HL Deb 19 April 1967 vol 282 cc193-306

2.50 p.m.

LORD COTTESLOE rose to call attention to the Arts and to the most recent Report of the Arts Council; and to move Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think it will be for the convenience of the House that this Motion and the Motion of my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, which has been on the Order Paper for a very much longer time than mine, should be taken together. That procedure, I understand, has been arranged, if the House approves, through the usual channels. I may say that I am much obliged to my noble friend for the kindness by which my Motion, which embraces a wider field than his, has been put before his on the Paper, and I am conscious of the honour of opening a discussion in the House on this whole subject, which I think is generally felt to be of great importance in the world we live in to-day.

It is some little time—indeed, too long—since the House had a debate on the Arts. I think the last occasion was nearly two years ago, on June 23, 1965, when we discussed a Motion by the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams on the White Paper, A Policy for the Arts—The First Steps. A good deal of water has flowed under the bridges since then, though it is perhaps not unfair to observe that we have not as yet heard of any second steps. I suppose we shall all agree that the Arts are not a matter for Party politics. Few subjects are so fortunate. During ten years in which I served on the London County Council I can recollect three subjects only that were not there regarded as matters for Party politics: religion, sewage and beer in the parks—and I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, if she were here, would bear me out. We now seem to be getting more enlightened. While there may no doubt be occasional facets of the Arts that impinge on Party policy and Party priorities, any injection of Party politics into the field of the Arts can do nothing but harm: on that I think there will be general agreement.

We hear less to-day than we did two or three years ago about the problems of leisure. We have been preoccupied by such ugly matters as sanctions, and freezes and oil pollution, and all the rest. But the problem of leisure is no less important and no less pressing than it was. I do not suppose it is a problem that oppresses many of your Lordships personally. But for vast numbers of our people the applications of science and automation to industrial and commercial processes are changing the whole pattern of life. These applications have already given great increases in leisure. They hold promise in the future of increases, far greater increases, in leisure, which may materialise much sooner, even in a highly competitive world than most people have yet even begun to realise. In the best use of this leisure the Arts have a most important part to play. The old saying about Satan and idle hands is trite, but it is also in general true, even if it may not be an absolute and universal truth.

If we are to reap the benefits of the Golden Age that is opened to us in this way, we have to achieve in our civilisation a balance between the Sciences, on the one hand, and the Arts and the Humanities, on the other. To-day the sciences have a preponderating place and we are out of balance. The periodic outbreaks of hooliganism which seem to be endemic in the present age spring really from the frustrations felt by youth in an ill-balanced civilisation. The Arts are needed both to provide a proper balance and to provide a creative outlet for leisure.

We have made some progress along these paths in recent years. It is one of the most encouraging circumstances in a sometimes discouraging world that there is now in this country a vastly greater understanding and appreciation of the Arts than ever before, especially among the young. It is a very moving experience to see, for example, at one of Sir Robert Mayer's special performances of opera at Sadler's Wells a packed audience of young people, young people discovering a new world. It is a delight to see young people flocking in great numbers to exhibitions of the most modern painting and sculpture, and enjoying it with a depth of understanding that my generation, brought up in different idioms, can hardly hope to achieve. In many places, notably I think in Leicestershire and London, but in many other places, too, the schools are doing splendid work in cultivating an interest in the Arts. We are as a nation coming along, albeit far too slowly.

It is against this background that I think your Lordships should consider the Estimates for 1967 (in so far as it is proper for this House to consider them), more particularly the Civil Estimates, Class VIII. I recollect being told by a former Chancellor of the Exchequer that he could give far greater pleasure to a greater number of people with a small sum for the Arts than by much larger expenditure applied to any other purpose. How right he was! The figure provided in Class VIII of the Estimates (Museums, Galleries and the Arts) for the coming financial year is just over £14 million—to be precise, £14,140,000. If that is not quite, to use the phrase of another Chancellor in a somewhat similar context, a sum "utterly insignificant in the context of the national finances", it is certainly a very minor item in a Budget totalling, I think, £11,000 million. It is also a sum that is out of any reasonable relation to the vast sums spent on Science. I am not sure of the current figure. It was £800 million a couple of years ago; and since then, no doubt, it has been subject to the law of the natural growth of Government spending.

At any rate, we see £800 million for Science against £14 million for the Arts. Of course the needs of the two are not at all on a par: it is not a fair comparison. But, all the same, the disparity is far too great to justify the starvation of our museums and galleries, to which the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, and other speakers will no doubt draw your Lordships' attention in some detail in the course of this debate. The figure of £14 million is undoubtedly too small a total to provide adequately for the essential requirements of the community in the field of the Arts.

Of this £14 million, a trifle more than half, £7,200,000, goes to the Arts Council. The increase in the Arts Council grant in recent years is so notable that I think it is worth giving your Lordships the figures in some detail. They are: 1946–47, £350,000; 1956–57, £885,000; for the last two years, 1965–66, £3,910,000, and 1966–67, £5,700,000; and in the current Estimates for 1967–68, it is £7,200,000. This tremendous rate of escalation, especially in the last two or three years, is a matter for great rejoicing.

That this escalation has been achieved in the present economic climate may no doubt be due in some measure to the realisation of the growing public interest in the Arts; even the thought that perhaps there may be votes to be gained by an enlightened policy for the Arts may be a factor. But the main credit must certainly go to the Minister of State, Miss Jennie Lee, to her tremendous enthusiasm and energy in promoting Government aid for the living arts, for the arts of the theatre and the concert hall and for living artistes of all kinds. It is a splendid feather in her bonnet—if indeed she ever wears such an improbable adornment; and we can congratulate her without reservation on her achievement.

No doubt the remarkable persuasive powers of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, the present Chairman of the Arts Council, may also have had something to do with it. He, too, is to be congratulated, and as his predecessor in the Chair of the Arts Council I must confess that I feel a twinge of envy. In my time the Arts Council never had any room for manœuvre we had just enough to keep going those enterprises already on our list of customers that we were satisfied maintained the standards to justify our help. There was no possibility of branching out in new directions without killing admirable enterprises to which we were committed; and even so, it was not always possible to maintain them above the level of bare subsistence.

All that is now changed. The Arts Council Report referred to in the Motion, the Report for 1965–66, is the twenty-first of its kind, and with it the Council may be regarded as having reached maturity. They are for the first time enabled to break out from an age of subsistence levels and means tests, and to embark on planned subsidies for improvement and growth. Having attained to this happy condition, the Council have been enabled to widen their activities in a number of ways. The Poetry Panel has been given wider terms of reference and has become a Literature Panel that can give help to creative writers of prose, of fiction, of biography and autobiography, and of translation. The Council have now found themselves able to embark on a policy of giving help and support to creative artists of various kinds to a degree not hitherto possible.

The regional organisations for the support of the Arts are expanding, a Midlands Association for the Arts having been formed to add to the South-Western Association and the strong North-Eastern Association. The London Orchestral Concerts Board has got going, under Sir David Webster's chairmanship; and the Eastern Authorities Orchestral Association has made an excellent start. In all these enterprises the local authorities play an active part. That admirable organisation, Opera For All, has been enlarged and reorganised, and its three groups carry potted opera of high standard into remote places and provide a launching platform for young operatic talent.

There is a most welcome emphasis on youth, with the inquiry which has since resulted in the setting up of a Young People's Theatre Panel, with an initial grant in the year just beginning of £90,000. Among its beneficiaries will be the new Midlands Arts Centre for young people at Cannon Hill, Birmingham, the British Dance Drama Theatre and the Unicorn Theatre for Children. This is all most valuable pioneer work, which will be reinforced by the appointment of junior members to the Council's four specialist advisory panels.

These matters, and much more, are recorded in the Report in our hands. It is a tale of admirable growth. But of course the Report carries that tale only to April, 1966, a year ago, and it is in the year just ended and the year now beginning that the great increases in the grant made available to the Council take effect. I look forward to hearing what the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has to tell us of the way in which those great increases, increases that over the two years amount to nearly 90 per cent.—to 87 per cent., if my arithmetic is correct—are being applied to strengthen and enlarge the Council's activities.

While this meteoric growth is most warmly to be welcomed, it carries with it some dangers, too. First, there is, of course, the danger of a disproportionate growth of administrative costs; that has always to be watched for and guarded against. Secondly, there is, more important, a danger of too wide a dispersion of effort. It is interesting that an independent report published eighteen months ago by P.E.P. concluded that the proportion of the Arts Council's resources applied to London, 30 per cent., was reasonable, and that outside London—and I quote: a greater proportion of expenditure should be concentrated on perhaps a dozen provincial centres where there is already a public response to the Arts. It went on to say In sum, the Arts Council should concentrate its expenditure far more than it has done, even if this means a certain amount of hardship for those areas of the country where the level of artistic life is dismally low". There are a good many people who would not agree with that, I think, and it is certainly possible to overstate that point of view. All the same, there is something in it that is worth considering.

The third and the greatest danger, as always with a rapid expansion, is of a lowering of standards. The Arts Council over the years, working hitherto on a shoe string, have gained the public confidence in a quite remarkable degree by a policy of always preferring quality to quantity, if the quality is maintained, if the public can always feel assured that an enterprise backed by the Arts Council is really first class of its kind, then the seed will grow and will spread, even if more slowly than we could wish. But if, once the standards are allowed to deteriorate then the public confidence will be forfeited, and rightly forfeited, and ultimately the whole enterprise will fall into disrepute. It would be a tragedy if this were allowed to happen. I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, is not unaware of these dangers and I hope he will tell us, when he comes to speak about how the Council are taking advantage of their shower of gold, something of his arrangements for guarding against them.

There are two other facets of the Arts Council's work upon which I must briefly touch before I turn to other matters. One is to congratulate the Council on celebrating their coming of age by getting a new Royal Charter to replace the original Charter of 1946 and to bring them up to date in the light of the experience of two decades. The new Charter came into being last December. The other is to say how particularly glad I am that the Arts Council Reports on Housing the Arts have at long last begun to bear fruit, in the allocation of £250,000 for capital works of building and modernisation, as recorded in the Report for 1965–66. This is but a beginning, and I look forward to hearing from the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, how this work has since been going forward and expanding.

The matter of building leads me on to the South Bank development. Your Lordships will recollect that the London County Council provided, at the sole expense of the London ratepayers, the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank at the time of the Festival of Britain, and that the Greater London Council have now completed the small concert hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, alongside it, opened on March 1 by Her Majesty, with the Purcell Room for small recitals. Adjoining these buildings is the Hayward Gallery, now nearing completion, a set of exhibition galleries on a great scale that will satisfy a pressing need in London and will relieve the Tate Gallery of much of the burden of an almost unbroken succession of loan exhibitions that seriously interfere with the showing of their permanent collection.

These halls and galleries, provided by an enlightened L.C.C.—I may say with the approval of the whole Council—form the nucleus of a metropolitan Centre for the Arts on the most splendid scale. It was intended to complete this Centre by a National Theatre building and a new Opera House, and this would have completed a comprehensive Centre for the Arts which would have been without equal in the world. The Lincoln Centre in New York would have been incomplete and inadequate by comparison. This group of buildings, with their marvellous position inside the great sweep of the river, should have been for a century and more one of the greatest glories of the Nation.

To design and build the National Theatre and the new Opera House (which was to rehouse the Sadler's Wells companies, the Opera House in Rosebery Avenue being so cramped and inadequate as seriously to frustrate their work), the Government set up in 1962 the South Bank Theatre and Opera House Board, of which I have the honour to be the Chairman. The buildings were to stand on the site, between Hungerford Bridge and the County Hall, which the London County Council had agreed to make available. They were to be financed jointly by the Government and the L.C.C.

The Board engaged Mr. Dennis Lasdun, who was generally agreed to be the best architect in the country for this project and he produced his first sketch designs in the form of a very beautiful model, which your Lordships may remember seeing in the Royal Gallery at the time of our last debate on the Arts. The provisional estimates of cost, though the proposals were in no way extravagant, were higher than most people had expected, amounting, without fees, to £14,400,000, a figure which was reduced, by some pruning of the design, to £12,600,000. Those who think this figure unduly large may perhaps like to compare it, a figure for the whole scheme, incorporating both the National Theatre (with two main auditoriums) and an Opera House, with the cost of the Sydney Opera House which has now, I am informed, reached a figure of £30 million. That, of course, is financed by the State of New South Wales, with a population perhaps one-third of that of Greater London and less than one-twelfth of that of Great Britain.

By this time the economic blizzard was upon us, and the Government, on consideration, decided to undertake one-half of the cost of the National Theatre, up to a maximum of £3¾ million, but altogether washed their hands of the Opera House. It would have been very deplorable, but understandable enough, if they had said simply that the cost was greater than they were prepared to face, but they made the quite unworthy excuse that the Government had never committed themselves to a share of the cost of the Opera House. No doubt that may have been true in a literal sense—they always had to see designs, to approve them and to approve estimates. But I am bound to say that as the Board had been designated by the Government which set it up, "The South Bank Theatre and Opera House Board", and as the Treasury publication Government and the Arts of 1964 had said that the Board appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in consultation with London County Council has been entrusted with the task of building the National Theatre and the new Opera House", the Government's abandonment of the Opera House on the ground that they had no commitment has an appearance remarkably like a breach of faith. At all events, the Greater London Council, naturally enough, have concluded that they are not prepared to undertake half the cost of the Theatre and the whole of the cost of the Opera House, and the Opera House project for the South Bank has been abandoned.

This is altogether deplorable, for not only is there now no expectation that Sadler's Wells will be adequately rehoused in a new Opera House in the foreseeable future, but a superb architectural opportunity that can never recur has been thrown away, and the South Bank complex of buildings will never now be the fully comprehensive Centre for the Arts that had been planned. The National Theatre must now stand alone, and it will most probably be built on a site downstream of Waterloo Bridge, which is in some ways a better site for the single building than that next to the County Hall. Mr. Lasdun's designs for the theatre are well advanced and will be completed in the near future. In addition to the National Theatre, I need hardly remind your Lordships that the Royal Shakespeare Company are to have a new theatre in the Barbican, so that both these companies, unsurpassed by any in the world, will have modern theatres in London in which to display their splendid talents.

May I now turn to the museums and galleries, which I do not propose to speak on at any great length, for no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, and other speakers will have a good deal to say about them. The museums and galleries are in the new financial year to receive for the first time a total sum less than that for the Arts Council. The figure is £6,459,000. It may well be right that the Arts Council should get the lion's share; but the museums and galleries certainly receive less very much less than they need for their proper maintenance. The funds made available to the Arts Council are £1½ million more than last year; the total for the museums and galleries is increased by less than half-a-million—the figure is £479,000. This increase is almost wholly on account of increased provisions for salaries. The British Museum, for instance, are to receive £182,000 more than last year, and the whole of that increase is for salaries—a largely increased establishment. This in general applies to the smaller increases provided for other museums and galleries. I am entirely without doubt that these increases in establishments are essential, and are in most cases much overdue.

I am, however, much concerned at the inadequacy of the purchase grants. These were fixed on a quinquennial basis starting in 1964–65, and they will not normally fall due to be reviewed until 1969–70. But they are all, or very nearly all, inadequate for the well-being of the collection concerned, some of them grossly inadequate; and they appear, incidentally, to be somewhat unreasonably small when they are viewed against the costs of current maintenance and administration.

The British Museum, covering as it does a vast field of antiquities and works of art, to say nothing of its library, unrivalled in comprehensiveness and scope, costs altogether £2,262,000. Of this total sum less than 13 per cent., £297,000, is available to add further material to the collections. The Victoria and Albert Museum costs £975,000, of which 8 per cent. only, £78,938, is for purchases. And so on. There can be no doubt that our museums and galleries are in general starved of the funds they need if, to take two examples, the British Museum and the National Gallery—much the greatest collections of their kind in the world—are to maintain their splendid status and serve the public as they should. I hope that the Government will review and increase the purchase grants as a matter of urgency, without waiting for the end of the quinquennium.

Almost more serious is their inadequate housing. We have heard a good deal lately about the unhappy state of the British Museum, and it is a matter of the most extreme urgency that the new buildings planned for Bloomsbury should take shape upon the ground. They will, incidentally, be of great architectural distinction. Almost as urgent are the needs of the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery for the extensions planned, and of the National Portrait Gallery for its new building on the Hampton site, which will free its existing site for the National Gallery. No Government can do everything at once, but until these things are done our great and splendid national collections cannot be displayed to proper advantage; and unless they are done soon the collections must lose a great part of their attraction and their value for the public.

Before I sit down (and I am conscious of having spoken at such a length as to try your Lordships' patience) I must say something about the export control, with which I have been closely concerned for a good many years as Chairman of the Reviewing Committee, the medium through which the control is administered. There are sometimes criticisms of the control that spring from misconceptions of its nature and of the philosophy on which it rests. I hope that I may be able to dispel at least some of those misconceptions. Of course, no control over the export of works of art can ever hope to satisfy everyone. There are those who think that no manuscripts or archives, for example, should ever be allowed to leave this country at all; there are those, on the other hand, who believe in free trade, in no control whatever, and there are, too, a good many vested interests involved. Most people are, I think, in favour of some measure of control over the export of what is, after all, a part of our national heritage; but different people draw the line in different places.

The present control stems from the Report made in 1952 by a Committee under the chairmanship of the late Lord Waverley, which considered very fully almost every aspect of the matter. My noble friend Lord Robbins was a member of that Committee, and if I should misinform your Lordships in any way I hope that he will put me right. The Waverley Committee (whose recommendations commended themselves to the Government) recommended that there should be a control to frustrate the export of antiquities and works of art of national importance, and they defined the criteria which should be applied under three heads: first, is the object so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune; secondly, is it of outstanding æsthetic importance; thirdly, is it of outstanding significance for the study of some particular branch of art, learning or history? These criteria have stood up remarkably well to the test of time. There have, of course, been questions raised of the degree of, say, æsthetic importance that is needed to qualify an object as of such national importance that its export should be frustrated, but the basic criteria have never seriously been questioned.

The Committee recommended that objects held to be of national importance in the light of these criteria should, if possible, be retained in this country, but only if the owner wishing to sell could be assured of an offer to purchase the object at a fair price. If such an offer were not forthcoming in this country, the owner should not be prevented from selling for export. This is fundamental to the control. Some European nations do not attempt to play fair with the owners of such things, and there can be no doubt that the fact that we do, or at least try to, has been an important factor in the re-establishment since the war of London's pre-eminence in the art markets of the world. It has also given the control the almost invariable cooperation of the fine art trade, who could run rings round it if they chose. And it has the additional advantage of being morally right.

The control is exercised through a licensing system. If you wish to export an object more than 100 years old, which has been in this country for 50 years and has a value of more than £2,000 (the Waverley Committee's figure was £1,000, but that was fifteen years ago, and your Lordships will not be unaware that prices have risen since that time), then you must apply to the Board of Trade for a licence. Your application will be referred to an expert adviser and if he, applying the Waverley criteria, advises that its national importance is such that its export should be frustrated, then it is referred to the Reviewing Committee who hear the evidence and decide. The Committee are, strictly speaking, advisory, but Ministers have in practice always accepted their advice on this question.

If the Committee conclude that the object ought to remain in this country, then they state a price which should he offered and a time limit—commonly three months or less. If an offer is made within that time the owner may accept it, or he may refuse it; but he will not get his export licence. If no offer is forthcoming within the stated time, a licence is issued and he is free to export.

This then is the system, but it is not the whole story. The licensing control needs a counterpart, and this is not generally understood and appreciated. As the Waverley Committee were at pains to point out, the licensing control is most effective if applied to a small number of objects of high importance, and it becomes progressively less effective and more irksome the larger the number of objects it is sought to control. The essential corollary to the licensing control is, therefore, that museums and galleries should have enterprise enough, and funds enough at their disposal, to buy for themselves anything they need which falls below the value limit of, now, £2,000.

This is why I drew your Lordships' particular attention a few moments ago to the level of the purchase grants made available to the museums and galleries, for if they are inadequate to meet the needs for all but the most important acquisitions, then there is a serious weakness. In general the purchase grants, although they are now on a very different scale from those at the time of the Waverley Report (when the National Gallery had a grant of, I think, no more than £7,000 a year for purchases), are still inadequate, and particularly so in the case of some of the smaller and more specialised collections. For the National Maritime Museum, for instance, a grant of £5,000 does not go very far in the course of a year. And the sum made available for aid to provincial and local collections, £100,000, which may sound large enough, is still quite inadequate having regard to the number of collections involved and to the admitted need to build up our local collections.

The considered view of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries some years ago was that the requirement was £200,000, and I understand that the present fund is generally exhausted a long time before the year ends. It is sometimes exhausted before the year is more than halfway through, and if objects come on to the market in the second half of the year, that is just too bad. It was very unfortunate, to take a recent and outstanding example, that the Acklam Wold beaker, an Anglo-Saxon beaker of great interest and beauty, and I believe unique in its prime condition, should have been allowed to leave Yorkshire for the lack of some £1,500, and been exported.

Of course, whatever the level of annual purchase grants they can never be adequate to meet the most exceptional circumstances. No one could contemplate an annual purchase grant that would have enabled the National Gallery to buy from its own resources the Leonardo Cartoon for £800,000, or the Rembrandt Titus for 760,000 guineas. The one was bought for the National Gallery by an unrepeatable tour de force on the part of the National Art Collections Fund, which raised £450,000 (and nearly killed my noble friend Lord Crawford in the process), with a special grant of £350,000 from the Government; the other, in default of an offer to purchase in this country, is now in California.

Whatever the scale of annual purchase grants, special grants will sometimes be needed to ensure the retention in this country of the most valuable works of national importance. The Treasury have generally been helpful in providing special grants on occasion, but such grants are at the mercy of the economic climate and of the chance of important and valuable works falling on the market in quick succession. It is only by a miracle, embodied in the great generosity of an American publisher, that it has been possible to retain in this country the Caxton Manuscript of a part of the Metamorphoses of Ovid, and to reunite it with the remainder of the Manuscript already in the Pepysian Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge—this being the only known Manuscript from Caxton's workshop. The Government had twice refused the British Museum's request for a special grant towards the £90,000 needed to buy it.

