§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Lord Polwarth rose to call attention to the precarious financial position of the performing arts; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to call attention to the precarious financial position of the performing arts. Their situation is serious and becoming daily more so. It has been highlighted, along with a number of other matters concerning the arts, in the recent report of the Education, Science and Arts Committee in another place, entitled Public and Private Funding of the Arts: probably the most thorough and perceptive review of this field ever made.
§ My reason for limiting the Motion to the performing arts is simply on account of the limited time available in a short debate. If I may declare my own interests, apart from a love of music and ballet in particular, I was for five years chairman of the Scottish National Orchestra, during which time we raised £600,000 to create the new Henry Wood concert and rehearsal hall in Glasgow. I am a member of the Ministry for the Arts' committee on business sponsorship, and gave evidence before the Commons Committee. On the other side of the fence, as a company director I have had to consider the multifarious appeals for support from artistic and other charitable bodies. If I refer for my examples to Scottish organisations, it is because that is where my experience lies and I am sure other noble Lords will redress the balance.
§ I am delighted to see so many names on the list even though this may involve a certain degree of self-discipline, as your Lordships can calculate yourselves. I have a number of letters from others, regretting their inability to be here to support my Motion, among them the noble Lords, Lord Gibson and Lord Goodman.
§ In your Lordships' House I do not think I need say much about the great importance of the performing arts and their contribution to our whole cultural heritage, in providing mental and spiritual refreshment, enriching our lives and leisure (of which there seems to be an increasing amount) and marking us as a civilised nation. Nor do I think there is any dispute on the principle of some public funding of the performing arts, any more than of education, with which indeed they overlap. The Government have had to take over very largely from the enlightened patrons of past ages, whom they have effectively taxed out of existence.
§ That is not all. The arts are also a sound national investment. It is estimated that in all they employ at least 200,000 people and they have a turnover of nearly £900 million. They are an immense tourist attraction, bringing large numbers of visitors and large sums of cash, not just to London but to places like Stratford, Glyndebourne and Edinburgh for its festival. On the other hand, there is no doubt that many performing arts organisations are in a precarious financial state: you have only to read the evidence 1270 given to the committee. After a period of growth, both in quantity and in quality, during the 1960s and early 1970s, British music, opera, ballet and drama had reached a position of high esteem in the world. Now, for the past few years, they have been inexorably squeezed between rising costs and increasingly restricted income. Companies have had to cut down on their repertoires, to eschew new ventures and to restrict their touring, and they see their reserves melting away.
§ To take the Scottish National Orchestra, for example, they are threatened with having to reduce their players to a number inconsistent with remaining in the first league of symphony orchestras, even though, thanks to an enlightened act of sponsorship, they have just had a highly successful American tour, including filling Carnegie Hall in New York to capacity.
§ Scottish Opera have severe financial problems and have had virtually to eliminate new productions. The Scottish Baroque Ensemble, which is so eminently suited to taking chamber music to smaller communities, was summoned twice by the Canada Council to tour the remoter parts of Canada, because they could take good chamber music to smaller communities, and yet they are inhibited by lack of funds from doing much of the same in their native Scotland. This kind of existence places a severe strain on performers and administrators, and the survival of a number of these companies must be in doubt.
§ Nor can it be said that the performing arts are, in general, extravagantly run. The administration behind them has been cut to the bone, and the performers themselves are hardly overpaid. With rank and file orchestral salaries at, in the case of Scotland, less than £6,000 a year, is it any wonder that players are drifting away to full-time teaching and other jobs in order to live? I understand that when the Scottish National Orchestra played in Chicago last month, the local symphony players had just negotiated salaries more than four times those of our own.
§ What are the principal sources of income for the performing arts? Broadly, first, there is the box office—that is, the sale of tickets, recordings, and other such activities. Then there is private and corporate support, whether in direct gifts or in the form of sponsorhip. Finally, there is public subsidy, both from local authorities and, most important of all, from central Government through the Arts Council.
§ On box office, I believe that most companies have made heroic efforts to increase their take. Ticket prices have been raised to the highest level that audiences will take. With active marketing, virtually all seats are being sold; and miscellaneous income is being found from everything from lotteries to the sale of T-shirts.
§ On private patronage, it is immensely encouraging to see the strides made in securing business sponsorship. A particular debt is due to the efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts. It is estimated that sponsorship of the arts is now running at some £6 million to £7 million a year, which is getting on for 10 per cent. of the Arts Council's whole budget. It shows a most enlightened attitude on the part of sponsors, not only British companies, but American oil and other companies, which have made a great 1271 contribution. But they are still too few in number. Somehow this idea must be extended down to medium-sized and smaller businesses supporting arts organisations on a regional and local basis.
§ This support is extremely valuable and I know it is the Government's policy to see it, and other private support, increased. But I think it would be quite wrong to see it as a substitute for longer-term regular funding from the public purse. The sources are too uncertain. Sponsoring companies can change their policies and their views and, indeed, can go through a recession themselves. As I said in my evidence to the committee, I believe that we should regard sponsorship as the icing on the cake—as something to enable performing companies to do what they would not otherwise be able to do, such as tours, new productions and the like.
§ Quite apart from sponsorship, I believe there is great scope for increasing individual and corporate giving to the arts, if only such gifts could be freely deductible from taxed income. The Treasury seem to have a total blockage on this, insisting on adhering to the antiquated and tortuous system of deeds of covenant. Certainly, there was some improvement with the 1981 Act, but how many people are willing to commit themselves, even for four years ahead, with all the signing of the forms and the other palaver? Indeed, how many know of the recent allowance for higher rates of tax? A straightforward allowance of, say, 10 per cent. of taxable income to an individual in gifts to charitable bodies, as happens in the United States, in Canada and in West Germany, would, I believe, result in a large increase in private support, with comparatively small loss of revenue. Surely, there cannot be any reason for continuing to resist this change, other than sheer obstinacy.
§ Finally, I come to public financial support and, first, that of local government. The picture here is extremely mixed. Some authorities are generous but the great majority, I regret to say, are not and the picture is getting worse. It is all too easy for a council, seeking economies, to pick on the arts as an optional extra to be sacrificed. We have seen enough of this in Scotland. Following the 1976 local government reorganisation, a number of councils, with some honourable exceptions, seized on the opportunity to ditch the performing arts. Their support, in total, for the five "national" performing companies in Scotland dropped substantially; in the case of the Scottish National Orchestra from over 30 per cent. of their income in 1975 to around 12 per cent. now. This Philistine attitude—nothing less—is deplorable and, much as I dislike bringing the law into the arts, I believe that it fully justifies one of the committee's recommendations; namely, to impose a statutory duty on local authorities to provide access to the arts to all those who show the desire or interest, with the financial implications.
It is when we come to central Government's contribution to the arts, through the Arts Council, that the committee is at its most forthright. To quote:
the level of public funding should be substantially increased over the next five years and thereafter, in order to give arts organisations the confidence to make long-term plans, free from damaging economic constraints and in line with the artistic needs of their public";
and they set out a framework with the financial implications.
§ On no account can these implications be called extravagant. At present, the performing arts receive some £108 million a year from public funds, a quarter of this from local government, three-quarters of it through the Arts Council and, in total, less than the total amount from the public funds to museums in the country as a whole.
§ The Arts Council have a pretty impossible task in trying to spread their meagre ration of jam so wide. Some, I know, will argue that they should be more selective in their choice and should not attempt to spread it so wide. But, be that as it may, they are doing their level best and they deserve better of the Government. Look, my Lords, at the figures for public expenditure on the arts as a whole in eight European countries, as they are set out in Table 7 to that report. At the top of the league is West Germany—always a massive public supporter of its arts—with a huge £38 a head, followed by Sweden with £25 and Norway with £20 a head; by Austria and the Netherlands, both small countries, with around £ 16 a head; by Denmark and France with around £ 12 a head and, finally, and at the bottom, by the United Kingdom with £8 a head. This is hardly something of which to be proud; in fact, I think that we should be downright ashamed.
§ To free our performing arts from their constant financial worries and fears of imminent closure and to give them a glimmer of hope for a brighter and more creative future would take an increase in grant which would be minimal in relation to the national budget. And yet what a vast difference it would make to the pride and morale of all those involved: performers, managements and audiences.
I am sure your Lordships will agree with the committee in their conclusion that:
The continuing health and vitality of the arts depends upon a wider recognition by those in authority of their importance, and unless a far greater number of the British people can be persuaded that the health of the nation depends upon the flourishing of the arts we shall bequeath a poorer legacy than we inherited".
§ If that happens, what will our successors think of us?
§ There is a great deal which the Government and others can do, especially after study of this report. But one thing they have an immediate opportunity to do is to restore the patient to health before terminal illness sets in. The Arts Council grant is, I understand, due to be announced in the next few weeks. I urge the Government to make a generous upward step in their grant and so make it a happy Christmas and good New Year for the performing arts and the arts as a whole. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Lord Beaumont of Whitley
My Lords, we are all extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, for having put this motion before us. We can measure the appreciation to a certain extent by the number of distinguished speakers who have put down their names to speak this evening and by the consequent rationing of the time that any single one of us has. In particular, we look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Marley. We are now almost getting into the habit of debating subjects which call for the expertise of members who have sat in your 1273 Lordships' House for quite a time without finding an opportunity to make their maiden speech. We certainly look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Marley.
There were two matters which I wanted to discuss this afternoon. Unfortunately, I shall have time now for only one of them. One was the use of the subsidies which we at present have in the arts to subsidise the arts of the mainly well-off. There is an imbalance. There is a need for us to switch resources into arts for those who are less well off. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, will say something about that matter a little later in our debate. In the meantime, I want to put before your Lordships one or two considerations which have been decided upon by the Liberal Party in putting forward its new and, I think rather distinctive policy for subsidising the arts.
