§ 3.6 p.m.
§ Lord FEVERSHAM rose to call attention to the report to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation by the Lord Redcliffe-Maud, Support for the Arts in England and Wales; 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. I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to raise the matter of support for the arts. It cannot be denied that our great cultural heritage, together with the continued resourcefulness and creativity of our artists in music, literature, the theatre and the visual arts command the very highest regard throughout the world. In a world where we no longer control a great empire, where we have lost the economic ascendancy which we began in the Industrial Revolution, where our Parliamentary and democratic processes, which have served as a model throughout the world for so long, are perhaps being questioned, we can claim that in the field of the arts in the eyes of the rest of the world Britain remains great.
§ But for how much longer will Britain remain a great power in the arts? Our cultural heritage is in danger. Some of our great works of art are in the salerooms, and our treatment of our living artists is shoddy. If it continues to he shoddy for much longer, then our best creative people are going to leave these shores to work where there are better conditions. Some of them have started to leave already. I doubt whether we shall be able to sustain for much longer the standards of excellence which have been achieved and maintained at extraordinarily small cost for the nation. For years, our superb record in the arts has been sustained on the cheap, thanks to the efforts of a few ingenious men and women of great determination, commitment and judgment. I think I am right in saying that the City of Munich spends more money on the arts than the Arts Council of Great Britain has to spend on the arts throughout our country. At any 169 rate, we certainly spend a great deal less on the arts in this country than they do in most other countries of the world. We should pay tribute to those who have had to decide in the past how best those slender sums of money should be allocated. I do not think it would be an exaggeration, although I am open to challenge from the Bishops' Benches, to say that miracles have been worked on behalf of the arts in Great Britain in the past few years. It is my earnest hope that we shall, as a nation, offer in the future greater support to the creative talents of our society.
§ At the present time, we have to face up to the harsh realities of a depressed economic climate. I do not think that anybody could deny that the arts world is in a state of great economic distress. Of course, we are all suffering from the economic crisis, both individually and collectively as a nation, but I think it would be fair to say that the arts are presented with particular difficulties at the present time—not least because we have achieved such value for money in this field with such slender resources that it is difficult to see what might be done to cut or even to hold back developments in the arts without seriously threatening the vital contribution of the creative talents contained in our country, without which I cannot imagine a society fit for my children or, for that matter, for anybody else's children.
§ I suspect it is an indication of the difficulties facing the arts that we have seen a handful of reports on the arts published during the last year or two. We have seen the publication of the report of the Study Group set up by the Labour Party and the report of the TUC Working Party. The Annan Report, concerned with the future of broadcasting, could hardly fail to ignore the contribution of broadcasting in the arts, and we have the report on Support for the Arts in England and Wales, made by the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation upon which I have tabled this Motion for discussion today. The Annan Report has already been the subject of an excellent debate in your Lordships' House, and I hope that we can avoid any further discussion on it today except where absolutely necessary. But I am delighted to have this opportunity of a debate on the arts so soon after the 170 debate on the Annan Report, because, as the Maud Report stresses, the role of broadcasting in support of the arts is vital.
§ I have been asked why I have chosen to confine today's Motion to discussion of the Redcliffe-Maud Report, and not tabled a Motion for a general discussion on the arts. My reason is that of the reports concerned specifically with the arts, the Redcliffe-Maud Report covers the most ground and not only does it do so with regard to making recommendations—and it makes well over 80—but it provides us with a most comprehensive survey of the system which has evolved for provision for the arts in England and Wales. Such a survey must he of immense value in any consideration of how provision for the arts should be developed.
§ I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, on the thoroughness with which he constructed his report. The fact that he travelled over 11,000 miles for the purposes of the inquiry, and sought advice from the host of organisations and individuals catalogued in Appendix 4 of the report, can hardly put across the warmth with which the noble Lord's efforts were received in all the corners of the Kingdom into which he poked his nose. The fact that the noble Lord was not encumbered with a committee—and a committee would, for reasons of convenience, almost certainly have meant that the lion's share of the report was constructed in London—meant that he was able to wage his campaign in the field, and I, at any rate, find such an approach refreshing in a world bedridden with desk wallahs!
§ I have one final point with regard to the Motion which is down for debate, and it is an important one. It will not have escaped your Lordships' attention that the Motion seeks to confine the debate to discussion on support for the arts in England and Wales. The more alert of your Lordships—but perhaps I should not suggest that some of your Lordships are more alert than others—will have noticed that as a result of my Motion a large party of noble Lords have descended upon the House from Scotland. This is precisely what I had hoped for, working on the basis that we have no right to discuss Scottish affairs in London but that the Scots would feel 171 dejected, deprived and unhappy should we decide not to discuss their antics in the capital city of the United Kingdom. The Maud Report, of course, makes direct reference to Scotland, along with the recommendation that the Scottish Arts Council should have its own charter. Furthermore, the Scottish Arts Council has recently produced its own report dealing with the problems in its country, and I am sure that the experience of speakers from Scotland will contribute usefully to our debate.
§ In this connection, I must say how much I am looking forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, a noble Lord for whom I have the very greatest respect. He has hidden shyly for far too long behind his sporran. I am delighted that he is here today, and I hope that we shall hear from him frequently in the future. I should also like to say how much I am looking forward to the speech of our other maiden speaker, and to offer him similar encouragement in the speech that he is to make. I can see nothing in the wording of the Motion which could possibly prevent us from having the widest possible discussion on the arts.
§ Perhaps I should declare something of an interest at this stage, as chairman of the Yorkshire Arts Association. Perhaps I should also mention that I served on the advisory committee which originally persuaded the Gulbenkian Foundation to commission the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, to undertake this survey. Let me add immediately, however, that I do not wish to use my time today in pursuing in detail my own particular interests in the arts field, so far as the Regional Arts Associations are concerned; and, of course, the Maud Report devotes a good deal of time to the role of Regional Arts Associations in the machinery of arts administration. I am much more concerned at the moment with the wider issues concerning support for the arts.
§ Two major difficulties confront the continued welfare of the arts in our country, and they are serious. They are difficulties with which we must grapple in earnest, and they are difficulties which must be overcome. The first great difficulty lies in the severe restrictions of the 172 current economic climate; the immediate threat to the arts. The Maud Report does not really help us very much with this urgent problem. It is much more concerned with the future of support for the arts. It merely says that there is an immediate problem, and that it must be solved. I have heard some criticism of the report, that it does not set down a short list of easy answers to the immediate threats to the arts posed by the economic crisis. I do not believe that such criticism is warranted, because in a society where the chief patron of the arts has become the State, where artists are paid largely with public money, then any crisis facing the arts must properly be the concern of the Government and the Treasury.
§ Indeed, the Government recognised this fact when Mr. Harold Wilson took action to investigate the crisis facing the arts, while the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, was in the process of constructing his report. What Mr. Wilson did as Prime Minister was to appoint Mr. Harold Lever to look at the problem. Mr. Lever then appeared on television and his movements through the arts world were reported in the Press, and everybody said, "The arts will be saved at a wave of this wizard of Westminster's wonderful magical wand." What, in fact, happened was that when the wizard of Westminster waved his wand the arts remained as they were before, struggling and crisis bound. The wizard himself, however, disappeared from view in a puff of smoke. He wrought no miracles. He left behind him no tablets of stone to tell us what to do. He merely vanished entirely or, at least, created the illusion of so doing.
§ Perhaps the Minister for the Arts will be able to advise us this afternoon of the Government's plans for tackling the crisis facing the arts. Perhaps he will also be able to tell us what these plans are, and pinpoint for us those areas in which the arts most urgently require help if they are to survive undamaged the current economic crisis. What is the Government's strategy? What are their priorities? What has happened to Mr. Lever? Arts organisations throughout the country are understandably keen to hear proper answers to these questions. We have had no Government policy statement of any great significance concerning the arts since Mr. Lever's appointment was 173 announced. Since then, some of the Government's actions have caused concern. The economic crisis, quite possibly associated with current tax laws, has caused a number of important works of art to be sent to the sale rooms. Are the Government satisfied with this situation? The Victoria and Albert Museum has disbanded its regional services department, a very serious setback indeed for regional museums and galleries. It is urgent that the problems already being caused by this setback are looked into, and that action is taken—and I mean "action"—to try to solve them.
§ There are many other areas in which urgent action is required, in order to meet a crisis situation. The apparent lack of enthusiasm by Government to recognise, or to do anything about, the difficulties facing the arts should be cause for great concern, and, since the arts are not, and should not be, a matter for Party political wrangling, perhaps the noble Earl who is to speak from the Opposition Front Bench will be able to advise us on what plans they are formulating to tackle the difficulties, and how they plan to ensure a healthy, cultural climate for us in the future.
§ The fact of the matter, I am afraid, is that Governments, Oppositions and civil servants are not greatly troubled about the problems facing the arts, and herein lies the heart of the matter. The British people and their Governments and their servants of the State do not value the creative spirit in man, as do their counterparts in, for example, France. If you are an artist and you walk into a greengrocer's shop in Provence in order to buy a cabbage, and you fall into conversation with the shopkeeper and tell him that you are an artist, he will not hear of taking payment for that cabbage. He will give it to you free. Try the same scene in Neasden or Penge, my Lords, and you will be lucky to escape with your life if you admit to being an artist. I know a sculptor—not a very well-known artist—who has a house on the edge of a village in the Dordogne. He had been living there for about 18 months when he noticed a small party of people trudging up the hill towards the front door. It turned out to be a party of village councillors led by the mayor, and they had come to tell him what an honour it was for the village that he should choose to come and live 174 nearby and, furthermore, that they would like to commission him to make a sculpture to be located in the market place. Can your Lordships imagine anything like that happening in England?
§ I know of at least one artist whom the local council in the North has been trying to run out of town for the past two years. He manages to keep working largely by going to France, Holland and Germany for three months a year. We do not like creative people in this country and we do not encourage them. That applies not only to artists but to the creative entrepreneur, the inventor and the scientist. We have produced some of the most creative people in the world and persistently we have failed to support them properly. We have led the world in breaking technological barriers, and in nearly every case where we have led the field—take the development of the hovercraft, for example—we have lost the lead given to us by our innovators because we have not backed them properly.
§ If I was asked what I considered to be the greatest failing of the British people, the facet of the British character which threatened most the recovery of Britain's fortunes in the world, then I would reply that it is the British public's apathy towards creativity. It is this apathy which forms the second great threat to the welfare of the arts in our country. Until recently, the apathy of the vast body of the British public towards the arts did not really matter. Private rather than public money provided the necessary support. Unless we can overcome public apathy towards the arts, unless we can convince the public of the importance of creativity in society, then the public will not provide adequate patronage and we shall enter the new dark ages which have been forecast by the doomwatchers.
§ This Government and subsequent Governments and the civil servants who maintain the cogs of the machinery of government in motion must therefore address themselves seriously, as they have not yet done, to treating the arts as a vital component of our society and to pursuing policies which will secure public support for the arts with adequate public patronage. That is what the Maud Report says; that is what the Labour movement discussion document says; that is what the report of the Trades 175 Union Congress Working Party says. This Government say very little and do practically nothing.
§ If you examine the three reports which I have just mentioned, you will find that they have in common recommendations which seek, in analysis, four common objectives. They all recommend some change in ministerial responsibility for the arts and all agree that the voice of the arts in Parliament should be given greater strength. They all believe that local authorities should do more for the support of the arts than they do at present. They all recognise that estimates and grants for the arts from Government must be put on to a rolling triennium. They all support the idea that support for the arts should be based on secure foundations locally, and in the Maud Report this is achieved through devolution from the centre. In the Labour movement's discussion paper it is achieved through a horrible, cumbersome, new bureaucratic structure of committees. Perhaps I might just say that after reading the discussion paper I went to see the film "Requiem for a Mad King" about Ludwig of Bavaria, that very great patron of the arts, and I came out wondering just how it would be possible to replace Ludwig with a committee. I felt that the committee structure recommended by the Labour movement discussion paper would produce a world in which the arts could not flourish but that in every other respect it would produce a world very much like that of poor, mad King Ludwig.
§ The Maud Report's recommendation that in the future local authorities should become important patrons of the arts is possibly the recommendation which has attracted the most criticism. In fact, I have heard critics prepared to write off the entire report as barely worth discussion, on the grounds that they believe that there is no chance in the foreseeable future of the local authorities giving substantially increased funds to the arts. These particular critics tend not to give their views upon the remaining 80-odd recommendations in the report. No doubt when it was first suggested that local authorities should finance public libraries and museums and art galleries, similar critics made similar noises.
§ I suggest that unless we can canvass greater support from the public for the 176 arts, then we shall not develop a policy of adequate support for the arts in the future. I suggest that if we cannot persuade the ratepayer to support his local theatre, ultimately the basis upon which that same ratepayer, through national taxation, supports the National Theatre is far from secure. I am not suggesting that at the wave of some magic wand—that of Mr. Harold Lever perhaps—the British public would stampede into their nearest art gallery, theatre or concert hall and empty their wallets. What I am suggesting is that with real leadership from central Government, with commitment and dedication from those who value the arts and who recognise the importance of the creative spirit in society, through education and by employing every trick of persuasion, more local public patronage for the arts must be found. I do not pretend that the task will be easy. It will be very difficult and it may well take a prolonged campaign, but I think that campaign is worth waging. So does Lord Redcliffe-Maud, so does the TUC Working Party, so does the Labour movement discussion document, and so does the excellent report of the Regional Development Committee of the Scottish Arts Council with regard to Scotland. All these good people who have been looking into the problems of support for the arts take this view. What I should like to hear now are the alternative suggestions of those who do not take this view.
§ As I said at the beginning of this speech, Britain has a great reputation in the world of the arts. This reputation has been achieved with sums of public money of little significance to the overall national budget, with smaller sums of public money than most other countries of the world engage in support of the arts. As a result, I think that we tend to take our success in this field for granted. We tend to feel that somehow or another the arts will survive the current economic difficulties without special attention, that our tried and trusted system of arts patronage will pull us through. I am quite sure that we should not be so complacent. I have nothing but admiration for the results achieved by the system of arts patronage which we have, but I am far from satisfied that we have found all the answers posed by the problems of converting from a system of private patronage to a system of State patronage.177
§ I do not think that we should delude ourselves that there is any alternative in the future to the idea of the State acting as the principal patron of the arts in our society. I applaud all efforts designed to encourage and increase other sources of patronage. I am convinced that industry could gain a great deal out of increasing its support for the arts. I hope that the newly-formed Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts will make progress in this direction. But it is essential that we recognise that the efforts of the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts, of private foundations such as the Gulbenkian Foundation and other patrons can only augment, and not take the place of, adequate State patronage.
§ The Maud Report looks at the way in which our system of patronage has evolved and makes a number of suggestions as to how the existing system might he improved. In so doing, I think that the report pinpoints the key to our past success and, I hope, the key to the future. It is what my noble friend Lord Redcliffe-Maud calls the arm's length principle which divorces the direct political element from public patronage of the arts. It has been this distancing of the politician from the artist which has created an atmosphere conducive to creativity. It has produced a situation where the artist likes to live and work in England when he might be better off, in material terms, to work abroad. Our policy towards support for the arts in the future must hold this vital key to success. The artist must be left free to create. His patron must judge him by artistic standards alone. If my arguments fail to impress noble Lords, I can only suggest that they go and listen to a piece of music which I think is called the Yellow River Concerto. It was not composed by an artist. It was composed by the Central Committee for Orchestral Music in Peking, or some such organisation. I do not know how noble Lords, NN h o care to take up my suggestion, will react. For my part, I felt in complete agreement with Huw Wheldon's evidence in the Annan Report that "no real programme was ever made by a committee".
§ The great difficulty is that in distancing the artist from the patron to allow freedom of expression on the one hand, you reduce 178 the involvement between artist and patron on the other. It is not easy to exercise the arm's length principle. It seems to me that the Maud Report seeks to recognise the advantages of the principle while seeking to minimise the disadvantages, largely through broadening the base of public patronage at the grass roots and by encouraging that process through devolution from the centre.
§ Whether or not we agree with the recommendations contained in the Maud Report, I am convinced that we must take up the underlying theme of the report. We must plan now for the future of support for the arts in our country. The arts are vital. A society without a culture is a sick society. One has only to look as far as the new housing estates which have replaced slum streets, where the culture of the old streets—often centred on the weekly knees-up at the local pub—has been bulldozed away with nothing to replace it in the new tower blocks, to see the importance of the topic which we are discussing today. The arts are not a fringe benefit; they are as vital to civilised society as housing and hospitals. It is as necessary to provide food for the mind as it is to feed the body. The fact that our reputation in the arts in this country attracts large sums of foreign currency into our coffers out of the pockets of tourists is incidental. It would underline our stupidity should we neglect to invest adequately in the development of such a useful asset.
§ We must not take for granted our successful record in the arts; we must not take for granted our magnificent heritage. The public must take on still more the mantle of the great private patrons who built up that heritage. We must take care of what we have inherited. On the form of support which we give in the future to the creative talents of our society in the arts and in the sciences rests our place in civilisation and in world affairs. We do not pay enough attention to these matters. This debate upon the arts is a very quiet and modest affair so far as national issues are concerned but debate there must be, I am convinced, because without debate our great reputation in the arts world and our greatness there might so easily slip away. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.179
§ 3.31 p.m.
The Earl of GOWRIE
My Lords, we are more than conventionally grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, for giving us the chance to debate the situation of the arts in this country today and in particular for concentrating our minds on the Redcliffe-Maud Report. The noble Lord, Lord Feversham, needs no bouquets from me as to his fighting opening speech. Although only in his early thirties, for many years now he has been involved in arts administration in the North of England and he has a reputation there fast approaching that of the big guns who are going to speak later in the debate and who have been drawn up to the front line by the noble Lord's timely Motion. I think the Motion is timely, albeit in a bitter-sweet paradoxical way. Over the whole field of artistic activity in Britain the news is both good and bad. The situation is indeed critical in the sense that a record to be proud of could very quickly be undone and lead to one of which we are ashamed. It seems to me that things could go either way, and if they go the wrong way now they will go very quickly.
The good news is that as the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, put it in his report, and as the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, has reiterated, the period of history which we have so recently been celebrating in the Queen's Jubilee has seen a richer flowering of the arts, of music, opera, drama, literature, painting and sculpture, and above all a greater increase in the enjoyment of them than in any comparable period since the Industrial Revolution. I believe that that is incontestably true and that it is something to cheer about; something especially to cheer about at a time when many of our national hopes and expectations in other fields have been frustrated. If in my short speech I talk rather a lot about money, I hope your Lordships will not feel that I am simply a materialist on this issue. As the noble Lord, Lord Annan, who produced another report very relevant to the arts this year, said, money is the manure of the arts. Perhaps it is the sober business of politicians to treat with the manure rather than with the creative spirit itself.
Of course the laws of the market place are far from being the laws of most importance for art. Nevertheless, they have a place, especially where physical 180 works of art are concerned. It still feels amazing to me, and it still feels exciting, that Mr. Moore and Mr. Francis Bacon are far and away the most sought after living European artists anywhere and that huge crowds are today flocking to Mr. Moore's retrospective exhibition in Paris, just as last spring I saw queues down narrow streets in the St. Germain where Mr. Bacon's last exhibition was held.
London's only rivals as a musical city are Chicago and Berlin, and the range of music on offer is surely much greater here. Something in our relatively repressed public psyche perhaps has given us the world's best actors, and our theatre, involving at least as much new as classical work these days, keeps a smile on the face of the British Tourist Board. We have three or four novelists able to go the distance with, if not actually to floor, our great traditional masters. We have Mr. Larkin for a poet and for the last eight years Mr. Robert Lowell has been working here. Above all, we have a plurality of artistic achievement and enjoyment which is an important reason why, with more downs than ups in recent years, Britain is still in all senses a civilised country in which to live.
The bad news is that all this—God's plenty, so to speak—is threatened, as the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, said. As he also said, the British are used to their art, like their food, on the cheap. Like so much else, like food itself, nothing complex and nothing labour-intensive will foreseeably be cheap again. As things get more expensive, the arts require more money for their maintenance and expansion, and it must be said, of course, in a society depending on the State for patronage, for their administration. But with the rate of inflation that we in this country are running, every penny more for the arts is spent in a desperate attempt to stand still; in an attempt not to fall behind or to make less provision for the arts rather than, as our achievement requires, to make more provision.
Let me give two brief instances. Let us take art at its most expensive and at its cheapest. The most expensive, obviously, is opera. Here, incidentally, I am on rather tricky ground. In the last arts debate in which I spoke—and it was some years ago—I ventured the opinion that the Royal Opera House "hogged "— 181 and I am afraid that was the phrase I used—rather too large a slice of the Arts Council's budget. I was treated to interruptions of a fury unmatched even in a social services debate, say, in another place by my noble friend Lord Drogheda. I limped home to bed, for the debate went on until a very late hour, and at what felt like three or four o'clock in the morning the telephone rang. An icy voice, immediately recognisable as that of my noble friend, pointed out that since I clearly knew nothing about opera I had better attend Klemperer's Fidelio as his guest. So today I am going to be very careful not to be the slightest bit controversial on the subject of opera in case any of your Lordships should suspect me of fishing for free seats. As I said, it is incontestable that the most expensive form is opera. One might except cinema, but to provide an operatic repertory is at least as costly as a mammoth film production and in any case expenditure on film productions usually rises in inverse ratio to their artistic ambitions.
The noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, demonstrates on page 132 of his report that nearly £9 million of annual subsidy is absorbed by the three principal German opera houses—in Berlin, Hamburg and Munich—as against just over £1½million for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The really significant thing about the noble Lord's figures is that they are at 1971 exchange rates, the only comparisons available. It seems to me that opera is like the violin; if you cannot do it properly you had better not do it at all. Amateur dramatics can be delightful, but the prospect of an amateur opera freezes the blood. Imagine what problems Covent Garden now faces with our rate of inflation, and with the currency devalued by that rate of inflation, in keeping up to 1971 standards, let alone going ahead; and all over the world real costs, by which I mean costs irrespective of rates of inflation, have risen since 1971.
The cheapest artistic form is poetry. You need pencil and paper and all the embarrassing richness of the language you freely inhabit, but as time goes by and you improve a little, you also need an audience. The moment you seek an audience you run into the same kind of costs faced by the publishers of textbooks 182 or thrillers or even of the Sun or Daily Mirror. Your audience may be there or it may not; that depends on you and your skill. But there are formidable financial hurdles to be overcome before you can find out.
