§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Strabolgi rose to call attention to the situation in the Arts; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. It is a great privilege to open this short debate, which is the first general arts debate that your Lordships' House has had for some time, and I am glad that so many noble Lords have expressed an interest in it. I shall try to be as brief as possible.
§ We on these Benches welcome the presence here of the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, the Minister for the Arts, and we look forward to his reply. The noble Earl has, of course, other important responsibilities as well. First, he is responsible for the Government's Management and Personnel Office, formerly known as the Civil Service Department. This is an important and exacting job and one that until now has usually been the responsibility of the Leader of this House. The noble Earl is, secondly, a Treasury spokesman, and I know how knowledgeable he is on Treasury matters. Thirdly, he is the Minister for the Arts.
§ Apart from this heavy workload, there must be problems of divided loyalties when the noble Earl's Treasury self has to fight his arts and libraries self. I realise that this is not the noble Earl's fault, but I hope that, one day, he will be allowed to concentrate on his arts responsibilities, for there is surely much to be done.
§ There is, for example, deep concern about the effect on the arts of the Government's impetuous decision to disband the Greater London Council and the metropolitan authorities. This cannot have been thought through, and the noble Earl is left to try to sort out the muddle. Are the Government confident that the local authorities will be willing or able to increase their support to fill the void caused by the abolition of the metropolitans? Does the Minister think that a district council is going, in these hard pressed times, to fund regional and even national facilities for the ratepayers of other districts? Is there not a danger that the North-East and Merseyside may become cultural deserts, with the closure of major theatres, museums and art galleries?
As the Arts Council said recently in a statement:
This simply cannot be left to the chance decisions of individual districts and boroughs".
The Walker Gallery in Liverpool and the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, neither of which could the Government abandon, are to be put under the Tate! This will surely make for administrative difficulties and increase the bias in favour of London at the
expense of the regions. And what is going to happen to the Lady Lever Art Gallery, which is at present run by the Walker?
§ In the GLC area, the White Paper proposes to put Kenwood and the Geffrye Museum under the Victoria and Albert Museum, which has four outstations already—Apsley House, Ham House, Osterley and the Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green. Would it not be better for Kenwood to have its own body of trustees and to be funded by central Government, in the same way as the Wallace Collection?
§ Concerning the Geffrye Museum, the chairman of the advisory committee has said that in the absence of any detail as to how the proposal is to be implemented she feels unable to accept it. The Government have given no indication of the level of resources to be made available to the Geffrye and of its status in relation to the V and A. The present arrangements seem to be working well, so why change them?
§ I must also ask the Government why it is proposed to put the Horniman Museum and Library under the British Museum. The museum's advisory committee do not want to make any change. There is concern, too, about the future of the Dolmetsch instrumental collection, now in the care of the Horniman. Will the Government confirm that this unique collection will be preserved intact? I should also like to ask the noble Earl what is to happen to Marble Hill House and Ranger's House, both of which the Government seem to have forgotten in their White Paper. I do not blame them. They were probably rather hard pressed to get the White Paper out in time.
§ I note that the GLC's South Bank complex is to be transferred to an independent board of management, or quango, under the Arts Council. The White Paper says that the complex as a whole, to which the GLC has been granting £4 million a year, should be run on commercially viable lines. What does this mean? Will the Government confirm that there will be no lowering of artistic standards for box office ends?
§ I should like the Minister to confirm, if he will, that it will not be necessary to close down one of the four independent London orchestras when the GLC finance is removed. The musical life of the metropolis would be the poorer in consequence. What is to happen also to the Northern Sinfonia? There is much concern, too, about the future of the British Film Institute, which receives £340,000 annually from the GLC. Are the Government going to replace that? Will the Minister tell the House how much extra money is to be given to the Arts Council to meet the shortfall in GLC arts funding, which totals over £11 million a year? The Arts Council has just warned that, anyway, there will be a serious crisis if there is not an increase of 20 per cent. in its general grant. The council has said that it will be forced to cut its grants to a number of major organisations.
§ The recent Priestley scrutiny of the Royal Opera House shows that it is under-funded by some 17 per cent. and will be overdrawn by more than £1 million by the end of the financial year. Shortage of funds means that it is limited to only two new productions a year—half the normal number. As Sir Claus Moser said the other day, we cannot live on a constant diet of "La Bohème".735
§ I hope that the Minister will let the House have his views on the suggestion in the Priestley report for separate Government funding for the four principal companies—the Royal Opera, the Royal Shakespeare Company, The National Theatre and the English National Opera. Those companies have always been funded by the Arts Council, so that they are independent of the state. I understand that the council would be opposed to any change, as it attaches great importance to the arm's-length principle. Are the Government proposing to reduce the Arts Council's responsibilities or to review them? The House needs to be told about the Government's intentions, as this is rather an important matter.
§ I am greatly concerned as well about the level of central Government funding for the purchase grants of our national museums and galleries. The National Gallery grant, for example, is no longer sufficient in most cases today to buy an outstanding painting—let alone more than one—if it comes on the market. At the time of the last Labour Government there was a radical increase in purchase grants, but since then it appears that there has been no serious rethinking of the situation. There is now a grave discrepancy between the prices of outstanding paintings and the funds available to acquire them.
§ It is no good the Reviewing Committee holding up an export licence, and the noble Earl going through all the stages of that procedure, if the money cannot be raised. Even for lower priced paintings there are problems. One thinks of Constable's brilliant sketch for the "Corn Field", one of his most famous paintings, which the Tate badly wanted and which was offered by the family in lieu of capital transfer tax and turned down by the Treasury. One thinks also of the enchanting Richard Dadd roundel, "Titania and Oberon", which should have gone to the Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, which was keen to have it, and has now gone overseas.
§ Although I tend to be a free trader in this respect, I believe that both those paintings—and there have been other cases also since the election—are part of our heritage and should have been secured for the nation. I must therefore ask the noble Earl whether the Government have thought about this problem at all, and whether they have any long-term plans to protect Britain's heritage? Are they, for example, considering increasing purchase grants or introducing more fiscal advantage to owners who offer their art treasures in payment of capital taxes? In the United States, there are substantial tax concessions to owners who donate works of art to public galleries and museums. Indeed, they have been able to build up some very splendid collections in consequence.
§ In this country, moreover, dealers have an inducement to sell abroad from Britain, as there is no VAT on exports. I hope that the Arts Minister will try to persuade his other Treasury self to do something about these problems with his right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ One way of increasing funds is through sponsorship, which at present is running at about £12 million a year. Much more needs to be done to provide encouragement to potential sponsors. The Select Committee 736 of another place recommended that companies should be exempt from tax on a percentage of their pre-tax profits for all donations to the arts. This would give the United Kingdom the same "tax breaks" as in the United States.
§ Lastly, may I make a plea for the University museums—the Ashmolean at Oxford and the Fitzwilliam at Cambridge—with which I should like to bracket the Dulwich Picture Gallery? These three enjoy an international esteem, yet they receive no central Government money and their funding comes from the educational institutions concerned—from monies made available for educational rather than strictly museum purposes. In these days of financial stringency, those important museums are finding it increasingly difficult to provide adequate facilities and security—and there have had to be staff reductions, closed days, closed areas, and so on.
§ In Dulwich, which has one of the most important private collections anywhere, the little Rembrandt portrait (a painting of first class importance and of great beauty) has now been stolen again, for the fourth time. In consequence, some rooms have had to be closed and paintings removed from public exhibition.
§ May I ask the noble Earl the Minister if he will direct his mind to helping those three museums? We have reached the stage where some financial support from central Government is absolutely essential. I am sure that it would be acceptable to the universities concerned, and also to Dulwich, if some of the members of the governing bodies became Government appointments.
§ The matter is urgent, as the problems at Dulwich will become even more acute when the GLC's annual grant is removed. If the Treasury want a precedent—and I know that they love precedents—they might remember that central Government already contribute substantially to the running costs of the Soane Museum privately founded in London by Sir John Soane, who, incidentally, was the architect of the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
§ These and other problems, as I said at the outset, are causing increasing concern. I hope that the Government are going to show that they really care about the arts and that they are not going to subject them to short-sighted stringency, instant decisions, and a somewhat philistine approach. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Lord Beaumont of Whitley
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, for this opportunity; grateful and, for my part, appalled at the task of tackling the whole of the arts in six minutes. Talk about Renaissance man! I am particularly appalled because I believe that my party has a policy for the wholesale restructuring of the subsidy system which the nation ought to take on board and which this Government in particular could take on board without in any way sacrificing their principles. I hope that the noble Earl the Minister has read it. If he has not read it, I hope that he will do so; I will get a copy to him if he does not have one.
The present system does not work. It is not for lack of money. Central Government spending—both Tory and Labour—on the arts has more than doubled in 737 real terms over the past 10 years. Local authority spending—again, of all persuasions—has also increased. That is good. It is not, of course, enough. It is relatively less than most other European countries spend, and, in any case, £12 a head—or less than one-third of the cost of a television licence—does not seem much to spend on all our libraries, museums, art galleries and theatres.
I am alarmed, however, at the thought that, despite this increase in public spending, the arts are still in a state of financial crisis. Subsidy, or at least our way of handing out subsidies, has not managed to solve the chronic financial insecurity of the arts. The crisis is, if anything, worse than it was 10 years ago. The Arts Council has warned that if it does not receive another £15 million of public money it will have to embark on another round of drastic cuts. Artists as a whole still remain the least well paid and the most insecure section of our society, even those of them who are in work, and their incomes are continually being whittled away, not just by the loss and the diminution of grants, but also by the loss of part-time teaching jobs caused by education cuts. On top of all that, the proposed abolition of the metropolitan authorities is bound to cause havoc among the many institutions which have previously looked to them for support. We have doubled public spending but the arts are worse off than ever. What has gone wrong?
One of the many answers, I believe, is that our very methods of handling subsidies to the arts have done more harm than good. From the very beginning we have not been concerned with the health of the arts professions as a whole—and here I feel I shall have Lord Jenkins on my side—but only with certain favoured sections of them. We have indulged in a rather feudal type of patronage, supporting those organisations which have acquired political and establishment clout and ignoring or undervaluing the rest.
I give one solitary example from the many problems that distortion brings: the Royal Shakespeare Company, in competition with the National Theatre, faced a small deficit last year. Did they put their prices up? They did not, because the National Theatre, with a considerably higher grant, had tickets lower priced than theirs. The result is that everyone says the RSC is under funded. Perhaps; or perhaps the National Theatre is over funded. We do not know. Subsidy plucks on subsidy, distortion breeds distortion. It affects the whole chain and hits hardest in the theatre at the provincial and commercial theatres at the bottom of the chain. After 30 years of this, there is some very good theatre, but there are less theatres to go to, and the decisions as to which are to survive are not made by the people, the public, but by the mandarins.
