organisations involved in Welsh education. Those people are the cultural arbiters, many of whom have been involved in messing up not only the theatre companies but other organisations with which they have been involved. Apparently, however, they have the ability to survive.

What we have is a theatre company whose artistic director has returned to her old job, because she was receiving no support, and which has no actors or technicians—only a board. Apparently, that company will be the candidate for major mainstream funding from the Welsh Arts Council. The other company — the English language company—does not exist, although, doubtless, there will be an advertisement in The Guardian and The Stage and Television Today about setting up such a company.

One point has been made strongly in a letter to the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) by the artistic director of one of the companies named this morning in The Stage and Television Today as due for the chop. Made in Wales has been going for three years, and over that period its funding has been increased by the Arts Council. A national theatre cannot be created simply by advertising for it. The letter from Gareth Armstrong makes the point clearly: The growth of excellence— the matter about which the Arts Council keeps talking— in any performing art is organic and the notion that a true national theatre can be established by providing sufficient funds and putting out to tender is open to serious questioning. It is not possible to 'transplant' theatre of high quality, as the not too distant past bears witness, and to do it by sacrificing the work of companies with less grandiose aspirations is surely folly. I say to the new director and chairman of the Welsh arts council — both of whom are former bureaucrats, one from the University of Wales and the other from the Welsh Office—that if they believe that they can create two major companies by cutting grants for the artistic work done by Moving Being, Cardiff Laboratory, Made in Wales, Theatre Wales, Bara Caws in the Welsh language, Cyfri Tri, Hwyl a Flag, Brith Gof and other companies that have achieved a high standard of performance, innovation and community theatre throughout Wales on a touring basis, they are making a major mistake. They are putting the idea of their prestigious creations in front of the demands of the audience—both the English language audience of the valleys, Cardiff and Swansea, and the Welsh language audience of north and west Wales.

I appeal to the Welsh Arts Council to think again about this matter, because it is crucial that it is determined by the council democratically and openly. There has been no consultation with the client groups. They have been threatened with the chop without a discussion. I am glad that this matter has come to light through the medium of the press so that we can have an open debate before the council determines the matter. I suggest that, yet again, this example shows the dangers of the so-called arm's length principle and of having artistic policy determined by an elite quango of bureaucrats who are not in touch with the potential of the audience, who, apparently, are determined to create prestigious institutions on the model of the Welsh National Opera, and who are not really interested in the development of theatre.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

The House will wish to know that the winding-up speeches are expected to begin at 9.10 pm. Many hon. Members who have been in the Chamber during most of the debate wish to speak. I reiterate Mr. Speaker's appeal for short contributions.

8.34 pm
Mr. Christopher Murphy (Welwyn Hatfield)

To discuss the arts and heritage is inevitably to discuss money, for the financing of those attributes of a civilised society, including the correct and realistic balance between private and public funding, is a subject of considerable concern. The support, therefore, that the Government have been able to stage against a difficult economic backdrop is the more impressive when one recalls that it has been broadly maintained and is now well in excess of £100 million for the performing and visual arts. At the same time, overall expenditure on the heritage, be it the protection of ancient monuments generally or grants for outstanding individual buildings and conservation areas, has been played at a high level with the national heritage memorial fund's starring role especially worthy of mention, for which more than £35 million has been provided.

Equally impressive on those matters of necessary cash has been the emphasis in assessment of the value of private patronage and business sponsorship, with excellent publications such as "How to Win Sponsors and Influence People" and "The Arts are your Business" and direct action such as the new Government business sponsorship incentive scheme.

Criticism of the arts and heritage is sometimes levelled in the direction of producing so much for so few, but the facts do not bear out such an interpretation. As the Arts Council has shown, the economic value of the arts is considerable in its own right, with a fifth of total personal spending going on leisure, of which the arts are a major sector, and more than 200,000 people being employed. Similarly, heritage organisations such as the new Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission—much more graciously known as English Heritage — can point towards its 400 monuments, the vast numbers of people who visit them and the individuals involved in their maintenance and protection.

Perhaps most telling of all in straight economic terms is the value to tourism when one reflects that total overseas tourist spending in the United Kingdom is more than £4,000 million and that the arts and heritage were frequently among the major reasons for visitors' decisions to come to this country.

Only the most churlish of the Government's opponents can fail to recognise the importance the Government have attached in the past five years to the arts and heritage, but it may be that such deduction could stand a degree of improvement in administrative detail. The establishment of a separate Office of Arts and Libraries was an excellent prologue for bringing the subject out of the wings, but the heritage still languishes in the back row of the chorus in the Department of the Environment with its cast of thousands, and tourism, too, has to endure something of the role of understudy in the epic Department of Trade and Industry. I praise the individual dedication of my hon. Friends, the Minsters involved, but I have long believed that one Ministry embracing all those subjects, and, naturally, all their talents, would be welcomed.

Let the Government, as a result of this debate on the arts and heritage, and bearing in mind the implication for tourism, now ring down the curtain on those three separate entities and allow one unified Ministry to tread the boards instead. The introduction of such a Ministry may also provide an excellent opportunity once again to examine the vexed question of museum charges. I remain convinced that, if one accepts the premise that increased finance is of vital significance to the future of the arts and heritage, greater attention should be paid by the Government to the encouragement of their reintroduction, albeit in a different form. It should never again be a tax-raising exercise for the Treasury; rather it should be a payment that can be kept by the museum to assist its funding, much of which has been gleaned from overseas visitors. The Government have rightly taken certain steps in that direction, but more could be done.

My constituency is fortunate in being able to boast many proud examples of the arts and heritage, a number of which I have drawn to the attention of the House in previous debates. On this occasion, I refer simply to a Victorian house set in wooded grounds in the picturesque village of Ayot St. Lawrence known as "Shaw's Corner". This house of George Bernard Shaw was left by him to the National Trust, and many of his most famous plays were written there. Although not renowned for views that are always in keeping with those of Conservative Members, one sentence from one of his plays will certainly command the attention of all hon. Members and provide cause for reflection when considering the role of the individual and of the state with respect to financing the arts and the heritage: Money … enables us to get what we want instead of what other people think we want.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for responding to my appeal for brevity. I hope that his example will be followed.

8.39 pm
Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

With one notable exception, this has been a good debate. As my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) said, it has been the first such debate for 25 years. It is an inheritance of neglect by the House and Governments of both parties. That does not mean that there have not been excellent Ministers for the Arts. Baroness Lee and the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) have been mentioned. In an excellent speech today the right hon. Member for Chelmsford showed what a good Minister he had been. I wish that he had made that speech from the Dispatch Box, as he would in a more civilised society and with a more civilised Government.

