§ 3.14 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN rose to call attention to the Report of the Arts Council for 1957; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, on July 11, 1957, I moved a Motion relating to the arts, when I drew attention to the urgent need for increased financial assistance by the State to the arts. I do not intend to repeat to-day most of the case that I then put forward. In that debate I tried to establish three main principles: the first was that art is essential to the life and culture of the people; the second was that art is international, and that not only have we been enriched by the art of other countries but also that other countries have been enriched by the art of this country; and the third was that in no country in the world are the arts self-supporting, and that the financial contribution to the arts in other countries is substantially greater than that in our own.
§ Those were the three propositions I put forward in that debate. There were eighteen speeches, and sixteen of them were in complete agreement with the case I put forward. Among them was that by the late Lord Waverley, who, unhappily, is no longer with us but who made a strong speech in support of the doctrine that I put forward. The only voice that was raised in opposition to the broad principles that I laid down was that of Lord Blackford, who I understand is going to speak this afternoon (and I am very glad he is) but who is not here at the moment. Then, of course, the Government spokesman, Lord Mancroft, has been replaced by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee. I hope that he will be able to give a more sympathetic reply than the one given by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, on the previous occasion.
§ At that time the general purport of the reply of the Government was that we were in a state of financial difficulty, that there was the danger of inflation, and that this was not the time to spend more money on the arts. My Lords, the climate is rather different this afternoon. According to noble Lords opposite, we are no longer in a stale of inflation, thanks to their efforts. We are all being actively encouraged to spend more money. The gates are being flung wide open, and we are being encouraged by the Government. by the banks, and by everybody else, not 914 only to spend the money that we have got but even to spend the money that we hope to have in the future. So I very much hope that the reply by the noble Earl this afternoon will be very different from the reply that was given in July, 1957. At any rate, he will not be able to reject my plea on the same ground as that on which it was then rejected. If he does reject it, it will have to be on some entirely different ground.
§ I would make only one further comment on the fact that we are asking for more money to be spent on the arts, and that is that, of course, the case is not wholly a financial one. We are not asking that more money should be spent on encouraging the arts because it is a profitable undertaking. On the contrary, it is not. However, I did reflect the other day as to what would have happened to this country if Shakespeare had not been financially supported. If there had been no Shakespeare, how much poorer this country would have been, not merely aesthetically, but financially! When one comes to take account of the large sums of money that are being spent by foreigners in buying Shakespeare's plays, and by the people who come here in order to go Stratford to see his plays, and of all the money that is being spent in connection with the Shakespeare "cult" (if I may so call it), then I suggest that even from a financial point of view the encouragement of Shakespeare and of many artists like him has been of immense financial value to the country.
To-day I move a Motion which is somewhat narrower than the one I moved in July, 1957. I am confining myself to the report of the Arts Council for 1957, and the Arts Council deal with a narrower range of subjects than those that were dealt with in the debate last year—music, opera and ballet and the orchestra, the visual arts, to a large extent contemporary, and poetry. It is interesting to note that, as against the eighteen speakers we had on the last occasion, we have almost as large a number this afternoon. It is an indication of the great interest which your Lordships' House always take in matters of this kind. I believe that most of the speakers are going to support, in one form or another, the case I hope to put.
§ In moving that the Report be considered, I want to draw attention to a number of specific aspects of it. In the 915 first place, it draws attention to the three ways in which the arts can be assisted at the present time. The first is by way of Government grant, which the Arts Council are receiving. The second is by way of local authority grant. Under the Local Government Act, 1948, and subsequent amendments, local authorities are empowered to spend up to a 6d. rate in support of the arts. The third method is by way of what the Report calls "the third force of patronage"—that is, assistance from television and large private enterprises.
§ I want to say a word first about the Government grant. In the year under review, the grant was £985,000, an increase of £100,000 on the grant of the previous year. Of this sum, almost half —£531,000—went towards the assistance of opera and ballet; about £113,000 towards assisting a number of orchestras, of which the principal were the Royal Philharmonic, the Royal Liverpool, the Hallé, the City of Birmingham and Bournemouth; and about £7,000 towards drama, mostly by way of assistance to repertory companies, including £12,000 to the Old Vic. I will come back to the Government grant later on in my speech.
§ The second form of assistance is from local authorities, and there are encouraging signs that grants from local authorities are increasing. London County Council are spending £20,000 a year in respect of its open-air exhibitions of sculpture at Battersea and Holland Parks. They have commissioned a number of works of art and have purchased others for the Festival Hall. This year the Council are giving a separate grant to Sadler's Wells and, of course, they are maintaining the Festival Hall. I do not know whether or not the Festival Hall is making a profit at the moment, but at any rate the London County Council are making themselves responsible.
§ In Scotland, some eighty local authorities have combined to provide an annual subsidy of £40,000 for the Scottish National Orchestra. In Lancashire and Cheshire. forty-four local authorities have got together and are providing £20,000 a year to be divided equally between the Hall and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic orchestras. In South Wales, there is the same story: a number of local authorities have got together. And this, 916 I hope, is something which will grow, because there is a feeling that some of the larger contributions that are being made out of public monies are being spent in respect of activities in London, and it is desirable that art should be widespread throughout the country and that local authorities should feel they are playing a part in encouraging and developing the arts in their own localities.
§ In the last year, there has been an encouraging development in the direction of private benefactions, the Arts Council's third force of patronage, and a number of examples are referred to in the Report. One record company is devoting a proportion of its royalties to the encouragement of music and a number of industrial undertakings are providing, in the aggregate, about £50,000 a year. Most interesting of all, the Independent Television Authority last year devoted £100,000 towards assisting the arts in a variety of ways. I think that that is an excellent way of disposing of some of the very high profits they are making, and I hope that if these high profits continue the grants towards the arts will increase.
§ But all these things are really no substitute for State assistance, to which I now want to revert. As I have said, out of about £531,000 devoted to opera and ballet, which represents well over half the total Government grant, the three largest grants were to the Royal Opera and ballet, £302,000; to Sadler's Wells, £142,000 and to the Carl Rosa Opera Company, £63,500. Admittedly, these are substantial sums, and I do not want to minimise what the Government are doing; but I think it only right, as I did in July last year, to say that the total Government grant is only one-third of the grant being made by France to her four national theatres—the Opéra, the OpéraComique. the Theôtre Français and the Odeon; it is only one-third of what is being provided by Italy as a contribution towards her national opera, and it is no more than many towns in Germany are providing to support their own opera and theatre. Hamburg alone, for example, is providing a quarter of a million pounds, and little Denmark is providing the same amount in support of the Opera House in Copenhagen. So, in comparison with what other countries are doing, our own contribution does not strike me as being unduly generous.917
§ Let me take Covent Garden alone. This is a national and international institution. Of foreign tourists, 75 to 80 per cent. go to Covent Garden at least once during their stay in this country. The Covent Garden Company performs forty-seven weeks in the year, and also undertakes tours to the larger centres of population, such as Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Manchester. Its performances are definitely equal to any in the world. I hesitate to say that they are superior, because as between different excellences it requires somebody more expert than myself to judge; but certainly, having heard the opera in a number of countries, I have no hesitation in saying that our company can stand up to any other opera company in the world, and we are clearly rendering a great service to opera and ballet in this country. Yet we have allowed the accumulated deficit of Covent Garden to stand, at March 31 last, at £150,000.
§ It is a most worrying thing for an organisation of that kind to be concerned with overdrafts and ways and means of making ends meet, rather than with improving the excellence of their programmes and trying out things which ought to be tried out, even though they may not be entirely remunerative in the beginning. I do not know whether I have stated it in this house before, but, if so, it is worth repeating: that every navel work of art is unpopular at the outset. I am told that when Beethoven's Fifth Symphony was first produced it was found dull. It takes time for the public to get accustomed to novel works. But if the Covent Garden Opera never produced a novel work, we should still be playing all the operas of the 17th century, and we should have never gone further. So it is essential that they should be free to produce works of art which they may know at the outset will not be profitable or give a satisfactory return. But with an overdraft of that magnitude, they cannot do it: they have got to play the old favourites, which are sure of a reasonable return but which do nothing towards the advancement of music.
§ The same thing applies to Sadler's Wells and the Carl Rosa Opera Company, and during the year discussions arose as to possible amalgamation. I do not know whether in this country to-day it is possible to maintain three first-class opera 918 companies. All I would say is that I think we ought to be able to maintain: them. After all, the total capacity of Covent Garden is only about 500, and the figure at Sadler's Wells is substantially less; and in this country of ours we should be able to provide facilities for more than 700 or 800 people to visit the opera at the same time.
§ Nevertheless, it may be that at the moment there is not room for three first- class opera companies, and the question arose, as a result of the desperation of all of them, of the possibility of some kind of amalgamation. However, I do not think any of them is very keen, and no doubt difficulties have arisen, with the result that any suggestion of amalgamation has been dropped for the time being. The Arts Council remain of opinion that some form of integration—whether that is the same thing as amalgamation I do not know—is desirable, and I hope that discussions will continue to take place with a view to that possibility becoming a reality. In the meantime, all three of them are in a parlous state.
§ It is true that the Sadler's Wells Company have surmounted their difficulties temporarily, with the assistance of a grant of £25,000 from the London County Council and £5,000 from Independent Television. With these, and the grant of £150,000 from the Arts Council, they have managed to get along this year. But they have no assurance that these other grants will be available in later years, and they are still in a difficult position. So is the Carl Rosa Opera Company. We owe a great deal to that Company. They have helped to popularise a type of opera which may not be everybody's taste, but is the taste of a large number of people, and they have done a great deal to give people in this country a love of opera. It would be a thousand pities if that Company were allowed to die. My noble friend and Leader Lord Alexander of Hillsborough is interested in the Carl Rosa Opera Company and he is going to say something on that particular problem.
§ Suggestions have been made that the Covent Garden Opera Company might make economies or increase their prices; and I referred to that in my speech last year. As they themselves would be the first to admit, it is impossible for anybody to say that the last word in economies has been reached and I expect there 919 is still some scope. In their view, however, there is no scope for major economies, although there may be some minor things which they can do. And there is certainly no hope of increasing their revenue by raising the prices of seats. In my view, and certainly in their own, they have reached a point of diminishing returns, and any increase in prices might result in a loss of total receipts. The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we want a national opera, and, if so, whether we must not accept the financial responsibility for maintaining that opera in a proper state, worthy of the dignity of the arts in this country, so as to enable it to carry on without these recurring financial crises and without the difficulties they are constantly having to face.
§ While I am on the subject of opera, I should like to ask whether we are doing enough to educate our young people to appreciate and enjoy the opera. There has been some correspondence on the subject, in The Times recently, and today there is a letter from friends of mine, Sir Robert and Lady Mayer, who have done so much to popularise music with their Saturday morning concerts. They put in a plea for opening the Opera House for young people on a specific number of days each year, the cost, presumably, to be assisted by the local authority. Could we not give young people privileged places at reduced prices, or even, as they suggest, have special performances for children and young people? We are doing a few intermittent performances at Sadler's Wells, but why not have regular and frequent performances, as is done in New York, France, Canada, Germany and Vienna, and give them both at Covent Garden and at Sadler's Wells? I believe the effect on children would be sensational.
§ I well remember the first time that I was taken to the Covent Garden Opera House. I saw Aida, and the memory of the first notes of the orchestra as it struck up will never leave me. It was a most moving and sensational experience. I then heard Caruso, Melba, Madame Destinn and Sammarco. These are names that I suppose to-day we should find it difficult to equal, but I can assure your Lordships that if more young people saw the opera, if not under those conditions. under similar conditions to those that I 920 experienced—and I was very much crowded in the gallery, although I forgot the discomfort of sitting there—it would have a most beneficial effect on them and on opera generally.
§ Now I want to turn to drama. I think the repertory companies of this country are doing a fine and remarkable job of work. It is obvious that a repertory company, except in rare cases, cannot possibly be made to pay. It is a popular form of providing drama to the people, and in the nature of things they perform in rather a small area. They have to make frequent changes of programme, and each change is costly. The result is that it cannot be a remunerative proposition. I am glad that the Arts Council is assisting in financing so many of our repertory theatres, some of whom produce excellent performances. I would instance particularly The Playhouse in Nottingham, which I happened to visit some months ago and where I saw a first-class performance which would have been a credit to any West End theatre. I should like to see more of these theatres set up in the new towns where there is a great shortage of amenities of that sort. But, obviously, the Arts Council are so tied up with helping the repertory theatres that already exist that any assistance to the new towns is unthinkable. I would put to the noble Earl that this is one way in which they can help to spread drama and, incidentally, help in the social development of the existing fourteen new towns.
