HL Deb 14 May 1985 vol 463 cc1024-64
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Elton)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Elton).

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Lord Strabolgi moved Amendment No. 132E: Before Clause 42, insert the following new clause:

("Arts and recreation in London

.—(1) On the abolition date there shall be established for Greater London a body corporate which shall be known as the London Authority for Recreation and the Arts.

(2) The Authority shall consist of members of the London borough councils and the Common Council appointed by these Councils.

(3) The provisions of sections 28 to 35 of this Act shall apply to the Authority as if the Authority were a joint authority established under Part IV of this Act.

(4) The Secretary of State shall by order taking effect on the abolition date make provision for vesting in the London Authority for Recreation and the Arts the land and functions to which this section applies.

(5) This section applies to—

  1. (a) the Historic House Museums, that is to say, Kenwood House, Marble Hill House, and Ranger's House and functions relating thereto;
  2. (b) the interest of the Greater London Council in the Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Purcell Room, the National Theatre, the National Film Theatre and the Hayward Gallery and its functions relating thereto;
  3. (c) the parks, open spaces and sports facilities owned immediately before the abolition date by the Greater London Council which are situated in more than one London borough or outside Greater London or which in the opinion of the Secretary of State are for the benefit of an area of Greater London greater than the London borough in or near which they are situated or which require the resources of a London-wide authority for their future development;
  4. (d) the functions of the Greater London Council with regard to the management of those parks, open spaces and sports facilities, including powers to provide public events and entertainments therein;
  5. (e) any interest in and held by the Greater London Council immediately before the abolition date under the Green Belt Act 1938;
  6. (f) the functions of the Greater London Council under the Green Belt Act 1938; and
  7. (g) powers to contribute to the costs of artistic, cultural, recreational and sporting activites and to make grants to bodies carrying on such activities.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment stands in my name and in the names of my noble friend Lord Jenkins and the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee. With the permission of the Committee, I should like to speak to Amendment No. 132 FA, standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge.

Amendment No. 132FA: Before Clause 42, insert the following new clause:

("Arts and recreation in metropolitan counties.

.—(1) The Secretary of State shall by order under this section taking effect on the abolition date vest in the appropriate joint authority the functions to which this section applies.

(2) This section applies to the functions of a metropolitan county council exercised immediately before the abolition date relating to—

  1. (a) powers to contribute to the costs of artistic, cultural, recreational and sporting activities and to make grants to bodies carrying on such activities, including museums and art galleries;
  2. (b) powers of management in relation to country parks and river valley parks or any interest, rights or liabilities held by a metropolitan county council before the abolition date in such parks;
  3. (c) the ownership and management of museums, art galleries, collections and buildings held for artistic or cultural purposes;
  4. (d) the funding or provision of archaeological services.

(3) In this section "the appropriate joint authority" means either—

  1. (a) a joint authority established under Part IV of this Act; or
  2. (b) a joint authority for the area of a metropolitan county established by order of the Secretary of State taking effect on the abolition date and consisting of members of the constituent councils for the metropolitan districts of that county appointed by them to be members of the joint authority.

(4) Any order under this section may contain such supplementary and transitional provisions as the Secretary of State thinks necessary or expedient, including provisions for the transfer of property, staff, rights and liabilities and provisions amending any enactment or any instrument made under any enactment.").

Amendment No. 132F has been dropped, for what reason I know not. The purpose of this amendment is to transfer all the arts and recreation functions of the GLC to a joint body corporate. I propose to introduce the amendment in general terms and then to deal with the arts in more detail. Noble Lords who follow me from this side of the Committee will deal with recreation, an equally important topic and one which this Bill does not even mention. Although Part V of the Bill includes the word "recreation" in the title, nothing is said about what is intended for the GLC's many parks, its green belt lands, its sports facilities, its entertainments such as Thamesday, the Easter parade and the Kenwood open air concerts, and its sports grants activities.

These, I submit, are very serious omissions indeed. The matters that come under the heading of arts and recreation are all concerned with the quality of life. They make up an important part of what makes life worth living. It is essential, surely, that they are run properly and taken seriously.

