HC Deb 20 February 1990 vol 167 cc837-81
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

I must announce to the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

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

I beg to move, That this House deplores the Government's poor treatment of the Royal Shakespeare Company which has forced the company to announce the closure of its two London stages for four months from next November; recognises that this is consistent with the Government's long-standing neglect of the Arts, museums and libraries; notes with disquiet that this has led all four national companies into deficit; is concerned that this inhibits their excellent work in seeking to increase and widen their audiences by means of education and outreach work, and by touring in the regions; and calls on the Government to bring forward immediate supplementary grants to tackle these deficits and to increase funding for the Arts Council to allow for expansion and development. When the Royal Shakespeare Company was forced two weeks ago to announce the closure of its two London stages at the Barbican and the Pit, it brought to a head the miserable failure of the Government's arts policy over the past 10 years. In the motion the Government stand accused of under-investment, ineptness and inactivity. While one of the world's great theatre companies closes its London base, the Minister for the Arts has been silent. He has not said a word about it. Indeed, many people wondered whether he was out of the country. In the arts we have a say-nothing Minister and a do-nothing Government. The Government seem to have no sense of pride in our culture and certainly no sense of responsibility for funding it.

If the Royal Shakespeare Company's crisis is the trigger for the debate, it is certainly not the only cause of it. Its problems are shared by arts companies all around the country which are also in deficit or severe financial crisis. Tonight the Government must account for themselves and say what they intend to do immediately about those deficits and, more generally and in the medium term, about how the Royal Shakespeare Company and other arts companies can play their full part in the 1990s.

No one in the House would dispute that the Royal Shakespeare Company is successful. It has received international acclaim and is extremely popular. Last year its productions played to about 1.5 million paying customers. Yet it is in deficit to the tune of £3 million. Why? It is certainly not because of bad management, as the Government know all too well, because in 1984 they set up a special financial scrutiny by the management and efficiency unit of the Cabinet Office, no less, under Mr. Clive Priestley.

In a 500-page document Mr. Priestley declared clearly that the Royal Shakespeare Company was well and efficiently run. That is hardly surprising when, of its £90 million turnover and £5 million grant, it returns directly to the Treasury more than £5 million in VAT, national insurance and income tax. Mr. Priestley said of the RSC in his report that it was "palpably under-funded." He recommended that the grant should be increased to £4.9 million and that it should be maintained in real terms against both the retail price index and average earnings. The Government and the then Minister for the Arts accepted that report and, to their credit, raised the grant to the level recommended by Mr. Priestley. The subsequent Minister, however—he is still in post—failed to honour that undertaking and to maintain those increases.

Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fisher

No. When the hon. Gentleman has heard the facts, he may not want to intervene.

In the past five years, the Minister for the Arts has not fulfilled the pledge of his predecessor. He has increased the grant by 1.9 per cent., 4 per cent., nothing at all, 2.4 per cent. and 2.2 per cent.—a total increase of just over 11 per cent. in five years, while inflation was 30 per cent. That was an enormous loss to the company as a direct result of the Minister's refusal to honour the Government's pledge.

Mr. Nelson

The hon. Gentleman has made no mention of the fact that part of the deal to which he referred was the writing off of a substantial amount of debt which had built up so that the Royal Shakespeare Company could get back on an even keel and pay its way. The Royal Shakespeare Company could not make money even if it was sitting on an oil well. Rather than blame my right hon. Friend, the hon. Gentleman would do better in seeking to be a trustee of the public purse if he pointed out ways in which tougher financial disciplines could be imposed within the RSC, not by the Government.

Mr. Fisher

If the hon. Gentleman will listen to the argument, he will see that, far from being rude about the Royal Shakespeare Company's ability to make money, he should praise it, because that company has done extremely well. It has done exactly what the Government have asked it to do over the past few years. If the Minister for the Arts had honoured the pledge of his predecessor, the company would not have a deficit of this size. In cash terms, the right hon. Gentleman's failure to honour his predecessor's pledge means a cumulative loss over the years of £5.7 million. The company has a present deficit of £3 million. If the pledge had been honoured, the company would be £2 million in credit and would not have to close two stages. The figures do not add up.

There has been bad faith by the Government. Although this is a crisis of the Government's making, we have not had a single word from the Government. It is extraordinary that the Minister for the Arts does not think that this matter is worthy of note and that he has had to be dragged to the House to answer for his inaction. The Minister has taken the attitude, "It has nothing to do with me—it is all to do with the Arts Council." He is an arm's-length Minister—his arms are so long that they are a mile from his body. That is not good enough. Does the House imagine that, if the Comedie Francaise in Paris were closing down, the French Arts Minister would have nothing to say? He would not allow that to happen.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

Has the horn. Gentleman seen the Minister's replies to written questions this week?

Mr. Fisher

We want a statement in the House from the Minister. We want him to take this matter seriously. We do not want written answers. We want to hear what the Government are doing about it. The hon. Gentleman can plant as many easy little written questions as he likes, but we want proper answers——

Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes)

The questions were tabled by Opposition Members.

Mr. Fisher

I shall give way to the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) in a moment. I know that he takes a lot of interest in these matters and may ask a slightly more intelligent question.

I should like to proceed a little further with my argument. At the root of all this is not only the Government's ineptness and inactivity—the problems go wider and deeper than that. The Government's policy is totally wrong. Throughout all this, both to the Royal Shakespeare Company and to other arts companies, the Government have been saying, "Don't look to us for money. Raise sponsorship. Go out into the marketplace. Increase your income."

In a thoroughly maladroit speech, the Minister said: There are still too many in the arts world who have yet to be weaned away from the welfare state mentality and from the attitude that the taxpayer owes them a living. The Royal Shakespeare Company is not owed a living. It gives back to this country far more than it gets. The Minister for the Arts continued: If it is any good, people will pay for it. That is the Minister's arts policy; that is his own point of view.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be as fair as he usually is and acknowledge not only the quality of the Royal Shakespeare Company and its ability to raise funds, but his past tribute to three-year funding so that such companies can plan ahead. Does he agree that the company was planning ahead on the basis of an expected 2 per cent. increase, and that the unexpected thing was that it increased to 11 per cent.? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there must be some criticism of the management of a company that has had an extra 9 per cent., but which suddenly finds itself in such a mess?

Mr. Fisher

The hon. Gentleman has made a serious point. I shall come to precisely the point about 11 per cent. in a moment.

The Royal Shakespeare Company has had no option. Because of the three-year funding, it knew that funding for the second and third years would be well below the rate of inflation. What good is three-year funding if the recipient knows that it is being funded simply to fall further into deficit? However, because the Royal Shakespeare Company knew that that was the reality of life, it responded exactly as the Government wanted. It did brilliantly. It went out and raised sponsorship and a £1 million per year deal from the Royal Insurance Company and others. It went into the marketplace and got its plays and productions put on in the West End.

It now has an income of about £1 million per year from "Les Miserables", "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" and "Kiss Me Kate", but Conservative Members say that it is no good at making money. Those productions are admired throughout the world and have played in many different countries. They are earning foreign exchange for this country, hand over fist. The Royal Shakespeare Company is very good at making money. It has done precisely what the Government wanted it to do.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

The hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) has said that the Royal Shakespeare Company could not make money if it was sitting on an oil well. The Government have been sitting on an oil well for 10 years, but for the first time in this country they are about to charge for entry to our great galleries and museums, and for the very first time the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts has had to publish a minority report stating opposition to those charges.

Mr. Fisher

My hon. Friend and his hon. Friends have produced a well worded and well thought out minority report, which has been widely read, nailing the idea that we should begin to charge for entry to our great national collections. It is interesting that the Minister has not responded to that minority report, but I hope that he will do so. It will be interesting to know whether the Minister will say that the Government cannot afford to fund the arts properly. He knows that the arts are not funded and invested in properly in this country. However, I warn him that if he uses that argument, my hon. Friend has already effectively shot it.

Last year, in the Budget, the Government had a £14,000 surplus—[Interruption.] I am sorry, the Government had a surplus of £14,000 million—or £14 billion—and there will probably be a surplus again, but it is no credit to the Government because North sea oil produces it for the Government. Even so, the Government are not prepared to invest in the Health Service, transport, culture, or in the other parts of the infrastructure of our life——

Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)

It is the hon. Gentleman's culture, not mine.

Mr. Fisher

I disagree. The hon. Gentleman and I share the same culture, and no doubt we shall cross swords on this later. If the hon. Gentleman is paying attention, I am sure that he will recognise that he and I can agree on a great many things.

Although the Royal Shakespeare Company has been so successful, the warnings were made clear to the Government. Mr. Geoffrey Cass, the chairman of the Royal Shakespeare Company, wrote in the Arts Council's annual report last year: If we pare to the bone every last financial commitment, leaving no reserve for the risk that goes wrong, then the worldwide reputation of the British arts will suffer. That is the danger of current Government policy. That was the solemn warning that the chairman of the Royal Shakespeare Company gave to the Government and although the Government did not appear to respond immediately, to the credit of the Minister for the Arts, he appeared to respond this winter.

I now return to the point raised by the hon. Member for Battersea. At last we got an 11 per cent., increase, but it was too little, too late. Although it was welcomed by the arts world, I repeat that it was too little, too late. Ten years of Government neglect cannot be repaired by one settlement that is only 3.5 per cent. over the rate of inflation. We can juggle figures on this, but we can see the evidence all around us. Every single one of the great national companies has a deficit. The royal opera house has a deficit of £3 million; the south bank centre has a deficit of £1.5 million; English national opera has a deficit of £0.5 million. Rather coyly, the national theatre does not publish its deficit, although it admits that it has one.

However, the problem is not confined to national companies, theatres, other arts projects all around the country——

Mr. Nelson

That is not true.

Mr. Fisher

The hon. Gentleman says that that is not true, but the Leicester Haymarket announced a deficit of £500,000 last week. The Nottingham playhouse, the Plymouth theatre royal, the Liverpool playhouse, the New Victoria theatre in Stoke-on-Trent, the Lyceum in Edinburgh and the Dundee repertory company all have a deficit. They are all in severe financial crisis, but the hon. Gentleman is saying that that is not so.

Mr. Nelson

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will add to his list by paying the tribute to theatres like the Chichester festival theatre, of which I am a director and which, without any aid or assistance from the Arts Council, has paid its way year after year, built up a cash reserve and continues to pay its way and to provide excellent theatre at an affordable cost.

Mr. Fisher

Of course. Our case is not that every theatre in the country is in deficit, but that every national company is in deficit, as are a great many other important arts projects. Are they all to blame? Are they all at fault? The Prime Minister has a favourite trick of saying that everyone is wrong but herself. Has the Minister for the Arts learnt from his right hon. Friend? Is he going to say that all those companies are wrong and that he knows best? We need only read the Government's amendment to our motion to see that he is, because seldom can the Government have tabled a more self-congratulatory or complacent amendment. However, if Conservative Members read the amendment's claims carefully, they will see that they are not what they seem. They are Mickey Mouse figures which do not add up.

Let us examine the Government's case. They claim that funding of the arts has increased by 40 per cent. Apart from the fact that that increase includes the Property Services Agency's money for museums, it also includes, which is much more damaging, the £25 million of abolition money which is spent every year as a result of the Government's abolition of the Greater London council and the metropolitan counties. We are not talking abut new money for the arts or a 40 per cent. increase in funding, but about the transfer of money that the Government have already taken away from local authorities. The Minister knows that that is correct, and he should retract the 40 per cent. claim.

The Government claim that the museums have done well, but the purchase grant of our great national museums has been frozen for between five and seven years. The British museum has received the same purchase grant for the past 10 years. The Minister says that the Arts Council has done well, but judged against the retail price index, the increase received by the council between 1979 and 1989 has been a princely 1 per cent. If one sets that increase against average earnings—people in the arts must earn something—it represents a 19 per cent. loss. The Government's figures are phoney. The only thing that is creative in their arts policy is their accounting.

The answer is out there—arts companies, audiences and the Minister know that. Our museums are being forced to charge and their attendances have dropped by between 40 and 50 per cent. Attendance at the Welsh national museum has dropped by 85 per cent. That is a disgrace and no way to guard our heritage.

Last year, the Royal Court's theatre upstairs, the Bristol Old Vic's studio, and Kent Opera had to close. The Welsh national opera and the Hallé orchestra are facing severe financial problems. Northern Ballet has held on by an inch because of the enormous popular response that caused the Arts Council to change its mind. That all happened before the impact of the poll tax.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

Does my hon. Friend recognise that local government support for the Hallé will be severely threatened by the introduction of the poll tax? As a result of the imposition of the poll tax, local authorities will look for a soft option when deciding on cuts. Should those authorities be poll-tax-capped, the arts might regrettably become the soft target for many local authorities.

Mr. Fisher

My hon. Friend is right. Unfortunately, the Government refuse to accept that our culture is a serious matter and should be a statutory responsibility on local authorities. The next Labour Government will take a different view about that and I believe that that will be welcomed widely. If the Hallé goes down, people in the Lancashire constituencies, which the Government will lose at the next election, and throughout the north-west will not forgive the Government. The Government should not allow the Hallé to slip further into debt.

