HL Deb 26 February 1969 vol 299 cc1063-84

2.45 p.m.

LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD rose to call attention to the Twenty-third Report of the Arts Council of Great Britain and to the Eighth Report of the Estimates Committee of the House of Commons, Session 1967–68, Grants for the Arts; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. And I would remark that it may be opportune that, after the debates of the last two Wednesdays, when we were considering the disruptive forces in the life of our people, we should today be considering the obverse of that coin, the constructive influence of the Arts in our national life.

I am among those who welcome the development of our artistic life in postwar Britain. I see it as one of the major achievements to be set against many disappointments that we have had in other fields. Although the primary gain is not economic, this development nevertheless plays a significant part in presenting an attractive image of our country—"Swinging Britain", as it is called—in attracting here an ever-increasing flow of visitors and benefiting the tourist trade, which is our largest export. But the primary gain is an enrichment of life as it is lived.

A great work of art, whether it is a picture, music or a play, touches a man's inner perception; it touches his heart. We all tend to think of ourselves as rational beings, but even the most rational of us is powerfully, or even compulsively, moved by the magic of imagery which corresponds to our inner psyches. The artist, the composer and the author understand the classical forms which express this magic, whether it be through romance, tragedy or humour, and by the skill of their technique they weave their spells to portray these forms. Thus it is that our senses are caught by the play, or the picture, or the music, and are carried into realms beyond the range of our normal experience. This is well exemplified by the incident of the Roman Catholic Bishop at the girls' school speech day. The girls did a performance of Midsummer Night's Dream, and the Roman Catholic Bishop, when he got up to make his speech, said: "This has indeed been a memorable occasion for me to-day. It is the first time that I have ever seen a female Bottom."

This takes us into serious realms, as well, in understanding the range of human experience. In present times of student unrest, the Arts have a special benefit for youth. They make a specially strong appeal to the brightest young people in the community: and in the interests of education, as well as of channelling their energies to constructive and peaceful activities, it is important that there should be a wide range of artistic activity easily available to the young, and at prices within their range. In my home town of Guildford, the students of our new University of Surrey are innovating next month a Guildford Festival of Arts. This is going to be first rate, both for them and for Guildford.

The second gain of a high level of artistic life is a mark of national prestige. This is probably more influential on world opinion than Whitehall and Westminster usually give it credit for. You have only to see the lengths to which the Russians go in exploiting the Russian Ballet. I would suggest that in assessing how much to spend on the Arts politicians of all Parties would do well to observe the relative importance of artists and politicians in the broad sweep of history. Of the millions who are enchanted by Beethoven's Archduke Trio, how many know who Archduke Rudolph was, or even care? And who would ever have heard of Pope Julius II, great warrior and statesman though he was, if he had not commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of his chapel? Of course our rulers must consider the mundane things of life, but I suggest that it would improve their perspective to recognise that the leading artists and authors of our day will be remembered by succeeding generations long after even the most distinguished of us politicians are completely forgotten. Art is rightly called the "food for the soul of mankind", and as such it has an enduring value.

After this profession of faith in the value of the Arts, it will not surprise your Lordships to hear me express my warm congratulations to the Arts Council on their Report and the excellent progress they have made under the able leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. The ever-growing activities of the Arts Council must make a heavy demand on the time and energy of the distinguished body of men and women who make up that Council, and it could indeed be almost a full-time job for the Chairman. As all of them, including the Chairman, give their services for love, our debt of thanks to them I suggest is doubly great.

During the last four years the Treasury grant has more than doubled, from £3.2 million to £7.2 million. This must be a golden feather in Miss Jennie Lee's much bedecked bonnet. There is of course a considerable element of natural growth in artistic patronage, but this substantial increase of total grant has provided for a big element of new activity as well. It seems that the Arts Council have been remarkably successful in their policy of grant allocation, even over the extended field. They have resolutely followed a policy of non-intervention in the artistic policies of their beneficiaries. In this they have my wholehearted support. Nothing could be more suffocating to the artistic life of the nation than a policy of trying to direct its development from the centre.

