HL Deb 04 June 1980 vol 409 cc1533-79

8.41 p.m.

Lord VAIZEY rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the difficulties facing young people who are training for careers in the arts. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. First, may I thank all noble Lords in the Chamber who are going to take part in the debate for their great concern about this important issue. A number of other Peers wanted to take part, but they cannot, unfortunately, be present, notably the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, the noble Lord, Lord Miles, and the noble Lord, Lord Vernon, who is unfortunately ill. I hope very much that he will soon be better. I am sure, though, that despite their absence it will be an interesting and valuable debate. Not least, may I in anticipation thank my noble friend for his reply and say how much we are looking forward to the maiden speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, who has come here tonight specially for this important debate.

I had the privilege of being the chairman of two committees of inquiry into training for the arts which were established by the Gulbenkian Foundation. One was into drama and the other was into music. There were two further reports: one on dance, chaired by Mr. Peter Brinson; and another on the visual arts, chaired by Dr. Richard Hoggart, will soon follow. The three reports on the performing arts—I know that my noble friend Lord Gosford will be speaking particularly about the visual arts—make many similar points, and I wish to draw your Lordships' attention to them tonight.

Achievement in the arts is of course a matter of talent and genius, but the high levels of achievement are dependent upon high levels of training. You get good dancers, good orchestras, good actors, out of a well tilled and well fertilised seedbed in which individual plants of genius and talent are nurtured. The rise in the standards of British dance, drama and music in this century, and especially in the past 30 years, is principally due to the excellence of the training which is provided here in Britain. All the reports provide chapter and verse for that. There is no doubt at all that training leads to excellence, and we have excellence in this country probably without parallel in the Western World.

The next point I want to make is that we are dealing with very small numbers of people. All children of course have artistic gifts of one kind or another but the number who are gifted, in the sense that they have the potential to go on to become professional performers or to play in one of the great symphony orchestras, is exceptionally small. In the report on music, we estimated that out of the 10 million children in our schools, something like 30,000 children were probably gifted in that sense. The figures for dance and for drama may well be smaller. Not all of those people with these very rare gifts will want to make use of them in their professional lives. Many gifted people, like my noble friend Lord Annan, whose brilliant lecture on Shakespeare the other night showed that he would make a brilliant actor, has chosen to use his gifts in academic life. Not all of these gifted people want to be professional performers, and many of these very gifted children are dealt with perfectly adequately in normal local authority schools or in independent schools, like St. Paul's Girls' School. So the numbers involved that we are talking about are very small, but of course they are terribly important.

If I may come to the first problem to which I wish to draw your Lordships' attention, if you want to exercise a musical or a dancing gift—and there can be few greater gifts that can be bestowed upon anybody than to have the gift to be a musician of genius or a dancer of genius—you have to begin very early. Local authorities are more and more setting up schemes to identify talent and to develop it through music centres and the use of peripatetic teachers in ordinary schools. But there is no doubt at all that some children need a special environment. Noble Lords will know that Mrs. Shirley Williams in the 1976 Education Act exempted schools for music and dance from the general provisions about secondary educational reorganisation which were incorporated in that Act.


My Lords, the noble Lord will remember that noble Lords on his side of the House were bitterly opposed to this exemption.


My Lords, that is perfectly true, although no doubt the noble Lord will also remember that I helped to move various amendments along those lines at that time.


Yes, my Lords, that is right.


If we take some of these schools, like Chetham's School, Manchester, which is a very great school, or Wells Cathedral School or the Royal Ballet School, the difficulty is that these schools are charitable foundations. Although they in some respects get a direct grant from the Department of Education and Science, I hope that ways and means can be found for local authorities to give direct support to these schools—as, indeed, is being tried very imaginatively by the London Borough of Brent for the Purcell School—and that other local authorities will not be unduly restrictive when they are called upon to pay the hefty fees for those very few children who need to go to these schools—perhaps in the whole country at most a few hundred in every year.

May I now turn to the second set of questions relating to the colleges—sometimes misleadingly called schools—which take people from 17 or 18 onwards. Some, like most of the arts schools, the Royal Northern College of Music, the Central School of Drama and the Guildhall School, are in the public sector and are adequately financed. Others, including some of the most prestigious, like the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music, the Upper School of the Royal Ballet, the London Contemporary Dance School and RADA, are in the private sector, and they are finding it increasingly difficult to raise funds. I have for very long thought that for many of them a carefully negotiated entry into the public sector would be for the best. But one problem stands out, and it is the vexed question of mandatory and discretionary grants to students. Roughly speaking, if a British student goes to a university or to a polytechnic to read for a degree, he is in most circumstances qualified for a grant to cover the fees, and a maintenance grant, which is of course means tested, to cover his living expenses. But for other students attending private colleges or non-degree courses—this applies especially to dancers and to actors, for the course at the Upper School of the Royal Ballet is a non-degree course, and this also applies to a good number of musicians—the grants for fees and maintenance are at the discretion of the local authority.

Now the fees in the private sector are necessarily large since they have to contribute to all the costs of the institution which in the case of the universities and the polytechnics are covered by the state. These fees are naturally quite beyond most students. In these hard times, this is where most local authorities, or many local authorities, are cutting.

The consequences are that many really brilliant candidates are not able to train and that some outstanding institutions, like the London Contemporary Dance School, are threatened by closure. That is particularly sad because, as many noble Lords will know, Mr. Robin Howard, having overcome enormous personal difficulties, has created this school which is one of the most distinguished in the world, and it is now threatened by closure. It would be a terrible tragedy if this outstanding contribution to the artistic life not only of this country but of Western Europe and North America were to close.

I tried to get the law on this matter amended during the passage of the Education (No. 2) Bill, but my amendment was defeated. I cannot for the life of me see the reason why the dimmest polytechnic student in business studies or the stupidest chemist at a university should get a mandatory grant while a brilliant dancer or musician is left to the vagaries of discretion. Now that the Prime Minister has reaffirmed in the strongest terms at the Royal Academy Dinner the Government's commitment to the Arts and has announced today an extra £1 million to the Royal Opera House fund, perhaps we can look at this matter again.

It is surely illogical, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, has often said, to protect the specialist secondary schools in the Arts and then, the moment the children leave the junior school in the Royal Ballet at the age of 16, to leave them to the vagaries of local authority discretion when they get to the upper school. It is a bizarre arrangement. Of course the argument is used that it is difficult to discriminate between one kind of student and another. I think that is the wettest kind of argument I have ever heard. After all it is an old adage that "To govern is to choose" and if civil servants cannot devise a scheme I cannot see why they should have such enormous salaries. I am sure it could be done if there was the political will.

I turn now to what is fundamentally the most important issue of all, namely, employment. The over-supply of people trained for the arts seems to me to be endemic in a free society. If you never dare to sell your talent then you never win the prize for expressing it. It is in the nature of being a free country that more people will try to get into the professional arts than are likely to succeed. In my opinion therefore there will always be unemployed actors, artists and musicians. It is a very difficult thing to measure because people are reluctant to give up this ambition in the face of repeated failures. All our attempts to measure it statistically ran into the sand. It does not make it any less unhappy or miserable for the people concerned because it is something which is in the nature of things, but, if we could limit the supply of training places and help to regulate entry to some extent by setting up proper career patterns, I think we could mitigate the misery and ensure that the really able boys and girls progress in their careers.

Two very promising things point the way. We now have a training council in drama under the chairmanship of Mr. Van Straubenzee, the Member of Wokingham, a training board for music under the chairmanship of Mr. John Hosier of the Guildhall School of Music, and one for dance under the chairmanship of Mr. Michael Wood, formerly of the Royal Ballet School. These boards represent the employers, the unions and the training bodies and their job is try to match demand and supply and to raise standards at the training institutions. I hope that one day we shall see a training board for the arts of which these important existing boards would be constituent elements.

That would be an enormous breakthrough because it would link one in to the whole power base of the Manpower Services Commission and all the agencies attached to it. It is important because one of the reasons why the arts have been so badly treated has been because they have not been organised as the rest of the economy is organised. That could be a misleading and philistine statement to make, because I share the view that we do not want an enormous bureaucracy dealing with the arts; that would be death, as it has been in Eastern Europe. "The spirit bloweth where it listeth". On the other hand, there is a great body of legislation and rules, like social security, the tax system, and so on, which affect the arts as much as they affect everything else in our lives.

There is little doubt in my mind that those of us in the arts have to organise if we are to win the legitimate rewards which are available to other people in our society who are organised. It is indicative that we have virtually no lobby in the other place or here, whereas the heritage lobby—which, after all, is ultimately dealing with dead art—is immensely strong. The unions, like Equity and the Musicians' Union (for which I feel very warmly because I have worked with them for a long time) are fully seized of this and I think they are growing more and more influential and we shall see more of their impact on Parliament in the next few years.