My Lords, the Arts Council—whose latest report The Arts in Hard Times we may reasonably consider with the Redcliffe-Maud Report—demonstrates an admirable list of subsidies to individual poets and to the publishers and magazines who treat with poetry. Here I must declare an interest, as a generous, and indeed unsubisidised, publisher once brought out a book of mine, and I am involved with a heavily subsidised little magazine. But costs are rising at a rate which makes one wonder whether in fact the Gutenberg era is not coming to an end. As with opera, even a relatively generous Arts Council enables one at very best to stand still, and the particular problem facing small magazines, of course, is that their grants are annual rather than triennial, so they cannot afford to spend any of their budget on promoting and securing the private readership to leave them less dependent on the subsidy.
My Lords, the moral in both these cases is the same. Here is an area of our national life in which by exacting international standards, as the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, told us, we are conspicuously successful. We need to allocate more money to build upon and extend that success. But the moment we do allocate the money it is swallowed, as if by a gigantic tax, by our inflation. The short answer to the noble Lord's question as to what the Opposition would do must be the same as with so many other endeavours in our national life; we would try to get the rate of inflation more in line with that of our competitors.
My Lords, the Government have made brave statements about the arts, and whatever our personal political feelings about the Government, on this day of all days, we know that there are determinedly civilised men in the Government's ranks. We are all delighted that the Minister for the Arts is who he is, and has returned, as it were, to this House. We all sympathise with the struggles of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, over Mentmore. But there undoubted abilities and efforts are as 183 nothing against the overall failure of the Government to bring our inflation into some correspondence with that of our competitors. Indeed, we must always remember that achievement in the arts, as indeed in most human spheres, is not to be done without fierce competition and ambition.
Mention of Mentmore brings me to the main point I want to make, and also the last one. I think it is invidious, except perhaps by way of example, to single out any one area of artistic endeavour as being more important than another. We all have our preferences and our interests, as I think this debate will show. But, whereas all the arts are threatened by inflation, there is too much interest and too much sheer talent in this country for them to sink to purely nominal levels of activity. However, one part of our artistic tradition, our role as collectors and keepers of works of art, is under serious and immediate threat and we have got to do something about it. I mean "we" here in more urgent terms than we as a people; the responsibility is squarely with Government and with Parliament.
The British have great national museums but so then have other peoples. Britain has the greatest quantity and quality of works of art in private hands of any country in the world. This is where we are unique and vulnerable. The report suggests that these works constitute £3,000 million worth of value. I am professionally involved in this field—and here I must frankly declare that interest, even though I am going to try to speak against it to some degree—and as someone professionally involved I would put the figure considerably higher than that. Levels of personal taxation in this country, and the lack of any firm tax ceilings will, in my opinion, strip the country of the bulk of this heritage within one generation, or at best within two. This is almost too horrifying to contemplate, but there are vivid signs that it will come about. The sums are only too easy to work out. Progressive taxation, plus capital transfer tax, plus inflation, compels people to sell assets which do not themselves yield money, indeed which cost money to maintain. The State does not have the money, or may not find it politically opportune to give the money, to buy the works.
184 Even if there were calls for confiscation, which I hope we in Parliament would furiously resist, the State cannot afford to house its present possessions, let alone what would flow into its hands. Over the water, all about us indeed, the still vigorous and expanding economies endow institutions, both public and private, on a scale beyond our dreams of avarice. Take two instances only. The Getty Museum in Malibu, if the Getty will is proven, will have an annual purchasing grant of about £30 million. Grants for arts purposes of the City of Hamburg are about the same in money terms as the entire arts budget for England.
My Lords, it seems to me ironic that in this Jubilee year the Mellon Museum at Yale opened and showed the world that, far from confining ourselves to literature, we have almost as great a tradition in the visual arts. Two generations, three at most, in the late 17th and 18th centuries, built up an astonishing store of art objects, as well as being themselves creative in the way Mr. Mellon and his advisers, to their great credit, have demonstrated. The sums that I have mentioned and the pressures here could see an even more rapid dispersal. We must switch our political attitudes away from consumption and towards conservation. I say this in the full knowledge that the late Lord Keynes was the first chairman of the Arts Council. In other words, we cannot look at a man who possesses a work of art as being wealthy in that respect at least until he sells it; and we cannot treat a man who hands over a work of art to the State in lieu of death or capital transfer taxes as compelling the State to buy it—and I am using ironic quotation marks round the word "buy". This surely is the nub of the Mentmore size nonsense surrounding the Land Fund.
Because housing the arts is so expensive and because museums are not the only appropriate venue for a national heritage, we must make it possible for individuals to have a fighting chance of acquiring beautiful things and handing them on to their families. In practical terms, and surely we must seek practical rather than ideological solutions, this means that, while taxation under Governments of both Parties will remain high, we must try to achieve sonic kind of cut-off point 185 so as to give an individual this fighting chance.
My Lords, the present indications—and I say this with caution because all time is a long time in politics—are that there will be a Conservative Chancellor before very much time has passed. He will be a moderate and a centrist politician and he will, no doubt—like previous Tory Chancellors—be a little too sensitive to charges that he is favouring rather than soaking the rich. I hope that he will take courage from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition when she opened the Antiques Fair last week and from the notable work, especially in their representation to the Select Committee on the Wealth Tax, of my honourable friends Mr. Robert Cooke and Mr. Patrick Cormack. However, I hope that the Government—so long as they remain the Government—will be alert to the implications of their present and proposed fiscal policies for this threatened area of arts activity. We have more than our political faces to lose.
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Viscount NORWICH
My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to those that have already been expressed not only to the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, for having tabled this Motion this afternoon but also to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation for having sponsored it in the first place. I should also like to add my humble congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, for what seems to be an absolutely admirable report—it is lucid, perceptive comprehensive and, indeed, highly enjoyable to read. I enjoyed it so much because it emphasised so many points in which I have always fervently believed, none more strongly, both in its emphasis and in my belief, than in the noble Lord's view that we cannot stage another breakthrough of the kind that we have seen in the past 30 years without what he calls "a radical revolution in our whole philosophy of education"—a revolution as a result of which the arts will no longer be seen as a separate optional extra in the whole sphere of our education but as an integral part of it.
Above all, surely, it is the arts which separate us from the higher animals and 186 the electronic machine. The higher animals have the power of thought; computers nowadays are numerate and in a very real sense literate; but the arts remain the prerogative of humanity. They are our common heritage and it is the right of us all, and indeed the duty of the older generations, to ensure that the younger generations learn not only to appreciate but wherever possibly actively to pursue the cultural heritage that is theirs.
The second point which delighted me was the praise which Lord Redcliffe-Maud's report gave to the Arts Council—an organisation which in its concept could hardly be better, and that applies to the work which it has done over the past 30 years. However, to a very large extent it is still hamstrung by the length of time which the Government still take to make up their mind about the size of their grants. It seems to me that the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, that the grant now should not be on an annual basis but on a rolling triennial basis may rapidly be becoming out of date. I am not certain that even a rolling quinquennial basis would not be better for an age in which great international artists—and they are people whom we must have if we are to maintain our leadership in these fields—think nothing of booking themselves three years, or even on occasions four years, ahead.
Having said that and agreeing as I do with the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, that the Arts Council has as one of its great strengths what he calls the "arm's length principle", which I absolutely agree should be maintained between Government and Arts Council—in other words, that the Government under no circumstances should try to direct the Arts Council in the precise areas and proportions in which it should distribute its money—and also agreeing that this same arm's length principle should be pursued in relations between the Arts Council and the regional arts associations, I confess that I am not quite so sure about the desirability, as the noble Lord suggests, of pursuing it one stage further in devolution and maintaining the arm's length principle between the regional arts associations and local authorities. In my experience the very large majority of local authorities in this country, with several notable exceptions, remain extremely 187 philistine bodies. It seems to me idealistic, not to say, if noble Lords will forgive the word, possibly "starry-eyed", to think that they will greatly improve within the next generation or two. The buck must stop somewhere. I believe that it would be much safer if it stopped in the capable hands of the regional arts associations rather than going any further down the scale.
So much for certain general points which I wish to make. One or two particular aspects, which are mentioned in other areas of the report, are worth emphasising briefly. First, I should like to refer briefly—and it will be briefly because your Lordships have already debated the Annan Report—to broadcasting. I believe that by quite a long way the BBC is this country's biggest cultural creditor. We owe it a far greater debt than we owe any other organisation, a debt which we cannot possibly repay and a debt which puts broadcasting in this country on a much higher level than that which exists in any other country. In fact, the only serious disadvantage of the BBC of which I know is that it is acutely painful to listen to broadcasting or to watch television in any other country of which I have experience because one cannot help but compare that country's performance with the standards of excellence which we receive here.
That being the case I believe that the £18 licence fee for colour television is grotesquely low. It is the best bargain in this country. To have three channels broadcasting in colour for seven or eight hours a day at standards which we can enjoy, all at the price of a second-class return ticket to Wigan, is an inestimable boon, but a boon which unfortunately in our present age and our present financial stringency we cannot possibly afford. I should be delighted to see the colour television licence fee at least doubled. We could have as many concessions as we liked. The service could be provided free to old age pensioners living alone, to schools and hospitals. That should not be very difficult to organise, particularly as the licences are issued through the Post Office which already deals with old age pensioners and the disabled. All those groups could easily be given preferential 188 treatment. However, I certainly would be only too delighted to pay double for the service that I receive and I am sure that many noble Lords feel the same way.
I should like to mention museums. I had the privilege of serving for a very short time on the Standing Commission for Museums and Galleries. It was a very short time only because within a year I was forced to resign. The amount of paper work I found myself having to do was so gigantic it was almost a full time job. I admire those selfless members of the Commission led by the noble Earl, Lord Rosse—not, alas, a Member of your Lordships' House, and what a great loss to us all!—who have done an absolutely tremendous job and are continuing to do it, but they too are hamstrung. They are a purely consultative body. They should be, and deserve to be, a patronage body; one which is able to distribute money to the museums and galleries under their authority.
I well remember the days some years ago when I was chairman of the struggling British Theatre Museum—an organisation which was in fact kept going for 10 years on the dedication of the few members who believed in it at the cost of rather less than £5,000 a year in toto, which was what we got from one or two, though not very many more, benefactors. Now, thanks very largely to the efforts of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that British Theatre Museum has become the National Museum of the Theatre. We hope soon to see it established at its new site at Covent Garden. Presently it is with the V. and A.
I remember the nightmare task that I and my successors had in trying to find money for it largely because the Arts Council, a patronage body, did not have the right to contribute to museums. There seemed really nowhere else we could go to get a really sympathetic hearing. When I think of the number of other struggling bodies in the same condition today who have not had the ultimate luck we had, I feel that the sooner the Standing Commission can be given not only teeth but purse strings and the ability to undo them, the better that will be.
I should like to mention, also briefly, one rather sad lacuna in the report. 189 Lord Redcliffe-Maud mentioned in his Introduction that he was not going to cover the question of architecture except in so far as it was necessary for the building of museums, galleries, et cetera. That seems to me a pity. Architecture is obviously not a pure art form in the way that most other art forms are. It has, and if it is to be good architecture must always have, a very practical purpose as well. None the less it imposes upon our vision more than any other art form. It is around us all the time. More than any other art form it conditions the environment in which we live. It is a duty—a duty which so far has been most lamentably and shamefully ignored—of all our educationists to teach our children first of all to look around them; not to take architecture for granted but keep their eyes open and ask themselves whether buildings are good or bad buildings. If we do not do that with architecture in just the same way as we try—once again nowhere near enough, but we try—to encourage them to look at pictures and listen to music, how are we going to improve the lamentable standards of 80 per cent. of British architecture today?
Those are the principle points I wanted to make. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, said, in the end it all comes back—and it must all come back—to money. Of course we all agree that at this particular moment there can be no question of increasing the Government money made available to the arts in the way that I believe we all of us know in our hearts that it should be increased. Of course we have to wait until sunnier times come, as, God willing, they will. But meanwhile, above all there is an enormous amount of planning that we can do, that we should do, indeed that we must do now because it is going to take quite a long time to do. There is no time for me, nor any reason for me in view of the admirable way it has been set out in the report, to spell out exactly what those plans need be. They are all here. All I should like to do is to quote one sentence from the report, which comes from paragraph 3 of the Summary of Main Conclusions, on page 61.The proportion of public expenditure at present devoted to the arts in England and Wales is still such a minute fraction of the total that to reduce it would make no perceptible contribution towards the reduction of total public expenditure".190 Let us keep this in mind. Let us not reduce it, even if we cannot for the moment increase it.
Let us remember, finally, that the first public money made available by a Government of this country for the enjoyment of music and the arts was provided, as Lord Redcliffe-Maud reminds us on page 1 of his report, in the year 1940. Let us now at least not use the present critical condition in which this country finds itself as an excuse once again to brush our responsibilities under the carpet.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ Lord REDCLIFFE-MAUD
My Lords, I must thank my noble friend Lord Feversham for having put down this Motion and giving us the chance to have this debate, which already, for me at any rate, has been quite fascinating. T should also like to thank the Gulbenkian Foundation for having in the first instance made possible my wanderings round England and Wales, paying all my expenses and, still more important, lending me the services of Mr. Anthony Wraight, who I am delighted to know now serves the Scottish Arts Council, and without whose judgment, experience and dedication, as well as his kindness to me, my report would not have been made. That is not to say that I do not personally and solely take responsibility for everything that is in it.
I must also say how delightful it is that we shall shortly be hearing from the chairman of the Scottish Arts Council, the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh. He and his colleagues in Scotland were of the greatest help to me. I have read with fascination the document already referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, which I think was released to the public yesterday, describing how in Scotland it is going to tackle the sort of problems which we in England and Wales are also trying to tackle. I should like to say here that the significant difference in the proposals made in that report, which is only a discussion paper but which is going to be followed up by the Scottish Arts Council, is that there, where at present they have no regional arts associations compared with the twelve we have in England and the three in Wales, it does not recommend that regional arts 191 associations should be created or brought into existence. I cannot help feeling that that is a wise proposal, but it of course means that the Scottish Arts Council, in its determination to forge still closer links with local government, accepts the fact that it must deal with the individual local authorities both in the regions and in the districts of Scotland, which in this country would face the Arts Council with a really impossible task with 456-odd local authorities to collaborate with. In a moment I shall return to that point in terms of what we should do in England.
In thanking the Gulbenkian Foundation I should also like to thank them and others for the reception of the report—not in any sense like the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, who so very generously and over-generously said what he did about the report—and who have taken thought and action since the report was published last June, and in particular for the collaboration which the Leeds Castle Trustees have taken to enable a seminar of a special kind to be held within ten days from now as part of a follow-up to the thinking that should take place between all concerned in facing the problems of the next few years.
I will not repeat the remarks of Lord Feversham, who admirably expressed much of what I would have tried to indicate and which I have discussed in my report about the extraordinary value for money that we in this country have got from the very small sums that, from 1940 onwards, have been made available by the State. I would only add to what he said that we should remember that much of the virtue of the last 30 years has sprung from the Education Act 1944, which preceded any Act dealing with local government, though of course it was only just before the creation of the Arts Council, which took over from the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts. But it is what has been done in the last 30 years to bring the arts from the periphery towards the centre of the curriculum, in primary schools in particular, but also in secondary schools, that in my view has been part of the success of those years, and it only indicates how far we have to go.
We still persist in thinking that reading, writing and arithmetic—however one likes 192 to describe them—must be the core curriculum in all our schools. We think that literacy, numeracy and the cognative faculties must be developed, and of course we are right to think that; but how wrong we are to think that these can be divorced in the development of every child—handicapped at one end, exceedingly able in the cognative sense at the other—for all children need to have at school the beginnings of the development of their artistic talents (the correlation of mind, heart, hand and head) which is the basis of a civilised education for a civilised society. We have a long way to go in the educational sphere before that kind of promise is fulfilled. It has been shown in some schools already; in Leicestershire, Hertforshire and many other places it has been shown that it can be done by an adaptation of school work, and the National Youth Orchestra is an example of the extraordinarily high international standards that can be achieved by people who have not yet left school.
It seems to me that at present it would be wrong as well as futile to ask Her Majesty's Government to do more than maintain the real value of what comes from taxpayers' pockets and is used for the arts. Despite what Lord Feversham said, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, who will reply to the debate, and the Government, for having in fact maintained the Art Council grant and various other grants at a time when it would have been exceedingly easy for them to yield to what has been said to be one of our national characteristics, which is to assume that the arts are frills and the first casualty when there are questions of economy cuts.
That does not in any way lessen the sense of crisis I share with those who have spoken already, in particular the fact that Covent Garden will not be able even further to enhance its reputation and, perhaps even worse, that the community arts, travelling theatres, mobile experiments, the theatre in education—the myriad of other exciting things that are happening now and have grown in the last 30 years, which I saw for myself on my visits to 67 of our local authorities and all 15 of our regional arts associations—are in peril. Here is where I must continue to ask the Government to see that local 193 authorities are not discouraged from at least maintaining the real value of what they now do, whether through education or through specific patronage of the arts.
We saw from a review, which the Arts Council wisely got out the other day, of expenditure by local authorities on the arts and museums in 1974–75 compared with the 1972–73 figures, which I used in my report, that local authorities—they are only rough figures—seemed to be spending £15 million in 1972–73 compared with £24 million in 1974–75. What they are spending today none of us knows, and this is something which I hope in the future we will get right so that we do not have ad hoc inquiries but know regularly, just as we know how much is being spent on the social services by local government, how much is being spent on the arts in the most comprehensive sense by local government. For the present we cannot ask for more than maintenance of the real value of these public grants from rates and taxes. However, we must now make up our minds that this is only a temporary postponement of the big, though gradual, increase which there should be over the next five, 10, 15, 50 years if we are to do justice to what we know we are potentially, a great nation of artists from top to bottom.
What I hope very much is that we will not, in thinking what local government should do, accept the necessity of Parliament compelling local authorities not to use their discretion but impose a somehow defined minimum rate for the benefit of the arts. That is something which many of my friends urge, and have urged on me, and were most disappointed that I did not propose. It has never been done in the history of local government, and it would be exceedingly difficult to know what the figure should be and how one should calculate what should be the expenditure on the arts. Far more important, I believe in local government as the right democratic instrument through which the arts are to become a normal part of our life.
Under the 1972 Act, for all its defects, they now have for the first time a chance, a freedom, to spend on all aspects of local arts patronage, and that is what they must be persuaded to do by those of us who are enthusiasts for the arts, organising ourselves perhaps in local arts councils, as has happened all over London and in many 194 parts of England and which is now recognised by a new National Association of Local Arts Councils which will help local arts councils to learn from each other how to put pressure on councillors and infect a neighbourhood with the desire, and the recognition of the possibility, to enrich life, with each community becoming more of a community through the arts.
This is particularly true, I believe, in most parts of our country—the inner cities, for example—which the Government are determined to aid. I hope the contribution which the arts can make in solving the problem of deprivation all around will be recognised not only in the hearts of the cities the Government will select, but of so many of our cities; indeed, there is hardly a city where there is not an inner centre, where the social service of an arts development in the community could not to advantage become available.
§ Lord RAGLAN
My Lords, I was not clear from what the noble Lord said whether he was in favour of making it mandatory for local authorities to spend money on the arts. I know he is in favour of asking them if they will spend more, but is he in favour of making it mandatory?
§ Lord REDCLIFFE-MAUD
My Lords, my faith in local government leads me to believe that the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, was wrong when he dismissed councillors and suchlike people as being incapable of becoming the kind of enlightened persons which nationally we have done in treating the Arts Council with the arm's length principle. I believe that local governors should and will learn over the years what I call the general art of public patronage, which somehow manages both to involve the councillors in the crucial decisions which only they can make—how much money can be spent on the arts in each place, and holding to account those who have the money to spend, giving them a chance to select the directors who will direct the plays or the concerts, keeping out of the council chamber and leaving to the board of the theatre or the orchestra concerned the decisions which are strictly artistic but, of course, in the end having to agree or disagree with the verdict that their constituents will help them to make 195 on how far they have been successful and, if so, phasing out, continuing or increasing the grants that they have made.
This arm's length principle is something that is very little understood in local government circles. In particular, I should like to say here and now that the last thing that I mean by it is keeping the councillors away from the arts. On the contrary, I want them to become more and more involved with and enthusiastic about the arts on behalf of their constituents, but finding a way, as we have done nationally through the Arts Council, of leaving the artist and the art organisation the freedom without which we shall not get value for the money that we put into these enterprises. I shall not say more than that at the moment.
§ The MINISTER of STATE, DEPARTMENT of EDUCATION and SCIENCE (Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge)
My Lords, I should like to be absolutely clear on one point. I understood my noble friend Lord Raglan to ask the noble Lord whether he believed in a mandatory amount in rate support to be given by the local authorities. I am quite sure that the noble Lord does not, but I want to hear him say so.
§ Lord REDCLIFFE-MAUD
My Lords, I must apologise: I did not hear the first part of the question of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan. I must repeat—because it is plain in the document and in what I have said before—that I have disappointed many of my friends by rejecting the mandatory idea and definitely asking the Government, when the time comes to, as it were, release local government to increase its expenditure, whether they will leave local government to have its expenditure increased through the pressures of the community as an act of democratic decision rather than asking for the acceptance of some diktat from the Mother of Parliaments.
I have already spoken longer than I meant to. I would end simply by saying that the regional arts associations which exist throughout England and Wales, and which have been fostered both locally and by the Government, and the Arts Council furnish a magnificent opportunity for the Arts Council to do what we know it wants to do, which is to devolve decision- 196 making as far as possible from Piccadilly out to the places where the arts will actually be practised and enjoyed. It is an act of faith. The regional arts associations vary very much in their history, in their strength and, in particular, in their finances and, therefore, in the quality and number of the staff that they employ.
Over the past year, the Arts Council has been dealing one by one with each regional arts association and with the directors together, working out in detail how more of the decisions which are at present taken in Piccadilly to subsidise a regional theatre or orchestra or arts centre, can be devolved to the regional arts associations in such a way that the "clients" agree that they should be so devolved, rather than protesting that they want to remain, as it were, at Nanny's apron-strings. This is a very difficult problem and the change cannot be made at a stroke of the pen. That is why, in this period while we cannot expand our expenditure and make the progress we should like, there is so much that can be done that does not cost money. The Arts Council is doing it and the regional arts associations are responding. I had the pleasure of being in Yorkshire, where the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, is the chairman and, there, one had the chance of discussing the report with leaders of local government and with the organisations themselves. I am sure that this is a technique which we are rightly using in England and Wales—the technique of devolution to a regional arts association.
