HL Deb 22 March 1972 vol 329 cc683-99

2.50 p.m.

LORD FEVERSHAM rose to call attention to the work of the Regional Arts Associations; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. This is the first opportunity which we have had in three years in your Lordships' House to discuss new developments in the field of the Arts in this country, and in this field it is the growth of the Regional Arts Associations which stands out as the single most significart development in the last few years. Here perhaps I ought to declare what may be considered a possible bias in making that assessment, in that I am chairman of the Yorkshire Arts Association and also of the Standing Conference on Regional Arts Associations.

The first Regional Arts Association was formed ten years ago in North-East England, operating on a relatively small budget. To-day, Northern Arts, centred on Newcastle, has an operational budget of over a quarter of a million pounds. During the ten years which have elapsed since Northern Arts pioneered the way to co-operation on a regional scale concerning the Arts, similar associations have been formed in almost every part of England and Wales. To-day if you look at the map you will see that South Wales, the Home Counties and South East England are the only areas which do not have a Regional Arts Association of their own or which do not align themselves with one of the 13 existing associations. During the last financial year these 13 associations have spent a total of £933,000 with a responsibility to a population of over 45 million people. Each Regional Arts Association is basically a partnership in patronage for the Arts between central Government (in the shape of the Arts Council of Great Britain), local government and the private sector. Broadly speaking, each association aims to improve, develop and co-ordinate the artistic life of the area which it serves.

In order to appreciate the flavour of cultural development in the regions, it is important Ito investigate the background and atmosphere of what promises to become something of a regional renaissance. There can be no doubt that educa- tion is the root cause of all this regional excitement—the demand for new theatres, orchestras, Arts laboratories, Regional Arts Associations and all the rest. This is the direct result of the policies of central Government, in the shape of the Department of Education and Science, and the local education authorities. I quote now from the report of a Working Party set up by the Yorkshire Council of Social Service, entitled The Arts in Yorkshire, published in 1966: The paradox is that for some purposes the necessity of Art is recognised, and for others not. Our whole system of education is based on this belief. According to Sir William Emrys Williams, of £1,200 million spent annually on education, a quarter is spent on training children to like and understand the Arts. In schools it is considered vital to inculcate a feeling for music, dancing, drawing and drama. In the sacred name of education, hundreds of millions of pounds are spent on children, but when they leave school the tap is turned off almost completely. By the early 'sixties, students were emerging from schools and universities all over the country to find the provincial environment ill-equipped to cater for an expensively-cultivated taste for the Arts, just as large numbers of graduates are emerging to-day to find a shortage of the very jobs for which they have qualified. This was a frustrating situation which could not be overcome by a scattering of Arts festivals and it was not helped by a colossal inflation in the cost of presenting the performing Arts. It is this inflation, for instance, which has compelled the Arts Council to continue increasing their grants to the national cultural pillars, such as Covent Garden and the National Theatre. And it is partly because of these increasing costs and partly because of the poor facilities outside London that the national companies have found it increasingly difficult to tour in the Provinces. Private enterprise in the Arts—the commercial theatre companies, for instance—were faced with this rise in costs and with artiquated buildings. It was therefore out of an atmosphere of frustration and inflation in the 1960's that the network of the Regional Arts Associations crew.

The idea of regional co-operation and regionalism was of course very fashionable in the 1960's. People who were actually called "regionalists" existed to gallop into print in the newspapers with theories of drift and counter-drift. The Department of Economic Affairs set up Regional Planning Boards and the Regional Planning Councils. Official reports full of advice on regional developments began to flow from the hinterland down the rivers into the great administrative sea in the middle. And it is interesting that the Regional Arts Associations today represent one of the few really concrete products of all that "chat" on the theory of regionalism. The concept of Regional Arts Associations recognises the lack of patronage and seeks to explore every avenue to raise money for the Arts. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, as Chairman of the Arts Council, was conscious of the cultural problems of the Provinces in the 'sixties, but the line which he took was that it was not the duty of the Arts Council to parachute symphony orchestras around the country at random. The Arts Council, he felt, must wait for the initiative to emanate from the Provinces.

The North East showed the way in which this initiative could be presented effectively. Working on the basis that Section 132 of the Local Government Act 1948 stated that urban local authorities might spend up to the product of a sixpenny rate on entertainment, an approach was made to the local authorities in the North East region. After a great deal of negotiation, the first Regional Arts Association came into existence. It did not, of course, receive the product of a sixpenny rate from the local authorities which contributed to it then; and even to-day it receives far less than this sum from its local authority members. It is still receiving on average only a fraction of a penny rate. Section 132 was very widely drawn, and the word "entertainment" can cover a multitude of sins hut the fact remains that very few authorities in this country spend anything like the product of a sixpenny rate on entertainment as a whole, let alone entertainment which could be claimed as cultural.

