HL Deb 19 December 1985 vol 469 cc889-92
Lord Gainford

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are prepared to encourage business sponsorship as a means of creating a flourishing environment for the arts.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, successive Conservative Ministers for the Arts have actively encouraged the growth of business sponsorship as a supplement to official funding of the arts. Sponsorship has risen from £ ½ million in 1975 to around £20 million this year. This figure includes £4 million of new sponsorship raised under the Business Sponsorship Incentive Scheme set up a year ago by my noble friend Lord Gowrie, which offers matching grants for new sponsorship. This scheme is proving so successful that my right honourable friend the Minister for the Arts has just announced an increase of £ ½ million in the funds available for the scheme next year.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that encouraging reply. Has he had information about the work done by organisations such as the National Westminster Bank? As regards grants, would finance matters be at all assisted by the possibility of tax relief to companies which sponsor the arts?

Lord Belstead

My noble friend mentioned one very well-known bank. Perhaps I ought to answer by saying that I am advised that 150 first-time sponsors have been attracted by the Business Sponsorship Incentive Scheme, including 112 which were attracted by the pound-for-pound matching offer which was introduced on 1st April this year. So far as tax relief is concerned, I am sure my noble friend is aware that direct tax reliefs for charities, including arts charities, are now worth about £400 million a year.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware, arising out of what he said, that the purchase of works of art by business companies is not deductible as a tax expense, although office furniture and other equipment of that kind is? Will he do something to persuade his right honourable friend to change this, so that businesses can be encouraged to patronise the arts?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I shall draw the attention of my right honourable friend to what the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has said on this matter.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is very great scope for more business sponsorship in the South-East of England—that is in the prosperous area—and more scope for public sponsorship of the arts in the provincial centres which are not so well endowed with business?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I think that about 75 per cent. of the sponsorship money which has been generated by the Business Sponsorship Incentive Scheme has, in fact, gone outside London.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, will the Minister agree that, although business sponsorship is very welcome, it leads to rather random benefit largely to prestigious bodies, which is very understandable? Can he therefore assure the House that the Government will not use industrial patronage as a substitute for a more generous arts budget, which is essential if young talent is to be nurtured, experimental work undertaken and the less immediately popular art forms supported, since all these are vital if we are to maintain our unique leading position in the international field?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the noble Baroness is, in essence, asking me whether the Government expect business sponsorship to replace official and metropolitan funding. I am very ready to say to the noble Baroness that the answer to that is certainly, no; that the Government will maintain their level of funding. But we believe that business sponsorship provides for growth.

Lord Somers

My Lords, while I agree that the noble Lord's Answer was most encouraging, may I ask whether he agrees that there is a great need not only in London but in all major towns for more concert halls of a sufficient size to cater for orchestral concerts? Can he give any indication whether there are plans to build some such halls?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, that supplementary question goes a little wide of the original Question, because one is getting into more general funding matters through the Arts Council and in other ways. I shall draw the point to the attention of my right honourable friend the Minister for the Arts. However, I repeat—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Somers, will be pleased to hear this—that a considerable slice of the additional money which has been generated by the Business Sponsorship Incentive Scheme has, so I am advised, gone outside London.

Lord Hutchinson of Lullington

My Lords, will the Minister tell the House what percentage of the total funding of Arts Council clients last year was attributable to business sponsorship?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am sorry, but I cannot answer that off the cuff. I shall certainly write to the noble Lord. But speaking from memory, we are talking about an Arts Council budget of, at that time, just in excess off £100 million. Of course, it has gone up as a result of the announcements made by the Minister for the Arts and we are talking here of what will, in the forthcoming year, be a Government contribution of some £1¾ million for business sponsorship, which it is reckoned will generate about £6 million in sponsorship under the Business Sponsorship Incentive Scheme. As I said in my original reply, we calculate that total sponsorship is running at around £20 million a year.

Viscount Mersey

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the position in America is that their equivalent of the Arts Council produces 250 million dollars, but that industry produces four times that, which is 1 billion dollars? I wonder whether my noble friend is in favour of that sort of ratio and, if so, what he is doing to encourage it.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, in the United Kingdom the public fund the arts through taxes and subsidies and in the United States it is done largely through tax incentives. The systems are different.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, with reference to the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, will the Government look carefully at the American experience, lest the system may lead to fiscal abuse?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I shall most certainly draw the attention of my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what is being said about the American experience; I have heard this view expressed before in your Lordships' House, and I shall certainly do that. But I think that the noble and learned Lord would wish me to make the point again that, as I understand it, in the United States the majority of money to support the arts comes from private donations, foundations and companies, but with the vast majority of it coming from private donations, whereas here the system is rather different. The public are to a very considerable extent providing support for the arts through taxes and subsidies.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the American system is extremely costly in physical terms, since so large a part inevitably comes from the public purse in tax remission, and that the Americans are slowly but surely moving in our direction? It would ill become us therefore to adopt a method that is haphazard. While business sponsorship is a valuable addition, it is, as I think the noble Lord himself has said, no substitute for public funding of the arts.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, says in this matter.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, while I accept what my noble friend says about the systems being different, may I ask whether he will encourage his colleagues to look very carefully to see from which system the arts might get the most benefit?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I certainly take on board the wise words of my noble friend Lord Peyton and I repeat that I shall draw the attention of my right honourable friend to what has been said on tax incentives for business in this particular respect.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, can the Minister give us an assurance that artists' models are properly remunerated?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am sure that they are very well looked after.

Back to