If we threaten, through our methods of subsidy, the pluralism of the system, we are not just running ourselves into economic trouble but we are damaging the very cause that we all wish to support, the health of the arts. The economic distortions caused by our methods of doling out subsidy are one important reason why more public spending is constantly required, and the Government should take that to heart. There need not be a great deal more money produced if the subsidy methods are reformed. We 738 should be concerned not simply with the viability of this theatre or that theatre, this or that arts organisation, but with the economic health of the arts system as a whole. This is particularly important at this time, when we are faced with a growing number of people with unstructured time and a genuine increase in leisure, melding with a recession and technical change. Now, above all, we need a strong, vital and pluralistic culture.
We have been lucky in Britain, in that many of our artists have been prepared to struggle on under what are often intolerable circumstances. It is time we learnt to respond to their effort. A new deal for the artist is what is needed, and a new deal by way of a restructuring of our arts system. We need a fresh look at the very way in which we support the arts in Britain, or else we shall be back here in 10 years' time holding the same learned, cultured and informed debate, but with nothing achieved at all.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Lord Cottesloe
My Lords, I shall be very brief—and I am glad that so many of your Lordships are interested in the arts that we must all be brief. I am a back number, but I hope no one will doubt my lifelong devotion to the arts. Of course, there never has been, and never will be, money enough to satisfy all the demands of those concerned to promote them. What there is will always in the last resort depend not so much on what the Government provide as on what those who are concerned and interested are willing and able by their enthusiasm and their own efforts to put into it in one way and another.
As to the Government, the medium through which they assist the arts is in the main the Arts Council. There are, of course, many others—the universities, the galleries and museums, the National Heritage Fund and so on. As to the Arts Council, it is difficult to maintain that the Government are starving the arts. If the product of a cut of 1 per cent. for the Arts Council is insignificant in the context of the national Budget, that, after all, cuts both ways. If 1 per cent. of the Arts Council's budget is insignificant as a saving, it surely is not all that severe as a pruning, and some pruning is both necessary and desirable, to ensure that what is made available is most effectively applied.
Looking back over the years, I recollect that when I was appointed in 1960 as chairman of the Arts Council, Sir Kenneth Clark, from whom I took over, said to me, "Everyone tells me that we ought to have double. I am sure that if we had double a great deal of it would be wasted". That was a long time ago and there has since then been swingeing inflation, but, even so, your Lordships will hardly believe that the figure of which he spoke was at that time no more than £1½million, whereas this year the corresponding figure is £93½ million—60 times as much. And we are now told that that is not nearly enough; that it should be £110 million or even as much as 20 per cent. more if the Council is to be enabled to do all that is essentially necessary. The fact is that there will never be nearly enough to enable the Council to do all that they would very properly like to do. All credit to them for their concerns and their ambitions, but there must be some limit, some control. After all, all of us, to use the old phrase, have to cut our coat according to the cloth available.
739 So I conclude that, in the light of the figures that I have given, the suggestion that the Government are starving the arts cannot really be sustained. They provide a not ungenerous figure to the Arts Council to add to what is available to the arts from very many other sources. There is no doubt whatever that the arts in this country now flourish as never before, and that is the important thing. We must all rejoice that it is so, and long may it continue!
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Lord Gibson
My Lords, I want primarily to talk about the performing arts. I suppose, like the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, that I also am a back number, having been chairman of the Arts Council in the mid-70s, but I still have a connection with the arts through the Royal Opera House, of which I am a director, and Glyndebourne and one or two other institutions.
Arts such as the opera companies, the ballet, the permanent theatre companies and orchestras have never been for long funded purely by the citizens through the box office and they never will be. The gap between expenditure and box office in America is funded largely through tax concessions; in Europe the figure is about 75 per cent. through the state, and here the public cost is lower but still the funding falls mainly on public funds.
In trying to restrain public expenditure the Government stress the role of private patronage, and they are quite right to do so. It is a useful additional resource and helps to diffuse patronage throughout the community. But it can only help at the margins. As an example, last year the Royal Opera House raised from the private sector about £900,000, or 4½ per cent. of its total expenditure. Your Lordships may well think that the Royal Opera House is particularly well placed to raise funds from private sources but the recent scrutiny of the Royal Opera House, as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said, came up with the view that to do the job required of it and prevent a serious fall in standards about a 17 per cent. uplift in its grant was necessary. In fact, the Arts Council assessed that need at 21 per cent. If one takes a mean between the two and turns it into cash that is about £ 2 million. That is not impossible to find from the private sector if the Government extend the thoughts of their manifesto beyond the manifesto and introduce realistic tax incentives. But it is quite impossible if all we can look for are modest improvements, which is what the Minister for the Arts suggested in his Blackpool speech.
In present conditions, therefore, private patronage is a help but not a solution. Even if it were a financial solution it would not provide the continuity which alone makes excellence a possibility for a national arts company. I know how much store the Prime Minister sets by excellence. She wants Britain to excel. She is interested that we should excel in this sphere and she knows as well as anybody that excellence in the arts, as elsewhere, costs money.
I have one other point. The noble Earl, the Minister for the Arts, said at Blackpool, very wisely, that artistic achievement is not continuous, so grant-aiding should not be continuous either. He added that it is dangerous to institutionalise public funding more than is 740 absolutely necessary. The Arts Council appeared, in agreement with that doctrine, to be reviewing the possibility of a significant shift in resources between its clients—a very brave and proper thing to do. At the same time, in the recent Government scrutiny of the Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company there appeared the suggestion that these companies were different in kind from other Arts Council clients and that they might be funded directly by the Government. In his Blackpool speech the Minister expressed his dislike of direct funding, and of course he is right. It would diminish the Arts Council, which is our chosen and proven method of funding the arts and which therefore ought not to be diminished, and even worse it would force the Arts Council into having to champion the cause of its remaining clients against those directly funded by the Government, which would be unnecessarily time wasting and divisive.
The Minister hinted at a compromise and the only compromise I can imagine would take the form of a block grant made through the Arts Council, earmarked en bloc for certain companies such as the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Coliseum. but divided between them by the Arts Council according to its assessment of their needs. The argument is that the continued existence of such companies is now accepted and, indeed, insisted upon by the community so that the only decision is how much they need if they are to do the job required of them. I can see the attractions in the introduction of a block grant of this kind.
There is a difference in kind between the institutionalised companies and those of which some will come and some will go. It may be that the basic decision of how much money to spend on them is a political as well as an artistic one. Perhaps the Arts Council ought to be relieved of the decision, over which it agonises every year, on cutting the cake between those companies and the rest. But where is the line to be drawn? Ought not Scottish opera and Welsh opera to be among the institutions in the block grant? What is to be the fate of the companies singled out in the Government's consultative paper on the arts for extra Arts Council funding in consequence of the abolition of the GLC and the MCCs? Apart from the National Theatre and the Coliseum there are seven others. Are they to be added to the block grant? If so, I think the list is too big. The dangers of institutionalising public funding needs stricter containment. No doubt the proposal to abolish these authorities was not thought of in terms of the arts, but the consequences to the arts, into which I cannot go because my time is coming to an end, are serious and not to be as lightly dealt with as I believe they have been in a White Paper.
My time is almost up and during my last minute I want to revert to the basic issue. To my mind this is a question of quantum. I am not arguing that the Government have been ungenerous, but I am arguing that a little more would make a great deal of difference and that its value to the country would be entirely beyond the sums of money involved. The chairman of the Arts Council said that £20 million would solve his problem. Does the Minister feel that £20 million is really a politically unacceptable quantum leap, as he 741 implied at Blackpool? Are we so philistine that that is politically unacceptable? We are like a company which is in some difficulty and has a treasurer who warns us that we must not spend until we have earned the money. Such a company needs other members of the board to say where creative expenditure is necessary and when it will be effective in improving prospects and assisting growth. It is my belief that arts expenditure will do just that and I ask the noble Earl, the Minister for the Arts, to assign to himself the noble role of proclaiming that undoubted truth.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Lord Rhodes
My Lords, the House of Commons Select Committee came to certain conclusions after a study of the arts. To us, the case for fostering the arts rests on the immediate need to stimulate the constructive and active use of leisure by the many. Arts for all. I do not believe that enough is being done in localities to foster the arts. I think that more could be done, and will be done, because of the impetus that is now set free to do more about art in the provinces.
In our district we have 22,000 people. We saw that the deeds, documents and material that should be under supervision by archivists were being drained out of the district. We went to the local authority to see what we could do in the way of getting space for them to be looked after. We found that there was no space available, so we started to build a museum of our own. It took us 10 years to do it. We have now completed it within £3,000 of the total, and the building itself is worth £250,000. We are able to look after it, and this is one of the marriages which can take place between volunteers on the ground and the professionals. We are now employing 10 professionals, six of them full-time and four ordinary part-time.
There has been an enormous change during the past 10 years. There is no doubt whatever that progress has been made and that there has been an enormous backing of the arts by the Government in all sorts of ways. We cannot turn the clock back. Arts for all is with us, and will continue to be with us. The day when the amateur was confined to singing and practically nothing else has gone. We have the music schools of Yehudi Menuhin, the Bath and Wells School, the Cheetham Hospital School and the Royal Northern College of Music. We are now creating artists of a quality which is absolutely superb. We have a score of amateur orchestras in the country which compare very well with the professionals. Very few young people will ever be chosen to play professionally, they will play irrespective of what the country or the Government do. Good luck to them.
Locally, we are very humble in our efforts. We had 48 brass bands visiting our district in one day—a mecca for the grass roots. The big bands were not against coming to compete with youngsters from the schools. They believe that they can be invigorated and renewed by coming back to grass roots.
The noble Lord, Lord Gibson, mentioned opera. May I say this to him? When you destroyed opera for all, you destroyed your grass roots.
§ Lord Rhodes
My Lords, whoever did is immaterial, but it destroyed the grass roots. Young singers came to our district and we could find them an audience of 400. They met and mixed with the public. The people in our district used to follow their careers. The same applies to ballet for all.
