HC Deb 03 March 1986 vol 93 cc16-7
32. Mr. Murphy

asked the Minister for the Arts if he will make a statement on the implications for the arts of the increase of Government funding for the Arts Council since 1979.

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Richard Luce)

Arts Council funding from 1979–80 to 1986–87 has been increased by 32 per cent. in real terms, including the extra abolition money, and by 7 per cent. in real terms excluding it.

Mr. Murphy

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a 7 per cent. increase in real terms, with a 10 per cent. increase in real terms in overall arts funding and £20 million-plus from business sponsorship, means that there are excellent implications for the arts?

Mr. Luce

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The picture that is painted by some of gloom, doom and despondency in the arts world, is the very contrary of the fact. The Government have increased the amount of resources for the arts in real terms.

Mr. Tony Banks

It is not a matter of gloom and doom. Is the Minister aware that since 1982–83, excluding abolition money—which we must, as it is an inadequate substitute for the money previously put into the arts by metropolitan county councils and the GLC—the real increase in the arts funding by the Government is less than 1 per cent.? That figure was produced by the House of Commons Library. Does the Minister not feel that it is an obscenity in terms of values for the Government to spend £18 billion on defence and only £136 million on the arts?

Mr. Luce

The hon. Gentleman abuses the English language by suggesting that it is an obscenity when we have increased overall resources available for the arts. He should bear in mind that local authorities give a great deal of support to the arts. The diversity and plurality of funding is the very strength of arts in the long term.

Mr. Jessel

How far does my right hon. Friend think the arts should rely on the Government rather than on local government? As for abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan county councils, does my right hon. Friend agree that the 32 London boroughs and other successor authorities could do rather more than they have so far shown signs of doing?

Mr. Luce

My hon. Friend is right. We have to remember that the Government have switched £43 million from local government funding to Government funding. As a result, we are relieving local authorities of the overall burden. On Merseyside, for example, we are merely asking successor authorities to fund 10 per cent. of what is being precepted from them under present policies.

Mr. Buchan

We are in the classic situation of asking why, if things are so good, they are so bloody awful? Theatres, music halls, concert halls and arts centres throughout Britain are desperately anxious about the fall in the amount of money that they receive. Does the Minister agree that since the Government came to office arts funding has collapsed in real terms? Does he agree also that local authorities are being cut and capped, if not abolished, and that it is a cruel and obscene joke to suggest that they can match the proper funding given earlier?

Mr. Luce

The hon. Gentleman is painting a wholly false picture. The West End commercial theatres are doing exceedingly well and their attendances are increasing. The hon. Gentleman should not assume that everything should be done by the state. He should welcome the fact that one of the major ways of finding a solution to the problems of the Empire theatre in Liverpool, for example, has been through the private sector, not the ratepayers. Both the private and public sectors should work in partnership in the arts world, and that is what we are seeking.

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