§ 23. Mr. Chapman
asked the Minister for the Arts what recent representations he has received about the progress of the business sponsorship incentive scheme.
§ Mr. Chapman
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, generally, local authorities could do much more to promote business sponsorship of the arts in their communities? Does he further agree that many could follow the example set by Barnet and appoint an arts officer with responsibility to encourage the business sponsorship incentive scheme?
§ Mr. Hardy
While support is always to be welcomed, does the Minister accept that in those areas where business is struggling to survive, or may have already disappeared, it will be harmful for too much to be expected? Does he agree that he needs to be careful to avoid being divisive or dangerous, in a regional sense, in that matter?
§ Mr. Luce
I wish to see as much support as possible for the arts in all areas. I attach great importance to all regions in this country, including the north. I have made two visits to the north-east. I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman made. It is up to businesses to decide whether they can make those contributions. They must always remember that they can offset them for tax purposes if they can be categorised as marketing and advertising.
§ Mr. Cormack
Does my right hon. Friend accept that, welcome as his support is for the business sponsorship, and much as I applaud and encourage it, the solution to the problem lies in a satisfactory answer to the first arts question on the Order Paper? Does he accept that we are glad that he referred to the Select Committee report? Has he yet made any progress in convincing the Chancellor of its merits?
§ Mr. Luce
I am aware of the strength of my hon. Friend's views on this subject. He played a leading part in the Select Committee which came up with views about the need for further changes. We have already made progress—my hon. Friend acknowledges that—but this is a matter principally for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. The Government are, however, committed to improving incentives for giving to arts and charitable bodies.
§ Mr. Jessel
As this highly successful scheme is a great credit to the sponsoring firms in association with the Government and arts bodies, will the Government consider means of extending the scheme to include capital projects?
§ Mr. Luce
I cannot give an understanding on that, but I am glad that I have been able to increase the budget of the business sponsorship incentive scheme substantially, from £1 million this year to £1.75 million in the coming financial year. I hope that that will be a major encouragement to business to sponsor the arts even more.