HC Deb 26 March 1985 vol 76 cc298-318 9.25 pm
Mr. Francis Maude (Warwickshire, North)

I am sorry that my time will trample upon the tender sensitivity of the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce).

On the last occasion when I spoke in a debate on a Consolidated Fund Bill, I rose to my feet at about 3.30 am. I am delighted by the fact that today I am starting to speak only three or four hours after most people have finished work and gone home.

This debate is to be about public funding of the arts. It may be helpful if I set out at the outset the basis of my arguments. I am in favour of the arts, but opposed to direct Government subsidy of the arts. I am not moved especially by the idea of saving Government expenditure, although I am not indifferent to that consideration in a number of other respects. I believe that direct Government subsidy has a malign effect upon the arts and that only when we move away from it will we witness a real regeneration in the arts in this country.

I know that we shall hear some drearily predictable remarks from the Opposition about Tory Philistinism. I do not wish to parade any credentials that I may have in terms of being an art lover, a theatre-goer or an opera-goer. Since 9 June 1983 my opportunities to attend the theatre, the opera and so on have been somewhat reduced, but I do when I can.

This debate takes place at a time when a much wider debate is in progress in the country about how the Government should treat the arts. There have been loud cries about crisis and disaster in the arts. No superlatives have been too far over the top for some of the protagonists. At times, one might have thought that a battle was taking place.

What are the dimensions of the so-called crisis or disaster in the arts? My noble Friend the Minister for the Arts has set out in another place the amount of public money devoted to the arts. In 1985–86 it will be £272 million. That is a real increase of 18 per cent. since the Government came to office, and this year's increase is above the rate of inflation. A further £250 million is spent on broadcasting — as a subsidy to the arts in broadcasting. That is not direct public spending, but nearly every other country would include that figure as public spending on the arts. In total, therefore, about £500 million is spent on subsidising the arts in this country.

Furthermore, the arts now receive more in Government subsidy than in voluntary contributions from individuals. Among voluntary contributions, I of course include box office receipts. That peculiar situation should give rise to deep unease about the state of the business. It means that people paying income tax at about one third of average earnings are subsidising the pleasures of those who, by and large, are in much higher income brackets. That should be a source of deep worry, especially to the class warriors in the Opposition. I shall be interested to hear what they have to say about that.

During the past 10 years there has been a rebirth of sponsorship of the arts. It used to be called patronage, and came from individuals. In the rebirth, the patronage comes principally from companies, so we are now required to call it sponsorship. The attitude of the arts establishment towards it is ambivalent to say the least. In some sections it is downright hostile. Private money is sometimes regarded as tainted money—the proceeds of capitalism—which must somehow detract from the sanctity of the artistic endeavour. Nobody should underestimate the extent to which that attitutude prevails in the arts establishment. It is thoroughly dangerous and has had an enormously bad effect on how the arts establishment is run.

My feelings about the malign effects of public subsidy of the arts was summed up by one of our most distinguished contemporary novelists, Mr. Kingsley Amis, when he wrote to The Times on 21 February as follows: Subsidy damages art by tending to foster irresponsibility, showiness, cliquism and self-indulgence in the artist. At the same time the public's power to choose what art it wants, by financial pressure on the artist, is dangerously weakened. And whatever might be said about public taste it is better than the taste of the people the subsidised artist is likely to set out to please or impress: critics, colleagues, friends, experts, bureaucrats.

That sums up in a masterly way the malign effects of direct subsidy of the arts. The consequence of 40 years of increasing art subsidy has been that the arts have become introverted. They have yielded to the temptation to insulate themselves from their audience and communities. That is understandable. When the principal source of money is the Government, the arts lobby and establishment increasingly turns in on itself as it becomes the corridors of power within which that money is dispersed. That is unsatisfactory.

Another of the malign effects is that subsidy leads to the imposition of taste on the public—by committees and drama panels. It is unsatisfactory that the decision about which theatre should receive money is made by a drama panel. The matter should be decided by those who have the money to give. Have we had a significantly better arts scene since 1945, when the Arts Council was created?

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)


Mr. Maude

Will the years 1945 to 1985 be seen by posterity as a golden age of the arts in Britain? We have an artistic heritage which started somewhat before 1945, and it will continue beyond 1985, no matter what the extent of the subsidy that we give.

Mr. Michael Meadowcroft (Leeds, West)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the arts have always been subsidised in one form or another, whether by royal patronage or individuals? Because business and the landed gentry have become so few and far between, the state has been prepared to help. Surely that is the same as has always happened.

Mr. Maude

The hon. Gentleman anticipates my argument. We should encourage sponsorship by individuals and by companies to replace direct involuntary subsidy by taxpayers. I do not see there being a net gain to the Treasury at the end of the exercise. I see the direct subsidy being reduced at the same rate as that at which tax incentives take effect and increase direct sponsorship of the arts.

I know the argument against sponsorship. It is said there would be sponsorship only of enterprises which are safe, cautious and establishment. Many people were exercised about the pile of bricks at the Tate. It did not exercise me. I did not see the bricks, but I have seen other piles of bricks and I did not understand the point. However, I do not dispute that that may have been a genuine artistic activity. From such experiments, genuinely worthwhile artistic enterprises can and do emerge. However, I wonder whether it is right for such experiments to be subsidised by the involuntary contributions of taxpayers. The sort of outcry that that type of exhibit generates is likely to make it much more difficult to sustain public subsidy in the long run, to lead to a clamping down, and to a much more cautious attitude by the arts lobby.

The other aspect of subsidy which interests me is the relationship that develops between the arts establishment and the Government. It was rather uncomfortable at the beginning when the arts lobby wheedled the Government for money. In the 1960s it became a comfortable relationship — some people would say much too comfortable—because the Government provided plenty of money for the arts, and the public did not fit into the equation. Now, wheedling has given way to an arrogant assumption by the arts establishment that if they call themselves artists they have an automatic call on the public's involuntary contributions. That is unacceptable.

