HC Deb 25 March 1985 vol 76 c16
25. Mr. Fisher

asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts whether the Minister for the Arts intends to meet the chairman of the Arts Council to discuss the composition of the Arts Council drama panel.

Mr. Waldegrave

My right hon. and noble Friend meets the chairman of the Arts Council on a regular basis to discuss matters of common interest.

Mr. Fisher

Does the Minister realise that the seven drama panel members who resigned recently did so because they, with other leading writers, directors and actors, no longer have confidence in the Arts Council? They no longer have confidence that the Arts Council represents and fights for their views and for the future of the theatre. They believe that the Arts Council has become a pawn for Government economic policies and cuts. Does the Minister believe that he can find leading practitioners in the professional theatre to take those seven places?

Mr. Waldegrave

It is impossible to change anything without offending vested interests, which will on some occasions resign.

Mr. Tony Banks

Is it not a fact that the controversy surrounding the drama panel and, indeed, the Arts Council in general, can be welcomed on at least one level: that the concept of the arm's length policy has been rubbished for the myth that it has always been? The Arts Council is a political body: it is made up of people appointed by the Government, and the present director general and chairman of the Arts Council are both Tories.

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman's position on that matter is no more consistent than it has ever been. I happen to know that he wants the Arts Council—if he wants it at all — to be a political body, so I do not understand why he accuses us of making it so. But he is wrong. The Arts Council is not a political body.