As president of the North-West Arts Association, may I say this? Whatever alternative is finally arrived at, I urge the Government in the strongest possible terms at least to protect the current level of expenditure on the arts by the metropolitan counties through whatever means are at their disposal. Although I do not hold the view that any particular structure is the only one through which stable and adequate provision can be made, I point out as a matter of fact that arts provision has improved as a result of the creation of the metropolitan counties. I am very deeply concerned that the proposals in their present form do not offer protection for that existing provision, let alone any hope of growth and development.
If the amounts that are presently channelled to the arts are reduced, it would be folly. But I think that people can do a lot more for themselves. I only hope that due consideration will he given to the change before it is made. The last boundary alterations led to chaos. I wish the Government well in their efforts to find a better solution to local government than we have now, but I ask them, please, under no circumstances to reduce the grants that we enjoy at present.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Viscount Eccles
My Lords, as has already been said, Parliament has treated the Arts Council well. Its budget has risen significantly over the years, but as the grants increased, a flaw of some social importance appeared. Too much was being spent on too narrow a range of activities. In the early 1970s some modest steps were taken to change course, but now the recession has aggravated that flaw, and in the foreseeable future we shall have more people with time on their hands, whether they are employed or unemployed. For them the spread of the arts widely, and at a rather different level than that with which the Arts Council has been preoccupied, is necessary. I therefore feel that I must urge upon the Minister a major shift in policy.
When it started, the Arts Council did not have the resources, and perhaps not the inclination, to spare a thought for work below the level of a sophisticated audience. It did not pay any attention to amateurs. It did not think it its business to become expert in marketing the arts, be they the subsidised arts, or otherwise. Marketing is vital in a society where the social mix—already much improved—is far from satisfactory and the levels of taste for that very reason differ widely. In such conditions it makes more sense to use public money to persuade people to buy contemporary art, or seats at a performance, than to subsidise works which please nobody but the artists and their closest admirers.
Why has marketing received comparatively little attention? I suppose that it is because of a superior belief that the demand is inelastic; it would be a waste of resources to try to popularise work for which the general public will never care. Such a view, held by 743 very distinguished persons, was bound to favour the great national companies in the centre of London. Their standards were of the highest. Their audience was thought to be assured. Let us all agree that those great companies must be adequately supported—but not at the cost of dismissing the vast number of people who have not yet learned to appreciate the arts. That is the reason why, when I was the Minister responsible, I had to insist that a much larger slice of the Arts Council's budget was given to the regional arts associations. I also hoped that marketing would become a major concern of the Arts Council and of the Crafts Council. Excellent work has been done in some of the regions: but the latter hope has not been fulfilled.
I hope that my noble friend the Minister will act in the belief that today there exists a huge, latent, half-conscious desire to enjoy experience which combines beauty and order—not an immediate demand for the highest forms of art, but for ladders of artistic experience up which old and young can climb as far as their awakening interest will carry them. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend might consider one or two changes.
I do not agree with the noble Lord. Lord Gibson, about hiving off the national companies from the Arts Council. It is done with many other national institutions, with good effect on their budgets. A separation would have two effects so far as the Arts Council is concerned. First, it would stop the jealousy which is aroused by comparing the size of the grants to the national companies with those to the regions. But much more importantly, it would release the Arts Council to pay adequate attention to marketing. Secondly, I think that teachers, librarians, and museum curators should be welcomed as partners with the arts administrators and be directly involved in forming policy. If art is to become a necessity of life—which it certainly should do—we shall need the help of all the branches of education.
All my suggestions amount to this. The policy of subsidising art for art's sake, which is so dear to many of my best friends, should not be abandoned, but should be supplemented with vigorous action to bring the artist and the public at all levels closer together. Artists are not paying as much attention as they used to to what the public want. Of all those objects on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, I wonder how many were in the first instance commissioned. I should think the great majority. Can we re-establish some such intimate relationship between the artist and the public?
In conclusion, I put it to the Minister that the purpose of art is to make life better for as many people as possible. I hope that my noble friend will go down in history as someone who saw that there exists in Britain an audience for the arts of unsuspected dimensions—men, women and children hungry for the arts, if only the right opportunities were on offer. Our technological society can so easily become a society where only money counts. That was foreseen by Simone Weil, a religious philosopher, and I end by quoting her words:Workers will need poetry more than bread".
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Lord Annan
My Lords, last Wednesday, the Lord President of the Council said:The truth is that those who press for reductions in public spending in general still have their own favourite projects which they wish to protect or indeed enhance".How right he was, and so I shall be a good boy and not ask the Minister for an increase in the arts grants. What I will do, though, is to say what will happen if we do not get it.
The first thing we shall get, as the Priestly report says, is stagnation. The only way to avoid that is to rationalise resources as the universities have been forced to rationalise. The sombre conclusions I reached about rationalisation from my experience in the University of London is this. Every initiative I made from 1968 until 1981 to rationalise was blocked either within the University of London or on the Vice-Chancellors' Committee. Vice-Chancellors and Senates are teak bottomed. No drawing pin or screwdriver can penetrate their determination to hold what they have. No gradual cut has any effect at all. It was not until the Government announced its drastic cuts in 1980 that at last the universities were forced to rationalise, and gradually and with many a hiccough the elephant of the University of London is digesting this unpalatable bun and merging its colleges and schools. Its members would never have touched that bun unless they had been driven to by financial necessity.
A Minister for the Arts cannot rationalise because he would at once be accused of politicising the arts. But I was glad to see that Sir William Rees-Mogg had taken a leaf out of the book of the UGC and had asked his major institutions what they would do if they got 25 per cent. less money.
May I take one of the arts which I think we ought to look at from the point of view of rationalisation? The Arts Council is now supporting six major ballet companies, one of which, the Royal Ballet, has two companies: the touring and the London company. On the present budget of the council, is such a number of companies justifiable? What will happen if all are to continue is this: standards will fall, and ballet is not a form of art in which third-rate standards are acceptable.
Can we afford to keep Sadler's Wells going? It is a deplorable auditorium and it ought to have been closed when ENO went to the Coliseum. Surely some rationalisation is possible between ROH and ENO. How, with no rationalisation, can these two great institutions continue and attract the enormous tourist trade that they get?
At this point some noble Lords may be asking me whether I will include in this deplorable suggestion museums and galleries which are funded direct from DES. I will consider them. The costs of museums and galleries are never static. Now, most museums are offering a restricted service and are just keeping their heads above water; though, as I told the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, at Question Time, the price of an Old Master—and in particular the younger of the Old Masters—is now almost double the amount of the National Gallery purchase grant.
What I fear is this: if the Minister were drastically to 745 reduce the purchase grant to finance, say, the new Theatre Museum or the increased expenditure at the Tate owing to the opening of the Turner Gallery, or numbers of other projects that are in the pipeline, he might say to me or my successor, "Well, you have the remedy in your own hands; impose an entry charge; a voluntary, really an involuntary, charge as is levied in the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Do not expect the Government to impose this charge. Make up the difference if you want to, or even increase your purchase grant by this simple means".
I speak as one who moved a Motion some 10 years ago against museum charges when the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, announced that the Government was imposing them. The reason why I am deeply against such charges is because, like some members of the Government, I respect so many of the values which our forefathers, the Victorians, admired; and the Victorians regarded museums and libraries as part of education. As education was free, so, they believed, should museums and libraries be free. So today should the public get these services free of charge. If museums and galleries were driven themselves to impose charges, there is little doubt that there would be a first-class row.
What are we to do? Some may argue that, if only the Government would spend less on this or that, the insignificant sum that the Government spend on the arts could he increased. Some of those who work in artistic enterprises say to me that if the nation is prepared to spend so many million pounds on Exocets, why not buy one less and use the savings for the arts? I tell them that that is a naive argument. Every great Government department—health, education, defence—has its basic needs. But there is one part of defence expenditure which is not vital to our national security and that is the present grotesquely heavy expenditure on the Falkland Islands. As one who supported the Government wholeheartedly in their action against the Argentinian invasion, I argue that the Government should now reverse their present policy as enunciated by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, at Question Time last Monday. The Government have got their priorities wrong, and that is why the health service, the social services and the arts are short of funds. But the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, need not look alarmed: I will not in a short debate take that point further.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Baroness Lockwood
My Lords, I want to approach this debate from a regional point of view, and I must say that I find myself in very great sympathy with much that the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said. I really want to make two points. We have heard of the great theatre companies, the great museums and the great orchestras in London, and I support the principle that London should be a centre of excellence; but I think that if London is to remain the centre of excellence it must draw on the services and the state of the arts in the regions, both the visual arts and the performing arts. I was reminded of this only this past week-end, when I was supporting an art fair in Leeds—a fair which had been organised by artists, by friends of artists and by business, with some support from local government.
746 The idea behind the fair was to give more support to live artists, and to encourage them. One of the sponsors recalled that he had had the good fortune marry years ago, when attending a similar small exhibition, to buy the very first David Hockney. I do not know if there were any equivalents to the David Hockneys sold at this particular fair this past weekend; but the point is that it is only by organising activities at this level and of this nature that we can support and foster new artists and develop the arts to cover a wider group of people.
Coming, as I do, from a country famous for its music and choral societies, one cannot help but think of the very many artists who have been fostered in Yorkshire and in some of the other northern counties who have subsequently moved to London to enhance the reputation of the arts and music in London. In this connection one thinks of Janet Baker and the late Kathleen Ferrier, in particular. These two artists, and many others, have been nurtured and enjoyed, as my noble friend Lord Rhodes said, by small audiences; but they have been nurtured and enjoyed by those small audiences so that they could go forward to perform before bigger audiences. They have also been supported by organisations like the Huddersfield Choral Society and the Leeds Festival Chorus, which in themselves have contributed to the excellence of the arts in London. Both these companies have themselves been the cause of having new works commissioned.
London may be one of our tourist attractions; it may be the pivot of the arts here. But it depends so much on the excellence and the standard of the arts in the provinces. Incidentally, it would be appreciated by the provinces if there was more reciprocity in this connection: if, for example, more of the exhibitions of art and more of the treasures from some of our museums could come to our regional art centres and museums, it would be much appreciated. I would not want anything to happen to the development of some of the touring companies that have brought new life to the arts in the regions.
My second point inevitably relates to funding. I want to underline the fact that funding must be as secure in the provinces as it is here in the capital. I share the concern that has been expressed by some noble Lords over what is going to happen to the funding of the arts if the metropolitan counties are abolished. One can think, for example, of Opera North. I know that this is on the list to be supported, but there is nevertheless great concern in Opera North and among the friends of Opera North as to what is to happen to it in the future. What is to happen to the Northern Sinfonia, that supports Opera North?
