HC Deb 04 July 1990 vol 175 cc1023-93

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

[Relevant document: European Community Document No. 10331/89 on protection of national treasures possessing artistic, historic or archaeological value: needs arising from the abolition of frontiers in 1992.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Because of the large number of hon. Members who wish to speak, Mr. Speaker intends to impose a 10-minute limit on speeches between 7 and 9 o'clock.

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

I welcome this opportunity to open the debate on the arts and heritage. I hope that the debate will proceed in a slightly more civilised fashion than some debates in the House in recent times. After all, we are debating civilised subjects.

The House has debated the arts every year since I became Minister for the Arts in 1985. This is the fourth year running that we have debated the subject in Government time. That shows the importance that the Government attach to the arts and heritage, seeing them as fundamental to ensuring a higher quality of life for all our people.

I have been Minister for the Arts for five years. This is a useful opportunity to review our achievements. My hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside will cover heritage matters in his winding-up speech. We have spent unprecedented amounts of taxpayers' money on the arts—an increase of some 48 per cent. in real terms, including central abolition money, since 1979. In real terms the Arts Council's grant is worth three times what it was 20 years ago. The Government are committed to a 24 per cent. increase in the arts budget over the next three years. A major symbol of our commitment is the building of the new British library at St. Pancras. Last month I announced plans for its completion. This magnificent building is the largest publicly-funded cultural construction to be built in this country this century and, indeed, since the building of the great museums and galleries of the 19th century. It will be one of the world's greatest treasure houses of the humanities and sciences.

For the first time, we are providing, at a cost of £450 million, a specific, purpose-built home for the library. That building will meet the library's key requirements, and provide a better service to the public. It will bring together under one roof the majority of the library's reference collections, which now occupy 19 buildings around London. For the first time they will be in a controlled, pollution-free environment, which is essential for their preservation. Included in the design is a stunning new setting for George III's King's library. The first phase of the building will be fully in use by the middle of 1993, and the whole building should be ready for occupation by the British library in 1996.

The Government are showing this same commitment throughout the country. Some £24 million of public money is being spent on a major extension to the National museum of Wales. In 1992 a similarly major new extension to the National museums of Scotland in Edinburgh will begin. The Government will pay £30 million towards that project, covering the construction costs.

The Government also have a broader duty to create a climate in which all arts can flourish and develop freely with a combination of public and private sector support. Britain has one of the most vibrant and diverse arts scenes in the world today—a fact that is fully recognised by the millions of tourists who visit our shores.

London remains pre-eminent in theatre with a vast number of plays and shows being performed each evening—probably as many as in any city in the world. Much of what is available succeeds without any public subsidy. Audiences in the west end last year reached a record 11 million and box office income exceeded £150 million, giving a major boost to the economy.

The public and private sectors can also complement each other. Both the Royal Shakespeare company and the Royal National theatre have transferred productions of the highest quality to the west end. The role of the private sector is not, of course, confined to the west end. One of the most exciting companies to emerge in recent years has been Kenneth Branagh's Renaissance theatre company, which has toured world-wide without any Government support. Close to my own constituency is the Chichester festival theatre, which has been consistently successful and has transferred a large number of its productions to the west end, again without the need for public subsidy. A little further up the road is Glyndebourne, which remains one of the world's great opera festivals and an international centre of artistic excellence

Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)

As to sponsorship, is my right hon. Friend aware that the Harrogate festival has, for the second year running, won an award in the business sponsorship scheme? With the support of Leeds Permanent building society and a number of others, the festival is now able to mount a programme costing in excess of £250,000, whereas not so many years ago it spent only £100,000. In 1988, the festival received a sponsorship of about £44,000, which was good, but by 1989 it had risen to £58,000. This year, the figure is £81,000. Is that not a good example of what the Government have done in encouraging sponsorship?

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to Harrogate's achievement. In the past five years, the number of festivals in this country has doubled. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for recording also the value of the business sponsorship incentive scheme, which encourages first-time sponsors. It is good to note that it has succeeded in helping the Harrogate festival to expand.

London leads the way as one of the great cultural capitals of the world. In June, we saw the opening of the new galleries of the Courtauld Institute in the beautiful neo-classical setting of Somerset house—achieved almost entirely with private sector funds. We have had, too, the rehang of the Tate and the new Clore gallery. We welcome the great generosity of Herr Berggruen in loaning 72 works from his outstanding private collection to the National gallery for five years from this autumn, and we look forward to the extension of the gallery with the new Sainsbury wing next spring.

In addition, the Royal Academy has major plans for an extension of its space. In the words of the chairman of the trustees of the National gallery, Lord Rothschild, London is becoming the paintings capital of the world.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

May I ask the Minister about the natural history museum? Seventy two per cent.

of the extra 16.5 per cent. that the Prime Minister says has been given to that museum was for repairs to the Waterhouse building, and 28 per cent. was accounted for by faulty calculations on estimates, leaving 0 per cent. for scientific equipment, the extension of the collections, and field work and scientific expeditions. Will the Minister reflect on his scientific responsibilities?

Mr. Luce

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's interest in that subject. The other day, he had an extremely important and effective Adjournment debate, which I greatly valued, and I gave an undertaking that I would hold a meeting with the museum's chairman, Sir Walter Bodmer, and its director, Dr. Neil Chalmers. The meeting is planned to be held shortly, when we will discuss the museum's problems. As the hon. Gentleman knows. Sir John Fairclough, chief scientific adviser to the Government, is also taking an interest. I take it from the hon. Gentleman's remarks that he is concerned about the natural history museum's contribution to this country's wider science base. I fully take that on board and I will discuss it with the chairman and director of the museum.

Artistic flowering is not confined to London. We now see an economic renaissance in many of our great towns and cities, and the arts have played a leading role in that. They not only bring back life and vitality to the inner city but act as a tangible illustration of civic pride. I acknowledge the active role of many local authorities in support of the arts.

Those features have been prominently displayed this year in Glasgow. No other European city of culture has seized its opportunities with greater energy, imagination and pride. I knew when I selected Glasgow from all the other British cities seeking that accolade that it would rise to the challenge. It has done so magnificently. The range and number of arts events on offer to the 6 million expected visitors is quite staggering. A century ago, Glasgow was a byword for civic pride and private patronage. Many of its magnificent public buildings and galleries were constructed then. Now we see another urban renaissance, which owes a great deal to Glasgow's recognition of the crucial importance that the arts can play in improving the quality of life, enhancing the identity of a great city, and contributing to its economic strength.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I agree entirely with the Minister that the city of Glasgow and its council deserve all the congratulations that the House can offer for the work that they have done in becoming the cultural capital of Europe. When the Minister pays such fulsome tributes, does he contemplate the spending pattern of a local authority such as Glasgow, given all the pressures that are placed on it in respect of housing, social services and education? Does the Minister tell the Secretary of State for the Environment that when he goes round capping English local authorities he should bear in mind the great contribution that they make to arts funding? Does the Minister have such discussions with his Cabinet colleagues?

Mr. Luce

Of course I praise Glasgow for the role that it has played in European cultural city year, but I praise also the role of the private sector, which went into partnership with that authority in a very effective exercise to regenerate the city. It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman did not touch on that aspect. The pattern for other local authorities around the country is very varied. It is entirely for them to decide how much they are prepared to devote to the arts in their areas, and I am sure that it is right to leave them that freedom.

Mr. Conal Gregory (York)

For many years, York has contributed through its local council, unfortunately, only £2,000 towards the purchase of new paintings, which would go nowhere at all without the national art collections fund and other funds. My right hon. Friend rightly stated that difficulties exist, but will he stress to the institutions concerned the importance of making available the national treasures held in their reserve collections? At present, they are treasures of the night watchman—beloved only of night attendants and specialist curators. Three quarters of our great arts heritage is never seen but is hidden from view. It could provide centrepieces for banks, schools and building societies, so that culture could be spread more widely and not remain the province of a few.

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has taken a persistent interest in the arts. Art flourishes in many forms in the city that he represents. I take his point that many of our national treasures are kept in vaults, but we should not underestimate the number of art objects now on public display and the extra space available for that purpose. There are also travelling exhibitions which allow the public around the country to see more of our art treasures.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Luce

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to proceed as I know that many other hon. Members wish to speak.

Birmingham is another city which has established an international reputation for the quality of its arts programme. Under the leadership of Simon Rattle, the city of Birmingham symphony orchestra has emerged as one of the world's great orchestras, and it will soon be taking up residence in a purpose-built concert hall as part of the city's new convention centre. Preparations are also complete for the transfer of the Sadler's Wells Royal ballet to the Birmingham Hippodrome, and last month it was announced that the D'Oyly Carte opera company would take up residence at Birmingham's Alexandra theatre.

I could give many other examples. Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Bradford, and many other cities have shown how the arts can be used to spearhead an economic revival as well as to improve the quality of life for their inhabitants. They also demonstrate how partnerships between central and local government, and between the public and private sectors, can be developed for the benefit of all.

That diversity of support is ensuring, too, that the best of our arts are available to more and more people. We see that happening around the country—from the doubling of festivals in five years to the activities of touring companies such as Opera North, Welsh National Opera and the Northern ballet, with ever-increasing audiences, to the great growth in the number of museums and the regional expansion of our national institutions.

All of that progress owes much to the increasing self-reliance and prudent and imaginative management now being exercised by arts organisations. Government policies have helped. Three-year funding enables organisations to plan much more concisely. My various incentive funding schemes are producing excellent results. The awards that the Arts Council has already made under its scheme are expected to generate an additional £27 million for the arts over the next three years—£3 for every £1 of taxpayers' investment. That is a remarkable achievement and a tribute not only to the arts organisations themselves but to those who have worked with them to improve their management and marketing skills. I was pleased to learn that last year 71 per cent. of the awards were won by companies outside London, most of which were not funded directly by the Arts Council.

The business sponsorship incentive scheme, which we introduced in 1984, has been a major stimulus to the encouragement of sponsorship of the arts. On public expenditure of more than £10 million, it has brought more than £32 million of new money to the arts. As important, it has introduced almost 1,500 new sponsors to the arts. The Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts is running the scheme for us and has played a valuable part in alerting potential sponsors to the benefits of associating themselves with artistic success. The co-operation between business and the arts has brought nothing but good.

The arts in this country have benefited not only from greater business involvement, but from private giving. In his Budget, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the introduction of gift aid. That new form of tax relief, which comes into force on 1 October, will, I believe, have a major impact on support for the arts and heritage in this country. It will apply to both personal and corporate gifts over a huge range from £600 to £5 million. Taken with the existing arrangements for tax relief on payroll giving, up to an annual limit of £600, and for convenanting charitable donations, it provides a tax incentive for gifts to the arts, both great and small. Everything needs to be done to encourage the culture of giving in this country.

The underlying strengths of the economy, and the encouragement that the Government have given to entrepreneurs and investors, have benefited the arts as much as in any other area. The Government remain committed to maintaining the value of their support for the arts, but they also believe that the private sector has a vital role to play. Creativity is not the preserve of the subsidised arts. The co-existence of healthy public and private sectors in the arts means more opportunity for the artist and more choice for the consumer. That diversity of support gives the arts in Britain a vitality equal to any in the world.

Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

I welcome what my right hon. Friend has said. The Government have established a near impeccable record. I thank him for his kind words about Glyndebourne, which is in my constituency. There is a special category of support for the arts which appears to be a Government responsibility—the fabric of buildings in Government ownership. I know that the Minister has had talks with Mr. Peter Palumbo, so perhaps he will say a few words about that.

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who takes a keen interest in the arts, and has done for a long time. Perhaps he will allow me to develop my speech as I propose shortly to deal with the fabric question. I have sought to portray many of the positive developments in the arts world today. There will always be practical problems to deal with in a pragmatic way. I do not pretend that everything in the garden is lovely. Currently, those problems include, for example, the pressures of inflation—to which the Government are giving great priority, the problems of balancing the allocation of resources between the national companies and other arts organisations, the need to retain and enhance the best scholarship while making it more accessible, the problem of theatre deficits, and the freezing of purchase grants for the national museums and galleries.

There are problems, but many of them are the problems of expansion and success. However, there appears to be a group of people in this country who have, or seem to have, a vested interest in failure. They always want to emphasise how the arts are failing. All is crisis and Armageddon. I never know where the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) stands. He seems to have blown hot and cold in the past months and years. On occasion, he has been generous enough to congratulate me on my arts budgets, and it would be churlish not to mention that. However, whenever we debate any arts topic, he talks repeatedly of crisis. He did so again only this week at Question Time. When the hon. Gentleman is in that mood, he reminds me of A. A. Milne's Eeyore, exuding gloom wherever he goes. I hope that he will be a little more balanced in his presentation today.

I can tell the hon. Gentleman one thing—it is not possible to fund the arts or anything else without a sound, healthy economy, and no Labour Government have succeeded in achieving that. In the recent Labour document, "Looking to the future", I found a section referring to arts and leisure. I looked for vision, but found none because there is no vision there. It is sterile. There is nothing which holds out great prospects for the future of the arts. If in the category of a school assessment examination, it would rate very low, and we know why—because, on the previous Labour Government's economic record, Labour could not begin to fund and support the arts as we are doing. The document lacks credibility.

I want to touch on one or two other major areas of interest which will concern us in the next few years. First, I shall respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) about the fabric of our institutions. I shall come to Mr. Palumbo's ideas in a moment. I recognise that constant work is required to maintain what are, in most cases, magnificant buildings which house our national collections. One of my major ambitions is to bring those museum and gallery buildings into tip-top condition by the end of the decade. I made my intentions clear in a speech in York last September. In the current year, I am providing some £57 million for building works at the national museums and galleries. Over the next three years, the total Government resources provided for building works is more than £180 million and should enable further progress to be made in improving those buildings. That is a substantial addition of taxpayers' money which will enable us to deal with the fabric of museums and galleries.

I was especially delighted to launch the museums and galleries improvement in March. That new initiative was made possible through the generosity of the Wolfson charities with matching funds from the Government. It will make available a further £12 million over the next three years towards urgent refurbishment and renovation work in United Kingdom museums and galleries, both national and local. Meanwhile, a substantial amount of refurbishment work in our national institutions is already in hand.

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

What proportion of the fabric needs to which the right hon. Gentleman referred will be met by his £180 million over the next three years? He keeps on refusing a thoroughly reasonable request from Opposition Members—repeated by Mr. Peter Palumbo, I am glad to say—to have a national audit so that everyone can assess the needs over the next 10 years. We can then appreciate how adequate, or not so adequate, that £180 million will be in addressing those needs. Why does the Minister not have an audit? It would be so sensible and reasonable.

Mr. Luce

The hon. Gentleman must surely realise that the way we work with the national museums and galleries—it is on that point that I am answering the debate—is through corporate strategies which project three to five years' ahead for each museum and gallery. From that, we establish their needs and requirements for the fabric. I negotiate with my colleagues in the Treasury for a three-year agreement, which is an innovation by the Government. I have persuaded my colleagues to give substantial additional money over the next three years. My undertaking, my belief and my ambition is that by the end of the decade we can get the fabric of all those museums and galleries in good shape. That shows that we are already dealing with the fabric problem. The Queen's house at Greenwich has been refurbished at a cost of £5 million, the imperial war museum has been redeveloped at a cost of £12 million, the national portrait gallery is being extended and redeveloped further, and the Sir John Soanes museum is dealing with its fabric with the help of the Government and the MEPC.

Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)

All hon. Members must welcome that expenditure on the fabric of so much of our museums and art galleries. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) made an important point. Unless we have a programme, we cannot assess to what extent we can deal with the long period of decay and disrepair that has been allowed to continue. What about the actual contents? The Public Accounts Committee called for an inventory control. We do not know how much there is in the British museum. We must first find out what is there, then value it, and then assess what can be done to keep it in a proper state of repair. If we do not know what we have, we do not know what needs to be done.

Mr. Luce

I appreciate that point. I also appreciate the Public Accounts Committee's work on this and I have noted the Committee's views. We are talking about the basic structure and fabric of these institutions. The corporate strategies developed in the 1980s for these institutions identified the special needs of their fabric. I shall find out whether I can help the House further on the overall requirements of these institutions as a result of the corporate strategies—looking well ahead, not just at the three-year period.

Last year, Mr. Peter Palumbo, chairman of the Arts Council, put some interesting ideas to the Government for restoring the fabric of historic theatres, museums and galleries, as well as cathedrals, by the turn of the century.

As I have said, I have taken a lead on this matter with museums and galleries. The Arts Council is developing some ideas on theatre refurbishment. I stress the fact that the Theatres Trust is carrying out an assessment of the refurbishments requirement of theatres. In dealing with the fabric, we must identify needs and priorities, but it is for each Department to deal with the matter as it thinks best. I am grateful to Mr. Palumbo for his strong and imaginative interest.

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


Mr. Luce

I am in the hands of the House. Many hon. Members want to speak and I wish to touch on other matters. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will bear with me.

On 13 March, I announced to the House a major restructuring of arts funding in England—the first such reorganisation since the Arts Council was established after the war. The main changes are the decentralisation of grant-giving responsibilities from the Arts Council to a smaller number of regional arts boards and greater accountability—I stress this point—by the boards for their spending of public money. This will result in a simpler, clearer system of arts funding and give better value for money to the taxpayer.

I appointed Mr. Timothy Mason, the retiring director of the Scottish Arts Council, to manage the reforms and I established a steering group to advise on their implementation. Good progress has been made and I will shortly be giving fuller details of Mr. Mason's proposals for implementing the package.

Inevitably, the changes have given rise to some concerns. One has been that the Arts Council would be left without a role. I can assure the House that the Government remain firmly committed to a strong and effective Arts Council and that the changes in prospect will not diminish its role or status. In future, while retaining the direct funding of appropriate clients, it will operate at a more strategic level, setting national priorities for the arts, and ensuring that its objectives are met through a system of joint planning and budgeting. The new system will also free the Arts Council from much of its burden of day-to-day administration to concentrate on addressing the major issues facing the arts in the 1990s and beyond. Far from weakening the Arts Council, the changes that I have announced will give it a clearer and sharper focus.

Another concern has been that devolution of clients will threaten standards of excellence. The arrangements that I have already described, under which the Arts Council will hold the regions to account for achieving its objectives, will ensure that this does not happen. I have every confidence in the ability of the new regional arts boards to raise their sights and rise to the challenge of the new funding arrangements. At the same time, however, I have made it clear that devolution of clients will not take place until the necessary systems and structures are in place and that I am satisfied that they will enhance and maintain excellence in the arts.

I share responsibility for the film industry with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Industry and Consumer Affairs. All three of us were present at the seminar, which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister recently chaired, to consider how the British film industry might best respond to the new challenges and opportunities in Europe. The seminar produced a number of important initiatives, including a new fund of £5 million over the next three years to help our industry get into European co-production and £150,000 for the European film awards, which will be presented in Glasgow later this year. As important, two working parties are being set up. One, which will be industry led, will look at the tax structure for film production in this country. The other, chaired by the Department of Trade and Industry, will consider ways in which the structural problems of the industry can be addressed. In addition, we shall be looking for ways to build on the European Communities MEDIA programme to strengthen our industry's position in Europe by co-operation between member states.

The protection of our nation's heritage is a primary concern of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and myself and one which we jointly address as a priority. My hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside will refer to matters for which the Department of the Environment is broadly responsible. I shall deal with those that are my responsibility.

Mr. John Lee (Pendle)

I am sure that the House will acknowledge my right hon. Friend's great success with his present portfolio. In what may be his final speech in this ministerial role [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I say that in the nicest way—would he care to give the House his views on whether it makes sense to have the arts, tourism and the heritage in separate Ministries, or whether there is a case for considering amalgamating the three in one Ministry

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for trying to settle my future. The responsibilities of the various Departments is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Throughout the 1980s and beyond, we have had a totally separate Office of Arts and Libraries which deals with these matters, and that is a sensible way to proceed.

There is one important problem to address concerning the export of works of art—the phenomenal rise in the prices of works of art and antiques. In the past decade, the Sotheby's index has risen by an aggregate of 375 per cent. and in the past five years by 150 per cent. In these circumstances, it is not possible for the taxpayer to produce all the funds that we need to save the heritage. How, therefore, do we deal with this problem? I will begin by mentioning the range of useful measures that we have to preserve our heritage.

There is the national heritage memorial fund, established by the Government in 1980, which to date has spent over £108 million of taxpayers' money. There is a range of taxation incentives. In 1985, the Government announced the availability of approximately an extra £10 million per annum for the acceptance-in-lieu scheme. That announcement, together with additional incentives, such as the waiving of interest charges on AIL items, has encouraged the scheme to expand to the extent of last year's record expenditure when works of art were accepted in lieu of more than £11.5 million tax.