If, as now seems likely, the grant to the Arts Council is increased by about 4 to 5 per cent. in the current financial year—we hope that it will be increased by more, but the message we seem to be getting is not very hopeful—the result will be not to sustain the arts system in its present state of impoverishment but to force the council into further severe cuts. Several major regional theatres are threatened, together with one or more of our national companies, and there would still be no money to spare to respond to new initiatives—perhaps the most valuable side of the Arts Council's work. The time has come when we must consider a more appropriate way of funding the arts.
It is not just a matter of finding more money but of considering what kind of priorities our society should have. We must start by acknowledging that the arts have suffered from a singularly confused administration in Britain. It makes no sense at all to have films under one Ministry, telecommunications under another, the live arts under a third and heritage under a fourth. All these different areas of the arts are closely, and indeed crucially, related. Many films nowadays are made for television. The whole of the telecommunications industry depends upon the flourishing of the live arts. And the record industry depends upon 2,000 years of product development.
We need one Ministry, whatever we like to call it, with a Minister of Cabinet status. Everybody calls for Cabinet status for their personal pet subject. But I believe that the need for this for the arts is becoming more clear. With the growing number of people unemployed or under-employed, the uninstructed, the unstructured time of the population is becoming greater. There is a need for a Minister of Culture, a Minister of Leisure—call him what you will. It is overdue but it is quite clear that we should have one now.
We also have various other problems which we must tackle. There is the problem of video piracy, which we have allowed to grow to a point where it threatens the survival of legitimate video dealers. But it is not just a question of the dealers. It is a question that if this piracy goes on, no producer will be able to afford to make films, either on video tape or for the cinema. Video piracy is only one aspect of the problem. There is the problem of the free domestic borrowing of music and drama through home recording—in its way a very admirable development but one which has economic effects on the producers. 1274 Here it is that the Liberal suggestion that there should be a low tax levied on all blank sound and video tape, to be used specifically to assist the live arts, comes into its own. It is hard to get precise figures, but a 2 per cent. tax on blank tape is likely to raise more than £50 million. If that were to be given direct to the Arts Council it would transform the council's financial situation. But perhaps that is not the best way of using it. Perhaps we do not want to continue centralisation of the patronage of the arts through the Arts Council and the Ministry of Culture. Perhaps we want to go rather more for pluralism in our culture.
It is here that we have developed a scheme of vouchers which we believe will restore power into the hands of the customer. It is a vitally important thing to do. One key factor in the decline of the theatre, for instance, has been that ticket prices have not risen to meet inflation. We believe that the new money which would be found through our proposed tax on blank tape should be devoted to the support of theatre prices in subsidised and commercial enterprises alike—and not just theatre prices but also those for concerts and other performing arts.
There are several methods by which this could be done, but we suggest a voucher system whereby consumers could buy arts vouchers which would offer them a reduction of, say, one-third on the price of theatre and concert hall tickets. This keeps ticket prices low for the consumer, but allows managements to receive a proper reward from their box office sales and does not distort the pattern of patronage which is then enforced by the purchaser and by the consumer. Such a measure would have the effect of relieving the Arts Council of some of its financial burden. Money which now many subsidised companies use to keep their ticket prices low could go into other areas—priming grants to get new companies going, bridging loans for new companies.
The tax on blank tape and the voucher scheme, and possibly an increased subsidy to the Arts Council, are all measures which are urgently needed, but they will not themselves cure the crisis of the arts. We also need to encourage the local authorities. It is a combination of local authorities, the Arts Council and regional arts associations whom we need to put to work on these particular tasks.
That can happen only if we adopt a different attitude to the arts in this country—not regarding the arts as the deserving poor always in need of charitable handouts, but recognising their contribution to the country's economy and acknowledging the special needs of creative and interpretive artistes. Overall, the arts are not a drain on the country's resources. They are a major draw to tourists. One survey has revealed that for the £ 1 million invested as subsidy in the Edinburgh Festival, the city received £16 million in return. In themselves our organisations may be poor but they contribute to the general wealth of society. We would all suffer in plain financial terms if the arts were to decline in this country; the West End is a vital part of the economy of central London.
That is not the only reason why we should support the arts. As I have suggested, there is the prospect of increased leisure in our society even when we move, possibly, out of the depths of this particular recession. The age of the silicone chip and microprocessor 1275 is here. That will mean, I believe, a continuing shortening of the working week, a lowering of retirement ages, and a reduction of hours worked during the day. This prospect is in some ways frightening, but the answer does not lie in increased consumerism, as some suggest; it lies in doing what we can to improve the quality of our lives in this country. This requires, among other things, the skill and aesthetic appreciation which our artistes can provide—and our artistes are now recognised as being among the leading artistes in the world.
If we lose the battle to ensure the survival of the arts system now, we shall not win the war against commercial and state interventionism in the future. The Liberal Party has produced an arts policy that is both practical and distinctively liberal in its traditions. We hope to implement it in the not too distant future but in the meantime we are not dogs in the manger. It is up for grabs, and we invite this Government to help themselves.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Lord Rhodes
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Polwarth, on introducing this debate today, knowing as I do what he has done for the arts in his native Scotland. I note that one or two of the recommendations which he made in evidence have got through to become recommendations for attention by the Government.
I have been associated with the funding of the arts for a long time. In fact, I sent a letter to Andrew Carnegie when I was seven years old, in 1902, asking him if he would buy me a cornet. A cornet was something in those days—I believe it cost £5. Today it is a different proposition, but those were the days when my aunts and uncles used to go to the local vocal society. My aunt used to appear at our house with her skirt tied at the waist with a tape, so that her skirt would not drag in the mud as she was walking two miles to rehearsals, and performances.
I sometimes believe that we ought to consider what progress we have made, and a little historical sentiment will not do any harm whatsoever. I did not get a cornet from Andrew Carnegie. In fact, I did not even get an answer to my letter, but I was sent to get a cornet from the local band. I took this battered instrument back home and my mother boiled it, because it was full of tobacco quids. Eventually, I became very proud of this instrument, which I became able to play as time went on.
When I came home after the First World War, instead of my hobby being running, it was music. As a boy I had to stand at the elbow of my grandfather, who used to transcribe as fast as an ordinary individual could write orchestral parts condensed for the brass band stand. That was where I learnt what it was all about.
In the 1920s, I played my part in organising choirs. In fact, I was for years the only person who was instrumental in getting grand opera into the barren wastes of culture in Oldham. Those were the days when it was degrading, the way in which music makers were treated. Time and time again I was organising concerts in the parish church for the cornet men of the Hallé Orchestra, who were delighted to come to 1276 Saddleworth for the collection. The record collection was £17 10s. Od. for people of the calibre of Alfred Barker, Denis Mathews and Stewart Knussen—and I could name many more.
What we did was to establish something of which we are very proud. We have that involvement in our district of 22,000 souls of a nature that I do not believe is matched in many places in this country. We have eight full brass bands. We have three school bands. We have several drama companies. We have a theatre of our own. When our heritage treasures looked as though they were going to be disposed because of a shortage of museum space and the local authority could not accommodate the treasures we had, we built a museum. Out of a total of £200,000 we owed, we have wiped off that debt until it is no more than £6,000 today. It is providing work for out of work librarians and statisticians, and it is kept going by voluntary means.
When funding for the arts is talked about, most people think in terms of grand opera. There is a lot more to it than that, because if one is to make a success of making art more available one has to enlist the enthusiasm of the people who live in one's area.
I am the president of the North West Arts Association and have been for the past 10 years. I am also president of many other associations which have to do with the development of the arts and the funding of them. It is no use haranguing local authorities from London. It has to be done by influential people who know what they are talking about in the region. This is why this magnificent report. one of the best I have ever seen on the arts, emphasises this in about 10 recommendations which have to do with the grass roots and the money to be distributed by the regional associations.
I am impressed by the heavy emphasis placed on the future role of the regional arts associations, and it is pleasing to note the confidence the committee had in the regional associations being able to carry more responsibility. The local government reorganisation of 1974 was a very heady time for newly appointed officials and representatives, who thought they were better able to distribute money for the arts than any regional arts council. But that is a long time ago, and I am glad to say that the relationships that we have with the local authorities have never been more stable or closer than they are now; we are now making progress, but it is very slow. We should remember that any major change in the attitude of people in any country or any community in the world is a very slow job; it takes a minimum of 40 years before a good idea really gets going in the community.
We are not complacent in the North-West. There is room for closer contacts still. There is too wide a gap between one local authority and another in the provision that they make for the arts. It is education and patience and constant working for it that will do the job. What we have got to do is to keep a watchful eye on our arts administrators, too, who try to keep the politicians at arm's length. Despite the great differences in what local authorities provide for the arts there is much room for closer contact still. It is very interesting to see the gradual change of attitude on the part of local authority members who were suspicious of the arts, changing their opinions when 1277 they have the experience of sitting on one of our numerous panels.
Over the 10 years during which I have been associated with the North-West arts I think the most outstanding development has occurred in what is known as community participation. Here the report stresses precisely what we have been trying to do on making the arts more available. We are happy when we see local authorities increasing their involvement and we do all in our power to encourage them to run their own show. A bigger income is not our first priority regarding the local authorities, but more interest and action by the local authorities in doing things for themselves. That is one of the first priorities.
I was interested to see in the report recommendations 48 and 49 which drew attention to the way in which the Scottish Arts Council has been funding amateurs. But this is a short debate and I will not keep the House any longer. What I do, however, say is this. It is a job which needs patience, which needs education, which needs persistence, which needs leadership with vision. I hope that it is possible for the Government to be able to keep pace and, if possible, improve on the way they have been funding the arts. I sincerely hope that we can make more progress with the local authorities than we have done before. Some of us are doing our best to do so, and it is a very good thing to raise this subject in this House today.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Lord Marley
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Polwarth for introducing this debate today. It is a vital subject and he has presented the details very clearly indeed. Also, speaking personally, it at last gives me an opportunity of speaking to your Lordships for the first time. In my very brief remarks I am simply going to concentrate on what some of the performing arts, in groups or individuals, can do for themselves within their own perimeter. The first obvious objective is to gather an audience. An audience pay, or if they do not pay at least they spread the interest in the subject which they have watched. In this context I might possibly be allowed to suggest to Her Majesty's Government that VAT might be withdrawn from theatre tickets.