Both political parties have a poor record in the arts. We must be fair about that. Not the least part of that poor record is the fact that they have made peers in the other place Ministers for the Arts. My criticism of the Minister with responsibilities for sport is not a personal criticism of him, because many Opposition Members recognise him as a good Minister who defends the Gleneagles agreement and other matters. The Government gave the Minister the responsibility for the debate and asked him to open it. His speech failed miserably to rise to the demands of the debate. He could and should have addressed himself to major arts questions—the relationship to education in building a new and wider audience for the arts and the political involvement of the arts, as I have said recently. What the money is spent on makes a difference. It makes a difference to experimentation in the arts, who will support them and their future. Political involvement in the arts and the arm's-length principle should have been discussed by the Minister. They were not. Instead we had 58 minutes on armour, Royal parks, Dutch elm disease and other matters. That was not what the House had a right to expect.

The Minister did not mention the state of writing, the problem of trainee artists, the recent dramatic and exciting growth in dance as a popular art form, or the contemporary arts. Worst of all, he never referred to the Select Committee report. When he answered my question, I had a grave suspicion that he had not read the report before he came to the House. That is not good enough. It is a contempt of the House.

It is not just the Minister who has a poor record. The Government have a poor record. I shall not discuss local government or the metropolitan counties; that subject has been covered sufficiently. For the Minister to say that he is not involved in or responsible for "The Glory of the Garden" is nonsense. It exemplifies the Government's economic policy for the arts. In the document, the Arts Council is trying to check out its parameters inside the conscriptions of the arts. The project was characterised by the Minister and the chairman of the Arts Council as a redistribution away from London to the provinces. That is gross misrepresentation. Of the £5.5 million, only £1.4 million was redistributed London money. The other £3.1 million was redistributed among the regions. It is a gross disregard of the facts for the Government to represent that as a significant move away from London to the provinces.

The cuts are appalling, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) said, the cursory explanations are wrong and unfair to the artists and audiences that love and depend upon the companies that have been cut. In drama, 15 companies have been cut. That is one in six of all drama clients. There are just four lines saying that they were sorry; they just decided to cut them. There was no interest in the geography or the contribution made by some companies such as the Micron theatre, which is the only company that takes theatre on to the waterways.

In the visual arts, the most serious cuts are the Arnolfini in Bristol and the Icon in Birmingham. The document lays down a completely disingenuous challenge to local authorities to come up with 50 per cent. of the funding within a year. That is stupid, disingenuous and hypocritical, because the Government know that with rate capping and their policy towards local government, local authorities will never come up with that 50 per cent. No recognition was given of the value of those galleries to one-man shows for new and emerging young artists, nor to the significant part they play in the geography of the arts in those areas.

The most crucial cuts were those in literature. The funding has always been too small. It has only been 1.5 per cent. of Arts Council funding, and that sum has often been underspent in recent years. That is disgraceful conduct by the chairman and the administrators.

I take exception to what the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), who has now left the Chamber, said about the state of poetry in this country. At the moment it is unprecedentedly high. Far from there being not one good person to take on the laureateship, there is an over-abundance of brilliant poets in this country—Larkin, Hughes, James Fenton, Andrew Motion, Adrian Mitchell, Vernon Scammell—the list goes on. There is an enormous number of women poets of tremendous ability. The document waves goodbye to the writers in schools, writers in residence, bursaries and the writers' tours and the bookshops. The report just says that many regional arts associations will wish to continue. With what money? Those schemes build audiences. They are vital. They will widen readership in the future. It is not good enough for the Arts Council simply to wave them goodby. We fear that it will be the end of future literature funding through the Arts Council.

With such a Government and such an Arts Council, it is no wonder that the arts are in crisis. There should be far greater political priority from both sides of the House with their different views. That is recognised in the debate. A new structure is also needed.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House agree with the Select Committee report that there should be an integrated Ministry with a Secretary of State in the Cabinet. We need an independent, democratic and reformed Arts Council. That will not be easy to achieve. In a 1977 document "Arts and the People" the Labour party attempted such a structure. That was probably not the correct structure. I suspect that we need a Green Paper to find a solution. If we are to have the right quality of decision, we must involve not just local authorities, but artists, workers in the arts, people in education and in the audience. Decisions should not be made on the old boy network of token appointees. There should be a democratic structure. Above all, we desperately need new resources. Without them, there cannot be experimentation or new growth. The arts are woefully underfunded. I believe that that is generally recognised on both sides of the House.

It is no good the Government relying on the free market and saying that business people will make the necessary response. They will not. It is completely disingenuous of the Government to suspect that they will. If the Government believed that, they would be offering major tax incentives, as the Select Committee suggested. They are not doing that. They are withdrawing first-year capital allowances from the film industry and continuing a high rate of VAT.

We need new legislation similar to the Libraries Act 1964 to set out the responsibilities of Government and the standards of provision. I believe, as does my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East, that there should be a mandatory rate. Only such will on the part of the Government will tackle the problem. Keynes was interestingly quoted by the chairman of the Arts Council: We look forward to the time when the theatre, the concert hall and the gallery will be a living element in everybody's upbringing. That hope expressed in 1945 has not been fulfilled. Surely the challenge to the Government and the next Labour Government is to bring it about. It will be possible only by setting free our artists and audiences. That makes good economic, cultural and political sense.

In this country we have some of the finest painters, sculptors, poets, novelists, musicians, actors, dancers and choreographers in the western world. We should be proud of them and make use of them. Their work, not ours in the House, will be remembered in time to come. The quality and taste of what it feels like to live in England in the 1980s will be transcribed to our great grandchildren by their work, sculptures, paintings, poems and novels and not by Hansard. This could be a golden age. We have the people, the artists, the enthusiasm and the audiences to make it a golden age, but the Government, by fulfilling their monetarist policies, are turning their back on those people, artists and audiences.

My hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East gave a wonderful, amusing and optimistic vision of what the world could be. The House must not conspire with the Government's blindness to their responsibilities in the arts. History will not forgive us if we so perversely ignore our responsibilities and neglect our culture, artists, audiences and people.

8.49 pm
Mr. Tim Brinton (Gravesham)

I shall be as brief as I reasonably can be, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in mentioning a few points. I should like to pick up a suggestion made by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher)—that we must somehow set the artist free. I believe that, oddly enough, if the Government had been truly monetarist and had been truly cutting public expenditure, they would now, after five years, possibly offer those incentives which I believe are the way to set the artist free.

The reason that I have intervened twice this afternoon on the arm's-length principle is that the more I hear today—and the more that I studied the problem over two years as a member of the Select Committee—the more I have come to the conclusion that I tried to voice earlier. Yes, the arm's-length principle is worthy and it is the only way to approach the making of the choice, but if the Government are to hand over the people's money in forms of taxation, someone, however good or bad at it, will have to make a choice.