Following on the initiative of local authorities in the North East, the Arts Council made a grant to the newly formed Arts Association there. Broadly speaking, most of the Regional Arts Associations existing to-day have evolved in a fashion similar to Northern Arts, although each association has its own variations in construction and mode of operation, tailor-made to fit the cultural needs of the region which it serves. Each Regional Arts Association has a broad base of control, ranging from representatives of the contributing local authorities to those of the private and commercial patrons and artists working in the regions. Each association has a directorate advised by specialist panels concerned with each of the Art forms, rather as the Arts Council of Great Britain have their directorate and specialist panels. However, the Arts Council, who are governed by their charter, cannot operate their machinery with the same flexibility as a Regional Arts Association. The Arts Council have one source of income, one paymaster, with whom to negotiate. The Regional Arts Association may have to negotiate individually with each local authority in its area and with the Arts Council, as well as tackling the problem of raising funds from the private sector. A great deal of effort is needed in negotiation and fund raising. The Arts Council have a basic function of assessing and giving grant aid to various professional artistic enterprises. By and large, they are not a promoting body, nor do they offer services other than financial aid to the artist or his audience. The Regional Arts Association, on the other hand, tends to be involved in both the promotion of activities and in running services, as well as in the more traditional role of giving grant and guarantee aid.

A good example of a service which is provided by nearly all the Regional Arts Associations is the regular publication of a magazine or newsheet, giving information of cultural activities in the region. This is of service to the artist, in that his work is more widely advertised, and to the audience, in that they are better informed on what the artist is doing, where they can find him doing it and when they should go to see him do it. The Arts Council, by interpretation of their charter, do not give aid to amateur work. They are solely concerned with the professional artist. The Regional Arts Association is able to operate in the overlapping areas between amateurs and professionals and between the artist and the craftsman.

It is particularly opportune that we should be discussing Regional Arts Associations to-day because the last time we had a debate on the Arts in this Chamber we debated the Annual Report of the Arts Council, together with the Report of the Estimates Committee, 1967–68—Grants for the Arts—and I think it is worth recalling one or two statements which appeared in the latter document. It said: The difference between the Arts Council of Great Britain and the Regional Arts Association is of flexibility, of co-operation with local authorities, of maximising self-help and minimising central direction. And again: The Arts Council should decentralise its support and work through our Regional Arts Associations, concentrating itself on national issues and organisations. Finally, the Committee have brought forward these facts on the regional arts associations because they regard a decision on regional development in the context of Arts Council development as the most important single decision that the Arts Council will have to take in the next five to 10 years. We are in the fourth year of that period of five to ten years and we can say already that the Arts Council has set off at what might be called a "brisk trot" to tackle this single most important decision of the decade. During the financial year 1971–72 it gave £538,000 to Regional Arts Associations. This shows an increase of over 250 per cent. in four years in the commitment of the Arts Council in this area. Next year this commitment is to be increased to over £700,000. This Arts Council commitment to Regional Arts Associations forms only a part of the Arts Council's financial commitment to cultural activities outside London.

The Regional Arts Associations have reason to be grateful to my noble friend Lord Goodman who, in his time at the Arts Council, has achieved much on their behalf. Quite apart from the increase in financial assistance during his chairmanship, he has always been willing to come and lend his time and encouragement to meetings up and down the country of those who have been concerned to set up a Regional Arts Association. In May the noble Lord is retiring from the chair of the Arts Council, and I should like to take this opportunity of acknowledging on behalf of he Regional Arts Associations the progress that has been made in public patronage for the Arts during his chairmanship of the Arts Council, not just in London but also in the regions.

A continued and increasing financial commitment to the Arts Council and Regional Arts Associations is vital to their healthy development; but I believe that this "single most important decision" which the Arts Council will have to take on regional development is not merely one of finance. I think also that decisions must be taken with regard to the broad structure of the cultural machinery which has evolved in this country. It is necessary to define the roles of both the Arts Council and the Regional Arts Associations in that machinery and the relationship between the two. The Regional Arts Association is, after all, a new piece of machinery. It is not the same shape and does not have the same needs as, for example, Covent Garden or a theatre in Wiltshire. Nor is it an extension of the Arts Council such as the Scottish and Welsh Arts Councils. It has a status somewhere between the two.

