HC Deb 20 May 1988 vol 133 cc1208-74

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Boscawen.]

9.36 am
The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Richard Luce)

The House has debated the arts every year since I became Minister for the Arts in 1985. It is the second year running that we have debated this subject in Government time. This is a welcome demonstration of the growing public and parliamentary interest and a clear indication of the Government's support for the arts.

As Arts Minister for nearly three years, I have made weekly visits to all parts of the country. I have been privileged and fortunate to see, as perhaps no one else can, the development of the arts. I have a very clear impression of the flowering of the arts in all regions and in all art forms. I shall give the House brief glimpses of the variety of arts activities that I have seen. The performances of the city of Birmingham symphony orchestra led by Simon Rattle, the attraction of the flourishing Chichester theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company's performance for the first time at Grimsby, and the Sadlers' Wells ballet in the Isle of Wight are all vivid memories in my mind.

I recall seeing the Ruthin craft centre in north Wales, where the craftsmen both work and sell, the new Queens Hall arts centre in Hexham and the Beaford arts centre in Devon. I have seen, too, at Dundee the way in which the community has improved its environment through artistic activity.

To demonstrate the scale of expansion taking place, there was one day in March when the foundation stone of the Sainsbury wing was laid at the national gallery and simultaneously I performed the ceremony of the completion of an extension to the Imperial War Museum's building. I have opened, for example, the new library at Ross-on-Wye, the Citadel arts centre at St. Helens, jointly funded by a Pilkington Glass charitable body and the local authority, and the entirely new Hertfordshire heritage centre—a voluntary body set up to raise money to help preserve Hertfordshire's heritage. I shall be attending next week the opening of the new Tate building in Liverpool, following last year's opening of the new Clore gallery at the Tate in London.

Abroad I have seen the excellent work of the British Council at, for example, the exhibition of Henry Moore's work in India and the inaugural celebrations of Berlin as European city of culture, to which there will be a large British contribution next year.

As we move towards the last part of the century we see a growing number of people wanting to enjoy arid participate in the nation's artistic life. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said recently: Life is not whole unless the arts are a part of it". The role of the Arts Minister is to create the best possible climate in which the arts can flourish—a climate which encourages artistic excellence and the accessibility of all the arts to the greatest number of people. The way I work to achieve those objectives is primarily by plural funding—a partnership in which moneys from the taxpayer and the private sector work together for the benefit of the arts. This not only helps the arts financially, but ensures their greater freedom and integrity. The more self-reliant they are, the healthier will the arts be.

There are an increasing number of leaders in the arts world who are taking every opportunity to bring about these changes. This is in stark contrast to those last remaining anachronistic figures from the past who cannot accept them and for whom the concept of total dependence on the state was paradise. Their antics are like the last thrashings of the tail of a dying crocodile. That era is over.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)

I admire the right hon. Gentleman's poetic analysis of those who are in favour of public, social and community support for the arts, but who are the people whom he is describing as being interested only in that kind of support, rather than in encouraging people to attend and, for that matter, pay for the arts? It is nonsensical.

Mr. Luce

The hon. Gentleman knows the range of people about whom I am talking.

I announced at Newcastle in July of last year the start of a long-term plan for the funding of the arts based on that principle, and my three-year financial settlement of last November represents an important practical step towards its implementation.

My intention is, first, to keep up the real value of public support for the arts, which is why the settlement gives a 17 per cent. increase over the next three years, and, secondly, to encourage arts bodies to use that public support to stimulate the growth of private funding. My settlement gives the arts bodies a framework in which to do that. It specifies definite figures for each body over not just one year but three years. It provides, in most cases, a relatively generous grant in the first year. This gives institutions elbow room and time to draw up plans to become more self-reliant.

The new policy of incentive funding involves the use of taxpayers' money as a catalyst for the expansion of total income. My main object is to increase the total resources available to the arts; to see the proportion provided by the private sector rise; and to reward, not to penalise, success. To help increase access to the arts, which I regard as important, I have earmarked specific sums of money for the touring plans of the arts institutions, of which I shall say more later.

The artist is increasingly realising the importance of his audience. The box office—in its various forms—is important, not just in financial terms, but because it is one of the artist's tasks to mirror and interpret the concerns of his times. His is not merely a private world. He depends on communication for his raison d'etre. Some of our greatest artists—Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens being notable examples—have been those most conscious of the market. The artist's creative sustenance, as well as his financial support, come from his fellow men. It is, therefore, important to remember his dependence on the public. That is why I am promoting and encouraging measures to improve the marketing, management and general professionalism of arts organisations.

The arts marketing scheme launched in December 1986 taught us a lot about the demand for and the variable standards of arts marketing. On 25 February this year I announced new initiatives to remedy some of the problems identified: training—especially for senior management—and a distance learning package capable of reaching the smaller arts bodies. Marketing and management help for the arts will be further strengthened by a project designed to encourage greater business involvement in the arts. I shall shortly be making an announcement about this in collaboration with the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts and the business community.

I shall briefly examine some important developments in the arts. The Arts Council has received a funding increase of 13 per cent. in real terms since 1979–33 per cent. including abolition money. I warmly welcome the way in which the council, led by Sir William Rees-Mogg and the director-general, Luke Rittner, is embracing the new national climate of enterprise and encouraging arts organisations to become part of it. The council always has harsh choices to make, even with increased resources, and has fulfilled this task with imagination and sensitivity.

The council has launched an incentive funding scheme which aims to secure £2 of private money for every £1 from the taxpayer. Over three years this should generate an additional £25 million of private sector money. Applicants must demonstrate a sustainable increase in private support from various sources—above all, the box office. The scheme is intended to assist the small arts organisation as well as the large, the innovative as well as the well-established. The council's touring initiative, for which £1.5 million has been set aside in 1988–89, has already produced increases in touring in all areas of art, opera, classical ballet, theatre, literature and orchestras. I welcome, too, the establishment of Upstart, a joint venture by the Arts Council and the private sector for the promotion of regional touring. All this will help to improve public access to high quality arts.

I should like to draw the House's attention to the positive thinking and efforts of the regional arts associations. They have long been a key factor in encouraging local arts activity, and their role continues to grow. They have recognised the new climate of incentive funding and shown their willingness to work with it. In recent years there has been a substantial shift of resources towards the regions. In this context I welcome the important role that the local authorities are playing, showing an increased concern for partnership and involvement in the arts.

The British film institute continues to do an important job and I welcome its development of the museum of the moving image due to open this autumn on the south bank. This is privately funded—largely through the generosity of Mr. John Paul Getty—and will be self-financing. I take this opportunity to congratulate the retiring director, Mr. Anthony Smith, on his remarkable achievements over the last 10 years. He has been foremost in his promotion of the new incentive policy and made a most significant increase to the private funding of the institute also. I look forward to working with the new director, Mr. Wilf Stevenson.

There is no better illustration of the success of plural and incentive funding than the business sponsorship incentive scheme, which was set up in 1984. In just over three years it has produced an additional £17 million of new money for the arts, helping to increase arts sponsorship overall from £500,000 in the mid-70s to over £30 million today. Every £1 of taxpayers' money put into the scheme raises nearly £2.50 from the private sector. Our evidence suggests that 90 per cent. of the new sponsors maintain their sponsorship into a second year and beyond. It is important to note that 70 per cent. of the scheme's awards go outside London and to all kinds of arts activity.

Expenditure on public libraries, excluding capital, has gone up by 16.5 per cent. in real terms since 1979. The plural funding principle extends to all areas of my responsibility—and that includes public libraries. That is the point of my consultative paper on libraries issued on 23 February. I want to reiterate, in the strongest terms, my commitment to the preservation of the basic free library service for lending and reference. The Green Paper seeks to explore ways in which, while that free service is preserved, public libraries might generate more income, achieve improved value for money and better service to the public; for example, through using more extensively their present powers to charge; through introducing new charged services; through joint ventures with the private sector; and through further contracting out of services.

I have set aside £250,000 per annum for three years for a public library development incentive scheme which will enable libraries to experiment in some of those areas. I announced the first awards on 6 May—for a wide variety of initiatives—to library authorities in Berkshire, Cleveland, Devonshire, Gateshead, Leicester and Sheffield, and to two regional library co-operatives: the London and South Eastern Library Region and the Northern Regional Library System.

The Government are proud to be providing a fitting and long-needed home for the British Library and its unsurpassed collections in the exciting new building under construction at St. Pancras. The project is on target and the building, designed to blend in with its famous neighbour, St. Pancras station, is beginning to take impressive shape. The current stage of construction will be completed in 1993, but the library will start using the building by 1991.

Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

The Minister says that the building is on time, but will he confirm that it is also well over budget? Will he tell the House how much over budget it is?

Mr. Luce

I shall try to answer that in a moment. With the leave of the House I shall seek to reply to the debate and answer some of the points that are raised. The hon. Gentleman should give me the chance to complete what I want to say, because it is important that we understand correctly the position of that library at the moment, and my objectives.

I have now commissioned a feasibility study for the next stage of the building. The object of the study is to draw up a plan for completing the project in a way that meets the key requirements of the library at the minimum additional cost. That stage should form a fitting extension and conclusion to the building now under construction. When it is occupied—we hope no later than 1996—all the key elements of the British library, including most of its London-based collections, will be housed at St. Pancras, for the first time ever, in a controlled, pollution-free environment. Services for readers and facilities for staff will be radically improved. I know that this new library will become a vital and valued national asset; an important addition to the British heritage. I believe that it will prove to be one of the great cultural achievements of the 20th century.

The national heritage memorial fund, set up in 1980 and given a special injection of £20 million in October 1987, ensures that we preserve the best of our treasures for the nation, to enrich the lives of future generations.

Recent Government initiatives have made the fund even more effective. The important change in acceptance-in-lieu-of-tax arrangements announced in July 1985 allows access to the Contingency Reserve for acceptances up to an average of about £10 million per annum, in addition to the annual £2 million vote provision. In March 1987, the Government announced that they would waive interest charges on the tax due on an object offered in lieu. A new hybrid arrangement allows items with a special price greater than the tax liability to be offered in lieu. This has allowed us to retain Picasso's "Weeping Woman", and Gainsborough's "Captain Wade".

Two reports have recently been published on our national museums and galleries—one by the Museums and Galleries Commission and one by the National Audit Office. The picture that they present is pretty different from the scare stories put about by some commentators. Of course there are problems, such as conservation and pressures on space, but they arise against the background of our national museums thriving and expanding in many areas of activity, engaged in a major programme of extensions and refurbishments, some of which I have already mentioned. The fact is that the Government have an impressive record on funding for museums and galleries—an overall increase of 26.5 per cent. in real terms since 1979 and of over 50 per cent. on building alone.

My policy is to give the trustees the maximum freedom to plan, choose and control their own expanding activities. They therefore received grant-in-aid status in 1986–87, which strengthens their powers and allows them to benefit from their increased earnings. On 1 April 1988 the trustees took direct responsibility for their own buildings, receiving an increase of over 20 per cent. in their building funds this year. It is obviously counter-productive to encourage the collection of treasures unless there are buildings fit to house them. I thank the Property Services Agency for its work over the years for the museums and galleries and for its co-operation in this untying procedure.

Such an expansion of activity naturally brings pressures and the need to decide on priorities, conservation being one of the most important. It is for the institutions themselves to make these decisions. I am doing all that I can to help. That is why when last autumn's settlement gave the museums a 16 per cent. cash increase over the three years—some of that money was for management and marketing improvements.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Is the Minister not worried by the fact that when museum charges are imposed there is an average 30 to 40 per cent. fall-off in attendance? The trustees cannot want to reduce attendance by charging, so why do they charge?

Mr. Luce

The most important thing to remember when considering charges—no doubt there will be plenty of scope this morning to debate the issue—is that in all cases it is for the trustees to decide whether to introduce charges. The Natural History Museum, raised £1.3 million net in additional resources in the first year. These additional resources should be devoted to improving facilities for the public. If there is a link to be made—there has been at the Victoria and Albert museum, which now opens on Fridays thanks to the donations of the public who attend it—it is between an increase in overall resources and an improved service to the public. That is the most important thing to take into account. The benefits of these increased resources are already visible in the quality of the corporate plans of each of the museums and galleries. I am discussing personally each of those corporate plans with the directors of those meseums and galleries.

I have also allocated £270,000 over three years to the Museums and Galleries Commission to help non-national museums strengthen their management and marketing. The commission is today announcing an exciting programme of initiatives for this purpose. This is part of a formidable programme of measures to help institutions to determine priorities and make good use of resources. It includes the major museums training initiative, which I announced in March, and a research study into the management of collections.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Picking up the point made by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), although it is right to say that attendances fall back following the imposition of charges, is it not also true to say that attendances have recovered fairly rapidly? Has my right hon. Friend any statistics to show that?

Mr. Luce

My hon. Friend is right. The evidence suggests that in most cases where charges are introduced attendances drop substantially in the first six months or year, but thereafter they tend to pick up. For example, the National Maritime Museum has had charges for some time now and attendances are picking up, with an increase of 16 per cent. this year over the previous year. There has also been an increase in attendances this April over those for April last year at the Natural History Museum, which has had charges in both years. My hon. Friend has made a valid point.

I welcome the continuing success of our museums, especially the excellence of their scholarly work. Only last week Sir David Wilson at the British museum showed me the recent scholarly output his institution—I found it immensely impressive. My priority is to see the greater accessibility of our treasures to the nation at large. To help achieve this I have set up the travelling exhibitions unit at the Museums and Galleries Commission. I remind the House that the original unit, which was designed to facilitate that kind of activity, was abolished by the Labour Government in the late 1970s. The unit is further supported by the Government indemnity scheme.

I regard it as of primary importance for the magnificent treasures of our national museums and galleries to be seen all over the country and indeed the world. Their record here is already impressive. The British museum, for example, lent out almost 2,500 objects in 1987 and the Victoria and Albert museum 3,000. I will do anything in my power to increase that lending.

There has been a great deal of talk recently on the whole question of disposals from national museums and galleries. I believe that trustees should have some power of disposal. in the interests of good collections management. I therefore intend to provide appropriate powers for those galleries that do not already have them. It is clear from the worries that have been widely expressed on this subject, which I respect, that widely different views are held and different institutions probably have varying needs. I therefore propose to have a consultation exercise to see how we can best make an appropriate and flexible response to those differing needs.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said recently at the Royal Academy: You need the whole of the arts to make the cities". The importance of the arts in city regeneration is highlighted in the Government's document on the inner cities initiative, launched by the Prime Minister on 7 March. Arts developments are part of the overall plan for the cities and need the support of local and private sector interests. There are some excellent examples, such as the national museum of film, photography and television at Bradford and the redevelopment of the dock area at Bristol to include the Arnolfini arts centre, the Watershed multimedia centre and industrial museums. These demonstrate the place of the arts as an integral part of general commercial regeneration.

I am very proud of the fact that I chose Glasgow to be the European cultural city in 1990. The city has already responded in a most positive fashion and we are seeing a great artistic resurgence there.

The imaginative generosity of the private sector has been shown in past years in many outstanding acts of patronage. Notable examples are the donation of the Clore gallery to the Tate by Mrs. Duffield of the Sainsbury wing to the National gallery and the many donations of Mr. John Paul Getty.

Those are wonderful and exceptional demonstrations of the giving spirit which, in earlier times, built our libraries and our galleries and museums and which the economic depression and grasping hand of state Socialism had dampened for a while but which is now being revived by economic success and a policy that allows people of varying standards of wealth to keep more of their own money. That spirit was given further encouragement in this year's radical and exciting Budget, both by its boosting of disposable income and by its doubling of the tax-deductible incentive under the payroll-giving scheme.

That increase in wealth and income means that participation and patronage need no longer be the preserve of the few. More and more people now have the chance to demonstrate their concern for non-material things. That is indeed the new spirit of our times, which will produce a new age of giving and participation in the arts. My ambition is to herald that new age. As the late President 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 the quality of a nation's civilisation.

10.2 am

Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

I join the Minister in welcoming the debate and recognise that, for the second year running, the Government have provided it in their own time. I thank them for that.

The Minister started by treating the House to a fascinating glimpse of his diary, "The Travels of an Arts Minister", with the Arts Minister as the perfect and compleat arts audience. Hon. Members, particularly Conservative Members, having cast covetous eyes at his job, will have seen how enjoyable it is. He appears to be the compleat spectator, but there was a touch of complacency in his remarks. He appeared to be citing his list of visits as an indication of the health of the arts at the moment. The fact that he is present at an arts event does not necessarily mean that the arts are doing well under the Government. Although he is undoubtedly an assiduous spectator at arts events, his record as an initiator or a player in the arts world is not good.

Listening to the Minister, hon. Members might have thought, if they took all his words at face value, that arts companies, museums, galleries and libraries were positively bathed in the Government's bounty; but the Minister knows from his weekly visits, whether to Newcastle, Glasgow, Liverpool or Bradford, the needs of artists, administrators and members of audiences. They tell him the same story: that their companies are struggling to survive.

I suspect that the Minister also hears questions, such as, "Why do the Government not value the arts? Why do they not promote the arts?" Today the House has an opportunity to consider the arguments and to decide whether, as the Minister says, all is well and flourishing in our culture or whether as we contend, the success of the arts is in spite of the Government and not because of them.

We maintain that the Government's record in the arts and cultural industries is miserable. Every other country in Europe is heavily increasing its investment in the arts, almost every local authority in this country is beginning to invest heavily in the arts and the demand from arts audiences has never been higher, yet for the past nine years the Government have done next to nothing. To be more precise, they have done the minimum that they could. Instead of leading, they have dragged their feet along behind the arts. Today the House has a chance to consider their record as it stands.

Let us consider the Government's funding record. I shall start with the museums of which the Minister is particularly proud. He claims that there have been increases in the general level of funding of our nine national museums. Frankly, the figures do not bear him out. Revenue funding has increased from £33.6 million in 1979 to £61 million in 1987–88, but, after allowing for inflation, that is a cut in real terms of 3.2 per cent. Individual museums have fared even worse. The National Portrait gallery's general funding is down by 15 per cent. and that of the Victoria and Albert museum is down by 9 per cent.

How do we explain the difference between those figures, which are correct Government figures, and the picture given by the Minister? He referred to Professor Brian Morris's important report on national museums issued last week, the first in 60 years. He said that that presented a different picture from the gloomy picture that I presented to the House last week, which he described as nonsense. I do not expect the House to take my word for it, so I shall quote from Professor Morris's report. He identifies a funding gap in our national museums, and says: The funding gap is serious … The effects are lamentably to be seen in terms of closed galleries, reduced security, curtailed opening hours or days, backlogs of work, less ability to help schools, inefficient use of staff time and less good service to the public … Most serious is the danger of a cumulative, long-term decline in curatorial standards.

That is hardly a glowing picture. It does not tally with the Minister's attempt to put a gloss on his museums policy. Contrary to what the Minister said, it is sadly borne out by the National Audit Office report, which refers to "poor storage conditions" at the Victoria and Albert museum the Tate gallery and the British museum. and states that the problem of conservation is "worsening all the time". Those three museums are no longer able to ensure proper stocktaking. Amazingly, that is in the best funded part of our museum service.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) referred to charges. The Government will not accept their responsibility for our national museums. The Minister is correct to say that the Government have put money into the fabric and buildings, but we can see from the National Audit Office's report that the picture is very grim in the crucial areas of purchasing, conservation, stock control, research and curatorial standards. Because the Government will not fund properly, the trustees are having to turn to charges.

