HC Deb 21 July 1993 vol 229 cc353-64 3.35 pm
The Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Peter Brooke)

With permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the Arts Council.

Last December I told the House that I would commission consultants to review the structure of the Arts Council. I subsequently commissioned Price Waterhouse to undertake that review, and I made available to the House on 4 June copies of the working papers that they presented. Their study was a thorough and professional undertaking, which has informed my consideration of the future of the Arts Council, following the transfer of responsibilities for the Scottish and Welsh Arts Councils from next April. I have now also had the benefit of advice from the Arts Council itself, and the wider arts community has made known its views.

For the purposes of this statement I should like to concentrate on five main areas in turn: the arm's-length principle; the size and composition of the council; relations between the council, its clients and the regional arts boards; the core functions of the Arts Council; and the structure of the organisation. I am writing separately to Lord Palumbo on a number of detailed issues, and I am arranging for a copy of my letter to be made available in the Library.

I reaffirm my commitment to the arm's length principle, and agree that this should be stated clearly so that the respective roles of my Department and the council can be clearly understood. Put simply, I see the primary role of Ministers as setting the council's legal, financial and institutional framework, including appointments to the council and the structure of arts funding and management. Within that framework, the role of the council is to steer the general direction of artistic policy and decide the allocation of funding in line with the exercise of its artistic judgment. It is not for the Government to seek to intervene in matters of artistic judgment, although there can be occasions when Ministers can properly act as a conduit for public and political opinion.

With that degree of independence for the Arts Council in the use of the taxpayer's money comes also the responsibility for explaining its decisions fully and clearly, not least to this House; and I shall be exploring with the chairman ways in which current levels of accountability might be improved. But this analysis of our different roles should not obscure the fact that these are objectives that the council and Ministers share and to which each should contribute for example, in encouraging the widest possible access to the arts. In this connection I should like to stress the importance I attach to the council's role in promoting touring to ensure that the best of our arts reaches the widest possible audience.

As to the size and composition of the council, Price Waterhouse recommended a reduction from its present membership of 20 to 12. I welcome a streamlining of membership. However, I am not finally convinced that a council of 12 members will sufficiently represent all those interests which should be part of the decision-making process. With the Arts Council's endorsement, I therefore intend to move to a council of 16 members, including the chairman and vice-chairman. This will allow the inclusion of five regional representatives, each of the seven art form panel chairman and four independents.

The Arts Council's relationship with regional arts boards and directly funded clients is most important, and the integrated planning system should underpin this; but it is not yet working as it should. I endorse Price Waterhouse's view that all involved should make its success a high priority, and I am glad that the council confirms that it will seek to do so. I am also glad that the council has accepted that the planning and finance functions should come more closely together, and that arrangements for contractual funding should be developed. I am making clear in my letter to Lord Palumbo what my Department requires from the planning process, and the need to develop better performance measures.

That brings me to the core functions of the Arts Council. As I told the House in December, the council has three main functions: providing a strategic policy framework for the arts at national level; managing grant-in-aid; and the monitoring and appraisal of arts organisations. Those were endorsed by the Price Waterhouse report, and I am pleased to restate them today. Price Waterhouse also stressed the council's role as an advocate for the arts. I readily endorse advocacy as a natural component of all the council's work, but I do not see it as a free-standing function. It arises naturally out of the responsibilities of members and senior management.

Price Waterhouse questioned whether the Arts Council's activities are sufficiently focused within its core functions. As public money is involved in supporting the Arts Council's activities, it is important that there should be a clearly identified need for them. I have therefore asked Lord Palumbo over the next two or three months to conduct an analysis of the entire range of activities undertaken by the Arts Council, and to report to me on how they fit in with its core functions. That work will need to reflect the need for market testing, and the specific ideas for streamlining put forward by Price Waterhouse. It will, I hope, focus attention on providing services for which there is a real demand. It must also, of course, reflect the new responsibilities that the national lottery imposes on the council as distributor.

