HC Deb 29 June 1998 vol 315 cc3-4
3. Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

What role his Department is playing in promoting good design in (a) the media and (b) elsewhere. [46313]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith)

I visited the Royal College of Art's design, communications and humanities students' exhibition last week and was very impressed by the skill and flair of the works exhibited there. My Department works closely with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Design Council in promoting our designers and the importance overall of good design.

Mr. Sheerman

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, often, the media, energetically aided and abetted by the Opposition, sneer at anything that design contributes to this country? Is it not a fact that Government Members cannot be complacent, because we have to champion design in every industry and Government Department? If we are to be truly internationally competitive, good design is paramount.

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend is right about the importance of design and the quality of the Opposition. It is no accident that, for example, there are 150 different car types on the road whose designs have had input from Royal College of Art students. That is a very good record for British designers and British design, and a strength on which we should build.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey)

Does the Secretary of State recognise that good design is about not only presentation but content? Is not his problem that he is so obsessed with pinning designer labels on everything that moves that the real issues are ignored? While he publishes airy rhetoric about design and goodness knows what, the tourism industry faces uncertainty, the arts are in crisis, the Royal Opera house is a shambles, the heritage has been designed out of the English language, and sport, music and design are being downgraded in our schools. Through all this, the Secretary of State dithers and does nothing, except cave in to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which I agree he is good at. The right hon. Gentleman is known to be decent, so why does he not do the decent thing and go before he is pushed? He would bring immense relief to his friends, and might even find time to write a proper book.

Mr. Smith

I had hoped that the hon. Gentleman's first question as Opposition spokesman would have been more accurate and have better content. He knows that his analysis of the arts, opera, design and the creative industries would have held true 13 months ago but does not now.

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