The point made by the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) was rather misleading. The figures come down in the first year, as the Minister acknowledges, ususally by about 40 per cent. Dr. Neil Coussons reckons that the figures at the Science museum will also come down by about 40 per cent. when charges are introduced next year. The Minister is right to say that there is a slight upturn, but the upturn for the National Maritime museum last year was only 16 per cent. It has still not reached the level of five years ago, in spite of the fact that national attendance at museums has continued to grow. It is only when we remove museum charges, as York did after several years, that we see the figures rise again.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Surely the fact is that, unfortunately, we are not an arts-conscious nation, despite the fact that the Government give people the opportunity to visit museums. In Italy or France, people are queueing up to visit museums and they pay to do so. There are long queues outside every institution in Venice and every other cultural centre in Italy. Surely the basic problem is that we need a better arts education in the schools.

Mr. Fisher

The hon. Gentleman has unintentionally made my point for me—the Government are not arts-conscious, and after nine years we face the subsequent results and problems. Education is important. and the Government's record has worrying implications for the future of the arts.

The national museums—despite the gloomy picture painted by Professor Morris—are, perversely, the best funded. The whole range of museums in the regions, however, are struggling along on a pittance. The seven English area museum councils receive in total £2.4 million a year. For years, everyone in the museum service has told the Minister that the grant should be doubled, but he is absolutely deaf to their pleas. That gives a hollow ring to the Government's claim of bringing excellence to the regions.

The Minister attempted to bluster his way through when discussing public libraries, but he knows well that the record on public libraries is disastrous. Let me remind him of the facts. Under this Government a net 200 public libraries have closed, book funds are down by 40 per cent. and in some authorities they are down more than that—in Bradford by 61 per cent. and in Bromley by an amazing 90 per cent.

If one visits public libraries one learns about library closures, staff redundancies, a loss of hours and even closure on certain days of the week. No wonder that book loans were down 6 million last year. Why is that? It is not because libraries are not valued by the public; they take out 655 million books every year. Certainly, libraries are valued by local authorities and most of them recognise that public libraries are the most popular community service that they offer. Certainly those libraries are valued by the staff, who have an amazing record of imagination and invention when introducing new ideas and services to the public. They have introduced services for the housebound, outreach communities, arts projects, prisons, ethnic minorities, teenagers and, not least, industry—that is an important service that the Government do not appreciate. The decline in funding for libraries is as a result of Government's hostility to local authority expenditure. To sustain library services in the climate of rate capping and penalties is extremely difficult.

Mr. Gerald Bowden (Dulwich)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the disposition of a local authority's resources is within its charge? It decides its priorities. My authority has decided to close its public libraries on certain days of the week and has decided to deny those who live in the borough the opportunity to read certain newspapers with which it politically disagrees. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that that is the way in which the authority should run its affairs? If public libraries are the jewel in the crown of local authorities, they should give them more resources and not deflect them, but that is in the authorities' hands.

Mr. Fisher

Obviously we cannot debate rate capping and the Government's attitude to local authority finance. The hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) knows full well that, far from the finances of local authorities being in their own hands, the Government forbid them by law to go to the electorate to raise the money they seek. The Government do not even allow authorities to spend their own capital grant, which is sitting in banks all over the country. The hon. Gentleman's argument is nonsense.

The Minister also mentioned the Green Paper. We need a debate solely devoted to that document because it is extremely important. The Minister did not go into many details and he did not tell us that the Green Paper proposes charges for information, charging for a premium service for new books and competitive tendering for such things as book services for old people's homes, for videos and for branch libraries.

The Green Paper is an extraordinary document. It does not bear much relationship to the realities of the public library service. That is not surprising when one considers that the Minister did not choose to consult the Library Association or public libraries before producing it.

If the Green Paper is implemented—I fear that it may be—it could have a disastrous effect on public libraries. The Library Campaign has given us a glimpse of what public libraries would be like as a result of the Green Paper. A public library might have: five W. H. Smith-run branch libraries. The top fifty titles are available … on demand—50p per issue, one-week loan, fines payable thereafter. Other books available on the Category B shelves. Three books may be borrowed free at any one time. Additional titles may be borrowed—50p a go. If the book you want isn't there you can reserve it—£2.50 whether it's obtained or not. The Central Library has a lending section … It also has a Virgin sound and video library. Top 100 albums—£1 a go. Reference and information services are organised in specialist sections. £1 in the slot to get in. 50p for OAPs.

Enquiries which take up more than 15 minutes of staff time attract a premium charge of 50p … On-line facilities are available—£20 per connect minute.

If that is what the Government want our public library services to be like, that is what they will get as a result of the Green Paper. If the Minister listens to the consultations and submissions he will receive from the library authorities he will realise that the Green Paper is sheer nonsense. The idea that people will queue up to make competitive bids to run library services to old people's homes and will make huge sums of money out of such services is absolute nonsense. If the Minister knew anything about the video world, he would be aware that Virgin and others involved with video lending need prime sites in city centres with shop fronts. They will not queue up to make a tender for sites inside public libraries. The Minister has not done his homework on the Green Paper, but we shall have to discuss it on another occasion.

It is important to set the record straight on funding. Last November the Minister announced his new departure for arts funding—three-year funding. I pay tribute to that initiative, and I believe that the arts world perceives it to be an extremely welcome development.

The Minister said that the Arts Council grant has increased by 8.4 per cent. to £150 million and that it will increase by 3 per cent. in the next two years. It does rather take the gloss off three-year funding if one is told that one can plan for three years, but that the grant for the next two years will be below the rate of inflation. That is a cut in real terms. As we said at the time, and contrary to what the Minister has said, such funding does not bring the Arts Council grant back to the level that it was in 1979 in real terms. The grant is £20 million short of what the Arts Council said it needed in 1987–88 to sustain the output and development of the arts.

The Minister also said that £5 million of the £11 million had been earmarked for the new incentive schemes. As a result, the effective money available for the base budgets of regional arts associations and arts companies all over the country has been cut. The Greater London Arts Association has suffered a cash cut of 1.2 per cent. Northern Arts—the Minister has visited that organisation and he knows the superb job that it does—has been given an increase of 0.6 per cent. only—a cut in real terms.

Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes)

That is not the Minister's fault.

Mr. Fisher

Of course it is. The Minister earmarked for different uses the money provided. It was not as though the Arts Council was perverse and wanted to cut the allocations to the regional arts associations or to cut the grant to the English National Opera or the Royal Shakespeare Company by giving them only a 2.5 per cent. increase in funding. It also had to cut the allocation to the national theatre and the royal opera house. The Arts Council did not want to do that because it is aware of the valuable work that is performed by the associations and companies. Unfortunately, it has not been given the funding that is needed for the base budgets of those associations and companies.

If the award was as good as the Minister has said, why are arts clients all over the country on standstill budgets or worse? The Government are not funding them straight. This is not a record of success and plenty, but a record of neglect.

The Minister is correct to say that it is not only a question of funding and that much is happening in the arts. Thank heavens it is. We see expansion, ideas, new ventures, and developments. Audiences are increasing, demand is growing and people are participating more. The standards are high, but all those things are not as a result of Government policy. Such developments are taking place in local authorities.

Local authorities are already by far the largest spenders on the arts. Last year they spent £520 million on the arts, compared with the Arts Council's spending of £150 million. Despite Government hostility to local authorities and local authority expenditure, there is development there. Local authorities, whether Sheffield, Newcastle, Birmingham, Glasgow or Bradford, or smaller local authorities, such as Stirling, Cambridge, Swindon, Dundee, Wolverhampton and Scunthorpe, recognise what the Government refuse to recognise—the importance of the arts. Even one or two Tory authorities do. When Cardiff was Tory, it funded the arts world, and Westminster has a good record on its overall level of expenditure.

The arts are bursting with ideas, such as Swindon's community access to media projects, Dundee's superb arts project in the Blackness area and the south Humberside dance project. There is plenty going on despite the Government, not because of them. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) in paying tribute to Glasgow's superb Mayfest. Glaswegians would be amazed by the Minister saying that he is responsible for Glasgow receiving the European cultural city of the year award. It is they who have earned it and they deserve it.

Mr. Buchan

We welcome the thanks for that. Has my hon. Friend seen The Scotsman today, which states: Rifkind in £140 million cash clawback. That includes local authorities in Glasgow, which he has been praising so much over the last few months.

Mr. Fisher

I am ashamed to say that I have not seen The Scotsman today, but that admirably answers the point.

Unlike the Government, local authorities recognise the cultural, social and economic importance of the arts. That is why, unlike the Government, local authorities are increasingly developing arts projects and policies. They recognise not just the public sector and the role of sponsorship. but the voluntary sector. The Minister did not mention the role that the voluntary sector is increasingly playing at community level in arts activities. Not once did he mention the independent commercial sector. Unlike him, local authorities recognise that a good range of good quality bookshops, record shops and cinemas are as much part of our arts life as public sector provision. Yet the Minister did not mention that.

The Government do not have a policy or a vision. I looked through the Minister's speech at the Council of Regional Arts Associations conference in Newcastle last night and it is a deeply ill-judged, unhappy one. [Laughter.] The arts world has certainly perceived it as such, and many were depressed and disgusted by it.[Interruption.] If the Minister is relying on praise from the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) with his views on the arts, he must know that he has got it wrong.

I looked for something positive in the Newcastle speech and the most positive aspect was the Government's commitment to protect our heritage and the status quo and to create conditions later in the year for plural funding. There were many more depressing aspects of Government policy. The Minister criticised "the welfare state mentality" of the arts and the attitude that the taxpayer owes them a living. Many in the arts find that deeply insulting and wholly at odds with the facts. The Minister continued that his view of the arts criterion value was if it's any good, people will be prepared to pay for it. Chillingly, he ended by saying: You should accept the political and economic climate in which we now live and make the best of it. It will be a long time before the arts world forgets that thoroughly ill-judged, unhappy speech.

The Minister referred to his incentive funding scheme and reliance on sponsorship. That scheme, for which he takes credit, has been ill thought out. There appears to be a direct clash and contradiction between the role of sponsorship through the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts and the business sponsorship incentive scheme, and the role of the Arts Council as agent for the challenge funding. The arts world will look with great interest at the results of the first year of the scheme. At present, the only activity appears to be the profusion of consultancies that have been spawned by it. This week I talked to a major and responsible arts sponsor in the corporate sector who was clearly wholly confused by the two schemes, had not yet been approached on challenge funding and did not understand what it was about. The Minister has work to do if he is to make that succeed.

We do not have time to go into the whole question of sponsorship, although my hon. Friends may take that up. The political climate is affected by the Government's attitude to education. I fear that the Education Reform Bill will not assist the arts and that the reassurances that the Minister has attempted. to give do not in any way address the anxieties of arts educators.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware that the Education Reform Bill, for the first time in our history, makes music and art compulsory subjects in the school curriculum. His Government never did that

Mr. Fisher

Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware that the arts are described in the Bill as visual arts and music. There is a distinct threat to the enormous explosion of drama, dance, film, video and media studies, all of which have taken off in schools and have appealed to young people and teachers. They are all threatened simply because of the Government's limited definition of arts as art and music. That danger is compounded by the fact that the Government have closed more art schools than any other Government and underfund the art schools which exist.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Is the hon. Gentleman following the national education curriculum group, particularly that concerned with English, and has he made submissions to it on the arts, including acting and so on? There is no doubt that that is where such arts activities will come from.

Mr. Fisher

The House respects the hon. Gentleman's opinions and knowledge on education, but I fear for the future of the arts under the Education Reform Bill. It will all depend on how the circulars are worded and how the Bill, which is imprecise, is interpreted.

The Minister referred to the wider political climate in his Newcastle speech. The Government are imposing increased pressure on the media, on broadcasting and, similarly, through that on the freedom of expression and speech. We hear this week that the Broadcasting Standards Council is seeking to preview all foreign programmes. That will send a chill through the arts world and those who care about freedom of speech. There is a similar problem over clause 29 of the Local Government Bill which will undoubtedly lead to a mood of intolerance and oppression and will limit the freedom of expression of gay men and lesbian women—something which the Minister says will not happen, but is already happening through his local authority colleagues.

What I fear most about sponsorship and clause 29 is not so much the overt problems that arise, as the degree of self-censorship which will be engendered in preparing programmes and in not doing work which otherwise should be done. That self-censorship strikes at the heart of a healthy, free-expression arts world. The Minister must address that problem.

All that comes back to the Minister's lack of policy and vision, or indeed his hostility towards local authorities.

Mr. Gerald Bowden


Mr. Fisher

I have given way to the hon. Gentleman already.

The Minister is missing the obvious because he does not allow himself to see it. A retail revolution is changing the centres of all our cities, and our inner cities are being redeveloped. Local authorities understand that the arts are an anchor element in that redevelopment. They are a key element, whether in Newcastle, Birmingham, Manchester or Glasgow, in inner-city regeneration.

The Arts Council has attempted to address the problem of urban renaissance. Seven pages is a rather slight and superficial response to a major opportunity and a major challenge to the arts. I made this point about the arts economy to the Minister during the whole of last year and eventually he commissioned a report. Does he remember it? He commissioned Mr. Paul Collard to report on arts in the inner cities. Mr. Collard produced an excellent report within eight weeks. What happened to the report? Because it paid tribute to local authorities and said that they had a key role to play, the Minister suppressed it—or rather, I think that he caved in to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, who said that it would be published over his dead body. [Interruption.] That rumour has yet to be disproved.

The Secretary of State for the Environment said that anything that paid tribute to and recognised the constructive role of local authorities could not be given the Government's stamp of approval. Apart from seeing the constructive and interesting evidence in the report, the Minister may have read the fine print. The report says that the evidence finally suggests that, as far as is possible, central government funds are … being frozen, reduced or abolished. This is frequently against the direct advice of officers in the appropriate ministries. The Minister should recognise that he did not do a service to free speech, to research or to the arts world by so crudely suppressing the Collard report. Collard identified the crucial importance of the cultural industries—publishing, recording, film, video, broadcasting and fashion design. The Government should be looking at those things and directing to them their energy, investment and training. They should recognise the central relationship between seed funding at local authority, arts association and Arts Council level and the explosion of talent in the cultural industries.

If only the Minister would allow himself to recognise those things, he would see that the international and national implications are enormous. The cultural industries are highly profitable. Last year, publishing had a net trade balance in our favour of £550 million. Records made £450 million. We have 40 per cent. of the world's record industry and the Government are not investing in order to support and sustain that enormous growth.

If only the Government would recognise that, they would not talk about the welfare state mentality. On the contrary, the Treasury should be extremely grateful to the arts and the cultural industries because I suspect that, leaving aside the £5,000 million that is attributable to tourism and our arts and heritage, the cultural industries probably bring in a net benefit of £1,000 million in foreign exchange and trade every year. They do that at a time when our balance of trade in manufactured goods is over £8,000 million in deficit. If the Minister understood the realities of the cultural industries and the economy and was not ideologically prevented from recognising them, he would be able to go to the Chancellor and make a positive case for more investment in the arts. Time and again, the arts pay for themselves by their contributions to the Treasury.

The Government should be redefining our arts, our cultural heritage and our media along the lines that I have described. They should be backing local government and making the arts a statutory responsibility. The Government say that the arts are important, but why is it the only local government service that local authorities do not have to provide? Statutory responsibility for the arts and an element of the rate support grant would do more for an explosion in and a flowering of the arts at local authority level than anything else. But, of course, that does not fit the ideology of the Government.

Such a move would widen access and allow more voices to be heard. The Government should recognise that many people—especially the young, the old, black people, Asians, women and the disabled—are not being heard in our culture. We are missing their testament, their witness to what it is like to live in our society. We are all suffering from that loss, because our culture would be richer if we had that wider range of voices. Because they cannot see that, the Government are missing opportunities in training for the young. If the Minister looks around the country he will see in every major city many young rock bands that do not have research, rehearsal, or recording facilities. There is an opportunity there if only the Minister could bring himself to recognise the economic and cultural importance of the arts.

The cultural industries are vital as a means of expression. As I have said, the Government are limiting the means of expression and free speech in our society. The arts is the one area left in which our values and our society can be not only celebrated but tested. Ideas can be explored, traditions questioned, and dissent expressed. That ability to set a wider public agenda is crucial to the health of the arts, so that they can contribute to and carry forward society's debate and its view and story about itself. Sadly, the Government lack the wit to see and support that. They moan about the welfare state mentality and ask the arts to accept the political and ecnomic climate around them. The Government have created that climate, which is hostile to artists, writers, film makers and painters throughout our society.

We shall not seek to push the debate to a vote, because it is taking place on the Adjournment of the House, but the Government have a miserable and sad record. Unless they recognise what is happening in the arts at local authority level and are prepared to put aside their ideology and back the enormously encouraging developments at local authority level, the prospects are grim.

10.36 am
Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) spoke about the political and economic climate. It is a climate of burgeoning confidence and enthusiasm that has not left the arts unaffected. He said that the arts are "bursting with ideas". Perhaps it has not occurred to him that that is a reflection of such burgeoning confidence, but that is no surprise.

I remember the impressive series of television programmes "Civilisation" by the late Lord Clark. Those programmes stressed the theme that it is confidence in society as a whole, as in the first Elizabethan and now the later stages of the second Elizabethan age, which is reflected in advances in science, exploration and prosperity, and is also reflected in enthusiasm and confidence in the arts.

One cannot separate the tremendous increase in national prosperity in our country, where living standards have risen by between a quarter and a third in the last eight or nine years, from the great confidence and success in the arts. The theatre in London, including the National theatre, is highly successful. It is quite difficult to get a seat for many plays, and more people go to the theatre than go to football matches.

Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Jessel

I have only shall give way to my hon. I thinker.

Mr. Dicks

Does my hon. Friend agree that the National theatre is packed to the door because it is subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of £28 per seat? Anyone who wants to watch Wimbledon play at Plough lane has to pay the full economic cost.

Mr. Jessel

I am very much in favour of the National theatre having a subsidy of about £6 million a year, which is equivalent to about 10p or 12p per head of the population, our population being about 55 million. The National theatre is a tremendous national asset. It is a pump primer and a source of inspiration to all the other theatres in Britain. It helps to draw to Britain visitors whose spending of money generates employment elsewhere, in hotels, restaurants and shops. This additional spending and the employment that it generates produce a tax yield to the Government and justify the subsidy. On that point the hon. Member for Stoke on Trent, Central and the Minister were right. The figure of £6 million is about right for the National theatre: it should not be much higher or lower.

In reply to my intervention the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central gave a wholly inadequate answer. He had said that the Government were not art conscious. I said that the art consciousness of the Government was proved by their being the first Government to make art and music compulsory. They are doing this in the Education Reform Bill, which is to come into effect next year. The hon. Gentleman did not make a very impressive point about that.

As for what the hon. Gentleman said about museum charges, if he goes to the Louvre in Paris he will expect to pay to go in, as will everyone else. Why on earth should the burgeoning numbers of foreign visitors not pay to enter our great museums? Why should most other people not pay, too? People expect to pay to go in.

Tomorrow marks an important tercentenary. The poet Alexander Pope was born on 21 May 1688. He lived and died in Twickenham and is buried in St. Mary's church there. We are immensely proud of him. He was without doubt one of England's greatest poets. His crisp command of language and his deep wisdom and insight shine through his poems. So many of Pope's lines have entered our daily language—for example: Know then thyself, presume not God to scan, The proper study of mankind is man"; or: To err is human, to forgive, divine"; or: All are but parts of one stupendous whole, Whose body Nature is, and God the soul; or: Oh grave where is thy sting, Where death thy victory?; or: Guide, philosopher, and friend"; or; I cannot sleep a wink".

A quotation from Pope that is said to be popular among civil servants is: For forms of government let fools contest; What e'er is best administer'd is best".

I bring that to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts, who is also the Minister for the Civil Service.