The Regional Arts Association, as I have said, is involved in activities in which the Arts Council are not. Already those of us who are involved with the work of the associations are beginning to feel that there are areas of interest to us but not at present to the Arts Council which call for some form of central coordination. A Working Party of the Standing Conference of Regional Arts Associations is at the moment investigating these areas. The Standing Conference and the Arts Council will, I hope, meet over the new few months in order to discuss the situation in detail and to create a fuller working relationship.

With regard to the relationship between the Regional Arts Associations and the local authorities, once again this debate comes at an opportune moment because, of course, the local government base on which the Regional Arts Associations are built is on the verge of reorganisation. The Local Government Bill will soon arrive before your Lordships. If I might make one comment on the Bill at this stage, Clause 142 is the clause which replaces Section 132 of the 1948 Act. It is headed, "Provision of Entertainment"; but the mandatory maximum—up to a 6d. rate in 1948—has been dropped. The clause is even more widely drawn than earlier legislation and no-where—either in this new Bill or in earlier legislation—is there any specific mention of the Arts as such. Theatres, dance halls, public parks and concert halls, et cetera, remain jumbled up under the head of entertainment. It might be of some help to those of us who have to approach the local authorities for money for the Arts if there could be a clause or sub-section in this new enabling legislation devoted specifically to the Arts.

When the reorganisation takes place, my Lords, the Regional Arts Associations will, in effect, have to re-negotiate the vital local authority banking. There will be fewer and bigger authorities. This could well have administrative benefits for the Regional Arts Associations in that they will be dealing with a smaller number of authorities. On the other hand, the greater size of the authorities may produce a feeling that they can "go it alone", that the work of a Regional Arts Association is no longer necessary. We may therefore have to promote once again the tasks and functions of the Regional Arts Associations, stressing both their independence and their emphasis on high artistic standards. The Arts Association provides a focal point for funds not only from the local authorities but also from the Arts Council, industry, private individuals and a range of charitable organisations. It is likely that these other sources would dry up if local authorities attempted to take over the work.

The Regional Arts Association provides an independent system of expertise through which funds can be allocated. Local authorities do not operate at the moment with the mix of artistic expertise and democratic representation that constitutes the basis of the Regional Arts Association panels. It is this mixture of expertise and independence that has freed Arts Associations from the inevitable pressures—sometimes irrelevart to the subject—to be found in local government. The Arts Association panel system allows decisions to be taken purely on an artistic basis. There are tasks which even the bigger authorities would probably be unable to carry out on their own support for artistic organisations which need a regional audience; information and publicity sheets of a regional nature. Above all, the Regional Arts Associations stand between the local authorities and central sources, ensuring on the one hand that a regional need is met and avoiding the problems of parochialism, while on the other hand providing a counterweight to central Government dictation. They are therefore poised as a balancing factor between the two extremes and can play a most effective part in creating a strong regional initiative.

I feel that it is most important to stress at this point that local authorities do provide, and I hope will provide rather more in the future, for cultural activities on their own account in the communities which they serve. The Regional Arts Association has not been to date, and I hope that it will never become, a body to which a local authority can give a sum of money and then say, "Well, that is all that is required of us in the way of provision for the Arts in our estimates". Rather, by contributing to a Regional Arts Association a local authority ensures not only that the overall cultural climate of the region can be developed efficiently, but also that the authority's own endeavours in meeting the cultural needs of the ratepayer are utilised to the full extent.

The Regional Arts Associations have in the main come into existence through the initiative of the local authorities. It is vital that that initiative be maintained. It is always difficult to raise public money for the Arts. Those who have tried at either central or local government level will know that when the Estimates are being cut—and Estimates are always under pressure—it is the Arts which tend to be put to the knife first. "We must have more houses, more roads, new hospitals—all these things are necessary the Arts are not," is the kind of argument which I have met with time and time again in negotiations with the local authorities. The point is that the local authorities have themselves through education created a need for the Arts in a new society. There are those who oppose public patronage for the Arts, and from time to time one does meet the kind of individual who reaches for his gun as a matter of principle at the mention of the word "culture". In my experience such people are nearly all of the older generation people who have worked long and hard to build the society in which their children now live; people who have given to their children a feeling for drama, music and painting but who, quite illogically in my opinion, will not recognise that there is a need for public patronage of the Arts in this new society of their own creation.