One of the most strident exponents of that arrogance has been Sir Peter Hall. During the past few weeks we have witnessed that increasingly. He has resorted to ruthless blackmail, threatened to close the whole of the National theatre if he does not get his way, and put in great anxiety the 100 people whose jobs depend on the Cottesloe theatre continuing in existence.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)


Mr. Maude

The hon. Gentleman obviously has not seen the article in The Sunday Times of 17 February, which flowed directly from Sir Peter's remarks. He said that if the Greater London council carried out its threat to withdraw its annual grant, he would close the theatre, and that the reason why it was so difficult for him to manage was that the building cost a lot to run. He said: the National's budget has been distorted by the building's £2.8 million running costs. Whose fault is that? He was a member of the building committee when the theatre was being planned, was responsible for much of the outfitting of it, and must bear his share of the responsibility. Everyone else must work with the buildings that they have. Why should the National theatre be exempt from that?

A consequence of the arrogance in the arts establishment has been its tendency to build gigantic grandiose palaces, some would say, to indulge its vanity. If, in the fullness of time, it comes to regret that because the costs are more than it thought, my sympathy is lacking. I await the day when the Royal Shakespeare Company regrets its grandiose expansion into the Barbican. It will not be long before we hear complaints about the expensive costs of running it.

The National theatre has a total income of about £14.4 million, of which more than half comes in direct public subsidy. That is not a bad deal. In every base year except one it has increased ahead of inflation. I do not wish to make too much complaint about Sir Peter. My right hon. and noble Friend the Minister for the Arts said in a recent debate in another place that we should have a plurality of revenue for the arts. Sir Peter is a good example of that. On top of his salary as a part-time director of the National theatre, he is director of productions at Glyndebourne and has been a producer and director at Bayreuth. I make no complaint about that. He might be thought to be an embodiment of the virtues of entrepreneurial Britain, seizing opportunities and advancing himself. Many would say that it is splendid stuff, but it tends to make one a little less than sympathetic when he continues his pontificating humbug about the so-called dismantling of the subsidised theatre. He would do well for his sake, as much as for the sake of the cause that he espouses, if he left the public platform, for which he is frankly unsuitable, and returned to the theatre, of which he is an adornment.

One is forced to ask: is there a need for direct subsidy for the theatre to continue? We must ask whether there is a need for subsidies of more than 50 per cent. The Everyman theatre in Liverpool manages to do business in a deprived area on a much smaller subsidy. The Royal Exchange theatre in Manchester, which also has a much smaller subsidy, produces experimental, avant garde and extremely fine works.

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

When has the hon. Gentleman been there?

Mr. Maude

I have been there several times and have seen many good productions.

The west end theatres have survived without subsidy successfully for many years. When we debate this subject, many people say that the subsidised theatre is essential because it brings tourists to the country and is a great money-earner. Of course, that is right. It generates revenue, but the unsubsidised west end theatres generate just as much revenue. Indeed, they generate more revenue because they do not have the original public subsidy to begin with. Some argue that the west end theatre is fertilised by productions from the subsidised theatre. Of course, that is right. The argument is that if we cut off subsidised theatre, we cut off that fertilisation. I do not accept that, because the west end theatre has a product to sell. If it cannot get new and good quality productions from the subsidised sector, it will develop those productions from elsewhere. It has something to sell, and it must have products. I have no doubt that the reduction of the subsidy to theatres would have no bad effect on the ability of west end theatres to continue in business.

What of other theatres which can survive without subsidy? For example, Glyndebourne survives completely without subsidy, except for a small subsidy for its touring operation. It has one or two new productions every festival, which compares favourably with the heavily subsidised Covent Garden and the Coliseum. The Chichester festival is also completely unsubsidised. It is successful, and is never shy of putting on new productions which test the frontiers of the arts. In recent years there has been an enormous growth in privately run, specialised museums, which is a development of sponsorship and of commerciality in the arts.

As a replacement for direct subsidy, I should like to see tax incentives to encourage individuals and companies to increase their sponsorship of the arts. This has increased from virtually nothing 10 years ago to quite a substantial proportion. However, the proportion of private sponsorship to public subsidy in Great Britain is almost exactly the reverse of the situation in the United States. In the United States it is roughly 10 to one, but in this country it is about one to 10. This happens in the United States because tax incentives are offered.

The Select Committee on Education and the Arts suggested concessions on private sponsorship three years ago. Eventually, in January last year, the Government produced their response to that suggestion. Effectively, they said that this could not be done and should not be done. The reasons are fairly sketchily set out, but they are worth looking at. They raised a number of interesting points. The Government said: To exempt business companies from tax on a percentage of their profits on donations to the arts would be a concession that it would be difficult and inequitable to confine to the arts. That is nonsense. In the United States it is done perfectly successfully. As for how difficult it would be to justify confining it to the arts, that is a matter of pragmatism. It is acceptable to raise money to use as tax concessions to act as a catalyst to encourage certain desirable activities. This may not be necessary in the long-term, but it is necessary in the short term to develop this activity.

The Government's answer went on to say: Moreover, the gain to the arts would not necessarily be in respect of a wide range of deserving cases, while the loss of revenue would mean substantial falls in the substantial sums within the Government's direct control. That is not the robust voice of my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister for the Arts. That is the authentic voice of the arts establishment, which sums up in a sentence all that is worst about the system of direct subsidy to the arts.

The gain to the arts would not necessarily be in respect of a wide range of deserving cases"— Who is to decide that? Is it to be the drama panel of the Arts Council? What a poor fist it has made of that in the past. Why should companies not decide which should be deserving cases, or the audiences? Are we to assume that the drama panel of the Arts Council, the committee sitting isolated from the public, is a better judge of what is a deserving case than the public? That is an intolerably arrogant attitude.

The Government's reply said: the loss of revenue would mean substantial falls in the sums within the Government's direct control. If that is the result, good, so much the better. We want to see much more control over the way in which money goes to the arts in the hands of companies which can make decisions and of the public who take decisions to go and fill seats to see performances.

The argument set out sketchingly in the paper put out by the Office of Arts and Libraries does not meet the case. It has dismissed sponsorship lightly, but this matter would repay much closer consideration. I hope that when my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary winds up the debate he will hold out some hope that the Government will reconsider this matter as the only long-term solution to this problem.

The argument is that sponsorship will always go to the safe and cautious projects, but that has not been shown to be the case. Initially it was so, and was bound to be, but it is an activity that is developing. As it becomes more and more ingrained in society, and into the business community that it is a good thing to do to sponsor the arts, sponsorship will become more and more adventurous. There are a number of encouraging examples of business sponsoring adventurous projects. For example, BP gives substantial subsidy to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which is not a particularly cautious or unadventurous project. It is good to see a big establishment, a multinational company, going in for that. IBM sponsors the Scottish Museum of Modern Art. Again, that is a good development. The award scheme run by the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts and the Sunday Telegraph singles out imaginative and adventurous schemes. There is a growing tendency for sponsorship to move away from safe and cautious art, which will always predominate. If there are signs that private sponsorship is moving into more adventurous areas, that must be welcomed.

