HC Deb 18 February 1991 vol 186 cc13-5
29. Mr. Burns

To ask the Minister for the Arts what contribution the business community is making in both financial and manpower resources in supporting the arts.

33. Mr. Tim Smith

To ask the Minister for the Arts what role the business community is playing in supporting the arts through the Business in the Arts scheme.

Mr. Renton

I am delighted that the business community is continuing its splendid support of the arts, with sponsorship now standing at around £35 million per annum. Business also provides professional advice to arts organisations through business in the arts, which my Department helps to fund.

Mr. Burns

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating a number of businesses in the Chelmsford area, which have generously sponsored arts activities such as the Chelmsford cathedral festival each year? Is not it significant that 70 per cent. of the business sponsorship incentive scheme money goes to the arts outside London?

Mr. Renton

I thank my hon. Friend for his support for this imaginative scheme. I am delighted to hear of the sponsorship of the Chelmsford cathedral festival. I agree that it is satisfactory that so much of the money through the business sponsorship incentive scheme is not spent in the capital but is widely distributed throughout the United Kingdom.

Mr. Tim Smith

What contribution is the business community making to arts organisations in terms of the provision of management skills? Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in many ways, this is as valuable as contributions in cash? In how many cases has such help been given?

Mr. Renton

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. It is true that advice from sympathetic business men on how better to run festivals and artistic performances is useful. Business in the Arts has 60 consultants in a register of management advisers. It made 48 placements in London alone in the current year and is hoping to increase that to 80 in the year ahead. There are a number of interesting illustrations.

For example, an accounts manager from IBM is advising the Tricycle theatre in Kilburn on the design and analysis of an audience research questionnaire. More and more groups of artists are finding that business help is useful.

Mr. Skinner

Does the Minister recall that during the previous Session I asked a question about a number of paintings and pieces of silver that the previous Prime Minister had stored away at Downing street? I was told that there were 72 different items at No. 10, including paintings from the National gallery. Can we be assured that the various paintings and pieces of silver have now been returned to their rightful owners, or could it be that the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) has set up an antiques business somewhere?

Mr. Renton

I am pleased to see the hon. Gentleman back in his place. When questions to the Minister for the Arts were last before the House, the hon. Gentleman was missing. On that occasion he had tabled a question on support for Welsh National Opera. I am sorry that we missed him on that occasion. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will consider carefully the hon. Gentleman's question and go on to consider whether he should add to the beautiful objects in No. 10, change them or whatever. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to act as artistic adviser to the Prime Minister.

Mr. Fisher

What contribution does the Minister expect the business community to make to the arts in London, precisely? Does he expect it to bail out the Government from their incompetent handling of the future of Greater London Arts? He will know that the director of GLA left last week and that it has no finance director, music officer or literature officer. What does the right hon. Gentleman propose for the 200-odd clients of GLA and for all the London music societies that are left without funding? Will he give them to the business community or will he do something himself to save the arts in London?

Mr. Renton

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on retaining his position as shadow Minister for the Arts. I was rather fearful that we might have heard him call "crisis" from the Opposition Front Bench for the last time, and that he might be concentrating on his full-time duty as minute secretary of his notorious supper club. It is good to hear him in comparable voice. There is no crisis in London arts and there is no need for them to be bailed out. The hon. Gentleman will know that the London Arts Board has been set up as an autonomous committee within the Arts Council. That is how it will be run for a maximum of two years.

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