I must here declare an interest in the Arts Council patronage as President of the Guildford Theatre, the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, which receives a grant from the Arts Council. Of course, in Guildford we think the grant is not enough, but looked at in the perspective of grants given to other theatres of comparable importance I think it looks not far out. I should like to welcome here the new fund for housing the Arts on a pound-for-pound basis with the local authorities. I have long been an advocate for this for prompting "sticky" local authorities to undertake their responsibilities. In case I give an impression that the increased flow of Arts Council grants has filled everyone's pockets with gold, let me add that the salary levels, at any rate in the Provinces, for theatre and orchestra still continue to run at depressingly low levels.

I should now like to refer for a minute to the Report of the Estimates Committee on Grants for the Arts. I believe it is the first time that the Estimates Committee have made such a Report. It is a very interesting one. In my opinion the most important recommendation they made is that the Treasury should give the Arts Council their grant on a basis of guaranteeing on a three-year rolling forecast their minimum grant for the future. If the Treasury would do this, the Arts Council could then give similar minimum three-year forecasts to their beneficiaries. This I suggest would make very good sense. Theatres, orchestras and museums cannot make the best use of their resources unless they can look ahead and plan ahead with their particular programmes.

Some of the other recommendations of the Estimates Committee I am bound to say I found less attractive. The Report gave me the impression of urging the Arts Council to take a more interventionist line in artistic policy. I have already expressed my support for Lord Goodman's non-interventionist policy. I am sure that the Estimates Committee's advice should be resisted on that point. It would be fatal for the Arts Council to take sides in incidents like the row over the Nottingham theatre or the Leicester theatre. Theatre directors and local boards must be allowed to work out their own relationships in determining the plays to be produced. Tastes in entertainment are widely conflicting and it is truly said that one man's meat is another man's poison. Charles II said about his brother James, whose mistresses were always outstandingly plain: Odd's fish! I do believe 'tis my brother's Confessor who chooses his mistresses for him —by way of penance!". Nor do I agree with the Estimates Committee that there should be more professional men and women on the Arts Council. On the panels there are already strong representations of professional people. I sympathise with their wish to improve the pay and conditions of those working in the world of the Arts, but I think we must find some other way of improving them.

From this brief survey of the work of the Arts Council in fostering the Arts in our national life, I would suggest that two major problems arise for the future. The first is that the ever-growing need for more financial support will push the Arts Council's budget up to a level which the general body of taxpayers will object to. Here we must take account of the natural growth of the needs of all existing Arts Council beneficiaries, as well as the increasing number of other Arts promoting bodies not yet in receipt of aid who will need it. Secondly, Arts Council patronage is already a matter of life or death to many organisations. The number is bound to grow. However enlightened the Arts Council's policies are, this position of near-monopoly patronage is by no means ideal; it would be much better to have a spread of patronage.

I should like to say a word about these two trends and to suggest a solution. This comment of course is limited to the field of the performing Arts, music and theatre. But this takes up nearly three-quarters of the total Arts Council budget. Here there is an endemic dilemma for the performing artist of a growing gap between what the public will pay by way of ticket and what it costs to put the show on. In the United States the position is already worse than it is here. Two professors, Professors Baumol and Bowen, have made an excellent survey of the position. Some of your Lordships may have read their report. Their analysis demonstrates the nature of the problem with admirable clarity. The fact is that in a society of rapid technological growth like ours—and theirs even more so—it is inevitable that employment which depends upon individual personal performance becomes disproportionately expensive compared with employments in industry and commerce which can be increasingly mechanised. For instance, every year the number of man-hours needed to make a motor car becomes fewer; but it would be impossible for Sir Laurence Olivier's productivity to be increased over David Garrick's. These things are fixed. The mass entertainment media of television and cinema inevitably increase the pressure on the economy of the live show. Thus it is that the gap between the cost of putting on a show and its potential earnings tends to grow.

The American scene, where wage and salary levels are generally so much higher than they are here, already shows signs of considerable difficulty, despite the large scale of personal charitable support. Professors Baumol and Bowen forecast that the gap in the United States will double every ten years, and that the growth of personal giving will fall far short of this. The professors conclude that the Federal Government in the United States must step in to supplement personal giving with public funds. In this country the gap is not yet so serious. The commercial London theatre continues to put on a range of the finest theatre in the world —and apparently to pay its way. But the ever-growing costs of production, plus the present high rates of taxation, including selective employment tax, make it increasingly difficult to earn enough profit out of the winners they put on to cover the losses of the losers, which are inevitably the much bigger proportion.