Direct subsidy of the arts is not the only aspect that worries me. The Treasury accepts works of art and property in lieu of tax. Parliament imposes capital transfer tax, thus forcing people to sell their properties to pay the tax, in lieu of which the Government accept works of art for the nation. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave) will make representations to the Treasury about the malign effect of this tax on the arts generally. The redistributive effect of capital transfer tax is negligible, its yield is slight, its collection cost is heavy, but its indirect effect upon the arts is considerable. Abolition of capital transfer tax would not only discourage the export of works of art and reduce Government intervention, but would open the way for wider patronage of the arts by individuals. There would then be a return to the occasionally eccentric, occasionally dotty patronage of the wilder types of artistic endeavour that took place in the past. It would be better if such patronage came from private individuals rather than from the public purse.

I hope that my hon. Friend will consider favourably the introduction of tax concessions for sponsorship of the arts and that eventually the abolition of capital transfer tax will revolutionise the funding of the arts. Eventually I should like taxes to be so low that the public could exercise their own choice about how they spend their money. That would be much more desirable than the extraction of involuntary contributions from taxpayers, which amount to one third of average earnings, thus forcing them to subsidise against their will those who are usually much better off. I hope that my hon. Friend will consider this point.

9.53 pm
Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)

I had intended to be brief and I still intend to be brief. I want to deal specifically with funding, but it would be quite wrong if I did not say a word or two about the extraordinary speech of the hon. Member for Warwickshire, South (Mr. Maude). It is unbelievable that anybody in Britain can say that the period from the mid-1940s onwards has been the worst ever period for British art, given the background of Olivier, Richardson, Ashcroft, Gielgud, Redgrave, and, secondly, that there should be a substitution for public funding which is accountable to a very large number of people. The alternative is private sponsorship.

The hon. Member put forward two arguments for private sponsorship. The first was that it would be chosen by individuals. The mind boggles at the the thought of Rupert Murdoch in charge of the choice of works of art in this country. That is what it would amount to. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman says that private sponsorship has proved to be adventurous because it has put up money for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

As the man who started the Edinburgh Fringe, I am pleased about that, but in the initial years no such money was forthcoming for our productions. No money is being given for the present production of the play about the miners, "The Garden of England". When that comes, we might talk.

Such nonsense can be equalled only by the Minister for the Arts in his infamous speech in the House of Lords when he said that there had been an 18 per cent. increase in real terms in arts funding since the Government came to office. The funding and the figures are important. The Minister for the Arts claimed that the arts had received an 18 per cent. increase since 1978–79. He claimed that on television, in an argument with Peter Hall and others, and in the House of Lords. I assume that he intended to cover the Tory period in office.

The year 1978–79 was a curious year to choose. It was the last year of the Labour Government and therefore refers to a Labour programme. I am curious about why the Minister for the Arts should have sought some spurious credit. The answer is even more curious. In that year there was a computer strike and £6 million from the Labour programme was transferred to the following year's programme. About 5 per cent. of the total was therefore paid in the following year, thus producing an artificially low figure for 1978–79 and an equally high jump in the following year. That means that the 18 per cent. claim can be reduced by more than one third in real terms. The claim is nonsense, but it reveals creative accounting by an Arts Minister who was once a Treasury Minister. The claim is strange because, according to the Minister for the Arts, public expenditure is, by definition, evil. The Government say that all public spending is bad and that it must be cut. It is strange that they should take credit for a Labour Government spending programme.

Within one month of the general election in 1979, the Government started to cut money for the arts. Within a month they cut the programme which they inherited from us by 2 per cent. Well over 10 per cent. of that 18 per cent. was spent in a single year—in 1982–83, the year before the election. The 18 per cent. figure is the combined result of our actions, of the computer strike and of the 1983 election.

The Government's first action after that general election was again to cut the arts budget. To be fair, that did not take place within a month. It took two or three months. In October the Government cut the arts programme on which they fought the election Two elections were successfully over, and two cuts faced the arts world. So much for Government claims about total spending. The claim is nonsense.

Two matters are important. We are dealing with a tiny—some would say mean—overall budget for the arts, libraries and museums. Therefore, any single major item can immediately and adversely affect others. For example, this coming year alone necessary expenditure on the British Library of over £7 million will take half the apparent planned increase in cash terms.

Many museums and galleries such as the National gallery and the Victoria and Albert museum are in difficulties. The increased cost of necessary repairs to such museums and galleries will be three times the rate of inflation in the coming year. That single aspect accounts for over 10 per cent. of the total Department budget.

I deal next with the immediate issue, to which the Minister for the Arts referred in scathing terms as the crisis in the arts. Any claimed increase in real terms for Arts Council spending in the Tory period of office suffers from the same spurious and creative accountancy as the overall budget for the Office of Arts and Libraries.

In 1983–84, after the pre-election mini-boom in arts funding, the old cycle was repeated—a cut in the arts. Then came the attempt to demonstrate that the national institutions were all profligate and inefficient spenders. The Government tried to do this through the Priestley report, and it boomeranged, because they were wrong. Those institutions turned out to be more efficient than most of the capitalist organisations that the Minister has been praising. This error cost £3.5 million. The Government were determined that somebody else should pay for it. Instead of the Government paying for it, it was paid for by cutting what was made available to the rest of the arts. It turned out that the arts would have to pay for this.

Priestley became a camouflage. Whether from pique or from another burst of creative accountancy, the Government used Priestley to make a savage cut of 4 per cent. in real terms in the provision for the rest of theatre and music in Britain by claiming credit for fulfilling Priestley. With the inclusion of the extra amount in Priestley, there was still an overall cut. That in itself is a measure of what the arts have had to face. The effect only two years ago was a cut of 4 per cent. in real terms in the rest of the performing arts in Britain. It is a devastating figure for the arts world to sustain. The factor of over £4 million a year is applicable to last year, this year and next year.

