HC Deb 05 March 1984 vol 55 cc601-4
27. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the arts if the Minister for the Arts has now decided how he plans to make up for the anticipated loss of grants to the arts following the abolition of the metropolitan counties and the Greater London council.

Mr. Waldegrave

As I have recently told the House, my noble Friend is now considering most carefully the many representations made to him during the consultation period. The pattern of funding for the arts in the affected areas after abolition will depend on the outcome of my noble Friend's deliberations.

Mr. Atkinson

Is my hon. Friend aware of the great anxiety of the Bournemouth symphony orchestra and its parent body, Western Orchestral Society, because it has not been shown the national and international recognition that it deserves in my noble Friend's consultation paper? Will he assure the orchestra that it will not miss out because of any shortfall of public funding resulting from the Government's proposals?

Mr. Waldegrave

The Bournemouth symphony orchestra was not directly involved in the proposals. That is why there was no direct reference to it. If consequential changes to the arts funding affect the Bournemouth symphony orchestra, my noble Friend will take that into account.

Mr. Jessel

Is my hon. Friend aware that London is the arts capital of the world, that it is a tremendous national asset and that it attracts many visitors to this country? Is he further aware that many of us who strongly support the abolition of the GLC wish to be certain that the arts can continue to flourish in London? Have the Government taken on board the extent of the anxiety on that matter?

Mr. Waldegrave

I assure my hon. Friend that the Government understand the concern, and my noble Friend has made it clear that he will bring forward proposals to meet it.

Mr. Murphy

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that many in the home counties also look towards London as their arts capital? Will he also take into account the interests of those living in the home counties, particularly in areas such as Hertfordshire and in my constituency?

Mr. Waldegrave

In so far as the Arts Council and the general taxpayer contribute to the funding of organisations in the London area, those taxpayers are already contributing. However, I shall report my hon. Friend's comments to my noble Friend.

Mr. Cormack

Did my hon. Friend read the leader in The Times on Saturday? Does he accept that many people feel that the Government have made a grand political gesture without thinking through its consequences? Will he ensure that his noble Friend produces a consultative paper when he has had a chance to consider all the various representations that have been made about the decision's implications?

Mr. Waldegrave

I read the leader and thought that it bore all the hallmarks of one that had been produced by a committee, as there were several different strands running through it. It covered most of the issues, which are certainly well known to the Government. However, I believe that my noble Friend will be bringing forward a paper in response to those points.

29. Mr. Chapman

asked the Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts if the Minister for the Arts is discussing with the chairman of the Arts Council the future of more local funding of the arts in London, in the event of the abolition of the Greater London council.

Mr. Waldegrave

My noble Friend the Minister for the Arts is presently reviewing his proposals on the future pattern of arts funding in London after the abolition of the GLC. The Arts Council has expressed its views, which will be fully taken into account. My noble Friend will no doubt discuss these views further in his regular meetings with the chairman.

Mr. Chapman

Does my hon. Friend recognise that the leader in The Times spoke for many Londoners when it said that the last thing they wanted in the event of the GLC's abolition was a joint board of councils with power to precept boroughs. for an arts element? Does my hon. Friend agree that if the GLC is abolished, some of the major arts functions should be taken over by the Arts Council? Will he consider the proposal that some of the minor functions could be taken up by the boroughs if the RSG settlement contained some element to cover arts expenditure?

Mr. Waldegrave

If we wanted the boroughs to take on a larger role in arts funding, it would be reflected in their rate support grant settlements. My own view is that the least satisfactory solution for the arts would be a joint board.

Mr. Buchan

How many of the 500 or so representations made on this subject by arts organisations approve of the idea? Has the hon. Gentleman listened to the points made today by Conservative Back Benchers? Is he aware of the anxiety that exists in the theatrical, musical and literary spheres about what is happening in the metropolitan authorities and the GLC? Will the hon. Gentleman pass on the view that no decision should be made before a debate has been held on this issue in the House? Hundreds of people, including Sir Laurence Olivier, Brian Rix, Bruce Forsyth, and even the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), have made representations, so the hon. Gentleman must pay attention to them. There is no reason for going ahead, and all those in the arts are telling him not to do so.

Mr. Waldegrave

The leader in The Times was correct to say that it would be absurd to defend a particular local government structure simply because of funding the arts. I was not very impressed by the signed advertisements produced on behalf of the GLC by a public relations firm. However, if Mr. Roland Freeman needs the money, that is his job. Nevertheless, I certainly respond to the genuine concern felt by both Opposition and Conservative Members, and my noble Friend has made it clear that there will be no intention on the part of any future local government organisation to damage the arts.

Mr. Freud

Irrespective of whether the Under-Secretary of State was impressed by the advertisement, will he place in the Library the 500 or so representations that his noble Friend received so that we can judge their value?

Mr. Waldegrave

No, Sir. In response to other questions, we have said that we will put the list in the Library. It is not right that we should undertake the publication of other people's documents.

30. Mr. Fisher

asked the Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts if the Minister for the Arts will be having discussions with the Arts Council before bringing forward proposals arising from the arts consultative paper which accompanied Cmnd. 9063.

Mr. Waldegrave

My noble Friend has regular discussions with the Arts Council about this and other matters.

Mr. Fisher

Will the Minister provide for the chairman of the Arts Council, if he will not provide them for Members of this House, copies of all the submissions that he has received?

Mr. Waldegrave

No. I think that that would be even sillier.