§ While on the subject of theatres, I should like to ask the noble Earl whether he can tell us what is happening to the National Theatre. We have a splendid site which has been donated by the London County Council. The foundation stone was laid by Her Majesty the Queen Mother some years ago, and now, dead silence—and dead silence for a number of years. What is happening? I know that at one time the Government promised to make a substantial contribution towards the cost of building. I know also that the cost of building has gone up since that time, and that the amount the Government then promised would not be sufficient to cover the whole cost. Nevertheless, that is no reason why the whole scheme should lie dormant. There is an urgent need for a national theatre in this country, and I should be grateful 921 if the noble Earl could tell us what is the present position.
§ Is there any way by which the admittedly piecemeal and haphazard way in which the arts are being maintained could be improved? Here, I want to refer to a number of proposals that were put forward in the Romanes Lecture last June by the noble Lord, Lord Bridges. I wish he were here to state his proposals himself, for I know he would do it much more effectively; but he is not here, and I think he will not mind my putting them forward as his very inadequate substitute. He deplored the annual doles or grants which were being provided on a piecemeal basis and which gave nobody any security. He brought in the grants to the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery and the British Museum as well. I am not dealing with those to-day, but I should like it to be understood that everything I say would have applied equally to the arts and the acquisition of pictures as to the case I am making in respect of the opera, music and drama.
§ This is what the noble Lord puts forward: first, that there should be created a body similar in status and function to the University Grants Committee. Their job should be to cover purchase grants and other crucial expenditure of the national museums and galleries, as well as other expenditure of that kind. Secondly, he suggests that the Arts Council grant should be a quinquennial one instead of an annual one. That would enable the Arts Council to make plans ahead, and enable its beneficiaries equally to make long-term plans. They would know exactly what they could expect for the forthcoming five years, and they would have to cut their coats according to the available cloth, or get further assistance as best they could. At any rate, they would be left in no doubt whatever, year by year, as to what their grants were going to be.
§ The noble Lord suggested that the Arts Council should have two separate grants from Parliament; the first to deal with the expensive needs of opera and ballet. and the second to deal with the rest of the art activities they support—music, drama, the visual art and poetry. As I have said, at the moment a large portion of the Arts Council grant goes to opera and the ballet, and there is a feeling among the other forms of art, especially 922 those that are not practising in London, that they are in competition with opera and ballet, and that the more that goes to opera and ballet the less goes to them —which is, of course, true—.and the more that is available for expenditure in London the less in the provinces. That is an undesirable feeling for those engaged in art activities to have. If the two grants were separated, one to opera and ballet and one to the rest, there would not be that feeling of competition and rivalry between them, and each would know that what he was getting was not at the expense of the other.
Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Bridges. suggests the possibility of setting up what he calls a new form of patronage. He contemplates a partnership between governmental bodies. municipalities, charitable trusts and private benefactors which. to use his words,
could combine forces in a new species of collective patronage.
I believe that a great many private institutions would be proud to come into an organisation of that kind, and I have no doubt at all that if we set up a council of that kind we should get far greater and better organised support than the spasmodic kind of support which private undertakings are giving at the present time. At any rate, I think all these ideas are worthy of exploration, and I would ask the Government whether they would not consider the possibility of setting up a Committee of some kind—I do not say a Royal Commission, or anything of that sort—to report very quickly as to whether there is not something in these ideas, and whether this would not be a way of putting art on its feet for all time.
§ It is quite certain that in an age which is becoming increasingly scientific, mechanical and materialistic we must devise a means by which the arts can live, flourish and thrive, side by side with scientific knowledge and practice. We are running a grave risk of so concentrating all our thoughts and efforts and minds on the practical, mercenary, mechanical side of life, that we may be neglecting something which is at least equally precious. We are at last, I hope, living down the reproach of the 19th century that we are "a nation of shopkeepers", but our approach to the arts is still too grudging and parsimonious.
§ I would tell the noble Earl who is going to reply that in the document which 923 I have before me, which I hope he will read, The Future Labour Offers You, there is a paragraph which says that Labour will increase the amount of money available for the arts, through which all our lives can be enriched. I would recommend him to take a leaf out of this book and enter into competition with Labour for further support of the arts. I can promise him that if he does steal our clothes in this respect we shall not complain and we shall not make Party capital out of it. I beg the Government to take a more civilised and generous view of their responsibilities, and I look forward to a more sympathetic and favourable reply than we had on the last occasion. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.50 p.m.
My Lords, Desmond MacCarthy once said that the mind of a man is like a musical box; it has only a few tunes that it can play. Your Lordships know well that when my mind is wound up out comes "More money for the Arts Council". Your Lordships have heard my ineffectual appeals so often that I cannot expect you to conceal your boredom. Over and over again those of us who believe that the arts are being starved have made out our case, and it has been made admirably again in the Arts Council Report, especially in the eloquent preface by Sir William Williams.
Up till now the Government has always displayed self-satisfaction about its expenditure on the arts. The Government always reminds me of a Victorian Government, when confronted with the problem of poverty, boasting about their expenditure on the Poor Law. The Treasury, however, have displayed some slight evidence of an uneasy conscience, for they have brought out an apologia pamphlet which gives a beautiful gloss of generosity to their own parsimonious behaviour. Figures, of course, sound impressive to the ignorant, to people who are unaccustomed to dealing in millions. But you will observe that no comparison is made in the pamphlet with what other countries are doing or with what we ourselves are spending on other things. The subsidy of £250,000, for instance, to Covent Garden sounds a lot until you discover that Vienna pays £1 million, four times as much, to support its opera, and 924 that even the one German city of Hamburg, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, pointed out, receives a subsidy of £416,000 a year from the State. After all, opera has an established place here in this country and we have at this moment the most outstanding composer in the world.
What about drama, in which throughout the centuries we have excelled? From Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II our genius in drama has held universal admiration. Yet we are the only civilised country that has no National Theatre. Furthermore, the Arts Council has only £70,000 to allot to drama, in comparison with the £14 million that the German theatres receive every year in State assistance. But the comparison with the other things on which the Government really en joy spending money is even more striking. The expenditure of the Arts Council on all the arts is £1,100,000. Compare this with that nice little deficit of £75 million that they are finding for the railways this year, or the £25 million they are finding for the coal mines —two obsolescent industries—or with the £125 million that is going to be spent on really important matters of water supply and sewerage. They are spending £125 million on that, and the National Theatre would cost less than £2 million, which could be very favourably compared with the Ell million that is going to be spent on three and a half miles of the Oxford Western bypass. Of course, that is a much more important thing than the National Theatre; I realise that; but still the comparison is decidedly odious.
I hope your Lordships will not think that I am against these forms of expenditure. The point is that money can always be found for them, yet we are always too poor to support the arts. I have the suspicion that in the eyes of those serious public men who adorn the Front Bench of your Lordships' House the arts are nothing but entertainment, a jolly time out of business hours, and cannot rank with the important commitments —I am sure that is the official word —of industrial and governmental life. In fact, I do not believe that those public men see any difference between Hamlet and My Fair Lady. They do not believe that one is a delightful evening and the other is one of the basic foundations of our civilised life as a great nation. So 925 they give only £1,100,000 to the Arts Council, under the wing of which English talent is given its opportunity and our national art is produced; but they give £3,600,000 to the British Council for showing the world what we can do. Obviously the latter sum is well spent, but the former, which provides the material, is equally obviously absurdly small.
In the same way, the Government cannot afford the £2 million of capital expenditure necessary to give us the prestige of a National Theatre, but the Ministry of Education will spend £69½ million on its capital building programme this year. No one will grudge that money; but if we car afford £70 million for the one, surely we can afford £2 million for the other. I think it is only fair. And we have a right to ask, "Education for what?" No one could admire Lady Albemarle more than I do. I sat on the Arts Council with her for many years and I think that everything she does is perfect. I cannot imagine why she is not a Member of your Lordships' House. I have no doubt that she will take the chair with her usual sparkling ability in order—to quote the words:To review the contribution which the youth service can make in assisting young people to play their part in the life of the community. in the light of changing social and industrial conditions, and of current trends in other branches of the education service"—a most important job. But she will not call me as a witness before that Committee, because I might ask the important question: educated for what?—just to turn out useful little industrial workers, and scientists and technicians bent over their test tubes or the latest electrical device.
I warn the Government that there is a change coming over the intellectual development of this country. The people will not be satisfied with well-paid, monotonous efficiency in their work and with empty, boring lives at home. They want to be full citizens in a civilised country, and it is the democratic duty of the Government to put the Arts Council in a position to give them what they want.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ THE EARL OE DROGHEDA
My Lords, it is with a sense of great humility and extreme trepidation that I seek your Lordships' indulgence for a few minutes while I speak in this debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. My sense 926 of humility is increased by my knowledge of the affection which many of your Lordships felt for my father who, until his death last year, was for a number of years your Lordships' Chairman of Committees.
I have a very direct interest in this debate. Since early this year. I have been chairman of the board of directors of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, a position to which I was elected following the death of my most distinguished predecessor in that position, Lord Waverley. At any time the Arts Council Report would be a matter of interest to me, since the Royal Opera House is the chief recipient of Arts Council funds. This year it is of very great concern to me, because the Report contains a statement that unless there is a substantial increase in our resources the centenary which we celebrated earlier in the year may soon be followed by our demise. This statement may seem somewhat dramatic when your Lordships consider that this year we are receiving from the Arts Council a grant of £362,000, which is more than the figure quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. It is, however, a fact that the conduct of a national opera house which is responsible for performances of both opera and ballet of international standard, is extremely costly, and our true needs are in fact considerably greater. We have balanced our budget, on paper, this year only by the deferment of essential maintenance and other work, and this, of course, means increasing the problem for the future.
I wonder whether your Lordships would bear with me while I quote a few figures to show the comparable grants of other great opera houses. There seems to be a slight difference of opinion over some of these figures, because Lord Esher said that Vienna received £1 million, or the equivalent; my information is that the figure is about £900,000. With Hamburg it is the other way round, because my information is that, together with the Hamburg orchestra which plays for the opera, the grant is over £700,000. Munich receives approximately £600,000. This is of interest because the grant is received not only from the Bavarian State, but also from the City of Munich and the Bavarian State Radio. In Paris, the two houses together, the Opéra and the Opéra Comique, receive over £1 927 million. The Scala, which has a considerably shorter season, receives only about £300,000 from the State, but it has a good deal of municipal support as well. I think it is true to say that in none of these cases is it necessary for the theatres to pay rent for their premises, whereas here in London we pay rent and rates amounting to £40,000, or thereabouts, a year.
As for the United States, it is perfectly true that the great opera houses there receive no Government grant, but the tax laws are quite different, and sums which are contributed by individuals and corporations in America to an institution such as the Metropolitan Opera, in New York, are regarded, up to a certain proportion of those individuals' and corporations' incomes, as charitable contributions and are deductible for tax purposes. I should like to see something similar here —but I feel that it is unlikely that we shall do so!
It may be felt that, despite the comparative figures which I have given, Covent Garden could in fact manage with a smaller sum if we were to charge more for our seat prices. We shall soon be publishing an Annual Report for the year 1957–58, and this will show that, compared with 1950, we have put up our prices by about 70 per cent., which I think is more than keeping pace with the rise in the cost of living. I may perhaps be permitted here to say that the actual capacity of seats in Covent Garden is 2,200 and not 500, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Silkin said. I have lately seen a statement which gives the comparative prices charged in other opera houses in Western Europe, and it is the case that, almost without exception, our prices are higher than those in any other house in Western Europe. Nevertheless, we are soon going to make a further increase in seat prices. It will not be a drastic increase, because we do not want to invoke the law of diminishing returns.
What of the quality of our performances? I believe—and I hope that those of your Lordships who attend Covent Garden will agree with me—that there has been a considerable improvement in the quality of the performances we give. I think this was borne out by Lord Silkin, who made, a good deal better than I could hope to make them myself, many 928 of the points that I should like to make. I think that to-day we can stand up to comparison with almost any other opera house in the world. Since the war, we have not only been engaged in building up a National Opera House, but we have also been the home of the Royal Ballet. I think one can fairly say that that is a national asset of international repute and renown; and I believe that it would he hard to exaggerate what the Royal Ballet has done to enhance British prestige throughout the world. If Covent Garden were to close, as is suggested in the Report of the Arts Council, the Royal Ballet, while it would not die, of course, would certainly suffer immeasurably; and I do not think anyone would happily contemplate such a development.
I am convinced that Covent Garden, which now gives some 300 performances a year, is economically run, and I do not think that integration with Sadler's Wells or any other organisation would Yield economies of any significance: if anything, it might work the other way. We have, in fact, been into this matter most carefully. There has been a certain amount of talk of our giving lavish and costly productions, but in fact productions represent a very small part of our total outgoings. In my view, we should spend more on new productions; and, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has said, it is most important for us that we should encourage new artistes and new talent, and should not always be forced to "play safe", which has tended to happen to us recently. For international artistes whom we engage we naturally have to pay the international rate, otherwise we simply do not have them here; but for the most part the salaries and wages we pay are governed by trade union agreements. We have a small, devoted, administrative and technical staff who work very hard and are by no means overpaid. We have not yet been able to start a pension scheme for that staff. I am absolutely satisfied that the greatest care is taken at all points to ensure the economical running of the Opera House, and I am perfectly convinced that we are not extravagant.