Titian's "Allegory of Prudence" came to the National Gallery only through the superb generosity of the syndicate of dealers who owned it, and would otherwise have been in Switzerland. The Lansdowne Mabuse, the Kincaid Lennox Rembrandt, and the Cuyp from the Edmund de Rothschild collection (perhaps the finest of all Cuyp's landscapes, and in exceptional condition) should all have gone to the National Gallery if there had been the smallest hope that the Gallery would have been given funds enough to buy them. The first is now in Washington, the other two are in the Rijksmuseum. Titus has left the country. The Althorp Rubens was exported during the last economic depression, repeated requests for a special grant to enable the National Gallery of Scotland to buy it having been refused. And, my Lords, this is not a comprehensive list.

These superb masterpieces, all of which had been in this country for a century and more, have gone abroad for the want of funds to enable our national collections to secure them. They will not return—the opportunity, once lost, will never recur. And this attrition of our wonderful heritage will go on unless measures are taken to prevent it. The Reviewing Committee have repeatedly urged that a fund should be set aside that can be drawn upon for special subventions, when they are needed to prevent the loss of such major treasures, irrespective of the economic climate; and the National Gallery have made similar representations. I well know the objections to making such a provision, objections on technical grounds. But where the national interest requires some action, surely a means can and must be found of overcoming them. There is no other way. Meanwhile, we continue to lose important items from our heritage. I earnestly hope that the Government will set themselves to find a means of ensuring that this lamentable attrition does not continue, and will take steps to stop the drain on our heritage without further delay.

My Lords, there are other aspects of the export control over works of art of which I might tell your Lordships, but I have already spoken for longer than anyone should. I have tried to give the House a broad survey of the present relation of Government to the Arts in this country. I have drawn attention to some particular aspects of it and to some of the weak spots where action is needed. In general, I think we must all feel grateful to the Minister of State for her valiant and successful championship of the Arts with the Treasury in a most difficult economic climate, and we must hope that she will be successful in strengthening the weak places in the position as it exists to-day. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.37 p.m.


had given Notice of a Motion to call attention to present and future problems affecting museums and art galleries and in particular to the desirability of preventing the export of items of important historic and artistic interest; and to move for Papers, The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, for allowing me to join with him to-day in his Motion. As he said, I have had my Motion on museums down for some time, but, owing to the fact that I was in hospital and later abroad on convalescence, I was unable to arrange a time for it. However, I feel it is most suitable that we should be debating both these subjects together; and, with the leave of the House, I should prefer not to move my Motion to-day, but would ask that we debate it at the same time as the noble Lord's Motion. I shall therefore, of course, concentrate my remarks on museums.

I should first of all like to say how much I agree with the noble Lord when he says that we now have a sensitive and sympathetic Minister who has done much for the Arts. I only hope that after to-day she will turn a little more of her mind and energy to the museums side, having made such a splendid start with the Arts. I should perhaps at this stage declare my interest. During the last 15 years or so I have founded three museums myself—the Motor Museums at Beaulieu and Brighton, and the Maritime Museum at Buckler's Hard. I am also chairman of the Committee of Transport Museums and the International Committee of Museums, and chairman of the Association of British Transport Museums.

My Lords, we in this country are very rich in museums. We have always been an historically-minded people, and we have within our museums a great amount of wealth. There are, in fact, three separate types of museum in this country: the State museums, the local council museums and the private museums. All these serve the community in different ways: first, in displaying our treasures; secondly, in providing a vital service in the way of education, and, thirdly, in the way of tourist attraction. All these museums face problems, some big and some small; but, starting with the State museums, no museum faces a problem of greater magnitude than does the British Museum. I think it is true to say that this can now be called a national scandal—and every Government since 1945 is equally to blame. As one Sunday paper said the other day: It is no good having our history in polythene bags in the cellar. I hope some noble Lords have read the Report recently issued by the Trustees of the British Museum—indeed, their first Report since 1939. They point out that they have a triple function to play: first of all, they are the National Library; secondly, they are the Museum of Archaeology; and, thirdly, they are a national collection of art, not counting pictures. Since 1939, not only has the British Museum suffered war damage and dislocation, but there has been, since the war, a much greater demand for its services. Yet, in spite of this, no Government since the war has laid down, or kept to, any policy whatsoever with regard to the rehousing of one of our greatest national institutions. No wonder the trustees are frustrated and disillusioned. May I for a moment quote from the Report? The satisfaction of the museum's proper needs has been so long deferred that the clearest affirmation of a long-term policy cannot now make any contribution towards removing the immediate difficulties that beset it and prevent it from playing the part that it should in developing its services for the benefit of the public, more and more knowledgeably interested in what it possesses The first priority is to get new housing for the National Library. It is ironic that the law of the land requires that a copy of every new book and every new periodical that is published should go to the British Museum; yet no provision is made for housing it—unlike Congress in America, where they have a magnificent library. Although a site has been chosen and an architect appointed, still no plans have been made as to when building is to start. Experts have even been to Russia and East Germany to find out the latest technological advances; but these cannot be installed until there is a building in which to put them. I think it would be a great pity, following recent correspondence in The Times, if local political considerations should stand in the way of getting this building completed. There is little point in having a drive for literacy if we do not have a National Library, properly staffed and equipped, where people can study.

Now, my Lords, I turn to the question of the National Reference Library of Science and Invention, another part of the British Museum, which at the moment is housed in different parts of London. Surely it is an important part of maintaining our technological lead in the 20th century to have this put on a proper basis. I quote again from the Report. It says: … what we look for today is an unqualified assurance that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to ensure that this undertaking is carried through with a real sense of urgency and expedition Before leaving the question of the British Museum I want to say a word about the staff quarters and their working conditions. I am happy to see the distinguished Director of the British Museum, Sir Frank Francis, and I should like to pay a tribute to him, and to his loyal staff, for the work they do, under the most appalling conditions. I wonder whether the local inspector of offices has been to see the cellars of the British Museum and the conditions in which people work. I am sure of one thing: if there were a modern Karl Marx working there to-day he would find a great many examples of the need to improve the conditions of the workers, and would perhaps get a new revolution going. There is no argument left, so far as the British Museum is concerned. The fact is that the time has now run out and an answer is long overdue. I hope that to-day we may have some clear statement of policy from the Government, difficult though this is when three Ministries are involved.

Things are obviously not quite so bad in other museums, such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum. But these, like all other national institutions, must plan ahead. One important fact to bear in mind is that re-installation is as important as a new installation; miracles can be achieved by modern display. Capital expenditure is not the only problem facing the museums to-day. There is the whole question of acquisitions; and this is, in a way, tied up with the question of preventing the export of historical treasures.

I am sure that all noble Lords were interested in the fascinating account given by the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, of the work of his Committee and also in the sad story that he had to tell about what has been lost from this country. We were once a very rich country, full of rich benefactors; but this is not so to-day. In the last twenty years we have had devaluation and very high taxation. But the fact remains that we are still the centre of the world art market; and this is something which I know contributes a great deal to the Exchequer each year in overseas currency.

I would suggest that we tackle the whole question of preventing exports in a slightly different way—because, like the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, I should not approve of mass bans on exports. I should regard that as a great interfereance with the liberty of the subject. But, with three museums a week opening in America, one wonders how they get all their exhibits. The explanation is quite simple. The United States Government, by their tax laws, are in fact subsidising the acquisitions for these museums. There is full income tax relief on all gifts to museums; therefore the Government there are enriching their museums at very little cost to the country. I am certain that if people here could bid on equal terms with the American buyers in this country, it would do a great deal to prevent many items leaving this country. Inevitably the present situation has pushed up prices, because when an American bids at Sotheby's for a picture he knows that is going to get full tax relief on the money he expends. If we had such a scheme, it would, more than anything else, prevent things from leaving the country—and we should not again have the sense of shame we all felt when an American had to rescue the Caxton Manuscript from Magdalene College. In the case of the Leonardo Cartoon, if the then Government had said that contributions made to that fund in the first two weeks would attract full income tax relief, I am sure the sum involved in lost tax would not have been as great as the contribution which the Government had to make.

I know that one of the arguments of the Treasury against such a scheme is that they would have also to include charities. But charities already benefit from covenants and get income tax relief in that way. In any case, giving money to charity has no international repercussions; if somebody gives money to charity in America it does not affect anything done in this country. Of course, there are abuses; but I think we can learn from the mistakes made in America. Possibly the Government could send a high official of the Treasury to Washington to discover how the Americans run their scheme and to learn how they stop any abuses that might occur.

The fact is, my Lords, that during the last 200 to 300 years the State has taken over from the individual the pleasures and responsiblities of being patrons of the Arts. Either the State must do it or we as individuals must be given incentives to do it. Already there is exemption from death duty for works of art bequeathed to museums. This is a fine scheme; but I should like the Government to remember that there is much greater pleasure in giving something during one's lifetime than in bequeathing it on death. A great many people derive a great amount of pleasure and distinction from seeing what they give to museums. That motive may not be admirable; but it is human.

I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, that prevention of exports is certainly a last resort. But there are last-resort occasions. I know that there is a strong feeling among many members of museums in this country that the limit should not have been raised from £1,000 to £2,000. Certainly there should be some differentiation between one type of object and another. Although definitions are difficult, I urge the Government to continue discussions with heads of museums to see whether some definitions could be arrived at.

Finally, I suggest that for emergencies there should be set up a National Heritage Fund which would be used at those times when action is necessary to prevent some item from being exported. One might ask: "Where will the money come from?" I would suggest that some percentage of the Premium Bond prize-money each month should be put into a fund which would eventually become the National Heritage Fund. I should like to see a national lottery; but I know that we in this country are a little squeamish on this at the moment. At least, we have the Premium Bond organisation going. Can we not use this to set up a fund to which anybody could contribute money?

I turn to something which is of special interest to me; that is, to make a plea for more attention to be paid to items of scientific interest. When all the committees of art were set up and death duty exemptions decided, things like railway engines, motor cars and boats et cetera were hardly being collected. We are a great industrial nation with a great industrial history, and I think it high time that certain industrial objects were brought into the scope of works of art. I should like to see a committee set up that would draw up a small schedule—it need not be a large one—of items of scientific interest in this country which should always be kept here; and I should also like to see exemption given to such items in respect of death duties.

I turn to the British Transport Museum at Clapham. I have already raised in your Lordships' House the question of this Museum. It is basically a collection comprising relics of London Transport, and also relics of the original railway companies which were handed over at the time of nationalisation. This is a unique collection and possibly it is to be broken up. There are many reasons for this. I gather that perhaps part of it may go to York, and part of it may stay in London. I feel that this would be tragic. One of the problems is that this museum has been under the control of the British Transport Commission, and although in the early days, when the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, was Chairman, there was very sympathetic consideration from him, later chairmen have not taken the interest which was taken by the noble Lord. I do not think it altogether fair to blame them for that. Their job was to run the railways; they were not museum administrators, and they did not know anything about them. I think we must get the museum at Clapham under the control of the Ministry of Education and Science or some other Ministry which would understand how to run it.

I am told, for instance, that because the museum is controlled by the British Transport Commission, £40,000 a year has to be spent on the salaries of 23 men who look after the museum, because their wage rate is geared to the rates paid to railway staff. I feel that this museum could be put on a sound commercial basis. Already there have been 200,000 visitors, and if the admission price were increased slightly I believe that it could be made to pay. If, for instance, a million and a quarter people will pay an admission fee of 6s. to go to Madam Tussaud's, surely we can find people to go to see what is one of the most wonderful collections in the world. I should certainly be very happy to take it over myself if the Government do not want to run it. One thing I have found out in recent years is that the man in the street is probably more interested in old vehicles and railway engines than Van Dycks, lions or even nudist colonies.

I wish finally to refer to private museums in which, of course, I am particularly interested, and which occupy a very important place in the museum structure of this country. If certain private museums which fulfil certain qualifications could enjoy tax relief and exemption from death duty I am sure that those concerned would be more than happy to obey certain rules laid down by the British Museums Association. Museums are an enormous tourist attraction, and I am very happy to see that the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, is in the Chamber. He is Chairman of the British Travel Association, and I have the honour to be a member of the Council. No doubt the noble Lord will be speaking on this particular aspect.

With regard to education, I am glad to say that this year the British Museums Association are taking education as the theme at their annual conference. It would be a great thing for museums if the Minister for Education and Science could arrange for local education officers to urge teachers to include visits to museums in the school curriculum as part of the education programme, rather than regard such visits as just outings. Speaking from personal experience, I know that parties of school children are brought to the museum and are left at the gate. They are allowed to rush around uncontrolled for two or three hours, and then they are collected again. Not only does this sometimes lead to damage to the museum, but I do not think the children get as much out of the visit as would be the case were we consulted at an early stage and enabled to arrange lectures and guides for them.

There are many noble Lords who wish to speak this afternoon, and many more expert than me, but I have tried to outline some of the problems and make some constructive criticisms. Many of our museums are out of date, overcrowded and surviving on the bread-line rather than pursuing a progressive policy; all this in spite of the devoted efforts of the staffs, many of whom are grossly underpaid, especially when compared with museum staffs in the United States of America. A new look is required, and a brisk "new broom". The truth is that museums must grow, otherwise they will become dusty mausoleums.

We look to the Government of the day to give us a lead. I appreciate that there are many other calls on finance at this time, but I hope that some of the suggestions which I have made will prove to be constructive, and will not cost too much, but from which the whole country will benefit. Unless a strong lead is given and new policies adopted, particularly in relation to tax reliefs for new acquisitions, not only will our museums lose the high reputations which they have gained over the years, but the Government will, I think, be breaking faith with all those who in the past have created and endowed our national treasure houses.

Furthermore, the Government will be failing the interests of our descendants whose future endeavours in so many fields must be based on a true appreciation of the past, of which a real, live panorama can be seen in our museums, both great and small. I ask the Government not to take my plea this afternoon as a sign that I, and many others, are obsessed with history and the past, but rather to recognise the importance of laying down a long-term policy regarding the museums of this country. They will then earn the gratitude and respect of future generations, for by providing museums of a high standard, wherein can be displayed and recorded the achievements of former generations, so will our grandchildren be inspired to better them.

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, as has been said, it is two years since we last discussed this subject, and if only for that reason I am very glad that my noble friends Lord Cottesloe and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu have initiated this debate to-day. We had a masterly survey from the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, as one would expect; and the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, with his very special knowledge, has also "done us proud". Incidentally, he has given me a passionate desire, which I am sure will never be fulfilled, to found a museum.

I am sure it is right that we should discuss the Arts from time to time, and perhaps more frequently than we do. The other place seldom manages to get around to a full-dress debate on the subject, but it is one which should receive Parliament's steady attention; for it is the Arts that give tone to, and to a large extent set the quality of the life we live in these Islands. The Arts started in the late 1950's to cost the central Government appreciable, if all too small, sums of money. This increasing measure of public patronage should in my view be the subject of sympathetic but informed attention by Parliament. I, for one, am delighted that the present Government have kept up, and indeed stepped up, this momentum. For, as the latest Report of the Arts Council suggests, money, rough-hew it as we may, remains very much the heart of artistic affairs.

We must, therefore, irrespective of party, join with my noble friend Lord Cottesloe in congratulating the Minister of State, Miss Jennie Lee, on her success in these stringent times in wringing the sinews of art from the Government. I should also like to congratulate the Government on accepting the advice which we proffered from these Benches two years ago about upgrading her appointment to Minister of State. I only hope that Miss Lee will soon get "the rate for the job", for with her energy and enthusiasm, and above all for her winning ways with the Treasury, she deserves it. On the whole, our governors, with rare exceptions, have not been notable patrons of the Arts. One exception was Charles I. Most of us would wish Miss Lee a far better fate in Whitehall.

We must all be glad that the present Chairman of the Arts Council, the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, will be speaking today. Because he is contributing to the debate and because there are so many other speakers, I shall confine myself to certain specifics. But before doing so, I should like to address a couple of special and specific pleas to the noble Lord himself. They concern his Council's Reports. Now that they have rather more money, could they perhaps afford rather larger print? And is it really necessary to include in the Reports reprints of articles from other publications, however distinguished the authors, and be those publications as estimable as New Society and Socialist Commentary?

I am at one with the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, in his view, as I take it to be, that one of the great opportunities and challenges confronting the Arts Council to-day lies in the regions. But this must not be at the expense of the centre. Therefore I was particularly glad to read, I think in the Council's last Report but one, the words: It is vitally important that the standards set by London should be rigorously maintained and improved. I agree, and my first three specific recommendations are related to this question of how we can maintain and, indeed, raise the standards at the centre, here in this Metropolis, now one of the few acknowledged world centres for music, opera and ballet.

I share the sorrow of the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, that a great new Opera House, a new home for Sadler's Wells, is not now to grace the South Bank. I am not saying that a choice had to be made, but if a choice had to be made between a second great opera house now for London and opera houses for Manchester, Edinburgh and Wales, then I cannot bring myself to say that it was wrong to opt in this case for the regions rather than for the centre. But I am concerned about the future. Can the noble Lord who is replying tell us anything more about this particular project and, indeed, about the South Bank site? It has always struck me—and I do not apologise for digressing for a second on architecture, because this is one of the most important of the Arts and one in which this country has conspicuously shone—that this is one of London's great missed opportunities. The Shell building itself is a great missed opportunity, but the Festival Hall-National Theatre complex can still be a great concept. What it needs, of course—this whole group of buildings—is bringing to life, especially at night. A great and greatly architected new hotel would be a marvellous adjunct here. Can the noble Lord tell us whether this is still a possibility? Can he, above all, reassure us that the site, possibly lost for a new opera house, will not be swallowed up and diminished by office buildings? There is still great potential on the South Bank, whether or not an opera house is built there.

There is equal potential and an equal opportunity in and around Covent Garden. With the removal of the market, this strategically placed area of London, linking the South Bank and Whitehall with Bloomsbury, could become of enormous civic importance, if only, just for once, we deploy real imagination. I hope that the opportunity is seized because, like the South Bank opportunity, it will not recur. Above all, I hope that the opportunity is seized to give the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, and his Opera House the elbow room which they so desperately need.

The Covent Garden opera and ballet bring pleasure to thousands and renown to this country. And they play in a marvellous building. But that building has notable limitations—a cramped, inadequate stage; no rehearsal stage; wretched dressing rooms; no proper car parks, and so on. When the cauliflowers and the cabbages depart, space will be liberated there which will enable all this and much else to be put right; but that space will be valuable and there will be keen competition for it. I understand that a joint committee is now looking into this problem. So far, so good. But can the noble Lord go farther? Can he assure us that in so far as this lies within the Government's power it is their firm intention to see that this unique opportunity is not missed—it will never recur—of securing a really worthy setting for one of our great national institutions?

Then there is the British Museum, about which the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, has spoken so eloquently. Here again we have one of our greatest national treasures. It is certainly the greatest national collection of its kind in the world. It is equally certainly the worst housed and the worst displayed. The report of the Trustees is an astonishing, indeed a shattering, document, not least in that it is the first Report which has been addressed to the public since 1939. I do not know which I myself found the more astounding—the riches which we hold in trust for the nation in the British Museum or the poverty of their surroundings.

On the one hand, in the Report we read of the wonderful new acquisitions in the last 25 years. There is a long list, which noble Lords will have read, from great objects to little objects like the little Minoan bull which belonged to the late George Spencer Churchill. The list is endless and priceless. On the other hand, we have this devastating indictment—in a way, self-indictment—of the slum conditions in which these treasures are housed. I will not weary your Lordships with the list. I will cite the example cited by the Trustees: that by the middle of the 1970s the collection of Oriental manuscripts will have outgrown their present allotted space by some 10 miles of books. There are many other examples in the Report.

We also read with dismay—at least I do, and I know from what he has said that the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, shares this concern—that there has been such a total failure hitherto properly to follow through the great project for creating a really worthy National Reference Library of Science and Information. The project for the purpose-built site on the South Bank having been torpedoed—I am not clear why—we are now back where we were in 1959. We learn that successive delays have created "unbearable difficulties of accommodation". This is something which Malraux would certainly not have tolerated on the other side of the Channel. I hope that Miss Lee will not on hers.

Above all, there is the great open question of the provision of a new building to the South of Great Russell Street to house what is really our National Library. Whatever temporary expedients the Trustees may be forced into, it is only this building which will enable them to house these great collections as any self-respecting nation should, to give scholars access to them which they need and, perhaps most important of all, to give the staff of the Museum the working conditions which they deserve. This building was approved in principle by the late Government in September, 1964. Can the noble Lord confirm unequivocally that it has the Government's approval—more, can be give us the unqualified assurance, for which the Trustees plead, that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to ensure that this undertaking is carried through with a real sense of urgency and expedition."? If so, shall we really have to wait until the 'eighties until this job is completed? I trust that not only the Minister of State, but also the Prime Minister, will take an individual and personal interest here.

It is really impossible for anyone who cares a fig about our cultural heritage to read this Report without a certain sense of shame. If London is to be the cultural centre in the 'seventies and 'eighties which it could be; if we are to seize the planning and architectural opportunities which we now have within our grasp, the active support of the local authorities, the boroughs, and of the greatest municipal authority in the world, the Greater London Council, is required. I am prepared to criticize—and I have criticized—many aspects of London's administration over the last decades, but my personal opinion is that the L.C.C. and the G.L.C. have, by and large, deserved well of the Arts. As local authorities go, they have been generous and imaginative patrons. I hope that in the future this great Council, whatever its political complexion—and it happens to have the right one at the moment—will in this sphere emulate and surpass its predecessors.

Looking, for a moment, from the centre outwards, I should like to associate myself with what my noble friend Lord Cottesloe has said about not spreading our artistic butter too thin. Nevertheless, the fertilisation of the Arts in the regions is rightly a matter of absolutely top priority for the Arts Council. We shall all be eager to learn in a moment what Lord Goodman's strategy here is.