Much of the public interest in the report has been in the three structural options put forward by Price Waterhouse. I do not intend to press for the adoption of a specific option but, as part of the planned activity review, I think that it is helpful to set the Arts Council a benchmark for the level of savings that it might achieve. So I am asking the council to assume an illustrative 10 per cent. reduction in administrative costs, and as part of the activity analysis to make the case for restoring it incrementally in tranches. That will not be an easy process, but it is important for all of us to ensure that overheads are kept to a minimum and as many as possible of the available resources are passed directly to the funding of artistic activity.

The process of change is never easy, but I hope that what I have said today will help to reduce uncertainty by giving those working in the arts community a clearer framework within which to operate. The debate on structures has been prolonged. It should soon be concluded, so that we can all concentrate on the wider issues of the quality and accessibility of the arts themselves.

Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

These are difficult times for the arts. Does not the Secretary of State realise that his statement will have done nothing to reassure our deeply troubled arts organisations? Once again, he has offered further delay and procrastination. Is his Department not giving us yet more delay and paralysis, caused by yet more analysis?

All the ideas for restructuring the Arts Council suggested in the Price Waterhouse report are nominally about reducing waste and inefficiency and redirecting resources to arts organisations. The Opposition are wholly in favour of reducing waste and inefficiency and of maximising the sum spent directly on the arts. To that extent, we welcomed the setting up of the Price Waterhouse review, with its remit to examine the structural organisation and staffing of the council. However, the fact that the right hon. Gentleman, having spent about £60,000 on.the report, has opted for even more consultation will cause some disbelief. Does his decision mean that he accepts the charge made by some commentators that the review is partial, ill informed and littered with errors?

We have argued for some time that there is a case for reform of the Arts Council. Nevertheless, it would be wrong, out of enthusiasm for the report, to throw the baby out with the bath water. We believe that the Arts Council has done a notable job over the past 50 years. Its structure has been copied all over the world, and its slow death by a thousand cuts would not be welcomed.

Our real concern about the review is the motive for instigating it. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the reforms represent further cost savings for the Treasury and not any commitment to make more resources available to the arts? Will he further acknowledge that, whatever savings these reforms may produce, they will in no way offset the cut of £5 million from next year's arts budget?

Is it not the case that, merely to stand still, the arts need an increase of £10 million on the current spending plans for 1993–94, and if administrative savings are made, will the Secretary of State pledge that the resources released will be actually spent on the arts?

The Labour party has traditionally believed that the Arts Council has an important part to play in the artistic life of the nations of Britain. Has the Secretary of State read the view of the artistic director of the Royal Court theatre, who said last week: We have an Arts Council that is collaborating in its own suicide and a Government that is not committed to supporting the cultural life of this country". We note the points made by the Secretary of State about improving accountability. He has promised to consult widely, and hopefully it will be more widely than merely consulting Lord Palumbo.

The Labour party is strongly committed to an enhanced role for regional arts boards which have an important element of local democratic accountability. Does the Secretary of State agree that, if more powers are to be devolved to the RABs, sufficient resources must be available to them to fulfil their enlarged responsibilities? Will he also promise to consult the regions on the appointment of five regional representatives to the Arts Council?

Does the Secretary of State now accept that the meddling interference of the Government and the resulting subservience of the Arts Council have destroyed the last vestiges of any claim to respect the arm's-length principle? As Lord Rix put it after his resignation, the Arts Council has been viewed with barely concealed contempt by successive Arts Ministers and their Departments … We have had to creep and crawl every year for our funds … When magnanimity has been displayed, we have gobbled up the crumbs with unseemly haste, raising fawning voices in praise of the Minister concerned. Perhaps that is precisely what the Government want.

The Government have a long history of political appointments and the Arts Council has not been exempt. Property tycoon Lord Palumbo has already brought the worst features of the Government's ideology to the Arts Council. Will the Secretary of State deny this afternoon press reports that Jocelyn Stevens, the well-known custodian of England's heritage, may be appointed to replace Lord Palumbo next year?