I am simply going to give your Lordships a few examples of the individual enterprise and achievement that can happen, has happened in the past, and is happening at present, and I hope will continue to happen in the future. The first two examples are concerned with my own career in the film production business. Some 35 years ago I was involved in a film which necessitated the shooting of a scene in your Lordships' House, in the Royal Gallery, depicting a trial by Peers. Obviously at that time, 35 years ago, one could not construct the whole Royal Gallery in the studio. So we developed an earlier experiment, building half of it and completing the roof by making a small model and placing this in front of the camera. This added value to the film and also halved the cost of the set; and we were particularly gratified at the end that critics quoted the scene as being an impressive one.
The second example I am going to offer your Lordships is that of when I was working some years later with a smaller company. We had the idea of 1278 adding realism to a film production. This case involved the use of real actual houses, natural settings, instead of building sets in film studios. This was an interesting experiment because we had a group of very young actors at that time, and we found that it added immensely to their comfort if they were in a room instead of sitting on a bleak studio set. This led to a series of financially pretty successful films, including, if I may quote, Tom Jones, for which no shot was filmed in a studio at all. Indeed, at that time it was a fairly revolutionary approach.
For my last two examples, I am turning to youth. The European Community Youth Orchestra is a remarkable achievement. This was started, as many of your Lordships will presumably know, in 1975, when my noble friend Lady Elles put if forward to the European Parliament, and it was carried on by the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal. It has now developed into an international and very important orchestra. Indeed, this year it extended its tour outside Europe to Mexico. It is conducted by such distinguished artists as von Karajan, at Salzburg in 1980. Sir Georg Solti and, particularly, by Claudio Abbado, who is its musical director and trains the orchestra himself. The result is that about 150 players from this orchestra have since joined leading international orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra, the Concetgebouw, and La Scala, Milan. I hope this will continue to gather momentum in the musical world.
My last example refers to a festival on the South Bank involving, schools. This is an event which takes place annually, early in July, and was started three years ago by John Dodge, who is now the Director of Information for ILEA. He had the idea because as a young journalist he covered the Festival of Britain and thought that the South Bank should be more used. I briefly quote from their leaflet, Schools on the South Bank '82;These displays and performances illustrate the quality and variety of creative activities within London's schools . . . provide pupils with the opportunity to display their talents not only to the general public but also to each other, and to do it in an exciting venue in the centre of their own city.The standard is remarkably high. Acting, singing, dancing and costume design are infinitely worth seeing, and I recommend that your Lordships cross Westminster Bridge next July to do that. They are, of course, helped by the delightful, exasperated and laughing teachers who are a great inspiration to the whole festival. This costs ILEA only £2,000 to £3,000 a year. Next September they will present the cream of their talent to the Barbican Centre.
Here I relate just one tiny little incident that does not concern this debate but which happened at the festival. Two small boys were sitting on the grass. One, white, painted his face black to represent a jazz musician. The other, black, was busily painting his face white. "What are you doing that for?" said the jazz man. The answer came, with the supreme logic of the very young, "In school they teachin' us to be equal, so I'm equallin' you." So it goes on with each group, individual and idea filling one of the squares of this vast patchwork quilt of performing arts. After all, they have been with us for upwards of 6,000 years and I hope will continue for another 6,000. All these activities help to improve the precarious financial state 1279 of the performing arts at the moment. All deserve the maximum encouragement from not only the Government, the organisers and the sponsors, but the whole nation.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Lord McGregor of Durris
My Lords, it gives me singular pleasure that I am the first of your Lordships to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Marley, on his maiden speech. It was vigorous, crisp, practical and elegant, and it has sharpened our disappointment that the noble Lord has denied the House the benefit of his contributions for so long. We are pleased that his silence has finally been broken.
I shall describe in brief detail the circumstances of one orchestra, the Forest Philharmonic—as its chairman, I declare an interest—in order to provide evidence in support of one suggestion that I wish to make to the noble Earl who is to reply. What I have to say illustrates in miniature many of the major themes of the compelling speech of the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth. The Forest Philharmonic was established nearly 20 years ago in what is now the London Borough of Walthamstow. It was then under a young and highly gifted conductor, Frank Shipway, who has since achieved international renown as guest conductor of, among others, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic and the Danish and Italian Radio Orchestras. Nevertheless, he still trains and conducts the orchestra in Walthamstow.
Like similar orchestras in other parts of the country, the majority of players are amateurs with a stiffening of professionals. In this case there are 15 professionals among the 80 regular players. The Forest Philharmonic gives five concerts a year in the Walthamstow Assembly Hall, which is acoustically superb. It is always filled, averaging throughout the season an audience of 900 which is drawn from the locality and. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, is fully representative of its social structure. The programmes include as many as possible of the works of such contemporary composers as Panufnik, Malcolm Williamson and Nicholas Maw—perhaps rather more than the audience would have chosen for themselves on a free vote.
Because this orchestra is an amateur body, it does not receive a grant from the Arts Council. Some two-thirds of its annual expenditure of some £20,000 is self-generated from the sale of tickets and programmes, subscriptions, donations and the like, together with the usual run of fund-raising activities. Although there is very little industry in Walthamstow, the orchestra is very fortunate to have three generous sponsors—the John Shand Group of Companies, Bush Boake and Allen and the Midland Bank. The rest of its expenditure is covered by public funds. The local borough, the London Borough of Waltham Forest, has given many varieties of support, including a substantial grant that has remained unaffected by political change. Further income is received from the National Federation of Music Societies and the Greater London Arts Association.
The objectives of the orchestra are not restricted or even primarily directed to mounting concerts. Great importance is attached to education and training and 1280 a full programme is maintained. All amateur members of the orchestra pay an evening class fee of £50 a year and those who cannot afford the full amount are subsidised. Weekly tuition is provided in collaboration with Waltham Forest College. Not only is this orchestra a musical focus for its local community, but it also trains students and exponents at different levels of skill and experience. The instrumentalist straight from school rubs shoulders with the graduate from the major colleges of music. Other institutions within and without London do this too, but few, I think, achieve the scale, range and quality of this orchestra which has often been praised in glowing terms by the country's leading music critics.
The orchestra is able to attract soloists like Pierre Fourniér, Tortelier. Christian Ferras, Shura Cherkassky, John Lill and many others of like quality. I am sure that no voluntary body could be more fully self-helpful in recruiting money than is the Forest Philharmonic Society. But it is now coming to the end of its days. Next season, when current debts are paid, we estimate a loss of around £400 per concert, and the decision has to be taken soon whether it can continue at all. The orchestra has exhausted all its sources of funds. If its members give more time to raising funds they will have no time left at all for music. For the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, it is becoming impossible to seek support by extending sponsorship.
Therefore, here is an orchestra that fulfils essential musical functions: it give concerts; it enables graduates from the main professional colleges to obtain experience in an orchestra before they find their places and their life's work in the professional orchestras; and it enables amateur instrumentalists to pursue their art and their hobby.
Within the school system we invest heavily in musical training. Some 6 to 7 per cent. of all school-children receive instrumental instruction. If orchestras like the Forest Philharmonic collapse, where are those who wish to continue their interest and extend their skills to go? Will such investment yield anything like its full benefits?
Many think—and many noble Lords have already said this in the debate—that we are on the eve of a great increase in leisure deriving from a combination of technological development and general unemployment which it seems reasonable to assume is likely to become a permanent condition of advanced industrial societies. Surely facilities for training and music-making are a national requirement which will become increasingly important to cultural vitality and social stability?
For the purposes of this debate and of immediate action we must, of course, accept the premises and framework of Government policy in respect of public expenditure. But I do not doubt that the policies of the noble Earl's right honourable friend the Minister for the Arts and Culture, are compatible with discrimination in favour of such cases as I have outlined. Indeed, if discrimination is not possible in this area, then policy ceases to be policy and becomes a mere blunderbuss. Would the noble Earl be willing to ask his right honourable friend if it will be possible to consider the establishment of a small emergency fund or some other means which would enable organi- 1281 sations in extremis, like the Forest Philharmonic, to make a reasoned case for their survival? I ask the noble Earl this question in despair, because irretrievable cultural damage would be prevented by such a very small step.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Lord Stodart of Leaston
My Lords, I have known my noble friend Lord Polwarth as a near neighbour for a very long time, from about the period in which I suppose I had my first taste for the arts when I made a considerable hit at school by playing the Queen of the Fairies in Iolanthe—the dear, dim days beyond recall. I am, of course, as every noble Lord has already said, grateful to my noble friend for raising this subject. I should also like to voice my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Marley for his very interesting and illuminating contribution.
I shall limit my remarks to the performing arts in Scotland for reasons which will become obvious. One of my regrets is the difficulty I see in making really constructive suggestions for solving what I consider to be an immensely difficult problem. It was some 17 years ago, in 1965, when there was a debate in another place in which I took part, that precisely the same concern was expressed about financing the arts. Those were the days when the standard price of a seat in the grand tier at Covent Garden was £2. The Arts Council received £3.9 million from the Government and passed on £258,000 to the Scottish Arts Council. The local authorities in Scotland—and this is an interesting point—contributed £400,000 in that year to Scottish arts, equivalent to the rate of one old penny all round. Admittedly it was far below what was then their statutory allowance—and I do not know which civil servant dreamed up this figure—of four and four-fifths of a penny which they were allowed to contribute; and of course many local authorities contributed nothing at all. But the point of great interest is that £400,000 then was far more than the Scottish Arts Council's £258,000.
This year the Arts Council has received just over £80 million from central Government. The Scottish Arts Council has received £9.3 million out of that, and local authorities in Scotland a year ago contributed about £1¾ million to arts organisations which are also supported by the Scottish Arts Council. But, of course, there has been inflation since. The equivalent purchasing power of the 1965 pound sterling as of October this year was £5.55.
