HC Deb 12 March 1987 vol 112 cc492-560

5.2 pm

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Luce)

I beg to move, That this House congratulates the Government on the success of its arts policy which is resulting in an expansion of arts and crafts throughout the country and greater protection of the national heritage; approves the Government's strategy of increasing the inflow of funds to the arts from a diversity of sources; welcomes the tax changes, including the new payroll giving scheme, which will stimulate giving to the arts by individuals and companies; applauds the Government's continuing commitment to promoting sponsorship of the arts through the Business Sponsorship Incentive Scheme; endorses the new arts marketing scheme, designed to encourage a keener awareness of the benefits to the arts of good marketing; and acknowledges the political commitment shown by the Government in the form of record levels of public support for the arts.

Mr. Speaker

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Luce

This debate in Government time is a demonstration of the importance we attach to the arts. I propose to be as short as possible in order to enable as many people as possible to contribute to the debate.

This debate gives the opportunity to reflect upon the remarkable performance of our arts and crafts in this country, and the greater protection now available for our national heritage. It goes against the grain for the gloom-mongers to admit that anything is going right, but there is now overwhelming evidence of expansion and growth in the arts.

The number of arts centres has virtually doubled to over 300 since we came to power in 1979. British record companies and publishers are booming. Export sales of British books are over £340 million annually and royalties to British record companies from abroad are estimated at $500 million. Reportedly, a new museum opens every fortnight and over 54 million a year now attend the 2,000 or so museums and galleries which this country boasts.Cinema attendances are up 72 million, and are growing. The number of youth theatres in England has soared to over 500, and there has been a healthy development in community and rural touring theatre.

With disposable incomes up substantially since 1979, this should come as no surprise. We are a wealthier society, and people are increasingly investing time and money to enjoy and learn from the rich diversity which the arts offer us. People want something deeper than just the material things of life and are turning to the arts to enrich their lives. As our economic growth continues, interest in the arts will grow too.

Central Government expenditure on the arts has also been rising. In both 1979 arid 1983 we gave a firm manifesto commitment to the arts to maintain Government support for the arts. We have honoured that pledge. Central Government expenditure on the arts is up by 15 per cent. in real terms since 1979–80. These are record figures.

If the extra central expenditure following the abolition of the Greater London council and the metropolitan county councils is included. the increase in arts expenditure rises to 29 per cent. The successor local authorities rose to the challenge and came up with a total of some £14 million, more than filling the estimated £10 million gap left by abolition. This was on top of the big increase in the local authority contribution to the arts since 1979 — all a bit embarrassing for the authors of the Opposition amendment.

Mr. Michael Marshall (Arundel)

My right hon. Friend has referred to the Opposition amendment. The amendment in the name of alliance Members calls for various Departments to be brought together under a supremo Arts Minister. Will my right hon. Friend take it from me, representing the Society of West End Theatre, that the work he does as sponsoring Minister for the Arts, particularly on tax reform, is much appreciated? Will he also accept that a very important measure which will come to the House shortly is the Consumer Protection Bill? Will he undertake to keep a sharp eye on regulation and the code of practice on ticket overcharging, which are crucial to the future of theatre?

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said. I know of the work which he does for the Society of West End Theatre. He has repeatedly drawn to my attention some of the society's anxieties. Certainly I undertake to take a close interest in the issue that he has raised.

This year's arts budget was ahead of the overall increase in Government spending in the year, and ahead of projected inflation. We unwound three quarters of the taper for abolition areas, and we can now proceed on an efficient basis with the building of the British library at St. Pancras. It is now reaching its peak years for expenditure, taking just over 6 per cent of my total budget.

There are, of course, always competing priorities within the arts budget. However, the increases I announced this year for the British library construction were specifically not at the expense of the rest of my arts budget. When finally complete, the British library will be a major, modern, national institution of which we shall have the right to be proud. All this must be judged against a broader perspective.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Wealden)

I have listened to what my right hon. Friend has said about the British library. Does he accept that it is getting a disproportionate amount of resources this year? As a consequence it is little wonder that some institutes, such as the British Film Institute, of which I am a governor, feel that they have not been as fairly treated as they might have been and, I think, would have been, had not so many resources been taken by the British library. Surely there must be a better way of funding it.

Mr. Luce

I acknowledge the remarks of my hon. Friend, who does a great deal of excellent work for the British Film Institute. Expenditure on the library project has gone up quite fast because we are getting to a key stage of its construction. As I have said, in the coming financial year it eats into the budget to the extent of just over 6 per cent. The point I sought to make was that we always have problems with competing priorities and that the extra money that I have been able to achieve, which is just under £20 million over the next three years, for the British library is extra and does not come out of the arts budget. I wanted to make that point because it is important for people involved with heritage and the performing arts.

Mr. Clement Freud (Cambridgeshire, North-East)


Mr. Luce

The more I give way, the more it eats into the debate.

Mr. Freud

Will the Minister agree that if the money does not come out of the arts budget, it could have gone into the arts budget?

Mr. Luce

I always find the hon. Gentleman, who takes a close interest in the arts, slightly convoluted in his arguments. The point I seek to make is that the extra resources I have been able to raise to enable us to forge ahead efficiently with the British library will come separately from the Treasury and not out of the existing arts budget that I have allocated for next year.

Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)


Mr. Luce

I should like to proceed; otherwise it is unfair to other hon. Members who want to contribute to the debate. When I reply, I can pick up any points that have been made.

Our strategy is to encourage the fuelling of the expansion of the arts from a combination of the public and the private sectors. To judge any Government's policy purely on the level of taxpayers' support for the arts—important though that is—shows tunnel vision and is too limited in its approach. Rather, we must look at the global picture, and assess how public money and the tax system together can be used to increase the total of resources flowing into the arts.

We want to achieve two objectives: first, to use taxpayers' money to attract as much money as possible for the arts from other sources; and secondly, to get the best possible value for money from the taxpayers' contribution. It is important that as much as possible of the money voted by this House should reach the arts bodies themselves, and as little as possible be absorbed by administration.

I am very glad that the Arts Council and the RAAs, all of which do an excellent job, are to examine their adminstrative costs. I believe that my own Department, the Office of Arts and Libraries, staffed by only 52 civil servants, offers excellent value for money. What a contrast that is to some of the continental arts bureaucracies

One of the best examples of our approach is the operation of the business sponsorship incentive scheme, which has raised over £11 million of new money, including £3 million of Government money, 70 per cent. of which has gone to arts bodies outside London. Four hundred businesses have sponsored the arts for the first time and 250 existing sponsors have increased their budget.

Business sponsorship in general is rising fast; the total arts slice of this expenditure is now estimated at more than £25 million. I have recently undertaken to continue the scheme for 1988–89.

The opposition parties appear to be lukewarm about business sponsorship and to shy away from commercial support for the arts—

Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)


Mr. Luce

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have a chance to speak in the debate, and I shall certainly respond. I hope that he will let me proceed for a while.

Of course, the contribution that business sponsorship makes is relatively small, but it is growing. Sponsors back a much wider range of activities than some critics suggest — from early music to jazz, from puppet theatre to the Tate gallery. That all adds to the resources available to the arts, and it should be encouraged.

Here is the chance for the Opposition parties to do just that, and to endorse wholeheartedly the principle of arts sponsorship.

Mr. Buchan

Does sponsorship really add to the money available to the arts? Has not the right hon. Gentleman said on at least four occasions that all future development and expansion must come from the private sector; and that his only commitment is to maintain the level of public expenditure? If so, more money will not come into the arts from private sponsors; rather, private sponsorship will be used instead of proper and sufficient public funding.

Mr. Luce

I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman, but I cannot understand how his mind works. We are seeking an overall growth in resources, by whatever means possible, from the private and the public sectors.

My views on the matter are clear. The business sponsorship incentive scheme and the tax reliefs that are available for sponsorship are ways of adding to overall resources. They are not a substitute for other forms of funding. Indeed, my vision is of the commercial sector working ever more closely in harness with the public sector. There are examples of such partnerships in action in the theatre world. For instance, the Beck theatre in Hillingdon is now being run with much lower subsidies from the ratepayer as a result of a partnership with a commercial organisation, and Apollo Leisure Ltd. has shown similar enterprise in taking over the Empire theatre in Liverpool. That is a principle that could be extended to other local authority theatres.

We are also encouraging arts bodies to help themselves by better marketing. This year I have introduced an arts marketing scheme on an experimental basis to complement the BSIS.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)


Mr. Luce

The hon. Gentleman must allow me to'go on, or the cohesion of my speech will be broken. Perhaps that is the hon. Gentleman's objective.

If it is successful, I shall build on and expand the marketing scheme. After all, the greatest income for the arts comes from the consumer and there is still much unexploited potential for attracting and entertaining audiences. As David Garrick, the great actor-manager said: The drama's laws the drama's patrons give And we that live to please must please to live".

Another element in constructing our framework of opportunity for the arts is our gradual remoulding of the taxation system to encourage an atmosphere of giving. We have reduced the minimum covenanting period from seven years to four. We now give relief to companies for one-off donations. We have established a contingency reserve of about £10 million, taking one year with another, for acceptances in lieu of tax. In April, the payroll giving scheme—give-as-you-earn—will begin, and the arts must take that important opportunity to exploit those reliefs. Most arts bodies have charitable status and are eligible for these benefits, so they must go out and exploit the new scheme to the full.

The momentum of this strategy can be sustained only in an atmosphere where the arts world can depend upon central Government core funding. I have no hesitation in repeating once more that Government expenditure on the arts will be maintained. The success of arts bodies in securing additional private or public funding has not been and will not be penalised by the withdrawal of Government grant. That would be self-defeating.

Furthermore, I recognise the need of the arts for continuity and stability.

Mr. Robert Sheldon

As the right hon. Gentleman is approaching the question of Government funding, I want to make it clear that hon. Members on both sides of the House do not doubt the good intentions of the Minister in his attempts to extract from the Treasury the substantial sums that are needed to reinvigorate the arts. However, we are concerned about the strength of the right hon. Gentleman's dealings with the Treasury in trying to obtain essential funds. He has the support of almost the entire House in trying to obtain more funding for the arts than he has been able to extract so far.

Mr. Luce

I am trying to explain the important role that public funding has in the arts. For the next financial year I have received a 7 per cent. increase in my overall public expenditure, including that for the British library project. I accept that the library project takes up a large part of resources, but there is a 7 per cent. increase in my budget. I do not call that bad. It shows the importance that the Government attach to core funding in the arts.

Earlier, I was discussing the need for stability and continuity in the arts. Major arts institutions need to plan ahead. Like the Government, the Arts Council is now moving towards indicative figures for three-year funding for at least some of its clients, who will therefore be able to make long-term plans on a sounder basis.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) has recently become the Opposition arts spokesman, following the sad demise of his predecessor the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan)—

Hon. Members

He is alive.

Mr. Buchan

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I say that my demise is greatly exaggerated?

Mr. Luce

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has been touched by my remarks.

I must say that there seems to be some confusion about Labour party policy for the arts. What is Labour party policy, and what will it cost? Has the hon. Gentleman's party made any advance beyond its tired old concept of the public purse as the milch cow for everything? As for the alliance, its spokesmen may be able to enlighten us as to whether its policy is that expressed in the SDP Green Paper, that in the published Liberal party policy, or that to be found in its latest pronouncement, "The Time Has Come".

With three different policies, the alliance arts approach begins to remind me of the Schleswig-Holstein question. Only three people understood it; one has died, one has gone mad, and the other has forgotten.

There is a remarkable polarisation of views in this country concerning the arts. On the one hand, we have those who do not believe in any taxpayers' support for the arts. On the other, there are some prominent people in the arts world—I choose my words carefully—who assume that the world owes them a living and that Parliament and the Government are simply there to sign blank cheques for them. Such people are undermining their cause. There is a case for public support of the arts, and the arts world should make that case clearly, calmly and rationally.

Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)

Will the Minister explain, if the arts and especially ballet and opera are so good, why people who want to go there want to be subsidised to the tune of £20 a seat? If it is that good, people should be prepared to pay the full amount.

Mr. Luce

I know that my hon. Friend holds strong views on this subject and is one of those who represent one of the wings that have been mentioned, but I will say why certain areas of the arts should have public support.

The main reasons for central Government support for the arts are to promote excellence, to make that excellence more available to people around the country, to support our great national institutions—the national museums and galleries — and to foster the seedcorn of future talent. Of course, jobs and tourism are also important, and I do not in the least underestimate that, but the enrichment of the human spirit is the main justification.

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 a nation's civilisation. As Arts Minister, I visit as many arts bodies, museums. galleries, libraries and functions as I can—over 200 at the latest count.

I can see for myself the flowering of the arts in this country. I visited the Royal Shakespeare Company. It has just announced its most ambitious programme of productions ever. I visited the British Film Institute. It is opening its new museum of the moving image on the south bank within a year or so, thanks to the support principally of M r. Getty and the private sector.

I visited Nostell priory in Yorkshire which has been saved by the intervention of the National Heritage Memorial Fund set up by this Government in 1980. This great house, along with many others, is now preserved for the benefit of the nation.

I visited the Ruthin craft centre in north Wales, established with the help of the European Community and the Wales tourist board. It is a fine centre where craftsmen can practise their skills and market their productions at the same time. The national museums and galleries all have exciting plans for the future.

Of the many things I have already seen I will pick out only the Toshiba gallery of Japanese art at the Victoria and Albert, under the imaginative leadership of Sir Roy Strong. We all look forward to the opening of the new Clore gallery at the Tate next month by Her Majesty the Queen. The "Tate in the north" is due to open in Liverpool in 1988.

I visited the Leadmills in Sheffield, a tremendous hive of arts activities for young people, largely financed by the private sector. This arts centre is typical of the vibrancy of the performing arts today.

I have visited a large number of lively arts festivals, so well supported by their local communities, ranging from Edinburgh to Billingham to Brighton.

I visited the Burrell collection and the Kelvingrove collection in Glasgow. They will be centrepieces of Glasgow's European City of Culture celebrations in 1990.

Mr. Roland Boyes (Houghton and Washington)

The Minister has listed places which he has visited. A lot of those places relate to the performing arts, painting, and so on. He knows that I have a great interest in photography. I know that the Minister, at my invitation, visited the photographers' gallery, but he has never intimated that photography is part of the arts world. If the Minister would mention his visit to the photographers' gallery it would do good for our newly formed photographic society and for all the people who are working in the industry.

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing attention to the importance of photography which is expanding in this country. I was glad to have had the chance to visit the photographers' gallery.

I urge hon. Members on all sides of the House to back the activities of arts bodies in their own constituencies and to encourage them to take full advantage of the sponsorship incentive scheme and tax changes. Of course there are problems and pressures. They are largely the product of success. The rapid expansion of the arts has led to even sharper competition in claims for resources. There will always be more good causes than the Government can afford to satisfy.

I am impressed by the way that arts organisations are grappling with the challenges and are doing all they can to develop a variety of sources of income. They are determined to use both public and private sector money to expand. This Government are determined to do everything possible to enable them to succeed.

5.26 pm
Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent. Central)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: 'deplores the Government's failure to invest adequately in the arts and media; in particular condemns the Government's budget allocation to the Arts Council of Great Britain for 1987–88 which represents a cut in funding in real terms; regrets that the Government does not appreciate the importance and impact of the arts on the economy and employment, or the true value of arts projects to the regions and communities in those regions, who remain it a relative disadvantage by comparison with Central London; and calls on the Government to take positive steps both to increase and widen the audience for the arts and to promote policies which offer a greater diversity of opportunity for artists and producers, and which widen choice for the audience or consumer.'.

I welcome this debate and applaud the Government for providing the House with an opportunity to discuss the arts. I believe, as far as I can establish from research, that this is the first time in more than 35 years that any Government have tabled a substantive motion on the arts, and I congratulate the Minister. I suspect that this afternoon that will be the last time that I congratulate him. Hon. Members on this side of the House — and, I suspect, some of the Minister's supporters—are baffled over why he managed to persuade the Government to table the motion. We are no wiser, having heard the Minister's speech, because he has nothing new to say.

We have heard the old, tired congratulations of himself and his Government, wrapping the success of artists and companies in the country around the Government's lack of policy. We have heard the Minister referring to a strategy and then failing to mention what that strategy was. The Minister really said nothing. The Government have very little — indeed, nothing—to be proud of in their arts policy. The Minister gave only two new elements of his policy, both of which he had previously announced. The first was the give-as-you-earn payroll scheme, which does not come into effect until next month anyway. He gave no estimate of the possible effect of that scheme. The Minister will find, if he speaks to any director of a regional theatre, that there is great scepticism that even substantial arts clients will benefit much from that scheme.

Mr. Cormack

Is the hon. Gentleman against it?

Mr. Fisher

I am not against it, but I do not think it will solve the problems in the regions. The Minister knows that and was unable to give any estimates.

The other interesting scheme that the Minister noted was the business sponsorship incentive scheme involving comparatively sizeable sums, from £9 million to £11 million of Government money. I am sure that the Minister will agree that, although 70 per cent. of it is spent outside London, the main regions that are benefiting are the south, the south-west, Scotland, the eastern region and the Greater London area. The Minister will recall a book recently published by the Policy Studies Institute on the whole problem of regional imbalance in arts funding. Those five areas take up the lion's share of arts funding, and that imbalance is what "The Glory of the Garden" strategy was seeking to address.

Inevitably, and hardly surprisingly, the business incentive scheme is growing and concentrating in those areas all the resources that have been kindly provided by industry. More than 50 per cent. of the cash goes to those five areas. The Minister must understand that this scheme, although revealing and assisting various interesting projects, far from addressing the imbalance in arts funding, will be increasing the imbalance indirectly and through its own relative success. The Minister must address himself to that problem and be candid enough to recognise that it is a problem.

The Minister referred to the wide range of activities that the scheme is encouraging, but he knows, because he has the figures from the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts, that the main interest is in music and theatre, which account for 237 schemes. Literature accounts for five awards and sculpture for three. Two of those literature awards are in Cheltenham, which is not notably deprived of arts projects and resources. The Minister must understand, if he is being straightforward with the House, that this scheme will be unbalanced both geographically and in the sorts of arts projects that are likely to benefit.

I hope that the Minister will understand that and be more sceptical about the success, in the national perspective, of all our arts and media that will be addressed by that scheme. I thought he might have been providing himself in this debate with an opportunity to announce something substantial and attractive like an easement in the Arts Council grant. That was very optimistic of me, although he would have received congratulations on both sides of the House if he had done so, and we would have welcomed it. I suspect he might have done so, if he had had the nerve and been able to respond to my right hon. Friend and to fight his corner with the Treasury. At this time of year, many budgets are often underspent, through no fault of their own, and sometimes through bad administration.

The Secretary of State for Wales shakes his head. It may not be so in the Welsh Office, but I ask the Minister for the Arts to check with the Secretary of State for the Environment whether English Heritage is not substantially underspent this year to the tune of £9 million.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Nicholas Edwards)

The Welsh Office is not underspent, because I have launched the largest programme of arts support ever undertaken in Wales, including the £15 million expansion of the national museum of Wales.

Mr. Fisher

Hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies would be more satisfied if the Secretary of State would do something to save the Sherman theatre in Cardiff. If the right hon. Gentleman will address himself to that, he will receive congratulations from both sides of the House.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

May we take it that Labour Members from Wales are reasonably satisfied, as not one of them is present?

Mr. Fisher

They are probably receiving petitions of anger and despair about the Sherman theatre at this very moment.

Will the Minister look into the rumour—I put it no higher than that—that English Heritage is substantially underspent, and will he lay claim to the funds involved as the Arts Council and the regional arts associations could spend £9 million very constructively?

I thought that the Minister might say something about his arts patronage scheme. On 13 January, when he opened the excellent Royal Academy exhibition of 20th century British art, he said: I am exploring the possibility of a modest scheme which will enable government departments to brighten up their working environment by exhibiting promising work by young artists. Reporting that speech, The Guardian said: One idea is for prints of an original work to be made and distributed to those buildings most in need—notably local social security and unemployment benefit offices. The Minister continued: Contemporary art in this country deserves more encouragement from all of us.

The Minister seems to have difficulty recollecting that interesting initiative. What has happened to it? Why was there no reference to it in his speech today? Did he perhaps regret those off-the-cuff remarks at the Royal Academy and tell his civil servants quietly to drop the matter? As on so many other points, the Minister had nothing to say about that today.

