HL Deb 26 February 1969 vol 299 cc1095-194

4.11 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, we are all most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, for the way in which he introduced this afternoon's debate, and not least for the warm tribute he paid in his opening words to the place of Arts in human life. It is that appeal I would pursue in a brief contribution to this afternoon's debate. The Russian writer, Nicholas Berdyaev, in his book, The Fate of Man in the Modern World, speaks of the de-humanising influence of the machine. It is unnecessary to defend this thesis. We are all becoming increasingly aware that in the technological and industrial society of to-day it has become all too easy for the human person to become depersonalised, or perhaps it would be truer to say that man, in so far as he is forced to become a cog in a machine, is unable to achieve full human dignity, is unable to fulfil his human personality and develop it to the full.

It is to John Bunyan that we owe the picture of the man with the muckrake: a man that could look no way but downwards with a muckrake in his hand. There stood also one over his head with a celestial crown in his hand and proferred to give him that crown for his muckrake; but the man did neither lock up nor regard but raked to himself the straws, the small sticks, and the dust of the floor. May we not see in that word picture a parable of man's predicament to-day? Largely through no fault of his own, man has become so absorbed and pre-occupied with the word of science and technology in which his life is set that he fails to be aware of another world, a world of entirely different dimensions, a world to which the Arts can open the windows of a man's being. It is a world in which the dominating factor is not the machine but spiritual values, beauty, goodness and truth.

If I may make a brief reference to my personal experience, I should like to say how deeply I am indebted to the Arts for opening the windows of my soul to this other world, this world of the spirit. In my full and demanding life—I am sure many noble Lords find the same experience—I experience a sense of liberation and spiritual renewal when, for example, I find time to sit in the countryside or by the sea and try to express the beauty I see around me in a water-colour sketch, or when, in the midst of a busy day in London, I slip into an art exhibition, as I did recently when I visited the Hayward Gallery to see the Van Gogh paintings. I gain similar refreshment from watching ballet or listening to a Beethoven symphony.

As for poetry, I do not think I can do better than recall for your Lordships the poem of Keats, On First Looking inter Chapman's Homer: Oft of one wide expanse had I been told That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne; Yet did I never breathe its pure serene Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold: Then felt I like some watcher of the skies When a new planet swims into his ken; Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes He stared at the Pacific—and all his men Look'd at each other with a wild surmise— Silent, upon a peak in Darien. Poetry can open our eyes to new worlds. In a tribute to the late Mr. Joseph Compton, a member of the Arts Council and first chairman of their poetry panel, it is stated in the Arts Council Report that: he believed that reading poetry ought to be part of everyone's life. How right he was! Poetry and drama, like music and painting, by introducing men and women to the intangible but very real world of the spirit, can help man to discover the wholeness of truth and his own dignity as a person.

Now, the Arts Council of Great Britain, whose 23rd Annual Report is before us to-day, are rendering an immense service to our national culture by making the world of the Arts accessible not just to the few but to the maximum number of our country's citizens. In the words of the Chairman of the Arts Council: We are not a luxury; we do not cater for a small élite out of the pockets of a protesting multitude; we supply a commodity which a great many people require and which can make a better life for a great many more, once their interest and appetite have been awakened. And to quote further from the Report: It is no longer a question of handing out high-class culture which is unfamiliar to the masses, but of enabling everyone, men and women alike, whatever their social origin or economic condition, to develop their personality to the full and to participate fully in cultural activities in accordance with their tastes and their needs. I have read this Report of the Arts Council with great interest and much encouragement. Although, to quote the Report, Culture does not yet occupy in the life of the nation the front-ranking place which it deserves in the light of modern conditions of life and scientific and technological development, the Arts Council are doing their utmost to rectify this situation, with the generous help of Her Majesty's Government. I have noted with pleasure the very considerable increase, to which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, referred, of grant aid both to the Arts Council and to other spheres for the encouragement of the Arts. I can think of no more valuable service that Her Majesty's Government can render at this particular moment in our nation's history than to give the utmost encouragement to the Arts Council and the most generous financial help possible, so that the Council may be able to expand their work, until the time comes when no one in any part of the country is deprived of the opportunity of developing his personality to the full through appreciation of the Arts.

4.18 p.m.


My Lords, it is some measure of the awe with which I approach the ordeal of my first speech in your Lordships' House that it has taken me ten years to pluck up the courage and to find any subject on which I felt justified in taking up your Lordships' time. I do so now on the strength of some years' association with one of this country's international Arts Festivals, which takes place every June in Bath.

The Arts Council, in their really excellent Report, rightly stress the need of raising the density of cultural activities in the regions up to the level already enjoyed by London. They underline this by saying: In a closely populated country, it is an absurdity that every major artistic institution should be crowded into the Metropolis. They report that they are actively trying to correct that situation by spending rather more than half their funds in the regions, and it is in this context that I want this afternoon to call attention to the contribution made by festivals to the cultural life of the regions. if we are to derive the maximum benefit from the successes these festivals have achieved in the last twenty years, it is important to consider their future in a changing world, to which several allusions have already been made this afternoon.

I think the Arts Council do themselves less than justice, and perhaps hide the light of their support to Arts festivals rather under a bushel in their Report, since a number of the grants to festivals have been included under concert activities. I have extracted these figures, and I reckon that the total sum given in 1967–68 in support of United Kingdom festivals, mainly music festivals, amounts to £120,000. Of this sum, £51,000 applies to all the English festivals, while a roughly equivalent amount goes to support the great International Festival at Edinburgh.

It is, indeed, as well that the Arts Council have been able to give this general support in the face of the wave of Government-imposed austerity, which has hit local authorities. Few of them have ever been able to get anywhere near supporting the Arts to the extent of allocating the product of a 6d. rate, as has been suggested by the Minister. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has pointed out that this 6d. rate provision sometimes covers all entertainments, including parks. In the one example that I know of, at Bath, the Festival receives the product of a little more than a farthing rate; and this is about the average, I understand, for local authority support of the Arts in England. Against this, they in fact give a 4d. rate towards the support of parks and gardens, though in their case I do not think they include this under the category of entertainment. Edinburgh gives its Festival, we see in the Report to the Estimates Committee, the product of a 1d. rate, and gives an equal amount for theatre and opera, which is comparatively generous, even by Scottish standards, where they are apparently more receptive to pleas for what their own poet, Robbie Burns, called "needful cash".

We must, therefore, be all the more thankful that the Arts have such doughty champions in Miss Lee and the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, who have extracted an 8 per cent. increase in the Arts Council overall grant, and have seen to it that the Chancellor's axe has not been allowed to get anywhere near the roots of their flourishing sapling whose sheltering branches are beginning to spread out over the Provinces. To borrow an expression which I recently read, we may perhaps say that the Government are at least genuflecting towards generosity, so far as the Arts are concerned.

The financial needs of these festivals are very great, and I fear, as has been said already this afternoon, they are getting greater at an alarming rate. The Estimates Committee, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has said about productivity studies done by work study engineers, rightly regarded it as axiomatic that there is scant opportunity in the Arts to meet rising costs by increased productivity. There is one way that I shall mention in a moment in which I think this may not be entirely true. Nor are artistic productions of any kind very amenable to the most stringent cost control if standards are to he maintained. This is not to say that the more responsible producers do not recognise the need for a sense of financial responsibility, as at least one producer said in his evidence to the Estimates Committee. But it has to be remembered that a slow death by the starvation of boredom, as opposed to going out in a sudden blaze of glory in support of what the Estimates Committee call "disaster or bankruptcy" is a fairly unattractive choice, and we hope that the situation is not normally so stark. But we are frequently faced with drawing a very fine line between two extremely difficult choices.

The Estimates Committee received evidence which clearly showed that festival promoters share a common experience with many orchestras and theatres in finding that ticket receipts meet only roughly half their costs: the proportion appears to vary between about 40 and 60 per cent., and I think our experience of 50 per cent. is a reasonably typical one. This means that every pound taken through the box office has to be met by a pound from outside sources of one kind or another. I do not think the answer can lie in increasing prices, though this is a trend that I think the public is increasingly coming to accept. The danger in this is not only in diminishing returns as prices are raised but also that such a policy inevitably excludes precisely the audiences whom we are most anxious to reach.

I notice with surprise a statement in the Report that in Manchester they regard a 25s. seat for a concert as very expensive. We have recently worked out that the economic pricing for a concert in the West Country—I admit that it was a large-scale, top-class performance in a cathedral—would have required top-price seats of no less than three guineas. I do not think that that particular concert is going to take place.

After the grant from the Arts Council and the local authorities, the third source of funds to bridge the gap between cost and ticket receipts is donations from companies and individuals; and here, as the Estimates Committee point out, overall figures are lacking. The Edinburgh pattern apparently differs from the Bath pattern, where over the years donations substantially exceeded grants from local authorities—thought this situation may be changing, as local authorities (including, I am glad to say, county councils, as opposed to local and city councils) seem to be becoming more sympathetic to suggestions that they might contribute.

This experience makes me feel that the figure of £2½ million tentatively put forward by Sir William Emrys Williams for non-Government support for the Arts may be on the low side. I think this is particularly true if one accepts his contention that more money comes from this source than from local authorities, and if one also accepts the claim of £2¾ million from local authorities put forward by the Institute of Municipal Entertainers. Perhaps more light might be shed on this picture if the Arts Council would consider collecting figures for local authority and outside support in the case of the bodies with which they are already concerned. I feel that this should be a comparatively simple matter, since the accounts are normally rendered to the Arts Council. This overall figure could be checked against that for total overall expenditure by the local authorities, and I think it would be an interesting addition to the information that we have on this subject.

On the credit side, there is one hopeful trend. It is the way in which finance for the Arts has been forthcoming on an increasing scale from the independent television companies. Over the years, they have already given something like £1½ million; and I understand that the I.T.A. are encouraging—I might almost say cajoling—the companies to raise their contribution to a level which I believe they hope will get close to £500,000 a year. One can but wish the I.T.A. every success in this laudable aim, at a time when the television companies profit making bonanza is over, at least for the time being.

The existence of the building fund shows recognition on the part of the Government and the Arts Council of one way of attacking this problem—and here one can conceivably get a slight increase of productivity. In the performing Arts, the economies of large-scale performances can be dramatically improved by playing to larger audiences. I believe these larger audiences are now becoming more and more available. So this often boils down to the availability of a suitable building with adequate seating capacity. This has certainly been our experience in at least one city. I understand that the outstandingly successful conversion of the Old Maltings, at Snape, to which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, referred, with the superb accoustics of that hall, has had an immediate and beneficial effect on the economics of the Aldeburgh Festival. So it was to me very encouraging to find that the Arts Council have, according to their Report, provided £300,000 for expenditure on buildings. I am sure that this money is well spent for the benefit it promises in future years. Many of us will know of examples where the existence of the right kind of building has in itself generated the desire to see it properly used.

In view of all the financial problems facing arts festivals it may well be asked what useful purpose they serve. I believe that the answers are worth re-stating. Many of these arguments are a general plea that the forces of rampant commercialism should not be allowed to hold the field unchallenged. Arts festivals contribute to improving the quality of life by benefiting three distinct groups. There is the benefit to the artist and Art itself, to the public, and to those concerned with running the organisation, many of whom are the interested volunteers mentioned in this Report.

It is not generally realised, I think, how lonely is the life of a performing artist and how isolated he is liable to become from his fellows. The massive concentrated doses of culture which festivals can provide furnish an opportunity for meetings to exchange views between the different disciplines which are liable to become isolated. At the same time, those concerned have a chance to explore new ideas and to perform new works. I think it will be found that an increasing number of new performances are now given at festivals. It is also possible to give performances of rarely performed works which have special production difficulties. In this way we feel we are adding to the cultural heritage that this generation can leave behind it to lighten the impact of what the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has so aptly called the "invisible Philistine hand"; though I am happy to say that he was referring to a place overseas at the time when he used that expression.

I think there is also an immediate dividend from the educational process in the very broadest sense. We must first set standards by offering performances of the highest international quality. I may add that our experience has been that this sometimes creates some difficulties with the more parochially minded local groups. Then we must open wider horizons for an enlarging public who will have a chance to add a new dimension to their lives by seeking constructive use for their leisure; and it has often been pointed out in this House that this is fast becoming a real cause for concern.

At the same time, like the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, I believe that many will find a means of self-expression and selfdiscovery—an outlet for the pent-up frustrations which manifest themselves in so many ways in this regimented world. One does not have to be an executive or creative artist to enjoy this benefit. I believe that informed appreciation is of itself a form of self-expression. I hope I am not being too fanciful if I go even so far as to suggest that the fact of somebody having been moved by an artistic performance may eventually prevent an old lady from being knocked on the head or a university from being ransacked. I think that somewhere in this idea lies a hopeful message: if only we can find a means of directing and exploiting the potential inherent particularly in the younger people, then there is a possibility of a great force for good in the community. I found a quotation, which I felt might be expected of a maiden speaker, in Matthew Arnold, who said: the great aim of culture is setting ourselves to ascertain what culture is and to make it prevail". I must apologise if I have allowed myself to be carried on to a rather esoteric and philosophical plane, but I believe it is an area in which the Arts in general, and arts festivals in particular, have a real contribution to make.

On a more practical, down-to-earth level a great benefit is derived by the administrators and the volunteers: those who give their services in mounting events like festivals, many of whom are the young people. They have the satisfaction of offering community service in an excellent cause, and it is surprising the amount of effort which a large number of people are prepared to devote to the hard work of running undertakings of this kind. These willing workers create an inner community of like-minded spirits in the process. All of them benefit from the personal contact which they have with the great personalities who come down to perform. For all the necessary care, and indeed meanness, with which expenditure on administration has to be regarded by Festivals like Edinburgh, York, Bath and Aldeburgh, they give performances of international repute which are run to a full professional standard. Thus they surely provide a fertile seed-bed for training and giving experience to the administrative talent for whom the Arts Council so readily identify a need in their Report. Furthermore, these festivals provide an ideal administrative nucleus around which can be set up the regional Arts centres so dear to the heart of the Minister. This is surely a logical development which we hope will continue in future.

I should like to add one word of caution in this connection. I refer to the importance of giving the greatest possible care to defining the catchment area which these organisations are designed to serve. Unfortunately, most worthwhile artistic enterprises have one thing in common. Like Oliver Twist, they are inclined to ask for more. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, very kindly called this the process of natural growth.

I think there are two ways in which the Government can help. I have already referred to the need for investment in appropriate buildings for housing the Arts, which in themselves can represent an exciting, creative adventure; but their real value comes in the practical and financial benefits on projects which can help the performing Arts in the future. Secondly, I should like to underline Lord Nugent's suggestion that we should find a means of giving fiscal encouragement to the individuals who are private benefactors, for I see a real danger that the increasing scale—we hope it will be an increasing scale—of Arts Council support may provide an excuse for a general drying up of outside donations.

A recent letter to The Times (I think it was) called attention to the impact of capital gains tax on charitable gifts. I am sure that this was not intended when the Act came in, and I feel it should be made reclaimable. Also, could not another look be given to the possibility of making surtax on covenants similarly reclaimable? I would go on, as has been suggested, to free charitable bequests from death duties, as our American friends do. If the Treasury fear that this is going to be opening a loophole for tax evasions, then maybe the Arts Council's stamp of approval could be used as a prerequisite when reclaiming the tax. I would not claim to be an expert in these matters at all, but if that is the danger I can see a ready-made way of plugging the loophole. I am quite sure that contributions would be very much easier to raise if it were possible to point out that every pound given was multiplied by ten in the hands of the recipient. This would be the most effective way in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer could channel more funds into the Arts. It would be a real help to activities which are of benefit to the life of the whole nation and, I feel, would put new heart into the many enthusiasts who give so much of their time to running them.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, it is with very much more than conventional or formal pleasure that I congratulate the last speaker on what must be a most remarkable maiden effort. The care and thought that went into it was, I am sure. evident to all of your Lordships. I have the particular pleasure of his friendship, and if I had no other function to perform this afternoon I would have come with great enthusiasm for the pleasure of hearing his speech and testifying to my belief in its excellence. I think he has been very unkind to this House in having deferred his maiden speech for ten years, and I am sure your Lordships will all share my hope that we shall hear him again much sooner, if not on this subject then on another of the many varied subjects of which I know him to be the master.

If I may say so, I have had evidence of the extraordinarily valuable and careful work that he has done in fostering the Bath Festival, which would probably not have survived to-day—and I hope he will forgive me for saying this—but for the enormous energy, the extraordinary energy and enthusiasm, that he and his wife also have thrown into the work in the West of England. That is the reason why the Bath Festival exists to-day and has this year such a memorable programme. Many of us are looking forward to the pleasure of hearing its items. Again, I voice my congratulations on his maiden speech.

Having said that, may I say what a pleasure it is to find us engaged in this most interesting debate, and how grateful I am personally to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, for having introduced the subject. Obviously I cannot be anything but grateful for the terms in which he introduced it. He was far too flattering to me and I think far too kind to the Arts Council They may take exception to that remark, but I am not sure that they are quite as good as all that. We do our best, but I should like to hear a few words of criticism from time to time from some quarters, because I think it would keep us up to the mark.

I should like to come back to what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, said, but before dealing with his speech may I say a word about what I thought was the remarkable speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester. He touched on the meat of the whole matter. We are going to discuss in some detail what to-day I think is called the "nuts and bolts" of the matter. We shall be discussing the size of the grants, how they come, where they are to be given and why regions should have more or less; but the right reverend Prelate pointed out to us what we are really concerned about, which is, I believe, the profound belief of all of us who are engaged in this matter and think it worth while, that we are opening up to multitudes of people the opportunity of a better and a fuller life. If we did not believe in that we should not be engaged in this work at all.

It is because we do believe in that that I think we are as valuably employed in this debate in this House to-day as we could be in debating any of the vital issues that at this moment affect the world in many quarters and are of so turbulent a character. Many people might say that there are issues affecting peace and war, affecting starvation, affecting the very survival of mankind that transcend in importance the issues that we are discussing here this afternoon. I do not believe it. I think that if we can once infect mankind with the true spirit of the debate that we are concerned about this afternoon, many of the other issues will find their own solution. Having said that, may I come back to the "nuts and bolts", because, after all, it is through the "nuts and bolts" that we shall achieve the higher results that we are seeking.

The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, made two points with which I was in profound agreement. One was the great importance of enlisting the aid of the young and of influencing the young in this matter. It is becoming rather monotonous to refer to "the young". In a sense I think it is almost patronising to the young and I believe they are getting rather "fed up" with it, but my own belief is that this is an area, more important, perhaps, than any other, where it is necessary to provide them with facilities according to their own choice but to let them make their own judgments as to what they do or do not want. That is one of the reasons why at the Arts Council we have recently set up a committee to consider various new developments in the Arts—some of them rather unexpected, some of them rather startling, some of them associated with movements that some of us would neither approve nor view with great enthusiasm, but we believe they are of special interest and importance at this moment because they touch chords in young people which somehow we do not seem able to touch by any other means. It is of the greatest importance that we should not expect them to adopt standards which are our standards, that we should not impose notions which are our notions, but that we should make available in the most full and free manner possible the facilities that are required by young people so that they may enjoy artistic amenities according to their own notions and requirements and not according to ours.