On the other hand, if we can say that we can afford in our economy to give real tax incentives to artists, and real tax incentives to investors of the sort that they have in the United States, then the performing artists—they are my main concern; I do not know much about the heritage, I am ashamed to say—can have their true trial, and show whether they have the ability to attract an audience. It does not have to be a huge audience; there has to be someone who wishes to watch the performance. That is the test that I would suggest to improve the quality of art and the freedom of that sort of artist.

So far, the Government have not responded to the Select Committee's report with anything like the detail for which I had hoped. Like other people, I felt great disappointment earlier today, and even more earlier this year, when I received this thin document, Cmnd. 9127. There was one statement in the reply from the Treasury Minister which disappointed me more than any other, bearing in mind the theme of my few words tonight, and I should like to put it on record. The Conservative Minister replied to all our suggestions about incentives, tax cuts, allowances, and various things to help, with these words: Successive Governments have taken the view that this"— the maintenance of the arts— can best be done by means of direct grants which, insofar as limited resources permit, enable assistance to be channelled to those activities and organisations most deserving of support. Earlier in the debate someone referred to hon. Members who seemed to have got here by mistake. When I first received the report and read the words that I have just quoted, I began to wonder whether, by mistake, I had joined the wrong party. The party that I joined—and which eventually selected me to represent Gravesham here—believed that subsidy was the wrong way and that tax incentives were the right way. I hope that the party will sort out its arts policy on those lines.

8.52 pm
Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich)

I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to have been called in the debate. Perhaps at the beginning of my speech I should declare an interest, although not a pecuniary one, because I was recently elected chairman of the Greenwich festival trust. I mention that not least because, in an earlier speech in the debate by the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks), a contrast was drawn between the cornucopia that was unloaded on London and the starvation of the regions. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman was very sincere in what he said; indeed, I accept the justice in his arguments. But I am afraid that the cornucopia is unloaded on the West End and the City. There are areas of deprivation in London where the assistance of the Arts Council, the GLC and the Greater London arts association are all vitally important, and not least in Greenwich.

Greenwich has become something of a focus for artistic activity in south-east London. There has been an immigration of working artists, actors, writers and musicians to the area, starting with Greenwich village in my constituency but spreading out to Deptford, Lewisham and other parts of south-east London. It has been a very welcome development in an area that has been surrounded by a considerable amount of serious deprivation in living conditions, and serious deprivation of artistic activity of one kind and another.

It needs to be pointed out sometimes to hon. Members who genuinely represent the regions that there are parts o south-east England—and, indeed, parts of the GLC area—which are deprived and need the support of the Arts Council. I speak with some feeling because it was I who, two or three years ago, led a deputation from Greenwich to the Arts Council when it was decided, for the reasons quoted earlier, to withdraw the small grant to the Greenwich festival.

We have been fortunate in the number of working artists who have come to Greenwich, making it something of an artistic centre for south-east London as a whole. Greenwich and Lewisham borough councils, which have been very positive in the artistic field, have made it their duty to try to provide the facilities to enable the artists who have settled in our area to reach audiences.

I recall discovering, when first elected to Parliament 12 years ago, that the Greenwich theatre, which is famous, employed one person whose job it was to go round 'the factories in Greenwich, in an industrial area, trying to persuade and encourage people to go to some of that theatre's productions.

We have in the area other institutions of great importance, such as the Albany, which is not in my constituency but on its borders and those of my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin). There is also the Clockhouse, in Woolwich, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright).

During recent years, the GLC has recognised the significance of our many facilities and found the sources to assist their development. It is for that reason that I must express, on behalf of the many people in my constituency and in south-east London generally, their dismay at the proposals to abolish the GLC, and at the air of uncertainty that arises concerning the possibility of funding at the present level.

I was not reassured by the Minister's speech at the beginning of the debate, not least because of one of the facts, which are well known in this House now—that Greenwich is almost bound to be rate-capped by the Government. Greenwich borough council makes a grant of almost £45,000 a year to make the Greenwich festival the success that it is. With rate-capping, it is difficult if not impossible for the borough council to provide funds sufficient to enable the festival to be the success that it is. The festival is going on at this very minute, and it is an enormous success this year, as it has been in previous years. The chairman of the council's festival committee, in recent speeches, has expressed doubt as to whether the festival can continue, certainly in the shape and form that it has taken in the past. It has attracted artists such as the Amadeus string quartet and Yehudi Menuhin, and it is doubtful whether in future it will be possible for that level of excellence to be maintained.

I accept that private sponsorship of the arts has a very important part to play. Two firms in the borough have been pre-eminent in that respect, the Woolwich Building Society and Standard Telephones and Cables. I would also mention the very interesting initiative taken by the National Union of Public Employees, which has sponsored events at the Greenwich festival, especially those run by ethnic minorities.

Private sponsors are often unwilling to sponsor the very experimental activities that are so important for local artistic activities, because of their preference for advertisement and large audiences, which the Minister himself admitted. As an example, when the Arts Council sponsored the Greenwich festival, it funded a composer to write a children's opera about a local hero, Saint Alfege. An important community event took place as a consequence, involving dozens of children from comprehensive schools in my constituency and beyond. A local amateur orchestra was also involved in the opera production. It was a magnificent occasion.

I cannot imagine that a private sponsor of the arts would become involved in such an event. He would prefer an event that would attract a packed audience because, say, a well-known violinist, string quartet or symphony orchestra was playing, and the event was bound to be a sell-out. The events of the sort that I have described will not be privately sponsored, because sponsors are interested in the publicity that they can obtain as a consequence of their sponsorship. I agree with those who say that sponsorship by public bodies is essential to the development of arts in areas such as mine.

I have mentioned the Greenwich theatre. I should like to express my gratitude to the Arts Council, which has recognised its importance to the artistic life of south-east London and a wider area, because of the excellence of its productions. However, the grant of £15,000 that we get from the GLC is in question. The future of the Greenwich theatre, and the level at which it puts on productions, is in doubt so long as the Government leave us in uncertainty.

I do not understand the logic of the Arts Council in its support to festivals in general. We have lost our grant from the Arts Council on the grounds that we are a London festival and, therefore, not in need of support. If that were so, I do not understand why there has been a termination of subsidies to the multi-arts festival at Harrogate, and at Leeds and King's Lynn, while the Arts council has preserved its support to the Bath, Cheltenham and Aldeburgh festivals. I am not criticising the excellence of the festivals in Bath, Cheltenham and Aldeburgh. They are magnificent. But if the Arts Council intend to support festivals on a geographical basis, particularly to serve the regions, I cannot see the logic of preserving grants for two west country festivals, although they may be excellent, while ignoring the north of England. I believe that geographical implications should be taken more seriously.

