HC Deb 20 June 1986 vol 99 cc1307-27

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Garel-Jones.]

9.35 am
The Minister for The Arts (Mr. Richard Luce)

I am delighted to have this opportunity to debate the arts. The arts are a British success story. Not only can we take pride in our rich heritage, but we can marvel at their almost astonishing vigour over recent years. They have enjoyed a remarkable expansion on nearly every front.

Since the last war, seven new opera companies and five major new dance companies have been established. Since 1967, the number of arts centres has risen almost tenfold. Over the past 15 years the number of museums in England and Wales has doubled. Over 40 million people a year now attend our museums and galleries and, in the past 30 years, over 30 new theatres have been set up in England alone. It is telling, at a time of considerable national excitement over England's fortunes in the football World Cup, that more people now attend the theatre in Britain than go to football matches.

Increasingly, the arts are a resource for the many, and not confined to the few. That is exactly how it should be. The arts cannot, and will not, grow in a vacuum. They must have an audience. As they expand, this audience—and they have shown quite clearly their capability to do so—they will also enrich and enliven everybody's existence. As Keats said: A thing of beauty is a joy forever". No more impressive example of such vigour and commitment is available than the story of the arts since the abolition of the Greater London council and metropolitan councils. Hon. Members will remember the dark forebodings, the prophecies of doom and Armageddon that flowed from the lips of Opposition spokesmen. We were warned of worthy arts bodies going to the wall, and bleak forecasts were made of first-class artists finishing up in the dole queue. Despite all that, and despite some moments of very real and understandable uncertainty, this has proved to be a success story. The fact is that funding from central Government and local government has more than filled the overall gap left by abolition. This in itself is a tremendous achievement.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I am sorry to intervene so early in the Minister's speech, but he should not be quite so controversial so early in the morning. No one has said that the immediate impact on the arts following the abolition of the GLC and MCCs would be one of appalling slaughter of the innocents. We know that it will work its way through the system. The Minister intends to reduce the amount of substitute money that he put in to replace the GLC's and MCC's money. He should not congratulate himself quite so soon.

Mr. Luce

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. In a moment I shall return to the point. I shall quote exactly what the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) said last autumn.

The blossoming of the arts can be helped and facilitated by the Government, but essentially it depends upon the creativity of individuals. British creative genius has left us an artistic heritage among the richest in the world. Britain's artistic life and heritage acts as a powerful magnet for tourism from overseas which in turn means more jobs and a better standard of living for us in this country. Former United States President Jimmy Carter this week is giving welcome encouragement to American tourists by his visit to Wales to see the home of one of our finest poets, Dylan Thomas. Against the background of this efflorescence of individual talent, the Government's basic political pledge to the arts was clear: to keep up the level of Government support and to create the right climate in which the arts could develop and grow by attracting additional support from other sources. That pledge has been kept.

In fact, our spending record outstrips our manifesto commitment. Since 1979–80, central Government spending on the arts, libraries, museums and galleries has gone up by more than 10 per cent. in real terms, or 25 per cent. if this year's extra central abolition money is included. Within this context of growth, let me now turn to specific areas within the arts, each with its own admirable success story.

Since 1979–80, we have increased the Arts Council's grant from £62 million to £136 million or by some 7 per cent. in real terms—32 per cent. including abolition money. We have strongly supported the Arts Council in its "The Glory of the Garden" strategy which is delivering to the regions a fairer share of the overall arts budget.

In now turn to abolition. It is right that I should return to that success story. It is fair, I think, for me to quote the hon. Member for Paisley, South, who on 21 October 1985 referred to the cataclysmic collapse in arts funding".—[Official Report, 21 October 1985; Vol. 84, c. 16.] as a result of abolition.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)


Mr. Luce

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will let me complete this passage. He will have a full chance to reply to it.

Let me now contrast that statement with what actually happened in the real world. The Government gave a total of more than £43 million of extra taxpayers' money to help safeguard the arts in the abolition areas, £17 million of which went to the museums and galleries, and £25 million of which went to the Arts Council. Partly due to the negotiating success of the Arts Council the British Film Institute and the regional arts associations, and partly due to the positive co-operation of the successor authorities, now relieved as they are of the substantial precepts formerly paid to the GLC and the other metropolitan counties, some £15 million of local authority funding was secured. Only last week, I was glad to note that the last remaining major problem area of Merseyside had achieved a settlement of its funding of the arts. That agreement means that no major problems remain. Indeed, the fact that the overall combined subsidy from central and local government will be substantially up in real terms over the previous year's figure represents a very notable achievement. I must congratulate the Arts Council, the BFI, the regional arts associations and the local authorities concerned.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Without widening the debate unacceptably, does my right hon. Friend accept that the extravagant remarks of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) are typical of what was said by those who opposed the abolition of the GLC? We were promised race riots, the end of travellers' free passes, rates explosions, and so on. Remarks on the future of the arts were made in that extraordinarily and ridiculously extravagant context. I am pleased that they have been proved to be totally erroneous. My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on that.

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I agree that now is the time to compare the remarks made at that time by Labour Members with what events have demonstrated.

The Arts Council allocated some £9 million to the South Bank board. Its chairman, Mr. Ronnie Grierson, and its staff have managed the takeover of the South Bank with great skill. Their intention is to produce a coherent strategy for the whole complex, making it an arts centre to rival any such arts centre anywhere in the world. This lively and impressive approach will, I am sure, meet an enthusiastic response from the public.

Mr. Tony Banks

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Luce

I have just given way. The hon. Gentleman will have a chance to contribute to the debate, as he so often does.

The BFI is adding to the glories of the South Bank by constructing a museum of moving image. The BFI made it clear from the outset that this was an enterprise that it could manage on its own, and indeed it has. The institute has raised £5 million from private sources for it and the museum will open in the latter half of next year. I wish it every success.

The BFI is constructing also a new conservation centre for the National Film Archive. This is a splendid example of plural funding in action. The BFI has raised £3 million from private sources for it. We have not reduced the level of central Government funding to it just because these private funds have become available. I am conscious that organisations such as the BFI should not be penalised for their success in raising private funding.