The Minister attempted to associate himself and the Government with the popularity and success of artists and their work in this country, but nothing could be further from the truth. Last year, the Arts Council base budget rose from £110 million to £113.8 million. The increase was less than the rate of RPI inflation, so it was cut in real terms, to go with the cut in real terms that the Government have imposed on local authorities and their ability to respond to the arts needs of their communities. It is hardly surprising that the chairman of the Arts Council, Sir William Rees-Mogg, described it as a blow to the arts in Britain. That is the truth about Government funding of the arts, but it was not among the success stories described by the Minister.

It is scarcely necessary to weary the House with examples of major arts clients who are doing excellent work but who have either received no increase in funding, due to that cut in real terms, or have had their budgets and their valuable work cut back. Like the Prime Minister, the Minister for the Arts will no doubt say that this is to do with the international climate. He suggested it indirectly when he referred to overweening bureaucracies in other countries and praised his own Department for its leanness and smallness. In fact, comparable countries spend far more on the arts. Italy spends the equivalent of £274 million on subsidised arts. West Germany spends £15.77 per person per year. Sweden spent £24.82 per person in 1980–81. The equivalent figures in this country are £7.20 for England, £6.90 for Wales— [Interruption.] Those are the PSI figures. [HON. MEMBERS: "Too much."] I thought that someone said, "Rubbish." Compared with other countries, they are certainly rubbish figures. The figure for Scotland is £9.30 per person per year. In France, arts funding is 0.86 per cent. of total Government expenditure. In the United Kingdom, it is 0.34 per cent. Why do the British Government, almost uniquely in Europe, refuse to fund the arts as other countries recognise that they should be funded?

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that France boasts a music inspectorate which spends more money and employs more people than does our Arts Council? Does he agree that it is better to have a sparse bureaucracy so that the available money can be spent on the arts?

Mr. Fisher

If that were only true, but the money is simply not there. More money is spent on music in Graz, Austria, than in the entire United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman should appreciate that that is nonsense and that funding for the arts in this country lags behind the rest of Europe where its importance is recognised. It is no wonder that morale among audiences, administrators and artists is at its lowest ebb and that the Government have succeeded in uniting the arts world against them as no other Government have ever done. Artists and administrators are angry at the Government's failure to fund the arts properly.

The Minister referred rather courageously to the British library, but the story is less wonderful than he suggested. The Office of Arts and Libraries, in conjunction with the Property Services Agency, is engaged in the largest civic construction project that this country has seen for years. The Opposition do not dispute that the British library should have a new, unified building, but it is strange coming from a Government who set the value of the public library service so low that 200 public libraries have closed since 1979.

Mr. Luce


Mr. Fisher

Those are the facts.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

I know that the hon. Gentleman has a special interest and expertise in relation to libraries, as I believe that he was chairman of the Staffordshire library committee, but does he regard the cuts to which he has referred as the fault of the Government or the fault of the county councils or library authorities concerned? The amount of money made available has increased, to decreased, but it is a matter of the priorities given to these matters by the library services.

Mr. Fisher

Library committees and chief librarians throughout the country would love to respond to the needs of people using the library services, to provide decent book funds, new libraries and a whole range of new information and services, but they cannot do so. Two hundred libraries have closed, 500 fewer people work in libraries than in 1979 and book funds throughout the country have been cut by 34.2 per cent. although public use of libraries has increased. That is an appalling record and the Minister should be ashamed of it. We await his annual report with interest. I hope that it will be more substantial than last year's puny document.

Mr. Luce

It will be several pages longer.

Mr. Fisher

I hope that they will be pages of apology to people who use public libraries and to the public library service.

Mr. Luce

The hon. Gentleman seems not to realise that there are more books in public libraries than there were 10 years ago when the Labour Government were in office. What standards should we be seeking?

Mr. Fisher

It is easy to exchange figures, but the Minister has not responded to those that I have given, from the Library Association, that 200 libraries have closed and that book funds are 34.2 per cent. down on 1979. That is a disgraceful record. If the Minister tries to tell the public library service that he has done well, librarians of all political persuasions throughout the country will disabuse him. Any librarian in the country can tell him that they are strapped for money and for book funds.

Mr. Tony Banks

Is it not a fact that unless librarians go around burning books, even with declining budgets, the number of books will increase? Is not the Government's policy just the political equivalent of burning books?

Mr. Fisher

I agree with my hon. Friend.

The point that we were discussing when we were sidetracked was whether the British library is in safe hands. I believe that the public has a right to expect the Minister's Department, which is responsible, to be competent. Instead we find that in its first two stages the building is £112 million of public money over budget. Even when the Minister has gone back and looked at the accounts, started juggling the figures for VAT, increasing the allowance for inflation, indulging in the creative accounting of which he so disapproves when local authorities indulge in it, it is £25 million over budget. At such a rate, some experts estimate that the building may well cost as much as £1,000 million.

The Minister may say that it is structured in modules so that the Government can withdraw at any stage. I doubt whether that is correct. Will he confirm that the first stage, which is about to be completed, will not have adequate reading room facilities and therefore that it is inevitable that it will have to proceed to stages 1B and 1C? If that is the case, the modular system hardly has any credibility. Also, if that is the case, and stages 1B and 1C are inevitable, why have they not been costed and scheduled? Given that the Minister has lost control of the budget of that amazingly large building, does he not owe it to the House to account for it? It is hardly surprising that the Comptroller and Auditor General is currently looking into the matter. The House will await with some curiosity and apprehension his report on the state of the British library building.

There are other areas that we must deal with, apart from the British library. Perhaps the most immediate and serious is the whole question of museum charges. We have a Government who will not adequately fund museums but are happy to let the natural history museum and three other museums impose charges on 1 April. What a pathetic April fool the Minister is making of himself and his Government. On that day—Conservative Members may not realise this—children who do not happen to have £1 will be turned away from those museums as will pensioners and the disabled who do not have £2 or a family with two children which does not have £6. Is that what the Minister wants? What a disgraceful record.

Is the Minister not aware of the fact that the original charter of the British museum proclaims proudly that its collection is intended for the use and benefit of the public who may have free access to view and peruse the same. The public may not do that under this Government, even though charges will cause a slump in attendance. When the national maritime museum in Greenwich introduced charges in 1985, attendance slumped by 36 per cent. The Victoria and Albert museum introduced so-called voluntary charges, although there is considerable pressure on visitors to pay, and it saw attendances drop by 40 per cent. Is that what the Government want? Surely any Government with any sanity would want to widen access, particularly among young people, and increase attendance, but not this Government apparently.

We must accept the fact that we are dealing with a Government who really do not care or value the arts. They have completely failed to address the need to widen audiences or participation in the arts. Black and Asian communities account for 4 million people in our society, and I am glad that the Arts Council is developing a policy to address the needs of that substantial number. In spite of that, they feel that under this Government their arts are arts that Britain ignores, and they have every right to feel that.

The Government's physical and financial neglect of the arts stems from their blinkered view of the arts. For the Minister and the Government the arts remain essentially dance, theatre, opera, orchestral music, sculpture and painting. I was glad to hear the Minister utter the word jazz. I have never heard him say that before. It was good that he recognises that the definition of the arts is a little wider. Jazz may be his personal interest and I am delighted to hear him say so, but I believe that the funding priorities of the Government and everything that the Minister said show an essentially 19th century view of the arts. I would have liked to include literature in the list but, unfortunately, the literature budget of the Arts Council has been cut by 43.6 per cent. in real terms in the past two years.

All the areas of the arts I have mentioned are vital and excellent means of expression and communication. They are the bedrock of our arts, but they ignore the realities of the past 50 years. The arts today encompass publishing, broadcasting, radio, television, video, film, fashion, design and the new technologies of satellite and cable. Every one of us in the House probably watches television and video more often and listens to more records and the radio than we go to live concerts or the theatre.

Mr. Boyes

I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend expand the list of arts areas. However, he concluded his list without mentioning photography. When my hon. Friend becomes the Minister for the Arts after the next election, whenever it may be, will he give me an assurance that he will be mentioning photography in his list in future and supporting it as an important art form in Britain?

Mr. Fisher

I willingly and gratefully accept the admonition from my hon. Friend and I add photography to the list.

Those are the realities of all our lives as individuals and the communities that we are fortunate enough to represent in the House. The independent commercial arts in the commercial sector are as much a part and as vital to our culture as all the subsidised traditional arts. In spite of that, we hear little about them from the Government. They are certainly not included in this Ministry. They should be, but they are not. We see before us not the Minister for the Arts, but the Minister for part of the arts. The Government do not seem to understand the full range and scope of the arts. They are out of tune with the reality of all our lives. They are out of date, and I hope that they will soon be out of office.

The Minister may be beginning to catch a glimmer of that in his understanding. He has recently commissioned, as he told the House, a study of arts economics. It indicates —I hope that it is true—that he is beginning to become aware of the fact that the arts are not a drain on the Treasury but are a plus. The arts are a major industry and employer. To see just how major he can look at many of the studies that are being produced. "The Economic Influences of the Arts in Cornwall" is being produced by Cornwall county council and South-West arts. "The Economic Importance of the Arts on Merseyside" was produced last year by Merseyside arts.

The institute of employment research at Warwick university had a recent study which showed that libraries,, arts and sports will be the fastest growing area of employment in the next 10 years, increasing by 30 per cent The Minister's own study will. or should, show him that estimates of arts-based tourism may be as high as £5,000 million a year. The arts employ literally hundreds of thousands of people in our community. The payback from the arts in VAT, national insurance and income tax to the Treasury probably means that the subsidised arts cost the country virtually nothing. Therefore, when the Minister says that he cannot afford to increase the subsidised sector of the arts, he misunderstands the economic impact of the arts and their industrial importance.

I was glad to hear the Minister refer, for the first time that I have known him do so, to the export earnings of the record industry in 1985 being $495 million. The same is true of the publishing industry which this year will top £2,000 million turnover and which last year had a net surplus in exports of £550 million. When our deficit on balance of trade in manufactured goods may well top £8,000 million this year, that is an area of our industrial life and economic activity that has a substantial surplus and is growing. The Minister would do well to remember that and, when responding to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyme (Mr. Sheldon) in taking his case to the Treasury, I recommend that he presses that point because I doubt whether there is a single Department of State in the Government that is in balance of trade surplus in that way.

The next Labour Government will recognise those realities and bring together not only arts and libraries, museums, galleries and crafts, but bring with them publishing, photography, film, press, video, satellite and radio in one unified ministry for the arts and media. Our policies—

Mr. Buchan

Will my hon. Friend repeat his last sentence, because I was sacked for saying it?

Mr. Fisher

I willingly repeat it, and hope that the thunderbolt does not descend upon me, and that I do not reach a demise, in the Minister's terms.

Our policies will make a priority of widening the audience for such activities. They will make a priority of increasing choice for the audience and the consumer; of widening opportunities for the artist or producer; of ensuring that the freedom of expression and independence of the artists and producers is paramount; of devolving arts activities to the regions and to communities within those regions; of opening up our airwaves to community radio; of re-regulating television to increase the access of independent producers; and of establishing a British screen authority to give a firm foundation to an indigenous British film industry. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnston Smith) is not in his place, because I know that he has expressed an interest in the British film industry and the BFI.

Above all, we shall make the arts and media for the first time a statutory responsibility for local authorities and provide an element in the rate support grant to finance those activities. That step more than any other will transform the arts in the communities that we represent, and in regions throughout the country. Conservative Members have often said in the last few months that they support a devolution of the arts from central London. I hope that when we introduce those policies in the next Parliament they will back them to ensure that communities can respond to the needs that they undoubtedly have.

The Minister asked how much it would cost. No doubt Conservative Members are using their calculators—the technology may even come to them — and are also asking, "Where is the money coming from?" But, unlike this Government, we shall ensure that the money will come—

Mr. Luce

Where from?

Mr. Fisher

If the Minister will restrain himself for a moment, he will hear where the money is coming from.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

The IMF?

Mr. Fisher

That is not one of the Arts Council's clients.

Unlike the alliance, we shall not get the money from tax incentives. The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) has talked about the arts a good deal recently outside the House, now that he is beginning to understand that there are votes in the arts. However, interestingly, he has never spoken about arts in the House, certainly not in this Parliament. Sadly, he is not in his place today. He may be in Truro, counting his votes before they are cast.

The right hon. Gentleman said in a speech to the SDP arts session in February 1986: What the arts need is a tax incentive structure similar to that in the USA. Like so much of what the right hon. Gentleman says, it was sadly ill-informed. Perhaps he should stick to subjects which he knows about something. Clearly, he knows absolutely nothing about the arts. I am more generous than my hon. Friends; I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman must know something apart from his own undoubted good looks, on which he is an expert, because he gazes at them every day. Our arts need a United States-type tax system like a hole in the head. It is a system which every year sees major orchestras, opera houses, theatres and festivals go bankrupt. Last year, in California alone, the Oakland symphony orchestra and the San Diego orchestra went into liquidation because of that wonderful tax incentive scheme that alliance Members so praise and laud.

Mr. Freud

Oh, no.

Mr. Fisher

The hon. Member says, "Oh, no." We have another alliance split. The Liberal party says, "Oh, no," and the right hon. Member for Devonport says, "Oh, yes." As the Minister says, it is difficult to know what the alliance stands for on any subject.

Mr. Dicks

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that the orchestras had to close down because people did not want to pay an economic price to listen to them play?

Mr. Fisher

Now we have a Tory split. Again, the public will not know whom, to believe—the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) or his right hon. Friend. They will be confused. At least the Labour party has a credible policy. I am sure that my hon. Friends will agree that the party is solidly and proudly united behind that policy.

The Secretary of State for Wales—I am glad that he is still in his place, and I appreciate his attendance—asked where the money was coming from. Our funding will come from a wide variety of sources. Some will come from central Government on the basic arts budget. There will be a new one-off capital fund for housing the arts, because so many of the arts buildings in our constituencies are in a dire state of repair. Money will come from the rate support grant, and from local authorities responding to the needs of their communities. It will also come from audiences and from the public, and an expansion of arts provision will lead to expanded income for arts clients.

The money will also come from private investment. We shall encourage local authorities to support the arts in a wide and plural way, not only through grant and subsidy as at present but through loans, investment and underwriting of activities. Local authorities will act not only as providers through grant and subsidy, but as enablers of activities. If Conservative Members wish to complain about that, I shall be interested to give way to any of them. There will be a substantial increase: they will see how substantial it will be.

While this Government persist in their blinkered approach that the arts are just the subsidised arts—and very badly subsidised at that—their priorities are wrong. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) has been very quiet. No doubt he will soon be talking about military bands. He has done such a superb job for military bands that they are funded by the Government to the tune of £48 million a year. There can be no hon. Member who represents a constituency so superbly as the hon. Gentleman, who has succeeded in getting £48 million for his own peccadillo while the rest of the music world longs for such funding. Under this Government, because of the ingenuity of artists and administrators, the arts will survive. But that is no thanks to the Government, and opportunities will be lost.

Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark)

At a conference on the arts last week, the hon. Gentleman spelled out the Labour party's policy in some detail. One of the planks that he gave his audience was that spending on the arts would be doubled. Is it not interesting that he has not repeated that pledge today? Or has he abandoned it already?

Mr. Fisher

The hon. Gentleman was in attendance at that conference for only a few minutes. The conference was organised by the Arts Council but, apart from a speech by the Minister, it was sadly ignored by Conservative Members. The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) gave some figures for our spending plans, but I did not, although I talked about a substantial increase. The hon. Gentleman's memory has played him false.

The arts need from the Government not only funding —even in its present inadequate form—but a lead. It is interesting that yet again — the Minister and I have debated this in the past—there has been no vision from the Government. We heard about strategy, but the only words that I could grasp that had anything to do with strategy were that the Minister would ensure continuity and stability. What a sterile and depressed lead that is to give to the arts. All that he is offering is continuity and stability —the continuity of more cuts, I suspect, and more reduced funding.

The arts and the media are our means of expressing and defining our culture and ourselves as individuals. They are a means of criticising and challenging our values, our beliefs and the way in which we see each other. They are the most concentrated way that we as a nation can express what we believe in, what inspires us and provokes us, what reminds us of our past and gives us hope for the future. That is a word that the Minister could not offer. He could not offer any hope to the arts. We live in a society with very little hope because of the new realism that has been forced on it by the Prime Minister.

We are faced with a depressing and bleak future. However, there is an alternative. People's opinions are important. They can be expressed and the arts give a chance for communities and individuals to express themselves, to define their culture and their relationship to each other and to give them some hope, dignity and possibility for the future. The arts cannot do that while the Government are here and refuse to fund audiences or artists in expressing those hopes for the future. Under a Labour Government, the arts will be able to begin to do that, and will do that.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. This is a short debate and short speeches might be appropriate.

6 pm

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

I will try to obey your injunction, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, first on behalf of all hon. Members, I should congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) on a maiden speech from the Opposition Front Bench. Rarely has there been such a maiden speech containing a string of perorations interspersed with a mass of contradictions. Conservative Members have a fond affection for the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central because we still hold his father in the highest regard. When the hon. Gentleman speaks, he still betrays that he is a little bit of a chip off the old block. His courtesy and the real demonstration that he was not educated at Grange Hill endear him to us.

The strength of arts policy over the years has been the fact that it is largely bipartisan. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central went a long way towards destroying that this afternoon. However, on one point I can go along with him. There is a measure of agreement on both sides of the House with the recommendations on museum charges made by the Select Committee on Education, Science and the Arts in 1981–82. That all-party Select Committee report expressed the view that charging was acceptable, but that there should be certain categories of exemption. It should be up to individual institutions and their trustees to decide whether charges should be made, but it believed that the categories to which the hon. Gentleman referred should be exempt.

I want to thank and congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister not just for ensuring that we have the first debate, as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central said, for some 35 years on a substantive Government motion on the arts, but also for what he has done in battling valiantly in difficult times. He has not achieved all that I should have liked him to achieve, but, by Jove, he has achieved a great deal.

All Conservative Members can be modestly proud of the Government's record. At the risk of wearying the House — I shall not cite more than two or three examples—we should remind ourselves of some of the milestones that have, with all-party support, been erected during the past eight years: for example, the creation of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, which was a very significant achievement, and the transformation of the Historic Buildings Council and the Ancient Monuments Commission into the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, again with all-party enthusiastic support and a very much bigger budget. We must also remember the Government's response to the recommendations in the Select Committee report on the in lieu provisions. We now have a much more satisfactory and workable solution to that problem.

I can point to a specific example in my constituency. The Government have saved Weston Park, one of the most gracious and elegant English country houses which, because extra money was made available a year ago, has now been saved, with its contents, for the nation. A private trust has been set up so that Weston Park can continue to be enjoyed and seen by many people.

All these are significant achievements and my right hon. Friend the Minister has been particularly successful in generating extra enthusiasm for the whole concept of business sponsorship.

However, it would be churlish if, in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Minister, we did not remember that he is the fourth Minister for the Arts in the past eight years. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), the present Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and the noble Lord, Lord Gowrie made significant contributions. Their work has been widely recognised and welcomed. They succeeded Ministers from previous Labour Governments who also made notable contributions. The right hon. Baroness Lee, whom I had the good fortune to defeat in 1970 to become a Member of this House, was the first Minister for the Arts. I always like to think that we have a strong bond between us in our common love of the arts. Baroness Lee, Lord Donaldson and others, have, in an all-party sense, made their contributions.

When we consider the subject, we are bound to agree that there has been an advance since the Select Committee took evidence in 1981 from Sir Kenneth Cork, the then chairman of the Royal Shakespeare theatre. He said: The very small call we can make on the National purse in terms of the economy as a whole is justified because of the dividends we bring to the country's economy through the expenditure of people coming to the theatre, and outside the theatre, but Her Majesty's Government does not recognise this, and appears to look upon us as a lunatic charity.

We have come some way since then. There has been real progress and Sir Kenneth would be unlikely to make that statement if he came before a Select Committee of the House now.

Not that that means that all is well or that everything is right. My right hon. Friend the Minister referred to the British library and the money that he has been able to extract from the Treasury — would it were more. The fact is that money spent on the arts is about the most cost-effective of Government spending. People who talk about subsidies in disparaging terms make me very angry. In the German states the prince provided money to enable the opera to flourish in his state, and in the 19th century donations were made by rich people in this country to the arts and a similar thing happened in the United States. Indeed, there has never been a time when the box office has paid for everything and there has never been a time when great collections have been amassed without donations from individuals or Governments.