My Lords, not only do we have to convince the new local authorities of the need for their support of the Regional Arts Associations, but we have to convince them that there is a pressing need to increase substantially the level of support which the Regional Arts Associations receive at present from the existing local authorities. Already local government has lost the initiative in terms of finance. In the current year the Arts Council of Great Britain are contributing over half a million pounds in total to the Regional Arts Associations—the local authorities less than £300,000. I think that in many cases the commitment of local authorities has been tentative to start with. It has been a case of, "Well, we will put up some money to see if this experiment will work or not." We must now convince these authorities that the experiment is over, that it is a success and that if we are to build on the foundations of the Regional Arts Associations then there must be a substantial and increasing local authority commitment.

The third area of concern to the Regional Arts Associations is the private sector. Nearly all the associations have approached, or are about to approach, the private sector for funds. It is an area in which development has not so far been spectacular. Nevertheless, I am sure that we must plug away at it. An element of private patronage seems desirable for the welfare of the Arts. The artist is severely restricted in a system where the State becomes his only patron. But in those industrial countries with a relatively high level of direct personal taxation the individual private patron has become something of a rarity; so that by private patronage we generally mean industrial patronage. In a society where there is a cultural need, I believe that industry has much to gain from supporting the provision of the necessary cultural equipment and activities. The whole area of industrial patronage needs to be subjected to a major investigation. We need research into the areas where industry is already acting as a patron. Companies, for instance, do commission major works of sculpture with which, perhaps, to embellish their headquarters. Imperial Chemical Industries has provided the Forum at Billingham on Tees, which caters for a wide range of sporting and cultural activities. The whole field of industrial sponsorship needs looking at. Industry already sponsors sporting events, and it may well be that there are openings for industrial sponsorship of cultural activities.

The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, initiating the last debate on the Arts in this Chamber, called for fiscal reform to encourage private patronage. Over the past few years many others have called for fiscal reform of this nature—indeed, it is not so long ago that the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, was arguing for it. The roar of lions, however, always seems to subside to the point where pins can be heard to drop under the reproving gaze of the Treasury. What can one say in such a forlorn situation other than that any measure to encourage private patronage must benefit the Arts and would certainly help the Regional Arts Associations. That brings me, at long last, to the Budget. Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his Budget that in the future gifts to charities up to a limit of £50,000 will be free from estate duty and also from capital gains tax. I think it is a little early to say to what extent this is going to benefit or encourage private patronage for the Arts. I see that the Chancellor estimated that in a full year this concession will cost him £15 million. There are many charities and £15 million seems a relatively small sum. I do not know to what extent this will benefit the Arts. Nevertheless, it is a perceptible movement in the right direction. It is something that may encourage private patrons of the Arts.

My Lords, I have not really explored the achievements of the individual Arts Associations. There are speakers to follow me, some of whom may have a particular interest in one or other of the associations, and it may well be that they will deal more intimately with the component parts of this subject. We have, I see, speakers from Scotland, where there are no Regional Arts Associations at the moment. I look forward very much to hearing how they manage to get along without them. I hope that their presence in the batting order indicates that the Scots, with their usual wisdom, are going to follow in the path of the English and Welsh. I have been concerned with the general picture. I believe that we have in the Regional Arts Associations to-day the foundations of nationwide machinery designed to meet the cultural needs of a new society. That we need machinery of some nature, I have no doubt. The real problem which all the Regional Arts Associations face is that, having made a gentle start, they are met with an explosion of enthusiasm and demands for their services which are totally beyond their resources—and I say this in spite of what appears on paper to be a rapid growth of financial support for them over the past few years. It is in the face of this explosion of enthusiasm that we have to take the decision on whether or not to build on these foundations. It is a decision which has to be taken primarily by the local authorities and by central Government; and I believe it is a decision which should incorporate some further effort to stimulate private patronage, and particularly industrial patronage, for the Arts. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.14 p.m.


My Lords, I think we shall agree that your Lordships' House is deeply indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, for raising this important subject. We have not as a nation been conspicuously successful in recent years in all our endeavours, but I think we can claim that so far as the Arts Associations are concerned they are definitely one of our most successful growth industries. There are a number of Members of your Lordships' House who have an intimate knowledge of this field, and they know I am not exaggerating when I say that it is hard work, it can sometimes be heartbreaking work, to do the pioneer work of establishing an Arts Association. So I share the pride of many others in your Lordships' House that in recent years we have succeeded in virtually covering the entire country—leaving out Scotland; we have two in Wales—so far as Arts Associations are concerned. We now have 13 Arts Associations. In 1964 we had only three, and of those three it was only what was then the North-East Arts Association that had any very great content.