In the six years from 1979–80 funding from the arts budget for the national museums and galleries increased by 15 per cent. in real terms—once again a picture of growth. It is fair to say that we have concentrated this increase on much needed capital works and maintenance and on improving the conservation and display of existing stocks and that we have, as a consequence, restricted the overall level of purchase grants. But, we now have the National Heritage Memorial Fund to ease the pressure in that respect.

Looking to the future, the picture is one of general further expansion and development. With commendable initiative, for instance, the Imperial war museum is raising £2.5 million to help supplement Government funding for a major redevelopment; and, to take another example, the "Tate in the North" project will be a significant boost for the Merseyside area.

I am anxious to help the museums and galleries meet the challenge of the late 1980's, which I think I can sum up as making themselves more outgoing and as making themselves more attractive to an increasingly discriminating public. That is why I lose no opportunity to encourage museums and galleries to make their collections more available and accessible to the widest possible audience. They must not be tempted to sit on their treasures. It is right that I should pay tribute to the fast-changing image of the world of museums and galleries from that of fusty buildings housing static displays to that of exciting centres of interest and enjoyment. The growth and vitality of independent museums are critically important here. They are on the leading edge of change. Recently, I visited the Ironbridge Gorge museum, where through the commitment and innovatory talent of its administrators and staff, a whole valley once in decay or decline has been completely revitalised. Earlier this week, I was pleased to announce the museum of the year award to another independent museum, the Beamish museum, which once again has expended effort on making its exhibits "live" and on cultivating the virtues of personal warmth and human interest that act as an irresistable draw to members of the public.

I was very pleased therefore, to be able to announce formally on Monday of this week the implementation of my plans to change the financing arrangements of the nationals to grant-in-aid. Not only will they now have the important flexibility of carrying money over from one financial year to the next and of retaining the revenue earned through their own efforts but, critically, this measure will give them a stimulus to implement innovative marketing strategies.

One of the most important responsibilities of Government is to safeguard Britain's priceless heritage. This has been a major part of our strategy since 1979. In 1980, for instance, we created the National Heritage memorial fund. Since then, it has received over £60 million of public funds. This has enabled the fund to help save for the nation stately homes such as Keddleston, Weston park, and Calke abbey.

Last year, the Government announced an important improvement in the arrangements for acceptance of works of art in lieu of tax. This allows access to the Contingency Reserve for acceptances of pre-eminent heritage items up to an average of about £10 million a year. Wider publicity for these arrangements could help to reap a fine reward for posterity.

I attach great importance to my responsibilities, which cover public libraries, although, of course, the vast bulk of expenditure on libraries is undertaken by local authorities, supported by the rate support grant. The Government have taken two major initiatives: first, we have introduced the public lending right scheme, intended to give a fair return to authors and reflect the size of their readership in public libraries; secondly, we have begun work on the very major project of building a new and modern British library at St. Pancras. On final completion this new library will provide splendid conditions, and house 180 miles of shelving for 12 million books. Services for readers will be immeasurably improved, as will conservation of the books. The tiresome shuffling of stored books between 20 buildings in Greater London will then be a thing of the past.

Crafts go from strength to strength with more and more people taking up crafts, both professionally and as a leisure interest. The Crafts Council has recently devised a strategy for the national development of the craft economy and education.

As the House knows, the United Kingdom will shortly assume the Presidency of the European Council of Ministers. On the arts side, the United Kingdom is taking the initiative in pressing for more co-operation in sponsorship, conservation and public lending right. During our Presidency, I hope to announce the Government's choice of the United Kingdom city that will become the European city of culture in 1990.

I have spoken of the basic pledge fulfilled by the Government of keeping up support for the arts. Of course, I realise that there are considerable pressures on many arts bodies in the light of the expanding demand and that Government funding falls short of meeting their full aspirations. However, my task goes far beyond setting the priorities of core support. The Government have a broader role than just producing £320 million worth of taxpayer's money for the arts. Indeed, Government expenditure on the arts has never been more than a modest proportion of the total amount of money flowing in to the arts. Essentially, my task is to create the framework and conditions under which the arts can flourish. In pursuing that strategy we have undertaken a co-ordinated pattern of measures and initiatives that I believe now open up prospects of unparalleled opportunity for the arts in this country. I hope that the various arts bodies will respond eagerly to the challenges which this new climate of opportunity presents.

Firstly, let us deal with the challenge of business sponsorship. Business sponsorship of the arts has increased dramatically in recent years and now plays an important part in the funding of the arts. From the starting point of £500,000 in 1976 business sponsorship has now risen to over £20 million per year. The Government's business sponsorship incentive scheme, introduced in 1984, must take a good deal of the credit for that impressive performance. Over £7 million has been raised in that way.

The strengthened Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts has also ably administered the incentive scheme on my behalf. I shall be announcing more awards under the scheme in two weeks. In addition, one of the largest arts sponsorship programmes ever undertaken by a first-time sponsor will be announced shortly. It will be of tremendous benefit to the arts organisations involved. Recently I announced the continuation of the scheme for 1987–88 and I hope that arts bodies and sponsors will continue to exploit the opportunities it offers to the full.

Then we have the challenge of private patronage. The arts have always enjoyed important support from private patrons ranging from the very wealthy to the very humble. In recent years we have seen a major upsurge in private giving to the arts. As the House knows, Mr John Paul Getty II has made major contributions to British arts and heritage, principally to the BFI and the National Gallery. I hope that the House will share my pleasure on learning of Mr. Getty's honorary knighthood, announced last Friday.

We have also seen a most notable contribution from the Sainsbury brothers with their generous commitment to the National Gallery extension. Nor should we forget Mrs. Sainsbury—no relation—with her donation to the Royal Opera House and Miss Woodroffe with he donation to the National Art-Collections Fund. Gifts from major patrons have ranged from £1 million to £50 million. In addition to those gifts of cash, the arts also benefit from gifts in kind. An important recent example was the gift of the trustees of the Stefan Zweig collection to the British library of a very important collection of 180 musical and literary autographed manuscripts spanning three centuries. I join the British library in regarding that as an act of outstanding generosity to the nation.

Then we have the challenge of the Budget changes. The Government are proud of their record in improving the tax incentives and tax reliefs for charitable giving, particularly through the covenanting system. No one should underestimate the Government's major proposals in the 1986 Budget designed to encourage and stimulate charitable giving. In all, they represent an immense opportunity for the arts to develop and expand their plural funding.