As to the talk of an increase of £5 million, four fifths is coming out because of the pledge in Priestley which has been borne not by the Government directly but by the rest of the arts. Thus there is the continuing factor of the drop of 4 per cent. because Priestley has continued into 1984–85, when total art funding is virtually frozen in real terms. That is the reason for the crisis and why it is correct for Sir Peter Hall, Melvin Bragg, others and myself to say that there is a genuine crisis in the arts.

In the coming year, there is to be a new factor. On top of Priestley, there is "The Glory of the Garden". This developed a strategy for devolution of the arts, but without the funds to carry through the strategy. Three million pounds was allocated for the strategy and its development this year, when the total grant in real terms has been cut, even taking account of the Priestley money. The real problem is that the development will cost £3 million, which has not been provided, and it must therefore come from the existing art world.

It is not the Government who are paying for "The Glory of the Garden", but the rest of the arts. It is a repeat of the Priestley sleight of hand. To that £3 million must be added another £1 million of costs that have come out of the Arts Council budget because of the £600,000 properly allocated to Scotland to compensate for the loss of local authority funding following the implementation by the Government of the Stoddart report. Another £400,000 is to come out of arts expenditure to prepare for the running of the South Bank by the Arts Council following yet another piece of political pique and stupidity by the Government in seeking to abolish the Greater London council.

Taking these factors into consideration for last year, this year and next year, we are witnessing a cut in real terms of about 5 per cent. for the majority of the existing performing arts. That is serious, but the story does not end there—the worst is yet to come.

Great play has been made—correctly—of the value of the plurality of funding in the arts. The main source of funding in the arts other than central Government—indeed, greater than central Government — is local authorities. They gave 50 times as much money to the arts in 1981–82 as private sources. In 1984–85 they gave between 15 and 20 times as much. They are the main bulwark of support for the arts today and without them the arts would collapse.

We now know the depth of the crisis and the reason for the fear. In the same period about which the Conservatives boast—from 1978–79 to the present time—there has been a collapse of over 8.5 per cent. in local authority finance. The 5 per cent., in effective terms, from central Government, plus the 8 per cent. from local authority funding, proves the point.

We are only now beginning to appreciate the effects of cutting, capping and abolition. The Scottish experience shows how changes of this kind can drastically affect support funding for the arts. In total public spending there has been a real decrease in financial terms and a major decrease in effective terms.

Each day my post contains letters from companies throughout Britain which are in increasingly desperate straits. Today I received a letter from the director of a major music festival outlining anxieties about the festival. The British Council is worried about the general effects on the arts. Another letter tells me of a major British city that is anxious about the consequences of the Government's policy on library provision. From a group of young unemployed actors seeking to mount a new company comes a letter telling me about their fears. I suspect that many hon. Members with an interest in the arts receive similar letters.

We shall reverse the trend. We find it shameful that Britain should be at the bottom of the league in Europe in provision for the arts. The very existence of our national theatre is threatened. More important, we see being threatened the flourishing work that was done in the last decade or more by local communities, ethnic groups and local authorities. What has occurred has been a national scandal, and the trend must be halted and reversed before deeper damage is done.

With that in mind, I give a pledge. Bearing in mind the present level of central Government funding through the Arts Council, my intention is to double that amount within the first 12 months of taking office. That will be done either through direct central Government funding or through additional earmarked support to local authorities. I stress the latter point, because we recognise—I regret to have to say this—that the present leadership of the Arts Council has failed. Where they should have fought, they have surrendered. Where they should have spoken as advocates for the arts, they have acted as apologists for the Government.

We recognise, further, that if the principle of devolution of the arts—ill-thought out in "The Glory of the Garden"—is to be rescued and made effective, it must be through the strengthening of the regional and local control of funding. We shall therefore begin immediately on taking office the necessary structural changes in the funding of the arts to bring that about.

Next, I pledge that if the philosophy of the Conservatives in the arts is extended to charging for museums, galleries and so on, we shall reverse that process too, as we had to do on a previous occasion.

This is a philistine as well as a monetarist Government. Indeed, they are a philistine Government because they are monetarist. They cannot understand art in any terms but cash. They fail to understand the deeper value of art because they see it only in cash terms. We value the arts because we are committed to the arts. We recognise the importance of public expenditure in relation to the regeneration of the economy as a whole, but we, who are concerned to change the world, recognise that the engine of change can be through the arts.

Shelley described poets as the unacknowledged legislators of mankind. We accept that. Marx once said: The Bourgeoisie erect statues to the great writers of the past. If they had ever read their books, they would have burnt them. That is the difference between the two sides of the House. I am glad that we have had this opportunity—although it is no substitute for a major debate — to discuss the matter. We promise as quickly as possible to reverse the disastrous effects of this philistine Government on the arts in Britain.

10.9 pm

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

I listened to the first two speakers in the debate with total amazement. Government support for the arts should take three forms — subsidy by the Arts Council, tax relief and the encouragement of business sponsorship. These are not, as my hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire, North (Mr. Maude) suggested, to be seen as alternatives; they can and should be complementary. We need all three.

The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) pretended that Government support for the arts has been cut. That is not so. The budget for the arts and libraries increased from £124 million in 1978–79, when his party went out of office, to £272 million for 1985–86, the year that is about to begin. That is a rise in real terms of 18 per cent. I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's figures. The increase for next year will be 5.8 per cent. I wish it could be more still. Anyway, it is slightly more than inflation. In London £16 million is to be made available to the Arts Council to make up for the abolition of the Greater London Council.

The arts are enormously important because of the way in which they enrich and enlarge people's lives and the enjoyment they give. Even if the arts are seen merely from an economic aspect, they are of tremendous value to Britain. The arts, the heritage and the monarchy, to which the heritage is linked, comprise the main attraction which draws people to Britain. Foreigners come here not for our weather but to see our old towns and cities, our historic houses, churches and cathedrals, our art galleries and museums, the royal family and everything to do with it, our theatres, concerts, opera and ballet.

The chairman of the Arts Council, Sir William Rees-Mogg, in a remarkable address earlier this month, said: The arts are to British tourism what the sun is to Spain … As British manufacturing declines, there must be investment in the expansion of invisible earnings; and the arts are an essential part of any rational policy for such investment. He also said: The state also has important benefits in tourist revenue".