Some of Pope's lines remind me of right hon. and hon. Members: For fools rush in where angels fear to tread", or: A little learning is a dang'rous thing". One reminds me of the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan): Fire in each eye and papers in each hand, They rave, recite and madden around the land". Another reminds me of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher): Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never Is, but always To be blest". Yet another reminds me of the hon. Member for Newharn, North-West (Mr. Banks): The ruling passion, be it what it will, The ruling passion conquers reason still". Hon. Members who shall be nameless are captured in the following lines: Destroy his fib or sophistry—in vain! The creature's at his dirty work again". "Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer". "Old politicians chew on wisdom past, And totter on in business to the last". Those last remind me of one or two of our senior hon. Members.

I am happy to tell the House that Pope's tercentenary is to be commemorated by several events in my constituency. Tomorrow, Pope's birthday, as part of Twickenham week, of which I have the privilege to be president, the Strawberry hill residents' association is to hold a birthday party to be attended by nearly 300 of my constituents. It will be held in Walpole's drawing room at Strawberry hill, with which the House has a special link, because the Palace of Westminster would never have been rebuilt after the fire of 1830 in its present form but for the Gothic rebirth in British architecture that was started by Walpole in the drawing room of that house in Twickenham.

It so happens that at Pope's birthday party tomorrow, my wife, who is a professional actress, will read some of his poetry, and a British Army band from the Royal military school of music at Kneller hall in Twickenham will play. They reside in the house of Sir Godfrey Kneller, the English painter, who was a great friend of Alexander Pope.

Tonight, the Twickenham society is to hold a special event at Orleans house, Twickenham. The Twickenham local history society has brought out a fine commemorative booklet on Pope and mounted a superb tercentenary exhibition of paintings.

Among the paintings on show is Tilleman's celebrated view of Twickenham from the top of Richmond hill. It is a beautiful painting and is of tremendous local historical and topographical interest to my constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), who, being a Parliamentary Private Secretary to my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts, is precluded by convention from speaking in this debate. Nevertheless, I have been in close consultation with him about this important painting, the scene in which straddles his constituency and mine.

For 10 years, as a member of the Western European Union Parliamentary Assembly I have seen that painting in the British embassy in Paris. I have cast envious eyes on it and wondered how it could be brought to Twickenham so that my constituents could regularly see it. I asked for it four times and always failed because successive ambassadresses at the British embassy in Paris had fallen in love with it. Suddenly, last month, the painting appeared at the opening of the Pope tercentenary exhibition at Orleans house in Twickenham. I am told that the present ambassadress likes modern paintings.

What of the future of this painting? After discussions with my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes I approached my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary because I was told that the painting was earmarked for his private office after the tercentenary exhibition was over. My right hon. and learned Friend said that he would write to me, and this week I received his letter: You mentioned to me a while ago your interest in Peter Tilleman's "View of Richmond" which has recently been on loan to the Tate and is at present on loan to Orleans House in Twickenham for the Alexander Pope exhibition. Once this is over, the Government Art Collection are kindly arranging for it to be hung in my own office at the FCO, where it will fit in extremely well. This will, however, only be for a year or two, since we will be moving back in due course into our traditional suite of offices overlooking St. James's Park (which are at present being refurbished). I do not imagine that the Tilleman would fit in so well over there, and it will be for the Government Art Collection to decide where it should go thereafter. As you know, pictures from their collection normally hang only in central Government buildings.

I do not know what might be possible, but 1 ask my right hon. Friend to see whether the painting can be put permanently at, or close to, Twickenham and Richmond. I have the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes. I realise that such paintings normally go into Government buildings, but perhaps Marble hill house, which, following the welcome abolition of the GLC, now belongs to English Heritage, might qualify as a Government building, if English Heritage is willing.

Mr. Tony Banks

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way and for telling us all about the birthday party that he will have. I am sure that Pope is relieved that he is safely dead—at least he will not have to attend. Would the hon. Gentleman care to say something about Marble hill house and the magnificent way in which the GLC looked after it?

Mr. Jessel

As a former member of the Greater London council from 1967 to 1973, on which body I happened to be senior to the hon. Gentleman, I am happy to confirm that the Greater London council looked after the building well, and English Heritage is looking after it even better now.

It is important that paintings are seen. The same goes for furniture and other objects. That brings me to the subject of hoarding by certain museums. Britain has attics full of treasures. It cannot be right that large quantities of beautiful and interesting paintings and other art objects and works of art are hidden away in cellars, to be seen only by the odd academic. The whole purpose of a work of art is to be perceived. We should get works of art up and out, preferably on loan to galleries, or possibly, in some cases, to be sold and replaced by other objects which there is room to display.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's decision to publish a consultation paper on the matter. I hope that it will make specific reference to bequests. This is important. If people think that works of art will be sold, they will not bequeath them. It is important that the law should make a clear exception to protect bequests. That apart, the matter should be widely discussed. My hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) has an interest in the matter. I hope that if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he will refer to it.

Far too much stuff is hidden away and never seen. The British museum has 80 Michaelangelo drawings in drawers. In the 1950s the Victoria and Albert museum took on—perhaps it had to take on—the entire contents of the Indian museum of London. It is all stashed away in a store room in south London and never seen. That is wrong. The stuff should go on show, rather than be wasted and, in some cases, allowed to rot. It should stop. I welcome the decision of my right hon. Friend to initiate discussions on the matter. I hope that they will lead to something.

As my right hon. Friend said, this year, there has been a substantial increase in real terms in arts funding. In absolute figures it is a 17 per cent. increase over three years, starting with 10 per cent. last month. It was the best arts settlement ever. It was widely praised—and deservedly so—by the arts world when it was announced in November. Even Sir Peter Hall, who seldom has anything good to say about arts funding, said, "The Minister is to be thanked. He should be warmly congratulated. It is a very nice surprise." That was the view of anybody who was anybody in the arts world—or at least the top tier of it—about the announcement of the settlement.

The lower tier of the arts world is different. There are some professional whingers and whiners in that tier, whose attitude is so inflexible that they could not adapt to the fact that a substantial improvement had been announced. After a few weeks had gone by they continued whingeing and whining as though nothing had happened. Some of them are so geared to the begging bowl mentality that force of habit leads them to think that Government funding, if not an end in itself, is at least the main yardstick for determining how well the arts are doing. That view is nonsense.

Government funding, which is important and has increased, is a means to an end, to enable the arts to flourish and more people to enjoy them. Much more important for the arts than any Government funding—important though that is—is the general state of the national economy. The splendid economic growth that the country has seen under the present Government means that people have more to spend on leisure and on the arts. As I said by way of illustration, the London theatre is flourishing as at no time since the second world war. The main reasons are that, first, more people can afford to go to the theatre if they want to do so, and, secondly, the productions are good. There is tremendous enthusiasm in the London theatre. Superb productions are being put on, reflecting the new self-confidence of the arts, as part of the self-confidence of the country to which I referred.

Of course, that includes the live arts, which, as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central said, are bursting with ideas. It includes opera, ballet, concerts, and the forthcoming, highly imaginative promenade concert programme at the Royal Albert hall in Kensington. Through July, August and September thousands of young people will be able to enjoy the superb standard of promenade concerts and enrich their lives. If they wish, they can combine their visit to the Royal Albert hall with a visit to the South Kensington museums just down the road.

We should pay no attention to the jeremiahs. All in all, the arts are not doing too badly. They are doing well and are a great credit to the nation.

10.57 am
Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

Like the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), I am a great admirer of Alexander Pope. If the hon. Gentleman's wife had recited the poems, the whole House would have been enthusiastically entranced. As I listened to the hon. Gentleman, the lines that came most dominantly to my mind were from Pope's poem, the Dunciad: Lo, thy dread empire chaos is restored Light dies before they uncreating word Thy hand, Great Anarch, lets the curtain fall And universal darkness buries all.

As I listened to the hon. Gentleman, I was reminded of that climax, although there are some other lines in the Dunciad to which he might refer us. However, I do not wish to spoil matters in that sense.

In an admirable speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) referred to a speech that the Minister for the Arts made just after the election. He used the phrase, "welfare state mentality." I agree with every stricture that my hon. Friend made. The Minister must regret that he ever used such a phrase.

The phrase "welfare state mentality" insults the people who apply it to the arts and those who must take benefits under the welfare state. The phrase was intended to be derogatory in some sense. I cannot understand why any Minister for the Arts should wish to use it. The welfare state has had wonderful effects in sustaining the arts in good times and in bad. Therefore, any derogatory sense that applies to that phrase is wrong.

I looked up the meaning of the word "welfare" to make sure of it. It is a wonderful word, with a wonderful ancestry. It was used by Chaucer. If it can be used by him without a sneer, I should have thought that the Minister for the Arts should be capable of doing the same. The idea that there is anything wrong in public funding of the arts is absurd. There would not be any of our great museums without it. Many of our greatest artistic treasures would never have been protected if it were not for the welfare state and the welfare state mentality that was applied to the arts even before it was applied to the process of trying to protect some of the poorest or least protected of our citizens.

The best excuse for the right hon. Gentleman—this must be the reason, because he is an intelligent man—is that his speech was addressed not to the general public but to the Prime Minister, and he thought that she would appreciate the phrase. Some of his references today to the adoration and eagerness with which the Prime Minister attends to the affairs of the arts were interpolated a little unnecessarily. The best thing that we can say is that that phrase, which I hope will be expunged from the Minister's vocabulary, was intended to appease the Prime Minister rather than to achieve any other result.

The Minister cannot cast aside, in the almost derisory manner that he adopted, the report that he received a few days ago about the state of the museums. He has had a few days longer to read it than we have. I recommend everyone to read not merely a few phrases from it, although some of them are extremely important, but the whole report. Professor Brian Morris recommends that, because he says at the beginning—this has wrongly been criticised by some people in the arts world—that he is dealing with the ideas and principles involved, and has not made his report solely to make a series of recommendations at the end. He should not be criticised on that account, because it is an argument. It is utterly absurd for the Minister to think that it is an argument that comes down in any sense on the side of the Government. Either he has not attempted to read it properly, or he is seeking to mislead us—and I do not think that he would do the latter.

Some of the passages in the report have already been quoted by my hon. Friend the Member far Stoke-on-Trent, Central and by the newspapers, but there are many other important passages that have not been quoted. For example, page 10 begins the discussion on public funding. It says: Until the present decade, no one doubted that the Government accepted full financial responsibility for the national museums, whether they were run by an Education Department or by Trustees.

The report deals with exact amounts. I know how careful the Government are in producing statistics to prove how much they have spent since 1979. I often question many of these figures, because when one goes into them a little more carefully, they are suspect. I do not say that that applies especially to the office of Arts and Libraries, but it applies to it as well as to most other Government Departments. I say that as one who has, as head of his college, Wadham, the greatest statistician in the country. He often questions the way in which the Government produce their statistics.

Page 10 continues: Moreover, the increases in funding have since 1981–82 consistently fallen below trends in the levels of civil service pay settlements (which dictate the pay of national museum staff, but being negotiated between Government and civil service staff associations, are outside the museums' control). The funding gap is clearly shown in the chart opposite".

I hope that everyone who thinks that the Government have been sustaining the funding of the museums properly will look at that chart. It proves the opposite. That is why the commission, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central has said, is the first commission for 20 years to go into these matters so thoroughly, has produced a chart that proves that the Government have not been sustaining the funding of museums in the way that they should.

On page 12 we read: This funding gap is serious, and has had adverse consequences in all the national museums, which have had to leave unfilled varying numbers of posts in the complements (though these were determined after Government staff inspections). This next paragraph has often been quoted, but I put it in the context of my previous quotation. It says: The effects are lamentably to be seen in terms of closed galleries, reduced security"— this from the Government of great security— curtailed opening hours or days (as at the V & A until recently"—

Mr. Hanley

Until recently.

Mr. Foot

Yes, "until recently". I am reading a recent report. It continues: backlogs of work (eg on conservation and the production of catalogues and other scholarly publications), less ability to help schools (especially now, with GCSE), inefficient use of staff time (word processors can hardly be afforded), and less good service to the public (for example, the National Art Library at the V & A is still closed one day a week, and sorely underfunded).

The hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) implied that these matters have been remedied. There may have been remedies in one or two parts of that indictment, but I suggest that the Minister reads through the whole of it carefully and tells us exactly what is the truth. The report was published only a few days ago. If the Government have any criticisms of it, they had better produce their figures to repudiate it. Then we shall see whether Professor Morris and those who signed the report wish to agree with what the Government say.

Mr. Luce

One must see this in perspective. I am not saying that the report praises everything that the Government are doing, and I did not say that before. It is a thoroughly objective and good report, and it is valuable for the museums as well. If the right hon. Gentleman is taking selected bits out of it, he should be a little more balanced. In its conclusions, on page 36, the report says: Government funding of the national museums has increased significantly over the last ten years, as their activities have grown. He ought to acknowledge that.

Mr. Foot

I acknowledge that. As I said, the best way to read the report is to read all of it. Those who do so will come to the same conclusions as Professor Morris. He has made a statement in that document, which is one of the most valuable that could be produced on the real working of our museums, which confirms almost everything that has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central and by our previous spokesman on the arts, my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan). What they have been saying for years is confirmed by the report.

If the Minister is questioning the conclusion of the report, perhaps we should see what Professor Morris said after the report came out, when some people in the arts world were criticising it not because it was too censorious, but because it was not sufficiently severe in its criticisms of the Government or sufficiently direct in demanding the new things that should be done. Let us see what Professor Morris has to say about this, as the Minister wishes all these matters to be taken into account. The day after the report was published, Professor Morris, in an interview in The Independent, said: The document, a two-edged sword, is radically different from any other. Instead of a list of recommendations, we addressed ourselves to ideas and principles underlying the whole museum scene. He then set out what could be the remedies. The article continued: The report covers 19 museums throughout the country, which attract nearly 26 million visitors annually, and receive Government funding totalling £178 million. The Minister has invited us to make sure that we weigh every word from Professor Morris. The article goes on: Professor Morris said he wanted to see the annual grant raised to £200 million. 'That would go almost all the way to solving the immediate problems'.

Why cannot we have a yes to that proposition? Will the Government give a guarantee that in a few weeks they will produce new propositions for meeting the demands or requests, whatever we care to call them, that have been made by such a high-powered commission? The report highlights elementary needs and the action that must be taken to ensure that first requirements are met.

Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will accept that Professor Morris's report does not cover all the museums. Five university museums, including the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge, are excluded. Those five, thanks to antediluvian procedures, are maintained by the University Grants Committee. Unfortunately, they are right at the end of the queue of priorities.

Mr. Foot

I am glad to accept the hon. Gentleman's correction, which surely fortifies my case.

Some months ago I went to the Belfast museum. It is a wonderful institution that is tended, as most museums are, by a staff with a passionate concern to make their museum the very best possible. It is one of the institutions in that part of the United Kingdom, along with the universities and others, which bridges the gap between north and south. There is a fine interchange between different forms of culture. Given the history of the Irish situation, surely the Government should be eager to ensure that there are no closures in Belfast. However, closures are taking place. Professor Morris has drawn attention to the lamentable failure to provide proper facilities for the hard-working and devoted staffs of many museums, and I am sure that that applies to some of the museums to which the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) referred. I am sorry that I gave the impression that all the museums are covered in the report.

I hope that the Government will adopt a fresh approach and that we shall not hear again anything like the response that the Minister has so far produced. I hope that he will he eager to erase from our memory any recollection of the answer that he gave on this subject a few minutes ago. Perhaps that response can be attributed to the fact that he, like the rest of us, has had only a few days in which to read the report. It cannot be said that a proper job is being done for our museums when about £25 million is required immediately, according to Professor Morris and others who produced the report, to deal with current needs.

I turn to another subject that may not come directly within the establishment of the Minister's Department. Of course, I cannot blame him for that. None the less, anyone who considers the issue that I am about to raise will agree that the Minister should have responsibility for dealing with it.

The Commission for Learning has been referred to in the House on several occasions. I referred to it in a debate on the Commonwealth of Learning, which is a new name for the Open university for the Commonwealth. I raised the matter during the debate on the Queen's Speech in the knowledge that the Foreign Office had responsibility for such matters. As the Foreign Office has primary responsibility, the Minister may claim that it is not his business, but I say that he should make it his business. Advantage must be taken of the opportunity that is before us. A claim must be pitched at the highest possible level. I do not have the slightest doubt that 10 or 15 years hence the idea of the Commonwealth of Learning—it may have a new name, and the Commonwealth of Learning is itself a new name for what was previously discussed as an extension of the Open university to embrace the Commonwealth—will be recognised as one of the best ever to occur to us. It is a great and simple idea that will be of obvious benefit to the entire nation. Those who look back 10 or 15 years hence will wonder why it was not grasped immediately.

However miserable, backward and reactionary the present Government may be in dealing with the Commonwealth of Learning, the idea is so good that it will overwhelm all the Government's bureaucratic obstacles and anything worse that they produce to block its progress. It is a tremendous idea. In five or 10 years, or whenever, there will be a worldwide Commonwealth university, and the language in which that university will conduct its business will be predominantly English. It will be one of the ways in which the English language will continue its beneficent conquest. Over the next 10 or 15 years English will spread even further and the conquest will be even greater.

English will not be the sole language of the university because there are other wonderful languages to be associated with it. However, as the university is a Commonwealth idea and as it is backed primarily by the Commonwealth, it will be a university in which English is spoken. It will spread throughout the world on a scale never previously conceived. It will be the means by which the highest education will spread into many countries. I do not see how anyone who has the idea put before him can fail to recognise that it is a splendid idea and opportunity for Britain in every possible way. Even if we take the lowest possible estimates of the Prime Minister and the right hon. Lady's antagonism to the welfare state mentality, the proposed university offers huge commercial advantages over the next 10 or 20 years. I do not support the concept on that basis, however, because I do not believe that any great academic institution should be launched with that as its background.

In this context, we are way ahead of all other countries because a previous Government launched the Open university. Its introduction was not the result of a strict commercial calculation of what it would pay in five or 10 years' time. It was decided that a new instrument would be established with the purpose of spreading university education. It was decided also that from the very start the degrees that would be given by the Open university would be of the highest calibre. It was determined that there would be no second or third-rate standards. Instead, the highest standards were set from the outset. That was chiefly the result of Jenny Lee's insistence, she being the first Minister with responsibility for the arts. She insisted on the highest possible standards from the beginning, and these have have been sustained.

The Government have made several mistakes in restricting the entry that could take place into the Open university. Only comparatively limited extra funding is required to make greater entry possible. Notwithstanding some criticisms, the idea is so wonderful that no Government could stand in its way.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

In some of the remotest communities in Scotland—for example, the Western and Northern Isles—the Open university offers perhaps the only window of opportunity to arts education. The opportunity has been taken up by many citizens, relatively speaking, in these remote communities.

Mr. Foot

I am grateful for that intervention. It shows how far beyond the original idea the Open university has carried its influence and power. It is the greatest university in the country. Its establishment is comparable with that of the National Health Service. Such was the imaginative effect of a great idea that it has been carried far beyond what was originally thought possible.

We now have the chance to achieve the same thing on a Commonwealth scale. We have the expert knowledge of the Briggs report. Lord Briggs, who helped to set up the Open university, is one of the best advisers on how we should go ahead on a Commonwealth basis. India, Canada and other Commonwealth countries are eager to press ahead with the idea and are giving it all possible backing. The other day, Brunei contributed a further £3 million. The British Government, however, have not been prepared to give direct backing and funding to the idea. I know that there is a committee looking into the matter, but that is in no way sufficient. The idea requires direct backing and funding rather than including it within the budget of a particular Department. Anyone who has been in Government knows that every Department argues for its own budget and does not wish to give up any funds for a new venture. All claim that their entire budget is needed to deal with their present responsibilities. No doubt the Minister for the Arts makes the same claim, as do the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department of Education and Science and all the rest. But they are all wrong, and they should be overridden by a Government with the sense to give £20 million or £30 million per year to give this new idea a flying start. That is not a huge amount to spend, and it would mean that the Commonwealth of Learning would be established in a very few years. The Minister for the Arts should be more eager than anyone else to push the project ahead.