I come now to my last point. After graduation, there has to be a path to a full career. The most promising development is the National Centre for Orchestral Studies which was set up by Mr. Nick Tschaikov, a former member of the Philharmonic. My report endorsed and developed his idea and it has the support of the Musicians' Union, the BBC and the Association of British Orchestras. It is located at Goldsmiths' College—that is Dr. Richard Hoggart's college—and it gives graduates in music a full-time professional training in orchestral playing, which is something we have never had before in this country. It prepares them for excellence, but the trouble once more is grants. It picks the candidates to play a particular instrument but the candidates might live in the wrong place to get the money to get them through the course.

I have only a couple of points to make in closing my speech. The major question is, what help do we need from public authorities? First, quite clearly we want mandatory grants for people taking courses in the arts. That really is essential. The second requirement is an open mind about the entry of some private bodies of great distinction into the public sector. That may be unacceptable in the present atmosphere of cutbacks and economic hard times, but it ought not to be. The equation is simple. We want more money for the gifted who form, certainly, a much smaller number than the talented. If the country does not look after the gifted, then, in my judgment, we might just as well give up talking about the outstanding achievements of this country in the arts.

But even on a strict economic calculus the reports that the Gulbenkian Foundation has supported suggests less rather than more public expenditure, for a very simple reason. Perhaps I may explain, since the Minister on the Front Bench at the time could not take it in, although I am sure this Minister will. The present position offers no firm guidance to local authorities as to which are strong and which are weak colleges and schools. Discretion is used to support a large number of private institutions indiscriminately. In our view—and I speak now for the members of the committees which I chaired—too many students are now trained, with a consequent overcrowding of the labour market. We want fewer students to be trained, but trained to an even higher standard. The way to do that is to make the good schools and colleges financially secure enough to enable them to turn away mediocre applicants. At the moment they are having to take in anyone who can pay the fees. So that is why mandatory grants for institutions approved by the training boards are essential for excellence and economy.

My Lords, I have ranged over a wide area of the topic and inevitably I have spoken briefly and superficially about a subject to which I have devoted much study and which I believe to be fundamental to the arts in this country. What used to be lacking was knowledge. The Gulbenkian Foundation has now made knowledge available and the time has come for action. The foundation, the unions and the employers have taken some of the action; the training boards are in existence and so is the National Centre for Orchestral Studies. It is now time for the Government to accept their responsibilities.

8.59 p.m.


My Lords, I am delighted to be able to be the first to thank the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, for having raised this matter with us tonight. We know of his work with the committees of the Gulbenkian Foundation and also some of us know of other work that he does in the arts world, helping the proliferation of the arts and helping others, and we are grateful to him. I think we ought also to express our thanks for the immense help which the Gulbenkian Foundation has given to the arts in this country and to this subject in particular. I think it is right to say that our discussion tonight would not be half as informed as I hope it will be if it had not been for them. Although unfortunately some noble Lords have had to remove their names from the list, we have a distinguished list of speakers and we are delighted to see the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, who is about to make his maiden speech.

I am going to trespass on your Lordships' time—though not very much of it—to go a little wider than the area covered by the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey. That is because he has covered it so well and there is very little with which I disagree. There will be a certain amount, I think, that will emerge in the course of what I am about to say.

I am speaking tonight on behalf of the general feeling of those of us in the Liberal Party who have paid particular attention to the problems of the arts in modern life and what Government should do and should not do about it. I think it is important to put what is being said tonight against a rather broader background. If one had to make a choice, if the money was so short, as to whether you were going to cultivate excellence or you were going to cultivate as much as possible of the bubbling art which can be encouraged at the grass roots among the people of this country, it is the latter that I would choose. It is, of course, a false dichotomy. On the whole it is difficult to have one without the other, in either way.

But why I think the grass-roots effort is the more important is because if you have the grass roots then I think it is impossible that the real geniuses and the really talented people, or at least a very large proportion of them, will not burst their way through and find help, indeed find the help that they are finding from the Gulbenkian Foundation and from your Lordships' debate tonight. But I think it is possible to have a sterile situation in which the few geniuses that there are in every generation are sedulously cultivated and the rest of the art world of the country goes cold and stale. I think that is something which we ought never to allow to happen. I am quite certain that the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, and I are at one in thinking that both are desperately important, but I thought it important that we should not lose track, even in discussing this rather narrow subject tonight, of the basic importance of the arts in society.

To that main point I would add just three shorter ones, almost plucked at random from among the advice I have received from numerous Liberals who work in these fields. The first is the only point on which I think perhaps I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey. I do not think I want to see fewer schools dealing with the arts, although I entirely take the point that there must be discrimination in the way that state money is used in supporting pupils in the arts. I think we must get away from the idea, which we sometimes have, that if you cannot get a job in the profession of the arts then in some way your education in the arts has been wasted. It has not. Education in the arts is a wonderful education and can be used by people in themselves in the whole of their lives. Of course it is a pity and of course it is a tragedy, and I would not deny it for a moment, if people with real talent are not allowed to use that. But what I am saying is that that kind of education is never wasted, and I am not entirely certain whether it is right to say that if you concentrate on fewer schools for better education you must necessarily get rid of the slightly less good schools and the less good education. We must remember, going back to what I was talking about earlier, that we have the need for the teachers and the animateurs who will in fact keep alive this feeling for the arts in the great mass of the people. We are at last no longer really a philistine country; that artistic feeling does exist in many places and in many ways.

The second minor point I wanted to make was that we must be very careful that we do not concentrate on the special schools to the exclusion of postgraduate entry. I know the Gulbenkian Trust took this fully into consideration when they made a report under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey. I do not think it has been mentioned and I think it is important that it is.

The third point I want to raise is the importance of the ethnic arts or ethnic artists. It is very difficult to speak on this matter without appearing to be condescending in some way, without producing half-baked theories as to whether what we need is pure ethnic art from our ethnic minorities or for them to be merging into us. AH I do say is that there is a danger of losing the art that can be produced sometimes in wonderful ways by the ethnic minorities who are with us to stay, and to lose it would be very sad indeed. T. S. Eliot pointed out in his Notes Towards the Definition of Culture that a culture always benefited from the diversity of the sources on which it could count and it always suffered from uniformity. This country is very lucky to have so many ethnic minorities, and one of the things we can actually take from them and use is their arts. Do let us never forget that when we are discussing the main subject of what we are doing about art education.

Before concluding, my Lords, I should like to repeat, or at least re-emphasise, what the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, said about mandatory grants. It is, as he said, absolutely absurd that somehow in this country, which has produced and is producing great musicians, great artists, great sculptors, where our arts are in some ways in many fields at the top of what the world is producing, it should still be thought of as an optional extra which is of no importance. That is something which the Government should do and can do straight away, and I hope they will do something about it, as indeed I hope they will do everything they can to meet the points the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, has put.


My Lords, I rise on this occasion to support completely the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, because I totally agree with the propositions that he has put forward.


My Lords, order. Is the noble Lord in order? We have a list of speakers and a maiden speaker should be speaking next.


I beg your Lordships' pardon.

9.9 p.m.

Viscount CHANDOS

My Lords, I, too, must thank the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, for the opportunity to discuss this important and, even more, urgent question. I must say first of all that I can lay no claim to the depth of study and the qualifications which the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, possesses, and that is particularly so in the area of dance and the theatre. I, too, can claim Robin Howard as an old friend of some 35 years. I have always been interested and aware of what he has been doing at the Institute of Contemporary Dance, but the dance has never played as much a part in my life as music.

At this stage, I should like to pick up a point which the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, made about ethnic contributions. At the Institute of Contemporary Dance, I saw a performance which seemed to me to achieve what I did not believe was possible in dance—namely, a performance that contained such complicated intellectual and, indeed, cerebral ideas that I would not have believed it possible. It was a dance performed by a solo dancer who was black and whether it was due to a genius which was in him irrespective of his colour, or whether it was a particular contribution which came from his ethnic origins, I do not know, but I merely put it forward as a point.

I have in the past had some connections with the theatre. I was in a theatrical management company of charitable status which did not try to make money, and I was a director of a commercial manage- ment company which did try to make money. The latter put on some plays of which I was proud and which lost money; and also some plays of which I was ashamed and which made money. Therefore, on a general basis all that I can really say is that I fully support the recommendations that the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, has advanced tonight; namely, that mandatory grants should be available for the arts as they are for other subjects of higher education, and there should be—but obviously on a longer-term—some reorganisation of education, especially in music, in the colleges.

Having said that, I shall confine any further remarks to the field of music. For, although I have no professional qualifications I have continuously for the past 25 years been involved with various types of musical organisations and two in particular were concerned with young artists. For about 15 years I have been chairman of the National Trust Concert Society which, until two or three years ago, was responsible for putting on concerts in National Trust houses. That active function has now reverted to the National Trust which has grown, which has an organisation and which is happy to take it on. Partly by design and partly because of economic necessity those concerts employed a very high proportion of young artists. If one has a house which can accommodate an audience of perhaps 150, the economics mean that one must look for promising young artists at the beginning of their career. For that we depended upon the most expert professional advice and also on the wide knowledge of a number of my colleagues who had irons in the fire in a similar way in other organisations.