A new tax relief for single gifts by companies to charities will bring valuable benefits for both revenue and capital projects. From the beginning of April this year, companies will be able to obtain relief on donations to charities up to a limit of 3 per cent. of the dividend paid in any one year. By introducing relief for single gifts, we are offering companies greater flexibility to arrange their charitable giving. Those arrangements will allow a company that might hesitate about taking on a commitment over several years to undertake to give what it can when it can.

Perhaps the most radical innovation is the proposed introduction of the new payroll giving scheme next year. From April next year employees will be able to have up to £100 a year for charitable gifts deducated from their pay and relieved of taxation. Schemes will have to preserve the donor's freedom of choice and the Government intend that they should be economical to run both by the Revenue and by employers.

Of course, we must control any possible misuse of charitable reliefs for tax avoidance purposes. With that in mind the 1986 Budget introduced measures to control these abuses. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor's announcement on 4 June should allay fears that the anti-abuse provisions in the Finance Bill will adversely affect arts bodies.

These various new Budget reliefs, combined with those that already exist, now add up to a very substantial package of measures, providing a powerful stimulus to the expansion of private funding of the arts.

As I have said, the arts do not live in a vacuum: they depend critically on their relationship with their audience. Reaching the public is not only a measure of appreciation of success of the arts, it also provides a source of income, in sum much greater than that derived from the state. For that reason, marketing is something that no sector of the arts can afford to neglect. Small percentage increases in attendances can make all the difference to the finances of many arts bodies. Consumer spending is buoyant and more and more money is being spent on leisure. Arts bodies can gain by making their grants go further through managing themselves as efficiently as possible, and by marketing themselves more effectively. Marketing is not., and should not be, a dirty word in the arts world. After all, no skilled gardener would wish his roses to blush unseen.

To sustain the momentum of this sea change in attitude, I am currently studying ways in which my office could help to encourage arts bodies to market and manage themselves even better. I welcome the Arts Council's own initiatives in that regard. I believe that we are beginning to see examples of many arts bodies showing more thrust in the marketing sense.

Against the background of all the initiatives that we have undertaken there remain some differences of approach between ourselves, and the Opposition parties. Let me deal briefly with the alliance position. The Social Democratic Party has not produced a policy paper on the arts in its first five years. Perhaps that is an indication of the priority which it attaches to the field. In 1982, the Liberals produced a paper promising a wide range of uncosted measures, and the establishment of what seemed like a centralised sounding ministry of culture. Perhaps the two parties ought to get their act together, as they should on their defence policy.

There are two aspects of the Labour party policies that I should highlight. First, Labour would take the funding responsibilities away from the Arts Council, and deal direct with the regional arts associations. That inevitably implies greater centralisation, more direct Government intervention, and most important, an abandonment of the arm's length principle, upon which the independence and free expression of the arts has hitherto depended.

Secondly, the hon. Member for Paisley, South has announced Labour's intention to double expenditure on the arts. I suspect that he means to double it, not as the Government have doubled in cash terms over a period of years, but rather at a stroke as part of Labour's totally unrealistic and dangerous programme of £24 billion of extra Government expenditure. I wonder to what extent the hon. Gentleman is aware of the more realistic approach of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) who said on 13 May: The days have gone when we could hope to achieve all our ambitions in the lifetime of a single Parliament. It is necessary for us to fix our clear priorities and to insist that all other tasks and targets take second place. Perhaps the hon. Member for Paisley, South can reassure us as to whether his proposals have now become a little more realistic.

Sustaining the level of public funding for the arts, and encouraging a new climate of opportunity for the arts add up to a substantial record of achievement for this Government. We have fully accepted the responsibility to supply the core funding needed to preserve our heritage, sponsor excellence and to provide the seedcorn for experimental work and pump-priming. We have also enabled the arts to grow and prosper to meet the rising and legitimate public demands upon them.

The late John F. Kennedy said: The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction in the life of a nation, is very close to the centre of a nation's purpose, and is a test of the quality of a nation's civilisation. By any standards, the strength of Britain's artistic life ensures that we pass that test with flying colours. But the quotation also has a deeper significance. The arts lie at the heart of our civilisation. They are not something monolithic, which can be developed by diktat from above. The strength of our arts lies in their diversity and independence. The best way of safeguarding that and providing the basis for sustainable growth is for arts bodies not to be dependent on a single source of finance, but to draw their funding from a variety of sources among which the public itself must always be a vital component. I have explained how the Government have devised a framework by which those developments can be facilitated.

All too often, we in Britain have the habit of running ourselves down, always looking on the black side, and failing to recognise genuine opportunities and successes. That national habit of self-denigration is nowhere less appropriate than in the arts today. Increasingly we are seeing more and more of our population enjoying the entertainment and enlightenment which the arts offer. Government policies have created a climate of opportunity to continue that remarkable expansion. For all our sakes, it is important that the arts bodies respond to that challenge and opportunity with an appropriate alacrity.

10 am

Mr. Clement Freud (Cambridgeshire, North-East)

I thank you for calling me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should like to express my gratitude in particular to the shadow Minister for the Arts, the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan), who has consented to let me speak at this point, as well as to the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), a fellow supporter of Plymouth Argyll who, surely, had a higher claim than did I.

The Minister said that the Social Democratic party seemed to give little priority to the arts, in that it has been in existence for some time, and its publications have not yet come to the Minister's attention. I remind him how little priority his Government give to the arts, in having this important debate on a Friday morning, at short notice, when so many people who would have wanted to be here are unable to do so. I accept that it is not the Minister's own doing. Nevertheless, while he is performing a considerably appreciated job at the Office of Arts and Libraries, it is a disservice of Government to have a debate of this importance on a Friday.

I welcome much of what the Minister has done in the way of tax relief and personal schemes, and some of what he has done for the libraries and museums is appreciated there. However, rather than using my speech to make party political capital, I am concerned with the job of Government vis-a-vis the arts: it is to create a climate in which they can flourish. What is needed is an economy that is sufficiently buoyant to permit people to go to see the living arts, music, drama, ballet in which quality must be encouraged. That can be done only by underwriting the centres of excellence. Every person who goes to the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House or the ballet, then goes back and takes his enlightenment and joy to wherever he came from, and perhaps tries to emulate it for his own community.