I myself do not believe that the regional arts association is rightly thought of as a little Arts Council. I know that it looks like one but it is essentially different. It is a consortium of the democratically elected local authorities comprised within the region, and this makes the problem of the arms length principle all the more difficult to learn. However, it also means that the decisions of the regional arts association are more deeply rooted in the community than they would have been had these regional associations been creations of the Arts Council as, for example, in New Zealand. There, the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council, which corresponds to our Arts Council, has regionalised itself and created three regions with regional committees throughout New Zealand. I hope that that will be a great success in New Zealand; but it is infinitely 197 better, as the Arts Council disposed of its regional offices many years ago, that it should not have to recreate an artefact of its own but can use something that has been a spontaneous creation in the region.
I must end by expressing my faith in local government. I know that many people will share the view of the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, that we are asking too much of local government. I do not believe that it is asking too much. I feel that local government which, since the war, has lost its gas, its electricity and now its water, should not pine nostalgically after sewage disposal but should turn itself to the delightful prospect of rivalling Munich, Cologne, Paris and other cities of Europe in gradually, over the years, responding to the desires of a community which seeks its prestige as well as its delight in opera, music, the community arts—in something in which all the citizens will take part. It was rightly said by, I think, the noble Viscount, Lord Esher—the Director of the Royal College of Art—Artists are not a special kind of person, but every person is a special kind of artist".
§ Viscount NORWICH
My Lords, can the noble Lord tell us roughly how long he envisages that the process he describes will take, following which all the local authorities will be educated? I suggested a generation. I do not believe that it could be very much less.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Lord BALFOUR of BURLEIGH
My Lords, it is well said of old maids that the longer they leave it, the more nervous they become. I am no exception to that rule but I should like, in addition to craving your Lordships' indulgence for these first words of mine here, to say how very grateful I am for the tremendous welcome and freely proffered assistance which have made this occasion so much easier and less anxious than it otherwise might have been.
The noble Lord, Lord Feversham, has kindly agreed that we may extend the scope of the debate this afternoon to include the affairs of Scotland and I am most grateful for that because, as the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, has said, a report was released only yesterday called The Arts in the Scottish Regions 198 by Anthony Phillips. This report deals with many of the same matters as are dealt with in the report of the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, Support for the Arts in England and Wales. I must say now what an immense support it was to us in Scotland to have two visits from the noble Lord and Anthony Wraight in which, as it turned out, we found so much common ground.
We followed a slightly different course with our report, in that, though we adopted the same course of asking an outsider to conduct the inquiry, we felt that it would be helpful to have some Scottish Arts Council members taking part as the thinking was proceeding. We therefore appointed a regional committee consisting half of Scottish Arts Council members and half of people from outside whom we felt—and who indeed proved to be—immensly valuable to our thinking. The report went to the council last autumn, and it took some time to obtain agreement for the recommendation that we should appoint a regional development director, but John Murphy joined us in this post only last Monday.
It might he helpful to indicate some of the recommendations of Anthony Phillips's report and the action that the Scottish Arts Council has already taken, and intends to take, in the future.
First, the report endorses the action that the Scottish Arts Council has taken over the last three decades in assisting those who have come forward over this period to build the present range of arts availability in Scotland: seven repertory theatres; the continuation of assistance to the Scottish National Orchestra, which of course is of much more ancient origin than the Arts Council; the birth, and tremendous development, of Scottish Opera; the Scottish Philharmonic in its three combinations to serve the Opera, the Scottish Ballet, and for smaller concerts all over the country; 175 music clubs and other arts promoting societies; as well as a very great range of arts exhibitions, visual arts, tours and assistance to writers and to artists.
The report goes on to say that not only are these organisations essential but that they will die if they are not permitted to grow in a natural way, and they will perish if standards should be sacrificed. 199 However, the report goes on to consider at some length the problems which prompted us in the first place to commission the inquiry. One of these is the lack of any easy access for much of the Scottish population, scattered as they are over so wide an area, to professional performances; and, secondly, the continuing low percentage of the national population who make use of Arts Council subsidised activities. We must face up to the fact that the growth in the percentage of people who attend Arts Council activities is less than, I think, many hoped some decades ago. This applies even in the Central Belt of Scotland, for instance, where so many arts events of the very highest quality are within easy access.
The committee considered these questions at length, and gave some indication of what it described as the rich mixture of different art forms, styles and motivations which should be present in a healthy ecology of the arts. But most vitally it was felt that engines of local initiative must be found, fuelled and started, if there is to be a healthy art life in the remoter and indeed also in the more central localities. The report said—and the Scottish Arts Council agreed—that there should be no question of the Scottish Arts Council imposing a cultural policy from Edinburgh; that there should be no question of providing offices or representatives to serve the many regions and districts. We do not have the money, and even if we did, it would totally unbalance the present organisation to which I should like to refer very briefly because it differs necessarily in some respects from the Arts Council of Great Britain, with its much greater territorial and population responsibilities.
We have much the same number of council members in Scotland, but every one doubles up on a specialist committee to go through the gruelling work of receiving and considering the many different applications that we have, and finally deciding on the 600 or so grants that we make every year. We meet in full council, and in other groupings, to consider policy on a longer term, but it means that these people, together with the one or two officers only who staff each department, know each other very closely and are able therefore to understand very closely the problems each 200 committee has. If we were to try to graft on a larger organisation, we should lose the advantages that we think we presently have of a small organisation.
Now we come to the very focal recommendation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, has already referred. We thought in 1971, when the tremendous explosion of interest and growth in regional arts associations was occurring in England, that we should surely be doing the same in Scotland. Then along came local government reform, with its concurrent powers for regions and districts to assist the arts. We became less certain. Then we reflected that the Scottish population is in fact smaller than the population served by the larger English regional arts associations, and perhaps, after all, we were uniquely fortunate in having already not simply a regional arts association, but a fully fledged Arts Council. The noble Lord, Lord Feversham, said that we were jolly lucky and that we could stop worrying about it. So we decided—and we thought about this in great detail during the progress of this committee—that it was correct that we should not attempt to sow the seeds or to suggest to others that they might start regional arts associations at this time, though of course we should be very ready to help any such nascent organisation that might now come forward with local authority support.
We then went on to say that for this assistance, which we know only too well is required now and will be required in the future in very large sums of money, we must look increasingly to democratic local government. I have heard the reservations expressed this afternoon; I have heard them expressed many times outside. I share them myself, and we are all aware of particular occasions which do not indicate in certain cases that all local authority councillors are necessarily sympathetic to the arts. I came in from London Airport yesterday with a very distinguished and knowledgeable person, whom I immediately asked to help me with what I might speak about in this debate on the Lord Redcliffe-Maud Report, and he said: "Oh, that's the chap who produced this ludicrous idea that local authorities should support the arts. I can't imagine anything more stupid." With the aid of a half hour journey and two traffic jams, I at any 201 rate silenced him because I believe, and the Scottish Arts Council believes, most firmly, that this is the right way forward; indeed, the only way.
The reason for saying that is that the sums we presently require—and I must endorse everything that the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, has said about the critical state of the arts in terms of under-funding at the moment—are too large to cone from anywhere but central Government, with the assistance of local authorities. Much has been done—and we welcome it—to help businesses who have an interest in that direction, to decide in what ways they might most usefully assist the arts. But as the Minister for the Arts, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, has, I think, said somewhere, so rightly, this will supply only some jam, and it is very clear to us that it would be quite wrong for any arts organisation to find itself depending to a great extent on business patronage for its bread. That is not sensible.
The other reasons have already been touched on, and the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, has referred to them in his report. One of these is that 50 or 100 years ago, I am sure, as the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, has said, the same remarks were made about local authorities in respect of public health, schools, and libraries. But I think we are right for another reason (which I think has not been mentioned today) which is in connection with this vital arm's length principle. The arm's length principle is vital —six years have convinced me of that. But we must not look upon it as totally impregnable. On that ground it would be quite wrong to load the entire responsibility for funding the arts in this country on to the Arts Council. For one thing, it would not last. As we all know, there is in many quarters a certain dislike of nominated bodies, and to suggest that the entire responsibility for funding the arts should remain with nominated bodies is not, I think, realistic. Furthermore, these nominated bodies, in so far as my own council is concerned, would not welcome that at all. After all, the Royal Charter which provides this arm's length principle gives immunity, or at least some degree of protection or excuse, for a Minister who comes under violent attack because somebody does not like something 202 which has happened in the arts. He can say, with relief, "It is the Arts Council's responsibility". The Arts Council, on its side, is confident of its immunity from such political pressures in the short run. It is, however, only in the short or medium run. A Minister could turn the whole policies of the Arts Council upside down inside two years by refusing to appoint anybody to the Arts Council except those who shared his views or were prepared to follow his instructions.
A point that I think many people miss is that, although I have not counted it up, the number of people who have served on the Arts Council since its origin must be truly enormous. Most of the members of the Arts Council leave after two years, so the people who take on this task of listening, learning and helping in the very difficult task of allotting the money pass through very quickly. The Arts Council is unlike local government; it is unlike many other bodies, on which people remain for a very long time. The only long-term safeguard, in my view, is that people all over the country make their local representatives realise that they want the arts; and a sizeable proportion of the funds needed to support the arts in this country must come from this widespread source, where, once it has been established, it will be immovable and can only grow. In local authorities we do not, I understand, any longer debate the question whether we should have public lavatories: we debate how much more ought to be spent on them this year.
In summing up, may I say that we are all very well aware that to talk about increased funds from local authorities at this time is unfortunate in terms of their present financial problems. But, if I may come to the question that was asked just before I stood up, I believe that what we have to look to in terms of this partnership with local government is success measured in decades, rather than in years. It will take time; and the arm's length principle, which has been suggested as being at hazard, will also be learnt. The gentle art of public patronage, as the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, referred to it, will be learnt in its many forms. A colleague of mine spoke of how very difficult it was to explain to heads of local authorities that it really was not terribly wise or comfortable for them to be chairmen of their local repertory companies. 203 When there was a shout or a protest, the electric shock galvanically moved straight up to the Lord Provost, which made him jump, which he found most uncomfortable. We managed to persuade some of them that it was really much nicer to be able to sit on the sidelines and say, "We have appointed an independent board and have given them a great deal of money, but it is up to them to decide what they do; and if in the long run we do not like it, we shall of course tell them and possibly their grant will be affected". So I think they will learn; in fact, I am absolutely confident they will learn. It is the only way, and this partnership with local authorities is one which we now propose to develop.
Finally, I would say that one thing I have found distressing in the last two years during which this matter has been debated is the endless discussions on relationships —structural relationships, committees, councils and so forth. Nothing, am convinced—nothing whatsoever—will come of these policies and plans that we have put forward except that an individual produces something which is thought to be worthy of support in the arts and that somebody notices it. We hope that it will be us if it is not the local authority; and we hope—and we are, in fact, optimistic—that over a period of time we will be able to persuade local councillors and local officers that this is worthy of support, that it will get that support and that that support will grow. We have, as I say, taken a first step in appointing an officer. It is a small beginning, but I am convinced that his reporting to the entire council is the right way. This is a measure upon which we decided although it was a departure from the recommendation of the Anthony Phillips report, which said that we should have a separate committee.
We adopted this suggestion because we felt that the arts in the regions was in no sense a different thing from the arts that are being subsidised and are the concern of the individual committees. It must be a central concern, and the chairmen must be constantly aware of the regional problem so that, in their individual considerations of grants, they can guide their committees, as I hope they will, in the direction of increasing accessibility to arts events all over the country and in the task of getting a greater percentage of the population to enjoy the privilege, as I think all your 204 Lordships do, of understanding the elation and the greater comprehension of the world around us that comes from enjoyment of the arts.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Baroness LEE of ASHERIDGE
My Lords, it is my privilege to be the first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, on a maiden speech in which, he told us, he was going to be so very nervous; but we all noticed that the less he was thinking about himself and the more he was thinking about his subject, the more his nervousness disappeared. We have had the advantage, therefore, of hearing a speech from someone of great experience and also, as we know, from someone who is going to do a very great deal for the arts in Scotland in the future. May I claim a little credit? As a fellow Scot, in the 1964–70 period the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and myself anticipated this Scottish passion for independence, and we enlarged the powers of the Scottish Arts Council and (what appeals to Scottish hearts even more) improved the percentage grant which was made to Scotland. That was a beginning, and although we shall go our different ways, we shall have very much in common. It is only right that, whether it is Scotland, Wales, North, South, East or West, we should not have too much standardisation but should have the maximum of flexibility.
My Lords, one thing has struck me so far in this debate. No mention has been made, even by the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, himself, of the long-term possibility of an independent Ministry for the Arts. It may he just as well if we leave that out of our reckoning today. When I read Lord Redcliffe-Maud's proposals, as I have done very thoroughly and with very great respect and gratitude, my blood runs cold at one of them, and that is that we should have an independent Ministry composed of both arts and sport. I just cannot accept that combination. But as it is not on the agenda that we are going to be thinking of in terms of an independent Ministry of any kind, whatever kind of dog's breakfast it might be, whatever bits and pieces might go into it, I will say no more about that now. It would be a Ministry without a muscle; I must just say that. It would not be able to stand up to the great Departments of State.
205 On the other hand, I am concerned to maintain the link of the Minister for the Arts with the Minister responsible for education and science; and, although I disagreed with Lord Eccles, who succeeded me, on quite a number of issues, there was one thing for which I think we can both claim credit. We were jealous of the status of the Minister for the Arts, and we maintained the authority of the Minister for the Arts. During my period I was able to establish a relationship which was in no way derogatory of the Secretary responsible for education and science, but I told him to keep his hands off so far as the arts were concerned, and I dealt directly with the Prime Minister. The reason I did that was because a Minister responsible for education and science has already, not just as much but more to attend to than he can possibly do well. A Minister responsible for the arts has not only to fight for the best possible financial support. It is also a pretty strenuous job going round the country, because it is not for the Minister to sit on his or her bottom in London; they have got to get around. When we talk about involving the local authorities, well, you only involve the local authorities to an increased extent as you involve the schools, the school children and the parents behind the school children. I read with particular interest in the Scottish Arts Council Report the very long passage given to this aspect of things deploring that more had not been done and asking that more should be done in the future.
My Lords, what do I think we could do at the moment? I think that what we have to do is to establish the status of the Minister for the Arts in a way that it cannot be played with as happened during the period of my friend and successor Mr. Hugh Jenkins. I was a Minister of State; the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, was a Minister of State. I think it was disgraceful that my successor should not have been made a Minister of State. He was an able and hard-working Minister who sometimes did not get the credit he deserved. I am not talking in terms of individual Ministers on either side of the House; I am talking about the job. I think that we ought to be quite firm that whoever in the future is the Minister should have the status of a Minister of State inside the Ministry of Education and Science.
206 It may be that at some great future time there will be a new arrangement; but it must be clearly understood that the Minister for the Arts, operating within this large and powerful Department, is de jure a junior Minister and de facto insisting on his own authority. That is how the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles functioned. I ought to have talked to him before this debate; but perhaps I may refer to a report given in the Observer of 27th February of a speech of his. I know that he will correct me if I am wrong. The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, had been one of the most successful Ministers of Education since the war and was not about to behave like a humble junior to Mrs. Thatcher, his technical superior—and note the word "technical". He goes on to say, if he is correctly quoted:I struck a bargain with Heath and Thatcher and that bargain was that he ignored Mrs. Thatcher".That is not in any way being derogatory to the Minister responsible for Education and Science. It is a constitutional convenience that both the Minister for the Arts and the Minister for Education and Science should work within this great Department and have their recognised spheres. It is also very important that the Minister for the Arts should negotiate with the Treasury Ministers and officials the money for the arts.
My Lords, many of you are too experienced in the way of Government not to know that nothing comes easily. And the Treasury never gives in. I find in December 1967 that I am still being plagued by Treasury Ministers who, of course, want the grant for the arts to be decided as part of the general grant of the Ministry of Education. There is too much secret diplomacy in all this when secrecy is not necessary. I make no apology for reading a short paragraph from my reply to my friends, colleagues, comrades, in the Treasury. The suggestion was that money for the arts should no longer be dealt with as a separate item. In my reply, I say:I am wholly opposed to any change in the present arrangements for the obvious reason that promotion of the arts is a new field of Government responsibility and therefore must have separate consideration if it is to be meaningful. I can see a real danger that in a vast Government Department with heavy pressures for all kinds of existing commitments, there will be no real livingroom for this part of the work ".207 That was a battle which had to be fought and won. It was fought and won and during the period of the first two Ministers, myself and the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, we got what I think was the right relationship inside the Department of Education and Science.
I am not suggesting anything so nonsensical as that every Minister of State in all Government Departments should be able to deal directly with the Prime Minister and directly with the Treasury Ministers and officials. That would be nonsense. In the nature of the job that many of them do, it would be a double nonsense; it would be chaos. But when you are trying to do something new it is impossible to get over all the hurdles, all the prejudices and resistancies of every kind unless there is a special arrangement made.
It is well known that the Department of Education and Science at a time when its budget was something in the region of £1,500 million, refused to give the newly appointed Minister for the Arts £8,000 in order to maintain the National Youth Orchestra. Why was that? Was it because our colleague, the late Anthony Crosland, a close friend of the Minister and myself, was a crude illiterate fellow? Of course not. He was so fully preoccupied with his other jobs that he left it to his permanent officials.
When I got the answer, I called a conference. There we were, all sitting round the one table, and they could not find me the £8,000. I had taken the precaution of having a talk with the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and I knew that faute de mieux we could get our hands, through him, on £8,000. But having said so, I got a note saying that I could have the £8,000 that year but that I must be clear about it that I could not have £20,000 the following year to keep the National Youth Orchestra going.
My Lords, can you imagine a situation in the House of Commons where a newly-appointed Minister has to go down to the House to say that he could not even keep the National Youth Orchestra in existence! I would have been savaged. And rightly so. I see one of my old battle-mates on the other side of the House, the former Miss Irene Ward. I hope she will forgive me; I do not know her present title.
§ Baroness LEE of ASHERIDGE
My Lords, I know that I would have been savaged from all sides of the House. I am making this point because it shows that it is just not possible for a Minister responsible for Education and Science also to be the Minister responsible for the arts; but it is possible when you are trying to do something new to have both working within the framework of a great Government Department.
My Lords, one thing that gave me great pleasure was that when the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, was appointed, he got himself out from under physically and raised his standard in Belgrave Square. I congratulate him. He was taking over my old Open University premises. I had the same experience with the Open University. I had to get out from under and I had physically to get from under. That is why we got a house in Belgrave Square and furnished it nicely, because otherwise I should not have got the top brass that I wanted from the academic world. But that is another story.
It is another story but it is related and quite relevant to what I am now trying to say. If you want to do something new, then it has got to be helped and special provisions have to be made. I deplored the fact that my colleague Hugh Jenkins was not given the status which he ought to have been given. I deplored also the fact that the present Minister, with all respect, should have allowed himself to be taken back under the same roof, even though it is in a new building, because I think the Minister for the Arts ought to have his own special ambience and ought to have his own special roof. After all, people are coming from all over the world. It is part of our shop window and part of the dignity of the job. I hope we shall get round to the fact of putting our Minister for the Arts under his own independent roof. He can work quite well in the foreseeable future within the Department.
My Lords, another reason why I am eager to maintain contact inside the Department is represented by a whole flow of reports on the teaching of drama, the visual arts, music, the use of museums and galleries throughout our schools that 209 I initiated. I was horrified when I began the job to find that no such surveys had been made. We had lonely people here and there who were doing a wonderful job in some of our schools, getting little credit and no encouragement from the centre. In one of the documents I was most proud about, one of the ablest inspectors, Mr. John Allen in the DES, produced the report on drama throughout our schools.
It is a poor person who does not know enough about children to realise that they are natural actors and actresses. They love acting. They can be taught their reading, writing and arithmetic, the basic things, more effectively through drama than in any other way. Also, it is a good comprehensive principle because one child may be good at making the scenery or the furniture, and another is the poet. For those reasons, I feel strongly that we must pay careful attention to the status and authority of the Minister for the Arts. I agree to differ with our present Minister who has every virtue except one, he is far too modest. He thinks that it is perfectly all right for the Minister of Education and Science to put his case for him in the Cabinet. If there is a disagreement between the Minister of Education and the Minister for the Arts, I think that the Minister for the Arts ought to state his own case. We must agree to differ on that.
We know that our Minister is the soul of courtesy; and I read somewhere that the meek shall inherit the earth. In spite of my Scottish upbringing, I was never much impressed by that particular part of the Good Book. I always felt that the meek would inherit the earth when they ceased to be meek. When you are fighting for something that you care about—and this includes those of us here who care about the future of the arts—you cannot afford to be too modest and you cannot afford to be too meek. I do not take the point of view that in the present financial situation we must not ask our Government to do more than mark time. If one looks at the situation quite coldly, the arts are a great source of income to the Treasury as well as expenditure, and we can quite properly claim that a percentage of the revenue which is produced because of the attraction of the arts from the tourist trade should be taken into consideration. The difficulty 210 is that the Arts Ministry is still so new it has not yet found its proper level.
In terms of the priorities of a civilised Government, it is deplorable if we cannot maintain the ground that we have won. One cannot maintain the ground unless one has broken new ground. That was one of the things which the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, said. There is no such thing as standing still. We either go backwards or we go forwards. If we want to go forward, we need more money. Maybe we ought not to have given Scotland or Wales a great opera company. We were under criticism at one time for the money that we spent on Covent Garden and the rest. But the philosophy behind it all was if one sustains the standards of the centre, one can build it up on the regions. That has happened. I entirely agree with everything that has been said about encouraging local patriotism, civic pride. Scotland said "We are not going to have an inferior opera company", and they have their company. Wales said the same. But one cannot establish those companies without funding them. One cannot fund them properly on the present amount which is spent on the arts.
My Lords, I apologise for talking at some length; I want to make one more point about museums and galleries. There is much that can be done there that I suggested in the statement of the Labour Party on museums and galleries. We should make it part of the contract of anyone who is employed to serve in the museums and galleries that they should be prepared to work the hours that suit the public. One cannot run a railway system, the hospitals or transport if people are going to say: "We cannot work on Sunday morning; we have to get home for our Sunday dinner". It is not a case of asking every one to work every Sunday. But for me it was incredible that we had our museums and galleries refreshed, invigorating, seeking to attract more people, young and old, from abroad, and I was defeated. I failed to get our museums and galleries open on a Sunday forenoon. And they are still closed.
The Victoria and Albert Museum very bravely tried it for six months and had an enormous public response. But at the end of six months the custodians and others said: "No, we are not going to 211 continue the experiment". They wanted to go home for their Sunday dinner. I am all in favour of free choice; but if one is not prepared to work, a shift system, as most industries have to work, if one is not prepared to work at least one Sunday in four or five, one ought to look for another job. I can say that the senior officials of the unions and the trustees, were all at one, but we were defeated by the people on the floor who said, "No" This is ridiculous; we have people coming from all over the world—many people coming from the Continent for the weekend—families who can only visit museums and galleries on a Saturday or a Sunday morning. It is nonsense that the opening hours should not be made to suit the public. This is not a minor matter, it is important.