One of the problems that were brought home to us was, for example, that a promising young pianist in this country who, say, enters the Leeds Festival Piano Competition is at a great disadvantage as regards his competitors from, say, Eastern Europe simply because he does not have the exposure to the public, he does not have the opportunities to perform. That is one of the very grave handicaps which, in my view, are faced by young artists in this area.

I would agree, too, with the views expressed both in Gulbenkian and tonight by the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, that there is a strong argument for raising the standards of entry to the musical colleges; reducing the number of students in the musical colleges; improving the ratio of teachers to students; and raising the standards on leaving, often after, I think, a fourth year, especially for string players.

A musician friend of mine, who already has an international reputation, I think expressed it fairly succinctly when he said that what we wanted was rather less of a finishing school and rather more of the conservatoire. At this time I do not propose to go further along the lines that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, has followed about the general virtues of music for education. I agree with the noble Lord, but I do not think that this is the occasion on which to expand on this.

For a moment I should like to draw on my personal experience. I can claim no formal musical education whatever other than that I made an unsuccessful attempt to play the piano up to the age of nine. The lady who taught me, no doubt an inept pupil, could not resist pulling my then copious hair, and I abandoned this in an attempt to avoid baldness. Nevertheless, I cannot imagine what my life would have been like without music. It may not be a very scientific way—I might have learned much more quickly if I had understood more about it—but, simply by using my ears, it has come to play an almost major part in my life and there are very few days when I do not listen to music.

Therefore, I think that when we talk about the balance between concentrating on the excellence at the top—that is, producing performers of the highest quality—we are talking about education as well. When the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, talks about a few musicians of genius, I do not think that he has quite understood what the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, has said, which is that when we talk about excellence we are talking about a quality of a first-rate orchestral player, not of a world-famous star.

How much does musical life in this country owe to the efforts of, for instance, Sir Robert Mayer?—who has exposed children to something that they did not imagine. I think that we owe an equal debt to Sir William Glock, whose work on the original Third Programme has continued so that musical horizons which never dawned even on our parents have been available to everybody in this country who, of course, went to the trouble to listen.

There is something formidable about what is regarded as serious music. I suggest with some diffidence that perhaps it is just as important to achieve first-rate performances of second-rate works as well as not particularly distinguished performances of great masterpieces. In Vienna the New Year concert of what seems to me to be very second-rate music, and what Sir Thomas Beecham charmingly described as his "lollypops", brings into the musical field people who would not otherwise listen.

There is one point for which perhaps I could make a special pleading. It is something about which I know a certain amount. Since its formation I have been the chairman of a body with a charitable status which administers a baroque orchestra in this country which I think I can describe as second to none, though some critics have said that it is the finest in London. This is a development over not more than the last 10 years in this country, perhaps even shorter. It raises particular problems about training. The performance from original scores on original instruments, or copies of them, and in a style which, after a certain amount of research, is as close as we can get to what the composer intended, is very exacting. No doubt the position in the colleges is improving rapidly as there is a feedback through the professors and teachers who are themselves experts in this particular kind of performance, an expertise which they have probably had to achieve the hard way in their working life. I think that it is peripheral to the general argument, but it reinforces the importance of the high standards in the music colleges and, above all, of the necessity for a fourth year when required.

The economic prospect at the moment is, I think all your Lordships will agree, fairly bleak for the immediate future, but we must look beyond this, and whatever solution is arrived at, it is certain that the next 10 years or so will bring a totally different world for us to live in and that it will be hastened on us by new technologies. In some form or another, we must deal with increased leisure, whether it is due to working a shorter week, to earlier retirement or, alas, to continuing unemployment. In that world the arts—I have spoken with feeling about music but I am sure this applies equally to the other two—have an important role to play. If we do not build on that now, let alone allow to perish the valuable institutions we have, it will be much too late to do anything about it when the new world to which we look forward comes.

9.21 p.m.


My Lords, what a pleasure and privilege to be allowed to be the first to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, on such a confident, civilised and, above all, enormously knowledgeable maiden speech. How appropriate also that it should be on the arts that he spoke, considering the enormous gifts to the arts, the dedication to them, that lie within his family, a family whose name, I am happy to say, is embodied in what is now one of the most famous and distinguished theatres in Europe. But I am sure your Lordships will not thank me for expatiating upon the noble Viscount's forbears but will want me to say how enormously we enjoyed him himself and his maiden speech. It is not often that one can say, hand on heart, that one agreed with every single word of a maiden speech, but that indeed I can say, and I know I echo all your Lordships when I say how very much we hope to hear him often in this House.

I wish also to add my voice to those who have congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, on introducing this debate, on such an important topic. It has been covered by Lord Vaizey and those who have spoken subsequently so widey that I do not intend to detain your Lordships for long. I intend in fact to take up only one aspect of Lord Vaizey's opening remarks but to echo them perhaps even more fervently than he did. He said that employment was a major factor and I believe, to take him up on the wording of his Question—which is the difficulties facing young people in the arts—that the biggest difficulty facing young people in the arts is the profession which they hope to enter. In many cases, the profession they hope they are entering is either in decline or on the point of going out of existence altogether. If not, they face other difficulties of employment that their training can scarcely have equipped them to face.

I wish to talk about two areas with which I have had some slight acquaintance in my working life. One of course is the theatre, and here there is a particular problem. Everybody knows—it has almost become a cliche of our own, by now limited, self-advertisement—that our acting and theatres are the greatest in the world, are a world attraction and are one of the few remaining aspects on which we can confidently congratulate ourselves. I think that our acting schools might share in that; certainly the distinction of their direction and the enthusiasm of their pupils would lead one to believe so. It is, therefore, for the theatrical profession in general, and certainly for the casting directors of those great theatres who have some potential to offer work to young people, a desperately dispiriting thing to find that they cannot do it. They are not empowered to offer work to brilliant young talent emerging from acting schools.

I do not want to involve myself in a debate about union procedures and union attitudes about which I am not totally informed. But to prevent young people entering a profession because of the dire and catastrophic under-employment of the older members of it may be sympathetic in a way but cannot in the long run be anything except suicidal. A policy which allows no young blood in until better times—those better times which by now are becoming legendary, certainly in financial terms, and which I doubt we shall ever see—will eventually wind up supporting a profession which can offer only King Lear and Gloucester, and in which Edgar and Edmund are no longer castable. I beg the unions in their attitude to consider that the normal cycle of human life must be preserved in acting, as it must in any other field.

So far as the films are concerned, the problem is different. There is a flourishing film school in the National Film School, but there are 'indeed other film schools, and they, too, are flourishing. They face a different problem—this time not from the unions, who have made an understanding approach to this matter and have in fact undertaken to see that the path into employment is not strewn with too many obstacles for the graduates of these schools. No, the problem for them is quite different. The problem is that the profession which they are entering has long been regarded as self-sufficient, so commercial, so rich, and indeed in some cases so disgraceful, that it needs no help whatever from private funds, or Government either; that the moguls of the world happily support it and grow rich upon it, and that no further action is necessary.

A small corner remains in this attitude which says that of course there is film art. It can confidently be left to the British Film Institute, because film art consists of either old films or foreign films—not exactly our own industry. Your Lordships will be relieved to know that I do not intend to weary you at this hour of the night with a lecture upon the dire economic circumstances of the British film industry. Your Lordships have been wearied with it before, and not only from me. Nevertheless, I believe that the point I am making, though I make it in slightly joking terms, is real. There must be an understanding that to enter a film industry which makes films—and like any other art they have their high points and their low points—requires some kind of opportunity to be offered in a national film industry. You cannot work exclusively in an archive, and you cannot be expected to go abroad immediately.

So the problems of the film industry are concerned with an understanding that some chance is needed later, and that films do not always involve millions. In fact there is a growing caucus of films in this country which shows that you do not need an excessive and almost plutocratic amount of money to be able to make a film. From the amateur world of the 8 millimetre film maker up to the minor film maker, and the off-shoot film maker in full 35 millimetre professional circumstances, films are possible on a limited but nevertheless exciting scale. That fact needs to be realised by the public, by the Government, and by institutions of all kinds when considering the output of our film schools.

Lastly, I wish to take up one further point of the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey. He drew a very nice contrast between the gifted and the very gifted, as I understand it. It was a contrast, if I jotted down his figures fast enough, which involved 10 million children going in and 30,000 coming out. That represents a tapering effect, and as I understand it, it is the funnel of interest tapering to the group of real talent. If we are to accept those figures, and certainly the principle behind them—and it is difficult not to—I think we must realise that it is very early that we have to start looking at our children to see how they are going through that long, exciting but in the long run probably not encouraging tunnel.

