HC Deb 01 February 1999 vol 324 cc579-81
3. Mr. Clive Efford (Eltham)

What action he has taken to widen the opportunities for children to participate in making music. [66760]

The Minister for Arts (Mr. Alan Howarth)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced last summer the creation of a new Youth Music Trust with £10 million of Arts Council lottery funding a year. From April, the trust will work to promote greater access to music making for young people. Together with the standards fund initiative announced last week by my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Culture, Media and Sport and for Education and Employment, the trust could increase by at least £180 million over the next three years the resources available for improving music-making opportunities for young people.

Mr. Efford

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the emphasis that his Department places on community and school music and I draw attention to the excellent work in my constituency of the Greenwich Youth Band and Greenwich Music Makers, which provide opportunities for young people to participate in music. Will my hon. Friend assure me that the resources being made available will take due account of community arts funding to ensure that music tuition will be available to everyone, and that no one is excluded from such tuition for reasons of cost?

Mr. Howarth

I readily underline that point, and I take this opportunity to pay my tribute to the Greenwich Youth Band. Also in my hon. Friend's constituency is Eltham college, which has a strong musical tradition. I congratulate that institution on its link with the new Masterclass Music Charitable Trust, and we greatly appreciate the contribution made by Classic FM through that new trust.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Secretary of State should now regret saying that Musicworks personifies everything that new Labour is trying to achieve in music, given that that project has had to close with debts of more than £50,000? Was not the Secretary of State merely displaying his normal, cack-handed misjudgment when he said what he did?

Mr. Howarth

It seems a shame that the hon. Gentleman should simply resort to abuse. We hope to be able to double the amount of funding for music in schools: surely that should be a matter for welcome? Does the hon. Gentleman have to crab and to dwell on the negative, especially when the negative is imaginary?

Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)

I thank my hon. Friend for the infusion by the Government of new moneys into music. Would it be his wish that the children involved should one day graduate to playing in our national and regional orchestras? If so, will he kindly consider the difficulties faced by the Liverpool Royal Philharmonic Orchestra which, through no fault of its own, has massive financial problems? It is underfunded and has received only a very small increase in funds. If he were able to do something about the orchestra's difficulties, schools' music in the region would benefit greatly.

Mr. Howarth

My hon. Friend is a steady and strong champion of the Liverpool Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which is in difficulties. What is needed is a partnership between the Arts Council, North-West Arts, the relevant local authorities and other bodies. I believe that we shall be able to achieve that partnership.

I certainly join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the very remarkable achievements of our professional musicians, and to our musicians in schools. I was extraordinarily impressed when I visited the Music for Youth 1998 schools prom, as many hon. Members would have been, by the quality of the music making. However, music has been under threat in our schools, which is why our policies are so important to ensuring the continuation of what is a great national tradition.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)

In view of the alarming evidence produced last year by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, which showed that the imposition of charges for tuition had already had a devastating effect on the presentation of pupils for music examinations, will the Government monitor closely the effect of their proposals on the level of participation to ensure that that extremely unhealthy trend is reversed?

Mr. Howarth

The findings of the Associated Board were both dismaying and important, and they form part of the background to the substantial increase in funding for schools music introduced by my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Culture, Media and Sport and for Education and Employment. The Performing Rights Society is making a further study—a map—of provision of musical education and tuition throughout the country. We shall continue to do as the right hon. Gentleman recommends by monitoring the situation closely.

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