When I raised the matter in the debate on the Queen's Speech I received no answer from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, nor in correspondence with the Department since then. The subject was raised at the Commonwealth conference in Vancouver, and no other country sought to block it. What is required is the imagination to find the money now. The project will go ahead anyway, but it should be welcomed and pushed forward with the maximum speed.

Often we are the last people to appreciate the huge advantages that we have in this country and which no other country has to the same degree. If the Russians had the chance to establish a Commonwealth of Learning on a worldwide basis, I suspect that they would have no difficulty finding the money. I will give an illustration. In previous arts debates I have been persuaded to refer to Byron, but I thought that it would be invidious to do so today in case I was accused of advertising.

Mr. Buchan

I have already bought my right hon. Friend's book.

Mr. Foot

For the benefit of those who have not bought it, I will enter it in the Register as soon as possible.

To continue my illustration of the way in which we fail to use the wonderful gifts that we have, a couple of days ago I received a post card from Geoffrey Goodman—a well-known industrial correspondent and journalist and an old friend of mine—who is currently in Moscow. He said that he could not resist sending me a card with a Byron stamp on it. It is a very fine stamp. The Russians are very good at producing stamps and they clearly had no qualms about producing a Byron stamp in the bicentenary year of Byron's birth. When the Byron Society attempted to persuade the British Post Office to do the same, four different approaches were made under different heads. I do not blame any particular individual, but on each occasion the door was slammed with the same lack of knowledge and ill grace. Either they had never heard of Byron or they had heard stories about his misdemeanours. Perhaps they thought that they would be had up under clause 29 of the Local Government Bill if they put his picture on a stamp. I do not know who is the most puritanical member of the Government, but perhaps the Post Office feared that it would have a certain Minister from the Department of the Environment on its heels if it dared to produce such a stamp. As a result, every approach was turned down and we have to rely on Moscow.

That is a common occurrence and it has certainly happened to Byron before. His poem "Darkness"—I shall not recite it, even if provoked—is one of the greatest poems that he ever wrote. In it he foresaw what could be a world nuclear catastrophe before nuclear weapons were even invented. That poem was translated into Russian and published five times when it had scarcely appeared once here. In the five or six years after Byron's death his poems were read all over the Continent while in this country his work was still being suppressed and derided by the Minister's predecessors. There were no Ministers for the Arts or Broadcasting Standards Council censors in the 19th century, but suppression was carried out by even more surreptitious and scandalous means. For generations the truth about Byron was suppressed, but he has won through in the end. I hope that the Minister will take that into account.

In the English language we have a treasure beyond counting. Modern communications and technology have given us the means to spread that language throughout the world in a way that will not offend other people but will bring more people to understand what it is about. The Minister should be pressing for the establishment of the Commonwealth of learning with the utmost speed and imagination.

11.27 am
Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)

I speak with perhaps the only voice of opposition in this cosy little get-together of arts lovers on both sides of the House. The two Opposition spokesmen are both from middle-class backgrounds and the leading spokesman had a public school education, so they could not do other than identify with the pro-arts lobby. The Labour party wants more money for the arts, but the Government say that they have had enough.

Why are we having this discussion? It is because the arts lobby is one of the most effective lobbies in the country. That is bound to be so, because its supporters dominate most of the media. Any evening chat show is bound to include someone from the arts lobby telling us how important it is. But who are the beneficiaries? Certainly the professionals benefit. We all know how Peter Hall has benefited from the taxpayers' money given to the organisations in which he has been involved. He has made a million by manipulating—I do not say abusing—public funds, so he is bound to favour an increase in funding. Others who benefit are ballet and opera lovers—the middle classes, most of whom do not need a penny in subsidy if the truth were known.

The grant to the arts in general is to rise by 22 per cent. to £440 million guaranteed income over three years. The budget for which my right hon. Friend the Minister is responsible is to rise by 17 per cent. from £336 million last year to £394 million in 1991. My right hon. Friend stated in his press release: to get this new approach off to a good start"— that is, the three-year funding— I am providing a substantial increase in funding in the first year. That will be 10 per cent. Yet our old-age pensioners must get by with a 4 per cent. increase and we are removing housing benefit from some people and saying, "You cannot have this £7.50 because the pension that your husband left you when he died is too much." We tell those people that they must struggle because the public purse demands it, but without a second thought we give away £440 million to a group of people who could easily pay for their own entertainment and facilities.

Let us examine the Arts Council—that trendy Leftie organisation that exists on public funds. This year, its grant will increase by 10 per cent. from £138 million to £150 million, and it will increase again to £160 million by 1990. Two people going to see a ballet or opera are subsidised to the tune of £56, yet we pay an unemployed man and his wife less than £50 a week. There is something wrong with a society that subsidises people to visit the theatre but gives an unemployed man and his wife less on which to survive in a week. Labour Members demand more money for the arts. What sort of Socialists are they? They do not seem to be too worried about the incomes of unemployed people and are demanding more money for people who do not need it.

Why do we provide those subsidies? We are told that the arts are part of our heritage. I have said before, and it bears repeating, that I do not believe that an overweight Italian singing in his own language is part of my heritage. It is not something that my family knows or understands. Am I supposed to believe that a man prancing about at the Royal ballet in a pair of tights and a box is part of my heritage? I do not believe that, and most of the ordinary people in Britain—I represent more ordinary people on this issue than do Labour Members—laugh at the proposition that the arts reflect our heritage.

Who says that the arts must be preserved? Of course, the people who perform in the arts say so. If the arts are so good, why will people not go unless they are subsidised? We are told how wonderful and excellent it all is, that it is part of our background and that we must care for it in the future—but only if someone will pay a third or half of the cost.

Wimbledon football club, which won the cup last week, must survive by attracting enough supporters who pay the economic cost to keep the club running and pay the players' wages. No one says, "The working class like football and see it as an artistic form of entertainment, so we shall subsidise it to the tune of £28 per person."

Mr. Tony Banks

The hon. Gentleman's muscular approach to the arts is well known, but he must accept that some Labour Members believe that football should attract public support. The supporters of Wimbledon do not pay the full economic cost. Much of football benefits from the amount of money that the directors and chairmen of the clubs put into it.

Mr. Dicks

I could not agree more with the hon. Gentleman. My argument is that either we subsidise every activity or we subsidise none. The hon. Gentleman is right about directors, but they choose to spend their money in that way. They do not lobby for someone else to use public taxes to subsidise their entertainment.

What is so special about the arts that makes modern professional football so ordinary? Why does my daughter have to pay the full cost to see a pop concert—perhaps £15 or £20—while someone else's daughter who wants to see a ballet is subsidised? Who is to say that the judgment of my kids about what is art, or what is pleasurable and enjoyable, is wrong while someone who wants to go out in an evening gown with a man in a bow tie should be subsidised? Most people do not understand it and want to end it. Only those who benefit from the subsidies want them to continue.

We must think seriously about the matter. It is not fair to sit here cosily agreeing that there should be subsidies and disagreeing only about the amount. People outside this place wonder exactly what is going on.

The cost of all the subsidies to the arts, including museums, is about £420 million. The saving on housing benefit will he exactly the same. Some elderly and retired people may suffer because of the Government's move on housing benefit. How can we tell them, "We shall make you lose £450 million and we will use the money to subsidise people who wish to go to the theatre"?

Mr. Jessel

Does not my hon. Friend believe it important that our arts and heritage attract visitors to Britain whose spending generates employment and tax yield to the Government? They come here to see our museums, art galleries, heritage, royal things and music. They certainly do not come here for our weather or to watch football.

Mr. Dicks

If they can afford to fly economy or club class on Boeing 747s from the United States, they can afford to pay the full economic cost of going to the ballet or the opera. They could pay to visit our museums.

My right hon. Friend the Minister spoke earlier about the number of paintings and drawings that are left lying in drawers in museums. Why not take them out and sell them? The income could be used for other good public causes. How can we justify covering up paintings or putting them away in drawers for years, and probably paying someone a hefty salary to catalogue them, when we also say that we need more public expenditure? I do not understand why we cannot take the covers off those paintings and auction them to the highest bidder. If a private collector wants to buy them, so much the better. At least we shall get some income from them.

The three-year expenditure is an interesting concept. As a former local authority member, I know that for years local authorities have been saying that the system of local government finance is wrong. Authorities do not know until December or January how much they will have to spend in the next financial year. We are told that it must be done that way because the Government cannot he sure of their income until the last minute. But there is an exception—the arts. The Government have decided to guarantee the income of this wonderful group of people for the next three years, with a 10 per cent. increase on 1 April this year and a 7 per cent. increase next year.

I wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about this, and the Minister's reply said that the Government are doing it because they think that it is the right thing to do and because the arts should be confident about their future funding. We would all like to have confidence and certainty about our future funding. Would it not be nice if we could say to old-age pensioners, "We will give you a guaranteed 10 per cent. increase this year and 7 per cent. next year, and for the next three years you need not worry where the next penny is coming from"? Would it not be nice if we could say to local authorities, "We guarantee your income for the next three years. It will not be reviewed, and you will know exactly where you are going"? Would it not be nice if all areas of the public sector were treated in that way?

What am I told when I query all this? "Of course, you are a philistine and a bit of an eccentric, but we will tell you why. It is only a small amount of money, and we can work this out over three years to keep them happy." I do not accept that. We should respect the arts lobby because of its effectiveness, but it is about time that we burst the bubble and people said, "Hang on. I am Joe Bloggs from down the road. I have nothing to do with Pope or the man from Twickenham." I represent ordinary people who would not know a poem if they read one. Perhaps they even read The Sun, but at least they are ordinary people struggling to make a living and not looking for subsidies.

Seeing an opera or ballet is probably the last thing they want to do. But they enjoy watching professional football, they enjoy the commercial theatre and they enjoy the cinema. Some of my constituents enjoy bingo. What about subsidising bingo for ordinary people? It is an art form for them in the same way that watching and listening to a fat Italian singing in his own language, dressed like a woman, is an art form. As far as I am concerned, there is no difference.

I cannot sit here and simply listen to a cosy little get-together by the two Front Benches. The Opposition Front Bench spokesmen are perfect representatives of the middle classes. The people that they speak to in different neighbourhoods probably cannot understand them because they sound like BBC newsreaders. Those are the people that the Labour party put forward to advocate more spending on the arts. It would do that, because not many Socialists could speak like they do, or even believe in that sort of thing. Just look at them, Mr. Deputy Speaker: if they are the Labour party spokesmen on the arts, God help us all.

My right hon. Friend the Minister differs slightly from me in his approach to the arts. However, to be fair to him, he listens, and he grins. It is a good sign that the Minister can laugh. I am sure that he is laughing at me, not at himself. Nevertheless, we have to bring home the message that the arts lobby cannot get away with it all the time. The Prime Minister stood on the stage last year and said that the Government will keep subsidising the ballet—or it could have been the opera. She may want that, but ordinary people are sick and tired of those who can well afford to pay the full going rate for the theatre and the ballet getting away with being subsidised by the rest of us, when groups in our society are losing income and getting no guarantee as to where tomorrow's money, or even tomorrow's meal, will come from.

I ask my right hon. Friend to think carefully. The sooner that he can stand at the Dispatch Box, and shout to the rooftops not that he is reducing expenditure for the arts but that he is doing away with it altogether, the better it will be for many ordinary people and for this odd philistine on the Back Bench.

11.41 am
Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) compared the cuts in housing benefit made by his Government with the amount of money spent on the arts. He asked how we, as Socialists, could explain that. I can tell him how we would deal with that. We would take back the £2,000 million that was given to the richest 5 per cent. in that shameful Budget two months ago and provide money for the arts and money for those poor people in my constituency and that of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington who have had money stolen from them by the Government on behalf of the rich. If he were attacking them, as he should be, he would find us on his side. He complained about subsidies for the theatre and the opera, but that is not the whole of art. His daughters go to pop concerts. Music is part of art.

Glasgow city understands the importance of art. That is why the corporation is spending money to bring back some heart, some hope and some joy to people who have been devastated by the Government in terms of job losses. In my city of Paisley the cotton mills which 10 or 12 years ago employed 20,000 workers now employ none. I see the Linwood car factory which a few years ago had 8,000 workers and now has none. I look at Babcocks and Wilcox, the industrial factory just outside my constituency, which once employed 7,000 workers and now employs only 1,000. That devastation has been caused by the Government's fiscal policy. It has been caused by their giving £2,000 million to the richest, instead of giving it back to the poorer people. If the hon. Gentleman were to speak about that, as Byron would have done, we might support him. The hon. Gentleman was making a false contradiction. There is no contradiction between public money for music, theatre and the arts, and a proportion of public money for the poor and the old in society.

That is why I approve of the city of Paisley spending money on saving an old church. During the past two or three years an early 18th century church has been converted from desolation into an arts centre that is used not only by opera lovers but by people who want to play pop, rock and folk music. Does the hon. Gentleman think that Cavallo invented opera out of his forehead, that he woke up one day in the early 17th century and said, "I shall invent opera."? He did not. He drew it from the poorest of the poor, the strolling players with their small plays and their music, which he brought into the courts. The hon. Gentleman at least is at one with us in that the music stolen from the people has to be brought back to the people. He is quite right in saying that it should not be only for those who have subsidised seats and still pay £50. That is why we are in favour of giving money to the arts.

That is why the city of Glasgow, despite its devastation by the Government, is putting money into the arts and making it a city of culture. I could show the hon. Gentleman the People's palace, which reflects the lives and history of the people of Glasgow. That is why we are concerned about money for the arts. Glasgow has paid for the six magnificent panels by Ken Curry in the People's palace which represent the history of the working people in Glasgow whose lives have been so devastated by this Government.

I can give the hon. Gentleman another reason why we are in favour of providing money for the arts. At one time, the arts were an alternative form of communication. If people could not afford a printing press, at least they could sing, they could speak, they could put out their own leaflets. They cannot do that now. The control over the ordinary methods of communication in this country has crept into the hands of three people. The entire popular press is controlled by Maxwell, Murdoch and Stevens. The arts are no longer an alternative form of communication. The arts are virtually the only form of alternative communication that is not in the hands of the powerful and the rich.

That is why we are worried about threats to the future of companies such as 7:84. That company does not play to those whom the hon. Gentleman was attacking. It plays social theatre. It is under attack. I expect that my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) will say more about that. I shall not go into detail, but I have a letter from a name that will strike some chords.

Mr. Dicks

May I explain to the hon. Gentleman that I have to leave now and that I do not mean to be disrespectful to him in any way.

Mr. Buchan

We are delighted. We welcome the hon. Gentleman's departure. I hope that he will take some advice from his daughters.

I have a letter about 7:84 and its difficulties, which Joan Littlewood sent to the Scottish Arts Council. It says: Dear Sir, What is the matter with 7:84 now? Too good? Not good enough? Or just not orthodox? I passed my working life in the United Kingdom to the accompaniment of noises from a long line of Arts Council directors telling me that my work wouldn't do for them. The truth being that they would have liked to see Theatre Workshop in hell since it challenged all the standards they held high. I know enough of John McGrath's work to suspect that 7:84 is in the same boat. One expects mediocrity from your London Branch."— That is the Arts Council headed by Rees Mogg— I would have been happy to know that Scotland had produced something better by now. Yours faithfully, Joan Littlewood. I was sent a copy of that letter because I was one of the people who, 30 years ago, saved Theatre Workshop and established it in the Theatre Royal in east London. We now see companies—of which 7:84 is an offshoot—under the same kind of attack.

As the Scottish Arts Council is only a sub-committee of the Arts Council, I ask the Minister to invite his colleagues north of the border to think again. The chairman of the Scottish Arts Council, Mr. Alan Peacock, is a friend of mine, but I regret to say that he is a free market thinker. Mr. Peacock should reverse what he considers doing about 7:84 and put it back on to proper revenue funding, instead of project funding.

I have been sidetracked by the eloquence of the Philistine hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington. At least he did not quote Pope, which is some advantage.

I want to look briefly at sponsorship. We are told that there will be an 8.4 per cent. increase this year for the arts, and 3 per cent. in each of the next two years. Effectively, there will be a cut in the following two years. Presumably the arts are being given a little pump-priming this year while they look for sponsorship to help them to survive. This increase of 8.4 per cent. equals just over £11 million. A sum of £5 million is already earmarked for the new sponsorship scheme, which is worrying. It will only leave 3 to 4 per cent. to support the remainder of the schemes. If over half this money is for sponsorship, it will go to people only if private support is coming forward. The sinister aspect of this is that the intentions of the artistic directors of the theatre companies, of the writers, or whoever it may be, will be pushed in the direction of schemes which will secure the organisation's private funding. I have seen this happening in my own family. My brother writes plays for the amateur theatre, and over the years he has been reducing the number of actors involved because of the cost. He now writes plays for, say three actors and two actresses. There is a distortion of what can be done.

For a theatre company or any arts company to get funds, it must have proven artistic merit and the ability to sustain that artistic excellence. That should always be the criterion for any funding, public or private. Secondly, it must give evidence that the money will have a demonstrable impact upon the applicant's artistic managerial and financial performance. That also should always be a criterion for support, whether public or private. The new criterion is the third one. This says that it must show evidence that the applicant has the ability to use the money to increase his permanent source of funds from the private sector, and the ability to carry through long-term planning. Therefore, this hailed sponsorship scheme is designed to promote the development of the private sector. It has nothing to do with the quality of the company, but everything to do with its ability to develop and secure the private sector. That is dangerous, because the private sector will set the agenda.

The scheme is even more reactionary than the one in America. The tendency of state funding in America is to earmark those organisations for which it encourages ' private funding to come forward. In other words, they list those organisations for which they recommend private funding, and which funding they will match if necessary, although it does not match it by very much.

The Government do the opposite. The private sector determines which organisations, which plays and which projects should be supported, and public money must then follow. In other words, the community, and the poor man that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington spoke about, have to follow with their public money to fund those organisations that have been determined by the rich and commercial interests as appropriate for sponsorship. This cannot be right. That process does not work for the organisations that need funding.

The Government say that they want to encourage the private sector and the box office, but the box office in certain theatres has been doing well. I take for an example the Citizens theatre. There has been a 117 per cent. increase at the box office, which must cover every possible criterion that the Minister demands. However, it has gained only 0.8 per cent. of sponsorship. The Bush theatre has had an increase at the box office of 44 per cent., but has no sponsorship. Another example is the Hammersmith Lyric, which has increased its box office receipts by 117 per cent. but has seen an increase in its sponsorship of only 1.1 per cent.

One of the three theatres to which I am closest is the Theatre Royal at Stratford. Philip Hedley informed the National Campaign for the Arts that the Theatre Royal, which was started by Joan Littlewood in one of the poorest boroughs in the country, had abandoned the search for sponsorship in 1984, having paid a fund raiser for three years without managing even to raise his salary. Even the fact that it had won The Daily Telegraph's first annual award for the best use of sponsorship money did not seem an attraction. Therefore, sponsorship is dangerous, first because it puts the development of theatre in the hands of the private sector and, secondly, because where it should work, it does not.

I was subverted in my opening remarks by the two astonishing speeches about Pope and the other man. I was going to comment on how astonishing it is that when we discuss the arts we ignore the 90-odd per cent. of the arts with which we should be concerned. The main area of artistic activity in this country is broadcasting—in radio and television—as well as popular theatre and pop concerts. However, all the interest has been hinged on the tiny sector that is supported by the Arts Council. It is nevertheless, a crucially important sector, for the reasons that I have given and because the arts are now the only alternative form of communication.