It is right for the Government not only to encourage more people to participate in the arts, but to make it easier for them by providing transport and ensuring that the training schools for actors and dancers and musicians continue to flourish, in underpinning the infrastructure of training that is so necessary if our supreme position in the arts is to be maintained. I understand that, pound for pound, we are lower in the league table than most other countries in Europe, but I also accept that the highly sophisticated schemes that were introduced recently are of enormous help and benefit to the theatre. There is the imaginative business support for the arts scheme and incentive schemes. I wish that more people in the House would realise how much those who participate in the live theatre appreciate the presence of the Minister, and of Members of Parliament in general at live performances because it is our endorsement of the living arts that makes those artists feel that we are on their side.

The Edinburgh festival is a marvellous example of what can be done without a proscenium arch and all the impedimenta that most theatres possess. At Edinburgh, one can go into the station waiting room and the actors will show one a marvellous production with dancing and music. There is now a scheme where one can have actors come into one's own hotel room and produce a play there. if one has a bathroom, they will present an even better play.

I very much share in what the Minister said about marketing. I hope that the next time he looks at the business sponsorship scheme, he will make it clear to businesses that, on the whole, what theatre people need most is marketing expertise which, mostly by being theatricals, they tend to lack.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Freud

I shall let the hon. Gentleman make his own speech.

.Mr. Jessel


Mr. Freud

I shall give way if the hon. Gentleman insists.

Mr. Jessel

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I intervene as I believe that he is leaving early. He referred to business sponsorship. Is he aware that his party's so-called manifesto for the arts in 1984 referred to business sponsorship as being of marginal importance? Will he repudiate that absured statement in veiw of the growing and tremendous importance of business sponsorship, which has increased 40-fold to £20 million a year in the past 10 years?

Mr. Freud

I am sorry that I gave way. It wastes time. Of course, business sponsorship is of marginal importance, and of course every item of marginal importance adds up to being quite important in the long run. Let us not overestimate. I am sure that not even the Minister would.

I want specifically to raise one point in respect of a constituent of mine who has a theatre. I shall concentrate for a moment on that venture, which is a summer theatre. It runs for eight weeks. The company takes over the church hall with the good will of the local community, and translates that church hall to a theatre between Friday evening, when the school has its prizegiving to the Saturday first night. The Saturday first night. The company puts in raised seating, curtains, flowers, a restaurant and so on.

The local authority—Waveney council—gives£4,000 towards the theatrical production. All local shopkeepers take advertising space. Lloyds Bank gives a small amount of money. The Happy Eater up the road takes the back page of the programme, and pays more than its due. The theatre is encouraged by the whole community. In a season, there are 30 actors, a producer, a manager, a director, a cloakroom lady, a designer, a stage manager, a props manager and a costume lady. Each gets £110 a week, which is the minimum and also the maximum. Many of the actors are playing at night, rehearsing in the daytime and, late at night, reading the part that they will start rehearsing in two weeks' time. At the end of the 1985 season, with a 94.6 per cent. attendance in a 226-seat theatre, the company lost £158, but the VAT man received £3,428.

I have gone on a bit on that subject because the constituent involved is my wife, and I know about the financial sacrifices. It seems to me that if the Government genuinely want to help the theatre, an awful lot of giving that is being done now could be achieved much more successfully if so much were not taken away through VAT which in other, and more enlightened countries is either at a much lower rate or non-existent for the living arts.

I am grateful for having been called before the hon. Member for Paisley, South. I wish the debate all the power and success that it deserves.

10.10 am
Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)

I, too, thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for co-operating in allowing a slight role-reversal.

I tend to come to these debates with two thoughts. First, I have such a mass of material that I do not know how to arrange it. Secondly, as I arrive at the Dispatch Box, I think that I have nothing to say. Then I hear the Minister and, by jove, there is plenty to say.

The uxorious Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) was right to complain about the Government's habit of choosing occasions for debates on the arts when it is difficult to obtain publicity. The last time that we had a major debate on the arts, they chose the day of the European elections. Today, despite the major arguments raging about the arts, the debate is on a motion for the Adjournment of the House and on a Friday. That is disgraceful. It is not good enough for the Minister to make his lying-in-state speeches about the state of the arts when the Government are not prepared to meet the challenge by allowing the House to debate and vote on the matter in prime time on a proper day when the House could express its feelings about the arts.

Mr. Jessel

Why not use a Supply day?

Mr. Buchan

After the boasting that we heard from the Minister this morning, the Government should be proud to put their record before the House without waiting for a Supply day.

The picture that the Minister paints of the arts bears no relation to the picture seen by everyone involved in the arts. A week ago, he and met two of the leading administrators in Britain, one theatrical and the other involved with museums. They spent most of the time discussing the problems of having to scrabble, for funds from various sources. Of course, there is a case for a multiplicity of funds. However, a few months ago, I spoke to a group of arts administrators in Birmingham who represented 70 organisations. Each of them said that instead of spending time developing an arts policy in development and in planning, he was having to spend time searching for funding. That is the picture of the arts today.

The Minister reminds me of the story from Stendhal which my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) once mentioned. The husband entered a room and found his wife in flagrante delicto. As he upbraided her, she said, "How do you dare to put the evidence of your eyes before taking my word for it?" The Minister uses statistics to suggest that the arts are healthy, but those involved know they are not. One reason is that this philistine Government — philistine because as monetarists they believe that cash is the only solution—are not even good monetarists. They see the deployment of money only as expenditure and, therefore, in the Prime Minister's terms, wasteful, instead of as an investment. They forget that such expenditure can be an investment.

Although the Minister is a decent and nice guy, he does not give the impression of understanding the pressure and urgency of the matter. His language is the language of generosity—of the Government having given this and that—and he gave a list of patrons and donors. I am prepared to honour the Gettys and the Sainsburys of this world for what they have done for the arts. It is perhaps an honour to them, but it shames the Government that those patrons have had to protect and defend our national institutions, such as the National Gallery, against the Government's depradations. The Government should not boast about the fact that Getty has saved the National Gallery, which the nation should be protecting and developing. The Government claim that the concept of patronage and sponsorship of the arts, which is too often a mark of shame to them, is somehow an honour for them.