To the statement of the Arts Council that we need a substantial increase in our resources, I would add that we also need an assurance to be able to plan for more 929 than twelve months ahead. In this connection, I should like to say how greatly I welcome, as I believe many other noble Lords have welcomed, the most wise and statesmanlike Romanes Lecture of the noble Lord, Lord Bridges. It deserves to be widely read and seems to me to set out with unanswerable logic the case for State support for the arts being planned on something more than merely an annual basis.
In conclusion, I hope that your Lordships will not think it pompous of me if I say that I believe Covent Garden is to-day an integral part of our cultural life, and that London would be a poorer place without it. I should like to hope that, if a beneficent Government do decide to do something to help us to receive our true needs after they have been most carefully assessed, and are able to do something to enable us to plan on more than a hand-to-mouth basis. that action will receive your Lordships' sympathetic support.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, it falls to my lot to follow the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda. who has just delivered a maiden speech which I feel sure has appealed to all Members of your Lordships' House as not only appropriate to the occasion but very skilled, full of knowledge and delivered with a charm which we might have expected of his father's son. I hope we shall often have the privilege of hearing him again. I should be rather jealous if he were to devote the whole of his future speeches to this one subject. Perhaps we might hear him again, even on other matters of interest to your Lordships' House.
At the end of his speech the noble Earl said that he felt that Covent Garden was an integral part of the life of the whole nation from the point of view of the arts. That leads me to say at once that I wish to talk about a particular aspect of the Arts Council. There are other parts of the country to be considered as having provided for a maintenance of art standards in the nation besides these very important and highly-valued centres of production and culture in London. I do not speak as Leader of the Opposition because I feel certain that all of us in this House would wish to approach the work of the Arts Council on a purely non-Party basis. To-day we all have an 930 interest in the arts, and we all want to see done for them the best that can be done.
The figures which have been given by my noble friend, Lord Silkin, in what I thought was an admirable speech in opening this debate, and by the noble Lords, Lord Esher and Lord Drogheda, show quite well, I believe, that compared with other countries in the world. this country is by no means advanced in the amount of public State support it gives to the culture and promotion of the arts. Nevertheless, there have been in this country, in the past, institutions which have done a great deal for that culture and development, and, without detracting one word from the general case which has been so ably put by my noble friend, Lord Silkin, I want to speak especially to-day on that part of the Report of the Arts Council for 1957–58 which commences on page 14 under "Notes for the Year", dealing with what I call the shabby and unjustifiable treatment of the Carl Rosa Opera Trust.
I believe the position is one which justifies the request which has been made by the present board of the Carl Rosa Trust that a searching inquiry should be made into all the circumstances. At the outset of my remarks on this subject, I would say to the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, who is to reply for Her Majesty's Government, that I believe that in the case of the Carl Rosa Opera Company they are committed, whatever may have been the general practice of the Treasury in the past in saying of bodies like the University Grants Committee, the Arts Council and the like, "We have given them so much money and it is their job to spend it. We have nothing further to say about it."
I believe Her Majesty's Government are committed in the case of the Carl Rosa Opera Company, and committed in a double sense. In 1951, my late noble friend. Lord Calverley. raised this question in your Lordships' House, and the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, in replying for Her Majesty's Government on that day, said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 178, col. 1060]:I can say, quite categorically, that the Arts Council—and Her Majesty's Government are in the greatest sympathy with them—want to keep the name of the Carl Rosa Opera Company in the opera houses and theatres of this country. Everything that can humanly be 931 done so that this should happen will be done.Subsequent events over the next year or two seemed to indicate that that would be done. At any rate, the Carl Rosa Opera Company—which up to the present year has done eighty-three years of profitable work for art in this country, is the oldest opera company in the world and, so far as I know, is the only opera company in the world that persistently sings its operas in English—was, as a result of all that took place after that statement on behalf of Her Majesty's Government in 1951, acquired with public money granted by Her Majesty's Government to the Arts Council. The Company was turned into the Carl Rosa Opera Trust, of which there is, of course, a board of management. It was acquired under a formal, legal document in which it is laid down, as a condition of the acquisition of the Company by the Trust, that its purpose and function is to present opera in the principal provincial centres of Great Britain in accordance with the tradition, style and general policy formerly pursued by the Carl Rosa Opera Company.
There is no doubt in my mind, or, I suppose, in the minds of many other of your Lordships, that the work of the Company in the provinces over the years has been quite magnificent. I say that as one who was brought up in the provinces and who, certainly until the age of thirty-four or thirty-five remained there. The Carl Rosa Company was the only means I had of obtaining any access to the music and the acting of the opera, and of increasing my knowledge of it. If I think back on my own acquaintances made and friendships gathered since then, I find that numbers of them—and many of them have been translated to the notoriety and successes of Covent Garden—were formed in the cultural school and practice of the Carl Rosa Opera Company. Some of my personal friends, such as Parry Jones, Norman Allin, Miss Gladys Park and other people (I could go on and make a list of them), in common with a whole range of other and notable singers and performers, have been brought up and trained in, and have excelled in, the particular form of production of opera which the provinces desire, and which has kept opera popular with wide and varying classes of people in the provinces.
932 What has happened? In the last twelve months there has certainly been an extraordinary upheaval. I notice that the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, had just a word to say following up what my noble friend Lord Silkin said about integration. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, felt that integration might or might not be of benefit, but that, at any rate, it was worth looking at. The noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, said he did not think integration would be of much service to Covent Garden—I gladly give way to him.
§ THE EARL OF DROGHEDA
My Lords, I wanted only to say to the noble Viscount that I did not say it would not be of service to Covent Garden, and I should not like to say one way or the other as to whether it would be of service. What I meant to say is that there would not be any financial economies to be derived from integration.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, as it happens that meets my view, because I should gather that it has been very largely the financial aspect of the matter of integration which has been in the minds of the Arts Council. If we consider their Report this year it will be found that on page 14, and over to pages 17 and 18, there are one or two very interesting statements. First of all (and my noble friend Lord Silkin must have had this at the back of his mind when speaking) the Arts Council say this:The lack of the means to sustain opera on the basis of the ascertained and accepted need is due, year after year, to the fact that the Treasury grant to the Arts Council turns out to be substantially less than the careful and accurate estimate of requirements submitted.From that point of view I think that the Arts Council have put in their own Report the case submitted by the noble Lords, Lord Esher and Lord Silkin. Without a shadow of a doubt the grants made are insufficient.
When it comes to the question of integration, then it seems, from the events of the last fourteen or fifteen months, that the attempts made, if not by the direct intervention at least by the gospel preached, by the Arts Council in favour of integration have turned out to be a most dismal failure. They say in this Report:… the Arts Council has repeatedly asserted the belief that many advantages could result 933 from some measure of integration or association between the various opera companies—Covent Garden, Sadler's Wells, Carl Rosa and the Welsh National Opera Company. In furtherance of this belief the Arts Council brought together, in the first place …"—and then the Report goes on to describe the meeting between the representatives of Covent Garden and Sadler's Wells. Therefore I do not think it is much use for the Arts Council now to report and act as if the attempts made at amalgamation or integration in the last twelve months have not been open to the Arts Council.
I do complain, however, that the happenings with regard to the Carl Rosa Opera Company certainly have, at least by default of any reference to it, been allowed to lie, quite unjustly, to the blame of the Carl Rosa Opera Company. The proposed agreement of integration between the Sadler's Wells Company and the Carl Rosa Company was not made upon the initiative of the Carl Rosa Opera Company; it was made upon the initiative of the Sadler's Wells Company. The situation is not as would be implied from the remaining passages on this matter in the Arts Council's Report. It was not at any time the subject of final agreement by the Carl Rosa Opera Company.
In my view, the Government Department—the Treasury, I take it—which has to deal with this matter ought to pay great attention to the submissions made on behalf of the Carl Rosa Trust and by the chairman, Mr. Charles Wilson, that there is room for an inquiry, because they submit that in certain respects the comments made on this matter by the Arts Council cannot be proved to be true. If that is the feeling as to how they are being dealt with in the allocation of public money it seems to me to call at once for a proper inquiry, and it is of no use for the Government to try to ride off on the idea that it has always been the practice of the Treasury in such matters, whatever Government has been in office, to say they must leave it to the body which has been set up to administer the grants.
I often hear quoted, in support of that attitude of the Treasury, the example of the University Grants Committee procedure. In fact, the University Grants procedure, according to the information I have, is very different from that which has been practised by the Arts Council. 934 The University Grants Committee at least meet on the basis of coming into direct contact with all the various organisations concerned in the allocation of the grant, of finding out exactly what is required, what the programme is and how the money allocated by the Treasury can be best spent in the interests of the community as a whole. That practice is not being followed, so far as I can tell from the case submitted to me, in the case of the Arts Council. In fact, the board of the Trust has never, as a board, been in conference with the Arts Council. There have been the contacts made from time to time, apparently, between the former chairman, Sir Donald Wolfit, and the artistic director, Professor Gregg—I can remember the last name but forget his full name.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS BOROUGH
But apparently the real views of the whole of the board have not been made known to all the members of the Arts Council. It has been left, more or less, to two or three individuals. The board of the Carl Rosa Opera Trust feel that they have a real grievance in this matter.
My Lords, there is something else which I should like to say on this matter. When the decision—the lamentable decision— was taken to cut altogether the financial support for the Carl Rosa Opera Trust, it was taken in circumstances which, from my point of view, were almost unbelievable. This process of endeavouring to get integration (as the Arts Council call it), during the last eighteen months has led, as many Members of your Lordships' House will recollect, to an extraordinary situation. The Sadler's Wells board—and I say this because the Arts Council make a great play about divisions and resignations from the Carl Rosa Opera Trust—were so divided upon the issue as to whether or not they could perform adequately the task of their productions at Sadler's Wells and maintain a touring season in the country which would take at least one half of the normal touring year, that, as a consequence, three members of the board resigned. It was that which eventually led to the breakaway. It was then assumed that the Carl Rosa Trust had some connection with that. In fact, it had nothing to do with it at all. It had 935 not agreed finally to the proposed integration. And yet, within a few weeks of that, the whole of the grant was cut off.
Moreover, I think this has to be said. If I am wrong, I shall no doubt be corrected, but I read between the lines, and my mind goes back to the time last year and this year when the whole future of Sadler's Wells was under discussion and was in a state of great dubiety; when the Arts Council were so moved by public opinion and by the results of meetings called by the mayors of the London boroughs which were affected, and other such meetings, that they had to do something more about it. Finally, they referred in their Report, I think, to the fact that they had done as much as they could. They felt it was better than an absolute closure. Even to-day, the people who move in the Sadler's Wells circle hardly know whether that means that their good work is to be fully supported in the future. In my opinion, that alone justifies all that has been said by previous speakers in the debate this afternoon on the need for having a long, through-term policy in any direct support of the arts in this country.
What happened then? In the ordinary way the Carl Rosa Opera Trust set about preparing their programme for the following season—the 1958–59 season. They had had great difficulties with the artistic director. Incidentally, I might say that the artistic director (to whom I have already referred) is greatly praised in this Report by the Arts Council for the improvements which have occurred, but they are improvements for which I can find no real support reflected in the results. In the full season during which he was the new artistic director and was in charge of the company, the box office receipts dropped by round about £19.000 as compared with those for the previous season, and he was unable to get rid of the normal deficit between box office receipts plus grant and current expenditure.
On July 9 of this year the Secretary of the Arts Council asked the Carl Rosa Opera Trust Company to submit their programme by July 18. There was no fuss, no hurry. no urgency—just the usual request to submit it. The Carl Rosa Opera Company Board went into the matter. They provided themselves with an agreement with a new and very wellknown 936 artistic director who had had great experience and success; the programme was drawn up; some expenses were entered into; and it was submitted on July 17. On July 23 the programme was rejected out-of-hand. It was rejected, apparently. on three main grounds. In the first place, it was suggested that it was rejected upon the ground that there would not be enough time to set the programme up for the touring season. My Lords, that does not bear any examination at all, because they had already entered into actual bookings of theatres, they had already engaged some of the artists required, and they had got to at least the stage of formal agreement with the new artistic director of the company. They could have gone straight forward.