There is, for example, an interesting but rather inconclusive passage in the Arts Council's Report on regional organisation. I hope that the noble Lord will be able in his speech today to enlarge on the type of organisation for which the Arts Council see the most future, and what carrots the noble Lord may have up his sleeve to induce the local authorities to demonstrate a slightly warmer response. I think that even in the North-East their current contribution averaged less than one-farthing on the rates. I, for one, should also like to know more about the noble Lord's general approach to housing the Arts in the regions. It is something of a gymnastic feat to find out what he is up to here. We pick up a clue at the bottom of page 72. That leads us on to page 84, and so we eventually alight, like grasshoppers, on the list on page 92.

It is an interesting but very mixed bunch. Last year we were told that a rational programme for housing the Arts would emerge marking the greatest simple factor towards the fulfilment of the Council's twin aims". I quote those, words from the Council's 20th Report. Can the noble Lord tell us whether that rational pattern has yet emerged? If so, what is it? What is the strategy for opera houses in the regions, if and when, as I hope, the Welsh, Manchester and Edinburgh pro jects are consummated? What is the strategy for concert halls? What is being done to meet the need for a "new and adequate" concert hall in Glasgow? What about the urgent needs of Coventry and Plymouth? And do the Arts Council accept the broad strategy for the provision of theatres which was tabled in the 1961 special report?

I have been a little surprised in reading these Reports to see so little attention paid to our universities. Surely they have an enormous potential role to play in the cultural life of this country—as catalysts, as providers of accommodation and audiences, and, indeed, as patrons. Surely they can play in the cultural life of the future something of the role played by our great monastic foundations in the Middle Ages. I remember very well the pride with which the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, spoke, two years ago, of the part that Manchester University is now playing in relation to the Arts. And more recently we have learned that York University—Lord James of Rusholme's University—is going to house for a year or more the Amadeus String Quartet. Surely this can be the forerunner of much bigger things in the future. I, for one, should be glad to learn the views on this of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and of the Government.

In general, I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Cottesloe that the right strategy for the Arts Council in the regions is to reinforce success, and to build only where there is already self-perpetrating growth. But perhaps there should be one exception to this rule. We are now building a second generation of New Towns. Some, like Milton Keynes, will be very large indeed. We are already planning a third generation. Judging by our recent debate on New Towns, I think we are all agreed that with the first generation we made a mistake, in that while we planned initially to house and employ, we hardly planned to amuse and to stimulate. I am not, of course, suggesting that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, should seek to clamp a tight Orwellian cultural straitjacket on our future New Towns and cities. What I am suggesting is that there may well be a case for ensuring that the Arts Council are associated from a very early stage with the planning of these new communities.

My Lords, there are many contributions to come this afternoon, and I shall therefore cut the rest of my contribution short, more especially since it deals with fiscal matters, which as a banker I am supposed to understand, though I do not. I should like to reiterate, in a personal capacity, what I said two years ago. The day of the private patron may be going; but it has not yet gone. Public patronage can be very enlightened, but it can also be dulling and bureaucratic. And, as we know, there is a limit to how wide one can turn the tap of public finance, at least for such good causes as the Arts.

Parenthically, I believe (and I suspect that here I shall not carry all my noble friends with me) that we could materially add to the flow of money available for our poor museums and galleries if only these institutions could steel themselves to charge, with suitable exceptions, for admission. In any event, if we want to attract the maximum support for the Arts, if we wish to preserve a built-in safeguard against too much Establishment uniformity, surely we should do everything we can to encourage private patronage.

There are many ways in which this could be done, and noble Lords who have spoken have suggested some. We could make sure that legacies of money made to, and accepted by, our museums and galleries, like objects, escape estate duty. We could make the rules governing bequests of objects themselves more flexible. Above all, we could introduce legislation of the kind which obtains in the United States, and in many countries on the Continent, whereby gifts by an individual to our museums and galleries, whether of money or of works of art, could be set against a given proportion of that individual's tax assessment. These minor changes have been advocated, in season and out of season, for many years—never more persuasively than by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins. These pleas have always foundered on the rock of the Treasury obduracy and obstinacy—indeed, on Treasury orthodoxy. One day, perhaps, a Government will have the wit and the wisdom to make these simple easements.

Your Lordships will be glad to hear that I have had my say for to-day. I look forward with keen interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. To lapse into the Chancellor's nautical jargon, we on these Benches trust that Lord Cottesloe and his Council are now going "full speed ahead". So long as this remains the signal from his feminine skipper, and so long as the noble Lord's firm hand remains firmly on the tiller, he will have our support.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has once again spoken in the most interesting fashion about the Arts. He said more than once that he is looking forward very keenly to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, which indeed is true of me; but I hope he will forgive me if I intervene for a few minutes—not for as long as he spoke, but for a short time. I hope he will not regard that as any breach of etiquette.


My Lords, I assure the noble Earl that I was looking forward with no less enthusiasm to his speech. I did not mention that, but of course it was implicit in everything I said.


I thought that for a moment, and then I dismissed the thought. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has put a number of questions, and I will try to answer one or two of them as I proceed, leaving others to the noble Baroness when she winds up at some late hour this evening.

Before coming to my argument and exposition, I am sure that, on behalf of the Government and on behalf of everybody else here, I may express gratitude to both noble Lords for their Motions. Many old friends of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, were delighted to listen to him commending a Motion in this House after quite a little while, and doing it in such a fine way. Certainly his achievements in the direction of founding museums must be unrivalled in your Lordships' House, and I share the envy of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. But I hope that Lord Montagu of Beaulieu will forgive me if I leave it to Lady Phillips to reply to his main contentions.

For the Government, I must once again express admiration to Lord Cottesloe, not only for his speech to-day, but for all his immense services to art in general and to the Arts Council in particular. He is the most dispassionate of men, I should judge, but he allowed himself just a little breath of envy when he reflected on the lot that had fallen to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman; and on this occasion he must feel a little like Moses being allowed to congratulate Joshua on taking possession of the Promised Land, and on the fall of the Treasury Jellicoe at the first blast of Miss Lee's trumpet. But I am sure that my right honourable friend Miss Lee will appreciate the generous tributes paid to her by Lord Cottesloe, Lord Jellicoe, and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu; and I am sure that similar tributes will be paid during the debate. I would couple with that the expressions of admiration which have been directed to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. I take this opportunity, for the Government, of expressing our own sincere gratitude for the wonderful work that Lord Goodman and his colleagues are doing; work that is being done by the Arts Council and its staff, from Mr. Abercrombie downwards.

The tributes paid to the right honourable lady are a pleasant contrast to some cantankerous nonsense that appeared this morning in a newspaper to which many of us are accustomed to look for enlightened reading. These remarks appear over the signature of a writer of recognised talent. I quote only one passage out of many absurdities. Children, according to Miss Lee, says this writer—and I now quote from the article in the Daily Telegraph, although I had not meant to mention the name— must be trained in school from their tenderest years in appreciation of really classy drama, music, drama, ballet, and so on. The prospect is appalling. If all this is added to Sex-Education, Hygiene, Road Safety, Balanced Diet, Animal Care and Percussion Bands, the unfortunate pupils and their teachers will never be able to get any serious work done at all. That is what this gentleman wrote in the paper this morning. Frankly, the values expressed in that attitude appear to me to be so far removed from those of most art lovers in high places and low in the country, that all rational dialogue is impossible. However—happy thought!—perhaps this article is intended to be a joke. But if it is, I should not think that many of us are amused by it.

May I come now to the Government's policy, which was set out in some detail originally in the White Paper of February, 1965, and was dealt with considerably by Lord Cottesloe and other speakers in the debate of that year. It will be remembered that the main features of the Government's policy are briefly these: to make the best in the Arts more widely available, that is to say, in the regions as well as in the Metropolis; to maintain a high level of artistic achievement; and, finally and perhaps most important, to give children and young people a wide range of opportunities to discover themselves and participate in the Arts. In carrying out the Government's policy, a special role, as we are all well aware, is assigned to the Arts Council, which is the channel for Government subsidy of the Arts, except film, which is the responsibility of the British Film Institute.

It is as well to put one or two of these points on record so that there is no misconception in this House to-day. The Government have to decide the proportion of national resources that can be devoted to the Arts and are, of course, accountable for the spending of public money. The size of the grant-in-aid for the Arts Council is determined by the Government. Some parts of the grant-in-aid are earmarked for special purposes, such as capital expenditure on buildings or reduction of accumulated deficits. But otherwise the Council retain complete freedom to allocate the grant-in-aid within the limits of their own Charter. It is for the Council, not the Government, to choose which artists and organisations merit support, and to fix the level of that support.

That has been the policy of successive Governments—and I agree with those who have said that there is no conceivable Party issue in the Arts, which is certainly the best insurance against any Government of any complexion trying to interfere with artistic freedom. Similarly, the Arts Council do not seek to exercise control over the opera and dramatic companies and other bodies. The Council are willing to help and advise, but artistic policy is a matter for the organisations themselves. This is all common ground, but possibly it can do with re-stating.

The first essential fact about the Government's policy towards the Arts is that very considerably more money has been provided since the Labour Government took office. There was a steady increase before, as I remember Lord Cottesloe pointed out in an earlier debate; but, as he said, the present Government have stepped up the tempo. In the last full year of the previous Administration, total expenditure on the Arts (my noble friend Lady Phillips will be dealing with museums) was £7,200,000, and this year it will be £14,150,000. In the case of the Arts Council, the increase has been still more striking—in fact, Lord Cottesloe referred to it as notable.

In the debate in June, 1965, the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, paid tribute to what he called "the wholly admirable enthusiasm and energy" of Miss Jennie Lee. But he feared at that time that the transfer to the Ministry of Education might mean that the needs of art were elbowed out by the wider functions of that Department. I think he will agree that he has been proved altogether too pessimistic—indeed, he generously said so this afternoon. The expansion has, in fact, been startling, and I cannot remember anything like this in Whitehall in my time. The total of the Arts Council grant was £3,200,000 in 1964–65, the last year of the last Government; this year it is more than twice as large, at £7,200,000, which is itself, incidentally, an increase of 25 per cent. over last year's figure.

Perhaps drama shows the most spectacular increase, rising from £540,000 to £1,700,000, or three times as much over this short period. None of us here pretends that money is, or should be, the main index of the importance attached to the Arts. We all know that it cannot inspire creative work, otherwise every millionaire would be a mighty artist. But it is equally true that we must not take up an ivory-tower position and pretend that money is unimportant. To pick one or two examples, without the extra grant provided by the Arts Council a major orchestra would probably have disappeared; and I am advised that three of the main national institutions in this country would have been in the gravest financial difficulties, and certainly many regional developments would not have taken place.

Speaking a little more broadly, the policy which has been adopted has had three demonstrable consequences of major importance. In the first place, local societies and individual enthusiasts all over the country have been encouraged by the knowledge that they are no longer struggling on their own and that the powerful national current will help forward their aims and aspirations. As someone associated with one local festival I can certainly testify to that vast increase of enthusiasm under the new encouragement. Secondly, the Arts Council have been empowered for the first time to make substantial contributions towards the capital costs of building and rebuilding adequate premises for artistic performances all over the country. I shall be saying a word later about that, but this revolutionary decision fulfills, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, said, suggestions formulated by the Arts Council in earlier years, and it is already beginning to change the face of Britain in regard to the performing Arts.

Finally, the Arts Council have been enabled to turn the sharpest corner of all with their new-found money by moving out from the techniques of the Poor Law administration—from what the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, calls the "means test and subsistence levels"—into the stage of economic development. A symptom of this can be seen in the recently announced awards of more than £100,000 this year for musical and theatrical activities on behalf of children and young people. One can fairly say that this is where a change in the degree of Government assistance has already produced a change in the kind of artistic consequence.

What has been done to make the best in the Arts more widely available? Pride of place must go to the scheme instituted by the present Government for housing the Arts, which has already been touched upon. The Arts Council have promised, up to March, 1967, grants totalling £750,000 towards the provision of new buildings and the improvement of existing ones. In 1967–68 they have been authorised to make commitments up to a further £500,000. Secondly, the Government have actively encouraged the establishment of regional associations for the Arts, and I sympathise very much with the emphasis laid by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, which fell so strongly on the regions. Thirdly, more money has been available for touring in the United Kingdom, not only in the case of the great national companies but also in the case of a large number of other enterprising companies. Fourthly, a Committee of Inquiry was set up in 1966, under the joint chairmanship of Lord Goodman and Lord Harewood, to inquire into the future needs of opera and ballet throughout the country. This Committee is expected to report by about July.

What can I say to illustrate what this approach is leading to in practice? I will deal first, briefly, with the field of drama. The support given by the Arts Council and by the Greater London Council to the National Theatre has contributed much to the international reputation of the National Theatre Company, which was formed only four years ago; and the same applies to the Royal Shakespeare Company. Two years ago, in our 1965 debate, the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, said of Covent Garden—and I am glad that the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, will be speaking to us later: …five years ago Covent Garden was an international opera, one of many. Now, it leads the world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23/6/65, c. 518.] The noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, said that two years ago, and it would be still truer at the present time. He spoke with equal feeling of ballet; and again one could underline that very strongly to-day.

A striking improvement in the standards in regional theatres has been achieved, and once again this can be attributed in part to increased Arts Council subsidies. In London, Arts Council support for the Royal Court Theatre has contributed towards a revolutionary approach to dramatic writing and production. Not so long ago Time Magazine, in a leading article devoted to this subject, summed up as follows: The British theatre, in short, has blossomed into a new Elizabethan age, the like of which even Shakespeare would have marvelled at. Whether or not we accept that in the letter I do not know, but it is certainly an encouraging tribute.

As we all know, the finest company is handicapped if the building in which they have to perform is inadequate. For this reason the Government have agreed to share with the Greater London Council the cost of building the new National Theatre (to which the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, has contributed so much inspiration), up to a limit of £7½ million at tender stage. The architect hopes to complete costed plans by the end of July. If all goes well tenders will be invited by the beginning of 1969, and therefore the tentative date for opening is some time in 1973. The Government have not felt able to offer any contribution towards the cost of the Opera House which was also proposed for the South Bank, and it is now known that the Arts Council's Committee of Inquiry on opera and ballet is likely to recommend that projects for opera houses in Manchester and Edinburgh should have priority over a new second opera house in London. This is well known to any experts present but it is necessary to say it for the benefit of the House.

Here I must break off for a moment from this phase of mutual congratulation and say one word in reply to the rather severe comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe. He said that the Government had not been ready to put up their share of the money for a second opera house and that they were guilty of something very like a breach of faith. I think I must take him as having accused us of a breach of faith; I do not think the words "something like" can be held as an excuse. The noble Lord knows the subject far better than I do and he would not say that without careful thought, but the facts, as I understand them—and naturally I am speaking after careful consultation—are these. The South Bank Board was set up to plan a National Theatre and Opera House against the background of a Government contribution of £1 million. It was hoped that the London County Council would put up £1.3 million, and therefore at the time of the National Theatre Act of 1949 the figure contemplated was £2.3 million. In May, 1965, the plans produced by the Board involved costs, including fees, of over £16 million. When I first saw these figures I felt I must have misread them, but I am advised that they are correct. I do not think one can accuse the Government of a breach of faith because when they said they would put up £1 million they were not ready to put up a half of £16 million. Therefore I must refute the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, that the Government have been guilty here at all.


My Lords, I do not wish to interrupt the noble Earl, but the context in which I used the particular words "a breach of faith" was not in connection with the Government's refusal to find the money but in connection with their saying that they had never made any commitment towards the building of an opera house, as an excuse for not finding the money.


My Lords, I must leave the semantics to the noble Lord, but the fact was that the Government said they would put up £1 million towards a scheme costing £2.3 million, and when they were told it would cost £16 million they were not ready to put up half that sum. I think we now have our joint comments on that on record. The Government are in fact putting up £3¾ million, which is a lot more than was contemplated at the time the Act was passed.

The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has expressed approval of the Manchester regional Arts project, and he hoped Edinburgh would be the site for a second venture of the same sort. I think he said he could not find it in his heart to blame the Government, if there was only a limited amount of money, for letting the priority fall as it has fallen. I am grateful to him for what he has said, and I would inform him, if he is not already aware of it, that the projects recommended by the Manchester and the Edinburgh City Councils, including an opera house, a theatre and other facilities, are both under active consideration already, with due regard to capital and recurring costs. I think he and I are at least in sympathy there. He also spoke of the possible rebuilding of the Royal Opera House. A project of this kind has been discussed between the Opera House and the planning team responsible for the redevelopment of the Covent Garden Market site and the surrounding area, and all he has said to-day will be carefully considered there.

I now pass on, as I draw towards a close, to the question of the Arts for children and young people. Here, when we talk of the figures of assistance to the Arts, we are ignoring the very large sums spent, and rightly spent, on art education in the schools, just as we should be ignoring it in the case of science. The amount we do for Art—"we" meaning the Government on behalf of the taxpayer—is vastly larger than would be revealed by the figures for the Arts Council. What has been done and is being done for children and young people? We can all agree that the encouragement of interest in the Arts among children and young people is an enormously important field of activity, because habits which are acquired in the formative years are strong and abiding. It is the children who will provide the audiences of the future, and if these children, when they mature, demand the opportunity to hear great music, to see great plays, to view works of art, then the real revolution will have begun. Equally, if they, while they are children, reject the great achievements of the past as being outside their ken, above their heads, as not for them, they are likely to carry this attitude with them throughout their lives. Miss Lee has been ceaselessly active in giving effect to these ideas. To mention one point, she has instituted two surveys by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools into the position of music and drama in the schools.

The Arts Council plays a full and active role in this field, and my noble friend, Lord Goodman, may well be giving us more details as to what they are doing. Not only does their own company, "Opera for All", perform in schools and universities, but they are giving in the current financial year grants totalling £90,000, first, to professional theatrical companies which specialise in the production of plays for children, the production of plays for children, and performances at leading repertory theatres throughout the country. Further, the Arts Council have just made a grant of £20,000 to the National Youth Orchestra and £5,000 to the Yehudi Menuhin School, and I could mention many other similar activities.

I am sure that in the past we have accepted too readily the idea that the finest achievements in music and art and the drama lie outside the realms of appreciation of the masses. I hope that attitude is now beginning to fade. There are signs that these influences, which we are all concerned to foster, are at work, bringing within the reach of children and indeed adults all over the country the great artistic achievements of our own and former times. But we cannot, so to speak, tackle the children alone; we must introduce adults to this appreciation as well, because the homes in which music and literature and art are accepted as valuable and important are likely to produce the informed and articulate performers and audiences of the future. The opportunity for choice must be provided. To provide this opportunity means making available more theatres, more companies, more assistance to creative writers. It means ensuring that prices are not so high as to be out of the reach of all but the wealthy. It means taking risks, recognising that success cannot be guaranteed and accepting that one success is worth two failures. The signs are hopeful. The importance of radio and television cannot be over-emphasised. More people are attending concerts, more people are going to the theatre, more people are visiting art galleries and more people are reading books. Ultimately the test is the quality of the enjoyment.

At the beginning I said something of our objectives. The Minister has been highly praised, most deservedly, in this debate, and I believe I shall be interpreting her correctly if I end with some such words as these. We are now committed in this country, on all sides, to a double objective: to sustaining the best and, still more passionately, if possible, to making the best available to the whole community, wherever they live and whatever their age and health and situation. But the two sides of this objective are inseparable; we shall promote the best only if we make sure of the strength of what may be called the receiving end, particularly if we pay far more attention to the opportunities of appreciating art which we provide for the young. As the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, said, it is a delight to see young people discovering a new world. In short, we are committed to raising a generation of children who will enjoy first-class art as no other generation has ever enjoyed it before. This aim is paramount. My Lords, it is a glorious thought that this aim is beginning to be achieved.

4.56 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say how very deeply moved I have been by the last words spoken by the noble Earl the Leader of the House. Nothing could have been said more aptly, or could more superbly represent the feeling which I hope animates our activities on the Arts Council today. If I may say this, I hope without embarrassing him, no one personifies better the spirit of that particular expression of policy by the Government than the noble Earl himself. It is a matter of particular gratification to me that those words should have fallen from him.

There are eighteen speakers to follow me, and it is a matter of very real gratification to me that this debate has aroused so much interest. Whatever these speakers may have to say, however critical or violent, it is a good thing that they should be here to say it: their participation shows the increasing interest which the Arts in this country are arousing. But the fact that there are eighteen speakers imposes upon me an obligation to brevity, and I shall not therefore (and I am sure everyone will be relieved to hear it) reply to the numerous questions which have been posed to me. If I did, we should be here all night. Much of what I wanted to say, many of the inquiries that have been directed to me, have already been answered by the noble Earl the Leader of the House and by the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe.

I should like now to embarrass the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, as I am on that for the moment, by saying that he need not repine about the fact that he administered the Arts Council in their poor and impoverished days. He discharged the duties, as I well know—no one better—in a fashion that won the admiration of the whole organisation and of everyone who came into contact with it. I think the only disservice he has ever done to the Arts Council is to suggest, as he did in his speech to-day, that we now have our pockets loaded with gold. That may create a very unfortunate impression. I am anxious to put out, as loudly and publicly as possible, the fact that this is not the case.

Additional sums of money have been voted to us, very generously, by a Government which has shown a most progressive and liberal attitude to the Arts. But the fact remains that those sums of money are not yet adequate. I do not belong to the school which says that we need vast fortunes for the Arts. We probably could not to-day use a budget of three times what we have, because we are not yet geared to administer it. But I hope that, if I may have the good fortune to continue my term of office, by the time that period has elapsed we shall have a budget of some such order and shall be geared to administer it. But the Arts do not call for such sums of money.

This brings me to a comment which I hope will not be thought ungracious. We should not be carried away in a welter of self-congratulation, of which there is some slight danger, I feel, from the tone of the speeches we have heard. We need to have a keen appreciation of what we are doing and of the role we play, and of how we fit in with the general picture of our national artistic life. We are not here to administer and control the artistic life and effort and output of the country. It would be a horrible thing if any bureaucratic organisation had that function, and I wish to say, as publicly as possible, that if the day comes when an author has to turn to the Arts Council before he can write a book, or a dramatist before he can write a play, or a manager before he can present it, I should not wish to be administering the affairs of that body.