In a pamphlet published recently entitled "New Jobs from Pleasure" my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) wrote: Tourism is Britain's biggest growth industry. According to the English Tourist Board it employs about 1,300,000 people, has a turnover of £10,000 million and generated £4,150 million in foreign exchange earnings last year. It is creating more new jobs than any other industry—about 50,000 a year. Tourism is an unsung hero of the British economy. Later he wrote: Fine art and drama continue to help make London one of the world's major tourist centres. Indeed, London is the arts capital of the world; and there is a great deal else in the arts in other parts of the country.

We will be crazy if we do not continue to build on our strength. Last year 12 million visitors came to this country. The number is increasing. It could increase faster still. The arts need a little more pump priming by the Government. The budget of the Arts Council, which is the main instrument for support of the arts, was £100 million last year. That is only one thirteen hundredth part of public expenditure.

Mr. Maude

Does my hon. Friend accept that the subsidy, which exceeds other forms of revenue, is pump priming? It is a massive amount. It is more than private individuals give to the arts, including what is spent on actually going to see things.

Mr. Jessel

I do not accept that it is more than people pay for going to see things. My hon. Friend himself said that, apart from the National theatre, the London theatre, which is very buoyant, does not receive any subsidy.

Indeed, I could not agree with what he said in the main theme of his speech. He spoke in favour of business sponsorship. Everyone on this side of the House is in favour of business sponsorship of the arts. It has increased dramatically. It has multiplied tenfold over the last 12 years due to the excellent work of the Association of Business Sponsorship of the Arts. Business sponsorship is now £15 million a year, and there is scope for further increases. My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) has made a special study of this matter. It is not realistic to say that business sponsorship could replace the subsidy. My hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire, North has paid no attention to the amounts involved — £15 million from business sponsorship compared with £100 million from the Arts Council. The amount given by business cannot begin to reach the level of subsidy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth), who I hope will catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, has made a special study of the tax aspect. I believe that people should be allowed tax relief for support of the arts just as they can, through deeds of covenant, obtain tax relief for their support of charities. This is done in the United States. I agree on this point with my hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire, North. I hope that that theme will be developed during this debate.

10.15 pm
Mr. Michael Meadowcroft (Leeds, West)

It is inevitable that, because of electoral exigencies, Alliance Members tend to make speeches only about matters on which they are party spokesmen. It is a great pleasure to be granted this minor indulgence and to speak personally.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Warwickshire, North (Mr. Maude) on introducing this subject. I had thought that I would make a different speech, but, having heard the hon. Gentleman, I thought that it would be worth while to put the opposite case. The hon. Gentleman and I come from different backgrounds—that is the fault of neither of us. I suspect that my experience of the arts differs from his. I fumbled my way, trying to find an outlet for art through my background and faced difficulties. No encouragement was given. I was not able to look at the kaleidoscope of different opportunities and naturally find a way to take advantage of them.

Certain aspects of the arts are seen as legitimate, proper and valuable, though there is a strange dichotomy in the arts in class terms. For example, in the north, Gilbert and Sullivan is acceptable across the spectrum, but, by and large, grand opera is not; the brass band tradition is acceptable, but the ordinary concert hall is not necessarily acceptable. Apart from one occasion when I was given tickets to what were called the industrial concerts of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, I had never been to an orchestral concert in my life before coming to London some years later.

The same is true of other aspects of the arts. Jazz is acceptable in certain cultures, but playing in string quartets is not necessarily acceptable. There is a strange artificial division based on one's experience. Artificial boundaries are put around the arts, and they are detrimental and disturbing.

Some of our cities have taken on board the prospect of widening people's experience of the arts. Leeds has done a great deal to develop music education in schools. But unless children have something to go on to on leaving school, outlets and participation in music making will not be broadened. In a city such as mine most families cannot afford to purchase the instruments that their children will play. The instruments are provided at school, and the children do not have further access to them.

There is a type of pyramid in the arts. Hundreds of young people are helped — brilliantly at times — to express themselves. The pyramid begins to narrow as those with no great talent fall by the wayside. Suddenly, when the children leave school, the pyramid virtually disappears. Economic constraints and the problems faced by people—even those with talent—in continuing to use a musical instrument mean that few people are involved in the arts.

What worries me is that those young people often do not feel frustrated by it. They accept it as normal that once they have left school that aspect of their life disappears, and they do not bother to continue with it. It is a tremendous shame that we do not understand what happens in whole areas of our urban society, and for all I know in our suburban and rural societies.

One of the things that was crucial to my own experience of the arts was being a member of the Leeds city council when the Leeds Grand theatre and opera house was threatened with closure. The city, under a Conservative administration—I give Sir Frank Marshall, now Lord Marshall, full credit—stepped in and bought that theatre from the private owners to make sure that it continued. I was appointed, as a token Liberal representative from my own group, a director of that theatre. From that day, the whole panoply of what was possible in the arts was open to me because I was a part of that board.

Soon after that came the proposal to establish an opera company in Leeds—the Opera North company. Again, that was a tremendous seminal point in the experience of many people in Leeds. It was not that we needed Opera North suddenly to come and provide 10, 11 or 12 weeks of opera in the city. We could buy that in; we alwys had had Welsh national opera, Scottish national opera, English national opera and many other. We had even had the Dortmund opera company from our twin city.

The crucial difference was that, instead of just having week after week of opera which was well patronised, we had 60 or 70 musicians and 40 singers resident in the city. Suddenly they became part of the musical life of that city, straight out into the schools, the clubs, the pubs, the highways and byways. They taught and took on pupils. The staff producers gave assistance to the youth opera in the city. Suddenly the whole thing began to pick up and become much more vibrant because we had the opera company in the city.

Standing back from that and observing what happened was a tremendous experience. We suddenly realised that, by establishing an opera company in a city out of nowhere it was possible to create a tremendous new interest in the arts. It was always there; it was not something that had been absent; but it had never been catalysed, drawn out as it was thanks to the skill of the professional.

I have come to believe very deeply that some aspect of the arts can enliven every individual in our society. It may not be the same thing. For some it is the visual arts, for some it is music, for others it may be opera.

In my own city, one thing that has burgeoned amazingly in the last 10 years or so is dance. There was a time when only one ballet company could hope to fill the Grand theatre in Leeds. Then a second came and began to do very good business. The third company, the Ballet Rambert, could barely fill the Leeds playhouse at one time. Now it is packing the Grand theatre. Now we have the London Contemporary Dance packing the theatre.

