HC Deb 10 February 1986 vol 91 cc635-6
29. Mr. Meadowcroft

asked the Minister for the Arts whether he anticipates there being as much local arts activity after the abolition of the Greater London council and the metropolitan county councils as before.

Mr. Luce

Genuinely local arts activity is a matter in which local authorities should play the leading part. The Government had agreed to take on a larger share of arts funding generally, following abolition, but central and local funds are both required if the amount and quality of arts activity are to be maintained.

Mr. Meadowcroft

I accept what the Minister says about the need for partnership, but without backing from regional arts associations' funds, surely there is no way in which the local authorities can make that up? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra believes itself to be under threat, and that, seven weeks away from abolition, there is no joint committee to administer the situation in West Yorkshire? Surely something must be done to ensure that the whole panoply of arts activities in the regions are better supported than they are.

Mr. Luce

It is important to note that the Government have taken on considerable additional responsibilities on behalf of the taxpayer and have thus relieved local authorities of burdens in the GLC and metropolitan areas to the tune of £43 million of additional taxpayers' money. We are not looking to an enormous sum in successor authority support for local arts activities. It is up to them to demonstrate the interest that they wish to show in their local arts activities.

Mr. Jessel

As abolition might have affected Sadler's Wells, should we not all rejoice at the Arts Council's decision to try to find more funds to save Sadler's Wells and warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on having used his influence to bring that about?

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is, of course, principally the responsibility of the Arts Council to find a satisfactory solution. I am glad that it is to have this important meeting on Friday 14 February. I believe that it is moving towards a solution which will enable the theatre to remain open.

Mr. Buchan

Is not it nonsense to dwell on the marvellous news about Sadler's Wells when almost every theatre and concert hall throughout the land is in a state of acute crisis? Is not the reason for that the right hon. Gentleman's failure to replace local authorities' funds? Is it not a bit of a sick joke to suggest that money could be found by the local authorities, which, when they try to spend it, are rate capped, and, when they are not rate capped, are abolished?

Mr. Luce

It is unbelievable that the hon. Gentleman has managed to conjure up the most astonishing language to describe the fact that the Government have produced £43 million of additional money to support the arts in the GLC and metropolitan areas. I do not think that it is unreasonable to look to successor authorities, which already spend £7 billion, to play their small part in sharing in the sponsorship and support of arts activities.