It remains very much my hope that the greater part of the artistic effort and incentive of this country will arise from spontaneous inspiration without the slightest reference to us. We are an auxiliary body, and we shall remain an auxiliary body. I think it is of the greatest importance to say that, because it relieves the suggestion which was made in the article which appeared this morning, and to which the Leader of the House referred—a pathetic and feeble bit of writing—but one which, nevertheless, reflects the viewpoint which people are entitled to hold in a free country. I think it deals with that particular apprehension and anxiety. We are not here to control artistic output; we are not here to regulate what artists are doing; we are not here to promote artistic activity all over the country.

This brings me to an inquiry from the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. He was concerned that perhaps we were not sufficiently assertive, not sufficiently aggressive in the promotion of artistic activities. I have no apology for this at all, except perhaps in relation to the new towns, where he may well have a point, in that we should perhaps be a little more active in co-operating with those places where no corporate spirit has yet arisen, and where they need some help and guidance. I think it would be quite wrong for us to have a great operations room at the Arts Council, to sit in front of a huge map of the country and have flags everywhere, and to say, "Culture is flagging in Westmorland; there is a recession of the higher sort in Cumberland "—


I can assure the noble Lord that culture is not flagging in Westmorland at all.


My Lords, in case this may be misinterpreted, I hasten to say that my choice of locations has no relevance of any kind. It is not our job to say that we suspect that there is a relapse by some children who we have indoctrinated with Bartok for the last six weeks and are suspected now of possessing Beatle records, and that we are landing by parachute parts of orchestral symphonies to redress that situation. This is not what we are there for, and I hope that we shall never undertake any such duty.

Our job is to deal with applications when they come to us from people who have originated them on the spot. It is not our job to send pre-packaged commodities, pre-packaged cultural parcels from the Metropolis to other parts of the country. Nothing will arouse greater resentment than that we should probe about all over the place telling parts of the country that they are insufficiently cultured and that they need some particular cultural activity. What we must do when we get cries for assistance when a local authority comes to us—and almost all we do in these matters to-day is in the most friendly partnership and association with the local authorities—is to give them all the help we can, and to decide how to apportion the financial cost. Here we have many an argument with them. May I say that it is a friendly argument, but it is a sensible one. They have a means of providing money from a budget which is not as rigorously controlled as our own, and naturally we are anxious, and sometimes adamant, that it should come from their purse and not ours.

I have said before, and I say again now, that I do not think the question of local option in relation to financing artistic areas in this country is especially a wise one. I should like to see a mandatory obligation placed on local authorities giving them not merely a discretion but an actual duty to spend a specific sum of money. This is perhaps a controversial point, but I would invite the Government at some time to consider whether it should not be investigated. It places local authorities in a great difficulty, particularly in regard to the sort of propaganda which was published in the newspaper this morning. They have an election coming. They do not know, and they cannot assess, how many people are "pro-art" or "anti-art". Factors that have little or nothing to do with the matter are therefore introduced into a question that ought to be totally unpolitical. It is for that reason that I think local authorities should be relieved of the burden of having to make decisions which will have electoral consequences.

I should like to join with what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, about the Greater London Council. I think this is an appropriate moment to do so. We have worked with them, and worked with them most intimately, on the subject of a number of projects. It would, I am sure, be impossible to have found a Council that was more helpful, more anxious to promote the Arts, more co-operative, and showed a more progressive and enlightened spirit. I should particularly, if I may do so without any political significance at all, refer to Sir William Fiske. It would have been impossible to find a person in local government who worked more assiduously, had more concern for artistic matters, and who deserved better of the population of this particular Metropolis on account of his achievements in relation to the Arts—and I speak only of the Arts. I earnestly hope—and I have reason to believe—that his successors will be as good and, I pray, even better. I know some of them. I spoke to one of them yesterday, and I was immensely relieved to find the identity of the person concerned. He spoke with the authentic and identical accents of his predecessor. I do not believe that these questions are at all political questions.

Here perhaps I ought to say a word about the constitution of the Arts Council, because I speak here to-day by the sheer accident that I am a Member of your Lordships' House. I speak here by no right. I am not here because of any governmental arrangement; as I say, I am here solely because I happen to be a Peer. This is an important consideration. Our authority derives from the Charter granted to us a new Charter granted at the beginning of this year. That is the document to which we turn. We are subject to no governmental control; we would not respond to governmental control, and it is desperately important that we should make a selection of members of the Council that manifests this matter beyond any peradventure. I hope that we have done this.

Without any invidious naming of persons, I would draw attention to my own participation in this since the Council was appointed. The appointments are, of course, made by the Minister. They are made on recommendation and after discussions with the Sovereign. Since my appointment as Chairman of the Arts Council there have been four new members. The first of them was Sir Edward Boyle; the second was Lord Harewood; the third was Sir Joseph Lockwood, the head of the great electronic organisation; and the fourth was Mr. Angus Wilson, the novelist. It is a fact that, of every member of the Council except those four, the only one whose political views I know is Sir Edward Boyle, for the obvious reason that I could not fail to know. I have never heard the question of politics being discussed in any Arts Council matter. I could not conceive how it would arise. I think this is a reassurance that one cannot stress too often.

Now I should like to deal—I am sorry that my speech must take a rather disjointed form—with the matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, when he opened this debate, and to answer some of the questions that he raised. The first question dealt with the possibility that as our grant increased there might be a disproportionate expenditure on administration. I can certainly reassure the noble Lord on this. My own belief is, and has been for some time—and I have been pressing the overworked and immensely diligent officials of the Arts Council—that we are insufficiently manned in staff. We in fact spend a minute sum of the grant in relation to the administration of the grant. I do not think anyone can look at the figures except with considerable awe and respect from the point of view of people acquainted with business organisations.

What we are hoping to do in the next few weeks is to employ the services of a statistician. This I regard as essential. It is absolutely essential that we should have coherent and accurate information about what is going on. We cannot work by guesswork. What we shall not employ—I hasten to give this assurance—is a public relations officer. I do not think we are entitled to spend—this is my view in relation to the Arts Council; it may have application to other places—any money in putting the best possible gloss on the actions that we have performed. It would be quite wrong to use a sum of money that would subsidise a small repertory theatre in a small town so that we can have our mistakes explained away by a gentleman who has the technique to do so. But certainly we must increase our staff. Of that I think there can be no question. The staff is overworked. We need new premises.

I know that within the Arts Council there is a resistance movement for remaining in St. James's Square. I have a rather heretical view about that. I want us to move into larger and more modern premises equipped with offices. I do not think it is necessary that we should have a small art gallery associated with our main headquarters. This is something about which we have friendly discussions and argument. We sought assistance from the Ministry on this matter some considerable while back in the hope that some new premises would be provided for us. I believe it is of the greatest importance that we have new premises. The working conditions at the moment are bad and, in my view, make for inefficiency; they make for difficulty, and they make for delay. I am quite sure that we need a new office. We need more people. We need a more extended organisation.

Coming to what the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, asked me about the question of regional organisations, I believe it is very important indeed that we should regionalise to the extent that we depute a large measure of our functions and responsibility to associations like the North East Association for the Arts. He asked me what form I thought they ought to take. My answer is that I hope they will take various forms, and the reason is this. This is an experimental matter, the organisation of which has yet to be determined. I think it will be a very good thing if in the different areas they take a different shape and we can elect by experience, empirically, the one which is best suited to serve the purposes of the particular area and which perhaps can serve as a model and prototype for other areas. The North East Association for the Arts is a good body; it is an amalgam of our own personnel, our own grants, of local authorities, of industry, and with some private assistance. It works to bring all the elements with a desire to subsidise a system to promote the Arts into a single consortium. It is working well, but I think it might well take other shapes in other places. This is an activity which we want to promote on the basis that it is extremely important that we should not allow everything to happen in London.

Here I will say a word on this evergreen question of the conflicts between the claims of London and those of the regions. There is a great misunderstanding about this, and I agree with the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, that London is a capital city; it must have the furnishings of a capital city. A civilised country must have a great and good quality opera house. It should have a fine national theatre, fine concert halls. These I would not really regard as counting towards the total sum at all, because they are available to everyone, and to talk as if England was a country where it was necessary to travel for seven days on a camel in order to reach London is, I think, a rather absurd presentation of the picture.

But the fact remains that it is in the regions that actual inspiration and growth arises. Leaving aside the question of the furnishings of a great capital city, I think the most important work that we can do to-day is to promote regional artistic activity. We shall not find in London a sufficient coherence of population to be able to do that sort of thing. In London you promote and support individual artistic effort. In the regions there is a community effort which can be supported and can be brought to a rich fulfilment and blossoming. This is something which we have to bear very prominently in mind. If your Lordships will look now at our figures, I think you will see that we are doing so. The expenditure on the regions, leaving aside the great centres, leaving aside the National Theatre, the Opera House, and so forth, has now outpaced and exceeded the expenditure one finds in London. I do not think the regions have any legitimate cause for complaint at all.

This brings me to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe's complaint about the Opera House. May I say that I have the deepest sympathy on this issue, because I know how close this matter was to Lord Cottesloe's heart that this great and splendid complex of buildings should grow up on the South Bank, including a National Theatre, the Opera House and other matters. But equally I am unrepentant in saying that my own personal view was that it would be quite wrong to erect a second national opera house in London before there was a vestige of an opera house in Manchester, or in. Edinburgh or in any other part of England. We made a considered decision, and I believe it to be right. That it has caused regret to someone who had an alternative great plan and conception must be a cause of regret to us all, but the fact remains that it was indeed the right thing to do.

Another matter which Lord Cottesloe raised, and one of primary importance, was the question of quality. He expressed a concern, and a legitimate concern, that as our activities grew wider, as we spread the money more widely, there might be the possibility of a diminution in the quality and, in the end, the inferior article would destroy the taste for the thing altogether. He thought we might, by providing too much, defeat the very objective we were seeking. I think that this is a real risk, but not as real a risk as Lord Cottesloe believes, because there is a difference in our philosophy, if I may be permitted to say so. I do not regard it as the function of the Arts Council to judge the quality of every performance in every part of the country. This I regard as the function of the organisations to which we give the money. I think it of the greatest importance that we should not seek to establish from St. James's Square a censorship over all art. All the organisations which receive money from us should know that they are autonomous and are free to do what they like with it, subject to the qualification that there is proper accounting and that, in the end, there is sufficient public service benefit—sufficient value to the public for the expenditure of that money.

This is a very difficult question; it is a matter of degree. If you have a poet, he may be the most obscure poet and he may attract only a few hundred people to his readership, but he may be a man who is well worthy of support, and it would be wrong for a civilised country not to support him. If you have an opera company, a totally different consideration arises. It would be wrong to continue to subsidise an opera company which was producing operas that played to empty houses night after night. This is the sort of consideration that weighs with us. It has to be considered individually in respect of each application. There are no rules that can be laid down, no criteria that can be applied, except the criterion of common sense. This is what we try to do, in a fallible way. What we have to seek to avoid desperately is the notion that within St. James's Square we have the best answer as to what the artistic values are: that we know what is good art and other people do not. Obviously we have experts; we can provide sound judgments; but, if we look at the matter historically, how many generations have succeeded in identifying all their geniuses in their own time? What a piece of arrogance and folly it would be on our part to believe that we possess this faculty, when nobody else has possessed it previously!

Plainly, we must take the widest possible spread to ensure that we avoid, not the danger that we may waste money on a non-genius—this, where we are spending one-hundredth part of the expenditure on scientific discoveries, seems to me a trifle—but the danger that we may not subsidise the genius. That is the danger we must seek to avoid. Obviously, we must not waste money on absurdities—and a lot is said and written about the marginal absurdities of the Arts. We are told about artistic works which nobody can understand; we are told about concrete poetry, and all the things the man in the street is supposed to have no use or value for. It is within this atmosphere of latitude towards experiment, the attitude of accepting new and novel ideas, even if they are personally alien to us, that the artist can thrive and live. It is therefore quite right that a small portion of our money should be spent on what appears to some people to be manifest absurdities. I make no apology for this at all. If we were spending great sums of money on these absurdities there would be legitimate cause for complaint, but it is bound to happen that over the edge there will seep a little money to things which may seem extravagant, too vante garde, too "with it". This must be the price you pay if you want to win the confidence of artists.

This brings me—and I fear that I am going on too long—to artists. An enormously important part of our job is to endeavour to improve the status of the artist. Here I should like very warmly to endorse what the noble Earl the Leader of the House said. We shall not make artists with money. Nothing we on the Arts Council do will produce a couple of lines; with any amount of money, we shall not produce a sonnet, or even a couplet. No artistic production comes because of the money we have available. What we can do is to ensure that the artist lives in tolerable conditions and is reasonably free from the threat and the sting of poverty, from the fear that, through following an artistic avocation, he will have to go without food and will be unable to educate his children. If your Lordships were to read a little pamphlet brought out by Mr. Richard Findlater, under the auspices of the Society of Authors, you would realise that we ought to be thoroughly ashamed of the situation which prevails in this country at the moment in regard to the rewards to authors. It is not due to anybody or anything: it has just developed.

It is desperately important that we on the Arts Council should promote means of improving those conditions. One thing we have done is to seek to promote certain legislative changes which may be of assistance. One small success we had —and I should like to thank the Government for it—was in procuring in the Budget a minor amelioration of the condition of authors who sell their copyrights. This was an excellent instance of teamwork in the Arts Council. We drafted the Amendment, and Sir Edward Boyle tabled it and moved it in another place last year. It was received sympathetically by the Financial Secretary. Later in the year, before the recent Budget, we wrote and asked, "What are you going to do about it? We should like some manifestation of action." He received a small deputation, consisting of Sir Edward Boyle, members of the Society of Authors and myself, and we discussed the matter at length. He has not given us what we wanted, but we have got something which is of real value and will be of assistance to the author, and particularly the retired author.

The author in later life who wants to sell a copyright, who finds perhaps that he is longer writing, will be able to spread over a number of years the money that he receives. To a large extent he will in doing so retrieve a substantial part of the purchase price. One does not wish over-much to promote the sale of copyrights—it is not a good thing—but it is far better to have that situation than the rather humiliating situation now prevailing, when many distinguished authors have to sell their manuscripts to American universities as the only means of remaining alive. This is something that will specially touch the heart chords of the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, because he was talking about the export of works of art. This is something which is far more general, far more prevalent and which could far more easily be stopped. It is very important that we should take steps to try to promote and advance the incomes and earnings of authors and other artists.

One way by which we hope to do it, on which we have been working very hard, is to promote a public lending right. This is a controversial question. I have no doubt at all in my own mind that common justice demands that when a book is borrowed from a library 500 or 1,000 times the author should receive some reward. It seems to me completely inexcusable, as a matter of equity, that an author should receive only one payment when a book is read by hundreds if not thousands of people. It is a difficult question, and when one tries to promote legislation one is invariably met with the argument that it is impossible to produce legislation that does not involve anomalies; that there will be inequities and injustices whatever is done. This seems to me to be an argument entirely without merit. It is suggested that because we cannot achieve, as I am sure we cannot, total justice, we should be satisfied with total injustice. I hope that before long someone will be presenting in your Lordships' House a measure for the amelioration of this situation. I know—and I am pleased to be able to say it—that this view, in principle, has the good will and sympathy of the Government. They are waiting to see what sort of measure can be introduced and whether it will be an effective and workable one. This is something which we are working on in the Arts Council and it is another of the things which we are doing in a new development of an administrative character.

We are also investigating the possibilities of expanding the value of the money we spend, by a greater use of television and radio. One of the things which struck many of us as an anomaly was that thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of pounds would be spent on great operatic performances and great theatrical performances, which could of necessity be shown only to small audiences. The obvious solution is to see whether those performances can be put on television, whether there is any prospect of showing them to multiple audiences all over the country, so getting real money and real value for the expenditure. We have a committee, chaired by Sir Edward Boyle, which is at this moment investigating this question. It is a slow process: it will involve negotiations with the B.B.C. and I.T.V. companies, but in the end, if we can produce something along these lines, I think that there will he a very fruitful result.

I should like to conclude, as I have been talking for much too long, by saying this. There has been—and I admit it frankly to the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe—some change of policy and some change of emphasis since his day. I do not say that our policy is any better, but it is different, in the sense that our major emphasis is on cultivating new audiences for the Arts. The question of improving the standard and quality of those institutions which are still there is of great importance, but it is not our paramount consideration. Frankly, if we were concerned only with the question of whether we could have a better production of Traviata to-night at Covent Garden than we had last year, my own interest in the matter would not be so keen. I do not deny the importance of these matters, but I am concerned with something which I think is more fundamental.

I believe that there is a crucial state in the country at this moment. I believe that young people lack values, lack certainties, lack guidance; that they need something to turn to; and need it more desperately than they have needed it at any time in our history—certainly at any time which I can recollect. I do not say that the Arts will furnish a total solution, but I believe that the Arts will furnish some solution. I believe that once young people are captured for the Arts they are redeemed from many of the dangers which confront them at the moment and which have been occupying the attention of the Government in a completely unprofitable and destructive fashion. I believe that here we have constructive work to do which can be of inestimable value. So long as we do not over-assess our importance, so long as we keep a sense of balance, and so long as we realise that it is not for us to adjudicate on all artistic questions, and that everyone's viewpoint must be taken into consideration, then I think there is much we can do that is of value.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, as I am addressing your Lordships for the first time, I should like to seek your indulgence on this occasion. As one of the "nippers", if not the "nipper" of the House, I had not planned to jump off the springboard in your Lordships' House for some time. Certainly, I did not foresee taking my first plunge in the presence of such a star-studded cast. However, I was most excited to learn that there was going to be a general debate on the Arts, and I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in it.

The Arts in the Regions is one of the subjects dealt with by the most recent Arts Council Report, and it is with regional development in the Arts that I shall be concerned in my speech. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, stressed the evidence of an increasing public awareness in the regions for the Arts. The audience is growing. The growth must be encouraged and met with a proper regional policy to supply amenities for enjoying the Arts.

The role that education can play in fostering an appreciation for the Arts in a future audience is of primary importance. "Fostering an appreciation" are the key words here. No doubt any number of your Lordships were taught to play the piano at some time or other during childhood. No doubt many a noble size five buckle shoe joined mine in a stamp of tantrum at being told that the piano must be practised because it was good for one, and not because there was any tangible value or enjoyment to be gained from it. Plays are not written to be read, in a classroom in preparation for some examination; they are written to be seen acted on a stage. The spirit of guidance as opposed to command still seems to be absent in the approach which many teachers take towards the Arts.

Still on the path of encouragement, I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to a comment made by the Northern Economic Planning Council in their Report, Challenge of the Changing North. Under a section devoted to the Arts, they have said that writers are almost entirely neglected and few of them live by their work in the region. Artists in general they continue need help if cultural standards in the Region are to keep pace with economic development. Reading that comment, I can see that some of that help could, indeed should, come from the commercial television companies. Help could be provided, for instance, by commissioning promising young writers who are living in the particular region where the company is broadcasting. That regional television companies should be judged to have this responsibility is particularly poignant at this time, when the hand-out of regional contracts is about to take place.

It seems convenient to move on from commercial television to advertising—advertising the Arts. It gives me a chance to tell a tale of woe, I am afraid, concerning the National Theatre. Last summer I was working for a magazine with a photographer. This man lived in Coventry, and he told me that he and his wife paid monthly visits to the city's Belgrade Theatre. I asked him whether he had enjoyed watching the National Theatre Company during a tour they had made which had visited Coventry. The photographer, a regular patron of the theatre, did not know of the National's visit. He had not been informed. He had seen no notice. Publicity for the Arts had "boobed", and he had been deprived of a rare chance to see Miss Maggie Smith act. That is no way to treat an audience. It is no good providing the amenities unless everybody is told where and when an amenity is being provided. Education, the responsibility of television companies towards the artist in the regions, much more publicity for the Arts—these are some of the forms of further encouragement which we look for in the regions.

I am turning to take a look at future regional development for the Arts. I hope your Lordships will not construe my ideas on this subject as being too controversial. I should like to explore more carefully the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, concerning the concentration of regional development in a few regional centres. The Arts Council Report gives a splendid note of encouragement to the North-Eastern Association for the Arts. A paragraph in the Report deals with the conception embodied in the N.E.A.A. The paragraph ends: Waste and frustration can result in each town and each district making its own individual arts programme and budget in isolation. To work to a regional plan is not only economical but more rewarding in the long run". Powerful stuff that, my Lords, to send the blood coursing through a regionalist's veins!

The Arts Council's Report continues to advocate a clearly defined centre for the Arts in each region. But then it seems to me that a parochial note creeps in, and the very principles of regionalism are frustrated. The worst thing about this parochial note is that I suspect it has been supplied by a regional body—the North Eastern Association for the Arts. It says: Newcastle is clearly"— mark that, my Lords; "clearly"— the centre of a region that includes Northumberland and County Durham; but the Tees-side has to be brought in on satisfactory terms, and there may even be an argument for extending the boundaries to bring in the Lake District as well". I can see the problems of putting a clearly defined centre for the Arts in the middle of the Pennines to serve the North-East Region satisfactorily, but I cannot see the problem of serving Tees-side and Tyneside from one centre. I do not see that Newcastle's claim as a centre for the Arts is at all clear.

I believe that a clearly defined centre for the Arts in any given region should house the highest possible standard in music, the theatre, art galleries and all the other art forms in that region. A permanent base camp, if you like, from which artists could make forays into the surrounding country. I should not like to see the jam spread evenly but thinly across the region. Although that sort of policy would follow the best democratic principles, it could end un with one of the more unartistic products of democracy—that of pleasing everybody a little and nobody very much. No artist seeks to create something which will please everybody a little but nobody very much. A few rich preserves with big strawberries in them is what we need. In the long run I believe that would satisfy more people in the juiciest possible way. Instead of promoting a competent Arts centre in Newcastle and a competent Arts centre on Tees-side, perhaps we could pool the two resources and create something really worthwhile at Durham. Durham is not only at the centre of the East coast of the region in question: it also embraces within a radius of 30 miles the conurbations of Darlington, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Newcastle. Durham is an attractive cathedral town which houses a university. Situated as it is, plumb in the middle of things, it could be developed into an excellent Arts centre.

