HC Deb 30 April 1990 vol 171 cc718-21
28. Mr. Andrew Mitchell

To ask the Minister for the Arts what steps he is taking to explain to the arts world, both consumers and producers, the measures announced in the Budget statement.

30. Mr. Robert G. Hughes

To ask the Minister for the Arts how he intends to encourage further donations by businesses to arts bodies; and if he will make a statement.

31. Mr. Tredinnick

To ask the Minister for the Arts what contribution he expects will be received by arts and heritage bodies because of gift aid introduced in the recent Budget.

Mr. Luce

The introduction by the Chancellor of the gift aid incentive to charitable giving provides an unprecedented opportunity for the arts to raise even more resources from individuals and commerce. The Arts Council and the Museums and Galleries Commission intend to publicise the new arrangements.

Mr. Mitchell

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the good news about gift aid and the excellent news following his decision about the Wilding report have been widely welcomed in my constituency and in Nottinghamshire by consumers and producers? We are justly proud of the depth and quality of the arts and of artists in the region.

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am aware of the wide range of arts facilities in the Nottingham area. Like so many other arts bodies, they stand to gain from the Chancellor's decision that on 1 October next the gift aid scheme will be introduced. That will be in addition to the wide range of tax incentives that are available to encourage giving, by both individuals and corporations. It will provide a unique opportunity to inspire private arts patronage at a much higher level.

Mr. Hughes

will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the greater capacity and willingness of people to give to charities? Should not he, however, warn the arts world that if it is to take full advantage of that, it must fight its own corner and ensure that a large proportion of its money comes from as many sources as possible?

Mr. Luce

My hon. Friend has hit the nail on the head. There will be enormous competition within the charitable world to receive more money from individuals and corporations. It is very much in the arts world's court to ensure that it approaches the problem professionally in order to persuade the largest possible number of individuals and corporations to give money. As we look to the 1990s, we want to encourage more giving to the arts.

Mr. Tredinnick

Does my right hon. Friend intend to advise arts groups to concentrate on raising funds through gift aid or the payroll giving scheme rather than to seek sponsorship? That is a major concern in Leicestershire.

Mr. Luce

There is a wide range of means by which it is possible to give to arts organisations. I am in favour of a wide range of means, whether it be tax incentives to sponsors, or covenants, or the help that gift aid will contribute to one-off giving. A wide range of mechanisms can be used. The payroll scheme and the gift aid scheme complement each other. The gift aid scheme starts at £600 and above, whereas the payroll scheme is for all those who make contributions below that level.

Mr. Robert Sheldon

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's efforts to provide more money to the arts generally, and by the means outlined in the Budget, but does he recognise that unless more is done to restrict the sale overseas of some of our important works of art, what he hopes for will not be fully achieved?

Mr. Luce

The disparity between the rapid increase in prices of works of art and the resources that at any time and by any Government can be made available, through the taxpayer, to save works of art creates a real dilemma. However, the rules that have operated since the 1950s—the Waverley rules—under successive Governments, have worked extremely well. A wide range of measures and mechanisms is available to save works of art, including the national heritage memorial fund and the acceptance in lieu of tax scheme.

Mr. Maclennan

The deficits of the four national performing companies are of an order of magnitude that cannot possibly be bridged by the budgetary measures that were referred to earlier. What steps does the Minister intend to take to deal with the Royal Opera House's deficit, which is projected to be £5 million?

Mr. Luce

The deficits vary according to the organisation concerned. I have made it plain, both in the Chamber and outside, that it is up to each arts organisation that is supported by the taxpayer to ensure that it cuts its coat according to the cloth available, that it works within the resources available to it and that any other course—particularly a course that deliberately creates a deficit in order to demand from the taxpayer, through the Arts Council, that it should be baled out—is unacceptable. It would be at the expense of the very many arts organisations that are acting responsibly. To act responsibly is the way forward. I praise the arts world for the fact that increasingly it is raising more resources from the private sector.

Dr. Kim Howells

Many Opposition Members welcome the measures that have been taken to encourage charitable donations to the arts, but does the Minister recognise that there are fears among Opposition Members that insufficient measures have been taken to encourage the imagination and creativity among young people that in any modern state is necessary? Unless we can do that, we shall not encourage either the arts or the sciences.

Mr. Luce

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman tries to observe what is happening in the arts around the country, where he will see a remarkable story. We have a growing number of centres of excellence, ranging from Glasgow to Birmingham, and Edinburgh to Bristol, let alone London, which is a great European capital city. The arts are expanding in this country. The importance of this question is that it allows me to tell the House that we are giving any number of private individuals the facility to choose to give to the arts organisations that they think are the best.

Mr. Jessel

Will my right hon. Friend explain to the arts world—to both consumers and producers—the fact that they have all benefited from the substantial growth Rn incomes over the past 11 years and that the greatest service that any Government can do for the arts is to bring about full employment and a thriving economy?

Mr. Luce

My hon. Friend's last point is absolutely right. Indeed, the arts world itself contributes to the health and wealth of this nation. To the extent that our economy is strong, the arts stand to gain. That is why our priority must be to bring down inflation because the arts also stand to benefit and can then take full advantage of the new gift aid proposals.

Mr. Fisher

The Minister's replies make it clear that he does not yet understand the scale of the financial crisis that is facing our four national companies in general and the Royal Opera House in particular. Despite the success of the Royal Opera House in playing to 92 per cent. capacity and in raising £6 million per year in sponsorship, the Government have cut its grant over the past four years. As a result, this year the Royal Opera House is facing a deficit of £5 million and the national companies as a whole face deficits of £10 million. Will the Minister summon up the courage to do something about the deficits, or is it his policy to see theatres such as those of the Royal Shakespeare Company close or slide deeper into deficit?

Mr. Luce

The hon. Gentleman is suffering from a slight tendency of his from time to time—but not on every occasion—to hyperbole. However, I realise that it is local elections week and that the hon. Gentleman feels that he has to say something. He knows perfectly well that during the next three years there will be a 24 per cent. overall increase in taxpayers' support for the arts. Bearing in mind the overspending Labour authorities, is the hon. Gentleman really saying that if a Labour Government were ever in office, they would dramatically increase the amount of available expenditure? I ask him that question because, like Labour authorities, Labour Governments are notorious for over-expenditure.

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