The Arts Council allocation decisions announced on 8 July involved a long list of losers: Agenda, the Poetry Society, the London City Ballet, Millstream and Glyndbourne Touring Opera were all chosen for cuts, as were London orchestras. Is the Secretary of State content to see the closure of one and possibly two of London's four orchestras?

Why cannot the Secretary of State get the Arts Council to do its own dirty work instead of appointing a High Court judge to make the decision for it? Can he also tell us why regional theatres appear to have been singled out to be the sacrificial victims of Arts Council cuts? Will he confirm that there is a hit list of 10 regional theatres from which the Arts Council is intent on withdrawing funding with a real threat of closures? Is it by coincidence or design that almost all those theatres are extremely well supported by their Labour local authorities? Does he realise that, if the closures go ahead, it will leave only one major theatre in the whole of the south-west, the Northcote theatre in Exeter?

Has the Secretary of State no sense of shame that this could mean the virtual dismemberment of the system of regional theatres? Is he aware that regional theatres are the backbone of what has made British theatre among the best in the world? Does he know that all the great British actors and actresses, from Gielgud, Olivier and Albert Finney to Antony Sher, Ian McKellen, Julie Walters, Judy Dench and Glenda Jackson, came up through the regional theatre movement? [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Andrew Faulds?"] And, of course, Andrew Faulds.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the extent of opposition to the proposed withdrawal of funding from the 10 regional theatres? Does he know that, at the press conference of the Arts Council on 8 July, 10 of the 11 members of the drama board threatened to resign if the Arts Council announced that it and the regional arts boards supported the policy?

Is it not evident that the Government's arts strategy is in complete disarray? Was not The Independent right last week when it said: Mr. Brooke should realise that chipping away at a few Arts Council posts here or selling off a bit of property there is neglecting the real problem—the Government's failure to give the arts sufficient funds to enable them to plan with stability"? The Government, who were elected on a commitment to defend arts spending, have ratted on that promise and now propose a savage cut of £5 million from the arts budget. Perhaps the Secretary of State should take time off from predicting a by-election defeat in Christchurch and spend some time sticking up for the arts. If he does not have the will or the clout to do so, he should make way for someone who has.

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Lady asked me at least two dozen questions. I know that she will forgive me if I say that they were variable in quality. I shall resist the temptation to say 17 yeses and seven noes.

The hon. Lady started by referring to what she described as "delay and procrastination". It may be a difference of opinion between Labour Members and Conservative Members, but given that it is the Arts Council that will be affected by the changes, it is much better that the council should be involved in the changes that will be made rather than that it should be imposed by fiat from the Secretary of State.

The hon. Lady referred to some scepticism about the report and suggested that it might contain some errors. I acknowledge that, in the nature of the report that was made—time was of the, essence—some factual corrections need to be made in the working papers. However, none of them will affect the final analysis conducted by Price Waterhouse.

I join the hon. Lady in her praise for the Arts Council over the past 50 years. I disagree with her suggestion that we are involved in the death of the Arts Council. We are involved in its renewal and its future over the next 50 years. The hon. Lady said that the whole exercise was engaged in cost savings. If it had been engaged in cost savings, one would have taken the simple step of telling the Arts Council that it had to make the following savings in its administrative costs. But that is not what we have done.

In terms of the cut in funding of £5 million, it is a fact that the policy that the Arts Council brings to its decisions affects the use of the money. Indeed, the reactions that have already occurred in terms of some of the council's decisions show that other hon. Members share that view. I can give the hon. Lady an assurance that the savings will go to the arts. I am glad that she joins us in our preoccupation with accountability. As she knows, the matter will receive further debate.