The tax incentives which encourage individuals to sell heritage items to our national museums and galleries by means of private treaty sale are also well used and are proving extremely valuable. Since 1985, objects with a market value of more than £50 million have been purchased at a cost to our national institutions of a little over 50 per cent. of that figure.

Mr. Fisher

Will the Minister explain why the purchase grants of the national museums have been frozen since 1985?

Mr. Luce

As I explained before the hon. Gentleman leapt up, I accepted that that was one of the issues that we faced in the arts world. A conscious decision was taken by my predecessor and by me. The directors and chairmen of the national museums and galleries all said in discussions that, as a priority, they would rather deal with the issue of the fabric of those institutions before dealing with the problem of purchase grants. I do not deny for one moment that there is pressure on museums and galleries and on purchase grants, but there is a substantial range of other mechanisms for preserving our heritage.

We face a dilemma because of the prices of works of art and the pressure for taxpayers' money. That is why we as a Government must explore every avenue to facilitate the preservation of the most important part of our heritage. It is against that background that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced on 4 May that in future he would take the existence of private offers—whether or not there were conditions attached—into account when considering whether to grant an export licence. I was fully consulted about that new policy, which was developed because we believe that an injection of private funds will assist in providing a balanced and reasonable system for retaining the most important items of our cultural heritage in this country. Retention has always been the prime consideration, and that will continue.

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will have read Sir Nicholas Goodison's letter in The Times today. Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a great deal of agreement with the point of view expressed by Sir Nicholas and that using the export licence mechanism to keep works of art in this country while not making them available to be seen by the public is a mistake?

Mr. Luce

If my right hon. Friend will bear with me, I shall place emphasis on one aspect which I hope will help him.

There are several misconceptions about the change in policy. The owner, not the Government, decides whether to accept an offer, and he has always been free to accept an offer from anyone—museums, galleries or private individuals. The result of the policy change is to enable private offers to play a role in the Waverley system at a time of ever-increasing prices of works of art.

I am obviously keen that the public should have access to important heritage items, and I wish to encourage suitable arrangements. The extent to which a private offer involves an arrangement enabling the public to have access could be an important factor in my advice to my right hon. Friend, but even where minimal or no public access is provided we shall wish to take the existence of that offer, and the owner's refusal to accept it, into account when deciding whether to grant an export licence. The main purpose of the controls is to retain important items in this country.

Mr. Rathbone

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Luce

Will my hon. Friend bear with me? I am anxious that hon. Members should have a chance to speak.

The creation of the single market in 1992 is important for our heritage. The Waverley system for identifying pre-eminent works of art, the export of which should be deferred to allow time for funds to be raised to keep them in this country, has served us well. I believe that it strikes a good balance between preserving our heritage, respecting the rights of private owners and the needs of the market. Nevertheless, the position will be rather different after 1992, when routine customs checks at internal EC frontiers will end. The implications need careful thought, and I shall want to consult widely all those concerned before deciding whether underpinning of the existing system is needed to respond to the changed circumstances of the single market.

Consultation with heritage parties is important. I have therefore decided on a two-pronged approach. From time to time, I intend to invite senior people from the art trade and the heritage world for a round table discussion. In addition, I shall set up a consultative group to consider the United Kingdom's position post-1992. That will be composed of representatives from all sides—trade, heritage and museums—and will be selected from the membership of the reviewing committee's advisory council.

I have mentioned several practical issues which affect our policies in the 1990s. I want to end by reminding the House of the cardinal principles that the Government pursue to encourage the arts. First, there is the principle of freedom. It is no accident that courageous artists have led the way in the liberation of eastern Europe. Creative art can flourish only in a fully free country. Freedom of speech and expression are at the heart of democracy, and their preservation guards the health of the arts. When people stop having new ideas, the arts die. We must not let our veneration for the past cloud our acceptance of the art of today and tomorrow.

Secondly, we must preserve and encourage the excellence of the arts, not merely the higher level professional excellence although that sets the tone for the rest, but excellence at every level in every art form throughout the country. We must encourage people to enjoy the arts through participation as well as appreciation. I am in discussion with various television channels with a view to having a televised day of celebration of the arts throughout Britain so that a vast number of people can see for themselves the richness and diversity of the arts. I very much hope that one of the channels will implement that idea.

Thirdly, we must ensure that the best in our arts is available and accessible to all, whatever their background and wherever they live. Anyone has the potential to enjoy art—the music of Beethoven or Britten, a painting by Constable or Howard Hodgkin, a play by Shakespeare or Ayckbourn, the craftsmanship of Henry Moore, an opera by Verdi or Mozart, jazz from New Orleans, or simply by taking up the paintbrush, camera or craftsman's tools.

My ambition, and that of the Government, is to create the climate to enable that potential to be fulfilled, thus helping to enrich the lives of millions more people.

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

The Minister spoke for almost 40 minutes and the House will have noticed that the longer he did so the deeper he dug himself into the problems that he identified and the weaknesses in the Government's policy.

The House, and everyone in the arts world, recognises that the Minister is a very nice man, and he is well liked, but the Government's record on the arts is so poor, and their credibility so slight, that his speech was nothing but an embarrassment. Conservative Members need not take my word for it, because perhaps they make the point more effectively than I do. The Minister will recall that last week the hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) asked the Prime Minister why the Conservative party is still regarded as philistine".—[Official Report, 26 June 1990; Vol. 175, c. 181.] She could not answer.

The Minister will have read the remarks of the chairman of the Arts Council, Mr. Peter Palumbo: The problem is that the great buildings of our country have been neglected"— neglected by the Government.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

If the hon. Gentleman had taken the trouble to be in the Chamber on that day, he would know that the question was directed not to the Prime Minister but to my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House.

Mr. Fisher

Come on!

Mr. Colvin

That is not the point. Because the hon. Gentleman was not present and did not pay attention, he got the reference wrong. I asked why, when the Government have increased spending by almost 50 per cent. in real terms since taking office, and have announced a three-year rolling programme with an increase of 24 per cent., they are still perceived as philistine. That perception is wrong, and that may be the reason why the hon. Gentleman's perception is wrong.

Mr. Fisher

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. I heard the deputy Prime Minister answer the question. He could not explain why the Conservative party is regarded as philistine, because he knows that it is true. However, I acknowledge that he paid a fulsome tribute to the personal characteristics of the Minister and said that he would like him in his Cabinet.

The Minister will have noticed the comments made last week by the deputy secretary-general of the Arts Council, Mr. Anthony Everitt: The National Theatre itself is visibly leaking and needs to be repaired already. Perhaps the Minister will digest those realities and recognise that all is not well with the arts.

Normally, the Minister's speech is a catalogue of complacency, but today, for the first time, he began to recognise the problems of inflation and the freezing of purchase grants, although rather disingenuously—God knows why—he attributed those to the problems of expansion and success. The directors of our great national galleries do not feel that they are suffering from expansion and success as a result of Government policy, but at least, for the first time, the Minister acknowledged that there are problems, which is an improvement.

I join the Minister in acknowledging that the arts are flourishing and in paying tribute to arts organisations, regional arts associations, local authorities, the private sector, sponsors such as BP and others and the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts. I share his appreciation of those organisations, but he will have noted that the Government are noticeably absent from that list of contributors to the health of the arts. Arts organisations in this country are strong despite the Government, not because of them.

The Minister is doing little for the cities that he referred to—Glasgow and Birmingham. It is a bit of a cheek for him to take credit for choosing Glasgow. He put hardly anything into Glasgow.

Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes)

How much will the Labour party give?

Mr. Fisher

If the Parliamentary Private Secretary.will restrain himself, I shall deal with the next Government's policy.

I was glad that the Minister recognised that there are problems, but I must put him right on one or two of his so-called successes. He mentioned, yet again, the expansion of funding, and referred to 48 per cent. The figure always goes up, but he knows that it includes abolition money and the British library. Despite that, 0.27 per cent. of total Government expenditure is spent on the arts. Only one country in Europe—Ireland—spends less. That should please the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks), but he will not be satisfied until we are bottom of the league. He will be glad to hear that we are almost bottom and that almost every other country in Europe spends more than us.

Mr. Colvin

I am sorry to have to correct the hon. Gentleman, but surely that increase does not include the additional money for the British library. He said that it did.

Mr. Fisher

I think that the Minister said it did.

With the exception of Ireland, we are at the bottom of the league in Europe. The Minister knows very well that, in the next two years, the Arts Council is set to get 4–6 per cent. and 3.8 per cent. respectively. He knows very well that those figures will be well below the rate of inflation.

I have paid tribute to three-year funding in the past, but it is no good giving three-year funding when all that the Arts Council and arts clients can do is plan for cuts and deficits.

Mr. Gregory

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fisher

I should like to make a little more progress. I shall come back to the hon. Gentleman in a moment.

Let us look at some more of the problems to which the Minister did not refer. First, the Education Reform Act 1988 is deterring children from attending theatres and live performances. Secondly, there are the problems of the Royal Shakespeare Company, to which, I note, the Minister did not refer and to which I shall return in a moment. Thirdly, there is the question of actors' PAYE. If the Minister wants to encourage acting skills, he should not deter and penalise performers. Significantly, in the Finance Bill Committee yesterday the Government voted against our amendment.

On all those issues—

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fisher

No, I must make some progress; I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. [Interruption.] We tabled an amendment yesterday, but unfortunately the Government did not accept it.

Mr. Hanley

Would Labour reverse the provision?

Mr. Fisher

We will introduce such an amendment when we are in government. It is an excellent amendment, which is supported by Equity and the Theatrical Management Association.

On all those issues—the RSC in Particular—the Minister is silent. He has said nothing. Perhaps he will say one or two things in answer to our questions today. Does he believe that the scale of the RSC's activities is about right? If so, is the company adequately funded? If not, how much more does the company need? What will happen next year, when the Government do not give any more to the RSC or the Arts Council? If that happens, the RSC will close not in November but in July. Why is the Minister not talking to the RSC? We had a debate on the RSC on an Opposition motion, but since then the Minister has not met representatives of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Or has he? Has he discussed the matter with the artistic directors?

Mr. Luce

Does the Labour party plan to abolish the arm's-length policy? Does not the hon. Gentleman understand that the responsibility for taking such decisions belongs with the Arts Council, which gets a global sum? The council is to get an increase of 22 per cent. in the next three years, and it is for the council to decide. If the Opposition wish to abolish arm's length, they had better tell the House now.

Mr. Fisher

The Minister interprets arm's-length policy in his own way: he does not mind; he says nothing about the problems; they are no concern of his. But the figures are there. The right hon. Gentleman knows that, next year, he will be giving the Arts Council less than the rate of inflation and that that will mean that the RSC will not be able to open for the whole year. This year, the RSC is having to close for four months because it is inadequately funded. The Minister did not take the trouble to say anything about that, and he has not even met the RSC. Labour will not abolish arm's length, but the Royal Shakespeare Company and the arts in general expect a Minister to take an interest in these problems.

The Minister has watched the Royal Shakespeare Company close for four months this year and has said nothing. That is disgraceful. Can the House imagine what would happen if the Comédie Francaise was to close for four months? Would the French Government say, "We don't mind; it is unimportant to us. Who cares?" Of course they would not. They have something called national pride—pride in their culture. This Minister does not seem to mind at all that our greatest theatre—along with the National theatre—is closing.

Let us deal now with the subject of the natural history museum, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) on an Adjournment debate. Does the Minister understand why 100 jobs are to be lost and key scientific areas to close? Does he understand that the natural history museum is trying to save £2 million? Does he really believe that that is desirable? Will he deal with those problems?

Will the Minister consider the question of the British Theatre Association library? He rightly took some credit last year when he acted as midwife for Mr. Robert Holmes a Court's deal for the BTA. He will know that this week that has fallen apart, and the BTA appears to have been left dangling with substantial problems with its lease. Having taken the credit last year, will the Minister now intervene to ensure that that resource, which is vital for our theatrical heritage, is properly funded?

Let me deal finally with Mr. Peter Palumbo's initiative. Is it not rather amateurish—I would say incompetent—of the Minister to say that the museums' three-year plans represent an adequate basis on which to plan? Is he really saying that he will commit further Government money not on the basis of the Government's view but on the basis of each museum's view of its needs? That strikes me as a very lackadaisical view of one's responsibility for public funding. If the Minister is giving money, he ought to know what proportion of the museums' total needs that sum represents. That is an eminently sensible point. Surely the Minister ought to have an audit to establish whether Peter Palumbo's guesstimate of fl billion is accurate and, if it is, to determine how we should address the problems. But the Government refuse to face the facts. They are frightened to find out how bad the situation in the museums is. That does the Minister no credit at all.

Is the Minister awake to such problems? Does he understand them? Does he have an opinion? Unlike his predecessor, Lord Gowrie, who made the extraordinary remark that people would only value library books if they had to pay for them, this Minister is not getting it wrong; he is not getting it at all. He does not seem to understand the problem. The cities are expanding and the chairman of the Arts Council is buzzing with good and exciting ideas. On the other side of the channel, Mr. Jack Lang is galvanising the arts. But our Minister does absolutely nothing. He is a nice, kind, gentle person—

Mr. Tony Banks

No, he isn't.

Mr. Fisher

Yes, he is. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh no, he isn't."] Oh yes, he is. The problem lies not with the Minister's personality but with his appalling lack of policy and with the fact that he is silent while problems in the arts escalate. The arts world has a right to expect a Minister who speaks up for its interests and says something about these crucial matters.

The Minister for the Environment and Countryside (Mr. David Trippier)

Come on.

Mr. Fisher

It is interesting that the Minister for the Environment and Countryside should come to his right hon. Friend's defence. Let us turn our attention to him and look at the Government's record on heritage, which is every bit as bad as their record on the arts—if not worse.

Half a million sites in Britain have been identified as of schedulable quality. How many have the Government scheduled? They have scheduled 12,000, in spite of the monument protection programme, which appears to have had no effect. Landscapes are an important element of our culture. How many of them have been scheduled? The answer is, not a single one. Only five cities have been designated. English Heritage is underfunded. It is to get an increase of only 1.3 per cent. this year. It has asked for a further £6.4 million. Will it get it? It has not yet had an answer.

The Government place such value on rescue archaeology that they are to allocate the princely sum of £5 million a year for the whole country. Did the Minister do anything when the Icklingham bronzes were illegally exported? Did he look to ratify the 1970 UNESCO treaty which would have allowed us to recover them from the United States? He did not a thing; the Government did not seem to care.

When the Rose theatre and Huggin hill sites were at issue last year, the Minister did nothing. The Manpower Services Commission contribution of £5.5 million was withdrawn from archaeology—it was a sum on which archaeology depended—and employment training will not replace any of it. The Government's "developer pays" policy and their total inertia and lack of interest in archaeology and in our heritage are a national disgrace.

Mr. Gregory


Mr. Fisher

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman because I am sure that he will want to recognise that, if only the Government had a policy, the Queen's hotel site in York—a site of international importance—would have been developed. The Government's lack of care about our archaeological heritage has meant that it is not to be developed.

Mr. Gregory

I note the paucity of Labour Members present. There are twice as many Conservative Members as Labour Members here, and that is a mark of our interest in the arts. Would the hon. Gentleman care to include in his catalogue of so-called disasters the fact that the Labour Government did not take action on any of the problems?

Is it Labour party policy to have a development levy so that archaeological sites, particularly in York—York was the first city to show that archaeology can pay and that people want to visit archaeological sites—can benefit as private enterprise is encouraged to participate with the state sector? I welcome the presence of my hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside in the Chamber, and I am sure that he would like to see the development of such a policy. Are all Labour's policies based on the state sector?

Mr. Fisher

I would willingly welcome private sector money in archaeological developments, but there are many areas in which the developer will not or cannot play a part. The Government's inability to recognise that makes their policy lopsided, because they put all the emphasis on the private sector and do not accept any responsibility themselves.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

Will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge the role that the National Trust plays in saving landscape and archaeological sites? Is not the National Trust entirely funded by public subscription and is that not the way that we should proceed as we look for more resources for the arts, rather than finding the resources from the taxpayer? We all want better arts facilities, but there are other ways of achieving that end.

Mr. Fisher

The hon. Lady will know that the National Trust has, for a long time, been urging the Government to designate and schedule landscapes. It does a remarkable job, but it has no statutory power. If the Government cared about our great landscapes, they could do something about them. We look forward to hearing something from the Minister about what he is going to do for the landscapes.

What is the Minister going to do in his Budget round? What kind of package has he put before Treasury Ministers? What arguments has he been deploying? The Minister missed a golden opportunity today. The House expected some sign of the case that the Minister is going to put to the Treasury. We had hoped for an exciting and convincing case. Had he put a case for the arts today, either on cultural or economic grounds, or both, he would probably have got a good press tomorrow and he would have gained much support around the country. He might then have had a stronger hand when he went to see the Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the summer.

Instead, the Minister said that almost everything is okay. He scored the most monumentally politically naive own goal. When he goes to see the Treasury Ministers, they will refer him to the speech that he has made tonight. They will say to him, "But you said in the House the other day that everything was fine and you were doing so well and being so successful. How on earth can you be asking for more money?" The Minister's performance has been naive. It was not calculated to get money out of the Treasury. We hope that he will get that money, and we will do everything to encourage and help him in that end. However, he has not helped himself today.

Conservative Members are aware that, although funding is important, so are the right policies. I am glad to say that, in his one or two positive comments, the Minister has adopted Labour party policies.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockport, South)

Then why are you condemning my right hon. Friend?

Mr. Fisher

No, I am praising these things. I am delighted about these developments.

For years, we have been urging the devolution of administration, and I am delighted that the Minister has backed that policy at last. We have also been urging that money should be spent on the fabric of buildings. Although the Minister will not accept the audit, he is at least spending the money; again, that is a good Labour party policy that he has adopted.

For years we have been saying that the Minister should do something about the film industry. At long last, the Prime Minister has taken up Labour party policy. I am confident that the recommendations which the two working parties set up by the Prime Minister will produce in three months' time will be similar to the package of proposals that the Labour party has put forward. We hope that the Minister will adopt those recommendations, as they make good common sense.

We also hope that the Minister will be emboldened by that and will recognise that, in adopting Labour party policies, he has gained popularity and has received applause. We welcome that, and hope that it will continue. Perhaps he will then take the advice of his hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside and press for a full Ministry. It is a disgrace that the Minister is not a full Minister, with his own independent Department. The hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside made that point at Prime Minister's Question Time last week. The Minister should be fighting for that. It is Labour party policy to have a full Ministry as is the case in every other European country to cover the cultural industries as well as the arts.

Mr. Devlin

As we have that concrete proposal from the Labour party, when the hon. Gentleman gets that wonderful new Ministry, what will its budget be and how much will it spend on the arts?

Mr. Fisher

I am coming to that point.

In his heart of hearts, the Minister knows that he should adopt a policy in which there is a statutory responsibility on all local authorities and an eligibility for rate support grant money. That would lead to a huge expansion of local authority funding in response to the needs of the constituents of the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin), which are bound to differ from those of the Minister's constituents.

Mr. Devlin

How much will it cost?

Mr. Fisher

If the hon. Gentleman will listen, he will understand that I have described a responsive budget. Through the rate support grant mechanism, central Government will match and respond to local government expenditure as happens at the moment in library provision, housing and social services. It will be up to the constituents of the hon. Member for Stockton, South and his local authorities to understand the needs of their area, which no doubt will be different from the needs in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), who will be speaking later about heritage. That is the way to expand budgets. Conservative Members must be aware that such a policy would be popular in their areas.

Mr. Devlin

We must be clear about this. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he will consider bids from every local authority and meet them in full, or is he saying that he will allow people to present budgets and he will meet such parts of them as he thinks fit? If that is the case, he must have some idea of the global sum which his new Department will have at its disposal. How much is that?

Mr. Fisher

The hon. Gentleman does not seem to understand how local government works. There will be a statutory responsibility, rather akin to the statutory responsibility for public libraries. I believe that that will lead to an equality and a development of funding similar to the expansion in the public library service. If the hon. Gentleman considers the expansion in the public library service, he will understand that that statutory responsibility has ensured that there is good public library provision around the country.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

My hon. Friend will recall his successful visit to my constituency and visiting the people working with the SHAPE Up North art link involving people with learning difficulties. My hon. Friend saw those people making a mural, which has just been presented to Wakefield prison college. It is an excellent mural, and we should all be proud of the fact that those people produced such a lovely work of art. Is my hon. Friend aware that, with poll tax capping, that superb community arts scheme, aimed at those people who really enjoyed producing that mural, could lose some of its local authority funding? Is that not a tragedy? The Labour party would not do that to local communities.