The provincial theatre is already in a parlous state. A number of these theatres are gratefully receiving Arts Council help on a substantial scale. It is the remaining commercial sector of the provincial theatre which is in imminent danger unless substantial help can be given. The Report of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, tells us that he has set up a committee of inquiry into the theatre, the membership of which includes many famous names of those engaged in the world of "show biz". I congratulate him on setting up the committee and getting, as it appears, the right people on it. I hear that this committee has devised a scheme to help the theatre at two of its weakest points: first, financial help for London shows to tour the Provinces for a few weeks before giving their London opening; and, secondly, financial help for the first few weeks of London playing when the danger of a close-down is of course the most acute. The amount of help given to the London opening would be proportionate to the number of weeks of the provincial tour. This would have the double benefit of, on the one hand, helping the commercial London theatre and, on the other hand, by a series of pre-London performances, of helping the Provinces by stimulating the threatregoing habit in some of the weaker provincial centres. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, may be able to tell us when the theatre committee is likely to report and whether a scheme of the kind I have outlined is likely to be viable. In the meantime, may I say to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that at least the Government could make a beginning by removing selective employment tax from the theatre.

On professional orchestras, I think it would be true to say that all require substantial financial help from the Arts Council, and most from local authorities as well. Music, including opera, takes nearly one half of the Arts Council's spending, and about double what is given to the theatre. Covent Garden and Sadler's Wells together require the greater part of this—about £2 million per annum. In my judgment this is inevitable and right—opera is either grand opera or nothing. To-day we can be proud of Covent Garden productions; they compare favourably with any grand opera given in any city of the world. The same applies to the Royal Ballet. My only concern in this connection is for Glyndebourne. I believe Glyndebourne is the only grand opera which is non-State aided anywhere in the world. Because every capital city in the Western World has opera which is heavily subsidised by the State, the fees which are paid to the handful of international singers inevitably soar higher and higher, and of course the difficulties of Glyndebourne, with a relatively fixed income, soar with them!

I would make a case for Glyndebourne. Apart from the wonderful entertainment they give for three or four months every year—and here I must declare an interest in that I am an opera-goer there—Glyndebourne has made a really outstanding contribution to all opera in pioneering improved techniques of production, as well as producing new or forgotten operas. While a grant for the touring company is obviously welcome, a great deal more will be needed if this remarkable institution is to be kept going in the future.

This brief survey of theatre and music is enough to show that in this country we are following the same path as the United States of America. Year by year the gap grows wider between what it costs to put on a show and what the public will pay for it by ticket. The existing Arts Council beneficiaries will need more, and more organisations will need help. My suggestion for meeting this growing need is that Her Majesty's Government should adopt a fiscal policy of encouraging the large-scale development of private patronage. I do riot believe that there is much more to be got out of private enterprise because, heaven knows! they have already been strained to the limit in giving to universities, and many is the occasion when I have myself had to knock on the door. I suggest this for two reasons. First, it would provide the extra finance needed without straining the susceptibilities of the taxpayer, and, second, it would diversify the source of patronage.

The method of achieving the policy which I advocate is a change to something resembling the American personal tax structure, where the individual taxpayer is allowed to give a percentage of his total gross income to charitable objects, whereas in our country the rebate for charity is limited to the standard rate of income tax, which is allowed on covenants in respect of money given for charitable purposes. Here, surtax bears so heavily on larger incomes that giving to charity is inevitably seriously prejudiced. The system works well in the United States and I think it would work well here. As well as helping to close the gap over the field as a whole, it would also probably go a long way, if not the whole way, towards solving the problem of Glyndebourne.

Such ideas have been proposed before in this country, and invariably they have been shot down by the high priests of Somerset House and the Treasury. But it is now 14 years since the Royal Commission last considered these ideas and, in effect, reported against them. I suggest that much has happened in the interval, especially the rapid growth of the need for help for the Arts, and therefore I suggest that the time is now ripe for a fresh look at the problem of financing the Arts in the future, including the desirability of increased personal giving on the lines I have indicated, alongside growing State aid through the Arts Council. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will tell us that Her Majesty's Government will give favourable consideration to this suggestion.