We do a great deal for our teenagers, for our 14, our 15 and our 16-year olds; we have competitions at the end of the road for our graduates; we have competitions for our university students; and we have grants—I appreciate all the points which have been made about the mandatory grant, but I am no expert on it and cannot speak to it—but as yet we do not do much among children before their teens, up to the age of 11 or 12, to encourage them to perform or exhibit, even on the most amateur terms, on school terms, their excitement and their talent in art. I believe (I have spoken briefly before on this subject, and I shall be even briefer now) that an international, or at least a national, children's art centre, where the children of the world, as opposed to the up-and-coming already-forming graduate talents of the world, can meet each other to perform and to excite each other about the artistic possibilities of the world, is something which, somehow, we must design, and fight for; because it is at that age that we shall start that long process to which the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, has so eloquently referred, which leads them to become the practitioners of the arts whom we all admire.

9.37 p.m.

The Earl of GOSFORD

My Lords, first of all I should like to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos. I, too, made my maiden speech in an arts debate, two or three years ago; and I was very interested to hear of his involvement in these thorny matters. Interestingly enough, more or less all the protagonists in that debate are here this evening. I should also like to thank Lord Vaizey for asking this Question, and for extending it from his original Question, which was going to be restricted to the performing arts.

However, this bestows a great responsibility on me, as I must declare my interest as a visual artist and as honourary chairman of the Artists' Union.

I say right away that I agree with Lord Vaizey on the matter of the mandatory grants, and I supported his amendment to the Education (No. 2) Bill. I also agree with several sentiments which he expressed in his speech. Not least, I share his burning enthusiasm for the arts in this country. However, as he will well know, I do not agree with him that the answer lies in limiting the supply of training places. There are dangers here which I shall endeavour to explain. In effect, I believe the answer is very much broader. First, the problems as regards art and design courses are similar to those outlined by the noble Lord. The foundation course gets a discretionary grant, the degree course a mandatory grant by the local education authority. To enter a degree course you must have qualifications ranging from three A-levels to five O-levels. The preferred route through the various foundation courses caters for 96 per cent. of the students; 3 per cent. get straight into the degree courses but must also be academically qualified as above. That leaves roughly 1 per cent. who can still get into degree courses with no qualification, but the college must get permission from the validating body.

Here arise some of the dangers. One of the dangers which is recognised is that mostly middle-class children are in higher education—which is also recognised as not a good mix. The other danger is that academic qualifications may become the norm, thus cutting off the chances of those who are inarticulate through any other means. May I read from the page of questions which I sent to the Minister earlier today? Is a subject like mathematics when used as a generalisable skill, say, as an A-level qualification, regarded as being of greater value than an art A-level? If so, what is the reason behind this?

I differ from the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, in that I do not believe that there should be more money for the gifted. There ought to be more provision for all to have a chance of further education; and if their talents lie in the arts they should not be denied the discipline of training, even though this might eventually lead to a different career, especially as talent may not be immediately obvious but may come through after several years' training. I am indebted to a friend for giving me a list of people who have benefited from visual arts education but have taken up different careers. They span from Makepeace Thackeray to David Storey, the playwright, Gerald Hoffnung, the composer and musician, Gerald Mansell, of the BBC; the noted art critic, John Berger, Roseburg, the poet; and we all know the Beatles, to name but a few.

I am also indebted to a head teacher who sent me the following information: The most important single fact about the education of artists and designers is that there is not enough of it. Speaking now of degree level education, the present proportion of the post-school age group who enjoy the benefits of advanced further education (i.e. higher education) is approximately 13 per cent.—and this is the figure for all subjects. Virtually no other developed country educates so few of its post-school population, and the figure is now stabilising, or dropping, after a fairly rapid rise from around 6 per cent. in the early 1960's. New courses in higher education are almost non-existent; … The number of students taking degree courses in art and design is of course an extremely small proportion of that 13 per cent.; I think the figure is now around 4,500 graduates per year in all art and design subjects … The number of people graduating in Fine Art each year, I think, is around 1200. This is also the number who enter the system, more or less". I should like now to quote from Lord Redcliffe-Maud's document, Support for the Arts in England and Wales, (founded again by Gulbenkian) and dated 1976: I read from the paragraph headed "Education and training" The excellence of our artists, professional and amateur, and our increasing enjoyment of old and contemporary art depend in each case more on education than on anything deliberate arts patronage can do. A revolution, therefore, in educational policy over the next ten years which brought the arts nearer the heart of the curriculum in British schools (and teacher-training institutions) is what I would most dearly like to see ". He goes on: … what we need is another revolutionary change, this time in the scale of national expenditure. Within the next five years or so, the adult education movement must receive priority such as it has had at no time in our history, and when it does the arts must at last have their chance ". This is underlined by the progressive approach of the National Union of Students. They make several points: that reducing teachers and courses reduces choice; that school-leavers should be able to choose a worthwhile course, not necessarily with a job in view but a good all-round education. They point out that we are moving into times of less employment and therefore more opportunity and growth in the leisure area, where a cultural outlet is necessary to soak up creative energy. They believe that a good healthy stock of artists will be necessary for more opportunities not only to use art in the service of the community, but also linked courses such as fine art and practical printing techniques et cetera, to help gain export markets needed so desperately by Britain by good marketing through original design.

We should perhaps remember the importance of industrial design in the building of the great Wedgwood company by the coming together of the artist Flaxman and Wedgwood himself. The National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education—NATFHE—of course are worried about the cuts and the effects of the intention of streamlining through the new body, the Technicians Education Council.

I should like to ask the Minister my next question. As a result of the Further Education Circular 1/80, what steps are the Government taking to protect the vocational and degree level art and design courses which are necessarilly staff intensive? Special provision must be made to protect some of these courses which, while they do not attract a mass of people, arc none the less essential. The fear is that technical courses will stay and fine art courses will be scrapped first, thus ending up with colleges run only for certain studies.

I come to my next question. As a result of the local authority resources failing to keep abreast of the pay increases, will the Minister give an assurance that the staff/student ratios will not decline any further? One fear is that the Delaney system will have disastrous effects on the establishment of the art colleges, not least the practical element of overseeing in laboratories and expensive equipment. Here I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, the teacher/student ratios must not worsen.

Further education must strengthen links with industry. The London College of Printing is, I believe, very much affected as many processes are required and injection of the real world by part-time teachers brings in expertise from a wide range of disciplines. The fear is also therefore that cuts in staff will kill vitality, and the fear is a return to academicism. May I ask the Minister also what steps are the Government taking to protect part-time teachers, so necessary for the DA courses? I should like to quote from a speech made by Norman St. John-Stevas entitled "Arts in Education", on 21st March 1980. He said: In conclusion, I would like to say that education in the arts can no longer be regarded as the aquisition of specialist knowledge unrelated to everyday life. It is a vital ingredient in living a fuller life, in building a richer society ". Finally, we move into the area of employment of artists and designers. The demand for designers is great. It is all a question of attitude. It is well known that artists and designers form part of managerial teams in the most successful firms abroad, notably in Japan. Design is an integral part of the whole industry. The Government have underlined their belief in the arts and I applaud the creation of a Minister with a seat in the Cabinet. But art is nothing without artists, who must feel as secure as the vest of society in order to carry out their work. As the Redcliffe-Maud Report said: "We underpay our artists".

I should like to quote from the TUC working party report on the arts which says this: There is no doubt in the working party's view that society does not benefit fully from the work of performing and creative artists. Much of the exploitation and under-employment of artists arises from the unsatisfactory terms and conditions of their employment, which are often of a casual nature. For every one of the stars and other brilliant successes in the arts there are many artists who make their contribution from a position of acute economic insecurity, which militates against them making a significant contribution to society ". There is no category for an artist so far as the DHSS and the Department of Employment are concerned. They neither fit on to the professional register nor the worker register. Where are all the provisions that other countries are promoting, such as a percentage of building costs? Bulgaria, for instance, recognises that artists newly out of art schools will not yet have developed nor necessarily have found a market. They allow an artist to take a job which is most suited to him and to take half a day off to pursue his career in the arts. Also, I believe that Bulgaria has several thousand artists who are in fact living off their work as full-time arts artists.

May I ask the Minister whether he will approach the Arts Council to look into provisions that could be made to help young artists immediately on leaving art school?—as I believe these major grants and awards usually go to mature artists. I should like to quote now from a speech by the right honourable gentleman Mr. St. John-Stevas at a meeting of the representatives of the regional arts associations on 9th November last year. He said: I intend to do all that I can to enable those in the regions to enjoy our great national achievements in the arts but the regional arts associations have a special role to play. In order to encourage devolution from the centre, as expounded in the Redcliffe-Maud Report, how much effect has the report had on the level of commitment to the arts by the local authorities? That report says: The new local authorities created by the 1972 Act are the chief arts patrons of the future. Local government is the democratic instrument whereby individual members of a community combine their efforts for common purposes within limits laid down by Parliament. Local communities in district and county have recently lost some of their traditional functions (sewage disposal, for example, water and health) but they now have the power (though no legal duty) to ensure that all members have the opportunities to practise and enjoy the arts. The future of the arts in England and Wales now chiefly depends on the extent to which, and the pace at which, these local councils come to regard the use of their arts patronage powers as part and parcel of the social fabric which they already help to sustain through their provision of education, housing, the social services, roads, land-use control, police, fire-protection, and the rest of local government. So I differ with Lord Vaizey on the need for less rather than more public finance.

