HC Deb 27 October 1986 vol 103 cc16-7
33. Mr. Sumberg

asked the Minister for the Arts if he will ensure that the arm's length principle of funding the regional arts associations through the Arts Council of Great Britain is maintained.

Mr. Luce

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Sumberg

Does my right hon. Friend agree that arms's length funding is vital? Is it not somewhat ironic that the so-called alliance is as divided on this issue as on defence, because whereas the Social Democratic party wants to keep the Arts Council, the Liberal party wants to abolish it?

Mr. Luce

I agree that it is becoming a rather characteristic feature of the alliance that it seems increasingly divided on every aspect of its policies. As for arm's length policy, it is true that the Liberal and the Labour parties now appear to want to emasculate the Arts Council, which has operated extremely well since the second world war, whereas the SDP appears to be in favour of the present policy.

Mr. Tony Lloyd

Is the Minister aware that his complacency about the funding of regional arts is a matter of great concern to those who do not live in London and the south-east, as arts spending is still heavily biased towards that region? It is convenient for Conservative Members, southerners as they are, to believe that that bias is in the national interest, but those from the north or other parts of the nation know that it is obvious that arts spending does not favour people outside London and the south-east.

Mr. Luce

There is no doubt that most of the regional arts associations do a very important and good job, as I have seen when I have travelled around the country. The resources that have been allocated by the Arts Council to the regional arts associations have increased substantially from just under £12 million in 1983–84 to £25 million in 1986–87. That shows our commitment to the regional arts associations.

Mr. Jessel

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the Arts Council will continue to fund direct, and not through the regional arts association, the Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room on the South Bank, which, under the direct aegis of the Arts Council, are doing a first-class job and attracting larger audiences than they did under the late unlamented Greater London council?

Mr. Luce

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend about the job that some of these national institutions, including those on the South Bank, are doing, I know of no indication from the Arts Council that it wishes to change its policy on the methods of financing these big institutions. As I said earlier, for some of the smaller arts organisations throughout the country there has been a shift of policy and more money has gone to the regional arts associations.

Mr. Soley

What does the Minister intend to do about London now that the GLC has gone? I have in my constituency the West Six Theatre Company, which is to be given a final small grant by the London Residuary Body and then it will go bankrupt. That is exactly what will happen to many arts organsiations in London. What does the Minister intend to do about it?

Mr. Luce

It was for that reason that a year ago this Government found an additional £25 million to help with the transitional problems that were connected with catering for the abolition areas. All the evidence suggests, that, thanks to the good efforts of the local authorities, the Arts Council and the regional arts associations, most of the arts bodies that merit public support have been given it.

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