There are also theatres in the regions which are going to suffer. One can think in particular of the Leeds Playhouse and the Sheffield Crucible—again, both theatres that have contributed to encouraging new artists and new playwrights. One has to give serious consideration to how we can maintain the proper funding not only of the arts in London but also of the arts in the provinces.
Perhaps I can just say—and I say it with some shame—that some 20 years ago there was an effort to establish and maintain a Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra. This failed. It failed largely because funding was on an ad hocbasis, bringing together a number of 747 local authorities, and was not backed by regional authority such as one of the great metropolitan counties. I feel that we must have another think as to how we might fund the regions.
§ 6.43 p.m.
My Lords, this is St. Andrew's Day, and in my six minutes I shall try in my remarks to concentrate upon Scotland. As a past member of the Scottish Arts Council during the palmier days of 1970, I have watched with interest the development of enterprises that were begun in that period. Let us hope that they will continue to flourish in the harsher climate of today. The Scottish Arts Council deserves all the support and encouragement that it can be given. This is no time for criticism. Indeed, it deserves congratulations for the way in which it carries out its function in difficult times. Like its sister arts councils, it faces changes in the system of local authority funding, and it is to be hoped that local authority support will be maintained despite the tendency to give arts a low priority, particularly when the local authorities are under pressure.
Unlike the Arts Council of Great Britain, we, in Scotland, decided not to embark on regional arts associations. That followed a report entitled The Arts in the Scottish Regions, to which I was a signatory. Our report was based on the belief that Scotland's needs were different from those of England and Wales, varying from small remote communities on the one hand, to the large conurbations of the central belt on the other. We preferred to continue a centralised administration, operating through our own headquarters committees and staff in conjunction with local authorities. Unfortunately, the relative load borne by the local authorities is decreasing. This is a matter of considerable concern to the Scottish Arts Council.
The Scottish Arts Council makes increasing efforts to promote activities in the far corners of our cultural wastelands. Our travelling art gallery carries small built-in exhibitions across the moors. Parties of actors, dancers, singers and musicians travel long distances to perform in local halls and, with Scottish Arts Council support, performances by the Mull Little Theatre bring drama to the west coast. Scattered across the rural areas of Scotland, approximately 70 music clubs, arts guild centres and associations each promote an average of six professional events a year. In the larger centres, the bulk of our funding—in fact, 42 per cent.—supports orchestras, a ballet company, and an opera company. It is fair to say that a relatively large part of our population cannot enjoy the amenities of the cities.
In order to maintain financial support for the arts, it is vital to foster help from the private sector. On the plus side, we, in Scotland, must acknowledge that during the past year business sponsorship for the arts has grown by 26 per cent. But the main beneficiaries from the increased revenue are the major music organisations, and sponsorship is often for work additional to an organisation's usual pattern of acitivities. In the main, the help is geared to situations involving large audience participation and comes from London-based companies with limited interests in Scotland.
748 In the context of the private sector, perhaps I may touch briefly on a subject that we debated recently; namely, tax concessions to artists, in which, once again, I declare an interest. In his winding up speech, my noble friend the Minister for the Arts, gave a sympathetic ear to proposals put forward by several of your Lordships. Much of the prosperity of all the arts will depend on the initiatives coming from my noble friend and. in particular. those which will encourage support from businesses and private individuals. Sadly, the arts are in tremendous peril and are in desperate need of help from the Government. In this situation, it is vital to publicise the tax-free scheme whereby businesses are encouraged to buy paintings and sculptures for their reception rooms under the proviso that they will help to improve the company's image and profits. Most tax inspectors co-operate, but few firms know about it.
With regard to VAT, will my noble friend please exclude the work of all contemporary artists in order to bring them in line with brother and sister writers, and so end an inconsistent anomaly? It is wrong to evade these issues on the grounds that the present taxation system is geared to deeds of covenant—which work well, thanks to the new four-year period—for fear that any moves in a different direction would weaken the system, cost money, and cause extra work. Will my noble friend please tell us where we stand and where there are hopes of change? Rather than push our suggestions into pigeonholes, will he agree to meet us round a table to discuss our proposals in detail?
In his valedictory preface to this year's report of the Arts Council of Great Britain, the retiring Secretary-General paid particular attention to one of the council's prime functions, the need to foster understanding of the arts. Much greater efforts are needed to educate the public about all the arts. In my own sphere, there is a need for more guides to take parties. particularly of young people, around exhibitions of contemporary work. This can be best done by the artists themselves. There is a need for more artists in residence to be appointed to technological schools and other places of education. Such a programme would give part-time employment to struggling artists and ensure that more of our younger generation would grow up with new resources. The cost of this programme might well be minimal, and I believe that the effort would be well worth while.
In conclusion, I would remind your Lordships that there is an increasing sense of relative deprivation so far as the arts in Scotland are concerned. All this encourages possible moves towards devolution in Scotland. That, in my view, would bring the security of the arts in Scotland into greater jeopardy. I believe that the division of available cake across the border is fair so far as Arts Council funds are concerned, but in certain ways it costs more to carry some of the cake to outlying corners.
It is also important to mention central Government support for our national galleries and libraries on a scale which is sufficient to enable them to carry out their functions properly. I understand from the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Library of Scotland that his responsibilities are now so large in relation to his resources that the library has 749 had to curtail the opening hours of the reading room. That situation gives grounds for some anxiety about cultural affairs in our capital city and about our ability to foster the enlightened of the Scottish people.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Lord Hutchinson of Lullington
My Lords, I hope that the somewhat farcical amount of time allowed for this debate does not reflect the Government's view of the importance of the arts. I fear that many may take that view.
The Minister of State, Privy Council Office, and Minister for the Arts (The Earl of Gowrie)
My Lords, could I just say that the Government did not set the time for this debate.
Lord Hutchinson of I,ullington
My Lords, that I appreciate. Speaking from these Benches and in order to get it out of the way, may I say that we do not support direct funding of the four national companies. We think that their assessment must remain with the Arts Council, that to have a privileged and an underprivileged group of clients would be a disaster, and that the arm's length principle must be paramount.
However, I would like to speak about a matter to which reference has already been made; namely, the very real crisis of the arts at the moment. That leads inevitably to the question of Government funding. The Minister carries the responsibility for the size and the nature of the subsidy. His success or failure will be measured by his ability to maintain or destroy what is, but only just is, this country's pre-eminent position in this sphere. I wish to urge upon him that his paramount task is to pursue with unremitting vigour the intellectual argument for a substantial shift upwards in the basic figure on which the arts are now founded.
The present basic figure has no rational basis. It is simply advanced as a percentage of some historic figure which itself was a percentage of some other sum similarly arrived at. The Minister's proclaimed message now is "Level pegging for the arts". I ask the noble Earl, does he believe that Turner's Fighting Temeraire was born of level pegging and, indeed, did level pegging bring forth King Lear? The Minister's budget is one half of 1 per cent. of total public expenditure, and it is one-fifth of that one-half which goes to fund the arts.
Therefore, the basic question that we have to consider is the Arts Council grant. Do we want, or can we afford, to carry on on the basis of level pegging? Every penny spent by the Arts Council is backed by a scrupulous budgeting examination. The Priestley scrutiny has totally justified the financial control of two major Arts Council clients and has found them to be hopelessly under-funded, as, indeed, the Select Committee found in regard to the arts in general. Year after year the Arts Council pointed out to a succession of Ministers and, indeed, to taxpayers, that its clients were mostly under-funded. Why? Year after year these scrupulous figures have been put forward by the Arts Council in relation to its clients, and they are cut down year after year by the Ministry. The result is that slowly, inexorably, arts organisations are grinding 750 down, and so the Arts Council is permanently engaged in deficit funding.
I should like to warn the Minister that there is now a widespread feeling of disillusion and even despair and discouragement among the clients of the Arts Council; and, indeed, at 105 Piccadilly. Standards are falling, new works are seen less and less, and touring is becoming a rarity; prices are being put up too high and the arts are increasingly becoming accessible only to the better off. In fact, Priestley's findings apply right across the board. "Write off the deficits, jack up the base rate by 17 per cent.", says Priestley, "or close down the institutions". I urge the Minister to follow the unavoidable logic of Priestley and to ensure that this time the Arts Council receives the absolute minimum that it requires—a rise of 20 per cent.
What are the Minister's priorities? As a Conservative, no doubt he is wedded to the concept of value for money. If he is not convinced by the validity of the quality of life argument, then let me put this to him. Where now is our national pride and self-respect best displayed? Would the Minister look around him here in the Palace of Westminster—who will be remembered longest: Barry and Pugin or the noble Lords who have taken part in this debate? It is, in fact, the genius, the imagination, the inventiveness, the ideas, the ideals, the creativity of this nation which will be its salvation. In other words, its culture. It is there that we shall ultimately look for an increase in the gross domestic product.
I urge the Minister to think bigger. Why not go boldly for 1 per cent. of public expenditure to go to the comprehensive support of the arts? We will not build a great country on level pegging.
§ 6.58 p.m.
The Earl of Bessborough
My Lords, I listened with the greatest interest to my noble friend Lord Cottesloe and the figures which he quoted. I well remember when he succeeded the noble Lord, Lord Clark, of Saltwood, as chairman of the Arts Council and the figures which he gave were certainly very striking. As we have only a few minutes at our disposal, I shall merely ask my noble friend Lord Gowrie three questions, of which I have given him notice, on perhaps a rather narrow field concerning the theatre.
First, is he aware that the Chichester Festival Theatre, in which I declare an interest as the president of its trust, and which I think can claim to be the third most important theatre in the country after the National and the Royal Shakespeare at the Barbican, has for some years received not one penny from the taxpayer or from the Arts Council? This is the theatre which, in the early 1960s, was directed by the noble Lord, Lord Olivier, and which indeed formed the nucleus of the National Theatre. We have tried to maintain those standards ever since.
Secondly, is my noble friend also aware that this theatre, seating 1,350 people, open 47 weeks in the year and playing to approximately I million people a year, is not even thought worthy of an Arts Council subsidy comparable to the 450-seat Royal Court, which now receives over £½ million a year from the Arts Council?
751 The fact remains that, to a great extent, the artistic elements at Chichester have subsidised the festival for years. It is difficult to justify actors on a salary or wage of the kind which an unskilled labourer receives—for that is what they get—and for 52 weeks of the year. Our directors and designers are also poorly paid in comparison with similar theatres. I believe that there is sympathy within the Government to aid the theatre industry by giving certain tax relief to investors—or, if you prefer, "angels". I know that the Government are pledged to encourage sponsorship of the arts, and they are certainly doing so.