I conclude, my Lords, by thanking the Arts Council for their Report, and for their great service in bringing the delights of the Arts to an ever-growing circle of our people. I beg to move for Papers.

3.13 p.m.


My Lords, I must begin with a brief apology because I have an appointment at 6 o'clock this evening which will mean that I shall almost certainly not be here for the end of this debate. This is a matter of great sorrow to me, but I can assure your Lordships that I shall read in Hansard all the speeches which I am unfortunate enough not to hear.

On a subject as far-reaching as this there is an endless list of possible subjects to talk about, and from the moment I put my name down to speak in this debate I was convinced that the problem for me would be not so much the composition of my speech but the subjects I would choose to talk about. One thing is clear—and I am sure most of your Lordships who speak later will echo the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, and myself: we must all congratulate the Arts Council on the absolutely magnificent work they have been doing and which this Report tells us about in detail.

Apart from that, what other subjects was I to talk about? Eventually I picked on two subjects, using as my only criterion that of urgency. The first subject was one I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, touch upon, and I make no apology for speaking about it at slightly greater length because I believe the situation is a good deal more serious than those of us who live in London realise. It is the question of the future of the large touring theatres in the Provinces. They are under a real threat. It is not a new threat; it has been in existence for some considerable time. But it is growing worse, and it has been made still worse in the past few months by the announcement of two of the larger managements who, between them, are responsible for a large number of these theatres—Wyndham's and Moss Empires—and who have put on record that as far as they are concerned most of those theatres have now become white elephants which are no longer commercially viable, owing to the great scarcity of good quality theatrical productions coming to them from London. As a result they are having to lie empty, or possibly even—the ultimate kiss of death—be turned into bingo halls.

My Lords, what is to be done? In certain cases, in many cases indeed, the local authorities, who are, of course, most directly responsible, have leapt splendidly into the breach. Yesterday the freehold of the Mecca at Cardiff was bought by the Cardiff City Council. There are a great many cases of the same kind which I could mention of theatres which have been taken over, in many cases very profitably, by the local authorities. The very fact that it is a local authority which has taken over the theatre has given the theatre itself a new spirit; the fact that it is no longer directed by an absentee landlord but is a vital, valid part of civic life has given it the shot in the arm it needed and has resulted in a new spirit and a new and welcome appearance in the box office takings.

Many other theatres are not so lucky. Many of them have gone already. Others are at this moment hanging in the balance, and the next two or three months may see them disappear for ever. I make no apology for listing a few of these theatres, first of all because I should not like them to disappear, if they must, without some sign of our sorrow at their going; secondly, because I think it is only by listing them that it is possible to get an idea of just how important and serious the crisis is. The following theatres are at present in imminent danger of disappearing—many of them may be familiar to your Lordships; they are to me. They are: the Alhambra, Glasgow; the Grand, Leeds; the Royal Court, Liverpool; the Manchester Opera House; the King's Theatre, Southsea; the Theatre Royal, Bath. In even more parlous condition are His Majesty's, Aberdeen, the Wolverhampton Grand and the Sheffield Lyceum—this last the only theatre in the city of comparable scale and importance, serving a catchment area of one and a half million people, a theatre now financially on its last legs and one which, so far as I am aware (I am open to correction) has not yet received a single penny from any of the local authorities which might be thought responsible for it.

Obviously it is all a question of money. Equally obviously there is no point in pouring money into white elephants just to preserve these theatres, splendid as their past has been, as echoing, cavernous reminders of former departed glories. The only point in keeping them going is as going, valid, commercial concerns; and this I believe it is possible to do. More important than pouring money into the Arts Council, to be poured in turn into the local authorities, to be poured in turn into the theatres, is to pour it straight away where it is most useful: that is to say, into the companies which could, if they had a little more money, visit those theatres and see that they were used and patronised the way they should be. It used to be an old "chestnut" in the theatre that the difference between a good production and a bad production, a good actor and a bad one, was that the good was a tour de force and the bad was forced to tour. That is no longer the case. It is now only the successful which can afford to tour; those who can tour do not want to, and those who would like to cannot.