Mr. Fisher

I am delighted that my hon. Friend has mentioned that. The Minister is usually anxious to include a section in his speeches about widening access. I am sorry that he did not take the opportunity today to do that. The case for increased funding for people with disabilities in our society is acute.

For so long the Government failed to respond to the Attenborough report. When they last provided some money, we welcomed the establishment of ADAPT under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson). However, that is not enough. The needs of the people in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) and elsewhere in the country are responded to by SHAPE organisations and art link organisations. The Minister knows that those organisations do a good job and he also knows that they are acutely underfunded.

The next policy which the Minister should be adopting addresses my last point. The Minister will accept that one of the difficulties with funding arts projects for disabled people is that they cross departmental boundaries. That often proves to be a difficulty.

The right hon. Gentleman knows about the British Health Care arts centre in Dundee, which is doing valuable work. There is actually an expansion of the use of designers and artists in making hospital environments interesting places in which people want to get better. The Government are not putting any money into that. One of the problems, I suspect, is the division of responsibilities between the Department of Health and the Minister's Office of Arts and Libraries.

The Labour party's third major policy development, along with a full Ministry and a statutory responsibility on local authorities, would be to tackle the difficult matter of cross-departmental co-operation and joint works. The opportunities for developing the culture of this country and arts provisions are very great indeed, not only in the health sector, in combination with health authorities and the Department of Health, but in the Department of Transport. We could have a London underground system that looked like Stockholm's—it is beautiful—rather than the raggedy, horrible place that it is at the moment. We could back British Rail and the work that Jane Priestland is doing to revive the system, but we are hardly doing anything at all.

We could involve the Department of the Environment in work in parks. We have some of the most beautiful parks around our great cities. We spend £450 million a year mowing the lawns and weeding and planting the flower beds, but we spend almost nothing on activities that go into those parks. With encouragement from the Government, 1 or 2 per cent. of those budgets would transform our parks, as Birmingham did last year, as Battersea does annually, and as happens at Kenwood. Parks could he transformed into exciting cultural centres in our cities. It is a simple thing to do. The Government should be doing it, but they encounter cross-departmental difficulties.

The hon. Gentleman referred to London. He is wrong to say that London is a great cultural capital. It should be. It should be one of the greatest cities in Europe, but, unfortunately, because the Government have abolished the strategic authority, the Greater London council, there is no planning. To get anything done to develop the river, our canals and parks in London requires so many different authorities and a combination of so many different things that we are not taking a lead. The Minister should ensure that the arts have a key role—an anchor role—in developing London. Unfortunately, that is another matter on which he is silent.

The Minister could talk with his colleagues about design. I know that he does not have direct responsibility for that matter but, through the Crafts Council, he has a strong interest. The Government spend £40,000 a year as a consumer—as a commissioner—of goods and services. They could use that economic clout to make sure that British design is a priority and that the standards of design through that expenditure are setting standards that the rest of British industry should be following. Conservative Members know that that is the case, but design is not a priority of the Government. Although we haw some brilliant designers, we are being left behind. The Government have enormous potential to set a lead and a standard and, as the Labour Government will do, say that the 1990s should be a decade of British design. The Minister should take that point on board.

Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and Devon, West)

The hon. Gentleman referred most courteously to ADAPT, and I am grateful for his comment. He might like to know that, on the ADAPT board, there are architects who are bringing out codes of best practice for adapting arts venues and public libraries in the most acceptable visual way, as well as making them acceptable for the disabled and other people with handicaps, such as the elderly and those with young babies in pushchairs. We are working very hard on making design acceptable, which is not easy when we are often dealing with listed buildings.

Mr. Fisher

I am delighted to join the hon. Lady in her tribute to her working party, its work and its recognition that design actually helps to solve problems and often saves money. The Government could and should adopt the "British design first" policy. That would go a long way not only to solving our economic problems in the 1990s but to making this a more attractive and civilised society in which to live.

Conservative Members wanted some Labour party policy for the Government to pick up and run with. They have three things—a Ministry, statutory responsibility, and a cross-departmental cultural policy. Those three things together would transform matters. The Minister can have them. We should be delighted if the Minister had the wit and ingenuity to pick them up. There are plenty more good ideas where they came from the next Labour Government—but let the right hon. Gentleman make a start with those.

We are glad that the Government have started to implement Labour party policy. We hope that they will continue in the short time that they have left. It will mark the changeover to the Ministry and to a decade in which British culture actually begins to count for something, we can begin to be proud of our artists, and audiences cart get a square deal. That will be a good transition. The country has a right to expect a better and more vigorous cultural policy than it is getting from the Government. The next Labour Government will certainly give the country that cultural policy.

6.24 pm
Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

The trouble with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) is that he is never quite sure whether he is rehearsing "King Lear" or "Twelfth Night". He is not very good at being Mr. Nasty. Many Conservative Members knew and revered his father and had great affection for him. The hon. Gentleman inherits an abundant measure of his father's charm, but not his father's good sense. It is a great pity that the hon. Gentleman spends so much time trying to be Mr. Nasty and trying to rubbish my right hon. Friend the Minister who has performed a signal service to the arts for five years. When one considers his record objectively, my right hon. Friend will be remembered as an extremely fine Minister for the Arts.

I sincerely hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Lee) did not have some inside information. I sincerely hope also that it was not my right hon. Friend's last speech as Minister for the Arts. I should love his role to be expanded.

My first point takes up a comment that has already been made in an intervention and by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central. If we were honest about the matter, we would recognise that no Government since the war have done well enough for the arts. No Government have given sufficient priority to the arts and our heritage. The Government have made a significant advance, and I have paid tribute to that on many occasions. I refer to the foundation of the national heritage memorial fund, the creation of English Heritage, as the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England is generally known, what has been done at the Tate gallery and at the Tate of the north. I could go on, but I shall not. The achievements are many and considerable, but no Government have done as much as they should have done.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Cormack

I shall give way, but I do not wish to give way too often because many other hon. Members wish to speak.

Mr. Flannery

The hon. Gentleman omits something vital from his tribute to the Minister, and that is the very small amount of money that the Government are giving. Lord Armstrong conveyed to the Select Committee that at least £50 million would be required to set right the fabric of the Victoria and Albert museum alone. No matter how well-intentioned the Minister is, I do not know how in heaven's name that work can be done without the necessary money.

Mr. Cormack

Of course, there is a need for more money. There is a need for a plurality of funding and for a greater central contribution. I do not cross swords with the hon. Gentleman. He served on the Select Committee that I had the honour of chairing for most sittings, when we inquired into the arts way back at the beginning of the 1980s. That Committee made a number of recommendations, but the fundamental recommendation was that there should be one Minister with responsibility for the arts, heritage and tourism matters, and that that Minister should be a member of the Cabinet. That was an all-party recommendation. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central should not claim that that is uniquely Labour party policy.

Mr. Fisher

It is.

Mr. Cormack

I could say just as easily that he pinched it from me. I wrote articles and a book on the matter in the early 1970s when the Labour party was in government, and I urged Labour Prime Ministers to do something about it, but they did not. We can all say, "Me, too." The Labour party has hijacked my policy, and I am delighted that it has. There is now a greater recognition spread across my party—it was given eloquent voice by my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) in the House last Thursday—that we need a Ministry that is more all-embracing than the present one. I should love the arts, heritage, tourism, film and broadcasting to be the responsibility of one Minister. That would make sense.

Last week during his question to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside referred to 1992 and to the fact that, as our Ministers sit side by side with their European counterparts, a Minister will have more clout not only in the Cabinet and in Government, but within Europe if he has greater responsibilities and a wider remit.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is not in the Chamber, so I hope that what I am saying will be reported to her. If she is contemplating a mini-reshuffle this month—some of the newspapers suggest that she is—I hope that she will reward my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts for his splendid service by giving him the place in the Cabinet that he deserves and by giving him those additional responsibilities. My right hon. Friend enjoys a great measure of respect and affection throughout the arts and heritage world. He has considerable experience, built up over five years. He would be a notable first holder of that office. That is something to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister should turn her attention. If she does not feel that she can make that sort of administrative change this side of a general election, I hope that both parties will go into the general election committed to that policy—

Mr. Fisher

We will.

Mr. Cormack

I sincerely hope that both parties will do so.

Although one could range far and wide in such a debate, I shall not do so because I do not wish to take up too much time. However, two other things which deserve the House's attention have not received much up to now. There has been only the briefest passing reference in the debate so far to cathedrals. Despite all the problems to which he should be putting his mind, such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, Mr. Peter Palumbo seems intent on empire-building. I am sure that Mr. Palumbo is a man of great distinction, many talents and considerable gifts, but he should remember that he has been appointed chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain which has responsibilities, opportunities and problems enough without his seeking to intrude into areas in which the Arts Council has no experience and no proper role to play.

However, Mr. Palumbo has rightly drawn the public's attention to something that many of us have been talking about for some time. I refer to the fact that our great medieval cathedrals constitute the finest group of buildings in this country. They are buildings of great glory, the flagships of our heritage. They contain some of the finest works of art in the world and are themselves among our finest works of art. It is nonsense that they comprise the only group of important historic buildings that is not eligible for grants from public funds. Of course, there are historic reasons for that and it is not the fault of either this Government or the previous Labour Government. Indeed, when I and many others over the past 20 years have said, "What about the cathedrals?", the cathedrals themselves have frequently sounded a strong dissenting voice. A number of deans and provosts have been reluctant, thinking that such funding would threaten their autonomy and that it would not be right for them to be beholden in any sense. However, there is now a growing realisation among deans and provosts and all those who care for those great buildings that appeals, which have so often been successful, can no longer be the only answer.

Any country that allowed the spire of Salisbury cathedral to collapse or Wells' west front or Lincoln's west front to crumble into decay could not call itself a civilised country or society. It is important that money from central funds should be available to assist with the upkeep and maintenance of our cathedrals. I am not advocating a French solution. I am not suggesting that the fabric should become the responsibility of the state because I believe that it is important that the Church itself should have some responsibility. Appeals are important—they help to harness local affection, pride and patriotism, and all such good qualities are themselves good things.

Furthermore, I am not against cathedrals that have struggled hard, as Ely has, deciding to charge for admission to those who are going there not to pray, but to look and enjoy. When an all-party Select Committee recommended the consideration of admission charges, I believe that it was suggesting something perfectly reasonable, although I do not believe that it got the figures right. It would, of course, be unthinkable to have a compulsory admission charge at cathedrals on all occasions.

However, the inescapable central fact is that we need to make money available from the centre. The obvious vehicle for organising that is the body that we already have—English Heritage, the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England. Just as it has a separate committee to look after state aid for churches, it should have a separate committee to look after state aid for cathedrals.

There are those of us present who battled for state aid for churches. When I became a Member of the House in 1970, such aid was not available. I remember introducing a Bill to that effect in 1972. We battled and eventually a Conservative Secretary of State, Lord Rippon as he now is, agreed that that should happen. The implementation fell to a Labour Secretary of State, the late Tony Crosland, who was one of the finest Secretaries of State for the Environment that this country has ever had. That happened on a bipartisan—indeed, on an all-party—basis. I speak as chairman of the all-party heritage group when I say that it is important that when we have got over our bantering across the Floor of the House, which is perfectly natural and good fun, we should all remember that we have fundamental and basic responsibilities for such enduring things, and that those responsibilities transcend petty party differences.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) attended all the sittings of the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts which unanimously reported in 1981. All its recommendations had the support of all members of the Committee, ranging from the very far left to the fairly far right.

Mr. Matthew Carrington (Fulham)

I agree with my hon. Friend about state aid for cathedrals. That is long overdue and much-needed. But does my hon. Friend agree that if state aid is to be given to cathedrals, they should fall within the planning framework? Frequently, ecclesiastical exemptions for planning have meant that cathedrals and churches have gone in for planning abuses that would not be tolerated in secular buildings. Does my hon. Friend agree that, if money is to be given, the Church must give up some of its autonomy over what it does with its buildings?

Mr. Cormack

My hon. Friend oversimplifies a complicated matter. As one who served on the Faculty Jurisdiction Commission of the Church of England, which wrestled with that point, my answer to my hon. Friend would, in one word, be no. I do not think that there is any need for that because the system of faculties that applies to parish churches provides great safeguards. Until now, the cathedrals have been so autonomous as to have an almost dangerous autonomy, but today's Order Paper contains a Measure relating to the care of cathedrals, which comes from the General Synod, which will mean that the Mappa Mundi affair could not be repeated. Thank goodness, that has now been resolved reasonably satisfactorily and the Mappa is now back in Hereford. There is no longer a problem there, but we do not want deans and chapters being able to get rid of things of priceless worth without paying any regard to anybody. However, in the interests of time and my colleagues, I must not be led too far along that path.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts touched on my next point in his admirable opening speech. Like other hon. Members, I saw the letter from Sir Nicholas Goodison in The Times today. The letter demonstrates the great sense of unease throughout the heritage world at the recent decision of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I might add that if there was one Minister and if that Minister were my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts, I do not think that we would have that problem today. However, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has brought into sharp focus the fact that as a result of the extraordinary and almost obscene escalation in the price of works of art, there is a real need for a further review of how we can try to keep necessary things in this country.

In 1981 the Select Committee was fairly prescient and made a number of important recommendations. For instance, it said that the so-called douceur was not enough. That is illustrated by the fact that there are now so few private treaty sales. The Select Committee also said that we should consider something along the lines of the former American system whereby if someone bought a work o f art there could be an element of tax deductibility so long as the ultimate beneficiary was the nation.

In the recent decision over the Three Graces, I do not object to the fact that some private individuals have been allowed to buy the object or at least that their offer has been declared admissible. What worries me is that in return for saying that there can be some public access for 25 years, in effect they have been given a licence to print money. I am not casting any aspersions upon the integrity of the people concerned. I do not know them and everything that I have heard about them is to their credit, but however saintly and good they may be, the system which enables private individuals, at the behest of the state, to cash in on the system is wrong. I would not mind at all if those gentlemen—I believe they are called the Barclays—kept the Three Graces almost entirely to themselves so long as the ultimate beneficiary was the nation.

That is what happens in the United States. I am glad to see the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon), the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, nodding so vigorously. That is why there are so many large collections in the United States. Private individuals have bought works of art; they have been allowed an element of tax deductibility; they have enjoyed them, sometimes in the privacy of their own homes and sometimes sharing them, but ultimately those works of art have become the property of the state in which they live and the nation has been enriched immeasurably as a result.

Mr. Tony Banks

I very much agree with what the hon. Member said about the obscene prices being paid at auction these days. As the people who buy works of art—they all seem to be Japanese business men—are incredibly wealthy, what does the hon. Gentleman think about the idea of imposing a levy, a percentage, on the amount they pay that could then be channelled back into the arts to encourage emergent painters, sculptors or musicians? There is something ironic about the fact that a Van Gogh can be sold for £27 million yet the artist died in poverty. We should do something about that. Obviously, we cannot make retrospective payments to painters, but surely we could channel some of the money back into the arts.

Mr. Cormack

The hon. Gentleman's suggestion is not at all way out or outlandish and merits some consideration. After all, one could say that the public lending right scheme gives a precedent for doing something along those lines. I would not want to be tempted too far, although there may be some merit in a special sales tax, which I infer is what the hon. Gentleman is suggesting. However, that does not meet the basic problem.

We have to examine the douceur and the whole business of tax deductibility for private individuals. The nation must be ultimate beneficiary if those private individuals are to enjoy works of art and be allowed a tax concession for so doing, which I do not oppose. But what Sir Nicholas says in his letter is so right and so wise. The issue needs careful examination, whether by the reviewing committee or by a specially constituted committee, and the law which now operates—it is a pre-war law—needs looking at. We need to decide how best to address the problems created by the escalation of values.

There are other matters on which my right hon. Friend should be fighting, and I am sure he is doing that. It is nonsense that the purchase grants remain frozen at 1985 levels and that the national heritage memorial fund, should have almost spent its year's resources by 4 July. That memorial fund, which has been so brilliantly organised and chaired by Lord Charteris and which has performed a great service to the nation, needs extra resources and it must have them.

The failure of the Labour Government to respond to the challenge of Mentmore, although Mentmore was the catalyst, led to the Select Committee being set up to examine the national land fund from which the national heritage memorial fund was constituted. The capital of the national land fund had been filched by Governments of all parties, and if that sum had been given back, the problems that we are discussing today would not exist. More money is owed to the national heritage memorial fund. I am sure that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who played a notable part in our deliberations in Committee and tabled the amendment that made it the national heritage memorial fund, would agree.

It would be extremely dangerous for the memorial fund to become a clearing house or central purchasing agency for museums. It was not intended as that and it must not be allowed to become so, but it will if we do not consider purchase grants to museums.

There is so much that one could say about the future of our theatre and opera where there are also serious problems, but I shall finish on this note: we have cause for some quiet satisfaction in that the Government whom I am proud to support—I am discriminating and discerning in my support, but I am still proud to support them—have done a great deal over the past 11 years to give a new priority to issues which concern almost all hon. Gentlemen in the Chamber today. However, there is no cause for complacency. My right hon. Friend the Minister said that he is well aware of the problems. We should now look towards the turn of the century and our aim should be that all the great buildings that we inherited from our ancestors are handed on to our successors sound and well restored. Museums should have their contents properly displayed, they should have no leaking roofs and they should have continuing and living collections. Most important of all, let us not forget that if we are concerned about the arts and heritage we are concerned about the living, not the dead. I shall not start quoting Keats, but a true work of art is a joy for ever; it is undying and immortal.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) would change his tune if he had been with me in Romania a few weeks ago. I was talking to people who have had to face unimaginable privations, problems and hardships. They told me that without books, culture, art and a link with a European past as well as with other countries in Europe today, they would have had no hope and they would have felt that they had no future. We are dealing with enduring living art and we must not forget that we are also dealing with the encouragement of living artists. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister again, but I urge him never to give up his quest or his endeavour.

6.48 pm
Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)

The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) has the conservation of our heritage at the forefront of his mind at all times, and I fully support him in that.

Our heritage is the most important aspect of the debate because it was accumulated when, for more than two centuries, Britain was the most powerful and prosperous country in the world. We are not likely to return to that, so the articles and the buildings that were created at that time—with all the talents that went into their construction—must be passed on undiminished wherever possible.

The Minister for the Arts is to be congratulated, as he has been successful in getting more out of the Treasury than did most of his predecessors. To most Governments and Treasury Ministers, an Arts Minister is just another spender. He is not likely to create money, so he is viewed with a certain amount of antagonism because of the extra money that he is able to acquire. The right hon. Gentleman can make use of a number of assets, however, and I hope that he has learnt how to do so. He represents a civilised approach within the Government, and I am sure that he has been able to press his argument upon the Treasury and to exploit it as fully as possible.

I am also sure that the right hon. Gentleman has emphasised the importance of tourism to this country and the contribution that the arts can make to encouraging tourists. Many people come here not for the weather or the restaurants—good as they are nowadays—but for the theatres and historic buildings. The Minister's work directly contributes to Britain's attractiveness to tourists. I am sure that he has emphasised that aspect, but it could be emphasised still further.

Tourism helps our balance of payments, and although the Government have somewhat derided that idea in the past, given our £20 billion balance of payments deficit perhaps it may now be regarded as more important than it used to be. The money derived from tourism is not offset by large expenditures overseas, as most of the money that tourists spend in this country stays here. When we manufacture goods we have to buy raw materials from abroad, and there is offsetting expenditure, but 90 per cent. or perhaps more of the money from tourism goes to help the balance of payments because it stays in this country. The Minister should use that argument more often.

One could argue that value added tax should not be charged on the arts at all, let alone at a monstrous 15 per cent. When I was Financial Secretary to the Treasury and had responsibility for VAT, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) asked me whether we could abolish VAT on theatres. He knew my views. I studied the matter and went to him with two views: I said that as Financial Secretary to the Treasury one must be aware of the repercussions and problems that would result from abolition; but, as the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne, my advice to my right hon. Friend was to abolish VAT on theatre admission. He took the first piece of advice, not the second. I told him, "If you are going to be Chancellor of the Exchequer, for heaven's sake enjoy it, and do something that you will be proud of in later years." VAT at 15 per cent. is absurd, but it is an argument for getting compensating money from the Treasury.