We must look at what is happening in that general area of communication. In one sense I do not distinguish between fact and fiction in communication. If I make a speech on unemployment and try to say that unemployment is a bad thing, that is no different from "The Boys from the Black Stuff", which is a play deploying the theme that unemployment is a bad thing. The connection between the two is communication. However, what we are seeing now is highly dangerous. A whole series of actions are putting at risk freedom of communication and freedom of expression. Just as the shades are going up in the Soviet Union with glasnost, so they are coming down here in several sinister ways.

It is worth listing what is happening, because, just as the private sector affects the development of the arts, of theatre and expression, so other things are affecting other aspects of communication. First, there is commercial monopoly and the fact that 80 per cent. of the popular newspapers in this country are controlled by three people. Secondly, at least two of those three people, joined by Berlusconi in Europe, are now buying, or have bought, into satellite broadcasting. Satellite broadcasting—indeed, all broadcasting—is moving towards deregulation in this country. The monopoly of the press will be repeated by monopoly in satellites because deregulation—removing controls in broadcasting—does not give freedom for all to broadcast. It gives to a few rich people freedom to broadcast. I cannot buy a satellite because I cannot afford it, but Maxwell and Murdoch can.

This country's great history of a free press has degenerated into monopoly control by three people, and the same will happen to the future of broadcasting under the Government's plans. Alongside the handing over of television to further commercial monopoly by deregulation in the Peacock report, and through the Green Paper on radio, we are seeing more and more direct intervention by the Government, prodded incidentally by Rees-Mogg, for example, on "Real Lives." The man who was put in to defend standards has initiated attacks on and interventions into broadcasting. That is why we see his appointment this week as not only wrong, but sinister.

As well as "Real Lives", there was Zircon and the attacks by the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) on the BBC and Kate Adie—the terrifying of the broadcaster and the creation of self-censorship in broadcasting. Broadcasters do not save themselves by self-censorship. They censored themselves over Zircon, but in the following week the police invaded the BBC in Scotland for those tapes. Self-censorship merely lowers the threshold at which censorship takes place.

The great phenomenon of communication—the marvellous gem of opportunity for communication in broadcasting, whether in the arts, theatre, music or documentary communication to tell us how the world works—is under threat more and more, as we saw with Zircon and "Real Lives". Those are examples of direct intervention on top of monopoly control. There is also the question of technological development and of satellites moving out of public control and regulation and into private monopoly sector control, which is dangerous.

The Government are beginning to surrender our public libraries to the private sector, as proposed in the Green Paper on libraries. When Hans Sloane left his collection to start the British museum, he said that it would be the future basis of the museum and said that it might be kept for the use and benefit of the public who may have free access to view and peruse the same. That is no longer the case. Viewing museums is now becoming limited to the people who can afford it.

When I spoke to Doctor Cossons' the director of the National Maritime museum, he defended the introduction of charges at that museum on the grounds that people make a special trip to the musuem and that this would merely be a small additional cost. He said that he would not dream of introducing charges in South Kensington, yet he is now director of the Science museum and proposes to do precisely that. I do not believe that he wants to do that, but believes that he must do so because of the Government's restrictions. The Government are therefore forcing museums towards the private sector.

I do not understand how the Minister can claim that the museums are doing better and spending more money on research and collation, when fewer people are visiting the museums. All the evidence, including the example of the National Maritime museum, with its exceptional nature of one-off visits, have shown a rapid drop in attendance, and a slow resumption. The Natural History museum started charging a year ago, and attendance has dropped by almost half. Museums are for people, and if attendance drops by half they cannot be a success. A slow build-up can only be at the expense of those who cannot afford to visit the museums.

It was a marvellous occasion for a family with two children from Bermondsey or Battersea to visit the museums in South Kensington. They could visit the Victoria and Albert museum, the Natural History museum and the Science museum. Kids could come to the museums, play with buttons and see things working. They could visit the Victoria and Albert museum and see that marvellous collection of musical instruments that I pop in to see and gloat over from time to time. However, that cannot happen when one has to pay for each member of the family.

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington bemoaned our attitude towards the poor, but the worst thing is to deprive them of opportunity. The words of Lord Gowrie, the previous Minister for the Arts, are burnt in my mind. When he opened a library in Ealing in 1984 he congratulated the employees on charging for the peripheral services. He said that it was impossible to charge for books because that would be illegal, not, incidentally, because it would be immoral. He claimed that people appreciate things better when they pay for them. That is the prerogative of the harlot through the ages.

Mr. David Martin (Portsmouth, South)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Buchan

I shall not give way for the moment because the hon. Gentleman has caught me in full flight.

Lord Gowrie added that that would prevent people from coming in on a whim. Where in the name of God are we going? I want people to enter museums or theatres on a whim. That is how we all started. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) only picked up Byron on a whim, and look at him now—he read the whole of Don Juan in one go, or so he tells me.

A child's interest is sparked off when he enters a museum on a whim. Lord Eccles said that I wanted people to go into arts galleries to shelter from the rain, but I cannot think of any better place to shelter from the rain. Lord Crawford used to call Lord Eccles "Lord Shekels", and I wish that I had thought of that myself.

Lord Gowrie also said that more resources would be provided if libraries charged. In other words, the purpose of reducing public expenditure—we have seen it happen before—is to try to force more and more on to the cash element. That does not work and it distorts arts provision.

Mr. David Martin

Boots the chemist, helped to introduce libraries with its own travelling libraries and fixed site libraries. It introduced many people to learning and to books, including the poor. Those libraries were put out of business when free libraries were introduced. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that some credit is due to those who provide access to books, sometimes for profit, and that such a service does not deprive as long as it is used widely and the poor have access to it?

Mr. Buchan

I am delighted that Boots ran a cheap library, and that encouraged people to read. I am even more delighted that we learnt the lesson and made those libraries free so that even more people could use them. We thank Mr. Boots for the work that he did, but we have learnt more.

We are discussing the compression of the word. Somebody talked about the great English language, and that is now at risk as a result of the Government's intervention in broacasting in past years. The development of new technology is outside the control and regulation of the people. The language will be used, not as a marvellous instrument, but as an instrument of profit. That is a serious problem.

Imposed upon the structural fear, the monopoly fear, and the Government intervention fear is another quadruple challenge, that of clause 29. This would prevent Plato's Symposium from being taught. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent may recall that in 1940 a tax on books, similar to VAT on books, was rejected on the ground that one could not tax the word of God. A tax will now be imposed upon Plato. I have already seen a letter issued by Strathclyde region warning schools to be careful in their handling of Plato because of clause 29. Plato's Symposium is in danger, as is "Salomé" and other works by Oscar Wilde. Clause 29 is rubbish. The purpose of the clause is not to censor but to create an atmosphere of fear and timidity so that self-censorship occurs.

That was the purpose of the Obscene Publications Bill that was introduced last year. It also compressed the word. It was intended not to censor but to terrify the writer, the actor, the dramatist, the producer, the director or the theatre manager into the belief that it would be better not to risk doing a certain thing. It is all about self-censorship.

The compression of the word is also threatened by the attack on academic freedom. Thank heavens that our good old reactionary friends in the Lords are a damned sight more progressive than the Tory group in the elected House of Commons. At least they have tried to restore something of academic freedom, but I have no doubt that that progress will be reversed—just as the Tory party is reversing history—when the Bill comes back here. We were faced with the Obscene Publications Bill, and are faced with clause 29 and the threat to the universities. Now the Government have put a gauleiter in charge of the whole caboodle. What a man! The chairman of the Arts Council becomes chairman of censorship. What has happened to the Arts Council if the same man can hold both posts? That man's job is to encourage diversity, to encourage and develop the arts, and, if necessary to challenge the world. That same man is now put in charge to prevent such a challenge. We know what will happen.

I am also appalled by the contradictions within the Government's thinking. They are deregulating broadcasting—claimed in the name of freedom—in the knowledge that it will be taken up and controlled by the rich. That will destroy standards, but then the Government set up a standards council to protect standards. If we deregulate as proposed in the Green Paper and implement Peacock, we will have a ghetto-like section called public patronage, but the rest will be sleazy pap. Having created the structures whereby the only competition will be pap, the Government establish a Broadcasting Standards Council to ensure that it is not too dirty. I fear that it will not be the frivolous dirty that is avoided; it will be the serious. When we discussed the Bill, the only example that hon. Members kept referring to were the bare buttocks in the copulation scene in "The Singing Detective". But that happens to matter. It was important that the child should observe what was happening. It was serious, and the serious will be affected by this.

When the Prime Minister was asked what her reading was, she replied that she was re-reading Freddie Forsyth. As my wife said in a recent letter in The Independent, she must be the only person in Britain who would read a who dunnit, know who dunnit and then read it again to make sure. What a standard for a Prime Minister. When the Secretary of State for Education and Science was asked whether he could name any other members of the Cabinet interested in books, he could not think until he was going out of the door, when he said, "Douglas Hurd". That is appalling. When Rees-Mogg, the man put in charge of our standards, was asked what he liked, he said that he liked "'Allo, 'Allo". I do not worry about people liking situation comedies, but I should prefer them to like good ones. We have had "Fawlty Towers", "Neighbours", or "Who Dares Wins" and Monty Python, yet he likes "'Allo, 'Allo"—an imitation of cheap west end sit-comedies of the 1930s. Incidentally, the Resistance is a suspect basis for humour. God help us all.

The word is in danger. Censorship is creeping in. Glasnost is good enough for Gorbachev, but only censorship is good enough for this Government. That is what they have brought the arts to. They have not expanded but have diminished them. I rather like the Minister for the Arts, and I should say that because it does not always sound like it. He is a good guy, but he does not always understand what he is doing. I welcome what he did for Glasgow, making it the city of culture. That is not because we have active national theatres, but because we have an active city with small groups of people busy at the Third Eye Centre, the Citizens' theatre and the People's palace doing among other things, "The Steamie". It comes from the bones—I nearly said the bricks, but it is red sandstone—of Glasgow. The Minister was right to make Glasgow the city of culture.

But the Minister is not helped by his colleague the Secretary of State for Scotland, who has announced a £140 million cash clawback from local authorities. There is no use boasting about what local authorities have done for the arts and at the same whipping back all the cash. That is a contradiction, just as Thatcherism is a contradiction. The Government deprive us of the means of maintaining standards, remove regulations which can develop diversity of opinion, and nominate a gauleiter to control the dirty bits, at the same time as they boast about what local authorities have been doing. The Minister says that they are thriving and throbbing. Even Prince Charles quotes one of our folk songs when he comes to the city. We are delighted with that, but then the Government cut the means and the wherewithal. In other words, it is a case of, "We praise you all, but we shall cut your throats."

This is a bad Government in many ways. They are bad in terms of justice and their attitude towards the poor and needy. They are a Philistine Government and it is time they went.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. I remind the House that unless speeches are short some hon. Members will be disappointed.

12.13 pm
Mr. Chris Butler (Warrington, South)

I apologise in advance for the fact that, as I am probably the most peripheral Tory Member present, I shall have to leave early.

The tribute that Sir Peter Hall paid to my right hon. Friend the Minister on his incentive funding settlement contrasts starkly with the words of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) who painted a gloomy picture of misery and sadness. The incentive funding project is having a good effect on the arts. It is encouraging a more independent attitude. It is encouraging arts bodies to become more attuned to the audiences for which they perform, and is having an unexpected effect. It is encouraging a proper evaluation of the artistic objectives of the arts bodies. It is having a beneficial effect not only in terms of funding but in terms of the arts themselves.

A logical extension of my right hon. Friend's policy on the arts would be to move further towards an endowment funding system. This is not a new idea. Bram Stoker, the author of "Dracula", toyed with the idea in 1908 when he thought of funding a chain of theatres with endowments. Such a system would have advantages. It would give full independence to the arts bodies concerned and would allow them to plan with much more certainty.

To achieve the full advantages of endowment, the umbilical cord of current funding would need to be cut. That is essential if the Treasury is to be persuaded to shell out the great capital sums that would be needed up front. I hope that my right hon. Friend will explore further the possibilities of endowment funding. It is a natural development of the successful Conservative policies that he has put in train for the arts.

Now that my right hon. Friend has the financial structures of the arts on the right tramlines, where should he next cast his eagle eye? One of the most maddening aspects of the arts is their tendency to contemplate their navel in endless conferences about administrative structures. It rather reminds me of the Liberal party.

I notice that no Liberal or SDP Members and no SLD Members, or whatever they call themselves nowadays, are attending this important debate. As we know from constituency experience, those parties produce a large amount of paper and push it around. They produced reams of arts policy before the last election. Rather than contributing to the debate, those hon. Members are probably out seeking the leadership of their various parties.

I admit to a twinge of impatience with them and with the arts world over this contemplation of their own navel. It is right that my right hon. Friend should investigate whether the arts are over-bureaucratised. The regional arts authorities have administrative overheads of between 15 and 33 per cent., however that may be defined. Even if we agree that 15 per cent. is acceptable—I put it in the frame of National Health Service overheads of about 7 per cent.—the variation up to 33 per cent. raises questions about the administrative overheads of the regional arts authorities.

I should like to see arts structures streamlined so that administrative overheads are minimised and the artistic pay offs are maximised. There is also the question of the role of the regional arts authorities and how they interlock with the arts councils. I suspect that that relationship could best be described as one of uncreative tension. No strategic thought has been given to the way in which that relationship should develop, and there is scope for investigating how a more efficient arts structure could be devised. I have a sneaking feeling that the present structure promotes hot air rather than hot art.

One of the most pleasing developments of the past few years is the tendency for the private patron to re-emerge I gather that there are individual donations of up to £50 million to the arts. That is excellent. I should like to move further towards the American model of a giving society. One of the most welcome developments was the institution of payroll giving in the 1986 Budget. It is a small but welcome advance towards a giving society and I welcome the Chancellor's decision to double the exempt limit to £240.

The charity agencies have made a slow start, and I gather that the total throughout this year is likely to be only about £5 million. That is a lesser demand on the resources of the Treasury than I suspect was expected. The Chancellor could be far more generous with his exempt limits without blowing a hole in his Budget. I ask my right hon. Friend to have a word with him. I freely declare an interest, in that I still maintain a connection with the Charities Trust.

I am told that architecture often reflects the spirit of the age. I am glad that there are recent signs that architects have become more confident and more justly proud of their creations. Part of the new town of Runcorn is in my constituency; it has a welcome, developing community spirit, and people are proud to live there. Yet when it was originally designed, little attention was given to how humans live. The design of much of it is soulless. Access for vehicles to some of the community's areas is wholly inadequate. Some parts have no pavements and are dangerous for pedestrians. Shops are hard to find and are located in bunkers that encourage vandalism. Whole streets have structural design faults and have needed to be repaired. Play areas have been badly sited and designed, and even houses relatively far away have suffered blight as a result There are cell-like flats with portholes in them which must be difficult to live in. I gather that the architect concerned went on to great accolades afterwards, but I suspect that he would pay not to have to live in the area.

I contrast all this with my home city of Cardiff, where the architects and planners have begun to develop buildings that derive their style largely from the past— from William Burges, who designed Cardiff castle. The modern art and style that have developed in Cardiff derive much power and taste from linking with the excellence of the past. From the time when William Burges and his contemporaries crammed their buildings with artistic taste we moved to a period in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when architecture seemed chunky, artless, brutal, bald and often structurally unsound.

I remember going to see the Hancock building in Boston, Massachusetts, which was designed by I. M. Pei. At one time, that massive building, glazed all round, had to have four security guards continuously patrolling it's base with binoculars,. through which they looked up at the windows and made sure that they were not turning brown, which was the sign that they were about to fall out on the pedestrians below. One might say that that could only happen in America, but not so. Liverpool Roman Catholic cathedral, affectionately known as "Paddy's wigwam", has a £5 million repair bill. The Cambridge university history faculty, built not long ago, was recently considered for demolition. The Sainsbury centre in Norwich, built only nine years ago, has a £2 million repair bill.

No wonder Sir Peter Hall sometimes gets tetchy. After all, his National theatre building has grave architectural and design problems and he has had to use up much of his grant patching over many of those grave mistakes. Someone, some time, will have to face up to these problems and I suspect that that someone will be the unfortunate British taxpayer once again. As it stands, the building would have difficulty in being given away.

About 15 years ago, I went to Glasgow and came away frightened by it. Its gloom and grime were foreboding and I would never have thought that the city would become the European city of culture.

Glasgow has shown by determination and motivation what regions can achieve. I understand that it has recently stolen a march on the London docklands by landing the catch of the great nine-hour epic, the "Mahabharatti". It was sold out before many people who would have wished to see it in the metropolis had even heard about it. Nevertheless many of the glitterati and intelligentsia managed to make it up to Glasgow—even the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central. Peter Brook was there also. I hasten to add that he is the producer, not the right hon. Member for the City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke).

Dr. Godman

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his complimentary remarks about Glasgow, given that I am married to a Glaswegian and live on the outskirts of the city. Despite his strictures on modern architecture, the hon. Gentleman will surely agree that not all of it is bad. For example, does he agree that the building housing the Burrell collection admirably fits into its setting within the Pollock estate?

Mr. Butler

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I hope that I had the balance right. I was trying to say that architecture had passed through a rather unfortunate state, but it now seems to be emerging. There are good exceptions, even to the period that I was talking about.

Glasgow was quick off the mark, and proved what regions can do if they have self-confidence. On a national level, too, we are moving towards a more self-confident era. We are emerging from a time when we felt that somehow, we had lost our empire. In the 1970s, the economy passed through bankruptcy, our industrial relations were appalling, and much architecture was devoid of durability and finesse. A parade of public projects gave national investment a bad name.

I sometimes wonder whether future generations will ask, "What monuments did the 1970s and 1980s leave us?" Perhaps they will regard the British Library as an achievement. I listened to what my right hon. Friend the Minister had to say about British Library, and I listened to what he did not have to say about the it. He will not thank me for saying that, but the story of the British Library should be told to the British public, and the lessons should be learnt. It is not helpful to cover up what happened in the past or what may be happening at the moment. It is not helpful for the Department of the Environment to give a blocking response when I ask about the cost of bricklayers.

I wonder what future generations will think of us. I wonder what they will say of us in the year 2000. I am not aware of any Government plans to celebrate the millenium. I should like to see a great exhibition in the Victorian style, suitably suffused, I suppose, with modern European flavour by then. If we determine to do it now, we can do it. It will certainly be a great event. I suspect that it will be a "grand évènement" in Paris, if we do not do it. We need to get away from Opposition Members' gloom and doom. We need the kind of confidence and vision of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. On 18 April, she said: It has been part of my great pleasure that now that spirit of community, the spirit of feeling that life is not whole unless the arts are part of it, is returning. That kind of attitude will bring us towards the kind of society that we wish to see, and the kind of vision that will produce the kind of millenium celebration that I wish to see.

I am reminded of a certain section of "Kelly's Heroes", in which Donald Sutherland was driving a tank—he is a bit hippyish—and said: "Don't come with those negative waves, man … Positive waves, man; positive waves."

12.29 pm
Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

When the Minister for the Arts gloats to the House of Commons that the Government are spending more and more on developing the arts, it is a contradiction in itself. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) said, it was the Minister who complained about the welfare state mentality in the arts in Britain. Although the Minister would argue that in real terms the Government are providing more for the arts than before 1979, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) made it clear that that is not true.

That is not the whole story, because when we talk about public expenditure on the arts, we must take into account the ability of local authorities to make provision for arts within their regions. As I understand it, the Office of Arts and Libraries is expecting local authorities to cut their spending on museums and libraries by 4 per cent. in 1988–89—that, is, from £520 million to £500 million. Spending is to be increased by 2 per cent. in 1989–90 and by 4 per cent. in 1990–91—that is, by less than the expected level of inflation next year. In the past, local authorities have taken a lead in ensuring that there is not only provision for the arts but for ensuring that it is possible for ordinary people to enjoy their heritage.