Why is that? Is it because there has suddenly been a great interest in dance? No. It is because some brilliant people within the schools in the city have developed the skills that were always there. We have the Phoenix dance company, a group of black youngsters from the depths of Harehills in Leeds, who have now become one of the great star supported groups from the Arts Council. They also travel around the country. That is because the excellence of some small groups has developed interest in dance across the whole city, and the theatre is full for that as well.

The effect of drama and the theatre is not confined to the few. It is very interesting to look at the correlation between anti-social behaviour, violence and vandalism in Leeds and the expression that comes with the arts and see the change that makes. The school in the city that has the greatest involvement in theatre and drama is situated on a council estate in my constituency, simply because there was a headmaster there with the skill to draw from those students the expression so crucial to drama. That school now houses the drama course for the skilled students in the whole city. It is not by accident that things happen like that. It is because somebody has a vision and understands how to draw that expression from those people.

However, sad to say, if one looks at the audience profile for the major centres of excellence of the arts in Leeds, one does not find it broadly based across the whole city. The leafy suburbs of Leeds are where the audience is massively concentrated. That is not because it is only people in those areas who have the ability to appreciate different aspects of the arts; far from it. If only we could get people to those centres—to the playhouse, to the Grand theatre, to see the opera company and dance—I am sure that they would appreciate the arts as well.

The problem that I have with the hon. Member for Warwickshire, North is that he does not really understand the problem of the psychological and transport barriers — the physical barriers — that prevent people from believing that the arts are for them. If one could overcome that problem, people could appreciate, understand and participate in the arts.

In many parts of the country we have community arts that take the arts out of the council estate and the downtown areas, but they will flourish only in so far as there are also centres of excellence. Unless there is also that professional focal point in the city as well as the dedicated people who are taking the arts out to the community, it is not possible to have the whole range of opinion, expression and participation in the arts that is so crucial.

Mr. Maude

What the hon. Gentleman is saying does not go against what I was arguing. What I do not understand is why direct public subsidy is necessary to meet the desirable end that he is talking about. It is not necessary.

Mr. Meadowcroft

I shall start with a point of agreement. I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman in his wish to assist private sponsorship by tax concessions. I do not dissent from that. The ambivalence of the tax laws at the moment is a great problem and inhibition of sponsorship; for example, whether an advertisement in a programme is tax deductible depends on the precise wording. That is ludicrous.

However, I differ from the hon. Gentleman in that I do not believe that business sponsorship will ever do this on a sufficient scale. Unless there is a local authority, an arts council or even a Government who understand that the arts have to belong to everybody or they will belong to nobody, one will not get the support that is necessary. I do not believe for a moment that business, marginal as much of it is in profit terms, will ever be able to pick up the bill that the Arts Council picks up. It will never be able to pick up the bill that the local authorities pick up. The breadth of the vision for the arts is crucial. If business sponsorship can add to that, and business can sponsor a production or performance, or a visit by a company from abroad, that is tremendous. I do not want to prevent that, but it is the workaday support for the broadening of arts provision that is crucial.

In the public service, whether local or national, we do not regard it as odd when we assist those who have particular handicaps to overcome them and express themselves. We do not regard it as odd in the educational system to assist those who have a sight impediment to overcome it. We do not believe it odd to assist those who have a speech defect to overcome it. We do not believe it strange for the public services to be able to assist those who have a hearing defect.

With the arts, we are saying that people who do not realise it have such defects—they cannot see what is there before them, because it is not part and parcel of their ordinary life. They cannot hear what is there and available to them because no one grabs them and takes them to a concert. They cannot express themselves because no one takes them to the place where they can take part in drama. If we help people with physical handicaps in ordinary life, why are we saying that that should not happen in the arts? In no sense can the arts be an afterthought in society. At times like the present, when we have an economic crisis and a social crisis, one needs the arts more than ever.

Without the arts, no other human value can express what people need and feel, and how they relate to their community and neighbours. The arts enliven them and are part and parcel of our humanity. Unless we can support them publicly, as well as through other methods, I do not believe that they will survive. In that event, such communities will not be healthy and able to express themselves and see their humanity as crucial to our survival rather than as part of a housing estate or an economic machine that grinds them.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. It might be helpful to the House if I announce that I understand that the Minister would like to rise at 10.45 pm and that the debate ends at 10.55 pm. If hon. Members bear that in mind, perhaps all of those who wish to be called will be.

10.30 pm
Mr. Christopher Murphy (Welwyn Hatfield)

In debating Government funding of the arts, discussion is inevitably about two inter-related but distinct topics—economics and our artistic heritage. Professor John Galbraith brought the two together with special relevance when he said in his "Economics and the Arts": Hard economic truth even against art, must prevail".

Overlying both topics, perhaps unfortunately but inevitably, is politics. The slogan of the Government's opponents is that there is a crisis in arts funding, but it tends as much to obscure as to falsify reality. Such current sloganising leads to the current controversy — private funding versus public funding.

I shall not detain the House with the respective arguments, because of lack of time, but the conclusion is usually plural funding. Such a conclusion often fails fully to appreciate the inescapable importance of government in ensuring the best opportunities for the private sector to play its invaluable role, be it through tax advantages, matching grants, advice or other forms of stimulation. To guarantee a bigger part for the private sector, which it must be right to seek, means an even more starring performance from the Government in creating the conditions that I have mentioned. Nevertheless, they deserve great credit for the successes that they have already achieved.

Having started with a quotation from the world of economics, I should like to end with one from the realm of the arts. Sir Ian Hunter, as president of the Royal Society of Arts, said in "Arts in a Changing Society": All has to be related to the economic facts of life. Such realism, when applied to the Government's funding of the arts, is surely the key for the politician seeking the philosopher's stone.

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

One of the good things that have come out of the recent row about Arts Council funding has been the explosion of the myth that the Arts Council is non-political or that there is in reality something called an arms-length principle.

During arts questions on Monday, the Minister with responsibility for the arts said that the Arts Council was non-political. That was a typically cynical comment. Tory politicians are good at completely politicising an institution and then declaring it to be non-political. In respect of the Arts Council, that cover has been well and truly blown. I do not see how the Government can say that they defend the impartiality of the Arts Council when they appoint a Tory monetarist as its chairman and an ex-Tory councillor as its secretary-general. It is well known that the Prime Minister's dictum for public appointments is, "Is he one of ours?" That dictum was clearly employed in making those two senior appointments.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) said, arts funding in Britain is a disgrace. It is the lowest in Europe, with the exception of Ireland. When making comparisons, we should compare spending on arms. About £18 billion is spent on arms each year—roughly £321 per head. The figure for the overall total of national and local funding for the arts is about £12 per head of the population. Clearly, the Government prefer guns to culture.