We must contend with the threat of rate capping as it affects Greenwich with the threat of the abolition of the GLC. I am grateful for this opportunity to make a brief contribution to the debate because I am very worried, as chairman of the festival, about whether we shall be able to continue as at present, with those two factors in mind.

We must go ahead soon with planning the festival for next year. So long as uncertainty continues about the degree to which we shall be funded by the GLC or its successor body, our planning will inevitably be affected. So long as we are threatened with rate capping, I am increasingly doubtful whether the council will be able to fund the festival to the extent that it has done in the past.

Many festivals take place throughout the country and may continue for a week, a fortnight or three weeks at most. They have a profound impact on communities as a whole. Sometimes festivals will, as it were, give birth to important developments. An important development has, indeed, taken place in the borough of Greenwich as a result of the festival and I shall mention it in conclusion.

We have an annual event, which takes place very much as the result of the festival, and which promises to become the national stringed instrument-making competition. It is supported by the Delme quartet. Stringed instrument makers come to Greenwich once a year from all over the country to have their instruments judged by experts and then played by the Delme string quartet. That makes a magnificent occasion by any standards because it has the remarkable result of bringing together the makers of instruments and professional players. That grew out of the festival, and is unique to this country. As a result, Greenwich is likely to become the national centre for that activity. I am sure that other examples could be quoted of important activities having grown out of festivals as a result of the interest aroused by them. Those activities spread into the rest of the year and involve people from other parts of the country as well.

This debate has been important, and some interesting speeches have been made. I only hope that when the Under-Secretary of State makes his concluding speech he will to some extent reflect the importance and interest of this subject, as, alas, the Minister who began the debate failed to do.

9.5 pm

Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)

I suppose it was inevitable that whatever subject was chosen for today's debate would carry with it the stigma that little importance was being attached to it. I therefore very much regret that the debate should have been held today. It would have been better to hold it on another day, because of its significance for the country.

The arts reflect the living vitality of a nation, and the heritage, the values placed on the past, and the need for security that is derived from historical successes. I do not dispute the fact that there is a sense of comfort and continuity which emanates from the visual preservation of old buildings and landscapes. The heritage and its preservation are a relatively new idea, because in the 1950s and 1960s there was a tendency to want to flatten everything, irrespective of its value. Perhaps the destruction of the Euston arch epitomises what was happening in that period. But now the danger is that we will over-emphasise preservation and forget the alternative challenge of constructing new buildings. Therefore, a proper balance must be struck.

Art and design not only reflect their own age, but inspire and influence minds to accept new ideas. The almost total lack of appreciation of contemporary visual art by the British public—and especially the purchasing of it — reveals the immensity of the problem of regenerating this country, and meeting the technological challenges of today and tomorrow, let alone the loss of a valuable dimension to society and its enjoyment.

I turn to the position of artists and contemporary painting and sculpture. This is something of a hobby of mine, which I have taken a recent interest in. The plight of the individual artist is to employ himself. Artists come out of a very expensive education, and when they leave college or university they have to try to set up on their own and find a studio, as well as a gallery that will show their work. The Space and Acme studio projects were set up as charitable foundations to meet that need. Space was founded in 1968, and now has some 250 studios in 24 old industrial-type buildings in London. It provides studios at very low rents and supports artists. That is a remarkable achievement, and it is particularly sad that the Arts Council should have decided to cut all its contribution of £34,000 a year to that project. It has also cut its finance to the Air gallery, which is run in conjunction with the Space project. It is losing its grant of £40,000. That is also particularly regrettable because it strikes at the very help that artists require.

In my constituency, Harrogate, "The Glory of the Garden" has been read with great scepticism. Although it purports to reduce support in London in favour of the regions, that is certainly not the case in Harrogate. Harrogate receives two major funds from the Arts Council. One of them is for the theatre, which was built in 1900 and restored in 1970 at a cost of about £100,000. A very generous grant of £30,000 was made by the Arts Council, together with voluntary contributions and money from the local authority.

The theatre has, over the years, built up a very good reputation, and only recently achieved considerable success by increasing attendance figures from 54,899 in 1982–83 to 63,726 in 1983–84. All greatly appreciate the industrial and commercial sponsorship, and the support of the North Yorkshire county council and the Harrogate borough council that has enabled the theatre to succeed so well. In this financial year it has enjoyed an Arts Council grant of £132,000, yet at one stroke that grant is to be cut next year. Therefore, I have to wonder what the support for the regions will be. The argument is that the theatres of Leeds and York will take over Harrogate's audiences. But with communications and all the other problems that are involved that will not happen.

I feel very sore about that cut, as I do do also about the total cut that the Arts Council is making in the grant to the Harrogate festival. This is some £40,000 a year. It means that there will have to be a dramatic reining back in the festival's activities. One must wonder from where the money will come to take up that loss, as, indeed, one must wonder from where it will come to take up the loss to the theatre itself.

"The Glory of the Garden", so far as Harrogate is concerned, is a very different picture. It is a very gory garden after the haemorrhaging of funds that our theatre and festival have had to bear. Of course, I am not just baying for brass, but I believe that the Arts Council has made cuts far too severely and suddenly. It places us in an impossibly difficult position.

This country is rich in talent, as has already been said. My advice to the Government would be to set an example by stimulating by fiscal measures and the placing of works of art in public buildings. Tax incentives should be given to industry on a far wider scale. We must give proper financial support to the acts. The only way that local authorities will give proper financial support will be for a statutory percentage of the rate to be applied to the arts. We should follow the American example and apply that to new buildings as well.

We have to recognise that there is considerable income from the arts. Grants to the arts are not money that is just given away; they help to give living artists an opportunity for work that they can undertake. The Exchequer benefits in return.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Mr. Jim Callaghan.

Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Before the Front Bench speakers take any more of the time in the debate, I should like to point out that a huge amount of time has been taken by them already. It has been entirely unsatisfactory that some Back Benchers have not been able to raise various aspects of this important subject. I should like to give notice of a wish to raise this with you on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Speaker

I have sympathy with the hon. Gentleman because, as he knows, I announced earlier that a great number of hon. Gentlemen wished to take part in the debate. There have been some very long speeches.

9.10 pm
Mr. Jim Callaghan (Heywood and Middleton)

It is regrettable that it has taken 25 years for us to have a full debate in the House on the arts. I am delighted that I am taking part in the debate. I am delighted, too, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), a man of learning wth a love of books, has contributed to the debate in a very fine way. I thought that he was going to say much that I wanted to say. Perhaps we think alike.