This is, of course, a large subject. I do not intend to spend any length of time on it because in due course the committee of which Sir Edward Boyle is the chairman will be reporting to the Arts Council on the matter and recommending to us what we ought to do about it. I am sure we shall have a wise and, I think, a valuable report from that committee, and I hope that in due course we may notify the public at large and your Lordships' House what recommendations we have on the subject. But certain I am that one cannot over-emphasise the importance of our work for the young at this moment of time.

The other remark which the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, made, and rightly made, was on the importance of the artist in relation to any other section of the community. I do not think that in a civilised society this needs saying. He rather unkindly made disparaging comparisons between the artist and the politician. I think the most disparaging comparisons can be made between the artist and any other section of the community. The artist is of course the most important man in any civilised society. He is the man who counts for most and who brings the greatest pleasure, to whom we owe the greatest debt of gratitude. But what we have to realise—and I think I said this the last time we had a debate —is that no amount of money, no amount of cosseting, no amount of legislation on our part is going to produce art, good or bad. Artists are not produced by our exertions. Artists can be encouraged by our exertions, and the point that I think needs to be made, and needs to be made constantly, is that while we shall not produce artists by making money available, while we shall not produce artists by making living conditions better for them, we owe it to artists and we owe it to ourselves, as a civilised community, to see that the working conditions of artists are tolerable and that they do not live in penury and in circumstances of difficulty.

Hence I am quite unrepentant at coming back to this question of what is called the "public lending right". The point was raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, and I am sure it will be raised by other speakers. If I may say so, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, dealt with it with masterly diplomacy, but I do not believe that it presents any of the difficulties that he raised. It seems to me that there is an arguable case in relation to it. Here is the simple case of one man misusing another man's intellectual property. When you have a book you buy that book for your own use. No canon of natural justice should entitle you to let it out to 150 different people and make no payment of any kind to the man who had originally written the book. I should require a lot of persuading that this was a right and a just thing to do and that in a civilised society we cannot find a means of rectifying that simple injustice.

We could rectify it by means of a very small amendment to our copyright law. That would leave the position in which nobody would be entitled to do this, and the libraries would have to put the position right by making their own terms with the owners of the books as the situation arose. There are a dozen ways in which the position could be rectified. The Arts Council have produced a scheme. I think it is quite a good scheme. It has its anomalies, it has its difficulties, it has its obvious injustices; but I have said on several occasions, and I say again, that it cannot he a reason for refusing to alter a situation of total injustice that one cannot effect total justice. I am sure it must be right to find some means of putting this scheme into operation.

There is one misconception that I think gives rise to a lot of the trouble, and that is the notion of the sanctity of the free library. I should be the last person to suggest that that notion should in any sense he compromised, but I think there is a misconception. A "free library" means a library which is free to the subscriber; it does not mean a library which is free of cost to the community. To use a library necessarily involves costs on a number of scores: it is impossible to run a library without charges for the repair of the building, the cost of the staff, the purchase of the hooks and a multitude of other items. This is only one item that should be added to these others which, for some reason, it has been decided should be charged to the unfortunate authors, the section of the community that can least afford it.

I would make a plea to the Government that although this is a matter of money, that although it is a matter of a couple of million pounds, it is an act of justice that is long overdue. We of the Arts Council would very much welcome some sign that, even if it is not to be done to-day, at least the Government have it in mind for introduction as soon as the economic situation makes it a possibility. The authors' recent resentment at the situation was expressed in what I felt was a most unjustifiable attack on the Minister—a very great Minister, if I may venture to say so, and the last person in the world who should have been subjected to that sort of attack. One can understand their recent resentment, because when people are resentful they are not particularly cautious in their choice of words or their choice of targets; but it is singularly ironic that they should have chosen a Minister who has pledged such full and vigorous support to the Arts on all fronts, and to this scheme in particular. I would urge the Government to consider this matter as sympathetically as possible.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he applies the argument equally to all works of art?


Let me say that I should be satisfied to make a start with books. I shall then be very happy to be introduced to arguments in favour of artists in other fields. Obviously, in logic, once the matter is introduced for books there may well be arguments for other spheres of activity. But it must be realised that in most other spheres of activity a royalty is already paid—for example, in relation to public reproduction of gramophone records and music. But I certainly do not want to be drawn into the technicalities of this matter, except to say that, whatever other artistic areas may be deserving of this. undoubtedly the author is deserving of his public lending right.

May I turn to another subject which I think is of very considerable consequence, another recent rumpus between ourselves and the regions. I do not think that this is a rumpus (if I may use that inelegant word in this Chamber) that has operated throughout the country. I think it is a rather localised rumpus, but it is one that needs to be touched on. and I think if I may say so that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, dealt with it in absolutely impeccable fashion. I should like to endorse his words, because it would be most unfortunate if an impression got around that there was some sort of competition between London and the regions as to the distribution of the artistic benefits that are available. There is no competition. There is, again, a great misconception, and it arises from the fact that certain people seem to believe that we are able to start from scratch. But of course we are not. It must be remembered that the Arts Council have been working for more than the two or three years of which we are taking notice at this moment; the Council have been working tirelessly and effectively for many years. Enormous credit attaches to my predecessors, and particularly to the dedicated staffs who have been working right up to now. I do not think anyone could praise the staffs too highly for the work they do and the devotion they show, for the care and attention they give, and for their utter disregard of time where the interests of the job are concerned.

But, my Lords, one has to bear in mind that we inherited an existing situation: we did not decide to establish an Opera House in London. I am very glad that whoever did decide it did so. We now have a splendid and memorable Opera House in London—in fact we have two splendid Opera Houses in London, and it is quite right that we should have them. But these were existing established institutions. Once there, they had to be paid for. One could not shut them down in order to enter into some academic distribution of the money on an arithmetical basis per capita throughout the country. It would not make sense to send to everybody in England a 2s. 6d. postal order and say: "We have shut down every artistic institution in all parts of the country but this may be used by you exclusively for artistic purposes. Here is a list of Penguin books of an artistic nature for which the voucher may be changed." In a sense that is the logic of the regional argument, if carried to its conclusions.

What we must certainly do is to give priority to our great artistic institutions, because they fertilise everything; they set the standards for everything. If you have a first-class Opera House of international standard, if you have a great National Theatre in which we can all take pride, if you have a second great National Theatre, of the type which exists at Stratford and is also to be found in London, if you have great orchestras of the kind we have now succeeded in establishing, then you have standards by which artistic activity can grow and flourish all over the country. But what you cannot do is to discuss this matter in simple arithmetical terms; that everyone in Wales ought to have 3s. 2d., and everyone in Cullompton ought to have 1s. 9d.

I am sure there are areas that are at present painfully deprived because there are no artistic activities of any kind, and the most painfully deprived areas of all are to be found in London. I would invite your Lordships to take a drive with me to the suburbs of London and see what artistic activities you can find in miles after mile. The notion that London is well served, to the detriment of the regions, is great nonsense. London is much worse served, outside the centre, than many of the regional areas. What we have decided is that as a matter of simple justice expenditure in London must pretty well cease and we must concentrate on spending the money for the benefit of people who are too far removed to have somewhere within their vicinity to find the artistic activities which we regard as valuable and worth while.

The whole problem is simply one of money. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, was absolutely right when he said that if we were to spend all the money that we could spend, if we were to present a budget of the size that we could quite easily compose, it would be so formidable as to daunt a great section of the population. Hence we have to engage in this matter with a great deal of sense, a great deal of reserve, and a great deal of circumspection and discretion. You cannot make demands on people for enormous sums of money simply because it would be desirable to have half a dozen opera houses established in various parts of the country. You must proceed by degrees. You must acclimatise people to the notion that this is an expenditure which is part of the ordinary expenditure of civilised life and is part of the educative process.

On this point I would take exception to an article that I read last Sunday, in a newspaper that ought to know better, dealing with the question of subsidising the Arts. That particular newspaper raised the question of how the money was to be found, and it again used this popular phrase about "providing arts for a small élite". But this is by no means the case. We have recently engaged a statistician, and between us we have done a little work. We have never arrived at a satisfactory conclusion, because there is a highly conjectural element in the arithmetic concerned. But if you take into consideration the audiences that attend concerts by all the nine symphony orchestras that we subsidise in England, the audiences that attend the 60-odd repertory theatres we subsidise, the audiences that go to the Opera House (which I believe holds 2,300) each evening, eight performances a week; and if you take into consideration the audiences that go to the National Theatre and to the Coliseum (holding 2,700 people), you will, I think, find that, far from there being a small élite, there are many millions of people who have a direct interest in, and who benefit from, the activities of the Arts Council. So it is great nonsense to regard this matter as one that affects only a small elite and that the mass of the population should show resentment because money is spent in this fashion. We are dealing here with the interests of an ever-increasing minority, and I believe that minority to be capable of an even greater increase.

One of my favourite analogies is to relate to the time, 150 years ago, when a great many people believed that the percentage of literacy in our population had been predetermined by the Almighty—it was, I believe, 10 per cent. Happily, there were dedicated people, enlightened people, who did not accept these statistics and who were firmly convinced that if education were made available that statistic could be altered for the better. Time has shown how right they were. Time will show how right we are in believing that the numbers of people who can enjoy the fruits of art, the number of people who can enjoy reading good literature, enjoy seeing great plays, enjoy hearing fine music, is not as bounded as we think it is. It may be that this enjoyment will not extend to the entire population; it may be that there will always be people who will prefer other activities to this—and why not? Good luck to them!

But, my Lords, I am firmly convinced that, with a proper education and a proper expenditure of effort, the number can be increased beyond our dreams at this moment of time. That is why I think the present Government have been so wise and so provident in making the provision they have made. That is why, if I may say so, I shall not lose the opportunity of urging upon this Government that they should continue with this splendid work. I know of no work that they can better do than this. I know of no expenditure in relation to the small sums involved that is more valuable or better spent. May I end by taking the opportunity of saying how grateful I personally am to the Government for what has been done; how well I believe this money to have been used, and how much I hope they will continue with that work and that we shall have bigger and better opportunities of using such money in the future.

5.1 p.m.


My Lords, may I begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, on his maiden speech. I am sure that your Lordships were all very impressed with the deep thought which he has obviously given to the subject, and I am sure that all wish to hear him again very soon on other topics.

I must begin my few remarks by declaring my interest. I am the Chairman of the Board of the National Theatre, and it is to that part of the activities of the Arts Council to which I shall address myself. I must add that I have worked for the foundation of a National Theatre for more than forty years. I inherited the task from my mother. By the way, among the family papers I came upon a letter which I wrote when I was at Eton—that was just after the Crimean war—asking my mother how the project of a National Theatre was getting on. So that is quite a long time ago. Your Lordships will please remember that everything I have to say on the subject is biased and will not be distinguished by that snow-like impartiality which I generally bring to bear on political questions on those rare occasions when I address your Lordships.

I have only two things to say. First of all, I find it a very congenial task, though not, I must say, an habitual one, to be polite to the Government, and to thank them for all the help they have given to this project and for the manner in which they have stuck to their word through very difficult times. In short, I come this afternoon to praise Caesar and not to bury him. I am also not in any sense impartial about Miss Lee or the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. In fact I am a dedicated fan of both of them, and no debate which touched on the National Theatre would be complete without paying a tribute to these two tireless and powerful supporters. They have both consistently furthered the cause of the National Theatre, not only by their enthusiasm but also by the rare gifts of negotiation and persuasion. Once or twice they have even engendered a glacial tear in the eyes of the Treasury, whose emotions are not often nor easily stirred.

This lump in the throat of the Treasury is no doubt partly because the Department have many of our most sophisticated, cultured and scholarly men at its head. But I think there is another reason. The Treasury, I believe, have come to the view that the country will make a handsome profit and gain much foreign exchange from the building of a National Theatre. People will flow into London to see the productions; and if they cannot get in they will spill over into other theatres and do some good to the theatrical profession. They will also eat, drink, shop and, let us hope, be merry—in sterling. This, I think, is the pourboire, or tip, which the Treasury have at least discerned in this project.

My Lords, as I have said on a previous occasion, we have the opportunity to make London the Athens, the artistic centre of the Western World. No single project will assist more to this consummation than a National Theatre; and after all, it will be a shrine of that Art, the dramatic Art, in which we have excelled and in which we have led the world ever since the decline of the Athenian Republic. So my first point is to express gratitude to the present Government.

I should like to say how greatly I appreciate the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. There is a cliché I particularly dislike which says, "We have listened to a great deal of common sense". As a matter of fact, the sort of sense the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, talks is not common sense at all, it is a a very rare sense, and it is a relief to hear so cogent an argument put forward by so distinguished a supporter of the Arts.

I must remind your Lordships that the foundation of the National Theatre has been outside Party politics. The original National Theatre Bill was introduced in another place in 1949 under a Labour Government, by the late Mr. Glenvil Hall, a friend of mine, and it was Mr. Selwyn Lloyd who, at the bottom of one of his "stop-goes", made the first subsidy to the Theatre when he was Chancellor; and now we have been wholeheartedly supported by the present Administration.

The original subsidy for the National Theatre was manifestly not enough to provide for a full repertory of the standard worthy of this country, but the L.C.C made up the balance. The L.C.C. at that time was under the leadership of Sir Isaac Hayward, a man whom I greatly admired for his inspired perseverance in the cause of the Arts, and of the drama in particular. Subsequently, the G.L.C., first under the present Lord Fiske, and a Labour Administration, and later under the Conservative Administration under Mr. Desmond Plummer, has brought the project to its present posture. In money terms, since the National Theatre started its life, about two-thirds of the annual subsidy has come from the Government, and about one-third from the L.C.C. and its successor, the G.L.C.

As there are so many of your Lordships who wish to speak in this debate, I shall confine myself to one other point, which has been raised, and very rightly raised, in various parts of the House; namely, the obligations—and I choose the word carefully—which we at the National Theatre conceive that we have to the country outside the Metropolis. It is obvious that we cannot provide a company so large that it can fulfil the needs of all the great provincial cities in the country simultaneously, or even in a satisfactory sequence. What we can do is to tour the country with our top company; and since we have been, so to speak, in business, we have toured from 8 to 10 weeks a year in the country outside London. When we have the new building, with its two theatres and a larger company, I hope that the touring will be more often 12 weeks than 8:12 weeks would be a quarter of the total annual playing time of the National Theatre Company.

Lists are rather tiresome things, but here is a list of the cities in which we have played in the last five years: Newcastle, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Oxford, Glasgow, Coventry, Bristol, Nottingham, Bournemouth, Belfast, Sheffield, Aberdeen, Stratford, Brighton, Sunderland and, of course, Chichester. In the tour which is starting next week we shall be going for the first time to Norwich—and I am sorry to see the noble Lord who bears the title has had to leave the House—and Bradford. I must however be frank and tell your Lordships that in some cities we have great difficulty in filling the theatres with our productions. This is not primarily because the inhabitants do not wish to see the sort of plays which we present; it is chiefly for another, and a rather sad, reason. Many of the theatres in our great provincial cities were built to serve a society of a different texture from that which we see to-day. They were built at a time when the competition of television and radio did not exist. They were built at a time when quite a large section of the public were satisfied, or only mildly dissatisfied, with what we should now call a mere glimpse of the stage. Perhaps they liked looking at the ladies' tiaras in the dress circle. There is not much of that to-day.

To-day, if the theatre is to keep its place, the play of emotion on the actor's face must be seen by everybody who has a ticket. This means that no one should be more than, say, 65 feet from the stage or from the point of command on the stage. Sir Laurence Olivier says that a couple of cricket pitches away is the maximum distance which a modern theatre audience should be from the point of command on the stage; otherwise, the desire of people to leave their homes will not be great. The pull of the carpet slippers, the fireside, the freedom from parking troubles, will keep the family around "the box". If the theatre is to live, it must compete by using the advantages which it has over "the box": the live actors and actresses, their play of expression, and the whole gamut of spontaneous performance which only live productions can give.

All those connected with the theatre will agree that a good production is not quite the same each night. Everybody knows that a Monday audience is different from a Thursday audience. Some audiences in some parts of the country are quick to take a joke—even my own on occasions; in other places they look rather frozen by my efforts. This means that the communication between actors on the stage and the audience ought to vary in accordance with the mood of the evening, or even the day on which the play is being presented. We shall continue to do our best by touring in the great provincial centres, but until cities are able to build smaller, modern theatres it will not be easy to draw the public into some of the old theatres which, though splendid in their way, were built to serve another society.

As these smaller modern theatres grow up, as they are beginning to do, and when our new theatres are built, we shall be able to make a greater contribution to high dramatic performances outside London than we can possibly do now. I hope the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, will realise that it is not right to pour money into obsolete theatres, but to stimulate locally the building of modern theatres in which proper dramatic performances can be given.

Finally, one word about the new building. The South Bank Board, of which my noble friend Lord Cottesloe is chairman, the National Theatre Board, the Arts Council, the Department of Education and Science and the Greater London Council work in close harmony on this project. I use the word "we" collectively, and not relating merely to the South Bank Board or the National Theatre Board. We have, I say with every sincerity, the noblest site in London, on the South Bank opposite Somerset House. We can now count on the National Theatre Bill becoming law. We thus have at our disposal £7,600,000 to build the theatres, and the ancillary services such as the car parks, and so on, which go with them. We have Mr. Lasdun's design, which has been universally applauded as an architectural masterpiece. We have the approval of the most comprehensive theatrical panel that could be called together, covering the artistic and technical aspects of the building. The onerous task of taking out the quantities has nearly been completed and tenders will be called for early in April.

I believe, indeed I pray, that work will begin in the summer. It will he a great day for those who have worked for a National Theatre when the thunder of the bulldozers is heard on the site for the first time. That thunder will drown one significant pop—when I uncork a libation to all our associates, above all to the Governments of both Parties, to the Greater London Council and to the Arts Council who will have struck this blow for civilisation in a distracted world. I believe that their work—and here I follow the remarks of the right reverend Prelate—will earn the thanks of generations to come, generations which should have the leisure and the means to turn away from man's sordid squabbles and look upon the evidences of his nobler spirit.

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, as a mere hereditary Peer I will do my best to be brief, for I realise that I am here only on sufferance. I speak as Chairman of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, which, as your Lordships know, is the largest single recipient of funds from the Arts Council. In the current year we have received £l¼ million, which is a substantial sum indeed; but unless we reduce the scope of our activities it will be bound to grow. The simple reason is that we cannot freeze the wages of our artists and other employees in isolation. If we try to recover all increases in costs by putting up seat prices the exercise will be self-defeating, and we shall also deny access to the theatre to the less well-to-do members of the community.

The position was clearly stated by Professor Moser, who is the head of the Central Statistics Office, and who went with me to the Select Committee to give evidence on behalf of Covent Garden. Your Lordships will see the problem set out in the interesting reply to Question No. 865 in the proceedings of the Select Committee. We must assume that over the years Covent Garden, the National Theatre, and all artistic enterprises will call for an increasing amount of money. The Covent Garden Opera House recovers at the box office or by other means something like half its total outgoings. This is a good deal more than is the case with similar institutions on the Continent. I have seen figures relating to the leading German opera houses, which appear to recover around 30 per cent. of their outgoings, whereas we recover the sum of 50 per cent. And their grants are, on the whole, about 50 per cent. greater than ours. This applies to several German opera houses. The pattern repeats itself elsewhere, although statistics are not easily available.