In Merseyside, the arts are still suffering from the blow inflicted two years ago by the abolition of the Merseyside county council. That local authority spent more than any other in England, outside the Greater London council, in ensuring that the heritage, of the Merseyside region was available not only to its citizens but as an attraction for those who came to this country. Unfortunately, the Merseyside county council was a victim of the fanatical Right-wing extremist in 10 Downing street and her political bigotry and vandalism, and it has gone. Many fear for the future of the arts heritage on Merseyside, of which all those who live there are very proud.

I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Butler)—I know that he is not the hon. Member for Warrington, North, because that is in my constituency—refer to Runcorn, which is in his constituency. Most of the people in that area still look to Liverpool and Merseyside as the focal point for their recreational activity, whether it is sport, theatregoing or listening to the Royal philharmonic orchestra. I agree that Runcorn is something of a cultural desert, not because the people are not interested but because the facilities are not available. Like him, I would like to see something more done for some of the smaller areas so that they can develop their own artistic talents.

Merseyside has much to be proud of, whether we talk about the Royal philharmonic orchestra, the repertory theatre at the Playhouse, or the newer addition of the Everyman theatre. The hon. philistine Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks), who has now left us, chided the Opposition Front Bench Members for being the products of public schools. The school to which my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) went might have been publicly provided for but it was not a public school.

On Merseyside we have a creditable community theatre which stems from the working class in the area. We are proud of that. Much of the pop scene which gave Liverpool such a boost during the 1960s stemmed from working-class youngsters who took on a new art form. Some might say that they conquered the world. The art form in which the Beatles and that generation participated is well known from New York to the Soviet Union. It is as well known as Beethoven.

Liverpool museums survived the attacks by the Luftwaffe. Although the buildings in which they were housed were almost entirely destroyed in the blitz of 1941, the museums survived. They are now surviving the attacks of another enemy of the people of Merseyside, the Tory Government, who abolished the county council. They are again beginning to thrive. The Walker and Lady Lever art galleries are both great attractions to people far and wide, not only to Merseysiders. Examples of our historic past—Speke hall and Croxteth hall—are surviving, despite the attacks made upon Merseysiders who want to provide for them, and not because of the Government's antics since 1979.

It was the Merseyside county council, under the promotion of the arts by Socialists such as the late Ben Shaw and a Conservative representative on the county council, John Last, that was responsible for establishing one of the finest maritime museums in the provinces. We also have a labour, working-class history museum. These museums are thriving. They enable Merseysiders and others throughout the country and the world to acquaint themselves with the heritage of ordinary people, including the merchant navy heritage of the port of Liverpool, which gave so much to the development of Britain.

The district councils have been starved of funds over the years. Irrespective of the arguments about the programme of the Liverpool city council during the 1980s, it has been starved of rate support grant. It has lost over £300 million in RSG. Even this year it is subject to rate capping. That authority, perhaps more than any other in the country, has been positively victimised by the Government. During the past year, despite the problems of providing for social services and housing in an area where 29,000 housing needs are unmet, about £1 million of new arts money was delivered by Liverpool city council and other authorities in the area.

Liverpool city council has published a number of strategy documents on tourism, economic generation and cultural activity. All these documents emphasise the crucial role of the arts in the city's economic regeneration. These papers have highlighted the need—I stress this because it is sometimes thought that Merseyside sees things only through rose-coloured glasses—for partnership between the public and private sectors in terms of employment-led initiatives and in the training of local people.

In 1987–88, the city of Liverpool's spending on the arts rose by no less than 400 per cent. and the arts are a major component in Liverpool city council's urban programme bid for 1988–89. I hope that the Minister will look kindly at that bid and use all his endeavours to ensure that it succeeds with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. I hope that the Government will regard the whole programme with sympathy. Items in the bid in respect of the arts include provision for a proposed new media centre and a number of major training initiatives, including projects at the Playhouse and Everyman theatres as well as a number of initiatives designed to encourage more private sector investment in the region's cultural infrastructure.

The Minister mentioned the Citadel arts centre in St. Helens. That is another example of a Labour-controlled local authority working with a major private sector concern—in this case, Pilkington—where both have at heart the interests of people in the area. They have come together not just to provide for their own people but to act as a source of promotion for the area in general. Sefton district council has also contributed to the Bootle arts development programme, and both St. Helens and Sefton are providing opportunities for young people to acquire new skills in the arts. There are also many important social purposes behind those initiatives.

What have the Government done to assist the arts on Merseyside? The contrast is considerable. Merseyside Arts is not just part of the Merseyside cultural heritage but part of the national cultural heritage. Apart from London, it is significant that only in Liverpool and Merseyside is the administration of the museums and art galleries the responsibility of a body known as National Museums on Merseyside, because the museums on Merseyside are truly national.

Conservative Members who believe that subsidies should be confined to assisting their friends in the National Farmers Union should note that in subsidising the arts we are often speculating with a view to accumulating more revenue for this country. There is no doubt that Merseyside Arts is a balance of payments asset to the nation's economy. Quite apart from the interests of people involved in the arts, even a philistine would accept that there is economic advantage to be derived from tourism as a result of the invisible earnings which accrue, albeit indirectly, from the funding of the arts.

What about the Government's organisations in this sphere? The Arts Council, still chaired by Sir William Rees-Mogg, is threatening to withdraw funding from the Playhouse and Everyman theatres although those theatres are a vital part of the Merseyside arts scene and responsible for developing important youth and community programmes as well as a joint training strategy with the city council and Merseyside Arts. The Playhouse theatre, and nowadays also the Everyman theatre, are the nursery of our artists and artistes. Over the years, there have been many examples of people who began their careers in repertory in Liverpool and, indeed, those who passed through my hands in a previous incarnation who have gone on to take roles at the Everyman theatre and thence to other things. Some of them can be found in our soap opera culture, if it is fair to describe "Brookside", which is set in my constituency, as cultural. It certainly affords pleasure to millions of people and it provides jobs, which are vital to my area.

It is inconceivable that there should be any reduction in Arts Council funding to the major theatres of Liverpool. I ask the Minister to use whatever influence he has—he must have more influence than most people—to ensure that the Arts Council does not cut its funding.

May I now deal with something that will no doubt be headline news on Tuesday next week—the opening of the Tate gallery of the north. Perhaps the Minister will be there. Unfortuntely, for reasons beyond my control, I shall be unable to attend the opening. But, like the Minister, I have done a little Gulliver's travel and have seen a preview of the gallery.

No doubt there will be a fanfare of trumpets at the Albert dock next Tuesday when Prince Charles opens the gallery. I hope that it will be more successful than some of the Merseyside development corporation's previous ventures. The Minister may have heard of Transworld, which was supposed to transform the international garden festival—until it went bankrupt. He may have heard of the recent proposal to build a private hospital on the Albert dock site, which was to be developed by someone who was recently described by a judge as a con man. But that is another story.

We believe that we can make a success of the Tate. The Government provided £5 million towards converting the old Albert dock buildings. The Office of Arts and Libraries contributed £500,000, and private sources contributed £2 million towards the first phase of conversion, and another £3 million needs to be raised for the second phase. But that is a one-off expenditure. If the Tate gallery is to be more than a cosmetic exercise, so that the Government, and expecially the Prime Minister, can say, "We are doing something for the inner cities," we must tackle the problem of revenue funding. The Office of Arts and Libraries has provided a £700,000 budget, and the Tate hopes to raise £350,000 through sponsorship. It is the inverse of the ratio to which the Minister referred, with £2 of public money for every £1 of private money. But the Tate bid for £1.4 million. It will open on 24 May and it is already underfunded.

The building has three floors. The ground floor will contain a collection, the first floor will be used for exhibitions, and the second floor will also be used for collections. But even before it has opened, the gallery proposes to close the first floor in September. The exhibition programme will be cut only four months after the gallery opens. Exhibitions are essential to art galleries. They are the major form of promotion. They help to pay for many ancillaries such as the bookshops, the reading rooms and the coffee shops.

I understand that even before it opens, the Tate gallery in Liverpool has had to cut its staff by 12. When it opens next Tuesday it will employ 45 staff. Half will be security staff, and half will be involved in the programme. The level of unemployment on Merseyside was reflected in the fact that, when 20 jobs at the Tate gallery were advertised, there were no fewer than 600 applicants.

The present funding allows no staff for a reading room, which is a vital part of an art gallery in the centre of a major city. It was hoped that there would be a community van. Like most export industries—this is one of them—there must be a sound domestic base. There is every reason that the new Tate gallery should contribute to education in Liverpool and Merseyside. It was proposed that there should be a community van as a major commitment to the region. That idea is now being scrapped because there is no money to staff it. That is a deplorable situation. If the Minister has a real commitment to the arts, not only in London but in the regions, I expect that he will take That problem on board and ensure that that major part of the planning of the Tate gallery of the north can be carried through.

There is a need for more baseline funding if the Tate of the north is to be anything more than a one-week wonder. I understand that 11 more staff are required to carry through the commitment to the community van, if there is to be a reading room open to the public, and that about £1.5 million—not the £700,000 budgeted for by the OAL—will be needed for real viability.

I agree with much that has been said by Opposition Members, and indeed by one or two of the comments made by Conservative Members, but I believe that if there is to be a real revolution in the arts, and that the talents of our people are to be shown—it is wrong to say that it is all a public school ideology and that working-class people are not interested in the arts.

When the Liverpool trades council, the oldest trades council in the country, celebrated its 125th anniversary in 1972, there was a huge exhibition of working-class art, presided over by Vic Feather, who was then the General Secretary of the TUC, and we saw the amount of talent of working people. Such talent must not be wasted. It will be wasted unless there is a real commitment, not a philistine commitment, to the arts in this country. I hope that it will not be very long before we can say that there are more dinosaurs in the Natural History museum than there are on the Government Front Bench.

12.53 pm
Mr. Gerald Bowden (Dulwich)

My right hon. Friend the Minister should be congratulated on securing this opportunity in Government time to debate the arts and to give us an opportunity to parade and indulge our preferences and prejudices.

An earlier intervention reminded me of an occasion some 30 years ago when I was a student in Venice. I resented not one jot paying out of my meagre allowance to enter the galleries to look at the Tintorettos and the other paintings.

During that time, I became rather ill and I had to go to a doctor. I was surprised that in the doctor's waiting room—unlike that of my own doctor in London where there were fading and peeling posters stuck up on the walls with sellotape—there were a number of modern Venetian pictures. Those people who were waiting for their consultation were seen to be critically examining the pictures on the wall. There was no doubt that those pictures had a benign and therapeutic effect on those waiting to be treated. I suppose that it was similar to the philosophy that dentists should have fish swimming around in tanks to relax patients.

Thirty years later I went to my own doctor in a not very smart part of London, and I found hanging on his waiting room walls pictures of local London scenes, painted, I think, by local artists. They were not great works of art, but they were originals. I felt that we had taken a long time to get to where we realised that art was not just something in galleries, but something that was all around us—even in doctors' waiting rooms; and that there is nothing immoral about paying to see art in galleries or improper about doctors putting some of their practice profits into providing material to amuse, entertain and distract their patients while they wait for a consultation.

The debate has emphasised that art is somehow in a category of its own. It is a sacred shrine that can be attended only by those who have some business to be there. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) in his rather grudging and perhaps carping speech referred once or twice to the "art world". I am reminded of Bacon, who, in the 17th century, started an essay by saying: What is truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer. I am glad that the hon. Member remains for a moment. In a somewhat carping speech, he referred on several occasions to the art world: the art world is offended by what the Minister is doing; the art world is affronted by the Government; and the art world is insulted by the priorities. Will the hon. Member tell us who that art world is? Who are this cosy coterie of self-regarding people who pronounce in the public prints about what should or should not be regarded as art, where it should be found and how we should react to it?

Mr. Fisher

The people I was referring to are artists, administrators and audiences all over the country.

Mr. Bowden

I am delighted that the hon. Member included audiences in that group. If it were merely artists and administrators, it would be a limited way of looking at this problem.

We have a problem in the House with keeping in touch with the arts. Our duties here and the structure of our timetable means that we are often unable to attend when the performing arts are most readily available. I place on record my gratitude to the caring Whip, who recently made great efforts to allow me to be absent from my duties in the House to attend a magnificent gala performance of "Ondine" at Covent Garden. I regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) is not here, because I make an offer to him now that, if ever the occasion should arise again when we can persuade the caring Whip to let us both go to the opera, I shall willingly pay the price of his ticket. I am sure that the performance that I saw a week last Monday could not fail to touch even his heart.

I think that there is a place for such a pinnacle of excellence as the royal opera house, Covent Garden provides. It provides a focal point for the arts in London and sets a standard of excellence by which other enterprises can be judged.

At the same time, we should look at the opportunities and challenges that are arising now. For example, there are changes and, as I said, nothing is secure within its boundaries. The arts flow into every area of our public debate. As hon. Members are aware, reforms are taking place in the structure of the Inner London education authority. Some institutions which have previously been supported by ILEA are slightly uncertain about their future. However, such threats and challenges bring forth their own response.

It is interesting to note that one of the lesser but very much treasured galleries in London, the Horniman museum, which provides a great educational function and a great source of amusement, entertainment and information for many people in south-east London and south-east England generally, is responding to the uncertainty about its future by forming its own group of friends. Such public involvement when official state involvement decreases is to be welcomed because it acknowledges that such institutions are not solely the preserve and the product of the state, but belong to the public at large and should be supported actively, and funded, by those who use them.

Alongside the Horniman museum, which is just outside my constituency, there is another, rather more interesting saga of municipal involvement with the theatre. Opposition Members have told us how important it is that there should be support from local authorities and the Government—and everybody else except perhaps the individual—in promoting the arts. I wonder whether, in any other country, a local authority which had the site of Shakespeare's playhouse, the Globe, would not only have been so neglectful of that fact but have set its face like flint deliberately to obstruct a privately funded reconstruction of that theatre, as Southwark council has done over the years. That says volumes in praise of Sam Wanamaker—an American who has come to this country, has helped us to protect our heritage and who has raised, from private finance, the means by which the Globe can be reconstructed on that site. That is an example to all of us of what could and should be done.

If we can release the arts world from its shackles of municipal and state funding—I accept that that must play a part—and if it can find independence elsewhere, the arts in this country will be much healthier.

I want to touch briefly on one other aspect. The question of marketing the arts has arisen from time to time in the debate. There is a case for making sure that the marketing of the arts is done as professionally as possible. We should retain primacy in the art market in this country. Again, we trespass on Treasury territory, because as I understand it, the provisions of VAT may severely prejudice the way in which we enjoy the benefits of the fine art market being based in London. If the Treasury does not take account of its proposals in that sphere, we may well lose that real source of income for this country if the market goes to Japan, America or continental Europe.

Even more important than the financial aspect is the fact that we need to ensure that art marketing, the way in which we present the arts and the way in which we auction and sell artefacts and works of art, remains in this country, and primarily in London.

It is important to consider the broader aspect of the development of the arts to ensure that the conservation, preservation and presentation of art is improved in the future. That takes us back to education. Over the years our art schools have been very successful in producing innovative artists. It is important to ensure that our arts and crafts schools are equally confident in the future of being able to produce people who can restore, gild, frame and reconstruct, all of which are necessary support services that flourishing visual and performing arts require. In that context, we need to regard the arts not only as that special preserve and secret garden owned and tended by the arts world, but as a wider world of arts practitioners and those involved in the support services.

The debate gives us the opportunity to express our confidence in the future. The Government are approaching matters in a sensible way to ensure that support and interest in the arts is generated from a wider field. I welcome the opportunity to exchange vigorous opinions, which have added colour to our debate.

1.6 pm

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

I wish to confine my remarks to the Scottish arts, but in that connection, with my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan), I thank the Minister for his part in naming Glasgow as city of culture 1990. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would readily acknowledge that that decision was partly in response to Glasgow's importance and vitality as a city of the arts.

The Minister praised the Arts Council for, among other things, its imaginative and sensitive decision-making. There is a good deal of truth in such observations. However, the Scottish Arts Council's decision to withdraw revenue funding from the 7:84 theatre company is appallingly unimaginative and dreadfully insensitive. I assure the House that Scottish audiences will not allow that company to perish. It enjoys an excellent reputation, in Scotland and south of the border, and theatregoers will be disheartened by that daft decision.

The Scottish Arts Council has made several criticisms in reaching its decisions. First, it claimed that there was weakness in the board in terms of the financial and business expertise. Secondly, it claimed that the financial and administrative management of the company left a great deal to be desired. Thirdly, it criticised the company's artistic standards. The first two criticisms are not altogether without foundation, although I dispute the third criticism about the company's artistic standards. A couple of weeks ago John McGrath, the artistic director of the company, said: We are prepared to take the Scottish Arts Council's criticisms and concerns very seriously and act positively to fulfil their requirements. That is a sensible and welcome response to the daft decision taken by the Scottish Arts Council.

A new chairman, Mr. Bill Speirs of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, has been appointed to the company. I remind the House that the STUC has a fine history and an excellent reputation for sponsoring the arts. John McGrath has also recently announced the appointment of Miss. Jo Beddoe to the post of general manager. She is a much respected and highly experienced theatre administrator whose theatrical experience includes employment at the Liverpool Playhouse, the Royal Court and the National theatre. I have no doubt that she will eradicate any of the weaknesses in the administration of the company that have been outlined by the Scottish Arts Council.

The company's artistic standard—I have seen many of its productions—is second to none. I think of the "The Cheviot," "The Stag," "The Black, Black Oil," "Blood Red Roses," "The Almanack," and "The Game's a Bogey." Those plays are well known to audiences throughout Scotland. The company also has a first-class reputation as a touring company from Dumfries to Stornoway and from Kirkwall to Lerwick. It is also well known in Europe and even south of the border.

On Tuesday an article in the Glasgow Herald, written by Carl Gordon, said: The 7:84 Theatre Company, warned recently by the Scottish Arts Council that its total funding is to be withdrawn from next April, hit back yesterday with an announcement that it has broken an advance ticket sales record with its current production. By yesterday afternoon tickets worth £34,271 had been sold for this week's performance of No Mean City at the King's Theatre in Glasgow and only a few seats were still available. My wife tells me that it is now impossible to buy one. Because of that demand, Mr. Gordon says: 7:84 is putting on the play for a further three weeks at the Citizens' Theatre from June 28. The company is also well known for its adaptations and revivals of old plays by George Munro, Ena Lamont Stewart, Ewan MacColl and Joe Corrie. In that regard, the company not only has a Scottish reputation, but an international one. It is also one of the few companies that works in a variety of non-naturalistic styles.

I assure the House that the company has a high reputation in many of our more remote communities where the opportunities for visiting the theatre and seeing some of the classic plays and others of a more radical, political content are few. I hope that the Scottish Arts Council will rescind its decision in the light of the changes already undertaken by the 7: 84 company and those that John McGrath has promised to introduce. If that decision is rescinded it would be a fine gesture and win the approval of thousands of ordinary Scottish people.

Some hon. Gentlemen, in their philistine interventions, have talked about the theatregoer as a member of a small elite. They know nothing about Scotland because our theatres are enormously popular with ordinary people both in the urban industrial areas and in the small crating and fishing communities. I am not here to speak for a small theatre-going elite who live in the west end of Glasgow or Edinburgh's new town.

I remind the House when I talk about the involvement of trade unionists in the arts in Scotland that when the Scottish Trades Union Congress decided to pay tribute to its then general secretary, the late Jimmy Milne, it did not buy him a bottle or case of whisky; it sponsored a concert of his favourite music and included in it a new composition. It was performed by the Scottish National orchestra in the city halls in Glasgow. Therefore, I am speaking on behalf of ordinary people in Scotland when I say that this company must continue to contribute to our theatrical activities. Incidentally, I do not know whether the TUC will pay a similar tribute to Norman Willis. That is up to the TUC.