In terms of the regional arts boards and the extra responsibilities that will be devolved to them which I announced in December 1992, the Arts Council will be engaged in a review of the ability of the regional arts boards to carry its new responsibilities during the balance of this year. In terms of consulting the regions on their choice of who should represent them—which chairmen of the regional arts boards should sit on the Arts Council —the number that we have selected is such that it will be possible for there to be a rotation on a national basis with reasonable regularity.

One of the profoundest services of the Price Waterhouse report was, by the nature of the people it consulted, both in the Arts Council and in the artistic community, to show that there were misgivings about the way in which the arm's length principle was working. To reassert it, as I have done, is the right step forward. As always, actions speak louder than words.

The hon. Lady quoted the remarks of Lord Rix. All I can say at a personal level in response is that the Minister is not seeking praise for his decisions; he is hoping that history will judge that the decisions were well exercised during his time of office.

I repudiate utterly the hon. Lady's remarks about Lord Palumbo's chairmanship. He has given distinguished service, not only to the council, but to the state. We have not yet begun the process of choosing the next candidate for the chairmanship of the Arts Council. Therefore, it would not be useful to have a series of questions about future candidates in our remaining time.

On the financial planning decisions for next year that the Arts Council announced on 8 July, the hon. Lady is not fully informed about the orchestras. The function of Lord Justice Hoffman to make recommendations to the music panel of the Arts Council, which will make the decision.

The hon. Lady made a series pf references to regional theatres. I am sure that, as at Question Time last week, they will have been heard outside this House. It is for the Arts Council to make those decisions. The Arts Council made its decisions at Woodstock. It is right that it should stand up and defend and explain them. If I may say so, the hon. Lady is threatening an immediate invasion of the arm's-length principle if she wishes me to substitute my judgment for that of the Arts Council.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

Order. The initial exchanges have taken some time and gone rather wide of the statement, so I hope that questions and answers will be brisk.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

Is not the hon. Lady a misery? Britain is the arts capital of the world and spreads tremendous happiness. Is my right hon. Friend aware that, for the arm's-length principle to remain acceptable, it is essential for Arts Council decisions to remain broadly consistent with the public will? That is why it is welcome that my right hon. Friend said that the Arts Council should be made fully and clearly answerable to Parliament for its decisions. Far from death by a thousand cuts, this should have a tonic effect.

Mr. Brooke

It would be wrong for me to judge whether the hon. Lady is a misery. That is a judgment from which I should certainly resile. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his reassertion of the importance of the arm's-length principle.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

I am glad that I can give a broad welcome to the Secretary of State's statement. It amounts to a suspension of final judgment on the present Arts Council, at least until its activities analysis has been presented, as the right hon. Gentleman has asked, by the end of October.

There has been some risk that analysis will lead to paralysis. Many in the arts world have felt that they have been living in the twilight of the Arts Council as it took some of its, apparently, more bizarre decisions, not least putting out to tender the job of judging the future of London's orchestras. The Arts Council appears to have been threatened externally by cuts and internally by a certain loss of direction.

Following the Secretary of State's decision, will he ensure that the council's survival is dependent on the sharpness of its focus in answering the questions that he put to it, and that the accessibility and quality of the arts are not put at risk by further delay and dither?

Mr. Brooke

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's implication that uncertainty is bad both for the Arts Council and for the artistic community, which is why I seek to bring matters to a conclusion. I take the opposite view from the hon. Gentleman: I think that, if we bring matters to a successful conclusion, we can avoid paralysis and secure something much more constructive.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the sharpness of focus that needs to be directed from now on. The process of inviting the Arts Council to look at its tasks on an incremental basis is the same process to which it subjects its clients and therefore one with which it will be familiar.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that by far the most eloquent plea against the £5 million cut has come from the chairman of the Arts Council? Will he heed that plea?

When my right hon. Friend reconstitutes the Arts Council, will he bear in mind that it is wrong to preclude people from the position of chairman because they cannot afford to do the job?

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Is the hon. Gentleman looking for the job?

Mr. Cormack

No, I am not.

