HL Deb 02 November 1976 vol 376 cc1077-8

2.51 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how much of the money disbursed by the Arts Council is devoted to the promotion of exhibitions of (a) British, and (b) foreign artists.

The MINISTER of STATE, DEPARTMENT of EDUCATION and SCIENCE (Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge)

My Lords, the Arts Council of Great Britain spent a net sum of £392,500 on their own exhibitions. The cost for exhibitions of British art was £187,000; for foreign art £71,000; and for exhibitions covering both £134,500. The Council's relevant expenditure on staff and general publicity and overheads totalled £255,500. In addition, a number of bodies in receipt of grants from the Arts Council spend some of their resources on exhibitions.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that the Federation of British Artists have some 20 organisations associated with them, of which there are seven Royal institutes or societies, and they have some 4,000 professional artists? Their galleries are next door to the Institute of Contemporary Art in the Mall; they pay savage rates, yet they receive no grant whatsoever from any sources.


My Lords, I am aware of these facts. I think that "savage rates" is rather an extravagant epithet. A great deal is done by the Arts Council for British art in various ways. The fact that £187,000 of the money they spend on exhibitions is entirely on British art gives some indication of that. In any case, noble Lords would prefer that decisions of this kind be left to the Arts Council and that the Arts Council should not be interfered with by Parliament, and still less by Ministers who, by definition, are supposed to have no taste.


My Lords, without suggesting interference by Parliament, can the noble Lord give any indication as to the breakdown between London and other parts of the country?


My Lords, I do not have that information with me; I will write to the noble Lord.

Viscount ECCLES

My Lords, while I agree that these decisions should be left to the Arts Council—and they do their work very well—it is reasonable for my noble friend to point out that the Federation of British Artists do an extraordinary good piece of work right alongside the ICA. Surety there are a large number of people who would rather have the subsidy paid to the Federation of British Artists than the ICA.


My Lords, I never suggested for one moment that what the noble Baroness said was unreasonable.