If banks and other large business concerns can offset sponsorship by putting it through their advertising budgets, surely it would be fair and equitable for the private individual to set his investment against his overall tax burden. A friend of mine who presents plays in the West End of London receives a substantial amount of money for his productions from the United States, and any money lost in these ventures is allowed against the United States citizens' tax. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, also made this point. All that I would ask my noble friend for is his comments on the three points which I have made.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, art is long, life is short—and so is this debate. I must therefore confine myself to two simple points. The first is the position of the provinces. I do not want to take a single penny away from London. It is the centres of excellence in London which provide so much inspiration for their fellow artists in the provinces. I am thinking principally of the city where I was brought up—Manchester. In my youth it was a city rich in culture, and it was a culture created and maintained by an affluent and cosmopolitan middle-class.
Engels had put the surplus value of his textile business into Karl Marx, but the other Germans helped to create the HalléOrchestra. The profits of Horniman's tea went into Miss Horniman's Gaiety Theatre, the first repertory theatre in Britain. The profits of Beecham's pills enabled Sir Thomas to bring the British National Opera Company to Manchester at regular intervals. The top D'Oyly Carte Company came, and so did the Comedie-Francaise. Great actors came before taking their plays into London. Cochran tried out his reviews in Manchester, and we saw Bitter Sweet and Cavalcade by Noel Coward before London was given a chance to see them. And all around us were the most avant-garde amateur dramatic societies rejoicing in surrealism, expressionism and constructivism, and all the other fads of the day.
I do not think that Manchester is any richer in culture today than it was half a century ago. Indeed, I doubt whether it is as rich—and this despite public subsidies. Because if there remains a cultivated middle-class it is thinner on the ground than it used to be. Most of its members are the salaried employees of great corporations, and not private entrepreneurs, as they used to be, with liberty to dispose of their own capital gains in the endowment of the arts and the sustenance of charities. This is the big social change which has weakened the provinces and made subsidy necessary.
752 Manchester arts have to depend to a considerable extent on public funds; and their dependence is threatened, as noble Lords have pointed out, by the Government's decision to get rid of one important patron, the Greater Manchester City Council, although special provision is made for two or three of the Manchester institutions, One of these institutions, one of the glories of Manchester, is the Royal Exchange Theatre. I have seen some remarkable productions there, first-class productions, in the highest of the highest metropolitan standards. The whole theatre is in a building which recalls Manchester's lost pre-eminence in textiles; and it seems to have that happily excited social atmosphere which the Old Vic used to have and which the National Theatre is almost achieving now.
Yet the Royal Exchange Theatre is dependent on various sources, which includes an annual grant of over £300,000 from the metropolitan county.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, like the Hallé Orchestra, the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester is also listed in the White Paper.
§ Lord Ardwick
Yes, it is listed, my Lords. If the noble Earl is assuring me that all the money which will be lost with the disappearance of the metropolitan council will be funded from a central source, I shall be relieved and I think a number of Manchester people will, too.
§ Lord Ardwick
If that is the case, then I am very glad because any kind of idea that great national and international companies are going to sponsor provincial enterprises and give them the security that they have is just not on.
There have been pleas for an increase in the general expenditure on the arts, yet what seems a big sum absolutely is a small sum when seen as a percentage of what we spend on education. But there is always a fear of the philistines in public bodies. Governments always fear that if they go too far they will get on the wrong side of public opinion. Why should they spend all that money on a minority interest?—for it is still only a minority that looks at pictures, goes to museums. concerts and theatres. It is not easy to find utilitarian arguments. We have to fall back on the excellent argument that we heard a moment or two ago.
I am saying this because I was horrified to read something in the Standard last night. The words were:Most subsidies to the arts are a transfer of resources from the working-classes, both metropolitan and provincial, to the London upper and upper middle-classes.Why the hell should some striving bloke in Accrington subsidise the price of an opera ticket for a London client of a multinational company? That is the reality behind the windbaggery of the arts lobby.This was not written by some "yobo": these are the words of Mr. Brian Walden, former Oxford scholar and president of the Oxford Union. They are not the words one would expect from somebody who has enjoyed a privileged and subsidised education. and who runs now the best minority feature—but very much a minority feature—in the whole of television.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Lord Crathorne
My Lords, I should like to take up just a couple of points raised in the debate. There is no doubt that there is some concern about the Government's proposals for the provincial museums after the abolition of the metropolitan county councils. One point I should like to make is that it is vitally important for museums, such as the Laing in Newcastle, near to which I live, and the Walker in Liverpool, that they should retain and further develop their own characters. If they are run from London by trustees of the Tate, surely some of the local character will be lost. There is a real worry about this from the museums' point of view, and I think it is a sensible worry. It would be unsatisfactory if such a thing happened. From conversations I have had, it is clear that both the London museums and the provincial museums are not entirely happy with those suggestions. Fortunately, however, my noble friend the Minister has made it clear that he is still very much open to suggestions. I should like to ask him whether he has considered the possibility of establishing for the provincial museums a system such as exists, for example, in regard to the Wallace Collection. The trustee system has served our museums very well, and I realise that there would be many initial problems to overcome. Clearly this is not the moment to discuss them but I hope that we shall hear from the Minister on that point.
The second point—or perhaps plea—is about the continuing crisis in the Oxford and Cambridge museums, of which the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, made mention. The other day I met Professor Jaffe, who told me that if the last round of cuts had been evenly distributed, the Fitzwilliam would have been brought to the verge of closure, and that further cuts would be catastrophic. It is sad, but it is a fact that the universities can no longer cope with funding these museums. The Fitzwilliam has had to close its doors on one day a week, and of course the V and A has, too; there may be other examples. Somehow the doors of our museums, for all our reasons that are being discussed here today, must be kept open. I hope that my noble friend will exercise all his undoubted skills to make sure that that happens.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Lord Birkett
My Lords, I rise to echo the disquiet that many speakers today have expressed about what will happen to the arts in the event of the abolition of the GLC and of the metropolitan councils. I must needs declare an interest because I work for the GLC. I am its director of recreation and arts, but I hope your Lordships will believe that my personal employment prospects are of no importance whatever besides the crisis for the arts which I foresee looming for London. I shall speak only of London because that is what I know most about. But I see the Government's proposals as expressed in the White Paper as representing a serious blow to the arts in London. I cannot bring myself to think that it is a deliberate blow: I believe it to be unthinking.
What do these proposals amount to? First, there are mentioned in the report nine bodies which the Government clearly intend to maintain or go some 754 way to save. Predictably, they are institutions of such stature and such celebrity that their collapse would be a scandal which no Government would welcome. Even there, there is no guarantee whatever that the level of funding now provided by the GLC will be provided by the Government. It is worth noting that over the last six years in real terms the Arts Council's funds have increased by 22 per cent.; that in real termsis measured by the retail price index. The GLC's funds have increased by 144 per cent. in that time. Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that this points merely to the profligacy of local government and to the good financial management of central Government, I think we should all remember that the arts in this country have never been well funded. We are fortunate in our arts and we have always been miserably ungenerous to them.
A few simple figures will suffice. I calculate that the French Government are exactly 10 times as generous to the arts as we are. It is true that in recent times Mr. Mitterrand at one blow doubled the arts budget of France. I conceive that it is possible that Mr. Mitterrand is not the noble Earl's ideal of political wisdom, but this stroke I commend to him firmly.
Berlin has a famous and brilliant orchestra. It is subsidised to the extent of 10 London orchestras funded at a rate which manages to keep them just at survival level. As for the most expensive art of all, opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, manages to find 38 per cent. of a very considerable grant from the box office. La Scala manages 17 per cent., the Staatsoper in Vienna 16 per cent. and the Deutschoper in Berlin 15 per cent. Their subsidies are stupendous by comparison with ours. Let us not deceive ourselves that we have ever been generous with the arts. Dusseldorf alone has an opera house worth £30 million a year and that is equal to two English National Operas.
What else is contained in the Government's proposals? I thought I saw a moment of wonder because I noticed that the Government have acknowledged that the South Bank arts complex is powerful, indivisible, and vitally necessary to London. Imagine my dismay when I read that it was to be run as nearly as possible on commercial lines. The distinguished bodies that inhabit that South Bank already receive over £10 million in subsidy. Let nobody suppose that by increasing the seat prices one can reduce that. If one did that it would have two effects only; the first, would be to narrow the social scale of people who went there and the second would be to reduce the number of people who went there. There would be no financial benefit whatever.
Is it to be sponsorship? I invite your Lordships to look around. Anyone who has been to the Festival Hall will know that half the concerts there are already sponsored. There is scarcely a concert without the name of a great insurance company, a great bank or a great commercial company of some sort upon it. The BFI gets subsidy for its work in the National Film Theatre. The Hayward Gallery is sponsored. That cannot be the answer.
What of the museums? The Geffrye and the Horniman are supposed to be passed on elsewhere. I cannot for the life of me understand why. At the moment they are administered by the ILEA, but as the 755 Government proposes a central education authority, I cannot think why it does not continue to run them.
As the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, asked, what will happen to Ranger's House and Marble Hill, that most perfect of Palladian villas? There are so many unanswered questions. But most important of all is what will happen to the other 400 bodies that the GLC funds?—400 no less. The recipe is simply to pass the lot to the boroughs.
We know that the boroughs will not be able to bear this financial burden because there is rate capping over the horizon no less than before. If they were able, would all of them be willing? If we look at the pattern of borough funding of the arts over London, we can see that it ranges from 20 pence per head of population to over £2. There is no rationale behind it. Boroughs cannot be relied upon to pick up this tab.
I ask myself why it is that this recipe has been adopted by the Government. They could have suggested another quango. They could have suggested passing the necessary money to the Arts Council or to the Greater London Arts Association or a combination of both. But they did not. They said. "Let the boroughs take over all the arts in London except the nine". Could it be because only in the boroughs is there a remnant of democratic principle left in the administration of this money? But if to preserve that element of democracy it means chaos and ruin for the arts, that cannot be sensible.
In conclusion, surely what is needed is an authority that can strategically balance the needs of the arts across London and have some democratic accountability for the money it levies. At the moment the GLC manages to do that and I cannot for the life of me think why we should not be allowed to continue so to do.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords. I have been gravely deceived by this debate. I thought it was to be about the situation in the arts. I had hoped that I would have some up-to-date news on the position of poets as the trumpets who sing to battle as the unacknowledged legislators of the world; but no such thing. The debate has been entirely about the economics of the arts and not about the arts themselves.