I am heartened by Norman St. John-Stevas's quote on 28th April this year: Nor are the benefits those of prestige and influence only. The arts can genuinely be said to pay their way. In every field from literature to painting they earn money for Britain. This is especially true of the performing arts: a high proportion of the tourists who flock to our country every year are drawn by the magnet of the British theatre. But I do not agree with him when he said the following, in June 1979: … private patronage frees art from the threat of censorship and establishmentarianism which constitute the unacceptable face of state support for the arts ". The reason why I am a bit doubtful about that is that in the document put out by the Association of Business Sponsorship of the Arts it is said: It is very important firstly to distinguish between patronage and sponsorship. We are only dealing with the latter and it is also important to talk to businesses not in terms of the effect that they ought to be helping art (that is quite clearly not so) but more in terms that there are perfectly normal business reasons for being involved in art sponsorship. If ABSA can look after the interests of business when it is involved in the sponsorship of the arts, and can ensure that business will get a good return on its investment it will be the best possible way of ensuring the continuing increase in the total amount spent by industry on the arts in the UK". I, like every Member of your Lordships' House, I am certain, dislike any kind of censorship whether it be by state or private hands.

Let me end by pointing out that the Richard Hoggart-chaired inquiry, again sponsored by Gulbenkian, that Lord Vaizey spoke about at the beginning, will tell us a lot more about the artists. Its terms of reference really are the inquiry into the economic situation of the living artist. I hope it will be only a short while now before that is prepared.

9.53 p.m.


My Lords, may I, first of all, congratulate our maiden speaker, the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos. It was a truly marvellous maiden speech, without any question one of the finest I have heard in this Chamber. Seeing the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, still in the Chamber, it is a rather fascinating fact that her half-sister married the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos's grandfather, and I shall leave your Lordships to work that one out! At this late hour, I expect that the shorter my speech the better it will sound to your Lordships, so I shall indeed be brief.

As with everyone else who has taken part in this debate, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Vaizey. He has certainly most persuasively argued that Government really does have an obligation to ensure that the high standards that exist in the performing arts in this country are maintained. Even if one looks at this question from a very simple economic viewpoint, high standards produce excellent returns for this country. There is no need to elaborate on the number of people who come to this country merely to see our theatre, concerts and ballet. I wonder whether maintaining these high standards need cost the Government any additional money, and perhaps the Minister will be talking about this aspect of the question tonight.

I wonder whether it is not just a question of a redeployment of the existing resources that are spent on training. There is no question that part of any redeployment must surely be in the giving of mandatory and discretionary grants to students, which have been much talked about this evening, and I very much hope that the Government will look at this point carefully again. It will clearly be a tragedy if the talented cannot train simply for lack of funds; and of course, if the talented cannot train, then the institutions to which they would be going simply have to pack up.

Along with other noble Lords, I know the work of the London School of Contemporary Dance very well, and they have made a truly remarkable contribution in the sphere of contemporary dance.

They are genuinely threatened with closure and if that happens it will surely be a tragedy. I was interested in what my noble friend Lord Vaizey said about the all-important issue of employment and, indeed, this has been mentioned in other speeches. I should like to make two points about this, one which has been made already and one which has not been. The first was made by the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, and I agree with him that this is not the place to discuss in any detail the union problems that exist in theatre and in film. But we know that it is very difficult for a trained and talented actor to become a member of Equity, and I do not know whether there is any way in which the Government can help. I rather doubt it, but it is worth mentioning because it poses real problems for young performers.

The second point should be heartening to all of us, and it really extends a point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Chan-dos, which is that in the next 10 years we are going to see an incredible technological revolution. We are continually living through technological revolutions, but the things that are soon going to be with us will make an enormous difference to the performing artist. There will be an enormous growth in the demand for the services of those engaged in the performing arts. We shall see tremendous developments in the home video market, the video disc market and the pay television market, which is already a great success in America and will probably start in this country in the latter part of this year. Satellite TV will become a reality in about 1983, and will probably be bigger than all those markets put together. We have the fourth channel, we have breakfast television and we have an extension of the commercial radio network.

All these markets will require specially created material, and I have no doubt that the potential employment for performers will be greater in the next few years than at any time since the war. This is surely another reason, and a happy reason, why the Government must look very carefully into this most important question which my noble friend has most correctly allowed us to discuss tonight.

9.59 p.m.


My Lords, we owe a deep debt of gratitude to my noble friend Lord Vaizey, first because he initiated this very worthwhile debate, and, secondly, because he has provided us with the great joy of listening to the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Chandos. May I add my congratulations to those which my noble friend has already received? When there is talk of abolishing this House, those who wish to do so might care to reflect that we should all be the poorer if we were deprived of hearing speeches such as the one delivered by my all too modest noble friend—a moving and brilliant specialist speech which could have been made only by someone who has devoted a lifetime to the service of the arts. It was a rare experience to listen to him.

Much that I should have liked to say has already been said, and I suppose that noble Lords will be thankful for that! However, while echoing the hopes of others, I feel that there is a certain difference between the needs of those who are gifted as actors, or who are concerned with drama, and the needs at an early age of those who dance or who are associated in any way with music. To put it baldly, actors have a way of making good, whatever their education, but the gifted child in the realms of dance and music needs specialist training from an early age.

Specialist training needs money, and there is no doubt that it is often very hard for music students to get discretionary grants. Private school fees are very high because they are not subsidised, but local authorities are often not prepared to meet these high fees. This is of particular application to opera students. Public bodies may jib at the fact that they do not get superb results from everyone they subsidise, but they must expect a percentage of non-high fliers in order to produce that pearl of great price. For example, within the last two years the London Opera House closed down. One of the reasons given for this was that it was not producing a high enough percentage of successful talent. It had, in fact, produced a number of stars, including Kiri te Kanawa, together with a very large number of talented and efficient performers who are still immensely active in the opera houses of Britain, Australia, Canada and America.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Baroness, she spoke of the London Opera House. I think she meant the London Opera School. The Opera House is still open.


I do apologise. I thought I said "London Opera Centre", and I am glad to be corrected. I should hate to be misunderstood, because this is a vital point. There were of course a number of people who did not make the grade at the London Opera Centre and, by the very nature of things, there had to be. I hope that this supports the point that I have already made.

The worrying aspect is that talented youngsters will be forced to look outside this country for their training. There are brilliant teachers. Many speakers have mentioned Robin Howard, who is an old friend of mine. He has employed one of the most brilliant teachers in his school of ballet. Brilliant teachers, however, without pupils or without a school will obviously look elsewhere for work. Do we really want there to be a talent drain from this country? Unless we support the young, that is surely what will happen. Indeed, it is already happening. I cannot believe that that is what this Government want.

10.4 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join in the tributes paid to my noble friend Lord Chandos on a most distinguished maiden speech—as we might have expected from a member of the very distinguished family from which he comes. The more we hear him speak in this House, the better the House will be. I intervene briefly in this debate for two reasons only. First, for some years I was a trustee of a repertory theatre in Surrey, near where I live. Secondly, for a few years I was a chorister at my school, and therefore have a particular love of music.

The repertory theatre movement in this country is really the breeding ground (if I may use that expression) not only for young actors and actresses but for designers, directors and others. It is also true that, through the repertory theatre, some of our finest actors and actresses graduate. Certainly the theatre in which I have an interest, although not a financial one—the Thorndike Theatre, named after the great Dame Sybil Thorndike and her very distinguished late husband—produced a number of plays with very young actors and actresses, and particularly "The Match Girls", which had a tremendous success there, although not as great a success in the West End as it deserved. But if ever there was a real example of some talented young actors and actresses, that play certainly provided it.

The repertory theatre movement generally, both in England and in Scotland—and I instance here the splendid Pitlochry Theatre, which I have had the pleasure of visiting and which is such a great tourist attraction, as well as catering for the native population—is suffering financially. Certainly so far as the Thorndike Theatre is concerned, due to inflation there has been a cut-back of some 50 per cent. on young actors and actresses; and although occupation of the theatre by audiences is in the main well over 90 per cent., and for many performances 100 per cent., there are serious problems of cost. Last year there was a 25 per cent. escalation in costs and of course the increase in admission charges is something which every theatre wants to avoid. This is particularly serious for the young actors and actresses who really are subsidising these theatres. The wages which they are paid are very much below the national average, but they still continue to give splendid performances. Without our repertory theatres in this country the potential for young actors and actresses would be dire indeed.