It is sad that the Minister has been treated a little unfairly because the majority of hon. Members on both sides seem to be in agreement about arts policy. The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) called the Minister's speech an extraordinary diatribe. Perhaps that was a little hard on the Minister. I prefer the statement by the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price) that he did not go along with the Treasury arguments but felt that the Minister's argument was too narrow. Perhaps that was a major fault in the Minister's speech. It seemed to concentrate soley on the national heritage fund.

I want to make a plea to the Minister. I have been sent a copy of a Manchester city council memorandum in relation to an appeal for funds to buy a painting. It says: The Appeal launched by the Patrons, Associates and Friends of the Manchester City Art Galleries for the Siennese Crucifixion is fast approaching midnight, 16 July when, if matching funds are not found, the picture will be exported to the Getty Museum, Malibu. The sum required is £1,798,000. Manchester made a magnificent effort in attempting to obtain that money. It has £1,147,117, of which £400,000 was given by a private anonymous donor which was a superb gesture. Manchester does not feel that it will obtain the necessary sum because the Government have not come up with the remainder of the funds. The letter said that the Government have provided grossly inadequate resources for the grant-in-aid to help buy the picture. It went on: This unexpected loss has been rendered many times worse, as we have been given no monies from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and a direct approach to the Treasury also offered no support. I appeal to the Minister to help to keep that famous painting in Britain.

I was impressed with the speech made by the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas). It was superb. I only wish that I had the ability to make such a speech as that. After listening carefully to what he had to say, I had to change my mind this afternoon about monetarist policies in relation to the arts. When in her first term of office the Prime Minister announced that there would be no candle-end economies in the arts there was a great relief throughout Britain and the arts world that grocer shop economies would not be applied to the arts. But to have candle-end economies on the present arts budget would have been disastrous for the arts. When the right hon. Member for Chelmsford was appointed as the Minister with responsibility for the arts it was felt in the art world that at last they had a Minister who would not be an understudy for Pontius Pilate during the present economic recession. What he said tonight has borne that out. I do not believe that he was a Pontius Pilate.

My approach was one of caution. I remember that the Prime Minister had been instrumental as a former Minister in imposing charges for admission to museums and art establishments. So I feared for the arts. The Prime Minister made it clear that the trustees of museums and galleries would be forced by the Government to impose charges even if they did not wish to do so. To their credit, some Conservative Members found themselves unable to support the Government at that time in the Lobbies. However, I was surprised when the right hon. Member for Chelmsford was later dismissed from his office. I feared for the arts, and I still do, particularly now that the Minister for the Arts is in the other place. I saw him earlier in the Gallery. He was here for a quarter of an hour. He returned for a few minutes, and then he vanished again. It is extremely regrettable that after 25 years we have had the first debate on the arts and the Minister is not here.

Mr. Cormack

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that he has made a slightly unfortunate breach of precedent by recognising the existence of the Gallery?

Mr. Callaghan

I recognise the absence of the Minister.

Mr. Rathbone

On a technicality, it is not 25 years since there was a debate on the arts. It is almost exactly 10 years and the person who raised that debate was the late and gallant Airey Neave.

Mr. Callaghan

It was in 1959.

Mr. Rathbone

It was 1974.

Mr. Tony Banks

That was not a full day's debate.

Mr. Callaghan

I also remembered the statement about the candle-end economies in the arts when last year the Government cut the budget by 1 per cent. The Minister for the Arts, who is not here, defended that decision in the other place on 30 November 1983 when he declared: Mention has been made of this year's 1 per cent. cut in arts funding"— candle-end economies—1 per cent! — In August this year cuts of about 2 per cent. were made in all areas of public spending to correct a threatened overrun. I have to say that subsequent events seem to me to have wholly vindicated the Chancellor's proposal, but it was very tough going at the time. I strongly resist suggestions … that I failed to protect my arts clients. Of course I appreciate the very real problems which an unexpected cut of any kind caused them. But I was at least able to protect them by restricting the cut to 1 per cent. —nasty, but nicer than 2 per cent."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 30 November 1983; Vol. 445, c. 766.] That sounds like Les Dawson.

We are constantly told that inflation and unemployment are the grim realities with which we have to live today. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent has taken some of my speech away from me, because I agree with him. We are told that these are difficult times and that we must make better use of our resources and in particular of money from rates and taxes for public spending. We are told to get our priorities right. We are told that essential things come first and that art is merely the icing on the cake. We seem to go along with that, but it is wrong. We are not living in a subsistence society, although large areas of Britain resemble a third world of under-development and deprivation, with high unemployment figures, and those are very often the areas which also suffer from deprivation in the arts and crafts.

Times are grim for the nation, but we have survived even more dreadful times, and the arts have flourished. In 1940, our national prospects could hardly have been worse. There was everything to be said for cutting out the frills and concentrating all our resources on national survival Yet, in our darkest hour, our Government for the first time deliberately put taxpayers' money into a national fund, and a council for the encouragement of music and the arts—CEMA—was set up. In 1944 it was given a royal charter and became the Arts Council. It is to that body and to the local authorities that we must now look for support for the arts. There are five basic principles. As time is short, I shall mention only the operative principle, which is to direct an increasing proportion of the council's funds and expenditure to the regions.

The arts in this country have never been well funded. The French Government spend 10 times as much as we do. Berlin has a famous and brilliant orchestra, subsidised to the extent of 10 London orchestras—which are funded at a rate which enables them just to survive. Opera is the most expensive art of all. The Royal Opera House finds 38 per cent. of a considerable grant from the box office. the Scala manages 17 per cent., the Staatsoper in Vienna 16 per cent. and the Deutschoper in Berlin 15 per cent. Those subsidies are stupendous in comparison with ours. Let us not fool ourselves that we have been generous. Dusseldorf alone has an opera house worth £30 million a year—equal to two English National Operas.

Against that background, the Arts Council decided in October 1983 to undertake a review of its policies and the allocation of its grants in aid in order to determine its priorities and develop a strategy of development for the arts during the remainder of this decade and beyond. It aims for a reasonable geographical spread of provision. I am all for that. I fully support the Arts Council in its attempt to keep the arts going. I fully support its original charter, which involved spreading the arts throughout the country. But that must not be done at too high a price.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer decided to concentrate new development in 11 areas of England where the bulk of the English population lives, and it would be possible to reach a population of 40 million. I agree with that. The development area programme will cost the Council £6 million in its initial stage. The Council has to find £5.5 million of that sum. That represents a substantial switch of the council's own resources.