The test must be whether we are giving value for money. Most noble Lords will agree that the general level of artistic achievement is high, judged by the highest international standards, and one of which this country can be proud. I am sure that the excellence of Covent Garden and other leading national institutions plays a great part in attracting people to this country. As was said much more eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and later by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, we can claim to act as fertilisers to the whole artistic scene of the country. We regard ourselves as the standard-setters. I am convinced that it is only by upholding Covent Garden, the National Theatre and Sadler's Wells that the standards can be maintained and improved. I do not accept the view of those who argue that opera and ballet are outmoded art forms not deserving of so much Arts Council support. The view is not borne out by the creative output of composers and choreographers, or by the enthusiasm of audiences, of all age groups, who go to the theatre. I think that people who attempt to decry our efforts are either tone deaf or blind or prejudiced—possibly a bit of each. I am sure of one thing: that they speak with very little knowledge of the actual performances.

There are also people who argue that we could make do with a smaller grant if we spent less money on new productions. In fact, in our budget for the coming year only about 7½ per cent. of our total expenditure will be in respect of new productions, and I myself believe that this figure is dangerously low. If new productions were totally eliminated, we should still need a very large grant and the whole life of the theatre without new productions would gradually grind to a halt. I am afraid that if opera and ballet are to thrive in this country, people must be prepared to see a larger and not a smaller sum of money spent on them. It is notable that when the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, gave evidence to the Select Committee he said that when he first went to the Arts Council he believed he could effectively reduce the grant to Covent Garden. But he went on to say that this belief was quickly dissipated, and he told the Committee that he was now convinced that Covent Garden needed more and not less money because, as he said, an adventurous and sensible opera policy required a reasonably frequent addition to the productions. I do not think I could have any greater authority in support of my case.

There has been a lot of talk about regional development, and all of us here would obviously like to see greater regional development. But so far, except for Scotland and Wales, the degree of local enthusiasm—at any rate as expressed by local authority support—has been rather disappointing. In this connection I should refer briefly to the touring activities undertaken by Sadler's Wells and Covent Garden—Sadler's Wells touring with opera, and Covent Garden with ballet. Quite a significant proportion of our grant is absorbed by this touring activity. If it were not undertaken, it is fair to say, the regional scene would be much the poorer. I was exercised by what the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, had to say on the subject of the provincial theatres. Whether the sort of theatres which the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, wishes to see built would be suitable for opera and ballet, I rather question. So there are two sets of theatres that have to be built in the main provincial centres. At the moment this is a very worrying situation.

In the matter of local authority support, I wish that the Greater London Council could be persuaded to do rather more than they do at the present time. As an absolute sum they spend quite a lot of money, but as a percentage of their total revenue it is sadly small: less than one-third of a penny in the pound rate. They give no support of any kind to Covent Garden, although they will, I hope, in the reasonably near future have the opportunity of rectifying this, because, as your Lordships probably know, the Covent Garden Market is going to be moved away, which will give the Royal Opera House scope for enlarging and improving its facilities. The Select Committee visited Covent Garden while they were preparing the Report, and it is clearly stated by them in paragraph 101 that the improvement of conditions at the Royal Opera House "is a matter of high priority". At the welcome instigation of Miss Jennie Lee, a working party is preparing a detailed study of what is required, but very much hope that this is not going to turn out to be a purely theoretical exercise.

To revert for a moment to the regions, I find it hard to be sanguine about the probable growth in local authority expenditure on the Arts, when the burdens falling on local authorities are so considerable and when local pressures are in the main not strong. For a real step forward to be possible, especially in the regions, I believe, as do many other noble Lords, that some change in the tax laws is necessary. It has always seemed to me the greatest pity that politicians of both Parties have been unwilling to follow the example of the United States and of various Continental countries, and to allow donations to approved charities —including institutions like Covent Garden and the National Theatre, which are registered as charities—to be deductible for income tax and surtax purposes up to a modest percentage of income. Many noble Lords will have seen some of the magnificent concert halls, museums, libraries, theatres, and so on, which have been brought into existence in the United States as a result of the tax laws there, and could not fail to support a change in the laws here. Opposition to a change has been due partly to a fear of consequences to the Revenue, but also largely, I am afraid, to an unreasoning prejudice. One tends to abandon hope that the idea will receive sympathetic consideration, but I should like to think that some day a Chancellor of the Exchequer will instruct his officials to prepare appropriate plans.

Secondly, it has always seemed to me the greatest pity that such a narrow view has been taken of the possibility of raising funds for the Arts by means of lotteries. I can see no difference in principle between a football pool conducted for private gain and a lottery designed to serve the public good. Ministerial resistance to the G.L.C. Lottery Bill seemed to me deplorable, and also I fear, the recent vote in your Lordships' House in which I could not take part But even if I had done so, it would not have affected the result.

Having said that I feel that more still needs to be spent on the Arts, I want also to say how cognisant I am of what has been achieved; and I want to add to what the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, has said in praise of the remarkable duumvirate of Miss Jennie Lee and the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. They have worked in partnership almost from the moment of Miss Lee's appointment, four and a half years ago, as Minister with special responsibility for the Arts, and their success in obtaining additional funds and in ensuring their fair distribution has been outstanding. As one, so to speak, at the receiving end, I should like to express my appreciation to them, first for their recognition of the importance of Covent Garden in the nation's cultural life, and, secondly, for the support which they have shown, both to myself personally and to those responsible for the conduct of Covent Garden, in allowing us such a wide measure of independence in running the place. We hope that we have justified their confidence.

My regret is that forward planning has always felt so very precarious, because of uncertainty about the level of our grant, which is not now decided until a short matter of months before the start of the financial year. The Select Committee's Report is very strong in its recommendation on this subject, and I hope that the Department of Education and the Treasury will take seriously to heart what the Committee say. In a leading article discussing the Covent Garden annual report in December, The Times said it thought we ought to have a five-year plan. I had never thought in quite such ambitious terms, but certainly to live so much from hand to mouth is highly unsatisfactory. We must now await the promised White Paper to which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, referred, for the present position is indeed most unsatisfactory. It is, I am sure, inconceivable to everyone that institutions like Covent Garden would be allowed to close down. Nevertheless, no firm and clear assurance of our survival can ever, it seems, be given to us. This, coupled with the fact that so far we have not been able to start a general pensions scheme, does not exactly make for a sense of security among those working in the theatre who I think, on the whole, do a pretty creditable job.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, like other speakers I, too, should like to say how grateful I am to my noble friend Lord Nugent for giving us the opportunity to-day to discuss the Arts; and I should like to join with other speakers in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, on a remarkable maiden speech, to which we all listened with great interest and great pleasure.

On previous occasions we have spoken sometimes of the importance of the Arts in a world of increasing leisure. My Lords, the millennium which we are promised in the future seems to be no nearer to-day than it was four or five years ago. But whether our world is a world of increasing leisure or a world of economic stringency and depression such as we have lately had to accustom ourselves to, the Arts have a place of great and growing importance. Either way, their civilising influence (if I may perhaps use a more materialistic phrase than the spiritual observations that we heard with so much delight from the right reverend Prelate) is an essential need for the community.

My Lords, the Arts Council Report which is the subject of this Motion is already ancient history, dealing as it does with the year which ended 11 months ago. It records a good measure of progress in many fields, and there has been further progress since. The figures speak for themselves. In five years the Government grant to the Arts Council has increased threefold: from £2.7 million to £7.75 million. That it should have done so in a time of such financial stringency is due more than anything else to Miss Jennie Lee's energy and enthusiasm; and one feels that one now knows the answer to the old conumdrum—when an irresistible force meets an immovable obstacle, it is clear that it is the obstacle that gets the worst of it.

I am at one with Mr. Yehudi Menuhin, Sir Kenneth Clark and many others, in resenting the bitter attack made on Miss Lee recently for having failed to extract from the Treasury an additional £2 million a year for a public lending right payment to authors in respect of the borrowing of their books from public libraries. I agree with Lord Goodman in believing that there is a case for such a payment in principle, although the arguments are not all on one side, but the number of books published each year in this country is so astronomical as to suggest that authors as a whole—and of course there are exceptions—are not greatly inhibited from writing books and getting them published. I can think of other purposes for which, if a large additional sum were available for the Arts, there might well be a higher priority at the present time.

Not only has the Arts Council grant been increased threefold in this period of five years, but the total of Government grants for the Arts, including the expenditure on museums and galleries, has been doubled from £9.43 million in 1963–64 to £18.9 million in 1968–69. This is a most welcome recognition of the fact that (as I was once told by an earlier Chancellor of the Exchequer) the Chancellor can give more pleasure to more people with a small expenditure on the Arts than with an enormously greater expenditure in any other field.

My Lords, I feel we must all admire the wisdom and the impartiality with which Lord Goodman presides over the affairs of the Arts Council and allocates these increasing subventions over a wide spectrum. Of course there are criticisms that can be made in detail: the Arts Council is an almost perfect "Aunt Sally" for the public, and people are always ready to bite the hand that feeds them. The surprising thing is not that there are criticisms but that the criticisms are so few and the recognition of the value of the work that the Council is doing, and the way in which it is doing it, is so widespread. I think everyone feels that the policy of a small number of major subventions for such national and international activities as the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet, the National Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sadler's Wells and the great orchestras, on the one hand, to ensure the maintenance of exemplary international standards, and, on the other hand, the fostering of regional associations and a great variety of regional activities, some of them very small but very worthy, is the right broad policy for the Council to pursue.

All this is a matter for congratulation. But, my Lords, I must confess that I am, on a long view, unhappy about the arrangement by which the Government administer the Arts through a Minister of State in the Department of Education and Science. It is, in principle, a bad set-up. Miss Lee has shown a marvellous and wholly praiseworthy self-restraint in her resolute refusal to interfere with the Arts Council's freedom to apply their grant as they think best, and the Department's staff concerned with administering the Arts are wholly admirable in their sympathetic and helpful understanding of the problems; and the system works, and on the whole works well. But it is, all the same, a bad set-up. Not only does it set the Arts Council and the trustees of the national collections in a position too far removed from the Treasury, on whom they must depend for funds, but it puts them under a junior Minister—or, rather, a non-Cabinet Minister of State—with little else to do, on whom the temptation to interfere with the judgment of the Council must often be almost irresistible. Miss Lei; is a very exceptional Minister who resists the temptation, and Lord Goodman is a very exceptional chairman who would never allow himself to be subjected to interference—nor, indeed, seek to interfere with the artistic policies of the beneficiaries of the Arts Council. But, my Lords, sooner or later, if the present setup remains, there will be personalities involved who will give way to the dangers and temptations, and then there will be trouble. There can be no practical question of a reversion to the former arrangement, by which the Arts were administered by the Treasury direct, but I must confess that I should feel much happier if the responsibility for their administration rested on the Lord President or some non-departmental Cabinet Minister —the set-up which worked so well for the University Grants Committee and the Medical Research Council for ver3, many years.

My Lords, I should like to turn now to the question of patronage, and to add to what the noble Lords, Lord Nugent and Lord Strathcona, have said on that subject. We must all rejoice at the increasing sums made available to the Arts by the Government; but there is another side to this picture. While this has been happening on the one hand, the other sources of patronage for the Arts have been drying up, withered by the combined effect of violent inflation and swingeing taxes. The local authorities, the more enlightened of whom were beginning to take an active part in supporting the Arts, find themselves so hard pressed financially that they have to cut down. We heard last week that the G.L.C. are having to do so, when the Government prevented them from embarking on the promotion of a lottery designed to enable them, among other things, to enlarge their patronage of the Arts. And the private patrons, who might and would do much, find themselves as a result of the last Budget having to pay out in taxes for the year more than their whole year's income. This is the effect of the special charge imposed last year.

The result is that the Government are becoming more and more the only source of patronage for the Arts. This is a thoroughly unhealthy condition: that almost a monopoly of patronage should be in the hands of the Government. It is a trend that should be reversed before it is too late. One way of helping to do this, as the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, and one or two others have mentioned, would be by a system of tax reliefs parallel with that in the United States where the wealthy patron can apply up to one-third of his gross income to the purchase of works of art acceptable to and earmarked for public collections, that purchase being then exempted from tax. I can see objections to such a system and I would myself think that a straight reversion to the former arrangement in this country by which covenanted charitable donations were exempted from surtax as well as from income tax would be preferable. But whatever means is adopted, I hope that the Government will recognise the need to revive the springs of private patronage and will take steps to bring it about before it is altogether too late.

I should like now, my Lords, to add something to what Lord Nugent, Lord Norwich and Lord Chandos said about the plight of the theatre. It is perhaps the worst headache on the Arts Council plate at the moment. We have, of course, in our National Theatre Company and in the Royal Shakespeare Company, acting and production that are unrivalled anywhere in the world; just as we have at Covent Garden the finest operatic productions now to be seen anywhere. It is the commercial theatre that gives cause for anxiety at the present time. More people are watching plays to-day than ever before; yet the theatre has never been so beset with difficulties and crises as it now is.

The reasons for this paradox are easy enough to identify. There is, first and foremost, the impact of television, radio and the cinema. Then there are the changes of social habits such as those which have built up in the North of England, the Midlands and South Wales: great audiences for clubs which are the modern equivalent of the vanished music hall. Other factors which affect the theatre include the increasing gap between the cost of production and box office receipts; obsolete and dilapidated theatre buildings and the heavy touring expenses incurred; and, as a last straw, selective employment tax. Many of these causes of the theatre's present troubles have to be accepted as inevitable; but the question is whether there is still a basis on which the live theatre can manage to survive—and we should all agree that survive it must.

The professional theatre nowadays is divided into two sectors, the subsidised and the commercial, the supported sheep and the profit-seeking goats. In the first category, there are 52 theatres, only four of which are in London. They all receive grants from the Arts Council and, increasingly but on a smaller scale, from the local authorities. The unsubsidised commercial theatres are a larger group, although not all of them are continuously open. There are about 40 of them in London and 33 in the rest of the country. It is this last sector which is now in some peril. The Arts Council flock, the so-called repertory theatres, are in no real danger although some of them complain that their grants are inadequate to secure the standards they aim at. The commercial theatres in the West End are no longer the attractive investment that they used to be. The failures are much more frequent than the successes. think the ratio is about five to one. But, for all that they mostly manage to survive, largely because London attracts a large number of visitors from the Provinces and abroad.

It is the 33 commercial theatres outside London that are the ones most in trouble. They are the handful of survivors from the 130 theatres that were open in the Provinces some forty years ago and many of them are now in a very bad way indeed. The problem is aggravated by the fact that the theatres in danger are big theatres, albeit old ones. They are the only ones in the Provinces that can take big productions: the Royal Opera, the Royal Ballet, Sadler's Wells, big productions of the National Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as big musicals and the like. Unless the Provinces are to be denied such things—and that is unthinkable—these theatres must be kept open one way or the other. The best way, I think, would be that they should, through the agency of the Arts Council, be refurbished and modernised, backstage and front, and put into municipal care and ownership. Indeed, I can see no other way if they are to survive. I know that this problem is exercising the minds of the Arts Council who have instituted an inquiry into it, and I hope the Government will enable them to solve it.

This brings me to the last two matters to which I shall draw your Lordships' attention: the position as regards our national heritage of works of art and the position as to the housing of the Arts. Our national heritage of works of art has suffered a heavy drain since the turn of the century. Lord Curzon's Committee in 1913 listed 500 paintings of first importance that left the country "in recent years", to use their phrase. It included 57 Rembrandts, 7 Vermeers (about one-fifth of his total output) and all sorts of fine things. That trend continued uncontrolled throughout the Duveen era between the wars. What an unbelievable wealth of wonderful things there must have been! It was not until the last war that control was brought into existence. That control is now in some danger of breaking down, owing to the inflation that brings important things on to the market at a moment when financial stringency prevents the Government from intervening with the extra funds needed if they are to be bought in for our public collections.

The Reviewing Committee which administered the control of the Arts—and I must declare my interest, not a financial one, as Chairman of that Committee—have asked for a grant of a quarter of a million pounds to be placed at their disposal to back the control when necessary. It is perhaps understandable that the present moment is not one when money is available, but I hope that the Government will keep this requirement in front of them and will make the grant available as soon as it is at all possible, for this is a most urgent need. Once these things have left the country, they have left it for good. In practice, there is not the smallest prospect of their return.

The other urgent requirement in this field is an increase in the fund that is made available to the Victoria and Albert Museum to help local collections to make important acquisitions, a fund of £100,000 a year that is exhausted each year by the time the year is only half gone by. The doubling of this purchase grant is a matter of real importance and urgency that should receive a high priority.

Finally, I come to the housing of the Arts, of which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, spoke. What he said was of great interest. First, I note with some nostalgia the rehousing of the Arts Council itself and their removal from the lovely Georgian setting of their own home in St. James's Square. It is sad that that house, in many ways such a suitable background for the Council and for its smaller and more intimate exhibitions, should have had to be given up, but the offices in which a devoted staff had to work were always quite inadequate, and with the expansion of the Council's activities they had become perfectly impossible. I cannot say that I find their Piccadilly palace, with all its marble, very congenial, but it has a not unsuitable pedigree, having been the home of the founder of the Wallace Collection, and certainly it is an infinitely better place for the staff to work in.

The Arts Council have made some little progress in the housing of the Arts all over the country in the last five years. They have been able to apply a total sum of more than £1 million to it and this has stimulated local authorities too. The reconstruction of the Whitworth Art Gallery, the Octagon Theatre at Bolton and the Basildon Arts Centre deserve special mention. In addition, there is the number of important developments to which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, referred. But the total requirement is so great that what has been done has made no more than a small dent in a very large problem. This is a field that in my view should be a high priority for further Government funds, when they can he made available.

But outside the Arts Council's own activities in housing the Arts in the Provinces, there is and has been a good deal going on in London. The splendid Hayward Gallery on the South Bank has followed the Queen Elizabeth Hall and was opened by Her Majesty the Queen last year with the great Matisse exhibition. The National Theatre for the South Bank is to go to tender in April and my noble friend Lord Chandos and I—and may I say I agree with every word he said —with many others pray fervently each night that the tenders may fall within the rigidly constricting figure imposed by the Government and the Greater London Council. The City Corporation are about to spend £10 million on the Barbican Centre, with its theatre, concert hall and museum. The Nash House gallery and theatre in the Mall have been opened, to house the Institute of Contemporary Arts and the Associated Societies of Industrial Design. And my noble friend Lord Drogheda has told us that the enlargement and reconstruction of the backstage areas of the Royal Opera House, with adequate facilities for rehearsals that were so long overdue, is likely to mature in the foreseeable future.

All this adds up to a good deal, though it is certainly not any cause for complacency. And last, but very far from being the least important, is the scheme for enlarging and modernising the Tate Gallery, which has been on the stocks now for a decade or more. It is, I think, most encouraging that these proposals should have aroused such a storm of public interest, interest in different aspects of the scheme. I myself believe that the best solution of the basic problem, what we should do if we were starting from scratch, would be the creation of a new gallery, a museum of modern art—or whatever you may call it—alongside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, with the Tate Gallery in its original role as the home of the national collection of British Art, in the present building enlarged by the additional gallery that is planned to fill in the last quarter of the original building. The National Portrait Gallery, for which I believe the Hampton site in Trafalgar Square is now earmarked, would have to be re-housed on another site in Central London, for after all there is no intrinsic reason for its physical conjunction with the National Gallery.

It is, at all events, evident that the old Tate portico, surrounded by its grass plots, architecturally undistinguished though it may be, has over the years endeared itself to the public too deeply to be destroyed or overlaid without much resentment and bitter feeling. It has become a much valued part of the London scene. I hope that the Government may be able to tell us that there is a real prospect of a new building to re-house the modern collection, whether on Millbank or elsewhere, within the immediate future. It would be a tragedy, it would be the worst of all solutions, if the enlargement of the Tate were to be thrown, like the re-housing of the British Museum Library, back into limbo for another decade or more.