In fact, the Arts Council, having to step in and fill the breach. had to set up what they called the 1958 Touring Opera Company; and because they did not want to let down the artists they had engaged or who had prospective employment for the 1958–59 season, the Carl Rosa Opera Trust handed over all the programme it had to the Arts Council. The Arts Council are using at least a part of the programme, and they are using at least a part of the engagements entered into by the Carl Rosa Opera Trust Company —whereas they had said that one of the main reasons why they had rejected their programme was because there would not be time to put it into operation. I must say that reports that have come to me show that in consequence, in some of the provincial towns there has been a great deal of consternation about the break in the touring season of the Carl Rosa Opera Trust Company.
My Lords, the noble Viscount must not ignore the fact (though I do not think it is worth while going into it in your Lordships' House) that there were immense personal difficulties that took place in that company and that resignations were caused by those difficulties, which made it very difficult for the company to operate.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER or HILLSBOROUGH
I should be quite willing to go into any amount of detail on that matter with the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, because I have a lot of information about that, too. Certainly the Arts Council are very misleading in their 937 Report, when they talk about twelve resignations in a number of years. Many of them were quite fortuitious—through age or sickness—and hardly until this last year have there been any at all because of disagreement. In fact, Mr. Norman Allan and Mr. Cox, two of the five who resigned, have since said that they wished they had never resigned. There has also to be taken into account the fact that some of the resignations were certainly as a result of pressure brought upon them, as is instanced by the experience of Mr. Buesst, a member of the board who refused to give way to the pressure upon him al that time. At any rate, the grant was withdrawn and they were to get no more money at all.
They were also told that the other main reason was that there was a deficit of £15,000 accumulated over the overall programme for the former four years. I wonder how that deficit compares with the deficits of other subsidised bodies. If we look at the returns, I should say —and I noticed that the noble Earl. Lord Drogheda, took the point—that if his board could be in a position like that he would consider it marvellous. What is more, because of lack of a continuous through-policy in making these grants, every single art-producing body finds itself, at the end of the year, with commitments already made for the next season — commitments in respect of housing properties, preparing for new productions, and with salaries and permanent overheads to maintain; and they are compelled to overdraw on the bank. All these things are included in their deficits.
How was the Carl Rosa Opera Trust treated? Just about a day before the publication of their own decision in the Press, they were told about this. The time I have at my disposal goes so quickly that it is impossible for me to cover all the ground I wanted to do this afternoon. but I must say that I am convinced, after reading the case submitted —pages of it—to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by the chairman of the board of the Carl Rosa Opera Company, that a case for an inquiry certainly exists. The deficit last year was certainly affected by the drop in box office receipts under the direction of the artistic director whom the Arts Council kept on in connection with the stop-gap programme taking the 938 place of the Carl Rosa programme. I have received information from towns in the provinces that they greatly regret the proposal to end the Carl Rosa tours of the provinces.
I hope very much that in any case the Carl Rosa Opera Trust will be continued. I submit that the Government, because of the terms of the legal document by which the Government purchased the Carl Rosa Opera Company with public money, have a certain interest in the matter and must see that the purpose intended when the grant was made is carried through to the end. I only add that the work is being conducted with great difficulty at the present time. In spite of what the Arts Council say in their Report—that arrangements have been made to relieve any members of the board of the Trust of any personal liability for the deficit—at least until three or four days ago, no communication had been received. Those fully informed in the matter know well that for weeks and weeks after the stopping of the grant in July there was no move on the part of the Arts Council to meet the situation—not the slightest move—and that it was only after members of the board had insisted upon consultations and upon the matter being dealt with that, finally, about a month ago, after much delay, the promise was made that they would not have to meet the whole of their expenses for the voluntary work they had been doing.
My Lords, all this savours to me of something exceedingly peculiar. Why should the Arts Council and their bureaucratic employees and advisers take over a public trust of this kind, and then proceed to do their level best to kill it altogether?—though I hope that that is not the intention. I hope that something will be done by the Government to see that that does not happen, and to see that the Provinces, which have been so loyal to the Carl Rosa Opera Company and have enjoyed eighty years of service from this Company, have that service continued. Do not let them think for a moment that the service of a body like Sadler's Wells Opera Company No. 2 will satisfy the managers of provincial theatres. They want a body which is devoted to the Provinces during the whole of the touring season. I hope that when the noble Earl replies, he will be able to assure me that the Government will grant the inquiry 939 which has been so properly asked for by the board of the Carl Rosa Opera Trust; that they will see that the inquiry is of an independent character, and that its findings are reported to Parliament and the Press.
§ 4.43 p.m.
ELORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
My Lords, since I understand that, most regrettably, the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, is unable to take his part in this debate, it has been suggested that the few words I have to say should come now, and I am indebted to my noble friend Lord Huntingdon and to the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, for their courtesy in allowing me to intervene at this stage.
In concentrating the attention which your Lordships have focused upon the Arts Council and their Report upon opera and drama, the noble Lords who have spoken have tended to overlook the splendid achievements collected in this Report in relation to painting, lithography, drawing and other visual arts. It is an excellent and inspiring record. Merely to look through the titles of the special exhibitions of pictures from abroad, from private collections and assembled from our own public collections, is to live again the joys which have been provided in the year under review. No less splendid is the record of the Arts Council in respect of the encouragement and assistance being given to the production and exhibition of special films dealing with the arts. I cannot think of any other country where there exists a body having the same purpose as the Arts Council with a record in these departments which can excel that of the Arts Council; and I rejoice to learn that the present chairman. Sir Kenneth Clark, has been appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to continue for another two years in the office in which he has so distinguished himself as one of the outstanding servants of the arts in Europe.
Turning to the theatre—and in this field I have served on the Board of the Old Vic for many years—I do not think that any criticisms we have of the relations of the State to the living theatre are focused in any way on the Arts Council. If there is anything which could be improved here I think it may be in the terms imposed upon the Arts Council by the 940 Government and the Treasury, in the method of the grant and in the manner of its administration. I think that these conditions arise, not from any but from the parsimony with which the whole question of State assistance for the arts is regarded. This has been most brilliantly set out in the memorable speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, which should be printed, published and delivered, with the Highway Code, to every single citizen. But it arises also from a misconception of function. I would beg the Government not to regard their patronage of the arts as a rescue operation. I would ask them to regard themselves as constructive partners, and not as reluctant relatives, coming along at the last moment to dig out a somewhat less than respectable colleague. It is constructive partnership that is wanted, and that is where it seems to me the proposals which Lord Bridges made in that lecture are so much to the point.
I beg the Government to embrace and adopt those proposals without further delay. If we had this quinquennial evaluation, and if we had this partnership based on a continuing understanding of the problems, we should not have this "rescue operation" state of mind. We should make these grants not on the basis of failure but on the basis of impending success. These annual payments in respect of deficits are a direct encouragement to improvidence. What we should do is to invest in success and award marks on which continuing grants are given, first for merit and performance, and secondly for solvency in the way it is performed. Then we could assess how much it was worth while to invest in this success in order to encourage a surge forward in its effort. I do not want to detain your Lordships for longer than is necessary, but I would urge the Government to alter forthwith their attitude and to adopt the proposals which Lord Bridges, with an unrivalled experience and a most enlightened outlook in the matter, has made, and to enter into partnership with those who have the best promise of giving a real return for the money invested.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF HUNTINGDON
My Lords, I should like to support, briefly but I hope emphatically, the words spoken by my noble friend Lord Silkin at the beginning of this debate. I always 941 find this a difficult debate in which to speak, because everybody is on the same side, although unfortunately that does not seem to make much difference to the attitude of Her Majesty's Government. I think that this Report of the Arts Council is an extremely valuable one, but really it only sets out in full the state of affairs which we all know too well, the very sorry state of affairs into which the arts have come in this country. One is apt to be cynical on the subject and to wonder whether the Government are not just driven to support only those measures which can catch votes for a possible coming Election.
Unfortunately, the arts have always been looked on as something which is not a "vote-catcher" and something in which the mass of the people are not interested. I wonder whether that is not a false view. The enormous increase in interest in the arts by people in this country over the last few years can be measured, by the sales of classical records of the gramophone companies, by the formation of new gramophone companies, the great demand for seats for any good production in our theatres or opera houses, and the increase in exhibition attendances, compared with former times. I think there is a growing æsthetic demand among the people which has not been recognised by those in authority. It seems to me, whether politically-wise or not, that to be as "stingy" as we in this country have been over the arts is both politically misguided and morally wrong.
I was delighted with the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, and I would join with the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, in wishing that it could be published and distributed, because to me it is always a matter of the greatest disgust and annoyance that, while we spend so willingly millions and millions of pounds on almost any project which comes up, when it comes to this most important project of helping the arts, to get a few hundred thousands is like squeezing the driest of lemons. I often wonder how the Treasury officials and the Ministers in charge of spending can justify this unbelievable "stinginess" when it comes to any support of the arts. I suppose that on materialistic grounds one could argue that, so long as people are well fed and housed, have reasonable 942 comfort and some light entertainment, and are able to work, that is all we want. But if that is the argument, surely we have come down to the worst form of totalitarian mentality. It is the same mentality which induced Goering to make his famous remark:When I hear the word 'culture,' I reach for my gun.I doubt if any of your Lordships would subscribe to that theory. If there is cut out from our national life all the æsthetic qualities we have, it would indeed be a dreary place.
But that is not the argument that I want to put before the House to-day. I am satisfied that we should all agree that a country from which the arts were eliminated, or in which they played only so small a part in the national life as not to count, would be sad beyond words. But I wonder whether noble Lords realise how necessary they are, from a material and financial point of view, in regard to the prosperity of the country. In many ways they are one of our biggest money-makers. I wonder whether your Lordships realise how much all the things we use, the implements, the advertising designs, clothes, theatre designs and so on, are all originally the product of the artist. The original artist thinks out a new movement, a new form and a new way of expressing himself, and all the lesser designers copy him and take his ideas which are distributed through the whole trade. That is so whether it is dress design, design of cutlery, designs of machines, motor cars or anything else: they all originally come from the more original artists who have thought out new modes of expressing themselves. From that alone, if we wish to compete with our products in the world at large, can we get the best designs possible. That is one item.
Secondly, there is the tourist trade. The fact that we have good theatre, good opera and good concerts must attract to our shores a large proportion of foreigners, with their extremely useful foreign currency. But I think it is for our own sakes that we really wish to have some advantage from the arts, and this cannot be had on the cheap. As has been pointed out several times this afternoon (and I do not want to cover the ground again), many of the expressions of art are necessarily expensive. It is impossible to run a large symphony orchestra 943 on a shoestring, or to run good opera cheaply. If we are going to have the best, we must pay for it. That apparently is what the Government jib at doing.
There are, as is suggested in this Report, four sources of obtaining money—and money is the key to this whole problem, given the creative ability which this country has. The private patron has practically disappeared, and the only direct contribution we can expect on a large scale is the small contribution of the individual paying for his seat in the theatre, his entrance fee at an exhibition. his seat for a concert, and so forth. But if we are going to support the arts as we should wish, we must rely, as the Report points out, on industry, on the local authorities, on the new patron, the Television Authority, and, finally, and most important, on the Arts Council. As regards industry, it is a welcome development that some of the big industrial concerns are realising their responsibility in this respect, and I hope they will be encouraged. I wonder if Her Majesty's Government could not help to encourage them by devising same scheme of tax relief for money spent in this way. That is not a new idea: it is done in other countries, and I do not see why it should not be promoted here.
In regard to the local authorities, one would like to see a lot more done than is done; and here again I think Her Majesty's Government could take a lead and encourage schemes to help the authorities to spend more on the arts. In regard to the Television Authority, one welcomes the steps being taken, but these in no wise stop the responsibility of the body which can help the arts most, which is the Arts Council. I should like to join with other noble Lords in begging the Government not to be quite so parsimonious but to try to disgorge a little more money to help this body, which, though it may make mistakes, nevertheless does its best to help the arts which are in such a difficult position.
We have heard a great deal to-day about the opera, so I will not say much upon that question, though I should like to reinforce the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, about a National Theatre. I do not see why we cannot at least do something to initiate a scheme.
944 Even if it is impossible to build the theatre straight away, if some money could be allocated so that plans could be drawn up and building operations started, you would find the public willing to subscribe.
§ THE EARL OF HUNTINGDON
I implore Her Majesty's Government to try to do something about this much-needed institution of a National Theatre.
The other thing I should like to see carried out is the proposal in the Council Report of the divorce between money which is allocated to Covent Garden and Sadler's Wells. which is a vast amount and a necessary amount, and the money which the Arts Council have to distribute among all the other artistic needs—to encourage our sculptors, painters and actors, our concert artistes and our orchestras—because I think it would be found much easier for the Arts Council if a separate amount were given for these major bodies, and another amount which they could distribute as they like among the many demands which come to them every day. Otherwise, there is always a certain amount of niggling and difficulty. The other bodies complain that all the money is going to opera, and the opera complains that it must have more or it will have to shut down. That could be decided by making a division between the two payments—one a vote for the opera and ballet, and the other for the other arts generally. I believe that that would ease the position of the Arts Council.