There is a real need for sizeable contributions from central and local government. That need will remain. My right hon. Friend the Minister has recognised that. I am particularly glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales is present. All Conservative Members are very sorry that he is not standing at the next general election because he has done more for the arts in the Principality than any other Secretary of State for Wales. The Principality will, for generations to come, have cause to be thankful for what he has been able to spend in the Principality from public funds. He is rightly proud of that, as we all are.

Having said that, I want to be mildly critical, because many things still remain to be done. As I have said, arts spending is the most cost-effective way of spending public money and the returns are enormous. The budget in national terms is minuscule and we could do with more money. I hope, for instance, that very shortly the Minister will be able to ensure that the Royal opera house can go ahead with one of the most imaginative plans that it has been my good fortune to see for a very long time. It will rely very largely on private funding, but it also needs ministerial support, blessing and encouragement. I hope that my right hon. Friend will refer to it, if only briefly, when he replies.

The all-party arts and heritage group visited the Royal opera house just before Christmas and we were all very excited by its plans. That underlines the aspect of consensus. However, I was slightly surprised at the rebuke delivered by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central to the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) in absentia.

When we produced the Select Committee report in 1982, we had all-party support, ranging from the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) to my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Brinton). That spans a wide political spectrum. The Committee included Mr. Christopher Price as Chairman. We all called for some American-style concessions. I hope that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central has got it wrong, just as I hope that he got it right when he talked about policy for which the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan), whom we all miss, was sacked from the Labour Front Bench.

I should like now to consider some of the things that need to be done. I shall single out a few of the Select Committee's recommendations which were made several years ago but which have not been properly recognised. We called for the creation of a Ministry for the Arts, Heritage and Tourism…to absorb the work of the Office of Arts and Libraries and to concentrate in the hands of one minister of Cabinet rank all central government responsibility for the arts, libraries, film, broadcasting, heritage and tourism. That was an all-party recommendation. Of course, it does not lie with my right hon. Friend to implement that recommendation. It would be discourteous and ridiculous in the extreme to rebuke him for the fact that it has not been implemented. I hope that he will convey to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the fact that many hon. Members still believe that that is the right way forward.

Mr. Tony Banks

Will the hon. Gentleman remind the House how many recommendations were in the Select Committee report and how many of them have been implemented by the Government?

Mr. Cormack

The hon. Gentleman has anticipated my next remark. I was going to make the point that there were 77 recommendations. How many have been implemented is an impossible question to answer with total precision because bits of recommendations have been adopted.

Mr. Buchan

indicated assent.

Mr. Cormack

The hon. Gentleman is nodding vigorously. Some of the recommendations have been adopted more or less in their entirety—such as the in lieu recommendations — but many others could be implemented to the benefit of the arts in general.

Although my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts has started to report to the House, the reports are not quite of the length and detail which we had in mind in annual arts White Paper for which we called.

The Select Committee said that six months' formal notice should be given to an arts organisation if there was to be a significant alteration to its level of public grant. If that recommendation were implemented, it would relieve the anxiety of many people. My right hon. Friend the Minister has made statements from which I infer that he is sympathetic to that approach. I hope that we shall move quickly in that direction.

I do not wish to prevent other hon. Members from taking part in the debate by making too long a speech; I do not want to follow the example of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central. In recommendation 29 the Select Committee said: The skill and expertise of the Crafts Council should be called upon by the Manpower Services Commission when devising schemes for the training of the unemployed and of young apprentices. It is time that t he crafts were given a proper recognition. There is nothing demeaning about following a craft — indeed, quite the opposite; there is everything noble and proper about doing so. The way in which we almost look down upon those who work with their hands, as distinct from those who apparently work with their brains, does none of us any credit. To be a craftsman, one must have an intuitive sense and a keen brain. I have been involved in helping to persuade one or two organisations with which I have a connection to sponsor a new craft fellowship scheme called the William Morris craft fellowship. This year, we have selected four young people —three men and one woman—who will follow a course for six months and learn a range of new crafts. We hope that they will become leaders in their companies and not merely supervisors but high-grade supervisors who, by their infectious enthusiam, make others want to follow the crafts.

Mr. Tony Banks

Will the hon. Gentleman join me in hoping that those people also become Socialists, like William Morris?

Mr. Cormack

If William Morris were alive today, he would not recognise on the Opposition Benches the ideals for which he strove. The hon. Gentleman left himself open to that comment.

I hope that the Government will realise that, in supporting the crafts, they will be doing many things. After all, all the grants through the heritage memorial funds and elsewhere are of little benefit unless there are the craftsmen to do the restoration and people who have skills to pass on to future generations. A great deal of public money could be used profitably—I mean "profitably" in every sense—in encouraging young people to go into the crafts, working in environments that could only help to uplift them.

I trust that my right hon. Friend the Minister will have early discussions with my right hon. and learned Friend the Paymaster General and others to ascertain what can be done to encourage more people to go into the crafts —not just young people but those who find themselves unemployed later in life. They often can learn a craft or skill and so bring back a new meaning, purpose and hope to their lives. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central talked about hope. This is a good example of where one can bring hope to individuals.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

I have listened with interest to my hon. Friend. I share his view on the importance of encouraging good craft training. Does my hon. Friend feel that the new city technology colleges might offer the opportunity to establish centres of excellence in craft training? That might be among their strengths.

Mr. Cormack

I certainly would not rule that out, but I must admit that that idea had not occurred to me. This is not to decry the concept, but I would much rather that money were put into cathedral workshops and such places to build true craft centres in an environment in which young people have the very best of the past all around them, and the challenge and vision that that presents.

I wish to obey the injunction to make short speeches, so I shall not continue much longer. We have much to he pleased about, although nothing to be complacent about. I am glad that, at the end of the debate, it is unlikely that there will be a major Division. That is good because certain issues transcend petty party differences. Since the war, there has been reasonable consensus which was only challenged—jokingly, I hope—by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central.

Mr. Buchan

The hon. Gentleman is almost right. It is true that there has been bipartisanship between the hon. Gentleman and two or three others, but there is a big division when it comes to that bunch of moronic philistines on the Conservative Benches with whom he has associated.

Mr. Dicks

Quite right.

Mr. Cormack

I gather from noises off that my hon. Friend accepts that rebuke as a compliment, but I think that the majority of my hon. Friends do not The Government do not deserve that stricture. No Government are perfect in all respects of their policy. Although I have not been backward in criticising the Government from time to time, I believe that we have made significant achievements in the heritage and the arts, and my right hon. Friends the Minister for the Arts and the Secretary of State for Wales and all their colleagues have every reason to be proud of them. I congratulate them on what they have done.

6.18 pm
Mr. Clement Freud (Cambridgeshire, North-East)

If too, congratulate the Government and thank them for this debate—the first in 35 years, which is longer than some of us have been Members. I should like to take up one point made by the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack). He said that he hoped that there would not be a major Division. I do not know what a "major" or "minor" Division is, but a motion That this House congratulates the Government on the success of its arts policy must be resisted by all those who feel that the Government deserve scant congratulations On their arts policy.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

Is it not a major division when the Liberal party wants to abolish the Arts Council and the SDP wants to retain it?

Mr. Freud

I am sorry that I gave way to the hon. Gentleman, but it was right for him to ask the question. I shall deal with it later in my speech. On something as fundamental as self-congratulation on an arts policy, those who feel that congratulations are not due have a duty to vote against the motion, which bemuses me.

I had lunch today with the great and good Lord Goodman and he asked me, "What is happening in your House this afternoon?" I explained this motion to him and told him that the Prime Minister headed the cast list of those who supported it. He said, "I hope that the Prime Minister has taken out thunderbolt insurance." One cannot blame Lord Goodman's sentiments, for it would be hard to find any director of films, theatre or museums who felt that the Government deserved congratulations on the success of their arts policy — not Sir Peter Hall, David Puttnam, or Sir Roy Strong. Not infrequently I meet the Minister at arts venues and he knows that there is little admiration for his Government's policies. I am saying not that the arts are unable to look after themselves, but that they deserve more support than they are currently getting.

I do not wish to personalise, but when one looks at the names on this motion—the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer—one realises that it is not exactly a list of supporters of the arts. The Minister is lucky to have got into the list in sixth place. It would have been depressing had he been left out altogether.

We are probably the only country in which the office of Minister for the Arts is combined with the office of Minister of State, Privy Council Office. That is as unrealistic as having one person in charge of the police and broadcasting—which, of course, we also have.

I should like to talk about the policy of the alliance. We have frequently said that we should create a broadly based Ministry of the Arts and give parliamentary responsibility not only for photography, but for films, theatre, broadcasting and recreation to one Cabinet Minister instead of making those things the less favoured responsibility of the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of the Environment, the Home Office and the Department of Education and Science.

The Minister had his little weekly rent-a-joke at the expense of Liberal policy, SDP policy and alliance policy. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel ) wanted to know why one of the parties in the alliance was originally in favour of an Arts Council while the other one was not. The difference in opinion was quite simply on the constitution of the Arts Council. Both parties in the alliance were totally in favour of the arm's-length principle.

Both parties wanted an Arts Council that was better funded and more reactive and that spent more money outside London than in it. Whether this was to be a boosted regional authority or a stronger London base was a matter upon which, until we became an alliance, we had our own separate arts policies. We did not publish our alliance policy until "The Time Has Come" came out in January. The Minister spoke about that publication and has possibly read it.

The problem with the Government's arts policy is its short-termism. We have suggested that there should be endowments to provide long-term stability rather than have our arts staggering from crisis to crisis, which is what is the current scene. That would avoid theatres and centres of art having to spend money at the end of the financial year so that the cupboard is bare when the following year's application is made. I know that similar spending occurs in many constituencies where at the end of the financial year all the council houses suddenly have their front doors painted in a new colour because there is no other way to incur instant expenditure and to exhaust the budget before applying for more money.

If arts funding were properly planned, the rewards would be given to saving money and not to spending it. That is crucial. Our policy, which is enshrined in print, would be to double in real terms the funding of the arts over the lifetime of our first Parliament. We are greatly in favour of sponsorship when it comes along, but one must accept, as the Select Committees accepted over the years, that sponsorship can only ever provide a small percentage of the money that is needed by the arts. Sponsorship is the sizzle, but it can never be the steak.

A system of public domain royalties as practised in Italy and France is attractive. Under that system a playwright or an author, when he comes out of copyright, does not immediately allow his work to be used or published without payment. We hope to introduce a system whereby for a play that is out of copyright the royalties, at a lower percentage if the artist is dead, could go into the public domain and be used for the training and support of young people seeking to pursue a career in music, the theatre, or whatever it was that the out-of copyright artist created.

I should like to speak about centres of excellence in which the authors and directors currently seem to make much more money than the centres, which take all the risks. I do not for one moment accuse Trevor Nunn or Sir Peter Hall of making more money out of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" or "Amadeus" than was earned by the theatre, but we are persuaded to emulate the terms of contract currently given to the directors of museums.

If the director of a museum, who is a well-paid civil servant, writes a book or makes a speech while he is a director, the moneys go to the theatre or museum that he represents.

Mr. Buchan

I am not at all sure that the hon. Gentleman has got that right. It is possible if it is like the recent cases in connection with the Ashmolean museum or in relation to the Burrell collection that was sought by the curator, but those cases are different. If someone like Sir Michael Levey writes a book, as Sir Michael has done recently, on an arts subject, he will receive the copyright royalty payments in the same way as anyone else. Surely the crucial thing about the dramatic producer is that he helps part of the creative process and, to the extent that his production is part of the creative process, I am perfectly happy to allow an element of copyright to remain with him in addition to the payment for his work as a professional director.

Mr. Freud

I do not contradict what the hon. Gentleman says. Even in the best of all worlds one cannot introduce retrospective legislation. It is right that if somebody is well paid and has the interest of his centre of excellence at heart, what he does during the time that he is under contract should substantially benefit his place of work.

The Minister has talked about the British library's extra grant of £20 million. I am concerned about that. The library has harmed the other museums and libraries in that they too could have done with that support. The Minister will have some trouble justifying the emergency payment, for I have yet to meet anyone who knows enough about it. What will be the running costs? What will be the number of staff and on what sort of contracts will they be? I am enthusiastic about the British library, but I am concerned that an awful lot of money is being used that would otherwise be available to the arts at large.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The hon. Gentleman has made an important policy statement and I want to make sure that I understand it. Is he saying that it is alliance policy that the director of an institution, such as a museum or the National theatre, would not be able to have any earnings through his writings or his other creative talents? That is a revolutionary step if the hon. Gentleman is really suggesting it.

Mr. Freud

I can tell the unrevolutionary right hon. Gentleman that there are many contracts in which museum directors are not paid for such work, and the royalties that they receive while directors of the museum go to their museum. I was simply stating that this is something of which I would approve.

When I was education spokesman, I used to argue that the microcosm of Liberal education policy was the Open university, in which there is something for everyone; one can be young or old, well or handicapped, a city dweller or living in the country. The Open university gives people a chance and then a second chance and is a marvellous instance of what our education policy is about.

Now that I speak for the arts, I feel that the Edinburgh festival is something that should be looked at with care and consideration, because in Edinburgh during the festival good things happen that should be happening in the arts around the land. The local authorities are helpful, the landladies are co-operative and there are fewer housing problems because people support the Edinburgh festival. There may be specific problems, but what we see in Edinburgh, is good. The city embraces the arts—music, orchestra, ballet, opera, concerts, theatre, people dancing in the streets—and lets them perform in waiting rooms that are not needed.

Not only should we give such encouragement to the arts. We must create a climate in which the arts can flourish and we have to accept the people who take part in the arts as respected members of the community. Perhaps that is where we are most wrong. In France, Germany or Italy, a competent itinerant musician is a respected member of the community. He can get a mortgage, borrow money and have a bank account. Such things are extraordinary difficult in this country for artists because we treat artists of quality as if they were itinerants first, artists second. That is the wrong attitude.

There are items to be welcomed in the motion. One should not spend one's entire speech knocking it. I welcome the sponsorship scheme, although there is something ugly about congratulating oneself on having found other people to discharge one's responsibility. I quite welcome the marketing scheme, although I am sorry that the limit is £10.000, so that it is confined to people who can produce half of that —£5,000. On the whole, those who most need marketing are probably those who least have £5,000.

An alliance Government would look at the basements of national galleries and museums and consider raising money for the living arts from the dead wood that is often so expensively preserved from death watch beetle. We would make it a duty on developers to spend I per cent. of their development costs on arts-related projects, be it sculptures, painting or proscenium stages. We would look at the millions of pounds that should go to the arts but find their way into Christie's and Sotheby's. The latter employs the former Arts Minister, who could not cope on his Government salary, at a salary of £ 150,000 a year, mostly from money made by commission on selling bits of our national heritage.

While we are cleaning up the City, it might be time to clean up the arts market, because nowhere will one find more laundering of money than takes place in the big arts auction houses. It is absurd that, while the City is trying to identify holders of small percentages of company equities, the identity of people who buy a £7 million painting can remain anonymous.

There is no lack of energy in the arts. The apathy and lack of understanding come from the Government and from local government, which is often unco-operative and unsympathetic. The Treasury insists on taxing the performing arts and slowly killing the goose that lays such golden eggs. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks), with whom I debated theatre subsidy some weeks ago, is plain that he is against subsidy and has never found any good reason for it. Let me try to give him one good reason.

The town of Leicester has a brilliant theatre. Last year, it produced the musical "Me and My Girl", which was an outstanding success. The theatre is a client of the Arts Council and is well subsidised by the local authority. "Me and My Girl" could have run commercially for nine months, if not a year. However, is it right for a local theatre to receive money and present to the local people the same successful musical month after month? It is right that after a month or two a successful show should be taken off and replaced by other plays so that the same people can go to the same local theatre and witness other interesting productions.

Mr. Dicks

Would the hon. Gentleman take the same line if Leicester city football club, whose games are watched by many thousands of people, were in poor financial straits? Would he be advocating that the local authority or the Arts Council be subsidising that? My guess is that he would be saying no, because he would expect the club to survive on getting people to come into the ground and pay the economic cost. What is wrong with that?

Mr. Freud

By combining the arts and recreation, which an alliance Government would hope to do, all the responsibilities for civil entertainment would be under the same Minister. He would look with as much compassion at an ailing football club as he would at an ailing theatre.

The criterion would be quality and the wishes of the participating community.

Mr. Tony Banks

I suppose that there is something appropriate about "Me and My Girl" running for nine months, but does not the hon. Gentleman feel that a good performance of "Me and My Girl", like "Guys and Dolls" at the National theatre, has a great deal to commend it?

Mr. Freud

That is absolutely so, but it is wrong in one location in which there is a dearth of theatres and a substantial number of people who want to go to see a variety of theatrical productions.

An alliance Government would look with great care at the creation not just of enterprise zones for industry, but of enterprise zones for the arts. There is no reason why, for instance, key housing should not be given to an important artist — or photographer — rather than to someone who has a key job in industry. In our amendment we talk of the Government tinkering, and we use that word deliberately because there is not one decent, cohesive, long-term policy that will do more for the arts than save the Government short-term embarrassment.

There is no promise to legislate against philistine local authorities, which seem to be legislated against in respect of all other shortcomings. We are now on our fifth local government Bill. I would welcome a Bill which forced local authorities to contribute to the well-being, via the arts, of their people. I would welcome a Bill that realistically protected authors' and composers' copyright. I am convinced that in the Government's eyes the arts has a low position on the totem pole; it is our intention to raise that and put this in its proper place.

6.40 pm
Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

I was intrigued to hear about the lunch conversation that the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) had with my friend Lord Goodman. I was further intrigued by the advice that he gave to be passed on to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister about thunderbolts and insurance. Today, I lunched with no fewer than seven bishops, including the Bishop of Durham—I have not taken out any insurance—and here I stand about to make quite a gentle speech.

Being a gentle man and not having been at Oxford this afternoon—that is why the House is so empty—I might have put down an amendment, although I am quite sure that it would not have been called. It would not have been all that critical, but I would have said in that amendment that the House regretted that the Government had not felt able to find more money for the arts, but would promise to do better next time. That is not to say that I do not congratulate my right hon. Friend on what he has achieved. I shall not go over the catalogue of what has been achieved because it has been said well enough, even by the Opposition spokesman, and certainly by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack).

We must guard against the danger of neglecting the arts. We would be neglecting one of our greatest assets if we did that. We have achieved a lot in painting, sculpture, literature, drama, opera, ballet—

Mr. Boyes

What about photographers?

Mr. Crouch

—in television and in the art of photography. We have helped ourselves a lot in the process. We have earned respect, we entertain our visitors, we entertain ourselves, we earn currency and we pay the Government a lot in taxes. We put too much tax on those who attend theatrical performances. We pay a good return to the Government by attracting visitors to Britain, and pay a good return in reviving ourselves. The arts are entertainment, and life without entertainment is very dull. It is necessary to revive ourselves by a flourishing business of art in our lives.

We have given ourselves a pride in our achievements, our great works of art and great performers in the arts over many years. Even in recent years this is so. I mention just a few names—Henry Moore, Michael Tippett, Graham Sutherland, John Piper, David Hockney, Benjamin Britten, Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Laurence Oliver, Peggy Ashcroft, the Redgraves. I mention all the Redgraves, even the latest grand-daughter of Michael Redgrave, who is now performing in a star role in London. It is wonderful how our theatrical families continue the great tradition and heritage of acting which we, perhaps alone in the world, possess above any other nation.

Other great names have been mentioned this afternoon —Peter Hall and Trevor Nunn. We owe a great deal to them. We may criticise them because they criticise us, but it is a free country. It is reasonable for artists and people in the theatre to have a view, even on the financing of the arts.

Another great name was Margot Fonteyn. I remember seeing her dancing Swan Lake and afterwards being taken to see her with a friend, who was a great friend of hers, in her dressing room—a minute dressing room—which still exists today for the great stars at Covent Garden.

Members of Parliament complain about the space that is given to them when they come to this place for the first time. They should see where Placido Domingo sits or where Margot Fonteyn sat—a tiny little room for some of the greatest entertainers in the world. I hope that that will be put right when the rebuilding and redevelopment programme of the Garden takes place.

I should mention too, because there are Welshmen somewhere in the House I hope—of course there are, the Secretary of State for Wales is present—the great Sir Geraint Evans, who is one of our greatest opera stars. I shall mention, last but not least, a great opera singer who celebrated her 95th birthday this week, Dame Eva Turner. [Interruption.] I do want to get on. Does the hon. Gentleman want to mention another name?