Even at this time of serious shortage, financial difficulty, there is a great deal that we can do to put our house in order. We are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, for his painstaking report. If I can help it, I am not going to see the Ministry for the Arts combining with sports, but we need not quarrel over that today. In every other respect we have a wide field of agreement. This never should have been and never could he a Party matter, and I hope that speakers from all parts of the House will express thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, for introducing this debate and will also express thanks for the report that we have been discussing. Our truest thanks would be that we are going to be determined to sustain this most important and vital part of our national life.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed by the Lord Chancellor.
§ Viscount ECCLES
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, may correct an impression that she gave? The noble Baroness achieved an enormous amount when she was Minister for the Arts, in spite of the fact that she was within the Department of Education. To say that nothing new happened, I am sure is not right. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, was responsible for starting the National Theatre, and if that was not a new venture with an enormous new annual grant I do not know what was. The fact is that it depends on 212 personalities. In one set of Ministers it may be difficult for the Minister responsible for the arts to be within the Department of Education. In another set it may depend on whether he or she gets on well with the Secretary of State for Education. They may never be able to get inside No. 10. The truth of the matter is that the noble Baroness was very good at going to No. 10. When I was Minister I was extremely grateful for the way in which she had secured resources. The noble Baroness should not run herself down in that way, because she did a very good job.
§ 5.10 p.m.
The Earl of GOSFORD
My Lords, I should like to thank all noble Lords who have welcomed me here. Unfortunately, I am still nervous but I shall go straight into what I have to say. As a practising artist and current chairman of the Artists' Union, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, for the excuse to discuss the arts. I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, for the work put into his analysis of the present functions of all the bodies relating to the arts. I should also like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, for making her points concerning the Minister for the Arts.
I shall concentrate on certain areas, as the structural implications which make up the majority of the report will have to come out of serious debate at all levels. Also, concentrating on these aspects from the visual artist's point of view may help to clarify how these structures should be reshaped. I should therefore like to highlight a few points which have been underplayed and perhaps neglected, or at least misconceived, and draw the attention of your Lordships to the plight of living visual artists. To quote from the report:We still pay artists badly. We still get our arts cheap, and we expect to go on doing so because they have been cheap in the past. The amount of public help Britain gives to the arts is small when compared with that given by countries with populations smaller than ours (Sweden or Holland, for example) and minute in comparison with other sectors of government spending. Our artists are still amongst the worst paid of the labour force, and they therefore claim with some reason that it is they who largely subsidise the arts. Certainly they now demand what they think proper payment, and some of them, but not all, are now organised to get it".213 But what does this really mean, not only to the artists but also to the public? Children are conditioned early. By the time they want to be artists and arrive at art school they start thinking of what they are going to do after art school. That means that they tend to produce work for private galleries, because the structures at the moment favour those who eventually will become "super stars".
Unfortunately, the private galleries admit only very few artists per year. I suspect that is a financial consideration: the fewer artists there are around in private galleries the higher the prices that can be achieved. This is a form of censorship. There is no code of practice for private or public galleries, no artists' agreement, no hanging fees or wage structure; and that means, as the Maud Report states, that artists have to go out to work for cash in order to exhibit. That means that the artist is subsidising the public. The private galleries are not accessible to the public. They are mostly in central London and I think they represent to a lot of people the same kind of conditions as banks. Many of these galleries cater only for dead artists.
I should like to point out to your Lordships where I think that public institutions such as the Arts Council and regional arts associations have failed. The amounts of money that they are given mean that they can produce only a small number of awards and prizes. The report states that the main argument put forward in favour of the trusts is that they provide a multiplicity of funding sources so that if an applicant fails at one he may succeed elsewhere. I suggest that is irresponsible. I do not know whether your Lordships realise that if an artist has to take his work to a certain place, leave it there for it to be perused, come away, take it home again and take it out another day, we have to ask the question: When does he do his own work?
Of the Arts Council's current budget of £42 million, 5 per cent. goes on visual art and 1.7 per cent. to artists. That £42 million is a huge sum. Recently, the only thing the Arts Council could do was to send out a questionnaire to 365 artists. A similar questionnaire in Germany went out to 12,000 artists. We do not know at the present time how many living, working artists there are in this country. An 214 artist cannot question Panel or Council decisions: neither can the public. Artists have no accountable representatives on the Arts Council. I think artists are amazed by the number of people who think they have the right to speak for and about artists, as artists themselves are really the only ones qualified to do this. In Finland, the Finnish Arts Association, which is made up of unions of all the different disciplines in the arts, negotiates through its committee directly with the Minister of Culture. There is no Arts Council, and grants of up to £300 a month are the norm.
A recent experience on the Visual Arts Panel of the Greater London Arts Association, where the Visual Arts Panel had a small amount of money to spend to try to reach and help individual artists, produced a scheme in which 600 artists sent in their work. Out of that, 24 artists received awards. Those awards were either £250 or £500. I believe you can buy a spraygun for £250.
The constitution of GLAA has led to bad treatment of artists and Panel members, and this can only lead subsequently to bad treatment of the public. This is public money. These artists have been waiting all year for the exposure programme that was promised to them. Extended discussions took place in the Panel to make certain that this art was shown to the public in the best possible manner. A year later, a couple of weeks back, the artists, the Visual Arts Panel members, received a letter saying that this exposure programme was now cancelled. There was no consultation with the Visual Arts Panel or with the artists.
What do the artists do—all those who fail to get these awards and all those who fail to get into private galleries? Unfortunately, I do not have the TUC report on the arts here, but there is an exceedingly good quote about how disillusioned and ill an artist, or anyone, can become if he cannot work.
I should like to clear up a misconception in the Redcliffe-Maud Report, that artists pick up unemployment benefit. Most artists are not self-employed at the moment; they are unemployed. They can pick up benefit only if they take a job outside their art work, and then become redundant or get the sack from that job. 215 Art is in great danger in this country. Serious artists, making important statements about society, are treated in a frivolous manner by the media. Progressive administrators and art critics cannot speak for fear of losing their jobs, and even good ideas for change cannot be taken up.
Art is many things. It is not only decorative; it is also designed to cause debate. Through the centuries, artists have fought the injustices of society. Look, my Lords, at an artist like Goya. When is this society going to support artists? Any country, which tries to practice the form of financial censorship that is currently being carried on in this one, is in very grave danger. I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, when he said that we need much more information about the artists' present economic state and it is to be hoped that the forthcoming Hoggart inquiry will deal with just this.
I should like to think that local authorities will be able to take up the cudgels to help the arts, the artists and the public to come together. They were given a chance to do so under the Local Government Act 1948, and, has been stated earlier, quite a large sum of money is spent. But I suspect that it is spent only when there are people in authorities who have a particular interest and enjoy the arts. Therefore, I suggest that if the people of this country want to see and take part in the full range of what is going on in the arts, then a mandatory rate, such as is suggested in the Labour Party study group report, should perhaps be levied by local authorities. I should like to make one more remark, which is about the TUC discussion document. This is a stimulating piece of reading which I recommend to your Lordships, and I am sorry that I have not had time to quote from it here.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Lord COTTESLOE
My Lords, we have just listened to two notable maiden speeches. I should like to join with the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, in thanking and congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, on giving us in this debate the benefit of his knowledge of the affairs of the Scottish Arts 216 Council which fall outside the ambit of the report of the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud. It was very helpful to know what he said. But, in particular, it falls to me to congratulate and to thank the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, on a most interesting and valuable contribution to this debate. It is of great value to have what I think nobody else who is taking part in this debate can give us, which is the experience and the knowledge of a practical, practising artist. That is something from which we benefit, and I am sure that the Minister who is to reply will see that the points put forward from that source will have the most careful consideration. They are of great importance.
We must all be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, for having put down this Motion, and more than grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, for his report, commissioned by the Gulbenkian Foundation, that gives rise to it. It is a report that embodies the results of a great deal of evidence and research, to which the noble Lord has applied, with his enthusiasm for the arts and for education, a vast amount of wide and balanced thought and his brilliant clarity of exposition. It seems to me a model of what such a report should be, but hardly ever is.
We have recently discussed in this House various aspects of our artistic heritage—historic houses and their contents, with particular reference to Mentmore; the effects of taxation in accelerating the export of works of art, and the limitations of existing export controls; the inadequacies in the resources for display and for conservation of objects, in provincial collections particularly, and the misuse, or rather the non-use, of the National Land Fund, which we shall be discussing further next week on the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Reigate. But this report really deals, in the main, with matters that fall outside the ambit of those discussions, and that is why we must so warmly welcome the opportunity which the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, gives us of discussing the report.
First, the report draws attention to the remarkable progress made by the people of this country since the war in the understanding and appreciation of the arts on the one hand, and in the standards of their practice on the other. This 217 country has always held an honoured place, an international place, in the field of literature, but in music until recently we have been complacently insular; in painting, with some notable exceptions, internationally second-rate, and in sculpture negligible.
All that is now changed, partly as a result of the 1944 Education Act of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, but more, of course, as a result of the greatly increased opportunities for travel and communication, now so widespread. As has been said, broadcasting has been a major influence. We are no longer the nation of insular Philistines that, in the early years of the century, we were secretly, perhaps, rather proud of being. Our younger generation have an enthusiasm and an understanding that is something new, and we have in this country not only the most eminent sculptor of the century, Henry Moore, but a whole school of sculpture such as has never before existed here, or anywhere else. We have musicians of international acclaim. Benjamin Britten, whose death we mourn, produced, with much else that is well-known and valued on the continent of Europe as well as here, the War Requiem which I think would be generally accepted as being the greatest piece of music written here since Handel, and that was a few years ago. We have, on the whole, painters who can hold their own in any company, and in drama and in music our actors and executants now lead the world. We have, in fact, a good deal to be proud of.
Of course, the Arts Council, founded during the war with remarkable, farsighted vision by Maynard Keynes, "to increase the knowledge of the fine arts", if I correctly remember the words of the original charter, "and to raise the standards of performance", has played a great part. Its initial grant from the Government was derisory. I think it was about £250,000. But it was enough to get it off the ground. It grew in esteem and in cost, and it continues to grow. But, like the arts in general, it suffers from the shortage of money that Lord Redcliffe-Maud points to as the great limitation on the continued progress of this country in the arts.
I suppose the arts in this country will always suffer from a chronic shortage of money. I am sure that the report is right 218 in saying that in the present economic climate the Government cannot be expected to do much more than keep pace with inflation—if, indeed, that; that private patronage on any great individual scale is killed by taxation at its present levels; that trusts such as the Pilgrim Trust and the National Art-Collections Fund and bodies of Friends, excellent and helpful as they are, are strained to the limit; and that local authorities will have to shoulder more if the performing arts, the living arts, are to flourish and to progress.
The Government, successive Governments, whatever their faults, have not, after all, done too badly by the Arts Council. When I went there as chairman in 1960, the grant for the year was £1½ million. When I left in 1965, 12 years ago, it was £3¼ million. This year it is, I think, £42.7 million. That is a rate of inflation not to be sneezed at. I am without any doubt that we get, conspicuously, value for money from the Arts Council grant. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Selwyn-Lloyd, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said to me that he felt that he could give more pleasure to more people for a smaller sum of money in the field of the arts than in any other field.
So far as the Government arc concerned, the worst feature of the arrangements is really the change that was made in 1965, when the Treasury said, not unreasonably—I think really inevitably—that the cost of the arts (which included, of course, the National collections as well as the Arts Council) had reached a level at which they could not go on administering them direct and that they must be transferred to a Department. They were handed over to the Department of Education. That change, the dangers of which I pointed out at that time, was inevitable, but it has done much damage to Government support for the arts.
Until that time the chairman of the Arts Council, or of one of the National collections, could, if he was in a difficulty, always go direct to the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Financial Secretary and make his own case. Not only that, but the Treasury civil servants were, so to speak, on the same side. The arts were their own baby, in whose well-being they took a pride.
§ Baroness LEE of ASHERIDGE
My Lords, I know how much the noble Lord loved Treasury negotiations, but does his fondness for the Treasury stand examination when, at the same time, he tells us of the paltry sums he had to work with, compared with the very much greater sums that were made available once the arts were under the control of an Arts Minister in the Department of Education and Science?
§ Lord COTTESLOE
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness. Since the change, the Minister responsible for the arts has been a junior Minister—some less junior than others—in a Department on which there are other, and greater, claims for education and science. Nor is that Minister in the Cabinet. He has to make his case to the Treasury through his Secretary of State, and of course the Treasury officials are now on the other side of the fence—watchdogs who are concerned to resist any increase in costs.
This did not so much matter in the first years after the change, when the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, with her irresistible force, was the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, was in charge of the Arts Council. We then saw the solution of the old conundrum: what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable osbtacle? The obstacle is overcome. But things have not been the same since, and I am sure that Lord Redcliffe-Maud is right in saying that the arts, perhaps with leisure generally, should have direct representation in the Cabinet if they are to progress as they should. There might be a good deal to be said for the Lord President of the Council having the arts directly under his wing, or something of that kind. I do not know.
As to private patronage on any great scale, we must accept that it is a thing of the past. John Christie, who incidentally taught me science at school—it was nothing like science, but it was very stimulating and enjoyable—was a unique phenomenon, in his way a genius. They say that genius is akin to madness, and certainly no one in their senses could have imagined that a small opera house in the depths of the country, at Glyndebourne, playing to the highest standards, and unsubsidised from public funds, could be a practicable proposition. But he 220 brought it off. That is something which could never happen again. Though the miraculous Sir Robert Mayer, who has done so very much to spread the enthusiasm for music among the young, still lives—one of the wonders of the world for whom we cannot be too thankful —we shall never look upon his like again.
No, Lord Redcliffe-Maud is right. The only real source for the injection of more money into support of the arts in the long term is the local authorities, through the regional arts associations. Those are the associations which the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, did so very much to foster during her time as Minister. That is the place to which our efforts must be directed. The report makes various realistic proposals to that end, in general and in detail, which I strongly support. I support, too, in particular Lord Redcliffe-Maud's emphasis of what he calls the arm's length principle, which I regard as unequivocally vital, despite the reservations of the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich. I think it is of the essence, if the arts are to prosper, that they should be administered on the arm's length principle. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, when he comes to reply will tell us that the Government not only accept in principle the general tenor of the report, but will do whatever they can to implement it.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lord VAIZEY
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, on his maiden speech and for coming down all the way from Scotland to make his valuable contribution. I should like also to thank the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, for his maiden speech, which was vigorous and thought-provoking, and in the course of my remarks I hope to refer to it in greater detail. At the moment I should like to thank him for stimulating us so much.
Like other Members of your Lordships' House I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, for giving us the opportunity to debate this valuable report. The fourth "vote of thanks", as it were, is to the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud. The noble Lord has had a most distinguished career, with an enormous width of experience and great 221 depth of knowledge and a certain natural exuberance. All three characteristics show themselves in this interesting and thought-provoking report, although I am not sure that I follow him every inch of the way.
I suppose I should declare an interest since my wife is a member of the Arts Council of Great Britain; and I must admit to the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, in fear and trembling, that I am a vice-president of the Greater London Arts Association, but that does not mean that I agree with every one of the more bizarre steps it occasionally takes.
Stimulating as is the enthusiasm of the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, for the local authorities—and I have been a member of a couple of those, too—I do not wish to comment on them now, sharing to some extent the feeling of the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, in regard to their lack of enthusiasm for the arts. In any event we are in a period of "no growth" in the arts, and it may be that after that period of "no growth" fresh and stimulating ideas, such as those in the greater part of the Redcliffe-Maud report, will be needed. At the moment I must confess that in my view it is time for consolidation rather than for new juggling with the machinery of administration.
However, the Redcliffe-Maud report draws attention, particularly in one valuable section, to a further series of reports which the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation has commissioned, with some of which I have been connected. One has been published and referred to (and I am pleased to say it was wholly endorsed by the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud) on training for the drama, which was called Going on the Stage. We hope that in September further reports on the training of professional musicians will appear; and, again, we hope that in November there will be a report of the committee whose chairman is Mr. Peter Brinson, a director of the Gulbenkian Foundation, on training for the dance. I think thus the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation will have covered, in an exhaustive investigation by means of expert committees, the whole field of training for the arts, especially when the report referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, by Dr. Richard Hoggart, 222 is complete. That report is on the training of visual artists.
I hope, my Lords, that next Session we shall have an opportunity specifically to debate training for the arts. It is a most important subject, and I think the achievements of the arts, to which the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, and other noble Lords have referred today, are largely due to the extraordinarily high quality of the training which now takes place in British schools of music, of drama and of art. However, I want to raise the subject today because it is absolutely essential to a great deal of what the Redcliffe-Maud report is concerned with, and I think we are now in a position to make some specific proposals for actions by the Government, by local authorities and by voluntary bodies—action which will be of great benefit to the young people involved in training to become artists and to their audiences and, not least, to the hard-pressed taxpayers.
At the moment the arrangements for financing training for the arts are in a mess. I could think of stronger words, and indeed such words are frequently used by people trying to raise money for those who wish to become practising artists. It does not necessarily matter in some cases that arrangements and administrations are in a mess. Sometimes over-tidy arrangements may well be inimical to the creativity and spontaneity on which the arts flourish. That being said, the fact that arrangements for financing training are in a mess has itself led to so serious a distortion of the training process that the result is a dangerous diminution in the strength of some of the best institutions in this country today. We are in grave danger of losing the very facilities that have produced the outstanding creative artists and executants on whom rests the reputation of this country in the arts.
It also means that we are probably spending too much—not too little—on training, and we are getting less good results than we might if we spent less but spent it more effectively. I appeal to the Government, through the person of my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, to do something about this, and I shall conclude my speech with a quite specific proposal of which I have given the Government due notice.
223 The position is that there is no doubt in the minds of those who have studied the matter that the excellence of our actors and directors, of our musicians, of our artists, derives not only from their native genius but from the growing excellence of their training. I was surprised myself, because I thought the ability to act was something one possessed and that one was not trained. I have been convinced by the evidence that that is not true. The excellence of the London stage at the moment is almost entirely due to the excellence of the training offered. Up and down the country, but especially in London, there are training institutions which are world famous: LAMDA, the Royal Northern College of Music, the Royal Ballet School, to name but three. They are surrounded by a number of institutions, often very good of their kind, which are less well known but no less excellent.
At the moment some of these drama and music schools fall within the public sector and rely entirely upon the public purse for their support. For example, the Royal Northern College in Manchester is an excellent institution which is entirely financed by public money. Others, like the Royal College of Music in South Kensington, get deficiency grants; that is to say, they have a budget and if their income falls below a certain level then it is made up by the Department of Education and Science. Others, like LAMDA, which is an excellent college for training in drama, depend entirely upon fee income.
In view of the Gulbenkian inquries to which the Redcliffe-Maud report refers, the well-established colleges deserve no less a guarantee of financial support than do the universities or the polytechnics. At the moment, in many of the institutions training actors and musicians, the staffs are ill paid, their premises and equipment often need renewal and extension; and we have a model of a well-equipped and well-established college in the public sector in the new Welsh College of Music and Drama which is in a lovely setting on the edge of Cathay's Park in Cardiff, or in the Royal Northern College in the heart of Manchester. We should like all our colleges to be like those, but unfortunately those which are not financed out of public resources are frequently in a much worse state than those which are financed from the public purse.
224 To improve the physical quality and to improve the pay of the staff and the conditions of the staff in the private colleges will cost money. I freely admit that. But in our view—and I speak, I think, for the committees with which I have been connected—we can save money by having fewer rather than more places at the moment for people in training, and I will explain why. We would rather that public money was concentrated on excellence than dispersed over a wider range of institutions not achieving excellence, and that is the position we are getting into at the moment if we are not careful.
I think there is a further argument to enforce this view and it is this. At present, if you are admitted to a degree course at a university or polytechnic, you get a maintenance grant and your fees as of right—what is called a mandatory grant—subject to certain conditions, such as you must be a British subject, and so on. But grants which are given to students who go to places like music schools are at the discretion of the local authority; they are discretionary grants. The result is a double blow to the private training institutions, because the most indifferent student who reads for a degree in music or drama at a university automatically gets a grant, while even a young Myra Hess or Laurence Olivier who wants to go to an appropriate course at the right college for him or her may very well be refused a grant on quite arbitrary grounds by his or her local authority, because it is a discretionary grant.
The pressure, therefore, is to turn all the courses at all these colleges into degree courses, which leads to a great deal of over-academic flummery instead of getting on with the real work. And the best colleges of their kind cannot always admit the best students because those students do not necessarily get the grants. The local authority, quite properly exercising its discretion, may say, "We do not agree. We do not want you to go to that college". I know the Secretary of State is looking into all this complicated question of grants, and I am sure she will look into it very hard and thoroughly. If we could have fewer places, with all those places carrying the right to mandatory grant, then there would, in my view, be a saving of public money and a guarantee of the survival of the best institutions having the best students in 225 them, which is really what the survival of excellence in the arts is going to be about.
That brings me to the difficult question of how many students there should be. This point was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, speaking in his capacity as chairman of the Artists Union. Obviously success in the arts, like success in sport or in politics, is a matter of luck as well as of talent. If you embark on a career, let us say on the concert platform, you know you are taking risks about your career and your income that a civil servant does not take. You may get great rewards or you may fail utterly. But at the moment the ratio of failure to success of those who go on to the stage or take up other artistic professions is so great that it is hard to deny that far too many people are being encouraged to train for the stage or for the other arts in relation to the likely jobs that are going to be available.
The same is certainly true of music at the moment, though to a lesser extent than it is of acting. With the closing down of job opportunities for teaching in the schools—a situation which is arising because of the fall in the birth rate—a great many students in all the arts are just not going to have that which in the end they all fall back on, teaching; the fallback has gone because of the fall in the child population. So the situation in the employment field in the arts at the moment is desperately bad; it is really a tragedy. The position is becoming very hurtful to many people, blighting their lives, and it is spreading alarm and despondency throughout the arts.
We have reached the ridiculous situation where the Arts Council is being urged to support theatres not because the public is clamouring for more drama, but so that actors can get jobs. I think that is a silly situation. It seems to me that that is what the economists—after all, Lord Keynes was the first chairman of the Arts Council —call Say's Law, a law which Lord Keynes spent the greater part of his adult life refuting, that supply creates its own demand. It is no more valid in the arts than it is in economics, that just because you want to act somebody wants to watch you.
