HC Deb 23 November 1987 vol 123 cc13-4
68. Mr. Allen

To ask the Minister for the Arts whether he will visit museums in Nottingham in 1988.

Mr. Luce

My programme of visits for 1988 has not yet been arranged, but I enjoyed my visit to Nottingham in 1986.

Mr. Allen

Will the Minister ask his colleagues dealing with the Local Government Bill to ensure that there is no further privatisation of leisure services, so that there are no more madcap schemes of the kind proposed by the Tory-controlled Nottingham city council for the historic Castle museum? Is the Minister aware that the council wishes to put plastic battlements and fibreglass turrets on that historic building and to have a lift in the form of a medieval tent going up and down the famous Castle rock? Will he ensure that that kind of Philistine approach is not encouraged by his colleagues dealing with the Local Government Bill?

Mr. Luce

I have a feeling that it would be wise for me to leave decisions about such activities to the local authorities concerned. I have visited the excellent Castle museum in Nottingham, but the question of leisure centres is a matter for local authorities.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

Does my right hon. Friend share my sadness that he will not reach Question 105. when I would have drawn his attention to—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Please do not. We are dealing with this question.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

Is my right hon. Friend aware that had he come to Nottingham, he would have seen the Playhouse, the theatre and the magnificent concert hall, to which touring companies and exhibitions ought to be sent?

Mr. Luce

My hon. Friend encourages me so much that I shall now make plans to visit Nottingham again.

Mr. Fisher

While welcoming the Minister's achievement of three-year funding, may I ask him to explain to the House why museums in the regions of Britain, such as those in Nottingham, have been so unfavourably treated in his announcement? Once again he appears to be ignoring the 1984 Museums and Galleries Commission report, which suggests that area museums should have their budgets doubled by 1990. Once again he seems not to appreciate the important educational and economic roles of museums in developing tourism in the regions. Why are area museums such as those in Nottingham ignored in his policy?

Mr. Luce

It seems that once again the hon. Gentleman has got it wrong. The planned projection of increase in the rate support grant for local museums will go up by 15 per cent, in the next three years. The money made available to the Museums and Galleries Commission will go up by 11.5 per cent, in the next three years, a little above the projected rate of inflation. It is for the Museums and Galleries Commission to decide how to disburse it to the area museum councils. However, the grant to the area museum councils has increased in real terms by more than 9 per cent, since 1979. That is not a bad record.

Mr. Jessel

Will my right hon. Friend invite the museums in Nottingham to consider the excellent settlement that he has obtained, which has increased arts funding for the next three years to 17 per cent., which will do much to boost the arts as a source of national strength, and which has confounded his critics and shown the Conservative party to be the party which really cares about the arts?

Mr. Luce

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said and very encouraged by it. There is no doubt that three-year funding gives arts organisations the time for planning their dispositions and financial arrangements in the long term. What needs to be remembered is that the basic objective behind this policy is to encourage organisations that now depend on taxpayers' money to become more self-reliant. That is why I have earmarked a sum of money for incentive funding, which will help them to achieve that objective.