The Government can fool themselves, complacently, that they have done so well in the arts, but they cannot fool others. Last week, in an article in The Times, the Minister quoted his successes, but they are as phoney as his figures. He asked to be praised for the successful move to Birmingham of Sadler's Wells, but it is Birmingham city council, by itself, which is putting up that company's new £2 million home. The Minister had the nerve to ask to be credited for Glasgow becoming the city of culture, but he gave only £500,000 towards the costs—and only after being pressed to do so. Glasgow put up £41 million. Such is the Government's commitment.

Mr. Hanley

My right hon. Friend chose it.

Mr. Fisher

Well, that is fantastic. How very kind of him. If he had chosen to give some money that would have been more helpful.

To give credit where it is due, the Minister should say that credit for the city of culture goes to Glasgow and that the credit for Sadler's Wells goes to Birmingham. The Minister did himself no justice by trying to take the credit. That perhaps reveals another side of the Minister.

Apart from being too complacent, the Government have got their priorities wrong. I know that the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) is aware of that. He is probably partly responsible for it.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

He does not know anything.

Mr. Fisher

Yes, he does. In 1987, the latest year for which figures are available, military bands were funded by the Government to the tune of £62 million—due to the passionate advocacy of the hon. Member for Twickenham.[Interruption.] I am glad that the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) enjoyed my pun. The national arts companies, all four of them, received £32 million backing from the Government—about half what was given to the military bands. There is plenty of oom-pah-pah, but little funding.

Mr. Jessel

Army bands are one of our finest traditions. They lift the spirit of the nation, enhance morale and help recruitment to the Army, and their members serve as medical orderlies in wartime. They do a great deal for our country and make a better noise than the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Fisher

All hon. Members enjoy brass bands. The hon. Gentleman is the parliamentary euphonium—he produces a lot of air, a lot of round mellifluous noise, and he is a delight to have around. Nevertheless, it is a strange country which decides that all its national arts companies together merit only half the investment given to military bands. That is purely comedy and the Government will judge whether it is a good balance. Compared with the rest of Europe, we are at the bottom of the league in funding the arts, with only Portugal and Ireland below us.

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

The hon. Gentleman is looking at this matter entirely in terms of state funding, but the important question is the quality of the arts in this country. We have superb theatre and opera, we have had a string of wonderful exhibitions and, although its acquisition fund is so small, the national gallery acquired a string of magnificent paintings. The hon. Gentleman should look at the end product rather than the funding.

Mr. Fisher

No one disputes that we have some of the finest artists, directors, designers, actors and others in the world, but the Government will not back them. That failure not only limits wider access to the arts—that is our policy—but means that those people cannot contribute to our cultural and economic life. The Government should appreciate that the investment is cultural and economic and that such investment would reward a better return. The potential is there, but it is being neglected and theatres are closing.

In terms of funding the arts we are bottom of the league compared with other countries. The Comédie Francais receives more from the French Government than the Royal National theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company receive from our Government. What a message to send to the world! The Government who represent us care so little about the arts that they are prepared to see the Royal Shakespeare Company close. What a message that is to tourists, who usually come here not for our weather but for our heritage, countryside and culture. The message to them is "Don't bother to come to London next winter as the RSC will be closed." That message is economically stupid. If the Government were seeking to do something to sponsor tourism, they could not have handled the matter more ineptly.

The Government do not understand the economics of the arts. John Myerscough and the report from the Policy Studies Institute, as well as commentators around the country, have tried to explain to the Minister that 650,000 people work in the arts and the cultural industries and that they have a turnover of £12,000 million per year. The arts represent the fourth largest earner of foreign exchange. Leaving aside the cultural arguments, it is sheer economic stupidity and illiteracy on the part of the Government to knock back those things that stimulate that investment.

What do the Government intend to do? Will they give the RSC the Priestley sum and honour their commitments? Will the Government tackle the deficits and recognise that the free market sponsorship approach to arts funding is self-destructive? Will the Minister help the arts to develop in this country? Even now, will the Government realise that the arts are not an addition to life which happen for a few hours after 7.30 pm but an integral part of our lives?

Mr. Dicks


Mr. Fisher

The hon. Gentleman may scoff. He should look at what is happening in Wakefield and Birmingham, where artists are improving the built environment. The Government should look at hospitals where artists are changing their environments through the British health care arts centre. They should look at what is, or could be, happening in transport, instead of the present London transport network. They should look at what Stockholm has done for its underground system and what could be done to improve the quality of everyday life. They should look at what could be done in education, through theatre and education teams. Sadly, the Government cannot see what should be done, but the public and artists can.

Artists know that they could, and want to, contribute to the quality of life in the 1990s. They are held back by the Government's underinvestment. The arts are one of the few sectors in which the United Kingdom is a world leader. That is reflected in our balance of payments, our reputation and the use of our language overseas. For the Government not to recognise the lead and the prestige that it gives us in the rest of the world is silly. The Labour party believes that arts and cultural policy can play a central part in the quality of life in the 1990s, but the Government do not. That is why the Government are letting the Royal Shakespeare Company go dark next year in London. I ask the House to vote for the motion tonight.

7.40 pm
The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Richard Luce)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: 'recognises the Government's outstanding record in supporting the Arts, which means that more people throughout the country are now enjoying the Arts at an unprecedented standard of excellence; congratulates the Government on increasing its funding of the Arts by 40 per cent. in real terms since 1979 and by a further 24 per cent. over the next three years; welcomes the increased support of 31 per cent. to the national museums and galleries to restore their fabric and the continuing funding of the new British Library; reaffirms the Government's commitment to maintaining support for the Arts while supporting its approach of encouraging arts organisations to become more self-sufficient; acknowledges the important role of the Royal Shakespeare Company; and endorses the principle of arm's length funding whereby decisions about the funding of individual organisations are made by the Arts Council.'. I warmly welcome this chance to debate the arts, and to do so in Opposition time. This is the first time that I can recall—I stand to be corrected—that such a debate has been taken in Opposition time since I have been Arts Minister. Every year, we have taken a debate in Government time. I am glad that the Opposition have come to see the importance of this subject. The debate also gives us the chance to celebrate the sucess of British arts in this country and the fact that British arts are recognised throughout the world for their high standard, quality and excellence—a point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) so rightly made.

I wonder quite how I can best summarise the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher). I have come to the conclusion that it was somewhere between "A Comedy of Errors" and "Much Ado About Nothing", with certainly the most enormous amount of "Alice in Wonderland". He is becoming the merchant of doom and despondency. Every time he intervenes, it is sheer doom and despondency, far from the reality of what is happening in the arts world today.

I ask the Opposition to face what is happening in the arts and to look at the subject with me. The annual attendance at subsidised performances which, in the mid-1980s, were 7 million, are 9 million this year and the forecast is that they will be 10 million in 1990. There have been the biggest audiences at professional opera than we have ever had in our history. In 1989—Museums Year—there were record attendances at museums of 100 million.

London is a great cultural centre that competes with any other in the world. It has great orchestras—the four great symphony orchestras—and two great opera houses. There is the BBC orchestra and the south bank with its royal national theatre. It is the greatest arts centre complex in the world. We can certainly be proud of what we see in London.

More generally, there are arts festivals in which the community participate, and standards of excellence are high. Those festivals have doubled in the past five years, to 600 today. In 1986, I was proud to recommend to my European colleagues, the Ministers for Culture, that Glasgow should be the European city of culture for 1990. I am proud that I was able to recommend Glasgow against other competing cities and I am glad that my colleagues in the Community agreed to it. Surely we can welcome that, and we can praise the people of Glasgow for the way in which they have made use of that decision.

The Royal Liverpool philharmonic orchestra is a great success, under a great Czech conductor. The Tate extension is a great success. Many millions of the public have already attended it. The new national museums and galleries on Merseyside are increasingly successful. In two weeks, in Leeds, the new West Yorkshire playhouse will open.

There are many examples of arts as the centrepiece of expansion and regeneration of inner cities. From Bradford to Newcastle, Bristol and Cardiff, things are happening, and arts are at the centre. There was a debate about the future of Northern Ballet about a year ago. Look at how it has done in the past year, under the inspired leadership of Christopher Gable. I am glad that the West Yorkshire local authorities have shown their support for Northern Ballet by offering it a home there. A new concert hall is being constructed for the Halle orchestra.

It is the climate for the arts that matters in this country. It is important to let the arts people take the lead. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central did not mention the success story of the English Shakespeare Company and the Renaissance Company. They have had outstanding success and have received strong support. My hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) highlighted the Chichester theatre.

When we consider national museums and galleries in the light of what the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central said, it seems as though he has not been around for the past few years. The number of museums and galleries in this country has doubled in the past 20 years, to 2,500 today. Our national institutions are extending their tentacles around the country. The national portrait gallery uses four country houses, the latest opened in north Wales, at Bodelwyddan. It is lending and housing a number of its paintings there, and the exhibition is already becoming increasingly popular.

Mr. Fisher

Will the Minister explain why the Government have not raised the purchase grants of the national museums for five, six, seven and, as I said, in the case of the British museum, 10 years? Why does he believe that it is not important for them to have the money to add to their collections?

Mr. Luce

Of course I will explain. I have explained it many times, and the hon. Gentleman knows the answer. I was coming to it. At the request of the chairmen and directors of our national museums, I have given priority to the fabric of our national institutions. No other Government have set a target for one decade to get the fabric of our national museums and galleries in good shape. That is my objective, and the hon. Gentleman should support me in it.

Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)

Surely the Minister knows that, in spending the money on the fabric of the museums, he is dealing with the neglect that has occurred over the past 10 years. That Government, as has been said again and again by museums and in the Public Accounts Committee report, were condemned for failing to look after the fabric of those buildings.

Mr. Luce

I realise that the right hon. Gentleman, as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, has studied this matter, and the Committee produced a report on it. He knows perfectly well from that, that the poor condition of our national galleries and museums has accumulated over a long time. This is the first Government to set a target to get the fabric of those institutions in good shape by the end of the 1990s. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman might have supported that.

Sir John Soane's museum is a modest but important museum. The property company MEPC has given money, and the Government have matched it. The fabric of the museum will be in good shape within three years. The Government, with private sector support, have spent a great deal of money on major redevelopment of the imperial war museum. That is a great success and there was great public support for it. The national maritime museum is also a success. The Queen's house, an Inigo Jones house, has been refurbished with Government help and money.

I think that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central was at the opening of the re-hang of the Tate—a great and outstanding success. It has 600 paintings on display in rotation at any one time. Its plans to extend its operation to St. Ives is well in hand, and it might also extend it to Norwich. There is also a Tate extension in Liverpool. There are exciting plans for the Sainsbury extension to the national gallery to be opened next year. The museum of the moving image has, with private sector support, been highly successful. By contrast, we can look at our heritage——

Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)

Will the Minister also instruct us to look at some of the figures for attendances? What has happened to the attendances at the museums and galleries since they imposed charges? In some cases, the attendance figures have halved, or are down by three quarters. The Minister should add that to his litany.

Mr. Luce

Nationally, there have been record levels of attendance at all museums, including independent museums which charge. The attendance figure for 1989 was 100 million—we have never reached that figure before.

The Government established the National Heritage Memorial Fund in 1980 and have spent more than £100 million on heritage—a great deal of money. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central asked, quite rightly, what we were going to do about preserving important objects of art. Look at what has been done—the list is infinite. With the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and many others, we have reached an understanding on the Mappa Mundi. More recently, the British library has purchased the Wellington dispatch, another example to which people would attach importance. The Government have accepted objects of great importance in lieu of tax, such as El Greco's "Fabula" for the national gallery of Scotland and two paintings by Hogarth for the national museum of Wales.

The Opposition's motion refers to libraries. It is astonishing that the hon. Gentleman should make a speech as he did and not once mention the construction of the new British library at St. Pancras, which will be the largest cultural construction by any Government this century. We have one of the most wonderful collections, dispersed among 20 locations, which will now be housed under one roof in far better environmental conditions, with better service to the customers. The first part will be opened in 1993, and it will be completed in 1996. Yet we heard not one word about that from the hon. Gentleman. It shows that his speech was hypocritical and phoney.

Mr. Fisher

The Minister knows that I welcome the British library, but previous Governments take credit for that. The Government cannot claim sole credit, and they are not pursuing the plans to their conclusion. But how does the Minister address the fact that 200 public libraries have been closed so that people all over Britain, particularly in schools, are receiving a worse service because of the Government's underfunding of local authorities?

Mr. Luce

It is not right to suggest that people are getting a worse service. A number of small libraries, open for fewer than 10 hours, have closed, but the number of service points to the public has increased by several thousand.

The issue is how to create the right climate for the arts to succeed. That is what any Government are there to do, and that is what we are seeking to do. The rest is in the hands of those in the arts, and they need to be congratulated on their achievement in the past few years. We have rightly asked for their support to come from other sources, not just from the Government. The arts pride themselves on being self-reliant and independent. Freedom of expression and independence are at the heart of the success of the arts. The more self-reliant they are, the better it is for the arts. The arts are achieving that. The Government are there to create the right climate.