So in the last 17 years the Government's grant to the Arts Council has gone up by between five and six times in real terms and what the Arts Council passes on to the Scottish Arts Council has kept pace almost exactly with that. But to match the £400,000 that they gave in 1965 local authorities would have to be contributing £2¼ million today; they are, in fact, contributing about £250,000 less than that.
I come now to the box office. In 1965, and in evidence given before the recent Select Committee, the same claim was made that the point of no return has been reached and if prices are pushed up, audiences will fall. I am not competent to judge this. I suspect that my noble friend Lord Polwarth is right. But the £2 seats at Covent Garden in 1965 in real terms today should be about £11. In fact, the price is £19. So the box office would seem to be playing its part. 1282 In the last three years sponsorship, which was not mentioned in 1965, probably because it had not been thought of, has more than doubled in Scotland, from £299,000 to £658,000. I am advised that it could be better still if sponsorship by a company could be regarded as straightforward advertising and allowed as a business expense. I am assured that this is not allowed, by the then managing director of a company which has been very prominent in this field, and who, in fact, assured me that it would make a world of difference. That is one of the constructive proposals that I would make to assist in what I have already said is a difficult situation.
Quite frankly, I cannot upbraid the Government in the light of the economic situation over many years. I cannot possibly upbraid the Arts Council, because I think that it has been scrupulously fair in maintaining the share which the Scottish Arts Council receives. It is true that it is well short of something about which we used to talk a great deal in those days, the Goschen formula, which I think was eleven-eightieths of the total. The Goschen formula is not heard of so much today, and if I were to go into it I think that it would open up too wide a field for this debate. But that the local authorities have fallen short I think is undeniable. However, everyone must admit that their difficulties are great and a squeeze is on them. Mr. Mackie, who I think was the chairman of the Arts Committee in the Tayside Region, in his evidence to the Select Committee said:The arts are well down in the list of priorities";and went on to say that there just are not any votes in them, even though Tayside has, in fact, given more than the recommendation made to local authorities by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.
The mandatory rating for the arts has been suggested, and I think it is even recommended, by the Select Committee. I noticed that some councillors who gave evidence were not averse to this, I am bound to say that I would regard it with extreme misgiving. I think that it would set a bad precedent of central Government ordering what local government should spend and I believe that it would be immensely difficult when it came down to defining what precisely the arts were.
Finally, very strong feelings were expressed by local authority representatives on the committee, of which I was the chairman, into the functions of local authorities in Scotland, where there are two tiers. To paraphrase what they said, it was: "Why should local government support bodies which never perform in their area—which cannot, anyway, because there is no suitable hall for them to perform in? Let central Government fund the national companies, with the local authorities who are lucky enough to be visited by them contributing if they want to. Leave us, the less fortunate local authorities, to support local artistic efforts".
The evidence by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to the Select Committee is interesting, representing, as it tries hard to do, both tiers of local government with their hithero competing functions. It says that the Scottish Arts Council might fund the national companies, provided that the local authorities agreed to be more responsible for revenue-funding theatres, et cetera, in their own areas. My 1283 committee was not given the benefit of receiving evidence from the convention, but it is interesting to note that in this particular matter our views do not seem all that far apart.
I would merely make one final point. I believe that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State must treat as a matter of very great urgency, now that the functions are being redistributed, the needs of the districts to know how the rate support grant is to be reallocated in order that they may take on the new functions which are placed upon them; and one of those is responsibility for recreation, leisure and the arts. I believe that a crisis for the performing arts does exist.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Lord Somers
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, has done a tremendous service to the arts by introducing this debate today. This subject is not one which is usually given a great deal of time in your Lordships' House, but to those of us who are connected with the arts it is a tremendously important one. I should also like to join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Marley, on his maiden speech. I can remember that when I made mine, a good many years ago, I, too, had waited for several years before doing so. The only difference is that I think his has been much better.
This debate presumably includes all the performing arts, but I shall confine myself to music as that is the only one of which I have any personal experience. Music is not a profit-making profession. I do not think it is generally realised that an orchestra cannot give a concert without making a financial loss; it is practically impossible. They cannot recoup their costs from the sale of tickets only. Therefore, the only hope is support by the Government or subsidisation by commercial firms. I might say that the later source has been extremely generous, and these firms have done very well indeed in their support of such concerts.
I well remember the 1960s, when the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was having a very bad time financially and very wisely formed a council to deal purely with the matter of raising money. That council comprised various members from the commercial world, and others, and for a time I was its chairman. I must say that, thanks to the co-operation of the commercial firms that we contacted, we managed to get the money we wanted; and the Royal Philharmonic is now on a very sound footing. Of course, the money that is given by the Government is given to the Arts Council. There have been some critical remarks made tonight about the Arts Council, but on the whole they have done very well. Naturally, they have done some things which one might question, but in a sphere such as music one can hardly do anything which is not questioned by somebody.
Government support, too, has been criticised for being smaller than in other countries. Of course, the figures which have been quoted are true, but any cake must be of a limited size and the more people there are who want a slice of it the smaller the slices are likely to be. I do not think that any of the countries which give larger support to their music than we do has anything like the overseas commitments (or the inland commit-ments, 1284 for that matter) that our own Government have. Therefore, I think it is not very likely that we shall see a great increase in Government support.
That being the case, I wonder whether there is not some other way in which we could circumnavigate this difficulty. Would it be possible, for instance, to form a committee which could circularise large firms with the events of the coming season and accept their subscriptions towards them, and who could then, with the advice of the Arts Council, distribute the money among the appropriate activities? It might be possible, though I do not quite know how. I have not worked out all the technical difficulties that might arise.
In the discussion on a Question asked during the last Session by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, on the future of the orchestras, the subject of the content of orchestral programmes arose. They tend at the moment to be rather conventional, purely for the reason that orchestras realise that if they introduce anything unfamiliar they will at once empty a quarter of their hall. Our nation is a peculiar one from that point of view. Nobody appears to want to hear anything that they have not heard already several times. The result is that the young and unknown composer does not get a look in anywhere.
It is only right that the unknown composer should have a chance. Therefore, I wonder whether it would be possible for programmes which contain unknown works to be subsidised more heavily than those which do not. A great deal of modern music is absolute nonsense, but, on the other hand, a great deal of it is of great value. You-cannot just say that because the music is modern it is meaningless. There is a great deal of excellent music being written today. That which is nonsense, or rubbish, will die a natural death at its first performance. Nobody will want to hear it again, and nobody will want to play it again. Therefore, no harm will have been done. But the good music will survive. I think that is only just, and that orchestras should be supported in this way.
Then there is the question of education, which was raised particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes. Nobody can become a performing musician without having first learned his instrument. That is fairly obvious, and I do not think anybody could question it. I was very disturbed indeed to see that the Surrey County Council had issued an edict—I do not know whether it did it on its own initiative or whether it was told to do so by the Department of Education; that I intend to find out, so let it be in the air at the moment—saying that schools shall cease all music teaching outside school hours. Of course, most of it has to be outside school hours; and that will mean that practically all part-time instrumental teaching will cease in Government schools. That is going to be a tremendous blow to music. One particular school in Epsom that I have been in touch with has a wonderful record, and it has an enormous number of pupils learning instruments out of school hours.
All that will disappear simply because, apparently, that was laid down in the 1944 Act, if you can believe it—the 1944 Act, when we were still at war and conditions were entirely different! Something should be done to put that straight. I cannot believe that anything of that kind should be allowed to go on. I sincerely hope that when I go to see the Department of 1285 Education they will be able to tell me the true situation. My Lords, I have exceeded my time, so I shall sit down.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ The Earl of Drogheda
My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, for having put down his Motion. I hope that this short debate will be followed by a longer debate when the Select Committee's report from another place can be thoroughly discussed, because it contains many important recommendations. It is a remarkable document. I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Marley, who must be blushing up to the top of his cheeks from all the praise he is getting for his stimulating maiden speech. Now that he has broken the ice, I am sure he will come here again. I never come, but I felt today that I ought to because for 16 years, from 1958 until 1974, I was chairman of the Royal Opera House. I am still closely identified with it because I am joint chairman of the Development Appeal Committee which exists to raise money for improvement to the dreadful facilities of the building. The first phase of the work was completed a few months ago.
Covent Garden is the largest single recipient of money from the Arts Council. At the present time it receives between £9 million and £10 million a year. Together with the English National Opera Company at the Coliseum, London's two opera houses absorb about 17 per cent. of the Arts Council's total budget. If one adds in the two great repertory companies, the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, the percentage of the Arts Council grant going to these four enterprises—the big four, so-called—comes to about 30 per cent.
There are people who hold quite strongly that these four enterprises should not be subsidised through the Arts Council at all; that they should be handled separately through the Arts Minister. There is a strong case for making some change in the present situation because there is always a good deal of criticism and complaint that so much money is going to these threatres, and, of course, Covent Garden in particular, which is the sort of epitome of élitism in the eyes of many people—which is nonsense. The Select Committee recommend that there should be a separate special grant which would be administered by the Arts Council, but would be given to the Arts Council from the Minister for the Arts, who by then, it is suggested, should have Cabinet rank, and then the argument would take on quite a different colour, or so I hope, anyway.
Obviously, no decision is likely to be made in time to help the present predicament, which, ironically enough, comes when Covent Garden is celebrating its 250th anniversary. The predicament, quite simply, is that too little money is being made available to the Arts Council. The needs of the Big Four are growing at a rate well in excess of the funds provided for the arts by the Government. Your Lordships should bear in mind that from a total national budget of well over £100 billion, the Arts Council receives a mere £80 or £85 million to support the arts throughout the country. Even if one adds in the cost of the museums and galleries, which are not handled through the Arts Council, the total cost to the Exchequer represents, I 1286 reckon, about one-third of 1 per cent. of national expenditure. The noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, quoted figures relating to other countries; I am afraid it is sadly true that we show up very badly.