In my view, it is essential that young people should be advised properly about 226 the prospects for their careers in the arts. To this end I ask the Minister most seriously to consider that the Government Statistical Service should begin to monitor the state of employment and of pay and of conditions in the artistic professions. At the moment it relies on ad hoc inquiries conducted by people like myself, by the Musicians Union or by Equity. It would not cost very much, and it can be done with tremendous skill by the Government's Statistical Service. It would let us know what the real facts are about employment in the arts.
That factual information will provide the necessary basis for employers, the unions, like Equity and the Musicians Union, and the training institutions to get together to try to provide some clement of stability in the training system. In the absence of such arrangements, what we shall see is either the closed shop with a vengeance—no jobs for newcomers, however talented, so that existing actors have work—or a steady deterioration of employment prospects through a flood of newcomers in which, paradoxically perhaps, many of the best actors will leave the stage, because they have other talents they can use in other professions, and so the quality of acting will decline.
We have already established the National Council for Drama Training for precisely this purpose. It is representative of the employers, of Equity, and of the Conference of Drama Schools, and it is under the chairmanship of a very talented and able Member of another place, Mr. William Van Straubenzee who is doing a great deal to bring the parties together in this field. The National Council looks ahead to see what job prospects are, and in the light of this plans to move forward to try to bring supply and demand into balance and to try to put good and effective training on a sound footing. Your Lordships will note that this model, the National Council for Drama Training, is closely related to the industrial training boards, and I was most interested to hear that the Training Services Agency is considering the problems of training in parts of the economy where there are not official bodies already existing.
Judging from our experience in the theatre and what we have already learned of music and drama, it is most urgent that serious consideration be given to 227 the establishment of a training board for the arts. Its financial needs will be trifling. By reducing the numbers of those who come forward with no real hope of a job, it would almost certainly make a net saving of public expenditure as a whole, and it would save a great deal of heartache, which is much more important. I note with pleasure that this seems to be one of the aims of the well argued report of the TUC Working Party on the Arts, and I hope that the powerful support of the TUC will commend the idea to the Department of Employment and especially to the Training Services Agency, from which the pump-priming grants and support must come. I believe the effect will be to make the total level of public expenditure on training less than it now is and make it much more effective.
If I may, I should like to turn from training to ask the Minister a direct question about something else. I have not given him notice, so he need not give a reply. It is about Public Lending Right. Time and again my noble friend Lord Willis has piloted such a Bill through this House and one such Bill is now stranded in another place. As we all know, the other place has nothing else to do apart from dismantling the Finance Bill. We are told time and time again that the Lord President is an extremely keen supporter of Public Lending Right. I am not quite sure whether that is good or bad news. Is there any reason why the Government, with the support of the Liberal Party, now represented here in very great numbers, cannot pilot the Bill through another place in this Session with the Whips on? I hope that my noble friend Lord Weidenfeld, with his vast experience as a publisher, will address himself to this subject when he speaks to us later. Frankly, I think the situation has now become ludicrous. I should have thought it would commend both the Government and the Liberal Party to the nation as serious bodies if they were able to pass this little piece of legislation.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord GIBSON
My Lords, I should like to begin by adding my thanks to those already given by other noble Lords to the two maiden speakers this afternoon. The contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, was 228 particularly heartening to me because we have worked together in great amity, he as chairman of the Scottish Arts Council and I as chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain for the last five years. I have been particularly fortunate in my two colleagues, the chairmen of the Scottish Arts Council and of the Welsh Arts Council, Lady Anglesey. They have been marvellous colleagues and a major factor in the smooth running, which I think we have achieved, of the Council. I hope that the noble Lord, having waited several years to come here, has now been encouraged by the warmth of his reception and will come more often. He is always a model of clarity, good sense and good temper.
May I also congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Gosford. I sympathise with his frustrations as an artist and with those of many of his artist friends who do not receive what they should from the system. His criticism that the Arts Council is rather short on artists is perfectly well-founded. I personally would be opposed to their being there in a nationally representational sense, but we should have more artists on the Arts Council and as there are a number of vacancies I am sure that that is a matter very much in the mind of the Minister.
A number of speakers today, in this Jubilee year, have looked back over the last 25 years and summed up the position of the arts as being the one area in which no one can say that we have declined—that our knowledge, practice and understanding of the arts, to quote from the Art Council's Charter, are better, and the arts are more accessible today than they ever were before. I have recently retired from the Arts Council after a five-year stint as its chairman, and that has been our particular objective. We know very well that we have gone only' a very small part of the way towards it. However, in the last 25 to 30 years a good start has been made. Of course, it is possible by careful selection to support an argument, as a recent writer in the New York Times did, to depict the arts in Britain as being in a pretty parlous condition. He gave examples such as the decay for want of funds of our churches and cathedrals, and they are perhaps the richest artistic heritage that we have. He pointed to the piecemeal sale of the Evelyn Library, to 229 the failure to snap up the bargain of Mentmore, to the economies and the Friday closure forced on the Victoria and Albert Museum, to the deficit in the finances of the Royal Academy, to the sale of pictures by the Dulwich Gallery, to the weak purchasing power of our museums compared with their overseas rivals, to fears that the four London orchestras might not survive, to the bleak future of cathedral and church choirs, to the cuts at the BBC, and so on. Yet though most of these things were individually correctly reported—not all of them perhaps, but most of them—as I read on through the depressing list I became increasingly irritated by the totally unreal picture which it presented of our situation.
At the end of the spectrum, in the schools and in adult education of this country there is more artistic activity—more people who enjoy creative activity themselves—than ever before. If that is the situation at the grass roots, as it were, look too at the other end where we find four national companies of international standing surpassed by nothing of their kind in the world, and incidentally, despite their large subsidies, earning from the box office a far higher proportion of their revenue than comparable companies in other countries. When I compare the situation today with music, theatre and exhibitions which were available when I was a boy, before the war, I realise that the provision of the arts has been transformed.
As the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, said, there are three main reasons for that improvement. He mentioned the Butler Education Act and its effect on the cirricula in schools, and the duty which local authorities have had since then to provide facilities for further education. The second reason—although I think it is much the most important reason—is that the BBC has brought enjoyment of the arts continuously and at a very high level into every home ready to accept it. Finally, there is the acceptance by the Government of a duty to provide funds for the arts on a scale which, though many of us think is still inadequate, none of us would have dreamed of 25 years ago.
So we now have an Arts Council of Great Britain, supporting opera companies, ballet companies, theatres, festivals and orchestras which has made London a leading artistic centre in the world, and has 230 led to the establishment in most areas of the United Kingdom of resident theatrical companies, touring companies and so on. In sum, the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, said in his report:the arts are not a field in which Britain's claims of excellence in quality and extent anyone can deny".But as the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, said, the record could very easily be undone. At this point things could go either way.
Five years ago, when I took over the chairmanship of the Arts Council, following the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, we were still making considerable progress. In the Council's early days it had rightly concentrated its relatively small funds, which in 1952 were little more than £500,000, on raising standards. Its motto in those days was described by the then Secretary-General as "few but roses". Then came the great expansion in the 1960s, associated for ever with the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, and the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and a real surge in providing for the arts began to be felt right across the country. In my first two years this process of trying to spread to the whole country what had been concentrated in London was continued and things looked good. The arts were promised an increase of 10 per cent. in real terms and we had at last established, with the agreement of the Treasury, a triennial planning system. We were able to do a little more for Scotland and Wales; we brought more opera, ballet and theatre to the regions, mainly through increased touring; we developed the regional arts associations, greatly increasing their grants and so forth.
However, in the winter of 1973–74 this process came to a halt with the economic crisis, and in the last three years of high inflation and economic recession there has been no real increase in spite of the substantial monetary one, and no planning has been possible. So far from being able to plan on a three-year basis, when I tell noble Lords that the amount of the 1974–75 grant was told to us in January 1974, the grant for 1975–76 in February 1975 and, unbelievable though it may seem, the 1976–77 grant not until March 1976, they will understand (hat under those conditions policy-making is a bit of a farce. All we have been able to do for the last three years is to hold things together. 231 There have been a few sad casualties and we have simply had to do the best we could.
It should be acknowledged and applauded that the Government, which have had to cut other things, have tried not to cut the arts. In each of those years they have given us an allowance for inflation which has certainly kept abreast of the general increase in the cost of living. Our particular difficulties have stemmed from the specially high cost increases, from various other circumstances in the arts, with which I shall not trouble your Lordships and, of course, from this late notification. My successor, Mr. Kenneth Robinson, who has a great deal of experience of administration, politics and the arts, and whom I am certain will make an absolutely first-class chairman of the Council, takes over at a time when planning has been restored—but planning only for stability, not for increase. Therefore, I fear that, like us, he will suffer the same difficulties for the next year or two. We must all hope that the last years of his period of office see a blossoming expansion of the arts.
If noble Lords believe, as I believe, that the true artist is no mere entertainer but someone who sees things more clearly than the rest of us, then they will believe that he should have priority over everyone else and will not want to wait for economic recovery. I believe that if we were really civilised we would not wait for economic recovery. The first thing that the Viennese did after the war, before rebuilding their economy, was to rebuild their Opera House.
But whatever those of us who take this view may feel, we had better be realistic and accept that the majority of our fellow citizens are going to take a lot of persuading; it will be a long haul. So it is only realistic to accept that in the short term there is not going to be much of a move forward in the arts, and we had better use this pause for thought about the next stage. During this pause Lord Redcliffe-Maud's comprehensive report, which appeared last summer, provided an admirable basis for public debate and reflection as to what the form of patronage of the arts both in the short and longer term should be.
May I say first about his report that he does pay some attention in it to the posi 232 tion of the private patron, and I am very anxious that in our concentration on the problems of public patronage we should not neglect the private patron. I am a great believer in what one might call "person to person" patronage. I do not believe that artists necessarily do their best work in a vacuum. Much of the greatest work that artists have done has been in response to a commission. Trying to please a patron does not necessarily prevent an artist from creating a great work—the reverse has often been true—indeed the individual creative artist responds sometimes to a sensitive patron and there could be a positively creative tension between the two. History gives plenty of examples of it.
So I want there always to be a place for the private patron, partly because I believe in the intrinsic artistic value of his role and partly because I want anyway to see patronage diffused as widely as possible. If we could have available to us in this country something like the tax concessions which are available to individuals and corporations in the United States (though not necessarily on the same scale), we could at least ensure that in an age of high taxation not all patronage is exercised through public authorities or agencies.
But of course we have to accept that those authorities and agencies will have to be the main patrons, simply because of the scale of finance required. Exhibitions of valuable pictures are now immensely costly, freights and security are expensive, and with mounting values, insurance especially so, and without a Government indemnity such as is available to the Arts Council it is becoming more and more difficult to afford exhibitions of famous works of art. When we talk about Government support for the arts it does not appear in the grant, and one should recognise how invaluable this indemnity is. As for opera, ballet and theatre, though individual productions may be privately sponsored the main costs, and all the overheads, will inevitably fall, so far as box office income falls short of costs, on the public purse.
So what are the possible patterns for public patronage? There are three main sources. They have all been mentioned, and they are obvious. Let us take a quick look at them, and I shall have most 233 to say about the Arts Council itself, for obvious reasons. There is the Government, through the Arts Council; the local authorities, and those phenomena of recent years the regional arts councils. The Arts Council: is its work capable of much expansion Personally, I think not. Over 30 years the Council has gathered an expertise and a capacity for judgment which, after close acquaintance with it and its staff, I have come greatly to admire. I believe it does what it is doing extremely well, but that it cannot be indefinitely extended. It already has difficulty in providing a really thorough assessment of the activities it finances, particularly in the theatre. There are well over 100 theatre companies receiving direct financial support from the Arts Council and the task of the few drama officers (and available members of the Drama Panel) in trying to keep in close touch with the work of those companies and assess their quality as it should be assessed is becoming more and more difficult.
The tendency, therefore—and this is a view widely if not universally held in the Arts Council—must be to devolve functions, where it is feasible to do so, rather than to add to them. What the Arts Council needs is more money to develop the quality and standards of its present type of beneficiary and not, in my personal view, more money to add greatly to its present scope. I would make one exception to this. I believe the links with education authorities need strengthening and that this process needs impetus from the centre. This is a role, incidentally, which the Arts Council's present Secretary-General is exceptionally well qualified to perform, with his long and distinguished experience of further education.
Perhaps I could interject at this point that I very much agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, when he says that it was really a matter of who the personalities were. I do not think it matters very much whether the Arts Council comes under the Department of Education and Science or the Department of the Environment, or any other great Department. I take the view of the noble Baroness, Lady Lee, that the Minister for the Arts should be a Minister of State. What he needs is the standing and personality to have direct access to the top. Incidentally, that demands also some 234 potential response from the top. He must have that personality and standing, and if he has got it I do not see that it matters very much under the wing of which great Department of State he (or she) comes.
Therefore, when I say that I want to strengthen links with the education authorities throughout the country, I am not arguing necessarily for it to remain under the Department of Education and Science because I do not think that in the Ministry is where the strengthening will take place; it will take place through the action taken by the Arts Council itself. When I say that I do not think that the Arts Council should be extended, I hope that no one will think that I am lukewarm in praising it. I am a fanatical addict of the Council, and a believer in it. Its prime value is as a buffer between the Government and the Civil Service, on the one hand, and the arts, on the other. As has been said by a number of other speakers, this system is the basis of the freedom which has led to a period of considerable vitality in Britain in the arts since the war.
Of course mistakes are made and will continue to be made, and I would go so far as to say that if accidents do not happen then you can be sure that something is seriously wrong, because it will mean that the system is being too tightly controlled for fear of making mistakes and having accidents. I think that the accidents that we sometimes have are a small price to pay for the benefits brought by the free system we have operated.
However, I should like to make one plea for the Council which has not I think been said publicly before, and I say it as someone who has just laid down the chairmanship. What it needs, in my opinion, is not only to continue its present role and to maintain its political independence; it needs also administrative independence, and this is something it does not have. I am not going to suggest anything to diminish its accountability. What I want to suggest is this: the Council does not have the advantage of the interchangeability among departments of the Civil Service which being part of the Civil Service would bring with it. It is not possible for the Council to enjoy that advantage since its staff, being specialists, 235 could neither be easily recruited from the Civil Service, except in rare cases where indeed they have been, nor appropriately transferred to other positions in the Civil Service on leaving the Council. But not having this advantage of flexibility within the service, it is in my view wrong that the Council should have to suffer the disadvantages of its staffing arrangements being controlled by the Civil Service.
The Council is not free to create or abolish senior posts without permission (not easily obtained), nor is it free to compensate people for the loss of their jobs if for any reason they become unsuitable to continue in them. The Council is therefore not free to establish a fully efficient administrative machine. I would prefer the Government to tell the Council not to spend on administration more than a certain percentage of the grant in aid (or state an absolute figure for administration in any one year which must not be exceeded) and then leave it to the Council to organise its staff as it sees fit, subject to periodic reviews of its arrangements by the Government. I believe the community would get the best results this way. However, in spite of this handicap, which I think serious enough to draw to your Lordships' attention, I think the Council does its work remarkably well and I am certainly not suggesting that its functions should not be extended because of any doubts about its efficiency.
If we accept that the Council should not extend its functions but only be able to finance more adequately those it already performs, we shall have to rely for the expansion of arts patronage on either or both the local authorities and the regional arts associations—and of course, as has been pointed out, the conclusion of Lord Redcliffe-Maud's Report is that the local authorities must play the major role as patrons. Many of them play a biggish role already and the question is how much further we can expect them to go.
I hope they will go very much further. I am nervous about their approach in the vital respect which has been mentioned consistently this afternoon; many of them do not yet accept the principal condition on which Lord Redcliffe-Maud would assign them their role; namely, that they 236 learn the gentle art of patronage, as national Government have learned it. The Association of Metropolitan Authorities, in a memorandum on the report, do not approve the limitation which Lord Redcliffe-Maud invites them to accept on their direct influence on the artistic policies of the organisations they subsidise. Nor do they even agree that they should entirely keep their hands off the day-to-day administration of such organisations.
I am sorry that they cannot accept this. National Government accept it and the Arts Council embodies its acceptance of it, and the Arts Council has this continuous relationship with arts organisations which they need from their principal sponsors and which I do not think political bodies can give. The reason for it is that an artistic enterprise can flourish only if its support is not precarious and if arts policy is not liable to change with political changes in the composition of Governments or councils.
Some councillors argue that their ratepayers require them to exercise this direct control and involve themselves in the management of everything on which they spend rates; taxpayers do not require it of national Governments. Of course, I understand that ratepayers are closer to their councils and to the arts in their localities than are taxpayers to national Governments and the nationally-supported arts, but if this is so and continues to be so—in other words, if ratepayers continue not to accept that the arts must be allowed immunity from day-to-day control by their representatives, by the politicians—I should be drawn reluctantly to the conclusion that local authorities would not be suitable as the principal arts patrons of the future. The task therefore is to change the climate of opinion in the country both about the arts and about local authority representation on these organisations. This will not be quickly or easily done, but we must set our minds to try.
The third possible patrons, the regional arts associations, are also considered at length in the report, and most perceptively. Their present role was described by Lord Redcliffe-Maud and I will not refer to it now; it is clearly set out in the report and he referred to it in his speech. The report sees this role as changing when the local authorities have finally become the 237 chief source of local support. The arts associations will then retain some grant-aiding functions wherever they cannot be devolved from the centre to each and every local authority, and of course they would continue to provide a means for local people who want to support the arts to do so directly, through membership of their association and not merely as ratepayers.
If the local authorities learn the gentle art of patronage in the manner prescribed in the report, this pattern for the arts associations seems to me a very sensible way for things to develop. If they do not, then more will have to fall on the shoulders of the regional arts associations themselves on a permanent basis. Therefore, I would advise adopting no fixed policy for the next few years, until we see how things develop, until we see if the local authorities, after a time, do not come to consider the implications as they have been expressed this afternoon of arts patronage, and until the basis on which they are going to develop that patronage is clearer to us all.
Meanwhile, Arts Council policy for the regional arts associations should in my opinion be to devolve where they sensibly can, as they are doing, and to appoint representatives to those associations, as recommended by Lord Redcliffe-Maud, wherever they usefully can, and above all to help them to develop their expertise in the arts by funding adequate salaries for their staffs and financing the courses in arts administration which can best provide the basis for future recruitment. We are very short of these people and they have to be trained.
If the local authorities do not decide both to support and yet to distance themselves from the arts, I would favour, but very much as a second-best, the regional arts associations being developed over time into full-scale regional arts councils. There would of course have to be mergers between the arts associations for such a purpose, and they would then either receive funds direct from national Government on some agreed and fixed basis-in which case the members of their executives would be appointed by national Government-or they could receive their funds (this would probably be more satisfactory) from the Arts Council of Great Britain and they could be appointed by their council. However, I emphasise that I would regard that as absolutely second-best and something 238 to be fallen back on in the distant future only if we find that local authorities fail to develop as we hope.
I have spoken rather too long on what is a difficult subject but one can advance no easy solution. We must feel our way forward and I have indicated the lines of approach that I would hope to see adopted.
§ Lord FEVERSHAM
My Lords, I hesitate to prolong the debate, but I must raise with the noble Lord a matter over which he skipped rather quickly. I got the impression that although he said that the Government had the intention of providing funds to the Arts Council to keep pace with the inflation that has taken place in the arts, they had not actually achieved that objective.
§ Lord GIBSON
I am glad to answer that question, my Lords, because it is very important. I applauded the fact that the Government had not actually set about cutting the arts—which of course many local authorities have felt bound to do—and that they had given a special position to the arts in this respect and had given the arts a monetary increase equivalent to the rise in the cost of living. I went on to say that that left us with very special problems because inflation in the arts was much greater than inflation in the cost of living.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Lord WEIDENFELD
My Lords, I wish at the outset to pay tribute to the two maiden speakers, and as this is only my second intervention in your Lordships' House I feel I can congratulate them with a sense of shared relief and lingering solidarity.
In pleading the case of the serious writer and contending that he is among the hardest hit victims of the economic crisis, and that literature is one of the stepchildren of art patronage, I am not unaware that I am doing so in the face of three very striking paradoxes. First, sales of books and numbers of titles published each year are on a rising curve. Secondly, the literary market-place has an articulate 239 structure, a multiplicity of proven channels and outlets and is mightily stimulated and supported by all the mass media. Thirdly, as the Redcliffe-Maud Report points out, local authorities and central Government spent about £120 million in one year on subsidies to libraries, twice that given to the arts as a whole.
However, hardly ever, since the days of Gutenberg, has it been more difficult for the serious writer or the talented beginner to make ends meet. The brutal reason is the phenomenon of polarisation. Just because production costs have escalated, publishers and writers, to meet the soaring expenses and high break-even figures, must favour the commercially predictable, widely-based product. The cult of the best seller is the order of the day and is powerfully nurtured by the media. By contrast, the unknown writer, novelist or poet suffers the pains of Tantalus, for as costs escalate sales shrink or stagnate, but they never catch up.
At the other end of the spectrum, the scholarly writer of monographs, which need research, travel and time, finds that neither commercial publishers nor even the university presses are sufficiently funded to support some very deserving works of specialised knowledge. Polarisation here too means that books on subjects of wide appeal find a readier market than ever before, so that while one may have six, eight or ten hooks on Napoleon all finding an eager market, the one outstanding work on Marshal Ney would have great difficulty in finding a publisher. The academic author may have the advantage of relative security of tenure and may not need a literary income for his subsistence but he, too, is prevented from making valuable contributions through lack of financial support.
What can be done to help? I have great respect for the earnest and sincere attitude of the present Government towards the arts, and I am particularly aware of the sympathetic understanding of my noble friend Lord Donaldson. I am also mindful—as who would not be? —of the constant pressures of other economic priorities, so, if I turn to some possible remedies, I so do with diffidence as well as conviction. The independent writer is, by any standards, at a grave fiscal disadvantage compared with, say, the self-employed business man. I suggest that 240 the "spreading" provisions—that is to say, the right to spread income tax over several years—are quite inadequate. They certainly compare most unfavourably with those practised by other countries in the European Economic Community. It would be a great pity if, in the context of our fiscal system, much real talent were to be diverted. At one end of the scale, the unknown writer might be driven out of the profession; at the other end of the scale, the famous writer might be driven out of the country.
Public lending right legislation, if enacted, when enacted, once enacted—and we hope that it will be enacted through the co-operation of all men of goodwill in all Parties—could, in time, prove a powerful help, particularly to those writers and scholars whose books are highly priced and depend upon library sales. The report cites at some length the example of Sweden, where a public lending right system is in use and is working extremely well. Sweden is also considering legislation to subsidise the publishers of experimental books and serious works of scholarship, provided that the result of the subsidies is passed on to the consumer in the form of lower prices.