We spend a large amount of money teaching our children about the arts, music and literature, but the expenditure suddenly comes to an end, and there are few subsidies for the arts to compare with the enormous amount spent on teaching children to enjoy the arts. There should not be such an abrupt change.

How should we spend the money, assuming that we have perhaps been able to get more from the Treasury than the Minister has been able to obtain? I am worried about the decay of so many public buildings and their contents. From the first report of the Public Accounts Committee last year we know that, when dealing with the subject of conservation, The Victoria and Albert Museum accepted frankly that this 'was a national disaster' and agreed that it 'represented lasting and irreparable damage to some of the national heritage.' The museum went on to say: On present staffing levels backlog conservation on the prints and drawings collection alone

was estimated at 200 years. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman has rightly announced today, it must be compared with the size of the task, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) said. If we regard the fact as important that we are merely the holders of these great collections, the least that we can do is to retain them, preserve them and pass them on in as good a condition as they were when we inherited them. That is the task before us.

Then there is the question of the export of works of art. We had the money and a certain amount of good taste and we acquired great collections, which we are proud of. I am against museum charges because they mean that people have to make a special effort to visit a museum, rather than popping in, perhaps to a local one, when they happen to be passing by. If we want to encourage children to visit museums, we should not think only in terms of party visits. How many times did hon. Members go to a museum in a party? No doubt excursions are better organised now, but I never did. Sometimes we went in to get out of the rain, and sometimes out of curiosity, and what we saw remains with us as an abiding memory. For the sake of a few million pounds it is absurd to handle our heritage in such a fashion.

Italy has far more great works of art than many other countries and it does not allow their export. So why do we allow exports? I agree with the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South that we should keep the works of art that we possess here. Perhaps we might not see them for 25 years, but they would be here at the end of that period, and we should be able to enjoy them—as would our children's children. We are not likely to be able to spend £30 million to keep painting here again. We must have another mechanism to keep outstanding works of art in this country without this nonsensical rushing round to find some wealthy individual who may be prepared to come up with a scheme to keep them here which would perhaps be to his advantage or give him a certain amount of local credit. That is not the way to handle a national issue of such importance and we must ensure that we keep these great works of art in this country.

No one has mentioned the role of the BBC, which has been one of the greatest civilising influences in our country. It has brought literature and music to millions of people who would not otherwise have been drawn to a concert hall or a theatre. The plays that it has put on have generated enjoyment and understanding. The BBC is one of the main reasons why London has become such a centre for music. In the 1920s, one would have laughed at the idea of London being a world centre for music, but it is today. London has always been a centre for the theatre. Better theatre of an international standard has resulted from the number of people who have learnt to appreciate acting and plays from the BBC. That is one of our advantages. We must retain it.

The Minister has done very well, and I hope that he will not leave his post. Until I came to today's debate, I did not know that that was a possibility. He has worked himself into the job, and he has an unrivalled grasp of the subject. I am sure that his relationship with the Treasury could not be improved upon by any successor who might be brought in to fill this role.

I would dearly like to see it as a Cabinet role. There was a time when we hoped that it would be—along with other responsibilities, obviously. I wish the Minister well, and ask him to continue the fight, be more vigorous and produce more money to be spent on this important sphere of activity.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. I remind hon. Members that Mr. Speaker has imposed a 10-minute limit on speeches between 7 and 9 o'clock.

6.59 pm
Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

Let me warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts on the splendid catalogue of achievements that he set out. He has been outstandingly successful as Arts Minister. On a personal level he is most highly regarded in the arts world. I hope that he will long continue in his present position, as he is doing a first-class job. In saying that, I speak for all the members of the Conservative Parliamentary Arts and Heritage committee, which I have the honour to chair. I, too, take the view that his should be a Cabinet post.

I was astonished that, in a speech that lasted for more than half an hour, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) did not make one reference to our 10 great symphony orchestras, which play such a major part in the cultural life of our nation. I hope that he never becomes Minister for the Arts: that would bode ill for music in this country.

Let me return to what my right hon. Friend the Minister said. What matters most is how the arts enrich and fulfil people's lives in growing numbers. In this, the Government have been far more successful than any other. When I say that the Government have "done more", I mean that they have done more for audiences—the consumers rather than the producers. The producers and the performers are there for the audiences, and not the other way round. This applies to the arts, as to anything else.

What matters most is not the sum in the annual arts budget—we can spend too much time examining financial figures. Although we have a duty to do so—because it is the duty of Parliament to vote money and for the Government to make recommendations to Parliament—the money is only a means to an end. What is important is the number of people who enjoy their perception of works of art or performances. For all that, Government spending on the arts is 48 per cent. up in real terms on what it was 10 years ago. Even if we allow for GLC abolition money, the figure is still 45 per cent. up.

Mr. Fisher

Will the hon. Gentleman try to explain how it helps audiences when, as a result of Government policies, 31 out of 33 English repertory companies are in deficit?

Mr. Jessel

Repertory companies have nearly always been in deficit, because they perform mostly in small towns and suburban areas. They have always been closer to the margin than the principal theatres in our main cities—there is nothing new in that—but they are managing to survive.

I was impressed by the reference to Glasgow as the cultural capital of Europe for 1990. I was there in the recess during the last week of May, and was told that the number of people who would attend arts events of all kinds was expected to increase from 6.5 million in 1989 to 10 million in 1990—an increase of about 50 per cent. That is a tremendous achievement; the figure includes performances by some repertory companies. There are now 2,500 museums in Britain, which is double the number of 20 years ago; more people now go to the theatre than attend football matches. About 2.5 million people a year go to classical concerts.

I see my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) in his place. Perhaps I can anticipate what he is about to say on the basis of his comments in previous speeches. He seems to think that all pleasures are of equal value. That is nonsense. We all know it. The obvious excitement and tension, and the emotional and spiritual uplift, from great drama, beautiful music, brilliant painting, strong religious or patriotic feeling—or even the excitement of sporting events such as football matches—has a dimension and a quality totally different from the contentment of a cow or a cabbage. That is what distinguishes human beings from animals. Once we have accepted that those feelings are intrinsically superior to the contentment of a cow or a cabbage, it is a small step to come to the conclusion that some of those things are superior to others.

Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)

My hon. Friend has made my point for me. He is saying that we are all different and that we like different types of activities and leisure pursuits, for which we should pay the full amount. At the moment, 24 million people are watching England play West Germany at football. They are not subsidised, as they buy their own television sets. Football is not subsidised, and it is a damn sight more important than the arty-farty people pushing themselves around the Royal Opera House.

Mr. Jessel

We all know that the works of Shakespeare are superior in literary merit to the Order Paper of the House which I have in my hand . Similar analogies can be made about poetry, music, architecture, painting or any of the other arts. If we can get young people into something good, then they have many years ahead of them to get something out of it. So the argument for supporting the arts with public funds is not very different from the argument for using public funds to support education.

My hon. Friend never faces up to the fact that the arts in this country attract substantial numbers of visitors from overseas. Their visits generate spending on hotels, restaurants, shops and internal travel. All those produce profits, a tax yield to the Government, and employment and income for the people who produce services. Therefore, they augment the invisible earnings of this country. That is a point in favour of the arts that my hon. Friend never answers.

There is no doubt that London has a superb range of live arts. As Dr. Johnson said, When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. My right hon. Friend the Minister referred to the City of Birmingham symphony orchestra. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central did not mention orchestras, and we seldom give enough time to discussion of orchestras.

We are apt to discuss the Royal Opera house, the English National Opera, the royal national theatre and the Shakespeare theatre. They all do an excellent job, but when did the House last debate the Royal Philharmonic orchestra, the London symphony orchestra, the London Philharmonic orchestra, the Philharmonia orchestra, the City of Birmingham symphony orchestra, the Halle orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic orchestra, the Scottish National orchestra and the many excellent orchestras of the BBC?

The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee—theright hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon)—did mention and praise the BBC; I share his view. I should like especially to praise the BBC for its excellent promenade concert seasons: this year's is about to begin. Many of those orchestras have a high standard of excellence and are of world class. I find the sound of musical instruments playing together as a symphony orchestra at least as good as the sound of a human voice.

Of course it costs more to put on an opera than to put on a symphony concert. It involves the set, the staging and the orchestra, as well as singers. But a good symphony concert is not cheap to put on, and it is not self-evident to me why the subsidy of £15.2 million a year paid to the Covent Garden opera house should be seven or eight times as much as the subsidy which is paid to the four main London orchestras—the Royal Philharmonic orchestra, the London symphony orchestra, the London Philharmonic orchestra and the Philharmonia orchestra. Together, they receive a subsidy of about £2 million a year. The Paris orchestra, in contrast. receives £5.2 million, and theMunich Philharmonic orchestra £7.6 million each year—for only one orchestra in each case.

The underfunding of British orchestras leads to two unsatisfactory results. First, our orchestras are under-rehearsed. That defect is only partially offset by their remarkable standard of sight reading. Secondly, it is diffcult to attract conductors of world class. We are always being told that the opera must have enough money to attract international singers. If so, then orchestras must have enough money with which to attract top conductors. I hope that the chairman of the Arts Council will be invited to reconsider the proportion—only 7 per cent.—of the total Arts Council budget that is now allocated to orchestras.

7.9 pm

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

A wide consensus of view has emerged on many important issues. I add my personal support to the plea that the Minister who is in charge of arts policy should be given a Cabinet post. He should be in charge of an integrated Department. That decision should be made sooner rather than later. I hope that it will be made by the Prime Minister this month. I agree with the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Connack) that many people have been arguing for a long time that the Ministry should have greater status. My colleagues have made a similar point in the past. I endorse it. My party has argued for a long time that there should be an arts and culture Ministry, incorporating tourism, the heritage and related matters. I hope that an integrated Ministry will be achieved soon, under whichever party is in office.

The necessary basis for a proper arts policy is significant public sector funding. One hon. Member who is in the House tonight, the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks), dissents from that view, but all countries in the developed world believe that it is necessary. This year's additional grant, 12.5 per cent., is generous, but it is not much more than the rate of inflation. Over three years, the average additional grant will be much lower. The average additional grant for the next two years is 4.5 per cent. Over three years, therefore, at current inflation rates, the increase in the arts budget will be less than the rate of inflation. We must increase public sector funding of the arts if they are to be properly sustained.

According to "Cultural Trends", comparable figures for comparable countries make it clear that, whether it is central Government or local government expenditure, expenditure per head on the arts in France, Germany, Sweden and Canada is greater than in this country. That needs to be remedied, whichever party is in power.

There is widespread support for arts administration to be organised on a regional basis. The Minister knows that my colleagues support the findings of the Wilding report. We must avoid duplication, but the strategy for co-ordinating the roles of the Arts Council, the regional arts authorities and local government is not clear. The Minister referred to the Arts Council's new strategic role, but it needs to be more clearly worked out and integrated into the structure of regional arts administration in England and into the national administration for Scotland and Wales. It is unsatisfactory that Scotland should have to depend on a single grant handout from the main budget.

The Minister is aware of the great concern in local authorities about arts funding. My borough is about to be charge-capped. One of the inevitable victims of limited local authority budgets will be the arts and other non-statutory expenditure. A few days ago I visited the Lyric theatre in Hammersmith, where I saw "Glory" by the Temba theatre company, which is based in Southwark. I had not seen any of its previous productions. It was an extremely good production, by any standards. That company is funded by the local authority as well as by the Greater London Arts Association. If we lose the local authority's contribution to high-quality art and popular art as a result of charge capping, it will be to the detriment of the cultural life of the borough.

Mr. Gerald Bowden (Dulwich)

The hon. Gentleman referred to the contribution by Southwark borough to the arts and to the restrictions that may be placed upon funding of the arts by charge capping. Does he not acknowledge that Southwark's contributions to the arts in recent years has been derisory and that charge capping will not affect its contribution?

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman and I have taken issue with each other previously on this issue. There has been correspondence between the chair of the arts committee in Southwark and both of us. I agree that Southwark has not given enough to the arts, but charge capping will not help. It will certainly hinder the expenditure on the arts that the people of Southwark need.

It is a mistake to hold back the purchase grant level to that which was in force in 1985. That amount must be increased if a proper purchasing policy is to be achieved. I agree with the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South that the Government ought to build up again the national heritage memorial fund, not in order to supply general funding but to fulfil the specific tasks for which it was established.

It is important to work out a clear structure for purchasing policies and export licences to take us to 1992 and beyond. I urge the Minister to adopt a European convention on the heritage and culture in order to ensure that cultural treasures are not lost to this country through legislative loopholes. We ought to be able to keep them here. Furthermore, they ought to be seen. We do not want the drain to continue after 1992 under the new regime in Europe.

As for arts education, one of my concerns is that local authorities cannot make the provision that they wish to make for arts and music under the national curriculum. Teachers have told me how difficult it is to obtain time for music and arts subjects. If young people are taught nothing about the arts and are therefore denied the spiritual dimension that the arts can add to their lives, their education will be very mundane; it will amount only to a job-preparation activity. I realise that this a Department of Education and Science, not an Office of Arts and Libraries, responsibility, but I hope that the Minister realises that those gaps must be filled. Our children must be provided with tuition in music and the arts while they are at school.

The Minister heard my question on Monday. It is a mistake to charge young people for entry into museums. The right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) referred to that point in his speech. Our museums and galleries must also provide more facilities for the disabled. Other countries provide more facilities for the disabled than we do. Moreover, they provide more audio-visual facilities. We must do likewise.

As for our cathedrals, I associate myself with what was said by the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South. Even if the cathedrals lose some of their autonomy, we ought to support with public funds some of the finest buildings in our land.

To turn to London issues, it gives me great pleasure, as one who is not a Londoner by birth, to live in a capital city with such a wonderful variety of arts provision. London provides us with some wonderful artistic opportunities. It is sad, therefore, that the big four—the Royal Opera house, English National Opera, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National theatre—are in such financial difficulties that their activities cannot be guaranteed. They are the best of their type. All experience shows that they need to be funded properly. The only way to provide them with proper stability is to write off their current debts. I ask the Minister to try to persuade his colleagues to support that aim.

I am also concerned about the threat that hangs over the Museum of London and the Greater London archaeological service due to the proposed withdrawal of its grant, as announced by English Heritage. That is causing great concern in all parts of the House. There is to be a meeting about it later this month. I hope that the Minister will investigate that as the work of the Museum of London and the Greater London archaeological service must be sustained. To cut their grant would be a great mistake.

We still have not had any announcement about areas of archaeological importance. Five have been decided, but I hope that further decisions will be imminent. I also hope that the Government will be slightly more sympathetic about the costs in the Rose theatre case, about which I have been in correspondence with Lord Hesketh, and—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. The hon. Gentleman has had his 10 minutes.

7.19 pm
Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

I suspect that greater love hath no man than to give up the World cup for his artistic friends. I am delighted to take part in this debate.

Hon. Members have raised a variety of subjects, including music, and this has been a musical week for me. I started off on Saturday at Glyndebourne watching Peter Sellers clutch "The Magic Flute"—an interesting, good production. This Saturday I shall play the jingle bells in the Horowitz toy symphony at the Festival hall. I am not sure that that will enhance the musical tradition to which my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) referred, but it will extend my experience.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) and his hon. Friends have been churlish about artistic achievements in the Government's term of office and that of my right hon. Friend the Minister. The hon. Gentleman specifically referred to the National theatre. He did not mention the nine awards achieved by 33 productions at that theatre, nor the 650,000 people who attend it regularly—all that he mentioned was a leak in the roof. The hon. Gentleman has got things out of proportion. I hope that he will think again before he criticises the great work of our theatres.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to the acting profession and did his bit by auditioning for a part in "Allo, Allo". I am a member of the Committee considering the Finance Bill and last night I spoke up for the actors in my constituency and nationwide. My hon. Friends and I were delighted when the Treasury Minister made a substantial concession. It was therefore right that we sought to withdraw our amendment pending the measure to assist actors which is to be introduced on Report. The Minister deserves our support.

On other occasions, the hon. Gentleman has referred to the uniform business rate. I believe that the message has got through that UBR is assisting the arts. Greater London Arts has conducted a survey which shows that 65 per cent. of arts organisations in London will benefit from UBR, by, on average, £1,200. The remaining 35 per cent. will face an average shortfall of £500. The benefit to those organisations results from the 80 per cent. relief that the Government have introduced for bodies with charitable status. I hope that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that that is good news.

I regret that I have been called before the leader of the opposition to the arts, my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks). In an intervention he compared spending on sport with that on the arts. My hon. Friend should reconsider the support that the taxpayer gives to sport. The television licence fee is used to bid vast sums for the broadcasting of sporting events. I do not resent that. The tax from the football pools is to be used to improve football grounds. The rate support grant and the community charge also contribute to local government support for sport in schools, pre-school groups, youth clubs and sports clubs. The taxpayer contributes an immense amount to sports. We should also take into account the even larger amounts of money devoted to policing sporting events. I do not resent the great sums spent on sport, but my hon. Friend must accept that those sums are comparable with the amount spent on the arts and their promotion in schools, youth clubs, art clubs and artistic venues. In common with expenditure on sport, the money is spent to promote access as well as safety. I hope that we can unite in supporting that. When sports events are broadcast, the promoters of the event are allowed to advertise their products. Alas, the same is not the case when an operatic or theatrical production is broadcast. Perhaps we should reconsider that.

The great difference between art and sport is that, ultimately, good art is eternal but sport is temporal. If there were no sponsorship of the arts, we should have a cultural desert. I am all for people thronging to see "The Phantom of the Opera" or "The Mousetrap", or visiting the Raymond Revuebar, but if they were the sole artistic productions of this country we should be much the poorer. We need to acquire sponsorship from the taxpayer as well as the threatre and opera-goer to guarantee the quality of our arts.

The heritage that we seek to pass on is as much cultural as environmental. Reference has been made to the way in which heritage and the arts merge. Town planning, landscape architecture and the use of green spaces is important, as art attaches itself to the environment. A wall painting is part of community art and contributes to the environment and the artistic life of that community. It is only a short step from that to the hung painting. The pageantry of trooping the colour leads on to public performances of the mystery plays and is part of our dramatic and musical tradition.

The arts are also important because of what they can contribute to the social welfare of our society. Self-confidence can be restored to people going through a bad patch when they discover that they have an artistic ability. My hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) referred to ADAPT. On Friday I initiated a debate on disability and today I again urge my right hon. Friend and his colleagues to promote arts for the disabled. That means not just access to theatres, but participation in the arts by people with disabilities. We should also encourage the arts to promote a positive image of disability so that it becomes more acceptable to our society.

I welcome the recent brochure produced by my right hon. Friend the Minister and the Secretary of State for Education and Science on the arts in our schools. The teaching of the arts in schools does not just mean outings to the theatre and being taught to play a particular instrument—it is about using the arts to teach other subjects. The brochure shows how that can be done. The Horniman museum uses the Dolmetsch collection of old instruments as part of its teaching programme for schools. That venture is welcome. I am pleased that the Horniman and the Geffrye museums have embarked on their new independent status—another sign of progress under the Government. I hope that the brochure will be used to expand such teaching methods throughout our education system.

Arts in education are important. I hope that my right hon. Friend will continue to press the case for resisting any suggestion from any place, on either side of the channel, to impose VAT on books. That would be wrong.

Reference has been made to the number of galleries and paintings in London. Our tradition of hanging the best collections in London is expanding at the Courtauld, Clore and Sainsbury galleries. I hope that my right hon. Friend will ensure that access to such paintings does not just mean taking them out of the cellars. I know that that is important, but we must ensure that they are on public display when the public can see them. All too often, galleries are closed on public holidays—the very days when families could see the paintings. Galleries should be open on those days, as well as at the weekend and in the evening.

I am grateful for this opportunity to raise a few arts-related issues which are of interest to me and, I hope, the House. I support my right hon. Friend in all that he has done. He has achieved a tremendous amount. If the message today is, "Onwards and upwards", it is one that we give to him personally for what he has achieved and will achieve in the many years during which, I hope, he will hold his office. He is doing a great job for the arts in this country.

7.30 pm
Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)

I welcome this opportunity to take part in a debate on the arts. I support the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), who agrees that the Minister for the Arts should have a seat in the Cabinet. Although good advice has been given to the Prime Minister, she is not known for accepting it, and we shall have to wait until my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) becomes the Minister for the Arts before we see such a Minister in the Cabinet.

This is a nostalgic debate for me, as the hon. Members for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) and for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) are present. I was at school in the Twickenham constituency when I went to see my first play at the Richmond theatre, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes. To take the nostalgia further, I was born in Aden when the Governor of Aden was the father of the present Minister for the Arts.