I do not want to keep your Lordships much longer, because much has been said and we have all supported it. We all plead that something should be done to help, and at the moment the Arts Council is the only body which can help. So I once more add my voice to the plea to Her Majesty's Government to be less parsimonious, a little more generous, and to provide at least the £3 million which is badly needed—and, if possible, a little more—to help one of our most vital needs.
§ 5.5 p.m.
My Lords, I am a little afraid that when this debate has ended and the noble Earl has wound up in one of his persuasive speeches the Government will say to themselves: "Well, that is that. That is the end of it. The whole subject has gone with the wind until a Motion is put down next year." It is for that reason that I propose to revert to the substance of a Question which I put in your Lordships' House on November 11 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 212, col. 341], in which I asked whether the Government couldstate the amounts of public monies allocated to the Arts Council, the British Council, and public libraries … whether, in deciding on the allocations, a co-ordinated survey was made of the activities of the foregoing bodies, in order to ensure that the total sums available for distribution was allocated in the best interests of the nation as a whole.….I desire to emphasise this afternoon that in allocating these sums to the various bodies, quite apart from the public libraries, it is essential to know the facts upon which the allocations are made and the reasons for which these sums of money are allocated. I would refer to a leading article in The Times of October 9 of this year dealing with this particular question. The Times asked:How is the proper total national expenditure on the arts to be determined? It is no use saying the sky is the limit and hoping for a few low-lying clouds.… It is no use saying the answers are known. Very little is known.… A Royal Commission on the arts would not be a waste of time.I should like to emphasise that, and to draw the attention of your Lordships to certain instances in which there would appear to be an overlapping on the part of the Arts Council and the British Council in respect of the use of monies voted by Parliament for their particular purposes.
In the Report of the Arts Council at page 58, I find this stated:Ballet Rambert. The principal event in the Ballet Rambert's year of activity was a visit to China. As the first English ballet company to visit that country it received an enthusiastic welcome at every performance during a tour lasting nine weeks.Presumably the Ballet Rambert was either wholly or partly financed by the Arts Council. When I turn to the Report of the British Council at page 110, I find this stated under the heading "Art":(a) Drama; includes subsidies, guarantees or actual management charges for tours overseas 946 by British drama, opera and ballet companies and artists.The total expended in 1957–58 for that purpose was £20,955, but that excludes any of the expenditure on staff.
Now, my Lords, if that be so, and these two organisations, the Arts Council and the British Council, are both spending money voted by the taxpayer on sending a ballet company or ballet companies abroad, I suggest that there must be some overlapping, and that would be a very adequate matter for investigation by a committee or commission such as demanded in my Question of November 11 or advocated by The Times. Looking through the supplementary questions which followed on my Question of November 11, I find that the noble Earl, in answering my second supplementary question. said [Col. 342]:… although there may be a case for giving more to the Arts Council.At a later stage, in reply to a supplementary question by my noble friend, Viscount Esher, he said, referring to the £1,100,000 allocated to the Arts Council [Col. 344]:I agree that there is a case for making it greater still.With great respect to the noble Earl, I would ask, on what did he base those answers? He said that there may be a greater case, or there was a greater case. On what did he base those answers? Was it on information supplied by the Treasury? Are we to understand from those answers that larger grants will be given in the future? If that be so, we shall be delighted to hear it. But I suggest, coming back to my main point, that none of these questions can be answered unless some form of inquiry is set up which can conduct investigations into the monies expended by both the Arts Council and the British Council. For that procedure, as I suggest tonight, we have an excellent example from Canada. In Canada, the Massey Commission was set up by the Government to inquire into, among other things, the development of the arts in Canada. The result of the Massey Commission was the formation of a Canada Council, a body akin to a combination of our British and Arts Councils, and generously endowed with a capital fund.
That really is all I have to say, but I submit to the Government that there is a 947 very strong case in the interests of the taxpayer for setting up a Committee of Inquiry to report to Parliament on the cultural activities of the Arts Council and the British Council. I hope that the noble Earl tonight is not going to close his mind to that submission, but that he will say that the Government will give that request, which has been reiterated by other noble Lords. their most earnest consideration.
§ 5.15 p.m.
My Lords, I rise for a brief moment to make an additional appeal to Her Majesty's Government for further help for the arts in general. I want to make my appeal on a slightly different ground from that of my noble friend, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston. I believe that the arts are really an essential part of liberal education. They are not a luxury; they are not something outside people's lives. All of your Lordships, I am convinced, have, like myself, found that your enjoyment of life itself has been augmented and enlarged by some or other of the arts. It is noted in this Report that £16 million a year is spent upon public libraries. No one for one moment would doubt that public libraries are educational; but if this amount of money is a justified expenditure on public libraries, then I suggest that something more than £1¼ million is due to the arts other than literature. This is really not an extravagance; it is not a luxury expenditure. It is an expenditure on the enrichment of the lives of the people of this country.
I would draw your Lordships' attention—and I wonder whether I can have a reply from Her Majesty's Government on this point—to one particular statement in the Arts Council's Report; it is on page 22, the last sub-paragraph of the paragraph which runs over from the previous page. It reads as follows:Meanwhile the one theatre project for which a British Government accepted responsibility several years ago is still in the pigeonhole. and the handsome site on the South Bank donated by the L.C.C. for our National Theatre remains sterilised.I wonder whether Her Majesty's Government could not tell us this afternoon that this is a project they will now put in hand immediately. I hope this promise can be given to us. It is a great many years since the foundation stone of the National Theatre was laid by King 948 George V, incidentally on an entirely different site from the one now available. Ever since that time, this project has been in the air. I hope that we may have a more encouraging reply on that matter this afternoon.
A number of years ago, it was remarked to me by the distinguished director of one of our most important national collections that no provincial museum could hope to augment its collection by any painting by any of the greater of the old masters. He pointed out that to buy a decent Rembrandt would inevitably cost at least £40,000 at that time, and your Lordships will have seen the prices which have been brought by other pictures in the London sale rooms quite recently. If we feel, as I feel and I know most of your Lordships feel, that this is something which is worth doing, then Her Majesty's Government must make up their minds to augment by a very considerable figure the money put at the disposal of the arts. It is no good pretending that this can be done adequately or properly on a shoestring; it cannot. We have been trying to do it on a shoestring and it is a shame to us all.
It is sometimes said that these things are, if not luxuries, at any rate the interest of only a limited number of our people. It is pointed out that the experimental theatre, the opera and so on, are not commercially profitable. But I would point out to your Lordships that, as I think my noble friend. Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, remarked, the sphere of influence of the arts is very much wider than their first and direct impact. There has recently been shown on television an extremely interesting play. That play was first produced at the Stratford-at-Bow theatre by the Theatre Workshop. It would never have seen a stage if it had not been produced there. It was not, so far as I am aware, a financial success. None the less, it has now been seen by millions of viewers. They have seen, perhaps for the first time, and apparently enjoyed, a play of a type, kind and quality which otherwise would never have been made available to them. This money is far more valuable to our people than its immediate and direct impact. I beg Her Majesty's Government to think generously and, above all, to realise that this is not a luxury but a necessity for which we are asking.
§ 5.21 p.m
§ Lotto AUCKLAND
My Lords, it is most refreshing that we can come here this afternoon and hear so many expert views (though I certainly do not include mine in such a category) on such a subject as the arts. This is not a political matter, but in moving this Motion—and most ably he moved it—the noble Lord, Lord Silkin quoted from the pamphlet The Future Labour Offers You. This pamphlet accuses the Tory Government of making niggardly provision for the arts, but I think it is fair to say that this year the Government are contributing more towards the Arts Council than in any previous year of any previous Government since the war. Perhaps, on paper, £980,000 does not seem a large sum of money to devote to our arts, and in a country which has produced such great painters as Constable and Turner, such fine ballet dancers as Beryl Grey, such accomplished conductors of music as Sir Thomas Beecham and Sir Malcolm Sargent and such opera singers as Owen Brannigan, there is most definitely a case for keeping the arts well satisfied financially. But it is equally important to realise that we in this country are also financing enormous social services such as the National Health Service (which I think it is fair to say is the pride of the world) and an enormous road programme. These are essentials which have to be paid for out of public money. Financial aid for the arts is a most desirable proposition, but it cannot in any sense of the word be described as an absolute essential.
Having said that, may I emphasise the fact that I am a great lover of the arts, particularly music, and it is primarily about music that I should like to address your Lordships this afternoon. My only aspiration as to musical performances is that I sang in my school choir, but as a frequent attender of concerts I should like to make one or two observations. There is an old saying that you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink. I have been appalled, on occasions, to see the Royal Festival Hall and the Royal Albert Hall half empty for concerts of sterling quality. Earlier this year my wife and I went to a performance of the St. Matthew Passion at the Royal Albert Hall. To my mind this is one of the most lovely pieces of music ever written. The Royal Albert Hall was 950 three-quarters empty. The following week, the same orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, gave a performance of music by George Gershwin, a composer of undoubted ability and one whose music I admire. The Royal Albert Hall was full. True, it was a Sunday, but that contrast does rather reflect on the sense of values of the musical public of this country.
Among the items of Arts Council expenditure, perhaps the noble Earl who is to sum up this debate may be able to enlighten your Lordships' House as to the amount of publicity which the Arts Council gives to the various organisations which it supports. It is all very well spending money on financing music, opera and art, but all this is greatly negatived if publicity is not given. I. think it is fair to say also that local authorities could contribute more than they are doing now. I believe that Bournemouth has led the way, for that fine orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, has several times been threatened with dissolution. Largely, I think I am right in saying, through the efforts of local people, this orchestra has been saved.
My main reason for taking part in this debate is that I am a member of the London Symphony Orchestra Club. A great friend of mine, who is one of the principal violinists in that orchestra and who lives near our house, has several times stressed the fact that, whereas for financial reasons the London Symphony Orchestra and other orchestras are unable to make tours abroad, we in this country receive visits from orchestras from the Continent, sometimes from quite small towns. We have had the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra; we have had the Munich Orchestra and various American orchestras. Apart from the Philharmonia and the Hallé Orchestra, to a certain extent tours abroad by our orchestras are greatly restricted.
A great deal has been said about Covent Garden. The noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, in his most forceful and interesting maiden speech, spoke with expert knowledge on Covent Garden. I am bound to say that the last time I visited Covent Garden, which was admittedly nine years ago, the standard of production was somewhat disappointing. At the same time, I used to pay a number of visits to Sadler's Wells, where 951 opera was sung in English, which to many people is quite horrifying. I must confess that I personally prefer Italian opera sung in Italian; but sung in English well it can sound very appetising. Sadler's Wells has, or did have when I last visited it, among its company a number of Welsh singers.
I see from the publication which is being debated this afternoon, that the grant from the Arts Council to Wales for 1957–58 was £42,910, and to Scotland £82,176. Covent Garden alone receives four times the amount which the whole of Scotland receives. I have no particular axe to grind here, but in the Usher Hall Scotland has a very fine concert hall; and the Edinburgh Festival draws an enormous number of people. I am not saying for one moment that Covent Garden is over-financed by the Arts Council, but there seems to be a rather paltry comparison between the grants given for the whole of Scotland—which, after all, does encourage a number of tourists—and the whole of Wales, and the amount which Covent Garden receives. It gets the pick of the plums. So many of the singers and performers who come to Covent Garden, fine performers as they are, are performers, orchestras, conductors and so on, from other countries. I believe that your Lordships will be very interested to hear any proposals which the noble Earl may have for supplementing the grants from the Arts Council for Scotland and Wales.
The noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, mentioned the diversity between the British Council and the Arts Council. and I am bound to say that some of the activities of the British Council seem to be rather extraordinary. We seem to send abroad all kinds of people. I seem to remember reading that a year or so back we sent ballet dancers to Uruguay. This may be very desirable, but we in this country have not limitless finances, and I feel that we must have a sense of proportion; and whilst the idea of exporting art—and by that I mean music and other forms of art—may be eminently desirable, I believe that expenditure within our own country must be concentrated upon far more, so that we can be in a position to send more of our well-known orchestras to countries of major importance.
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? All I was doing was attempting to show that there might be overlapping in the activities of the Arts Council and the British Council, vis-à-vis the export of art abroad. That is all I had in mind.
§ Lora WILMOT OF SELMESTON
My Lords, the noble Lord should bear in mind that these foreign opportunities, which begin in a small way, needing help, often develop into very valuable revenue-earners.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, and the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, for their remarks upon that point, but bearing in mind that we are naturally limited to a budget, I feel that we have no alternative but to be rather selective about whom we send out. That is not always a very pleasant thing to have to face, but it is a necessary one.