The sponsorship of literature through private enterprise, business corporations and charitable foundations is obviously of the greatest importance. The new Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts might, one hopes, turn its efforts increasingly towards the encouragement of literature. Travelling fellowships, direct grants, and research bursaries enabling important works of investigative and innovative writing to be undertaken could well fall within its terms of reference.
In the United States there are many foundations that specialise in this field. For instance, the Guggenheim Fellowship is responsible each year for a number of outstanding works of literature and research in the humanities. In Germany there are at least a dozen impressive organisations of this kind. I, for one, would like to see a provision, however modest, devoted to the encouragement of literature, in the advertising and public relations budget of most large British corporations. Here, I pay tribute to the very welcome prizes awarded by such organisations as Booker Brothers, Whitbread and the Wolfenden Foundation.
241 By helping such organisations as the National Book League, the Government have acknowledged the significance of popularizing—I would almost say "dramatising"—the cause of literature and its importance to the nation. I should like to see very much more done in this respect. I am not unenvious of the example set by France, where the Government hold the writer in the highest esteem; where the Press and other media give literature paramount attention; where, each December, the great literary prizes arc front page news; and where men of letters and the cult of language and literature are the pride of the whole nation.
As someone who, in his profession, specialises in the international exchange of literature, I can sincerely state that British authorship is held in the highest esteem all over the world. In certain fields such as history, biography, imaginative reporting of current affairs and social conditions, British writers are probably more respected than any others in the world. To encourage excellence and experimentation and to help the British author is not only an acknowledgement of a cultural debt but, I would submit, a very shrewd investment and an act of genuine self-enlightenment.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Lord MILFORD
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, on his maiden speech. I cannot help sympathising with him. When one makes a speech in this House of a calibre and content to which your Lordships are not generally used, it is a very awe-inspiring moment.
This debate is on a very important subject. Its importance has been shown in that three different reports have come out recently—the report that we are debating, the TUC report and a Labour Party report, all trying to solve the question of how to spread the arts and enrich the people of this country through the arts. We must get it across, in our schools and everywhere, that our future civilisation will be shaped by the way in which we resolve this question of how to achieve a society that can appreciate and absorb what the arts can give to us all in all their forms.
242 These three reports also show how difficult it is to find the right constructive answers to the way forward. They all differ. Because of our present disintegrated society, we repeatedly come up against all sorts of snags in our search. In discussions with different people connected with the arts, I have found that there are vested interests. There are political interests. There is envy, there are feelings of grievance and accusations of élitism, so many unpalatable truths have to be faced. At present, only a small minority have the education, the leisure and the money possibilities to attend and appreciate all forms of culture—the exhibitions, the theatres and the films. Our aim must be to expand this possibility so that the vast majority have the power and the time for appreciation.
The Arts Council of Great Britain has done a wonderful job for many artists and has given opportunities for us in the Provinces to see and hear wonderful, exciting new art. Unavoidably, the Arts Council has had to select the artists, the theatre groups and the musicians whom it thinks most worthy of help. That has naturally led to envy, criticism and, probably, some mistakes and injustices. I agree with the TUC report and the Labour Party that it would be a good move to bring on to the Arts Council's panel through proper democratic machinery instead of mere appointment, a greater variety of artists and more people connected with culture of all kinds from the Provinces. The Arts Council may consider that, in art, one should not be too democratic. It may feel that it should consist of very high specialists aloof from regional elected councils and so on. By taking this view—and I feel that it does—I believe that the Arts Council is contributing to the lack of interest and cooperation of the provincial elected local authorities. Seen from the Provinces, this suspicion of "we are holier than thou" creates a desire not to co-operate.
Among local people intensely interested in the arts, and among many artists themselves, there is an image about that the Arts Council is a group of purists, elitists, undemocratically appointed all-powerful bureaucrats. In discussions at the dinner table and in other places with other artists, questions of this kind come up: What is the Arts Council? Who composes it? 243 Who controls it, since its powers to make or neglect are so huge? What is its policy? I quite agree that that is unfair to the Arts Council, but I think that the Arts Council is to blame a little because it does not put across more propaganda about itself. It has difficulties, I think also through its fear of politics. There is its "long arm at all costs" attitude, which many people feel is making it aloof, and its apparent shrugging of its shoulders at the mention of democracy, and it has given itself an image of hautiness. I am only explaining what it looks like from the other end of the artistic ladder, looking up towards the Arts Council, as so many people are doing from grass roots level. We have to clear this up before we get the two ends to meet.
I have worked on local councils at the other end of the ladder, and I can feel that this situation which I have been describing has created a great feeling of irritation towards the Arts Council and prevented many taking up their share of the problems which the Arts Council is trying to give them. Surely the key to all that we are discussing this evening is to find ways of doing more to bridge the gap between the huge public and the few creative artists. Alas! at the moment many of our young, promising artists find themselves forced to aspire to become somewhat élite because the people have never had a chance to learn about their art, to understand them, and so the people are labelled by these young artists as philistines. These young artists are forced to chase the market, to drag around posh commercial galleries who only want to make money out of them. They have to act against their own integrity. The young artist can have such a wonderful gift to give us. The art schools should stress this point strongly to the students, and fire his ideals. But this should involve not only the art schools. Art, and the social importance of art, the enriching of life that it can give, should be at the heart of the curriculum of all educational organisations.
We have all agreed that the money for the arts should not be cut, but how do we get it across to the ordinary person, to the ordinary trade unionist, living in a provincial town, that there are to be cuts in education, in housing, in health, but that the arts must not be touched? I agree that the arts must not be touched, but how is one to get this across to the ordinary 244 person who is not thinking about the arts? Despite radio and television and the expansion of education up to now, the word "art" still evokes among so many the reaction: "Oh, I know nothing about art; it means nothing to me. It is all right for those who understand." The local authorities, wanting to appear successful and benevolent to the public, understandably do not want to do anything about art; they want to do more about swimming pools and sports grounds.
So the problem for us of getting this question from the Arts Council, from any arts organisation, down to the councillors is very difficult, and it is, I think, our main job to try to get it going up the other way. As people earn shorter hours and they will and as they get more leisure, this is what we must feed with culture and art. We have to get the people into a position in which they are hungry for it. At present I do not think that television and radio are doing the job really well enough; they are not feeding this hunger, they are not creating this hunger. One sits in front of the "box" and looks at an art programme, but it does not make one think, "My God! I should like to do that myself", and so get down to that creative instinct which we all have. Everybody has a creative instinct, if only one can dig it out and this is where education and television can play such an enormous part.
As I say, there is this tremendous desire among everybody to have a go at something. I have three examples that I should like to give your Lordships. Last year the organiser of the Cheltenham Literary Festival advertised that a prize of £100 would be given to the best poem sent in before the day of the literary exhibition. Thirty thousand poems came in to that wretched organiser's room from all over England. Does not that show the number of people who long to do something, but have not dared do it? As the entrance fee in that exhibition was 50p, the 30,000 50p fees paid for the whole festival, and the organisers did not have to go to the Arts Council at all. They are doing it again this year, and the poems are pouring in once more.
When I was on the Cheltenham Trades Council, I initiated the idea of trades councillors and trade unionists having an exhibition of pictures. We had an enormous number of entrants. We were given 245 the local park in which to hang them—thank God! it was not raining—and the public came. Afterwards so many trade unionists said, "This has given me a new kick". I believe that this is very important. This is what we have to pull out.
I turn now to another little personal illustration. I was a farmer who painted, and I had an exhibition in a gallery in Cheltenham. A small farmer whom I had never seen before walked in and stood in front of one of my pictures, which happened to be of a seagull following a plough. He stood there, and he stood there, and then he asked, "How much?" I referred him to the gallery. He said, "I haven't got that. Would you take a load of hay?" I said, "Yes"—and that was a terrific thrill.
So we have to bring the arts out of the high places, out of the expensive buildings. I believe that the Arts Council is doing a very 'good job in this way with the fringe theatres, the pop festivals, poetry readings and bands. All of this is so tremendously important. We have to stir the mind forward to wanting to do things, and, as I say, in some of these matters the Arts Council is doing a very good job indeed.
My conclusions are that both the Arts Council and the local authorities must get over their suspicions of each other. Through education the children will demand of their parents more arts and culture, and the parents will have to push the local councils. I also think that the Arts Council must be, or must at least appear to be, more democratic, less élitist, less fearful of the popular ballot box at local elections. I congratulate Lord Redcliffe-Maud in seeing local communities, through local government at all levels, as the only long-term way to extend effective patronage in an increasing egalitarian society. He recognises that the process will be slow, but I congratulate him on the way he faces it with realism.
My Lords, we are not debating the TUC report or the Labour report, but their stress of the need for more democracy, up and down, is, I think, very important for getting the confidence and the co-operation of the many. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Lee, has left, because I did not quite understand why she did not demand, as I was going to demand, a Minister of Cabinet rank 246 for the arts. I think the Labour Party report and the TUC report suggest this. As she did not seem to be in favour of it herself, and as she knows much more about it than I do, I do not put that demand forward, but I should like to ask her privately whether it is a good idea to have a Minister of Cabinet rank for the arts.
§ 6.51 p.m.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, for agreeing to widen this debate to include the report of the Regional Development Committee in Scotland. A reference to that report has been made by my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh, who is chairman of that committee, of which I was a member. He was as good a chairman as his excellent maiden speech would indicate. My only complaint is that I have a strong suspicion that he spent most of last weekend up a ladder dealing with his roses when he should have been writing his speech, and that his speech really got written only between lunchtime today and the beginning of this debate. The result is that much of my speech has been very well covered by him, and I have had to alter mine considerably. He has explained the report very well, and I can only add that, in my view, the report was a good one, and I find myself virtually in agreement with everything in it. The committee was broad-based, and the topics of debate became enormous. Sometimes it was very difficult to get a word in edgeways. On the whole, our individual views have been properly and reasonably well represented in the report, which was very well edited by Mr. Anthony Phillips.
References to the Arts Council, kind or less kind, have been made here this afternoon by many noble Lords of varying political hues and from various backgrounds. The problems that we have to discuss rather centre round finance, and we have to ask ourselves the question: How well has the taxpayers' money which has been channelled through the Arts Council been spent? For myself, I would say that, broadly speaking, available money is being spent in the populated areas wisely and fairly, so that the standards are being maintained. The distribution of money through the regions has not been so fair, and some remedies for that situation are suggested in our report.
247 But, speaking as a practising artist myself, I would say that there are grounds for criticism in our country, in Scotland (perhaps I ought not to be saying this as a past chairman of the art committee, but there are criticisms), about the choice of exhibitions in the visual arts sphere. Great care is given to the planning of exhibitions in our main gallery in Charlotte Square, in Edinburgh, by an extremely competent art committee and art department staff, but in my view too much emphasis is being given to work which one might call work belonging to the conceptual art movement, to work shown in photographic form, and not enough to work created in terms of sound craftsmanship. There is a strange discrepancy between work which is being produced in the art schools in Scotland and the work by many of the artists who are chosen to exhibit in the Arts Council's galleries, where few traditional artists are asked to exhibit.
The Redcliffe-Maud Report raised the question of standards of judgment; the power to distinguish genius from the phoney. My own experience tells me that standards can be set, and are set, by the Arts Council. There has been increasing competition for our favours in recent years, with not enough cake to go round. Long hours are spent by the committee adjudicating over what organisation to support, what bursaries to give to whom, and so on. When it comes to buying works, the matter is more subjective, and members of the committee take turns to buy from the exhibitions they go to see. My Lords, I must emphasise that the artist needs to sell his work. It is true that in some circles there is a preference for bursaries rather than sales. From my experience as chairman of the art committee, this is not generally so. What artists really want is for their work to be liked enough for somebody to buy it, even if the purchase price is in the form of a load of hay, as reported by the noble Lord, Lord Milford. The great thing is for artists to find someone to put their picture or sculpture in their home, or perhaps it can be bought for a hospital or public building. It is terribly depressing to start a canvas knowing that in the end one will have to reach for a tin of primer to erase the painting because of lack of demand.
248 As the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, has put it, the majority of artists live at a level lower than the national average, and many nearer the level of poverty. Too many artists are being trained, and few of them with any preparation for the outside world. Several of the noble Lord's recommendations deserve response: the stepping up of awards and bursaries, the purchase and commissioning by local authorities of works of art, the removal of VAT from contemporary work, and so on. The report stressed the need for more exhibition and studio space. One way, I think, to satisfy this need would be to make use of some of the spare space in country houses. Whenever opportunities occur which provide facilities in country houses, advantage should be taken of them. One opportunity of this kind which would afford space for temporary exhibitions alongside a very fine collection of old master paintings and furniture has been recently offered to the Scottish Arts Council. I am strongly hoping that this opportunity will not be lost because it would bring great benefit to the South-East of Scotland, where this particular place is situated, which has a great need for more exhibition space.
I should like to ask the Government to introduce new fiscal legislation to help owners to deal with this problem in conjunction with the Arts Council and other bodies, like the National Trust, the Tourist Board and the local authority. I should also like to give qualified support to the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, that more artists be employed as teachers in schools. If that recommendation is accepted, it is vital that the artists who are chosen should be true artists—artists who are able to help rather than hinder. It is important to look at the aesthetic influences in an artist's pedigree, because it is those influences which will be used to fertilise the creativity of the community if that artist is appointed.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
My Lords, the noble Earl is on an interesting point. May I ask a question? Who should find out whether an artist is a true artist or not? This is a great problem.
My Lords, I think the noble Lord is asking a question which in 249 the few remaining minutes left I am going to try to lead up to. Perhaps he will accept that what I am going to say may explain my attitude, which, of course, is a subjective and personal one, for art is a very personal matter. Indeed, to choose the right artist is as important as choosing a sire for a herd. In these days, when influences and traditions are many and complex, it is important to be selective. Noble Lords will remember art teachers in their old schools as much for their artistic theories as for their personalities. The selected artist must be in tune with the tastes and nature of a community. Although it would be wrong to be dogmatic about anything as personal as art, it is nevertheless possible to predict that an artist will thrive as a teacher better in one situation than in another. It is probable that an artist whose aesthetics derive from Celtic roots will do better in one region than somebody whose roots come from Nordic sources. Dalbeattie was for John Maxwell what Temple was for Gillies and what Dedham was for John Constable, who defined painting as:The sound of water escaping from mill dams, old rotten planks, slimy posts and brickwork … Painting is with me but another word for feeling".My Lords, there is an awakening desire on the part of the British people to enjoy landscape painting. The vast queues of people who come to see the Turner and Constable exhibitions have shown the extent of their interest in this subject—in a school which is native to Britain, thanks to our light, our hills and our rivers. If that is what moves them, then the painters going out to teach must be able to identify with their pupils and with what is close to their hearts. At present, there is a wide gulf between the outlook of the layman and the outlook of members of the artistic world.
There is among modern painters a bias towards the abstract—and I am not criticising that bias because it is all part of the evolution of modern movements. There are among their ranks many young artists who have been launched, in my view too soon into work of an abstract nature which involves the study of basic form without understanding any of the routine which enables painters to absorb inspiration from natural beauty, and without being told how to cope with or understand the rhythmical complexities 250 of line, colour and tone in the world around them. Those are the aspects which the average young artist is less equipped to teach.
I am not talking about the primary schools where much is done to heighten creativity by encouraging self-expression with chalks. It is at a later stage, when the inner, more contemplative, more spiritual side of the personality is awakened, when it is vital to have the true artist appointed to schools so that the level of art teaching is high and based on truth. I have dwelt at some length on this subject because I feel it is important that we get some return from any support which we give to artists when we appoint them to schools or communities.
My Lords, I should like to touch for one or two minutes on the subject of our regional report. My view is that in Scotland, as soon as any regional enterprise comes up for assistance, it is vital to send down necessary liaison personnel to find out the facts, and then to make the necessary plan to get the enterprise off the ground or to keep it in being with the help of the local authority. The present intention is for the Finance and Policy Committee to take on this responsibility. In my view, having been a member of it, that Committee is already overburdened with work and it would be wise to bring a new regional art committee into being with limited funds at its disposal.
I understand from the statement made in April by the Secretary-General of the Arts Council of Great Britain that he hopes to bring more finance to help stimulate the activities in the regions. In his words:I would hope that in the next year or two, given the economic climate, more money would be available".Given that climate, let us hope that an extra grant will be made available for the Scottish Arts Council to spend in thinly-populated areas. With the help of regional art officers acting as liaison officers, grants made by the regional art committee would assist local authorities in their task of shouldering the burdens placed on them; and advice and information could also be shared.
As the report makes clear, we realise that, certainly to begin with, the Committee would have little money of its own 251 to dispense and grant-aid would have to be channelled through the existing art-form committees. In the words of our report:For this reason it is extremely important that the Scottish Arts Council give careful consideration to the best means of ensuring that the remit and problems of the Regional Committee are successfully integrated with those of the Art Form Committees".The present system of promotion in the regions, which, as far as it goes, is highly efficient, should not be impaired. The art exhibitions, the concerts and the opera companies which tour the regions must go on under the aegis of the Scottish Arts Council art form committees. New developments where funds and advice are needed will be within the sphere of influence of the regional committee which would have to work with flexibility, always sensitive to what is happening in the art form committees and in local government departments. They will be a fertilising agency, with their own director and the regiona art offices buzzing to and fro like bees.
My Lords, the influence of the regional committee will be of major importance, and I should not like to see too many other advisory bodies being set up to counteract that influence—bodies like the advisory associations suggested in Ian Croal's Arts and Indoor Sports Study in the Borders Region, which was recently published. This kind of multi-arts form advisory body could interfere with the present system of Arts Council grant-aiding. If local advisory bodies are set up, they should have a specialist membership and intention, and be able to give practical advice on behalf of local specialist interests to the relevant Arts Council or local authority officials.
Many of Ian Croal's recommendations were sound, and I was specially interested in his emphasis on the need for better transport in order to improve Borderers' participation in the arts. Like other investigators, he saw the dawning of a new era in which the local authority will have the main responsibility for the arts. As we approach this era, as we say in our report:Our hope is that the machinery of public support for the arts can be designed, installed, and fuelled so that it is ready and available to back up precisely those individual initiatives which cannot be planned in detail in advance".252 On the success of this operation will depend the future level of civilisation in this country. If it fails we will remain a people involving, as the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, has put it:only 5 per cent. of the population in active enjoyment and personal participation in the arts".Finally, my Lords, may I apologise for having to leave now, before the end of the debate. I do so to attend the exhibition by my old friend, Paul Mayes, on his 90th birthday which is being celebrated in this way. He started me painting at about the age of ten and I feel that he will appreciate it if I attend.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Lord AMPTHILL
My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Fever-sham, for the opportunity to debate support for the arts; we are indebted to the two noble Lords who made splendid maiden speeches; and we are also indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, to whom I would wish to pay respectful tribute for the immensely thorough investigation of public attitudes to the arts over the past 30 years which he has conducted.
However, a modicum of dissension is about to break out on the Cross-Benches, for I find myself uncomfortable with some aspects of his approach and conclusions. While recognising that 95 per cent. of the population has no contact with the arts, and rightly seeking to remedy this sad state, the report attempts to indicate ways in which the creativity in everyone can be tapped, mostly by means of education. It must be with considerable diffidence that anyone nowadays advocates élitism; but I believe that art is nothing if not élitist, and I was unable to discover upon which side the noble Lord, Lord Milford, was coming down when he raised a similar point.
This principle has been partially recognised in the provisions which are made for children specially gifted in music and dancing within the otherwise comprehensive educational system. I do not think that true artistry can be taught. Technique, yes; but art is obviously far more than that. People are moved to create a work of art because they are inspired, not because some worthy lady has taught them embroidery or pottery at school.
253 The emphasis throughout the report seems to lie in devoting all the money we can afford to the social policy of teaching worthwhile pastimes for people's leisure hours, from which it is hoped some appreciation of the arts will rub off, even to the extent that thereafter—and I quote from page 65:a growing proportion of our society will consent to the forcible extraction of more money from their pockets in the form of rates and taxes".Few of your Lordships relish the prospect of further inroads by the taxman, though most would probably welcome greatly increased Government patronage of the arts, but rather at the expense of whatever is individually regarded as a gross extravagance.
There is little dissent—and there has been none this afternoon—with the policies pursued by the Arts Council under a succession of brilliant chairmen, in almost every instance admirably abetted by admirable Ministers. The imaginative good sense with which they apportion the inadequate sums allocated to them is commendable: before abusing the Council for minor aberrations, such as letting loose on the populace a couple of chaps with a pole tied between their heads, critics should themselves try the difficult task of divining from a written proposal how an artistic endeavour will materialise. We are blessed with this splendid body whose guiding principle is—and I quote:to concentrate on the professional rather than the amateur".Yet the report elects to place heavy emphasis on making funds available for the education of the amateur. This is an excellent social policy, but is it helpful for the arts?
§ Lord AMPTHILL
My Lords, I defer to a different view. In my view, the report seriously weakens its own case: in Appendix 3 there is a dispiriting account of a visit to Sweden by Mr. Anthony Phillips. Following a list of the leaden goals of the Swedish National Council for Cultural Affairs, the plethora of institutions, boards of managements, research organisations, advisory bodies, national and local authorities, are described. But Mr. Phillips came away with the feeling—and I quote from page 183: 254that the results very often do not match up with the planners' ambitions, and certainly this was true of the disappointing artistic productions of whatever genre that we were shown".This surprises me not a jot, yet it is the direction in which, with considerable modifications, the noble Lord's report seems to wish to head us.
My own main enthusiasm for the arts centres on the theatre and I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I concentrate on this aspect. I should declare an interest in that, after managing a couple of West End theatres and producing a great many plays, I some years ago abandoned that pursuit (largely on the advice of my bank manager), but I still remain a director of a company which runs one of London's larger theatres and invests in productions. The report pays scant attention to the so-called commercial theatre, on what I fear are the erroneous grounds that it can take care of itself. Indeed the only plays mentioned are "Oh— Calcutta!", "Hair" and "Pyjama Tops"—three pieces which share the distinction, if that is the word, of the cast prancing around without their clothes on. This gives a grossly unfair picture of the balance of the fare on offer in London, even if it might be said that the quality is lower than it was 20 years ago.
I believe the watershed years to be the early 'sixties. Popular belief has it that the wider quantity and better quality of television was the cause, and in the case of the decline in cinema attendances, and therefore output, it probably was. Television has had a side effect on the theatre in its absorption of so much writing talent, but the main blow to the commercial producers came at that time from the ever increasing subsidies given to the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and others. In no way do I wish to carp at the generosity of the handouts: indeed the reverse, for the subsidised companies have a long list of magnificent achievements to their credit. But if you are going to make public money available, the necessary controls will automatically breed an ever expanding bureaucracy and what a commercial manager would regard as some degree of extravagance.
