HC Deb 24 November 1986 vol 106 cc17-20
60. Mr. Chapman

asked the Minister for the Arts what is the current annual total contribution of grants by the Arts Council; and what is his estimate of this as a proportion of total expenditure on the arts.

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Richard Luce)

The Arts Council's grant for 1986–87 is £135.6 million, of which £6 million is attributable to operating costs, and £129½ million to grants. Those grants amount to some 40 per cent. of central Government expenditure on the arts.

Mr. Chapman

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that that means that under this Government there has been a significant increase in real terms in Arts Council funding, but that, as always, that is only a minority of the total funding for the arts in the country? Does he agree that it is the responsibility of the Government to set a tax regime and economic climate that are conducive to encouraging maximum funding from local authorities, businesses and individuals?

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. On his latter point, I confirm that our broad strategy is to do everything possible to encourage a successful partnership between the public sector and the private sector. That is one of the reasons why, in the Budget, two tax changes were introduced giving tax relief both for corporations and, from April next year, for individuals, to encourage them to give to charitable bodies, including the arts world. We have seen a real increase in resources for the Arts Council, in the past seven years, of no less than 8 per cent. and, if one includes abolition money, of no less than 30 per cent. That is a sign of our confidence in the Arts Council.

Mr. Robert Sheldon

Is the Minister aware that in his answer to his hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) on Friday, he said that expenditure on the arts from 1979–80 to 1987–88 had gone up by 13 per cent., while the autumn statement shows that Government expenditure generally has gone up by 14½ per cent.? What is happening is that less money is being spent in real terms on the arts than on other areas of public expenditure. What does the Minister say about that?

Mr. Luce

The picture is absolutely plain. There is a real increase in support for the arts—and there has been over the past seven years—amounting to 13 per cent. I am leaving out abolition money. If I include abolition money, which I should, support has gone up in real terms by 28 per cent. If that is not support for the arts, I must ask what is.

Mr. Cormack

Does my right hon. Friend agree that he gets exceptional value for money in the expenditure that he properly makes, which we welcome? Does he further agree that it generates more money from tourism than the budgets of many of his colleagues? Does he agree that a little bit goes a long way in that area, and will he bear in mind that there could be a need for a little more soon?

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The evidence all round the country—I travel round various parts every week—is that the arts are expanding in almost every area. That is thanks to the partnership among the Government, the local authorities, which are doing more and more, and the private sector, to which we look to help to fuel the expansion still further.

Mr. Beith

Is the Minister aware of the dismay in the arts world that the small 5.5 per cent. increase that he announced is more than half taken up by the British Library building programme? Does he believe that projects such as regional theatres will be able to get adequate support from the Arts Council under such conditions?

Mr. Luce

As the hon. Gentleman has said, the arts budget on this for next year will go up by 5½ per cent. That is broadly in line with the increase in overall public expenditure next year on the arts. The hon. Gentleman is right when he says that a considerable proportion of that increase will be taken up by the new library at St. Pancras. That is an important national facility which will serve the nation well to the turn of the century and beyond.

Mr. Lord

Can my right hon. Friend reassure my central Suffolk constituents who live in the more remote areas of East Anglia, and a long way from places such as Ipswich and Norwich, that he is aware of their problems about access to the arts, and that he will do all he can to see that they get a fair deal?

Mr. Luce

I will indeed, and I look forward to the chance of coming to my hon. Friend's constituency next week, when I shall be able to say that again.

Mr. Buchan

Is it not the case that almost every independent analysis disproves the Minister's figures about the increase since 1979? For example, the National Campaign for the Arts says that there has been a collapse of between 3 and 4 per cent. The Minister has forgotten every single historical incident since 1979, including the shift forward because of the computer strike in that year. Secondly, does he agree that the increase to the arts is below the rate of inflation because the figure that he is talking about of 5.5 per cent. includes two major items, the increase for the British Library and the abolition of the GLC and the mets, which put another £24 million into the kitty. Arts expenditure is increasing by about 2.5 per cent. and that is a dramatic fall from the amount required to keep up with inflation.

Mr. Luce

The hon. Gentleman can try as hard as he likes, but I notice that on 14 November last year he said: Many companies will die as a result of the amount announced today."—[Official Report, 14 November 1985; Vol. 86, c.700.] That was a year ago, but not a single company has died. Indeed, we have seen the arts go from strength to strength, and I do not see why I should pay much attention to what the hon. Gentleman says. The Arts Council will get an increase of 3.5 per cent. in its basic provision. That is broadly in line with inflation, and on top of that I have helped with the abolition problem by allocating a further £3 million. That should be a help and the hon. Gentleman ought to go round the country encouraging local authorities to play their part.

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