Turning for a moment to music, those of your Lordships who work in the City of London will know that in a number of the churches there are some splendid lunchtime concerts where those who work under pressure can unwind for half an hour to an hour. These concerts are given by the young students from the Royal College of Music. Not infre- quently I go along and listen to these highly talented pianists, violinists and singers, who give immense pleasure to their audiences. But I wonder whether my noble friend has anything to say about the future of these young players, particularly the violinists and the woodwind players, in view of the cut-back of some of the BBC orchestras—and I do not want to get involved in that question at this late hour. There is no doubt that the musical life of this country will suffer if this cut-back is anything like permanent.

We as a country have for long led the world in music, since the 14th and 15th century, and it is the same with the stage. My noble friend Lord Vaizey has asked a Question of enormous importance this evening, and it is to be hoped that with the plethora of experienced speakers we have had this evening the Government can hold out some hope, even if it be medium long-term hope, for these young men and women on the stage and in the world of music who give such pleasure nationally and internationally.

10.12 p.m.


My Lords, may I apologise on three counts. May I first apologise to the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, for butting in when I did earlier? I do apologise most sincerely to him for that. I also apologise to the acting Leader of the House because I did not give notice that I intended to speak in this debate. May I apologise too to my noble friend Lord Vaizey for not putting my name down on the list of speakers, and to my colleagues on this Bench that for the first time I have stepped down here to make a speech? So I have done the four apologies in one, and f your Lordships all accept my apologies, that is it.

I want to say very briefly that I have been chairman of a local education committee and have served on various education authorities up and down the country many times and in many ways. One of the things I have always been very worried about is the way in which we distribute grants to people who perhaps have not got academic talents but nevertheless are first-class in the world of the arts. I come from a place called Blackburn and we had Kathleen Ferrier in Blackburn. She was refused a grant from the local authority there because academically she could not qualify for that grant. Because she did not qualify, she did not get to any school or any organisation that would help to train her, and therefore she went on her parents' request.

What I want to do, like Lord Vaizey, is to make sure that these people are entitled to a grant in the same way that other people are entitled to a grant. I think that is vital. If we have got people in our communities who are good in the arts in any way at all, we ought to encourage them and we ought to give them the encouragement by providing financial resources. I do not want to go on any longer, but I completely support the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, in the way that he has gone on this.

10.14 p.m.


My Lords, I fear that the noble Lord's Question will get a fairly frosty answer from the noble Lord opposite. It is indeed refreshing to hear a new recruit on the other side make a plea for proper planning, for a carefully negotiated entry into the private sector (is not that something rather like nationalisation?), for more Quangos, and for more spending on the arts.

I agree with pretty well everything which he puts forward, but I must remind him which side he is on. His leader and her colleagues are highly sceptical of all planning and believe with doctrinaire passion in competition and the free market. The Government are contemptuously opposed to Quangos and yet the noble Lord proposes in his drama plans a new one without which the plans could not work. And in all his suggestions there must be more, not less, expenditure.

I repeat I am in favour of pretty well all that he suggests. But I doubt whether this evening's Question will get us much nearer to what he is asking for. Doctrinaire though the Tory devotion to the market may be, I am glad to note that even this somewhat philistine Government accept that the arts cannot flourish without subsidy. The Minister is now asking the business world to put up £500 million for the arts. I admire this optimism. The figures of who does what show how formidable his task is. At the moment the Government distribute £70 million through the Arts Council and another £93 million through the museums and libraries. The local authorities put up £69 million and the business sponsors £5 million. So the right honourable gentleman has £495 million to go for and good luck to him. But, however successful he may be the arts will for ever, in my opinion, depend upon Government as their main supporter. So the question of more money for training in the arts is not one the Government can shrug off.

The noble Lord has served a particularly useful function in differentiating clearly between art in education and vocational training. The two are quite different and need separate discussions. I wish for a moment to look at art in education which generally speaking has not been discussed much this evening. When going around schools, which for three years I did quite a lot of, I was enormously impressed with two arts which seemed to be well put forward to children. One of them was painting. In nearly every school—both the big and the small, and the forward and backward—one saw exhibitions of children's art with a great deal of dross but some real talent. And that seemed to me—I would not say all that one could ask for—very much in the right direction.

As regards music I wish to join with the noble Viscount in saying that it is also my passion. I should like to take the opportunity to congratulate him on his splendid speech. I was so pleased that he spoke of Sir Robert Mayer and William Glock who have, in fact, done a very great deal personally to transform things here. However, as regards music, I found, as I went around, that there was a good deal of good elementary education and presentation of music to children at a young age. It was nothing like as good as they are doing in Hungary and nothing like as good, I think, as the Suzuki system in Japan, both of which, by taking children very early, are producing more converts to the subject than we are able to do. However, I think that we are doing quite well here.

I have two grandchildren in a comprehensive, both of whom have music scholarships and I must say that I think that the education they are receiving is extremely good. That is not true of all schools—it could not be true—but I think that in their case it is very good. As regards drama, the most important aspect is the peripatetic companies to which the noble Lord's report refers, which go round to schools, and places like the Cockpit in London which have schools in, and who, roughly speaking, do theatre in education. What worries me about theatre in education is that largely the troupes who deal with it are attached to local theatres which are financed by local government, and I am afraid that they may be cut. I shall not ask the Minister to give me an answer tonight, but I think that I shall put down a Question for Written Answer to ask about the position of theatre in education over the last four or five years. I believe that it is bad, and if that is so, then it is very serious. It is one of the most hopeful movements in the whole of art in education. As to dance, I saw very little. I saw one or two dance activities going on, but there is a great deal to be done here and it is probably the least forward of them.

Looking back on one's own experience, I had an extremely expensive education, like some other noble Lords, and I was exposed to all these things. The exposure to painting did nothing for me until many years later when I became interested. As for the exposure to dancing, I danced the hornpipe in a sailor suit with somebody who is now a High Court judge and that went down very well, but it was a long time ago. As for drama, I acted in a couple of plays at school and I say with some pride that the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack had a very prominent and successful part in drag in one of them. As to music, it has become a basic part of my life, as the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, said. I began to learn the violin at the age of seven and I have never looked back in my intense interest in music, which I think is the noble Viscount's position. So much for the schools.

On the whole, quite a lot is happening. But there was a nasty report in The Times last week suggesting that some of the art colleges are suffering from cuts and may have to close. I should like to know whether we can be given information, either today or by letter, about that. I do not necessarily want it tonight. However, it is very important that these colleges should not be closed down.

I want to turn to the vocation business, which is an entirely different matter. However, before doing so, let me say that over the intermediate stage—that is, not the elementary school child, but the boy or girl of 15 or 16 years of age who is quite interested in music—there are a number of very serious problems. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, who could not stay to speak tonight, gave me a few figures. Do noble Lords realise that it costs £1,400 to buy a bassoon; that it costs £500 to buy a trumpet, £800 to buy a French horn, £600 to buy a flute, and so on? This is an absolutely new situation. I bought my first clarinet for £11, although admittedly that was a long time ago and I cannot say I still have it, but I remember buying it very well.

I have received complaints, particularly from people in North Wales who regard themselves as being in a neglected area in this world, who say that to obtain intermediate teaching in musicianship is almost impossible there. I should like the noble Lord to look at this and possibly talk to me about it later on. The other point about Wales is that actors who act in the Welsh language need special help and find it very difficult to get.

Returning to the question of vocational training in the higher sense, here, in spite of the Tory reluctance to indulge in planning, it is quite crazy to leave matters to sort themselves out. The noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, has made a very powerful case. The problem is particularly urgent in music and dance for, as the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, said, both are almost wholly dependent on technical training as opposed to painting or drama, where natural genius can sometimes, but not always, flower with little or no training. But excellence in music or dance can be achieved only with, first, talent and then training. Therefore, it is extremely important.

Following the general lines of the noble Lord's excellent Gulbenkian report, Training Musicians, it seems that we should have mandatory and not discretionary grants to the five specialist music schools and, I would add, to the 30 or so choir schools. I think that the question of mandatory or discretionary grants is crucial. It is the matter about which I am perfectly certain we shall get a raspberry, and not a strawberry from the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, that if the Minister and his colleagues wanted to find a way of doing this, it could be done. It could be done at the cost of certain other people, but every now and then one must have priorities, and I think we ought to do it. The various speeches tonight have stressed the importance of this in a moving way from all sides of your Lordships' House, and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, can get his colleagues to look at this again. Of course it could be done, although it would create a lot of trouble with other people; but, then, that is what Ministers are for.

Planning comes in here because somebody has to look at the prospects for professional musicians and dancers and make sure that the number being so expensively trained with mandatory grants of which the taxpayer pays 60 per cent., should be kept in line with the vacancies available. The orchestral players, for example, have just been conspicuously reduced by the BBC, and in his drama training study called Going on the Stage the noble Lord suggests a new Quango to do this for drama. My view is that there should be a similar Quango—in a sense, he has already told us that the training boards might so act—in each of the four fundamental arts we are discussing.