I am conscious that I have addressed your Lordships rather longer than I meant to. I should like to say a few words on a totally different subject but one which comes under the general umbrella of what we are discussing to-day. That is the question of public lending right. I must declare an interest; I myself try to make my living by my pen, and if, as a result of public lending rights, I were able to earn what would amount in my case to something less than £100 a year, it would nevertheless be extremely welcome and I should be delighted. But even if I never put pen to paper I should still be convinced that the present situation represents a crying injustice which is long overdue for correction. The proponents of the Arts Council scheme for public lending rights have been able to obtain for that scheme considerable publicity in recent weeks, not all entirely helpful, but in all cases it has at least done the service of making clear, not just to authors and people in the literary world but also to the general reading public at large and in particular those who use the libraries, what a peculiarly unsatisfactory state of things persists at the present time.

After all this publicity there is no need for me to go into detail about it, but if I may briefly refresh your Lordships' memories, it is a plan submitted by the Arts Council, after consultation with the Society of Authors and the Publishers' Association, by which the author of a book would, as of right, receive royalties for the use and lending of his book by the public libraries in the country. It seems to me almost impossible to argue, although some people manage to do so, that this is not a desirable thing and that the authors do not deserve it. Public libraries now lend something in the nature of 500 million volumes a year and have long since become the principal link between authors and their reading public.

At the same time they function, and it is absolutely right and proper that they should, on the principle of serving as many clients as possible with as few copies of the books as possible. And since an author may sell only one copy of a book to a library, may find it read 50 times, brought back and rebound and sent out another 50 times, and he receives only the same royalty as he would receive on one copy sold over the counter at a bookshop, I think he has cause for alarm and dissatisfaction. If authors were a moderately well paid profession this would not be so bad, but only one in six can expect to earn more than £1,000 a year from his work—in many cases a great deal less than that; sometimes 30s. a week. Is it fair that authors as a class should be forced to subsidise the admirable public library system to a far greater degree than that of any other sector of the population?

The present Arts Council scheme is based, I think rightly, not on the number of lendings but on the number of books possessed by the public libraries. This means that to some degree it puts a premium on the quality and inherent value of the book as well as on its popularity. It does not affect the sacrosanct principle, which I heartily endorse, of free availability of any book to anyone in this country. The money would come straight from the Treasury, possibly through the Arts Council; it would be public money. It would amount as at present suggested to something roughly in the order of £2 million a year. At last the authors would get a fair deal. I know the scheme is not universally popular in particular with the Librarians' Association, who were invited to the original talks at the Arts Council but declined to participate for reasons which I have never been entirely able to understand. But if we were to wait for unanimity before passing any legislation in this country, we should not have many laws to-day. The proposed system may not he perfect, but it is a lot more perfect than any other system which has yet been put forward. I implore the Government, therefore, to see that a public lending right enactment gets on to the Statute Book in the shortest possible time.

3.21 p.m.


My Lords, I will not seek to follow in too close detail the two noble Lords who have spoken already. Let me confine myself to acknowledging the invocation to art of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, and his approval of the Arts Council and his friendly compliments to its Chairman. Let me say to him and to the House that the Glyndebourne matter is something which must and will be looked at, and principally, I have no doubt, by the Arts Council. I was glad that it was raised and sorry to know of the trouble that Glyndebourne is in, because I think the first political decision I ever took in my life, when I was an extremely young clerk in the Foreign Office, 23 years ago, on a Saturday afternoon, in the absence of all my superiors, was to admit the late Karl Ebert into this country again to begin to build up Glyndebourne. I was very alarmed at doing it on my own initiative, and very glad that it turned out so well.

The noble Viscount has spoken about the fate of the large commercial theatres in the Provinces. This is indeed a very difficult problem, and a large-scale problem, that remains to be faced, and it is one in which the Government may not be able to do very much. What the Government do they will do on the advice of the Arts Council. It is possible for the Government to give loan sanction to those local authorities who are willing to buy a theatre of this type—although we cannot force a local authority to do it—and applications to this end are, as they say, favourably considered.