Lord Gowrie as Minister for the Arts, when trying to make a lame excuse for the cut in arts funding—there has been a cut in the past three years—compared arts expenditure with that on education and social services, and asked us to make a choice. If we compare arts expenditure with arms expenditure, the choice for a civilised person is easy.

The hon. Member for Warwickshire, North (Mr. Maude) spoke at length about why he preferred private expenditure to public expenditure on the arts. Labour Members take the opposite view. The state and local authorities have replaced private patronage, which is perfectly fit and proper. Finance from the public purse is disinterested finance and less partial than private finance. It is far more likely to be innovative. Business sponsorship is small—between £14 million and £15 million. There are no accurate statistics, but that is an intelligent guess. It is minute compared with the general level of both local and national public funding.

I do not want our artistic tastes to be determined by the sums that Barclays Bank, Trusthouse Forte, Unilever or the wealthy put into the arts. I do not wish to see the corporate state emerging with big private companies becoming the arbiters of artistic taste. Conservative Members may want us to move nearer to the United States example, but in America military bands receive more funding than the arts from national central funding.

Sir William Rees-Mogg said that the arts provide a large number of jobs. With the £100 million that the Arts Council receives, it finances £250 million of arts turnover. That in turn provides 25,000 jobs, which produce £60 million in national insurance and taxes, and £15 million in value added tax receipts for the Treasury. The Treasury does well out of the moderate sums that it puts into the arts through central funding. Therefore, the Government compound philistinism with economic illiteracy by not providing more generous support for the arts.

I welcome what my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South said, and look forward to the next Labour Government at least doubling national support for the arts. A Labour Government must suitably reward local authorities on a pound for pound basis for the sums spent on the arts. It is about time that the Arts Council was scrapped. I would like to see the next Labour Government examine ways of democratising the arts grants machinery. I certainly wish to see them set up a Department of State responsible for the arts, leisure and all cultural activities, including broadcasting, the press and sport. We should look to the cultural industries for economic growth.

One day we shall look back upon these times of national penny-pinching of the arts as unbelievable and inexcusable, but until then we cannot call ourselves truly civilised.

10.38 pm
Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

The lamentations and jeremiads that we are hearing from the subsidised arts world illustrate well the frustrations and public antagonisms to which our present system of funding the arts is bound to give rise. We should in my view embark on a strategy of moving progressively from a system of grants to one of tax relief akin to the American system.

The system of an aggregate grant disbursed at the discretion of the Arts Council made sense so long as we proceeded on two assumptions: first, that economic growth would finance ever-rising levels of public expenditure; and, secondly, that the way to improve the quality of life was by enlightened mediation by public bodies. Neither proposition any longer commands widespread assent.

I do not argue for an instant for rapid demolition of the subsidy system. The effect of that would be catastrophic. But we should proceed with determination in the direction that I have indicated. We could proceed by phasing one system in as the other is phased out, but there would be difficulties in that, including the uncertainties of time scale and of which institutions would be likely to attract support. It might be better to say that at some time, perhpas two years ahead, we would move to a different basis of funding, which would give time and opportunity for those seeking patronage to find it on new principles.

If we moved towards replacing state grants by a system of tax relief, a number of advantages would accrue.

First, the discussion of the totality of arts funding would be depoliticised, and arts funding would be removed from the vagaries of central and, especially, local government.

Secondly, the dominant characteristic of the system would become the direct link between private patrons and the arts. In this way, we would encourage a more authentic and creative interaction between artists and the public than we do by treating the arts as a small province of the welfare state.

Thirdly, I do not for one moment suppose that we would see an end to lobbying, but the clients of patronage would buzz round a much greater variety of pots, and they would probably buzz less angrily.

Fourthly, more funds would be available for the arts. The American experience, even taking account of the greater wealth of the United States of America, shows the willingness of individuals and corporations to respond to tax incentives to support the arts. We can draw much encouragement also from the great success of the growth of business sponsorship in Britain.

The fifth reason why we should prefer the system that I have suggested is that it would mean lower taxation and an alleviation of the pressure on the Government for higher public expenditure. Of course, the Treasury is suspicious of tax reliefs which it regards as tax expenditures, but I draw some tentative encouragement from the statement of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget, when he announced the Green Paper on the reform of personal income tax: We need to make sure that the reliefs we can afford are concentrated where they will do most good." — [Official Report, 19 March 1985; Vol. 75, c. 794.] By concentrating relief on support for the arts, as one among several candidates, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor would do much good.

It is not my purpose to criticise the present leadership of the Arts Council. There are strong arguments for the strategy to achieve a fairer balance in public patronage, which Sir William Rees-Mogg is seeking to implement. The problem is that whatever policy the Arts Council embarks upon, it will be invidious and will give rise to cacophonous complaints so long as money is tight.

As a governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company, which receives support from the Arts Council, I should emphasise that I am speaking in a personal capacity. I would not wish to embarrass the company by associating it with my views on the changes that are necessary. It must live in its relationship with the Arts Council and the Government; on its behalf, I would say only that I regret very much that, while we have the present system, the Government have not honoured in full the Priestley recommendations which we understood they were committed to accept.

At the general election, the Conservative party manifesto included a commitment to examine ways of using the tax system to encourage further growth in private support for the arts and heritage. Against a background of genuine difficulties, both for a Government who wish to give good support to the arts, and for artists who look to state support, it is important that we should explore this line of thought virorously.

10.44 pm
Mr. Jim Callaghan (Heywood and Middleton)

In her first term of office, the Prime Minister announced that there would be no candle-end economies in the arts. There was great relief throughout the arts world that grocer-shop economies would not be applied to the arts. Unfortunately, that relief was short-lived because of the application of the Government's monetarist policies.

The warning signals could be seen when Lord Gowrie was appointed as Minister for the Arts, because he is not only the Government's spokesman on the arts, but holds a Treasury brief. Accordingly, he must face two ways at the same time. He is on record as saying: I can in no way dissociate the arts from the Government's economic and fiscal policy. To do so would be damaging to other parts of the economy. We know exactly where the Minister for the Arts stands. We in this House, cannot even question him directly on the Government's economic and fiscal policies, because he sits in the other place.

