§ 29. Mr. Tony Banks
To ask the Minister for the Arts if he will earmark additional revenues for funding the arts in London.
§ Mr. Renton
No, Sir, as London is already well funded by the Arts Council. Even omitting the national companies, London is the best funded region at £2.75 per head of population.
§ Mr. Banks
The Minister is being remarkably complacent. in view of the question he was asked by the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis). Is he aware of the chaotic situation that the London borough grant scheme is in? That scheme was set up to fund voluntary bodies after the destruction of the Greater London council by the Conservative Government, but it has been hindered by Conservative councillors who are looking for cuts. If that happens, arts in all the London boroughs will be decimated. What is the Minister doing about the London borough grant scheme? What consultations has he had with the Department of the Environment, where the responsibility rests? If he does not do something, he will have an appalling mess on his hands. Is he prepared to wash his hands, just like Pontius Pilate?
§ Mr. Renton
The hon. Gentleman's analysis is wrong. There is a Labour-Liberal majority on the London borough grant scheme. Labour councillors are pushing their arts company clients off the edge of the table, one after the other, in order to spend the money available on projects that they think have more popular political support. That was at the heart of the criticism last week in the Stage. That is why so many people in London are totally losing faith with Labour councillors. The shadow Minister for the Arts has preached, but he cannot deliver Labour councillors.
As London is highly successful as the arts capital of the world, as millions of people come here to see our arts and heritage, as their spending generates a huge amount of income and employment, and, therefore, tax returns to the Government, and as a strong centre helps the edges, ought not we to continue to build on our strength?
§ Mr. Renton
I fully agree with my hon. Friend. As he is a well-noted pianist, I hope that he will continue to give recitals throughout the summer which will encourage the arts in, and attract attention to his constituency. London is a very successful centre for the arts. It is only right that successes should be remembered. For example, the reopening of the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican three weeks ago was very much due to the enhancement fund recently set up by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chief Secretary.