I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, for making it quite clear that we are not discussing a frivolous, irrelevart subject. There are those who would say that in the other place the serious affairs of the nation are being discussed and that we in your Lordships' House are amiably amusing ourselves with something of very secondary or third-rate importance. I do not take that point of view, and I hope that no one in your Lordships' House will take it. When I was entrusted in 1964 with responsibility for the Arts, one of my most effective arguments with the Treasury was that it was no use giving more money for economic development in the North and in other areas if we were not at the same time going to make them civilised places to live in. Indeed, to go right back, if your Lordships will bear with me, in the original White Paper we set out clearly: If a sane balance of population between north and south, east and west, is to be achieved, this kind of development"— meaning the Arts Associations and the Arts in general— is just as essential as any movement of industry or provision of public utility service. If the eager and gifted, to whom we must look for leadership in every field, are to feel as much at home in the north and west as in and near London, each region will require high points of artistic excellence. I believe this is fundamental. If we wart gifted young people to go to areas outside London, or to remain in areas outside London, we must not insult them by making them feel that they are a kind of lesser breed outside the law. We shall not keep them in those areas unless we are prepared to spend a great deal more on furthering the Arts in the regions than we have yet induced any Government to spend. I congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, in so far as he has managed to get additional sums from his Government. I know how hard the struggle can be. We each in our turn do what we can. But I repeat that we still have our priorities wrong. A civilised country must sustain the best in the Arts at the centre, but at the same time it must ensure that the best is made widely available throughout the rest of the country. And we are a long, long way from that.

Indeed, as far back as 1964 and 1965, when I was asked to consider how best we could promote the Arts in the regions, it seemed to me that it was an impossible proposition until we were able to house the Arts more effectively. How can one encourage a small town, part of a larger city, a village or a county area, to bring people together if they have nowhere to go? There we were, with a number of obsolete old theatres around the place. We made splendid use of disused chapels, but it was a disgrace to us as a country that we had so little provision for civilised meetings outside London. Therefore I took courage, as the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, will bear witness. Year after year the Arts Council were insisting that we must have a substantial sum set aside for housing the Arts. In the Arts Council Report for 1959–61 it was recommended that we should have at least £1 million set aside for this purpose for at least ten years.

What happened? What happened was that I had a modest success in the year 1965. In 1965–66 my Treasury colleagues empowered me to spend £250,000 in housing the Arts. It was not much because it had to be spread over a wide area, but it was a challenge to all kinds of people and all kinds of projects. There was a most wonderful response to it. Many a community which had felt that there was some local interest, some local money and help from the local authority had not been able to get started until we began to prime the pump from this central fund. The following year, 1966–67, this fund was raised to £500.000, and what disconcerts me and worries me a great deal when we are assessing how far we are serious in assisting the Arts and the Arts Associations in the Provinces, is that not only for the year 1971–72 but in the forward commitment ration for 1972–73 we are still at that figure of £500,000 which was achieved in 1966–67.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Baroness? The figure for this year is £770,000, and it will also be £770,000 for next year.


My Lords, perhaps we may get this straight. There may be a good deal of confusion between the amount of money provided by the Treasury and the commitment in each year. My information is that the authorised expenditure in each year varies because a commitment is made for a project and the money may not be taken up until the following year, or even the year after that; but if the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, can assure me that I am wrong in saying that the annual Treasury allowance to this fund still stands at £500,000 I shall be delighted, because it will take a great deal more than £500,000 for us even to stand still. The value of £500,000 in 1966–67 is to-day £370,000, and therefore we should need a great deal more than £1 million simply to catch up with rising prices and to make even modest progress.

By the end of the last Parliament we had 124 projects that were being helped from this fund, but we cannot hope to make progress, we cannot hope to cooperate with our Arts Associations in doing their job, if we are not prepared to find more money for this purpose. As your Lordships may know, this money is not negotiated by the Arts Council; it is negotiated directly between the Minister responsible for the Arts and the Treasury, and therefore I beg the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, to make quite clear, before the end of this debate, precisely how much the Treasury are giving each year; not the commitments which will go above or below that amount for any particular year. I hope he will be able to give us an assurance that in this period of reflation we shall not have the same story in housing the Arts as we had in museum and gallery charges. I hope that if we cannot move forward, at least we shall not move backwards; but I sincerely hope that we shall move forward.