Mr. Boyes

The hon. Gentleman has read out a list of names of great performers in their chosen field of art. I am sure that it was an oversight on the part of the hon. Gentleman that he did not mention any of the great photographers. Britain has made a great contribution to photography, not only through the artists, but also through the industry. I hope that he will include Bill Brandt, Julia Margaret Cameron and others in his list.

Mr. Crouch

I shall treat the House to a little anecdote. After my lunch with the bishops I joined the chairman of a great publishing house, Collins, together with the chairman of another great publishing house, Navostiof Moscow. They were celebrating an initiative for 100 photographers to go to the Soviet Union. On 15 May those 100 photographers, in the 15 states of the Soviet Union, will be taking photographs for 24 hours to record what will be called, "A day in the life of the Soviet Union". Having said that, I hope that I have put to rest this question of discussing photography for the rest of the debate.

I want to confine myself to the theatre and the state of it. I shall use a quotation and state where it comes from in a moment. Theatre is one of Britain's greatest cultural assets. It brings economic benefit to the country. It is a key element in the international prestige of a nation. It enlightens, informs and refreshes, every year, at least one in every three people in the country in its live form and many more in its televised and film forms…It supports the work of industrialists and businessmen by enhancing the reputation of our country. That is the quotation of a business man, Sir Kenneth Cork, in the Cork report, "Theatre is for All", which came out in September 1986. It is a business man's and accountant's report about the significance of the theatre in our society today. It is all about safeguarding our theatrical heritage.

I speak as the deputy chairman of the Theatres Trust, established by me by private Member's Bill in 1976 and extended by another private Member's Bill by me in 1978 to Scotland. The Cork report refers to the need to maintain the fabric of our theatres. The Theatres Trust exists to protect theatres from destruction and demolition to make way for offices, factories, shops or road programmes or to be converted into other uses.

The Theatres Trust has to be consulted by the local authorities and neither they or developers, can proceed without doing so. We have built a barrier of protection for British theatres. It is a matter of great pride to me that I was able to play a part in establishing a trust so strong and valuable to safeguard Britain's theatre today.

The Theatres Trust seeks to prevent theatres being converted to other uses, except for temporary uses such as dance halls, restaurants, discos and bingo. Such temporary uses do not rob the theatre of its real function — the performance of live theatre. If an owner or a developer wants to level the auditorium or to remove the stage, the fly tower or any other essential theatre feature, we protest. We are consulted by theatres from the smallest to the biggest; from the tiny provincial theatre with 200 or 300 seats to the National theatre and Covent Garden. They have to consult us about every proposed alteration.

Over the past 10 years we have been remarkably successful, acting with little money but much authority and with a lot of knowledge about the theatre. The members of the Theatres Trust council come from a wide range of knowledgeable people in the theatre — performers, impresarios, managers and lawyers. The chairman, dare I say—he has been mentioned already— is the noble Lord Goodman. One could not have a more remarkably staunch advocate and sustainer of the arts and the theatre than that distinguished person. Moreover, he understands the law at the drop of a legal document. I have never known a man so quickly to comprehend the difficulties that might lie ahead.

The Cork report wants the Theatres Trust to do more than we are doing already. The report suggests that we should take on the responsibility for a new capital reinvestment fund to provide for the maintenance and conservation of our older theatres. The report referred to a sum of just under £500,000 for that work. It goes further and says that we should be encouraged and assisted to become a National Trust for Theatre". One of the trustees is the director of the National Trust and it would he a wonderful thing if we did become the National Trust for Theatre. I would welcome that. We are a little way off it yet, but it would be marvellous news for everyone in the theatre, and for playgoers too, if a National Trust for Theatre was created.

Let me say a word about the London scene today. The Theatres Trust today owns the freeholds of two West End theatres—the Garrick and the Lyric. I hope that it will not be long before we can obtain the freehold of one of London's greatest theatres — Henry Irving's Lyceum. That theatre has been dark for over 40 years yet it is one of the most magnificent in London, if not in Europe, with 2,300 seats. If it were restored it could once again be a home for great drama, Shakespeare, ballet, modern dance and opera. It is tragic that such a great theatre is standing empty — a bleak house if ever there was one — when London needs another theatre of this size.

There are only three other theatres of such size for the performance of large productions in London today — Drury Lane, the Coliseum and Covent Garden. London needs the Lyceum to meet the growing demand for big theatres. If we could bring it to life again London, the theatrical profession, theatregoers and the English tourist board would benefit, and so would the Westminster city council.

The Lyceum is now the responsibility of the London residuary body which took over the freehold and properties that were once owned by the GLC. I know that the LRB is anxious that the Lyceum should be returned to theatrical use again. The most responsible body for ensuring that future for the Lyceum is the Theatres Trust. If we had £5 million or perhaps a little more we could start tomorrow. If we cannot have a grant, perhaps we could negotiate a loan. That theatre would pay. It would be packed because it would be one of the great theatres of London again.

I remember seeing the Lyceum in its last days just before it closed when I saw John Gielgud perform in his great production of "Hamlet" for four days only.

Mr. Tony Banks

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that had the GLC been allowed to continue in its democratic existence, what he is now talking about is far more likely to have come true?

Mr. Crouch

The hon. Gentleman has always shown an interest in the theatre and in the Lyceum, but he was not successful in bringing that about and it was a dance hall until it closed. Admittedly, having dances there did at least keep the rain out because the building was kept in reasonable condition, but it was not used as a theatre, except for one brief moment when "The Mysteries" was transferred by a friend of mine, Ian Mackintosh, from the National theatre, and there it performed to great audiences.

Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Globe theatre project at Southwark is highly commendable and Mr. Sam Wanamaker, who has battled for over 10 years to have that project approved, deserve the greatest praise?

Mr. Crouch

I agree and I am glad that my hon. Friend mentioned that. It is a wonderful project and it shows just how lively interest in the theatre still is. We have not forgotten our heritage and the need to sustain it.

I take my hat off to the great Canadian, Ed Mirvish, who saved the Old Vic. He did a great job there. I used to spend days there. I can remember paying Is 6d for the gallery to see Gielgud, Olivier and Ralph Richardson perform there. It is great that it has come back into its own. I am glad too about the Globe theatre project.

It is not just the Theatres Trust but the Government who should now make it a major objective in our policy and programme for the arts to recover the Lyceum and add it to our London theatres. I venture to say that we shall need this theatre in a few years' time in the 1990s when the Royal Covent Garden theatre, the opera house, has to be closed, as it will, for redevelopment and rebuilding, which is so necessary. It will be out of action for some years during that process. The Lyceum would be down the road, as big and capable of carrying on our great tradition of opera and ballet.

6.59 pm
Mr. Jim Callaghan (Heywood and Middleton)

Last Saturday night I had the privilege of attending art absolutely marvellous show that was produced by the Heywood amateur dramatic society. It was the musical "South Pacific." I received the invitation because I had helped the society to obtain the use of the civic hall and to get round some of the fire regulations. I enjoyed the show so much that, subsequently, I began to think about the cultural gap that is supposed to exist between the north and the south. I asked myself whether it existed. I do not believe that it does. Unfortunately, the north of England has been given a dreadful image mainly because of the cloth cap, "Coronation Street", Rovers Return, beer-swilling image.

Two weeks ago I mentioned my views to the regional newspaper, the Manchester Evening News. I was extremely surprised last night when I opened that newspaper and discovered a double page article exactly on that theme entitled, "Coronation St. The soap that has slipped on reality". I should like to draw attention to the author's conclusion: As an ambassador for the North West, Coronation Street tells a savage lie. Are we happy to be lampooned in such a way? I hope not. I hope that we are not being lampooned because of the image derived from "Coronation Street". I believe that the reverse is true.

Only a month ago I went along to the Manchester city art gallery and saw a fantastic exhibition on Sir Alfred Munnings. The gallery was full of visitors. I was delighted to see many children being given art lessons by their teachers based on Munnings's paintings.

A week later I went along to the Whitworth art gallery, which is owned and supported by Manchester university. I could not get a parking space within a mile of the gallery. When I eventually got in to see the Degas exhibition, I realised that it was a hopeless task because there were so many people all wishing to view it. I came out and said to myself that I would go again. About three weeks later I went back but the result was exactly the same.

Manchester, which for me is the centre of the northwest, has always been proud of its heritage. We possess the Hall¹ orchestra. In recent years a magnificent effort was made by the people of Greater Manchester to renovate the Palace theatre and bring it up to international standards. More than £1 million was collected by the people to renovate the building in the hope that it could entice the prestigious companies from London. I am glad to say that the Palace theatre managed it once, but then — I considered it an absolute insult—the company involved said it would not come again. Perhaps it was because of the cloth cap image. The company claimed that it could not return because of the finance involved in travelling to the north.

I welcomed the strategy contained in "The Glory of the Garden". Although London is obviously the centre of the arts, I do not believe that the north is getting its fair share of Government grants to help develop the arts. However, I did not want London to be robbed of cash to finance the north. Unfortunately, I believe that was what the Government were doing: they were robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Is the north getting its fair share? To answer that question I should like to quote the Arts Council chairman, Sir William Rees-Mogg, who expressed disappointment that the Arts Council's grant-in-aid for 1986–87 is more than £25 million below the figure it had sought from the Government. Sir William said: I am naturally disappointed. We had asked for £161 million which would have allowed for some expansion. The outcome is £135.6 million¹However, quite apart from the loss of expansion the grant for the next year will cause us and our clients"— those in the north of England — considerable difficulties. As the Arts Council has a shortfall of £25 million and as no money appears to be earmarked for regional development this year under "The Glory of the Garden", I want the Minister to tell us whether the strategy contained in that document is to be abandoned. If so, when will that happen? It would be disastrous for the regions, in particular the north-west, as the inequalities in the provision of the arts across the country remain massive.

I have often rasied on the Floor of the House the question of the funding of our art galleries and museums. Only a month ago I raised this subject with the Minister in Committee. I wish to raise it again. I was interested to discover that a national survey of more than 2,000 museums and galleries, undertaken by the museumsdatabase project funded by the Office of Arts and Libraries, reveals that every year over 68 million people—I stress that number—visit the country's national and local museums and galleries. A quarter of that number are tourists and obviously they are bringing much extra finance into the arts of Britain. More people visit museums and galleries than go to football matches or cinemas. I was astonished by that fact. I consider myself a sportsman and I enjoy watching Manchester United and Liverpool. Huge crowds watch football matches, but I was staggered by the fact that far more people—68 million—visit art galleries and museums.

However, our museums and arts galleries must cope with decades of neglect. I raised on the Floor of the House the experience I had when I visited one of our prestigious museums. While I was there, there was a sudden shower and I was astonished to see gallery employees putting out buckets and bowls to collect the rainwater pouring into the building. Some of the exhibits had to be moved.

That was not a one-off experience. Sir Roy Strong, director of the Victoria and Albert museum, came before the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts to explain his problems to us. He said of his building: The entire electricity system is rotten and catches fire". Just imagine if the system caught fire in a big way and consider the priceless exhibits that we would be likely to lose. He said: The whole radiator system is rotten and has to be replaced. The whole security system is also completely rotten. I do not know whether I should have said that, because it might give some burglars an idea to visit the place. He said: I inherited 13 acres of rotten roof. It is difficult to maintain facilities for scholars, students, polytechnics and tourists when there is this appalling building problem, let alone meet what the community needs now, when we are coping with decades of neglect". There is no doubt that the buildings under Sir Roy's control are in an appalling state and, because of inadequate Government funding, half the galleries in the museum are frequently closed.

At the Imperial war museum, fewer visitors negotiate the guns and the voluntary payment turnstiles. There has been a drop in visitors of 22 per cent. since December 1984. The 1984–85 report of the Museums and Galleries Commission cements what was said by Sir Roy and what I have seen. It states: Public expenditure cuts have affected the national museums directly, and university and local authority museums indirectly. In recent months few museums, either national or non-national, have been able to avoid reducing their staff, curtailing their services, restricting access to parts of their collections or closing altogether on one week day.

I have some direct questions for the Minister. Have the museums and art galleries been advised to undertake surveys of their repair and refurbishment needs? Have the museums and art galleries expressed any concern about the state of their buildings? Will the Government provide the resources for any necessary major programmes of repair, or will they be expected to find resources from the private sector or elsewhere? Will there be a separate Vote for museum building repairs? Why does not capital spending by central Government on museums and art galleries appear separately in the Government's public expenditure White Paper? Are there any other major plans in the pipeline?

When Sir William Rees-Mogg produced the garden strategy, he quoted Kipling. He used the garden as an analogy and said that gardens are not made merely by singing, "Oh, how beautiful!" and then sitting in the shade. That was an implied criticism of armchair critics. It is necessary to find more money to support the garden strategy, and against that background I, too, shall quote Kipling, but a different passage: Ere yet we lose the legions, Ere yet we draw the blade, Jehovah of the Thunders, Lord God of Battle, give us aid! It is aid for the north-west for which I am asking.

7.12 pm
Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

It is always a pleasure to hear Kipling quoted, especially by Labour Members, as it is something that seldom happens. I congratulate the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan) on quoting Kipling at the close of an interesting speech. I hope that he will forgive me if I do not take up his remarks in any more detail.

At the end of his speech the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) asked for more policies. I can never understand the point of view of people who say that there must be more policies. It seems to me that we have far too many policies. When it comes to the arts, we need a Mrs. Beeton and not Joan of Arc. What matters are results, not policies. We need results, and my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts is producing them. He has told us of some of the results and he should be most warmly congratulated on what he has achieved.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) seems not to understand that what is meaningful in the arts is people's perceptions and not money figures. Anyone listening to the hon. Gentleman might have received the impression that what matters most is the amount of Government money that is provided, as if subsidy is an end in itself. He seemed to suggest that subsidy is a policy for its own sake, which, of course, it is not. Subsidy is not an end but a means to an end. What matters most is that the arts are buoyant, that they enrich and enlarge people's lives and provide enjoyment and stimulation on a growing scale. Provided that the arts are flourishing, it does not much matter whether that is the result of public demand, sponsorship or subsidy, or something else.

The arts are flourishing partly because Britain has a healthy economy. The economy is booming and people are spending more on the arts. It is partly the consequence of a flourishing economy that the arts are going well in Britain almost as never before. There is a great flowering of talent. The London theatre, which we have heard about from my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), is well patronised and going like a bomb. It is quite difficult to get into most of the best theatres. More people go to the theatre each year. Indeed, more people go to theatres than attend football matches. Opera is flourishing and so is ballet. Concerts are going well. There is a vast range of orchestral concerts, chamber music concerts and solo concerts. Attendances at symphony concerts over the past five years have increased by about 20 per cent. from 900,000 to 1,112,000.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, spoke of the need to widen audiences. If that increase in the number of people attending concerts is not widening audiences, I do not know what is. The hon. Gentleman said that more subsidy is made available on the continent. That is probably right. More Government subsidy is made available in France than in the United Kingdom, but London has three times as many concerts every year as Paris. What is the use of providing more subsidy if there are fewer concerts to attend?

Without doubt London is one of the arts capitals of the world. It is none the worse for the abolition of the Greater London council. The south bank — the royal festival hall, the Queen Elizabeth hall, the Purcell room and the Hayward gallery — seems to be rather better run now than they were under the GLC.

Mr. Tony Banks

What about the rest of London? I do not want to deny the hon. Gentleman's predictably cheap point.

Mr. Jessel

There is nothing cheap about it.

Mr. Banks

Would the hon. Gentleman not accept in his wiser and quieter moments that the GLC did a great deal for the arts in London, including the south bank?

Mr. Jessel

It did a great deal for the arts, but the overhead administration of county hall was hugely expensive. The present south bank board is doing at least as well without that vast administrative superstructure in county hall.

The museums are doing well too. As the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton has said, about 68 million people visit museums every year. As my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts has told us, a new museum opens every two weeks. Our heritage and the arts generally bring many tourists into the country and their spending, not only on the arts but on hotels, restaurants and shopping, generates income and employment. I believe that the entire House is united in its acceptance of that. This provides a tremendous strength to Britain; and the arts world plays a tremendous part in bringing this about. The Government play their part and both they and the arts world should be congratulated.

Sponsorship has multiplied fortyfold from about £500,000 10 years ago to about £20 million now. It was astonishing that a Liberal party document of a few years ago described sponsorship's importance as merely peripheral.

Sponsorship can be local as well as national and in my constituency Thames Television, which has studios at Teddington, sponsored, two years ago, a local concert whch raised £12,000 for the Save the Children Fund's "Famine in Africa" appeal. Thames Television is sponsoring another concert in a couple of months' time in which I happen to be taking part.

Mr. Buchan

What sort of part?

Mr. Jessel

I am playing a Mozart piano concerto. I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not regard that as what he described about an hour ago as philistine. This time the concert is in aid of the Teddington memorial hospital's new X-ray scheme. Thames Television has a particular link with that hospital.

Other local companies, such as Squires Garden Centre, have generously sponsored other charity concerts. I am asking all arts bodies in my constituency that are registered charities, such as the Hampton choral society, the Twickenham choral society and the Teddington choral society, to notify all their members of the payroll giving scheme, which starts in April 1987, following the Finance Act 1986. This will help provide more money for the arts through individual support because those who become involved in the scheme will obtain tax relief on their contributions. The Government should be warmly congratulated on introducing such an excellent scheme.

I shall just make four short requests of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts. The first concerns BBC Radio 3, which is unique in fostering a love of music in Britain. No other country has anything like it. Radio 3 and the BBC promenade concerts which are linked with it are greatly valued national assets. The BBC has a new chairman and a new director-general, both of whom are unknown quantities as to their view of the musical side of the work of the BBC. Will my right hon. Friend the Minister approach the BBC and ask it for an assurance that its splendid musical tradition, primarily through Radio 3, will be upheld, and that music will be provided with a fair share of the BBC's resouces?

Secondly, have the Government dropped the idea of a levy on blank tapes? In fairness to the music world, I hope that they have not dropped the idea and that they intend, when parliamentary time allows, to proceed with something of that kind.

Thirdly, I refer to value added tax on antiques at auction. London is pre-eminent in auctions of works of art. Sotheby's, Christie's, Phillips' and Bonham's bring prestige and trade to Britain. The Common Market is considering imposing value added tax not just on auctioneers' commissions, but on the whole value of each article. That would be crazy. It would drive trade not just out of Britain but out of the European Community and to other auction centres such as New York and Geneva. I hope that the Government will take a firm line and stop any such thing happening.

Fourthly, military bands are a characteristic part of British heritage. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central spoke generously of my support of this most worthwhile cause. I could not understand the hon. Gentleman, who is articulate, erudite and learned in the use of the English language, calling it a peccadillo. If military bands are peccadillos, let us have more peccadillos. The high standards of excellence of British military bands are inextricably linked with the Royal Military school of music at Kneller hall, Twickenham, which has trained Army bands for 129 years. Last year, 164 of my right hon. and hon. Friends signed the early-day motion stating that the status quo should long continue. This is the 17th time on which I have raised the matter in the House. I have had 12 meetings with different Ministers — one with the Prime Minister and 11 with different Defence Ministers.

Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)

Will my hon. Friend confirm that military bands not only provide pleasure in his constituency but morale-raising spirit throughout all constituencies?

Mr. Jessel

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support. Military bands are a great asset to the nation.

Although military bands are a matter primarily for Defence Ministers, who are expected to reach a decision soon — they have been saying "soon" for months. — I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts will not mind if I mention that I hope he will support it because military music must be a form of martial art.

Mr. Fisher

Will the hon. Gentleman, who knows much about the subject, confirm that £48 million is spent on military bands each year?

Mr. Jessel

That is the cost of all bands of the Army, the Royal Air Force, and the Royal Marines. It is not only the cost of training them, it is the total cost of running them. That is excellent value for money. Not only do they help to promote recruitment to the Army but they are trained to serve as medical orderlies in wartime. As part of the British arts, heritage and tradition, they help to attract to our shores visitors whose spending generates income and employment. They help to increase the number of people who stay in hotels and spend their money here. There is thus a valuable tax yield for the Government. They should be fully supported.