I endorse the noble Lord's main recommendation that vocational training at a specialist level should command mandatory grants in a limited number of training institutions approved by a high-level committee drawn from the relevant profession and the same committee should be responsible for keeping the numbers roughly in line with professional opportunities for employment. This is all quite complicated and we cannot elaborate it now, but the basic idea is quite simple, perfectly practicable, will cost money and, in my opinion, I regret to say, will not be done, though it ought to be done.

10.27 p.m.


My Lords, despite the lateness of the hour, I must thank my noble friend Lord Vaizey and express gratitude to him for the opportunity to debate this important and very interesting topic. We have had an extremely impressive list of speakers, and many interesting and useful contributions have been made by noble Lords whose experience and concern in training for the arts commands the respect of the House. I am very conscious of my own relative inexperience in this area, but I have listened with great care to all that has been said and I shall endeavour to clarify the Government's position on the matters raised.

I too pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Chandos for his most eloquent and delightful maiden speech. It is delightful to have among us such a man, remembering his splendid father and his equally splendid ancestor, Sir John Chandos, of Poitiers fame. To have had his descendant expounding so charmingly on music has been a great pleasure, and the words of praise of the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, were extremely apt. Lord Birkett mentioned that better times were hoped for. I am reminded that one of William the Conqueror's knights had inscribed in French on his sword le bon temps viendra. Hope springs eternal and hopefully one day somebody will find that the good times have arrived.

The commitment of the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, to the development of the arts is well known and has been witnessed again tonight. He has mentioned his leadership of the two inquiries sponsored by the Gulbenkian Foundation into training for drama and dance. The first, Going On The Stage, was published in 1975, and the second, Training Musicians, in 1978. These have done much to promote useful discussion and debate, and the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, has performed an invaluable service to the arts in this respect.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, began by speaking of the importance of getting the brilliant pupil identified and trained. This subject is one which I remembered being the theme of many of the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, in so many of our debates on the brilliant child, and of course we are now discussing the brilliant child in relation to the arts.

While the Government recognise the value of the Gulbenkian Reports, and not least those which centre on individual aspects of the performing arts, and the contribution which they make to the development of both education and training in these fields, it must be stated that these are independent inquiries which have been, and will be, carefully studied by the Department of Education and Science, and I trust, by the many other bodies closely affected by their recommendations. In the final analysis, however,—and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, will understand this—the Government have no commitment to adopt any recommendations made, and could do so only after the fullest consideration of the effect which they would have on public expenditure.

Both the noble Lords, Lord Vaizey and Lord Donaldson, rightly referred to the marked improvement in standards in dance, drama and music, and attributed this, in the main, to the high level of training available in this country. We must certainly remember that there is much in the present system from which we can take satisfaction; and I was glad to hear the point made that many children of school age with an artistic talent can be catered for in their own schools, or by means of special arrangements made by local education authorities.

I feel very strongly that industry has a role to play in sponsoring the training of exceptionally bright children in the performing arts. In the past, especially in central Europe, the Churches used to support musicians and artists in their work. Could not commerce and industry take over some of this good work? The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, mentioned that my right honourable friend had been suggesting this; and I do not see why they should not help these children with their special training, in the same way as companies finance concerts, opera and ballet performances, and the theatre.

The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, mentioned the cut-back in orchestras. There is a very hopeful sign. Discussions are going on at this moment between four parties: the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Ulster Orchestra Society, the BBC in Northern Ireland, and Gallaher Ltd. It is proposed to form a Northern Ireland orchestra of up to 70 players, and it is hoped that at least 33 of the new posts in the symphony orchestra might go to players from the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra. This is an example which, if it does come off—and it is only at the discussion stage—will be one occasion where industry is entering into discussion in order to help.

The report Training Musicians to which I have referred rightly stressed the central position of local education authorities in this area. The report made a number of interesting and positive recommendations, which I am sure will have been studied with care by local education authority music advisers. These dealt with the identification of musical ability in primary and secondary schools, the encouragement of non-specialist teachers to become more involved in musical activities in schools, the supporting of weekend and evening music centres, and a number of other detailed points. Perhaps the key recommendation, linking the others, was that local education authorities should be prepared to provide musical training in whichever of a number of possible ways is most appropriate to the particular circumstances of an individual area and the particular needs of each individual pupil. This is a useful reminder that individual needs and circumstances differ, and that local education authorities are particularly well placed to assess these, and, if they consider it necessary, to make or support special arrangements.

Interest in music, and in particular in learning an instrument, has of course very greatly increased among school children, and examination entries, for example, are rising steadily, though many of course have no intention of seeking a career in music. There has certainly been a marked and welcome improvement in the standard of music education in the maintained (or state) sector over the last 15 years or so—many schools now have school orchestras of a very worthy standard, for example—though there is a national shortage of qualified music teachers. The music centres which a number of local education authorities sponsor, usually at weekends, provide very good opportunities to carry study forward to the very highest standard of excellence—


I am sorry, my Lords, but the Minister is not aware of what is going on among local authorities in regard to cut-backs, and the cut-backs are on this side.


My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to finish my speech, and then he will hear what I have to say. It is too early to interrupt me to tell me what I am not going to say.


I apologise to the noble Lord.


My Lords, talented musicians at maintained schools are also able to apply for junior exhibitions at the main music colleges, which are sponsored by education authorities. Some of these arrangements may be under pressure as a result of the public spending economies which are having to be insisted upon, but in general, it seems to me, there is a background of increasing musical education and training, which is encouraging.

My Lords, few would dispute that special arrangements may be needed for school-age children with outstanding talent or promise in instrumental playing. Your Lordships will be aware that in 1973 the previous Conservative Government introduced a direct grant scheme to provide precisely this for pupils at the Yehudi Menuhin and Royal Ballet Lower Schools. This, in part, replaced assistance formerly channelled through the Arts Council. The principles accepted by the Prime Minister when she was Secretary of State for Education and Science were that there was a limited need for specialised training of a high order; that these excellent schools should not have to compromise their very high standards for financial reasons; and that pupils of the necessary talent should not be denied access to a place for lack of parental means. About 150 pupils are at present supported by fee remission grant, which totalled some £440,000 in the 1979–80 financial year. This is a high per capita outlay, but few would dispute that this has been a successful and desirable arrangement. As a Government, we are fully committed to the continuation of these arrangements.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, and my noble friend Lord Chandos asked about ethnic art. We know there is public support for the performing arts, and it is of course a matter for the Arts Council, whose patronage is very extensive. I am sure they will study with interest the points which the two noble Lords have made on this particular topic. My Lords, other schools considered tonight, such as Chetham's School of Music, the Wells Cathedral School and Purcell School, have much to offer as well. Many local education authorities have been willing to sponsor children at these schools, particularly Chetham's School, and I understand that the scale of this particular form of support was steadily increasing until 1979, when some intending pupils were unable to persuade their authorities to give support. In some cases, too, the support given may have been at a fixed level, leaving the parents to find a large balance of the fees, which I know are somewhat hefty.

The schools are worried that last year's check in local education authority support may be repeated, and that more pupils who would otherwise have been admitted will not be able to take up places. This must, of course, be a matter for the authorities concerned, who may wish to have regard, not only to their policy on discretionary awards but to the alternative provision which may be possible. Thus, concern by the music schools about support by local education authorities has led them to propose to my noble friend the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science that they should be supported by direct grant from the Government on the lines of the Yehudi Menuhin School and the Royal Ballet Lower School.

My noble friend (that is Lady Young, of course) has told the schools that their bid for financial support will have to be considered in the context of the assisted places scheme, which your Lordships will recall discussing at length when the Education (No. 2) Bill was before us earlier this year, and this the Minister is doing. Any extension of existing arrangements for Government support for specialised schools would have to come from the resources available for that scheme, and would also be subject to the same timing. This means that the earliest any assistance could be available might be for the September 1981 intake, as that is when the assisted places scheme is to start. At the moment, our position on this is completely open, but we shall let the three schools have our answer as quickly as possible.

I have taken a little of your Lordships' time to explain the Government's position on this particular point, and I hope it will be of interest to noble Lords.


My Lords, perhaps I may say how grateful I am for that particular point.


I thank my noble friend. My noble friend Lord Drogheda, who, unfortunately, owing to the lateness of the hour at which this debate was to come on, had to go to another engagement, gave me notice of the two chief points that he would have liked to talk about. They were ballet schools and the London School of Contemporary Dance. Like my noble friend Lady Trumpington, I, too, must be in on the act. I, too, know Mr. Robin Howard. I have known him for 35 years, in fact. For good measure, I know his mother Lady Lorna and his sister, Kiloran, as well. The noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, and the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, expressed anxiety on this point and the noble Lords can be assured that we are looking at this point sincerely and sympathetically.