I am all for spreading out the arts from the London area, but not at the cost of the arts in London. It appears that that is what the cost will be. The Council hopes that the Government will provide further funds, including a final £500,000 needed for the first phase of the development. In all, £6 million is to be reallocated. Although I agree with the principle, to do that the Government will rob Peter to pay Paul or, as we say in Lancashire, they are teaming and ladling. To finance its development programme the council will reduce its spending. It is like giving with one hand and taking with the other. The council therefore intends to withdraw subsidy, in music alone, to the following extent: Eastern Authorities Orchestral Association—£105,000; English Sinfonia—£45,000; the Handel Opera Society—£46,000; the Haydn and Mozart Society—£20,000. I am sure that the hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) is aware that the Harrogate festival is to lose £36,000. The King's Lynn festival is to lose money as well. The total reaches £431,000. Nevertheless, the council estimates that the changes will provide a saving of £711,000 in music allocations.

In drama, the council has withdrawn £1.404 million. That has affected many drama companies in London and the north. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has written a letter to one theatre company —7:84—that has been axed. He wrote: If the Arts Council effectively abandons enterprises like the 7:84 it will have abandoned its central purpose. In the process, it will encourage the idea that culture is an exotic island that can only be inhabited by the affluent and the elevated. That would impoverish and retard our whole society. Rochdale has the marvellous M6 theatre company. The local Conservative-controlled council said, "Right, we have to keep the rates down so the icing on the cake and the frills must go. The M6 theatre is superflous. We do not want it so we will not fund it any longer." The Arts Council heard that and came in saying, "You cannot do that." It managed to persuade the council to continue its funding of the M6 theatre company. Then the Arts Council has a change of mind and said, "That is fine but we shall not now give you the grant." What chance, therefore, has the M6 theatre company next year if it gets no grant from the Arts Council? I assure the Minister that representatives of the 7:84 and M6 theatre companies who attended our meeting this morning were extremely angry. There is to be a saving of £5,521,500. That is the so-called glory of the garden. Some garden. It will produce only weeds.

The other parts of the Government's policy is in regard to the White Paper of October 1983 entitled "Streamlining the Cities". It was their first step towards abolishing the Greater London council and the six metropolitan county councils. On the same day, they issued a consultation paper on the arts. The major change in local government was decided on for reasons that have nothing to do with the arts. I am a member of a Select Committee other than the one about which we have heard much oday. I asked for an immediate investigation into what will happen to the arts if the metropolitan councils and the GLC are abolished. I am delighted to say that the Committee agreed. We are concerned with the problems that abolition would cause to the major arts and artistic and cultural life. Widespread public disquiet contributed to the fact that, when we met on 9 January to consider the proposed changes in the arts, it was agreed unanimously that we should have that investigation. The authorities to be abolished are major contributors of funds for the arts, and the support that we give to the arts is as follows: the GLC, £16.5 million, Merseyside, £5.3 million, Tyne and Wear, £2.7 million, Manchester, £2.4 million, west Midlands, £250,000, and south Yorkshire, £216,000. Thus the report was concerned solely with the future arrangements for the arts, should the abolition of the GLC and six metropolitan county councils become law.

The Committee carried out its task with a sense of urgency. During the course of the inquiry, the Committee held eight sessions of oral evidence, six in Westminster and two in Greater Manchester. However, the statements made to the Committee by Lord Gowrie, the Minister for the Arts, and Lord Bellwin, the Minister of State with responsibility for local government, were interpreted to mean that all current spending on the arts by central and local Government will be maintained. It was a delight for us to hear that Government intend to fund this arts spending. We believe that there are problems in carrying out that pledge, because some ambiguity surrounds the exact sum of money to which Ministers are committed, especially with regard to the arts spending of local authorities.

Although the Government propose to make extra provisions for some of the arts organisations of national standing which presently receive money from the GLC', this leaves many arts organisations that will look to the boroughs for support. The gap between the amount that the GLC spends and what will be left over was calculated by the Minister to be £4.5 million, but by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham North-West (Mr. Banks) to be over £7 million. There is, therefore, a discrepancy in the amounts of money that have to be found by the Government to support the areas that will be affected by abolition.

Many of the memoranda received by the Select Committee have cast doubts on whether the boroughs would be able or willing to provide additional funding, not least the memoranda from the boroughs. This was even the case in boroughs such as Islington, Hammersmith and Camden, where funding was already comparatively high. These were the boroughs that were interested in the arts with a high concentration of theatres and other performing arts companies which currently attract substantial GLC support. Other boroughs will find it difficult to assume responsibility for existing GLC funding within their boundaries, and some additional support will be necessary from the Government.

The evidence given to the Committee by the London arts organisations in many ways repeats the evidence of the metropolitan counties. When we visited Manchester, the officials confirmed the problems that they would have in raising the necessary cash after the GLC is abolished. The major concerns were that the boroughs might be too parochial and unwilling to fund arts organisations operating throughout London, and that it would be particularly difficult for small organisations to seek funding from a large number of individual borough councils. To expect hard-pressed local authorities to make a substantial shortfall when at the same time Government are restricting their expenditure, with rate capping to come, is unrealistic. One has only to look at the case made out for Rochdale and the M6 theatre. Although we do not yet have rate capping, the message is to cut the frills on the cake, and say that the theatre cannot continue. What will happen to the arts after rate capping?

The overriding obstacle to progress in local government support for the arts at present is economic stringency. It is encouraging to find, although one might expect the arts to be cut, that the authorities realise that if an attempt were to be made to save any significant amount of money in a small budget area such as this, it would do irreparable damage to the overall programme of the arts.

To sum up, I believe that the proposals submitted by the Minister for the abolition of the six metropolitan councils and the GLC, with the strategy of the Arts Council, are centralist, undemocratic, divisive, confusing, unrealistic and incomplete. The Government's proposals call into question their commitment to the cultural heritage of the people of Britain and the ability of our people to enjoy an improving quality of life.

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

The last debate—there has been a good deal of talk about when the last debate took place—was on a motion initiated by Mr. Magee, then a member of the Labour party. Perhaps as a result of the debate, he joined the SDP. I do not think that we shall see the hon. Members for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) or for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) joining the SDP; perhaps it is too far to the Left.

Mr. Buchan

When was that debate?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am referring to a debate on a private Member's motion in 1975.

Mr. Faulds


Mr. Waldegrave

No, I will not give way.

Mr. Buchan


Mr. Waldegrave

No, the hon. Gentleman made a very long speech.

Mr. Faulds

Is the hon. Gentleman aware——

Mr. Waldegrave

I said that I would not give way.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister has barely started.

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) makes his best speeches from a sedentary position.

Mr. Faulds

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister resisted——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must raise a point of order with me. I am not responsible for anything that the Minister may or may not have resisted.

Mr. Faulds

On a point of order. I am sorry for you, Mr. Speaker, having to suffer under such appalling misjudgments as the Under-Secretary has shown.

Mr. Speaker

Let us get on now.