At the same time, there is no doubt that the flourishing of the arts which has taken place in this country since the war has largely been thanks to the setting up of the Arts Council and the change in attitudes which has thereby been brought about. We know that in many fields the position of this country relative to others has declined, but in the arts it is widely recognised that we hold a pre-eminent position, both for the quality of creative work and for the quality of performance; and one can justly say that, taking one night with another, Covent Garden really is one of the centres of excellence, standing high in the international league, to which I know that the Prime Minister herself attaches importance. To jeopardise what has been achieved by a niggardly attitude on the part of the Government—to try to force every form of expenditure into a sort of common straitjacket—would be shortsighted and extremely unimaginative.
I am afraid that the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Somers, that one can somehow bridge the gap by help from the private sector, is sadly unrealistic; some money is gradually forthcoming all the time, but it is still far away from what is required. The first thing must be a major change in the tax laws. In the case of Covent Garden—and elsewhere, I think—the level of seat prices has been forced up to a point at which it is becoming counter-productive. As my noble friend Lord Stodart said, the box office has, therefore, been playing its part, but attendances are showing a tendency to fall, not because of performance standards but because people cannot afford to pay, with the stalls going up to £20, £25 and £30 each. Covent Garden's annual expenditure is now approaching £20 million. People may say, "Surely, from a total like that, you can squeeze out 5 or 7½ per cent?" But three-quarters of the figures represents wages, salaries and artistes fees, and the artistes fees are determined by the international market, which is not helped by a falling pound. Every year, when the figures are presented to the Arts Council, they go through them with a fine comb, so I do not think there is much fat there.
I hope the Minister will be able to say that he and his colleagues recognise the importance of the arts and appreciate that what is, relatively speaking, a very young growth should not be checked as it develops. This means that more money than has been promised to the Arts Council for the coming year must urgently be made available, for I assure your Lordships that the position is seriously critical. For the longer term, I seriously hope that action will be taken to implement the carefully-considered recommendations of the Select Committee's Report, for it is a very important document which must not be pigeon-holed.
I regret that I must apologise, in that I do not think I shall be able to remain until the end of the debate. I have not exceeded my time, but I have a long-standing prior engagement and may therefore have to read Hansard to see what the Minister had to say in reply.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Lord Annan
My Lords, I hope the noble Earl, Lord Avon, will accept my excuse when I say that I do not
1287 know what the punishment is for impersonating another noble Lord. I expect it is decapitation on Tower Hill at the very least. I telephoned to say that I wanted to take part in this debate but I suspect that, as the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, will recognise, an English ear does not always hear accurately a Scottish name. I am glad that my old friend Lord Polwarth initiated this debate because it emphasises how important the arts are in Scotland, Wales and in the regions. We tend so often, I feel—those of us who live in London—to think it is only the great companies in London which matter.
I wish to comment on rationalisation. During the 'sixties the universities and polytechnics were continually being urged by the Government to rationalise. They did nothing about it; perhaps it was impossible for them to do anything about it. Equally the University Grants Committee refused to do j anything about rationalisation. They simply said, "Each university has a base line. We honour that base line. Of course, some are better off than others, and we will make minor adjustments"—upwards, of course—for those which show special initiatives". In the end they had to rationalise. They did rationalise in the 'eighties and it was a very painful process.
I wonder whether the same thing should not happen with the great companies in London. In the 'sixties, there was no national theatre at the beginning of the decade. There was the Old Vic, which had the status of a national theatre, and there was Sadler's Wells as the second opera house. Then, in the 'seventies we had the ENO at the Coliseum and the National Theatre in all its glory. But still attempts were made to keep the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells going, and the contraction which should have taken place at that time did not occur.
I remember some years ago, when I was a director of Covent Garden, being part of a delegation to the Arts Council. It was the usual kind of delegation, saying, "We are in a desperate state of crisis. Please may we have more funds?" I said to the chairman of the council, "Is it not possible for you to think of some rationalisation? Do we really need so many ballet and opera companies? Is it not possible for some amalgamations to take place which would still give touring companies to the public and would still keep the Coliseum and Covent Garden going? But there could be some economies". He replied, "Not at all. That is not the Arts Council's business. Our business is to put pennies into begging bowls. We do not go in for this business of rationalisation. That is up to the companies themselves". Believe me, my Lords, it really is impossible for individual companies to rationalise in this way. Therefore I ask myself whether some rationalisation of these great companies is not possible. As speeches must be short, I shall not this evening put forward my own plan for this; it would be a great impertinence if I did so. But I think that there are possibilities that are well known, if I may say so, to those who are the directors or trustees of these great organisations.
I wish to conclude by saying one other thing. I know that this is a debate about the performing arts, and of course the performing arts are dear to all our hearts. They give pleasure to hundreds of thousands of 1288 people. But what I fear the Government might be tempted to do would be to take money from the non-performing arts and give it to the performing companies. The British Museum has 3 million visitors a year, the Science Museum has 3 million, and the National Gallery has 2½ million. Those are institutions which lost out in the great bonanza of the 1960s when everybody's base line was raised. The museums and the galleries remained rather as ugly sisters until the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, came along dressed as the Fairy Godmother and waved his wand. He improved their situation, but it was not all that much improved.
I want to sound a word of warning here. It would be false economy to say: "We could cut the purchase grants, we could reduce the amount that we give to the museums and galleries in order to save the performing arts, particularly the big companies in London". Indeed those companies need greater sustenance. They need sustenance if they are to maintain their standards. They will not maintain their standards if there are so many bits and pieces attached to those companies and if no rationalisation takes place. I know that the noble Earl who is to reply would not for one moment want the Government, nor the department, to get involved in any rationalisation of this kind. But I urge him to draw this point to the attention of the Arts Council and to say: "Dislike it as you may, you may have to follow the policy which the University Grants Committee has been forced to follow in recent years".
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Lord Mancroft
My Lords, you may have noticed in the newspapers this morning a report of an interesting event. It occurred last night in the great city of Bath, and it was the re-opening of the restored Theatre Royal. I at once declare an interest because like many people who lived around that area, I was persuaded to take part in a little fund-raising, and the result was extremely encouraging The money came in—I must remind your Lordships that there is still a little more to come, please—from the widow's mite of the old-age pensioner, right up to extremely generous gifts from the English Tourist Board. I mention that organisation in particular having myself for a long time been engaged in the tourist industry, and I say it for the benefit of those who mock tourism, who jeer at tourists, and who forget the contribution that tourism and the theatre make to our economy.
We learnt some interesting lessons, one of which was I think mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Marley, in an interesting maiden speech. No matter how much money is made available, it is no good if one does not have an audience. The Theatre Royal in Bath will succeed because Bath has a need for a theatre. But go down to the seasides, look at all the piers, at the end of which are derelict theatres, which in the old days used to be full, and which gave birth to many new and rising stars. The supply and demand has got out of kilter; it is out of balance. The demand has gone off, and has switched to holidays in the Costa Brava. That is the trouble there.
Look at London, my Lords, where we have more than six theatres standing empty, or up for sale. Of course, the difficulty is not only in Bath, and the 1289 reasons are familiar to everybody—traffic problems, parking problems, poor restaurant and bar facilities. But the one that was mentioned most of all to my friends and myself when we were going around looking for money was the dearth of good new plays; and that is where the audience will go, to look at good new plays. But there are none. So they stay at home. They stay at home in front of the television, watching the "Barchester Chronicles" and "Yes, Minister". Therefore, I am not surprised to read that when the average man reaches the age of 68 (my age) he will have spent nine and a half years before the television set.
What therefore is Bath's answer, and what has Bath to contribute to the problem? The first is good parking, and there is also good catering, as well as facilities for the deaf and the disabled. But most of all the theatre in Bath is a triple purpose theatre. Far too many theatres around the country have gone broke because they are eating up rent, rates, and insurance while standing empty for most of the day. Not so Bath, where the theatre is triple purpose, able to take conferences, and able also to put on concerts. Of course, one cannot guarantee good plays; nor can the Government.
Out of interest I turned up the copy of The Times for 1st December exactly 50 years ago, and your Lordships might like to know the names of the authors who then had plays on the stage in London: Bernard Shaw, Somerset Maugham, James Bridie, Noël Coward, Frederick Lonsdale, Ben Travers, Hugh Walpole, Ian Hay, and Dodie Smith. Are your Lordships surprised that some theatres are empty nowadays? By the way, there was also a revival of "Macbeth", but I do not think that it was quite the fiasco d'estime as was the last revival that occurred in London.
There is the same kind of trouble with music; I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Somers, mention this. The RPO has been complaining that only £3,000 has been allotted for contemporary music. Again, I turn to The Times, and I find that during the week in which the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth—whose excellent speech I so much admired—put his Motion on the Order Paper, there were four performances of Beethoven's seventh symphony. I bow to no one in my admiration of Beethoven's seventh symphony. Indeed, I think that I am one of the few Members of your Lordships' House who has actually played in a performance of it. But too much programme music was what the noble Lord, Lord Somers, was complaining about; and it is bound to happen. Again, it is the question of supply and demand being out of proportion. There are far too few good composers, as there are far too few good playwrights, and people just will not go and listen a second time to a piece that has bored the daylights out of them the first time.
The other day when the death occurred of Percy Grainger—whom, your Lordships may recall, wrote Country Gardens and Handel in the Strand—one of the obituary notices criticised him for being not really a composer, but only a tunesmith. May I remind the author of that obituary notice that Beethoven, Mozart, and Schubert all wrote a large number of thundering good tunes!
I am slightly to blame myself. I know about this, 1290 because on one occasion while I was studying music at Bonn University we all had to submit a composition of our own. I composed a sonata for unaccompanied 'cello—which is a rash thing to do at the best of times. But my instructor was a kind man. He looked at it, and he said, "Mancroft, your work will be acknowledged long after Beethoven's is forgotten—but not before!"
Time is running out, and I must conclude. I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, that we need more money. I shall not repeat all his excellent arguments. But, as I say, I think that one of the basic troubles is the lack of new creative talent, and that is something that the Government cannot provide. Of course, the system of music and the arts is irrational, when one thinks that the Beatles can earn a million in a day and Mozart was buried in a pauper's grave.