7.24 pm
Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)

Over the past hour or two, I have been wondering whether I should speak in this debate. I changed my mind several times. I found it extremely difficult. I feel a little like St. Sebastian in innumerable renaissance paintings. With the exception of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan), I had the impression that we were listening to a type of lying-in-state series of speeches. There has been little sign that the arts fundamentally matter. They have tended to be a little cream on the top of the cake. I cannot think of any other country in which the arts are so fundamental.

The expression of news, popular opinions and ideas is undertaken by the press, which is owned by three people. It is a frightening monopoly. If that happened in any other part of our industry or economy, it would immediately face the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. Five people control the dissemination of popular news in this country—Stevens, Maxwell, Murdoch— [Interruption.] Is that the question that hon. Members put? Is that the contribution that I get? Five people control the dissemination of news and information throughout Western Europe. There is Berlusconi, who is in France. That is a terrifying control of expression.

We have heard about the arts tonight and we have, in effect, wandered along the south bank. People express themselves through the arts. That is what the arts are fundamentally about. They say something, as Sam Wanamaker of the Globe theatre said. I remember Sam Wanamaker not only because of his work in the Globe theatre and the extra grace that it will bring to London but, because of McCarthyism, he was expelled from America because he wanted his art to say something. That has been missing here.

I have heard comments about the structure and funding of the arts. The level of funding is ludicrous when we consider the importance of our major form of expression. When we look at the press monopoly, the matter becomes even more serious. Were it not for the fact that we have a community-regulated broadcasting system, there would be a virtual monopoly of one shade of political opinion. When regulated broadcasting attempts to express other views, the chairman of the Conservative party, in his other role as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, intervenes to attack.

Over the past two years increasing timidity has affected our most important cultural jewel, British broadcasting. I shall provide a comparison which is not separate from the arts. Two years ago, an attempt was made to ban "Real Lives", a programme about Northern Ireland. It required the intervention of the Home Secretary before the governors acted to prevent the programme from being shown. Two years after that, the "Secret Society" programmes about Zircon were banned by the BBC. In other words, within two years, the Home Secretary's intervention was not required. Timidity and anxiety had been pre-empted in the BBC and it acted to apply self-censorship. That has been the effect on broadcasting.

When there is a monopoly on opinion and expression in this country and the regulated broadcasting structures suffer from it, we have only the arts to express ideas and views. We shall not get such expression in Murdoch's newspapers. Alan Bleasdale wrote "The Boys from the Black Stuff". People such as he say a great deal more about social and political life than our legislation does. If people were asked where they last saw a play about unemployment, they would not say that they had seen it on the south bank or in the Royal Shakespeare theatre. They would refer to the set of three plays that they saw on television called, "The Boys from the Black Stuff."

I remember what happened to those boys. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) and I have referred to the monstrosity of unemployment, but those three plays said more about unemployment and fixed it more firmly in the consciousness of the British people than any other play. It drew their attention to the outrage of a Government and a society that can cause this to happen to human beings. The words that were used in that play have passed into the folklore of this country. The arts matter because they say something.

I have listened tonight to comments about subsidies, and as I listened I wondered whether those hon. Members understand what people need. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) referred to authority over broadcasting. I wish that he would spell it out. Ten years ago my party accepted that broadcasting matters so much to the cultural life and expression of this country that it had to be taken away from the Home Office and given to an arts Ministry. We alone in the world have put broadcasting, the jewel of our culture, into the hands of a Ministry of the Interior. The Minister who orders the police to attack the Wapping pickets, who orders the special branch to go into the offices of the New Statesman and who bangs open the door of Duncan Campbell's house and takes out the tapes, documents and scripts relating to a set of six programmes is also in charge of broadcasting. The Minister who is supposed to safeguard freedom of expression, is also responsible for TI division in the Home Office.

I am holding in my hand a document that refers to BBC finance and to the TV licensing system. Under the heading "T1 Division", paragraph 7 refers to Press freedom including Press Council matters and proposals for a statutory right of reply. Therefore, a Minister of the Interior is controlling a central element of our civilisation and culture. That is why the Labour party and the trade union movement said 10 years ago that we had to bring it under a Minister and a Ministry whose main concern was freedom of expression, not censorship and the distortion and compression of expression.

I inherited that policy three years ago. I did not invent it; I was fortunate enough to inherit it. However, that policy has been rejected.

Mr. Fisher


Mr. Buchan

If it has not been rejected, my hon. Friend had better spell it out for me, because there has been a change of policy since I was sacked for saying it. I regret the fact that no new powers will be given to our Labour party shadow or real Minister under the amended proposals of the national executive committee. However, he will have a say. He will be allowed to discuss policies with the Home Office and the Department of Trade and Industry.

The policy amendments have also wiped out films and the press. My hon. Friend ought to look at the amendments on pages 39 to 44. I hope that he wins the battle. Unless my hon. Friend tells his colleagues and comrades in the Labour movement that this battle has to be won, he will not win it. I did not win that battle. Therefore, he has not inherited a victory from me. I shall back him up in his fight.

I gave a pledge to double expenditure on the arts. It was a modest increase. 1 sought to double the £140 million that is given to the arts. Arts expenditure is only 1/1300th of the entire public expenditure. The Labour party will honour that pledge to double the funding for the arts. At the last meeting—the meeting at which I was sacked— the battle for the £140 million was won; and an additional £40 million for museums.

We do not need formal structures for the arts. We need structures that will involve the people as deeply as possible. It is not sufficient for a Minister with responsibility for the arts to have only one role. It is wrong that he should be presented with a cocked hat and a sword and that he should only be asked ceremonially to open various projects. He has very little else to do. He cannot use his initiative. If something is not doing too well, he cannot intervene and inject a little cash. There is a case for adopting an arm's-length attitude, but this Tory Government do not accept it. They accepted the Priestley report—quite rightly in terms of money—but they drove a coach and horses through the arm's-length principle. The Arts Council says that it cannot take money away from the four national institutions because that would not be in accordance with Government policy. That is to be found on page 13 of "The Glory of the Garden".

Furthermore, the arts should not be under the direct control of the Government. When names are submitted to the Prime Minister for appointment to the board of governors of the BBC—and no doubt for appointment to the Arts Council—she asks, "Is he one our ours?" That seems to be the appointment criterion. The arm's length principle does not apply. The Arts Council should have an independent voice and should speak for the arts and for the regions. We have allowed the arts to be dominated for far too long by establishment London. I am referring not to the whole of London—to Islington, Hackney, Brixton, or Newham — but to establishment London. That policy has to be changed. People who live elsewhere than in establishment London also want to be able to see good plays and operas.

Conservative Members criticise the subsidies to the arts. However, arts subsidies mainly subsidise those who support the Conservative party—the middle class and the wealthy. Even if the price of seats at Covent Garden were to be reduced, they would still be beyond the reach of most working people. Access to them can be brought about only if we allow the Arts Council to speak for the arts and the regions. We must also create strong regional bodies to develop the arts in the regions. We need regional arts development boards instead of the client responsive regional arts associations. Expertise is also needed in the regions. For far too long the regions have looked to No. 105 Piccadilly for expertise. If those objectives can be achieved, the Arts Council will be able to speak for the arts in Britain.

There should also be arm's-length discussion of funding for the arts. The Labour party would give the Arts Council, or a national arts body, the statutory right to publish its analysis of the economic state of the country, and the Minister would be under a duty to publish his response in the form of a White Paper that could be debated in the House. On that basis the arm's-length principle would be a reality. The Labour party would provide direct funding for the regional arts development boards. They would then be responsible for the direct funding of their clients. The Arts Council would be directly funded, and again the arm's-length principle would be achieved because the Arts Council would fund directly the national institutions.

It is most important, however, that sufficient money should be made available to the arts so that they are not put at the mercy of sponsorship. It has been argued by the Minister that sponsorship means additional money coming to the arts. It is only over the last two or three years that the money for the arts has been cut in real terms. That has taken place at the same time as there has been an increase in sponsorship. Sponsorship is seen not as an additional source of funding for the arts but as a substitute for proper public funding. [Interruption.] The Minister for Trade has plenty of money; local arts theatres have not got such money or even pictures like the one that he and his family were able to sell. That sale could have funded several theatres. The hon. Gentleman made more out of one picture than most theatres get for an entire year in subsidies. Yet he sneers. What a party the Conservative party is.

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Alan Clark)

That is an historical inaccuracy.

Mr. Buchan

It is not even historical; it is almost contemporary in the hon. Gentleman's case.

As Mr. Joll of Pearson Incorporated said, his company prefers to sponsor exhibitions with which it feels comfortable. In other words, the safe, prestigious and glamorous will be supported but 7:84, M6 and Red Ladder will not be supported. But the arts that matter, not just the development for which Wanamaker was praised in the Globe theatre but the productions for which he was expelled from America, will not attract sponsorship. Sponsorship is being used as a substitute for genuine public funding.

Sponsorship of itself distorts the direction of the arts. That is the danger of too much love of sponsorship. It is not a case even of adopting the American method where public funding endowments undertake to give x amount of money to a theatre or orchestra if there is private funding. In that way, public funding is attracted to the productions that the community wants. But through their scheme the Government are forced to give money to whichever body the sponsor nominates. The sponsor decides where the public funding goes. Also, the body funded by the sponsor, be it a cigarette company or whatever, has to ensure that sufficient publicity is given to the sponsor to make it worth his while in advertising terms. So public funding is powerfully underwriting the advertising abilities of the private sponsor.

All that is against a background in which the Minister says that his policy is to maintain public funding but that all further development and expansion must come from the private sector. In effect, that means a cut because the inflationary element within the arts is much higher than the RPI or the general denominator. Therefore, there is a continual drain on public funding and a distortion of production to try to attract private money. The directors of theatres and arts organisations are being changed into fund raisers instead of acting as administrators and forward thinkers. That is the problem faced by the arts.

I come back to where I began. We are faced with an intense monopoly of ideas and of the creative arts illustrated by the lack of funding for British films and for British broadcasting which is now to be frozen while the private and commercial sectors will be allowed to drive ahead. Last week's Green Paper proposed that with the development of commercial radio the obligation to inform, educate and entertain would be removed. That duty was laid properly on the BBC and upon independent television, but it is to be removed from commercial radio. Therefore, it will also be removed from commercial television. In other words, the BBC will be forced into competition in which it is regulted and will have to obey its instruction to inform, entertain and educate, but the commercial sector will not be subject to such regulation.

What sort of free competition is that from the party of free enterprise? It is an attempt to follow through the principles of Peacock, who said that there should be a free for- all and that cash should decide. I must point out to the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) that when that happens there will not be freedom. The hon. Gentleman said that the BBC could choose on what to spend its money, but it can choose only between the things that are provided. If they are not provided on a full scale, it will have very little choice. There has been talk of hundreds of commercial community radio stations. If there is a free-for-all and if they are opened up without regulation and control, we will end up with a monopoly such as there is in the press.

In his report, Professor Peacock said precisely that. He gave the example of the free press which has developed in Britain since 1694. He proposed that that should happen also to television and broadcasting. But the free press that existed for almost 300 years has degenerated into a monopoly of three people. If that is to be the model, the same will happen to television. [Interruption.] Hon. Members should not tell me to hurry. There is much to be said on the Opposition side of the House; we have had too much of nothing being said on the Government side, so I shall take another few seconds.

If Professor Peacock's proposal comes into force, there will be no choice. The only choice will be between different soap operas, because the duty to inform, educate and broadcast in commercial serious programmes will go. This is not an elitist concept. It is as important for the guy who is interested in coarse fishing or rugby as for the person who wants opera. Diversity of programmes is not an elitist concept. We must understand that. It is nonsense to say that opera is only for the few, much as that view has been promulgated. As the broadcasting channels have opened up to opera, so the audiences for opera have expanded.

Because of the monopoly problem in broadcasting and the press, we decided on the policy for the arts and culture that my hon. Friend will implement after the next election. We must open up access to television by ensuring that there is a large number of programmes from which to choose. There must also be participation. Hence we developed the concept of the open cultural university. Just as the Open university was brought into being in the 1960s, so we have in local communities a conglomeration of resources such as arts schools, colleges, and schools with music and art studios, which could be used as a campus to develop a participating open cultural university analogous to the educational Open university.

All that is possible and necessary. Three weeks ago I went into the Coats factory in Paisley, one of the major cotton spinning factories in Britain since the industrial revolution. Fifteen years ago, 15,000 people worked in the cotton mill; today, 350 people work there. I went into workshops larger than this House with no one in them. The bobbin spinning was controlled and completely automated. The 350 people in the factory were firemen, doorkeepers, sweepers, packers and drivers. We are moving into an age where. if we can have control and ownership of the new technologies, we can open up a richness of life in which the arts will be an active and necessary part of developed thought and thinking.

The poet McDiarmid, in his poem "Returning to Glasgow from a Long Exile", describes a man returning to Glasgow and seeing a crowd coming back from Ibrox park, and he asked a newsboy, "What's on, has there been a big game?" The newspaper seller said, "No. Where have you been? There is a debate going on between Professor McFadzean of the philosophy department and a Spanish philosopher, and the whole of Ibrox stadium is full." McDiarmid says, "I looked down the road and there was a newsboy selling newspapers, and he was shouting, 'Read all about it, Turkish poet's abstruse new poem.' Holy snakes, the papers were selling like hot cakes."

If we have control over our own lives instead of leaving control of technology to a few, in a world in which broadcasting can be fully opened up to the people of this country and not be left to Maxwell and Murdoch—who have already brought in the satellites—if we understand that people want to do as well as to watch, to say things as well as to listen, we can use the arts to enlarge and enrich our lives. If not, we will allow our people to atrophy, not through choice but because we have limited that choice to a few entrepreneurs of ideas. That is why we spend so much time on this subject. That is why the Leader of the Opposition and I can quarrel, because we know that the arts matter. I wish I had sonic impression that the

Government understood that. That is why we may yet touch the imagination of the people of this country and win, as we should win the coming election.

7.45 pm
Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)

I feel like the Labour worker after the Greenwich by-election result who awoke by accident in the alliance—he could not have felt more unwelcome. Having listened to this very warm and cosy debate this evening, I feel much the same.

I join my right hon. Friend the Minister in congratulating Charles Vance and his organisation on removing a white elephant from Hillingdon and turning what was a tremendous burden on the ratepayers of that authority into a theatre that is now beginning to charge the right sort of prices for the right sort of shows. I have a message for the Liberal-alliance spokesman, who is not in the House. If he is so keen on keeping open subsidised theatre, why did the Liberal-controlled council in Eastbourne close the local Devonshire Park theatre?

We have heard much about the phrase "the arts". What is or is not art is a matter for personal choice. If some people want to listen to an overweight Italian singing in his own language, so be it. If people want to waste time watching a man prancing about in a pair of ladies' tights on stage, that is their choice. But do not expect me and the rest of the people in this country to subsidise that choice. — [Interruption.] I beg hon. Members not to tell me that it is part of my heritage. There are other forms of art that are understood by the ordinary working-class people of this country. Professional football in many ways is an art form, so is watching Michael Crawford in "Phantom of the Opera". But there is one subtle difference. If I want to see professional football or watch Michael Crawford performing, I have to pay the full economic cost. I do not have to dress up in a dinner suit and bow tie or take a lady in a long dress and to say that I am desperately keen to go to the ballet or opera on condition that the taxpayer subsidises my ticket by £21.

It is a strange phenomenon in this country that last year an unemployed couple was paid £47.85 benefit a week to live on. The Government say that is all they can afford to pay them, but they will give that unemployed couple another £42 of the taxpayers' money to go to the ballet and opera.

My two daughters and my son enjoy pop concerts. As the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) rightly knows, they enjoy watching pop groups such as Spandau Ballet. They are young people and they resent being told by their elders and so-called betters that that is not art, that it is just a pop concert, that if they want to go there, they have to pay the full economic cost, but that if they want to dress up and look smart and take a taxi to Covent Garden, they can go in and the taxpayer will subsidise them to the extent of £21 each. Young people say to those who tell them what arts are, "Mind your own business, we shall find out and decide for ourselves." I say hear, hear to that.

Mr. Tony Banks

I am grateful to the hon. Member. His muscular approach to the arts is well known in this House. Does he recall the fact that Spandau Ballet performed at the Royal Festival hall when it was being run by the Greater London council? Unfortunately, he probably also knows that those people put up Spandau Ballet because they thought it was a ballet from Spandau.

Mr. Dicks

The hon. Gentleman has not told the House that he was chairman of the arts committee at the time, which makes it even worse.

We have heard about this wonderful place called Covent Garden. The Sunday Times printed an article about that fantastic place where six performances of a show cost £529,000. Total subsidised sales were £199,900. Private sponsorship contributed £150,000. The net loss was £179,000.

If ballet, opera and music are so good, why, even when it is subsidised to that tune, do people still not want to go? I cannot understand. Any other organisation in any industry, working on that basis where it could not attract people to attend would be bankrupt. Football clubs have said that they cannot keep going and that they need aid. The Government Front Bench says, "Sorry, you must live in the real world. You paid high transfer fees and you have to suffer the consequences."

A Mexican opera singer, whose name escapes me, received £10,000 per performance, but we do not tell Covent Garden that it is paying him too high a fee and that we shall not subsidise it. Indeed, the Prime Minister went on stage after listening to an opera and said that the Government will continue subsidising because "the arts are essential". Who said that her definition of the arts or that of my right hon. Friend the Minister is correct and that the definition of arts by myself and my daughter with regard to pop concerts and soccer is wrong? How dare people say that by one definition the arts are part of our culture but that by another definition they are not?

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley)

If the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington was referring Covent Garden, it could be that its costs are so high that it is impossible to charge an economic price for a ticket. Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that part of the reason that Covent Garden has new proposals for redevelopment of the whole of that site, involving commercial activities which otherwise it would not really wish to embark upon, is to reduce the cost of running the operas and ballet, and to reduce the subsidy it will need?

Mr. Dicks

I do not doubt that the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) is right, but why is it getting any subsidy at all? If it cannot create the show, as it must in the commercial theatre, and secure sponsorship for it, we should say, "Hard lines; obviously people do not want to see it because they do not want to pay the price." Nobody says that. We have an Arts Minister. Why, with great respect, I do not know. It is a matter of supply and demand. It is almost as bad as having a Minister for Sport.

Mr. Jessel

Could not my hon. Friend apply most of his argument to the whole of education?

Mr. Dicks

With great respect to my hon. Friend, one could ask what sort of comprehensive schools the Labour authorities is running. Education is essential. I say that the arts are not essential but are a leisure pursuit depending on personal choice. Education is quite different from that and I do not think that it is a true analogy. The budget for the arts is £343 million. I appreciate that that includes National Heritage and museums, but I am most concerned with opera, music and the ballet. We give £151 million a year for these fat cats to enjoy ballet, music and the opera, yet we say to old-age pensioners during the bad weather that we cannot afford to pay the additional severe weather heating payment unless the cold weather starts on a Monday and ends on a Sunday. If it starts on a Wednesday and ends on a Tuesday, we cannot help them. We could say, on the other hand, "You can freeze or we can give you a good way of getting warm. We will take you to the opera and give you £42 for you and your husband to go in there and stay warm." That would be an excellent way for the Government to ensure that the opera was full and the old people were kept warm.

I think that I have made my point. To me, subsidy for the arts is upper-crust nonsense. The old argument is that we have always done it, everyone thinks that it is a good idea, it is bipartisan, so of course we should continue with it. Today's debate has not been about whether it is right to waste public money in this way. The debate has been about whether the money was spent wisely and whether there was enough of it. The whole thing is nonsense. It is time someone pointed out that the king is not wearing a new suit—he is completely naked. That is what I have sought to do as a Back-Bench Member.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his brevity.

8 pm

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

It is always interesting to hear the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) discoursing on the arts. In many ways, the hon. Gentleman is to the arts what James "Bonecrusher" Smith is to lepidoptery. His speeches are made additionally entertaining for the Opposition by the looks of horror on the faces of so many of his colleagues on the Conservative Benches. A few support the hon. Gentleman's view—I noticed one or two hon. Members from the Shed end of the arts come in to hear his speech—but it is very much a minority view even on his own side. That is a good thing because his views are philistine in the extreme, anachronistic and wholly unacceptable to any civilised body of thought.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman on just one point—the definition of art. I shall not explore that today, but the hon. Gentleman is right that the definition tends to be what white, male, middle-class people say that it is. I have never accepted that ice dancing, which uses movement and music with great grace, should be described as a sport while ballet is an art form. Rather than narrowing the definition, however, the hon. Gentleman should consider expanding it to take in some of the activities that he and his family take themselves off to enjoy.