The period of nearly two years since this House had a debate on the Arts has been one of steady progress. The general economic situation has inevitably slowed down the rate of growth of the Arts Vote, but most people would certainly agree that the Arts have not done badly, in spite of that. In 1968–69, the Arts Council's grant went up by nearly 8 per cent.—from £7.2 million to £7.75 million—and it will go up a further 6 per cent. in the next year, to £8.2 million. That is the Arts Council itself. But if we also include, as I hope the House will allow me to do, although they are not in the Motion, the national museums and galleries, and the British Film Institute, as well as the Arts Council, but exclude education and training for the Arts, then we find that in 1968–69 central Government expenditure on the Arts was £18.9 million. That is just double what it had been in 1963–64, the last complete year of the previous Administration.

Let us look first at new places. The Octagon Theatre at Bolton was opened in 1967. The Everyman Theatre at Chester was opened last year, and two new theatres will open later this year—the Thorndike Theatre at Leatherhead and the Hippodrome at Greenwich. At least two other theatres were built in universities without the need for a grant from the Arts Council—the Northcott Theatre at Exeter and the University College Theatre in London.

Turning to music, the Maltings Hall, at Snape, part of the Aldeburgh Festival—which in my view is possibly the most beautiful concert hall in the world—was opened last year, and a new concert hall at Chatham was similarly opened. The Hayward Gallery in London has been built by the Greater London Council. The Scottish Arts Council has opened a gallery in Glasgow and will open another one in Edinburgh later this year. The first purpose-built urban arts centre was built at Basildon and opened last September, and my right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Arts opened two days ago a new arts centre at Morley College, in London.

Other facts and figures convey perhaps more clearly how much has been and is being achieved. Grants out of the Housing the Arts Fund, from which the Arts Council gives help with the cost of buildings for the Arts, have reached £1 million since the Fund was set up in the 1965–66 financial year. In that time help has been given, or promised, to no fewer than 98 projects. Twenty-five regional film theatres have been established since 1966. The twelve-year building programme for the national museums and galleries, which started in 1964–65, has been raised from its original limit of £5¼ million to £9 million.

This enlarged building programme includes major extensions to the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery—which has been much in the news recently. It includes a new museum building to be erected next to the Royal Scottish Museum in Chambers Street, Edinburgh, which will accommodate the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland and provide extra space for the Royal Scottish Museum; and a number of projects costing about £1¼ million at the British Museum, in addition to three costing over half a million pounds which were completed there in 1967.

The Government very much hope that the national museums will get on with Sunday morning opening. It is obviously desirable that families, students and visitors from abroad should be able to go to museums, especially at a time when nothing else is open; namely, on Sunday mornings. There was an experiment on these lines at the Victoria and Albert Museum during the last year. In the first nine months of that experiment the number of visitors increased—for that reason, so far as one can see—by nearly 23 per cent. over the same period a year earlier. The total number of visitors to the national museums is often not appreciated. In 1968, for the first time, that number exceeded 10 million, and the Science Museum, with over 2 million visitors, became the most popular museum in Europe. However, I think it is only fair to say that this may be partly due to the fact that the Louvre, which used to head the league table, had to close during several weekends because of events of recent memory in Paris.

My Lords, I now come back to the Arts Council. In the past year, the way in which the Council operates and its relationships with other bodies have been thoroughly and. I would say, sympathetically examined by a sub-committee of the Estimates Committee. Their Report, entitled, Grants for the Arts, contains a number of useful recommendations, Of the two recommendations addressed to the Department of Education and Science, much the more important is that, in order to make forward planning easier, as the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, reminded the House, the grant-in-aid should be placed on what they called a "rolling triennial footing"—which sounds like some ancient clog dance. What it means, of course, is simply a programme whereby it is possible to tell from one year to the next for three years what is going to happen. The Department of Education and Science will shortly be presenting its own and the Arts Council's observations on this and the other recommendations to Parliament in the form of a White Paper. The value of forward planning in this field, the three-year rolling programme, is obvious, and my right honourable friend is pursuing the matter in the light of the Estimate Committee's Report. I will leave it to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, to say anything that needs to be said about the recommendations addressed to the Arts Council.