There is another point, which I should like to put to the noble Earl who is to reply. I do not want an answer on it tonight, but I hope that he will bear it in mind. I believe that there is a conflict in regard to the policy of donations in the public sector, involving the Arts Council, the tourist boards, local authorities, and the Government. I have noticed this more than once in going on my rounds. If we do not face these facts, there is a very great danger of the arts falling into grave disrepute. I understand that a 14 per cent. rise is needed, but I think that we are very unlikely to get it. The only solution is for the noble Earl, Lord Avon, to produce for us a new Beethoven and a new Shakespeare. It might be a little difficult for him, but I have such confidence in our Government Front Bench that I am sure that they will do their best.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Viscount Chandos
My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to those expressed by other noble Lords to the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, for initiating this debate and demonstrating so vividly the severe crisis in the performing arts. The knowledge and experience of the noble Lord, Lord Marley, which he demonstrated so well in his speech, make me feel inadequate even in congratulating him, let alone in speaking further. In that vein I think that in a debate on this subject it would be appropriate to describe myself as an understudy for my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, who is unable to attend your Lordships' House this evening and whose knowledge and experience will therefore be much missed.
To pursue a theatrical analogy, I fear that I have perhaps earned a reputation with the Government Benches as an "angry young man" in the year since I first spoke in your Lordships' House, so perhaps I should begin by saying that support for the arts is not a matter for political controversy and that the efforts of the present Government have not been, and should not be, under-estimated. The last 10 years have seen an extraordinarily difficult economic environment in this country, and it is a tribute to all the Governments which have held office during this time that the arts have continued to thrive. There is, however, now a clear danger that the achievements of the artistic world and of successive Governments in nurturing it through thick and thin will be jeopardised by the relentless economic squeeze.
I think it is easy for my generation to take for granted the quality and range of choice of the 1291 performing arts which are now available, not only in London but throughout the United Kingdom. I was, therefore, particularly struck by a passage in the recent article by the successor to the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, as chairman of the Royal Opera House, Sir Claus Moser, which was published in the Financial Times recently. In fact, the whole article seemed to me to portray the current position and problems so well that I was strongly tempted to read the entire peice to your Lordships rather than to inflict on you my own views. I believe, however, that that would be not only out of order but also time-consuming, None the less, I hope your Lordships will bear with me if I read a short passage:One does not have to go back beyond the lifetime of at least the older ones among us to see a scene totally different from today. Take the 1930s. Opera in London meant mainly summer seasons lasting a few weeks, and outside London there was the Carl Rosa Company and Gilbert and Sullivan. That was about the sum of it. Audiences can hardly have numbered more than a few tens of thousands, mostly well-off and, of course, there was no public subsidy.Here we are, a mere 50 years later, with London alone typically putting on between 300 and 400 opera performances and as many again outside. There must be well over a million 'bottoms on opera seats' in a year . . .It is a stunning transformation and the same story could be told of theatre, ballet, museums, music generally and so on. Much of this is owed to the sensible use of public subsidy, a credit to successive Governments and Arts Councils".I hope that every visitor to British theatres, opera houses and arts theatres during this Christmas season can be reminded of how much we have to lose if we do not find ways of helping the performing arts at a time of crisis.
The case for maintaining our artistic life at its present level is, of course, a broad one, relating to the quality of life of every section of the community. The fact that there can also be narrower economic grounds for support should be seen as a bonus.I will join the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in reminding your Lordships that tourism in the United Kingdom contributes substantially more to our invisible earnings than the City of London, and while the British weather may be as unfairly maligned as the j British worker, it is undeniable that a large number of visitors to this country are attracted by our outstanding artistic life.
If the contribution of the Government to the country's artistic and cultural richness has been substantial, the private sector has played an important role as well. In recent years business sponsorship of the arts has been increasing rapidly in real terms, with estimated support in 1980 of £4 million, rising this year to around £7 million, as the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, pointed out. The most recent annual report of the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts includes a list of sponsors which demonstrates the contribution which companies now make to our artistic life, as well as the valuable role played by ABSA itself in advising both sponsors and artists on the right way to balance the sometimes difficult and different demands of art and commerce.
The immediate priority must be, however, that central Government support for the arts is increased to ensure that there are no casualties in the performing arts over the next year that lead to irreplaceable loss to the country's artistic life. The sum needed for this 1292 purpose, perhaps £10 million in the next financial year, may represent a substantial increase in the total central Government expenditure on the arts, but in relation to public expenditure as a whole it is tiny. It is difficult to imagine any area of public expenditure in which value for money could be achieved through such a comparatively modest sum.
In the longer run, however, I feel, like my noble ally Lord Beaumont of Whitley, that there must be a reexamination of the way in which central Government, local government, business, the media and the artists themselves work to maximise the revenue available for the performing arts. The Arts Council has long had a policy of favouring applications where real efforts have been made to raise at least some part of the required funds from the private sector. I should like to ask the noble Earl whether any extension of such a principle is considered feasible, so that for approved projects or applicants the Arts Council might allow a fixed sum plus an amount based on that raised additionally through private sponsorship or donations, perhaps on a ratio of £2 additional Arts Council support for every £ 1 raised from the private sector. In my view it would be better to institute such a scheme than to introduce greater tax concessions to those supporting the arts—as the noble Lord, Lord Stodart, suggested—which might further diminish the influence of individuals and smaller corporate supporters compared to that of the wealthiest and largest companies. Commercially-based support will inevitably favour the more conventional and less experimental areas of the performing arts, so that grants related to individual donations and contributions must be a more effective method of protecting the interests of the smaller groups in the performing arts without prejudicing the continuation of our flagship enterprises.
Although I have just exceeded my time, I should like to make a further point. This week may well mark the demise of the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, which seem to me to have established in a short time an outstanding reputation as a model for a successful community arts centre. To an outside observer—and I have no connection with the studios—their fate seems to have depended on local politics more akin to a BBC production of "The Borgias" than to a sensible approach to the performing arts. Here seems to be an outstanding opportunity for commercial interests, local government, central Government and the media to combine forces and establish a pattern for the future that allows the performing arts in the United Kingdom not merely to maintain its health and quality but to rise to new glories.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Lord Auckland
My Lords, I crave the tolerance of your Lordships for indulging in two debates today. I believe this to be a very important debate and I should like to add to the congratulations already extended to the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, who, over the years, has done so much for the arts. The insurance companies have been particularly outstanding in the field of sponsorship and, although I earn my own living in the insurance industry, no company with which I have been concerned has been thus involved so that I have no financial interest to declare. So far as the
1293 Scottish National Orchestra is concerned, my wife and I went to the last of their concerts two years ago when they made a tour of the United Kingdom. It was a highly successful tour. I knew that they had just returned from a tour of America. I hope that it will be possible for them to do more overseas tours, because they are an outstanding orchestra and I believe that much can be done for our balance of payments by splendid organisations of this kind.
I should like to devote a few minutes to the theatre and, particularly, to the repertory theatre. I have been involved for many years in the Thorndike Theatre at Leatherhead. I was a trustee when the new theatre was built just over ten years ago and I and my family have taken a great interest in that theatre ever since. The late Dame Sybil Thorndike herself followed every move in the theatre. She was present at the topping out ceremony; she acted in the second production of the new theatre. That great lady of the theatre certainly made her name even more immortal by her marvellous work in this theatre.
The current Arts Council grant—which I have checked this afternoon—is £ 151,000.I gather that any increase in this figure is unlikely. The Surrey County Council provide £12,800, and the local authority, the Mole Valley Council, £30,000. I do not know what percentage of the rate that is. There was a time when local authorities were asked to produce a sixpenny rate under the old coinage. I do not think that many authorities have done that. To be fair to local authorities these days, who have many vital social needs to deal with, is it necessarily fair to expect such a contribution? Nevertheless, this theatre is nearly always full. It has an exceptionally fine management committee and a devoted set of artists who, like all repertory theatres, subsidise the theatre. Also, their designers and everybody else do an absolutely marvellous job. It means that those who do not live in London—and I am not only thinking of the Thorndike Theatre—do not always have to go to theatres in the West End of London.
Some years ago I initiated a debate in your Lordships' House on the subject of the then Arts Council report. I coined a phrase: "penicillin before Puccini". Penicillin is a lifesaving drug; Puccini is a great composer. If one gets one's priorities right at a time when we are needing funds desperately for our health service, for housing, roads and so on, we have to get into proportion what the Arts Council can be granted for the arts. This is something which is sad to have to say. As I say, we must get these matters into proportion and also pay tribute to those companies which sponsor the arts. I hope that they can get some kind of financial relief in so doing because they add to our export potential.
There is much more that could be said, but may I say this finally. The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain has always been one of our finest orchestras. The Pianist of the Year competition, which is sponsored by one of the television companies, has produced some remarkably fine British pianists. If we cut down too much, what of the future of our young instrumentalists? Can they play with the Hallé Orchestra, the Scottish National Orchestra and all these fine orchestras? In the theatre, can our budding actors really get jobs worthy of their hire? This is the kind of 1294 subject which leads one into a veritable dilemma; but the future of the theatre and the performing arts of this country is a heritage too valuable to be overlooked.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I think that on this occasion the tributes which were paid to the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, for introducing this debate were no ordinary customary statement. I believe that they were deeply meant by everybody who has spoken in the matter, and every noble Lord who has spoken has paid that tribute. It is the case that at the moment the arts are in a condition of crisis and therefore it is appropriate that at this point we should have—however brief and short it may be—a discussion upon them and the noble Lord has done us a service in making that possible.
It is also possible not to be purely perfunctory in welcoming the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Marley, even if he has taken a little time to get around to it. He demonstrated to us the fact that if he decides to continue his contributions to us—and I hope he will decide without too much delay—he will do so out of a knowledge, background and with a facility which will enrich our debates in the future. I must resist the temptation that there is to try to comment on the very well informed speeches that we have heard from all parts of the House. I do so because of the time factor. However, that duty will evolve upon the noble Earl and I must try not to take up time which he will use in performing that task—a very welcome task though it would be for me on this occasion.