The Government are committed to maintaining taxpayers' support for the arts. There is a clear public commitment to maintaining taxpayers' support for the arts. Overall support for the arts budget has gone up by 40 per cent., including abolition money. If abolition money is excluded, it has gone up in real terms by 33 per cent. I am prepared to yield to the hon. Gentleman on that. Funding for the Arts Council has gone up in real terms by 28 per cent. If one excludes abolition money, as I am happy to do, it has gone up in real terms by 13 per cent. in the past 10 years, using the GDP deflator that all Governments accept.

We have seen the introduction of new policies under the three-year funding plan. The hon. Gentleman has been generous about that in the past, and I do not want to be churlish about his remarks on that. But the hon. Gentleman did not mention the 24 per cent. increase in the cash budget for the arts in the next three years. The hon. Gentleman was good enough just before Christmas at Question Time to congratulate me on that achievement. I wonder where he stands now. He seems to change his position every day. There has been a cash increase in the Arts Council's resources of 22 per cent., with a 12.5 per cent. increase in the coming year. That is a good record.

There has been a 27 per cent. increase over three years in funding for museums and galleries, with special emphasis, which I think is right and which has the support of the chairmen and directors, on building and maintenance and the fabric of those institutions.

Against that background, and the introduction of three-year funding, the arts will be able to plan well ahead. We decided that in 1987, not the hon. Gentleman or his party. We decided that that would be a good basis on which the arts would be able to plan in the longer term to diversify their funding.

Therefore, the Government have spent about £500 million to underpin——

Mr. Buchan

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Luce

I should like to continue, because many hon. Members want to speak. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central made a long speech, and I do not want to prolong mine. Others want to contribute, and I wish to hear their views.

The Government have spent about £500 million of taxpayers' money to underpin the private sector expansion that we have been seeing. According to the box office figures for many arts organisations, audiences are expanding and the amount of patronage from individuals is increasing. Sponsorship is increasing and, under the business sponsorship incentive scheme, has produced an extra £31 million for the arts.

Under the new incentive funding policies through the Arts Council, the Government are investing £12.5 million over three years, which it is estimated will bring another £50 million of extra resources for the arts from the private sector. Local authorities spend about £250 million on arts, excluding libraries. They identify projects which they think are worthy of support and which will be welcomed by their ratepayers.

Arts in the United Kingdom are rich in their diversity and achievement. In the light of what the Arts Council has achieved, and is achieving today under the excellent leadership of Mr. Palumbo, it can be proud of what it does. The arts cannot be static. Fashions change and quality goes up and down. Change is the key to vitality in the arts, and we cannot expect the subsidised or the non-subsidised sector to be locked into a rigid position. I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman can see or understand that.

That does not mean that there are not problems. There always have been and there always will be problems in the real world, and they must be tackled on their merits, problem by problem. That is the right approach.

The hon. Gentleman dwelt to a considerable extent not just on the Royal Shakespeare Company but on our centres of excellence, and that is an important subject. A diverse range of arts is supported throughout the country. The difficult question for the Arts Council is how much goes to the centres of excellence, the flagships, and how much to other important artistic activities. The Arts Council, led by Mr. Palumbo, is mindful of the importance of centres of excellence, not just in London, although that is important as a great cultural city, but around the country as well.

I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth). He has been an active supporter of the Royal Shakespeare Company ever since he became the Member of Parliament for Stratford. I agree that the Royal Shakespeare Company's record is outstanding. I recently saw a performance of "Coriolanus" as good as anyone might see. There have been 2,000 performances, 227 on tour at 29 United Kingdom locations, and it has about 40 productions in its repertoire. That is a major advance since earlier days. I pay tribute to the chairman, Geoffrey Cass, and his team, and I wish the new management every success.

The Royal Shakespeare Company is a national centre of excellence, and I am glad that the Arts Council has seen fit to raise its budget next year by 11 per cent. to just over £6 million. I accept completely that the Royal Insurance Company's contribution to the Royal Shakespeare Company of just over £1 million is exceptional. I acknowledged that when it was announced. I acknowledge too that its box office record has been extremely good. It now has a turnover of about £20 million a year. It is a great artistic centre. It is also a substantial business. That is important because, as with all arts organisations, it must be operated as a business.

Every arts organisation must operate within its resources and must cut its coat according to its cloth. I acknowledge that difficult decisions have to be taken by the chairman and management of the Royal Shakespeare Company, though I suggest that its three-year funding, which no arts organisation has enjoyed before, provides a sound basis on which to plan.

The hon. Member for Stoke on Trent, Central mentioned the Priestley report, but I believe that he unintentionally misled the House. To over-simplify matters, that report, which referred not just to the Royal Shakespeare Company but to the royal opera house, contained three recommendations. The first was to write off a deficit at a certain level; the second, to increase the core funding of the Royal Shakespeare Company to £4.9 million. The third recommendation was to adopt the policy of index linking or inflation proofing.

My predecessor, my noble Friend Lord Gowrie, agreed to writing off the deficit at an agreed level and to increasing core funding, which then became the new basis for the future. However, he did not accept, and nor do I, that that organisation or any other should be specially selected for index linking and be made inflation-proof. It is up to the Arts Council to decide whether or not, within its overall resources, the RSC should receive a certain level of support. This year, support happens to be above the anticipated rate of inflation, but the value of its grant has been eroded by inflation over the past two years.

Mr. Fisher

What about the arm's-length concept?

Mr. Luce

I shall deal with that point shortly, because I am beginning to wonder whether the Opposition are any longer committed to the arm's-length principle, or whether they want to impose central control. If the Opposition have changed their policy, the House is entitled to know—and so is the arts world.

I am confident that the Royal Shakespeare Company will overcome its problems and will continue to achieve the highest standards of excellence. Certainly I am very proud of its achievements, as I am one of the other flagship companies, including the royal opera house and the English national opera. Together, they give more than 300 performances every year. Last year the royal national theatre won nine awards and gave 1,200 performances. I am glad that it has received an 11 per cent. increase in its Arts Council subsidy, giving it an overall subsidy of just over £9 million.

The hon. Member for Stoke on Trent, Central, by the tone of his speech and the implication that central Government ought to intervene left, right and centre, suggests that the arm's-length policy is no longer acceptable to Labour. I challenged him on that point in our debate last June. On that occasion, the hon. Gentleman's reply was all fudge, and he gave no clear answer. We are entitled to know whether the Opposition believe in the arm's-length approach or whether they are moving to a policy of central direction of the arts.

Mr. Fisher

I said that it was the responsibility of the Government to formulate a strategic policy for arts funding but that the details of grant administration should be left to the Arts Council. Our accusation against the Government is that they do not have a strategic arts policy for supporting the national companies. I hope that the Minister does not intend to end his speech without addressing the plight of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Will he do nothing and allow it to go dark all next winter? What will be done about the company's budget for next year? The deficit that the RSC and other companies share will not go away. The Minister may try to run away from the problem, but he cannot hide from it. The problem will not be solved unless he takes a strategic view, as he ought to do.

Mr. Luce

The hon. Gentleman just about confirms that the Opposition are adopting the view that they should no longer have an arm's-length policy. That is what the lion. Gentleman's remarks imply. He is saying that the Government should intervene every time that a national company experiences difficulties. The hon. Gentleman misunderstands what an arm's-length policy is all about, and that really worries me.

The Minister's job, as I see it, is to negotiate with the Chief Secretary of the Treasury and with his other colleagues in government about how much money should be available to the arts under the three-year funding policy. The consequence of that approach is that the Arts Council will enjoy a cash increase next year of £20 million. How the Arts Council dispenses that money is for it to decide. It is not for the Government to intervene. It is not for Ministers and Whitehall officials to decide how arts organisations should be managed. The hon. Member for Stoke on Trent, Central is saying that Labour is going for central direction of the arts and wants to eliminate the arm's-length concept altogether.

Mr. Buchan

Is the Minister now defining arm's length as saying, "We shall let theatres close"?

Mr. Luce

The hon. Gentleman flies in the face of reality. He represents a Glasgow constituency at a time when that city is enjoying a marvellous renaissance across a whole range of artistic activities, so I find his remark quite extraordinary.

It is easy to forget that much of what is available today grew up during the postwar years. That renaissance of the arts has been made possible by rising levels of investment by central and local government, by increasing private efforts, both corporate and individual, and by the efforts of the Arts Council. However, there is a tendency by some to hark back to the palmy days of the 60s, when the arts were at a peak.

There were many great achievements in the 60s, but it is also true that many of the great companies we are debating this evening did not exist in their present form 20 years ago. The English national opera had yet to occupy the Coliseum. The National Theatre Company was still at the Old Vic, and the Barbican did not even exist. In recent years, we have seen an explosion of arts activity and support throughout the country. That is why the Government increased funding to record levels. In real terms, our grant to the Arts Council is now worth three times what it was 20 years ago, which is a reflection of our economic and artistic successes.

The Government have shown their strong commitment to the arts and, looking to the 1990s, their positive approach to the quality of life in this country. I hope that the House will express its confidence by voting overwhelmingly against the Opposition motion.

8.6 pm

Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)

I am pleased at the opportunity to speak so early in the debate, and I want to pick up one or two extraordinary points that the Minister made. He still has not answered the question of whether his perception of the arm's-length policy is that one is content to let theatres close. It is appalling to think of the Royal Shakespeare Company, of all companies, closing theatres.

It is true that Glasgow has fought over the years to develop as a city of culture. It is doing all that it can to attract people to the arts there. Certainly it is not closing the Citizens theatre, the Tron, the King's or the Tramway. We are keeping them all going. If that is an arm's-length policy on the part of the local council, I applaud it. Arm's length is a matter of judgment. I accept completely the definition given by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) when he says that arm's length is also a matter of strategic planning.

Are we to tell overseas visitors that we cannot even maintain the Royal Shakespeare Company? Imagine the French saying that they cannot maintain the Comédie Francaise. I wish that the Minister would shake his mind clear of dogmatic nonsense in respect of the arm's-length concept.

It was revealing that the Minister referred again today—perhaps because he knew that I was originally involved—to the Priestley report's three recommendations and to the Government's refusal to accept index linking. In other words, the Government rejected the one proposition that could have provided financial security and the facility to plan. The Minister applauds that decision, but the truth is that he has never understood the point and purpose of a three-year rolling programme. We pressed on him the necessity for such a programme from 1983–84 onwards, so that companies could enjoy a period of security. We tried to explain to the Minister that such a programme would have to be index-linked, because as inflation rose, any three-year plan would be made worthless if no provision was made for inflation.

Each year there should be planning for index linking of the subsidy three years ahead so that the company had three years' knowledge and understanding and could plan for that period of time. The next year, if the company was told that the subsidy for the third year was going to be reduced, it would understand. The Minister has never understood the position, and that is why the argument has failed.

That lies at the heart of his failure to understand the economic situation that he should be facing as a Minister. He told us about the increases in the past year—that is true. However, the applause when he announced the figures—for example, the 12.9 per cent. increase in subsidy to the Arts Council—was not applause, but sighs of relief. It was not to show joy. If one examines the figures, the picture that emerges shows the Minister's failure to understand index linking.

There is a 12.9 per cent. increase from this year's grant of £155 million to next year's grant of £175 million, but the increase from last year to this year was only 3.7 per cent. because the Minister failed to index-link the rolling programme. The combined increase for the present year and next year, despite that massive leap, is only 16 per cent., which is barely above the inflation rate—and the way that the Government are going, it will probably be below the inflation rate by the end of the year. What is worse, it means that, in the following two years of the three-year programme, in 1991 and 1992, the increases will be 4.6 per cent. and 3.8 per cent.—massively below the rate of inflation. The apparent jump this year concealed the planning for a cut in real terms.

The Minister argued that the Government were giving special support to museums and galleries, but the same argument holds true there. They are the most hard-pressed sector at present, or they were until the blow to the Royal Shakespeare Company. This year and next year, museums and galleries will get £158 million and £182 million respectively. That is a combined increase of 15 per cent. over the two years, which is just about, or perhaps a little over, the rate of inflation. We do not know yet.

For the following two years they will get 4.9 per cent. and 4.7 per cent. increases, which are well below inflation, and at best only keeping pace with it. That is at a time when our galleries and museums have never been in worse condition. They are in a crisis, and the crisis has had to be forced upon the Minister before he could see it.

What is the Government's contribution to solving the crisis? My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central had to face that problem in the Select Committee. The Government's answer was to bring in charges. They brought in charges and halved attendance. That is a bit like saying that we shall make our schools economic. We could easily have economic schools by sacking half the pupils and teachers and sending them home. There is no merit or pride to be had when Government policy has pressurised museums and galleries into charging and halved attendance.

The Government have never understood what sort of people attend museums and galleries. The evidence given by Neil MacGregor of the national gallery was among the best that the Select Committee heard.

Mr. Flannery

In his evidence Mr. MacGregor told us that when Sir Robert Peel opened the national gallery he said that those of us who have money to buy pictures can do it, but the national gallery is for people to go into. He also told us that the gallery used to charge one day a week for people to come in to paint and copy pictures, and on that day the general public did not bother to go there.

Mr. Buchan

Mr. MacGregor's evidence was fascinating and courageous, in the circumstances. That is also true of the British museum, which was built to be free for all time. The present director says that if a penny is charged for attendance, he will resign.