There would be a wide welcome in the arts world if the job were made a paid appointment so that people could afford to take it on.

Mr. Brooke

I wholly concur with my hon. Friend that, in his open letter to me, the noble Lord Palumbo was demonstrating the advocacy recommended by Price Waterhouse. On the second half of my hon. Friend's question, the Arts Council charter will require revision because of the transfer of responsibilities to Scotland and Wales. Therefore, the issue whether the chairman should be paid can be considered within that revision.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

.I thank the Minister for his courtesy in allowing me to see a copy of his statement in advance.

I hope that the restructuring will be successful, not only in terms of administration but in empowering the Arts Council to carry out its principal duty, which is to deliver artistic opportunity and artistic experiences to people throughout the country.

The Minister has again properly supported the Arts Council's arm's-length role, but he expressed a view about which I hope he will think again. He stressed the importance that he attached to the council's role in promoting touring. Although touring companies give people in the regions a pleasant opportunity, they are no substitute for firmly based and rooted regional companies delivering arts to their areas. The loss of companies such as the Bolton Octagon and the Oldham Coliseum would be sad. The company that operated at the Forum theatre in Wythenshawe, which has now sadly closed due to lack of funding, was such a centre of excellence that it made possible the performance of Sondheim musicals in the west end of London. The same can be said of the Haymarket theatre in Leicester.

It is not touring that is most important to us in the regions, but having our own companies rooted in our communities to provide experiences for us where we live.

Mr. Brooke

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his observations about the delivery of artistic opportunities and experiences. We shall continually return to that subject as it should be the guiding light of the Arts Council's activities. I do not seek to make touring a substitute for activity on the ground all round the country. I hope that the decision that I announced last December about the transfer of 42 artistic organisations from the Arts Council to the regional arts boards is testimony to my concern that the arts should be served on the ground in the regions.

Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)

The House is never as bad as when it sits here pompously considering the future of the arty-farty world. It is ridiculous that we are wasting parliamentary and ministerial time on these matters. If my right hon. Friend really wants to contribute to cost cutting, why does he not close the Arts Council, and his Department with it? The sooner he does so the better so that we can utilise the money for something worthwhile.

Mr. Brooke

When my hon. Friend reads the report of today's exchanges, I do not think that he will necessarily take the view that we are all conducting ourselves pompously. There is a particular character part which he plays, and he plays it to perfection.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

The right hon. Gentleman failed to comment on the project "Arts through education". What are the implications of the review on "Arts through education", an immensely important project? Does he agree with me that the introduction of the national lottery into this whole area of arts funding is simply a means of getting the Government off the hook of their funding responsibilities, and will inevitably lead to a lack of proper provision for all the arts functions throughout the country?

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Gentleman seeks to widen the debate with a general question on the issue of education. I know that he will have been encouraged by the fact that, in the statements which it made on 8 July, subsequent to its meeting at Woodstock, the Arts Council said that education was one sector in which it wished to see its role expanded.

One can take a variety of views on the lottery. In the context of the arts, where the emphasis will be on capital funding and there is a series of problems of capital deficiency which are crying out to be resolved, I do not think that the lottery will interfere with the basic function of the Arts Council, which will distribute the money for capital purposes.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

I welcome my right hon. Friend's reaffirmation of the arm's-length principle. Does he accept that moves to strengthen the accountability of the Arts Council to himself and the House sit delicately with that principle? Does he agree that the arts are a spendid investment for this country, generating jobs, tax revenues and benefits for the balance of payments? That fact must have something to do with the past ministrations of the Arts Council. Therefore, I welcome my right hon. Friend's cautious and pragmatic approach to reform of the Arts Council.

Will my right hon. Friend assure us that, in his conversations with the Treasury during the summer, he will vigorously stress the fact that the Government's role is to provide a stable, secure and generous contribution to the arts?