5.58 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad to have the first opportunity from these Benches to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, on an admirable maiden speech. I am sure that we shall all look forward very much to hearing him on many occasions. I propose to devote my time particularly and almost exclusively to that matter of public lending right which has been referred to on several occasions. I must, of course, declare an interest, which is known to many noble Lords, in that I am an author and a member of the Council and of the Management Committee of the Society of Authors.

I must say that I feel like one who has been found out brawling in church, because many noble Lords have referred to the recent correspondence in The Times and remarked with horror on the fact that Miss Lee has been criticised. Well, I frankly confess that I am one of those who allow a certain criticism to drip from my pen into the columns of The Times on occasion. I did so on this occasion, as I am sure the others who criticised Miss Lee did, not because we were in any doubt whatever as to the immense contribution which she has made to the development of the Arts in this country, for in the history of Government intervention in the Arts she is a shining girl of politics and must be applauded. But we have a right to ask why it is, when she has so much success, that none of her success ever rubs on to us, and when she can succeed so well when her heart is in something why she cannot spare a little of her heart for us. I must say also that I regard it as a remarkable thesis, which I am sure Miss Lee with her long experience of fellow swordsmanship with Aneurin Bevan would not accept, that a public controversy in which feeling runs very deep, and rightly so, must be conducted as though it were a game of pat-a-cake.

I listened with a good deal of despair and despondency to the observations of my noble friend on the Front Bench as regards this public lending right. Let it be remembered that this question of trying to do something in this matter was first raised over twenty years ago, and scheme after scheme has been put up and considered and reconsidered. It is now 18 months since the final version, thought out with the help of authors, publishers and others, was put up; and we are now told by my noble friend that we should all be very good children, run away and get together and think it all over again. He said that he could not dissociate himself from his past as an author. I must say that I prefer his style as an author to his style as a politician, and I can only commend to him a remark once made to me by Franklin Roosevelt: Always beware of the politician who seeks to defeat the possible by applauding the perfect. This is a possible scheme, as the Chairman of the Arts Council has said to-day, which could be put into effect without delay if there were the wish and the good will behind to do it. The library service is an essential part of the social services of this country, but it is the only part of the social services where those who provide the service—ithe basic foundation on which the service exists—are also expected to pay for it. It is as though when the National Health Service were being formed Aneurin Bevan had gone to the consultants of the hospitals and said to them: "I know you have been giving your services free to hospitals and have been able to do so because of the income that you have been able to receive from private patients, and we are grateful to you for having done so. Now we propose to take most of your private patients away from you, but, of course, we shall expect you to go on working in the hospitals for nothing". The parallel is almost exact, because that is what has happened with the author and the writer.

The library has developed enormously. It has for many authors taken the place both of the private sales they used to be able to depend on, and the commercial libraries, which, because they charged a fee and were required often to satisfy a priority service, had to buy books in large numbers in order to meet that service. Most of those commercial library services have now gone, replaced (and I have no complaint about it) by the public libraries, which, as I say, have become an essential and an integral part of our social services, and one of the great middle-class institutions of our lime. I do not want to dwell too much on the change, because I remember that I did so in your Lordships' House several years ago when we were talking about public lending libraries—how the water flows on, with scarce the ripples breaking it! I then, to give an example of the change, said that although I saw my children and their children every weekend coming home with immense piles of hooks from the public libraries, I remembered how when I was a child my mother regarded it as both slightly immoral and unhygienic to take books from a public library, and tried to prevent us from doing so, and when she did not succeed she would put the hooks we had borrowed into the oven to kill the germs.


My Lords, before the noble Lord goes too far from his analogy, perhaps he would allow me to put a question. Would he not admit that it is imperfect in this respect: that the private sector of medical treatment did indeed suffer a reduction in the years following the intervention of the Health Service, but in the figures that I gave the House at the commencement of this debate I was able to show that the sales of books through bookshops increased by not less than 40 per cent.; that is, by an amount equal to the increase in public library lending over the same period?


My noble friend did not break the figures down. If he had done so, I think he would have found that a large par of that increase of sales in bookshops is an increase in sales of textbooks and other such books required for educational services, and also an immense increase in paper-backs, on which the author gets a very small royalty indeed. It is a fact which anybody with any experience either of writing or publishing knows, or anyone who merely looks around at weekends in any small town, that the vast amount of reading to-day is done by borrowing from the library. When people read the weekly reviews in the Sunday papers they do not say: "I must go out and buy that book." They say: "I must put that book on my library list". And that is what they do. There has been this immense change.

As I was saying when I was quite rightly interrupted by my noble friend, I do not want to dwell on the point too much, because when I did on a previous occasion, and recounted the method that my mother had of dealing with books by putting them in the oven to kill the germs, the result was, I am sorry to say, that a debate of several hours and of great and fascinating interest was reported in the columns of the Daily Express in a five-line paragraph under the heading: "Peer's Mother Cooks the Books". I do not want something like that to happen again, because this is indeed a serious subject which needs the most serious consideration.

I see that in that famous, or perhaps notorious, correspondence in The Times, one of my noble friends described the finance of the public lending right as a subsidy. It is not a subsidy of any kind whatever. It is a payment for services rendered, to people who have rendered them honestly, whose work is in demand and who deserve, as do all people, a fair and just recompense for their work. Of course, I know that authors are under the great disability that there tend to be two pictures of the author in the mind of the British public. Either he is thought of as the very rich writer of thrillers, sunning himself on the Mediterranean with a succession of attractive secretaries, or else he is thought of as a genius correctly starving in a garret with his feminine companion whose hands are constantly frozen. But in fact the author is a man or a woman like others. He bleeds when he is cut; he needs food and housing and even needs to be able to bring up his children. He needs that the work which he does, and which is clearly in great and increasing demand by the public of this country, shall be paid for adequately and well.

No author is going to become rich out of a public lending right. The most it can do is to ensure that authors receive a little more justice for their work. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, said at the beginning of this debate—and I agree with him—that in the end all ages are remembered, not by their politicians but by their writers and their artists. My Lords, make sure that our writers and our artists can survive, and can survive in conditions which will give them the opportunity of writing more books and taking proper time over the writing of books, instead of being compelled to take on any "pot-boiler" in order to keep going. My Lords, I ask your Lordships to look to your immortality.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, I had not thought to speak on the particular point that has just been mentioned in this debate, but I wonder whether I might reply to the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, in this way. It seems to me that during the debate it has never really been in dispute that the scheme the Arts Council have put forward is an admirable scheme from which to work. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, would argue, too, that it is one which could be accepted straight away. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, in fact hesitated on that point. Nevertheless, it was also not in dispute that Miss Jennie Lee was again entirely in sympathy with this scheme. Therefore I think it has been right in the debate that her reputation on this point should be defended. But, having said that, I must add that what it comes down to is how to provide £2 million (I think that was the sum which Lord Kennet mentioned) at this particular juncture in time.


Per year.


Two million pounds per year. The question is: How to provide this annual sum?

There is, I believe, a good rule in the Bundestag in Germany whereby any member of the House who suggests that there should be additional expenditure has to suggest equally what retrenchment in other public expenditure he proposes. I think it is incumbent upon those who think that something should be done absolutely at once to say what part of the Arts Council Vote they think should be cut by £2 million in order to provide this particular sum. That is perhaps a crude way of looking at it; but this is surely in fact the problem that is facing Government at this time.


My Lords, may I interrupt? Why does the noble Lord confine the point to the Arts Council? Why does he not ask authors—and I am sure they would be delighted to respond to the invitation—to put forward suggestions as to how £2 million could be cut in some other Government expenditure?


My Lords, no one would be happier than I if the Arts Council grant were increased not by £2 million but by several million. Lord Francis-Williams and I would probably not disagree as to where that £2 million might be found. But this surely is not, in this particular year in our economic crisis, how Government work. It really is not good enough to say that there are other vast areas of public expenditure and that £2 million can be taken from them and handed to the Arts Council. The grants for museums, galleries, the Arts Council, and the Arts in general, have so benefited by Miss Jennie Lee's ability to woo her colleagues in Cabinet, or her colleagues in the Government—and, for that matter, in the Treasury—that I think it would be going too far to suggest that her wooing could include yet another upgrading of the grant for this particular purpose at this particular time. It is already of course well out of line with increases in public expenditure in other fields. As I say, I hope the noble Lord will forgive me for trying to make this answer.

I should like now to refer to one or two points in the Arts Council Report. The first is one that I think is vital to the Arts, though it may appear to many noble Lords to be tedious and, indeed, inimical to the development of the Arts. It is that in the Report there is a note to the effect that the Arts Council were providing funds to train administrators in the Arts. I remember being invited by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, to lunch to discuss this point two or three years ago. We discussed it and thought that probably the universities were not the best place to try to set up courses of this kind, that it was much better to use the polytechnics and the technical colleges. I heard nothing more about this matter. But the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, resembles the Ghost in Hamlet —he is a mole who works underground —and in a measurable space of time something seems to have occurred in this matter. And I believe that this is an extremely important point to bear in mind.

In this Report we see that 16 students have in fact taken such training in the School of Management Studies in the London Polytechnic. In this country we need administrative expertise everywhere. We are surely short of managerial technique. We are short of it in industry; we are short of it, I hasten to say, in the universities; we are short of it in Government. And we are also short of it in the Arts. This is a training which I think is very important. To go back to a metaphor which the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, used in his speech, he referred to the fact that this afternoon we probably had to discuss the "nuts and bolts" of the support of the Arts. Let us take the nut as the artist. Artists are nuts: they are very tricky, difficult, sometimes treacherous, people, who bite the hand that feeds them because they do not look at it in that way. On the other hand, in order to operate they probably need a bolt. This bolt is the bolt of the administrator. I think that one can often see artistic enterprises going wrong simply because they have not been costed properly; simply because there is no person there with sufficient expertise in this matter.

I remember, when I was serving as a member of the Arts Committee which advised the Gulbenkian Foundation how they might profitably spend their money on the Arts, seeing time and again that schemes which were put up by people who had "fire in their bellies" were totally impracticable through lack of any administrative experience either in themselves or in those who advised them. When one received an application from Sir Nicky Sekers for his admirable enterprise in Cumberland, one knew that that would be costed down to the last penny —a most remarkable effort. But when one saw similar applications coming forward for help it was quite clear that those submitting them lacked this kind of ability to put across a case which had been argued and costed properly.

I think that very often people misunderstand the relation of the artist to the administrator. The administrator is an important part of any artistic enterprise. The impresario is an important part. The impresario and the administrator very often are against, and are up against, their artists. Very often they are the grit on which artists work. It is a great mistake to think of administrators merely as people who inhibit artistic production. Diaghelev was one of the greatest impresarios, and I would say that, as in the Diaghelev Company, any great company of ballet or in the theatre ought to be a group which is always simmering on the edge of a first-class row, because in the Arts it is through rows, through the clash of one kind of temperament and another, that one in fact obtains that kind of development which is so valuable. That is why I hasten to say to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, that I should never be distressed if I found the Arts Council suddenly in the middle of a blazing row in which it was being accused by artists of interference in their affairs. I think that this kind of "needling" by a great body like the Arts Council, or by administrators, can often have a remarkably profitable effect upon those it is trying to help.

The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, asked for people not to praise the Arts Council this afternoon but to criticise it. I wonder whether I might be obliging in that respect and make just one criticism. When the Arts Council gives, as it so often does, grants to young artists who are writers or in the theatre, are these grants given with sufficient guidance as to how long they will continue and how much the artists can expect in the future? I do not for one moment mean to imply that the administrators of the Arts Council, when they give a grant, do not make the terms and duration of that grant perfectly clear—I am sure they do. Nevertheless, I often hear criticisms that people who have got a grant and have gone away in a high state of excitement have been slightly misled as to what are their prospects for the future. This is a difficult point. It is difficult to make unwritten conditions clear in people's minds, but I think this is a point that might be looked into, and the Arts Council might consider whether in fact they do give sufficient guidance, and indeed sufficient "needling", to some of those they help.

One last point on this aspect. The Arts Council should not be frightened of being accused of interfering with those whom they attempt to help. I am sure they are very scrupulous indeed, once a grant has been made, not to try to lay down new conditions afterwards. It seems to me that they ought to be able to indicate how, if a project developed in a particular way, a grant might again be forthcoming in the future. At the moment there are those who receive a grant and then suddenly have it cut off, when they are not really quite clear about it.

That is the only criticism I would bring to the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. And I would refer again to my point about the administrators, how important they are and how we must not be frightened of their influence upon artists. We must regard the clash between the administrator and the artist as something that is vital. There is a poem by Yeats about Scholars which runs: Oh for spectacled baldheads Who annotate the lines Which poets in their youth Rhymed out in ecstacy He then goes on to say how those Scholars did not understand one iota of the feeling of the artist when he wrote the poem: Lord, what would they say Did their Catullus walk their way? Artists have an absolute right to say that they are never understood by the ordinary people who try to help them: that is why they often bite the hand that feeds them. But let us never forget that that is irrelevant when we consider the importance of helping artists.

6.24 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to express my appreciation to the noble Lord who initiated this debate this afternoon and also to compliment the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, on his excellent maiden speech, which enables us to pay a tribute to him and his family for the notable part they are playing in the somewhat modest festival at Bath, but a festival which observes extremely high standards.

I believe it to be one of the most hopeful aspects of our national life these days that there is universal acceptance of the need for State patronage of the Arts. This is accepted not only in this House and among politicians in another place, because recently I had the pleasure of debating in one of the universities on the subject, "Should the State support the Arts?" My opponent on that occasion was the leader writer of a widely read national newspaper. He was listened to with a courtesy that is not common in universities these days, particularly when there is violent disagreement, but at the end of the evening there was no support forthcoming from any of the students for his contention that the State should withdraw its support from the Arts and that this should be regarded as a matter of private concern.

I believe it is one of the hopeful things about our national life that there should be universal acceptance that the cultivation of beauty, the recognition of values which are eternal, the acceptance of standards which are civilised, are important to our community. It may be that in these days, when there is so much defeatism and denigration of our national standing, that the greatness of this country will be measured not in its imperial greatness, nor the strength of its arms, nor of its power, but in the fact that in these days there is unanimity among our people in the need for the cultivation of the Arts and all that that implies. We are indeed grateful that we have a persuasive Minister, that we have a Chairman of the Arts Council whose wisdom is so widely respected, and that we have an extremely generous Government.

Reference has been made in the Arts Council Report which we are considering, and discussion has taken place, around the theme of support for the regions and whether the Arts should be centralised in London. I want to say that I am deeply appreciative of the attitude of the Arts Council towards the development of artistic enterprises in the regions. I am particularly interested in Scotland, and I observe that for the year ended March, 1966, £270,000 was allocated to Scotland. In 1967, it had become £467,000, and in the Report which is now before us the figure has reached £707,000. In the face of these figures, I become increasingly impatient with the Scottish Nationalists who complain about the neglect of Scotland at the hand of London Governments. When I read these figures, I recognise that these funds are administered through a Scottish Arts Council, and at least in the field of the Arts we are already enjoying self-government in Scotland. Perhaps it is one of the most disappointing features of the great national renaissance in Scotland at the moment that there has been no upsurge of interest in our cultural institutions to match the political excitement that is being generated by the Nationalists. It is a poor thing if the importance of our nation and its independence is to be expressed only in political institutions. I would hope that the new national upsurge in Scotland would be accompanied by a greater recognition of the importance of the cultural institutions.

I, like other noble Lords who have participated in the debate to-day, must declare my interest. I have been associated over a number of years with the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre, of which I am presently the Vice-Chairman. This experience leads me to one or two observations on the subject of administration, on which the noble Lord, Lord Annan, spoke only a few minutes ago, and also to raise the question of the much debated theme of the relationship between the board and the artistic directors in the theatre. This is the "nuts and bolts" of the business, as the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, said.

I am grateful for the services of the Arts Council, who make available not only the financial grants but the advisory services, and like the noble Lord, Lord Annan, I am happy to see that increased attention is being paid to the field of theatre administration. I am in no position to judge the value of the 'work that is being done at the North-West Polytechnic, but I am glad that the Arts Council, in making grants, as well as requiring certain artistic standards, are paying increased attention to administrative standards. It is my own experience that large sums can be dissipated by inefficient administration and inadequate budgeting control. Creative people frequently find themselves in positions of overall management in the theatre for which they have no skills and where they resent the discipline of the balance sheet. It is important for the wise spending of Arts Council funds that 'there should be a clear definition of authority in the theatre between the creative artist and the chief administrator. Indeed some of the tensions between board and artistic director about which the Estimates subcommittee concerned itself a good deal arise from this failure to define authority.

It occurs to me, therefore, not only that the Arts Council should be concerned with training administrators but that they might well offer to the theatre a national management audit service. This service would advise boards on administration by request, but would also periodically visit on their own initiative theatres which receive substantial grants, to check on their management efficiency and report to local boards. I know that the Arts Council are reluctant to intervene in local affairs, but this is nothing at all to do with the artistic policies of the theatres concerned; it is very much a matter of wise spending. This audit service would have the experience of Nottingham and Stoke and other theatres to guide them, and I am sure that local boards would find the service extremely helpful.

On the subject of finance, and reading the Report of the Estimates sub-committee, I welcome the attention which has been given to the provision for three-year ahead planning. It is extremely difficult to run an enterprise of this kind and to make the commitments which are inevitable in running a theatre unless we can see ahead so far as budgeting is concerned. I like the reference to the encouragement of the local theatres to build up surpluses to be carried forward from one year to another. There is the danger in Government grants—and this applies not only to the Arts—that you must spend in this year's accounting period or you lose the money. That makes for very bad housekeeping, not only in this field but in other agencies of Government. I should like to feel that theatres were encouraged to build up surpluses which would enable them to undertake exceptional expenditure, such as for a local festival, for putting on a somewhat more elaborate production than is normally permitted by tight budgeting. Because there is no doubt that a good deal of our repertory theatre production, tied as it is to budgets, develops a kind of greyness about it, and it might be wise if surpluses were available to boost a new production or at least to make it a little more exciting than the normal run of the theatre.

I propose to say a word or two about the question of the relationship between the director and the board of the theatre. Like the noble Lord, Lord Annan, I think all who have been engaged in theatres have had experience of these vocational explosions between the artistic director and his board. Indeed, if I may say so, I think that since the departure of John Neville from Nottingham there has been a tendency on the part of directors, on leaving their posts for whatever reason, to proclaim their frustrations as though they were the victims of some kind of unimaginative and uninspired people who sit on boards for local prestige purposes. These artistic people are often notable people with ready access to the Sunday newspapers and also to television, and this caricature of the situation tends to gain credence as a result. I observe in the Report before us that the theatre with which I am concerned also receives mention in this regard. The retiring director explained that, Frequently my own programme suggestions are squashed, not for budgetary but for other reasons, sometimes prejudiced, sometimes reasoned dislike". Note the word "frequently". During his period in office 67 plays were presented at the Citizens' and Close Theatres and only three of those were vetoed, and not on grounds of public morality but at least one in terms of artistic standards.