Mr. Gerald Bowden (Dulwich)

A moment ago, the hon. Gentleman was applauding the way that the French handle these matters. Does he not recognise that all the museums in Paris charge people and have done so for years? People accept that as a matter of course.

Mr. Buchan

I recognise that, and as a general principle I reject it, although there are other arguments that I wish to employ. That is an appalling situation, and I stand by that opinion. Paris is a city full of tourists in the summer and there are particular problems there, as all of us who have queued for the Pyramid will know, but the French are wrong to charge.

The best answer that I heard on this issue was at a conference some years ago, when the director of the La Plata museum in Buenos Aires said that museums and galleries are part of the emancipation of human understanding and consciousness. We must not put a barrier between people and the possibility of expanding their awareness and consciousness. That is exactly the reason for free education in this country, and free education is the parallel, not Paris and charging.

I know that many hon. Members want to speak so I shall be brief, but we must consider the argument on the pressure to achieve sponsorship in the arts. We warned that, as sponsorship increased, the Government would renege on their duties, and would not add to public subsidy, except through the sponsorship scheme. If a firm gives a quid for sponsorship—it gets good value for that sponsorship—the Government are also willing to give money, but the company has to prove that it will make a commercial gain as a result or it will not get sponsorship. That is the definition of sponsorship as opposed to patronage. The Government are willing to insert that sort of money into the private sector so that the arts become private sector-led instead of community, social and public-sector led.

The Government have been saying that sponsorship is a replacement for proper public funding and that is why so many of the sponsors are beginning to get angry. That is why sponsors are saying, "We shall not bail out the Government for failing in their duties."

The Minister explained why the Government had cut back on acquisition funds and given money for the fabric of buildings instead. The people who asked for that—the directors of our museums and galleries—are terrified at the condition of the fabric of the buildings. They said that they would have to do without another painting, piece of sculpture or objet d'art to save the roof. We have seen buckets in the British museum as the drips come in. The director himself has helped to place the buckets. That is the situation that we are facing.

Consider the prices on the international art exchange—£28 million for Van Gogh's "Irises", and £24 million for his "Sunflowers". The director of the national gallery could not afford more than 1 sq ft of the canvas of a Van Gogh at present. The national gallery would have been able to buy one eighth of the last Turner sold—"The Top Sail of the Fighting Temeraire". It would have been unable to buy the whole painting. That is appalling, and it is nothing to boast about, but the Minister said how pleased he was that curators and directors had asked for money for the fabric instead of for acquisitions. That is because they had no other recourse but to do that.

For a long time I resisted what I used to call the argument by the forces of darkness—the economic argument. I had so much battering over the head, that I changed my view, and I am now in favour of economic advantages for the arts.

Glasgow is a case in point, and I thank the Minister for coming in with support, although I think that other people prepared the memorandum that put the case for Glasgow, and I think that he recognises that too. Glasgow was in that position because the local authority had the courage to do it—Glasgow has spent enormously. A new concert hall is being built and the local authority has also given general support for the arts there. In the west of Scotland as a whole, support has also been good.

What thanks does the local authority get? A method of local government finance—the poll tax—which will make it extremely difficult to have that level of expenditure, not merely because it has been pinched but because of the nature of the pinching. The poll tax and the new gearing mechanism will lessen local government revenue and therefore additional expenditure on the arts. That is the problem that we now face.

I am not saying such things because I am a troglodyte Marxist. I was reading a very interesting article the other day, which said: Those of us who were pro the Thatcher broom (and of course not everyone was) took it on because we believed if these objectives were achieved and that we laid low the attitudes of the past … a reconfiguration of the arts would emerge … The new efficiency and the new prosperity would bring fresh initiatives from both the revived private sector and the revived public one. By the end of 1989, it became clear that one had been under a delusion … Alone, it seems, within Western Europe we have a Government which has no coherent philosophy on the role of culture within society beyond let market forces prevail'. The Prime Minister is, of course, no fool and… Taking her cue from the majority of the royal family, she and most of her Cabinet know perfectly well that the fact they are rarely seen at any theatre, opera, ballet or museum will not make one jot of difference when it comes to the next election. Nor will one recent speech at the Tate Gallery compensate for a decade of inertia … Indeed, Mrs. Thatcher may well take her place in the cultural history of this country as another queen of the Goths. The writer also described the Government's philosophy as "bourgeois philistine".

That article did not feature in Marxism Today, nor was it written by me—although I might have used the phrase "bourgeois philistine", and indeed might have spoken in stronger terms. It was written by Roy Strong, who quarelled with me pretty strongly about the imposition of charges for admittance to the Victoria and Albert museum. He has now changed his view, and recognises that the private sector does not necessarily mean a cultural renaissance.

I note that the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science has joined us. As his constituency is Stratford-on-Avon, I should have thought that he had a vested interest in the Royal Shakespeare theatre, but I shall not ask him to declare it. If Shakespeare had not existed, Stratford would have had to invent him; yet the Minister wants an end to all subsidies. He has heard me say this before, so he should not look puzzled. He says that farming subsidies should end, uneconomic nursing homes—or was it maternity homes?—should be closed and theatres should receive no public support. I hope that he has told his local authority that. Some bulwark he is to the Minister for the Arts!

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Alan Howarth)

The hon. Gentleman has misrepresented me grotesquely, which is always easy to do by means of partial quotation, and if he wishes to be fair to the House he will be prepared to admit it. I have indeed said that his arguments for virtually indiscriminate and unlimited subsidy are fantasies, but I have always argued for a sensible level of subsidy for the Royal Shakespeare Company to assist it to fulfil the terms of its charter.

Mr. Buchan

I hope that the House has taken note of that. I shall dig up the relevant speech as quickly as possible. It seems that the Under-Secretary is now saying that he would rather close an uneconomic nursing or maternity home than close the Royal Shakespeare theatre; I would prefer not to pose such a choice.

The present chairman of the Arts Council was responsible for one of the most philistine development proposals in the City of London. We should take pride in what little is left of the City. I should be happier if the Minister recognised the plight into which he, or rather his Government, led the arts: he could restore more confidence and vitality if he fought. In fact, he probably has fought, but with an entirely philistine Government—a Government who measure the value of everything in cash terms. In their pursuit of cash, they have turned the arts to dust.

8.23 pm
Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

The whole House will have been interested in what the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) said about Glasgow being the city of culture. I am sure that hon. Members from all parties wish Glasgow every success in this highly important year for the city. It is significant that both the Government and Glasgow itself have contributed to the funding of the "city of culture". That is as it should be.

Apart from that, I could not find much in the hon. Gentleman's speech with which I could agree. He said that the Government's approach was to say, "Let market forces prevail," and that they measured everything in cash terms. I could not help recalling the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) an hour before; almost all that speech was about measuring support in cash terms, and funding with cash.

Surely what matters is ensuring that funding is seen as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. What matters is how well the arts are doing—how many people go to the opera, the ballet, concerts, museums, art galleries and cathedrals, and participate in the perception of the arts in general. That is achieved by a variety of means, of which funding is only one.

Because Parliament has a duty to deal with things in a financial way, we have a tendency to discuss everything in cash terms. Cash is an accurate way of measuring one aspect of what happens, but it is not the only thing that matters. The Opposition have talked much more about measuring results in cash terms than has my right hon. Friend the Minister, who thinks more in terms of the number of people who enjoy the arts. That is what really matters, and it is also an indication of how well the economy is flourishing.

Even if we measure results in purely financial terms, however, it is absurd for the Opposition motion to refer to the Government's "neglect of the Arts". Only three months ago they announced an increase of £66 million over three years, on top of the existing £393 million. We have heard a good deal about percentages; it is time that we looked at the figures in absolute terms, and in money terms. Total spending will be £460 million—an average, in a population of 55 million, of about £8 per head per year, or £35 per household. That is a significant amount by any standards.

The arts lobby, of course, says that it wants more. In a free country, it has the right to campaign on behalf of its beliefs and interests, but we as parliamentarians must make our judgment in the larger context of Government spending: spending on the National Health Service, education, aid for developing countries, the environment and the largest item of all—retirement pensions and social security, which take up some £50 billion per year. That has arisen not least from the improved standard of health, and the fact that there are about half a million more old-age pensioners in every decade because people are living longer. I should like us to spend more on the arts, but we must recognise that the Government's spending capacity is not a bottomless pit, and I do not think that the arts as a

The arts are flourishing as never before. They are contributing much to the quality of life, and there is an unprecedented range and depth of talent in the country. Last night, along with other hon. Members, I visited Tate gallery to see the splendid re-hangings of paintings. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) for arranging it. The public are flooding in—there are queues every day.

As for the theatre, it is difficult to obtain seats for many of the best London shows. The national theatre's standards are brilliant. It shows some superb plays, although I have reservations about the architecture of the building. I was a member of the Greater London council 20 years ago, when we were told that the architect, Denys Lasdun, was one of the finest ever known, but that the national theatre's roof had been leaking ever since the building was erected, causing serious problems for all concerned. The standard at the national theatre is remarkably high and is a credit to the nation.

More people visit the theatre each week than go to football matches. There is a tremendous range of marvellous concerts. As the Minister for the Arts said, London is the musical capital of the world. Recently, I heard two magnificent concerts at the Barbican concert hall. They were given by the London symphony orchestra, one of the best orchestras in the world. It performs regularly at the Barbican and attracts much less flak than the Royal Shakespeare Company; the concert hall seems to be run much more easily.

At one of the concerts by the London symphony orchestra, I heard the great cellist Rostropovitch play four cello concertos. At the other—a 70th birthday concert—the distinguished clarinettist, Jack Brymer, played Mozart's clarinet concerto and Mozart's clarinet quintet. Both concerts were sponsored by Shell—a fact that should be mentioned, alongside the sponsorship by the Royal Insurance Company of the plays in the theatre at the Barbican.

Sponsorship has multiplied 20 times in the last 12 years. A large number of industrial and commercial companies sponsor concerts, theatre and opera. They have sponsored magnificent productions of opera and ballet at the royal opera house. The English national opera at the Coliseum has also benefited from sponsorship, as have art exhibitions. There has been a flowering of artistic activity of all sorts.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks)—who, I hope, will catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker—is opposed to any public funding of the arts. He thinks that entertainment of all kinds is of roughly equal quality. He and I must agree to differ about that. The human spirit needs more than the contentment of a cow or a cabbage. The best drama, music and paintings educate and fire the mind and uplift the spirit.

When the arts flourish, so does the country. The flourishing of the arts interacts with national confidence, as reflected by this country's success during the first Elizabethan age—and during the second Elizabethan age since 1980. In both ages the arts have burgeoned.

The arts also bring financial benefit. Visitors come to Britain not for our weather but for our history and traditions, for our royal palaces, such as Hampton Court in my constituency, for our beautiful cathedrals and churches, for our museums—which have doubled in number from just over 1,000 to 2,500 within a generation—for our theatres, concerts, opera and ballet.

Apart from the money that visitors spend on gaining entry to our theatres, concert halls and opera houses, they spend it on their hotel accommodation, and in restaurants and shops and on transport. The money that they spend generates employment and income and provides a tax yield to the Government, thus helping the balance of payments.

All these financial effects are difficult to measure with precision, but they exist. It is right, therefore, that the House, with its interest in financial and economic matters, should take that into account. It adds weight to the argument for support for the arts. My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington never seems to face up to the importance of that argument.

The other regular tenant of the Barbican, the Royal Shakespeare Company, has had its Arts Council grant increased by 11 per cent. Its standards are superb. The company started at Stratford-upon-Avon. Subsequently it gave performances in London, at the Aldwych and elsewhere, and moved to the Barbican. Subsequently it promoted musicals, some of which, such as "Les Misérables", have been roaring successes, while others, such as "Carrie", have been disastrous flops. That must have affected the Royal Shakespeare Company's financial position.

The amendment to the motion refers to the important role of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Perhaps its role ought to be to stick mainly to productions of Shakespeare. The company seems to have overstretched itself and lost money, and now blames the Government. Furthermore, its relationship with the management at the Barbican and with the City of London, both of which have given a great deal of help to the company, has not been very polite. I hope that it will be much better in future.

I was sorry to read of the fire 10 days ago at the Savoy theatre. That theatre was the home of Gilbert and Sullivan. The burning out of the Savoy theatre is at least as serious as a three or four-month stoppage by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican. The effects of that fire will last far longer than four months. Perhaps I am biased and ought to declare an interest. The interior of the Savoy theatre was designed by my step-grandfather.

Ticket touting is a repulsive trade. I hope that the Government will consider what can be done to stop it.

As for an arts matter that relates to my constituency, four weeks ago the National Campaign for the Arts published a table of what London boroughs spend, per head of population, on the arts. I was shocked to see that the London borough of Richmond upon Thames, which is controlled by the Liberal party, was the third bottom in the list. It spends only 65p per head each year on the arts. Its spending on the arts is exceeded by 22 other boroughs. Only 25 replied to the questionnaire that was sent out by the National Campaign for the Arts. There are 32 London boroughs. However, Richmond upon Thames was the third bottom out of the 25 boroughs that replied.