The late Mr. Hugh Beaumont, probably the greatest producer of this century, administered up to a dozen plays at a 255 time with one partner, three technical assistants and a couple of secretaries. Though it is a subjective judgment, I think the quality of his productions equalled that of the National, who apparently need an administrative staff incomparably greater, though the repertoire system, much loved by actors who do not have to do the same thing eight times a week, less appreciated by the public, contributes much to the higher cost.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
My Lords, may I remind the noble Lord that Binkie Beaumont received quite big subsidies quite often for some of his productions.
§ Lord AMPTHILL
My Lords, from which source the noble Lord is referring to, I am not sure. Private sources?
§ Lord AMPTHILL
In the latter part of his career perhaps that is accurate, but he was in business for a great many years before the Arts Council was set up.
§ Lord REDCLIFFE-MAUD
My Lords, may I interrupt to say that Mr. Beaumont's subsidies were definitely from the Arts Council of Great Britain. It was doing exactly what the noble Lord is suggesting should be done more now to the commercial theatre. That is a most interesting point.
§ Lord AMPTHILL
I thank the noble Lord. My Lords, this early extravagance of the subsidised branch (of late there has been substantial pruning) had dire repercussions on their commercial brethren, principally in the vast escalation of production costs it has brought, and also in their operating expenses. None of us is so naïve as to doubt that taxpayers' money is spent more prodigally than one's own, and over the past 15 years production costs have more than quadrupled, way above the general rate of inflation, and for this the subsidised theatre companies must accept some of the responsibility.
The number of commercial producers willing to take the financial risks is dwindling, to the extent that in the past 256 seven years only four new ones with reasonable staying power have come on the scene. Your Lordships may wonder if it matters too much if the 37 theatres in the West End should disappear or be put to less palatable uses. I profoundly believe that it would be a tragedy: those responsible for encouraging that biggest of foreign currency earners, the tourists (who make up about half the audiences in the season and probably a quarter the year round), would agree. We are the theatrical capital of the world, but can only remain so if the ingredient provided by the commercial theatre remains viable.
Without it, we unquestionably lose much else besides, most importantly a greater supply of good actors than any other country gets near to generating. Noel Coward directed his advice to Mrs. Worthington not to put her daughter on the stage, for the reason that the dear girl could not act to save her life. If she had talent, it needed her urgently, then and now, and so does television where, if she utters her lines back to front, the situation can be rectified at the cost of a few feet of celluloid and some irritation to her colleagues.
So what, my Lords, can be done? I do not wish to weary the House with a repetition of the strong arguments in favour of relieving the live theatre of the imposition of value added tax, but this is unquestionably the first and most important step to be taken. The Inland Revenue might also look more kindly on the private investor, whose gains are taxed at his full rate, whereas his losses are not deductible.
The next move should be to make a substantial addition to the Theatre Investment Fund. As your Lordships will know, this fund was set up 10 months ago—thanks mostly, as so frequently, to the good offices of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. The idea was conceived seven years ago when I was still a member of the Executive of West End Managers. The million pounds contemplated then became the reality of a quarter of a million last year, only £100,000 of which was public money via the Arts Council. The Fund is intelligently administered by Mr. Patrick Ide, guided by a distinguished board. He restrains himself from putting more than a few eggs (usually 10 per cent. of the capital) into any one basket. If 257 he did otherwise, the whole tranche could be blown on a couple of small-scale musicals or seven or eight straight plays. But about 60 productions are required each year, so the shortfall is obvious. Though it is very early in the life of the Fund to form a judgment, I fear that it will not be able to achieve its purpose unless very large sums indeed are added to it.
With a great degree of reluctance, I am forced to the conclusion that the only remaining solution may lie in taking the West End theatres themselves—the bricks and mortar—into public ownership. I float this concept with great trepidation, for further nationalisation is as abhorrent to me as to the majority of your Lordships. The notion at first instance is uninviting to some of my erstwhile colleagues who, in most cases, run their theatres with far greater efficiency than is likely, from existing experience of other industries, to be displayed by a public board. But the time may not be too far off when it will be the only way of preserving this vital part of our heritage, and certain advantages could accrue.
It would guarantee that no further theatres would be lost, for while we cannot presently tear one down—a situation greatly helped by the admirable Theatres Trust Act piloted through your Lordships' House a year ago by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls—there is no means by which their owners can be compelled to prevent them crumbling away. It would enable some very necessary improvements to be made to the facilities of these uniquely suitable structures which the present outlook inhibits. It would allow public funds to be involved only at the later, and therefore safer, stage when productions are already in existence and shown to be worthy of support, rather than the more hazardous judgment which has to be made by the Theatre Investment Fund. It would bring into the nation's ownership that most tangible of assets, real estate; though it has to be recognised that it is an asset which, by the nature of business, is only revenue-earning for about 20 hours of each week. It would be in line with what has already had to occur in the Provinces, where at this moment only 8 per cent. of the theatres remain in private hands. The cost would be considerable and although 258 the Government might like the idea emotionally, they would presumably feel that we cannot afford it. A Government of a different complexion would probably prefer any solution rather than this, but I believe they would be hard pressed to evolve one.
Since long before any of us were born, it has been continuously said that the theatre is a-dying. I do not believe that we have a terminal case on our hands, but the arteries are hardening and urgent remedial action is called for if the nation is to preserve one of our most priceless assets.
§ Lord REDCLIFFE-MAUD
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I could read into the Record that not the only references in the report to the commercial theatre were the ones he mentioned—in connection with "Hair" and "Oh! Calcutta!". I quote:Long-standing plans for the establishment of the Theatre Investment Fund for use by the commercial theatre should be implemented without delay. By this and other methods we must seek to combine public and private patronage of the threatre and ensure that each complements the other and avoid wasteful duplication".
§ Lord AMPTHILL
My Lords, I entirely accept what the noble Lord said, though r hope he will agree that they are the only plays that he actually named.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Lord RHODES
My Lords, I was so interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, had to say and in the answer that came from the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, that I almost forgot to get up. I think we are indebted to the noble Lords, Lord Feversham and Lord Redcliffe-Maud, for the parts they have played in today's debate. I recall that Lord Melbourne was reputed on one occasion to have said that God helped the Minister who meddles with the arts. I do not know whether or not God helps the Minister, but if He does it is not on account of his having meddled with the arts but it is because of his having assisted them.
We are very fortunate in having him as Minister. He asked a very pertinent question of the noble Earl, Lord Haig, across the Floor of the House. He asked: how can you find out whether or not an 259 artist is a true artist? My mind went back to when I was a little lad and used to accost an old man coming from the local foundry. The game was to ask him what he did, and he always replied: "I paint all colours black" I never found out the profundity of that remark until I lent one of my Lowry pictures to the Tate and, following it up to see whether they had given it a proper place in the exhibition, I came across three panels painted black—and then I understood that the old man was not the village idiot at all: he was a forerunner of what was to come.
We have had plenty of argument today and plenty of talk about what we should do about the arts. I am going to agree briefly with several points. I would agree that at least the real value of public grants should be maintained. We must not let inflation erode them. I think that the arts cannot be self-supporting. The Arts Council in its day has done a good job, and this afternoon it has been very fortunate that we have heard a speech from Lord Gibson, the ex-chairman of the Council. It is about time that a tribute was paid to that gentleman for the way he took on that job, following a genius (shall I say?) in the art administration world, in the person of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. The Council, under Lord Gibson, has done a unique job too, in that it has provided money to public organisations without undue suggestions that the recipients will be subjected to political or public pressures. That has been very important indeed. No country has manged to do this as satisfactorily as we have.
I believe, too, that love of the arts cuts across all political boundaries. The Arts Council has been very right, in the policy which it has pursued on grants. of adopting no more than an advisory role when giving money to an institution, except for ensuring that the institution used it for the purpose for which it was given. I think that that was a very wise policy.
We heard from the noble Lod, Lord Gibson, this afternoon about the mistakes that have been made, and in all probability he was then referring to what has been commented on in the North where masturbation, was shown in the Institute of Contemporary Arts as a piece of theatre. 260 That was a mistake if ever there was one. But the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, admits that one cannot always be right on this, and if things were tightened down so that direction came from the centre it could be even worse than what we have experienced.
In general, the Arts Council had to be satisfied that the people to whom it gave its money were respected in their own localities. First, they should be people with good knowledge of the art forms concerned, who are capable of maintaining an independence of spirit. To Governments, I would say, "Do not cut the arts as you would cut institutions with vastly more money, which are so well entrenched that they can weather a few lean years". This is not in the same category. If we cut the arts, then the basic pattern of patronage which we have built up will wither and will prove extremely costly to replace in a few years' time.
Another point I would make is that we must stop pitting the regions against central Government. It is a futile exercise. It is about time that this was stopped. I do my best, as the President of the North-West Arts Association, to stop it. For instance, the English National Opera Company, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and Covent Garden all work on a level which cannot be created anywhere else in this country, because it is so top-level. We are very glad that the National touring companies which have come to us in Manchester during the last year or two have had such a high level of attainment. So we thank you very much for having organised it. That is my first point on what the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, said about the Arts Council.
I now come to local authorities. Local loyalties are important in this field, and never mind about the professionalism of the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, in this connection. The arts will not flourish without a buoyant loyalty for local things. The Government who put into operation some of the ridiculous groupings in the 1974 changes in local government are responsible for many of the present attitudes of local authorities in connection with the arts. We are reaping some of the seeds of trouble sown in the 1974 arrangements. For example, all one needs to do 261 is observe what has happened in Manchester. The Greater Manchester authority and the City authority are still daggers drawn about the arts. It is well known. They are finding it difficult to speak to each other, and if they do speak it is in very strained circumstances.
The local authorities are treating the regional art authorities as post boxes, and nothing more. Local authorities want their money returned to their areas—it is as crude as that—plus a due proportion of the Arts Council grant. So that a lot of education and patience is necessary. Furthermore, most local authorities expect a due proportion of seats on regional authority association committees. So I very strongly support the recommendation of the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, who said, "Do not let us have any fixed policy at the moment. Let us wait a bit and let it simmer. Let some of this local authority antagonism die down for a few years". But we do not want to be too despondent about it either, and some of the miserable remarks that have been made this afternoon about our accomplishments were misplaced.
I come to my last point, which is really an extension of the three points made by the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, as to what people can do for themselves. Here I come to the amateur, but not in the same way as the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, or the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, because Lord Vaizey was frightened about the unemployment that would ensue. I would rather have in a district first-class amateurs with a following and some enthusiasm, than third-rate professionals who had been found jobs simply because they were out of work.
Patronage takes many forms. Most of the patronage that we have been talking about this afternoon is money. You make a mistake if you think that money can do everything, because it cannot. But dedicated people can do a lot more than money, and although there were a few smiles when the noble Lord, Lord Milford, was talking this afternoon, he made one of the best speeches we have heard today. He introduced some earthy, grass roots arts when he talked about what they are doing where he lives. I can do the same, and will for a couple of minutes.
262 Every few years, we have a festival which began from humble beginnings. For that week we can now take the best artists in the world. All kinds of institutions have been associated and founded from it, and I will read out one or two for your Lordships to be going on with. Our district has 18,000 population in seven villages. It is not many, but when we have a festival 2,000 people are involved. It is a question of leadership. We have involved all the institutions which have the well-being of our community at heart. There are mixed voice choirs, male voice choirs, the WI Historical Society, the Artists Association, brass bands, schools, the Civic Trust, dramatic societies, operatic societies and the Chamber Concerts Society which gives six concerts a year, every one of which is by an international professional group.
We do not owe anybody any money, and we have not asked for much yet. Then there is the contribution of manufacturers, that body of people who sometimes are reviled by the élite, although they are part of our heritage and our art. We held an exhibition of what people do at work. It is no use having an arts association that puts on exhibitions unless you reflect what people do at work as well as with their leisure. At our last festival, 10,000 people walked through that exhibition of manufacturers' materials and their work. That was out of a population of 18,000, although all of the people did not come from our district.
The noble Earl, Lord Haig, spoke about literature and books. Our last festival produced a book which dealt with the Saddleworth heritage and contained a description of the history of our ancient buildings, illustrated by a national artist. The result was that at the Design Centre's last exhibition only a few months ago, commemorating the invention of printing, that book was on exhibition as one of the fine achievements of present-day printing. The historical society are now considering the publication of a book on emigration of Saddleworth folk to America in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries—a challenging task. However, I hope that the book will feature the work of all the famous illustrators of the period. This could not be done without leadership, and always we have a ready response. We have the editor of the local paper; a banker; two manufacturers; an artist and 263 an accountant who always says, "No". Therefore we have the pleasure of overruling him. He always gives us the energy and enthusiasm to stretch ourselves to the limit.
When we speak about the arts, for Heavens' sake! let us stop whining for public money and get on with doing a bit ourselves. If it means that we cannot give public money to support the private theatres of London, at any rate let us try to do something better ourselves in the Provinces.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Lord PLATT
My Lords, I had another engagement this afternoon which I thought I might keep, but I have been so interested in the debate—and I am so grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, for initiating it—that I cut the other engagement and have listened to nearly all of the speakers. The hour is late and I hope not to detain your Lordships for very long. With that in view, I intend to confine my remarks entirely to one subject, the education of young musicians, since that is perhaps the only subject upon which I am entitled to speak with any kind of authority.
I have been a member of the governing bodies of a large number of musical institutions. As its name implies, most of the debate has been concerned with the provision of money for the arts and the extent to which that provision rests on the Arts Council, central Government, local Government and so forth. I shall not be dealing with that part of the subject. It has been said, absolutely rightly, that standards in musical education have improved enormously in the last 30 years. To anybody who knows anything about it, this is very true. In fact, 50 years would be a better period to take, because it is now 50 years since the Royal College of Music in London founded its junior department where talented young musicians, after a searching audition and usually supported by their local councils, gather on a Saturday morning and learn, under distinguished musicians, to play their instruments and join orchestras. I mention the Royal College of Music, simply because I know rather more about it than I do about the other colleges. However, I think that the Royal Academy of Music, the Guildhall School of Music, 264 Trinity College and some of the provincial colleges also have their junior departments.
Most speakers have referred to the fact that in times of economic difficulty one cannot expect new and costly ventures to be started; there may have to be a lull. Some speakers have gone so far as to say that we must not let present standards fall; but not a single speaker whom I have heard has told your Lordships that standards are falling very seriously. This is the point that I want to bring to the attention of noble Lords. Local education authorities are told to save money, and very often they leave it to the individual school to decide in what way money can be saved.
Teachers of music in primary and secondary schools are, nearly always, part time people who can be disposed of, whereas the permanent staff cannot be sacked quite so easily. "Oh, it is all right they say," but in future the children's parents will have to pay for their lessons whereas previously they were provided by the school". Half of the parents either will not, or cannot, pay for the lessons, and in that way quite promising pupils are dropping out from their early education in music. At the same time, music teachers are finding it even more difficult than it was before to make a living—and then it was difficult enough.
Although I was very interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, which touched on this subject, I did not agree with him when he suggested that we ought to teach fewer people but perhaps at a rather higher level. I personally think the level is just about as high as we could reach at the present time. I do not mean that every small child who first handles a violin will reach a high standard; a large number of them drop out in any case. But I do not like the idea that you tell them that music is a very difficult profession in which to make a living and you advise them not to take it up. I think there is so much joy in learning and in playing music, even if you never reach professional standards, that it is a great pity to cut it down in that way. It may be I have overemphasised the point which the noble Lord was making. When one looks around other spheres of education, after all people do take degrees in politics, philosophy and economics—and end up 265 in the Foreign Office. They do not have to end up as philosophers or economists, but nevertheless they seem to think that kind of education is of some benefit. I know a large number of good amateur musicians whose real work is in science, mathematics or commerce or something of that kind.
To return to the training of youth, the standards among youth orchestras now are incredibly high and, as I have just said, most of the colleges in London and in the Provinces have their junior departments where talent can be detected and trained. But they are suffering too. Since 1975 the grant from the Department of Education and Science to the Royal College of Music in London, and presumably to other colleges as well, has changed to a deficiency grant and can no longer be used for students of school age. There is therefore no support from that source for their junior departments, which in a way are the most important departments of the school. I think this is a tragedy and it should be brought to the attention of the Government in no uncertain terms; and that is the gist of my speech.
Local authorities supporting young musicians, giving them bursaries—or exhibitions, I think they are usually called—to join the junior departments of the colleges, are withdrawing their support and are saying: "Well, the parents can pay for it". In some instances—authenticated instances—the local authority has withdrawn its support for a student halfway through a course, and all this when costs are rising to an enormous extent. A 'cello which I bought 18 years ago for £125 is now insured for £2,000. That gives some idea of the costs of running an orchestra—even a school orchestra—which need not have a 'cello of that quality.
Another instance I should like to put before your Lordships is of a certain youth orchestra, which I will not mention by name because I do not want to be accused of special pleading, who came out top of the youth orchestras of England, who played in the Schools Prom. and has now been invited to the International Congress of Youth Orchestras in Aberdeen in August, and is the only English youth orchestra which will appear there. It has no support whatever from any source 266 except what it can scrape up itself and what the parents can afford towards sending the children to Aberdeen.
Finally, I should like to point out that this is a serious social defect, and that in a time of a Socialist Government we are tending towards a situation in which those who can pay for it can go on with their musical education and those who cannot pay for it will have to give it up.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Lord BEAUMONT of WHITLEY
My Lords, I, too, would like to repeat, like other noble Lords before me, the thanks that we all realise are due to the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, and the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, and I think particularly to the Gulbenkian Foundation because one of the subjects we are discussing today is how important it is that there are foundations like that and that there are other sources of money to help us with the promotion of the arts in this country. I should also like to offer my contratulations to the two maiden speakers, whom we certainly hope we shall hear again. Of course if the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, thinks that was an uncontroversial speech I long to know what will happen in this House when he makes what he considers to be a controversial one. It was certainly most interesting and I look forward most probably to crossing swords with him on some future occasion.
A lot of the attention that is now being paid, both in terms of reports and in other ways, by bodies like ourselves is, as has already been said, due to the financial crisis—the financial crisis which I think was most succinctly stated in the Scottish Phillips Report published yesterday. It says:The arts are peculiarly disadvantaged in an inflationary situation for two main reasons:On the one hand, consumers have less disposable income to pay for what they regard as less essential items, and so ticket price increases have to be kept below the level of increase in real costs. On the other hand, the live performing arts are highly labour intensive and have virtually no opportunity to increase productivity by taking advantage of technological advances. Central and local government is under great pressure to reduce, or at least not to increase, support for the arts in favour of other programmes whose credentials to be regarded as indispensable are better established".As a result of this crisis we are now beginning to turn our attention much 267 more to what we are to do about the situation and how we are to safeguard what has been achieved. In the past political Parties virtually did not have policies for the arts. They remembered Lord Melbourne's famous dictum:God help the Minister who meddles in art",and they thought it was quite sufficient to say, "Give more money to the arts", and to call that a policy. Well, it is not. So now there is some thinking, and I believe it is true to say that we are getting some thinking along the lines of the philosophies of the various people concerned.
For instance, I have in my hand a document entitled, The Arts—a discussion document for the Labour movement. This is the Renée Short document and I think it shows the sort of philosophy with which some people approach the arts. I quote from Section 9, which says:we must streamline the organisation of arts administration and cut away the unnecessary bureaucratic layers".I imagine that is something we would all agree with. It then goes on to say how it is going to do that:Local authorities will be required to establish arts and entertainment committees at district and county levels… These arts and entertainment committees will be obliged to co-opt half of their membership, which will have full voting rights and will be composed of representatives chosen by the entertainment unions, subsidised Arts Management and other relevant bodies.They (the local arts and entertainment committees) will send elected delegates to a regional conference held every year where they will debate arts policy and elect delegates to a National Conference, again to be held annually. This National Conference will also provide a forum for discussion on arts policy and every three years will be eligible to elect one-third of the membership of specialist panels who will advise the Government and local authorities on matters of policy and will administer Government funds… These panels will then elect a chairman and vice-chairman, who will form the membership of a new National Council for Arts and Entertainments".In the name of streamlining the organisation of arts administration and cutting away unnecessary bureaucratic measures, I think that takes the biscuit!
My main argument tonight will be along the lines of dispersal of arts patronage, and to a certain extent—and I hope your Lordships will forgive me—following in the footsteps of the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, who said so much with which I agree. I am sure it is necessary that we 268 encourage more and different patrons, that not everything is channelled in the one way. I know everyone is aware of this, but I think we need to take specific steps. What I think we must do is to get over two barriers. One is the barrier of saying that we cannot make tax concessions to industries and bodies and individuals who help the arts. I see no reason why we should not do this. I think partly it is Treasury obstinacy, and secondly the defence is always put up that the Americans did it and there were a great many gaps in it and it was misused. That is never an argument. I am absolutely sure we can adopt someone else's policy and put right what was wrong with it.
The second thing we might well consider doing is tying the arts more closely to what they are seen to achieve in economic terms. I do not think we should be too pure about this and say that art must not be commercial in any way. I refer, of course, to tourism. There is no doubt that the arts in this country contribute enormously to the amount of money which is brought in. I see no reason why we should not have specific tourist taxes at a fairly low level, which would not deter in any except the most marginal way the inflow of tourists. I plead once again, as I suppose I have pleaded all my life, and I am sure will plead for the rest of my life because the Treasury will never give way, that we finally get rid of this bugbear that you cannot attach the proceeds of certain taxes to certain good purposes which you wish to achieve. We must get over that. But even if we do not get over that, the identification in the public mind of the money we earn from tourism with the arts, which so much stimulate that, would be a very good idea.
So I see the way forward as one which tries to say that the Arts Council must not grow any bigger. It is a very fine body. It must, of course, be kept abreast of inflation. I think in fact it probably needs to be re-fashioned a little. This is only if you can get the alternative methods of patronage. If you cannot get them, then the Arts Council must go on doing all that it is now doing. If you can get the alternatives, I think the Council should concentrate initially on three things. First of all, it should concentrate on the high arts which, on the whole, cannot be subsidised other than through Government—grand opera, 269 et cetera. Secondly, it should concentrate on the very experimental art and nurture that. Thirdly, it should concentrate more than it has on infrastructure services. The kind of thing I mean is the machinery for helping some of our great theatrical productions to travel round the country more than they do at the moment. There is really great wastage of talent and ability here which could be available to a great many more people.
With regard to the idea that control at local level should be more and more in the hands of the local councils, I tend to agree with my noble friend Lord Norwich that this, for the time being anyway, is a hit of a mirage. I know times are moving on. The time has gone when, if there was a daring statue, the Lord Mayor could say: "Art is art and you cannot do anything about it, but the modesty of the Lady Mayoress must be preserved". We have moved on, and there are a lot of local authorities and councillors who take all this seriously. But you have only to look at the size of the arts rates at the moment to see that we have not moved very far.