By some strange coincidence, arts debates always seem to take place on election days. I believe that the last Government-inspired arts debate was at the time of the Euro-elections. Perhaps application for an arts debate should stand alongside application for the stewardship for the Chiltern Hundreds or the Manor of Northstead as a way of signifying that the smell of an election is in the air. In this context, I should put it on record that today's by-election arts debate was caused by the death of one of the few genuinely popular Members of Parliament.

The Minister laid great emphasis on private funding for the arts. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on- Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) made clear, the Opposition in no way reject private sponsorship, although we see it very much as just a little bit of stuff on top. One has the impression, however, that the Minister was emphasising it to cover up the low level of central Government support for the arts. He made a number of worrying statements in this regard which suggested that as private funding increases there will be great pressure on him—to which I do not think that he will be especially resistant—to reduce the amount of central Government funding.

My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr, Buchan), without notes, made one of the most eloquent speeches that I have heard since I came to the House, and one which I could not begin to emulate. He made the point that business sponsorship tends to go into the safe art forms, so that community arts and black art cannot look to business sponsorship for the funding that they so desperately need. Instead they must look to the dispassionate forms of art funding which can only come from local authorities, public bodies and the Government.

Much has been said in the debate about the revenue gained from tourism, which in 1986 amounted to no less than £5.5billion. There are many reasons why people in their millions visit this country, but I do not think that even the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington would contest the claim that most of them come to enjoy our theatres, museums, art galleries, concert halls, and historic buildings while few, if any, come to gaze at our office blocks, development sites and motorways, or at the tower blocks in which so many of my constituents live. People come to this country because of its rich diversity of culture, but we still tend to talk of subsidies to arts. Both sides have done so in this debate because one tends to lapse into that kind of description, suggesting that the arts are somehow a liability.

The very word "subsidy" puts the arts in a defensive position, which is wholly inappropriate in view of their great contribution to the nation's cultural and economic welfare. Using the word in that sense, it could be said that we subsidise defence and unemployment. Indeed, it could be argued that we have the best defended dole queues in the western world. In fact, we invest in education, in the arts and in other areas of creative social activity.

I do not believe that the Government really take the arts seriously, regarding them as the soft underbelly of public expenditure and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South said, as something of a luxury. The Government motion is complacent and, in some parts, downright untruthful, revealing an appalling depth of ignorance about the social and economic significance of the arts. The Government may twist and turn the figures, but, as I explained in detail in an Adjournment debate on the Arts Council budget for 1987–88, if that budget is measured against the retail prices index, there has been a real decrease of 3 per cent. in central Government spending on the arts since 1979–80. Moreover, as my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South pointed out, if we take the more accurate average earnings index we see that there has been a real cut of 22 per cent. in the arts budget since 1979. The Office of Arts and Libraries is responsible for a total of £339 million in 1987–88 — less than one quarter per cent. of total Government expenditure amounting to £148,000 million. That is the pathetically small amount that we invest in the arts in this country.

I wish to refer briefly to the part played by the arts in the cultural industries of this country—something that the Government and the Office of Arts and Libraries seem incapable of understanding and that the Arts Council is only slowly beginning to appreciate. We live in a industrialised nation that is fast becoming de-industrialised. That may be inevitable, given our position as the world's oldest and now decrepit capitalist economy, but there is little doubt that the Government's current economic policies are exacerbating the decline. We are living off North sea oil, squandering the family silver and heading rapidly towards the status of a banana monarchy without the benefit of bananas.

There is one area of economic activity which I believe holds enormous hope for the future; the cultural industries. By that I mean not only performing and visual arts but radio, televison, film, video, printing, publishing and other leisure activities mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher). It is a large and important sector of the economy with proven and future growth potential. Nationally, leisure spending amounted in 1985 to some £20 billion, or around 10 per cent. of all consumer spending. In London alone, the Greater London council estimated that about 250,000 people are employed in the cultural industries. The GLC also concluded that it was essential to develop an economic strategy for such an important sector of the economy.

Many Conservative Members would no doubt insist that we should let the market get on with it. Opposition Members do not agree. It is true, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central said, that most people have turned to commercial forms of culture for satisfaction such as records, commercial television, radio" films and theatre. However, there is a vital interplay between the private sector and the publicly supported art forms. At first glance the private sector might appear to be self-reliant and self-regenerative, but it depends in great measure on the publicly supported artistic base and both the private and public sectors rely heavily on the original ideas, talents and new art forms that make cultural changes in this country so dynamic. Those are provided by the so-called fringe theatre groups, the small literary presses, magazines, record labels and independent film and video makers. It is at that level that real cultural regeneration takes place, continually adding to the rich cultural diversity of our country which is so attractive to overseas visitors and which we all praise, but which so many of us do so little to nurture.

The growth of our cultural heritage will not stop whatever central Government do or, in this case, do not do. At a time when our wider economic prospects were more optimistically based, the case for Government involvement and intervention in the cultural industries was not so self-evident. Now, with alarming de-industrialisation of what was once the premier manufacturing nation on earth, the case for central Government involvement in the strategic planning of the cultural industries becomes overwhelming.

The Government spend tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on supporting industry and regard that as being a fit and proper use of public expenditure. Why not spend similar money on the cultural industries in terms of developing a proper strategy? The GLC drew up a strategy for the cultural industries as part of a wider industrial strategy for London. It proposed public investment and loan finance in addition to the more traditional forms of public support. The strategy was aimed at supporting the base of the cultural industries; those small independent concerns that have lost out in terms of exploiting their own success through problems in distribution, marketing and the tendency towards monopoly. It is important in economic terms to encourage diversification and plan developments in the cultural industries, but it is also important in terms of national culture, because otherwise the prodigious growth in communication technology will result in an unacceptable internationalisation of popular culture which will truly represent chewing gum for the eyes.

When future generations come to judge the quality of life in today's Britain, one of the first things they will look at will be the artistic legacy that we have left them, just as we have judged past generations by their music, sculpture, paintings and buildings. Investing in people's creative talents is one of the finest investments any country can make but it calls for a breadth of vision and imagination that the present Government, with their rather seedy street corner shop mentality, simply do not possess. The Labour party has that vision, and the future of the arts will look so much more vital and exciting when we have that Labour Government and when my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central is our Minister for the Arts.

8.15 pm
Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)

I feel like Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol", watching a whole succession of Opposition spokesmen. We have heard the Opposition spokesman Present in the form of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher), we have heard the Opposition spokesman Past, in the form of the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) and we may have heard the Opposition spokesman Future in the form of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). I will not follow the line of argument taken by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West except to agree, probably with all three Opposition spokesmen, that the arts are important. Having got beyond that first sentence, I fear that there is little further on which we can agree.

It is right to start any speech on this subject by reminding the House that the arts are important. Civilisation as we know it depends on flourishing arts. Whatever one's definition of artistic activity, there is no doubt that without it there is no civilisation. Therefore, it is important that we should debate this subject and consider the state of the arts in this country.

We seem to be discussing the way in which artists should be supported. After all, it is well known that artists cannot flourish in the commercial sense. There needs to be support of one form or another, whether it be patronage, subsidy or sponsorship. The debate is about which of those forms is to be pre-eminent. I do not want to spend long going down that path, but one has to face up to the fact that sometimes there is too much emphasis on subsidy, sometimes there is too much emphasis on sponsorship and sometimes there is too much emphasis on patronage. The balance between those three is a debate which could be taken up when there is more time available.

There is definitely a tension between those who feel that there should be more state intervention in the arts and those who, like myself, feel that there should perhaps be less. On the whole, I think that the Government have got the balance just about right. There is no question about the fact that either extreme would not be healthy for the arts or for the country at large. The Labour party, in the way that I understood its arguments, wants to take over the running of the arts in a way that would be damaging to our culture and traditions and would introduce a bureaucracy which could damage the arts in the same way as too much bureaucracy has done a great deal of damage to our education. I will not debate whether education is more important than the arts or vice versa, a subject introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks).

The Government's record is good on the whole question of the arts. The strategy of "The Glory of the Garden," which was introduced as a result of discussions between the Government and the Arts Council, quite rightly stimulated a flow of more resources away from London towards the regions. In my area of East Anglia, I can see evidence that that is working. I can see orchestras flourishing and I have attended concerts recently by the Peterborough string orchestra and there are many other examples which show that there is more activity in the regions. That is partly a successful result of the "Glory of the Garden" strategy.

I wholeheartedly support the Government's enthusiasm for private fund-raising and business sponsorship. I do not think that we have taken that too far; we can take it further. For example, in Norwich within the past few weeks local business men Roger Gawn and Francis Cheetham from the Castle museum received an award from my right hon. Friend the Minister at a reception because of their sponsorship of Norfolk museum's service, which has been highly successful. This was a well-deserved award.

To show the difficult choices that have to be made in the arts, particularly in East Anglia, I would like to mention the Theatre Royal in Norwich. That illustrates many of the problems we are addressing this evening. As many of my hon. Friends and, indeed, Opposition Members are fully aware, the Theatre Royal in Norwich has a good record of success, particularly in recent years, under the leadership of Dick Condon. That remark will gain support from all quarters of the House and throughout Norfolk and the wider area.

The Theatre Royal in Norwich is now at a crossroads in deciding how its future will develop. Recently, the independent trust under its chairman Mr. Geoffrey Marshall, to whom I spoke yesterday in the House, has taken the initiative to launch an appeal for £2.5 million for extra funds for the theatre. That appeal deserves support throughout the House, from local authorities and people in East Anglia. I hope that local people and businesses will not take this excellent theatre for granted and will respond enthusiastically and generously to the appeal.

The reason why the appeal is necessary at the moment is that there is an urgent need in the theatre for an upgrading of facilities and a general improvement of the building. There is a need for a larger orchestra pit, extra seating and other improvements. The improvements have become necessary because of the need to attract more support from the Arts Council. As an example, the Glyndebourne touring opera company used to come—as far as I can recall—to the Theatre Royal twice a year. It was always very successful, financially profitable and it sold out concerts. I have attended many of those concerts. However, this year for the first time, it will not be coming in the autumn.

Touring companies are less and less willing to come to theatres unless those theatres bring their facilities and amenities right up to standard — at least that is my understanding of the present position. That is why it is right that the appeal has been launched to meet that challenge. In the meantime, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will show good faith towards the initiative and think again about ways in which we can encourage an increase in the support for touring companies to avoid serious short-term damage. I know that my right hon. Friend is aware of the problem, as there has been considerable discussion about it. I will be interested to hear my right hon. Friend's comments when he replies.

I want to refer to the role of local authorities in connection with the Theatre Royal in Norwich and particularly the role of the Labour-controlled Norwich city council. To return to the good news, in 1969 Norwich city council effectively rescued the Theatre Royal from becoming a bingo hall. I do not want to be on record as making derogatory remarks about bingo. Nevertheless, the theatre's present role is the right one, and there are plenty of other venues for bingo. In 1970, the independent trust to which I have referred was formed and it received an annual grant of £20,000 from Norwich city council. In 1980, 10 years later, that grant stopped. Since then, although the lease on the theatre is free, there has been no cash support from the city council and there has been no support for building maintenance. That is a serious problem.

If we compare the Theatre Royal in Norwich with other provincial theatres, the problem becomes clear. The theatre royal in Nottingham, to which reference has already been made this evening, receives £397,000 in annual running costs from the city and £48,000 from the county. The Grand theatre in Swansea receives a £500,000 annual contribution from the city council. I am not necessarily arguing for vast tranches of local authority money for theatres; that may not be the right path to take. Nevertheless, in Norwich the city council has gradually withdrawn its commitment. Although the councillors sit as members of the independent trust and therefore take an interest—or meddle, depending on one's point of view— in the affairs of the Theatre Royal, their commitment in the form of cash up front has been decreasing. That is a problem which must be addressed and another reason why the appeal is of such importance.

Norwich city council must sort out its priorities. While withdrawing funds from the Theatre Royal—whatever the arguments about that may be—it is finding £375,000 to pour into a pop venue in the centre of Norwich. Many hon. Members have expressed support for pop music, but I confess that I am not one of them. Nevertheless, there is obviously a role and a need for pop music. However, many people in Norwich doubt whether that is the right way for the city council to spend as much as £375,000. Although the venue is not in my constituency-actually it is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Powley) — I know that my hon. Friend shares my view that that venue is a mistake. I know that the proposal is opposed by many local residents, who are rightly concerned about the effects on the locality. The proposal is also opposed by, or causes concern to, the local police. With a pop venue in the centre of Norwich, there is a risk of noise, disturbance and even — on a more serious point—of an increase in drug trafficking. Many of us are concerned about that.

Norwich city council must clearly decide its order of priorities. It is taking funds away from the Theatre Royal, which enjoys a high prestige in Norfolk and the surrounding area, yet is putting money into a project which, at the very least, is dubious and has only limited support in the area.

Norwich city council must decide upon its attitude to the Theatre Royal. Either it will support the theatre generously or it will decide that it wants nothing more to do with it. The council may decide to give the building to the independent trust and so launch the theatre upon a new future. Whatever happens, there is no doubt that the Theatre Royal has been, and is, very popular with people throughout East Anglia. It has been well run — and is still very well run — and it provides a good variety of entertainment. For that reason, I am confident that people will make the necessary commitment to ensure the theatre's future, whatever decisions are taken in the next months or years.

I hope that the Government will take seriously my plea in the short term about the problem with touring companies and ensure that touring companies get to good, successful theatres such as the Theatre Royal, which is providing entertainment for all types of people in Norwich and the surrounding area. That is a serious point and I look forward to the Minister's response.

Bearing in mind the time factor, I will finish shortly, after I have made my main local point. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington that we should have a complete free-for-all in the arts. Nor do I go along with Opposition spokesmen when they ask for endless tranches of money from local and central Government. We all know what nonsense that leads to if it is taken to extremes. On the whole, I support the balance which the Government are expressing and I support the Government's motion. I do not agree with the usual carping amendment from the alliance parties or the inevitable critical amendment from the Labour party. I am therefore very pleased to support the Government motion and I hope that my right hon. Friend will reply to my local points which concern my constituency and the surrounding area.

8.28 pm
Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley)

The importance of the arts has been shown by the length of the debate. As hon. Members have said, this is the first time that the arts have been discussed on a Government motion. The debate has gone on longer than the Government's business managers assumed. It is right that that has happened, because the arts are an important subject.

My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) referred to the cotton mill in Paisley which, some years ago, employed about 15,000 workers but now employs only 350. That picture of industry is repeated throughout the country as new technology has caused fewer people to be employed. It is realistic to accept that fewer people will be employed in industry, even if there is an economic revival and if we correct the problems associated with the Governrnent's policies towards manufacturing industries, and with the fact that we import £7.5billion more manufactured goods than we export. If we are to compete in the world market place, new technology must be introduced. We cannot bury our heads in the sand.

In future, the work load will have to be distributed differently. Obviously, industries must create the wealth. It is for the Government and Parliament to decide how that wealth should be used. We must ensure that the public have available to them activities in which to participate, whether it is sport or the arts and whether they are viewers or participants. In either case, it is right that public money should be spent in that way. I make no apology for supporting this type of policy. It shows one of the main differences between the Labour party and the Conservative party. The Labour party is prepared to spend public money on providing the essential services required by the electorate.

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jesse!) referred to the military bands, which have a role to play. I like military bands. They give enjoyment to people in many parts of the country. But I disagree with the hon. Gentleman in one respect. I believe that the Royal Marines school of music in Deal does a far better job than Kneller hall. That is a somewhat biased view because I did my national service in the Royal Marines some years ago.

The Opposition have said that the Government's business incentives scheme tends to have the greatest effect in the best-provided areas and tends to support safe activities. That is true. The scheme does not have the effect on the regions that we would like. I supported the Government's Budget proposals last year to change taxation arrangements and provide for covenants and support for the arts. That was a welcome move, but I hope that the Government will go further in publicising those changes and ensuring that people are aware of what is available.

The regions do not fare as well as the south, because industry head offices are increasingly based in London, so that there are satellite industries in the regions. There is not, therefore, the same involvement by head office as there was when industry was growing up in Lancashire, the midlands and so on. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) referred to the Royal opera house. He should meet the people there and see exactly what is involved. The scale of operations is much bigger than I had imagined. Opera should not be just for an elite. As my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South said, television has given opera wider appeal than was envisaged.

Mr. Dicks

Sir Peter Hall, in a debate that I had with him, made the same point about the hard work of the opera house and the problems that it faces. He is one of the highest-paid part-time civil servants it has been my misfortune to come across. He has made a fortune out of public subsidies.

Mr. Pike

I do not wish to pursue that line. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman goes to the opera house one morning and sees exactly what is involved. He will find that its problems are much more difficult than those faced by ordinary theatres, which have one long-running production and therefore need only one set at a time. At the opera house, because of rehearsals and different performances, it is common to have three complete sets and a variety of costumes used in one day. I believe that the Royal opera house has a case.

There is controversy about the proposed redevelopment of the opera house site, especially in respect of the demolition of the floral hall. I believe that the scheme is bold and imaginative and will tackle some of the financial problems of Covent Garden. There are many good features in the proposals and we must look to developments of that type.

One Conservative Member suggested that, during the development, the Lyceum would provide a good alternative venue. I do not object to the Lyceum being brought back into use as a theatre, but it would be marvellous if, while Covent Garden cannot be used, the royal opera were sited elsewhere in the United Kingdom. I stress "United Kingdom" because we must remember that there are other areas apart from England. I must point out, however, that I represent an English constituency. My constituents remember when Sadlers Wells and the Old Vic were hosted in Burnley during the war because those companies had to move from London. Nevertheless, we reached a time when there was not a single live theatre left in the town.

The Minister gave an impressive long list of places that he had visited. If he wants to visit Burnley and see what is happening in that constituency, I am sure that my constituents will be pleased to welcome him and to show him what the council is trying to do. The National Trust property, Gawthorpe hall, is in Burnley. It is run partly by Lancashire county council. The Select Committee on the Environment produced an excellent report on historic buildings. It referred to collections being kept in the house where they belong. It is important to do that. Gawthorpe hall contains one art form which has not been mentioned today — needlework and embroidery. The hall contains the Rachel Kay Shuttleworth collection, one of the finest collections in Britain. We are proud of that collection. People come from all over Britain to see it.

Burnley council runs the Towneley hall art gallery and museum. During the summer season, coach trips are made from Blackpool to the museum. This home belonged to the Towneley family and was acquired by the council in the early part of this century. The council does an excellent job. Admission is free. The average number of visitors is between 90,000 and 100,000 a year.

Burnley council's grant-related expenditure assessment figure is the same as that of a council that does not provide a museum and art gallery. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) will reassure me that the Labour party's proposals will seek to correct that. The factor for museums and art galleries is based on the square footage within a borough council area of shops and restaurants. That is a crazy situation. It means that a council that is doing a good job gets exactly the same grant provision as a next-door council that may be doing nothing at all.

When I was leader of the council I and other council members met Ministers from the Department of the Environment, and we met them again after I was elected to this House. We have not yet been able to persuade them to change that system. The system is nonsense and needs to be replaced by one that bears some relationship to the provision of facilities by the local authority.

On 14 August last year Burnley council reopened the building formerly known as the mechanics institute, which was established some 100 years ago. It will now provide educational and other opportunities to people in Burnley. We re-opened it as a multi-purpose arts centre and it is now known as the Burnley Mechanics. When I was leader of the council we spent £229,000 renovating that building. It is adjacent to the town hall and had been allowed to become derelict. It was a listed building and we made it wind and watertight. I was very much involved in the initial stages of the project to ensure that the building was brought back into use to provide an essential amenity for the people of Burnley.

The final cost of the scheme was £2.343 million, but the only grants that we received were £30,000 from the northwest arts council and about £68,000 from the north-west tourist board, which has a tourist office within the building. During the first six months the centre attracted about 26,000 people to pay-for functions, and 75 functions have been held in the main theatre hall. Of course there are other rooms in the building for other events, and rehearsals are held in other parts of the premises. It has bar facilities and a caféand those, together with other facilities, have ensured that the centre has become a live part of Burnley town centre.

No one could criticise the council for a single penny of the money that was spent on that centre, but because the council spent that money and was already receiving maximum grant it got no more money from the Government and the cost of running the building has to be completely borne by the ratepayers. The council estimates that the income for the forthcoming year will be £289,000. The cost of running the centre for the same period will be £748,000, giving a net cost of £459,000 which in the case of Burnley means 6p on the rates. That shows how crucial it is to change the assessment factor to assist councils to provide this type of amenity.