The Government's failure to understand the importance of the arts either in human, spiritual terms or in economic terms has been a catastrophe. The Minister said that he would consider the British application for the city of culture of 1990, but he has already warned local authorities that no Government resources will be available. Can one imagine Greece, France or Germany inviting applications for a city of culture but then saying that no Government support would be available? The Government are mean-minded and petty, and it is time that they altered their attitude to the arts.

The Government take some pleasure in poking fun at the Liberal party and the SDP for not having a cultural policy. The Minister has forgotten the essay written by the good doctor, the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), for the National Campaign for the Arts paper. The good doctor said that the arts were important because they helped to create a climate of awareness in which ideas can be more readily received. He quoted two examples—"Cathy Come Home" and "The Boys from the Blackstuff". I was interested in all that, because I wrote exactly the same thing a year before the good doctor did. I am pleased that the SDP is picking up intelligent policy from somewhere, even if it is only from us

. The Minister also mentioned the problems of libraries. The moneys forthcoming from his Department are not for libraries in general. The bulk of the money is for the necessary expansion of the British library. They boast that they will pay for an expansion that is being forced upon the library. The truth is that the funding of public libraries has collapsed by 15 per cent. during the past five or six years because of the squeeze on local authority funding.

The Minister's main point was abolition. Again, he treated it as a success story for the Government, because other people have pulled together to save something from the wreckage that the Government's philistine and reckless decision imposed upon local authorities and the arts. The decision to abolish the GLC and the metropolitan county councils was done out of political pique and dislike of Mr. Ken Livingstone. For no intelligent reason, the arts were wrecked and everyone had to pull together to salvage them. The Minister said that the Government have more than recompensed the arts. Does he remember that the grant was already £10 million short — at that level of Arts Council spending, it meant about 10 per cent. short — of what the Arts Council and the local authorities, with Government backing, estimated was necessary? And that was on top of another £9 million already short — £19 million in all. Instead of the £35 million that was estimated to he necessary, the Government gave £25 million and boasted that they had solved the problem. The truth is that the intelligent work of the Arts Council, the intelligent organisation, discussion and hard negotiation by the regional arts associations, and the generosity of local authorities — even though they faced cuts in Government funding—saved the Government's bacon. Yet the Government now boast that they have solved the problems that they created, and more than recompensed the arts. Next year, there will be another cut in funding. The Government will create a taper in the former metropolitan county and GLC areas.

The Arts Council, not a body given to making alarmist statements, said: The Council is alarmed at the prospect of a reduction in 1987–88 in its funds for organisations affected by abolition … The Government has suggested that the Council's funds for this purpose will he reduced from £25 million to £21 million in 1987–88. This would considerably impair its ability and that of the RAAS to maintain current activities, particularly if spending by local authorities is also to be further restricted." The Arts Council estimates that its base line grant next year, according to Government indications, will be 2.5 per cent. in cash, but costs in the arts are under more severe pressure than the retail price index.

They say the council's grant is "likely to he cut again in real terms. The Government have boasted of expanding art funding, but the reality which confronts everybody involved is that there are cuts. There are cuts despite the 4 or 5 per cent. increase because so much of that is earmarked, because of Government intervention in relation to Priestley and because they are using a wrong deflator to claim increases.

The hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Murphy), no doubt in association with the Minister—that is fair enough as it is part of the procedures of the House—has asked a series of questions to elicit by how much the Government have increased arts funding. The answer always comes that, since 1979–80, funding has increased by 7 per cent. or 9 per cent. in real terms. No one else understands where those figures come from. The briefing paper from the National Campaign for the Arts says that it does not understand and that the Minister provided no evidence for his claim that they had risen by 7 per cent. in real terms, nor did he explain how he reached the figure. I can give two explanations, one of which I have analysed at great length in the House before. It is the famous incident of the delayed payments in 1979–80 and 1980–81. There happened to be a computer strike. Several million of pounds were earmarked but not paid until the Government took office.

My second explanation is that the Government use the gross domestic product indicator or deflator instead of the RPI. In regard to almost every form of spending except the billions that go on defence, for example, we go by the RPI, according to which there has been a drop of 1.5 per cent. in funding since the Government took office. If we include something else that the Government wiped out and have forgotten about—the Housing the arts budget—far from there being a real terms increase of 7 per cent, there has been nearly a 5 per cent. collapse in real terms. We should remember that the Arts Council is working permanently on the margin.

Mr. Jessel

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Buchan

That is a brief answer to some of the nonsense that has been put forward by the Minister, but I am quite prepared to answer any further nonsense that might come from the Conservative Back Benches.

Mr. Jessel

This will not be nonsense. It will be a very sensible question. I have listened with interest to the hon. Gentleman, who has gone on almost entirely about financing. Why does he not devote a little more of his considerable intelligence to asking whether the money that is being provided is helping to produce satisfactory artistic performances which give pleasure to those who see or hear them?

Mr. Buchan

I was dealing with some of the material that the Minister presented, but of course performance is the end point of our discussions. I should much prefer to deal with real things that matter—the end product—than the funds with which they are produced. If the hon. Gentleman does not believe that the squeeze on theatre and on music does not have its consequences in terms of artistic production, he is far adrift.

My brother writes plays, especially for the amateur theatre. He now writes them for "three male and two female" or "four male and one female" parts. That is the extent of the squeeze. I went to see the recent production of "Antony and Cleopatra" with Redgrave herself, but it was not a production which would have stood in terms of scale with the Beerbohm Trees of the past. All theatres are cutting, except the massive tourist—orientated blockbusters, such as "Chess".

The Government's response is private patronage and sponsorship. The most frightening thing that the Government have said—the Minister has repeated it Often—is that any future expansion or development must come from the private sector. Will the Minister confirm that he means that there will be a standstill in the real level of public spending? That is the implication of what he has said. If that happens, we shall be in immense difficulties. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel)—mentioned one—the effect on the arts.

The Opposition accept the case for multiple sources of funding—from local authorities, Government, box offices and aspects of sponsorship. Hon. Members know that I oppose certain forms of sponsorship such as that of tobacco companies but, by and large, I am not against multiple funding. On the contrary. I believe that, although multiplicity is not a substitute for more formal methods of maintaining the freedom of the artist, it can help to retain a sense and, to a considerable extent, an actuality of such freedom. That is now being reduced by the Government's squeeze on public spending, their cuts in local authority spending and their cutting of the real value of central funding. That is making a mockery of any freedom.