Mr. Buchan

That is an interesting point. There is every reason why the TUC should do something like that for Norman Willis, unlike for the chairman of the chamber of commerce.

Dr. Godman

I confess that I am not as erudite as my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan), nor as well read. I have just been reading again some of Edwin Muir's poetry. I do not know the poetry written by Mr. Willis, but I promise to put that right in the near future.

The STUC was the first TUC to appoint a full-time arts officer and that in turn eventually led to the Mayfest which is under way. Many of the productions are played to capacity houses in Glasgow's theatres and in community centres. Strathclyde regional council—80 out of its 89 councillors are Labour—commissioned several compositions from Peter Maxwell-Davies, so there is involvement in the arts and concern for the well-being of 7:84.

The excellent reputation enjoyed by 7:84 is shown by Glasgow city council helping it to find premises in Glasgow. I only wish that the company would locate itself in Greenock or Port Glasgow, but the chances of that are slim.

The Scottish Arts Council has made a grievous mistake. I hope that its members have the generosity of spirit to make amends to 7:84 and its wide audience.

1.17 pm
Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

This has been something of a Glasgow-dominated debate, but having visited that splendid city and seen its Burrell collection I understand hon. Gentlemen's pride in their city and its achievements.

The debate has been largely interesting and occasionally quirky. I am not pointing a finger in any direction, largely because the person to whom I would point it has gone. There has been the usual repartee between the parties. In this sort of debate it is largely about how fast, how far and, possibly, how—as the ends are broadly agreed. Therefore, one relies on the other oppositions to add spice to the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks), who has now unfortunately left us, certainly provided that. It was pointed out that the third party has not put in an appearance today. Judging by the first draft of this new party's new policy, I suspect that my hon. Friend could happily have written the section relating to the arts and that it would have been adopted without further thought.

His contribution was a sort of blend of Savonarola and Enid Blyton and, as is always the case in his contribution to arts debates, it was enjoyable. My right hon. Friend the Minister spoke about the theatres, operas and so on that he had visited. I hastily consulted my diary to see where I had been in the past few weeks. I, too, can claim a visit to Chichester for the opening of this year's festival season, which was a good production of "Hay Fever".

Chichester festival is an entirely self-supporting enterprise. It receives no funds from the Arts Council or the county or district council, but it has proved very successful in obtaining finance through sponsorship as well as by ticket sales. That is an excellent example of what can be done at the level of excellence that Chichester represents. That would not be possible for many other arts. It is not that they are not excellent, but they are not in the same sort of situation.

The Latchmere theatre in my constituency runs on a shoestring and looks for support through sponsorship or by way of assistance such as publicity from the local council. My diary also contains a record of visits to the Royal Academy summer exhibition. The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan), who has slipped out for a moment, will no doubt pop in there because there he can see Sir William Rees-Mogg hanging. I got the impression from the hon. Gentleman's speech that that is the way he would like to see Sir William.

I visited the London Sinfonietta in its new residence at Kingston polytechnic and the National Puppet theatre at Battersea arts centre. That centre is a national resource in south London. I also attended a performance of a musical version of "The Pied Piper" at one of my local primary schools. Finally, I opened a new resource video centre for the disadvantaged at the Balham hill gallery.

In following my right hon. Friend's example by looking through my diary, I see a thread of the arts which is perhaps a thread to this debate. The thread of our interest in the arts is a cross-party link and shows just what the arts can achieve and how deeply into our society the arts can and should go. I hope that the arts will continue to receive the support from across our society that they deserve.

Sometimes when one listens to Opposition speeches one is inclined to recognise, enjoy and have an empathy with certain passions. Some of the passions relate to bygone years, in terms of what people can afford to contribute. I do not say that in any slighting way. One must recognise the increasing wealth in society and its increasing spread and say that we can achieve some of the objectives so passionately expressed in new and different ways, occasionally cheaper to the taxpayer.

I enjoyed the speech by the right hon. Member for Blaenau, Gwent (Mr. Foot). I suppose that in Byronic terms he is the Childe of Harold. I will not speak about the many friends of the right hon. Gentleman who seem to end up in Moscow. He wisely spoke about the use of English and the connection between English and the arts in relation to universities. As it develops, our language is very much the mirror of our developing arts heritage. The two intertwine and, of course, there is an international dimension to the arts and to our language.

No Government, be it national or local, can opt out of the arts. I would say that to my right hon. Friend if he were here and I shall say it to him on many occasions in future. Governments can contribute to poor quality in the arts. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher), who opened the debate for the Opposition, spoke about the arts flourishing despite the Government. As someone has said, that must be right; the arts must flourish despite Government. If the arts become so dependent on Government that they can flourish only with Government involvement, they will become stifled.

I do not want to take that too far: there must be Government support for the arts, but they must not depend on it completely. It may be a sign of the success of an arts policy if the arts can flourish, as some of my hon. Friends might put it, without the Government. There will always be a need for the link; it is, perhaps, a question of terminology.

Governments can harm the arts. Buildings must be built, but a good architect will design something that is pleasing and lasting. A poor one may save money in the short term, but at the expense of the environment. The same is true when the Government are the customers of the arts. One can scrimp and save, but the end product will not last or be of good quality, and ultimately the next generation will not bless us for it. That goes for the grants system, the tax system, and the planning system.

At a time when the Government are seeking to raise standards of education with the national curriculum and other aspects of the Education Reform Bill, this is not the moment to say that the Government have no role in raising standards in the arts. The two must go together; if we want a better educated society we must include the arts as part of that education.

Of course the public purse is not bottomless. Far too many people never go to a theatre or exhibition hall from one year to the next, although they would be sorely disappointed if, as a result of their non-attendance and the Government's non-subvention, every theatre that they passed was full of Paul Raymond's frolics. The other side of the coin is that there is a limit to which the taxpayer who does not interest himself in the arts will go. That is why we have to encourage other sources of funding—ticket sales, quality of performance, and encouraging private patronage are all important.

Just as the barons of yesterday saw it as their duty to support the arts, so we must encourage the barons of today to do likewise. I think particularly of companies, who can do more to sponsor performances and exhibitions. The same is true of the trade unions, with their massive resources. Perhaps we cannot quite envisage Harold Pinter taking up an arts residency in Congress house, but we can at least encourage the unions to sponsor the arts—particularly the community arts.

I know that the television companies are great sponsors of the arts by producing what they do. However, there is a problem with sponsorship by those companies. If they want to show a massive production at, say, Covent Garden, there is an undeniable cost. Covent Garden has its own sponsors, but under the IBA rules the television companies are precluded from talking to Covent Garden's sponsors—or those of Glyndebourne or the National theatre—to work out a quid pro quo under which the name of the sponsor could be highlighted on the credits of the televised version. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts could examine that problem with the broadcasting authorities to see whether IBA rules could be adapted to take into account the modern needs of the television companies. I am sure that we all want them to continue supporting the arts.

Without state sponsorship, national and local, large areas of the arts would remain out in the cold. These include the prestige productions of major opera and ballet companies, new forms of the arts, the arts in poorer and remote parts of the country, and the range of community arts. I believe the Government have a good record of funding the arts, and any Minister who has achieved for the first time three-year funding at the level that my right hon. Friend has achieved can be proud of what has been contributed to the arts.

One must be conscious of major companies' continuing need for Government sponsorship to enable them to do more than just put on big performances in London, but to take quality productions to the regions and abroad. There will be economic spin-offs for the country if that is done.

Meagre increases have gone to national companies. This year, the figure reached the dizzy height of a 2.5 per cent. increase for English National Opera. In some cases, there was a zero increase. We must examine whether the 25 per cent. cut that the ENO has suffered since 1979 is right. The ENO has done what the Government and I would ask it to do. It has gone out and got sponsorship. To a considerable extent, needs are not the same as they were in 1979. Nevertheless, as my right hon. Friend knows, there are obstacles. One obstacle is the incentive scheme limitations, whereby the limit is £250,000 in every fourth year. For a large company such as ENO, the grant increase is a mere 1 per cent. per year, however successful it is in raising private sector money.

A small adjustment could be made to encourage even more self-sufficiency among companies. But for English National Opera and its sister company, the London Festival Ballet, as my right hon. Friend knows, there is a much more important obstacle. It is the continuing inability of the Department of the Environment to resolve how they are to receive the money that, after the end of the GLC, was channelled through Westminster city council. Come the new local government finance system, that money will not be able to be channelled through Westminster city council.

The sum involved is not peanuts. In the case of English National Opera, it is about 9 per cent. of its income. For the London Festival Ballet, it is some 23 per cent. of its income. They are major items of expenditure, and they are preventing both companies from planning ahead. When a company has shown that it is willing to get sponsorship, that it can sell tickets, and put on quality productions, Parliament has a duty to respond. It is not the reponsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts, but I urge him to put pressure on his colleagues from the Department of the Environment to get the matter put right.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) briefly referred to the Horniman museum—I have taken an interest in it through the Education Reform Bill and in the Geffrye museum. We were pleased that, the other day, an announcement was made in the other place that funding is to be secured and that there will be national status for those museums. But it is not total national museum status, and funding is on a temporary basis through the London Residuary Body. The matter needs to be fleshed out a little if those museums are to have confidence in their future. My right hon. Friend the Minister is keen that they should have that confidence. In this case, it is a matter of his talking to his colleagues in the Education Department to ensure that the matter is put right.

Politicians are not the best people to run the arts. We should leave it to bodies such as the Arts Council. We can always keep a safety net by appointing some bodies. The arm's-length approach is correct. Nevertheless, there is a need for a framework.

I declare an interest as a patron of the pub theatre network. These are the club theatres, which are small theatres which produce a lot of good and innovative work on a small scale to small audiences, and which answer a real need. Unfortunately, no set of rules governs them, so when local authorities inspect them to see whether they are meeting the requirements of the law, they are not sure by which rules to judge them.

The local authorities can look at the licensing Acts and say that as it is a club, it must be a drinking club. Occasionally, one gets drinks in pub theatres—surprise, surprise—so they are clobbered by rules designed for drinking clubs. Those rules are there not to protect the public from plays but to protect minors from alcoholism. That needs to be brought into line, particularly as the 48-hour requirement for membership of drinking clubs bears no relation to the needs of a pub theatre.

Club theatres can get clobbered under the cinema club rules, which are there to protect the public from obscenity and bear no relation to the small club theatre. Alternatively, they get clobbered under the licensed theatre rules, which are designed for theatres with a capacity of 150 to 200—rather than 25—and for separate buildings. I know that my right hon. Friend has taken this on board in the past, and I ask him to press the matter, particularly in the light of the current case with the Man in the Moon, which is having problems with its local council of Kensington. Because there are no guidelines or rules on health and safety for these theatres, they should be brought into our artistic life in a structured way as soon as possible.

We have been looking at the arts in general, and have picked up many themes. One is that the more that we can encourage participation in the arts, the more we shall contribute to society. The people who find fulfilment out of discovering their ability in the arts are the people who find self-confidence in their life as well. It may be that they are unemployed or have been in prison or are simply bored. However, if they can find a fulfilment through the arts, they will not be a problem to society. They will not be the vandals of tomorrow. The more that we can do through art in education, not just teaching it but using it, and the more we can do to enable people to participate, the better the society that we shall have to leave to the next generation.

The role of Governments in the arts is a delicate and critical one. It is one of nurturing, encouraging and sponsoring, of intervention without interference, of not controlling but not ignoring. If the Government can find the right balance between fostering by the state and letting children grow tall in the arts, they will have contributed greatly to the well-being of the nation, today and for future generations.

1.38 pm
Mr. David Martin (Portsmouth, South)

I have sat through the debate from the opening speech by my right hon. Friend the Minister, and I was pleased to hear him say how important arts are in enriching society. I endorse the closing remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) about the importance of the arts to the nation and to all citizens, not just some sections of society.

In that respect, I would quarrel with my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) who gave us the benefit of his wisdom in these matters. It has been suggested by a Minister, who had to take Trappist vows when he became a Minister—he is not in the Chamber—that when my hon. Friend the Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) becomes Prime Minister and forms his first Administration—something we are promised by various opinion polls in the media—my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington can be the Minister for the Arts. We shall then see a change of direction. We shall see Mr. Average Citizen getting a far greater slice of the action within the arts than my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington asserts is now the position.

Many hon. Members on both sides of the House recognise that the arts are vital to society and are in the finest tradition of any civilization, including Greece, Rome and Egypt. The arts have played an important part in all civilizations and I was pleased to hear my right hon. Friend the Minister underlining their importance in his opening speech. His speech contrasted greatly with that of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher). The hon. Gentleman said that the Government's record on the arts is miserable and claimed that the Government have done nothing. I considered the Newcastle speech to be full of sound wisdom, but the hon. Gentleman thought it to be an unhappy one.

When listening to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, having heard my right hon. Friend the Minister, I was reminded of something that Burke said of Sheridan and his style of speaking. Burke said that his style was something between poetry and prose, and better than either. The style of the hon. Gentleman was something between dirge and lament, and worse than both. Much has been done by the Government for the arts that has been entirely positive. There is much to highlight rather than to complain about.

I am pleased to see the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) in his place. I am looking forward to reading his work on Byron. I sat opposite him in the Library the other day when he removed it from an enormous envelope and began to read it himself. I think that he was being far too modest. I am sure that there will be many readers of his work and that he had no need to sit in the Library and read it himself. Perhaps he will give me a signed copy for mentioning it in my speech and seeking to promote its reading.

The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent mentioned Byron, and I noted what he said about the ignorance, as he sees it, that is suppressing the celebration of Byron's 200th anniversary. He said that the event may be censored and that perhaps Britain is going through what Macaulay described as one of its periodic fits of morality. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that that happens. I remember reading about Oscar Wilde's experiences in the 1890s. Even after he had been prosecuted and found guilty of offences, his plays were being shown in London. What did the theatre managers do? They did not take off the plays. Instead, they removed his name from them, and they appeared anonymously from then onwards. Maybe the same sort of thing will happen to Byron. I am sure, however, that, with the handling of the right hon. Gentleman, the reputation of Byron will be firmly re-established in the life of the nation. When we come to the 300th anniversary—with the right hon. Gentleman's longevity he might even be around for that—there may well be a different attitude towards Byron. I value hearing the contributions of the right hon. Gentleman because we are all aware of his civilised and well-read ways, which enable him to make such a significant contribution to our debates. I was privileged to hear the latest offering.

I have mentioned the contribution that the arts make to any civilised society and I have referred to Greece and Rome. The Emperor Tiberius established what was called a controller of pleasures. Perhaps that palm might be carried in the Government somewhere between my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for Sport and my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts. It will please my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea when I say that the Emperor Tiberius, when talking about taxation, said that a good shepherd sheared his flock but did not flay it. There is no doubt that the marrying of private sponsorship and Government funding must be the way forward, without undue emphasis on either. Without both the Government and the private sector being interested in the future of the arts, we shall not have what we want to see. That applies to London and the provinces. I say that especially bearing in mind the area of Portsmouth that I represent.

Portsmouth has a great future in arts and museums. Its museums also have a great past. The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) regards charging for entry to museums as disgraceful, but in Portsmouth there is a charge now for visiting HMS Victory, and the Mary Rose also attracts many visitors. As we have heard, charges have been introduced at the National Maritime museum in London and attendance has increased. I see nothing inimical to attendance in the making of modest charges, which add to the total funding and to the attractions and experience enjoyed by people, young and old, rich and poor, when they go to see the exhibits.

The young are given particular encouragement in the museums of Portsmouth. Little has been said in the debate so far about the encouragement of the young, especially in crafts, decorative arts and furniture making. There is sometimes insufficient support and appreciation of that aspect. I see nothing wrong in charging for exhibitions, but some help is essential to encourage young people, especially nowadays when there is the need to find jobs and to acquire many more skills. Skills in the arts must also be encouraged. At present, we rely on sponsorship and those who organise exhibitions have a constant battle to keep going. There is nothing wrong with that, but arts council grants are still vital. Without overdoing it, funding of that kind helps to promote schemes that we regard as important.

The conservation of buildings will always take up a good deal of the budget. We have inherited many beautiful historic buildings which need to he maintained at all times and it is a constant struggle to do so. In that respect, Portsmouth is no exception. Southsea castle dates from the time of Henry VIII and needs continual attention to keep it in good repair. Talking of the need for sponsorship and advertising to arouse people's interest, before I was elected to Parliament I recall seeing an advertisement in the London Underground encouraging people to visit the Tower of London. It carried a picture of Henry VIII asking for a return ticket to the Tower of London with graffiti underneath it saying, "And a single for the wife." I thought that that was an excellent promotion. We must promote the attractions of Southsea castle and those of other cities, not just those in London. I see no justification for making a distinction between one part of the country and another in terms of the importance of the arts.

I understand that the Arts Council also funds musical events and orchestras. The training of young people is equally important in this respect, and I am glad to see that there is to be increased emphasis on arts and music in our schools as a result of the Government's education reforms. It is extremely important to promote and encourage music. I have not yet heard the harpist playing in the Harcourt Room, but I look forward to the experience. I understand that there are no harpists provided in the House of Lords, perhaps because their Lordships are closer to the eternal harps than most of us are. I also look forward to seeing the promotions of the art festivals and orchestras that the Arts Council is so good at promoting and assisting.

I welcome what my right hon. Friend the Minister said today about helping and promoting the arts, which are important. The right balance has been struck between private sponsorship and Government funding. I hope that the arts will continue to be encouraged and that everyone will understand their importance to the nation.

1.49 pm
Dr. Charles Goodson-Wickes (Wimbledon)

I apologise to the House for my intermittent appearances in the debate. This was due to a constituency problem.

There is a great artistic tradition in Wimbledon. Wimbledon school of art is recognised nationally and internationally as a centre of excellence in fine art and, more markedly, in theatre design, covering sets and wardrobes. I take special pleasure in seeing the artistic expression in the school reflected in practical applications, but there is some uncertainty about its future funding. In its wisdom, Merton borough council has given the school enormous support over the years, but if it is to fall under the wing of the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council, I should appreciate an assurance from my right hon. Friend that the school will not lose any independence. There should be no link between funding and the independence of a centre of excellence which I hope will celebrate its centenary next year.

The Polka theatre in Wimbledon is a unique institution. It is a purpose-built theatre for children. We are lucky to have had it for about 10 years. Not only does it put on magnificent performances, but it has been a pioneer in providing artistic stimulation for handicapped children. As handicapped children are vulnerable in their special ways, so the Polka theatre is vulnerable. I hope that, through the Arts Council and other channels, my right hon. Friend will recognise that small really is beautiful, and that I have just mentioned two instances of it in my constituency.

To continue the theatrical theme, over the years I have researched the artistic works of a forebear of mine, George Clint. He was an artist, mainly in the theatrical world, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His works grace the walls of the Garrick club. This morning I have seen hon. Members wearing that distinctive—even fluorescent—tie. I hope that they appreciate his works. He has been compared favourably with Zoffany in the past.

The point of mentioning George Clint was that I had immense difficulty finding one of his works, entitled "Falstaff and Mistress Ford". As the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and I floated down the Thames last night we must have passed the site—the announcement was in The Times today—of Sir John Falstaff's, or, to be historically more correct Sir John Fastog's house. I was told that the painting was owned by the National gallery, but after a long search it decided that it did not have it. I ended up at the Tate gallery, which admitted that it kept the painting. I asked to see it, and the gallery said that it would require notice. Notice was duly given, and some months later I was told that the painting was reposing in a warehouse in Acton.

I have not had the opportunity to talk to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), so I do not know how large the warehouse is or what is in it, but it worries me to think of how many other paintings that are part of our national heritage, which have either been acquired by the nation of have been left to the nation by benefactors, are hidden from public view. One wonders whether full use is made of what may be undiscovered works of brilliance.