I should like to support the noble Lord. Lord Silkin, in his mention of repertory theatres. Near where I live, at Leather-head, there is an excellent repertory company. I have never yet visited it, but friends of mine who have done so assure me of the high quality of its productions; and it must also be borne in mind that the finest West End actors and actresses who perform in this country and overseas emanate from our repertory theatres. We have had some very fine speeches this evening, and I hope that I have not given the impression that I am trying to be niggardly over the money spent. But, as I said earlier, bearing in mind the expenditure which we have on our social services, road services and similar things, expenditure on the Arts Council must, I think, be watched with reserve.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD AMWELL
My Lords, I suppose I should give some reason for intervening in this debate, on the principle of stating one's interest in the matter. I want to take part in this debate because I was for five years the chairman of Grand Opera Productions Limited, which was the company operating Carl Rosa; and during my period of office we had a hard struggle and a hard battle against opposition directed from coteries in London, including, members of the Arts Council. I do not want to state any case in opposition to what has been said by 953 the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and others about the necessity for spending money upon art in more generous measure. I do not think we spend enough. I believe we are far too meagre. But that is not the same thing as pretending that opera depends solely upon the glitter of Covent Garden. Covent Garden is all glitter, but the Carl Rosa Opera Company was all guts—and required it during the battling of recent years. I am confining my remarks to opera because I know something of the recent history of these negotiations.
I remember reading as a youngster Tolstoy's What is Art?— and I recall a sentence in that work which impressed me very much. It was to the effect that art should come from the people, belong to the people and be made for the people. All the rest is worthless. That is extreme, of course, and I am not suggesting that there is not a good reason for the cultivation of the higher branches of operatic and other forms of art work in this country. But there is something in that, because, after all, the whole of the people of this country are taxed to provide the subsidies that have been mentioned, and they deserve better treatment than they are getting.
Scotland has been mentioned. Other towns, cities and counties in this country are starved of opera and other forms of art because there is a concentration, directed or influenced by a coterie of people who are rather dilettante in character and certainly are of the "precious-precious" variety instead of the robust variety. After all, the people of this country are entitled to what they like and have been trained in. I am not so much impressed with the argument that has been put forward by several speakers, including the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, to the effect that other countries in Europe spend much more than we do upon State opera and other ventures of that kind. That is perfectly true of Vienna, Hamburg, Paris, Milan, Rome and Naples, for example. But those are musical countries. The people are steeped in music. They have a history and prestige of music that we cannot claim to have. Our country is not a musical country and the comparison is really not worth while, especially in view of the fact that, because of their musical prestige, it pays those countries 954 to subsidise heavily their opera and other forms of art. Surely no one is going to suggest that so much concentration upon the glitter of Covent Garden is the only thing or the best thing that can be done for the general artistic elevation of the people of this country.
I am not at all convinced—I do not want to make charges, and I do not want to over-state the case—that Covent Garden is run economically. There must be some waste somewhere, and there is plenty of evidence of the kind of attitude that leads to waste in expenditure on artistic pursuits. Just fancy! Here is one Opera House, one theatre in the heart of London, a social centre more than anything else. It does not appeal to the people. I know that there is a comparatively cheap gallery, but that is all. Its presentations appeal as a social event; every production there is a great social event. That is all very well. I am not quarrelling with that. But the subsidy and the "gate", or the box office receipts, combined must run (I am open to correction by the noble Earl, who knows better than I do about the inside management of Covent Garden) to something like £500,000. No one is going to tell me or to give me a sense of conviction by saying that that kind of money is not enough to run Covent Garden or any theatre in this country.
I know, of course, that opera is expensive. Do I not? I should think I do! But we had an order from the Arts Council for a Festival opera, one of three, in 1951. We produced John Socman. We took that in our stride, so far as overheads were concerned, I admit. That was a new opera—not just a running one, but an entirely new one. It was produced for £3,000; and it was produced well. There was no glitter about it, but there was good music about it. There was an orchestra of seventy, at the modern price of orchestras, with one of the most efficient conductors in the country, or in the Provinces, at any rate. I thought that that production was a success from an artistic point of view; certainly not from a financial point of view. I make a comparison of that amount, £3,000, for one new opera done by Carl Rosa and more than £500,000 spent upon Covent Garden.
§ THE EARL OF DROGHEDA
My Lords, I feel that the noble Lord is not 955 making a very fair comparison. I am not quite clear what the figure of £500,000 is supposed to represent. If it is to represent our annual grant, all I can say is that I wish it were the true figure. So far as the "glitter" of Covent Garden is concerned, and the idea that every performance we have is a great social occasion, I wish it were true. In fact, we have an enormous number of cheap seats in the house, and I would say that it is a very popular house.
§ LORD AMWELL
My Lords, I do not know wat the total would be, but my figure included the subsidy and the box office receipts, or what is popularly called the "gate". The two combined can hardly be less than close on £500,000. I do not think I am wrong.
§ THE EARL OF DROGHEDA
My Lords, I am sorry to intervene again. The figure is a good deal more if one combines the "gate". The figure of the grant this year is £362,000, and the figure of takings very approximately doubles that.
§ LORD AMWELL
My Lords, that is supporting what I say. I am not grumbling about that. I am not grumbling about subsidising Covent Garden. But I am grumbling about blanketing Carl Rosa which provides the true opera for the people of this country that made Covent Garden possible. These are some operas introduced by Carl Rosa into this country, and made popular particularly because they insisted upon singing in English: The Flying Dutchman; Nicolai's The Merry Wives of Windsor; Carmen; Mignon; Lohengrin; Aida; Tannhauser; Massenet's Manon; Romeo and Juliet, by Gounod; Cavalleria Rusticana; Verdi's Othello; The Prophet, by Meyerbeer; Pagliacci; The Damnation of Faust, by Berlioz; Hansel and Gretel; La Boheme; Tristan and Isolde, and Siegfried, and quite a host besides. Those are operas of Carl Rosa, and the people of this country knew nothing of them until Carl Rosa brought them here. They made all the musical glitter there is in this country in a popular sort of sense.
I know what the popular idea means. We cannot get anything like the blaze of Covent Garden with a touring company upon Carl Rosa lines. I know what we have had to contend with. We have had 956 to contend all along with what the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor would call the denigration of the coterie of Bow Street, long before these current affairs occurred. I met the Arts Council on the matter. We had to fight, with no money and rising costs, yet we kept the flag flying. I do not know that that has not done more for the musical tastes of this country than all that Covent Garden has done. Covent Garden, after all, whatever may be said about it, is only one theatre and presents "socialite" events in most cases. It is for the élite; it is not for the common people. I know what this idea means, because we always got from London the same kind of criticism from the critics.
I was present at the premiere of Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini. It was a workmanlike production, very finely sung. The orchestra was good; it always has been good. I knew, as all who had to do with the thing at all knew, what the criticisms of the London critics influenced so much by Covent Garden would be. We had our finest conductor, Mr. Hammond, and the next morning there was the usual thing: he was "too fond of brass and tinkling cymbals. or at any rate of the drums—there was too much noise." There was that kind of criticism. It was too robust; too popular in fact—too much like the provincial productions that the provincial people wanted. I am inclined to think that Berlioz knew more about what was wanted for his musical effect than those gentlemen who write the musical criticisms for the Press; but that kind of thing was done over and over again every time the Carl Rosa came anywhere near London. In the provinces there is a demand for a more robust kind of production. Why not? It is what the people pay for. It is good: it is not bad; it is not inefficient. It is the kind of thing that certainly paid and enabled it to carry on for years and years until after the last war when the inflationary troubles occurred.
What is being done now by the new Trust or by the new stop-gap company? We have been told what they are doing. They are not doing things with anything like the popularity of Carl Rosa. People are regretting the absence of Carl Rosa. Why should Carl Rosa be left in the background like that? I do not think that anybody really knows what the precise 957 situation is. It would be very useful if, in this debate, the Minister could tell us (when he replies will do) what is going to happen to Carl Rosa. Are we going to lose the prestige of that company? With regard to its appeal to popular taste, and all the rest of it, I would say that taste is a very peculiar thing to define. Gounod's Faust was first introduced to London by Carl Rosa, and it was produced at one of the roughest music halls in London—the Canterbury, in Westminster Bridge Road—and to an audience of "shilling stalls and sixpenny pit," where the management told people to come and see their new carpet but not to spit on it. That was the type of people before whom it was produced—and they enjoyed it. They had it: they wanted it. These impressarios of public entertainment have a habit of misjudging popular taste and of misjudging the people. They have a habit of thinking that the lowest common denominator is really representative. It is not.
I will give your Lordships one particular illustration of that, if I may. When the Coliseum (I am away from opera at the moment) was first opened in London. in place of the old-fashioned, slightly slapstick sketch Stoll put on a small play by Barrie. The critics said: "That will never do. The people going to music halls will never stand for that." However, they did stand for it—and there was a sixpenny gallery in those days. One cart play down too low. People who pay money certainly expect to get some kind of entertainment. They will very often laugh and respond even to the most inane stuff, but they will also respond to something better. If anything has been done successfully for music on the Tolstoyan lines of "by and for the people," Carl Rosa, I claim, did it, and it is a shame that Carl Rosa should be blanketed in the way it has been.
I ask the Government to make some kind of investigation. A Royal Commission is out of the question, of course, but I suggest that some committee should be formed to deal with the whole question of the expenditure of the Arts Council and of Carl Rosa. I can understand the attitude of the Arts Council when they say that they know more about art than the Government does, and I am sufficient of a libertarian not to like too much interference from Governments and from bureaucrats; but, all the same, this 958 is public money, and there is no way in which we can really check the expenditure. A report is made for the public, I know, but one does not get a real check from that. We should know—and we could know with an effective committee of the kind that has been suggested, and of the kind which I urge—exactly what is happening in the whole business. It seems to me that there is a lot of undercurrent about this matter which is not particularly savoury. That is a personal judgment, and I hope I am wrong. At any rate, I could be proved wrong if the Government were to accede to the request of the noble Lords who have made speeches on the subject with regard to Carl Rosa and were to establish at once some kind of committee 'to investigate the exact position. But I should like to get from the Minister some account of what is proposed with regard to Carl Rosa. Is it to be left in the air? And, if so, why?
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to Lord Silkin for enabling us to have a debate of such exceptional interest, in which we have had the pleasure of listening to so many noble Lords who have been speaking on this subject with the highest authority. I should like, if I may, particularly to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, on his very fine maiden speech, and to hope that we shall often hear him in the future. One of the things which I remember as a very small child, nearly fifty years ago, is my grandmother, who was a native of Southern Ireland, telling us what a delightful man the late Lord Drogheda had been. That was the noble Earl's grandfather, who died, I think. about fifty years ago. Of course, the noble Earl's father was held for many years in very high affection by all your Lordships as Chairman of Committees in your Lordships' House.
As for the noble Earl himself, he appears to be a director of so many operas, theatres, and ballets, that one could perhaps almost describe him as an "art tycoon". In his admirable speech this afternoon he made a strong plea for the future security of Covent Garden Opera, which is so much worried by its deficits in spite of the fact, as the noble Earl candidly pointed out, that in the last three years the Government grants to 959 Covent Garden have increased from £250,000 to £360,000. But I can assure the noble Earl, as I think he knows, that the position of Covent Garden is being discussed at this time between the Arts Council, a representative of Covent Garden, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that the needs of Covent Garden will certainly be taken into account when my right honourable friend is deciding the amount of the grant which he can give to the Arts Council next year.
I think that the burden of every single speech which has been made in this debate has been to the effect that the subventions which are given by the British Government to the arts are not altogether munificent—and I do not propose to dispute that contention. Even if I did, it would be little use one man disputing it against so many. I have been accustomed all my life to hearing every British Government attacked on the ground that it was mean and niggardly; I have also been accustomed to hearing every Government attacked, very often by the same people and at almost the same time, on the ground that it was prodigal and extravagant.
We have heard comparisons made between expenditure on the arts and expenditure on a great many other things —on roads, on agriculture, on the Welfare State, and on education. But when we come to discuss these matters we do not always find that the people who are interested in them are at all satisfied with the amount of money which is being spent by the Government on them. We have had comparisons between our expenditure on arts and our expenditure on the pig subsidy or on the egg subsidy, but when we debate agriculture, as I think your Lordships did a day or two ago, it will be found that the farmers are not at all satisfied with the amount which we are spending on these things. Then, when we come to debate old-age pensions, which we are going to do next Wednesday, I shall be surprised if there is any universal agreement on the proposition that the present old-age pensions are sufficient.
Therefore, I prefer to accept the general and convenient assumption that in Great Britain we somehow manage every year to squander about £5,000 million in an extremely parsimonious manner. On the particular parsimony in regard to the arts 960 which we are discussing now, I would say a brief word about the principle on which grants are given to artistic objects in Great Britain, which is not quite the same as the principle on which they are given in the Western European countries which, as many noble Lords pointed out, are spending a great deal more on opera and, I have no doubt, on other forms of art than we are here.