When the Minister speaks of my policy as beginning to reject the arm's length of Government, he forgets that a squeeze on funding and a push towards sponsorship can have the same effect. No theatre that relies on sponsorship can afford to put on a play that offends its sponsor. We are witnessing an enforced scampering after sponsorship in a bid for survival, a quest for alternative sources of funding and the need to avoid risk and innovation to secure a box office response. That is turning arts administrators into fund raisers rather than planners, innovators and developers and it has begun to distort the content of the work that is produced. The new, the innovative and the challenging will be at risk.

There was a conference on sponsorship of the visual arts at the Tate Gallery last year at which one of the sponsors explained his multinational firm's attitude to sponsorship. His comments were revealing and bland. He said: We prefer to sponsor exhibitions with which we feel confortable. He meant the glamorous and the safe rather than the innovative, the risky and the adventurous. There is already a distortion, if not censorship, therefore. We therefore oppose the concept advanced by the Minister and the Government that sponsorship is an alternative to proper Government funding of future developments.

The problems that face the arts are easily categorised. They are underfunded. There is far too narrow a concept of what are the arts. There is a narrowness of concept about what is high culture and what is popular. There is a lack of esteem for the arts, as is exemplified by the Government's behaviour today. It is inevitably establishment—London dominated— not London-dominated. When the Arts Council produced "The Glory of the Garden", it should have realised that we are not dealing just with geographical differences and separation from the South Bank. Brixton and Hackney are just as far away from the South Bank as Warrington and Manchester. The structure of the arts organisation is elitist. There is nothing elitist about "Fidelio"—it is a marvelous revolutionary opera but there is a great deal that is elitist in the ambience of Covent garden and in the administration of the arts.

How do we cope with that? First, the arts are underfunded. There is only one answer—there must be substantially more funding. If one looks at the state of the disrepair of our national museums and galleries, such as the National Gallery, the British museum and the Victoria and Albert museum, and if one considers that some are being forced to make admission charges to provide funding, it is clear that between £35 million and £45 million needs to be spent over the next three years to bring them into a decent state of repair. When one considers the cuts in central funding and the Arts Council over the years., it is clear that we need to double central funding, although the Minister pokes fun at that phrase. Certainly £140 million would be needed to bring some of our regional and national theatres and music organisations back into full proper use. I do not deny the need for a major injection of funds for that.

A major element of' that injection will come from the restoration of local government funding. We intend to impose a statutory obligation on local authorities to

provide for the arts, entertainment and museums, rather than through a mandatory rate, as sometimes the Labour party has suggested. An element for the arts and for museums should be added to the rate support grant for libraries as encouragement and support for local authorities. As a consequence of that, we shall ask each local authority to undertake a process of consultation with all interested bodies, including arts organisations, trade unions and community organisations, and with local neighbouring authorities, and to publish a plan for the development of the arts in their areas.

We have been dealing with the arts in too narrow a way. The answer to that is to bring all the arts under a single Ministry. We can no longer keep the main cultural fare of our people, broadcasting and films, separate from a Ministry of the arts. That is nonsense. Ministers for the arts or for culture in western Europe do not understand why broadcasting, films and popular arts are not brought under one Ministry in the United Kingdom. We must bring them under a unified Ministry.

Moreover, films, television, independent production, video, young people doing their own thing in studios, and popular music are a single entity, which we have come to refer to as the culture industries. We must broaden the concept of the arts. We can no longer separate some art for them and some for us. We must therefore include the popular arts

. We must recognise that the best way to restore esteem for the arts is to have a Minister in charge of arts and communications, including publications and the printed word, in the Cabinet as of right. The question of access and participation is not solved by central planning alone. I cannot understand why my policy that the major disbursement of funds should go to the regions has been attacked as centralist. That makes no sense to me. It is the opposite of centralising because it gives power to the regions, which know better than 105 Piccadilly, with the greatest of respect to it.

The Minister says that I am smashing the arm's length principle in relation to our national institutions by saying that they should be funded directly from the Ministry. First, the principle has already been dramatically weakened by the Priestley intervention, which I am not criticising, involving direct Government funding. Secondly, no Arts Council has the freedom to decide not to give funding to one or other of our national institutions. Imagine the Arts Council saying, "We have decided to abolish the National Theatre, so we are giving it no money." That is nonsense. Thirdly, the best freedom we can give to our national institutions, as to our theatres, is sufficient funding to give them the courage to put on the productions they choose, instead of forcing them to scramble for funds and sponsors.

I am not alone in my view, but hacked by the all-party Education, Science and Arts Committee. I discovered only in the past 48 hours that it had come to the same conclusion as me. Recommendation 17 of the Committee's report on "Public and Private Funding of the Arts" states: In conjunction with the Minister, the Arts Council should make special arrangements to administer a separate grant for the national companies as earmarked by the Minister,. From my experience in other Departments, the correct way to deal with the arts is for major funding to go to strengthen regional arts development bodies, in place of the regional arts associations, for national institutions to be funded by the Minister, and for it to be a statutory right of the new Arts Council to discuss and negotiate with the Minister about that. That worked perfectly satisfactorily with other Departments such as Agriculture, in the old days, and is the best democratic process for the arts.

The Arts Council should not be appointed by the Minister, because that means that it plays footsy with him and becomes his instrument. It should be elected directly from the regions and the arts if it is to be a powerful, independent voice, speaking for the arts to the Minister. If that is called smashing the arm's length principle and centralising, I do not know what is not.

The present genuine crisis in the arts is a parallel to the crisis facing Britain as a whole. It is a deep basic crisis, not only of politics and economics, but of philosophy, ideas and values. We have adopted values unparalleled since the late 1930s. The whole settled good of the past half century of a commitment to social concern and community values has been replaced by a cash-based ideology, both sharper and cruder than pre-Victorian times. We cannot answer that assault on our values merely by campaigning on policy or examining section 22 of a Social Security Act. At present there is a clash of values.

We in the Labour party want to develop policy-making as an expression of the new and better society which we wish to achieve. However, if we are fully to involve the imagination and commitment of our people as a whole in the creation of a better society, we must also engage in the battle of ideas. Without that, no Government will be backed by a radical drive from the people for the sort of change that we need, and the elan that is necessary to keep us on course.

