HC Deb 25 March 1985 vol 76 cc15-6
24. Mr. Proctor

asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts what further plans the Minister for the Arts has with regard to encouraging private funding of the arts; and if he will make a statement.

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

From 1 April my noble Friend will be introducing changes designed to make his business sponsorship incentive scheme even more attractive to small and medium-sized companies.

I also remind my hon. Friend that the Budget doubled the limit of higher rate tax relief for covenants to charities, which will undoubtedly encourage more private support for the arts.

Mr. Proctor

Does my hon. Friend agree that at a time when state sponsorship of the arts is likely to be maintained at current rather than increased levels in real terms, as it has been during the past six years, schemes of the kind that he has announced are important, especially the special bonus for first-time company sponsors and the pound for pound approach that the Government are pursuing?

Mr. Waldegrave

Yes, Sir. It was encouraging to see that Arthur Anderson came forward under that scheme to support the foyer programme at the National Theatre.

Mr. Freud

The House will appreciate the help that was given by the hon. Gentleman's noble Friend in matching on a pound for pound basis, but will he bear in mind that in the United States a great deal of money is raised for the arts by giving tax concessions to individuals? Will he ask his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider further tax incentives for individuals who help the arts?

Mr. Waldegrave

Yes, Sir. That is kept under review. The previous Conservative Administration shortened the period for covenants, which helped a good deal, and we shall certainly keep the matter under review.

Mr. Jessel

Does my hon. Friend believe that more private funding could be obtained for the National theatre?

Mr. Waldegrave

I have already referred to the private money arranged for the foyer programme. I hope that more money can be found for the main programmes of the National theatre. I should have thought that there must be some scope for that.

Mr. Buchan

Will the Minister bear in mind that the amount of support coming forward for the National theatre in its crisis from the public sector—that is, the Greater London council—is 10 times as much as that coming from the private sector? We welcome the changes that have taken place, but is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a fear in the arts that they will be a replacement and substitute for proper public funding, and does he agree that that should not be tolerated?

Mr. Waldegrave

It is not a matter of replacement. The Government are cutting direct taxes. If the other side of that is rather less state funding, people should support those interests that they value, if they value them.

Mr. Crouch

Does my hon. Friend agree that keeping a subject under review is rather an unimpressive way of trying to persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer to change his mind? Does he accept that help for living artists by tax concessions should not only be kept under review, but delivered by a lobby or pressure group to the Chancellor?

Mr. Waldegrave

I accept what my hon. Friend says, but we should remember that there is already considerable scope for private tax concessions on donations. A full change to the American system would have some less desirable aspects.

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