That borough covers both the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley)—who, because he is the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister for the Arts, cannot speak in the debate—and mine. The borough has one of the highest intelligence levels in the country, as measured by examination results, and those who live in the borough include a large number of professional, executive and intelligent people of all sorts. It is shocking that this Liberal-controlled council should come third bottom in spending, per head of population, on the arts. It is utterly uncivilised.

That is made worse by the fact that recently the council spent £12 million on a new town hall. That was a shocking waste of public money. I hope that the electors of Twickenham will have something to say about that in the May elections.

8.37 pm
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

The Royal Shakespeare Company's decision to put out the lights for four months at the Barbican is truly shocking. It prompted the Opposition to hold the debate. I regret that it was so widened as to take the spotlight off the problems faced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and national theatres generally, thus risking the House not helping to resolve the problem.

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) suggested that the Royal Shakespeare Company should perform only Shakespeare plays. That would be contrary to the terms of its charter, which requires it to develop the theatrical arts. It would also turn the company from a live, creative institution—the foundation of a national theatre before we had such a thing—into something quite different. It has developed ensemble acting, which has led to our theatre being admired throughout the world. That seems to be the only contribution from the Government to solving the problems of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) set the predicament in context. He is right that the predicament of the theatre is only a visible symptom of the weakened condition of theatre in Britain today. In devoting a mere four minutes of a 26-minute speech to the predicament of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Minister showed a quite extraordinary indifference to the problem. It is the Minister's responsibility to speak on those matters, not in some knockabout by a more junior Minister at the end of the debate.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

The hon. Gentleman ought to realise that the Minister will wind up. Presumably he will listen carefully to what everyone says and then talk about the Royal Shakespeare Company in detail.

Mr. Maclennan

The hon. Gentleman will realise that I did not appreciate that the Minister intended to answer the debate. The debate would have been better and more informed if the Minister had expressed the Government's views and policy on the subject matter which has been tabled by the official Opposition. We heard four minutes on the predicament of the Royal Shakespeare Company and I fear that that is a reflection of the Government's desire to distract attention from the plight of the theatre. It stems from the consistent underfunding of live theatre over many years. It is symptomatic of a failure not so much to value the arts as to match that valuation with an appropriate cash price.

Of all the art forms in Britain, the live theatre is perhaps the most universally admired, certainly throughout the English-speaking world. It draws visitors to Britain in great numbers not only to see classical works performed with epic splendour, but new plays admirably acted and innovative in ideas.

The Minister properly received appreciation when last autumn the Government decided to increase the budget of the Arts Council by 12.8 per cent., but he must appreciate now, if he did not then, that that was certainly not sufficient to tackle the problem of many years' standing.

The most authoritative independent inquiry into the publicly funded theatre in recent years was that of Sir Kenneth Cork commissioned by the Arts Council and concluded in September 1986. Most of the issues which give rise to the current plight of the RSC, the national theatre and other theatres throughout the country, were considered in Sir Kenneth's report. The central message of that report was that additional funding for theatre development fund with an annual ceiling of £5 million at 1986 prices should be made available and that figure should be adjusted for inflation in subsequent years. No action was taken upon that recommendation and the consequences are not apparent.

The Cork report warned: If no means can be found to finance the recommendations, it follows that either the proposed developments would have to be shelved or there would have to be some redistribution within the present theatre allocation. It went on: The choice without extra funds is stark: either withdraw funding from a national company for the benefit of the theatre of the nation, or allow regional theatre throughout the country to wither and become unviable in order to maintain two national companies. The dilemma appears to have been recognised by the Arts Council, but if it sought to press it upon the Government then and in subsequent years it was certainly not successful in eliciting the required additional funding.

As the secretary general of the Arts Council, Luke Rittner, reported in the 1987–88 annual report: We are disappointed that the gap between our funding of London and the rest of the country is still as wide as ever. No-one on the council wants to see the national companies held back, nor do we want to stifle the Arts in the Metropolis; however, unless there were a dramatic increase in overall funding it is difficult to see how we can ever really get the balance more equitable. If it were not clear then, it is certainly clear now, but the Arts Council was hampered in making its case for what Mr. Rittner called a dramatic increase in overall funding by the preoccupation of the then chairman, no doubt reflecting Government thinking, with what Sir William Rees-Mogg called the Council's objective to reduce the art world's reliance on subsidy and to lower the proportion (but not of course the absolute amount) of grant to the overall turnover of art organisations. I consider that the years of Sir William Rees-Mogg were wasted. The problem was spelt out in successive inquiries—Priestley reported, Cork reported, the companies warned what would happen, and every commentator who knew anything about these matters drew attention to the fact that merely redistributing the Arts Council budget without taking account of that gap would result either in the closure of a major national theatre or the withering away of the regional theatres. That is what this debate is all about. That view was expressed as long ago as the Priestley report and the 1986 Cork report and has been reiterated by the Minister's own appointee, Mr. Richard Wilding, as recently as October in his published report on the structure of the funding of the arts: The propensity to spread the butter too thin had already resulted in the grants to the four national companies being pared down to the point at which they can no longer put on programmes of the high international standard rightly expected of them. The preoccupation of the Arts Council under Sir William Rees-Mogg and the Government with obtaining a balance between public funding and sponsorship has obscured, certainly for the past five years at least, the urgency of obtaining extra public funding to meet the objectives so well set out in Sir Kenneth Cork's report.

During the past six months there has been a partial recognition of the limits of sponsorship in the arts. It has come most notably from the sponsors themselves, who have made it abundantly plain that they do not wish to be involved in the core funding of the national theatres, the national collections or any of the other major national artistic endeavours.

The sponsorship of the Royal Shakespeare Company has been exceptional—more than that of any other company in the country. Their sponsors have allowed some of that funding to be used for core operations but it is not preventing the closure of two of their theatres.

The limits of sponsorship were recognised to some extent in the Minister's success last autumn in obtaining a 12.8 per cent. increase but it was certainly not sufficient to save the flagship companies, all of which are in deficit at the moment and the Minister did not even mention the fact that the three other companies are also in deficit. It certainly is not sufficient to deal with that continuing problem.

It is clear that the Royal Shakespeare Company, which only six months ago was performing simultaneously 10 different productions in 10 different theatres around the country with the lowest public subsidy of all the national theatres and the highest percentage of self-generated earnings could not keep going. It has tried to do what the Government asked and it has succeeded beyond anyone's wildest expectations. It has brought in more than 1 million people to Royal Shakespeare Company theatres in a year and 65 per cent. of that audience is not in London. It is right that the cuts should not fall on audiences outside London although tours are being cut. But the Newcastle and Stratford bases are being left intact.

No one has seriously argued that it is not an efficient company, though a rather nasty aspersion has been cast by some hon. Members. Nobody has brought forward evidence to suggest that the Priestley findings, which were exhaustive and which were made five years ago, were wrong. It is a unique company with five base theatres. Its self-generated earnings from transferred productions—from "Les Miserables" to "Les Liaisons Dangereuses"—are the admiration of the west end and of Broadway. The company has won the Queen's award for export achievement.

The burden of the Royal Shakespeare Company's case is that the three proposals of the Priestley committee—a committee set up by the Cabinet's own efficiency unit—have not been recognised in full. In his short allusion to the predicament of the RSC, the Minister said that he had never given an undertaking to uprate the provision from the base of £4.9 million of the 1984–85 year. I wonder what language means if the then Minister's statement in 1984–85 that provision will also be made for subsequent years did not imply—it was certainly intended to imply—that that base would not be eroded by the passage of time and the growth of inflation.

Mr. Geoffrey Cass, in his subsequent report, clearly said that the Government were not fulfilling their commitment—and that was a repeated statement. I do not know whether the Minister has previously said, as he did tonight, dismayingly, that there was no intention to uprate from that base in line with the Priestley recommendations. If there was no such intention, that fact should not have come out five years after the event. It should have been discussed so that the Arts Council could have openly made the case for the fulfilment of the Priestley intentions. It came as a shock to me to hear the Minister's remarks on that issue tonight.

The financial crisis first became acute as long ago as 1986–87, when the RSC suffered from the downturn in audiences due to the falling off of American tourism that year. There is now no way out other than a substantial increase in the funding of that company. Mr. Ian Rushden, chief executive of the Royal insurance Company—the major sponsor of the RSC, giving more than £1 million a year—said: If we pare to the bone every last financial commitment, leaving no reserve for the risk which goes wrong, then the world-wide reputation of the British arts will be the poorer. That is the danger of current British Government policy. The strength of plural funding depends on all parties pulling their weight, the Government maintaining their grant levels in real terms, the sponsors maintaining their commitment for the agreed period and budgeted audience figures being set at a reasonable level. Despite high inflation, a squeeze on personal incomes and an increase in the price of seats, audience numbers at the RSC have remained high—at a level well above that which the commercial theatre would regard as necessary to achieve success. The Barbican is now the highest priced theatre in London, and since 1985 seat prices have increased by 47.5 per cent. There is no scope for further price increases without the charitable objectives of the RSC's charter being infringed.

It is accepted as a matter of fact—the Minister did not allude to it, but I assume that he accepts it—that even with the increase of 11 per cent. in the subsidy of the RSC this year, it is over £1.5 million short of what is needed for the current year, and there is a cumulative shortfall in subsidy of £5.7 million. That will be reduced by only £1.3 million as a result of the closure of the Barbican and Pit theatres.

The Minister owes it to the arts, and to the RSC in particular, to explain with precision what his predecessor meant when he said in 1984–85: provision will also be made for subsequent years. I understand that the Arts Council has repeatedly drawn the Government's attention to that commitment in the annual negotiations on its budget, but no account appears. to have been taken of it by the Government in settling the Arts Council's vote.

Mr. Luce

The hon. Gentleman says that no account has been taken of such matters. Has he acknowledged that in the next financial year the Arts Council will get a cash increase of £20 million and that that increase in percentage terms is 12.5 per cent.? Does he not acknowledge that, when discussions take place with the Chief Secretary, all such factors—not just the Royal Shakespeare Company but the many other problems that are faced by the Arts Council—are taken fully into account?

Mr. Maclennan

I shall not be diverted from the subject of the predicament of the RSC and other national theatre companies by the Minister's attempt to divert attention from that predicament. I have given the Minister the figures. The money that he has obtained is not adequate to meet the gap, never mind to meet the kind of developments of theatre in this country that were recommended by Sir Kenneth Cork all that time ago.

The right hon. Gentleman is the responsible Minister. He is failing the arts and it will not do for him to pray in aid the difficulties that he has with his Treasury colleagues. Beyond that, because I do not wish to take up too much time, I will not go into the economic arguments for the right hon. Gentleman's Treasury colleagues to meet the challenge that is before the country and the opportunity of drawing in more tourists to see our great companies.

The director of drama of the Arts Council, speaking last night at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, asked: For how long can we in the Arts Council go on holding the bits together? Something is liable to give if additional funds are not available. Those companies look to Parliament to offer some solution. This debate will not have achieved much if it degenerates simply into a situation in which Two men look out through the same bars; One sees the mud, the other sees stars. The reality is a much more mixed picture than the Minister painted today. There are good and extremely bad things on the arts scene. A bad thing is the fact that the fabric of our national collections is disintegrating and that more resources are not being made available. Also among the bad things is the predicament in which all the national companies aided by central Government funds find themselves.

I took some encouragement from the remarks of the Prime Minister when she reopened the Tate gallery last month. In a notable comment, she said: It is not enough to conserve the heritage: we have to enlarge it before we pass it on. Will the Minister pass that message to his Treasury colleagues in coming to grips with this crisis?

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Many hon. Members wish to speak, but time is getting short.

8.58 pm
Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) made a cross-gartered speech, which I shall not follow.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) has performed a service by bringing to our attention the plight and predicament of a great national company, but his utterances were not balanced; there was much sound and fury, but not much else. By nodding as my right hon. Friend the Minister spoke, he was giving a truer indication of his appreciation of the state of the arts today. My right hon. Friend spoke eloquently of a record of which he has no reason to be ashamed.

I was most interested when the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) quoted Sir Roy Strong—I am delighted to name Sir Roy Strong among my friends—but, like the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, he got the thing out of balance.

My right hon. Friend was right to speak of the many achievements in the arts over the past 10 years, of the burgeoning of interest and the burgeoning of success, but, as he knows, I believe that all is not well. It is right to use tonight's opportunity to focus—I shall relate my brief remarks to what we are debating—on the plight of this great national company.

The Royal Shakespeare Company is unique. It is a great national company with two full-time national bases. At the Barbican, to the delight of hundreds of thousands of people, it performs the plays of Shakespeare. In Stratford, the birthplace of our great national poet and playwright, we have, if I may paraphrase the Arts Council's recent publication, the "glory of the garden" itself.

The activities of the Royal Shakespeare Company must be conducted on a budget of £6 million a year—about £3 million less than that of the national theatre. I would not wish to decry the national theatre, of which we are all properly proud, but one must recognise that, under its charter, the Royal Shakespeare Company must concentrate on the works of Shakespeare, which, as most of us know, call for large casts. They are inevitably large productions to mount.