Mr. Brooke

My hon. Friend has articulated very well the role which Governments of all colours have played in the arts world. When he reads my statement, I do not think that my hon. Friend will think that I was asking for accountability to myself. I was concerned that there should be accountability to Parliament. I might serve as a conduit through which some of that accountability could be exercised.

Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)

I also welcome the arm's-length relationship between the Secretary of State and the Arts Council. Surely the most important aspect of the right hon. Gentleman's analysis of the activities will be the way in which it brings light to bear on some of the mysteries about the way in which the Arts Council has conducted itself.

The success of the right hon. Gentleman's analysis will be judged on how much light it sheds on some of the Arts Council's peculiar decisions, particularly its decision to transfer its responsibility to a judge. I know that that responsibility will go back to the Arts Council, but that was an extraordinary decision. I want to know more about how such decisions are made. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's analysis will bring some of the decisions to light.

Mr. Brooke

My analysis may have the virtue of restressing the arm's-length principle and subsequently, by actions which are louder than words, upholding it. In that way we shall give the Arts Council the confidence of knowing that it will not suffer interference from Ministers but will retain accountability to the nation through the House. The Arts Council will then feel so empowered as to make it clear why it makes its decisions and, if necessary, defend them.

Mr. Gyles Brandreth (City of Chester)

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the central purpose of his statement is to ensure that more of the funding is-spent at the sharp end, delivering arts, rather than on the machinery by which the money reaches those who pro vide the arts? Is he aware that, among the people at the sharp end, there has been concern about both the openness and the accountability of the Arts Council? There was particular anxiety that, given the extra funding that will come to the Arts Council through the national lottery, we need to be assured that the Arts Council is acting in an open and accountable way to improve the quality and range of arts available to the general public whom it seeks to serve.

Mr. Brooke

My hon. Friend follows a similar question asked by the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) a moment ago. The House will join my hon. Friend in wishing that the funding that goes to what he described as the "sharp end" is not diluted on the way.

Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)

If the Minister will not intervene in matters of artistic judgment, will he intervene in matters of artistic misjudgment? How can the stated aim of the Government to present the best of our arts to most of our people possibly be carried out if the Arts' Council pursues its proposition of closing 10 regional theatres?

If that proposition is due to underfunding, the Minister should argue vehemently with the Treasury that cuts in the arts budget should be expunged. If it is a serious proposition, the Arts Council should be called to account by the Minister. Does he agree that, if we do not have regional theatres, we may not have London theatres in the future?

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Lady is seductive in her suggestion that I should in fact abjure the arm's-length principle as soon as I have stated it.

It may be helpful if I remind the House that the first of the Arts Council's three charter objectives is to develop and improve the knowledge, understanding and practice of the arts. The second is to increase the accessibility of the arts to the public throughout the United Kingdom. The hon. Lady might have received more support in the House if she had implied that the second objective would need to be explained by the Arts Council if the widespread regional provision was to be removed.

Mr. Bryan Davies (Oldham, Central and Royton)

Does the Minister accept that his somewhat delphic statement on the future of the Arts Council has done nothing to improve the demoralised state of the arts world that has resulted from two decisions? The first, for which the Minister is directly responsible, concerns the future cuts in Arts Council funding. The second concerns the deplorable situation regarding regional theatres, such as the Oldham Coliseum, which are on a hit list. While nothing has yet been defined, does the Minister agree that such a list would represent a threat to theatre in the regions and that that would have a detrimental effect on everyone?

Mr. Brooke

I do not know the. precise circumstances under which the Arts Council has decided not to be specific about the list of theatres about which it might be making decisions. Enough has happened to enable hon. Members to air the subject, so the Arts Council may listen to the debate without having put its proposals forward.

The hon. Gentleman said that I had been "somewhat delphic". I do not know about the Labour party, but it is said in my party that morale starts in the Chamber and spreads across the nation. My preoccupation is that morale is restored within the Arts Council and that that morale then spreads across the nation.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

The Arts Council is facing clear difficulties in reorganisation and in cuts in administration, personnel and finance. Would it not be prudent of the Minister to re-examine the allocation of the administration of the national lottery funds through the Arts Council?