My constituency is fortunate in having a large number of amateur groups, all of which are alive and flourishing and provide shows to a first-class standard. In many cases they are as good as the shows in the west end of London and there have been many standing ovations.

It is important that, as well as having spectators, we have participants, and we must encourage participation because at the end of the day that is what it is all about. Before I was elected to this House I worked in industry making television tubes. I still have an interest in television, but live theatre has more to offer and we appreciate seeing the enthusiam and the effort that goes into productions.

There is an extremely good youth theatre in Burnely and that bodes well for the future of our Gilbert and Sullivan society and for all the other societies that we have in Burnley. The youth theatre is exteremely good. It has its own premises in the Quarry theatre in Burnley, thanks to a Manpower Services Commission scheme and the council. The youth theatre has tremendous financial difficulties. It gets some support from the Stocks Massey bequest, a fund established by the brewing family in Burnley. The family is no longer there but the fund still exists and the income from it can be used for this sort of purpose.

The young people in that theatre are important. I have a vested interest in them because, eventually, my daughter wants to go into the theatre and is an active participant in the youth theatre. Not only does that theatre encourage young people to participate in musical shows and plays and other types of entertainment, but it also encourages them to learn other work in front of or behind the stage —work which is an important part of the arts world. The theatre would not survive if people did not do that type of work.

This is the type of venture that we should encourage. The youth theatre staged "West Side Story" at the Burnley Mechanics, had standing ovations every night and the show was booked solid several weeks before it opened. Just over a week ago it staged a performance of a play by Paul Abbott, a scriptwriter for "Coronation Street" who lives in Burnley. The play was based on an idea by the young people and was a great success. We have to encourage that type of creativity, whether in photography that was spoken about earlier or in any other field. We must have arts facilities that people can see and enjoy arid in which they can participate. Money spent in that way whether by local authorities, Government, or through sponsorship by industry, is money well spent.

The Government should give greater priority to such activities and I hope that we can persuade them to move in that direction. If we cannot I am sure that the Labour Government when elected will certainly move in that direction.

8.47 pm
Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) has spoken with knowledge and enthusiastic loyalty about the arts in his constituency, and his words were expressed in the very best spirit of the debate. Having listened to his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher), however, I was left with the clear impression that the one art form that would assuredly flourish under a Labour Government would be the printing of bank notes.

I can offer some comfort to the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) who, in all the circumstances, gave us a virtuoso performance by expounding simultaneously the arts policies of the Liberal party and the SDP. There is a predecent for the difficulties in which those two parties find themselves. Maeterlinck shot his cat while he was practising for a duel with Debussy.

The genuineness and effectiveness of the Government's commitment to the arts is manifest. The establishment of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and of authors' public lending right, the launch of the business sponsorship incentive scheme, the 1986 Budget with its incentives for giving to the arts, the achievement of a 15 per cent. increase above the general rise in the cost of living in central Government spending on the arts, in the context of expanding plural funding for the arts, are all landmarks in the success of the Government's policies. In a curmudgeonly style, Opposition Members have had to acknowledge that in recent years the arts in Britain have been a great success.

Mr. Buchan

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on this interesting point?

Mr. Howarth

Not at this moment. The hon. Gentleman spoke for 25 minutes. It is now late, and I hope that he will permit me to get a little into my speech.

My right hon. Friend's latest personal achievement is to establish the principle of three-year indicative funding, and that will be enormously valuable. He emphasised the importance of continuity and stability, and the ability of arts organisations to plan ahead. I should like to return to that point.

I am proud to represent Stratford-on-Avon in this House. I am never more proud than on occasions when the subject of our proceedings is the arts. I am proud that the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company is in my constituency, and I am proud to be a governor.

The RSC epitomises the excellence of British theatre. Its current repertoire includes highly acclaimed productions of "Richard II", "Macbeth" and "Romeo and Juliet". That is the classic Shakespearean canon, but the company has also been packing them in with its recent revival of "Kiss Me Kate".

The repertoire of its company is worldwide. In 1984–85, the company played in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Basle, Barcelona, Munich, Hamburg, Warsaw, Los Angeles, New York and Washington. In its annual report, the British Council observed that the performances given by the RSC in Warsaw achieved more than any diplomatic initiative to Poland in years.

The RSC makes an important contribution to our economy in the fields of tourism and exports. In 1984–85, the company won the Queen's award for exports. This year, the RSC productions scheduled on Broadway are "Les Miserables" and "Les Liaisons Dangereuses".

I mention these successes because I think that the House should honour such a record, but also because the RSC has fulfilled every behest and maxim of the Government. The Government exort arts organisations to practise self-help and embrace plural funding. The proportion of its costs which the RSC achieves from box office receipts is 60 per cent.—significantly higher as a proportion than in other major subsidised theatres.

The company is now establishing itself in two new theatres at no cost to the taxpayer. The Swan theatre was given, in a most generous benefaction, to the company. Its running costs are separately accounted for, and it is at least breaking even on them. At the end of this month, the company will start to play at the Mermaid theatre, where the RSC management has been able to negotiate an agreement with producers whereby they guarantee costs and carry the risks of any losses that the productions might incur.

The RSC is efficient—the Priestley report testified to that—and it is entrepreneurial. Yet in this year, 1986–87, it is heading towards a deficit of probably £1 .1million. Notwithstanding all the excellence and efforts of the company, this is the prospect. Why should that be so? It is certainly not the case that costs have overrun. They are under budget.

There are two particular causes which have come together in an ill-starred conjunction. In 1985, the decision was taken that the Barbican repertoire for 1986 should be somewhat more experimental than had previously been the case. Plays of excellent dramatic quality, including "Mephisto" and "The Danton Affair", were not box office hits. However, the company, in staging these productions, was responding positively to criticisms that it felt were constructive and it felt that it should take risks. Furthermore, in 1986 there was a significant fall in the number of visitors from overseas, principally because of the alarm about threats of terrorism. The consequence of these two factors was that box office receipts at the Barbican came out 50 per cent. below what they had been budgeted to be.

Theatre is inevitably a high risk business. It is inevitable that there will be ups and downs. But with our system of financing it is impossible for an organisation such as the RSC to ride the occasional bad year. The problems that the company has experienced financially in 1986–87 are one-off problems — there is no reason why they will recur. None the less, it will be left with the consequences of these problems for a long time unless action is taken, and it is necessary for us to look carefully again at the long-term funding of the company. With great respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks), there is no way in which a business such as the RSC can build up reserves to create a contingency fund so that it can be tided over the occasional bad year in the way that another fully commercial business could be.

The Government commissioned the Priestley report to ascertain whether the organisations at which it looked were efficient, and to seek advice on what would be the appropriate pattern of funding for the future. As the House knows, Priestly gave the RSC a clean bill of health in terms of the efficiency of its management. However, the report went on to say that the company was "palpably underfunded". It urged on the Government the pressing need to establish conditions of financial stability. It said that the Government should write off the accumulated deficit and raise the base grant to a realistic £4.9 million in the money of that time and thereafter maintain it in real terms.

The response of the Government was given by my right hon. Friend's predecessor, Lord Gowrie, in the other place. He said that the Government broadly accepted the findings and conclusons of the Priestley report, and he acted on that. The deficit was written off, and the base grant was indeed established at £4.9 million to enable the company to operate on a satisfactory financial basis in the future. Lord Gowrie made it clear that his purpose was to establish a satisfatory base line. In saying that he broadly accepted the Priestely recommendations that must indeed have been his intention, because the central Priestely recommendation was that that baseline should be established and maintained.

The arts world and a much wider public welcomed and applauded that decision. However, as is inevitable — Opposition Members delude themselves if they suppose it would ever not be the case—there were constraints on public spending and there were competing claims on the Arts Council budget. As a consequence, in practice the base line funding, although established at the new level, was progressively eroded in successive years. In a period in which the RPI has risen by 15 per cent., the Arts Council grant to the RSC has risen by only 6 per cent. In the same period, the RSC's earnings rose by 33 per cent. In 1984–85 and 1985–86, in those difficult years when the baseline funding was being eroded the RSC broke even because of its good management and efforts. It could hardly have done more than it did. As a consequence of circumstances for which it cannot reasonably be blamed, it is however, heading towards deficit and the prospects for the company are grave.

What are its choices? It could carry forward the deficit, but that would mean that in future its budget would be increasingly burdened by compounding interest costs. Plainly, that would not be sensible. If it does not receive additional aid, it will be obliged to close one of its major centres. It can either close the Barbican or the Shakespeare Memorial theatre. I must tell the House that the council of management of the RSC is seriously contemplating those possibilities. But even as it contemplates them it knows that it is absurd to do so. If it had to act on either of those possibilities, it would destroy the raison d'être of the theatre. There is no alternative but for the Government to help.

Mr. Buchan

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Howarth

This is an important subject, so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue. I am in the middle of trying to explain my case.

The Government must once agan accept the logic of Priestley, which is inescapable. The Government will have to write off the deficit and once more give a realistic grant, or else we shall lose this great national artistic institution.

I appreciate the difficulty of my right hon. Friend as to indexation. I do not ask him specifically to commit himself to indexing the base grant for the RSC. The principle of indexation is a dangerous one in the wider context of public finances, and I can readily imagine that if my right hon. Friend were to commit himself to indexing the grant for any institution he would find himself beset by hordes of jealous claimants at the Office of Arts and Libraries. That situation would clearly be difficult and unsatisfactory.

What I do ask my hon. Friend is that he should look carefully at the circumstances of this case, at the qualities and value of the RSC, at the details of the predicament in which it has found itself, that he should assess what may be the balance of responsibility as between the company, the Arts Council and the Government for the problems that have arisen, that he should recollect the analysis that was made by his predecessor, and that he should accept that the Government and the Arts Council between them have a duty to ensure that the RSC does not, through no fault of its own, encounter catastrophe.

My right hon. Friend's serious and practical championship of the arts is widely recognised. I do not ask him to give here and now his detailed response to the problems that I have described, but I hope that we shall receive a considered, constructive response from him shortly.

9.1 pm

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

I am sure that the Minister will have listened sympathetically to the speech that has just been made, although to some extent it contradicts some of the hon. Gentleman's economic and political philosophies, but we all have that problem from time to time.

I do not know who wrote the Minister's speech at the opening of the debate, but whoever did, he or she is in line to become a scriptwriter for a Ken Russell fantasy. The film opens with the Minister's weak and anaemic voice intoning that there has been an economic miracle in Britain in the late 1980s and that all the people are prosperous and joyous. Meanwhile, the camera focuses on a screaming baby whose mother is homeless, cuts to a youth who is unemployed and has slashed his wrists and then to a woman who is flooded with tears in a DHSS office. The Minister lives in a different world to the one in which I live, but I shall not develop that theme.

One of the disturbing developments that has emerged in the locust years of this Conservative Government is the notion that art is an industry like any other in the modern world. Therefore, its output should be determined by market forces, its practitioners should make a close study of consumerism, the problems of marketing and distribution and the artist should no longer regard himself as a creative individual but as an entrepreneur who, if he wishes to maximise his profits, must learn to deal in oligopoly, duopoly, loss leaders and a variety of other economic concepts.

In this system, where art is an industry, we are supposed to give thanks when 1,000 craft shops open up this year. I am not sure what we are supposed to do when the same 1,000 craft shops go bankrupt next year.

In this system some people will succeed. I have no doubt that the new superstars of the art world — the designers—will succeed, particularly if, in addition to their skills in design, they are prepared to study the complex subjects of advertising and marketing and they can cope with psychology, sexual relations, fantasy, identity, escapism and decoration.

But if we live in this world in which art is an industry, as we see the growth of mass production and consumerism it is inevitable that art will become more universal. It is certain that art will lose much of its sense of place, history and identity in terms of locality, community, race, class and nation.

If art is entirely to be regarded as an industry, much of it will be ephemeral in the modern world, much of it will be junk that degrades the artist and the consumer, and it will all be described as value free. Possibly the best and only thing that will come out of it will be that all over the world we can put on our Benetton tee shirts and designer jeans and watch "Dallas" without shame. That is not a notion of art that we should encourage people to stick to, although it is one in which the Conservative party would like the public to believe.

However, there are other notions of art. There is the notion that art is some kind of idealised activity that is good for us. I suppose that in that group I would put the Minister with his what I would describe as Benthamite utilitarianism. I would also put in that group the Fabian idealism of many Opposition Members.

Often when people say that art is good for us they are saying that it is part of the process of self discovery. But in that notion of art—it is not one that I particularly like or hold to—the artist often sees himself as some kind of superior person; some kind of philosopher king. That is a notion which artists in the western world have basically ascribed to themselves since the period of the romantics.

There is a third view of art—someone was asking for some definition of art and artists earlier; he is not here to hear it but never mind — and that is that art is an activity which mediates between the world as it is and the world as we would like it to be. If it does that, it performs roughly the same function that we as politicians perform. I cannot think what else we do if it is not that.

If art performs that function of mediation it is likely to be creative, imaginative, intellectual and emotional, and, because the world is critical and disturbing and full of conflict, art will be critical, disturbing and full of conflict. I have some sympathy with that notion of art.

But there is another notion of art which is that art is an instrument of social change, perhaps best expressed by Stuart Hall when he says that the idea that we can get radical change while the dominant cultural attitudes remain unchanged in society is patently ridiculous.

According to that concept of art, culture becomes a battleground for change. It does so because it affects all aspects of our life—what we wear, how and under what conditions goods are produced, the very language that we use and the images by and through which we express ourselves.

In that sense, art is not just about painting, theatre and dance; it is about education, architecture, town planning and ecology. I want to come back to that concept of art in a moment because it is the one with which I have most sympathy and it is one to which my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) referred.

But there is a last definition of art that we have seen recently and that is the definition of art that we saw in a six-part series on television called "State of the Art" written by Sandy Nairne, who, I gather is one of our supporters, or so he told me at a recent conference. I hope that that is right since I have now made it public.

In "State of the Art" Sandy Nairne seemed to be saying that art is a condition which exists in a vacuum; that it is fragmented, without construction, and that somehow it defies any form of analysis. Therefore, he is capable of making six programmes in which he can discuss art without saying a single word about the way in which the Arts Council mediates state patronage. I find that bizarre. I also find it bizarre that he can present to the British public the idea that one can see post-modernism as a form of self-alienation which is pushed to such a degree that we could even be made to view our own destruction as an aesthetic experience of the highest order. I simply cannot view art in that way.

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Alan Clark)

Rather laboured.

Mr. Sedgemore

I notice that the "son of civilisation" is twittering away as usual, but if the "son of civilisation" could pause for a moment he may learn something to his advantage, even about his father's paintings.

If we can accept the notion that art can be an instrument of change, we should consider what has taken place in other countries. This morning I was reading a paper by Franco Bianchini. He saids that in 1976, when the Socialists and Communists took over from the Christian Democrats in Rome, they decided that they wished to bring together art and culture together. They wanted to show that there were no great divisions and schisms between the working class and middle class view of art. They achieved that with the Estate Romana. There are three reasons why we could not achieve a similar success in this country.

First, Rome has a citywide governing body, but we have abolished the GLC. Secondly, one cannot have this type of big artistic concept without heavily subsidised public transport systems because such a concept does not operate from the periphery but from the centre. However, public transport subsidies have been reduced and removed in London. Thirdly, this type of notion depends on the insistence of people that art is important and that theatre, ballet and dance are at least as important as spaghetti westerns or horror movies. Unlike the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) I believe that we must break away from the latter notion. We could learn a lesson from Italy about the ability to use art as an instrument of social change.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South that possibly the most powerful cultural influence on the lives of most people in Britain is broadcasting and inside broadcasting — television. If we want to change the world and change attitudes towards the world, access to broadcasting and access to television is one of the most important influences that we can discuss. It should not be discussed in the abstract but in specific terms.

By and large, we tend to discuss television purely in terms of how much television time we are prepared—either through the IBA or by statute — to give to independent producers. I accept that that is important. I am in favour of giving 25 per cent. of the franchise holders programme time to independent producers, but let us also give 25 per cent. of all the time of those franchise holders to the community. Let us allow the community and the people reflect themselves rather than see themselves reflected by other people. We should give them editorial control over some news and current affairs programmes. Let us give them control over drama, entertainment and other things that are shown on television. It is important that the end result is not bad television so let us also give the community the directors, producers and professional crews to produce good television.

If we truly believe in plurality in our society—it is a word that people throw around with astonishing ease—above all else we must break up the monopolies held by those who hold television franchises so that control is not given solely to persons of wealth and power. If we are serious about breaking up those monopolies and achieving that type of plurality, my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South is right — one cannot do that if broadcasting is kept under the control of a Ministry that is concerned with suppression, repression, vetting, spying and censorship.

Broadcasting belongs to a Ministry for the arts. Perhaps for other reasons, the Select Committee has come up with what surely is an eminently sensible all-party proposal. I hope that my hon. Friend and I can persuade our Front Bench to go further along the road than they have already done and I hope that the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) can also persuade his Front Bench to go further along that road.

Although this has been an interesting debate, I am sure that hon. Members have heard too many speeches already. I wish, however, to make one more point. Throughout Britain there are thousands of schools, but when I worked in television I came across only one, the Tower Hamlets school for girls, where art is part of a core curriculum. This issue reflects a simple proposal contained in a Gulbenkian report many years ago. Why is it that no education authority in Britain has had the determination and imagination to make art part of the core curriculum? If we were prepared to do that, we would show individuals from an early age that we are serious about the importance of the subject.

9.15 pm
Mr. Fisher

This has been a debate of sharply distinct views, and in being so it has addressed the central question posed by the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), which was whether there is still a bipartisan arts policy in the House. The answer is that there is not. That is clear from the speeches made from both sides of the House. Any cosy agreement that might have existed before exists no longer because there has been a recognition on both sides that there are important, sharp and distinct differences in our political views.

That is not to say that there is no common ground. There is some important common ground on which we can build. There is a common interest and sincerity of view and the House well knows the sincerity, concern and expertise of the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South, for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) and for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel). They have brought their important knowledge and concern to previous arts debates and they have done so again today. The same can be said of the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud), the alliance's spokesman on the arts.

I am sure that the House will have been impressed also by the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan), whose work and knowledge has been acknowledged by hon. Members on both sides of the House, it having been demonstrated in the sittings of the Select Committee on Education, Science and the Arts. The House will have been interested in the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike), in what might have been his first speech in an arts debate. He made many telling and interesting comments from a local authority perspective following his experience as a leader of a local authority. I can assure him that I have taken on board his remarks about rate support grant.

There might be some agreement on specifics. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House appreciate the excellent report in 1982 of the Select Committee, which was chaired by Mr. Christopher Price. It is sad that the Government have not implemented more of its recommendations. There are many constructive recommendations to be implemented in future on the basis of a mutuality of interest.

There may even be common ground on the result of the cuts that have been imposed. The Minister might not agree, but I think that there is a general understanding on both sides of the House. The clear and well described comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton brought the result home to us. Hon. Members will remember him talking about buckets in museums and the comments of Sir Roy Strong that he quoted. I could assure my hon. Friend, if he were in his place, that one of the first and most urgent tasks for an incoming Labour Government will be to carry out a national audit to ascertain the state of our arts buildings. The Minister could begin that work if he were seriously interested in ascertaining the state of the arts in Britain. It would not be a costly exercise, and in taking that course he would demonstrate his good intent. The result of the exercise might be extremely embarrassing for the Government following their stewardship over the past seven years. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would find, as the Select Committee has found and as hon. Members on both sides know, that the fabric of many of our finest arts buildings is in an appalling condition.

There might even be some common ground on the need for more money to be spent on the arts. With the exception of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks), I think that that is a common concern, whether it he the Royal Shakespeare company or other forms and media within the arts.

Mr. Cormack

It is refreshing to hear the hon. Gentleman's more considered comments in replying to the debate when compared with some of his introductory comments.

Mr. Fisher

I am grateful for that compliment. I fear, however, that this is where we may start to part company. I have sketched out the areas in which there has been agreement, and now I must turn to the important and real differences. They are not about the level or even the source of funding, whether it is from local authorities, the private sector or central Government. They are about perspective. They are political and economic differences.