For that reason, we as Socialists have always cherished the artist. It is not because we demand of them the enforced commitment to a particular set of values, but because we recognise that artists provoke questioning, remove our blinkers, awaken compassion and fray at the nerve edge of our consciousness and awareness. Therefore, artists frequently set the agenda for which we as Socialists can provide the ultimate answers. That is why we have a common purpose with artists. Artists speak the truth as they see it and we seek to provide answers to the problems that their questioning has posed. Artists let us see more clearly the real nature of the present crisis because, above all, they deal with it as it touches the individual. Therefore, they emphasise the need for change even more clearly and sharply than the propagandists.

Mr. Bowden (Dulwich)


Mr. Buchan

As we are the party for change, we are on the side of artists. We recognise with Shelley that the poet is the unacknowledged legislator of the world. We not only support the arts for the individual artist and creator, but for a further reason to do with the engagement of values.

We live in a grossly unequal world which is also unequal within the arts.

Mr. Bowden


Mr. Buchan

We need to restore to our people the rich heritage of culture which has been taken from them, whether in our congested inner cities, our inadequate suburban schemes, or in our remote rural areas. New technologies will either open up possibilities of enormous richness or one of defeated squalor. We must take control of our future in which the arts will play an increasingly significant role.

10.39 am
Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

If Opposition Members do not like the use of a Friday for a debate on the arts, it is open to them to use one of their Opposition days for such a debate. However, I cannot help noticing that they have not done so.

We have not done too badly over the amount of time devoted to debating and discussing the arts. Only three months ago we had a full-scale debate on business sponsorship of the arts; and I believe that questions on the arts come up about every three weeks. I believe that what the Opposition really dislike is not Friday debates on the arts, but the Conservative Government's success story in relation to the arts, and the tremendously impressive list of achievements that my right hon. Friend the Minister set out. I shall return to that later. I wish first to discuss the levy on tapes. The Government have proposed a 20p levy on blank tapes. That is absolutely right. Musicians work hard to earn their living. They are not as well off as they should be. They derive their livelihoods partly from recordings on which they receive royalties. Recordings may be put on discs or tapes. Anyone can buy a blank tape quite cheaply, borrow a record and then tape it, thus saving himself the expense of buying the recording. In that case, the musician or musicians who performed the music will not receive any royalties. That is unjust. We can begin to put things right—as the Government propose to do —by imposing a levy on tapes, and the proceeds could go towards the royalties received by professional musicians. These days, 20p is quite a small amount. It is not much more than the price of a cup of tea or coffee in a third-class cafe. It is not exactly a back-breaking sum.

Nevertheless, the manufacturers of blank tapes have mounted a massive advertising campaign against that wise, sensible and fair Government proposal. A series of full-page advertisements have recently appeared in national newspapers. Perhaps you could remind me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether it is in order to quote from those newspapers?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

It is.

Mr. Jessel

Thank you. That full-page advertisement in The Times says that it is issued by the "Tape Manufacturers Group." I understand that those manufacturers are all to be found abroad, and that 60 per cent. of them are Japanese. The advertisement says that it is issued by that group. in the interest of the tape buying public. It continues: Oppose the tape levy. It is a gift to the greedy…if you have to cough up more money because of lobbying by greedy record companies, there must be plenty of other fat cats waiting in the wings for their extra dollop of cream. A Tape Levy is wrong on moral and legal grounds. If it is imposed during the next session of Parliament it sets a ghastly precedent for the righting of any number of imagined wrongs. That is sheer nonsense. It is laughable to say that a tape levy is wrong on moral grounds. As for saying that it is wrong on legal grounds, if the House, following the proper procedures, authorises a levy on tapes, it is legal. The advertising agency or public relations company who wrote that advertisement did so in ignorance of that fact. The tape manufacturers have been unwise in their choice of advertising or public relations company.

I hope that the Government will not give in, and have no truck with this advertising campaign by the tape manufacturers. I also hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts will convey our feelings to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who is responsible for such issues. The Government should stick to their guns, hold firm, and proceed with the levy in the interest of live musicians. They should give further proof—if any is needed—that the Conservative party, and this Conservative Government care about the arts and want fair rewards for professional artists. If the Government hold firm, they will earn the lasting appreciation of the musical world.

The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan), who is sitting in the Gangway next to the former Leader of the Opposition, but who is now returning to his seat on the Opposition Front Bench, was full of doom and gloom. Characteristically he exaggerated, using words such as catastrophic, depredations, philistine, reckless, squeezing and so on. But none of that could disguise the fact that in the United Kingdom the arts are flourishing as never before. My right hon. Friend the Minister gave a tremendously impressive list of achievements. I shall not repeat it, as it will appear in the Official Report. But the hon. Member for Paisley, South clearly did not listen to my right hon. Friend. The hon. Gentleman went on to talk about abolition in a tone of gloom and doom, I recall that two years ago he mentioned a crisis in the arts. Most of that talk focused on Greater London and then, to a lesser extent, on the six metropolitan counties. None of his prophesies came true.

Mr. Buchan

The hon. Gentleman must remember that the worst did not happen because I sounded the alarm bells and helped to mobilise resistance. We won. The credit that the hon. Gentleman takes should be given to the Arts Council, the regional arts associations and the local authorities. The Ministry deserves no credit, as it under-funded by £19 million.

Mr. Jessel

It is the Government who should take the credit, because they took the decision and had to find the money to make up the difference when many competing claims were put forward in every conceivable area of the Government. Many hon. Members in all parties asked for that to be done, and the Government were right to take that decision. Of course, there had to be a period of uncertainty, because there had to be consultation. If people are to be consulted and representations are to be made, there must be a period of uncertainty before the decisions are finally taken.

During that period the hon. Gentleman asked for things to be done even though they were probably going to be done anyway. The point is that those decisions were taken.

The arts are now buoyant. That is a tremendous national asset. It is enormously important, because if the arts flourish, they can enrich and enlarge people's lives. They also give great enjoyment.

Even if one looks only at the economic aspect of the success of the arts in the United Kingdom, it is of tremendous value to the country. The live and visual arts, taken together with our national heritage of buildings and the monarchy, with which our heritage is linked, comprise our main tourist attraction, drawing overseas visitors to the United Kingdom. Foreigners come here not for our weather but to see our old towns and cities, our historic houses, churches and cathedrals, our art calleries and museums, and the royal family and everything to do with it. They come to see our theatres, concerts, opera and ballet.