Going South a region to Yorkshire and Humberside, we find a city even better endowed than Durham to serve as a centre for the Arts. York stands between the conurbations of the West Riding centred on Leeds, and the East Riding centred on Hull. York supports, or is working hard to support, a beautiful Minster. It can boast one of the finest museums in the country, an art gallery, a well-known repertory company, an arts festival of international stature and a thriving new university. York is an attractive and historic city, and were it to be developed as an Arts centre with due supporting facilities, such as restaurants, car parks and efficient public transport to and from surrounding cities, then I believe it would be a pleasure for people to come there from Doncaster, Leeds and Hull. In this way they could enjoy the best amenities that their area could afford to finance.

By concentrating the Arts in a few well-chosen centres, higher standards could be achieved. If the standard is high, the audience will come. After all, as one of the cultural capitals of the world London draws its audience from the world. A cultural capital within a region could draw its audience not only from inside but from far beyond its own regional boundaries. My Lords, perhaps my concept of a well-defined regional centre for the Arts has cantered along a visionary trail from its original starting point in the Arts Council Report. I hope it has not.

5.24 p.m.


My Lords, it falls to me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, on his first-rate maiden speech. I hope that we shall often have the benefit of hearing him speak in your Lordships' House, not only on this subject but on others. I would take issue with him on only one tiny matter: I was disturbed to find him, too, using that horrible word, "conurbations", which I think should be banished for all time. But I hope that we shall hear a great deal more from the noble Lord.

I should also like to add my congratulations to those that will be offered, I am sure, to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, on what I thought was a brilliant and wise exposition of the Arts Council's policy. I think that if anybody had any doubts whether the Arts Council was under the right leadership, the noble Lord would have dispelled them. However, he quite rightly sounded a warning against complacency and about feeling that things are going well; so I hope your Lordships will forgive me if this afternoon I spend my time on criticism of certain aspects of the Report and the Arts Council's work, and take the praise for granted.

I should like to begin by taking issue with the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, on one particular matter. I think I agree with him that the Arts Council should not themselves appoint a public relations officer, but I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, that something ought to be done about publicity, not only of the Arts Council but particularly of the theatre that it supports. Much of it still lives in the Victorian and Edwardian age. The Arts Council ought also to do something quite seriously about their Annual Reports. If one reads this Annual Report, one sees that it tells a really exciting and vital story—one of tremendous development in the Arts. But it is told with all the fire and verve of a research paper on the sex habits of a water beetle. It really is dull; it really is badly laid out from the point of view of coherent reading. If it is necessary to have a board of directors document of that kind—and it may well be—then, in view of the fact that the Arts Council indirectly, through their subsidies, are serving millions of people, cannot we have a more popular document which describes the work of the Arts Council—not necessarily an annual one, but something which all the many hundreds and thousands of people who work in local arts councils can get hold of, can read and can understand? I think this is vital.

I said that this afternoon I was not going to deal with the praise, but I want to make just one point, and that is that I have a letter from the Society of Authors of which the relevant sentence is: We can now stop criticising the Arts Council and begin praising it. I should like to add, as a rider, at any rate my thanks to the Arts Council for what they have done in the field of literature in the past year. I do not entirely share the enthusiasm of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, for that derisory and minutial concession which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave us last week. In any other field of life a man can sell an item of capital goods and have the whole money, less capital gains tax, but an author is still treated in this extraordinarily bad way. I think it would have been far more dignified had it been possible for the authors to tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer what he could have done with that little gesture, and asked for common justice.

Before I come on to my criticisms, I should also like to add a word of praise to that already given by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, to the servants of the Arts Council. I have come across them at odd moments in the course of work on various artistic bodies of one sort or another, and I agree with him that they are an overworked, underpaid and quite devoted band of people. I do not always think that they are right, but I think that if they are wrong they are wrong for the best reasons. There is nothing more thankless than distributing public funds, especially for the Arts. The purse is not bottomless, and every year and every day they have to exercise the judgment of Solomon in deciding between this cause or that—and both causes may be excellent. Many of the difficulties and criticisms that arise are due to the fact that these decisions have had to be made and that they may be marginally right, marginally wrong.

However, I want to go on to the question of the actual machinery of the Arts Council. I was relieved to hear the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, say that he is determined to move into modern offices, to take on more staff and to re-equip the organisation, because I have the firm impression that the machinery is creaking. That which was good and right for an organisation that was distributing half-a-million pounds a few years ago is quite wrong and quite inadequate for the vast and growing task that the Arts Council face now. I think that this ought to be looked into as a matter of urgency. I hope the Government will respond to the approach of the Arts Council for some kind of new premises.

I turn now to the question of value for money in the Arts. It is not always a yardstick that one can apply accurately; but, on balance, it is not a bad yardstick. One does not want an artist to starve in an attic, but one must keep a balance and say, on the other hand, that one does not want to give so much subsidy that he rides to work in a Rolls Royce. Some stimulus must be given to the various theatre companies and other artistic enterprises. I apologise for the fact that I am commenting mainly on the theatre to-day. This is the area I know best.

I would take the example of the National Theatre, of which we are all tremendously proud, which has splendid standards, a wonderful company and which is, quite rightly, the envy of many other countries. But it has—and I can understand it—a voracious appetite. It takes a large proportion of the available subsidy. When one is talking about value for money—I am not sure that this is an adequate analogy—one considers, for example, that ten years ago the Old Vic, in the same theatre, got an annual subsidy of £20,000 a year, and the National Theatre now gets twelve to fifteen times that amount. Is it twelve to fifteen times as good as the Old Vic company? One cannot, in fact, put these things on a scale and measure them; but I have a feeling—and I am using the National Theatre here only as an example—that one has reached the point where one must say: "Hold on a little. You have done very well so far; but we want to look a good deal more closely at your administration and efficiency before we are prepared to go significantly beyond what we are giving you to-day."

As the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, said, one has only a limited amount of money. For £40,000 the Bristol Old Vic can give us two companies in Bristol at the moment and another on tour in America, and still remain in the black. Nottingham, for a £27,000 subsidy, can give us not only a theatre but a theatre movement, an Arts movement, which is enriching the whole life of that particular region and is a splendid example of what can he done in the regions. One must ask oneself: "Do the Arts Council in this new phase exercise enough control on administration?" I would go the whole way with noble Lords who have said that one must not in any way interfere with artistic standards, exercise any kind of censorship or judge artistic value from the point of view of what is produced on the stage. But I think the Arts Council are entitled to say: "Are you spending our money as efficiently as you might?"

I should like to know, for example—and this has nothing to do with the gentleman in question, for whom I have a high admiration—why it is necessary for the National Theatre which, though it produces one or two new plays, has mainly a classical repertoire, to employ a literary manager, full time, at a rather large salary? I do not understand why that is necessary. I do not understand why John Neville can do without one at Nottingham and produce twice as many new plays, as can other people throughout the country. One must look at this kind of thing and see where the cloth can be cut without impairing standards. I emphasise again that these questions are asked out of genuine interest and not from hostility. I bow to no one in my admiration for the wonderful standards that the National Theatre has achieved. I have spent only one dull evening in that theatre since it opened.


My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord, but I wonder whether he is aware that national theatres all over the Continent have found it necessary to employ literary managers, or dramateurs, in order to put in front of the management the right mixture of classical and modern plays.


My Lords, I accept that. I wonder, in view of the repertoire, which is well known to everybody in your Lordships' House, whether this is necessary, since it seems to me that it would only take about ten minutes a week.

I should like also to raise the question of seat prices at the National Theatre. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, said that London is part of a very small island and that it is not seven days' camel journey: but I can assure him that if you had a whole string of camels you could not get into the National Theatre. This is a problem that worries me. Admittedly, they are labouring at the moment in a small and inadequate building, but, even so, the stalls there, over half the seats, cost more than 32s. 6d.—with the subsidy we are giving them. So one is tempted to ask: What does the subsidy do—for this is creating a theatre for an élite audience and not for a broad audience. When they were able to move to a bigger building, the Queen's on Shaftesbury Avenue, I thought then that, at least, the people could go in for 10s. or 15s. But not a bit of it. The top prices there were 37s. 6d. This puts a visit to the National Theatre right outside any possibility for the average person. So one is tempted to ask, if there is a subsidy on that seat, why it should cost 37s. 6d. If more subsidy is to be given to these organisations, then something certainly ought to be done about bringing down the prices of a large number of seats. To get seats now, to wave a National Theatre ticket about, is like producing an egg during rationing in war-time. They are as rare as that; but they are about thirty times as expensive.

This is something to which the Arts Council should draw attention if we are talking about widening the theatre audiences and breaking down class barriers in the theatre. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, was absolutely right to give the Arts Council this direction broadening the basis of audiences. I think the Arts Council subsidy should be measured to some extent against the extent to which the theatre is successful in attracting wider and more representative audiences. I believe there may be a weakness here. If a theatre is successful in doing this and in building wider audiences in a particular region, there is a danger—though I suspect, from what the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, said, that it is not too great a danger; not as great a danger as I thought—that they may, in fact, have a lesser subsidy or remain on a static subsidy, on the grounds that they are in the black anyway, they are doing well, and do not need help from the Arts Council.

I think that the moment a theatre is in the black and is building 100 per cent. audiences, attracting them from the various unions, the clubs, the Rotaries, and so on, one must say: "You are doing a great job"; and one must increase the help to them as an example to others. This is the key problem. Miss Jennie Lee is putting the emphasis right when she talks about schools and regions. It must begin with the child. But these are not separate campaigns. The campaign of the Arts Council, with music and the theatres, is bound up with this, We must remember that whatever is done in the schools, the children leave at 15 and go into "limbo-land". They may have had all the introduction to the Arts and culture that is desired; but there is the danger, when they leave at 15, that they will lose touch unless the theatre in their locality—if they are lucky enough to have one—is so equipped as to be able to reach out and find them.

This is where I urge the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and the Arts Council, in their advice to the theatres, not to turn up their noses at popular campaigning and popular publicity. I urge them not to be snooty. We are living in a world in which these children and young people see popular advertising on television which tempts their appetites and desires. Although one does not want to go to that extent, nevertheless, in our presentation of posters, our programmes and publicity in the regions we must show that the theatre is not some dreadful Edwardian place reserved entirely for middle and upper classes to which they are more or less barred by custom and convention. Good publicity can help in this respect. I should like to think that the Arts Council are actively encouraging theatres to put on good publicity campaigns and to sell themselves to the regions.

I should like to conclude with one or two very brief points. Perhaps it is a pity that we have just had a new Charter for the Arts Council, because I think that the old one should have been revised to give them a great deal more flexibility. I think it wrong that a body like the National Youth Theatre should be shunted, as it is, between the Department of Education and Science, on the one hand, and the Arts Council on the other, not knowing who its spiritual father really is. It ought to be possible for the Arts Council to have sufficient flexability to be able to say, "All right, you are not entirely professional, but we accept what you are doing as being right and good, and we are going to help you." But as it is—


My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships do not want me to interrupt the exposition of a noble Lord who is so expert in this field, but I ought to say that our Charter does not prevent us from dealing with the National Youth Theatre. There is some misunderstanding which I think ought to be cleared up. We are not prevented from subsidising amateur efforts; it is simply that we have never subsidised them because it would be opening the floodgates so far as subsidy is concerned. If we received enough money we could subsidise amateur efforts; there is nothing in the Charter to prevent it.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, for correcting me. I know that there is a very strong impression around about this Charter. It may be a protective measure, a protective guise, adopted by the Arts Council to save themselves from the hoards that would storm the gates. Nevertheless, I should like to think that they could take serious consideration of the National Youth Theatre and could do something to help a body of this description which, after all, is operating in that limbo area among young people from the age of fifteen onwards, about which I spoke.

I heartily endorse, and I hope that the Government will, too, the suggestion of the noble Lord that the 6d. rate should be mandatory. I should like to make a further suggestion, that the Government ought to consider extending the power of county councils, so that they and the local boroughs could decide on what amount should he levied. It certainly ought to be taken out of politics, and certainly some amount of it should be made mandatory; perhaps 3d, for the county councils and 3d. for the local boroughs. Then the county councils could really give a thrust forward for Arts development and the provision of new buildings in the regions.

My Lords, that is all I want to say at this stage. I have spoken too long. I wanted to come on to the question of films, which I think is of tremendous importance, but in view of the time and the list of speakers, I propose to leave that matter. I shall take the opportunity to put down an Unstarred Question on that subject later.

5.43 p.m.


My Lords, I should first like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Willis, in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Fever-sham, on his admirable maiden speech. His kinsman from whom he inherited his title was an old friend of mine, and I can see that the noble Lord has a great deal of the family charm and gift of exposition. I hope that he will be addressing your Lordships on numerous occasions, when he has a chance.

I think it is generally agreed that Miss Jennie Lee's appointment has proved to be an inspired one. She has studiously kept politics out of her job, and she has brought to it an intelligence and enthusiasm which have warmed the hearts of all those who have had the great pleasure of coming into contact with her. I am glad that the breadth of her responsibility has been recognised by her promotion to the rank of Minister of State, but I must say that I deplore the fact that the salary attaching to that rank has been withheld from her. I hope that the error will soon be rectified.

An equally inspired appointment, in my humble opinion, was Miss Lee's choice of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, as Chairman of the Arts Council. His wide knowledge and experience; his clarity of mind, of which we have had a fresh example this afternoon in his masterly speech; his varied acquaintance; his formidable capacity for work, and his real understanding of the true functions of the Arts Council make me feel that there could have been no worthier successor to my noble friend Lord Cottesloe, whom we all so much admired when he reigned at No. 4 St. James's Square. I should earlier have declared my personal interest in this debate. Since the death of the late Lord Waverley I have been Chairman of the Royal Opera House, and it is in that capacity that I venture to express a few words to your Lordships this evening.

We are the chief beneficiary from the Arts Council. Last year our grant amounted to about one-fifth of the money the Arts Council disbursed. The year before, if I had given your Lordships the same proportion, I should have said one-third. The Council continue to receive more money which they are able to distribute to other deserving causes, and so the proportion we receive goes down. I am delighted to see the way in which the Arts Council Vote is being steadily increased. This is one branch of Government expenditure which one has to welcome wholeheartedly, I think, because this country has a tremendous amount to offer the world in all the Arts; and the Arts Council's role as patron is of paramount importance in to-day's conditions.

The Covent Garden revenue grant from the Arts Council for the coming year will, I hope, be of the order of between £1.1 million and £1.2 million. Our expenditure during the year will amount to some £2¼ million, so our takings at the box office and from other sources should, if all goes well, amount to about £1,100,000, which is a considerable sum of money. I am afraid that there is no prospect that our outgoings will get any smaller, because as the general level of wage rates goes up, which, except in a period of total freeze, it must do, so the wages and salaries paid by Covent Garden and other similar enterprises must be kept in step, for obvious reasons; and we cannot compensate for this by increases in productivity. Indeed, to improve standards more time, rather than less, should be given to rehearsals, and the numbers we employ should be increased rather than reduced.

So far as possible, we attempt to cover these increases in costs by putting up the seat prices; but the extent of these increases has to be carefully judged. If over the years the Arts Council grant to Covent Garden had remained static, our seat prices to-day would have to be at least double what they are now, and goodness knows! what effect that would have upon our attendances. We should probably have found ourselves forced to disband our companies and to adopt the pre-war system of a three-month summer season, with the theatre otherwise closed. Therefore I feel that in the years to come the grant to Covent Garden, as well as to Sadler's Wells, the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and all the State-aided artistic enterprises is bound to grow.

Here, my Lords, I should like to make a general plea. It is that these theatres should all be given the possibility of planning ahead for more than one year at a time. In the first year of the Labour Government Covent Garden was given an indication that this forward planning was to be encouraged, but unfortunately no practical steps have as yet been taken to make this possible. We naturally plan ahead, because we have to, but we could do so with much greater confidence if we had some indication about the level of funds likely to be available, not in the coming year but in the year after that. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, will be able to hold out a little hope in this respect when she replies to the debate.

So far as Covent Garden is concerned, our budget is a very large one, but I would ask your Lordships to remember that, excluding guest artists, we employ over a thousand people, many of them highly skilled, with a first-class opera company, which performs during a season about 25 different operas, and not one but two ballet companies, with a total ballet repertoire of well over 50 different ballets. One company is permanently on tour, and playing, I am happy to say, to increasingly large audiences in the regions.

Except for the United States, where there are special tax considerations, all the great opera houses in the world are heavily subsidised, many of them more heavily than Covent Garden, and I do not think that anyone to-day, apart from the Daily Express, really questions the principle. Certainly after your Lordships have heard what the noble Earl the Leader of the House and the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, had to say on the maintenance of values, I do not feel that one could question the principle of subsidisation. The important question, so far as I am concerned, is whether Covent Garden is giving value for money; and although I am prejudiced, I must say that I believe the answer to be an unqualified, "Yes". I know that Covent Garden is to-day held in high regard throughout the world. I know this from talking to the intendants of foreign opera houses and to visiting foreign artistes, who speak most warmly of the conditions at Covent Garden and of the general standard of performances. Among our critics here there are some who delight in emphasising what they regard as our shortcomings, but in the main I think that we can take pride in our achievements.

At the beginning of this year The Times published an article by a much-respected news critic, entitled quite simply, "Twenty Marvellous Years at Covent Garden". The article gave high praise to the development of the work on the operatic side. During the past six years we have been very fortunate to have had as our musical director and conductor the internationally renowned Mr. Georg Solti, whose insistence on a high standard has contributed immensely to our success. Another cause for this success, I think, has been the decision, for which I make no apology, to perform the basic operatic repertoire in the original language rather than in English. This has given immense opportunities to our singers, and I am sure that it is the right policy for an international theatre such as ours.

While The Times article dealt only with opera, an equally encouraging article—perhaps even more encouraging—could be written about our work on the ballet side. I think that the creation of the Royal Ballet Company by Dame Ninctte de Valois, and its development under Sir Frederick Ashton, is something of which everyone in this country is proud. We have a very high international standing now, and your Lordships may be aware, through the unfortunate accident which appears to have taken place last night on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, that last night we opened for our ninth tour of the United States—which is quite a good number of visits since the war. We should count ourselves fortunate that so much talent in these two fields is revealing itself. In my view a great deal of credit is due to Sir David Webster, who has been General Administrator of Covent Garden since the war—in fact there never has been another Administrator. I have worked with Sir David harmoniously. He has done a magnificent job, and it is too easy to take his achievement for granted. I am glad to pay a little tribute to him.

I think that we at Covent Garden are regarded now as a great national institution, and the substantial subsidies which we have received, and which I trust we shall go on receiving, have proved worth while. In the years to come there are going to be important developments in the regions which will enable the regions to have better access to opera and ballet, and I very much hope that Covent Garden will be allowed to play its part in these developments. Certainly we stand ready to do anything we can.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, may I begin by following the example of the noble Lord, Lord Drogheda, in declaring an interest in the subject under debate. I have been for many years a director of Covent Garden, a trustee of the National Gallery and a trustee of the Tate Gallery, so I can scarcely be regarded as wholly impartial in discussing the merits of these causes, but I will do my best. May I also pay my tribute to the splendid speeches which we have had from the two Chairmen of the Arts Council. As I listened to them I felt, happy the nation which can command the disinterested public services of two such men as John Cottesloe and Arnold Goodman!

In my remarks this evening, I am afraid that although I feel much gratification in the progress of the Arts in this country in recent years, I should wish to strike a certain note of warning against complacency about the present position. I agree that our position is much better than it was a little time ago. The sums now voted to the Arts Council and for museums and galleries show certainly an appreciable improvement on what was available twenty years ago, and still more on what was available during the inter-war years, which surely in this respect were an all-time high in philistinism. I am not sure that, taking everything into account, we have yet climbed back to the level of the 19th century, when it should not be forgotten we built splendid museums in this capital city and accumulated collections which are now priceless. But it is clear that we are doing very much better than our fathers and grandfathers. Still, I venture to submit that even now we fail to rise to the full height of our responsibilities, either to this or to the future age.

We have at last a National Theatre. We have the Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera House. We support several good orchestras. We subsidise other dramatic and musical enterprises in various parts of the country. But we still have a long way to go before our arrangements in these respects are comparable to those in certain parts of Central Europe, where it is taken for granted that every large town has its opera and theatre company. If the plans, the special nature of which I appreciate, which have been discussed this afternoon, are carried out—let us not deceive ourselves—very much more money than is available at present will be needed.

If we turn to museums and galleries, we find, it is true, that purchase grants have been substantially increased; but then it is also true that they are not yet nearly enough to retain for us what remains of our heritage of art and culture still in private hands. No one who visited the last exhibition at the Royal Academy and saw Mr. Mellon's glorious collection of British pictures could fail to observe with shame how many opportunities had had to be missed by the galleries of this country for lack of sufficient resources.

Then there is the British Museum. I join with other noble Lords in saying that I think this must be regarded as a national disgrace. Is it not incredible that twenty years after the war the damage by war action is still not fully repaired and that no provision has yet been made for extensions which have long been planned? What other leading nation in the world, fortunate enough to possess this priceless collection, would have left it to languish in its present state of obsolescence and disrepair? In this respect I cannot refrain from contrasting the conduct of successive central Governments, Conservative and Labour alike, with that of the now retiring masters of the L.C.C. and the Greater London Authority—the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, Sir Isaac Hayward, Sir William Fiske, and their colleagues—who in the development of the South Bank, the Festival Hall and its auxiliaries have surely set an example to all of us of civic wisdom and practical idealism.