There are those who think that this is a necessary and complete connection between the two. Thirty years ago Wyndham Lewis wrote:If the cost of living must forever rise, it is equally a law of this time that the cultural standard must fall. As you get a pound of coffee rising in price, you may be sure that, at the same time, the quality of painting or music is taking a drop downhill of the same amount".There is no doubt that inflation has continued since Wyndham Lewis's time. I am not sure how many noble Lords would support the strict relationship which he thought applied between the quality of art and public funding for it, or, indeed, the inflation rate. But there is a connection and it is a connection that is important to this debate as well. The fundamental thing that we must look to avoid in our approach both to the quality of art and to the funding of art is elitism. I want to suggest to the House that it is élitism which will be encouraged by the actions of the Government 756 in the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties.
Élitism is partly a matter of the traditional stance of those better off in this world who actually do not like the idea that arts or anything else should be available to ordinary people. The demand for improved road provision came when the working classes started to have motor-cars and interfered with the pleasant motoring which the upper classes had known in the 1930s. The present troubles which affect the National Health Service exist because ordinary people are demanding the standards of health which, until recently, were only available to the few. In the arts this is typified by Constant Lambert describing the appalling popularity of music. Many people do not like the idea that arts should be more available to more people. I thought the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, very eloquently supported the view that as well as quality we should be talking about marketing and access.
What is the answer to this problem of élitism in the arts? I suggest that there is no single answer and there is certainly no answer which will create better art. The present debate taking place in and about the literature panel of the Arts Council is evidence of that. There are those who say that funding for literature should be funding for authors of approved works of literature or of works of literature which may become approved. I take the view, and I think that the noble Viscount. Lord Eccles, would do so as well, that that is the wrong approach; that the approach should be on the marketing of literature and improved access to literature; in other words, any resources available for literature should go to help readers and not to make elitist decisions about who is good and who is not good, and which authors are worthy of direct funding.
But there is, if not a single answer, an approach which I commend to your Lordships. That is the approach of pluralism both in art itself and in funding of arts. That is the sense in which I think it is important that we should not, for the political reasons of abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties, lose the pluralism and the concentration on access which the GLC, in particular, has given over the last few years.
There are many people—and I speak in the hearing of the Director of Recreations and Arts of the GLC and the chairman of the GLC's arts committee—who make fun of many of the individual grants which the GLC has given to community arts and to ethnic arts. No doubt, in the nature of things, there will be examples where that making of fun can be justified. But the fact is that the GLC gives grants to something over 300 artistic bodies in the course of the year and only 2 per cent. of those bodies—I think it is eight, in fact—get any assistance whatsoever from central Government.
The GLC is therefore performing a function in making the arts more generally available—and not just new kinds of arts, but making traditional arts available as in the case of orchestral concerts in the canteen of the Ford Works at Dagenham. It is performing a function which central Government cannot, of its nature, perform. The abolition of the GLC, without some democratically controlled, publicly accountable, locally accountable, alternative, as the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, has made clear, would be a disaster for 757 the arts in London. I urge the Government to think about these aspects of the problem as well as about the narrow political concern.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, I should like to follow those noble Lords who have spoken about the theatre and, more specifically, I should like to make two points on the subject of the problems of the regional repertory theatres. I have to declare an interest in that, like the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, I am president of the Redgrave Theatre Trust. The Redgrave is a small provincial theatre at Farnham in Surrey. It has a resident company, mounts 15 productions each year and plays to an average 70 per cent. audience for 52 weeks a year. It is a very imaginative theatre. For instance, two years ago the Redgrave staged the first professional production of "Cavalcade" since the original to coincide with the 50th anniversary. This production included some 300 amateurs, in addition to the resident company, drawn from 80 amateur dramatic societies within the catchment area. In fact, it put the Redgrave Theatre not only on the national scene but on the international scene.
Of course, we receive grants from the Arts Council and from the local authorities, especially Waverley, in whose area Redgrave exists. We are most grateful for that support. But inevitably there is an air of uncertainty about the future which is causing concern. If the grants were diminished, the Redgrave would survive because it has generated enthusiasm and support locally. But what it would do would be to alter the programme to some three or four productions only and it would also reduce the variety of the productions, which at present range from Ayckbourn to Shaw to Shakespeare, and include at least one full-scale musical a year. Without this support, it would be a poor bill of fare indeed.
Perhaps a more important aspect is that the regional repertory theatres in general are the training ground both for the commercial theatre in the West End and for the national subsidised theatre, both of which, as has been mentioned, are major tourist attractions. It is also a source of talent for television, which has an even bigger appetite. Stars may be created by the media but great actors come only from the live theatre. There are no great actors who have not started their lives in repertory theatre. Indeed, that includes two noble Lords who are Members of your Lordships' House.
The regional repertory theatres provide the seed corn for the future and not only in terms of performers but also concerning the technical aspects such as stage management and design. Repertory theatres also provide an essential opening for new plays and for new playwrights. It is, as I have said, the home and seed corn for the future of drama on the world stage. Regional repertory theatres provide careers for many areas and disciplines within this world of arts, and I believe are worthy of continued recognition and support.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Lord Lloyd of Hampstead
My Lords, I propose to confine my few remarks to one of the arts which has 758 not so far been mentioned in your Lordships' debate; that is the art of film. The art of film, despite its very remarkable achievement in this country, curiously enough remains somewhat the Cinderella of the arts in vivid contrast to the position in other film-making countries where leading film makers are regarded as foremost among the creative artists of their time. It is, however, accepted I think in this country as well as in others that there are a certain number of films which require support to get off the ground. This is especially the case where young or completely unknown talent is concerned. Although a great deal has been spoken about subsidies this evening, I am not speaking about subsidies in this connection but rather of help by way of redistribution of the available resources.
If one looks at the Eady money as a system, one can see that that is exactly what it does. It relies upon a levy upon the box office receipts. This system has been in operation since 1948. Now it is threatened, or appears to be threatened; and that is what I wish to refer to. We all recognise the weakness of the Eady money. Its actual quantum has been reduced very considerably owing to the decline in cinema attendances over the years, but in particular the burden of paying the Eady money falls entirely on the exhibitors' element, the cinema owners. And, as is generally recognised, it is they in their sector who are least able to bear this burden.
I think it would be universally accepted that we have in this country an extraordinary abundance of young talent. Speaking if I may, as the chairman of the National Film and Television School, I think I am in a fairly good position to assess the extraordinarily high talent that exists and how strongly motivated are those able young people to contribute to what has been generally recognised over the last year or two as a renaissance in the film world. The difficulty is that once young talent is recognised, that is all right; they may then find support in the commercial market. The real problem is how to make that talent visible to the commercial sector.
This is where there is need for a commercial judgment which is geared to evaluate and encourage new talent. With this function, we have at the moment the National Film Finance Corporation—the NFFC. This has been doing an extremely good job with the very limited resources available to it by way of a slice of the Eady money. I suggest that the Government are at the threshold of the rebirth of what has recently been a sagging industry. At this moment they can either make or break that industry. I verily believe that it is their desire to make it; but what I fear is that if some of the present thinking should prevail, even with the best intentions in the world, the effect will be to break, rather than make the industry.
Undoubtedly, the film world is, and always has been, hopelessly divided on practically every issue; but at the moment there is almost total unanimity that the elimination of the Eady money, together with the elimination of the National Film Finance Corporation, would leave an absolutely unfillable hiatus, and there would be no avenue to enable young talent to be recognised and so ensure the future of this great art and industry.
I could give numerous examples of the manner in which the NFFC has contributed in this way, but time 759 does not permit. All I can really say is that there is a certain irony in the fact that the survival of the film industry can he assured without costing the Treasury a penny. It simply needs understanding and political will, and no party issue whatever is involved. Everyone, surely, has a stake in the future of this great industry, with its immense international prestige and substantial export market. All important figures in the film industry have recently joined together to urge upon the Government that they should not extinguish both the Eady money and the NFFC and put nothing in their places. If they do that, they will at the same time extinguish the hopes and aspirations of our greatest need, which is the availability of abundant young creative talent, and they will simply drive them elsewhere—to Hollywood, Australia, or wherever it may be.
I believe that the Government genuinely desire to see a flourishing and creative industry, but I share the fears of those who think that those good intentions may be translated into a devastating blow. I can only add that I hope the noble Lord the Minister will be able to say something which will put aside the gloomy note on which. unfortunately, I feel constrained to conclude.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Lord Moyne
My Lords, because of shortage of time I must confine my few remarks to the future of the Kenwood Collection, in which I naturally take a grandfilial interest. Since 1951 the gallery has been administered, first, by the LCC, and then by its successor, the GLC. I have no criticisms of the way in which the councils have looked after it, but only praise for their choice of the three successive and admirable curators who have been in charge during the 32 years of the councils' responsibilities.
It had been proposed that, on the disappearance of the GLC, the gallery should be funded by central Government—which is quite right—but only through the Victoria and Albert Museum. If I may say so, I can think of no better, nor more benevolent whale, if Kenwood must indeed he swallowed up. But the Victoria and Albert already has Apsley House, Osterley, Bethnal Green, and Ham House on its plate—since such a civilised whale can surely be said to eat off a plate.
The Friends of Kenwood have suggested to the Minister that because the gallery is anyway to be funded by central Government, it should be through a board of trustees of its own. I therefore went with the chairman of the Friends to see the Minister last week. He gave us a most sympathetic hearing, but naturally without giving any commitment at this stage.
If it should be objected that Kenwood is smaller than most national museums, I would point out that it is probably larger in acreage than the Wallace Collection, and, while the values of collections are rather imponderable, the latest evaluation shows Kenwood's at £16 million. The attendances at Kenwood have always been larger than those at the Wallace Collection, in spite of the distance of Hampstead from central London.
760 We think that there could he economies to be made by the change, especially by eliminating the roundabout running of Marble Hill and Ranger's House from Kenwood. Geography and commonsense would seem to indicate the merging of Marble Hill with Ham House away to the west, just across the river, with only the width of the river in between—and linked by an agreeable ferry service, I am told, on instant call. Ranger's House is away to the east, near Greenwich, and could be linked with the Maritime Museum. In any case, for decisions to have to go up from Kenwood to the Victoria and Albert, rather than be settled by trustees on the spot is surely circuitous and a waste of time. Incidentally, many suitable people have offered to serve as trustees.