From the management of the Royal Festival Hall to upkeep of Hampstead Heath, from the restoration and management of Kenwood to the creation of two important new parks—Burgess in Southwark and Mile End in Tower Hamlets—from the organisation of Thamesday to the management of the green belt farms, anyone who takes the trouble to look will surely have to admit that the GLC's Department for Recreation and the Arts, which was responsible for all these things and many more, does an excellent job.

Why, then, break up this department—passing some of its services to the boroughs, passing others to quangos such as the Arts Council, and allowing some of them to disappear because the successor authorities are either unwilling or unable to continue them? That road leads to confusion, waste, loss of economies of scale, squabbles between boroughs, and variability in the levels of service from one borough to the next.

I have said that this area is concerned with the quality of life, and so it is. But London's environment—physical, cultural and recreational—needs to be protected and enhanced, I suggest, for good commercial reasons as well. I am sure that this materialistic point of view will appeal to the Government. London's parks, historic buildings and museums, and its artistic life, are important attractions for tourists. With the dramatic decline in manufacturing industry, tourism is assuming a much greater and a growing importance. Indeed, the Prime Minister—and here I agree with her—wants our tourist industry to be expanded as much as possible.

If London is to receive its fair share of whatever inward investment is on offer, it must surely exploit its special advantages to ensure that foreign firms come here and do not choose some other part of the Common Market. Investment in arts and recreation creates jobs both directly and indirectly. Examples of the latter include the way in which subsidised theatres and orchestras nurture and sustain talent which is then applied in commercial areas such as film, television and the record and video industries—all of which are valuable export earners. Investment in recreation and sports facilities, while not providing a cure for unemployment and other forms of social deprivation, does provide opportunities for creative and fulfilling activity—helping to prevent frustration being given violent expression on the streets. The Government have recognised this, particularly in the case of Liverpool.

London therefore needs an arts and recreation authority with the powers, resources and London-wide breadth of vision to manage and develop these services. In contrast, the fragmentation which the Government's proposals involve can only lead to their decline.

The GLC's arts grants expenditure in the last financial year was £13.4 million revenue and £2.3 million capital. All but a small fraction went to major bodies such as the National Theatre and the London Festival Ballet, to medium-sized bodies such as Sadlers Wells, and to small community and ethnic arts groups. Such funding is surely a valuable and much-needed investment at the grass roots level, particularly in relation to ethnic arts, which in time will lead to an enrichment of the better-known companies and therefore the whole cultural life of our nation.

If the GLC goes without an adequate replacement, many of the smaller arts groups may disappear altogether—and perhaps some well-known names as well. Let us not forget that the National Theatre's Cottesloe Theatre was due to close because the Arts Council's grant this year was insufficient. Who came to the rescue? I remind the noble Earl that it was the GLC. What is to happen in the future if another crisis of that kind blows up?

Without the GLC, the Arts Council will be responsible for the bulk of arts funding in London. We know that boroughs will make little contribution, The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, acknowledged that when he altered the Government's original proposal that they should find the funds needed to fill the gap in favour of giving the Arts Council more funds for this purpose. But the £34 million involved falls far short of the amount currently spent by the GLC and the metropolitan counties. This gap now looks to be at least £8 million.

3.15 p.m.

What is more, the Arts Council's new policy, as set out in The Glory of the Garden, is to switch slender resources from London to the regions—so the situation in London will actually be worse still. The Arts Council's policy is of course a very good and sensible policy but it will be difficult to carry out—indeed, the Arts Council is finding it difficult to carry out that policy—without sufficient funding.

The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, said in a recent television programme: The public and the taxpayer get a really excellent return for the subsidies they put into the arts in this country—both in terms of the international excellence of the product and our reputation, and in terms of economic activity, jobs and the rest"— with which I entirely agree. How very true that is, and yet our investment in the arts is far lower, despite the noble Earl's fine words, than in many other countries. If the Bill before us succeeds, it will be lower still.