I think it should be added, however, that while the most discredit certainly rests with successive Governments, the Boards of Trustees, other than the present one, cannot be regarded as totally blameless in this connection. To me, at least, it is an astonishing thing that we should have had to wait for the recent reconstruction of the Board for any effective attempt to arouse public opinion to the existence of this scandal of neglect. After all, experience in connection with other public institutions—the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the Royal Opera—shows that the educated public nowadays is not indifferent to these matters if a deliberate attempt is made to inform them of what is happening and what is needed. I cannot understand why we should have had to wait a quarter of a century for a report on these matters from the Board of Trustees.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, as he is a Trustee of the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery, whether he does not think that the Trustees could help themselves by making a small charge for entrance on one or two clays a week, which is done in nearly all the great galleries in Europe?


I should very much enjoy debating that matter with the noble Viscount at another stage, but to expatiate on this question, which involves difficult questions of economics and different answers, I think, in regard to opera houses and galleries, would occupy too great a portion of the little time for which I still wish to inflict myself on your Lordships' House.

In connection with the Museum, I would only add, after these mild reflections on the conduct of former Boards of Trustees, that I am sure we must all wish the noble Lord, Lord Radcliffe, and his colleagues every success in their courageous crusade for improvements, which at once I would observe has caught the headlines and has received sympathetic support in all quarters. We surely should be grateful, indeed, that the Minister, Miss Jennie Lee, who has done so much for so many good causes, is reported to be interesting herself in this one.

I have been speaking, so far, on the absolute shortage of resources at present devoted to these cultural purposes. But assuming that policy in this respect is settled—that so many institutions and so many enterprises are to be supported—I doubt whether we are yet sufficiently aware of what I might call the dynamics of the situation: the pressure of rising costs on the successful execution of any given policy. This is quite a serious matter. I speak here with feeling, as one who watches, month by month, the rising costs of a great opera house. It is not only that in a period of inflation allocations have a habit of falling into arrears in real terms.

Needless to say, in a period of rising prices a constant grant in terms of money means a diminishing grant in terms of purchasing power. But, as my noble friend Lord Drogheda has hinted, the difficulty goes far beyond that. Even if there were no inflation, even if incomes in general were rising only in step with productivity, the provision of all services connected with the Arts is bound to become more and more expensive. If you take the running of an orchestra, for instance, you cannot expect any diminution of costs from an increase in productivity, once the orchestra is efficiently organised and its sales policy efficiently run. Yet if salaries and wages are rising elsewhere, in manufacturing industry, you cannot expect the salaries and wages for the performing arts to remain constant. It has this consequence: that if it is public policy to subsidise this kind of enterprise on, say, a fifty-fifty basis, then even if prices are raised proportionately with costs there is need for a parallel increase in subsidy in order to maintain the constant fifty-fifty proportion. I hope that when people see the costs of opera and ballet rising, as they are bound to rise, they will keep this proposition in mind.

Your Lordships may wonder why it is that one who so often protested, and still protests, against the excess pressure of aggregate public expenditure should in this context come out with a plea for more liberal outlay. I submit that there is no inconsistency. The fact that Governments may spend too much in the aggregate does not mean that they may not spend too little on particular items. If a man is wasting his substance on wine and women, we may justifiably urge him to apply a curb. But this does not imply that he should not spend more on the care of his eyes and ears if hitherto he has been neglecting them.

Surely, my Lords, if we consider the magnitude of our present expenditure on Arts and culture in relation to what we spend on other things, its inadequacy is glaring. The total amount spent on Arts by the central Government is a tiny fraction of the total central expenditure. The amounts wasted on aircraft never built would have built the promised extensions to the British Museum several times over. The amount spent yearly on saving those who go to the doctor the price of a few cigarettes for the prescription of expensive drugs would, with liberal provision for the needy poor and old-age pensioners—which I desire—have solved all the problems of the performing arts and the galleries and have left a substantial margin for extra educational building. The things that we are talking about this afternoon are things which ultimately affect the tone and quality of living in the community as a whole, and our status in world history. It is not in this connection that retrenchment is appropriate.

Still keeping in the context of finance, may I say a word about the position of museums and galleries in regard to what may be called the Old Master drain? This is quite as serious as the brain drain. You can make Ph.D.s and keep them if you pay them properly. But you cannot make a Titian which has crossed the Atlantic. My noble friend Lord Cottesloe dwelt at some length on the working of the export control; and as a member of the Waverley Committee to which he referred, I should like to support every word he said. I am against the prohibition of export which prevails in some other countries. It is very unfair to those whose wealth consists in objects of art, rather than in real estate or stocks and shares, that they should be deprived of its market value at fair world prices. Our own plan of granting export licences only when native museums and galleries fail to find the wherewithal to buy seems much fairer, and I am quite sure that it is generally regarded as such.

But let us not deceive ourselves. This principle will permit the preservation of our national heritage only if sufficient funds are forthcoming. Although I do not want to deny the greater willingness of Governments in recent years to make occasional extraordinary grants for this purpose, yet there can be no doubt at all that the money available has not been sufficient. Every year sees a substantial volume of objects of aesthetic and historic importance exported to other centres better supplied with finance than our own museums and galleries.

I will not expatiate at length on the need for the provision of some special fund to meet emergencies in this situation. Lord Cottesloe has adequately laid the matter before your Lordships. I will simply say that I have never been able to understand why the idea of an extension of the powers of that excellent institution, the Land Fund, devised and inaugurated by my old friend and teacher Hugh Dalton, has not been recognised as the simple and the proper answer to this problem.

Before sitting down, I should like to make one further plea in regard to finance in general, and add my reinforcement to suggestions which have already been made in the course of the afternoon's debate. It has been the burden of my remarks that in present circumstances in this country the main function of providing financial support for the Arts and museums must necessarily fall to the State. But I do not contend that it need be wholly borne in this way, and I do not see why, given adequate incentives, substantial additional private support should not also be forthcoming. The example of the United States has shown that such incentives work well there. General considerations of human nature suggest that they are likely to work well wherever they are tried.

The trouble in this country is that the tax system offers few such incentives. If I leave an Old Master to the National Gallery, its value need not be aggregated with the rest of my estate. That seems to be an incentive on the right lines. But such is the anomaly of our financial arrangements that if I leave a sum of money of comparable value there is no escape from aggregation. That is pure lunacy! The position is even worse with donations made in the lifetime of the giver. In the United States, as has been said already, a man may give to galleries and universities a substantial fraction of his income, and this is left untaxed. Any visitor to the United States may inspect the splendid results of this incentive—the splendid endowment of galleries and universities throughout the Continent. There is nothing of the kind here. Again and again, I can assure your Lordships, representations have been made in appropriate quarters, and again and again they have been rejected on the ground that such an incentive would offend the logic of our system of direct taxation. I must say that this seems to me the most intolerable pedantry.

Here we are with art and cultural enterprises greatly in need of funds beyond what they are likely to get at the present time from direct State subsidy. Here is an expedient which, we know from American experience, could be almost guaranteed to increase substantially the flow of funds from other sources. And yet in a context of public affairs in which we are prepared, often I think unwisely, to invoke the use of special incentives for almost any form of activity which has sufficient political backing, we reject the idea of resorting to such methods on the ground that they would run counter in some way to the metaphysics of the pure theory of taxation.

There is reason to suppose that other leading nations are not so inhibited. I am told that measures to introduce incentives of this sort are in active contemplation in some European countries. Soon we may be the only important Power still in step in this respect, with a pure theory of direct taxation—a cause for pride, no doubt, to the prigs of the fisc; but a poor compensation for the extra help for the Arts and galleries which might otherwise have been forthcoming.

6.16 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all greatly indebted to my noble friend for having moved this Motion. May I say at the beginning that I find the atmosphere this afternoon rather unusual for someone who comes from the other place. I feel rather surprised to be in such an odour of bouquets. It was not until the noble Lord, Lord Willis, started to speak, when I thought he was promulgating a certain number of things rather like Parliamentary sophisms, that I began to feel a little more at home. Of course, a grave difficulty is created when you have a theatre holding about 1,000 for a population of about 50 million, because there will be people who cannot get in, and they are going to write to the Chairman to ask why. And I happen to be Chairman of the National Theatre. I had thought at times that I might write a play myself and put it on, which would secure that the seats would be easily obtainable by the general public. But on the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, I have rejected this idea, because he said that it might conceivably not do the trick.

This is a very unusual occasion for me, because I think it is the first time in my Parliamentary experience that I have risen to my feet and begged the Government to spend a little more money—not generally speaking; because they are spending too much—but on the Arts Council. I also have bouquets to give to Miss Lee. Compliments are very difficult things to quantify, but she has succeeded in persuading her colleagues in the Government to increase the grant to the Arts Council. Most of our successes and qualities remain a matter of opinion, but this one can be shown to be a matter of figures.

I am not very sympathetic to the sort of argument which points out that in a given year two or three F.111s would have done this, that or the other for the Arts. I think this is a rather meretricious argument, because large expenditures have to be made against threats to civilisation. It is not much good talking about fostering the Arts, or about trying to further the creative spirit of man, if his freedom is going to be menaced. But perhaps a more striking argument (this is rather on the lines of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins) would be to remember that Gelsenkirchen, for example, spent £565,000 last year on the opera, ballet and theatre; and Gelsenkirchen has a population of 370,000. So when that figure is compared with what we are doing for the Arts in the capital city, I do not think that even our most stringent critics could possibly say that we treat money like confetti.

At this late hour, I want to speak for only a very short time, and almost entirely in my capacity as Chairman of the National Theatre Board. I hope that the very pedestrian arguments I am going to put forward may penetrate the carapace of the Treasury. Nearly all the senior officials in the Treasury are highly cultivated men devoted to the Arts, and when they were responsible they gave us a great deal of help, but their duty officially is to try to prevent expenditure from taking place. Though they would often like to be "on the side of the Angels", because of their public obligations they often have to take their place among the ranks of the Philistines. I want to say this to them. My sincere belief is that expenditure on the Arts, particularly on the theatre, the opera, ballet and music, will show over the years a considerable profit to the country.

Most of us who are connected with the Arts have the feeling that the public at large—the taxpayers, we might say—think that every penny spent upon these objects is lost. They think that money is spent for prestige, and I would remind noble Lords of my own definition of prestige; that it is merely a synonym for losing money. One word does instead of two. But this money is not lost. I believe that if we are a little bolder, and support the Arts Council with more money, we can make London the Athens of the Western World. We have already gone a long way towards it; and, if I may say so with respect, it is not the English cuisine, or the improvement in the English methods of cooking vegetables (though there is an improvement), or even the amenities of British boarding-houses by the sea which bring a stream of tourists to our shores. But imagine, if the dream of making London the Athens of the Western World were realised, what a great new traffic of educated and sophisticated people would come pouring into our capital city from all over the world, would throng our streets and, we hope, spend their money.

There is one point that I must mention. The managers of the commercial theatres support the idea of a National Theatre: obviously for artistic reasons, but also because attracting the foreigner, as well as building a theatre-going public at home, lifts and helps the theatrical world and all the other theatres with it. It is a sad fact, too, that any repertory which contains a number of classical productions can be mounted only with a large amount of public support. I confess that this is a somewhat pedestrian point that I am making: that money spent on the Arts is not wasted. But I hope that the argument will sink in and that the Treasury, and the Government, will regard this as one of those invisible exports which it is rather difficult to put on paper.

Having offered your Lordships these general remarks, I want to turn for a moment to the theatre. I have been a protagonist of a National Theatre for a little over forty years, and have been concerned in nearly all the negotiations towards its foundation. My bankers—some of those Swiss "Gnomes" of whom we have heard so much recently—said that it is not surprising, because it takes about forty years for any new idea to take root in this country. I do not myself accept that view, but I think it timely (and I choose the word carefully) to proclaim the help and support given to the project by Sir Isaac Hayward when he was Leader of the London County Council. The vision of the South Bank—with the Festival Hall, the National Theatre, another concert hall and the picture gallery—was never far from his mind. Admittedly he used a phrase which I do not like—"a cultural centre"—because I do not believe that the Muses can ever be happy in a cultural centre. Nevertheless, this was his conception, and I think it was a great conception; and certainly he thought of it every day of his life. Under his leadership the London County Council gave us unfailing support, and since the London County Council became the Greater London Council I equally wish to say that Sir William Fiske and the Council have been no less helpful and imaginative, and have carried on the tradition which they inherited from their predecessors.

It is sometimes said that gratitude has something to do with the hope of favours to come. But at this moment we have to look to others for favours to come, and perhaps this sincere praise of their predecessors may be thought impolitic. Whether it is or not I do not care. I regard it as my duty to proclaim what I believe to be true, and I say that our gratitude, and that of all those connected with the National Theatre, to the L.C.C. and the G.L.C. is demonstrably sincere. From this I want to look back for a moment on Government action, in which, I am happy to say, all Parties have participated.

The National Theatre Act was passed in 1949. The Bill had been introduced into the House of Commons by an old friend and political opponent of mine, Mr. Glenvil Hall. However, the Act could not be brought into vigour until the Treasury pressed the button, so to speak; and the Treasury, if I may say so, are not great button-pressers. When it comes to erecting public buildings another sort of squeeze—rather like a squeeze at bridge—operates. In a booming economy labour cannot be spared from building factories, roads, and so forth; and when the economy is wilting the money cannot be spared to carry forward anything not directly concerned with production and the creation of natural wealth.

Probably for these reasons, which are similar to some of the reasons outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, nothing happened from 1949 (when the Bill became an Act) until 1962. In that year Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, and in economic conditions which his political opponents at the time would have described as "Stop" rather than "Go", broke the deadlock and pledged the Government to spend a considerable sum on subsidising the drama. This sort of thing often comes about at the most inappropriate economic moment. That sum was not by itself enough to launch the National Theatre, but since there is a metropolitan as well as a national ingredient in the project, the L.C.C. (and later the G.L.C.) came to the rescue. So it has been supported throughout its somewhat short life as to approximately two-thirds of its requirements by the Government, through the Arts Council, and as to the other one-third by the L.C.C. and, later, the G.L.C. I most fervently pray that the affairs of the National Theatre will continue to be outside Party politics, and that we can rely upon the far-sighted support, to which I think we are entitled, of the Greater London Council in the future.

As many noble Lords have mentioned this afternoon, we have come very far as a nation in supporting the Arts, in quite a short time. I can hardly believe it when I think that when I was first a Trustee of the National Gallery—and the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, was already there—the annual grant for buying pictures amounted to £12,500 a year: hardly enough to buy a pen and ink sketch by Picasso in a falling market. Of course the figures were a little misleading, as most figures are, because if we came upon a great masterpiece that was being offered we received a great deal of help from the Treasury. But it is undeniable that we lost many works of art at prices which now appear to be modest simply because we were arguing and trying to raise the money. So the fact that in 1959 the Conservative Government raised the annual grant to £125,000, and later, in 1964, to £200,000, is a matter of great satisfaction. I hope that the present Government will raise that still further, because they have shown such a splendid spirit over the other grants.

It is widely and truthfully said that nearly all private patrons have been killed by taxation, and if we are to see the Arts flourish within our shores we must look primarily to Government or other public patronage. There are, however, within the term of "private patron", companies in industry, commerce and finance, which we must not forget. At the Institute of Directors—I think I may say partly at my instigation—there is an Arts Advisory Council which gives those who are moving into new offices or new works advice as to how they may buy a contemporary painting or contemporary furniture, and how they may avoid rubbish. In all the Arts there is a great deal of rubbish being produced to-day; and, especially when we come to abstract art, advice is imperative.

A friend of mine saw a picture in an artist's studio. It was a very abstract picture, and it was called "Sacred and Profane Love". About two years later he came across the same picture in a friend's drawing room, and he said, "I see you have that picture called 'Sacred and Profane Love' by Mr. X". The owner said, "Oh no, that is called 'The Boat Race'". My friend said, "if that is so, if it is the Boat Race, the background ought to be blue"; and I may say that he has been cut in artistic circles, particularly in Chelsea, ever since.

I could hardly believe that anybody could succeed Lord Cottesloe and carry on the work in the way Lord Goodman has, but he is one of the most enlightened and clear-headed people, as well as being charming company, one could wish to meet in a day's march. I say quite definitely—this is rather against what the noble Lord, Lord Willis, was saying—that the Arts Council have spent the money with great wisdom and to the best advantage. The priorities which they have to try to settle—and for that matter which the Department of Education and Science have to settle—are extremely delicate when there is not enough money. When from sheer necessity the Arts Council, or the Ministry, have to be a little parsimonious, those upon whom the parsimony falls can generally point out that something absolutely essential has been lost, and they want to throw a few bricks at the windows of No. 4 St. James's Square, unless they have the more ordinary outlet of asking the Minister rude questions in the House of Commons. Another £2 or £3 million a year would be a real Godsend, and would make the task of the Arts Council infinitely easier. From my experience I know that the country would receive value for what is spent.

I would conclude by telling your Lord-ships that the dream of making London the Athens of the Western world is no pipe dream. If you look at the stage, for example, this country leads the whole world to-day in drama. We have a galaxy of actors and actresses who set a standard in acting never, I think, surpassed in modern times. We have producers and playwrights of the first order; and at the National Theatre we have Sir Laurence Olivier. Students with scholarships in drama want to come and spend most of their time here in London. We have some marvellous orchestras; the ballet thrives, and in the world of painting the modern school in England is in a very lively and experimental condition, which we should applaud. We might add names like Graham Sutherland, Francis Bacon, and Henry Moore.

So I end, having delivered my bouquets and delivered them sincerely, with a plea that a little more would almost double the effect of our present expenditure and would halve the difficulties under which the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, suffers over priorities. It would bring us, with all the concomitant advantages, into the undisputed position of being the leader in the Arts in the civilised world in this century.

6.34 p.m.


My Lords, a coming of age should always be a happy occasion, and the debate we have had on the 21st Annual Report of the Arts Council is no exception to this rule. The noble Earl the Leader of the House blew fairly loudly the trumpet of the Government for their help to the Arts Council over the last several years, and I think that was well warranted. But what everybody is agreed about is that Miss Jennie Lee, who blew down the walls of the Treasury, is undoubtedly the one who deserves most praise. At the time of a 21st birthday it is surely right to pay tribute. We must all pay tribute to the mover of the Motion to-day, the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, for the foundations he laid which enabled his successor, the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, to use and show that well known energy, enthusiasm and wide-ranging interest which he has brought to the activities of the Council. Equally, of course, one must thank not only the Council and the Committees, but the staff who have done things which are almost incredible, looking at their numbers and how sparsely they are spread over the many aspects.

Looking at the Report, one finds it rather difficult to find fault with it. There are, however, two points which I should like to develop very briefly. On of them is under the heading of the "Housing the Arts". I remember very well that at one time there was an appeal in a church, and we were told that we really ought to subscribe because it was so important to pray in comfort. I think it is just as important that we should be able to play in comfort. You can have all sorts of enthusiasms for some performance which may be put on, whether it is drama or whatever it may be. That can last for a short while in uncomfortable surroundings, but it cannot go on.

Therefore this latest development of the housing of the Arts is of tremendous importance for the Council. They started quite modestly a year ago with a quarter of a million pounds; this year it is up to half a million, and on page 18 we are told that they look forward to really big developments in the next year. I can only say, "Keep it up". When I look at the record for Scotland in the housing of the Arts, I see that the Orkney Federation and Pitlochry Festival first of all received £12,500, and then £22,500 shortly afterwards. I am inclined to think that heaven helps those who help themselves, and the other local councils in Scotland should note well what happens when you get the enthusiasm of a locality.

I have one other small point on housing. I read with great comfort that the Council will pay particular attention to the outside appearance of any buildings which they may help, and to this end they are to seek the advice of the Royal Fine Art Commission. I am sure this is right, and when I recall what we have all seen in the Press in the last days about what happened at Abingdon (and so far as I know the Minister who was concerned with Abingdom did not seek the advice of the Royal Fine Art Commission), I am moved to wonder what is the point of this body, which is so valuable, and how right the Arts Council are to turn to it.

The second point to which I wish to refer in the Report is that of "The Arts in the Regions". I am sure that this is one of the most important things that the Council can help to develop in the coming years. Looking at what they have done for Scotland, two years ago the grant was only £176,000, this year it is very nearly a quarter of a million, and in the coming year it is to be £450,000. I am not sure that that percentage is the right percentage in relation to the country as a whole, but I will not complain about it because it represents something of great importance and should give the Committee of Scotland an opportunity to do many new and important things. Indeed, as the Council point out on page 39 of the Report, there is a real problem in that so many of the artistic activities now depend for their life or death literally on what may be forthcoming from their grants, and I think it is very important that the regions and the local authorities should themselves see what they can do to match the activities of the Council. I would suggest even that those who make the grants should judge whether the people are worthy by what the local region may be doing to help their own people.

The only other point I want to raise is not to do with the Arts Council, but has arisen in listening to the debate; namely, the really disgraceful—I think that was the word used by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and I think rightly—treatment that is meted out in the way of help to the museums for their new buildings or for rehousing. It is all very well to plead that there should be more funds for saving treasures which otherwise would go out of this country, and in that respect I would say that the criteria of the Waverley Committee have stood the test of time. I think it is perhaps even more important that what treasures we have should be properly shown.

I believe that if they are properly shown, then the likelihood that others will escape is reduced, because the public will realise the immense value and importance of these objects. But, given the conditions of to-day, and such places as the British Museum, is it to be wondered that people are not as enthusiastic as they should be? Because they know that so often things go down into the depths because there is nowhere to put them.

So, while the Government have done much for the Arts Council, I hope they will think seriously about whether they cannot do at least as much to help in the rehousing of the museums at the present time. I promised to be brief. Once again I wish the Arts Council well in its manhood, and hope that in due time it will pay special attention to the housing of the Arts and the development of the regions.

6.41 p.m.


My Lords, I join with other noble Lords in conveying thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, for providing the House with the opportunity to consider the work of the Arts Council. For me, particularly, it provides an opportunity to congratulate Lord Goodman for the vigour, drive and imagination he has contributed to the work of the Arts Council. The speech that we have heard from him this afternoon gave ample evidence to this House of that drive and imagination which he puts into his job. I think it says a great deal for this country and its Government that at a time when the nation is beset with economic difficulties there is the imagination and foresight to accept the responsibility to encourage the Arts and raise the nation's cultural standards.

