HC Deb 18 April 1994 vol 241 cc630-1
12. Mr. Enright

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what strategy has been evolved for assistance to the brass bands which previously relied upon collieries, now closed, to support them.

Mr. Sproat

I have a keen interest in the brass band movement, including colliery bands, as an integral part of our artistic and cultural heritage. I recently had a valuable meeting with the British Federation of Brass Bands.

Mr. Enright

Will the Minister harness his considerable enthusiasm to attacking the bumbling of the Department of Trade and Industry and the insensitivity of the Department for Education, whose policies are helping to destroy junior brass bands, which should be fostered? I do not need a public statement from him—just a hint that he will attack them in the background as he has done successfully with regard to team sports.

Mr. Sproat

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his closing remarks and I congratulate him on the persistence and dedication with which he has pursued the question of the band in his constituency. On 18 February, I suggested to him six or seven ways in which he might advance the band. He may also care to have a word with the Voluntary Arts Network which might have some extra ideas, if not cash.

As for talking to the Department for Education and the Department of Trade and Industry, I will gladly pursue my usual friendly and genial conversations with them.

Mr. Jessel

Is my hon. Friend aware that all our hearts are warmed by the splendid sound of brass bands, just as they are by the British Army bands whose high standards of excellence are the envy of the world and who are trained at Kneller Hall, Twickenham? Will he draw the question of brass bands to the attention of the regional arts boards, and say that the whole House is behind them?

Mr. Sproat

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind support which, given his marvellous musicianship, is particularly valuable. I will do as he says.

Mr. Skinner

Although the Minister may give his overall support to the idea of colliery brass bands, the truth is that, under the Coal Industry Bill, the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation—the umbrella organisation which deals with colliery brass bands—has had its money reduced by 40 per cent. CISWO must remain intact to look after the brass bands. If the Government can find the money to subsidise opera, they should find the money to ensure that brass bands can continue in every coalfield.

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The future of CISWO and related matters are for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, but, as I said to the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright), I will do everything proper that I can to see that brass bands continue and flourish.

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