The Minister must be aware of the widespread dissatisfaction in the film industry and, for example, the British Film Institute at the decision to award the administration of the national lottery funds to that body. Those in the industry feel that the Arts Council has neither the enthusiasm nor the expertise to deal with the film industry.

Philistines see the film industry only as some kind of machinery. Successful British films have an enormous cascading effect on British industry. They indicate standards of excellence and manufacturing in many ways. Does the Minister agree that it is essential to encourage the British film industry so that that important element is maintained and improved?

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Gentleman and I share an affection for the game of cricket, and we have latterly discovered a mutual enthusiasm for film and the film industry. I therefore support his interests in the subject.

However, criticism was made in a debate on the Bill that I, as Secretary of State, was reserving for myself powers concerning the distribution of funds. The ability to ensure that appropriate care and attention is given to film is one such power which I would exercise through the Act. I think, however, that the hon. Gentleman's question went a little wide of my original statement.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

May I take this opportunity to refer to John Bute, who died this morning. He generously lent many of the most beautiful pictures by British artists and rendered great service to the arts in Scotland in many different capacities.

The Secretary of State said that integrated planning was not working as it should. What analysis has been done as to why it was not working?

Mr. Brooke

I join the hon. Gentleman in his tribute to the late Lord Bute, whom I had the privilege of meeting in connection with some of the work that I do in my Department.

Integrated planning is a process that embraces the combined activity of the regional arts boards with the Arts Council at the centre. The conduct of integrated planning is necessarily somewhat new, because the transfer of substantial responsibility to the regional arts boards is itself new; but I believe that everyone who has so far been involved in integrated planning would agree that it is working less than perfectly. That is why Price Waterhouse flagged it up, and it is one of the reasons why all of us —I as Secretary of State, the Arts Council and the regional arts boards—will seek to make it work a great deal better.

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

Does not the Secretary of State understand that the crucial question which faces the arts is not the structure or composition of the Arts Council but the appalling lack of funding by the Government? Arts funding in Britain is one of the lowest in Europe at 0.3 per cent. of public expenditure. Is not that the issue?

Is not the consequence of that and of the further £5 million cut that he has announced for next year's Arts Council grant only too clear? The consequence is the loss of two major international and national orchestras and of 10 regional theatres. If those theatres close, they will not reopen, just as the 10 pits will not reopen, and the damage will be not only to theatre throughout the country but to the communities and town centres which, particularly at night, depend on those theatres to be a live focus for the community.

Will the Secretary of State deal with the issue of funding and, before it is too late, start fighting in Cabinet for more investment?

Mr. Brooke

I know that the hon. Gentleman was not a Member of Parliament during the period of office of the Labour Government from 1974 to 1979 when his distinguished father was a Member, but the funding which this administration provide for the arts exceeds by 44 per cent. in real terms the figure which the Labour Government bestowed in 1979. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly entitled to say that 44 per cent. is not enough, but the fact remains that his Government regarded a much lower figure as desirable for the arts in those days.

In answer to the second half of the hon. Gentleman's question, of course I give him the assurance that we are anxious to see as much money made available for the arts as the nation can afford.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said that he had received a copy of the statement. I happen to think that it is perfectly sensible and courteous of the Secretary of State to give a copy to my right hon. Friend, who is the Chairman of the Select Committee. However, if the Chairman of the National Heritage Select Committee receives one, why does not the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee—[Interruption.]—and my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and the hon. Member for Linlithgow—receive a copy?

There is an argument for putting copies of statements in the Vote Office at 3 pm. The result would be that questions would be a little more informed. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander—sauce for Gorton and sauce for Bolsover.

Madam Speaker

It was courteous of the Secretary of State to make the statement available to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), but it was a private arrangement which had nothing whatever to do with the Speaker.