A recent editorial in the Financial Times which called for more public funding stated that per capita central and local government expenditure on the arts in the United Kingdom was only about one-third of the level in West Germany and about one quarter of that in France and Sweden. Even in the United States, where more liberal tax laws encourage much higher personal and corporate patronage, per capita public support for the arts is roughly twice as high as in this country.

There is then the question of maintaining a variety of funding sources. There will be only one major source of funding if this Bill is passed. The Arts Council will have a virtual monopoly, if one remembers that the boroughs will have only a very limited involvement and that the Greater London Arts Association—which has a budget of less than £2 million and concentrates on giving small grants, often of only a few hundred pounds, mainly for pump priming—is more than 80 per cent. funded by the Arts Council. I submit that for a single body to have such a large say in what is worth funding and what is not is hardly a healthy situation for the arts. At all events, I should have thought that the Arts Council had quite enough to do at present.

There are other problems. The Glory of The Garden—the Arts Council paper on future policy—contained a policy for the orchestras which virtually had to be abandoned because of a public outcry. What did the Arts Council propose? It proposed that one of the London-based national orchestras should be posted up to Nottingham, as if it was an infantry battalion. Nottingham does not want an orchestra; it prefers to have visiting orchestras. That proposal showed little understanding of what a national orchestra does; its recording sessions, its spinoffs, the other work which its players do when they are not playing in concerts. So all that is having to be rethought.

The Arts Council is now going to take on the role of promoter and funder of the Royal Festival Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall. We know that the present management of the Arts Council is most fair-minded. But what might happen with some future management that is not quite so fair? Suppose it directs an orchestra up to another part of the country and that orchestra does not want to go. Will the management try to bring pressure on the orchestra? I do not suggest that the present management of the Arts Council would do so, but such a thing might happen in the future. Would a future management try to bring pressure on the orchestra by not giving it engagements in London at those two concert halls, in order to force the orchestra to move to some other part of the country? This is just one of the difficulties if responsibility is handed over to a single body of that kind.

The GLC owns and runs those two concert halls. It owns the freehold of the National Film Theatre, which is run by the British Film Institute. The GLC also owns the National Theatre and the Hayward Gallery—the latter two being leased at peppercorn rents to the National Theatre Board and the Arts Council respectively. The Government expect the Arts Council to take over all this.

That is not all, for the Arts Council is likely to be landed with the rest of the GLC's South Bank facilities as well. These include the Hungerford railway arches, which contain, among other things, Feliks Topolski's "Memoir of the Century". This, as your Lordships know, is a giant 600-ft. mural, given to the GLC by the artist, depicting his view of the events of the 20th century. The exhibition is open six days a week, with free admission. There is also a craft centre, scheduled to open later this year. There is the new Festival Pier, which the GLC built in 1983 and allows river passengers to alight in front of the Festival Hall instead of across the river at Westminster. Finally, there are the Jubilee Gardens, the site of many splendid large-scale events such as Thamesday, organised by the GLC and enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of Londoners every year, including many children.

I contend that the Arts Council was not set up for that kind of purpose. It is not the right body to run the concert halls, quite apart from the difficulties I mentioned earlier. It has no experience of such matters. It is also to become a parks authority, a river transport authority and an organiser of major outdoor entertainments. Surely the whole situation becomes quite ridiculous. Better by far would be to leave things much as they are at present by passing all the GLC's responsibilities in this area to a joint body.

There is then the question of finance. The Arts Council is expected to run the South Bank with part of the extra £34 million I spoke of earlier, which we know is several million pounds short. Furthermore, it is only revenue, and yet the GLC spends substantial capital sums every year maintaining the buildings. Where is the money to come from? Has the noble Earl, and his colleagues in the Cabinet, thought about that? Moreover, the South Bank will have to compete for resources with other bodies, not merely in London but across the whole country, at a time when the Arts Council proposes, as I said, to switch resources from London to the regions. I submit that this all bodes ill for our country's most important arts complex. Clearly the Arts Council will need to find substantial savings. Where will they come from? I do not know, but I feel that the following may well be among them. We may see the end of the GLC's open foyer policy, Under this imaginative scheme, which has been widely praised, the Festival Hall, instead of being open only in the evenings, is open from 10 a.m. in the morning, providing a wide range of arts activities, including a year-round programme of exhibitions and foyer music, plus a variety of catering facilities and shops.