It is quite clear to anybody listening to the debate that the perspective from which the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) about cultural industries should be seen — the importance of the new technologies, about satellite, publishing and broadcasting—is not fully understood by Conservative Members. I urge them to look carefully at my hon. Friend's remarks. We must look into our own lives and see that the arts are not just a narrow definition of the subsidised arts that Conservative Members are talking about. They are a far wider and more powerful force in our lives. That is the big difference between the two sides of the House.

There is also a difference in ideology. The hon. Member for Canterbury talked about our great tradition. He mentioned the great heritage of acting. His knowledge of and sincerity about the theatre is undoubted. Of course he is right. We have a great tradition, but it is only part of the culture of this country. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West said, it reflects the brilliant ideas of people who have lived and are living here. But, as he said, they are essentially male, white and educated, mainly living in the south of the country, and fairly well off. It is perfectly fair and quite correct that their ideas should be expressed as well as possible, but they are not the expressions of all people in society.

We fool ourselves when we think that the great expressions of our culture, as characterised in our great acting tradition, carry the aspirations and experience of all our people. As my hon. Friend said, they do not carry the experience of people who are unemployed, who live in housing estates or who come from a totally different ethnic, religious and cultural background. It is important that we are a multicultural society, with cultures expressed in different art forms in different ways. That concept has not yet been fully taken on board by Conservative Members. It is not only a matter of that sort of experience; it is a matter, through art forms, of expressing how one sees oneself in relation to other people, the power that one may or may not have over determining one's life. the economics in which one lives, the ability to express oneself through work, one's relationship to one's housing and to one's potential.

The great heritage that has been referred to, though it exists and we are proud of it because it will carry our culture into the future, is not a complete picture. We have a wider culture than that.

It begs the question of whose culture we are talking about. Who owns the culture? In a magnificent and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newham North-West recognised, off-the-cuff, impromptu speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) put his finger on many crucial areas which represent a distinct difference between hon. Members on both sides of the House. He mentioned the concentration of ownership in this culture and the national press. Three corporations, which are controlled by proprietors, apparently own 74 per cent. of circulation. That cannot be in the interests of a wide variety of views in our society. My hon. Friend might also have mentioned the media and the way in which the same three companies and other companies are buying not only into newspapers but into radio and television and now satellite and film. Surely Conservative Members can see the importance of that and the power that it gives over the means of expression and, therefore, what can be expressed. My hon. Friend might also have mentioned books. Conservative Members must realise that they have only to go to the high streets in their constituencies to see the narrow range of books that are available for sale. There are 300,000 books in stock in this country, and 50,000 are printed every year. They contain some of the greatest, most provocative, challenging, interesting, compelling ideas in any language, yet only a narrow range of books is available in the high street stores.

Mr. Cormack

The hon. Gentleman's points are forceful and important, and nobody would dismiss them, but is it not far better that three private people should be fighting for control of circulation rather than that there should be state control? I do not suggest that the hon. Gentleman is advocating state control, but is there not some common ground between us?

Mr. Fisher

I shall deal with that point later.

Mr. Buchan

The dissemination of journals and books is controlled by two distributors—W. H. Smith and Son and John Menzies. I know that that is so, because I have been trying to get Tribune disseminated through them and there have been difficulties.

Mr. Fisher

The crucial point is that both in the case of the national press and the distribution of books and records we see the free market, so called, narrowing and constricting choice. The Conservative party tells us that the free market widens opportunity and that it also widens choice, but we see that exactly the reverse is true and that the free market and the interplay of ownership narrow free choice, whether in retailing or in the ownership of newspapers.

The next Labour Government will seek to widen the range of press ownership. They will seek diversity of ownership, not ownership by the state. Britain is the only country that imposes virtually no regulations over press ownership. That cannot be in the long-term interests of our culture or of our democracy. These are substantial differences between the two sides of the House.

Furthermore, that control is not just a question of ownership. It takes other forms. In a part of his speech, with which I did not fully agree, my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) referred to the Reithian concept of broadcasting, which is to inform, educate and entertain. They have been valuable linchpins of our public sector broadcasting philosophy, but they need to be augmented and extended. The audience is thought to have a passive role, either listening to radio or watching television and being the recipient of somebody else's views and somebody else's culture. The opportunities that the technical capability of community radio offer provide us with the hope of a different and a much more intereactive relationship between audiences that will extend those valuable Reithian concepts to a participating and a plural system of broadcasting.

There are huge differences of view among hon. Members about censorship and contol. Although the Conservative party does not understand this, people all over the country, of all political persuasions, were shocked when they saw on their television screens the arm of the state, in the form of the police, breaking into offices in the middle of the night and taking away rolls of film. It was a slur and a stain on the culture of this country. I hope that Conservative Members will understand the importance of that point in this arts debate, because it goes to the heart of the question about who controls our culture and whose culture it is, anyway.

There are substantial political, economic and industrial differences between the two sides of the House. The Government's view is narrow and wholly out of date. It is also wholly out of tune with people's experience. Furthermore, it is a very controlled view, whether of ownership or censorship. The next Labour Government will offer a far wider and more plural and enabling view. It will provide much greater choice for the consumer and also a much greater opportunity of choice for the producer and the artist.

The points that were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South will be taken on board. Planning, transport, jobs and housing must interrelate so that people are able to reach arts locations. The next Labour Government will set in train a building expansion programme that will respond to the needs of the people. We must ensure that we build a physically acceptable society. Houses are physical pieces of sculpture. We must create an environment that is worth living in.

There are huge differences between the two sides of the House. We reject the Government's restricted view of the arts and many of the points that have been made tonight. We shall therefore vote against the Government's motion.

9.29 pm
Mr. Luce

At least there is one piece of common ground between both sides of the House: this has been a good-humoured debate in which there has been widespread participation by hon. Members on both sides. That in itself justifies the decision of the Government to have a debate on the arts on a substantive motion. My records go back only 30 years but I am told that for at least 30 years there has been no debate on the arts on a substantive motion in Government time. The fact that the debate has gone on for a considerable period demonstrates that the arts is a singularly important subject and that not only hon. Members but many people throughout the country care about it.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) on his maiden speech as spokesman on the arts for the Labour party. I disagree, however, with much of what he said, particularly in his opening and closing remarks. I listened, too, with respect to the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan). For 18 months he and I were opposite numbers. He cares passionately about the arts. Again, he has a different attitude and approach to the arts; nevertheless, I respect his views. I also noted the different approach between him and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central. I remain baffled about Labour party policy. It is confusing on defence, to say the least, and it is even more confusing on the arts.

I deplore the habit of Opposition Members, including the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, of feeling constantly that they have to spread gloom and doom about what is happening in the arts world when they know perfectly well, if they consider the scene on the ground throughout the country, that expansion is taking place. I think they feel that if they accept that something good is happening, the Government will immediately step in and claim all the credit. The credit goes in two ways—first, to the people, the consumers, who want to enjoy the arts, and secondly, to the great talent in artistry of all kinds. That is proved by the great and growing interest shown by the public.

I criticise the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, too for his tunnel vision. He talked about the need for a broad strategy yet the Opposition litmus test of success in the arts always seems to be whether there is Government funding. The Opposition adopt a churlish attitude to the private sector. The hon. Gentleman brought in the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), with whom I disagree on many issues. Again the hon. Gentleman poured cold water on the concept of encouraging the private sector to play its part.

There is also a tendency for some Opposition Members — I do not think this applies to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent. Central—to pour considerable scorn on the attitude of the consumer who, after all, is the person who spends more money on the arts than anyone else, and who decides what he wants to see and what is good and bad. Yet Her Majesty's Opposition and sections of the arts world seem to think that creativity and consumerism do not go together. That is an astonishing attitude.

There have been many stimulating and interesting speeches. I do not think the House would wish me to answer every single point. Indeed, I could imagine the reaction if I were to try to do that. However, I pick on my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) because he made a colourful speech. He reflected the feeling of many people, to which I referred earlier, that there should not be taxpayer support for the arts. I made it plain that I disagreed with that view.

I hope that my hon. Friend will be pleased that the Bech theatre at Hillingdon, which I think is in his constituency, is being run effectively by commercial management and as a result is saving the taxpayer and the ratepayer a considerable amount of money.

I listened with great interest and care to the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Stratfordon-Avon (Mr. Howarth), who represents that constituency marvellously and is a governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company, which brings the highest credit to this country and the greatest enjoyment to many people of all backgrounds. What the hon. Gentleman had to say must be taken into account very carefully, especially by the Arts Council, which has to take the direct decision on the level of funding, but it is important that I know what he feels about it.

My hon. Friend realises that the Royal Shakespeare Company, like the royal opera house, has implemented many of the recommendations of the Priestley report in consultation with the Arts Council and that the Government agreed to provide additional funds to eliminate deficits and to increase basic funding for both these companies. I am glad to note that my hon. Friend accepted the argument that if we start on a policy of insulating one or two arts bodies from the world of inflation by inflation-proofing, we will be in an extremely difficult area. I am glad that my hon. Friend acknowledges that would not be the right way to proceed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) made a very important speech in which he rightly drew attention to the range of arts activities in Norwich and in particular the Norwich Theatre Royal and the importance of touring companies. I accept that entirely. If our policy is, as it must be, to bring about excellence in the arts and to make it available to the maximum number of people, touring, especially by the best companies, is of great importance. I heard his views with great care. My hon. Friend spoke of the importance and the value to his area of the Arts Council's "Glory of the Garden" policy of shifting more resources and support to other parts of the country. I, too, welcome that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire. South (Mr. Cormack) has devoted years in this House to supporting and working for the heritage and all forms of art. He made an important speech. He asked my opinion about the royal opera house and long-term development plans. No decisions have yet been taken and planning approval still has to be given by the city of Westminster. Nevertheless, I regard its longer term development proposals, which are based upon private enterprise loans, as highly imaginative and deserving of much interest. I still have to take the decisions but I place my view on record in response to my hon. Friend's question.

I am glad that my hon. Friend drew attention to the importance of crafts. At least 20,000 people in this country enjoy crafts in one way or another. I hope that number is expanding rapidly. I welcome most warmly the fact that my hon. Friend has played a leading part in launching a new scheme to allow fellowships for young people in crafts. I give my strongest support to that. I congratulate my hon. Friend on the initiative he has taken.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) made a splendid speech. If he will forgive me, I will not dwell on the importance of military bands because he has drawn that to the attention of the House and of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on many occasions. On the question of the danger, as he puts it, of VAT being imposed on imports of works of art, I agree with him that it is a matter of the greatest importance. We have a highly successful art trade in this country. Both the sixth and seventh directives could threaten this trade. Let me make my position absolutely clear. I will oppose anything that I believe would damage the successful art trade of this country. I am convinced that is the view of the Government.

The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) made an interesting speech raising marry issues. I am glad that, as I understood it, he endorsed the arm's-length principle as I had been anxious in recent months about what seemed to be a weakening of the all-party support for that principle. If we break away from that principle there will be a great danger of direct central Government intervention in artistic decisions. I believe that the freedom of expression of artists is of fundamental importance.

Mr. Tony Banks

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Luce

I hope that the House will bear with me; it is right that I should answer the questions raised in the debate. The hon. Gentleman has already made his speech.

The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East also drew attention to the marketing scheme. I should correct one point. The hon. Gentleman felt that the scheme did not help those who did not have much money to spend because the range within which people can apply for an award is between £5,000 and £10,000, to be matched by the Government. It is, however, perfectly possible for a group of subsidised companies to get together and put in a joint claim. I hope that that will help smaller companies.

The hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan), who is no longer present, referred to the importance of supporting the arts in all parts of the country, including his own area. I should point out that there has been an enormous shift of resources from the Arts Council to the regional arts associations, which now receive some £20 million of taxpayers' money to support their work in all parts of the country.

My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) made an important speech. I commend the marvellous work that he has done as a founder member of the Theatres Trust and the role that he plays today. I am grateful to him for his speech and for drawing attention to the Cork report, which is still being considered by the Arts Council, on the importance of the work of the theatre in this country. I believe that I gave my hon. Friend some wrong information from a sedentary position. I thought that he was referring to the Swan theatre at Stratford, to which Mr. Koch, an American, gave magnificent support. I understand that my hon. Friend was referring to the Old Vic. In that instance, the support was given by a Canadian, Mr. Ed Mirvish. Again, I am grateful indeed to my hon. Friend for his speech on the theatre.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central referred to public libraries, and it should be made clear that my duties cover libraries as well as the arts. I believe that this country has almost the finest set of public libraries in the world. They are outstanding. The hon. Gentleman sought to suggest that the system was collapsing, but that is nonsense. He highlighted certain selective figures, saying that 200 libraries had closed, but libraries have also been opened. Just recently, I opened one in Princes Risborough. It is not in the least surprising that there is such mobility, with some libraries closing and others opening. For the next financial year, there will be an increase of 14 per cent. in the amount of money allocated to libraries and local museums. I stress, too, that there has been an increase in the number of books stocked by libraries. In 1979 there were 106 million. Today there are 113 million. If the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central says that there has been a decline, he is entirely wrong. I must make it clear that his comments about a decline in the public library service were absolute nonsense.

Mr. Fisher

If the Minister is telling the library world that the public library service will receive an increase of 14 per cent. in the money available to it next year, I am sure that the whole House will welcome that. But my figures about the book fund cut are true and accurate, and reflected in every local authority public library service.

The number of books on the shelves depends on how fast they are depreciated and moved off, but one has only to go into a public library to see the very poor state of the books. Moreover, because prices have risen astronomically only a tiny proportion of the needs of local communities can be met by any library authority. I hope that the Minister will take that on board.

Mr. Luce

I take seriously what the hon. Gentleman says, because it is important that we maintain the high standard of our public libraries. The book fund, allocation of money, as chosen by English local authorities—it is their choice—has gone down, not by 34 per cent., as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central suggested, but by 9 per cent. The fact is that the number of books has gone up. It is up to the libraries to decide how to allocate their money. There are information services in our libraries and an increase in leisure services and there is also the need to maintain our book services. It is for them to choose how they spend the increase in the money that they will be allocated in the coming year.

We have had a full and constructive debate on the arts. There is a serious divide in some respects between the two sides of the House but, where there can be common ground, I welcome it. My position and that of the Government is that we want to create the best possible climate and framework for the arts to flourish. We want there to be the greatest degree of freedom of expression and the greatest scope for all the talents of British artists and for the arts to flourish.

Mr. Freud


Mr. Luce

I believe that that is best achieved by encouraging the greatest possible diversity of funding of the arts. That in itself enables one to spread the risks and to guarantee the greatest freedom of expression. I wish only that the Opposition would encourage a little more the flowering of funding and encourage greater support from the private sector and not depend just on the state sector.

Surely the key test is what is happening in the arts on the ground today. The story is a good one. The arts are flowering and that is due largely to the achievements of the British people and British artists. We are creating a healthy framework for that to succeed. The reputation of British arts is high in Britain and the world today. Therefore, I call upon the House to support this motion and reject the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 30, Noes 98.

Division No.118] [9.50 pm
Alton, David Kirkwood, Archy
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) McGuire, Michael
Beith, A. J. Madden, Max
Bermingham, Gerald Martin, Michael
Boyes, Roland Nellist, David
Bruce, Malcolm Pike, Peter
Buchan, Norman Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Robertson, George
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Sheerman, Barry
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Snape, Peter
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Steel, Rt Hon David
Deakins, Eric Woodall, Alec
Dormand, Jack Young, David (Bolton SE)
Fisher, Mark
Freud, Clement Tellers for the Ayes:
Kennedy, Charles Mr. Frank Haynes and
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Mr. Allen McKay.
Alexander, Richard Lester, Jim
Amess, David Lilley, Peter
Ancram, Michael Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Baldry, Tony Lyell, Nicholas
Batiste, Spencer Malone, Gerald
Biffen, Rt Hon John Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Bottom ley, Peter Maude, Hon Francis
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Merchant, Piers
Bruinvels, Peter Meyer, Sir Anthony
Budgen, Nick Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Butterfill, John Monro, Sir Hector
Carttiss, Michael Moynihan, Hon C.
Cash, William Neale, Gerrard
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Norris, Steven
Chope, Christopher Ottaway, Richard
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Colvin, Michael Portillo, Michael
Cope, John Powley, John
Cormack, Patrick Raffan, Keith
Crouch, David Rhodes James, Robert
Currie, Mrs Edwina Roe, Mrs Marion
Dykes, Hugh Ryder, Richard
Emery, Sir Peter Silvester, Fred
Eyre, Sir Reginald Sims, Roger
Farr, Sir John Spencer, Derek
Fenner, Dame Peggy Steen, Anthony
Fookes, Miss Janet Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Fry, Peter Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Galley, Roy Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Garel-Jones, Tristan Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Glyn, Dr Alan Thorne, Neil (llford S)
Gregory, Conal Thurnham, Peter
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Ground, Patrick Tracey, Richard
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Trippier, David
Hampson, Dr Keith Waddington, Rt Hon David
Hargreaves, Kenneth Waller, Gary
Hayward, Robert Watts, John
Heddle, John Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Holt, Richard Wiggin, Jerry
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Wilkinson, John
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Jackson, Robert Winterton, Nicholas
Jessel, Toby Wood, Timothy
Jones, Robert (Herts W) Yeo, Tim
King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
King, Rt Hon Tom Tellers for the Noes:
Lawrence, Ivan Mr. Michael Neubert and
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Mr. David Lightbown.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 96, Noes 25.

Division No. 119] [9.58 pm
Alexander, Richard Cash, William
Amess, David Chalker, Mrs Lynda
Ancram, Michael Chope, Christopher
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)
Baldry, Tony Colvin, Michael
Batiste, Spencer Cope, John
Bitten, Rt Hon John Cormack, Patrick
Boscawen, Hon Robert Crouch, David
Bottomley, Peter Currie, Mrs Edwina
Bruinvels, Peter Dykes, Hugh
Budgen, Nick Emery, Sir Peter
Butterfill, John Eyre, Sir Reginald
Carttiss, Michael Farr, Sir John
Fenner, Dame Peggy Neale, Gerrard
Fookes, Miss Janet Neubert, Michael
Fry, Peter Norris, Steven
Gale, Roger Ottaway, Richard
Galley, Roy Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Portillo, Michael
Garel-Jones, Tristan Raffan, Keith
Glyn, Dr Alan Rhodes James, Robert
Gregory, Conal Roe, Mrs Marion
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Ryder, Richard
Ground, Patrick Silvester, Fred
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Sims, Roger
Hampson, Dr Keith Spencer, Derek
Hargreaves, Kenneth Steen, Anthony
Hayward, Robert Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Heddle, John Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Holt, Richard Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourng) Thorne, Neil (Word S)
Jessel, Toby Thurnham, Peter
Jones, Robert (Herts W) Tracey, Richard
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Trippier, David
King, Rt Hon Tom Waddington, Rt Hon David
Lawrence, Ivan Waller, Gary
Lester, Jim Watts, John
Lilley, Peter Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Wiggin, Jerry
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Wilkinson, John
Lyell, Nicholas Winterton, Mrs Ann
Malone, Gerald Winterton, Nicholas
Maude, Hon Francis Wood, Timothy
Merchant, Piers Yeo, Tim
Meyer, Sir Anthony
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Tellers for the Ayes:
Monro, Sir Hector Mr. David Lightbown and
Moynihan, Hon C. Mr. Robert Boscawen.
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Madden, Max
Beith, A. J. Martin, Michael
Bermingham, Gerald Pike, Peter
Bruce, Malcolm Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Buchan, Norman Sheerman, Barry
Campbell-Savours, Dale Snape, Peter
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Steel, Rt Hon David
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Wilson, Gordon
Deakins, Eric Woodall, Alec
Dormand, Jack Young, David (Bolton SE)
Fisher, Mark
Freud, Clement Tellers for the Noes:
Haynes, Frank Mr. David Alton and
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Mr. Archy Kirkwood.
McKay, Allen (Penistone)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this House congratulates the Government on the success of its arts policy which is resulting in an expansion of arts and crafts throughout the country and greater protection of the national heritage; approves the Government's strategy of increasing the inflow of funds to the arts from a diversity of sources; welcomes the tax changes, including the new payroll giving scheme, which will stimulate giving to the arts by individuals and companies; applauds the Government's continuing commitment to promoting sponsorship of the arts through the Business Sponsorship Incentive Scheme; endorses the new arts marketing scheme, designed to encourage a keener awareness of the benefits to the arts of good marketing; and acknowledges the political commitment shown by the Government in the form of record levels of public support for the arts.