Under the benevolent despotisms of the 18th century, in most of these Western European countries the rulers raised large sums of money in taxation which they spent, very wisely, on opera, music, drama and art of every kind. When these despotic Governments came to be overthrown by the revolutionary Liberal Governments of the 19th and 20th centuries, these new Governments did not reverse the established practice, to which people were accustomed, of subsidising music and drama to a large extent from State funds. So that most of these countries have old-established Ministries of Culture or Ministries of the Fine Arts, which have staffs of civil servants trained to judge how much money should be given to one object or another, and Ministers whose whole time is taken up with these questions. It is easier for a country with an autocratic tradition to do this than it is for one which has always had a Parliamentary Government.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked what would have happened if Shakespeare had not been financed, and I suppose the answer is that he would not have been able to afford to bequeath his second best bed to his wife. I do not think that the money used to finance him was found by Elizabethan Parliaments; it came from private sources. Certainly after the great fire of London, when Sir Christopher Wren produced a wonderful piece of town planning which would have made London the finest city in the world, if it had been carried out, it met with the parsimony of the Parliament of Charles II, which refused to vote the money to do it.
Until modern times the British Parliament has done very little about providing for the arts. In the 18th and 19th centuries the patrons of art were wealthy aristocrats who gave more money more capriciously than the Government would have been able to do, but on a sufficient scale. It may be remembered that when the theatre in Drury Lane was burned 961 down in 1809 little difficulty was experienced in raising the sum of £400,000 to restore it, and £400,000 meant a good deal more then than it does now. I am interested to see in this Report from the Arts Council which we are discussing that even as late as twenty years ago rich patrons still came first in the four classes of patronage which they mentioned —private, Government, municipal and industrial. Now private partonage comes fourth. Taxation has deprived the wealthier individuals of our community of their ability to finance the arts.
One result of this long dependence on private munificence has been that we have not any Ministry of Culture or Ministry of the Fine Arts in Great Britain and it is something that would take a long time to build up, because it needs civil servants as well as a Minister. What we have is the Ministry of Works, and here we have a trained staff who are accustomed to deciding which monuments ought to be preserved and allocating on their own responsibility any sums which Parliament may think fit to vote for that purpose, but we have not any Minister or any branch of the Civil Service which is capable of doing the same thing for music, opera, drama, the ballet or any of the other arts except architecture.
This Report is entitled A New Pattern of Patronage, and perhaps one of the most interesting parts of it is that part in which the secretary expresses the hope that industries, including I.T.V., may find themselves able to play the part in giving patronage to the arts which used to be played by private owners of great wealth. The examples given in the Report have already been quoted by noble Lords who have spoken. One point the Report makes which has not been mentioned is that nothing could be more undesirable than a unilateral system of patronage, in which a single body is sole distributor of subsidies, and it is pointed out that when spending public money a public body cannot take any risk whereas private dispensers of patronage could "subsidise adventure", as they call it.
It was mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Silkin and Lord Drogheda, that if gifts to the arts were freed entirely from taxation, as they are in America, there would be many more gifts. According 962 to the Report, they might multiply tenfold. Without going into great details, I would point out that by making a deed of covenant to any artistic body—to Covent Garden or Sadler's Wells or any similar opera or theatre—it is possible to escape taxation. I am afraid that under the 1946 Finance Act, which still governs our financial rules, a private individual could not be exempt from surtax. But in the case of a company which does not pay surtax, any gift under deed of covenant would be exempt. That means, of course, that they are able to give a great deal more to the arts for the same amount of money. My noble friend Lord Drogheda is probably aware that, as reported in The Times yesterday, a well known brewery firm has just given £45,000 to the Old Vic. in the form of a seven-year deed of covenant. This is exempt from taxation and this exemption has enabled their gift to be much larger than it would have been otherwise. In view of what the Report says about taxation, this should he publicised as much as possible, so that it may be appreciated that deeds of covenant of this kind to the arts are exempt from income tax.
§ THE EARL OF DROGHEDA
My Lords, the problem with Co vent Garden is that we never know beyond one year what is to happen to us and it is very difficult to ask someone to enter into a seven-year deed of covenant when the Arts Council publish a Report which says that we may shortly demise.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I do not know what would happen to the seven-year deed of covenant in that event, but I should have thought that it was worth taking the risk. I do not see what risk would be involved to the donor in doing so. It could surely be transferred to some equally deserving object.
§ LORD LATHAM
I think the situation would be that you would be called upon to repay the relief obtained in the former years under the covenant which was terminated in the seven years.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
No, because it is the recipient, and not the donor, who makes the application for relief and gets it.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS BOROUGH
But the donor makes a certificate that he is going to pay over a period, and on that he can be proceeded against.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
If I were wealthy enough—and I wish I were—to make a deed of covenant to Covent Garden, I do not think I should be deterred by these melancholy possibilities from so doing. I think it is worth making sure that people are aware that this is possible, in view of the statement here to the effect that gifts might be increased ten times over if they were exempt from taxation.
If you exclude architecture, for which the Ministry of Works are responsible, until we can build up a Ministry of Culture or Ministry of Fine Arts the Government are not capable of deciding how public money voted by Parliament should be distributed between one kind of art and another, and that is why the Arts Council have been entrusted with the task of doing so without getting the approval of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for each individual item of expenditure. If you take all expenditure on the arts since the war, I am not representing that it is very large or generous, but it has gone up a great deal; that is, from under £1 million in 1945 and 1946 to about £7 million at the present time. That includes about £3 million on museums, about £1 million or more spent by the Ministry of Works on art galleries and £1,100,000 on the Arts Council, which is the section of that expenditure that we are particularly debating at this moment.
Your Lordships are fairly unanimous in thinking that it is not enough to spend £1,100,000 this year on the Arts Council. It is difficult to say what is enough. Until a few weeks ago I was Chairman of the Historic Buildings Council for Scotland, and I had the duty of recommending to the Minister how the sums voted by Parliament to help in the preservation of architectural treasures in that country should be distributed. If I had been asked as Chairman of the Council to say whether or not I thought the money voted by Parliament was sufficient, I should have replied that it was not sufficient, because, having regard to the amount of money 964 which we were voted and also having regard to the large number of good, deserving claims which we had to consider, it sometimes happens that a Historic Buildings Council has to refuse to recommend a grant of money in a case which on its own intrinsic merits is a good case. You cannot do everything. On the other hand, I should have been obliged to admit that since the Historic Buildings Fund was started in 1953 the grant had increased from £250,000 to £450,000 at a time of financial stringency, when economy cuts were continually being made in other directions; and I should also have been obliged to point out that the Historic Buildings Council had succeeded in doing a great deal of good and saving a great many historic houses which otherwise would have decayed.
The same can be said, I think, about the money voted to the Arts Council. In 1945 it was only £250,000; in 1952 it was only £575,000; last year it went up to £980,000, and it has gone up to £1,100,000 this year. I daresay that that is not enough, but in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, it has increased at a time of financial stringency when we have been trying to cut down expenditure and fight inflation. I think it is right to point out that the Arts Council have done a great deal of good. They have been able to establish Covent Garden as a permanent national theatre for opera, and opera of an international standard, which did not exist here before the war. And it is, I think, wrong to overlook what the Arts Council have been able to do for ballet. They have built up the former Sadler's Wells Ballet, and they have made possible the development and expansion of the Royal Ballet School at Richmond Park. They have prevented the collapse of Sadler's Wells, to the rescue of which the London County Council and I.T.V. have now come as well. They have financed touring opera and ballet and without their help there would have been little opera and ballet in the Provinces in the last five years. They have sustained the Old Vic, which I do not think would have survived without their help, and they have sustained half a dozen of the principal symphony orchestras in Britain, most of which, again, could not have survived without their help. I think it is fair to claim that, although we might like to do a great deal more than this, these are solid and substantial achievements, which have been 965 made possible by this steadily increasing grant.
Whilst your Lordships have in general supported the Arts Council and demanded that it should be given more money, the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, and the noble Lord, Lord Amwell—although, if I understood the noble Viscount, I think he would approve in principle that more money should he given to the Arts Council; I want to represent his point of view fairly—feel that they have not expended the money they have been given in a proper manner, at least in respect of the Carl Rosa Opera Company, and therefore the noble Viscount thinks, and I believe the noble Lord, Lord Amwell, agreed with him, that there ought to be an independent inquiry.
I can sympathise with the noble Viscount's feelings on this subject, and those of the noble Lord, Lord Amwell. The Carl Rosa Opera Company have, as noble Lords have said, done more than anything else to bring opera into the Provinces over the last eighty-five years. They are a company to which many lovers of music have a great sentimental attachment. I think we all deeply regret the most unfortunate and bitter quarrel which appears to have taken place last summer between different persons on the Carl Rosa Trust. I am not going to enter into the artistic merits of this dispute, and I think it would be most undesirable if the Government were to do so; but since noble Lords have suggested that an independent inquiry ought to be held, I think we must consider what the Arts Council have done about it and see whether they have done anything which might disturb the confidence which Her Majesty's Government have in their ability to do the work which they have been set up to do.
The facts briefly are these. First, about a year ago the Carl Rosa Trust appointed Professor Procter Gregg as Artistic Director for a period of, I think, one year. The object of that appointment was to improve the quality of the opera which Carl Rosa were going to present. The majority of the people on the Trust did not approve of the methods which Professor Procter Gregg followed in doing this. As a result of the disputes which took place about it, the chairman and other members of the Trust resigned. The remaining members of the Trust then 966 asked Sir Eugene Goossens to organise the autumn tour, beginning on September 15. As the noble Viscount has said, the Arts Council decided that there was not time for this to be done efficiently, and what they did was to take what they described in their Report as the unusual and drastic step of giving the subvention of £35,000 to the seceders from the Carl Rosa Trust—that is, Professor Procter Gregg and the personnel, the musicians and performers, or eighty-seven of them, from the Carl Rosa Company who had decided to follow him.
§ LORD AMWELL
That has been represented in the Press as "ratting"—. that the company "ratted". That is not correct, and the company were allowed freedom. They were given more than freedom because of the imminence of possible unemployment. That was the only reason, and if the company had "ratted," Sir Donald Wolfit ratted, too; and that I do not believe of that gentleman.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I did not use the word "ratted" and I do not know what newspapers did. I am merely informing the House of the facts so far as I know them—that Sir Donald Wolfit resigned. That is a fact, and we need not use any tendentious terms about it. Also, eighty-seven members of the Carl Rosa staff followed Professor Procter Gregg. The tour, financed as it was by the Arts Council, began, as intended, on September 15.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I was just going to say the tour began on September 15, and has been going on for some time. According to a large number of Press cuttings which I have here from Manchester, Birmingham, Bradford and Wolverhampton, it appears to have been entirely successful.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS BOROUGH
If they were able to do that without any further delay, why was it not possible for the Carl Rosa Company, who submitted their proposals at the usual time before the date suggested by the Arts Council, with all their arrangements already properly drafted, and some actually completed, to go on? They have been treated shamefully. Everybody who 967 knows the facts knows it is so, and it is all against the pledge that the artistic Director, Professor Procter Gregg, made when he went to the job—that he would fulfil the obligation included in the agreement on the sale of the Companies to the Trust, that they would follow the traditions and policy, and that he would consult the board of the Trust before taking any undue steps in change of policy or in engaging and dismissing staff.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
Whether they have been treated shamefully or whether anyone has broken undertakings I do not know, and I cannot say. What I think is that the noble Viscount has put his finger on the real point in the dispute. Whether, as the residue of the Carl Rosa Trust thought, they were able, under the chairmanship of Sir Eugene Goossens, to carry out an effective tour, or whether, as the Arts Council decided, they were not able to do so, is a matter of artistic opinion which I cannot express. One of them is obviously in error.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
No. The Government cannot express any opinion at all. I have examined carefully the accounts of the proceedings, of which the noble Viscount was aware, and my colleagues have also examined them, in order to find out whether there is any ground for thinking that the Arts Council have acted with any impropriety or any disingenuousness or any dishonesty, and I cannot find the slightest ground for any such suspicion. They may have made an error in artistic judgment in thinking that Professor Procter Gregg would be able to carry out a successful tour, whereas the remains of the Carl Rosa thought they would not be able to do so. That is a matter of artistic opinion, but it is not a question of disingenuousness or shameful action or dishonesty of any kind.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I imagine, from the noble Earl's remarks, that he must have seen the statement sent on behalf of the Trust by Mr. Charles Wilson to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which many more charges are brought than the ones I have related this afternoon, and which 968 puts down categorically that the conclusions of the Arts Council. as they are published, are simply not true. That is the statement. The chairman of that Trust is somebody upon whom I personally can rely absolutely. He is a fellow of Jesus College. He was in charge of one of the most important and confidential departments of the Admiralty under me right through the war. I trust him absolutely on this matter, and when he makes that statement I believe that he has substance for making it. In those circumstances, where public money is involved, an independent inquiry is overdue.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
Of course, I am aware of the noble Viscount's views, and he will be the first to admit that he is making an ex parte statement in which I cannot join. I have seen a great deal more than the document to which he refers, and I have been pained by the unrestrained accusations hurled about in this controversy. What I am concerned with is whether there is any prima facie evidence which might lead us to think that the Arts Council have done anything improper or dishonest. I am bound to say that I can find no such evidence. If, in these circumstances, we were to institute an inquiry it would be equivalent to saying that we had no longer any confidence in the Arts Council. It would probably involve the resignation of the Arts Council. The fact is, that Her Majesty's Government have the fullest confidence in the Arts Council and in their ability to carry out the duties for which they have been set up.