Mr. Waldegrave

If the hon. Member for Warley, East wants to have a monopoly of the jokes, his are not good enough to be sure of that monopoly being beneficial.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary was criticised for being too long in his opening speech. We must remember that every day 9 million people attend the institutions, buildings and so on which he looks after. The heritage is a major part of the whole story, and I suggest that he was unfairly criticised. I shall address myself — [Interruption.] — if Opposition Members can restrain themselves, to the question of the arts as a whole.

The hon. Member for Paisley, South, as always—and the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan), whom we welcome to these debates and who made an excellent speech from his point of view—tried to escape from the difficult business of priorities. The hon. Member for Paisley, South is against every one of the cuts, but he did not say whether he is against every one of the increases which the Arts Council has specified. That is how he sees his job and that is the way in which he handles the issue—to gather the protests, although that does not make for a coherent strategy.

The hon. Gentleman's criticisms of the Arts Council strategy cannot be made to stick. For example, "The Glory of the Garden"—does not pick on black theatre. In fact, central to the whole strategy is the provision of more money for black and Asian dance, and the Arts Council has praised the Phoenix dance theatre. I hope that criticism such as that will not be levelled against the strategy of the Arts Council because, as I say, it cannot be made to stick.

An essential and major part of the debate has been about the arm's-length principle. Several clear views have been expressed. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West was clear about his view, as he often is. He wants the Arts Council to be democratically elected, and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) takes the same clear position. The hon. Member for Paisley, South was not clear on that matter.

While they take a consistent position, is it the voice of the authentic Labour party, or have we heard the voice of the thinking Labour party? It begins to signal a dangerous change of policy for the country if that is indeed the view of the Labour party. I recall such debates on other matters when, in my previous job, I answered in relation to the University Grants Committee. On that issue I had to stand here and say that ministerial policy was to maintain an arm's-length relationship. On that, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) was much wiser and made the best speech. It was obviously a much better speech than that made by the hon. Member for Paisley, South.

Mr. Buchan

It was a much better speech than the hon. Gentleman is now making.

Mr. Waldegrave

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford said, we in this House have the right and duty to criticise Arts Council decisions if we think that they are wrong, and the council must listen to us. But I, as Minister, must not give directions to the Arts Council.

If that shouting fellow, the hon. Member for Paisley, South, became Minister responsible for the arts and decided to give directions it would be a serious departure from a traditionally bipartisan office.

Mr. Buchan

Will the hon. Member give way?

Mr. Waldegrave

I shall not give way.

Mr. Buchan

Give way.

Mr. Waldegrave

No. The hon. Member should sit down.

The arm's-length principle remains central to the Government's approach. That is why the many appeals by hon. Members who rightly argue about specific decisions which they believe the Arts Council got wrong will be listened to. However, they will be matters for the Arts Council to consider. I cannot say that I shall put representations to the Minister because that would undermine the arm's-length principle as much as the confused words by the hon. Member for Paisley, South.

Criticism has been made of how little coverage the arts have had from Ministers. The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) and others criticised the fact that the Minister responsible is in the Lords. Distinguished Labour party representatives have sat in the Lords. I think of Lord Donaldson and others. We have a bicameral system. Are we to say that Ministers will never sit in the House of Lords? Many hon. Members on both sides have paid tribute rightly to the way in which the present Minister for the Arts and his two Conservative predecessors have fought for resources when times were not easy. They have done well. I am grateful for the tributes by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East and by my hon. Friends, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford, who has been generous to his successors.

Hon. Members have mentioned poetry. One hon. Member said something that I could not stomach for a moment. He said that there were no good poets in Britain. [Interruption.] It is possible to make a non-partisan remark in this Chamber. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) may find that an impossible concept, but it is true. I am disagreeing with an hon. Friend. That is possible. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central mentioned several poets, including the one who, if I had anything to do with it, would become the next poet laureate—Larkin.

Larkin reminds us of how, even in the arts, we must work against the background of available resources. I hope that the hon. Member for Warley, East will forgive me for being light-hearted again, but Larkin wrote: If the Russian tanks roll westwards What defence for you and me Colonel Sloman's Essex rifles The light horse of the LSE? We have to spend on other than the arts even though we value the arts.

The major speech made today was that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford. He is right to try to be bipartisan. That often means that a group of hon. Members urge the enemy—the Treasury as always—to spend more money. We had a debate on 10 February 1975 when the Labour party was in power. Today I recognise some of the words put into the mouth of the then Minister responsible for the arts, because they are in my brief today. I exaggerate a little, but Minister's arguments always sound the same as the arguments of other Ministers who have to take decisions and to fight for resources.

I shall quote Mr. Hugh Jenkins, as he then was, to make a point against the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan), who made comparisons with other countries. Mr. Jenkins said—and it was true: Neither the totally centralised system in France nor the fundamentally local system in Western Germany can be directly compared with our own methods of support. Indeed, it is difficult to do so. Mr. Jenkins knew that we must get resources from industry and the private sector. They do not match the great central funds, but they are crucial at the margin. Mr. Jenkins, past Ministers and present Ministers would not argue about that.

Every Minister must press for resources. Mr. Jenkins said: I should hesitate as a matter of principle to say that Government subsidy ought to be larger just because it seems the right thing that Government subsidy should be larger."—[Official Report, 10 February 1975; Vol. 885, c. 101–2.] We must study the needs and consider the proper allocation of resources. That is why, from the Dispatch Box, on behalf of my noble Friend the Minister, I have on several occasions welcomed the genuine strategic thinking that lies behind "The Glory of the Garden".

Of course, the full reallocation of resources is only beginning. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central was right to say that the first stage is to strengthen the regional arts associations. We must create stronger regional organisations and then, no doubt, the Arts Council will bid for additional resources with which to make that regionalism more effective.

Mr. Robert Banks

I agree that my hon. Friend must be at arm's length from the Arts Council. I hope that he will listen to the pleas from Harrogate and will understand that £170,000 has been knocked off our arts budget. That creates a difficult position. We shall be grateful for his advice and support in trying to remedy that.

Mr. Waldegrave

I said earlier that the Arts Council would read reports of the debate. I have given Harrogate two bites of the cherry, and I hope that other hon. Members will forgive me if I do not give way again. I understand that they have quite justified constituency pleas. They are on the record and will be studied by those who have to make the difficult decisions.

