HC Deb 15 April 1991 vol 189 cc13-4
28. Mr. Bowis

To ask the Minister for the Arts what visits he has made to arts venues in London outside the west end and other nationally funded centres.

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Tim Renton)

I regularly visit arts venues throughout the country, including the Battersea arts centre, in my hon. Friend's constituency. With permission, I shall arrange for a list of those that I have visited so far this year to be published in the Official Report.

Mr. Bowis

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, when it comes to the arts, there are really two Londons? There is the London of the centres of international and national excellence in and around the west end and the world of the Londoner's arts. As my right hon. Friend rightly pointed out, this includes, among many other excellent venues, the Battersea arts centre. Those centres depend for their funding partly on the borough, partly on the Arts Council and partly on the London borough grant scheme.

Has my right hon. Friend seen the reports in this week's Stage and Television Today, which quotes, among others, the National Campaign for the Arts stating: Vote Labour And Arts Will Suffer"? That is because Labour councillors involved in the London borough grant scheme and in the boroughs have withdrawn their support for the arts in London. Will my right hon. Friend do everything possible to restore that support, and perhaps consider whether the grant scheme is the best way forward?

Mr. Renton

I agree that London is a vibrant centre for the arts outside the west end. Some 160 clients in London receive revenue support from the regional arts association, and many of them are not west-end based.

I also agree with my hon. Friend's analysis of the diverse funding for the arts in London. It is extraordinary that the shadow Arts Minister is not with us today, given that virulent criticism in the StageVote Labour And Arts Will Suffer". The paper is not normally a supporter of the Conservative party. I can only suppose that, after all those months of preaching Labour support for the arts, the shadow Arts Minister has taken fright today—that he has not dared to face the music, and has gone off to read "The Wreck of the Hesperus" by himself.

Dr. Marek

The Minister is very unfair. The shadow Minister for the Arts has been held up. A note of apology will no doubt come to the Minister in due course. He wanted to be here, but he could not get here in time. I hope the Minister will accept that explanation.

Mr. Renton

I thank the hon. Gentleman for saying that. No apology had reached me. If something like that which appeared last week in the Stage had been written about me, I do not know whether I should have turned up today.

Miss Emma Nicholson

When the Minister visits arts venues, either inside or outside London, will he please press, especially on venue managers, the needs of the disabled? Does he know that the only dignified night out that a disabled person can have at an arts venue is to sit at home in front of the television set?

Mr. Renton

I agree with my hon. Friend. I thank her and congratulate her on all the work that she has done by means of the ADAPT programme to help to improve access for the disabled and the deaf to arts venues. Arts companies throughout the country are becoming more and more aware of the issue. When I recently visited the new West Yorkshire playhouse in Leeds I was delighted to see how far it had gone towards making access to both theatres available to the disabled. That trend ought to be continued.

Following is the information:

Arts venues visited by the Minister for the Arts since January 1991 (outside the west end)
6 January Sadler's Wells Theatre
14 January Tate Gallery
17 January Science Museum
23 January Queen Elizabeth Hall
24 January Barbican
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