No one could deny that the Royal Shakespeare Company has done everything possible to maximise its resources. It has been at the forefront in obtaining sponsorship. It has never lagged behind in innovative techniques, consistent with the quality of the works that it portrays, and it has always brought much credit on this country wherever it has performed. It has performed abroad, and every year it puts on 136 weeks of drama in Stratford, London and on tour.

It is sad when such a company is faced with such problems. I hope that we can send a message from the House that we are troubled by them. I do not want the Barbican to go dark for four months this year—I do not think that any hon. Member wants that—but what can we do? It is right and proper that we send a message to the Arts Council.

Perhaps we could also send a message to Lady Porter. If she had done her thing by the English national opera, the Arts Council would have had a £2 million contingency fund that it might have felt inclined to use to help the Royal Shakespeare Company. We must never lose sight of the balance and plurality of funding—state, local authority and private—but I am very disturbed, and rather angry, about what Westminster city council has done recently.

What should we do to help the Royal Shakespeare Company? We should consider what Priestley said about underfunding—I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will reflect on this—and the specific and particular problems of the great national companies. It is no disservice to the arts or to the nation to say that, if we allow the lights to go out in London, we are diminishing the arts throughout the nation. It is also appropriate to recognise that the great national companies, which have a particular national responsibility, deserve special regard when it comes to funding.

My right hon. Friend the Minister has many times given the lie to the view that he relies—or wants to rely—solely on sponsorship. Of course he does not. He has a good record as Minister for the Arts in battles with the Treasury—a record that has been acknowledged in the past by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central.

Mr. Fisher

For this year.

Mr. Cormack

No, it is a good record overall. It was dented by an unfortunate rise in inflation. My right hon. Friend came back and obtained more. Last year's funding put the matter more or less right, although that does not mean that we do not want more. My right hon. Friend has a good record on considering the Exchequer and its responsibilities.

Mr. Fisher

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I paid tribute to the Minister when he obtained the increase last year, although it cannot repair the damage, as I said earlier, of 10 years of underfunding. The hon. Gentleman will know of the figures that the Royal Shakespeare Company has issued. In every year of the previous five years, the figure has been below the rate of inflation. It was not just an accidental oversight that, in all but one year following Priestley, the inflation level should not even be reached. Every year since Priestley, until last year, the figures under-performed on inflation.

Mr. Cormack

I know that, and I know that the Royal Shakespeare Company has done well to try to bring money in from "Les Miserables", for example. I also know that, if the RSC had been able to take up the option to invest in the American production, we should not be having this debate today.

Mr. Fisher


Mr. Cormack

The hon. Member has made his speech, and I hope that he will let me make mine.

The royal national theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the royal opera and English national opera stand in a special position. It is unfair to put a responsibility on the Arts Council which, if it has regard to all its other responsibilities, it cannot always adequately discharge. We should consider more earmarking and special funding for our great national institutions.

That point has been brought home in the last week by the predicament of the Royal Shakespeare Company. We considered the matter at the beginning of the 1980s in the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts, of which the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) is an active and distinguished member. We took evidence from Mr. Priestley and from Sir Kenneth Cork. One could never say that a company over whose finances Sir Kenneth Cork has presided is profligate. That is nonsense.

We took evidence from them, and the needs became clear. It is clear that, if we want a Royal Shakespeare Company that will always be able to do honour to the greatest name in English literature, it must be paid for. That means being paid for by us, as well as by sponsors and by local authorities.

Mr. Maclennan


Mr. Cormack

I shall not give way again, because several other hon. Members want to take part in the debate, and however brief interventions are, they distract from and prolong speeches.

I say to my right hon. Friend that we should let the message go out to the Arts Council. My right hon. Friend has nothing to be ashamed about in his record, but in the next few months, as we move towards the next annual round, let us look specifically and in great detail at the role and needs of our great national companies. Let us see whether they could not be better served and more adequately provided for if we had more earmarked funding.

Mr. Maclennan

At arm's length.

Mr. Cormack

It could be. I am not suggesting that my right hon. Friend should make the final decision on what the Royal Shakespeare Company has and what the national theatre has. Perhaps we should have a special committee of the Arts Council, and there may even be a case for a special body. If we are to sustain excellence in the capital city—and we have excellence in the capital city—and if we are to promote the flourishing glory in the garden about which the Arts Council spoke, what we already have—good as it is and creditable as my right hon. Friend's record is not enough.

Let no one say in interjection at that point that I am asking for an open-ended subsidy, because I am not. But if one weighs in the balance what is spent on the arts and recognises their contribution to the spiritual and cultural life of the nation, and to its tourist potential and economy, one sees that we get marvellous value for very little money.

That is also the lesson of the RSC. It has made a hard commercial decision in deciding to close for four months. Given the figures, it had no alternative. I hope that, during the next few months, something will happen that will enable it to stay open throughout the year. I hope that we will be able to use the debate as an opportunity lo concentrate our minds on the very special position of those who honour our capital city and, in so doing, bring great credit to the nation.

9.10 pm
Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) always speaks well and eloquently for the arts. I am sure he will join me in accepting that some words of John Masefield form a suitable text for the debate: Some day, in this England that has so often borne beauty, her genius will again move, in the unexpected ways of insight, Man will recreate the arts, or die. Part of the genius of England is Shakespeare and part of the genius of Great Britain is the Royal Shakespeare Company. In accordance with Masefield's text, we should never let either the spirit or the drama of Shakespeare die but always seek to renew or recreate it. If we are to be true to Masefield's text we need more, not less, plays of the calibre and standard set by the productions of the Royal Shakespeare Company of "King Lear", "Romeo and Juliet" and "Hamlet".

To be fair, I know of two Ministers who wholeheartedly believe in Masefield's text. Unfortunately for lovers of Shakespeare, however, both are French. One is President. Francois Mitterrand and the other is Minister of Culture Jack Lang. Whereas Francois Mitterrand is the greatest patron of the arts since Louis XIV, our Prime Minister is a legendary philistine. She simply does not understand how Shakespeare moves the human spirit, delights the senses and excites the imagination. She cannot understand Shakespeare because she does not have a sense of humour or a proper sense of tragedy, nor can she cope with irony, which is essential to understanding Shakespeare.

Jack Lang is perhaps the most popular Minister in the French Government. With great respect, I have to say to our Minister that only his close relatives and the fawningly obsequious would put him in that category. The truth is that, unless he has something special to tell us when he replies, he has not lifted a finger to help the Royal Shakespeare Company in the current crisis. In answer to parliamentary questions put down by myself, he has hidden behind the arm's-length principle. That is what he has done in the amendment. In so doing, he seeks to put the blame on the Arts Council. The Government and the Arts Council between them are seeking to get out of the mess by playing off high art against popular culture, the regions against London, and inner-city London against central London. As an inner-city London Member, let me say that we should have none of it.

It is perhaps not surprising that the Arts Council, having created the present shambolic position by underfunding the RSC since the 1984 Cabinet report, has reacted pathetically. It may be time for high Tory Peter Palumbo, chairman of the Arts Council, to follow Shakespeare's Richard II and think of giving up his empire. … for a little grave, A little little grave, an obscure grave", as befits his little, little, obscure talents. If the real value of the subsidy recommended by the Cabinet Office in the 1984 report had been instituted, we should not be here today talking about closing down the Barbican and the Pit theatres, because the Arts Council grant to the RSC for 1990 would be £1,525,500 more than is proposed. The cumulative shortfall that we would pay to the RSC would be £5,708,479.10.

Some 40 Labour Members have condemned the conduct of the Arts Council in that Back Bench affair. No Back-Bench Tory Member has come to their aid with amendments to the motion on the Order Paper. In early-day motion 505, Members from all parts of the kingdom called on Peter Palumbo either to find more money for the RSC or to resign. No Conservative Member has come to his rescue. Peter Palumbo has shown that he is not up to the job. He is in danger of turning the RSC—a priceless national asset—into a national liability. In my view, he should seriously consider resigning, not as some dramatic gesture to the people in the Gallery but as part of the desperate need to bring home to both the public and the Government just how deep the crisis is.

Some people have asked me why the Arts Council has suddenly come forward with money for the English national opera but has not found extra money for the Royal Shakespeare Company. I should say immediately that I am pleased that English national opera has been given more money. I like opera. When I leave this lunatic asylum tonight, as on most evenings, I shall play some opera records. When I go to hear live opera in this country, I usually visit the ENO.

What the Government have done is odd, because the RSC fits the Government's model better than ENO. The RSC obtains 51 per cent. of its income from the box office, whereas only 30 per cent of ENO's income comes from the box office. The Government's subsidy to the RSC is only 32 per cent. of its total income, whereas the subsidy to ENO is 50 per cent.

What is the reason for the discrepancy in the Government's approach to those two institutions? In theory the market orientated approach of the RSC should please the Government more than the approach of ENO. The answer is simple. Despite what the Minister has said, the Government effectively abandoned the arm's-length principle when they made it clear to the Arts Council that, out of the extra funding they gave it not so long ago, they expected it to give more money to ENO.

The Government do not care about the RSC. I challenge the Minister on this. It was not me, but Roger Bramble from Westminster city council, who said that the Minister knows full well that some of the extra cash given to the Arts Council was earmarked for ENO and the English national ballet. That does not say much for the arm's length principle, which I do not consider to be important.

If I may use a little irony, I do not suppose that the extra money for ENO has anything to do with the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has provided the extra cash for the arts, lists his recreation in "Who's Who" as opera or the fact that his wife is an opera singer, an opera buff and an opera biographer. Although I have nothing against grants for the arts being distributed on the basis of the sexual politics of the Chancellor's bedroom, that way of settling matters certainly can cause problems.

If I wanted more money for the RSC, what should I do? Clearly, I would not go to the Arts Council or the Minister because they do not have the power to provide more money. I am loth to approach the Chancellor of the Exchequer direct because, in the Select Committee on the Treasury and Civil Service, I constantly accuse him of being an economic illiterate. It seems that my only hope would be to try to form a liaison dangereuse with the Chancellor's wife, persuade her to act as an agent provocateur and hope that the esprit de la chambre coucher will triumph. I know that we have to translate our foreign language phrases in the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Roughly translated, that means that the only way for me to obtain more money for the RSC is to have an illicit affair with the Chancellor's wife and hope that she will use her seductive wiles to obtain the money.

Talking more seriously about the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the report of Terry Hands, who I see in the Gallery—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]—the report of the person whom I do not see in the Gallery, to the council of the Royal Shakespeare company on 7 February this year, showed how the Chancellor's economic policies of high inflation and high interest rates have pushed RSC audiences down to 75 per cent. of capacity. Although that figure is still astonishingly high, it means that there is bound to be another substantial operating deficit for the RSC this year.

Terry Hands has made it clear that we are fighting an ideological battle for the hearts and minds, the intellect and the imagination of the British people. We are fighting an ideological battle between the materialists, the philistines and the fashionably vulgar in modern Conservative Britain, and the civilised, educated and cultured Britain to which the rest of us aspire.

As the Minister for the Arts goes into the Lobby tonight to vote against us, he will carry with him our contempt, our scorn and our ridicule. We must all hope that the evil that he does in the Lobby tonight will not live after him but be interred with his bones.

9.20 pm
Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)

I have sat in the Chamber since 7 o'clock, and I have not heard so much pompous nonsense in all my life. As always in arts debates, the great and the good come forward in their droves and talk a lot of nonsense, expecting all the ordinary people in this country to believe it.

What surprises me most is that, with all the problems that the Labour party alleges are happening nationally and internationally, Opposition Members could find nothing better to discuss this evening than the Royal Shakespeare Company. However, I think that I know the answer to that. It is because their leading spokesman and his deputy—a couple of middle-class socialists—know much less about the working class than I do.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

Upper-class, not middle-class.

Mr. Dicks

I apologise: I understand that they are upper-class, not middle-class.

Arts grants have increased by £33 million this year and now approach £500 million. That is a 12 per cent. increase. The Arts Council grant is now about £175 million. In a recent debate, the Minister said that that is because inflation has gone ahead faster than the allowance that he fed into the figures and he almost apologised for the suffering caused to the arts world as a result. But there have been no apologies elsewhere about the suffering caused to ordinary people because the money that they receive does not keep up with inflation.

At the time, the arts lobby, and especially the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) were delighted by the grant. The Minister was tremendously praised for his efforts. I should like to ask a couple of questions. My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) is no longer in his place——

Mr. Jessel

I am here.

Mr. Dicks

I beg my hon. Friend's pardon. My hon. Friend said that the arts contribute to the quality of life. Perhaps he could explain to me one day how the arts' contribution to the quality of life affects my pensioners and ordinary people who want to buy a pint and have a game of bingo—[Interruption.] Their quality of life is not enhanced by seeing some man prance about in a box or by listening to the different range of an opera singer.

Other questions that I should like to ask—which nobody answers, certainly not any of the great and the good on the Opposition Benches—is, what is art? What is culture? Who defines it? The answers to those questions are personal, but I know who the hell pays for it. The ordinary chap down the street pays for most of it, while the great and the good take advantage.