Two aspects in my constituency are directly affected by this debate. I and other hon. Members who represent Leicester have been horrified at the deteriorating circumstances of the Haymarket theatre, which has a national and international reputation. In the past three years, the theatre has produced 26 main house and 24 studio productions, as well as hosting a variety of visits from different countries, including Russia and America. It has prepared and organised plays and events for children and local amateur companies, and developed a community base for concerts.

The theatre has produced many plays which have been taken to the west end and beyond. "High Society" started off at the Haymarket in Leicester, "Pride and Prejudice" went on a national tour, "Julius Caesar" went on a British Council tour of India, "M Butterfly" went to the west end, and other plays which started life in Leicester have ended up all over the world. That has all been put at risk because of the funding crisis now affecting the Haymarket theatre.

There are four reasons for the risk. First, the amount of grant aid received by the theatre is directly related to the fact that the three-year funding deals were made when the inflation rate was low. The increase in inflation has meant that the theatre's management simply cannot deal with the gap that has grown between the income that it receives and its expenditure. In 1987–88, it received an income of £2,220,000 and its expenditure was £2,240,000. That deficit has continued until this year. Although there is a projected budget surplus for this year, during the course of the year there was a crisis which resulted in the resignation of the theatre's director, Peter Lichenshield, the departure of the artistic director and a number of staff redundancies.

At that time, those of us in Leicester who were proud of the tradition of the Haymarket theatre were concerned and I raised the issue with the Minister in the House. His only response was that the theatre had to live within its means. The message that I receive from the theatre management—my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central was a recent visitor to the theatre—is that they have tried to do that. They have cut costs and accepted voluntary redundancies, but in the end the theatre simply cannot afford to survive because of the current climate.

As well as the funding difficulties, the management also face the trauma of current Government economic policy. High interest rates have affected people who go to the theatre, reducing their spending power so that fewer of them go to the Haymarket theatre and audience figures are affected. In addition, the introduction of the poll tax and the squeeze on local government expenditure in the past few years, specifically on Leicester city council and Leicestershire county council, has meant that such councils have had fewer funds available to support the arts.

I pay tribute to the work done by the recreation and arts department of Leicester city council, particularly its chairman, Derek Fryett, and its director, Alan Llewellyn. The provision of grants on a limited basis has enabled many important events to take place in Leicester. But for the grants available, De Montfort hall, a main venue for concerts and other functions, would not be able to host so many events. Grants from the city council and county council to local neighbourhood arts centres and schools have enabled such activities to take place.

We are all extremely pleased about the support for multicultural activities. Without a grant from Leicester city council, I should have been unable to organise a pensioners' concert in the Members' Dining Room in the House which was attended by more than 100 pensioners from Leicester and enabled a local school—Judge Meadow community college—to show off its ability to produce good music.

The Minister has said that there are always opportunities for funding to be sought from local businesses through sponsorship schemes, but we have found that impossible on a local basis because of current Government policy. There is a limit to the extent to which we can accept sponsorship from business. I would not like to see a production of "King Lear" with all the participants wearing Marks and Spencer badges.

I wish to address some remarks about local conservation and heritage, particularly planning, to the Minister for the Environment and Countryside, who is present. One of the most effective ways to protect our local heritage and environment is by updating our planning laws. We have heard that the Government are intent on bringing forward a major piece of planning legislation next year to satisfy people who are concerned about planning problems.

The present planning laws fail to take into consideration current conservation areas. I will give an example of what happened to my constituents in Humberstone, an outer district of Leicester. I know that the Minister has visited Leicester, but I think that he has always been taken on tours of the inner city rather than the outer estates. There was a pleasant piece of land, a wildlife area, bounded by three roads—Stanley drive, Vicarage road and St. Mary's avenue. That land had been used by local people as a wildlife reserve, but a local firm of builders called Jelsons decided to develop the land for housing at a time when it was impossible to sell new houses in Leicester. It purchased the land by buying bits of people's gardens—what I would describe as the domino principle—and when it had enough of the land, it applied for planning permission. As a result of a well-organised community campaign, the council refused planning permission. The builders immediately sent in bulldozers and completely flattened the land and we discovered that no planning legislation could have prevented them.

From the time when planning permission is refused to the time when a planning appeal is heard, there is no way to stop a developer changing the nature of the land. I introduced a Bill on this subject recently, but I am sure that it will never reach the statute book as there will not be enough time before the House rises. I should like the Government's new planning Bill adequately to reflect the concerns of the people of Humberstone, and other parts of my constituency such as Evington, who want to ensure that the conservation areas that they have established are maintained and that developers who are keen to build houses for profit should not put that profit before the local environment.

I hope that the Minister for the Environment and Countryside will take my points on board and will ask the Minister for the Arts to visit Leicester for discussions with the Haymarket theatre.

7.40 pm
Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)

I have moved from the Back Benches to a Front Bench because I am the only authentic opposition voice in the House. As my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts is likely to be moved, perhaps I shall get a phone call from No. 10 asking me to take over the arts. If that happens, I shall do away with the subsidies within a week.

We have wasted yet another day of parliamentary time on a non-issue. We spend a great deal of time talking about the arts spending other people's money for things that most people do not want to see or hear. Tonight 24 million people are watching the World cup semi-final. That is indicative of the importance that England attaches to its football team, despite its poor performance. That interest should be compared with the general approach to the arts.

Football must have an intrinsic interest or people would not watch it. There is a great deal of entertainment to be had from watching Roger Milla after he has scored a goal for Cameroon because he runs to the touch line and does the samba. It is as good as or perhaps better than watching Rudolf Nureyev doing his "Nutcracker" or perhaps, as some people might say, cracking his nuts.

The arts world is not satisfied with £600 million guaranteed for three years, even though no other area of Government spending gets such a guarantee. The Arts Council grant of £175 million is rising to £190 million, but it seems that that is not enough. Some 60 per cent. of Arts Council clients have overspent their allocation and want additional funds. They do not need extra funds. It is just that they could not keep within their budgets in the way that everyone else has to and want another dip into the taxpayers' pocket.

The grant given by my right hon. Friend has a built-in inflation factor of approximately 12 per cent. That should be compared with the 3.9 to 4.2 per cent. factor allocated by the Government to the community charge grant. However, the arts get 12 per cent. built in and guaranteed for three years. In a press release issued by my right hon. Friend a short time ago, he apologised to people in the arts because inflation had eaten so badly into their funds. There is no apology from my Government to old-age pensioners or others about inflation eating into their way of life, but then the arts lobby is rather special.

The history of the arts is a catalogue of total mismanagement, financial ineptitude, productions that are too expensive, and artistes' fees that are too high. The arts are living beyond their means. Taxpayers' money is being poured down the drain and we should be ashamed of that. If the arts cannot afford to pay the proper price for their so-called stars, they should employ second division singers and ballet dancers. The arts are even worse than the race relations industry. Many incompetent hypocrites are seeking power without financial responsibility and are willing to sponge off the rest of us to maintain their status. The ballet, classical music and the opera are the nouvelle cuisine of the entertainment world. When I was a kid, my mother used to eat the peas and throw away the pod. In this modern age we throw away the peas and eat the pod.

Arty-farty people are running the arts and they want more money from us. As my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) tried to show, they are always emphasising how special they are. Neither he nor anyone else could define art. If someone is willing to try to explain it to me I would be willing to listen. The definition of the arty-farty world is quite simple. Art is what people want it to be and what they can con the taxpayer into paying for.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Dicks

No, I will not give way.

I shall now discuss the film industry, which is also on the gravy train. Richard "call me Dickie" Attenborough has made two of the most boring films that one could hope to see. They were "Gandhi" and "Cry Freedom". David Puttnam walked out of Hollywood because he could not cope with the pressure. Those two conned the Prime Minister into giving them £5 million for the film industry and then walked out of the meeting with the Prime Minister and joined the Labour party. If ever the Government were taken for a ride that was it. They said, "Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Please, Mr. Kinnock, you have no brains in your party, so let us in instead." What a gravy train it all is.

Mr. Fisher

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dicks

No, I will not.

Mr. Fisher

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for me to say that England are one-nil up? That might shorten the hon. Gentleman's speech.

Mr. Dicks

I hope that you will add that few seconds to my time, Madam Deputy Speaker. I congratulate the lads and am delighted to hear the news. It is much more important than the arts.

Richard Attenborough and David Puttnam have made a fortune from films, but they want more public money and will not take a penny from their own pockets.

Let us come nearer to home. The House advisory committee on works of art has just bought a painting. I do not know the exact price, although someone mentioned £300,000. That painting will be added to the 3,000 that are already in the Palace of Westminster.

Mr. Cormack

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Dicks

No, I will not give way. Please sit down.

Mr. Cormack

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. What the hon. Gentleman has said is completely untrue.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

That is a matter for debate.

Mr. Dicks

I understand from a press report—I do not believe them all, although I tend to believe this one—that an artist called Milly Childers painted a picture called "The Terrace" which shows Members of Parliament lounging about, no doubt in a tired and emotional state, on the Terrace. If that is true—I bear in mind what my hon. Friend says—

Mr. Cormack

This man is a disgrace to the House of Commons.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. We hear all points of view in this Chamber.

Mr. Dicks

My hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) reminds me of Henry VIII not with all the doublet and hose, but at least well fed. Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Miss Saigon" demonstrate that shows can attract audiences and survive without subsidies. The same applies to professional football, although my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea disputes that. Any money that goes from the pools to professional football is private sector, not public sector, money. That is important.

Pavarotti is making a small fortune introducing football on the BBC. I wonder how much that overweight Italian is contributing to the Royal Opera house from the money that he receives. My guess is that he contributes nothing and that the money is going straight into his pocket. I do not blame him, but so much for the need to support the arts.

I shall give an example of an important aspect of independence. The tie that I am wearing is that of the Wooden Spoon society. In 1983, when England received the wooden spoon for losing all its rugby matches, a group of supporters—not hooligans—were flying back from Dublin and decided that, despite the despondency caused by watching England lose, they would start to raise money for charity as a means of remembering the day. They have now raised almost £1 million and they have done it without lobbying and without subsidy. They have not squealed or whinged, they just pushed on with hard work. I shall be happy to enrol for £10 any hon. Member who wants to join the Wooden Spoon society.

The Government should immediately stop all subsidies to the arts. There can be no justification for asking an ordinary chap to pay money for such nonsense. The arts should learn to cut their suit according to the cloth and productions should be economically viable. People should be taught simple double entry book-keeping because they do not understand what is going on. They should, of course, stop whingeing.

I quote from an article whose author is not known to me: The best way to lower 'cultural' standards … is to subsidise them. Men and women without wit, talent or experience of life-self-supporting are found decorating subsidised theatres, galleries and 'centres'. They overflow into radio and TV. Incomprehensible rubbish is described as the work of genius. Dull, confusing plays without middle, beginning or end are lauded as great works. At the centre is the Arts Council handing out your money. They tell you what is good for you. They are the experts … who said so? They did. The more money they get the more they demand. The culture vultures fight over the grants … Opera battles with Willie S … the little ones complain of the shortage of crumbs; but all are united, no matter if only one ticket in ten is sold, the show must go on until all the grants are spent. They are also united in their arrogance.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We should all be delighted that the hon. Gentleman can read, but is it in order for him to quote at such length?

Mr. Dicks

I did say that I do not know the identity of the author. Nevertheless, the article goes on to say that those people are willing to go slumming with the masses…like a bit of old time music hall, a limited offer of slap and tickle drama but the 'people' must not take to their hearts any of the 'higher forms' unless it is approved

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I have given the hon. Member a little injury time because he was interrupted by three points of order. I know that the hon. Gentleman will now respect the Chair. I call him to order, and I call the next speaker.

Mr. Fisher

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I believe that the House was misled by the Government, because the Minister's parliamentary private secretary informed us that England had scored against West Germany. In fact, it seems that the Government cannot get their facts right. I am sad to say that there is still no score.

Madam Deputy Speaker

The House is much obliged to the hon. Member for keeping it up to date with what is occurring elsewhere. Mr. Tony Banks.

7.51 pm
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham North-West)

I cannot say that it is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks), but he always makes an interesting contribution. I apologise to the House because I shall have to leave soon after I have made my speech to attend the press night of "The Dragon Can't Dance", a new play by Earl Lovelace at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East—and I promise not to look at a television on my way out of the House. I shall refer to that event again later.

It is good to have an arts debate, but there are times when they seem to exist only to provide a platform for the theatre of the absurd provided by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington. I hoped that he would say something about the rumour that the BBC is to offer him a programme commenting on the arts. I understand that that rumour is absolutely true.

Mr. Dicks

indicated assent.

Mr. Banks

I can hardly believe that, but I must take it as being true. I expect that we will hear sooner or later about the endowment of the Ronnie Kray chair in fine arts, or perhaps the SAS will open a charm school. Those are all unlikely events, but if the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington is to pontificate on the arts, anything is possible. If he offers me a slot in his programme, I assure him that I shall accept.

During the Minister's speech, I intervened to ask about local authority funding for the arts, and received the reply that it varied from authority to authority. The right hon. Gentleman said that it is for authorities themselves to decide how much to spend, which I thought was a disingenuous remark. The Secretary of State for the Environment and the Minister for the Environment and Countryside know all about the strictures imposed by central Government on local authority finance.

It is all very well for the Minister for the Arts to say that it is up to local authorities to determine their arts expenditure, but other Government Departments pursue policies that make it difficult for authorities to maintain their housing programmes, social services and so on.

One can imagine the situation in town hall after town hall throughout the country, where local councillors, much abused by the press and the Government, have to decide whether to go along with poll tax capping and cuts in central Government funding, and whether they should cut expenditure on housing, social services, education, or the arts.

The Minister cannot wash his hands of those real decisions that local councillors must take. He should start telling his colleagues at the Department of the Environment that, if local authorities are to fund the arts, careful consideration should be given to the restraints imposed on them by central Government. The right hon. Gentleman cannot walk away from the hard set of choices that local authorities must take because of central Government action.

I return to the subject of the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, which is an excellent theatre under one of our best directors, Philip Hedley. Its budget largely comes from the London boroughs of Newham and Waltham Forest. The sum of £222,000 comes from Newham, £53,000 from the London borough grant scheme, £26,000 from Waltham Forest, and £262,000 from Greater London Arts. The increase in Newham's grant was about 9 per cent. It is the second most deprived local authority area in the whole country, according to the indices of the Department of the Environment. Newham has massive housing problems, but the council is desperately trying to save the Theatre Royal by keeping it open and making sure that it receives enough money to stage excellent productions. The council wants more than just a pat on the head from politicians and the Minister—it wants fairly substantial support.

When the Department of the Environment looks at the allocation of funds to Newham next year, I hope that it will hear from the Minister about the excellent work that the borough is doing, particularly in respect of the Theatre Royal, Stratford East.

That theatre tried hard to secure business sponsorship, to which we have no ideological objections. We will take money from anyone prepared to give it. Capitalist gold is as good as anyone else's gold in that respect. Wanting to maximise its income, the Theatre Royal appointed a full-time fundraiser to investigate business sponsorship. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) said, it is difficult to raise money in poor parts of the country. It is extremely difficult to do so in Newham and the rest of the east end. Businesses want to support the prestigious national companies and are not too interested in provincial theatres or those on the fringe of London, however good may be their productions.

I received today from Philip Hedley some of the comments that the Theatre Royal received when it tried to raise money among the local business community. They included, "New work might fail". The Theatre Royal stages eight new productions a year. Where does the Minister think they all come from? Where is all the innovation coming from? It is coming from theatres such as the Theatre Royal. Business people do not want to know that, or to be associated with a possible failure—but the arts must have the right to fail as well. That is part of innovation. One cannot always guarantee success. Because art is a matter of taste, today's failure might at another time be deemed a great success. There are plenty of examples of that throughout the arts.

Another comment was, "You are too controversial." The arts are meant to be challenging and controversial. One does not want people to sit there looking at something that is like a moving chocolate box top. Instead, one wants to stimulate, encourage and enthuse the audience or viewer. Of course the arts are controversial. A further comment was, Your audience is too mixed, and doesn't make a good target market. We in the east end are poor. That is one of the other reasons why a large number of black people patronise the Theatre Royal. It has one of the best mixed audiences in the country. That may not constitute an economically attractive audience to someone who views the arts as a way of getting money back on the investment that they make in the theatre.

One remark that I can attribute is that from the Midland bank. When asked to support the theatre, it replied: No, you do plays against Mrs. Thatcher. Oh, dear. That was the reason given by the Midland bank, which of course takes a politically partisan position.

The other attributable quote was from the London Docklands development corporation, which has so much Newham land. There is much wealth in the south of the borough, but little of it finds its way anywhere near my constituency. The LDDC replied: We are giving money to the National Theatre and not you because the people who go there"— meaning the National theatre— can afford our expensive flats down by the river. They wanted to sell some of the unsaleable flats that they could not sell because of the high interest rates caused by the Government's economic policy.

Those are the problems that we have had in the east end when we have tried to raise money through business sponsorship. Despite all that, the play that I am attending tonight, called "The Dragon Can't Dance"—which, incidentally, is a play by Earl Lovelace—is about a carnival in Trinidad where one of the sponsors tries to clean up the carnival. I do not know whether one of the business sponsors of tonight's production knows that.

I approached the London electricity board for some money. It said, "We have a pot of money for some good causes; what would you suggest?" I replied, "Give some money to the Theatre Royal." We had £4,500 from the LEB, and we were very pleased with that, but it was just a drop in the bucket—although we were prepared to take it. I want the Minister to be aware of exactly what is happening. I also want him to know that theatres such as the Theatre Royal have major problems trying to get money from the local authority and the local community.

The Minister has obtained some good money for the arts. I do not wish to sneer at his achievements in competition with other Ministers. He has done a good job—we know that because the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington hates him for it, which is why we must be on the right hon. Gentleman's side tonight. However, 0.3 per cent. of our national wealth is pathetic in comparison with, say, the 11.8 per cent. of our national wealth that we spend on defence. I want that peace dividend. I want the defence budget to be slashed right the way through, and I hope that a Labour Government will do that. We can then start investing the money in the finest form of investment, which is the creativity and the arts of our people.

8.1 pm

Mr. Andrew Hargreaves (Birmingham, Hall Green)

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the debate. I preface my remarks by declaring an interest as I once worked in the arts business as a fine arts auctioneer.

I am disappointed—as, I suspect, are some other hon. Members—with the timing of the debate. Once again, the arts have been relegated beneath an important football engagement. Nevertheless, the House should have its attention drawn to the importance of the arts as a sector and as an industry. I regret that there are not more Opposition Members present. They might have been pleased to reflect on the fact that the arts sector nationally has a turnover of more than £10 billion and represents more than 2.5 per cent. of all the spending on goods and services. That makes it comparable with such major industries as vehicles or, indeed, anything in Britain. With that in mind, it is extraordinary that the Labour party does not take more interest in it.

The arts give direct employment to almost half a million people, or 2.1 per cent. of the working population. Twenty-seven per cent. of all spending on tourism is specifically attributable to the arts, and £2.7 billion of all general consumer spending is specifically attributable to the pulling power of the arts. The arts is a major industry in this country and should be treated as such. I join hon. Members on both sides of the House in supporting the idea of promoting the ministerial post for the arts to a Cabinet appointment. It would do the arts an enormous service. The combination of an arts, heritage and tourism post within the Cabinet would make good sense.

No hon. Member would seriously argue against the social benefits of a thriving arts industry—not only are the arts an integral part of our national heritage and culture, the very spirit of the nation, but like sport they have the power to draw people and societies together. They can be a key element in the revitalisation of inner cities—as Birmingham, the city that I have the honour to represent, has rightly recognised—restoring civic pride and bringing public safety and live people, who spend back into our otherwise deserted central city streets. In the evenings, the strong cultural infrastructure is an economic asset to the business community and can assist cities such as Birmingham to attract conventions, conferences and businesses to the area, as well as to retain important business executives and talented people in the area. It is a tremendous advantage to any regional centre.

My right hon. Friend the Minister mentioned the work of Birmingham both in promoting its share of the 1 per cent. scheme, and in sponsoring the City of Birmingham symphony orchestra, in attracting the Sadler's Wells Royal ballet—now the Birmingham Royal ballet—and the D'Oyly Carte opera. I ask my right hon. Friend to give strong support to the idea of Birmingham becoming one of the first in the city of culture scheme leading up to the millennium. Birmingham would do that with great aplomb. The creation of a new environment for the symphony orchestra would enormously enhance the city's prestige and would support the moves that Birmingham has made in trying to improve its image and its significant patronage of the arts.