It is perhaps appropriate to mention that Kenwood is very much a living gallery. A loan exhibition of an 18th century painter is held there every year. Acquisitions are made with the help of the Friends and the National Art-Collections Fund. Variety and initiative are shown in the gallery's policy, which independence would surely foster. I should like to thank the Minister for the hearing that he gave us last week, and to express the hope that he will make the decision that is sought by the many friends of Kenwood.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Viscount Mersey
My Lords, I, too, should like to talk about film because I am a humble worker therein and have been one for 25 years; and film is very topical nowadays. This debate is indeed concerned with the situation in the arts, and my noble friend will be pleased to hear that I shall not be troubling him for funding: at least, not directly. Film is very interesting now. A good revival of British films is taking place, and indeed the whole matter is under review by Kenneth Baker. It has got its nasty side—the video nasties—but they are really only 38 in number and quite out of all proportion to the 35,000 thoroughly decent films that one can now hire.
What I want to say in a nutshell is this. Film is an art form of ever-increasing sophistication, watched by ever-increasing numbers of people, but they spend an ever-decreasing amount of money to watch film. Therefore our industry is artistically healthy, but financially not so hot. What I mean by "sophistication" is this. Over the last 30 years film has undergone a process of compression and elision. For instance, put very simply, some 30 years back it took us 12 separate camera set-ups to move an actor from, say, Bristol to Dover; and now we can do it in two. Even a great film like "The Third Man", which seemed so fast, compulsive and mysterious in 1949 when it was made, is now a slow and rather obvious film. But not so "Smiley's People". That is a film of the '80s—succinct, powerful and mysterious. The whole science has developed greatly.
Also, it has developed technically. I would not have believed it possible that there could be a film lens small enough to travel up the human fallopian tube, but that shot has been taken. It could not have been envisaged 30 years ago. Nor, indeed, could the Wagnerian legend of "Star Wars", with mind-boggling space-age monsters and gadgetry, and a sound track magnificent in its complexity. There are no longer three sound 761 tracks; it is no longer a case of dialogue, music and effects; it is a glorious entity.
Perhaps the ultimate is "Koyaanisqatsi". That is an abstract film of dazzling brilliance with an interesting score by Philip Glass. It has no story whatsoever, but it seems to be all the stronger for that. So what I am really saying is that we are progressing, and I believe that it is a very healthy industry, artistically.
But now I switch to the audiences. As I said, they are paying much less. In fact, they are paying £46 to the BBC, they are paying 25p per head for a video, and, of course, nothing to ITV. With so much quality film available in their own homes, it does indeed stand to reason that they will not go out to the cinema. Indeed, the average person goes out to it only one-and-a-half times a year. Yet it is only these cinemagoers who contribute to future British film production in the way of the Eady levy.
I believe that the levy produces £1½ million for the National Film Finance Corporation. That is a very small sum, but it is indeed useful for young directors. For example, I believe that "Gregory's Girl" cost only £½ million, as did "Local Hero", which I believe my noble friend saw recently at the Inn on the Park. The sum off £1½ million for Eady is not only not enough, but I would say that it was illogically raised from what I call the dinosaur's belly of the Odeon in Bognor Regis.
I have faith in the artistic integrity of British film and its young directors, and, far from abolishing Eady, far from abolishing the National Film Finance Corporation, I would say extend Eady to all film outlets, including those 1,600 films shown each year on television which, at the moment, cost nothing to view. I would also introduce a levy on blank tapes. This is happening in Sweden. where I gather it works quite well.
In that way the National Film Finance Corporation or the British Film Corporation (call it what you will) would have a meaningful income of perhaps £25 million a year; and I dare say that the British Film Institute's income could be raised in the same way, which is perhaps more relevant to my noble friend. In that way—and I honestly believe only in that way—the splendid progression over the past 30 years of the art of the British film will continue.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I must first say that, as the noble Earl, the Minister, is due to rise at 7.55, your Lordships, by your modesty and your brevity, have been kind enough to leave me rather more than my ration of six minutes in which to attempt the rather impossible task of endeavouring to sum up the debate from this side of the House. However, since I have a little more time than I thought I was going to have, I shall have a shot at it.
I hope that the Minister will give very close attention to what he has heard here this evening and, if he is not disposed to give to the eloquence of my noble friend all the absolute assent that we might hope—because he will reasonably say that matters coming from this side of the House perhaps carry a party political aspect to them—I hope that he will give special attention to what he has heard from his own side of the House and from the other Benches. I hope that he will pay close 762 attention to what the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, and the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, said. I also hope that he will have listened very carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, said from the Cross-Benches, and that he will not entirely dismiss the eloquence of my noble friends on this side of the House.
I was very interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, say that he was received so well by the Minister recently. I am to have the privilege of visiting the Minister myself on Monday. He has been kind enough to receive a delegation which I am leading from the Theatres Advisory Council and I am encouraged by what the noble Lord has said. We shall not be dealing with the political aspects of the matter on that occasion. The Theatres Advisory Council is essentially a non-party organisation and, for that reason, we shall be endeavouring to deal with the details of the problem, to take up specific issues and to ask for changes in the areas where the Government have indicated that they are prepared to look at changes.
In their document, which is headed The Abolition of the Greater London Council and the Metropolitan County Councils: The Government's Proposals Jar the Arts, they say that they:invite views and comments on the proposals set out in paragraphs 6 to 10".Your Lordships will notice that the Government are not inviting any comment at all on their general proposition; that is what they propose to do. All they wish to hear from us are comments on matters of detail. The general proposition they are adhering to. Tonight, I want to talk on the general issue, as on Monday I shall be dealing with the detail.
I have no doubt that the Government's intentions towards the arts are as good as anyone's, but, as with so many other things, the trouble is that the Government's dogma and doctrine defeat and destroy their good intentions. That ought not to be so, but this is a highly dogmatic and doctrinal Government. I say that it ought not to be so, because the GLC and the metropolitan county councils were created by a Conservative Government.
It seems to me that Sir Keith Joseph, when in 1962 he told the House of Commons that,all other needs affecting the whole of Greater London should he made the responsibility of a directly elected Greater London Council",was speaking more in accordance with what I understand to be Conservative Party philosophy than are the Government today. I am no expert on that, but, as I shall show in a moment, I have read something about it and it seems to me that Sir Keith's view was more in line with what was traditionally expected from a Conservative Government than are the present proposals.
The Government are about to seek to destroy these authorities which were created by their own party. I remember sitting up all night, when I was a member of the London County Council, trying to stop them from creating the GLC. I believed—and I still believe—the LCC to be an excellent authority and I did not want to see the expansion to this larger body.
Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems to me that the Government, in not seeking any democratic substitute 763 at all, but seeking to abolish democracy altogether, are acting against the principles of Conservatism as much as against the principles of Socialism. Indeed, they are acting against the principles of parliamentary democracy in itself, because parliamentary democracy does not say that all power shall rest in the centre. Centralism is not part of the Conservative philosophy as I understand it, and I am very sorry that the Tory party is travelling in that direction now.
There are those who believe that the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, has produced the document entitled The Abolition of the Greater London Council and the Metropolitan County Councils of his own free will. I find that difficult to believe, because I am convinced that the noble Earl is not malevolent or stupid. Indeed, I have some evidence to the contrary—and here I must declare an interest. Recently, as director of the Theatres Trust, I asked the noble Earl to increase the tiny grant which enables that body to exist upon a shoestring in order to help to preserve the fabric of theatres—the bricks and mortar—and keep theatres as theatres. That is what this body tries to do. We did not get what we asked for. Who does? But our precious £10,000 has been increased to £11,000, which will enable us to survive for another year and, more important, keep the theatres' shoes on their feet. We shall try, anyway.
So what has persuaded this well-intentioned Minister to issue a document which he must know is without rhyme or reason and which, if put into effect, would sound the death knell for much artistic activity all over the country? The noble Earl may say that this is a consultative document. But the intention is firm. Only the details are for discussion. It stems from the Government's White Paper, called Streamlining the Cities. In my opinion, it should have been entitled Castrating the Cities. The Minister says that he will look to the borough and district councils to carry out the arts responsibilities, but he must know that in some cases they have not the intention to do so and in others they have not the power. In many cases they have neither the facilities nor the resources—and certainly not the money. Many small organisations will therefore slip through this process and are bound to collapse. Great harm is bound to be done all over the country.
Many of the major achievements in the arts are attributable to the metropolitan councils. Their creation was to that extent attributable to Conservative genius. Let us be generous and make it clear that they have created something which they are now about to destroy. This would be a very great shame indeed. Instead of going to local authorities, who cannot possibly handle them, the Government have picked out some organisations and said, "We know, of course, that local authorities cannot handle these bodies, but we shall give special responsibility to the Arts Council to take them over". Well, now, what are they doing? They are removing local responsibility for these activities. It is a responsibility which ought to be locally exercised. The Manchester Exchange Theatre will not be as good an organisation if it is wholly financed by the Arts Council as it is if it has got some Manchester money in it. At the moment it receives £300,000-worth of Manchester money, which is better 764 for the Manchester Exchange Theatre than central Government money. That, I should have thought, was part of Tory Party philosophy.
I must share with the Minister the extra few minutes we have available, and certainly I must not exceed my own time, but, when I read The Case for Conservatism, written many years ago by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, the basis of the Conservative Party's philosophy appeared to me to be democracy, devolution and pluralism. The proposals are against all three propositions. They ought to be taken back and looked at again. I hope that tonight the Minister will say that he is going to do so.
§ 7.54 p.m.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, not only for the pertinent matters he raised and the cogent way in which he raised them, but also for attracting so many speakers to a short debate. I propose to make a few general remarks about the principal themes which have come up this evening and then deal as best I can in the time available with specific points directed at me. If I fail, I beg the indulgence of the House, since so far I seem to have escaped short debates. I shall of course write to noble Lords, if need be.
The big issues facing the world of the arts in Britain, and, indeed, facing my Ministry, are money: the overall level of support for arts bodies and organisations—and the effects of local government reorganisation. Obviously the two are linked. The noble Lord who opened the debate raised them and most noble Lords have touched upon them.
Before touching on them myself, could I warn the House, however, against the tendency—increasingly prevalent in the world of arts organisations—to identify their world, which is loosely summed up in the phrase "the arts", with artistic activity generally. I am very glad that from the other side of the House the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey (himself abolished by the GLC, as it were) appeared to recognise this. Please remember that central Government and local government spending on the arts is only a part of the arts estate. At home and abroad, British people are writing books and plays, and winning Nobel prizes for them—all honour and gratitude to Mr. Golding. They are publishing, selling and performing in them.