Last year, the Minister for the Arts defended the Government's cuts by saying: 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.] And when she first came to power, the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) spoke of no candle-end economies in the arts.

Recently the Minister also said: The party is not over, but the limits of hospitality have been reached. From now on central Government funding will remain broadly level in real terms. That statement shows that, while the noble Lord may be devoted to the arts, he appears to be more devoted to monetarism.

The Minister mentioned a party. What party does he mean. The paltry £105 million that the Government give the Arts Council could not be called a party. This can be shown by the figures. Four years ago, Britain was spending £6 a head of public money on the arts. In the same year, West Germany spent £16 per head, and France spent £23 a head. Since then, the gap has widened. Frankfurt, with a population of 670,000 — the size of Leeds — gives a subsidy to the opera of £12 a head, twice what the Government gave the English National Opera. Berlin gives £17 million, Cologne £16 million, Munich £15 million, and Hamburg £15 million to the arts. France doubled the fund to its ministry of culture, in 1982 to £545 million, and in 1985, it will spend £778 million. That shows the generosity of France and Germany to the arts.

The arts are seething with discontent. There is open revolt among some of the beneficiaries of the Arts Council because they are being deprived of the funds that they need to fulfil their obligations to the communities that they serve. They feel that they are being betrayed by the Arts Council. As Sir Peter Hall said: The Council has become an instrument of Government. That first casualty has been the belief that the famous arms length principle is not working any more. It is felt that the Arts Council, like every other spender or distributor of public money, should conform to the Cabinet's monetarist diktat. I call on the Government to reconsider the cut in grant, and to give a supplementary grant large enough to prevent the closures that threaten to stop the quality that we have grown to accept, and to set up an inquiry into the system of Government relationships to the arts, which will result in a system with generosity, imagination and coherence.

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

I hope that I shall be forgiven if in my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire, North (Mr. Maude) I say that there was a certain amount in his speech with which I did not agree. On the other hand, it set an interesting note for the debate, because for once we got to the heart of the argument about what the relationship between the state and the arts is supposed to be.

We have had the usual knockabout stuff about the increase. However, if it is unfair to take 1978–79 as the base, although it would seem reasonable to do so, we can take the next year, in which case we get an 11 per cent. increase in real terms, which is a major increase in the present climate, and compares pretty well with the 12 per cent. increase of the Labour Government.

The similarity is not between parties, but between who is in opposition and who is in government. The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) made a typical Opposition pledge, namely that he would double Government funding for the arts in the first year, which was pretty good stuff. He may need to do so simply to keep up with inflation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) said that he disagreed with the speeches of both my hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire, North and the hon. Member for Paisley, South, which was a good start, because so did I, I do not believe that the theory of The Economist, that one could wholly replace the role of the subsidised arts by tax allowance, takes into account one of the fundamental points.

The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is in a curious sort of alliance with my hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire, North, because he says that he wants people to vote for what is to be done for the arts. In real life we know that that means a committee run by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West. However, if it were possible to invent a voting mechanism which was so sensitive that it enabled people to vote for what they wanted to be provided, I am not sure that it would be all that different from the kind of model envisaged by my hon. Friends the Members for Warwickshire, North and for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth)—that people should be able to vote with their money.

If they can be made to work, both systems are highly pluralist and both seem to me to suffer from the defect that was pointed out by the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft), with which I have great sympathy, namely, that we should face the fact that all decisions on the arts should not be devolved because of the teaching function. Teaching cannot be wholly devolved. Teaching involves bringing things to people which they may not know about. For that reason they will be unable to vote for them or buy them.

If one reads Neville Cardus's moving autobiography, one finds that he came from a background so poor as to be almost unimaginable today. He struggled into the titanic position that he held as the best writer on music and cricket in his day because he had the luck early in his life to meet people who taught him about the arts. That is what the hon. Member for Leeds, West and many Conservative and Opposition Members believe to be one of the essential functions of the state in its patronage of the arts. Its leadership function cannot be wholly devolved.

One cannot get out of it by saying that the democratic will, working in some mysterious way, will solve the problem, or that the market will solve the problem. Even if one could produce the Utopian democracy of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West, which would end up with somebody telling us what we ought to believe in, or even if one could find the Utopian market, which never quite seems to come about because there is always some monopoly which interferes with the proper working of the market, there would still be a role for teaching. In old Tory language, there is a paternalist role to be played by the arts. In the language of the Opposition, that is a teaching role. I do not believe that that role should be shirked.

The hon. Member for Leeds, West unnecessarily ran down the north of England. Neville Cardus's book makes me think of the north of England. He referred to the brass bands of the north. Certainly there are brass bands in the north, but there was a time when the Hallé under Richter was the finest orchestra in the United Kingdom. That is a good example of municipal subsidy. There was no lack of support for that orchestra in the north of England.

My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) brought us back to the economic realities, and we all thank him for doing so. All Governments have to struggle with the economic realities. I hope that I am not being too offensive when I say that I disagree also with my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham. I have heard some strange definitions of "art" — Clive Bell's definition of art as "significant form", Aristotle's definitions, and Housman saying that he could tell what was a good poem because the hair on the back of his neck stood up—but it does not do as a definition of art to say that it has something to do with the profit levels of the Grand Metropolitan Hotels group.

A society which says that it values its art because of tourism seems to me to be a society in decline. I hope that we never fall into making that mistake. Of course there are useful spin-offs, and of course people should make money out of them, and good luck to Sir Peter Hall if he makes money out of them, too, but to define the arts as objects of tourism would mean that we were in a sorry state. I believe that my hon. Friend was referring to the useful spin-offs, not to the heart of the problem. A healthy society has art as part of its soul, as part of the definition of its culture, not because it wants to attract tourists.

I can encourage the hon. Member for Leeds, West further, because teaching is important, not only to those with no money. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) looks threatening. We went to the same school—a school full of rich people. There was a need there to teach pupils about culture. It was by no means a Philistine school when we were there. I think that it had some effect upon him—perhaps neither entirely successful nor entirely unsuccessful.

The state has a role in leadership, in transmitting great things from one age to another and in bringing them to as many people as possible. All the voluntary sources available are also needed. There is no harm in that. We are talking not about tainted money but about money which is useful and which can be applied to great ends.