I join my hon. Friends in praising my right hon. Friend the Minister for recognising the importance of regional centres of culture. I ask him especially to recognise the importance of Birmingham as a regional centre of culture. When making a distinction between where funding should go, it is important that, however important the flagships to which the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) referred, the natural tendency of the Arts Council will always be to put funding in the direction of the major flagship, often leading to a paucity in other areas which are doing their best to encourage sponsorship in partnership with the private sector, as Birmingham is doing.

As I have worked as a fine arts auctioneer, a business involving the sale of art abroad, I would be interested in my right hon. Friend's comments—or he may communicate with me privately—on the possible conflict of interest between the necessities of freedom of goods and capital consequent upon 1992 and the possible loss to collections in Europe of major works of art which might otherwise be retained for the British nation. There is a grave danger of our being hoist by our own petard. We support the idea of the movement of capital and goods within the EEC, but we want to ensure that we retain our works of national importance in Britain. Can my right hon. Friend give further clarification as to what steps will be taken to ensure that we do not lose out in that tug of war?

Mr. Luce

Article 36 of the treaty of Rome makes it clear that each member country of the European Community should continue to carry out protection of its heritage in whatever way it wishes. That does not mean that there is no problem with movement through the frontier because there would be no control, but article 36 gives member states the right to continue protection policies in relation to their heritage.

Mr. Hargreaves

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for that clarification. I hope that the position that I have outlined will not materialise. If my right hon. Friend wishes to make a lasting, valuable contribution to the future of the arts in this country, he should try further to persuade his Treasury colleagues that a special relationship needs to be established between the state and the private sector in funding for the arts. There may be arguments about how much, where and when. Gift aid is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough. If we want to keep major works of art in this country and to improve our national art collections, we have to offer tax advantages to private as well as commercial sponsors.

There have been arguments about the way that has worked in the United States. I do not necessarily agree with some of the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) because I am not sure that they would necessarily benefit us. Some stronger formula has to be established in the relationship between the tax advantage to an individual in purchasing works of art for the nation and its availability to the nation thereafter. That is the only way we shall secure and keep valuable works of art in this country. I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister to press that point with Treasury Ministers. We need a structure for the future, which could be inflation-linked in terms of state contributions and tax set-offs. We must give priority to tax incentives for this purpose. I would not normally say that tax incentives are a good idea, but we must make an exception for charitable giving or donations to the arts and national heritage. I urge my right hon. Friend to press his Treasury colleagues on that point.

I join others in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Minister on the tremendous service that he has performed for the arts in the past five years. Before I became a Member, I knew from friends in the industry that my right hon. Friend had many friends in the arts world. They all recognise the debt that the arts owe him for his service.

8.11 pm
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

I know that the Minister plays an excellent role—I have always respected him—but, as I said in an intervention, he must be a little more incisive. A struggle must be made to get much more money for the arts. It is no good saying that money does not exist—of course it does.

I should like to comment on the important subject of whether we should charge an entrance fee for access to our great national museums and galleries. I have served on each of the three Select Committees on Education, Science and Arts. The latest Committee's first report on museums was a major one. We rampaged around the country to put the information together and split up to visit theatres, especially in Newcastle. Like the Labour party, I profoundly believe that there should be free access to our great galleries and museums, just as there has always been.

Occasionally, a charge must be made when important bygones from other countries are brought here—for example, when the British museum held its Egyptian exhibition. It could be proved that that exhibition paid off splendidly. There were great queues of people willing to pay large amounts of money. Labour Members are not attacking that practice. We know that it will continue.

When examining galleries, members of the Select Committee went to the Louvre and discussed entrance fees with its leading figures. Since Napoleon, the French have always paid entrance fees, so there is a great gap in their knowledge. The authorities do not know how many people are kept away because of the fees. The people who go into the great galleries change, so the authorities cannot form a correct conclusion. The Conservative majority on the Select Committee wanted the Committee to go to a place where people paid entrance fees. It would be wrong to generalise.

It is nauseating to talk about lack of money in this rich and powerful country. Labour Members believe that all the breast beating about poverty is nonsense. The coffers are filled with money as never before in our history. At least £100 million has come from North sea oil—a bonus that no other European country has had. The selling off of the family silver—the national assets—has brought in many billions of pounds. Those sources have provided a massive amount of money, yet the Government are prepared to charge people entrance fees for the first time.

During all our difficult periods in the past 200 years—slumps, immense poverty and wars—we have somehow managed to let people have free access to all our national treasures. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) pointed out that people wander into galleries to get out of the rain. If one takes a child into a great gallery on such an occasion, one may be convinced that the child will be bored, but the gallery may open the gates to tremendous enthusiasm for the exhibits. By excluding people from galleries, we are perhaps excluding them from culture and beauty for a long period of their lives. Most people can appreciate culture and beauty. Despite all the money at our disposal, as a percentage of gross national product we give to the arts and heritage only about half as much as Germany and France. The Swedes give three times as much as we do. The fact that we are low on that table is inexcusable. We must fight for more money.

I have referred previously to the mess at the Victoria and Albert museum. I went into the great Raphael cartoon gallery, which is miserable just because of lack of money but which houses some of the noblest works that humankind has produced. It was dark and looked almost tawdry. It is not fitting for a great nation. No matter how much we praise the Minister—I know of his integrity and honesty—as a nation we must go more deeply into this matter and realise the damage that we are doing by advocating payment to enter our great galleries and museums.

The three Select Committees on Education, Science and Arts have never before failed to achieve consensus. Although members of the Committee disagreed, we never parted company on issues and never presented a minority report—except on this matter, on which we took a stand. I know that as one who drafted the minority report and struggled for it. We were defeated all the way through by five to four.

Mr. Cormack

Not in 1981.

Mr. Flannery

No, not in 1981. The hon. Gentleman knows that if I had my way he would have been Chairman of that Select Committee after Chris Price went.

Charging cannot be separated from the regime under which we live. The Government talk about law and order, but they have spawned more crime as a result of the get-rich-quick mentality and, to some extent, have so corrupted us that we should even consider making admission charges. When charges were first made in Wales, attendances at the national museum of Wales dropped by 85 per cent.

Those in favour of making charges try to play down the number of people who are discouraged from attending museums and galleries, and the quality of the people who are discouraged. Research shows that those people tend to be visitors to London, probably a mother and father and two children. The Victoria and Albert museum put up a sign inviting voluntary contributions. I watched people read it and then go away. It is no good anybody saying that that did not happen. People either thought, "I am not paying" or "I will have to pay", but they still turned away. Attendances fell by 40 per cent. after that sign went up and the museum has hardly recovered—it is in grave difficulty. I think that Roy Strong led the opposition to voluntary charges at the Victoria and Albert, but he capitulated. We are slipping up badly by excluding so many people.

Some members of the Select Committee did not think that they were doing anything untoward when they decided that the issue was so important that they had to issue a minority report. The great Tory leader, Sir Robert Peel, decided that museums should be free. Speaking in 1832—the Victoria and Albert opened in 1824—he said that he wanted it to be free because many people did not have access to beauty whereas the wealthy had big houses and could buy their own pictures. I know that times have changed, but none the less this is part of our education system. If we take action which militates against people going into our—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I regret to have to call the hon. Gentleman to order, but his 10 minutes have passed.

Mr. Flannery

I have made my points. I would have liked to develop them further, but I shall leave the matter there.

8.22 pm
Mr. Gerald Bowden (Dulwich)

I should like to take the opportunity of this debate to focus attention on the environment and the threat to the heritage—our architectural and art heritage—and the artefacts that form part of it.

The hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) drew attention to loopholes in the planning legislation, which tried to introduce safeguards to stop developers intruding on part of our national heritage. The planning provisions are frequently being circumvented not only in the way mentioned by the hon. Gentleman but in ways that are not so readily realised.

In recent months, we have seen attempts by large public bodies such as British Rail to avoid the statutory provisions protecting listed buildings. The now notorious clause 19 of the King's Cross Railways Bill attempted to oust the normal planning provisions safeguarding listed buildings. That issue should be brought to the attention of hon. Members who are concerned about protecting and safeguarding our architectural heritage. I have no doubt that when the Committee considering the King's Cross Railways Bill reports it will draw attention to that.

I should like to draw to hon. Members' attention three further Bills that are based on that point—the London Underground Bill, the London Underground (Safety Measures) Bill and the Midland Metro Bill. Someone has noticed the loophole in the legislation and, by clever draftsmanship, is attempting to avoid the proper statutory provisions that the House passed to protect listed buildings.

I understand that there may be good and innocent reasons for the inclusion of clause 19. Although it does not appear to affect a listed building, it fails to take account of the fact that after the Bill has been deposited the line of the route may be changed, perhaps posing a threat to buildings. The clause is too clever by half, and we should exercise our constitutional duty to object to it on principle to ensure that it is not included in the Bill. When those other Bills are considered by the House, there will be an opportunity to sound the siren and to ensure that parliamentary draftsmen and agents recognise the threat.

The answer is to have early consultation with English Heritage to allow it to discuss with any potential developer or promoter of private Bills what is or is not acceptable. Hon. Members who observed the disgraceful way in which English Heritage was barred from making any representations about the King's Cross Bill will recognise how important that is. It was only on the insistence of members of the Committee that English Heritage was given a hearing. It is disgraceful that the promoters of a private Bill, whether it be a public body such as British Rail or a private developer, should be able to oust, for private gain, the statutory provisions for protecting our heritage. I hope that the reforms of the private Bill procedure will close that loophole.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Hargreaves) and the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) mentioned the protection of our movable heritage—arts and artefacts that can be moved from this country. My hon. Friends the Members for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) and for Wimbledon (Dr. Goodson-Wickes) and I spent this morning at the Wallace collection. It struck a chord when the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne implied that from now on there should be no export of art from the country where it was domiciled. Over the years, the magnificent Wallace collection has been gathered from all parts of the world, particularly France, but it is now domiciled in London. It would be regrettable if, in ensuring that those important aspects of our national heritage remain here, we were so to stultify and to place such rigid controls on the art market that there was no free flow of works of art on the continent of Europe. Only by allowing certain works of art to flow freely will we achieve that European feeling which should be engendered by the treaty of Rome.

It is interesting that the treaty foresaw the possibility of such a provision by trying to strike a balance between the free flow of works of art among Community countries while recognising that certain works of art belong so intrinsically to the country of origin that they are part of the national heritage.

That is why we should be careful about making any changes to the Waverley criteria. As my right hon. Friend the Minister said, those criteria have served us well in many ways by ensuring that we keep in this country that which should be here while not inhibiting the art market—an international market based in London, which contributes much to our national economy and which should be allowed to continue to flourish here. The art market attracts clients and brings with it spin-off benefits to our hotels and restaurants as well as our performing arts. The dealers, buyers and clients do not spend all their time in the sale room; they participate in other aspects of our national culture that contribute much to our lives. The insurance market and our fiscal provisions ensure that other contributions flow from that market.

I wish to query the proposals advanced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, which appear to affect the existing controls on the arts trade and what a seller may sell beyond the shores of this country. I understood that the position had in part been clarified earlier in the debate and that the proposition was that if a work of art for which an export licence was sought was already on public view it would remain on public view thereafter. However, I am still not entirely clear what my right hon. Friend intended and what the implications were.

There is a further point on which I seek clarification. If a private individual bids to buy a work of art at the export price, can that sale be effected during a museum's public appeal in connection with the purchase of that work? There appears to be some uncertainty about that.

Suppose that we have restrictions that are too tight. The right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne mentioned Italy, where the rigidity of the rules should ensure a static home for the works of art in that country. But that has the unfortunate consequence of a great deal of smuggling and a lively black market in works of art from Italy. We must ensure that that does not happen here if we tighten the restrictions in one direction or another.

When a private purchaser purchases a work of art for which an export licence has been refused and which has been retained in this country, should there be a time limit on a further application for an export licence? If that remains unclarified, we may create a speculators' charter: people may buy works of art and keep them for a short speculative period before seeking a further export licence.

I felt that I should sound a siren signal about these matters this evening and I hope that we shall receive some clarification of them.

8.32 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

During his interesting and forthcoming speech, the Minister referred to 1992 and the review committee. I do not threaten; I merely say, in the nicest possible way, that in November we may have yet another Adjournment debate—although, it is to be hoped, not at 3.30 am. The export and movement of works of art is a very important subject and the debate may be linked with my constituent, Lizzie from East Kirkton in Bathgate, who is a 340-million-year old reptile.

I address my remarks to the Minister for the Environment and Countryside, who is to wind up the debate, because our debate also concerns heritage. On 28 June, I asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he would publish the report, Strategic Roll-Forward Submission 1991–92, prepared by PE International plc of Egham concerning the Nature Conservancy Council". The Minister replied:

This report is a management document commissioned to assist the NCC in preparing its proposed forward plans. It is not suitable for publication. In line with past practice, the Nature Conservancy Council's corporate plan for 1990–91 will be published later this summer."—[Official Report, 28 June 1990; Vol. 175, c. 316.] As I understand it, the report exposes the way in which the NCC's permanent staffing level has been artificially depressed over the years. At present, the organisation's permanent staff complement is just over 800. That figure is artificially set by the Government, and bears little relation to the number of staff actually required to carry out the organisation's statutory functions. As a result, the NCC now employs an astonishing 400 temporary staff, at least half of whom are doing jobs that are permanent in all but name.

The report shows that the aggregate number of permanent staff required by the new bodies if they are to operate at the present—the NCC—level of output will be almost 1,200. That is no less than 50 per cent. above the current figure employed by the NCC. The report said that staffing levels required to deliver the enhanced conservation which it is believed will be essential to tackle issues within the decade to come"— in other words, what is actually needed to do the job properly—will involve an increase of more than 100 per cent. in permanent staff, from 810 to 1,652.

As a Scottish Member of Parliament, I am perhaps more entitled than anyone to ask whether the break-up of the NCC is really sensible and what it will cost. I think that it was done for the worst possible internal Scottish reasons. Now that the bill has been presented, and in terms of efficency, I seek some comment on that.

On museums, I want to register my sadness at the admission figures for the science museum. In 1983, there were 4,784,000 admissions. In 1984, the figure was 4,510,000. In 1985, it was 4,607,000. In 1986, it was 4,824,000. In 1987, it was 4,732,000. For years, it was just under the 5 million mark. But in 1988, the figure fell to 3,861,000 and in 1989 to 2,607,000. Is that what museum charges have done? The sense of wonder experienced by the very young on a visit to the science museum—either with school parties or with their parents—is of value.

I come now to the natural history museum. I am not saying just that palaeontology is important for its own sake, which it is. The lessons of the past tell a chilling tale about the warming of the future. I do not think that anyone outside the natural history museum—in Government or in the universities—is producing the long-term data that we need in some areas. Global climate change has occurred before, but not at the rate at which the earth's climate seems to be shifting today. It is crucial to be able to look at the past to understand the present trends in climate change. Only from that knowledge can successful strategies for dealing with future changes come. Scholars at the natural history museum are not engaged in some hypothetical calculation of what might happen; they are observing that actually happened. Incidentally, I am speaking from nobody's brief. I am expressing my view, distilled from visits and from conversations with other scientists.

An uphill battle is being fought in Kensington and the Smithsonian, but the appreciation of what earth system history can offer is better than it was a year ago. Earth system history is the study of the geological and historical record. Fossils can be used to test predictions of global climate models. They can be used to assess changes in diversity and ecological structure. Museum scientists are piecing together clues about ancient ecosystems. For example, uniquely in the world as far as I know, Kensington and the Smithsonian are pioneering palaeoecology and are pulling together data from all over the world as part of the evolution of the terrestrial ecosystems programme. The data lets us see the patterns in changing ecosystems and is the basis for assessing how the current global change will affect life on earth. That is topical and important now.

I want to ask certain precise questions. If palaeobotany was cut, as proposed in the corporate plan, what would happen to research on the unique Jurassic rain forest flora of Yorkshire? That question has climate and rain forest connections. I hope that that will be one of the questions that the Minister will put to Sir Walter Bodmer when he sees him.

The Minister might also ask Sir Walter, if palaeobotany is cut as proposed in the corporate plan, what will happen to research and collaboration with Spanish colleagues on climatic changes in the Permian period based on world wide distribution of plants? The Permian period was about 220 million years ago and followed a period of extensive glaciation. This present period today follows extensive glaciation, and research on the Permian period is highly relevant to what might happen in the future.

The Minister has drawn attention to an increase in Government funding for the natural history museum of 12.8 per cent. in real terms over the past 10 years. For the running costs as opposed to building costs, which is the only component at all relevant to the museum's scientific work, the figure for 1979–80 in present day terms was £14.062 million and for 1989–90 was £14.069 million. How can it therefore be claimed that Government expenditure on science has risen at all significantly?

If the Minister meets Sir Walter Bodmer, I hope that he will meet representatives of the Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists. That is important.

I received a letter from Professor Boulter of the International Organisation of Palaeobotany. He wrote: At our recent meeting in Frankfurt am Main it was noted that:

  1. 1 fossil plants are the source of oil, bituminous coal and browncoal
  2. 2 there is growing international concern about the effects of these fossils on the world environment
  3. 3 eastern Europe relies heavily on browncoal for energy and this has caused very bad pollution after 40 years of irresponsibility. Our view is that the study of fossil plants is a central part of the scientific investigations needed on the effect of fossil fuels on the international environment."
Professor Boulter was writing on behalf of his executive committee.

I have a letter from the Soviet Union which states: Soviet Palaeobotanists constantly apply to the Palaeobotany Section of the Natural History Museum for help. Only in 1989–90 two of us were specially sent on a mission to the Section for the study of stored collections. That was a long letter about the museum's value in Russia.

I have another letter to Sir Walter Bodmer from Frankfurt which states: This international meeting of some 120 palaeobotanists from 25 countries wishes to urge upon you and your fellow trustees our deep concern.

Madam Deputy Speaker


Mr. Dalyell

I have made my point.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Thank you. I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. It is obvious that three more hon. Members wish to speak. We must begin the winding-up speeches at 9.30 pm. I will now relax the time limit. However, I hope that those hon. Members I call will use their common sense and divide the time reasonably sensibly among themselves.

8.43 pm
Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). Once again, he characteristically asked the kind of precise questions that invariably send Parliamentary Private Secretaries scurrying to the Box to find the answers. I am glad to state that this evening the only reason why the PPS scurried out was to confirm that the score between England and Germany was 1:1. That was indeed good news.

I subscribe to the view that the pent-up passion, venom and invective that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) inflicted on us was hollow, slightly phoney and did not really ring true from such a thoroughly nice guy. It seemed to be an attempt by a decent person to placate the left wing of his party. The hon. Gentleman spent much of his time pouring scorn on the Government's policy, but he had little to say about the policies of a Labour Government if they were ever to be elected. He simply said that there would be a return to centralised state direction. There would be little freedom of choice.

Mr. Fisher

Obviously the hon. Gentleman was not listening to my three substantial commitments—an integrated ministry, a statutory responsibility on local authorities and a cross-departmental cultural policy. All those are novel and very far reaching. The most important and significant of those proposals was a statutory responsibility on local authorities. Far from being a centralised plan, that is a development of cultural and arts policy that grows up from the roots of our society differently in every area and district of our society. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge his mistake. It is the opposite of a central, top down system—it is a bottom up system.

Mr. Colvin

That is not good enough. It is a well-known trick in this place for hon. Members to say the exact opposite of what are really the facts. Under Labour, there would be centralised direction and little freedom of choice.

That somewhat out-dated socialist dogma on the arts is extraordinary when we consider what has been happening in eastern Europe. In eastern Europe the people who have been prominent in bringing about the reforms which we are all delighted to see have been prominent in the arts world. Those people have taken the lead in rejecting the centralised dogma which the hon. Gentleman is trying to put forward as Labour party policy. Those people in eastern Europe believe that freedom of choice is important. The arts world and the Conservative party believe that it is important, but the Labour party does not share that view.

It seems to be a long time since my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts and I sat together in his office the morning after his appointment in 1985.

Mr. Buchan

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Colvin

On this subject?

Mr. Buchan

Yes, I think so. I am a slow thinker so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me.

The hon. Gentleman was talking about freedom of choice. Can we distinguish between the freedom of choice of someone living in a cardboard box under Waterloo bridge and Peter Palumbo when it comes to choosing who will get to the Royal Opera house?

Mr. Colvin

That is an irrelevant question, although it may be relevant to a debate about homelessness such as we had yesterday. It is not a relevant question for an arts debate, although I take the hon. Gentleman's point.