As one would expect of a great capital, London is one of the arts centres of the world. Nowhere else, with the possible exception of New York, is there such a full and splendid mix of the live and visual arts, and the heritage.

Our theatre is second to none both in quality and quantity, ranging from the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company to theatre of all sorts. Britain is superb musically, with orchestral concerts, chamber music, instrumental and solo work. We have four great orchestras based in London. A first-class season of promenade concerts will shortly commence. We have excellent opera, ballet and dance at Covent garden, the Coliseum and Sadler's Wells. On the South Bank, the Royal Festival hall, the Queen Elizabeth hall and the Purcell room are going well. The South Bank board is doing an excellent job in its future planning.

Opposition Members' gloomy forecasts of what would happen after the abolition of the GLC have been confounded. The South Bank board is managing perfectly well without the GLC. The Barbican complex in the City is a bold, imaginative venture which owes much to the vision, courage and generosity of the Corporation of the City of London.

I know that the House will forgive me if I make special reference to an institution in my constituency, the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller hall in Twickenham. It trains the finest army bands in the world. These are one of the prides of this country. They will be seen marching on the way to the Royal wedding in four weeks' time. For the past three years I have been fighting to prevent Kneller hall, being moved from Twickenham to some unsuitable site on the coast, there to be merged with the training of the bands of the Royal Marines and the Royal Air Force. If that happens it will reduce musical standards.

I am, therefore, grateful to no fewer than 164 of my right hon. and hon. Friends for signing early-day motion No. 397. I am also grateful to my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence for each having found the time to see me on this matter. As a result, a full-scale review of the decision is being made and the costs are being re-examined. I believe that the original decision two years ago, taken by my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) to move the Royal Military School of Music from Twickenham, was a mistake. The result of the review is expected during the summer. I trust that the Government will take into account not only the great sense of feeling in this House, as shown by 164 of my colleagues, but the strength of feeling in another place where there was a debate on a starred question in February; and the views of 18,679 people who signed petitions to keep the Royal Military School of Music permanently at Kneller hall.

I turn to another type of music school—the great academies and colleges such as the Royal College of Music, the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music, all in London, and the Royal Northern School of Music in Manchester. By and large, they produce performers and teachers of very high standards. Two weeks ago I was fortunate to visit the Guildhall School of Music, together with my hon. Friends the Members for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) and for Dudley, West (Dr. Blackburn). We toured the school and saw work of a very high standard. A violin master class was being taken by the celebrated violinist Yfrah Neaman; an examination was taking place that included a performance of Mendelssohn by a piano trio, which was technically highly difficult and which was played to a remarkable standard; and there was a rehearsal of an opera by Chabrier. All those works were being performed to a high level that made them a delight to hear.

There has recently been talk of the Royal Academy of Music being singled out to become what has been described as a centre of excellence. I should wish to hear both sides of the argument before seeing my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. So far, I have heard only one side and therefore prefer to suspend judgment. However, I know that the matter is worrying the musical world. The key question is whether sufficient improvement would be generated to justify possibly cutting the ground from under the feet of other institutions with excellent standards. Therefore, I hope that the Government will exercise caution.

In London there are excellent visual arts, with some magnificent museums. I salute the courage of the Victoria and Albert museum staff, led by its director Sir Roy Strong, on two widely different matters — first, for seeking to recreate the spirit of that great Victorian building by refurbishing it, with Government support, and secondly, on their courage in seeking to attract voluntary donations from the visiting public.

Hampton court in my constituency is a Royal palace but also serves as another great museum. It suffered from a terrible fire some 11 weeks ago, and great damage was caused. I am glad that the Government, through the Secretary of State for the Environment, have decided to provide funds so that the damage can be repaired. Ninety per cent. of the palace is now open to visitors. The number of visitors has fallen off since the fire, and perhaps the fact that it is now open again is not widely enough known. I hope that there will be a resumption of large numbers of school parties and other visitors in the near future. I am worried that the part that was damaged may take as long as four years to repair and restore. I hope that the Secretary of State will think again on this matter to find a way to effect repairs more quickly.

My right hon. Friend the Minister said that our museums must not sit on their treasures. I agree. The whole point of a work of art is for it to be perceived. It is much more important for works of art to be seen and enjoyed than to be hoarded for some academic motive to do with the integrity of the collection. The academics in museums tend to put too much weight on the second purpose, when they should put nearly all the weight on works of art being seen. There really is little point in them being stored in cellars and hardly ever seen.

I hope that my right hon Friend will vigorously encourage those museums with more works of art than they are able to show, to lend them to other museums around the country so that they can be seen by more people. It would provide opportunities for people to see works of art in the provinces. That is being done to some extent already, but not to the sort of extent that I would wish.

Sponsorship has been mentioned by both the Labour and Liberal spokesmen. The Labour party appears to be against it, and the Liberals to denigrate it. I believe sponsorship to be tremendously important. My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) produced a paper on the subject to the Council of Europe, and we debated the matter in February. It is surely of great value that sponsorship of the arts by businesses has multiplied 40-fold from £500,000 to £20 million during the past 10 years, with three-quarters of the increase being during the past seven years under a Conservative Government.

It is good and right that our great business corporations should act as patrons of the arts and thereby extend the opportunity to the general public to enjoy concerts, exhibitions and operas. That should be enthusiastically encourged by both sides of the House, not only by Conservative Members. The lukewarm attitude of Opposition Members to this important new dimension of support for the arts is pathetic—they should reconsider their attitude, and do so quickly.

10.59 am
Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau, Gwent)

Eager though I am to compress my remarks, I do not believe that I shall be able to do so in the 30 seconds or so before the next business. Perhaps I may advertise what is to come later by inviting those Members lucky enough to come into the Chamber now to stay for the rest of the debate. I hope that that is a proper use of this advertising moment. I appeal to all who have come in at this late hour not just to participate in questions but to hear the later debates.

I think that I have used up the time available. I would not wish to interrupt you, Mr. speaker, and I was watching carefully to ensure that I did not incommode you in any way.

It being Eleven o'clock, MR. SPEAKER interrupted the proceedings, pursuant to Standing Order No. 5 (Friday sittings).

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