Reference has already been made, with justification, to the contribution that has been made by Miss Jennie Lee as Minister for the Arts. I believe she accepted her responsibility more as a mission than as a political task. In the document Policy for the Arts which was published, I believe, in February, 1965, it was stated that the relationship between the Arts and the State in a democratic community is not easily defined. That is perfectly true, for there must be justifiable encouragement, and at the same time there is need to avoid the danger of direction. I am sure all would agree that literature and art can find their full expression only in conditions of freedom. Therefore the Arts Council must carry the heavy responsibility of giving aid, and doing nothing to stifle independence of thought and action, which is the true source of artistic expression. That is a great responsibility. The Council accept it, and I think they do the job well. I believe that art is seldom self-generating. It is a tender plant, and it carries this strange contradiction: that it is not easy to kill, but it is difficult to cultivate, and it has always needed support to flourish.

Some reference has been made to the patrons of the past. It is true that at least one virtue of the old privileged society, where wealth and power were concentrated in a few hands, was that it produced patrons of the Arts. Many artists or craftsmen found encouragement, although the beauty they created was confined to a minority. In our more egalitarian society, and with the development of an industrial age where volume appears to be more important than æsthetic quality, we can, if we are not careful, destroy at the roots the sources of more cultured living. To-day, something must be found to take the place of the old patrons. True, as has been said by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, there is still an opportunity for the private patron; but, by and large, his real significance has passed.

To-day the State plays its part, and the Arts Council is one of its instruments. But the amount at its disposal, or that is likely to be at its disposal, increased though it has been, is puny compared with the task it has to perform. I think that it needs more, and there is a need for more effort which should be achieved by a combined operation. I believe that municipalities must play a greater part, and I support to the full the suggestion that the responsibility should be mandatory and not optional. I believe, also, that large commercial organisations should do more in this field. We should not underestimate the enormous, increasing contribution that radio and television could make, particularly in the regional sense. I hope that large commercial organisations in this country—they are tending to become even larger—will come to recognise that a contribution in this field should be accepted as part of their public responsibility.

I could give your Lordships an indication of something of which I am personally proud, as my small contribution in this particular field. In 1962 I was a director of the Co-operative Insurance Society, which built the largest office block in Europe, and I think one of the best. It was in Manchester, not in London. They commissioned one hundred British artists to make their personal contribution to that building. Around the walls of that office there are the works of young artists who received encouragement from that organisation. In addition, two beautiful murals were created by two young artists, who won the task in competition. That was done under expert advice. It was intended not only to beautify the building, but to make some contribution by a commercial organisation in this particular field. I think that many other commercial organisations could do likewise. It would make a significant contribution in this field of artistic appreciation.

Unfortunately there are a number of people who believe that culture and cultural development and economic activity have little in common. That is quite wrong. I believe there is a close connection between cultural standards and economic progress. I believe that the steady debasement of cultural standards will in time act as a check to economic advance—and rising standards can become a stimulant to change and progress. In our endeavour to-day to achieve a more balanced economic development, varying standards of social amenities and cultural opportunities in different regions have become a significant factor in influencing mobility of labour that affects development. Some parts of the industrial North suffer heavily in this regard. Therefore, the development of the Arts, particularly in the regional sense, can have its economic significance.

In its twenty-one years of activity, perhaps the major criticism of the Council has been that it has tended to concentrate too much on London. I know that the Council has rejected this criticism. Lord Goodman, in his contribution to-day, has indicated that it is the intention of the Council to look forward to greater development of regional associations, with more emphasis on the support of the Arts and in the encouragement of local culture. I feel that that is tremendously important, because if art form does not express the character and feeling of people, and even regional aspirations, it is not worth much. I believe that the quality of any civilisation is not measured by isolated genius it produces or the intellectual brilliance of a small élite which one may find in a capital city, but that it is governed by the general sensibility and cultural standards of the mass of the population. It is that, and that alone, which determines the pace of progress that we can achieve.

Therefore I re-emphasise that regional activity is important. I know that to-day great efforts have been made by some municipalities, and in many areas the library services in particular have given most imaginative service to the public and to the youngsters in particular. But there are also local authorities that own buildings but almost hide the contents—museums that have become mausoleums, art galleries that have become picture repositories, and too often "live" theatres that have been allowed to die. There is need in that field to bring life, interest, imagination and vitality into those places.

I think I can claim that I visited art galleries and museums at a very tender age, but not in circumstances which were conducive to any encouragement of or love for the Arts. I went to school in a Northern town, and a rather enlightened education committee got the idea that it was necessary for youngsters in the school at regular intervals to visit the art galleries and museums. Apparently the headmaster in the school thought that it was a waste of time, and the sports master was given the job of taking youngsters around the art galleries and museums. As it was the sports master who was in charge, we did it at a trot. I came to the conclusion that the form of exercise we carried out was intended to make us better footballers than art students. We dashed round the museum, under the strict guard of a bewhiskered and bemedalled gentleman, we were urged out of the farther door as quickly as possible, and then galloped back to school. I could never understand what it was all about.

But a year or two later I was taken, still as a boy, round another Hull museum, the Wilberforce Museum, by a man who had a deep sympathy for and understanding of the subject into which he led me. Out of that developed for me a great love of the history of the community into which I was born, simply by attending that museum and by being coached, as it were, by somebody with great interest in the subject. Therefore it is not only a matter of having these places and stuffing them with objects, or of having exhibitions. There is the need to have the sort of people with the warmth of feeling and understanding to be able to introduce youngsters to these things in an enlightened way.

It is wrong to believe that in the "desert areas" to which reference has been made there is a repressed demand for artistic appreciation. It is true that the vast majority of people have little opportunity to appreciate good music, painting or literature. But lack of opportunity does not always stimulate appetite—certainly not in the realm of art. On the contrary, remoteness tends to breed contempt. This is balanced, unfortunately, by the attitude of some who believe that artistic appreciation is the preserve of an intellectual minority and that mass contact is likely to reduce the attraction of the Arts. Let us face it, my Lords, the world of art is riddled with "phonies" seeking to make it a cult for a coterie.

Regional development would soon end that, for the frontiers of art and art form are not irrevocably defined. I do not think it is possible to wait until a demand is expressed in a local area. It has to be stimulated and encouraged, and should not depend too much upon a majority vote of some local councils. It seems ridiculous and quite farcical that the vote of one person in an area could determine the pace, the measure and the extent of artistic development in a community. Therefore the suggestion which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Good-man, was a good one. In addition, every encouragement should be given to local groups working in this field.

I was delighted that Lord Goodman should have made the public declaration that such is the policy of the Arts Council. He said on another occasion, as I remember reading, that the major purpose for which the Council must use its money was to cultivate new audiences for the Arts; and he went on to say The battle to achieve a civilised and cultural nation can only be won by teaching people what are the worthwhile things of life. This battle must be fought on many fronts. There is need to seek advance in schools, in local authorities and in regions outside London. It is not by any means a hopeless battle. Anybody who has recently visited some of the modern schools and seen the artistic products of youngsters who have been encouraged by intelligent teachers will realise that there can be considerable hope that success will attend the efforts of the Arts Council.

6.57 p.m.


My Lords, much that has been said this afternoon has related to the broad conception of the Motion put upon the Order Paper by the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe. I should like to confine my few remarks to the narrower scope of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu; and a most interesting Motion it is. It is certainly a matter of interest that the historic and artistic treasures of all kinds which this country has in such profusion, both in public and private collections, should be shown—and should be well shown—to those eager to see them. And among those most eager to see them I number a high proportion of the three million overseas visitors who come to Britain each year.

I suppose I should declare my interest in museums and art galleries, though not through any direct connection with them but because, as Chairman of the British Travel Association, my task through that Association is to encourage and foster the development of Britain's tourist and holiday market, which of course includes all of our art treasures. It is no good if any country publicises its attractions for visitors, succeeds in persuading those visitors to come and then has little or nothing to show them. Happily, as your Lordships are aware, that is not the case with Britain. We have a wealth of attractions, an almost inexhaustible supply of riches.

But do we display all of them as well as we might? From much that has been said this afternoon, I do not think anybody could hold that to be true. We have heard of slum conditions; we have heard of pictures stacked away in corners. It is true that there are many excellent art galleries and museums which present their contents imaginatively and attractively in modern settings, but unfortunately there are far too many others which fail to realise that items of antiquity and artistic creation need not be presented in a dry-as-dust atmosphere behind Victorian frontages. Unfortunately, it is these latter places which tend to create the general image of museums and art galleries, and particularly of museums. They do nothing to promote the idea that a museum is a place which is interesting, and even exciting, to visit.

A visit to a museum to many people is an outing and therefore occupies often a half day or even a whole day of their time. Therefore it should be equipped to provide all the services which any other tourist attraction offers to visitors. In addition to presenting its contents in an imaginative way, it should, where possible, provide such things as catering facilities, lounge accommodation, and even a cinema in which films telling the stories of some of the various exhibits on show could be screened. This is practical advice. People like to enjoy their visits to what might be termed "cultural centres", and they are willing to pay for what they enjoy and thus contribute to the maintenance and upkeep of our cultural heritage. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, will expand on that point, which he really left unanswered.

Many of the private owners of Britain's historic houses have shown the way in this connection. They can number their visitors in hundreds of thousands, and they give to the British Travel Association great support through the Historic Houses Committee which can offer practical advice on how to attract visitors to our historic centres. The spirited drive and colourful showmanship of such personalities as the noble Duke, the Duke of Bedford, the noble Marquess, Lord Bath, and, last but by no means least, the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, have done much to bring a ray of sunlight into our everyday lives, not to mention our holiday lives.

It should not be forgotten that museums and art galleries play an im-important role in the education of young people. This is a very good reason for the argument that these institutions should always be conscious of the interest which can be aroused among young people, when what appears at first sight to be a rather dull and uninteresting object is associated in presentation with some exciting period or event in history. Still on the subject of the educational value of museums and art galleries, I would remark that more and more local education authorities are arranging organised visits for parties of schoolchildren. We all know how one can be turned off for life from the works of even Shakespeare by having them drummed into us in an uninteresting way when young. What a great pity it would be if these children were similarly discouraged from appreciating the real enjoyment of the wealth of art and culture which is their heritage, simply by being bored to tears at an early age by enforced visits to dull and stuffy mausoleums full of dusty exhibits and fossilised attendants!

I am well aware of the excellent activities of many of the museums and galleries and of their curators, and of the efforts of the Museums Association, in enthusing life into the presentation of what could so easily become objects from a dead and distant past. However, there are still too many establishments which could do with a blood transfusion to create a new flow of visitors through their doors. I suggest that it is only by creating a new and modern image that museums and art galleries will stimulate public interest and appreciation of their contents, and that this in turn will do much to ensure greater support when needed for the efforts of those who wish to retain for future generations of Britons the works of art and culture which we have inherited from the past.

We have, perhaps, in Britain the greatest hoard of artistic treasures and relics of the past of any country in the world. They are diligently cared for and studied, but an element of showmanship in presenting them to visitors still seems to be lacking. The British Travel Association has been considering with the Museums Association ways in which this great recreational and educational asset can be better used. I am sure that there are many others, including the Government themselves, who could lend a hand in this worthwhile task.

In closing, I must say that in supporting the Motion I am not trying to reserve these historic and artistic works for the British people only. As I said a few minutes ago, Britain is now attracting some three million overseas visitors a year. Already we know that Britain's museums and art galleries are a great attraction to these visitors. Surely, it would be to the benefit of all if, instead of exporting these priceless treasures abroad, we could arrange, through more imaginative and attractive presentation, that even greater numbers of people come to Britain to see them where they belong.

7.4 p.m.


My Lords, listening to the most interesting speeches in this debate it becomes obvious that we are all agreed that one of the most imaginative acts of the Government was to create a Minister with special responsibility for the Arts; and, further, that the appointment of Miss Lee to this position was an inspired choice. Undoubtedly, one of her first and most important successes was to harness the very remarkable abilities and energies of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, as the new Chairman of the Arts Council; and between them they have been in the process of ushering in what we can describe as a new era for the Arts in this country.

Undoubtedly, the Arts are in a flourishing state in this country, but one cannot help wondering how far this process has penetrated to the grass roots. That is particularly so if one looks around, for instance, at the state of our towns, the way they are developing, the spate of depressing and characterless buildings, the sacrifice of environment and amenity to temporary utility, or what is believed to be utility. We get a somewhat depressing picture of the way in which artistic and cultural notions are influential in ordinary life if we compare, for instance, London and Paris, or the way the French have had regard to their great river, the Seine, and the way we have had disregard for our great river, the Thames.

If we pay attention, for instance, to the sorry tale of the 180 ft. gasometer which it is proposed, or was proposed, to place in the centre of Abingdon, this again forces us to ask whether we are not perhaps, despite all this renaissance of the Arts, still a country of Philistines. We have at any rate the testimony of the Daily Telegraph, which has been referred to, proudly declaring both that we are Philistines and that we should be Philistines. I think we must admit that those who really care for the Arts are still very much a minority. Nevertheless, it is a minority which is growing fast, and the most encouraging sign is the way this development is occurring among the young. In this respect I am sure that the work of the Arts Council, and their campaign directed towards the young, is of enormous importance.

There are a great many points on this fascinating subject with which one would like to deal, but the hour is late. We have listened to many speeches; there are still a number to come, and therefore I feel that I owe it to the House to try to be brief. I propose, therefore, to confine my final remarks to a matter which, perhaps not uncharacteristically, has been neglected or ignored in this debate. I refer to the question of the film as an art form, because there is a rather strange situation in this country. Perhaps I may quote from the Annual Survey of the British Film Institute—Outlook, 1967 as it is called—in which there appeared this statement: …1966 was the year that has put London fairly and squarely in the centre of film production. Yet, despite that, England still remains the country which treats the film as a "poor relation" among the Arts.

It is fair to say—and this is another deserved tribute which one can pay to her—that Miss Lee has not been unmindful of this problem, and she has been responsible for substantially increasing the subvention made to the British Film Institute. It is an historical accident that the film does not come within the province of the Arts Council, but the British Film Institute—which existed, of course, some years before the Arts Council was set up—has been valiantly attempting to develop the cultural aspect of the film. Also, the work of the National Film Theatre and the National Film Archive, both of which come under the British Film Institute, is widely known and admired, not only in this country but abroad. Indeed, it is not without sign-ficance that the United States is now very interested in the project of setting up a National Film Institute similar to that of our own British Film Institute.

In some ways the film is one of the easiest art media for dissemination on the widest scale, but a good deal of money is required for this purpose. The National Film Theatre (if I may refer to the emphasis on regional matters which my noble friend Lord Peddie mentioned just now) has been very interested in developing regional equivalents of the National Film Theatre, and has been trying to assemble a collection of suitable films for this purpose. But it would appear that merely to make prints of 250 selected titles from the National Archive would cost more than £100,000. This is some indication of the need for money that exists in this sort of sphere. One can only express the hope that the fact that, for historical reasons, the film does not come under the ægis of the Arts Council—and I have no doubt that it is neither practicable nor desirable that a change should be made at this stage—will not be regarded as a reason for looking upon the film as less worthy of State patronage.

The film has, of course, another aspect: it is part of a great trade or industry; it produces a mass product. But this is no reason why we should regard it as nothing more than a load of pig-iron. It is a trade; it comes under the Board of Trade. But it is also a happy development here that the cultural aspects of the film have now to a considerable degree been taken over by the Minister with responsibility for the Arts, particularly in relation to the British Film Institute.

In conclusion, I want only to mention the fact that there have been certain favourable developments in this sphere. There are the new developments that are now projected for the National Film Theatre, including the building of a second auditorium. Here again, a debt is due to the Greater London Council, who are lending the money to enable this development to take place. New premises have been found for the Film Archive at King's Hill, and here again the energetic intervention of the Minister has been responsible for the production of the money for this purpose. So far as creative film production is concerned, it has been possible, with a very small grant, for the Experimental Production Committee, which had practically petered out for want of funds, to revive its activities. But the grant, admittedly, is very small. It is a mere £5,000, which is "chicken-feed" in such a context.

My Lords, there is obviously as much need to help creative film making as an art as there is to help other creative artistic activities, and I would just mention the fact that there are certain ways in which this type of creative activity is encouraged in other countries but which have not yet been exploited here. I submit that they deserve the very serious consideration of the Government. There is, first of all, the question of quality awards for films, which have done a great deal in some countries, such as Italy, France and Sweden, to encourage the production of creative films. Again, there is the whole question of improving ways of producing and distributing quality short films. I was happy to see in The Times a couple of days ago that, as a result of the recent recommendations of the Monopolies Commission, discussions have been going on which may lead to some kind of break-through in the marketing of quality short films.

I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, said, that it is impossible to make artists with money; but I equally agree with him that the lack of money, as well as the lack of the encouragement and support which is associated with financial help, can break artists. I think it is highly important, therefore, that we should have such a body as the Arts Council, which is able to give encouragement of this kind. It seems to me that we are at last beginning to understand the importance of the contribution that art can make to our national life; and I venture to think, too, that we can view the future with confidence so long as this aspect of our affairs remains in the hands of the present Minister for the Arts and the present Chairman of the Arts Council.

7.16 p.m.


My Lords, for the most part in this debate your Lordships have been discussing great matters—great buildings, opera houses, concert halls and so forth, and great sums of money. During the debate there has been running through my mind a sentence which my mother dinned into me many years ago. It is this: Despise not the day of small things". I want to say just one word about the small things that the Arts Council do. I am concerned with these small things because as treasurer, or in some other capacity, I am on the receiving end in respect of many of these small grants, and I have had a good deal of experience of the bounty of the Arts Council. If the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, were here I would make it plain that I use the word "bounty" without prejudice, because although I never get all I ask for, I rarely get as much as I hope for, which is not quite the same thing as a rule. But, without prejudice, I admire the way in which they administer these grants.

There are two things about the grants which strike me most. The first is that the Arts Council will help only those who help themselves. It is absolutely useless to try to get a subsidy from the Arts Council unless one is prepared to pay most of the expense of one's activity oneself. One particular activity, for example, is a music festival—a large one, outside London—which consists partly of competitions and then, in the evening, a concert with a choir and orchestra. We cannot get a penny for the competitions: they say that that part of it should be paid for by the people who enjoy it—and so be it. We cannot get much for the concerts, but we are in the position that we have a hall which is inherently not large enough to accommodate an audience big enough to pay for the whole concert, and we get money in that respect, and in that respect only.

Another advantage of the way in which the Arts Council deal with us is that they enforce business-like procedures upon us. They make us keep proper accounts. In fact in this particular case—and I see that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, is here—I have to confess that I keep two sets of accounts, one for my committee and the other one for the Arts Council. There is nothing at all sinister about that; it is simply that I have to make quite certain that nothing appears in the concert account which ought to appear in the other account.

The return on the small amount of money we receive—and this could be multiplied all over the country—is enormous. In respect of this particular festival about which I am speaking I receive from the Arts Council £125 a year, and that is just enough to keep no fewer than 900 people happily learning their music all through the winter. One can multiply this all over the country—and I prefer the description "country" to that of "regions", which is a desperately cold word, because after all it is in the country where the life of this great nation really springs up and grows up. All over the country little grants of this kind are producing enormous results, not only in personal happiness and joy, but in the way of building up the lives and character of the people whose lives and character will ultimately determine that of the nation as a whole.

I wanted to say these few words about the small things, the things which are small in themselves but which produce great results. When we are thinking about the concert halls and all the other great and marvellous things that are going to turn London into the Athens of the world, that is splendid, but I hope that we shall not forget the small things which add up to such great results.

7.21 p.m.


My Lords, I feel grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, and to the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, for having given us this opportunity to debate the Arts over a wide field. Owing to the lateness of the hour, I will confine myself to a few brief remarks on the Arts Council Report. In welcoming this twenty-first Report, I recognise that its note of confidence is largely due to the increased Governmental grant for the Arts during the year under review. For this, one is grateful to the Minister who has no doubt fought hard for it, and whose energy and vision in the cause of the Arts is so generally applauded. The success of the Arts Council has, I think, largely been due to careful planning and consistent policies pursued over a period of 21 years under successive very able chairmen, including the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, and the present chairman, Lord Goodman, from whom we have had such notable contributions in this debate.

There is always room for improvement, and I think it may well be in the field of organisation and public relations that we must now look for progress. In this connection I find myself very much in accord with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Willis. I believe that there is considerable ignorance among members of local authorities as to the activities of the Arts Council, and I think a great deal could be done to help local authorities to greater awareness of what can be done, and is being done, in other parts of the country. Every year the Arts Council Report draws attention to the Arts in the regions and to the contributions, both actual and potential, of local authorities; and for the year under review, on pages 21 to 24 of the Report, the subject is again covered.

The figures on page 23 illustrate the achievements of the North-East Association for the Arts, and are well worth perusal as an example of what can be done. It is hoped that the South-West Association for the Arts and the Midlands Association for the Arts will follow the example set by the N.E.A.A. in extending their scope to major artistic activities such as orchestral concerts, dramatic performances, operas and art exhibitions in their respective regions. With regard to the Midlands Association for the Arts, I agree that the present area is too large and that it should be split into two as suggested. It might also be advisable to make separate provision for Birmingham, as is suggested on page 23 for Liverpool and Merseyside. Otherwise, there is a danger that the needs of thinly-populated areas may be overlooked.

The potential finance for artistic activities which can be derived from the powers in Section 132 of the Local Government Act 1948 is immense, but it is a source which is still largely untapped. I cannot help thinking that it might be a good idea if the Arts Council made a film showing the whole range of their activities, including theatres, orchestras, opera groups and art exhibitions, with an appropriate commentary and explanation of the extent to which the Arts Council can help with grants, and the extent to which help might be obtained from local authorities under the relevant sections of the Local Government Act 1948, the Education Act 1944, and the Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act 1963. Such a film circulated in the regions and accompanied by speakers and relevant literature, including the Arts Council Report, might be informative and useful to members of local authorities and to all who are concerned with the Arts in the Provinces.