The hon. Member for Paisley, South made much of the fact that the whole of the public sector is under pressure to find savings. The Arts Council is aware of that. The hon. Gentleman quoted from page 11 of its report, on challenge funding. He stopped reading at the point where the Arts Council said: The tradition of joint support for the arts by local authorities on the one hand and the Arts Council on the other is now sufficiently widely established to give reason for optimism. The Arts Council has recognised the problems, and we recognise them, but it is not always among the highest spending local authorities that we find support for the arts. It is a matter of arguing sensibly for the priorities. That can be done among the most economic authorities. It is not simply a matter, as Opposition Members keep saying, of spending on all the choices. That is never open to government in the real world, whether locally or nationally.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and I are grateful for the warm words with which our right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford welcomed the national heritage memorial fund and the praise that he gave its chairman. He asked for some assurances about future funding. The principle of funding for that body is quite different from that for any other national body because it has an endowment. He asked in particular for the assurance that it would be allowed to use the endowment flexibly and to have rather greater freedom in the time scales in which it was allowed to spend its money. In endorsing the principle of the endowment, I can give the assurance that we shall do our best to ensure that the topping-up money that is added to the endowment will be adequate for the tasks which have to be undertaken.

I hope that the House will forgive me for passing over many of the expressions of the importance and centrality to civilisation of the arts. I do so partly because those expressions have been so eloquently presented by so many hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber. That being so, I perhaps do not need to endorse them. However, if silence on this topic is seen as showing the Government to be careless of the importance of the arts in the widest context, I give the assurance that we have a strong awareness of the importance and centrality of the arts, which our spending record demonstrates.

Of course, everyone concerned with the arts would like more financial support. However, programmes have been protected through the slump and certain programmes have done relatively well. Against that background, the arts do not have too much to complain about. There are many small theatres and many small groups which are struggling with far less money than many of us would like to see them have. Their life is far from easy. We have maintained the programme broadly in real terms and increased it slightly but no one should think that we fail to recognise the problems that remain or that we shall fail to move to meet them when they become critical, as was shown by our approach to the great opera companies.

Mr. Tony Banks

Does the Minister accept that between 1979–80 and 1983–84 there was a real-value decline in the money that the Arts Council received? It declined in real value from £61 million in 1979–80 to £60.7 million in 1983–84. It increased to £63.5 million this year only because of the extra Priestley money.

Mr. Waldegrave

I do not think that anyone in the arts will worry about the heading under which the extra money comes as long as it comes. Some of the less conventional headings merely demonstrate—I venture to make this suggestion in the privacy of the House—the skill of Ministers with responsibility for the arts in winning funds.

The hon. Member for Warley, East talked about Getty and the Getty museum. There was an interesting debate in another place recently on that issue and Ministers are well aware of the problems. It is important that the trustees of those funds should listen to some of the comments that are being made and take on board some of the suggestions that are being made by the hon. Gentleman and others so that they use their money with responsibility. They can surely see what will happen if they do not.

I disagreed with the main argument of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) but I agreed very much with one of his remarks. When discussing the Elgin marbles we had some of the worst jokes of any that are on record in the Official Report. I fear that the relocation of great works of art would open up a literally endless process. The hon. Member for Warley, East made that very point when he said that there are many other items of great importance to other parts of the world for which requests would come.

My hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) addressed himself to the funding of the national heritage memorial fund. I have covered that issue briefly and I have noted what my hon. Friend said about the funding of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. There are bound to be pressures put upon that funding, but I know that the friends of that institution who are Members of this place will not let the Government get away with inadequate funding.

Those who are old hands at discussing the arts know the VAT arguments inside out. They are aware that it is a major Treasury principle to keep VAT as widely based as possible. On the other hand, every group with an interest in a particular subject wants its own part of the tax chipped away. That is why Treasury Ministers of both Conservative and Labour Governments fight so tenaciously not to make concessions. I know that what hon. Members have said will again be listened to closely by my right hon. and noble Friend who must consider these matters.

I regret the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South in a sense underestimated the achievement of the Select Committee to which he contributed so much. A good many of the recommendations—I know not as many as my hon. Friend would have liked, especially with respect to the organisation of government—have been accepted and put into practice. I refer, for example, to the new business sponsorship scheme which my right hon. and noble Friend introduced and which is a welcome addition to arts financing. That measure can be seen, in part at least, as a response to some of the points made by the Select Committee. Many of the recommendations were directed at other Government institutions, especially the Arts Council. Part of the growth in the regional arts associations can be seen as the Arts Council's response to the Select Committee's recommendations. I recognise that many measures that were wanted by the Select Committee are still on the agenda, and, doubtless, members of the Select Committee and other hon. Members will press for them.

I could argue against the reorganisation of central Government responsibility. It is unwise for junior Ministers to do such things, because I often find that the Prime Minister has made a reorganisation a week after without, for some reason, telling me in advance. I shall not give the arguments against the centralisation of Whitehall's functions. Strong points were made about pluralism, but one must remember that there is some point in pluralism in Whitehall. It is sometimes a good thing to have more than one door in Whitehall through which one can go. To some extent, that point must be set against the arguments that have been made.

Mr. Cormack

Does my hon. Friend do justice to the Select Committee's report? Hon. Members who were on the Select Committee feel extremely angry that only at 9.54 pm did we have the first reference to the Select Committee's report, which is listed on the Order Paper as being relevant to today's debate.

Mr. Waldegrave

That matter would have been discussed a few minutes earlier if I had given way less often and if there had been less catcalling from the Opposition.

The Government have not accepted the idea of a single Ministry for the arts. The Government have not accepted also the proposed amendments to the taxation laws, and I have no doubt that the argument on those laws will continue strongly. My hon. Friend the Minister for Information Technology is reviewing film, and we shall, doubtless, hear more about that in due course.

I am not sure about the idea of having an annual arts White Paper. Comprehensive information is regularly provided. The bodies that are the greatest executors of policy in this matter provide annual reports. I do not know whether a White Paper effectively binding those annual reports together would add very much. I am sure that my right hon. and noble Friend, in the light of what hon. Members have said, will consider that matter again.

The House and all those concerned with the funding of the arts should welcome one item which I mentioned briefly and which was derived from the pressure brought by the Select Committee and others — the business sponsorship incentive scheme. I am not sure whether that scheme has yet had the national attention that it should receive because essentially it depends upon being widely known. We must take steps to ensure that it is made fully known to those who want to use it.

Two principal themes have run through the debate. One concerns the nature of the arm's-length principle and what we are to make of it. Will we go in the longer term, as some argue about university funding, to a more democratically accountable system? Should we maitain, as I believe we should, the tension between democratically elected authorities at the local level and bodies that recognise something that is separate from the democratic process—the function of the artist as pure artist?

I believe that the tension between them is the best system.

Mr. Freud

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 2, Noes 1.

Division No. 371] [10.00
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Tellers for the Ayes:
Kirkwood, Archy Mr. Clement Freud and Mr. D. E. Thomas.
Rathbone, Tim Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and Mr. Douglas Hogg.
Tellers for the Noes:
Mr. Speaker

As it appears that fewer than 40 Members took part in the Division, the Question is not decided in the affirmative.

It being after Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.