The noble Lord, Lord Amwell, asked what is going to happen now. I do not know what is going to happen now, but in their Report the Arts Council say, having described the action which they have taken, that they propose to continue discussions with the present members of the Carl Rosa, and to consider further the Council's attitude towards a body which has for so long been acutely divided in matters of policy and method. As the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, said when he quoted the statement of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, in 1952, the Government certainly have the greatest sympathy with Carl Rosa, and the greatest desire to see it continue. But I do not know whether it would be right to express that sympathy 969 by taking the dangerous and unwarranted course of intervening in a personal dispute between a number of artistes of whose merits the Government are not really best fitted to judge.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS BOROUGH
May I put it in this way? We have had from the noble Earl this afternoon some extracts from the Report showing which organisation here and there has been saved by the good work of the Arts Council. Do I understand, therefore, that the Government's attitude is that, because they have done that, they must be right in everything else, and that they will acquiesce in the attempted assassination of the present and future position of the Carl Rosa Opera Company?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I am not accepting the premises of the noble Viscount. The Government have studiously refrained from intervening or forming any judgment on any dispute which concerns art, because I am sure my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be the first to agree that he has neither the time nor the capacity to do a thing like that; nor has any Department in the Government. All we have to consider is whether the Arts Council have done anything unscrupulous or dishonest. It does not appear to us that there is any good evidence for the allegations which have been made in this most unfortunate quarrel. The Government have confidence in the Arts Council, and consider that it might be regarded as withdrawn if we were to institute an inquiry of this kind.
Several noble Lords, including Lord Silkin, Lord Esher and Lord Faringdon, have asked about the National Theatre. I am afraid that there is not much I can report in the way of progress about the National Theatre. As noble Lords know, in 1949 the Act authorised an expenditure of £1 million on a National Theatre. The trouble is that the expense now is estimated to be £2 million, and it is thought that the annual subsidy might be anything from £120,000 to £300,000. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has recently had correspondence with the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, and the noble Viscount, Lord Esher (who has apologised for not being able to remain until the end of this debate), and the Chancellor said: 970I am afraid that I cannot hold out any hope that we shall in the near future be able to make a beginning with expenditure of nearly £2 million on a building for the National Theatre. That is a big sum and a substantial subsidy would be required in addition… The Arts Council are making an inquiry into the housing of the arts which they undertook following the Report of the Queen's Hall Committee … I hope that the Report which the Arts Council are preparing will indicate priorities among the various projects for cultural buildings. That will give us an opportunity for considering the long term prospects of the National Theatre against the background of a number of competitive claims.There are, of course, very many other things, and Covent Garden is one, which we hope, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer can find more money, ought to be considered first. We should like first to have a report from the Arts Council on what they consider to be the right order of priorities before we can say any more about the long-term prospects of the National Theatre.
When I tell your Lordships that everything in this Report which we have been discussing will be carefully considered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and also, of course, everything your Lordships have said in this debate, I do not think that ought to be taken as a form of words for putting off your Lordships until next year, as the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, thought it might be. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer has shown, by increasing these grants so often and so continuously during the last three or four years, when we have been going through a period of great financial stringency in the fight against inflation, that he is sympathetic and reasonable to the needs of the arts, and that even although we may not be able to get everything your Lordships may perhaps legitimately wish for, there is no reason to assume that we are not going to get any improvement at all. I think the arguments which have been used by so many of your Lordships in this debate are certainly worthy of being thoroughly considered, as they will, of course, be considered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope also that they will be considered by the general public and that they will be well reported for that purpose.
I agree with what is said in this Report, that public interest in the arts is growing. It is increasing, and we all welcome 971 it. But it is not always growing in a uniform way or equally in every part of the country or among every section of the people. Those of us who have been concerned with historic buildings councils have experienced both kinds of local authorities: some quite small and not very rich authorities who are prepared to increase their rates in order to save some beautiful building which is in their possession, and other authorities who may be better off who are not prepared to spend a penny on any artistic object. I noticed in the New Statesman of this week, in the "This England" column, a reference to Orpington Council, which refused to make a £50 grant to next year's Orpington Festival, and one councillor is quoted as saying "However good the cause we cannot go lashing out on culture." I think that is the attitude of a great many people. On the whole, however, I think that interest in the arts, both among local authorities and the public, is increasing, and that debates such as we have had to-day may encourage it.
I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Amwell, said about art being for the ordinary man, to be enjoyed, and I was a little perturbed by the remark of the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, that he supposed the Government regarded art only as a matter of enjoyment. It rather reminded me of Miss Anna Russell's famous imitation of the lady president of the Women's Federation for the Propagation of Music and Art, who said. "Our Federation goes in for art for its own sake, not expecting either reward or enjoyment." I think that there is a much wider appreciation now of the value of art than there used to be, among all sections of the public, and I hope that debates such as your Lordships have had this afternoon may help the public to realise that more permanent values in entertainment, music, drama and art of every kind were not designed merely for a few highbrows but for ordinary men and women of every kind.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
May I ask the noble Earl, before he concludes, whether he could tell us anything in reply to the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Amwell: What is to be the future of the Carl Rosa Opera Company?
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I was going to hark back to that. They say that they will be getting into touch with the Carl Rosa Company, from July up till now, but they have not done so. They are not discussing the future of Carl Rosa with Carl Rosa at all. When is it going to happen?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I have given the facts about what has happened. It is a very regrettable and unfortunate story, but I do not think it is the fault of the Arts Council.
§ THE EARL. OF DUNDEE
It is certainly not the fault of the Government. That is where I disagree with the noble Viscount; and the Government cannot accept his view or the view of Mr. Charles Wilson that it is the fault of the Arts Council. What the Arts Council will be able to do to repair the situation we can only wait and see, and I can only quote what they have stated in their Report.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
Could the noble Earl be a little more specific about the future of the Edinburgh Festival, and the grants which the Arts Council are making? I believe that Scotland gets only £82,000 per annum in all, out of the total expenditure of some £980,000 on the whole of the Arts Council. Bearing in mind that the Edinburgh Festival attracts visitors from all parts of the world, just as Covent Garden does, can the noble Earl foresee any hope of a larger proportionate grant being given to this very important institution?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord for calling attention to the fact that the proportion of the Arts Council's grant which goes to Scotland is not in accordance with the 11/80ths rule, in which case I think it would be a little higher. But that is precisely the kind of question which, in our view, the Government ought not to decide. The fact that there is evidence that a large number of objects need more money may be a good reason for giving more money to the Arts Council, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has consistently done year 973 after year. But it is not a good reason for the Government saying to the Council: "You shall give such-and-such a proportion of our grant to this or that object." If that were done, it would open the door to all kinds of lobbying from all kinds of interests, among Ministers who are not really capable of deciding the merits of the question.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, this is one of those occasions when the House discusses a matter of public interest on objective and impartial lines. There has been no element of Party politics in this debate, and I am therefore free to say to the noble Earl who has just spoken that, on the whole, I think he has made an agreeable, a reasonable and a sympathetic case; and I should like to thank him for it. I realise that- in these days one cannot expect to get everything that one would like in the way of money, but I am encouraged by what he said.
I did not for a moment expect him to be able to accept the propositions that were laid down by myself and other noble Lords—for instance, as to the suggestions of Lord Bridges. But if the noble Earl really means that those suggestions and others which have been put forward, particularly those relating to long-term grants and to the separation of grants and so on, will be seriously considered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and if the corollary to that is that in due course we shall be told—possibly in answer to an Unstarred Question—the result of that consideration then I think that this debate will not have been without its value. But if it is a mere formality (and I do not assume it is), the kind of formality that a number of Ministers put forward to pacify people like myself, then I can promise him that he will be hearing more about it.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I do not want to mislead the noble Lord. I did not, I think, specifically refer to the Government's consideration of any of the proposals in Lord Bridges' most interesting Romanes Lecture, although I have no doubt that they will be considered. But one immediate consideration which does arise from them is that if a quinquennial 974 grant had been given to the Arts Council two or three years ago, even if it allowed for inflation, as is suggested, they would not now be getting so much as they are this year. Therefore, I am not sure that it would be in their interests to take a quinquennial rather than an annual grant.
§ LORD SILKIN
That may be the answer which the Chancellor of the Exchequer will give after proper consideration. I am merely on the point at this moment that I hope he will consider the suggestions which have been put forward by speakers in this House to-day. If he will, I accept that. I accept that that statement is being made in good faith, and I will ask that in due course we should be told the result of that investigation.
I must confess that the reply of the noble Earl on the subject of the National Theatre was disappointing, and I would say to him what he has just said to me in regard to the effects of inflation. If only this project had been carried out at the time when or soon after the one million pounds was voted, the cost would have been one million and not two million pounds. If it is deferred much longer it may well be three million in due course, and the longer it is delayed the more it is likely to cost. There again. I did not expect the noble Earl to be able to make any promise; but I hope he will include in the consideration which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to give to this matter a reconsideration of this question of the National Theatre, possibly in the light of the Report of the Arts Council, and that he will, in due course, let us know what he is doing.
This project has been outstanding for a long time. My noble friend Lord Latham and I remember how it started in 1942, with a visit to the London County Council by the late Bernard Shaw. Through his little organisation he had just bought a site in Kensington which many people thought was not large enough, and discussions arose as to whether or not the County Council would offer a larger site in exchange for the Kensington site. At any rate, out of that discussion and many others, in due course this considerable and most valuable site was offered by the London County Council. It is remaining empty. Obviously, a valuable site of that 975 sort cannot remain vacant indefinitely, and the time may come when consideration will have to be given as to whether the site is going to be used or not; and, if it is not to be used for a National Theatre, whether it should be used for some other purpose—which would be most regrettable.
Finally, my Lords, I am very sorry that the debate has to some extent been overshadowed by the difficulty of the Carl Rosa Company. I agree with a great deal of what the noble Earl has said. I should be the last to lend any colour to the idea that the Arts Council have been guilty of dishonesty or bad faith in any way over this matter. But there are strong feelings, and I do not agree with the noble Earl that the holding of an inquiry is necessarily on the basis that the Arts Council have been guilty of any kind of impropriety at all. If that were the assumption in holding an inquiry, then I should be dead against it. But I do not accept that there need be this assumption at all.
Nor should I agree in general to hold an inquiry whenever a particular beneficiary of the Arts Council is dissatisfied, such as in the case of the Edinburgh Festival. I think the Arts Council must be the judges. But this is a special case in which strong feelings have been aroused; and in view of the distinguished history of the Carl Rosa Company and the number of people who feel aggrieved by this and the strong feelings which have been aroused throughout the country, I feel that the matter ought not to rest where it is. I should have thought that in the interests of the Arts Council themselves some kind of an inquiry, which did not impute any bad faith of any kind to the Arts Council, would be desirable. I do not want to put it stronger than that, but I hope that further consideration may be given to this matter.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
Surely the whole ground for the proposed inquiry 976 is that the Arts Council have been guilty of bad faith.
§ LORD SILKIN
No; I should not put it on that basis at all. After all, this is linked up with the future of the Carl Rosa Company. I do not suggest for one moment that the Arts Council are immune from the possibility of having made an error of judgment—none of us can be completely immune from that possibility; and even the Arts Council might have done that. I should not think that, whatever the decision of the inquiry, it should be regarded as any reflection on the Arts Council. An inquiry on that basis would, I believe, be well worth while, and it should be made clear in advance that nobody is suggesting that there is any prima facie case against the Arts Council which would justify the inquiry.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, then the inquiry would have to be confined to the purely hypothetical question, whether the present 1958 Touring Company, or Touring Opera, or the alternative suggested by the remains of the Trust, would have had a better result in the Provinces. How could an inquiry answer an hypothetical question like that?
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, if the noble Earl is now drafting the terms of reference of such an inquiry I shall be very happy to sit down and see if we can draft something; but I hope it will be a more profitable inquiry than one into a set of merely hypothetical circumstances. I leave the matter there, however, and I hope that the last word on this matter has not been said, because it would leave very great dissatisfaction in the minds of a large number of people. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes 69+before seven o'clock.