I think, however, it is clear that, generally speaking, the Estimates Committee have given the Arts Council—and the Department of Education and Science—a clean bill of health. The system of having assessors from the D.E.S. and the S.E.D. on the Council leads, in their words, to "a high standard of co-operation without interference". The Committee conclude by saying that the healthy state of the Arts in Britain is largely due to the patient work of the Arts Council over the past 20 years or so". It would be hard indeed to dissent from that conclusion. The Committee said, in a striking phrase: The potential vitality, which is only just beginning to show itself, which exists in the regions is in your Committee's view the most significant factor on the artistic scene. I want to touch for a moment (because I am sure other noble Lords will touch on it later if I do not; and in any case we ought to touch on it) on the Annual Report of the Northern Arts Association, which started a fairly lively debate on the question "Should the Arts Council distribute their funds to the different regions of England and Wales and Scotland in proportion to the population of each area?" The document said that with nearly 6 per cent. of the population the Northern Region had been getting only 3 per cent. of Arts Council expenditure. It made a most unfavourable comparison with grants to Wales and Scotland. The conclusions drawn were that the inhabitants of the North are treated as second-class citizens and, instead of receiving the preferential treatment which the North needs and deserves, its taxpayers are subsidising London. Moreover, the Arts Council gives priority to existing or established projects and new ones get short shrift. Let us examine the question of expenditure on a per capita basis. It is not a sufficient way to look at it, for reasons I shall give; but nevertheless let us do so. The Arts Council recently made an analysis which showed that in 1967–68 its expenditure worked out at 1s. 3d. per head in Yorkshire and Humberside, 1s. 5d. per head in Wales, 1s. 6d. per head in the Northern Region, 1s. 7d. per head in Scotland and 1s. 9d. per head in the North-West and the South-East. So even on this league table the Northern Region is not doing too badly, and the figures are quite closely bunched, ranging from 1s. 3d. to 1s. 9d. These figures take no account of the expenditure on the national companies—the House will know which they are—except for their touring expenditure, which it is right to slice up on a regional basis.

There are two reasons for thinking that this is not a sufficient way to look at the matter. First, a very great part of the Arts Council expenditure goes on our great national institutions, which are a must. If they close down, there is no standard against which regional enterprise can measure itself. They are the necessary core of artistic excellence in theatre, opera and music; and it goes without saying that expenditure on them must not be chalked up to the score of London, Edinburgh or Cardiff where they happen to be based. They are everyone's property and everyone's pleasure, and the bill for them is daunting but necessary.

If a theatre or orchestra is successful, it does not mean that it can be self-supporting. In 1720 Vanbrugh estimated that the Royal Academy of Music subsidy fund stood at £20,000, a sum sufficient, he thought, to maintain opera: till Musick takes such Root, as to subsist with less aid". Instead of less support, it has constantly needed more. Costs of production in the British theatre in 1964 were 13.6 times what they had been in 1775, but ticket prices had increased only 5.4 times over that period. In future the gap between the income and the costs of artistic enterprises will, in the view of economists and in the view of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, with which I am forced to agree, widen in all countries. In the Arts there is, unfortunately, little scope for increased productivity. I say this in spite of the legendary report of a work study expert, after hearing an orchestra play, which began: For considerable periods the oboeists had nothing to do. The number should be reduced and the work spread more evenly over the whole of the concert, thus eliminating peaks of activity. I am reminded of my first orchestral experience, which was on an instrument that did not have very much to do. The first feeling of orchestral activity which I ever experienced was the sensation that one spent half the time counting "172, 3, 3, 4; 173, 2, 3, 4", counting the silent bars. We used to ask each other whether there was time to nip out and have a drink. The question was whether one had a good enough mental metronome to be sure one got back in time to count "296, 2, 3, 4", before coming in on the final chord of C-Sharp. There is no scope for saving there.

To return to my main argument, to suggest that the Arts Council should allocate its funds on a population basis betrays, in my opinion, a certain misunderstanding of how a successful artistic venture comes into being. One guaranteed recipe for disaster is for somebody from outside to say to a town, "You ought to have a theatre. Here is some money to pay for it." Most of us know of white elephants which come about in that way. Another recipe for disaster is for a region where there is not naturally much artistic activity to be given money for more projects than there is room for. The Arts Council must support what comes naturally to birth: it cannot itself propagate projects.

The noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, mentioned the matter of public lending right which no doubt will figure large in to-day's debate. This whole debate is taking place against a background of expansion in what is called the reading habit: more people read more books. In the last ten years public library issues have increased by 40 per cent., from 396 million to 550 million. As for domestic sales by British publishers—that is, sales in this country—it is hard to be sure in terms of numbers of volumes how they have increased, but it is surely by not less than 40 per cent. in the same period. So there is an increase of about 40 per cent. both ways, through the bookshops and through the libraries.

Turning to the recent discussion, I propose to ignore the heat with which the discussion opened and is being carried on in certain quarters. The House will not expect me to praise or defend the record of my right honourable friend Miss Jennie Lee, not only because Ministers do not usually spend much time praising each other—it is taken for granted—but because if anybody needs no praise or defence in executing her own responsibilities, it is that Minister. They, the writers (let me say "we", since it is impossible to divest oneself of all feelings of brotherly solidarity with former practitioners of the same trade; so I must declare my own interest), have been long concerned at the different returns on one copy of a book which may be read by three people and another book which may be read by 100 people.

Two types of scheme are thinkable to overcome the difficulty. There is the type of scheme proposed by the Arts Council, which is modelled largely on the Danish arid Swedish precedent, and there is the type of scheme known as "Brophy's penny"—that is to say, payment at the public library. Both have difficulties. The first, the Arts Council scheme, has incurred the objection of the librarians and of the local authority associations. This may be due partly to the absence of those bodies from the Arts Council working party which drew up the suggested scheme. The working party invited the librarians to come in on it. The librarians said, "No; our association is only a professional one. We will not come unless you also invite the local authority associations. They are our employers and the people who lay down the policy in large matters of this sort". The working party decided that they did not want to ask the local authority associations, so that the scheme was drawn up without either them or the librarians being in upon it. Another difficulty is that the scheme allows some of the proceeds to go to publishers, an arrangement which is open to criticism in some quarters because the publishers are in control of their own pricing policy. The last and greatest objection is that it would cost about £2 million a year. Those who say that this is "chicken feed" are showing some detachment from reality.

The second type of scheme, the idea of "Brophy's penny", so called after the late John Brophy, a novelist who first popularised it, would operate so that every time a book was borrowed the borrower would throw a penny into a bin at the door, and at the end of the year the librarians would count up the number of times a given book had been issued and give that number of pennies to the publisher of that book. This scheme runs into the great difficulty that it infringes the time-honoured principle of the free library service. Another difficulty is that it might lead to a need for extra staff in public libraries—not so much in collecting the money at the exit to the library, but in apportioning the money to be paid out at the end of the year. Even if it were done on a sample basis, it could still involve extra staff-time. It also raises the difficulty that some people, such as old age pensioners, children, and possibly students, really need free reading. It might be possible to have two sorts of library tickets, one where you paid your penny, and the other where you did not because you fell into one of the classes that I have mentioned.

The Danish and Swedish schemes which are in operation, and which rest on a State subsidy, are not a full precedent for what we ought to do, because Danish and Swedish books have a small sale compared with ours, owing to the small number of people in those countries. There is also a special need to protect the Danish and Swedish languages which might otherwise give way to the rising tide of English. We have no such difficulties in this country. British authors are much better off. I think it is now time for no further recrimination on this matter, and time for renewed attempts by all parties concerned—the Government, the Arts Council, the authors, the librarians and the local authority associations—to get round the apparent obstacles to both possible types of scheme which have so far been thought of, these obstacles being perfectly plain for all to see.

There is much more that one might say, but I shall not say it because I have no doubt other noble Lords will say it just as well as I can. I look forward to an interesting debate during the rest of the afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, made a pretty wide proposal when he said that we ought to consider, and possibly adopt, the American tax régime as regards payments to charitable purposes. We should have to remember that this would apply not only to the Arts; it would apply to charitable purposes of all sorts and would consequently involve a wide change in our tax structure. I think I can say for the Government that we rest for the moment on an extremely proud record of expenditure on the Arts. It has been very much increased and I believe it is very well done. We have to remember, in going forward, that we cannot cut expenditure on the "big boys"—that is a must—and it will be increasingly difficult to find enough to irrigate, flexibly and impartially, the multiplicity of small initiatives in the Arts which crop up clamouring for money all over the shop, and which have a very good right to it.