We have heard about the royal opera house. I shall show the way in which it thinks about money. I gather that it is about £3 million in debt. It spent £200,000 recently on a production. It has agreed to a 15 per cent. increase for ballet dancers who prance around, pretending they are toys, at an annual cost of £600,000. I find it strange that the arts world is up in arms about the lack of money yet ballet dancers can get a 15 per cent. increase, which is twice the rate of inflation. Nobody mentions that—certainly no Opposition Member has mentioned it. When extra money is called for, all the whingers appear on both sides of the Chamber [Interruption.] Every man, well and good, appears. Nobody should need to question the situation: everyone should understand what needs to be done. Why should we subsidise old pros dressed in doublets and hose? I do not understand.

In common with my right hon. Friend the Minister, I could say that it is all "Much Ado About Nothing", but I am not an expert on Shakespeare. The Royal Shakespeare Company has made its bed and it must lie on it. I see no justification for a grant increase, nor can I see any justification for any grant. No one in the working class, or the people I represent, could give a toss about the Royal Shakespeare Company staying open or closing down. There is nothing special about it.

One can compare and contrast the RSC with the commercial theatre, which must survive by putting on a programme that people are prepared to pay an economic cost to see. The same argument applies to professional football. In common, I am sure, with many colleagues I received a copy of a letter from Ken Bates, who is the chairman of Chelsea football club. He says: The Arts Council grant to the Opera House this year is more than £13.3 million, or £75,000 a week … I'd be interested to know what percentage that is of the Opera House's total income. So would I. Far from offering us any subsidy or assistance, it"— the Government— takes £300 million a year in betting tax out of the game, which is equal to £3 million per Football League club Is it not strange that the working-class pastime gets hammered by the taxman while the upper-class pastime—I notice that a member of the middle class is sitting next to the upper-class man on the Opposition Front Bench—is subsidised all the time by the rest of us.

The poor chap down the road must pay the full whack to see Brentford or Chelsea, apart from the cost that he must meet in the future towards increased safety in those football grounds. He must pay for that ticket from his own pocket, but the great and the good, in their bow ties and long frocks, get them paid for by someone else. It is strange that we adopt such an approach to the upper class in this House and we forget the ordinary people who put us here. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad that the audience is so good, and that most of the audience have had a good dinner.

Child benefit has not been uprated for a couple of years and the ambulance men are being offered only 6.5 per cent. for this year——

Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West)

What has the hon. Gentleman done about that?

Mr. Dicks

I spoke against the decision not to give the ambulance men that increase, so I am on the right side. On the community charge, only 4 per cent. is allowed for inflation in the rate support grant settlement; that is why I voted against it recently. All those figures are way below inflation, but 12 per cent. funding was given to the arts this year, and I believe that 11 per cent. will be given to the arts next year. Why is that genuine need, as represented by child benefit, the ambulance men or an inflation allowance in the rate support grant are downgraded when they receive Government grant, yet the arts receive 12 per cent. funding, way above inflation?

The arts are the only areas of activity not looked at by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but every other aspect of Government spending is examined year by year to see if it is fair. Perhaps the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) has a point, bearing in mind his views about the background of the Chancellor and of his wife. The Government emphasis on public expenditure control cannot be as firm as they claim when they give money to the arts.

I can see no case for any arts subsidy, and there is no case for helping the Royal Shakespeare Company. Economic costing is the only fair way in which to operate. If people think that something is that good, they are prepared to pay the full cost. The only reason why people go to the RSC now is that the rest of us pay 30 quid towards their seat. That cannot be right. No leisure pursuit, mine or anyone else's, should be subsidised. My football watching and old-age pensioners' bingo playing have as much right to be subsidised as the arts although, preferably, nobody should be subsidised.

The definition of what is or is not art has never been given by the arty-farty crowd opposite—[Laughter.] I am sorry if I used the wrong word, but I do not know the French equivalent. To subsidise or not to subsidise, that is the question. In my view, the answer should be an emphatic no.

9.30 pm
Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)

That really was a two-faced contribution. I watch what the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) does in this Chamber: whenever a proposal that the Government oppose is made from the Opposition Dispatch Box in the interests of those people at the lower end of the scale, particularly the lower-paid workers, the hon. Gentleman goes into the No Lobby. He does not support us, and that is why his contribution was two-faced. He does not realise that many people in the lower income group are interested in the arts. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] Who said rubbish? This is wrong—we have the deputy Chief Whip saying, "Rubbish," to a contribution that was made by the Opposition. I shall have to refer him to the Chief Whip for the contribution that he has just made.

It is important to note that the two-faced contribution of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington was as bad as the Minister's speech. The Minister is not listening, but talking to the deputy Chief Whip who just said, "Rubbish." I said that the Minister's speech was as bad as the hon. Gentleman's speech because the Minister put on a lot of gloss and left out much of the substance underneath. The Minister should realise that there is a lot of suffering in the arts.

There is a crisis, and not just in the London area, where everyone wants to come to work, live and make pots of money. I live in a constituency up in the east midlands, where people struggle. We have an interest in the arts, but slowly but surely, because of the Government's attitude, we are losing it. The Minister has some responsibility for that. They tell me that he is Minister for the Arts, yet he can stand up at the Dispatch Box and say, "It's his responsibility and his responsibility, but not mine." Who is he kidding? The Prime Minister appointed him to do a job on behalf of the arts of this country. It is high time he started to do it properly.

The Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) has a smile on his face. I shall remind the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes that not long ago we had a first-class debate on the film industry. I remember talking about his beautiful mother who worked in that industry—she is gorgeous. I am not afraid to say that I have held her in my arms—[Laughter.] I am talking about real art.

Nottinghamshire county council and my own Ashfield district council contribute fairly strongly to the arts locally, but the Government destroy them by the cuts that they have made in grants to local authorities. That means that there have to be cuts here, there and everywhere. That is what they are like; that is what they are all about. They make cuts here, there and everywhere.

The Minister must realise that there is real quality in the arts at the lower end of the scale, and we want to lift the people who provide that into the gloss about which the Minister talked earlier. The gloss can look after itself, but what is beneath that needs looking after and the Minister is responsible for that. That is why we have had this debate today. That is why we want to tell the Minister in no uncertain terms how we feel and what should be done. We do not want to listen to stupid contributions such as the one we have just heard from the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington.

There is a crisis in the arts throughout Britain. The Minister made a little comment to me at the last Question Time on the arts. He made a marvellous contribution today, which was real acting: it was not honest; it was not true. I suggest that you, Mr. Speaker, consult the powers that be with a view to providing a drama award in the House. Let the first award be made to the Minister for the Arts. I have got my own back, have I not? I was waiting for the opportunity and, by God, it came along tonight. I have had to wait since 2.30 but, by God, it was worth it.

9.35 pm
Mr. Gerald Bowden (Dulwich)

I have been called upon, Mr. Speaker, to do the impossible—to follow two magnificent acts. It only goes to prove the old theatrical principle that the audience will follow a star performer. To see hon. Members return to the Chamber when my hon. Friend for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) rose to his feet was a measure of the significance and great importance of his contribution to the arts and to the debate in the House.

The subject that we are debating causes sadness and regret on both sides of the House. When a great, much respected and much loved company which gives so much pleasure to so many finds it necessary to cut the number of its performances and productions, we must feel some sadness. We recognise that the theatre presents the world of fantasy upon the stage, but we must also realise that it lives in the world of reality offstage. It has to make many artistic judgments and, at the same time, many commercial judgments. The need to bring those two judgments into balance is one of the great difficulties with which all cultural and artistic endeavour has to wrestle. Today we recognise that the cultural and the commercial, the artistic and the real, produce a tension which is of value in espousing and encouraging cultural endeavour.

The threat to the Royal Shakespeare Company comes from its presentation of classical drama. It has been innovative and has encouraged wider development, but the time has come for it to consider its identity, to think about the thing that it does best, to bring into balance its commercial and cultural concerns and to look to the future in a spirit of positive optimism, not with regret that it has had to close one of its stages for a short time during the year.

The debate also raises the wider issue of what should be a Government's policy in such a situation. Conservative Members have endorsed the Government's policy that the arm's-length principle should apply—that money should be given to an intermediary, which is independent and objective in its artistic judgment, to ensure that the money is allocated in the best possible way without any direct Government interference in the cultural or artistic input.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) and other Opposition Members have paid lip service to the arm's-length principle, but I suspect that that implied a financial finger firmly in the artistic pie. The hon. Gentleman suggested that the arts should rely on state subsidies, on public money, as their main source of support. I believe that the arts have blossomed by virtue of the diversity of their funding. Money should and does come from the state, in the form of public subsidy through the Arts Council, but it should also come from sponsorship, for corporate reasons, from individual firms, whose motives may be higher in some cases than in others. A third but most important ingredient is the box office—the individual contribution and desire to pay the price of a ticket to see a production.

The benefit to the arts of receiving funding from those three sources is inestimable. The danger of any arts organisation, institution or theatre relying for its funding on a single source is that it will become wholly dependent on that source. We have known instances in the past when an entirety of public funding has brought with it implications of corruption.

The Government's policy of a plurality of funding has brought about a flourishing of the arts, the like of which has not been seen before this century. It has brought about a diversity of the arts. A diversity of funding brings about a diversity of production, and that should be applauded.

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

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and my hon. Friend the shadow Arts Minister, the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) on being so determined to arrange this debate in what is obviously Opposition prime time. They had to face a bit of flak from their own side, because the Terry Dicks tendency is behind us as well as in front of us.

My right hon. and hon. Friends know that an economically efficient and socially just society will not only address the problems of homelessness, poverty and unemployment that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) mentioned. Such a society will support also a thriving and burgeoning arts expenditure. It is a mark of a confident and strong society that it encourages and nurtures the arts. The Victorians did it in the past in this country, and the French, Germans and Italians do it today.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington is not in his place, because listening to him opining on the arts is rather like listening to Vlad the Impaler presenting "Blue Peter". The hon. Gentleman is undoubtedly living proof that a pig's bladder on a stick can be elected as a Member of Parliament.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I know—but although the hon. Gentleman's comments may not be very pleasant, they are not unparliamentary.

Mr. Banks

They were artistic, Mr. Speaker. I am just sorry that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington was not in his place to hear them. Still, I do not wish to offend you, Mr. Speaker.

It is a comment on the depressing state of Britain today, with all its economic inefficiencies and social injustices, that a great cultural institution such as the Royal Shakespeare Company faces the crisis that it does. I speak of the theatre that bears and propagates the name of the greatest English playwright. However, the crisis that afflicts the RSC is not confined to that company. The English national opera, royal opera house, south bank centre, London Festival Ballet and royal national theatre all face similar problems. Those problems extend to our museums and art galleries. We have heard complaints about the crumbling fabric of the Victoria and Albert museum and of the British museum that should shame us all. We are squandering a wonderful inheritance.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central mentioned regional arts institutions, which are struggling to survive. We are not just talking about high art or middle-class art, which the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington mentioned, but all the provincial and municipal theatres in towns and cities throughout the country, which provide a lot of pleasure for working-class people and are also facing a crisis.

My own theatre, the Theatre royal, Stratford, is one——

Mr. Cormack

This is your theatre.

Mr. Banks

is a damn sight more compensated and better heeled than my own, which has seven new productions a year. We have tried to get business sponsorship for the theatre in Stratford. Perhaps hon. Members remember seeing the comment in the article in The Stage by the Minister— Private funding is the engine of arts expansion That is where the Minister thinks the real money for the future is coming from. However, The Stage shortly afterwards said: 'We've been lumbered' say arts sponsors"— because the businesses and companies that sponsor the arts realise that they will be left holding the baby, and that they will attract great odium if they withdraw the sponsorship, which they provided as top-up money, only to find that they are held responsible for the collapse of a particular arts institution. The future does not lie with business sponsorship, as the Minister implied in that article.

We face a depressing scenario in the arts, but one which is typical of the Prime Minister's philistinism and the unimaginative, shoddy, second-rate Government that run the country. It is typical of a Prime Minister who goes to see "The Mousetrap" and re-reads whodunits. Who has to read a whodunit, when she knew whodunit when she read it again? It is typical of a Prime Minister who is happier getting in and out of tanks than in and out of museums or theatre seats, and who seems to derive more pleasure from admiring new missiles than great works of art. What else can we expect from an ex-Spam hoarder from Grantham, presiding over the social and economic decline of our country?

Why are the Royal Shakespeare Company and the arts so important? I say to the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington, who is now back in his place, that the arts are certainly not more important than homelessness, unemployment and the transport chaos that we have in this country, but the arts are as important as those areas of expenditure.

I have two reasons for saying that. First, an age is more likely to be judged by the standards and the excellence of its architecture, music, painting, sculpture and literature than by obsolete weapons of death and destruction. Involvement in the arts, either as a creator or a consumer, is one of the finest forms of human activity that we can encourage. I remind Conservative Members that there is very little crowd violence at the opera houses these days.

Secondly—this should appeal to the monetarists opposite—the economic significance of the arts is continually underestimated and undervalued. They have a £12 billion turnover; the industry employs some 450,000 people; it contributes £4 billion to the balance of payments. That is a record of economic achievement that should have everyone in the House applauding.

People do not come to this country to see office blocks, Third-world roads or crumbling transport infrastructure, or to learn how to control inflation or enjoy traffic jams. They come here to enjoy the enormously rich art legacy that we have inherited. The come for theatres, art galleries and museums. I remind Conservative Members that that legacy is as important as North sea oil, but unlike oil, it will not run out. However, it can be run down, and that is what is happening to the arts in this country today.

