HC Deb 14 October 1996 vol 282 cc455-6
13. Mr. Dykes

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if she will stage an official national exhibition to promote the United Kingdom's participation in European art and culture. [37936]

Mr. Sproat

The United Kingdom has a flourishing cultural sector. Its artists, actors, musicians and performers demonstrate throughout the year that they can compete with the best in the world.

Mr. Dykes

I thank the Minister of State for that broad answer, but will he be a little more specific? In view of anxieties about the excessive domination of so-called American culture, should not the Government promote the virtues of the age of enlightenment, the renaissance, and 18th and 19th century romanticism rather than the present-day xenophobia of spokesmen who reside in Billericay and Southend?

Mr. Sproat

Xenophobia has no place in the Department of National Heritage. My hon. Friend asked for a specific example. Fair enough. I can tell him that 10 British applicants have won funds under the Kaleidoscope programme of the European Union to promote artistic and cultural activities with a European dimension. I congratulate them on that, which is exactly the sort of thing that my hon. Friend wants.

Mr. Bayley

Will the Minister join me in paying tribute to the work of the British Tourist Authority in encouraging people from overseas to come to Britain to enjoy our arts, culture and heritage? Given that every £1 grant in aid that the BTA receives brings in £27 of business to this country, of which £4 goes back to the Treasury in taxes, will the Minister give an undertaking to the House that there will be no further cuts in funding to the BTA in the current spending round?

Mr. Sproat

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his command of recondite figures, but I cannot give him the assurance that he seeks. He must wait until the Budget, like the rest of us. He is right to say that the role of the arts is important in tourism. I was near his constituency— in Harrogate—the other day to address the Museums Association. Some 62 per cent. of visitors to museums are foreign tourists and well over half of those who come to London theatres are foreign tourists, so the hon. Gentleman is right to say that the arts are extremely important.