One aspect of the matter has not been fully touched upon and I should like to spend my time chiefly on that. I prefer to refer to the "performance arts" rather than to "performing arts"; I know that the words "performing arts" have come into the language; but the arts do not perform, it is more correctly the "performance arts". But I give up. I think that we have to accept the "performing arts". I do not think that we can do anything about it. It is too late.
The question may reasonably be asked: why is it they are always in financial difficulties? Why is the theatre always short of money? Why did the Arts Council summarily cut off 41 recipients of grants last year and thus ensure the demise of some enjoyable and valuable productions and companies? Why, since they get more and more money every year and the State assumes a larger and larger share of the financial burden, are they never satisfied? Why do we never reach a plateau? The reason was very convincingly set out in 1966 by Baumol Bowen in their magisterial book The Performing Arts—The Economic Dilemma. That came from America, I need hardly say.
This book was referred to in the eighth report of the Education, Science and Arts Committee to which tribute has been very properly paid this evening. It is a remarkable report and I am glad to be able to say so at this Dispatch Box. In a notice which I wrote on this report, the congratulatory section was cut for reasons of space, much as much else that I was hoping to say tonight is going to be cut for reasons of time. However, I can at least get in a few words of appreciation of what is a remarkable report.
I hope that—as is not always the case with every report that one sees—the Government are going to 1295 take notice of the 71 recommendations of that report. Not all of these recommendations are of equal value. I do not agree personally with all of them. There is one most important recommendation; that is, that the money that is going into the arts must be very substantially increased. I hope that the Government are going to take that seriously to heart, and I hope that we shall hear promisingly about that from the noble Earl in a few minutes. As I was saying: why do the arts never reach a plateau? This book on the economics of the arts has been my bible in office and most of the time out of office ever since. I dislike the title, but the authors have put their finger on the arguments, and to summarise a book of this kind is always to risk weakening the argument or compressing it into obscurity. However, I think the authors would agree that, expressed at its simplest, the arts are both labour-intensive and marginal.
If I may add a gloss of my own, technological development in the performance arts takes place alongside the original form instead of transforming it into a replacement medium. By that I mean this: the theatre remains the source medium even when the mass audience has deserted it for the cinema, the television or whatever may be the latest technological development. If we wish to retain the source, we have no alternative but in one way or another to sustain it by the injection of financial supprt to the box office income on an increasing scale. I should like, if I may, to quote from the introduction of the book:The basic difficulty arises… from the economic structure of live performance. This conclusion has implications that are rather sobering. It suggests that the economic pressures which beset the arts are not temporary'—they are chronic. It suggests that if things are left to themselves deficits are likely to grow. Above all, this view implies that any group which undertakes to support the arts can expect no respite".My Lords, the Government can expect no respite. No government, once into the business of arts patronage, can ever get off the escalator. I return to the book:The demands upon its resources will increase now, and for the foreseeable future. … a state of financial crisis may not just be perennial—it may well grow progressively more serious.That is an American book. It applies in America and it applies in this country, and at all points where the arts are subsidised and by whatever means. It means that subsidy, and a growing subsidy, is necessary and cannot be avoided. The result of the transportation of technological change into another medium—chiefly into television in our present case—is that the original medium remains as labour-intensive as ever, and nothing whatever can be done about it.
It was in this book that I first encountered the hilarious exposition which was originally written—I know not by whom—in a British Civil Service magazine. It purports to be the report of a work-study engineer after visiting a concert at the Royal Festival Hall. I have mentioned it to your Lordships once before, but even under the present pressure of time I cannot resist another short quotation. The report says:For considerable periods the four oboe players had nothing to do. The number should be reduced and the work spread more evenly over the whole of the concert, thus eliminating peaks of activity.All the 12 violins were playing identical notes; this seems unnecessary duplication. The staff of this section should be drastically cut. If a larger volume of sound is required, it could be 1296 obtained by means of electronic apparatus. Much effort was absorbed in the playing of demi-semi-quavers; this seems to be an unnecessary refinement. It is recommended that all notes should be rounded up to the nearest semi-quaver.It continues in that vein. I wish I had the time to read more of it. because it gets even funnier as it goes on. The point is that if you are going to play Hamlet in the theatre, on the stage, you need as many people as was the case in Shakespeare's time. There is no way in which the arts can compete with the changes that have taken place in the post-war period in our industrial society.
I will not trouble your Lordships with the economic argument, because there is not enough time; it shows that in the circumstances ticket prices cannot be raised enough—we have had practical examples of that—to compensate, and therefore the income gap must grow each year. What emerges from the book is that inflation in the arts must always be relatively much higher than is generally the case; and this of course applies to other areas where labour is intensive, such as hospital and welfare services.
As economists often argue, it is necessary to increase production if inflation is to be avoided, and it follows that in an inflationary world the cost of services of a non-productive and labour-intensive character must relatively increase indefinitely at a compound rate. It further follows that inflation in the arts and services must be substantially higher than inflation in industry generally.
I think I have not more than perhaps another few minutes, but in that few minutes I should like to say this. The Treasury takes no account of all this. When I became Minister for the Arts in 1974 I found that the increase in subsidy for the previous year was actually below the rate of inflation. I managed to get it 3 per cent. above the average, but even that was much less than the actual figure in the arts which, as I have just said, was much higher than the average. In short, the message is that if an increase in subsidy is based on an average inflation rate, the arts will always be in difficulty, for they have no way of reducing their inflation to average, let alone below it; and ticket prices are generally at the top the market will bear.
If it is true that the Arts Council is to receive less than 5 per cent. increase this year, we will be in serious difficulty. I will not proceed with that argument because of the time factor, but I hope that the Arts Council will reject any such draconian reaction as the drastic cuts it embarked upon last year. I hope, too, that when the noble Earl comes to reply he will be able to tell us that it is not the case that the Government are going to restrict their increase to a figure of 5 per cent. or less. If that were to happen we would indeed be in dire trouble, and I hope that the noble Earl will be able to give us a little assurance on that point. I know that his heart is in it and I hope that his head will be able to lead him in the direction I have urged.
§ 7.27 p.m
§ The Earl of Avon
My Lords, the other night I went to the National Theatre and listened to a subsidised production of "Guys and Dolls". In it there was a very nice Salvation Army brass band. I do not know if others of your Lordships are as cold as I am but I think it would warm us all up if we could have a rendition at 1297 this moment. I join in the universal welcome to my noble friend Lord Polwarth for giving us the opportunity for this debate on a subject of such importance and topicality. His was a most forthright and constructive contribution. I have listened with interest to the many helpful points made by noble Lords this evening and I welcome the opportunity to attempt to reply to at least some of them. I know that what has been said here today will be taken into account by the very many interests whose cause it is to further the arts, including, of course, my right honourable friend the Minister.
I should like to join in the general congratulations to my noble friend Lord Marley on his very entertaining speech with the many and varied examples he gave. One of them, "Tom Jones", reminded me that many years ago I was asked to contribute some money to that particular production. Perhaps if I had done so I would not need to be standing at the Dispatch Box now.
The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, in a very interesting speech, produced some interesting suggestions about vouchers, which I look forward to looking into. I would like to say to him that I do not think it is the case that public support is given only to arts activities patronised by the better-off. In the first place, the Arts Council has a charter responsibility to bring the arts to the widest possible audience and to assist a very wide range of activities. The national companies themselves play to a very mixed audience and they have ticket policies to encourage the young and the less-well-off.
As a number of speakers have made abundantly clear, the arts are, to a large extent, dependent on public subsidy. There is no way round this, given the limits to box office returns—which, incidentally, many noble Lords have touched on—the need to attract the widest possible audience and the essential requirement of a continuing level of funding, to ensure that new productions and performances can be developed and mounted. Understandably, therefore, interest turns on the level of grants to be announced by my right honourable friend the Minister for the Arts for the year 1983–84.
I am informed that the announcement will be made shortly, but neither this House nor I is in possession of this information today, and, therefore, I am unable to comment on the last remark of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins. Nevertheless, it is worth reminding your Lordships that this Government are pledged in their manifesto to continue to give,as generous support to Britain's cultural and artistic life as the country can afford".I believe that the figures to date speak for themselves, and the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, was very generous in his comments. The Arts Council has received successive grant increases from £70 million in 1980/81, to £80 million in 1981/82 and £86 million in 1982/83. By any standards, that is a lot of public money and I believe that it demonstrates the Government's commitment to the arts.
I recognise, equally, of course, that the arts are particularly sensitive to inflation and that when rises in inflation are taken into account, it can be said that the arts have not had an increase in real terms. Nevertheless, the Government have done all in their 1298 power, at a time of retrenchment of public expenditure, to ensure that the arts programme, as a whole, can continue without fundamental change. My noble friend Lord Stodart paid tribute to this.
Looking ahead to next year, the House will know that the Government's planned public expenditure levels for the arts, taking central and local government expenditure together, assume an increase of about 4–1 per cent. I cannot, of course, anticipate again how the 1983/84 figures will be broken down. As I said before, this will be the subject of my right honourable friend's announcement. But I should like to point out that the Government's projected expenditure figures are broadly in line with expectations on pay and price increases, and these in themselves do not sustain an argument that on this basis the arts are likely to suffer any major disasters.
In saying this, I have, of course, taken due note of the various instances of hardship and financial difficulty that have been quoted. But, we have to look at these, too, in perspective. First, there is a continuing need for economies within all publicly funded bodies, just as much as within Government themselves. An arts company, like this country, cannot live beyond its means. Of course, it is regrettable that some companies have to reduce their commitments or even, in a limited number of cases, to close.
In particular, I recognise, as does my right honourable friend, the difficulties caused by the decision of the Royal Opera House to cancel its visit to Manchester next year. But the discipline of a careful look at costs, and the need to measure opportunities against resources, should be no less welcome in the arts than elsewhere. This brings me to an important consideration which should be reiterated. The Government take decisions about the overall level of support for the arts, but they are not responsible for the way in which that support is allocated to individual companies, or, in turn, for the way in which those companies discharge their responsibilities.