I mention this because I feel there is this growing tendency to imagine that the artistic, creative man is in some way restricted by the middle-aged fuddy-duddies who assume responsibilities on local theatre boards. I should like the artistic people in the theatre to recognise that the boards have a role to play. Many of them are dedicated people, many of them are people committed to the theatre, any many of them give up time and experience which is valuable to the community and which should be used. Invariably they have deep roots in the community. I am glad to say that when this matter was discussed in the evidence before the Estimates sub-committee the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, with his usual good sense, said: Where you have a system of boards, there should be argument and discussion and the ultimate decision on play selection must be one in which the board's views are taken into account. I hope we shall have reasonable co-operation between directors and boards in the stormy periods ahead for the theatre, because, keep in mind, my Lords, censorship is now abolished in the theatre and this can give rise to tensions. I hope that local boards will not assume the mantle which has been laid down by the Lord Chamberlain, but at the same time I hope that local artistic directors in any of the theatres will pay some attention to the fact that local boards frequently express experience and their background and knowledge of local conditions.

Some mention has been made in this debate of the whole subject of patronage for the Arts beyond purely State patronage. I hope that in our community we shall not depend exclusively on the State for encouragement of the Arts, but that there may be room for private initiatives, for large firms who are prepared to acknowledge some social obligation in this regard. But the total effect of all our endeavours must be to improve the quality of our lives and create an environment in which the cultivation of those things which are lasting and beautiful may be encouraged.

When we walk through some of our towns, and particularly some of our new towns or some of the new development areas to-day, we appreciate that there have been vast changes, and many of them for the good. The children are growing up nowadays in homes which provide for reasonable amenities, and slums are being destroyed; but the architecture of much of our public buildings —with the notable exception of schools—is frequently deplorable. In our cities large office blocks are constructed with an eye only to the profit on the investment, and are often plain and sometimes ugly. In other cases we err in the opposite direction; where prestige properties are built by some firms good taste is often sacrificed to ostentation. And yet each year from our art schools in this country there is a constant stream of young painters, and sculptors particularly, who find few outlets for their creative talents. I welcome the encouragement which is given to some of them by Arts Council fellowships, but I should like to see in our cities and in our towns much more commissioning of work from young as well as established artists.

In certain European countries there is provision for a levy on public buildings and for the proceeds to be distributed to some artistic enterprise associated with the development. I should like to see in this country a 1 per cent. levy on all new buildings, public or private, the sums derived from this levy to be spent on some piece of sculpture on or around the building, or in the purchase of paintings which could be freely available for display as part of the development. Such levies might be collected by local authorities, but the spending of this sum should be determined or controlled by the Arts Council or some similar body. Such a scheme would, I am sure, bring new encouragement to young artists, and particularly young sculptors. It would gain a wider appreciation of their work by the public, and in addition it would help to relieve the gloom of the glass and concrete tombs which are so much part of our new building.

6.43 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by adding my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Nugent for initiating this debate, and to thank him for the outstanding contribution he made at the beginning of our deliberations. I should like also to congratulate my noble friend Lord Strathcona on his maiden speech, and associate with my congratulations the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, who followed my noble friend.

A debate of this kind is one of the very few opportunities for Parliament to discuss the Arts Council's polices and affairs. I believe that this is a good thing and should occur at regular intervals. My purpose in speaking to-day is to draw attention to the Arts outside London, with particular reference to regional and northern problems, and to fit them in, if I can, as part of an important national issue, because I believe that the regions and London, though different in their problems, form two parts of one problem.

Lord Goodman's introduction to the Arts Council Annual Report for 1967–68, which we are debating, refers to this, and says: Once again much emphasis is on the regions, or, more accurately, on those parts of Great Britain outside London. London presents a special problem: it is foolish to regard it as sufficiently served by artistic and cultural amenities to a point where it can now be neglected in favour of other areas, but simple justice compels us to call a relative halt to expansion in many London plans and institutions until at least something comparable to London 'density' of culture is available in other parts of the country. I could not agree more with that paragraph, and I think it is right that it should be in print and part of the official Report of the Arts Council.

On page 19 of the Report—and it is interesting to note that no speaker has yet mentioned this—there is the announcement of an appointment of a regional adviser. This must be a good move. I do not know about these things—I certainly do not know about personalities in this field—but it is terribly important that whoever is appointed should have the confidence of the areas which he advises, and be in close touch both with the regions and with the centre. I certainly welcome this appointment very much indeed.

The same theme appears in the Estimates Committee Report on the Arts Council, dated December, 1968. I will not quote them, because they are very long paragraphs, but in paragraphs 85 and 90 they say more or less the same thing as the Report of the Arts Council; namely, they draw attention to the regions. In paragraph 129 they state: The Arts Council should both directly and indirectly (through its Regional Officer and Independent Arts Regional Associations) give more positive encouragement to local authorities and others to join them in support for the Arts. This means money. We who are engaged in public life—and especially those who have been engaged in public life for a long time—know what that means. In this sense it means public money, since the taxpayer and the ratepayer are being asked to bridge the nap, to a considerable extent, between total costs and income earned at the box office.

When public money and public finance are involved this must become a political matter, subject to political debate and political accountability. But this is no reason at all why it should be a Party political issue, nor should it be an excuse for the State to take over and control artistic institutions. Neither of these things have happened under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, for which I congratulate him. And I join sincerely with other noble Lords in my congratulations to Miss Jennie Lee, who has supported the noble Lord. Although for thirty years in another place we sat opposite each other and were diametrically opposed on policies of all kinds, I believe that together they are doing wonderful work for the Arts in this country. People will say, "This is ridiculous; it is not politics". But everything is politics when you are dealing with public funds. But it need not be Party politics, and the noble Lord has kept it from being Party politics. May it long be so. In the North we have to do the same, and I think the Northern Arts Association is certainly non-Party politically. I hold this view very strongly indeed.

There is one other point I should like to mention at this stage in regard to finance. I am afraid it is "nuts and bolts" again, but the "nuts and bolts" are very important in this field. As far back as February, 1965, the Government issued a Command Paper No. 2601, in paragraph 38 of which it states: Local authorities depend, for authority to incur expenditure, mainly but not entirely on Section 132 of the Local Government Act 1948. This permits them to spend the product of a 6d. rate on entertainment in all its forms. The authority exists, and it may be that, as time goes on and as the theme develops and more people become interested in the Arts, more will come from the rates than from the national Exchequer, in other words, from the Arts Council. A very small sum in poundage rates is contributed to the Arts in the regions or indeed in London.

This brings me to the balance between London and the regions. As a Northerner, I am naturally concerned about the Arts in the North. I fully agree that London as the capital city must have the nation's leading Opera House, its major ballet company, national galleries of ancient and modern art, the National Theatre and other institutions. Clearly, it is the duty of the Arts Council to sustain these organisations, as in fact they are doing. But the Arts Council have been given another object under their Charter, namely: to increase the availability of the Arts to the public throughout Great Britain"— and I emphasise the words "throughout Great Britain".

One sees from the figures that over 80 per cent. of the population do not live in London. In any comparison between London and the regions one must recognise that the balance is greatly tilted towards London and against the Provinces. This is inevitable. The commercial infrastructure of the Arts—publishing, commercial theatres, art galleries and cinemas—persists in London. That again is probably right. But it is a serious matter that elsewhere this commercial infrastructure has almost disappeared. I am told that the Outer London Theatre Touring Circuit has nearly broken down, and that Howard and Wyndham are openly trying to sell their No. 1 touring theatres. Your Lordships will agree that this is not just a local problem for Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool or Newcastle to solve as best they can. It is a national problem since these theatres provide the only possible chance of touring first-class opera, ballet and drama, and also popular light entertainment, for the regions which they serve. I hope that the Arts Council will bear this serious problem very much in mind in relation to the problem of regions versus London.

At the risk of being completely out of order, I would say that the problem of London and the regions is not confined to the Arts. For the last five years I have had the privilege of being Chairman of the Statutory Advisory Committee on Internal Air Transport for the Northern Region, and problems of this sort arise as acutely for that Committee as for the Arts Council. That Advisory Committee deals with problems about Heathrow and Gatwick; it tries to look ten, twenty or thirty years into the future to envisage the situation in relation to regional airports. Therefore there is nothing particularly novel in the problems faced by the Arts Council, except that they have now become acute because of successes achieved in recent years.

To come back to the debate, in the last few years the Arts, under the leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and with the support of the Government, through Miss Jennie Lee, have received a tremendous stimulus through an increase in Government grants of £3 million in 1965 to over £7 million four years later. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, today made an addition to the figures to bring them up to date, and this means that it has been possible for more money to be distributed from the centre to different activities throughout the country. This led to groups of local enthusiasts banding together to form regional Arts associations affiliated to the Arts Council. The first to be formed, in 1961, was the Northern Arts Association. Yearly the work has increased; so also has help and encouragement from the Arts Council, and therefore there has been more expenditure.

The Northern Arts Association covers a large area, including Berwick-on-Tweed, Northumberland, Durham, the North Riding of Yorkshire, Westmorland and Cumberland. Recently similar new groups have emerged, namely the East and West Midlands, Yorkshire (East and West Ridings), East Anglia, the Southern Region, and the Mid and South. Wales Region. These all need Arts Council grants, and are hoping to get them. This changing pattern, by increasing demand from all over the country, requires a re-thinking of policy by the Arts Council. Either there must be a cutting down of grants to match the money available or an increase in money must be found from somewhere.

References have been made this afternoon to the Report of the Select Committee. It was asked whether there should be a definite assurance that the period would be at least three years. I think the phrase used was "rolling footing", which I understand means that one knows where one is for three years in advance. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and his Council will look carefully at this matter and try to bring it to fruition. Even if people are not going to get all they want, they should know exactly where they are.

I am not so optimistic as some noble Lords are on the subject of raising money. Raising money from industry is at present very difficult. The answer one receives from industrial concerns is usually that they are paying such enormous direct and indirect taxes, and also have to pay rates, that their contribution to the Arts filters through the Treasury and local government. There is a good deal to be said for that in these days of high taxation. The answer of the charitable trusts is that the Arts Council exist for the sole purpose of subsidising the Arts, but of course the Arts Council have many calls on their funds and cannot do more.

The crux remains—and this is the most important point that has arisen out of this debate—that stimulating the Arts leads to a response from the under-served Provinces. This means a larger spread of monetary grant and, as things stand at present, some areas must suffer. This year one of those who suffered has been the oldest association, the Northern Arts Association, whose application for a larger grant to meet increased demand has been refused, even though the Arts Council have had an increased Treasury grant. Naturally they are disappointed; but we must all look to the future. However, successful pioneering work is, to some extent, being penalised in order that money can go to the infant associations which are now springing up, so as to get them on their feet. I am not going to suggest that that it wrong or right, but this aspect certainly needs looking at and thinking about, because as these babies get going they will want more money. So there must be some system by which money can be allocated equitably on a reasonable and flexible basis. I hope the Arts Council will look into that.

I should like to put the record straight on one matter, so far as the North is concerned. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, suggested that the Northern Arts Association thought their allocation should be given on a per capita basis, but they did not mean to create that impression. I hope the noble Lord will accept from them, through me, that that was not their intention. What they suggested was that in testing the adequacy of national grants to large blocks of people the amount per head is valuable as a guidline, which is rather a different thing. The Arts Council apparently accept this in regard to the Scottish Arts Council, so why should it not be accepted elsewhere? The Association did not wish to say that because Wales has more money per capita they should necesarily have an equal amount. It is only that they thought the amount per head should be the guideline. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will accept that in the spirit in which it is given.


Yes, indeed, my Lords. And, equally, since Yorkshire and Humberside get less, this makes very good sense indeed.


The worst case has been quoted a good deal. In one area 2.6 million people are getting a per capita grant of 3s. 4d., whereas the Northern Arts Association servicing 3.2 million people are getting approximately 1s. 1d. This has been quoted only to show that some area has to suffer. But if all noble Lords think it is right to enrich people's lives through the provision of the Arts, then there must be sufficient Government grant to maintain—"maintain" is the operative word—the distance they have already gone, so that they do not have to go backwards. It is often forgotten that many of the artistic hungry have for the first time during this last period of years tasted the joys of a living art, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, said, like Oliver Twist they are asking for more.

The size of the problem can be measured only by the success of the Arts Council. It is because they have been so successful that the problem is becoming so acute. My comment is in no sense a criticism—far from it; it is very much in the form of congratulations for what has been done and is being done. But this problem is nearly running away at the moment, because of the measure of success. More and more people are interested in the visual Arts and in what can be obtained from them, yet the basic money required to satisfy the need is not available because of economic crises in the nation and other reasons. I ask that in future years the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, will look into this problem with his Council and try to form a policy which will enable him to continue his good work in recent years. Finally, if I may leave the "nuts and bolts" and come back to what was said by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester, none of these problems will be worthy of solution unless we think we are achieving the opening up of an opportunity for a better and fuller life for many thousands of our citizens up and down the country.

7.6 p.m.


My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, for introducing this subject, and also to the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, for his maiden speech, on which we offer him our congratulations. I have had a certain amount of nostalgia while listening to the many admirable speeches in this Chamber, because, as I listened to speech after speech about wanting more money, my mind was going back to the days when as an enthusiastic young conductor I went around in an area of Lancashire searching for good voices. If your Lordships have ever been on that hook you will know what it means.

That area had an unemployment percentage of 45. You knocked on doors and asked whether Jack was in, because you had heard he had a marvellous voice and you wanted him to come and join the choral society. But, time and time again, I had the experience of Jack coming to the door and saying that he was sorry but he was unemployed and some of those who were going to the choral society were in employment. What is more, he had only one patched pair of trousers. Those were the clays when the snobbery or, shall I say, the class divisions were more marked between the employed and the unemployed than between the aristocracy and the slums. It was that experience which helped me to understand how powerful and valuable in the social structure the Arts are. So now, after many years of associating with work of this description, I come to make a few comments.

In those days I hired the light orchestra from the Hallé for £130 for the week—six performances. It looks and seems absolutely ridiculous today, but those were the circumstances at the time. Since the war we have had the prosperity club, and we have been fortunate enough to have Sir Stafford Cripps, Maynard Keynes and the rest who did as much to start the Arts Council. Since then there has been such an upsurge that it can hardly be believed. Sometimes I am nearly frightened by it, wondering how it is going to be sustained. It is of a piece with our town centres—wondering whether the rates can be paid and kept up to, and whether the costs in the shops are going to be too high for people's pockets. It is the same sort of thing. On the other hand, it is invigorating and exciting.

Think of the movement in people's attitudes to music, for instance, in places like Manchester and district, Liverpool and Lancashire county as a whole; the decision to weld together the two big northern colleges, the Northern School and the Royal Manchester College of Music, to build a place costing nearly £750,000, for the training of musicians for the future; then Cheetham's hospital Foundation, which is to be made a junior music school and which is getting the backing of Manchester and the North. I understand that the chairman of the Arts Council has lately decided that he will be a patron of that endeavour, and we are very glad to know that this is so.

Mention has been made of regions, and of their demands. I think that we are a little impatient here. It takes a long time for ideas to sink in and mature, and for regions to get to know their own people intimately. This is a new field and things are not always obvious to those who have not taken part in the administration of this kind of thing before. I say that advisedly, because a region of the size of, say, the North-West, containing two large cities and a number of county boroughs, municipal boroughs and other authorities, have a certain amount of money allocated to them. They feel they want to be in a position of being benefactors, and of being able to support the Arts at once. May I suggest that there is no such thing as "instant art", and that you cannot suddenly effect a big difference in the musical or artistic appreciation of an area simply by taking into it an expensive symphony orchestra and letting them play?

We in the district where I live are fortunate in having had people who have been engaged in this work for many years. Everybody in the district is aware of what is going on and is involved. It is this involvement of the common folk in areas that will be the real strength and sustenance of the Arts in many of our regions. We have a population of approximately 18,000. Every now and again we run a festival—and this is where I must make my position clear. I have an interest. That festival sparks off something which lasts until the next one. Upwards of 3,000 people out of the 18,000 are involved in one way or another before that festival ever gets off the ground.

A word about the last recomrnendation in the Eighth Estimates Report—that large volume which nearly breaks your arm as you are carrying it around. It talks about liaison and association, and the interest that should he taken in the approach to local authorities. There is hardly a local authority which is not prepared to support good ventures for its citizens if it can be absolutely certain about the integrity and the ability of those who come with a programme to lay before them. Those of us who have through the years been working in this field think that there is a big danger of giving support to areas or towns where there is no organised and coherent demand for, say, a theatre, and no organised plan. I for one would think it most irresponsible on the part of the Arts Council if commitments were entered into by them in towns where adequate support was not forthcoming, and was not proved to be forthcoming. I say that advisedly, because I want that on the Record so that at some time in the near future, when I am called upon to explain what the Arts Council's policy is in these matters, I may be able to assist. I think that this Government have been first-rate in supporting the Arts, and I think we are fortunate that the Arts Council is led by Lord Goodman.

I say no more than that, but I want to make just one or two points before I sit down about these famous nuts and bolts mentioned so often this afternoon. One of the places in which I am interested is Manchester. I have already described the terrific activity that there is there in the musical field. Lord Cottesloe mentioned the Whitworth Gallery—and I am sure they will make a go of it, despite the fact that the income for pictures is only about £700 to £800 a year, which is negligible. There is very little you can buy for that figure nowadays.

Regarding the situation of the, shall I say? not so prosperous side of the Arts in a place like Manchester, it used to have up to a dozen theatres in the old days, including Variety; and now it has got down to two. One is the Opera House, which has been mentioned this afternoon and which is in danger of closing. The other is the Palace, which has fairly constant runs. The Opera House still makes a profit but a very low one; and the bingo menace hangs over it. There is no doubt that if this theatre goes over to bingo or to something similar it will be a tragic loss to many hundreds of thousands of people. This matter has been taken to the Arts Council by interested parties, and I understand that in the survey made in 1967 on this commercial issue, it was suggested that the approach should be through the local authorities. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said this afternoon that loans could be arranged; and I hope something constructive can be arranged. We depend on a place like the Opera House to have a sight of the important productions from London, Glyndebourne, the ballet and Covent Garden.

Another problem is that when the heart is ripped out of a city and a lot of its citizens are sent forcibly to housing estates, very often outside the boundaries of that city, a convulsion takes place, and we do not thoroughly understand yet the implication for the Arts. Very often we try to make up for it by rough-and-ready methods. Now what is the present situation with the theatre in Manchester? A new Stables Theatre has been set up by Granada; there is the University Theatre which operates primarily for the students; and the Sixty-Nine Theatre group which borrows that theatre and has done three memorable seasons. It gets a very good grant from the Arts Council. But none of these theatres has anything like enough seating capacity to make it viable; none of them will hold more than 300 people. and you cannot "make a do of it" with 300 people; you must have something in the region of 700 or 800 people—and the seats must be full all the week. So a colossal subsidy must come from somewhere for those theatres which have been set up in good faith and in eagerness.

My Lords, let me go to another town. Oldham, which has had a gruelling time over the years when unemployment ran high, where the old industries declined, both cotton and coal. If ever a town had a battering, that one did. Yet something arose out of that ruck that Oldham citizens are proud of. When regional authorities and associations are looking round to see what help they can give to local authorities and to enterprising groups, they would do well to have a look at the things which the local authorities and the communities are proud of. And there is not a single authority that I have come across in the dozens I have visited during the last six months that has not got at least one item of its community life of which it is proud. These are the things to build on in our society. Sometimes it is the chamber of commerce; in others the local paper; in others the football team.