Finally, my Lord, may I say just a word about pages 32 and 33, "Opera for All". Although this has been going on since 1949 and has done excellent work, it is still true that opera with a piano is only second best. It neither realises the composer's intention nor gives orchestral stage experience to young singers. To subsidise regional opera groups to the extent of providing a degree of professional orchestral help, I am sure would be repaid by raising the standard of performance throughout the country. I hope that the Arts Council will consider any possibilities that may exist in this direction.

7.26 p.m.


My Lords, may I begin by apologising to my noble friend Lord Cottesloe, and to the House, for my absence during the early stage of this debate: I had to attend an important business conference which was arranged many weeks ago. I should like next to pay tribute to those who compiled the 1965–66 Arts Council Report. I think the title Key Year is most appropriate. As always, it is a Report of great clarity and of much interest. I would join those who have congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, not only on his excellent chairmanship of the Arts Council but also on a speech of outstanding brilliance.

Much has been said about financing the Arts, and clearly this is a major problem, particularly when the Government are being exhorted to spend less money and not more. I feel therefore that it would be rather unfair, to say the least, to admonish the Government, at any rate on this account. But I should like to join those who have paid tribute to Sir William Fiske, whom I had the pleasure of meeting several times, on the admirable work he did, both on the London County Council and on the Greater London Council. Those who have visited the Royal Festival Hall and attended other concerts arranged under the jurisdiction of the Greater London Council will, I think, recognise that to him and his colleagues a great debt is owed.

I have a friend of long standing who is a director of the London Symphony Orchestra, which I believe it is no exaggeration to say is one of the finest orchestras in the world. It is a pity that at the present time they are having a few domestic difficulties; but I should like from this House to pay tribute to Mr. Fleischmann, who has done such a successful job of work as secretary to the Orchestra. He has been responsible for a number of overseas tours. I had given me a very interesting account of the London Symphony Orchestra's visit to Florida last summer, when they were the guest orchestra at Daytona Beach for their annual concert. They have been asked again this summer. I think this is the kind of thing which needs publicising at a time when all too many people are running down the achievements of this country.

My Lords, exchange visits, particularly in the sphere of music, can do a good deal of good. I remember listening at one of the Promenade Concerts last year, to the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra under their famous conductor. Recently he conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in all Tchaikovsky's symphonies. It was unfortunate that the Royal Albert Hall was only partly filled for these marvellous concerts. I think that our orchestras are definitely on the up-grade, particularly provincially. Both the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Scottish Symphony Orchestra are typical of those whose standards are very fine and increasing in stature. I know that they would be very grateful for any increased help which could be given to them by the Arts Council.

So far as local authorities are concerned, I have had occasion to raise the matter before, because on two occasions it has been my privilege to initiate in your Lordships' House debates on the Arts Council. There is no doubt that some local authorities are not pulling their weight over the amount which they allow for the Arts, though I know that in the present stringent times local authorities are in a real difficulty. During one of the previous debates I coined a phrase when I referred to "penicillin before Puccini"; and I still hold that view.

I have some figures, taken from page 23 of the latest Arts Council Report. If I understand them correctly, they estimate that a flat levy of a ½d. rate over every local authority in the country could produce over £4 million; and that, my Lords, is quite a lot of money. Some local authorities, particularly in South Wales, are doing an excellent job in providing generous sums for the Arts. I hope that this debate will leave its mark on those local authorities which could do rather better than they are doing now. As the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, well knows, Fulham has a very fine municipal orchestra, and many towns in many parts of the country boast their own orchestras. I have heard some of them, and they were of a very high standard.

May I turn briefly to the theatre, and particularly to the repertory theatre—and here I must declare an interest, although not a financial one. I am trustee of the proposed new theatre at Leather-head. It is hoped that it will open in 1969 in a cinema which had to be sold, because the owner had financial problems. It so happened that this occurred at a time when the theatre had to move from its present premises, and so a great deal of money is needed for this purpose. The Arts Council have given £18,000 for this year's grant, and there will probably be some grant for the new building—I certainly hope so. But I would ask the noble Baroness who is to reply whether she will plead with the Government to be more generous about new theatre buildings. I acknowledge that the Government probably wish to be, and I also acknowledge that the present is probably not an appropriate time to be too pushing on this matter, particularly when many noble Lords and members in another place are criticising the Government for spending too much. But as other noble Lords, particularly my noble friend Lord Chandos, have said, the provision of new theatres and new concert halls, and the promotion of the Arts generally, can give young people a great deal of pleasure, and, who knows, may keep quite a lot of them out of the courts.

There is another reason why I believe that repertory theatres should have a very generous share of the financial cake at the present time. I yield to no one in my admiration for Covent Garden and the National Theatre. I am not suggesting for a moment that their grants should be cut—very far from it. But successive Governments have been urging people to keep out of London as much as possible, and there are a number of theatres on the periphery of London, like those at Leatherhead, Guildford—and I would almost include Chichester, although that is perhaps rather far afield—which maintain very high standards. A little more generosity towards these theatres would do a great deal to encourage people to stay out of London, and enable them not only to see entertainment—often very good entertainment—at a lower price, but also to spend a much more contented evening, without the "rat race" of driving a car in London, finding a parking place, and then getting home very late at night. I believe that this is a point quite relevant to the subject of to-day's debate. It is not often that either House has an opportunity to debate the Arts. I think, therefore, that we should be deeply grateful to my noble friend Lord Cottesloe for enabling us to do so to-day.

7.39 p.m.


My Lords, I cannot pretend that I did not approach this debate with some trepidation, when I knew that there were 21 Peers who wished to take part, and all with some special interest in the Arts. It appeared to me that I might find myself endeavouring to reply on behalf of the Government in respect of every museum, every art gallery and every theatre throughout the whole of Great Britain. So I cannot pretend that I am not relieved that many, at any rate, of the noble Lords who have participated in the debate confined themselves to a relatively few points. This does not mean that it has not been a debate of a remarkable character. I would pay my tribute and that of Her Majesty's Government to the real public service which so many noble Lords carry out in the Arts. This has become more and more noticeable as one after another Member of your Lordships' House has risen and declared a particular interest.

I should like to express to the noble Lords, Lord Cottesloe and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, our deep gratitude for sharing the debate and for introducing their own sections of it with such thoughtful and fascinating speeches. I would agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, that we cannot discuss the Arts without also discussing the question of leisure. The Arts are enjoyed much more deeply by those whose work is rewarding; but it is also the case that if the machine is not to be our master, then leisure must also be deeply and creatively enjoyed. I find myself constantly turning to the quotation from Richard Hoggart, in which he said that mass entertainment is in the end so often what D. H. Lawrence described as anti-life. If we are to give our people opportunities of using their leisure creatively, then more and more resources must be devoted, at national and local levels, to the Arts.

As the noble Lord rightly said, the Arts are not political. I was delighted that he and other noble Lords congratulated the Government on their creation of the post of Minister with Special Responsibility for the Arts, and on their expenditure to the Arts Council. Those of us who have been privileged to know the Minister for a long period can think of no one better to carry out this task, and we are all delighted this afternoon that so many participants in the debate have paid a personal tribute to Miss Lee. I particularly liked the phrase "she wrung the sinews of the Government" in order to extract cash. There seems to be the subject for a cartoonist there.

I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, if he is not already aware of this after listening to the splendid speech of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman—on which, with all due humility, I intend to make no comment—that a rapid expansion will certainly not embody a lowering of standards. I think we have learned from contributors to the debate that the Arts Council are well aware of this and know how to look after the book-keeping when distributing money.

The noble Lord suggested that museums and galleries received by comparison less than the sums granted to the Arts Council. I think it is fair to point out that the comparison is perhaps a little misleading. The museums are long-established institutions and the figures given in the estimates represent only running costs, as the capital building works and other allied services are shown under other departments. The biggest single item, which is salaries, does not show a great variation from year to year. Several noble Lords have suggested that grant could be extended to cover certain museum receipts which would be offset as appropriations in aid, so that they may not be immediately visible on the balance sheets. As noble Lords will know, purchase grants are fixed quinquennially and they are just in the fourth year, which will end in 1968–69. I feel that the statements of the Minister on various occasions may well be taken to be some recognition of her feeling about museums, though, of course, I can make no promises.

The noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, as Chairman of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, suggested that proposals dealing with weaknesses in the present system had been turned down, usually on technical grounds. I wonder whether I may suggest that these are constitutional arguments, relating rather to the Parliamentary control of voting funds, and are therefore decisive.

The noble Lord, as did the noble Lords, Lord Jellicoe, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and Lord Robbins, spoke of the British Museum. The publication of the Trustees' Report has attracted a great measure of publicity. I think the picture is not quite so black as some noble Lords have painted it. The earlier part of the Report shows that even though the last of the war damage is not yet repaired, within the next three or four years this will be completed and a considerable amount of reconstruction will have been done. While I am not suggesting that this is any reason for complacency, I am setting it beside some of the comments made this afternoon. I know that the Minister is most anxious that all possible short-term measures should be taken to help the Museum with its immediate problems, and the Department of Education and Science are in close and constant touch with the Ministry of Public Works and the Museum. Several noble Lords raised the question of rehousing the new Library. I do not think it is commonly recognised that at present discussions are going on with the Borough of Camden, which has lodged objections on behalf of residents. Therefore your Lordships will appreciate that more cannot be said on this subject at this point of time.


My Lords, would it be fair to ask the noble Baroness whether, subject to a satisfactory conclusion of the discussions with the Borough of Camden, the Government would then say that the project for the great new building would have their blessing?


My Lords, I should like to be able to give a straightforward reply to the noble Earl, but I think it would be wiser not to do so. Perhaps he may read into my caution that he has some hope. I am becoming so cautious when standing at this Dispatch Box, it is not true! It is important to reiterate that the performing arts—and I have been warned that I must never on any occasion refer to museums as the opposite of the living arts—and the subsidies given to them by the Arts Council are more spectacular and much more likely to attract public interest and controversy than help which is given to the museums and galleries but, as the 1965 White Paper has shown, the Government regard the two aspects as complementary.

The noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, well deserves the tribute that was paid to him by my noble friend Lord Longford for his splendid promotional work. My noble friend mentioned three museums. I have not had the pleasure of visiting them all, but anyone who has visited Lord Montagu of Beaulieu's wonderful and exciting collection, as I did recently with three small children, will know what a rewarding experience this can be. The noble Lord referred to the Transport Museums. These are among my favourites. The sheer nostalgia that a Londoner feels, climbing in and out of the trams and original buses, has to be seen to be believed. These museums, as your Lordships will know, are run by the Railways Board. As part of railway policy a group of officials have been studying their future. Therefore it is not possible to say much more on this subject. But I think the noble Lord can take heart from the fact that this subject is being carefully studied by the Joint Steering Group. What I can promise him—and this is very near to my heart—is that the points he has raised in connection with the Transport Museum will be carefully considered by those undertaking the review at the present time. I hope he will accept my pledge on this.

The noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, put forward suggestions that, following the example of the United States' tax system, gifts to museums should be a deduction for tax purposes. The United States' tax relief, of course, is not confined to gifts to museums but, as the noble Lord will know, goes to a wide range of charitable purposes. So far it has been felt that one could not give gifts to museums priority over gifts to charities generally. The thought did occur to me—and I am sure it must have occurred to the noble Lord—that perhaps we might think more carefully about ways in which we can translate museums into charities. But I will pass on his suggestion to my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and also the suggestions of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, on the rules governing the bequests of objects of art. I believe the noble Earl asked that these rules should be made more flexible. It is unnecessary for me to remind both noble Lords that this might not be the best time for discussing this kind of thing. Nevertheless, their suggestions will be faithfully passed on.

The noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, also made reference to the inclusion of the study of museums in schools curricula. I sympathise with him at the thought of the vast numbers of young people who hurtle round the museums, apparently only shooting off their surplus energy, and not perhaps getting much benefit from their visit. I always feel that a trip to the Science Museum is a good example of the sheer dynamos of energy that young people are as they rush frantically from one machine to another. In the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of going to several primary schools, again in London, and I was delighted to find that visits to museums and art galleries are now definitely part of their curriculum. One can only hope that this will be extended still further, and that they will go to the museums having been first informed of the various points to look for. One feels sometimes that perhaps the Palace of Westminster comes within this category. I constantly take visitors round, and one has to restrain their energy here, as well.

The noble Lord also raised the point—I think he has raised it before, and for which again there is sympathy—about the schedule and the prevention of the export of objects such as ships, trains and aircraft. I agree with the noble Lord that these are now so much part of modern life that perhaps they are due for further consideration. At present, as I expect he will know, these have to come within the ordinary schedule. They are subject to control if they fall within the three criteria: that they are not less than 100 years old, that they have not been imported within the last 50 years, and are worth not less than £2,000. I feel certain that the noble Lord has some reservations on the criteria, but at the moment this is the position. However, I will again see to it that his points are put forward.

This applies also to the noble Lord's suggestion for a National Heritage Fund. While this is superficially quite an attractive idea, the money for the national museums and galleries must be voted by Parliament, taken on a departmental Vote, and any receipts again have to be credited to the Exchequer as appropriation in aid. While this does not mean that money will not be coming in, one would not see the immediate and apparent effect for which the noble Lord hopes.

I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, on his maiden speech. I was sad that I was unable to hear it all, but when I tell him that it was to check tax matters so that I could give a reply to the previous comments, I feel sure he will appreciate the reason why I was absent from the Chamber. We are delighted to see him and to hear him. We appreciate his point about solid art centres. This is, indeed, what those of us who have worked for many years in the field of creative leisure have always seen as the ultimate goal: that all art should revolve round one centre. One would hope that this might be extended to more community work as well. We hope that we shall have the pleasure of hearing the noble Lord again on many occasions. His real interest, his ability in putting it over, and his brevity in putting forward his points will be greatly appreciated in this Chamber.

The noble Lord, Lord Willis, made reference to the National Theatre, and I felt that perhaps his comments were made more directly to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. I endorse his suggestion that the live theatre must cut across class. This, surely, is what all of us who work in this field have always had in mind. The National Theatre is such a joy that one hopes that the privilege of seeing the productions will be extended to more and more people.

It seems to me that one thing about the problem of leisure—if you can call it a problem—is that it is solved when one becomes a junior Minister, as one does not have any leisure. I have never read fewer books or visited fewer museums and galleries than since I came to your Lordships' House. I feel that this is something I shall have to correct, having enjoyed Zefferrelli's wonderful production of Much Ado About Nothing just before Easter.

The noble Earl, Lord Drogheda (and in his apology he told me he was going to the opera), mentioned the question of Covent Garden giving value for money. Those of us who have visited Covent Garden recently can have no doubt about this, or about the high international standard to which the noble Earl paid tribute. He included in his tribute Sir David Webster, which must have given pleasure to us all, and particularly to those who have sustained this establishment through many of the various problems it has encountered.

The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, again very distinguished as a Trustee and Director, made reference to the fact that the proportion of money spent on aircraft was rather different from the money spent on the Arts. Many of us would not quarrel with this. But this is neither the time nor the place for us to indulge in the pros and cons of this argument.

On the question of the extension of the use of the Land Fund—an idea which I think the noble Lord has canvassed frequently—I have to say that the proposal does not commend itself to the Government, mainly for the reason that it would mean putting a category of expenditure outside the control of Parliament, and would thus set a precedent to which the Public Accounts Committee and the House of Commons would take strong exception. Were the noble Lord here, I feel sure that he would regard this as an academic or bureaucratic argument, but it is the one that I have to advance this evening.

The noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, appealed for the Government to spend more money. As he said, so rightly, the National Theatre, when it is housed in its new building, will play a still greater part in the life of the people. I felt that, if it would save him from throwing stones through the windows of the offices of the Arts Council, it might be a wise policy to suggest that some more money be diverted to certain of these objects. But we appreciate that, however enthusiastic a director or chairman may be, of necessity, the vast amount of money which has already been granted may not perhaps be stepped up at this point of time. This is not to suggest either meanness or complacency.

The noble Earl, Lord Perth, referred to housing the Arts, a point we have already discussed in relation to museums. He mentioned theatres in the regions, and gave, of course, what we might call the classic quotation for all of us who have indulged in organising small festivals or helping theatres: that Heaven does indeed help those who help themselves—"Heaven" being, in this case, the Arts Council, through the person of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman.

The noble Lord, Lord Peddie, suggested, as did other noble Lords, that it should be mandatory on local authorities to support the Arts. I was glad that Lord Auckland made some reference to my own Borough of Hammersmith, which of course has a wonderful live theatre, as well as orchestras, and so on. But I am bound to say that this has not happened without certain ratepayers writing constantly to the local paper suggesting that the money might be more usefully spent. We have perhaps to do a great deal of education of our own people before a measure of this kind would he popular. However, this is not to say that it should not be discussed or canvassed.

I liked particularly the noble Lord's suggestion that commercial organisations should contribute. We are happy to know that many of them already do; and, as he said, there is a very close connection between cultural opportunity and economic growth. He equally suggested, with Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, that we should introduce young people to museums in the proper way. I enjoyed the description of his rather hasty perambulations around the museums in his youth, and while I feel it made him a better footballer, I am happy that he came to museums as a student at a later date and saw for himself the things that he had missed.

I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, was a little hard on our museums. He said that we must make them more attractive, that they should be better equipped to attract visitors. I feel that at this point I should say that during 1966 the museums had, in fact, over 8 million visitors. This is no small number. While, again, we are not complacent about this—and I agree with him that there may be need for some of the ancillary services to be stepped up—I should like to say that museums such as the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert display the objects they have very attractively. They sell excellent little publications very cheaply, and provide very good restaurants—very sensibly suggesting that small children should eat their iced lollies only within the precincts of the restaurant. I feel that, while we are being a little condemnatory about the museums, we should remember that many people get a great deal of enjoyment out of them, and the numbers of visitors are increasing and not getting less.

On a small point of interest, noble Lords may like to know that the British Museum has displaced the Science Museum in popularity. In other words, in the charts the British Museum has moved to the top, and the Science Museum has taken second place. There may be some reason for this which is not immediately apparent, but it is a point of interest. It is exciting to know that a survey on museums and galleries has been going on, and either will be, or has been, presented to the Minister. It is a picture of museums as they are in 1967. So we do know that these are not forgotten, and we have every reason to suppose that all kinds of exciting things are going to take place.

The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, to whom we should pay a great tribute for his chairmanship of the Committee on Films, drew our attention to the fact that the film is still—and he is so correct in saying this—the "poor relation" among the Arts. Yet it is to many people the only medium of any kind of artistic opportunity. I must say that to see a good film (and I say "good" in the sense that it is beautifully produced, colourful and has a story to tell) is one of the most enjoyable experiences one can have.

I was happy that the noble Lord mentioned the neglect of our own river. I am a riverside dweller, and it has for many years been one of my particular bêtes-noires that industry has been allowed to become so solidly entrenched, so that it gives us smells of oil in our nostrils and prevents our enjoying walks along the Thames. Our Thames is as lovely as any other river in Europe, and perhaps one day we shall wake up to the fact that it can be used for the enjoyment of the people.

I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, draw attention to the small things. As one who has so often organised small festivals, I appreciated his point: that the great personal happiness and excitement that people experience—people who had never before realised they had a talent for singing, dancing or drama—has to be seen to be believed. He mentioned that he had received small sums from the Arts Council. I am happy to tell the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, that I have organised many festivals, including one only last week, in which some 1,200 people participated, and we did not ask for any money from anybody. We made people pay to enter. But it concerned women, and perhaps there is a lesson to be drawn here. Their enthusiasm provoked them to provide the cash as well as their talent.

The noble Lord, Lord Croft, addressed his remarks, I felt, more perhaps to Lord Goodman than to Her Majesty's Government. I feel sure that his suggestion of the film was a very imaginative one, and one that will be given consideration. The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, I felt (having just recently re-read one of the previous debates on the Arts) deserves great commendation for his yeoman service to the Arts—not only for the fact that he has so many times introduced in this House a Motion which gives us an opportunity for debating this subject, but for the services he gives to his own local theatres and to the orchestras. I felt very much for him when he was referring to his own theatre, having myself supported many repertory theatres over the years. I know that this can be most rewarding, but sometimes also very heartbreaking. And I feel sure that his remarks to-night will not fall upon stony ground.

My Lords, this has been a wonderful debate. If I have not done it full justice in replying, this springs from my own sense of humility in replying to those very knowledgeable and very wonderful people who have spoken from the depths of their own experience. I should like to conclude with one of my own favourite poems. I suppose that everybody has his own favourite author, and William Morris was one of mine. He said many years ago: And the banded choirs of music, And the wonderful fiddler's bow, And the painter's hand of wonder, All those that do and know— All these shall be ours and all men's, Nor shall any man lack a share Of the joys of living, In the days when the world grows fair.

8.7 p.m.


My Lords, this has been a long debate, even if not quite so long as at one time seemed probable, and a most interesting one. It has been, I think, remarkable particularly for the most welcome absence of any injection into it of any sort of Party politics. I think I have never heard a long debate in which there was, speaking broadly, such unanimity of opinion, though there have inevitably been some differences of emphasis, as well as some excellent suggestions that I hope will be followed up.

I do not propose at this hour to attempt any further summing up of what we must all feel has been a valuable debate, nor any detailed comment on the summing up of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips. We have been fortunate enough to have the views of a number of speakers of great distinction, and I should like to thank very warmly all those who have contributed to our discussion. I will mention only the admirable maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, so worthy, if I may say so, of his father, for whom this House and I personally had the highest regard. I should also like to say how particu- larly glad I was to hear the sympathetic and helpful speeches of the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal and the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, speaking for the Government, and of the Chairman of the Arts Council, with hardly a word of whose speech I would disagree. Having said, that, and having expressed once again my admiration for the achievements of the Minister in the difficult task of extracting money for the Arts from the Treasury, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, for reasons which I stated earlier, I do not propose to move my Motion.