As I was saying, I sat in my right hon. Friend the Minister's office the morning after he became Minister trying to find encouraging press cuttings about his appointment. I shall not embarrass my right hon. Friend by recalling some of the comments. The Daily Telegraph, which normally gets things right, said that my right hon. Friend had a liking for jazz, which was all very well, but it was hardly a qualification for handling the multi-million pound arts budget or the people involved in the arts. One of the problems in the arts world is that we seem to have to contend with as many prima donnas off stage as on stage.

My right hon. Friend the Minister was no artist when he was first appointed, but I gather that he has now taken up his paintbox. I am delighted to know that. He was a diplomat with distinguished service in the Foreign Office. Obviously, that diplomacy has worked in the arts. We now see how wrong all those press reports were. My right hon. Friend is the longest serving Minister for the Arts and has earned credit from all hon. Members and others who are interested in the arts. He has managed to deliver more money, much more encouragement and, what is more, better management through the three-year rolling programme of funding that he was able to introduce. He has given a lead, and the arts world has responded.

Much has been said about the amount that the Government are now spending. I shall not reiterate remarks about the 48 per cent. increase, and so on, but that is good news. However, it raises the point that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central raised when he got at me for suggesting in a question the other day that Conservative Members are still regarded as philistine. That sent me off to the Library to try to confirm what I had meant. We probably use the term philistine too often. I was able to confirm that Matthew Arnold first coined and popularised the phrase about those who opposed innovations in the arts. That is hardly a description of the Conservative party's arts policy.

The Chambers encyclopaedia stated that the Philistines were an aggressive, militant people, highly civilised and bearers of agriculture and commerce. That description comes slightly closer to myself. Matthew Arnold, in his analysis of society, divided society into aristocrats, the middle classes and the people. He referred to the aristocrats as barbarians, the middle classes as philistines—I suppose that all hon. Members would be in that category—and the people as just the populace.

Leslie Stephen probably got it right when he said: Philistine—A term of contempt applied by prigs to the rest of their species. We want to hear no more about Philistines.

Mr. Fisher

You raised it.

Mr. Colvin

I shall not raise it again—I promise.

There is a popular misconception that Labour Members are big spenders on the arts and that Conservative Members are tight-fisted. Socialist Governments tend to be big spenders, but usually on the wrong things. Conservative Governments, through good management and caution, have created the climate in which people are encouraged to invest their money and, in return, make profits on which they pay taxes. Therefore, more general national wealth is created and there is more out of which to fund an additional arts policy. That is precisely what has happened under this Government and under the stewardship of my right hon. Friend the Minister.

I now refer to a matter that has been touched on by only one other hon. Member—the role of local government in the arts. Support and funding for the arts is a plural business. Central Government spend a lot. Consumer spending is probably the biggest component of spending on the arts. Sponsorship—private and commercial—is also important. Funnily enough, however, local government spends more on the arts than the national Government do. That has always been so, although it is extremely difficult to analyse and put a precise figure on it.

Local government arts spending depends on supportive county, district and sometimes even parish councils creating the right environment. They have a great deal to do. They are probably closest to the grass roots and are able to target expenditure. There is no doubt that, in targeting expenditure, we often improve the quality of expenditure rather than the quantity. With the introduction of the community charge, local authorities will be far more accountable to their electorates, so it will be interesting to see the effect on present local authority art budgets and expenditure.

I have referred to plural funding. A local council often takes the initiative and is the catalyst which provides the pump-priming money that gets other things happening locally, but it is usually supported by its regional arts authority. It gives the stamp of approval to the local effort and helps other providers of resources to rally round, particularly at local level. Business sponsors have much to do and often finish up as the underwriters of local arts endeavours. They rather than local government become the funders of last resort. I do not think that it is right that councils should pick up the tab when there are failures.

An important role for local government is to help with the local arts infrastructure. That would leave artists to their own artistic endeavours. Local councils can often do that in kind rather than in cash. They can help with office overheads by providing, say, a room in a local museum for an arts director from which to operate, some rent-free accommodation, car park spaces for staff, and so on. Silly little things such as that can mean so much when a small artistic movement is afoot. Local directors' salaries could be paid by a local authority. The important thing is that local authorities must put the arts on their agendas, but they often do not. Too many local authorities have no arts policies and no arts strategies.

Mr. Fisher

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on a most unusual speech. I absolutely concur with him. It is a long time since hon. Members have heard a Conservative Back-Bench Member speak persuasively and passionately in favour of local authorities and the arts. Do I take it that he supports my point? Does he support a statutory responsibility on local authorities for developing arts policies and for making arts provisions at a local level in response to local needs? That is the Labour party's policy. May we take it that the hon. Gentleman supports it?

Mr. Colvin

I am a firm believer in voluntarism rather than compulsion. I am a firm believer in freedom of choice and in the voice of the electorate. If people in a locality want more to be done about the arts, they will bring pressure to bear on their councillors because, thanks to the introduction of the community charge, their councillors are now much more accountable to the electors than ever before. That is how we shall see things happen. It should not be the heavy hand of Government saying to the local authorities, "You will do that," because in the past central Government have spent too much time saying to local government, "You will do this and you will do that," but have then not provided the wherewithal to enable the local councils to do what central Government have instructed them to do. Therefore, although I totally reject the hon. Gentleman's whole philosophy, we nevertheless agree about the importance of local government taking a lead in local arts endeavours.

The expansion of the arts in the regions, which was originally envisaged in the "Glory of the Garden" strategy, is all about developments outside the London arts hothouse. However, in welcoming my right hon. Friend's decisions on the Wilding review, my own regional arts association, Southern Arts, has said that it believes that "improved resources" will be the "acid test" of my right hon. Friend's reforms. Southern Arts has stated that it has

consistently received less grant per head of population from the Arts Council than any other RAA—43p per head in 1990–91 against a national average of 69p". It continued: This anomaly arises from the historic basis on which the Arts Council funds the RAA's and is acknowledged both in the Wilding Review and, more recently, in the National Audit Office report on government arts funding. Southern arts believes that a determined effort must be made now to correct imbalances and to rationalise the allocation of funds to the new Regional Arts Boards as part of the implementation of the Minister's reforms. I concur with that. However, one must note that the Arts Council's grants to the regional arts authorities have doubled in real terms since 1979 and now stand at £33 million.

The House will ask why, if the regional arts associations—Southern Arts, for example—are so starved of money, the arts in my county of Hampshire are booming. The answer is that some very good initiatives have been taken by the local authorities. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts has been to my constituency and seen one such initiative in Romsey, where the Romsey amateur operatic and dramatic society has done great things to establish a theatre and now has a thriving triennial arts festival under the chairmanship of the redoubtable Mrs. Pam Gale. My right hon. Friend then visited Andover, where I live, and saw what has been done by the Andover arts festival, which is now in its sixth year, under the direction of Mr. Digby Littlewood. Both those arts festivals have received some help from Test Valley borough council, which has now begun to develop an arts strategy for the whole district.

Those are just two examples of what is happening nationwide. There are now more than 600 arts festivals nationwide which have a professional performing element, and many thousands of others are run on an amateur basis.

In conclusion, I remind the House that the latest edition of "Social Trends" stated:

Writers, artists and intellectuals—professionals not generally reckoned friendly towards Mrs. Margaret Thatcher—have been the biggest beneficiaries of her years in power… Compared with other groups they saw their real earnings increase between 1979 and 1986 by nearly 30 per cent. During the last Labour government, their earnings fell. Does that say it all? No, it does not. The real beneficiaries are those whom we represent—what Matthew Arnold called the "populace". When we say that life is better under the Conservatives, we mean that the quality of life is better. It is the flowering of the arts under this Government that has done so much to improve that quality and to enrich people's lives.

9.3 pm

Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate. I did not expect to be in the House today, but I had to come down because of this debate on the arts. I am afraid that I shall leave the House for a week or so immediately afterwards.

I want to add to the paean of praise that has been given to the Minister. I have grown to be very fond of the right hon. Gentleman and I like him. He has done his very best for the arts in this country. He has listened to what has been said in some of our policy documents and he has borrowed from them. I praise him for that. The difficulty is that he cannot operate a sole hand. He is a relatively progressive Minister in a philistine Government—if I may be forgiven for using the word "philistine". That has been his problem. However, we must congratulate him on what he has achieved against the background of an appalling Government. Instead of being able to say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: you have led the country forward", I believe that the Minister has been more of a bulwark to prevent the development of philistinism than being in the vanguard and leading us forward.

Perhaps it is the nature of his job in the Government, but I am afraid that the Minister has had to follow some of their ideological characteristics. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) said that he could not consider the introduction of charges for museums and galleries to be separate from the prevailing ethos of the Government. He is quite right and history bears him out.

The first time that we introduced charges for national galleries since the war was when the present Prime Minister was Secretary of State for Education. She did not really understand what we were talking about. I was the shadow spokesman for Scotland, but on that issue I also dealt with England and Wales. I remember the Minister for the Arts, Lord Eccles—who Lord Crawford and Balcarres always described as "Lord Shekels"—being reported as saying that Mr. Buchan apparently would like us to go into museums and galleries to get out of the rain. I replied that I could not think of a better place to shelter from the rain than a museum or art gallery.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough was entirely right, and his point was scientifically endorsed by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) who spoke about the importance of palaeontology in defending the natural history museum. He spoke about the palaeontologists currently working in the natural history museum, but I am concerned about future palaeontologists.

I do not believe that any kid wakes up one day and says, "When I grow up I want to be a palaeontologist". That does not happen, but what can happen is that a kid goes to a museum and asks his dad, "What is that?" and his dad says, "That is a fossil. It is millions of years old." That might spark the youngster to become a palaeontologist. None of us knows what sparks off a child's interest and what adds to a young person's enthusiasm. It is a crime to put up a barrier to the accidental encountering of experience and knowledge, and it is monstrous that we should have encouraged and developed the habit of charging for museums and galleries. It is as bad as insisting on payment for education. At the moment that is only for the privileged. Let them have that privilege, but I hope that none of us today would argue that all children who attend school should pay a contribution. At least we have got past that. However, the Government have broken into that principle and we have seen the result. If we charged for education, half the kids would not get to school. Attendances have halved since the introduction of museum and gallery charges.

Mr. Flannery

My hon. Friend has made an important point. When the Minister spoke about freedom of choice, I used the example of an ordinary family coming to London and having to pay about £12 to get into a museum. That is not freedom of choice. If they do not have the money to do that they are excluded from education.

Mr. Buchan

That is an illustration of the problems that the Minister faces in dealing with the Government. He has learnt from his time in Government and from the people he has met and had discussions with over the years. Everyone seems to be in a valedictory mood. I hope that does not mean anything. I cannot imagine us getting a better Minister for the Arts out of the present Tory Government, so I hope that there was not too much valediction in the air. I hope that he sticks with it.

The Minister had three interesting things to say about the arts that I was delighted to hear. First, he mentioned freedom of speech. He should watch his back. If he keeps on saying such things he might be out on his ear very quickly. It has never been more true or more important now that there is increasing monopolisation and contraction of independent voices in the printed word. Three people now control more than 80 per cent. of the national press in Britain. There is not much freedom of speech there when only three people determine it. Incidentally, five people control 94 per cent. of the Sunday and daily national press. It is an appalling form of monopoly.

The arts, and broadcasting is one of the arts, matter because they are one of the bulwarks which support independence of communication. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) was talking about the theatre at Stratford in east London and defending the often anti-establishment plays that are produced there as an antidote to the monopoly of communication by a few people in the press. I endorse his view that the arts are, above all, a weapon for freedom of expression. As the Minister said, it is no accident that some of the movements in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union have been led by the liberal intellectuals of the period—by writers and poets.

Shelley said that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. A Scotsman said the same earlier and I am very fond of the quotation—hon. Members may remember my quoting it before. Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun said: If a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws". The arts—created by the singer, writer, dramatist and novelist—help to create a mood in which communication can take place. That is why, with the present press monopoly, the arts are so important.

When the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) talks his philistine gibberish, he demonstrates that he has not got over the threshold of understanding what we are talking about.

The second matter that the Minister referred to was excellence. Again, he surprised me, and I welcomed that, because he meant excellence not merely in the sense of performance ability, but in the sense of the ability to participate and appreciate. He recognised that we are dealing with a much wider spectrum than mere centres of excellence—a pretty awful term to use because it compartmentalises. The third aspect was the importance of availability and accessibility of the arts. I welcome the three important points that the Minister raised, and I do not imagine that any of his hon. Friends, with the possible exception of the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), could have made them.

I challenge what the Minister said about funding, as I have done before—and I still think that I am right. There has not been a major step forward. The last award, which came in the autumn, meant a 12.9 per cent. increase on last year's grant of £155 million to the Arts Council—to £175 million this year. However, the previous year, the update had been only 3.7 per cent. So the combined increase last year and the year before adds up to only 16.6 per cent., which is barely above the rate of inflation. In 1990–91 and 1991–92 the increase will be 4.5 per cent. and 3.8 per cent. respectively, but inflation is now running at 9.7 per cent., so the award will drop below the level of inflation.

I think that the Minister has heard of my argument for a three-year rolling programme and I remember that he criticised me for criticising the three-year uplift, on the grounds that I had argued for the same idea. But what I meant by a rolling programme was that each year one should fix a three-year rolling programme. One should not say in 1970, "This is the funding for the next three years." One should say, "This is the percentage increase over the next three years" and in the following year give the figures for the next five years, with the third year's figure changed if one wished. That way we would all know and anyone working on a project would know that they were getting a sum, indexed against inflation, for three years so that they could plan ahead. Such a three-year grant would mean that activities would not be cut short in midstream.

If we adopted this system, and each year the percentage was shifted—perhaps we could write in a safeguard that the figures could not be cut by more than x per cent. in the third year—we would be giving some guarantees to the arts. That would not be much more expensive, but it would prevent this continual rundown and jolting, and planning could take place.

That is why I am anxious about what is happening to the museums and galleries. They are in a worse state than the Minister understands. For last year and this year a total of 15 per cent.—an average of 7.5 per cent.—has been provided. That is below the rate of inflation. But for 1990–91 and 1991–92 the figures are 4.9 per cent. and 4.7 per cent. respectively. There has therefore been no great leap forward in the protection of our museums and galleries, unless there has been a sudden shift that I do not know of. We still have a major crisis in the condition of our major national museums and galleries.

The Minister referred to broadcasting as being part of our arts. The Broadcasting Bill has been brought in by his colleagues in other Departments and has not helped in terms of quality and excellence that he referred to; nor has it helped in terms of the independence of communications. One person has been exempted from the restrictions of the Broadcasting Bill—Rupert Murdoch. Everyone else has faced restrictions in terms of nationality, and in the holdings that a newspaper proprietor may have. The Government have created a new class called non-domestic broadcasting by satellite, in which he is the only substantial proprietor and owner, so he will be exempted. That is what lunch at Chequers at Christmas has brought about. Good luck to him with the Prime Minister.

The hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor)—the Minister of State, Home Department—said that he recognised that the Broadcasting Bill would bring the service a notch or two below public service standards. The proposed new chairman of the Commission for Independent Television—George Russell—says that it will be equivalent to about 80 per cent. of the value of existing public service broadcasting. We are in for a tawdry future, and we cannot expect the best of public service broadcasting to continue to protect us against the monopoly and tawdriness of so much of our press.

The Minister has been helpful and generous in regard to Glasgow. Many of us pushed alongside him for Glasgow to be established as the European centre of culture for 1990, and we welcome that decision. There has been a substantial response in Glasgow. There have been more than 2,000 different events this year in Glasgow; there have been 15 different festivals, including Mayfest, the international jazz festival, the choral festival, the European early music festival, the folk festival—in which I am involved—the literary prize, the festival of Jewish culture, the women's festival and others. There has been an astonishing amount of activity. There have been 300 exhibitions, including those on Degas, Pissaro, Henry Moore, Stephen Campbell, Ken Curry, and contemporary work from Europe. There have been 1,200 different performances, and 1,000 local projects in schools, churches, synagogues, mosques and so on. Some 52 galleries have been used for exhibitions, and 38 venues have been used for performances in the city.

Much of that success will not depend only on the increases in ticket sales—which have been considerable; they are double last year's. Much of it will depend on what permanent developments come out of the events and exhibitions. We know that we will have the concert hall, and the development of the Tramway theatre.

As it happens, I was talking about the city of culture before the city of culture started. Discussions took place in a certain lady's flat in Athens, when we discussed the matter before she, Melina Mercouri, ever came forward with the concept. I was involved at the beginning—at the basement level—and was against it. My wife was for it, as was Melina Mercouri, and it was the latter who told me that we could not do it without Government funding. Although initially no Government funding was brought forward, there has now been £500,000.

These are the figures. Glasgow district council has put in £7.5 million, and Strathclyde regional council £12 million. Private sector sponsorship accounts for £4.5 million—that is about a fifth of the public sponsorship—and the Office of Arts and Libraries has put in only £500,000. It was not good enough that that decision of almost no Government support should have been made. I am grateful that the Minister managed to squeeze £500,000 out of this mean Government, but it is not sufficient.

There has been controversy in Glasgow about the arts, which I welcome, although I dislike the cause of this particular controversy: the appointment of a new keeper of social history in Glasgow. It is appalling that the present incumbent, Elspeth King, was not appointed. It has caused great dispute in Glasgow. I know of nothing like it. Those who say that the arts do not matter should look at the controversy that has been let loose in Glasgow. The Glasgow Herald has received more letters about the appointment of the new keeper of social history in Glasgow than on any other subject, including the poll tax. There have been more letters on the subject than were received even as a result of the letter writing campaigns that I or others initiated—for example, on peace. The response has been astonishing.

A new keeper has been appointed, but the leaders of Glasgow city council should redefine the job. The new keeper should be made responsible for outreach and development work in schools. Miss King, however, should remain in post to continue the brilliant work that she has done during the past 15 years on developing the people's palace in Glasgow as a palace of some fame in social history. It is known throughout Britain. I discovered a few months ago that it is also known in Australia, where Miss King has given a lead to other people on similar developments. Her role should be enhanced and she should be allowed to continue her work. Old hands here will recognise why I am using this opportunity to comment on what has happened to Miss King.

9.21 pm
Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)

I am grateful, having sat through last year's arts debate and this one, to have been given a chance to reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks). My region spends the highest amount per head on the arts in England, so it is a shock to listen to my hon. Friend underrating the value of the arts. He puts me in mind of Goldsmith, who said: When they talk'd of their Raphaels, Correggios, and stuff, He shifted his trumpet, and only took snuff. In 1818 Victor Cousin coined the phrase "art for art's sake" while lecturing at the Sorbonne. It is sad that so often the arts are attacked as a drain on a society that is already hard pressed to provide the quantity and quality of services that are demanded by the modern consumer of the welfare state. It has also meant a reformulation of the value of the arts in society, a process which has been going on continuously since the establishment of the Office of Arts and Libraries and the Arts Council. In the last 10 years, however, the arts have flourished. The new funding arrangements—particularly the partnerships with private sponsors and local government—have led to refinements of the arguments for the arts and their role in society.

I wish to examine two particular areas in my contribution to the debate. First, I applaud the part that the arts are playing in the process of urban regeneration. I know that the Minister who is to reply to the debate has an interest in that subject. Secondly, I urge further encouragement of the arts as part of the productive society.

In 1987, our first pledge as a Government was to tackle the very serious problems of declining inner cities. The issue, some might say, has gone off the political agenda, but to my mind—representing, as I do, one of the areas concerned—it cannot go away until the problem is solved. That is what we are in the process of doing through the urban development corporations in Teesside, Tyneside, Trafford, the black country and elsewhere. These projects have achieved the most significant success where they have incorporated the arts.

The most dramatic transformation has already been alluded to by the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) and others. Glasgow—this year's European city of culture—started with its "miles better" campaign and followed it up with the opening of the Burrell collection and the cleaning of its principal buildings. Critics might argue that the arts have no economic use, but when I visited Glasgow earlier this year, specifically to see the Burrell collection, I was impressed by the great range of cultural activities that were taking place, the many other good quality museums that were available and the obvious prosperity that tourism had generated.

Bradford is another surprise for the outsider. It has made startling progress centring around the "city of entertainment", which includes the national museum of photography, film and television and the Alhambra theatre, which has recently been restored. They are soon to be joined by the Indian collection of the Victoria and Albert museum.

In Liverpool, the northern Tate opened to receive 300,000 visitors in its first three months. I was particularly struck by the people of Birmingham's pride in their orchestra when I visited there on Saturday. I am told that theatres in Birmingham are packed every weekend and that Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham symphony orchestra are held out by the ordinary people of Birmingham as the centrepiece of the city's culture, even though many of those boasting about that might never have been to a performance.