They are proud of the theatre in Oldham. It has been forged by the unselfish work of ordinary people who dedicated themselves to the task of making a theatre by manning it and canvassing for members; and they have now 11,000 members. They staff the theatre. If it had not been for this voluntary work it would never have got off the ground at all. If ever an organisation believed in creating a theatre from grass roots the Oldham theatre did. Until recently it got no assistance from anybody—and by "recently", I mean during the last six years—and the stimulation that the Arts Council gave to that theatre when they came in with a grant, and also one for capital expenditure on a new building, sparked off a reaction with the local authorities who also gave a capital grant. The question of the need for a longer term grant has already been discussed. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, in his evidence to the Estimates Committee said that everybody ought to look to the East —and that was the Treasury. I suppose that is the position now; but I think that in the light of what has been said this afternoon more notice will be taken of it in future.

My Lords, I am sorry that I have had to leave out Liverpool because of the time. But they have a tremendous story, and they are setting the pace in all kinds of artistic spheres. On a smaller and more "nuts and bolts" note may I say that we in our district give a couple of stands to the "Opera for All", when it comes. People might think this is "small beer"; but it is not so to those young students who are touring at very great inconvenience to get their experience. They will be at home in my district on Friday and Saturday night this week. We shall hear some super singing. They will be making friends with the people in our district, who will follow their careers with intense interest. They follow them to Glynclebourne when they are successful in being engaged by the company there. They follow them to Covent Garden, and when they come to Manchester the dressing rooms are crowded. The friendship given to them generously by people like ours at home makes them feel that they have a real role to play not only on the stage but elsewhere in the community. They have to train for seven years and then may not achieve high salaries or fees. Compare this with the "pop" singers turning into professionals with no experience at all, and commanding colossal fees.

My final point is that in our part of the world we look to the B.B.C. to put some "guts" into the spreading of musical appreciation throughout the region. It would be a tragedy if the policy of the B.B.C. were to cut down and remove from us the Northern Symphony Orchestra. It would be a blow that we would find it difficult to get over. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and others who have influence to persuade, will use that influence to see that it is not denied to us in the new economy drive. It has been an interesting debate, and I am very delighted that I have been able to take a little part in it.

7.33 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships will not expect me to follow the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, because I wish to direct my attention to the problems of Wales. I can only look for some sympathy to the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, who I am pleased to see is to wind up this debate. May I also say how grateful I am to my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford for initiating the debate and, with respect, how much I admired his introductory speech.

What he said applies with equal and perhaps even greater force to Wales. We suffer from a lack of private patronage and a reluctance of local authorities to put money into the Arts, and this has cast a tremendous burden on the Welsh Arts Council. They have found themselves in a position which my noble friend described as near-monopoly patronage. They have come in for much criticism in the past, some of it to my mind deserved; but the main reason has been that they have been forced to undertake a great many responsibilities and assume a great many burdens which it was no part of their desire to carry. This has been the primary cause of the unhappy story of the Welsh Theatre Company. In order to keep the professional theatre alive in Wales, it was essential to keep this company going, and no one but the Welsh Arts Council had power to do so. But it certainly cannot be considered the function of the Arts Council to run a theatre company; and, indeed, the Welsh Theatre Company is now independent, nominally, although unfortunately it still depends almost entirely on the Welsh Arts Council for its financial backing.

The figures of Arts Council support to the Welsh Theatre Company show an astonishing increase over the last six years. In 1962–63, the support amounted to £14,000-odd. Three years later, in 1965–66, it had nearly trebled, to £39,000-odd; and last year, 1967–68. it had doubled again to £78,000-odd. The company now receives more grant money from the Arts Council than any other theatre company in the United Kingdom, except the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the English Stage Company. Yet the company has no theatre of its own; it has not played in Cardiff for the last three years, and it has no real continuity. Its only permanent nucleus is its administrative, wardrobe and workshop staff, and four Welsh-speaking actors. The other members of the company are engaged ad hoc for particular tours and seasons. It is quite impossible to build up a satisfactory theatre company in this way. A company develops a style if it works together throughout the year. With no home, and no permanent body of actors, the present company is hopelessly handicapped. And in my view it was a grave misjudgment on the part of the Welsh Arts Council to register the company under the title of Welsh National Theatre Company.

This brings me on to what I consider to be the main problem of the Arts in Wales, and that is simply the lack of suitable buildings. We have a theatre company without a theatre, an opera company without an opera house, no national orchestra because we have no concert hall; and we lack a picture gallery. Yet among Welshmen and Welsh women we include some of the finest actors and actresses, opera singers, artists and musicians. Alas! they all have to further their careers in London, New York, and even Hollywood. At the same time, there is plenty of enthusiasm in Wales for the Arts, particularly amateur. Amateur dramatic societies, amateur musical societies, amateur art societies, flourish throughout the Principality. And there is plenty of support for the best professional theatre when it arrives. The Welsh Opera Company plays to packed houses; and so does a visit of the National Theatre.

So we must ask ourselves what is required. It seems to me that the very lack of facilities offers us a chance to make a comprehensive plan for the future. I should like, ideally, to see plans in existence for a centre of the dramatic and musical arts in the capital city of Wales, in Cardiff. I should like to see plans for a complex of buildings —an opera house, National Theatre, concert hall and art gallery, all linked together on one site and, if possible, linked also to the University. I do not of course mean to say that all these buildings should be put up at once. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, that we must proceed by degrees. But I should like to see the planning going forward. No doubt these facilities could be combined. The opera house and the concert hall might be one building; and a further scheme, the sound of which I especially like, is that the art gallery might constitute the theatre foyer. It would put otherwise fairly useless space to excellent use and allow theatregoers to enjoy the art gallery during intervals. The Cardiff School of Music and Drama, which also needs a student theatre, could be planned in with this complex, and, indeed, is being considered in conjunction with the National Theatre. That, too, would benefit from a close link with an opera house, concert hall and art gallery.

Of these buildings, the first priority must be the provision of a Welsh National Theatre. The opera company can and does perform at the New Theatre —and I should explain to your Lordships who are not familiar with Cardiff that the New Theatre means the old theatre: the real new theatre is the Welsh National Theatre. After all there is a drama company, as I have explained, and this costs a great deal of money. It is unable to attract enough good talent because of its lack of a theatre, and it has a very low box office return because it never performs in Cardiff. For all these reasons, it needs a new theatre. There have over the years been many difficulties and many arguments over the provision of such a theatre, but last year it appears that all these difficulties were ironed out and there was a united will to progress.

I should like to mention two significant achievements. First of all, a National Council has been established, under the very able chairmanship of Sir William Emrys Williams, and on that Council are representatives of most of the counties and county boroughs of Wales, of the acting profession, of the university, the broadcasting organisations and distinguished Welshmen from all walks of life. Secondly, within that Council and within the planning, the local authorities have been involved. The Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, who reported on the Arts in Wales in May, 1966, were somewhat critical of the part played by local authorities in Wales. I do not really blame the local authorities, because hitherto there has been very little worthy of support, other than the Welsh National Opera Company and the National Eisteddfod, which is, of course, an amateur competition. Yet in this case they have responded with energy, to the appeal for a Welsh National Theatre, and I believe that this is a significant move forward.

I think it would be a great help if the Government would consider some amendment to Section 132 of the Local Government Act 1948. This is the section which prevents one local authority from contributing to a theatre or concert hall outside its own area unless that place is "convenient for residents" in the area. Those words are a little restrictive, and it was to overcome this difficulty in the case of the Eisteddfod that the Eisteddfod Act 1958 was passed. This suggestion was made in the Report of the Council for Wales, to which I referred, and I hope it is one that will commend itself. It seems to me that the better way to proceed is to amend the main Act rather than to rely upon specific Private Bills to accomplish the same purpose.

There is another reason why it is important to get this Welsh National Theatre project off the ground soon. The University College of Wales at Bangor has already announced its plans for building a theatre, and, with most commendable foresight, the Welsh Arts Council proposed that they should make a grant towards this theatre, which would be earmarked to make the stage facilities of the theatre of sufficient quality to enable a future National Theatre Company to perform there. Since then further plans have been announced for another university college theatre at Aberystwyth.

So the position is that local theatres are beginning to grow up, and it is most important that before too long a central theatre should exist in Cardiff. Already the Council have appointed an architect, Richard Davies, who is highly skilled in the specialist requirements of theatre building, and I very much hope that the Welsh Arts Council, if they are to grant-aid any new theatre outside Cardiff, will insist on a condition that the plans are co-ordinated with the future Welsh National Theatre in Cardiff. Without that liaison we shall never be able to serve the needs of North and Central Wales properly.

Unfortunately, the time is not very propitious for a large project of this sort. Local authority expenditure is being strictly limited and necessarily will have to concentrate on such things as major educational projects. Also, the Cardiff City Council, as the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, mentioned, is involved in a project to buy the New Theatre, I understand for £104,000. I very much hope it will do so, because that at least will ensure a stage in Cardiff for the present, and one where the Welsh National Opera Company can perform. I very much hope, also, that the Arts Council will help them with a capital grant, because if that can be done the interest which is required to meet the capital expenditure of the city on a new theatre might not exceed the rent that they are called upon to pay at present, and they would be relatively better off.

But when the time comes when we can really "go to town" and start building a National Theatre, I hope that the Government will take as a precedent the financial arrangements made for the National Theatre on the South Bank, and that the capital cost can be shared between central and local government. I know that in the case of the South Bank it was only one local authority and that in the case of Wales it would be a consortium of most of the counties and county boroughs of Wales. If that should happen, then Wales will have cause to be as grateful to Miss Jennie Lee and to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, as my noble friend Lord Chandos was.

I should like to end by commending the work of the Welsh Arts Council. I began by pointing out the difficulties that they have faced, and I have not really had time to do justice to the excellent work that they have done in the fields of opera, literature, music and art. In the field of drama, to which I have devoted most of my speech, the difficulties have been great and mistakes have been made; but I see hope for the future, given the co-operation of all those who wish to see Welsh artists have a place of their own in their own homeland.

7.49 p.m.


My Lords, I must certainly begin by declaring my interest. For the last ten years I suppose I have averaged two nights a week at opera or ballet, and I hope to do so for the next ten years, so any tampering with subsidy would be ill received by me. I came with what I thought was a well argued speech to defend the size of the subsidies to opera and ballet, but as nobody has attacked them it leaves me rather at a loss. However, I have a number of facts in support of my arguments and I hope your Lordships will not think it unkindly at this time of night if I cut the arguments and just give you a few of the facts.

If you compare conditions in this country to-day with those of thirty years ago, when it made Sir Thomas Beecham bankrupt to run a short season of first-class opera, you find that now we have two magnificent opera houses in the capital: one, the greatest, the Royal Opera House, shortly to be under the musical direction of a young Englishman, Colin Davis; and the other the new home of Sadler's Wells, the Coliseum, shortly to be under the musical direction of a young Australian, Charles Mackerras; we have a marvellous season at Glyndebourne; we have the Sadler's Wells touring opera; we have the Welsh National Opera; we have the Scottish opera; we have the St. Pancras Festival; we have the Phoenix Opera; and, as my noble friend Lord Rhodes pointed out and reminded us, we have the very excellent work done by Opera for All.

Equity tells me that there are no fewer than 600 fully employed professional singers in the opera business alone earning a proper living. This figure does not relate to all those who cannot earn a proper living, of which there will always be some, but 600 is not a bad figure. We have an opera school with a steadily rising reputation; and instead of our budding singers having to go to Italy or Germany to learn the business and then to earn a living, people come here from Italy and Germany and from all over the world. I speak of 600 singers. It takes at least three stage hands, people at the front of the house and management, to keep one singer in the front line. So there is a three to one ratio of people in decent, reasonably paid employment in the realm of opera for this very highly specialised and extremely difficult art.

If we take the ballet, we have the Royal Ballet, second to none in the world; we have its vigorous and charming young touring company which wins all hearts when it comes to London; we have the Festival Ballet, the Ballet Rambert, the Western Theatre Ballet and the famous Ballet School, which Ninette de Valoir still gives her attention to, which provides dancers for all over the world. My Lords, whatever may have happened to the British Empire politically or economically, so far as opera and ballet are concerned London is very much the centre of a tremendous artistic surge from the Commonwealth. Dancers and singers from all parts flock here for training and for employment. Some of our brightest stars come from the Commonwealth. One has to think for only a minute to reel off names: Joan Sutherland, Marie Collier—I was going to say Geraint Evans, but that is not the Commonwealth; it would be divisive to suggest it is anything but British. There is also Jon Vickers. It is a record of which we really can be proud.

I said that I would give your Lordships some figures, and I have some. If you pool the contracted artistes of the Royal Opera Company, the two ballet companies and the two Sadler's Wells companies, you find there are 57 Commonwealth artistes among them: 14 from Australia, 6 from Canada—some of these people are English who were born in these countries—10 from New Zealand, 15 from South Africa, three from Rhodesia, two from India, one from Pakistan, one from Bermuda, one from Trinidad and one from Ceylon. Some of these are ex-Empire territories. We also have an American, a very charming young dancer; a Lithuanian; two from Norway, one from Spain and one from Chile. This really bears out the point, I think, that this is a centre of the very greatest importance.

If there were any weakness in enthusiasm there might be some room for hesitation, but there is not. The addiction of a section of our public to opera began in Italy when troops found Italian opera better value than Italian cinemas, which it was. In spite of steadily rising prices, the movement goes on. Last year at Covent Garden we gave 53 performances of opera at normal prices—which I must tell your Lordships are not very cheap—and we played to 89 per cent. of capacity. We gave 91 performances of opera at special prices (which is a euphemism for "very dear") and there we played to 95 per cent. capacity. We gave 109 performances of ballet at normal prices and played to 87 per cent. of capacity; 18 performances at special prices—that means Fonteyn, and obviously we played to 97 per cent. of capacity.

At Sadler's Wells in our old home at Islington 93,000 people paid for admission during the period August to December, 1967. At the Coliseum during the corresponding period last year we had 168,000 paid admissions, an increase of more than 80 per cent. There is a growing public—my noble friend Lord Goodman boasted of it; and he is absolutely right—and every time a risk is taken to provide it with first-class fare it responds. The phenomenal success of Scottish opera witnesses to this. What they do not respond to—and why should they?—is second-class fare. I do not want your Lordships to think that this is a kind of pyramid; it is an iceberg.

Music in this country is broadly based. I suppose your Lordships think my right honourable friend Miss Jennie Lee, egged on by my noble friend Lord Goodman, is the main distributor of musical largesse. But not a bit of it… The cornucopia, the real centre of distribution of money for music, comes from the Ministry of Defence. My right honourable friend Mr. Denis Healey, who is I know an opera lover, spends no less than £6¾ million on music—not actually on opera or ballet but on his military, Royal Air Force and Naval bands. I am all for this. It produces a proper basis on which we can build the musical world. It was extremely useful the other day when Miss Ginger Rogers arrived to have one handy. And it is perfectly clear that the deck hand who learns to play the cornet at my right honourable friend's expense may well end up playing the Brandenburg Second Concerto at the Festival Hall. Your Lordships will remember that Rimsky-Korsakoff conducted a naval band; and he, after all, ended up as one of the great opera composers. If it could be said of anyone it could be said that he had a baton in his knapsack. It is not that we want to spend less on military bands— hope that my right honourable friend in his exercise of cutting our defences will leave them alone; it is that, as we spend only something under half the sum I have mentioned on the whole of music, opera and ballet, we really do not need to apologise to anyone.

The only difficulty, my Lords, is that we must have the best, and that is expensive. Nothing that deliberately aims at less than the best is artistically of the slightest interest. So I fear that we are simply stuck with the expense. As regards opera and ballet, it is a case of all or nothing. Either one does the very best one can—and this is constantly getting better—or the whole thing falls away and one is left with absolutely nothing. This remark has been made before, and I promised not to repeat arguments.

I should like to end by giving another statistical fact. It is said by many people that it is very expensive to get into opera in London; and certainly when certain people are here there is high competition for some seats, some of which are very dear. But if any of your Lordships have "five bob" in your pocket and would like to go to the gallery of the Coliseum I will guarantee that for that sum (I am not offering to take you, but I will see that you get in) you will have a perfect view and perfect hearing of a musical experience which you cannot buy for three times that price anywhere else in the world. My Lords, we do not have to apologise, but what we do have to do is to wish more strength to the Arts Council.

7.58 p.m.


My Lords, it is late and I shall speak only very shortly, but I want first of all to add my thanks to the noble Lord who initiated this debate, and more particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and to Miss Jennie Lee for what they have done for the Arts in this country. Like the noble Lord who has just sat down, I had intended to make a little speech in support of every single thing that has been done at Covent Garden and elsewhere by the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, and others. That is unnecessary. There has not been one word of criticism here about anything that has been spent on achieving the really wonderful standards of music and drama and the Arts, more particularly in the centre in London. I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, I think, said: that you will never keep up any standard in any country on any subject unless the best standard is paid for, appreciated and aimed at at the top. There, I think the Arts Council should be encouraged in what they have done, ably backed up by those people who, certainly in the major centres of the Arts, have had these very high aims indeed.

I should like also to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, on his maiden speech. He and I are old friends and I was delighted to hear his account of the Bath Festival and all he has done there. This is extremely encouraging. He belongs to that younger generation about whom we are always talking and are always longing to encourage, and I should like only to add my congratulations to him on making his maiden speech on this particular subject, which I think is of enormous interest. There are not a great many of your Lordships left in the House to-night, but I am quite sure that all of us are madly enthusiastic supporters of the work which he has done through the Arts Council.

I should like to say a word about the work of the Arts Council in Scotland, and again to thank the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and the Arts Council for what they have done in helping us in Scotland to achieve the standards which we have to-day. It is now 22 years since the Edinburgh International Festival started. I have been a supporter of every single one of those Festivals, and I can only say that but for the help of the Arts Council in collaboration with the Edinburgh Corporation we should never have achieved so great and important an international festival.

But in Edinburgh we are badly in need of an opera house. We have now, as the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kings-bridge, has said, an excellent new, small opera company, and we are greatly indebted to Mr. Alexander Gibson for the way in which he has built it up. I was delighted, as I am sure many people in Scotland were, when we saw that the old but very fine King's Theatre had been bought and would stand us in good stead as an opera house for visiting companies and for the Scottish opera for the future. However, it is not ideal, and we desperately need an opera house, which could probably be used for other Arts but which should be primarily for opera. We are fortunate in that we have Mr. Alexander Gibson who built up the Scottish National Orchestra, which is a very fine orchestra, and has now inspired the building up of the Scottish Opera Company. As the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson said, some of the performances of that company are most remarkable. I must have heard a great many productions of opera, such as Cosi Fan Tutte, but I do not think I have ever heard a better production than that given by the Scottish Opera Company in Edinburgh.

May I now say a word about Glasgow. Glasgow has always had the interests of drama and music at heart. But for the pioneering work of the late O. H. Mayor, better known as the playwright James Bridie, the Citizens Theatre might never have been born, but it has now given some twenty years or more of active dramatic work in Glasgow. I was interested when the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, said he was now the vice-chairman of it. I should like to put in a plea for the rehousing of the Citizens Theatre. I believe its present habitat is due for demolition under some of the development schemes in Glasgow and I very much hope that a really fine site will be found and arrangements will be made for an Arts centre in place of the burned down St. Andrew's Halls, and that in that Arts centre there will be a place to house the Citizens' Theatre and the Little Arts Theatre which works closely with it. Glasgow Corporation are to be congratulated on the improvements to the City Hall and on the fact that the Scottish National Orchestra will have a home there. Any help which the Arts Council can give to these permanent buildings which are required both in Edinburgh and in Glasgow would be exceedingly welcome, and as a supporter of their work in Scotland I would gladly encourage.

I listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, when he described what appeared to be a total lack of facilities for any of the Arts in Wales, despite the fact that we know Wales to be a fine artistic country and we admire very much her contribution to opera, choir singing and so on. However, it is necessary to have some kind of buildings, and I hope that somehow or other we shall manage to get buildings, both in Scotland and in Wales, to help us to develop the future of these important orchestras and opera companies.

One of the things in which I was particularly interested in the Arts Council Report, which in my view is an admirable document, was to see the small grants going to outlying districts, particularly in Scotland, where, although we have two or three fairly big centres there is still a wide spread of the population. It is very encouraging to read of grants going to Pitlochry, Aberdeenshire, Perth, Dundee, and even as far North as Orkney.

The Report of the Estimates Committee has been mentioned. There was a special meeting between the Estimates Committee and the Scottish Arts Council Committee, and an interesting list has been published of the way in which these small grants have borne fruit throughout the country. I greatly support that policy because I am sure that it is an excellent way of encouraging the Arts everywhere.

There is one aspect of the development of the Arts which disappoints me which is also recorded, and it is that there are not many requests from local authorities for grant aid for local efforts. Ratepayers, I am sorry to say, are in many cases not yet converted to spending money on the Arts. But with the examples of Pitlochry and Perth, Dundee Repertory and the enterprising little festivals like Montrose and Dunfermline, the urge to run something oneself will perhaps catch on. I am a ratepayer myself in my own county in Scotland, and I am sorry that ratepayers have so many other things on which their money has to be spent that they do not do more under the existing Acts to help with the local development of the Arts.

I should like to say how extraordinarily happy we are in Scotland to have as our director such an artistic, enterprising and original young man as Ronald Mayor. It is perhaps not surprising to those of us who knew his brilliant father, James Bridie, but it gives us in Scotland great faith in the way the Council is run and the money is spent. He is ably supported by Mr. Colin Mackenzie and the Committee. My only plea to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, which has been made throughout the whole of this debate, is to give them some more money, if he and Miss Lee between them can conjure up some more out of the Treasury. It is money well spent and much appreciated by those of us who live arid work in Scotland. As a taxpayer I can only say that money spent in this way is the one form of taxation that any person would never begrudge. I hope very much that the good work will be continued and also that it will be possible to extract money from the Treasury, possibly by means that have been suggested by some noble Lords here to-day, by raising money through relief of taxation (if it is for the Arts only) and that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, will be able to persuade the Treasury that there is something in this suggestion.

I am absolutely certain that this is one of the great developments in this country to-day, spread as it is throughout all the communities which make up the country. We are really building a better, a more valuable and a happier community, and I hope very much that the efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, will be supported throughout the country. I cannot express too strongly how greatly I support all that he is doing.

8.9 p.m.


My Lords, it would be superfluous for me to add my praise to the chorus of well-deserved praise that has been bestowed from all sides upon Miss Lee and the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, for the remarkable services they have rendered, both to artists and to the Arts. The hour is late; time is short and art is long. Therefore I propose to confine myself to a few brief words about an art form which in this country tends to be overlooked, or even depreciated in any discussion of the Arts.

Until recently, the tendency was even to regard the film not so much as an art as a means of mass entertainment. The cinema, of course, appeals to popular audiences. It is none the worse for that. Many of the films held in highest esteem by the critics to-day were great box office successes. But cinema audiences, due largely to television, have of course been diminishing; they now consist particularly. and indeed encouragingly, of the younger generation. As the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, pointed out, we must cater for the younger generation; they are increasingly discriminating and receptive to new ideas.

This country is one of the great centres of film making. Every encouragement must be given, surely, to young British writers and directors. They must be given scope for lively experimental low budget productions. It is an accident of history that the film does not come within the province of the Arts Council. The British Film Institute, which is in a sense the Arts Council for the film, was set up as long ago as 1933 as a pioneer body to encourage the development of the art of the film and its public appreciation. I say at once, of course, that there is no rivalry whatsoever between the Arts Council and the British Film Institute. On the contrary, the British Film Institute has been given all possible help, and support in the most generous measure, especially under Lord Goodman. Over the years, the British Film Institute has developed many purposes and functions. One need only mention the National Film Archive; the Central Booking Agency, which looks after film societies throughout the country; the National Film Theatre, which is a unique institution, admired I think throughout the world; and recently the extensive regional development which has occurred, as a result of which art film centres have been set up throughout the country. There are now some 26 such centres.

All these activities have of course increased the demand on the British Film Institute's services which can, in turn be developed only by increased resources. This has led to very severe strains. Criticism has been aroused, on the ground of inadequacy, by those very groups whose interests it has been the B.F.I.'s purpose to help to promote. The Institute needs all the help and encouragement it can get, both from industry and from the Government, especially perhaps from the Government, because there are many things that the Institute does for which it cannot just look to commercial interests. It is fair to say that Miss Lee, as Minister for the Arts, has shown a deep understanding of the need to encourage the creative aspects of film making. No one, I think, is more aware than she is of the role the film can play in enriching our national culture, especially because the film is in many ways an easy and relatively cheap medium for dissemination on the widest scale.

Under her administration, there has been a substantial increase in the Institute's subvention, but it must be stated that this increase in no way matches the comparable increase of the Arts Council's own grant. I should be the last to quarrel with the extent of that increase. which has of course enabled Lord Goodman to perform the remarkable services to which we have been referring. But it should be pointed out, in the interests of the British Film Institute, that if one leaves out the moneys needed for the archive and for its educational purposes only 2 per cent. of the money available for the Arts redounds to the benefit of the Institute. A small increase therefore, or a comparatively small increase, would serve to revolutionise the role that the B.F.I. could play.

Finally, I should like to say a few words about our National Film School. The Committee to consider the need for a National Film School was set up in 1965 by Miss Jennie Lee, and reported unanimously in 1967 in favour of a national film school. It is a matter of deep regret to many people, including myself, that no official pronouncement to set up such a school has yet been made. I hope that such an announcement will soon be made. I am fully aware that my right honourable friend Miss Jennie Lee has set her heart on this project and is using her tireless energy to bring it about. I know, too, that this project is supported by Lord Goodman, the Arts Council and the British Film Institute. I believe that we shall have a great National Film School, because it is really unthinkable that we should not have such a school.

As both the Government and Miss Lee so well understand, the Arts are not just an embellishment for the leisure hours of an elite establishment. They are needed to enrich the lives of the people as a whole. It is the fashion nowadays to sneer at the mass media, but in this sphere it is the mass media, basically, which have a special role to play. Both the cinema and television possess unique characteristics, especially the characteristic of being readily accessible to the nation as a whole. It is therefore of first importance that we should strive for the highest possible standards in both these spheres. Otherwise we shall lose a golden opportunity of bringing the products of genuine artistic activity to the widest possible public.

Films and television, like sound radio, can provide an immense educative stimulus. They must be fed, surely, not just with bread and circuses—though no doubt bread and circuses have their part to play, too—but with the best that the mass media can provide. In this respect a film and television school has a vital function in giving training to our best talents in both these fields. It is absolutely essential to provide an adequate supply of good directors, producers, cameramen and skilled technicians if this country is to remain and extend its function as a great national and international focal point for film production.

Of course much of the capital for film making comes from the United States, and for my part I should like to get more British capital into these enterprises. On the other hand, I do not deprecate, as some do, the American contribution, because after all without it there would be little film industry here at all. The film is both national and international. It is an illusion that foreign capital comes here only because it can thereby get a slice of the so-called "Eady money". No doubt this is one inducement and an important inducement, but that foreign capital, and particularly American capital, comes here because it is attracted by our directors, writers and technicians, whose talents are held in very high esteem.

But if there is not adequate scope for the entry and training of new recruits the great pool of talent in this country that is anxious to serve the film creatively will be diverted into other fields, or drawn off to other countries more ready to grant it recognition. After all, it is not a very inspiring mode of entering into a career in film making to try to work one's way up from tea boy to director. This can be done, and occasionally it has been done, but it does not provide what is commonly called to-day a career structure. The challenge of a National Film School is here; it confronts the Government. It will be a tragedy if the Government do not rise to it. The time is short; if it is not done very soon it may be too late.

Lastly, my Lords, I would end on a rather broader note. I venture to say that the greatest achievement of Miss Lee and of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has been to raise the patronage of the Arts to a level where it is no longer treated as pandering to small minority groups unable to fend for themselves. Since the days of Matthew Arnold and Ruskin the cry of "Philistine!" has reverberated through British artistic circles. Now, at last, the Arts have ceased to be relegated to the humble role of a fringe activity, Now the Arts are becoming recognised for what they are: a force which immensely enriches and sustains our national life. This is the philosophy which inspires our Minister for the Arts, and I believe it to be vital to the kind of educated democracy upon which the present Government have set their sights.

8.21 p.m.


My Lords, it is getting on in time and I will try to be as brief as possible. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, for initiating this debate on the Arts. Two years ago I made my maiden speech in a similiar debate. These more general debates which, by custom, take place in this House on Wednesdays, on the Arts or on environment, or youth, or whatever it may be, are, for me, the most exciting happening in a Parliament which, to a young man, can be a claustrophobic, narrow-minded and Party political set-up. What an opportunity these debates give to seek a direction for the future, dealing as they often do with the quality of life and not just with day-to-day Party political wrangles and the policy of the moment! Nevertheless, I feel, and perhaps it is because I am young, that too much time is spent in these debates dwelling on the past—past mistakes and particularly past achievements. To some extent this should be so; but whenever I read an Arts Council Report, or any similar kind of report, for that matter, I always feel a great agitation about how little has been achieved. On the other hand, whenever I see a Report like that of the Estimates Committee, I know I shall have to go into training even to get it clear of the doormat.

I am really concerned with pages 18 and 19 of the Arts Council Report and those of the Estimates Committee which cover Regional Developments. A great deal has been achieved in the regions during the past few years—particularly, as the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, has pointed out, in the Northern Region—and it would be easy to sit back and take a comfortable view of the progress that has been made. But really we have barely scratched the surface of what must be done in this country to improve the amenities and the facility for experiencing, appreciating, and enjoying the Arts in the regions: the regions, that vast area outside London and the Home Counties, which is usually dealt with at poker length and with heavily gloved hands. At some stage between the decline in wool and the arrival of the National Theatre the regions became places to leave as soon as possible, and it is only quite recently that people at the centre of things have begun to talk about them, for all the world as if they were a group of islands in the Pacific. At least the regions have become a topic of conversation, if not yet a subject for much action.

So far as artistic life in the regions is concerned, the Arts Council of Great Britain have taken about as much action as any central body has felt able to do in its specific field of operation, and that is not much. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has always said that it is not the duty of the Arts Council to parachute symphony orchestras into the Cheviots at random. He has always said it is difficult for the Arts Council to act by way of subsidy or otherwise unless the initiative is taken locally from within the regions. Perhaps the greatest show of initiative that we have seen in this sphere during the past few years has been the emergence in several regions of regional Arts associations. The arrival of regional Arts associations is a major development, and the Arts Council have, as they say in their Report, devoted thought and money to it. For the year 1968–69 the money part of this cautious attention amounted to £175,000 or 2.26 per cent. of the £7¾ million at the disposal of the Arts Council. I should have thought that this was minor money for a major development. The important thing now, as the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, pointed out, is that as the associations grow in size and scope of activity, as I am certain they will, they should command a growing proportion of money allotted to the Arts Council.

I can quite see that the Arts Council are in difficulty, for they are committed, and so they should be, to supporting, encouraging and improving London as one of the world's cultural capitals. It is easy to praise Jennie Lee for the work she has done in raising Government funds for the Arts, but there is a long way to go yet before the Arts Council have anything like a logical sum of money to spend on encouragement. Jennie Lee has turned a situation that was deplorable into one that is barely adequate. The country simply does not spend enough money on encouraging the Arts. There are now 10 regional associations for the Arts in operation or that we hope will come into effective operation in the next few years. There are two great difficulties involved in starting such an association. The biggest single obstacle is to answer the question: what is a region? The second difficulty is to persuade local authorities to act together in support of a regional project.

Some feel, and I do not agree, that in the past the Arts Council would have been more helpful in making firm and considered recommendations as to boundaries for discussion by the regions. On the other hand, some of us have had great difficulty in persuading local authorities to support a regional association that is professionally staffed and can operate beyond being a merely consultative body. The announcement of the Arts Council that they were not really interested in purely consultative associations was a statement of policy, or whatever you may call it, which has been a great help to emergent Arts associations.

With regard to local authorities, I cannot see any success for a theory which says that local authorities must take the initiative of co-operating in a regional way, although I think the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, was very close to the problem when he talked of civic pride. The present structure of local government is hardly designed to take that initiative, and as far as regional Arts associations are concerned the useful implementation of any recommendations that the Royal Commission on Local Government may make is a long way off. Similarly, so far as the Arts are concerned, Section 132 of the Local Government Act 1948, mentioned briefly by the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, provides that urban local authorities may spend up to the product of a sixpenny rate on entertainment. Now this section is couched in very broad terms. Entertainment is a wide field, and a great deal of entertainment would not be termed artistic in the definition that we are discussing to-day.

Some people say, and I do not think they are right, that local authorities should be obliged to spend money on the Arts as, of course, they are obliged to do on public libraries. But Section 132 is so very broadly drawn that I do not think it does much to encourage local authorities. At the same time, I think there is a lot that could he done at the centre to encourage local money outside any contributions made by local government. It is most important for the Arts. of all things, that it should attract some patronage apart from Government patronage. Industry is an obvious source of money for the Arts, as several noble Lords have pointed out. I am quite sure that the Government could do a great deal to encourage industry to spend more money not just on the Arts but on a wide range of regional activities.

This leads naturally to the television industry, and, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, I do not think that Government support in this field has proved at all convincing. I believe that independent television contractors now have to pay under their contracts a sum of money to the Arts and Sciences. Splendid; but of that sum I understand that something like 40 per cent. can be distributed by the company in the region where it operates and the rest is paid into the Independent Television Authority, where there is some chance that it may benefit the regions but not much proof that it will. The giving part of this operation is all too clear, as usual, but the "take" side of life is less sure. I should have thought that while the regions are such a popular topic of conversation, the major part of this sum of money should be allowed to stay and be distributed in the regions.

But it is not just at the I.T.A. that the issue appears clouded. Whatever I.T.V. can do, B.B.C. can do better. The B.B.C. is looking for ways to pay for putting its B.B.C.1 television channel into colour, and is seeking a massive economy drive on its radio service. It is considering closing down its regional television studios and merging the regional radio centres into one. The prospect is of the Corporation's regional responsibility being undertaken from this centre. based perhaps somewhere in the Midlands. If this should happen, then I am sure that not only will the Corporation's regional prestige be affected but the prospects and careers of regional staff and freelance contributors from all branches of journalism and the Arts will be impaired. It would be a set-back to all those who have worked to improve cultural life on a regional basis, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, for one, would agree with me on that point.

The Arts Council Report outlines the senior appointment of a Chief Regional Adviser, and this is welcomed in particular by regional Arts associations. It may be that this appointment will fill a gap in communications between de Arts Council and the rest of the country. It is early days yet, but it will be interesting to see to what extent this appointment will improve the artistic lot of the Provinces.

There is a most misleading paragraph in the Arts Council Report which states that some regional associations are largely concerned with the support and development of amateur work. This gives a totally misleading impression, and it is the word "largely" which is so misleading. Regional associations are primarily concerned with promoting professional work, and this is complemented by the valuable work which they do in the amateur field. The Arts Council assure us that they were not misled, but the trouble is that many of those who read the Arts Council Report will have been misled on this point.

I have been concerned with the regional picture as a whole and not with the proposed Yorkshire Association for the Arts, with which I am personally involved. I should like to spend more time on the Yorkshire Association, but time is something for which we are pressed. This year will see the Yorkshire Arts Association come into operation. We have received help from the Arts Council during the difficulties of formation, but the help which the Arts Council will be asked to give us in the future, as the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, has pointed out, will be even more valuable.

To sum up, regional Arts associations are at a very early stage of development and what they are at the moment should not colour the thoughts about what they could be in the future. If Britain were covered by, say, 12 really effective regional Arts associations, experienced with staff of high calibre and with the correct cultural leadership from the community, and if they are not concerned simply with grant-giving but are concerned also with planning, publicising, co-ordinating advising, and so on, then they really will decentralise Government support, stimulate the Arts at the grass roots about which the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, is so sensitive, and provide a continuing and really effective organisation to stimulate and satisfy artistic demands by the bulk of the population of the nation who do not live in London.

The regions are not yet properly organised to speak with a collective voice and to make that voice heard in the Arts Council, but they are organising themselves into Arts associations and combining, needless to say, in a body called the Standing Conference of Regional Arts Associations. The Estimates Committee are right when they say that a decision on the direction of regional development is the single most important decision that the Arts Council will be called upon to make in the next five to ten years. I do not think that it should be too long before the regional Arts associations, complete with Standing Conference, and the Arts Council, complete with a chief regional adviser, get together for discussion on this single most important decision.

8.34 p.m.


My Lords, we have just heard an impressive speech from a noble Lord with a great grasp of detail, and I am sorry that I shall not be following his remarks. Some of my remarks will refer to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, who brought up the matter of films on which I shall touch in a moment.

While subscribing to the general thanks due to my noble friend for the debate—and he has tangible thanks in the long list of speakers of which I am, hopefully, the last—I should like to express my admiration for the work of Miss Jennie Lee and to say how moved I was by the tribute paid to her in the correspondence columns of The Times by those beaux chevaliers and damsel-in-distress rescuers, Sir Kenneth Clarke and Mr. Yehudi Menuhin. When the time comes—and we must feverishly hope that it will be soon—for the Front Benches of both Houses to play musical chairs and swap positions, Miss Lee will be the Minister I shall miss. I hope that my noble friends have an equal—as they could never have a better—remedy in store for the Arts.

What we have heard to-day confirms the view that the question of Arts patronage in contemporary society—how to make patronage culturally effective as well as cost-efficient—is a difficult one. I believe that difficult questions are the iceberg we see: that sometimes murky assumptions provide the underlying or submerged nine-tenths. So we have to be general before we can understand the business of assembling facts and figures (or the "nuts and bolts", as it has been put), a business at which the Arts Council and the Estimates Committee excel.

I am one of those (could we be called the enemies of Covent Garden?) who feel that Arts Council grants are too heavily loaded in favour of the performing Arts at the expense not only of individual creative artists but of painting and literature—literature especially—themselves. But I would accept that this might be necessary at present if I felt more certain that some of the assumptions, the philosophy of patronage, had been gone into more fully by the many distinguished and dedicated men and women who mediate between the public realm of the purse and the intensely private world of the individual artist. I suggest that this world remains private because it is expressive, an acting out of feeling, even if the artist or performer is working very much as part of a team as, for example, in opera or ballet.

When one deals with the Arts one is dealing with individuals, often extremely wayward ones, as the noble Lord, Lord Annan, has said. It is rather like betting on horses: "You pays your money and you takes your choice". The Arts Council (the Government indeed) are fervently to be congratulated for paying their money—more money than previously though still, we are all agreed, not enough. But when it comes to choice, the problem is that they hesitate to make choices. They want to back everything each way; they want to be as fair as possible. But the world of the Arts, again like the world of bloodstock racing, is intensely hierarchial and perhaps the jobs of the noble Lords, Lord Wigg and Lord Goodman, could be interchangeable.