Turning to the further education sector, the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, would, I know, be the first to acknowledge that the mixed bag of provision in the performing arts, which stretches across age levels and across both the independent and public sectors, is an inheritance largely due to historical accident. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, I remember, told us he had danced the hornpipe when he was young. My only dancing achievement when I was young, in 1929, was that I was Madame Vacani's star pupil with the sister of the Chairman of Committees.


My Lords, I went to Miss Vacani's when I was young.


As I did, my Lords.


My Lords, so did I.


My Lords, as somebody who was born in 1929,I hope we are not going to dance the hornpipe in here tonight.


My Lords, we hope not. However, it is a fact that most of the art schools or colleges and several of the music and drama schools are in the public sector and are therefore maintained by local education authorities, while others remain independent, having been established on that basis. Any attempt to rationalise this diverse provision must take into account the competing claims on public resources of other, quite unrelated, disciplines and the consequential effect on educational resources.

The question of mandatory and discretionary grants to students has been described as a "vexed" question. We have no doubt that it is, have we? The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, spoke about the theatre and education and the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, referred to the same point.

The present awards system is based on the principle that awards should be mandatory for students taking full-time courses of first degree or equivalent level or teacher-training courses, irrespective of the subject of study. Courses comparable to first-degree courses can also, on application, be designated individually for mandatory awards; this applies to courses in drama, dance and music as well as in more academic disciplines. Noble Lords will realise that, except in music, most such courses are designed for performers and in consequence do not require academic study of a level which can be regarded as comparable to that of a first degree. This is particularly so for courses in dance which for professional reasons are designed for 17-year-olds. Nevertheless, local education authorities do have the power to make awards at their discretion for courses which are not designated for mandatory awards.

I am most grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, for giving me notice of the questions to which he wanted an answer. I will point out to him now one of his answers, but I must ask him when he addresses your Lordships' House in future to comply, please, with the conventions and not just to refer to "Norman St. John-Stevas"—he is the right honourable the Minister, or your Lordships' right honourable friend. We do not refer to him in that way.

The Earl of GOSFORD

My Lords, may I say that I am sorry.


My Lords, I thank the noble Earl. The noble Earl raised the question of the effect of cuts in local government expenditure on awards for foundation and diploma courses. I take it that the noble Earl has in mind non-advanced courses which do not attract mandatory awards. Undoubtedly, there will be some effect but it is difficult to say at present how reductions in expenditure on local authority discretionary awards will affect particular areas. So far as foundation courses are concerned, those which form an integral part of a degree course do attract mandatory grants. Courses intended to bring a student up to the standard at which they can embark on a degree course, however, do not.

The Government's expenditure plans assume that local education authorities' expenditure on discretionary awards will remain broadly at the present overall level of about £80 million a year. This does not, of course, imply that every local authority will be maintaining its expenditure at the present level, and indeed there is evidence that some local authorities are having to reduce severely the number of discretionary awards they are making in 1980–81. It is difficult to estimate the extent of local education authority economies on discretionary awards and their effect on particular fields of further education, and it may be that their effect is being felt disproportionately by students wishing to undertake courses in the performing arts. While we are of course aware of the consequences of this, both for individuals and for institutions, it remains the responsibility of each local education authority to decide upon the priority to be given to discretionary awards compared with other pressing claims on resources, and upon the priorities they are prepared to give to courses of various kinds.

The Government have no intention of interfering with or advising authorities on the use of their discretion: it is up to them to formulate their own policies and to make awards in accordance with their own judgments of local circumstances and the merits of each case. It is my impression that authorities take their responsibility for discretionary awards very seriously. This is no easy task and particular difficulties arise in the field of the performing arts in identifying the standard of the courses concerned.

Moreover, I should like to point out that, if some of the more profligate local authorities reduced their unnecessary spending, they would have more money to provide grants for children with great artistic talents. Still, I am sure that those who have spoken tonight applaud the efforts of all those authorities which have found it possible in these difficult times to give discretionary grants in deserving cases.

I do not think that we should take too gloomy a view of the future prospects for local authority discretionary awards, either. Though some have found it necessary to make economies in this area in the short term, these may become less necessary as longer-term expenditure plans are formulated and applied.

Noble Lords will know, from the debate we had at Report stage on the Education Act 1980 on Lord Vaizey's amendment, that the Government have no plans to change the present legislative position on mandatory awards. We recognise that difficult problems may arise for would-be students of the performing arts where authorities reduce their expenditure on discretionary awards. But they are not alone in this predicament, and it would be quite inequitable to extend the scope of mandatory awards to courses in the performing arts while ignoring the claims, for instance, of lawyers, social workers and many others who depend on local authority discretionary awards as well.


If that is the case, my Lords, why are they prepared to give mandatory grants to business studies in chemistry but not for dance and drama? If you are going to make that kind of argument, it is a very "wet" answer, if I may say so.


My Lords, I will write to my noble friend on that point. If anybody else is interested, they can have a copy of the letter.

We have concluded that such a call on public resources could not be justified when we are asking for restraint in other areas. Even if we were able to, however, the problem for performers would not be wholly solved since, as I have already explained, a number of courses for performers are not advanced courses. To make awards mandatory for all non-advanced courses of further education would of course be prohibitively expensive. It would be virtually impossible to find an equitable basis for extending mandatory awards only to selected non-advanced courses of further education, and it is not self-evident that courses in the performing arts could be regarded as having priority.

This brings me to the question on which the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, touched. At present, the education and training systems of this country produce more qualified aspirants to careers in the performing arts (with the possible exception of string players) than can be accommodated in the volume of professional activity as we know it at present. Against this background, it is probably not in the long-term interest of any but the most talented young people to encourage them to think in terms of a professional career in any of these fields: and it is difficult to justify spending public money to give awards for such training as an automatic right. I appreciate that Lord Vaizey's proposal, that courses should be designated for mandatory awards only at accredited institutions, is designed to reduce the number in training; but there can be no guarantee that it would do so. With mandatory awards assured, the selected institutions might well increase their intakes.

Special mention has been made of the National Centre for Orchestral Studies, and I should like to add my own appreciation of the work of the centre. Nevertheless, it is a performers' course and students must look to their local education authority for discretionary awards. The noble Lord said that it is time for the Government to face up to their responsibilities. This has been echoed by other noble Lords. Let me say a word first about the visual arts, on which the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, also spoke.

We shall, of course, study with interest the impending report from the Gulbenkian Foundation, but I think I should make the point that there are currently 41 colleges offering degree courses in the fine arts catering for a wide range of interest, and it is unlikely that there can be any aspirant frustrated by the absence of the right kind of course. At the lower level, vocational courses are about to become subject to national validating arrangements under the Technician Education Council's Committee for Art and Design.

I was going to answer some more of the questions of the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, but, if he will allow me, I will write to him, and, again, if any other noble Lord would like to have copies, I will arrange for that.

The Earl of GOSFORD

My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord the Minister for that kind offer of writing to me, and may I take up his offer of receiving a copy of the letter he sends to the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey?


My Lords, as for our responsibilities in the area of school age provision for training in the performing arts—and most of us would accept, I am sure, that we are talking here about providing for high talent in music and dancing—we have to recognise, on the one hand, the special role of local education authorities in identifying and assessing need; and, of course, the quite special funding by means of direct grant at the Yehudi Menuhin and Royal Ballet Lower School to which I have already referred. My noble friend Lady Young is currently considering with great care the case made to her for similar funding for pupils at three other music schools and they can expect an answer from her before very long.

Discretionary support by education authorities is not, of course, a responsibility of government. It has been made abundantly clear by the local authority associations that local authorities should be entirely free to make their own decisions in those areas, including awards, where they are charged with a discretionary responsibility. The Government have no wish to intervene in matters which are properly the concern of local authorities, who must determine their own priorities in the light of their particular needs and resources, as I have said. Moreover, if the Government started to sponsor arts training directly, it could become a never-ending drain on the Exchequer from all the folk whose hopes of financial support had suddenly been raised.

There may, as noble Lords have suggested, be a case for looking again at the scope of mandatory awards, though I can see little prospect of any extension in present economic circumstances. However, I assure your Lordships that the Government will be keeping the question under review in the light of local education authorities' future plans for discretionary awards. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, that we are not trying to shrug anything off and we are not trying to issue raspberries or strawberries!

I am afraid that I have not offered very much by way of further finance for training gifted children in the performing arts, although we all agree on the desirability of this. Still, I think we have tonight given the various aspects of this topic a most useful airing, and who knows but that some businessman or commercial organisation may read about this debate and be spurred on to sponsor the training of a bright child—for example, a future musician, actor or dancer. Also, I hope very much that local education authorities will feel encouraged to continue with their crucially important and very worthwhile work in this field.

My Lords, if I find I have left out certain things—and I am sure I have—apart from what I have said to the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, I will promise to write. I will also write to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, about art in the art colleges. I would like to thank all your Lordships who have contributed to this very interesting debate and to apologise for my inadequacy if I have not answered sufficiently well.