I should be most grateful if my right hon. Friend could say something about the Government's policy on—to use a not very appropriate phrase—recycling works of art. This came to mind when I saw a portrait of King James II in the office of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal. I suggested that perhaps in the tercentenary of the glorious revolution he would recycle that painting for some other work. I do not think that my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal would have any difficulty in replacing that work of art, but I would very much welcome some sign that he is aware of the problem. He may well be the custodian of a repository of much of our national heritage that is not available to the public.

I endorse the Government's policy of making art more available to the public. I welcome the Government's measures towards that end, and I look forward to my right hon. Friend's response to the more general, and perhaps also the parochial, points that I have raised.

1.56 pm
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

One thing on which we are all agreed today is that we must congratulate the Minister on securing a debate on the arts. Even the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks), who has gone for an early bath, would join in those congratulations.

I have been fascinated by the debate, as I always am by arts debates. They are good, they are amusing, in certain respects they are learned, and, of course, they are totally devoid of crowd violence, which makes them a very unusual activity in this place. I was particularly fascinated by the list of places that the Minister had visited—his artistic odyssey. I was sitting there thinking what a lovely job he has and how much we look forward to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) being in that position in the not-too-distant future.

I should have liked the Minister to add to that odyssey by visiting my constituency in Newham to see "The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropist" at the Theatre Royal. I invited him to attend that excellent play, which had full audiences throughout the run. I even threw him the inducement of having a vegetable vindaloo—a real East End bum burner—in my constituency, but he declined. He said that he would come along at a later date; I shall hold him to that because we want him to see what we do in the London borough of Newham.

The Minister made great play with the level of Government spending on the arts. Much will depend on how the figures are interpreted, and what elements are included as to whether one considers that it has gone up or down in real terms. I am satisfied that, even with the welcome increase for this year, we are still not quite back to the level of 1979. That cannot be acceptable. It is completely unacceptable to add abolition money. After all, the Government were replacing, after considerable pressure, what they had effectively removed by the abolition of the Greater London council and the metropolitan county councils.

I shall not go over old ground too often, but I must remind the Minister that when I was the arts chair of the GLC, we increased the arts budget fourfold in real terms in fewer years and we would have continued to increase arts expenditure. Of course, what will happen is that the abolition money will effectively disappear as an identifiable part of the Arts Council budget, which means that the arts will lose that much more.

When one comes to look at the figures, everything is relative. We have heard how much money the Minister has won for the arts. I shall not pour scorn on him. I shall not say that that is an appalling indictment of his period in office. We must welcome everything that we can get. However, putting it into perspective, £362 million, which is the budget for the Office of Arts and Libraries for the current year, is about one third of 1 per cent. of the total central Government spending for 1988–89. That is £6.39 per head of the population. When one compares that expenditure with that of West Germany, where it is three times greater, or of France, where it is four times greater, one realises that public investment in the arts in this country does not stand favourable comparison with many other countries.

A number of hon. Members have asked, "Why spend money on the arts?", and different conclusions have been reached. I say that money should be spent on the arts because it is one of the finest forms of public investment that any country can make. I emphasise the word "investment" because it is an investment in the activities of people at their very best, whether as creators or enjoyers of art. We must continue to say "investment" because it is a "good guy" world. It means that we are seeing a return on the money that we put into something. We do not subsidise the arts, we invest in them. We subsidise farmers. We do not hear many complaints from Conservative Members about that subsidy. We subsidise defence, but we invest in education and the arts. I am still waiting for the terminology on public expenditure to be properly addressed in the House.

How is any age remembered? Often the unpleasant reality of everyday life recedes as one gets further from it. The suffering of the poor, the diseases and the wars all recede and we are left with the lasting monuments of any age. The hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Martin) mentioned buildings, but we are also left with the paintings, the sculptures, the music and the literature. Those are the legacies from past ages that we admire. Those are the bases on which we shall be judged. We shall be judged on what we have created within our society. I think that the hon. Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Butler) touched on that point as well. We shall not be remembered for the obsolete weapons of death and mass destruction; we shall be judged by our art forms.

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) plays the court jester in many respects in our arts debates, but he is nevertheless welcome. His muscular approach to the arts is well known. I remember the statement that he made on a television programme about Pavarotti being an overweight Italian—which he has said again today. He said also that the ballet was something for poofters in leotards. That was the level of his contribution on that occasion. He is to the arts what The Sun is to English literature, or what the A-Team is to embroidery.

However, what the hon. Gentleman was saying about selling off art treasures is only a logical extension of the Government's economic policy. I am surprised that he was so quickly rejected by his hon. Friends. It might be that it is only the more enlightened Conservative Members who now confront us, but I am sure that there are many members of the Cabinet who would support the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington in his call for art treasures to be sold off. We are selling off the silver in terms of the socially owned industries. It will only be a matter of time before the Government start ransacking the British Museum to see what else they can sell off. What the hon. Member was saying had a ring of horrible portent.

There is also some truth in what the hon. Member said about the contrasting ways in which we approach public support for different leisure activities. I join hands with him on the question of why we should regard certain aspects of our leisure activities as unworthy of public support, while other activities are worthy.

We must address that issue. In many ways it comes down to the question, "What is art?" That is not just a philosophical question; it is a question of class and economics. The people will sit in judgment in the Arts Council and, in many cases, in local authorities and Ministries, and those who decide what is art and, therefore, what will receive funding, tend to have the values of white middle-class males. In drawing that to our attention, the hon. Gentleman did us a service—even if that was not his intention.

On the point about selling off things, I refer to the excellent speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) who restored my faith in Pope as a poet. Pope had been murdered by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel)—to murder a poet is bad enough, but to murder a Pope must be a heinous crime. My right hon. Friend referred to the report on museum charges which has just been published, under the chairmanship of Brian Morris. It states: the Minister for the Arts has said that he aims 'to maintain the level of support from public funds [for the arts as a whole], but to encourage subsidised bodies to become more self-reliant in their development and growth'. This is his declared aim. The reality is different. Faced with shortfalls in Government funding, national museums have had to raise money to avoid cutting essential staff. They are having to become self-reliant to keep going.

It is not good enough for the Minister just to wash his hands and say it is a matter for the trustees. The Minister creates the economic climate in which the arts can flourish—he said that himself. Therefore, he must be responsible for the fact that many trustees are being forced to turn to admission charges as the only way in which they can do the sort of things which they know they should be doing. No trustee could sensibly or responsibly want to see a 30 or 40 per cent. reduction in attendances because of the introduction of charges. That must go against everything that every trustee stands for. So why do they do it? The Minister said that it is to improve public facilities. Therefore, they are improving public facilities by reducing the numbers of the public who can enjoy them. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central said, attendances do not recover. That is unacceptable to us, as are charges for museums. It is a matter of party policy that when in government we shall abolish those charges.

Tourism has been mentioned. The hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) talked about people paying. There is something to be said for having charges for tourists in museums. Perhaps that could be done through some form of tourist tax, such as a bed tax. The money produced could be given to the museums and art galleries in the form of a subvention from Government. Perhaps the Minister will consider that when he is talking to some of his colleagues.

I also agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent about the Minister's use of "welfare state" as a pejorative term, which was highly obnoxious to us. This mean-minded and pernicious Government are not only trying to dismantle the welfare state, but to turn the word "welfare" into a pejorative term. I do not feel intimidated by the state. I see the state as "us" acting collectively. That is what the state should be. It is not an alien body to be hated or despised or dismantled. The Government's position is equivocal on this because on the one hand the state is held up as a creature which is alien to us all and which is not acting in our best interests; but on the other hand, the powers of the state are being increased and centralised by the Government all the time.

I want the state to spend our money and our taxes on a wide range of activities. I want more of my taxes to be spent on education, housing, health and the arts. and less on defence. It is absolutely right that the state, which, in this respect is central Government plus the local authorities, has taken over as a major patron of the arts from the private patrons of the past. One thing that makes that patronage so important is that it is disinterested, in the best sense of that word. Much private sponsorship is personally aligned to the wishes and the tastes of the board or the chairman of the board or the person who, when taking decisions about the level of business sponsorship, is looking to see whether there will be a good return for the company in terms of PR, image, or free seats for its clients.

We are not opposed to business sponsorship. We do not have any ideological objections to it, as many Conservative Members have towards state sponsorship of the arts, but we are sceptical about the figures quoted. I have written to Colin Tweedy, who does an excellent job at ASBA, and asked for more information because, if the Government are to rely more and more on business sponsorship and quote such sponsorship as a possible golden lifeline for the arts, we need to know whether those figures are accurate.

I very much doubt that those figures are accurate because I do not believe that the Minister can put his hand on his heart and say that he knows for certain that the money claimed to be raised through business sponsorship amounts to a particular sum. It is like invisible exports. They were suddenly revised upwards, but, as they were invisible, it is almost impossible to prove whether they are there, although they become convenient when trying to balance the trade figures. That is what the Minister has been doing with regard to business sponsorship for the funding of the arts.

We welcome the Minister's announcement of the 8 per cent. increase in grant to the Arts Council for 1988–89, but it still falls 21 per cent. short of the figure claimed by the council as necessary to meet the needs of its clients at an acceptable level. Three-year funding means 3 per cent. next year and 3 per cent. the year after, unless the Government can work economic miracles. Although they might claim to do so, I can assure Conservative Members that no miracles are being wrought at present.

We live in a candy-floss society. When North sea oil runs out, we will be revealed as the banana monarchy we have become as a result of the Government's economic policies. The 3 per cent. levels of inflation for the next two years do not appear to be realistic, so there will be real cuts for the next two years. Three-year funding is not very helpful if one knows that it will be cut.

The impact of Government cuts on regional arts associations has been severe, when inflation is taken into account. Greater London Arts has had its Arts Council grant cut by 1.8 per cent. It has lost £600,000 in the past two years. It is no good saying that that is a matter for the Arts Council, just as charges are a matter for museum trustees, because the Minister determines the overall budget and must therefore be responsible for the specific decisions that stem from that budget. He cannot duck his responsibilities.

Forty-seven GLA arts organisations have lost their grant this year. The increase for Northern Arts is only 0.6 per cent., which is, in effect, a cut. Merseyside has received an increase of only 2.2 per cent., which is also a real cut. The Council of Regional Arts Associations has calculated that, if the Arts Council is serious in its intention to bring the regions up to the existing levels of London as a minimum acceptable standard, there is an identifiable gap of some £42 million.

The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) made an excellent speech. It was so good that he has now been promoted to the post of the Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary. That must be the most rapid piece of political promotion that I have ever seen. I have myself suffered a self-inflicted demotion within the past 24 hours, and am surprised to find myself still on the Front Bench. The hon. Member for Battersea referred to the position of the national companies, particularly English National Opera, which is not greatly favoured by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington. It has suffered a 25 per cent. cut since 1979, while the national theatre has suffered a 13 per cent. cut since that date. As has been said, the building housing the National theatre is hideous both to look at and to work in. That should be taken into account when the Minister determines levels of grant for the national companies.

We have heard many excellent contributions today and I must mention that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) who spoke about broadcasting. This is an arts debate, but broadcasting is the most important medium for the arts and for the conveyance of information. We are aware just how powerful the arts can be if combined with television. "Cathy Come Home" said more about homelessness than all the political speeches bound together in one fat volume. "The Boys from the Black Stuff" said more about unemployment than any political speech delivered from either Dispatch Box, or any political broadcast.

When we talk about the arts, it is important to recognise the role of broadcasting. We must keep broadcasting free from the dead hand of Government censorship—the new Broadcasting Standards Council—which has been imposed by the wishes of Big Mother in No. 10 in her determination to make the BBC as objective and impartial as The Sun and the Daily Mail.

My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South was absolutely right when he said that there was a conflict in Government thinking. The Government talk about maintaining broadcasting standards and at the same time they opt for deregulation. That, if anything, will guarantee a falling off in standards.

There are many other things that I should like to say, but I have enjoyed myself by listening to the excellent, if somewhat lengthy, speeches from my hon. Friends and from some Conservative Members. This has been a good debate and I am glad that I have had the opportunity to take part.

The Minister has said that he wants to create a climate in which the arts can flourish. That is fine for him, but the climate that has been created by the Government is one of intolerance and bigotry. That makes it difficult for the arts to flourish, notwithstanding any increase in grant. The Minister is a member of a cynical Government, but I would not wish him to have as his epitaph Oscar Wilde's definition of a cynic: A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing".

2.16 pm
Mr. Luce

With the leave of the House, I shall reply to the debate.

The debate has lasted for five hours and has illustrated the widespread and growing interest of the House in the arts and our heritage. I enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). which was sparkling and entertaining, in contrast to that made by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher), for whom I have great respect. I recommend that in future the hon. Gentleman takes an anti-depressant pill before he speaks. He always speaks with such gloom about everything, but at the same time he manages to accept, perhaps grudgingly, that good things are happening in the arts world and to our heritage. The hon. Gentleman likes to say that such good things have nothing to do with me, and he likes to put all the blame on me. I do not mind that, as long as he accepts that the arts are flourishing and expanding. That is all I mind about.

I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) put his finger on it when he said that what really matters is to create a climate in which the arts can flourish, whatever the Government. The arts should be as self-reliant as possible and should be independent of any Government. The freedom of artistic expression is at the heart of success in the arts. The less dependent the arts are on one source of funding, the better. That is at the centre of the Government's approach to the arts.

I shall try to respond to the points that have been made in the debate. I appreciate that in the time left I shall be unable to respond to every point, and should I fail to do so I shall try to write to hon. Members.

In fairness to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central I shall reply to his argument about core funding for the performing arts institutions. He said that, in line with Arts Council policy, such funding is only just keeping in line with inflation and that sometimes it is below it.

This financial year there was an increase of more than £11.5 million over last year to the Arts Council, and the hon. Member for Newham, North-West was good enough to welcome that 8 per cent. increase. A substantial part of that money has been earmarked for certain purposes. The hon. Gentleman may not agree with some of those purposes, for example, some money is to be spent on touring. It is right that excellence in the arts through touring should be made available to as many people as possible.

Mr. Fisher

indicated assent.

Mr. Luce

I am glad to have the hon. Gentleman's agreement. We are seeing an increase in touring activity.

Some of that money is devoted to the new concept of incentive funding by which, rather than penalising organisations which become more self-reliant by their own efforts, we are seeking to use an element—not a large element—of taxpayers' money to reward success and encourage self-reliance. That is good for the arts and it is right that those who succeed should get some acknowledgement through taxpayers' support.

A third sum has been earmarked for what is described as new developments. This is a decision of the Arts Council. It may be the right decision, and it is for the Arts Council to make that judgment. When taking account of what is happening in the performing arts it is important to realise that these sums are available to encourage particular developments and that all organisations which do well and provide the highest standards of excellence in the arts deserve to receive some acknowledgement through one of these three earmarked sums.

The hon. Gentleman highlighted the important role of local authorities, and I recognise that. They are playing an increasingly important part in arts funding, and I welcome that. The national campaign for the arts recently produced a report on this subject and found that this funding goes across the party spectrum. Some Conservative-controlled authorities and some Socialist-controlled authorities provide good support, whereas some from either side do not give adequate support. Where local authorities have arts or heritage organisations in their area which play an important role for their ratepayers, they should at least give some support. I am not advocating vast increases in sums of money, but they should acknowledge that role.

A debate on the arts without a contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) would be lacking. As always, he made a colourful contribution, speaking with firm conviction. He chides me for spending too much taxpayers' money on the arts when more should be spent on social services and argues for a continuing debate on how much priority should be given to certain public services and how much taxpayers' money should be allocated. With all these arts debates—this is the third one in which I have taken part—I am coming to believe that my hon. Friend is something of a national institution and that he needs to be preserved. Perhaps I should suggest to the Arts Council that a grant be allocated to ensure that he is preserved. He makes tremendous contributions and I welcome his view that the arts organisations should become as self-reliant as possible in their own interests.

My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Butler), who gave notice that he could not be present for my reply, made several meaty points. I agree with his encouragement for endowment funding and his encouragement for more giving. He drew attention to the payroll giving scheme and the fact that its threshold has been increased to £240, and spoke of his disappointment that not enough had come to the arts in that way. I echo that view. I hope that more and more people will, in the current positive climate of lower income tax and higher standards of living, see that that is a good mechanism for giving more to the arts world. I support his view on that.

My hon. Friend talked about the importance of our surroundings and architecture. It has been noticeable in the past few years how much stronger public interest is in our surroundings and environment. We should all welcome that. His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales has played an important role in stimulating that kind of interest, and that can only be good for the country.

The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) is in every sense a true House of Commons man and has been here for almost every minute of the debate. He did not appear at all times to be attending fully to every speech, but he has been here throughout the debate, as he always is for arts debates, and I warmly welcome that.

The right hon. Gentleman made some interesting points and said that I should take a stronger interest in the concept of a Commonwealth Open university. I listened with great interest to the right hon. Gentleman's speech and noted his view of the important role that is played by the English language. I shall consult my colleagues who would have some responsibility for implementing the idea that he has put forward.

I listened carefully also to what the right hon. Gentleman said about the museums and galleries report. I take the report very seriously. I have read it, and I shall read it again and study the points that are made in it. I value the role played by the Museums and Galleries Commission and realise that it is important for us to debate this issue.

Some hon. Members were highly selective in the way in which they picked out certain aspects of the report. It is easy for hon. Members to do that. It is an objective report and highlights some of the problems that we face about conservation and storage space. I am glad that the Government have been able to provide a new storage building, costing £11 million in taxpayers' money, in Blyth road, Hammersmith. It will help to overcome some of the storage problems of the Victoria and Albert museum, the British Museum and some of our other national museums.

My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea made a most interesting and stimulating speech. I can reassure him about the Horniman and Geffrye museums. In another place this week it was made clear that the Government will provide financial assistance to these museums. In clue course the Office of Arts and Libraries will take over responsibility for them. However, the method of running them has still to be worked out. We envisage the establishment of charitable trusts to help the museums in their tasks.

My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Martin) made an interesting speech. I welcome the fact that he thought that we should give more encouragement to young people in the arts. I draw his attention to the enterprise allowance scheme, which has done a great deal to encourage people to set up their own businesses. A growing number of artists are taking advantage of that allowance, and as a result many are able to become self-reliant and to practise their talents and skills.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Dr. Goodson-Wickes) drew attention to the range of facilities in Wimbledon, such as the Wimbledon school of art and the Polka theatre, and I am grateful to him for doing so. He also drew to our attention the matter of national treasures. I can only repeat what I said earlier, that I shall continue to give the highest priority to ensuring accessibility by the nation to our works of art. I shall do that by a variety of means.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) made an entertaining speech and fully advertised the celebrations tomorrow to mark the tercentenary of Alexander Pope. He also drew my attention to a painting entitled "The View from Richmond Hill". Representatives of the Government art collection fund are in touch with Marble hill about that and it should be possible to arrange a loan of the picture. I shall take a personal interest to see what I can do to help.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) made an interesting speech about Liverpool. I look forward to attending the opening on Tuesday of the Tate of the north. This will be an important event for Liverpool and will make a great contribution to the regeneration of the area. I was very glad that he proclaimed the importance of the facilities of Liverpool, and it should do more, as Glasgow does, to get across to the nation what it has to offer in the way of heritage and the arts. If it did that, the regeneration of Liverpool would take place more quickly.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) made an excellent speech and proclaimed the importance of self-reliance in the arts, which I entirely endorse.

The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) spoke feelingly about the role that Glasgow has to play. I am glad that Glasgow took the initiative in gaining the status of cultural city for Europe 1990. It deserves the credit, and has many facilities to offer. A great regeneration, artistic and economic, is already taking place—

It being half-past Two o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

  1. BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE 131 words