There are many ways in which councils can expand their help to the arts. I would mention two things in particular. One is something in which I must declare an interest as president of the British Federation of Film Societies. I am very sad that more money does not go to film societies. It is probably the area where local authorities could help most, because a little money goes a long way; £50, which is nothing to a local theatre, can be the saving of a local film society. I think also there should be a concentration on helping those cooperatives of artists who are trying to help themselves. I refer particularly to bodies like Space and Air, which many noble Lords will know about. Where there are municipal buildings suitable for the activities of such bodies it is not at all improper that real concessions of rates and rents be given. I suggest this is something to which many bodies, including the Greater London Council, ought to turn their attention.
My Lords, before I conclude I want to pick on one field which has been neglected and to take up a couple of points raised in the course of the debate. The field which has been largely neglected today is the field of film. I think this is an area where 270 something can be done. The film industry of Britain, unlike the other sections of the arts we have been discussing, is in a terrible way. The films it produces are, on the whole, not good. As a film centre London does not begin to compare with Paris. The reason for the basic sickness of the industry is that it is ground, in a way typical of today, between, on the one hand, the oligopoly of the distributors—well illustrated by their totally unnecessary action taken against the admirable Derek Hill in his attempts to bring good and interesting cinema to London—and a really tough and almost monopolistic union on the other.
I do not put any faith whatsoever in the proceedings which are going on at the moment to solve the industry's problems. We had a Working Party which produced recommendations, some of which were good but very few of which reached the heart of the matter. We have now got, a year later, an interim action committee. We may sooner or later get an action committee, but whether we ever get action is highly open to doubt. In the meantime, first-class suggestions which have been put forward by the Association of Independent Producers, and which have met with a stony reception from both those two other bodies, should be seriously considered, and any weight and influence the Minister has in this direction should be applied as promptly as possible to try to support their very useful initiative.
My Lords, perhaps I may mention two minor points. First of all, I take on board the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, about public lending right. I have already discussed this with my honourable friend in another place, Mr. Clement Freud, the spokesman for the arts, and I will be talking to him again; let us see whether we can lean a little in the right direction on the right people, some of whom, I know, would welcome it. I should also like to say a few words in defence of commercial art galleries. Some unkind things have been said today, not least by the noble Lord, Lord Milford, on this subject. On the whole, although there are a few bad apples, the art galleries in London do a very good job; they look after their artists extremely well and in a very sensitive way. If one says that they make money out of it—yes, they do, but that is how they live and many of them also make money 271 for their artists. It is absolutely right to say that we would not have the reputation we have at present in this country for producing good artists and sculptors if they had not only been helped by bodies such as the Arts Council but by sensitive and discriminating commercial galleries. On the whole, that is the right way of looking at it, and they certainly should not be condemned out of hand.
I also want to say a few words about the ICA, which has done a magnificent job over a long period of time. It receives all the stick; it is always being abused, quite often for things that it does not get right. But what really annoys me—it infuriates me—is that so much of the criticism comes from people who never go to see its successes when it has them and who would not understand them if they did because they would not be prepared to devote the time and energy. There will always be good, simple art, but good, simple art also needs complicated advanced art as well. One can tell that because it is art to which other artists pay attention. Although the artistry of the Carl Andres and Richard Longs of this world may seem simple—so simple that it looks to some people like the emporer's new clothes—they are in fact dealing with highly complicated concepts which are very much appreciated by their fellow artists.
I should like to return to my main point because it is the main point of my Party's thinking on these matters. It is the need for diversification. We do not want the arts to become like the river in Egypt, where the Nile flows through the middle, like the Arts Council, and patches on either side are irrigated but there is a desert beyond. I do not mean this geographically because I know about going into the Provinces. Giving money helps to popularise the arts—where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. People should be allowed and encouraged to help. Rather than the picture of a Nile running through the desert, I should like to see many smaller rivulets of patronage encouraged so that the whole garden can be irrigated.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
My Lords, I am grateful, as is 272 everyone else, to the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, for calling attention to this report; he is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, for having produced it. We have had a very interesting debate. A great many ideas have been advanced and my great problem always is not to spend the next hour commenting on them. I shall try very hard not to be too long, but there is a certain amount to say and I find it impossible to skip the lot.
I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh—whose hospitality I enjoyed so much in Edinburgh—on his maiden speech. I have admired his chairmanship of the Scottish Arts Council from a distance for many years and, as a noble Lord said, one can tell that he has been a very good chairman from the quality of his speech, which was extremely wise and in places extremely witty. He made two or three points which were new to me. For example, I thought that his consideration of the number of people who must have passed through as Arts Council members was an interesting idea which I had not thought of before and it is worth dwelling on. This is not a stereotyped, hard and fast. dug-in, self-electing body; it is a body which changes very rapidly but which, on the whole, has supported its administration loyally through several generations. The noble Lord admitted, which Scots do not always do, that up there they have a smaller population than we have—in fact, smaller than many of the regional arts associations. He also admitted that the percentage of Scottish people interested in the arts is probably lower than ours, which is interesting. That is a great problem which, if I have time, I should like to comment on later.
I should like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Gosford. However, I thought he was asking a little for the moon. I do not want to become involved in a long argument about this, but it is very difficult to decide when an artist is an artist except by the commercial fact that members of the public are prepared to buy or at least borrow his pictures. A great advance is being made in this area in various places in the country by libraries and art galleries lending out pictures. Yesterday, when I was in Sheffield, I went to the art gallery and saw a not particularly well-dressed man borrow a picture. All the pictures 273 lent out at that gallery are by living artists. I asked this man how long he had been borrowing pictures and he said for about two years. He said that he changed them about every two or three months and that it is marvellous. He pays £2 a year. It is in that sort of way that living artists want to be encouraged, rather than being paid to paint pictures which no one wants to see. The noble Earl was not allowed to be controversial so I shall not be either. I congratulate him on his speech. It is worth noting that in the last six months I have seen two exhibitions financed by firms. The last one was by Tolly Cobbold which I saw yesterday in Sheffield; it is giving quite large prizes for artists from different areas and running exhibitions for them.
The noble Lord, Lord Feversham, was rather hard on us in places, but as his was the first speech I do not resent that. He made one particular comment about which I want to speak. He said that we ought to have a prolonged campaign to try to get the public to support the arts in a proper way. I am involved in a personal campaign, and I hope that all noble Lords present will become involved in the same one. I go into the country at least once a week. The noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, said that he had visited 67 local authorities. I cannot go quite as high as 67—I have visited over 50. When one talks to the people on the ground it does a great deal of good. There are always two groups. There is the finance group, which is thinking of the rates; and there is the arts group, which is thinking of the arts. The arts group always wants support against the finance group. People like us can give such support very well. That is very important and is something real that we can do; it is not something that we can spread very wide. Those of us who have local roots can really do something about that.
I shall not take up the points raised by the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, about the heritage, because we have just had a debate on that. I wish to make only one point. I am very glad that he referred to the £3.000 million in private hands. He said that he thought it was more. I got the stick from what is technically known as a "heritage buff" for mentioning it at all. He said it was disgraceful for a Minister for the Arts to say such a thing. 274 We agree that at least it is true, even though perhaps one should not always speak the truth. I am appalled by his reminder—which I heard when I was in America—that the Getty Museum has an income of £30 million a year spending money.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
That really raises problems, and I shall not attempt to deal with them. However, it is very shaking. Among other things, the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, asked for quinquennial valuations. The reason that we ceased to have triennial valuations was that we ran into a 30 per cent. rate of inflation and it was quite impossible to do. Every one has agreed, not least the Treasury, that as inflation is reduced we should go back to triennial valuations as soon as possible. I shall not say anything about the speech of my noble friend Lord Redcliffe-Maud because the whole debate is about it, except that he hoped that regular information on arts spending would be available. My information is that this is being continued and that it will be available.
I was naturally very bucked to be described by my old and noble friend Lady Lee as meek and mild. I always try to give that impression but am not sure that I always succeed, so it came as a great pleasure to me. However, I am not so meek as to be able to refrain from telling her that I think she is absolutely wrong in what she said and I think I am absolutely right, and I think we will leave the argument there.
I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, mentioned Glyndebourne. This has been an amazing triumph of a personal individual and is carrying on wonderfully. I was there two nights ago and it was very fine. The training for the arts, which the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, talked about is something which we must debate in the next Session. It is frightfully important. The noble Lord, Lord Platt, and various other noble Lords spoke about it. Curiously enough, I talked about it the other day at Coombe Lodge near Bath, where there was a further education conference on the arts and 275 further education. I made a number of Lord Vaizey's points, not because he told me but I suppose because we went to the same sources, and one of them was the danger of too much vocational training instead of training for general appreciation.
One of the difficulties is that people who are trained to become highly skilled in something expect necessarily to get a job in it. As the noble Lord, Lord Platt, said, people sometimes go into the Civil Service even if they are philosophers, and I think musicians, for example, have got to consider this. We all felt that Lord Gibson's speech was very revealing. I did not find anything in it I differed from. I shall look very carefully—and I have already told him this—at the lack of flexibility he complains of and the Council's rather difficult relationship with the Civil Service when it comes to appointments. I do not know what can be done, but it is an important matter to look at.
He referred to tax concessions, as did the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. The point about a tax concession is that from the Treasury's point of view it is simply cash. If you ask for tax concessions they say, "How much will it come to? and you say £7 million, so they say, "Well, you are asking for £7 million". This does not help at all, if you see what I mean. I should love to see tax concessions, but people speak as though in some way it was not money that the Treasury would not otherwise have.
§ Lord BEAUMONT of WHITLEY
My Lords, I entirely agree with Lord Donaldson's point. Perhaps I was galloping a little. The point I am trying to make is that when the time comes to expand again, beyond just keeping up with inflation, rather than just put more money into the Arts Council let us then start giving that money through tax concessions.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE
My Lords, I think that that is a perfectly sensible idea. As a form of cash this would be worth considering. The noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, and others spoke about PLR. May I leave it by saying that I was in a train to and from Sheffield yesterday and only heard the political developments late last night and I have had no time to reopen this 276 question. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has and I think there is a question to be reopened, but I would not say more than that.
The noble Lord, Lord Milford, will have to look out for the Truck Act if he is going to sell his pictures for hay. I think we have to be careful about that. Otherwise I thought what he said was extremely interesting. The noble Earl, Lord Haig, has gone. May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, that I am very worried about the commercial theatre, and I think so are we all. Nobody quite knows what ought to be done. It is easy to say, "Take off VAT", but we all know the arguments on the other side and they are very difficult to deal with. I have not any particular remedy to offer at the moment. The Theatre Investment Fund is doing something. I hope it does not come to taking over the West End theatres. I think it would be rather a terrible thing to happen, but I do not think that it will happen. My noble friend Lord Rhodes cheered us all up very much indeed by showing what you can do for yourselves in different localities. I think that the involvement of 2,000 people in a festival of the kind referred to is extraordinary. I intend saying another word about festivals.
There are three things which I think are outstanding to discuss tonight, and on two of them there has been a large measure of agreement. The first is that the Redcliffe-Maud Report has accepted from the word go that this is a time not of cutback but of holding back and a time of waiting and survival rather than for vast expansion. Generally speaking, though a number of noble Lords have said what many of us feel, that we ought to have more, I think that on the whole it is accepted—and I think it is accepted by the noble Earl on the Front Bench opposite—that this is not a moment to make too much fuss about getting a great deal more. The thing to do is to try to hold what you have got.
The second thing on which there has been absolute agreement is the arm's length principle. We are all satisfied that this is the right way to do things. We do not want the Arts Council telling people what to do, and we do not want the Government telling the Arts Council what to do, so that is very satisfactory.
277 The most controversial and difficult part of the report—and I think in many ways the most important—is the idea of gradually handing over the major role in the arts to local authorities outside the Metropolis. The report says:We must look to local elected councils at district and county level to become chief art patrons of the long-term future".This is a crux suggestion which we have to take a lot of time thinking about and, as various noble Lords have said, not rush into but have fairly clear intentions as to where we want to go.
At the local level, local authorities are already important patrons of the performing arts in addition to the strong support which they give to museums and galleries, and indeed of course libraries, with the qualification that the level of support varies considerably from place to place. A recently published Arts Council Report, which has been referred to already, estimated that they spent about £26 million in 1974/75 and about half of this was on the arts and the rest on museums and galleries. We have not got any later figure, but I do not suppose that local authority spending in the current year will be very much less, and this is about the figure, £19 million to £20 million, that the Arts Council is spending of its grant outside the Metropolis.
Whether the local authorities can maintain their support at the steady level that so far we have succeeded in doing remains to be seen, but unless they do the local authorities will manifestly disqualify themselves from the role that Redcliffe-Maud has mapped out for them. Local authority budgets are bound to be sensitive to local political pressures, and it may prove to be the case that only the Government, through the Arts Council, will be able to secure that steady and reliable measure of public money which is so important to the planning of artistic activity. This is something which may be true today, but with really careful work and steady education of the public I think that this can be altered.
There is a further and more fundamental consideration. If local authorities are ever to become the principal patrons of the arts it will be because the Arts Council's 278 role as a patron has been diminished. Before we can contemplate that we need to be sure that the detailed application of the transferred funds should not be decided by local councillors as immediate or direct patrons of the arts. It would be a retrograde step if the money which national politicians have rightly declined to distribute directly should come to be so distributed by local politicians.
Funds made available from the Arts Council's allocation should, if possible, be distributed in detail by a separate body which stands between the local politicians and the artistic client. This of course was the intention of the Redcliffe-Maud Report through the Regional Arts Associations.
On such a body the local authorities could well have the dominant voice. This is the case now with more than half the Regional Arts Associations. But experience already suggests that these associations work best when they have the same independence in their local aesthetic decisions as does the Arts Council in its national aesthetic decisions, and in that situation we have a happy blend of the financial wisdom and prudence of the local authorities with the aesthetic verve and initiative of local artistic directors and enthusiasts.
To build up a regional arts association based on this happy relationship is not easy, as I have suggested. It will take a lot of work from all of us and it may be even harder to maintain that relationship when we have got it. Of course it varies very much from one place to another. It would be quite wrong for the Arts Council to force its clients to look to Regional Arts Associations rather than to the Council. The Regional Arts Association must be seen to have proved itself as a patron and, if it has, the clients will come to it.
Although they vary in their origins, experience and constitution, all these associations derive their actual or potential strength from the fact that they are voluntary bodies committed to the arts. They prosper when all those who work in and with them, including the local authorities, build on their inherent vitality and commitment. Regional arts authorities have a much better chance of whipping 279 up local money than the local authorities themselves, and this is a very valuable function. I talked recently to all three of the local authority associations and I think that what I have said is in line with their thinking; they are not opposed to this kind of approach, so I hope we can get somewhere there.
In his opening speech Lord Feversham asked what had happened to the Lever Report. He will be aware from the Prime Minister's Statement on 2nd December last, that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster made his report to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister was able, as a result, to confirm in his Statement that there would be no major changes in the Government's policies towards the arts which are generally on the right lines. He dealt with a number of important issues which have also been raised in this debate. It is sometimes advantageous and in the interest of a frank appraisal if the report made to a Minister by a colleague is treated as a private document. Each Minister has to decide how far such a report should be communicated to others and the Prime Minister has made his decision, which is all I have to say on that topic.
Lord Feversham referred at the beginning of this debate to the TUC's own report on the arts which was published in 1976. This endorses what it described as the emerging three-tier system of arts administration whereby the Arts Council sets the broad outlines of national provision and maintains national art institutions, local authorities provide directly for the cultural needs of the people in their locality, and the Regional Arts Associations cater for regional needs and assist in co-ordinating the work of local authorities in their regions. The report also recommended that live music should be extended, that more should be done to ensure that radio and television meet their responsibilities to the performing arts and that the industrial sponsorship of the arts should be encouraged. The Working Party said that the latter should never be regarded as a substitute for public spending. I think that has been endorsed by nearly all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate; that the main contribution will have to be public. As one noble Lord said, ABSA and the business sponsors will provide the 280 jam, we having provided the bread and butter.
I must comment on the question of spreading the arts, which is much the most difficult problem, philosophically and practically, that is before us. People say that there is no policy for the arts, but in fact there is a very strong policy for the arts. This and previous Governments have taken the John Stuart Mill rather than the Bentham view about the quality of pleasure. The Government have taken the absolutely clear view that pleasure differs in its value; they may be right or wrong and Bentham thought they were wrong. But that is the view we have taken, and that is what we are spending some £90 million a year on—and good luck to us! There is, therefore, a policy of a perfectly specific kind which it is worth pointing out.
As for the international excellence in the arts which we have achieved in this country and in seeing that more people enjoy the arts and take some active part in them, it has been suggested that these two things are incompatible. I am quite sure they are not, though we have a lot to learn about enabling people to see the best of the arts through television; it is improving, but it is often very unsatisfactory. We must also develop further the touring of the national companies, which is not an easy task but for which I find an avid desire as I tour the country. We must have more touring and I think the national institutions will recognise their duty here if facilities can be improved. I have just got into very hot water with a local theatre for supporting a geographical co-ordination of touring which in the end must lead to better results, but which in this case deprived a local theatre of a visiting company for which they were working up a good audience. This is the sort of difficulty that one cannot but occasionally run into.
Do not let us underestimate the value of local festivals of the kind the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, was telling us about. The enthusiasm and variety of the few I have been personally concerned with this year—Bath, Chichester, Malvern, Guildford and King's Lynn, to mention a few—are infectious in the nicest possible sense of the word and there arc now about 20 regular major festivals in this country, not to mention the major one North of the Border. The Arts Council encourages them quite generously with money and 281 much very sound advice. In addition, there are another 180 or so festivals involving professional artists and some 300 amateur festivals which come on from time to time. This is one of the important ways of spreading the arts; festivals have an immediate and infectious effect which is very valuable.
Redcliffe-Maud suggests that the best way to help the individual artists is by employment in education as full-time or part-time teachers or as visiting performers at schools, universities and so on and in industry and commerce as designers. This is true, provided the artist can maintain his artistic output, but the national Government and local government can employ an artist directly only so far as the taxpayer and ratepayer respectively will permit. Otherwise this is for the private sector, and the Government can only exhort them to adopt a sympathetic and enlightened attitude to the economic worth of the artist.
The practice of employing an "artist in residence" is growing. I have seen it at work in a hospital in Manchester and in the new town of Milton Keynes, where I understand there are two, and I believe this is spreading; I think that North West Arts are paying for one of them and the Gulbenkian Foundation are paying for another. This is a very important concept, in that these young men stir up the hospital marvellously, practise their art at the same time and get a reasonable living for it.
A good deal is going on abroad, and the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, referred to this. I received a letter from our Ambassador in Paris only this morning describing how France is being submerged in what one French newspaper called a "tidal wave" of British culture—the Henry Moore exhibition at the Tuileries, backed up by an exhibition of his prints at the Bibliotheque Nationale, in Bordeaux a major exhibition "From Gainsborough to Bacon" a travelling exhibition of David Hockney, another of Ben Nicholson, another of Richard Hamilton, the National Youth Orchestra, the Glyndbourne Touring Company and others. We must all pay a warm tribute to the British Council for what they are doing in this respect. We may starve the countryside here but we are doing jolly well over there!
282 Lord Redcliffe-Maud referred to the inner city problem. We had a most interesting speech from my noble friend Lord Llewelyn-Davies in the last debate on this subject in which he developed this idea quite widely, and we might all have another look at what he said; it is too late tonight to tell noble Lords exactly what he said. There is no doubt that my colleagues, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for the Environment, are working on this and that there will before very long be a White Paper, which I hope will have something to say along the lines in which we are interested.
My Lords, it is late now. I could go on almost indefinitely, but I shall not. We have had a very interesting debate. I am most grateful to everybody. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Feversham, is pleased with the result that he has produced. I certainly am.
§ Lord BALFOUR of BURLEIGH
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I, at the same time as thanking him for his too kind remarks to me personally, correct a misapprehension which I have unfortunately placed in his mind? The reference I made to the fact that we believe that the proportion of people who enjoy Arts Council functions is far too low was intended to apply to Great Britain as a whole and certainly not to Scotland alone.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Lord FEVERSHAM
My Lords, I have no intention whatever of prolonging these proceedings more than necessary, but I should like to start these very brief concluding remarks by thanking all those noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. It has certainly been a broad-ranging debate, and I hope that those noble Lords who have taken part will feel that it has been successful. In particular, I should like to join in congratulating the two maiden speakers upon their excellent speeches.
I started the debate by suggesting that the future of support for the arts faced two great difficulties; one was the immediate one of the economic crisis, 283 and the second was the difficulty in the future of overcoming public apathy towards creativity. The point has been made that at the moment the French are lapping up the products of British artists: of course, the French have a much better attitude to the arts, on the whole, so they enjoy the work that we produce rather more than we appear to do.
What I feel—and I always tend to feel this whenever we debate the arts in this House—is that we spend quite a lot of time saying how successful we are and congratulating ourselves. Of course, we have been jolly successful and I think that there is cause for congratulating ourselves. Nevertheless, I feel that we should not spend too much time doing that, for I believe that difficulties exist. I was very interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, who, though he said that the Government were to be congratulated for keeping the level of support for the arts up and that the increase in the cost of living was being met by the Government, admitted that that was not maintaining the level of support for the arts because the rate of inflation in the arts was above that in the cost of living. So we have a problem there. We are talking about small sums of money. The margins are on the whole very small, so each year for the last two years, in real terms, we have been getting a cut-back in support for the arts. That is the kind of thing that worries me. We have to overcome the difficulties that we are facing as a result of the economic situation.
I do not want to be harsh. The Minister accused me of being a little harsh upon him. I had no such intention; I wanted to draw him out of his modesty. I merely wanted to give the Minister as much ammunition as possible for his negotiations with the Treasury. I do not think that at present we are keeping pace with inflation in the arts. We are slipping back there.
I was very interested in the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, in which he described the difficulties that faced the visual artist. The Minister himself mentioned the difficulties with regard to the State employing visual artists. Many artists survive through part-time work, but much part-time work has been lost in 284 the education cuts, so there are more difficulties facing artists. There are difficulties facing the arts in this economic climate and I am not at all sure that enough is being done. I am not entirely satisfied, from the Minister's reply, that enough is being done to counter those difficulties. Also, the noble Lord, Lord Platt, mentioned that he felt that there were definite problems of falling standards.
So there are problems. I do not feel that we should be complacent but, having said that, I think that I should thank everybody very much for taking part in the debate and sit down. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.