It is our responsibility to build on what we have, and to invest in the arts, because it is one of the finest forms of public expenditure investment that any Government can make.

The Minister made great play of the recent increase in subsidy for the arts. We told him that he has done better this year than before, and better than some other Ministers, and we praise him for that, but in 1990–91, arts expenditure will be one third of 1 per cent. of public expenditure, while defence expenditure will be 11.8 per cent. It is interesting that we should have one of the highest defence budgets in western Europe, and one of the smallest arts budgets.

The current events in eastern Europe provide previously undreamed-of opportunities for world peace and harmony. We must match those great events with bold, imaginative political leadership. We need the vision and confidence in Britain that will allow us to turn tanks into tractors, bullets into ballet and bombs into books. There is no such vision and confidence among the clapped-out second-raters on the Conservative Benches, but those qualities are present in abundance among Opposition Members.

The Government's time is almost finished: Labour is poised on the threshold of a golden future. The arts need a Labour victory, and they will soon get one.

9.50 pm
Mr. Luce

Without a shadow of doubt, the debate has been both colourful and entertaining. I have been recommended for one or two things in my life, but never for a drama award, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) for suggesting it.

I found myself buffeted between two extraordinary speeches—one by the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore), and the other by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks). One condemned me for my almost evil approach to policy and to tonight's vote; the other stated that it was disgraceful of me to increase taxpayers' support for the arts. I am beginning to think that perhaps I have got the balance about right.

Although the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) focused mainly on the Royal Shakespeare company in both the motion and the opening of his speech, this was a broad-ranging motion relating to every aspect of the arts. I welcomed that, although some hon. Members clearly thought otherwise.

As always, the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) made a colourful and enjoyable speech; nevertheless, when I came to assess the value of what he said, I found it very difficult. One strand was clear from the beginning—his contempt for the private sector's role in supporting the arts. He said at the outset that he despised it.

The Government's role, as I see it, is to underpin arts support with taxpayers' money—and we are maintaining that commitment with public funding for the next three years—but also to provide a climate for the expansion of the arts through the private sector. Spokesmen for the arts say repeatedly that the arts thrive on independence and freedom of expression. I believe that that should be encouraged, but success is possible only if the arts are not wholly dependent on the taxpayer and the ratepayer through central Government or local authorities. That is not to reject the importance of the role of taxpayer and ratepayer, but it highlights the important role that the private sector can play in sustaining the self-reliance and independence of the arts world.

The arts deserve to be congratulated on what they have achieved over the past five years. They have diversified their sources of funding and have sought to increase audiences through sheer professional management, sponsorship, patronage and increased contributions from individuals as well as corporations. I was grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) for stressing the need for plurality of funding to secure that independence.

I must pick on the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch again. I always think that a person shows great weakness or paucity of argument if all that he can do is indulge in personal abuse. That is what the hon. Gentleman did. He abused my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and the chairman of the Arts Council. He made disgraceful remarks about Mr. Palumbo. The chairman of the Arts Council loves the arts. He is prepared to dedicate his time to leadership of the Arts Council. He commands the respect of those in the arts world. He has travelled all around the country. The hon. Gentleman should not have made such disgraceful remarks about the chairman of the Arts Council.

My hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) made a most reflective and interesting speech. He has a great knowledge and feeling for our heritage and the arts. He referred to the Barbican. It is interesting that the Barbican has not featured greatly in the debate. During the past eight years, however, it has made a great contribution to increasing support for the arts through the range of entertainment that it provides.

I understand that broad agreement has been reached between the Barbican and the Royal Shakespeare Company about arrangements. It is only right that we should acknowledge the Barbican's role, as well as that of the City of London, in supporting the arts in London, and generally, directly and also indirectly. I take seriously what my hon. Friend said in his notable speech and I am grateful for what he said.

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) referred to a number of issues, but he spoke principally about the Royal Shakespeare Company. He also referred to support for the arts in London, in centres of excellence and in the regions. Having been to Inverness, I know that the Eden Court theatre, although it is not in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, provides outstanding quality and does a great service to that part of Scotland.

There is already a formula for the disbursement of funds to both Wales and Scotland. It is known as the Goschen formula. It gives a reasonable deal to Scotland. I admire very much the Scottish Arts Council's support for the highest standards of excellence in the arts. It is always difficult to achieve the right balance between the centre and the regions, but I believe that the Arts Council has got it about right. It is for the Arts Council to decide how much money should be given to the flagships, including the Royal Shakespeare Company, and how much should be given to others.

The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) also made an important speech. I gladly congratulate Glasgow on its enormous contribution to the arts—its art collections, art galleries and the remarkable ballet and opera companies and orchestras that are based in Glasgow. I have great faith that next year will be a tremendous year for Glasgow and for this country.

The hon. Member for Paisley, South referred also to the fabric of our national museums and galleries. This is the first Government to give a clear commitment that during the 1990s we shall ensure that sufficient money is spent—principally by Her Majesty's Government, because it is taxpayers' money which has to be spent on the fabric—on ensuring that the fabric of these institutions is in good shape. If the private sector is prepared to play a role, I shall welcome it—as, I am sure, will the hon. Member for Paisley, South.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jesse') made an excellent speech. He drew attention to the importance of quality in the arts and to the royal charter of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Its charter emphasises the important balance which has to be struck between performances not just of Shakespeare but drama of all kinds.

Much of the focus has been on the Royal Shakespeare Company. As I said in my opening speech, it is a great centre of excellence and it should be given high priority. It is therefore right that the Arts Council decided to increase funding by 11 per cent. in the coming year so that its funding is more than £6 million, but equally, it is for the Arts Council to argue the case to me on behalf of all the arts, including the Royal Shakespeare Company, and for me then to discuss with my colleagues what overall resources should be available. With that in mind, there has been a £20 million increase in cash terms for the Arts Council for next year and a 22 per cent. increase for the next three years. That is a real indication of the Government's commitment to the arts.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 201, Noes 272.

Division No. 86] [10 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane George, Bruce
Allen, Graham Golding, Mrs Llin
Alton, David Gordon, Mildred
Anderson, Donald Gould, Bryan
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Graham, Thomas
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Ashton, Joe Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Hardy, Peter
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Harman, Ms Harriet
Barron, Kevin Haynes, Frank
Beckett, Margaret Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Beith, A. J. Heffer, Eric S.
Bell, Stuart Henderson, Doug
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Hinchliffe, David
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Bermingham, Gerald Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Bidwell, Sydney Home Robertson, John
Blunkett, David Hood, Jimmy
Boateng, Paul Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Boyes, Roland Howells, Geraint
Bradley, Keith Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Illsley, Eric
Buchan, Norman Janner, Greville
Buckley, George J. Johnston, Sir Russell
Caborn, Richard Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Callaghan, Jim Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Kennedy, Charles
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Canavan, Dennis Kirkwood, Archy
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Lamond, James
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Leadbitter, Ted
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Leighton, Ron
Clay, Bob Lewis, Terry
Clelland, David Livingstone, Ken
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Livsey, Richard
Cohen, Harry Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Corbett, Robin McAvoy, Thomas
Corbyn, Jeremy Macdonald, Calum A.
Cox, Tom McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Cryer, Bob McLeish, Henry
Cummings, John Maclennan, Robert
Cunliffe, Lawrence McNamara, Kevin
Cunningham, Dr John McWilliam, John
Dalyell, Tam Madden, Max
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Marek, Dr John
Dewar, Donald Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dixon, Don Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Dobson, Frank Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Doran, Frank Martlew, Eric
Douglas, Dick Maxton, John
Duffy, A. E. P. Meacher, Michael
Dunnachie, Jimmy Meale, Alan
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Michael, Alun
Eadie, Alexander Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Eastham, Ken Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Fatchett, Derek Morgan, Rhodri
Faulds, Andrew Morley, Elliot
Fearn, Ronald Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Mullin, Chris
Fisher, Mark Murphy, Paul
Flannery, Martin Nellist, Dave
Flynn, Paul Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Foot, Rt Hon Michael O'Brien, William
Foster, Derek O'Neill, Martin
Fraser, John Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Fyfe, Maria Patchett, Terry
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) Pendry, Tom
Pike, Peter L. Spearing, Nigel
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Primarolo, Dawn Steinberg, Gerry
Quin, Ms Joyce Stott, Roger
Radice, Giles Straw, Jack
Randall, Stuart Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Richardson, Jo Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Robertson, George Turner, Dennis
Robinson, Geoffrey Wallace, James
Rogers, Allan Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Rooker, Jeff Wareing, Robert N.
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Rowlands, Ted Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Ruddock, Joan Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Sedgemore, Brian Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Sheerman, Barry Wilson, Brian
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Winnick, David
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Wise, Mrs Audrey
Short, Clare Worthington, Tony
Skinner, Dennis Young, David (Bolton SE)
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury) Tellers for the Ayes:
Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E) Mr. John Battle and Mr. John McFall.
Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Soley, Clive
Adley, Robert Day, Stephen
Aitken, Jonathan Dorrell, Stephen
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Amess, David Dunn, Bob
Amos, Alan Durant, Tony
Arbuthnot, James Eggar, Tim
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Evennett, David
Ashby, David Fallon, Michael
Atkins, Robert Favell, Tony
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Fishburn, John Dudley
Batiste, Spencer Fookes, Dame Janet
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Forman, Nigel
Beggs, Roy Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bellingham, Henry Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Bendall, Vivian Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Fox, Sir Marcus
Benyon, W. Franks, Cecil
Biffen, Rt Hon John Freeman, Roger
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Gale, Roger
Body, Sir Richard Gardiner, George
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Garel-Jones, Tristan
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gill, Christopher
Boswell, Tim Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Bottomley, Peter Goodlad, Alastair
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Gorst, John
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Gow, Ian
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Brazier, Julian Gregory, Conal
Bright, Graham Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Browne, John (Winchester) Grist, Ian
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Ground, Patrick
Buck, Sir Antony Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Budgen, Nicholas Hague, William
Burt, Alistair Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Butcher, John Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Butterfill, John Hanley, Jeremy
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hannam, John
Carrington, Matthew Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Cash, William Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Churchill, Mr Harris, David
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Haselhurst, Alan
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hayward, Robert
Cormack, Patrick Heathcoat-Amory, David
Couchman, James Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Norris, Steve
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hill, James Oppenheim, Phillip
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Page, Richard
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Paice, James
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Paisley, Rev Ian
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Pawsey, James
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Portillo, Michael
Hunter, Andrew Powell, William (Corby)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Price, Sir David
Irvine, Michael Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Jack, Michael Rathbone, Tim
Janman, Tim Redwood, John
Jessel, Toby Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Key, Robert Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Kilfedder, James Rossi, Sir Hugh
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Rost, Peter
Kirkhope, Timothy Rowe, Andrew
Knapman, Roger Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Ryder, Richard
Knowles, Michael Sackville, Hon Tom
Knox, David Shaw, David (Dover)
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Latham, Michael Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lawrence, Ivan Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lee, John (Pendle) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Shersby, Michael
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Sims, Roger
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lightbown, David Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lilley, Peter Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Speed, Keith
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Speller, Tony
Lord, Michael Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Squire, Robin
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Stanbrook, Ivor
Maclean, David Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
McLoughlin, Patrick Steen, Anthony
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Stern, Michael
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Stevens, Lewis
Madel, David Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Malins, Humfrey Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Maples, John Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
Marland, Paul Stokes, Sir John
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Summerson, Hugo
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Mellor, David Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Miller, Sir Hal Temple-Morris, Peter
Mills, lain Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Mitchell, Sir David Thornton, Malcolm
Moate, Roger Thurnham, Peter
Monro, Sir Hector Tredinnick, David
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Trippier, David
Moore, Rt Hon John Trotter, Neville
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Twinn, Dr Ian
Morrison, Sir Charles Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester) Waddington, Rt Hon David
Moss, Malcolm Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Moynihan, Hon Colin Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Mudd, David Walden, George
Neale, Gerrard Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Needham, Richard Waller, Gary
Nelson, Anthony Ward, John
Neubert, Michael Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Watts, John
Nicholls, Patrick Wheeler, Sir John
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Whitney, Ray
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Widdecombe, Ann
Wiggin, Jerry Young, Sir George (Acton)
Winterton, Mrs Ann Younger, Rt Hon George
Winterton, Nicholas
Wolfson, Mark Tellers for the Noes:
Wood, Timothy Mr. Sydney Chapman and Mr. Irvine Patnick.
Woodcock, Dr. Mike

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House recognises the Government's outstanding record in supporting the Arts, which means that more people throughout the country are now enjoying the Arts at an unprecedented standard of excellence; congratulates the Government on increasing its funding of the Arts by 40 per cent. in real terms since 1979 and by a further 24 per cent. over the next three years; welcomes the increased support of 31 per cent. to the national museums and galleries to restore their fabric and the continuing funding of the new British Library; reaffirms the Government's commitment to maintaining support for the Arts while supporting its approach of encouraging arts organisations to become more self-sufficient; acknowledges the important role of the Royal Shakespeare Company; and endorses the principle of arm's length funding whereby decisions about the funding of individual organisations are made by the Arts Council.