To bring my imagery nearer home, there are the performing Dukes of music and opera (a royal Duke, the last) with an allotted £3¼ million and £1⅔ million each; a competitive and often independently-rewarded visual Arts middle class with a quarter of a million pounds; and then the great unwashed literati, the unacknowledged legislators, with a little over £60,000. In short, the emphasis is not only on the performing Arts vis-à-vis those created and enjoyed more or less in isolation. The emphasis is also on the historical rather than on living ones. I am still not saying that this is necessarily a false emphasis. I am saying that we should be aware of it. Thank goodness, for Covent Garden! Good health to its exchequer. But we must go on reminding ourselves that it is a great museum to a great artistic vehicle—of the 19th century. I will take a bet—


My Lords, I can only suppose that the noble Earl is not a very regular attender of Covent Garden, because we have given an enormous number of contemporary works.


My Lords, I am grateful for that intervention. I think that my next sentence will answer it. I will take a bet with those of your Lordships who have a chance of surviving this century that if its last thirty years does produce a great opera it will be in a musical and theatrical idiom utterly inappropriate to the Royal Opera House. I repeat that this does not mean that one halfpenny should be knocked off the money given to this institution or to other institutions grappling with the huge costs of mounting works which hi id their genesis in days of cheap labour and lavish tastes. Should we not strive to add to the friends of these individuals who so badly need time; time to spend articulating and calling into being the taste and needs and ideas of the future? Living art is future-directed. I would ask the Government, I would ask Lord Goodman, to continue to mull over the implications as well as the implementations of their useful policies. I hope that I have not offended the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda. I feel that he has been well used in this debate, and rightly so.


My Lords, I am delighted to see that there is among us one semi-Philistine.


My Lords, late in the evening one always expects to find a Philistine or two going around. It has been a long debate, so I wish to move quickly on to a few short particulars and suggestions. It is, I believe, in keeping with my one general criticism about not being altogether clear about the long-term implications of a given policy that those sections of the Reports which we have been considering and which deal with films side-step issues of patronage which might lead to better films being made. Here I am following the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead.

Where films are concerned we are, again archivists rather than patrons and from the historical point of view riot very successful archivists at that, since I understand it is proving difficult for the British Film Institute to obtain spare newsreel footage from the television companies and from the B.B.C., such footage being kept for subsequent editing and re-editing by the companies themselves. Since the photograph, the moving photograph, the gramophone record and the spool of magnetic tape have altered our way of looking at and understanding past events, it is of great importance that we take at least as much trouble preserving them as we take over Government Minutes, Hansard and all the other paper records of our society's doings. My main point here is that in the film we have a uniquely 20th century art form; one whose technique is technical. Technical facilities can be bought, even if genius cannot be, and technical training schemes of this kind should become part of our educational as well as of our creative lives.

An amazing era of film making in Eastern Europe testifies to the value of technical training schools in film making. The fact that Polish, Hungarian and Czechoslovakian movies are consistently better than our own is not, of course, due to the existence of film schools in those countries alone. They make films to communicate realities, not to evade them. But I am convinced that we should make it possible for young men and women to enter film laboratories, where experiment in this crucial medium could take place in an atmosphere of shelter, not from real life or real events, but from the pressures of commercial unrealities. We could pay for it, perhaps, by taking one-tenth off the tax presently yielded by entertainment.

My second and last particular has to do with buildings; the question, in the Arts Council's phrase, of "housing the Arts". I think we are a littler too obsessed with the hardware, or perhaps "packaging" would be a better word, of the Arts. Obviously, they need buildings. Theatres and music need performance halls, pictures need galleries, books —though not as yet their authors—need libraries. But we have not yet begun to explore the possibilities which new materials and construction techniques have unfolded for public auditoria; temporary housing, movable housing (the Arts are, after all, movable feasts), housing which has an inbuilt adaptability to forms of artistic performance that have changed, that are changing and that may change even faster than we may guess. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, particularly, will investigate the exciting chances that such new skills have offered us.

In conclusion, I believe that the most encouraging news we have heard this afternoon came, not surprisingly, from the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, when he told us, albeit a little tantalisingly, that a committee had been set up to consider new facilities in the Arts; that is to say, if I understood him aright, to consider new vehicles in which the shaping spirit may decide to travel. We do not know what these may be. We may not recognise them when they arrive. We may be suspicious of them even if we do recognise them. And if we are suspicious let us, to adopt the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, have a first-class, creative, critical row. In no circumstances, however, must we be mean or deny financial support or cease to do all that we can to increase it. To be mean this way means to be small-minded, and small minds may neither appreciate nor energise the necessary struggle of the Arts.

8.45 p.m.


My Lords, before I embark on any congratulations I shall give the House a few statistics of my own. The debate has lasted five hours; we have had 20 speakers; we started with an attendance of about 250, and we have come down to those Members of your Lordships' House who are sufficiently enthusiastic about the Arts to remain to the end. Need I say more? At any rate, the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, who introduced the debate, is in his place and I hope that he will enjoy the rest of it, as with great patience he has sat through all the speeches.

I would say at once that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, introduced this Motion with his customary charm and, I thought, a splendid use of the word "imagery". He immediately engaged our attention so that we knew it was the Arts we were talking about, and the point he made, that we influence world opinion in this sphere, is one which no other noble Lord has made, either in the debate we had earlier or in the debate this afternoon. Congratulations to the Arts Council have been almost unanimous, and I think that even those noble Lords who had some comments to make prefaced their criticism with praise—something of which the politician always learns to be very wary, as if the Greeks who come bearing gifts. But there has been a universal understanding of the policy of the Arts Council in its nonintervention in the activities of the beneficiaries, as the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, so rightly said.

The right reverend Prelate introduced a philosophical note which all noble Lords appreciated. He explained to me that he was unable to remain, but I feel he would have appreciated the words of J. B. Priestley who, though not perhaps of such a religious turn of mind, put what the right reverend Prelate said in a slightly different way, when he said: Art is not really the icing on the cake; it is more like the yeast in the dough. The true artist, when we have understood him, has immensely enriched our lives, sharpened our eyes and ears, broadened our sympathies, quickened our imagination, enlarged our experience". And he concluded Never did men need the artist more than they do to-day. That, I thought, was the burden of the right reverend Prelate's appeal to us this afternoon.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, who I am sorry is not in his place, gave us a splendid maiden speech. Those of us who heard him say that he had waited ten years will, I think, all agree that this was ten years too long. I thought he brought us a hopeful message. He referred to the 6d. rate which the local authorities could put to much better use than they do at present, and I was glad that other noble Lords made reference to this. If we are to encourage the Arts more on a local level, there must be a wider acceptance of this very valuable opportunity which local authorities have. The noble Lord referred to the festivals and to the way festivals set standards offering performances of high international quality. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to get tickets for these festivals will certainly endorse all that he said in that connection. The fact that I am a member of Her Majesty's Government, albeit a very humble one, appears to give me no special preference when I want to get into some of the wonderful performances at Covent Garden or other places that have been mentioned. I hope the noble Lords concerned are listening and will therefore inundate me with tickets, for which I shall be happy to pay.

The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, characteristically, covered the very wide field of the operations of the Arts Council, and he made particular reference to the encouragement of the new and the younger people's activities. I have suffered—I can think of no other word—some of these productions, notably at the Royal Court, from which one emerges only able to say, "how interesting". I dislike them intensely, but will defend to the death the right to perform them. There is no doubt that one has to see a production like The Beard at least six times before one appreciates it, though I would not subject myself to that.

The noble Lord made reference to the fact that there is no competition between London and the regions, and I think this fact was very well outlined by my noble friend Lord Kennet when he spoke on the subject for the Government. My noble friend also referred to the White Paper which will soon be published on the rolling footing—a rather dramatic name for the policy of the triennial grant.

The question of the public lending right has been mentioned by sever noble Lords. Although the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, is not here—he is here; that is delightful. He in fact made a very powerful speech, and he has returned in the hope that I am going to give him some words of comfort. I am afraid that I can only reiterate Miss Lee's own words when she spoke to the Library Association. They were that she has a genuine feeling for this. She is in favour of any workable scheme, but, in her own very colourful phrase, At this point of time the Government tend to have an open mind but a closed purse". Other noble Lords felt that it was not necessary to defend the Minister, but I felt that it was perhaps rather unnecessary of the writer of the recent article in The Times to phrase his language in quite such a personalised way. I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, said he was ashamed of the Government he supported. I am sorry; I can do nothing to reverse his feeling at this point of time other than to say that Miss Lee herself has shown very clearly her views in this direction. Having been on the receiving end of something else from The Times, I can only say that at least this gentleman had the courage to put his name to it, whereas the other one did not. He simply said that he watched us all, and since there is very rarely anybody in the Press Gallery one wonders when he was doing the watching.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, referred to the housing of the Arts, and I think it is useful to remind your Lordships that the Arts Council has been empowered for the first time to make substantial contributions towards the capital costs of buildings and to rebuilding adequate premises for artistic performances all over the country. I think it is important to remember this, for it is part of the success story of the Arts Council.

The plight of the commercial theatre has been referred to by several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Nugent. As your Lordships will know, the Arts Council theatre inquiry is considering all aspects of the problem which has been mentioned by noble Lords. Her Majesty's Government recognise the importance of saving theatres, particularly those which are used regularly by the national companies when they tour. But I think we have to face the fact that refurbishing a number of large commercial theatres in the regions and/or the purchase of them by the local authorities will cost a great deal of money, and we must face the question of priorities. For example, would some noble Lords consider that this is a more important project than that of public lending rights? If I understood the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, correctly in the debate last evening, I think her feeling about housing inanimate objects of art comes in an entirely different category. But we always come hack to this question of priorities. What one citizen considers right another citizen does not.

Several noble Lords have mentioned the question of a different area of patronage for the Arts. There is no doubt that the commercial enterprises do quite a deal of this, and in fact they have been encouraged to do more. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, mentioned the American system, where relief is given for estate tax, capital gains tax and income tax on a wide range of charitable gifts, including those to the Arts. I have here the arguments advanced by that very important section of our administration, the Inland Revenue, against the introduction in Britain of this system of tax relief. In fact, if tax concessions were allowed on gifts to the Arts it might be difficult to determine the boundary between the Arts, entertainment and recreation, and it would be impossible to resist the extension of this principle to gifts for other socially desirable purposes. It would be expensive to the Exchequer—the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, will appreciate that point—and would mean either a reduction in public expenditure or the raising from other sources of a sum equivalent to that lost in taxation. But I am very happy that the noble Lord raised this question, because it enables one to make the comment that there are already other ways in which individuals can contribute —by a seven-year covenant, or by the donation of works of art in lieu of estate duty.

On the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe—who is Chairman of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art—and the recommendation that there should be the establishment of a fund of £250,000 per annum for the purchase of important works of Art which would prevent their being exported, the Government are in fact giving careful scrutiny to this recommendation, as they are others. As to the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, I enjoyed his contribution, particularly as he had told us in the debate last week on the quality of life (he was, I think, the only noble Lord who linked this; and there is a very vital link) that we were to hear another instalment. As an addict of Peyton Place, I waited with bated breath to see what this would be, and he did not disappoint us. We know how hard he works, and he has, over many years, built what has now become the North-West Association of the Arts.

I would merely make a reference to his point about Oldham. He will be glad to know that officers of the Department of Education and Science and the Arts Council recently met the officers of Oldham authority about a very imaginative scheme for an art centre associated with a new comprehensive school, and it will lay special emphasis on the provision of the Arts for young people. I think that in fact several noble Lords have mentioned the proposition of the arts centre, and there is little doubt that the linking of both the visual and the—I almost said static Arts; but I have always been very doubtful about calling them the static Arts, because I believe that at some stage somebody was called to book for this. But, at any rate, the linking of all kinds of art form is obviously one of the things towards which we should be striving.

The noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, mentioned again the question of the small theatre, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, had referred; but, this would not be suitable for the opera or ballet. He put in a very powerful plea for more help in overcoming the very difficult conditions with which we all know Covent Garden has to cope. He also mentioned the question of a change in the tax laws, and I have attempted to reply to that, although I know that he will not draw very much comfort from what I have said. I think your Lordships would particularly like to express appreciation for what he does in this sphere, and I was very happy that he was here to reply in some measure to the points raised by the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie.

The case has been argued for the trained administrator. There is little doubt that the trained administrator must be called in if we are to get the best value for money, but I think it is important to remind your Lordships that when the question of grants comes before the Arts Council there are, of course, expert advisory panels which have finance committees to scrutinise applications, and anybody who knows the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, would not expect him to be associated with any body which lightly gave away money raised through public subscription.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, mentioned the question of the Scottish Arts, and canvassed the idea that when a new building was being built a certain portion of the money should be allocated for the commissioning of a work of art. While this scheme has certain merits, it is slightly inflexible and could result either in the creation of art which had no relation to the building, or paintings within the building which might not be of much artistic value. But this is another point which will be looked at. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, made an interesting suggestion about Section 132 of the Local Government Act. This is quite a new point and will need to be considered by my right honourable friends in the Welsh Office; but I can say that the Government will look at it. I am sure the noble Lord will appreciate that I will make the point as strongly as I can.


My Lords, I am grateful, but it is not all that new. It was part of a recommendation of the Council for Wales in their Report on the Arts.


My Lords, I am sorry. I meant new, as it were, to this House. Naturally, I, having been part of this particular Council, know of their sterling work in this connection.

I should have liked to be able to tell the noble Lord that some of the schemes that he outlined so eloquently will come to fruition very soon. All I can say is that I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, is listening intently, and I hope therefore that Lord Aberdare's plea will not fall on deaf ears. I spoke recently at the Temple of Peace at Cardiff to an audience not very much larger than that in your Lordships' House at this moment, and I felt then that it might have been more usefully employed as an arts centre. But that is not for me to suggest. I think that some play has been made of the fact that politicians are not remembered so long as artists are. I think it fair to say that we remember Beethoven but not the more indifferent artists of that day. It would be a little naïve to imagine that all those who lived 400 or 500 years ago or more recently—were all good painters or good writers; there must have been some who are not remembered. Perhaps politicians who endeavour to work for the Arts may come in for some measure of recognition, even if it is in the farm of a rather strange statue in the modern style.

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, spoke of the re-housing of the Citizens' Theatre in Glasgow. She will be glad to know that at the moment the Scottish Arts Council are considering what they can do there. She will also know that a major issue at the moment is the proposal for an Opera House in Edinburgh. On another point, I cannot quite go along with one noble Lord's idea that one works harder when one gets indignant. I have found that more time is wasted on argument than on work. Perhaps this does not apply to artists.

The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, made, I thought, a splendid speech. I felt sorry that he had prepared a defence which was not, as it were, called in aid. But we all enjoyed and appreciated the story of opera and ballet. and it is quite right that this should be on Record. His comment on military bands recalled to me my own childhood. My father having been a permanent member of the Armed Forces in India, I grew up on a diet of military band music and opera; so I think that there must be a closer correlation between them than we imagine. I am always a little amused when thinking of Gilbert and Sullivan and the many things that take place in this House: they must have been very much in Gilbert's mind when he wrote some of these operettas.

The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, is not now in the House. There is a custom, which your Lordships will know, by which those who do not remain until the end do not get the privilege of an answer. Shall I say that I will write to him? Sadly, the two noble Lords, Lord Feversham and Lord Gowrie, who I thought made excellent contributions, have, in a sense, nothing to call from me. I would commend Lord Feversham for his enthusiasm for the regions and I hope that the Regional Adviser will be able to satisfy him over some of the things on which he seemed a little doubtful. Perhaps somebody like the noble Lord will himself be a stimulating influence. Generally speaking, one gets from people what one asks of them.

The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, mentioned films. I heartily agree with him that this is a twentieth century art form. There is no doubt that it will come in for more attention. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, has himself been largely instrumental in stimulating much more interest in this connection in the Arts Council. So far as the other point that he made on building is concerned, I noticed that my noble friend Lord Kennet was listening with interest. We hope that he will take some note of this.

My Lords, I would say that this has been a very interesting debate, and I am only sorry that some noble Lords who made contributions were not able to remain to the end. I would conclude with a quotation which I felt epitomised what we have been thinking about this evening. It was written nearly a hundred years ago: That the beauty of life is a thing of no moment I suppose few people would venture to assert, and yet most civilised people act as if it were of none, and in doing so are wronging both themselves and those that come after them; for that Beauty which is what is meant by Art, using the word in its widest sense, is, contend, no mere accident to human life. which people can take or leave as they choose, but a positive necessity of life if we are to live as nature meant us to, that is, unless we are content to he less than men. This was written by William Morris; and it is still true that we should not be content to be less than men.

9.7 p.m.


My Lords, by leave of the House, may I briefly reply? First I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, for a gracious and interesting speech. I should like to tell her how much I am sure all noble Lords on all sides appreciated the meticulous care with which she answered all of our points—and most interestingly. Those of us who have been wise enough to stay to this point have had good measure. It has been worth waiting to have the pleasure to hear the noble Baroness wind-up the debate. This has been a wide ranging and interesting debate. I should like to say that your Lordships' comprehension and authority in the field of art is unrivalled anywhere.

I should like to add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Strathcona on his excellent maiden speech and to ask this question and to try to answer it. What is the outcome of the debate? We have been here a good many hours. What have we achieved? First of all, there has been unanimous recognition of the unique value of the Arts in the life of our people. That is satisfactory. Secondly, there has been equally unanimous recognition and praise for the value of the work of the Arts Council and the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, in particular. I listened with interest to my noble friend Lord Gowrie's suggestion that there might be an exchange of places with the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. This seems to be in the vein of the semi-Philistine that my noble friend has mentioned. I can only conjure up, as I think of these two distinguished figures, a sort of centaur, built on a rather generous scale perhaps, to accommodate both of them, changing places between the Arts Council and the racecourse. I much enjoyed my noble friend's speech, as I did that of my noble friend Lord Feversham.

The many important points made during the debate have been so well dealt with by the noble Baroness that I should not take the time of your Lordships by commenting on them, but perhaps I could just pick out what I thought was a fairly general point. which was made on all sides of the House in different ways; and that was the growing needs of the Arts in London, in the regions, in Wales (which was so well dealt with by my noble friend Lord Aberdare), in Scotland (so well dealt with by my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood); and, in addition, the need, which a number of noble Lords on these Benches in particular have advocated, for a change in tax structure which would allow tax-free giving to the Arts.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet in his opening speech gave this last suggestion rather a cold reception. The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, gave it a charming reception, I thought, until she started quoting the words of the Inland Revenue. These were not so charming—they had a certain familiar ring about them. I am glad that the suggestion has made a mark with Ministers. I have asked only that the idea be examined in the context of the growing future need for finance for the Arts, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give it their serials consideration because I am sure that it will not be possible to take from public funds the growing finances required if the Arts Council are to meet all the needs that are progressively coming upon us.

The fact is that in post-war years Governments, of both kinds, have set their hands to the plough of helping Arts development in this country; and the present Government, to their credit, have powerfully thrust the plough along the furrow. A growing number of our people obviously like it, so there is now no turning back and the annual need for finance will grow at an accelerating pace. This is the message I want to leave: that we must find fresh means to meet this increasing demand. If this debate has helped to do that, it has certainly served its purpose. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at twelve minutes past nine o'clock.