There is no doubt that the arts are a major revenue earner and employer. The Myerscough report said that 2.1 per cent. of the population work in the arts while tourists account for 42 per cent. of attendances at arts events in London. Tourism with an arts ingredient is worth £3.1 billion a year or 25 per cent. of total tourist earnings.

The Washington-based Urban Land Institute drew particular attention to the way in which arts can put the heart back into inner cities. It said:

A healthy central core—economically strong, lively at all hours, activity oriented, pedestrian focussed, containing a rich mixture of uses—now is perceived as key to the vigor of the city as a whole. A variety of economic and social forces have combined to change perceptions of the needs and goals for downtowns, and to bring public agencies in close alignment with the private and arts sectors. One of the leading property developers in the United States, Michael Marston, said:

Real Estate projects that include the arts appropriately have the opportunity to offer commercial space that is unique, thereby achieving a highly desirable position in the marketplace. I personally feel that mixed-use projects including the arts have, over the longer run, stronger value appreciation potential than more standard forms of real estate development. The Prime Minister expounded that message when speaking to the Royal Academy about the inner cities. She said of a city: "It was only a real, true city when it also had libraries, art galleries, music, orchestras, choirs. You needed the whole of the arts to make the cities … The spirit of community, the spirit of feeling that life is not whole unless the arts are part of it, is returning. I look forward to the extension of that work into new areas.

Speaking parochially for a moment, I hope that my constituency will one day be the site of a major flagship arts project. A substantial part of our local area is covered by the Teesside development corporation. It should listen to pleas for a major facility, perhaps a concert hall, theatre, national museum or other arts centre. I am pleased to note that knowledge of the disparity in funding between Teesside and Tyneside by Northern Arts led to a report on the future of the arts in Teessicle published by Northern Arts and the Teesside development corporation.

The point must be emphasised again and again that arts projects act as ambassadors for a city. The Cincinnati city orchestra has undoubtedly helped to attract investment to that city, and the same can be said of the Chicago symphony orchestra. Some people only visit Pitlochry in Scotland to attend its marvellous theatre. The Burrell collection is a marvellous ambassador for Glasgow. The northern Tate in Liverpool and the Royal Shakespeare Company of Tyneside have also attracted people to those cities. I believe that Teesside could be every bit as much a part of that success story. More than 3.2 million people live within 90 minutes drive of it and, from the end of this year, 40,000 sq ft of exhibition space will be available.

I hope that the Minister will heed calls to send out collections and part-collections from the basements of the national museums to places such as Teesside, so that people who do not have access to London can enjoy them.

The report that has been compiled on the future of the arts in Teesside is helpful, as it states that there should be a three-pronged strategy. First, that strategy should ensure that arts provision serves and reaches the population. Secondly, existing arts activities should be developed and the Cleveland arts economy should be expanded. Thirdly, new arts facilities and buildings should be developed to enable the county to capitalise on regional, national and international opportunities. As ever when things are done in Teesside, the author tries not to offend anyone and enlist the support of the local Labour-controlled authority.

The Government have offended many people and challenged the local authority when it set up the development corporation, which has brought a spectacular amount of new investment to the area and unrivalled new opportunities for development. We should do the same again for the arts and reorder our priorities so that they are: the development of a city arts flagship project for Teesside, which will put it on the international map; develop existing efforts; widen participation and interest in the arts locally.

The arts have a vital role to play in the development of a productive economy. Sometimes, I fear that, having been a nation of shopkeepers, we have become one of moneybrokers, turning money around and making a profit, rather than adding value to objects. In the world of making things—I represent a manufacturing constituency—design is every bit as important as price and productive technique. Why then are no British manufacturers making a new design of sports car, whereas Japanese companies are launching several this year? Some 150 years ago, that problem was first highlighted by the national exhibition at Crystal Palace. Since then, trade has exacerbated the problem.

I hope that further encouragement will be given to the arts, especially design. I know that that is not specifically a matter for the Minister who is to reply, but I hope that he will emphasise the role of the visual arts and the part that they have to play in encouraging design.

9.32 pm
Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)

It is my lot to wind up for the Opposition at the precise moment that England is taking part in a penalty shoot-out, so I shall not he surprised if the attention of hon. Members lapses at times, especially when news reaches the Chamber.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) said, we welcome the opportunity to debate not only the arts but our heritage. My hon. Friend is always pressing for more time to debate such matters. From his opening speech, it was obvious that, in terms of his awareness of problems facing the arts and policy development, my hon. Friend has considerable clout. I am sure that if Ministers do not share his priorities, they must respect his contributions to these debates.

I make no claim to be an expert on the arts. I have viewed the debate as a consumer, and have listened to what has been said by people with greater expertise. However, having spent several academic years studying economic and social history, I have more than a passing interest in our heritage and, more importantly, as a parent, I am extremely concerned that we place a proper value on the quality of life that we create for future generations.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House praised institutions from the natural history museum to cathedrals. Most of them exist for our benefit only because of the investment and decisions made by past generations. We are under an obligation to be equally far-sighted in our treatment of our heritage and our investment in the arts today.

I have listened carefully to most of the speeches this evening, and found them—especially those of my hon. Friends—interesting and enjoyable and, at times, a useful education. However, if I am totally honest, I would rather have spent the past two hours watching the World cup match on television, especially at 8.34 pm, when the sound of the cheer reached the Chamber. I mean no disrespect to my colleagues, but I hope that other hon. Members share my feeling that there is a clash of interests this evening. It is strange that the Government should schedule a debate on the arts and heritage so that it clashes with what, judging by the small part of it that I saw, is an extremely good display of art. Football is an important element in our heritage and I hope that Ministers appreciate that it is not just a sport but a cultural event. Anyone who doubts that should stand in the terraces or sit in the stand at a football match and listen to the wry humour. I know that many Conservative Members are somewhat prejudiced against football but, as I say, it is part of our cultural background and heritage.

I regret the clash of events. Perhaps this debate should have been scheduled for tomorrow and we could have had a Scottish debate this evening. When I say that, I mean no disrespect to Scottish Members. I was born in Scotland and have mixed loyalties—no doubt the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) will be interested to know that. Tempting though it is, I do not want to hijack the debate into a discussion on football. Some of us could get carried away in the manner of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) when he described Roger Milla. I agree that Roger Milla is extremely artistic. The hon. Gentleman did not talk about poetry in motion, but if we are not careful we could find ourselves straying down that path. I do not want to do that.

I should like to deal with the definitions that have been used in the debate. It is right that hon. Members should debate great works of art, orchestras, theatres, fine palaces, great houses and the wonderful architectural achievements of the past. It is important to preserve those things and support the fine arts generally because of the role that they play in a civilised society. However, there is another side which is in danger of being neglected or considered to be of secondary importance in our debates. There is a wider definition of the arts and heritage, and I hope that in future debates it will move nearer to the centre of the stage.

My heritage does not have its roots in big houses and palaces, although I understand that my Scottish grandmother was in service in one fine big house. My heritage, and that of most people, is working-class life. It is a heritage of terraced houses, two up, two down and no bathroom, and of parents and grandparents who worked in mills, factories and mines. We must foster the understanding that those things are part of our heritage. In literature, such things are often glamorised but we must get the balance right.

Whatever the balance between glamour and reality, it is important to ask the Government what they are doing to make the young people of today aware of that part of their heritage. Of course we want to preserve the fine heritage and the houses and palaces, but just as history should not teach only about kings and queens, so, in discussing our heritage, we should not fall into the trap of talking only about castles and palaces.

I note that, like me, the Minister is somewhat disturbed and thrown off course by the bad news that has just reached the Chamber about the World cup match. We all commiserate with those who have worked so hard for a better result. There seemed to be a great deal of unfairness in many of the results, and I am sure that we all congratulate the England team on its performance and regret that the final outcome was not more satisfactory.

Mr. Fisher

Football is part of our heritage.

Mrs. Taylor

I dealt with that when my hon. Friend was out of the Chamber.

The Minister for the Environment and Countryside is a northern Member. I should like to hear what he is doing to ensure that the heritage of the majority gets proper recognition. An increasing number of small industrial museums are being established, very often with little or no Government assistance, and the Minister's action is hindering the development of some of those museums.

Adjacent to my own constituency is the Caphouse mining museum. It was once a real colliery, and when it was due to close it was turned into a museum with the help of West Yorkshire county council, Kirklees and Wakefield district councils, and some EC funding—but no Government money. When the Government abolished county councils, the financial burden of supporting that museum increased. The Local Government and Housing Act 1989 makes it difficult for local authorities to subsidise and maintain the museum, because it is not an arm's length company. There is now concern about its future.

The museum's trustees have established a new governing body to attract sponsorship. The museum should serve as a showpiece of mining in an area of declining mining activity, but instead of helping, the Government introduced legislation that could cripple that project. The Minister's delay in introducing regulations is increasing uncertainty. I hope that the Minister for the Environment and Countryside will consider the possible consequences. The museum is used by thousands of children each year, who at small cost can visit a live pit—not an artificial creation. I suggest that that museum is more relevant to the background and heritage of families in my constituency than many of the great halls and other places that receive a subsidy.

I do not follow the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington in saying that there is no place for subsidies in respect of fine buildings, but I do not believe that they have an exclusive right to them. I hope that the Minister for the Arts will take on board the need to broaden the definition of heritage, as should the Minister for the Environment and Countryside.

Another part of our heritage is our natural landscape, and public enjoyment and appreciation of the countryside. As I have always lived in northern towns but in sight of open country, it is an aspect of our heritage that I particularly value. It is all too easy to take for granted our countryside and open spaces, but working in Westminster all week is a good counter to any temptation to fall into that trap. I only feel sorry for right hon. and hon. Members whose constituencies are not as attractive as mine. I am sure that the Minister for the Environment and Countryside agrees, because his constituency is in an extremely attractive part of the country.

Ministers have a fundamental conflict between the need to protect such areas and their dogma of non-interference and belief that market forces should rule. That may be why not even one piece of landscape has been designated under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. What does the Minister propose to do in respect of the Common Land Forum's recommendation? The Minister for the Environment and Countryside recently supported family rambling day to demonstrate his solidarity with the ramblers' demands for access to the countryside. However, I understand that his walk a week last Sunday was rained off. We on the other side of Yorkshire are made of sterner stuff, and we went ahead. Nevertheless, the Minister's support was welcome.

He is somewhat rare, in that he urges local authorities to spend extra money on establishing and encouraging more rights of way and signposts. I hope that he can square that with poll tax capping.

What does the Minister intend to do in respect of the Government's - promise in the Conservative party manifesto in May 1987: We will legislate to safeguard common land on the basis of the Common Land Forum."? Had we time, I would recount all the occasions on which Ministers have repeated the guarantee that legislation of that kind was about to be introduced. We are told that the Government intend to introduce a comprehensive Bill at a suitable opportunity when parliamentary time permits, and that it will be based loosely on relevant reports. We have had a little slippage on occasions, when we have been told that it will take a little time. We were told by the Minister of State in February that legislation would be coming soon. In March he said that a statement was expected sooner rather than later. At the beginning of April, he said that he expected a further statement about the Government's intention within a few weeks. Later that month, he said that a further statement of the Government's intentions would be made soon.

Mr. Fisher

We are getting closer.

Mrs. Taylor

As my hon. Friend says, we are getting closer. We have been told for three years that a statement was coming. It would be helpful to have an indication of the Government's intentions this evening. If we do not, we can conclude only that the Government intend to renege on their past promises.

Time is short. The debate has been varied and it has concentrated, perhaps wrongly, more on arts issues than on heritage issues. I hope that in future hon. Members on both sides of the House will have more time to deal with the whole wealth of issues that have been touched on this evening.

Mr. David Lightbown (Lords Commissioner to the Treasury)

On this important day.

Mrs. Taylor

Yes, on this important day, as the Government Whip, who usually does not speak, has pointed out. It is a black day for English football. I hope that hon. Members will understand the need to appreciate and protect our arts and heritage, including football. Then perhaps we will have learnt something from today's events.

9.46 pm
The Minister for the Environment and Countryside (Mr. David Trippier)

Like the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), I am mortified at the England result. A bright, efficient civil servant managed to put into my hand the amazing statistic that more people go to theatre, opera and dance performances than to football matches. I am beginning to wonder whether that helps the current position.

I say to the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) and the hon. Member for Dewsbury—both of whom have a fondness for the city of Manchester—that there is some consolation in what happened at lunchtime today, when I had the privilege of attending a function which was also attended by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher)—

Mr. Fisher

Distinguished Member.

Mr. Trippier

Yes, the distinguished Member. I had the privilege of awarding the museum of the year award, which was jointly won not only by the imperial war museum, which could be expected and was richly deserved, but by the Manchester museum of industry and science, so I hope that there will be dancing in the streets of my favourite city.

The richness and the diversity of Britain's heritage is not in doubt. After six hours of debate, I am not in much doubt about the richness and diversity of the views of hon. Members on the subject—perhaps more the richness of the contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) than the diversity of the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks).

Some of the arguments, especially those of the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent, Central, were like parts of England's heritage—very old. Unfortunately, his ideas are in nothing like such good condition as much of the English heritage. The difference is that the owners of Britain's great art and heritage care deeply about their possessions and ensure that they are looked after. I am afraid that the hon. Member does not make the same effort with his opinions. He does not care what he says, whether it is true or even whether it makes sense. That is why he found himself in a terrible muddle in linking together the responsibility for municipal parks, which he should know by now come under local authorities, and for the royal parks, which are the responsibility of my Department.

Mr. Fisher


Mr. Trippier

The hon. Gentleman specifically mentioned the royal parks, as the record will show.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the document "Looking to the Future", on which he was quizzed by my hon. Friends who sought to extract a more accurate figure or estimate of what it would cost a future Labour Government to implement the policy. The hon. Gentleman ducked the question. I will gladly allow him to intervene on this precise matter if he can tell the House the cost of implementing these proposals in terms of the arts and heritage.

Mr. Fisher

I wish to take up a previous point about the royal parks. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh no!"] Oh yes! The Minister referred to the royal parks. Does he approve of the royal parks banning the 300-year-old tradition of flying kites on Sundays in Kensington gardens? Does he feel that access to the royal parks should be widened rather than diminished in this way? Will he give the Government's view?

Mr. Trippier

We are going to get carried away one way or the other about the flying of kites. The hon. Gentleman has been flying a few during this debate. I agree that there should be wider access to public parks and to royal parks wherever possible.

The hon. Gentleman said about five times in his speech that he wanted a national audit. I give him notice that the Government are putting the Labour party and its policy document under audit. Every pledge that the hon. Gentleman made today will be carefully and closely examined and costed. Given that the first salvo by the Leader of the Opposition into this difficult territory was his statement that the first two benefits that the Labour party would introduce in the unlikely event of its ever being elected would cost £2 billion, and given that everyone has now confirmed that it will be at least £3.5 billion, I assure the House—

Mrs. Ann Taylor

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Trippier

No, I will not.

Mrs. Taylor


Mr. Trippier

All right, I give way.

Mrs. Taylor

The Minister is uncharacteristically generous. He seems to be proving yet again that he belongs to the Maradona school of drama—whenever he is under attack, he does the parliamentary equivalent of rolling over three times and shouting "Foul."

The Minister said that all these plans will be audited. If it is so easy to audit the Labour party's policy, why is it proving so difficult for the Department to audit its position and all that has happened so far? Who will pay for the audit—the Government or the Conservative party?

Mr. Trippier

I assure the hon. Lady, if she did not already know, that the Government are consistently audited. Every Department of state is subjected to rigorous scrutiny by the National Audit Office and various Select Committees. We need to turn the attention of the Select Committees to the Labour party.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central went on to mislead the House once again—unintentionally, I am sure—by saying that the Government had not done anything to help tackle the problem experienced with the Rose theatre site.

Mr. Fisher


Mr. Trippier

I am sorry, but you have had your opportunity. You made a very long speech. I have a short time in which to respond. You must not get so thin skinned about the fact that I might be picking you up on one or two points.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am "you".

Mr. Trippier

The sum of £1 million was given to allow the extra time for the redesign of the office block on the Rose theatre site, so the hon. Gentleman's comment was not accurate.

To respond to the point made by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) about areas of archaeological importance—an important matter—

Mr. Fisher


Mr. Trippier

—I expect to announce later this month—



Hon. Members

Sit down!

Mr. Trippier

I give way.

Mr. Fisher

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He made a serious accusation that I had misled the House, and it is important to put the record straight. The help has not been given to the Rose Theatre Trust. Indeed, the Government are now saying that it will have to pay the full legal costs. They have given just £2,000 towards the legal costs and they say that the Rose Theatre Trust will have to pay the rest. Is that really the Government's attitude towards this important archaeological site?

Mr. Trippier

In the unlikely event of the hon. Gentleman being a Minister, would he strongly advocate that the Government should help with the legal costs of an organisation that brings a case in that way? Is he seriously suggesting that?

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey made a fair point. I expect to announce later this month my conclusions on the operation and effectiveness of statutory areas of archaeological importance following the review and advice provided by English Heritage. As to the point that the hon. Gentleman made about the Museum of London's grant, English Heritage is discussing with the Museum of London and other interested parties the provision of an archaeological survey in London, which primarily is a matter for that body.

In his excellent speech, my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts spoke of Government policy on the arts. I intend to concentrate my remarks on the subjects for which the Department of the Environment is responsible.

We live surrounded by a rich legacy of the past. Castles, palaces, stately homes, archaeological remains and attractive villages and towns serve to remind us of our proud history as a land of culture, commerce and history. Like the living arts and the treasures of our museums and galleries, the built heritage contributes vitally to the quality of life. A sense of history and stewardship helps to weld our society together.

In his excellent speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South referred to the nation's concern for our cathedrals. I might share his views, and I assure him that we hope to address that matter in the forthcoming White Paper, which should be launched in the autumn.

Our generation values the built heritage more than any previous generation and in recent years, under a Government who have encouraged people to think and act for themselves, there has been a marked increase in that trend. It is significant, for example, that the National Trust has doubled its membership in the past 10 years to almost 2 million. The Labour party's analysis of art and heritage policy is still fundamentally corporatist and bureaucratic. The individual's instinctive feeling for an association with the past has no place in Labour party policy. One cannot legislate for stewardship, but if it were possible the party would try.

The Government's role lies not in drawing up grand plans—that is an absurd notion. The fabric of our nation was laid long before we politicians came on the scene and will certainly be there long after. What continues are the bonds formed by an individual's pride in his nation's history and landmarks. We should cherish the values of ownership and stewardship. The Government's policy is to provide the framework in which those values are allowed to flourish.

I wish to identify five separate strands to that policy. First, the Government and their agencies aim to set standards of excellence in the care of properties in their ownership or guardianship. Secondly, we have an excellent system for identifying and recording the best of our built heritage. Thirdly, we aim to harness the energy and resources of the private and voluntary sectors in conserving the heritage, backed where necessary with financial assistance from public funds to help meet the extra cost of maintaining and restoring heritage properties. Fourthly, the Government seek to promote greater understanding and enjoyment of the heritage and to encourage wider public participation. Last, but not least, we have a mature and effective legislative system to protect and preserve the heritage.

In those, and in other matters, the Government and their agencies can set an example and give a lead. English Heritage manages 400 castles, abbeys, historic houses and other sites and properties in England, including such famous sites as Stonehenge, Dover castle, Osborne house and Hadrian's wall. This year, it is spending almost £34 million from a total grant in aid of £78.5 million on maintaining, repairing, displaying and marketing those properties. The historic royal palaces agency was set up as an executive agency within my Department in October last year. It has 350 staff and a budget of about £20 million.

Mr. Fisher

Give the figures.

Mr. Trippier

The hon. Gentleman keeps asking me to give him figures, but he does not like the figures when I give them. The agency is headed by the first chief executive to have been recruited from an agency outside the civil service.

I have spoken of the cultural value of the built heritage to both our own and future generations, but heritage is also good business and contributes substantially to a tourist industry worth about £19 billion in total. That point was effectively made by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel). Tourism is the strongest and largest growth sector in the whole of the British economy, creating a net increase of about 50,000 jobs year by year. I accept that there can sometimes be a conflict between heritage and tourism, although it seems to me that those who oppose such tourism would prefer people to send their money in a sealed envelope through the post rather than turning up in person. We must realise that we attract an enormous number of overseas visitors who come here to appreciate our heritage—I hardly think that they come here for our climate.

It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.