The same applies to music and film, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, and my noble friend Lord Mersey. And all honour to David Puttnam and Sir Richard Attenborough and their colleagues for winning Hollywood Oscars for Britain two years in succession. The same goes for our painting and sculpture. The same goes for dance and the other performing arts. All the major newspapers cover the arts. Radio and television are deeply involved, as patrons and promoters. When we compare central Government spending on the arts in this country with spending on the arts in other countries (as, quite fairly, the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, did in his speech) we must remember that the BBC spends about £100 million a year on arts and entertainment, and the various commercial stations not much less. We do have God's plenty, as Dryden said of Chaucer's poetry. All this is in addition to 765 central Government spending, with which I am concerned. I am concerned with only a small part of the estate, but an important part—the manor, if you like. I am determined to keep the building in good repair, but, if I am to add to it, the outlying farms, as elsewhere in the economy, will have to generate some more income. This said, let me come back to the pervading issue of money.
As a matter of general philosophy and of intention, I do not dissent from the view that the arts are less well funded in Britain by comparison with some other European countries. That is one of the reasons why I endorse not merely with loyalty but with passion the central aim of the Government's economic policy, which is to improve Britain's economic performance on a sustained and sustainable basis. That is why I make no apologies for identifying (as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, upbraided me for identifying) most firmly with the Treasury approach. Improved performance can only be good for the arts, and not much that is good can be achieved or sustained without it. Improved performance depends on there being limitations on public spending, including some limitations on public spending on the arts, whose needs are not finite and could without much strain absorb pretty well whatever resources were directed at them. I also urge the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson of Lullington, not to confuse the interests of individual artists with the interests of arts organisations, overwhelmingly as these are concentrated in the cost intensive field (as they have to be) of the performing arts.
Nevertheless, within these overall limitations definite improvements have been achieved and can he achieved. As a Government we are committed to maintaining the level of support for the arts, if we can, as well as to making efforts to supplement this income from other sources. Several noble Lords, notably the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, and my noble friend Lord Haig, mentioned sponsorship in this connection. I am glad to say that business sponsorship should touch £15 million this year, as against about £½ million six or seven years ago. This growth must continue. I have strengthened my own very small and stretched department in order to help such bodies as the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts. Our promissory note to the electorate, our manifesto, said:We shall keep up the level of Government support, including a fair share for the regions".I welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, said in this connection about local self-help. As Minister, I do not promise more than that—much as I should like the acclaim which would go with it. But I do not promise less. I, too, can be teak-bottomed, like Lord Annan's vice-chancellors.
But I do ask to be judged by actions rather than promises, so let us look at what has been achieved so far. The Government have decided to increase our previously-planned provision (set out in last year's White Paper) for the arts, museums and libraries programme for next year, 1984–85. The 1984–85 provision will now be £595 million—a rounded £10 million higher than the previous plans for next year. This includes a modest (as in present circumstances it should be) but I would hope welcome real increase in 766 the central Government element. It allows for a small upward revision of the existing plans for local authority current expenditure on libraries and museums next year.
I also hope to make an additional increase of provision to meet some of the needs of the opera companies, as indicated by the Priestley report on the Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as the Royal Shakespeare Company itself. Of course, this sum will also be modest; and, of course, needs outstrip resources in this as in other fields. Nevertheless, this is real progress in every sense.
A number of noble Lords have in this context raised the issue of direct funding, notably my noble friend Lord Eccles. My general inclination is against direct funding of the performing arts. The long-held principle in the United Kingdom is for arm's length contact between the Minister and the bodies he funds, through, for instance, the Arts Council. But as the Priestley report suggests, there is equally a case for looking rather separately at our major companies of international standing and for allocating our grants to them on an earmarked basis within the Arts Council's total grant. This is one of the issues I shall shortly be considering.
I am not yet ready to announce the detailed allocations of my revised central Government programme for next year, and I must resist the temptations of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, to do so. I hope to do so before Christmas. Meanwhile, it would not be prudent to assume that whatever percentage increase between 1983–84 and 1984–85 applies to my programme as a whole will be distributed exactly equally among all the bodies. I must take account of, and make a judgment about, the incidence of needs and priorities.
As to the fiscal matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and others—notably my noble friend Lord Haig—we debated those matters very fully a few days ago, and I hope that my reply to that debate will answer also for this evening. I am afraid that I must say to my noble friend Lord Haig that I cannot hold out much hope of changes on VAT.
Mention has been made of this year's 1 per cent. cut in arts funding. In August this year cuts of about 2 per cent. were made in all areas of public spending to correct a threatened overrun. I have to say that subsequent events seem to me to have wholly vindicated the Chancellor's proposal, but it was very tough going at the time. I strongly resist suggestions (mainly, I am happy to say, made outside this House) that I failed to protect my arts clients. Of course I appreciate the very real problems which an unexpected cut of any kind caused them. But I was at least able to protect them by restricting the cut to 1 per cent.—nasty, but nicer than 2 per cent.
I was able to do that by postponing the building start of the Theatre Museum until after April 1984, when next year's money comes in. I was able to protect the interests of the Theatre Museum by finding a generous private donor—an angel in every sense of the word—and I am glad to say that the building contracts should be let in the next few days. I have made mistakes as a Minister, and will doubtless make others, but this, in my view, was not one of them.
767 The Arts Council passed on the 1 per cent. cut to all its clients. There has been substantial complaint about this—and I sympathise, sincerely and not in the manner of the walrus, with the complaining. Nevertheless, I have not heard of any company or other body getting into unredeemable financial difficulties as a result of the cut. I have sought to make amends, too, by returning, as I have said, to last year's baseline as the starting-point for our plans for next year's spending.
Before I leave this point, I want to say that I have seen it reported that the finance director of the Arts Council believes that the Government behaved "dishonourably" in respect of this cut. If that is the case, the charge is ridiculous. All projected public spending is always conditional. It is conditional on the availability of resources. If resources are not available, or if other needs arise, Parliament is the arbiter of change.
Of course, I sympathise with the desire of arts organisations to know where they are and plan accordingly and sensibly. I like to know where I am myself. But we are all circumscribed by the total economy, both national and international, and it is surely absurd to pretend we are not. This criticism made, I wholeheartedly welcome the Arts Council's recognition, in their recent letter to clients, that the bodies they support are on leasehold, not freehold. It is inevitable that if new calls are to be met, or some clients are to get more money, other clients should be looked at in terms of their record or their need. Even with greater levels of funding overall there will inevitably be disappointments, inequities and rows.
I come now to the issue of the abolition of the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils, and its possible effect on arts funding. This point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and by other noble Lords, notably the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood; the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick; and my noble friends Lord Crathorne and Lord Moyne, in respect of the Kenwood Museum.
As our consultative document makes clear, we will look to local borough and district councils to assume most arts responsibilities. This policy is causing widespread anxiety among arts bodies and museums presently funded in whole or in part by the GLC and the MCCs. It would be wrong of me not to acknowledge those anxieties. All proposals for change can make individuals and organisations anxious, but it would be wrong of me not to acknowledge the fact all the same.
I can give some reassurance, although I do so cautiously as in my political experience reassurances also give rise to anxieties. What people want first is the status quo guaranteed permanently; and, second, improvements to the status quo permanently guaranteed. As most artists, if not most arts organisations, would recognise, this is not the stuff of mortal kind. But with this caution, I can give some reassurance.
In the first place, local government reorganisation is not a complicated method of economising on arts funding by central Government. And central Government will continue to make resources available to local authorities even if adjustments in the method of 768 distributing RSG are made. In the second place, the consultation paper is just that. My proposals are not immutable, and my consultation paper really does mean a genuine openness to other views and proposals. It also recognises clearly that it would be unfair to expect one or even several district or borough councils to provide the resources for national bodies, such as the South Bank complex in London or the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester—and what a more considerable achievement that orchestra is than the works of Engels!
When you take into account withdrawal of the costs of listed bodies, and the fund increases for district and borough councils due to the abolition of upper-tier authorities, you will see that there is no reason why the situation should not be better rather than worse. In the third place, the shortfall to be made up after reorganisation by borough and district councils is not insuperable. In London, for example—and this point was concentrated upon in the interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Birkett—the amount currently spent in this year by the GLC on arts activities which will not be designated from central Government support will be about one-sixth of the GLC arts budget for the year. I am convinced that this gap, and greater gaps elsewhere, can be filled by a plurality of funding. Local government, central Government, box offices, sponsorship and patronage all have a part to play.
I welcome the support given to this pluralism by my noble friend Lord Cottesloe. With goodwill, with recognition that arts activities are cost-effective in terms of employment and creating an attractive infrastructure, with increasing awareness that the arts are more of an industry than a service, plurality of purpose can be translated into a plurality of necessary funds. There is no reason why not; no diminution of central Government funding or goodwill. Local authorities who take their arts responsibilities seriously will find us eager to help in every way that we can.
In conclusion, I must say that it may well be that some arts institutions affected by these changes, however worthy in themselves, will not persuade local authorities to fund them, of local electorates of their necessity. There are penalties as well as benefits in increasing local democratic accountability, and I would remind the House that in this the arts affected by reorganisation are in no different case from arts bodies in the rest of Britain. I do not accept that Cardiff Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Norwich, Oxford, Cambridge, Nottingham or Plymouth are cultural deserts. There is no inherent reason, given the level and variety of resouces proposed, why areas unlike those affected by the changes should not similarly resist erosion.
I have listened most carefully to the debate. It is part of the general consultative process which does not end until the end of January. I will then take some time in weighing up the consultations before coming to conclusions; and I am sure that your Lordships will wish to return to this again.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Lord Strabolgi
My Lords, I should like to thank all noble Lords from all parts of the House who have taken part in the debate, and also the Minister for his 769 very full reply. I must say that I have never known such a full consensus of opinion in any arts debate as there has been in this one. We are very grateful to the noble Earl for his full reply, which we shall study. I was slightly disappointed by one omission. He referred in passing to Oxford and Cambridge, but he said nothing about the university museums, nor about Dulwich, which I thought was one of the main points in my speech.
All I am asking for at the moment is that perhaps he will direct his mind—his very brilliant mind, if I may say so—to this problem, because I think that this is something which needs attention. It is very important, in particular from the security point of view. Perhaps he will get in touch with me, and I shall be very happy to go to see him to talk about it. With that, my Lords, I again thank all noble Lords for their contributions, and I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.