Over the years, we have built up in this country the principle of independent bodies which mediate between Government support and the consumer organisations. In the field which we are discussing tonight, there are such bodies as the Arts Council, the British Film Institute and the Crafts Council; in other fields, one can cite the University Grants Committee—and I did not put that in after the noble Lord, Lord Annan, spoke—as well as the research councils. This is a tried and trusted mechanism for avoiding direct pressure by the Government of the day to support their own particular, and often temporary, interests. Equally, it means that it is wrong to look to Government to solve the crises which may occur with individual companies or situations. These are properly matters for the Arts Council and its client bodies. I am sure that the Arts Council does not rationalise to the degree that the noble Lord, Lord Annan, wishes, but I think he did it less than justice in its aim to keep a balance.
Perhaps I may take this moment to say a few words about the problems of the Royal Opera House visit to Manchester. I recognise the disappointment caused in Manchester by the cancellation of the 1983 visit. Noble Lords may, however, be aware that statements were issued last night by the Arts Council and by the 1299 Greater Manchester Council to the effect that, following a very useful and constructive meeting yesterday, there is some possibility that the previously uncovered estimated deficit of £370,000 on the Royal Opera House Manchester season may be covered in—rather mysteriously—one way or another. I also understand that further talks are taking place between the various parties concerned, and I very much hope, as I am sure does the whole House, that the possibility of covering the estimated deficit may become a reality.
On the Government's level of commitment, I should like to disentangle two separate strands of the arguments which are worth examining. These came slightly as a result of the article to which the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, referred. First, it is said that the arts are an economic force in the country, a source of employment and tourist attraction and should be supported for this reason. Secondly, it is suggested that they have an inherent value to society in terms of adding to its happiness rather than its prosperity. The Government recognise that both these points have validity; they underlie the degree of central support given to the arts in the last few years that I have already quoted. But neither leg of the argument in itself is a claim for a specific level of support.
It is to the credit of the many imaginative and committed individuals and institutions in this country that the arts will always absorb what can be given to them. For practical purposes, nevertheless, the immediate benchmark must be the historic level of funding. I understand that the Arts Council have asked the Minister for the Arts for £98.5 million for 1983–84—my noble friend Lord Mancroft commented on this—which is an increase of 14½ per cent. over the current level of support, and they regard this as still £ 10 million short of what they would like as a desirable level. I have no doubt that my right honourable friend the Minister for the Arts would like to be able to meet an increase of this order, but I think it is an unrealistic expectation at the present time. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, commented on bodies making requests to Ministers. There is simply not enough money to go round from the public purse, however desirable the objectives may be in themselves. The belief of this Government is that a different approach is necessary to the funding of such objectives. Inevitably, there must be a basic level of public support to enable a satisfactory arts programme to be maintained and developed. We believe that we supply this. But beyond this, it is, and it should be, a matter of self-help.
It is for the bodies in the field, for the Arts Council and the individual arts companies, to develop a strategy which maximises the value from a given level of resources and which attracts the highest possible degree of support from other sources—from the box office, from marketing techniques, from streamlined management and good union practices, and from private support, be it from individuals, friends' organisations or business sponsorship. That, this Government believe, is the way forward—not by expectations, year by year, that support for the arts will be well above the expected inflation rate.
I think, too, that we do the arts a disservice in this country if we assume that they are totally dependent 1300 on such support for their future prosperity. The noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, made some interesting comments here. Two things stand out historically about the way the arts have flourished in the last 20 or 30 years: the fact that we have built up a world recognised level of performance in many artistic fields—and, like other noble Lords, I can cite theatre, music, opera and dance—and the fact that the artistic companies concerned have consistently been able to develop and take new opportunities, in spite of the grant restraints which have always existed. There is no reason to suppose that these trends will not continue, given an assured historic level of support.
The arts are inventive, inspirational and ingenious, and for this reason we should not seek to ossify the system. I do not think it follows that any particular company will always be able to maintain itself at the highest possible level. Thus the Arts Council is in a continuous dialogue with individual companies about their requirements, and the possibility of withdrawal in one area to advance on another must always remain open. We should not regard any arts organisation as sacrosanct in its present régime, management or structure. It lives by change. The fact that we have to some extent a changing picture of support among individual companies is not something to denigrate; rather it is a reflection of the health of our society that there are options and choices which remain open, without asking the taxpayer for an inordinate sum to shore up every individual venture.
As I have said, the Government cannot, and should not, be seen as the sole provider of the arts. Local authorities have a very large role in funding the arts, and I am happy to say, on information so far available about their expenditure in the current year, that their support for the arts has held up encouragingly well. I must now add the words. "South of the Border" to this particular phrase. With a few exceptions, local authorities have not asked the arts to bear an unfair share of any necessary economies. Indeed, the reverse is true in some cases. Many have taken a major interest in new ventures. I will give, as two examples, the new civic theatres in Plymouth and Swansea. Long may such support and interest continue. Regional arts associations also have an important part to play in dispensing Government money received from the Arts Council. They do it at a level where the smaller individual arts activity can be closely analysed.
But public expenditure, whether central or local, is not enough—nor should it be. The arts have a good track record in attracting private support. We have had an interesting example: the North-West area. However, I believe that private support can be improved. Box office takings, as a percentage of total revenue, vary greatly from company to company and activity to activity. This is something which needs to be studied closely, and where the best ideas and achievements, particularly in terms of marketing operations, need to be widely disseminated. Similarly, management practices, staffing levels and union agreements need to be kept under review. Most performing arts organisations are inevitably manpower intensive. It is therefore all the more important that they should keep their use of manpower regularly under scrutiny. I am sure that many organisations have already learned this lesson. 1301 I turn last, but by no means least, to business sponsorship, which I know is a particular concern of the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth. There is every sign that business sponsorship is a steady contribution to the arts and one which we can expect to grow as economic conditions improve. It is currently contributing, on the somewhat conservative estimates of the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts (I am a little more "bullish" than my noble friend) around £8 million a year. I am happy to pay tribute to the work of the association and to all those individual companies who have aligned themselves with support for the arts. It is not a question of philanthropy but of mutual interests being served. I believe that such liaison should be encouraged, and I would ask noble Lords in their own spheres of influence to do all they can to help. My noble friend Lord Mancroft gave us an excellent example about Bath.
I have not taken this evening the opportunity to talk about the very welcome report from the Select Committee on Education, Science and the Arts on public and private funding of the arts, because it would be premature for me to do so. I recognise, like other noble Lords, that many of the ideas have been of great interest. My right honourable friend the Minister for the Arts is currently taking soundings about them before putting together the Government response. May I simply say, in answer to the particular points in the committee's report which have been highlighted by your Lordships, that your Lordships' views will be taken into account in these soundings. I agree with many noble Lords that the Select Committee system has proved itself again in producing a report which has focussed not merely on funding the arts, but on a whole range of problems underlying this simple concept. My noble friend Lord Polwarth and one or two other noble Lords spoke about covenants. I recognise the point made about the need to offer further incentives for companies and individuals to support the arts. These are matters to which the Select Committee on the public and private funding of the arts has drawn attention. I know that these proposals will be carefully considered.
The noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, and my noble friend Lord Stodart of Leaston talked about the situation in Scotland. I realise that this is an especially difficult problem. The situation in Scotland is a matter, in a way, for the various local authorities there to decide. However, I appreciate the points made by my noble friend. In the meantime, I can assure him that his remarks will be brought to the attention of my appropriate colleagues. I thought for one moment that the noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris, might be speaking on Scotland, too, but fortunately he turned to the more neighbourly Walthamstow. I recognise the funding problems referred to by the noble Lord and I appreciate his plea. However, it is really a matter for the Arts Council. But I note that the Select Committee drew attention to the Scottish experience in funding amateur as well as professional work. I gladly undertake to draw the attention of my right honourable friend to the interesting suggestion of an emergency fund.
I am beginning to run out of time, but I should like to answer the question about the Riverside Studios which was asked by the noble Viscount, Lord 1302 Chandos. I was sorry to learn that this arts centre is to close from 5th December, at the end of the Kantor season. I know that my right honourable friend hopes very much that when the development plans for the Riverside site are agreed between all parties, the future of the arts centre, as part of that development, will be assured.
Since the war we have built up a tradition of artistic excellence in this country over a whole range of performing arts which is second to none. It is not the Government's policy to jeopardise that achievement, Many of the points which have been made here tonight are valuable in support of the case for the arts. The arts must seek to combine public help with private endeavour. They must be ready to look critically at their own use of resources. They must be ever vigilant to maximise income from all sources and they must continue to keep their dynamism. The belief of my right honourable friend is that all these things can be achieved, and that we are facing not a crisis but a renewed opportunity to demonstrate the value of the arts to our economic and social life.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Lord Polwarth
My Lords, I hope I may be considered to have one minute left for my reply. All I will do is to thank the noble Earl, Lord Avon, for the great trouble he has taken with his reply and express the hope that, as he said, he will convey the views of this House to the Government in their consideration of this report, while bearing in mind that we are not crying "Wolf!" about the straits of the arts and that they cannot expect for ever that organisations will be able to go on turning out their high standards under the pressures to which they are subjected. I am most grateful to him.
I should like to thank all noble lords who have supported me throughout the debate. Again, may I in particular express gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Marley, for his splendid maiden speech. As a byproduct, we have had revealed to us the hidden talent which exists in this place. I look forward to your Lordships' production of Lord Marley's South Bank revels, with my noble friend Lord Stodart of Leaston in the role of the Queen of the Fairies, to the accompaniment of my noble friends Lord Mancroft and Lord Rhodes on their 'cello and cornet respectively. As for myself, having once been privileged to take over Sir Alexander Gibson's baton to conduct an encore at a Scottish promenade concert, I shall volunteer my services as the conductor. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.