My heart leapt when I saw that there was to be fresh help for the regions. I was glad to see that the Government had decided that they must now give more economic help to the regions, but I suggest that your Lordships' House will be doing a great service if it is made clear from all parts of the House that it is absolutely vital for civilised reasons of every kind—for the improvement in the quality of life and also for economic reasons—that we should do far more than we are now doing to enable communities to help themselves. As the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, said, the Arts Associations have to get their money from local authorities, from private donors, from industry—from every possible source. I was most encouraged when I found that when the fund for housing the Arts had committed £2,¼ million for those various projects, it had attracted another £8¼ million from local authorities, from industries in the area and from private donors; because when that happens local pride becomes involved. A town council may be hesitart about making certain gifts to the Arts, but if it has a theatre it warts to modernise, if it has an arts centre it warts to establish, then my experience is that this is the kind of area where one is most likely to get co-operation.

I also agreed entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, who said that the Arts Associations can do much for the amateur that cannot be done directly by the Arts Council. We all object to anything that would be a hideous mush and muddling between amateur and professional standards, but we do know that all over the country there are amateur groups of very high standards, and the way we can help when we build our Arts centres and provide more accommodation is that the same building can be used on one occasion by professional dramatists or painters and on another occasion by amateurs. Indeed, there is every kind of co-operation available once our people engaged in those activities in the Provinces have a proper roof over their heads.

If I may give an example, in my former constituency of Cannock we had a really high level amateur operatic company. They warted to top up their performances by engaging a professional singer but were afraid of the financial risk. The local council (and I take no credit for this because it was through no action on my part) said to the company, "Very well; engage your professional singer. If you make a loss, we will pay; if you make a gain, you keep the profit." That encouraged them to go ahead and they were able to make a profit. In the same way (and this is why the Regional Arts Associations are so important), there are certain fields that at one time were completely denigrated—for instance, photography. Some of my friends and colleagues on the Arts Council would probably have fallen down in a faint if I had suggested, early in the last Parliament, that the highest levels of photography should be regarded as an art; yet this is what is happening now,

Each Regional Arts Association can take on the colouration of its own area. If you go into an area and you find that choral singing is much favoured and practised by the population, why not include that in your arts festivals? I should like to see, for instance, a national youth brass band. But if we cannot do it nationally, why not give the Regional Arts Associations more money and more leverage in order to broaden their field of activities in a way the central Arts Council cannot do? Remember that I am saying all the time that they should be able to broaden their level of activities by maintaining the highest standards and not allowing those standards to drop.

I understand that the Arts Council are spending two-thirds of their grant in promoting activities throughout the regions. I should also like to associate myself with Lord Feversham in the remarks he has made about Lord Goodman, who is with us, and perhaps by the next time we have a debate on the Arts in your Lordships' House he will no longer be Chairman of the Arts Council. I think, if the Paymaster General will allow me to say so, both he and I have been extremely fortunate in having such a wise and generous counsellor who at all times has sustained the independence of the Arts from political pressure, a point which I consider absolutely fundamental, and who has given not only of his skill but of his time and of his resources so generously to promote the best in the Arts, not only in the London area, which can be all cosy, but also in some of the far distart corners of our Island Kingdom. Those who know how hard he has worked I am sure will be glad to pay this tribute to him.

There is much more that could be said. I may as well make the point, because someone will, that of the two-thirds spent in the regions nine-tenths is directly spent by the Arts Council and only one-tenth allocated to the Regional Arts Associations. There may be an argument for a higher percentage being spent by the associations, but I think that what we ought to concentrate our attention on mainly is not whether out of a given sum we should re-allocate that amount; we should concentrate our attention on increasing the sum available. We have not yet had time to find out what the proposals in the Budget may mean in terms of help for the Arts. I am not inclined to look a gift horse in the mouth, although I do say that if we fall back on private charity it means that the Arts, both centrally and regionally, have not a high enough priority in Government thinking. I would much prefer that they took their proper place and were properly provided for. But I am not making a great point about that. I am only insisting that in the future as well as in the past—and again I reiterate what Lord Feversham said—we hope these stronger, enlarged units of local authorities will appreciate the value not of superseding and taking the place of the Arts Associations but of cooperating with them even more.

We have a long list of distinguished speakers. The main thing I warted to stress was the importance of providing better facilities in the regions, and I hope that representations can be made along these lines to a Government who are in a reflationary mood. For goodness, sakea let us catch them before they change their mind again.