This policy has had a number of very important results. Ticket sales went up in 1983–84, compared with the previous year, by 8 per cent. in both the Festival Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and by 17 per cent. in the Purcell Room. In the first year there were over one million foyer visits in addition to concert attendances. There were interesting exhibitions. In case the noble Earl should think that this is all to do with popular culture, may I remind him that one notable exhibition was devoted to the work of the late Lord Berners—Gerald Berners—that eccentric and talented Peer who was a composer, author and painter.

The present GLC administration stopped letting the Fesitival Hall for business conferences believing, and believing rightly, that it should be devoted entirely to the arts. That is what it was build for. Doubtless some would like to see conferences there every day of the week, but surely that is not what concert halls are for. I understand that the Arts Council is already considering re- introducing conference bookings, and perhaps the noble Earl will correct me later if I am wrong, as I hope I am.

It seems to us on this side of the Committee that the message is clear. If the Arts Council takes over the South Bank there is likely to be less funding for it, less enjoyment to be had there, and, paradoxically, probably less art. I beg to move.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, suggested that these two amendments should be taken together. Therefore, I wish to speak to my amendment now. It is a very complicated and, very largely, a muddled issue, and I am sorry to say that I cannot deal with it as shortly as I should like to. The Bill is so drafted that this part of it is extremely difficult to amend.

What we are seeking to do is examine what the condemned councils are doing to see how many of them are worth preserving and how well the Bill looks after them. In my amendment, as in that of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, we list artistic, cultural, recreational and sporting activities, parks, museums, galleries, historic buildings and archaeological services. We put them in an omnibus amendment because we think it possible that the Committee will agree that no one of these issues is properly resolved by the Bill and at least a temporary solution must be found for each of them before a final solution is reached. We are not interested—at least, I am not—in combining them into the overall whole. We favour some or all of them eventually being taken over by the boroughs, but not before the boroughs have agreed, item by item, to take them on and to begin at least with the same level of funding as is now given by the metropolitan counties, in my case, and the GLC, in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi.

I hope that noble Lords opposite will not waste the time of the Committee by asserting that this is a wrecking amendment. It bears no relation to a wrecking amendment. We fully accept the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan councils, even though some of us may regret it, but all sides of the Committee agree, and the Bill itself acknowledges, that some of the services they performed were good and need to be continued. What we are discussing is how best to continue them. The Bill itself accepts that some services need overall regional control; and the Committee accepted only last week that that applied to waste disposal. The noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, made it perfectly clear that it was an operation needing central control of disposal, though not necessarily of collection. Far from wrecking the Bill, that amendment has greatly improved it. In these amendments we are examining whether any of the other functions of the bodies to be abolished can be preserved piecemeal or whether some of them can be efficiently carried out only with some regional, as opposed to purely local, attention.

On the wrecking issue, I must remind your Lordships that I had the not altogether easy duty of putting to this House the Education Act 1975. Noble Lords opposite disliked it almost as much as we dislike this Bill. I was presented with amendment after amendment for weeks on end by no less a person than the noble Lord, Lord Elton—who has objected to some of the proposals which have been presented to him here—and if one were to use his definition of last week, many of the amendments would certainly have qualified as wrecking. However, I accepted them as being honest attempts to take the sting out of the Bill. That is what he was trying to do, and that is what we are trying to do; so I hope he will treat us as we treated him.

So much for wrecking. I shall concentrate what I have to say mainly on the two topics for which the Minister for the Arts is personally responsible; namely, the performing arts, including, of course, music, and the visual arts, including picture galleries and museums of all kinds.

3.30 p.m.

Raising money for the arts is the most difficult, uphill job. Many of us in and out of Government have worked at it for years and we have now succeeded in raising the total national expenditure on the arts from virtually nothing before the war to about half what it ought to be now. We have a long way to go, as my noble friend suggested in his opening speech, before we can reach the respectable figures of the best of our continental colleagues. Now I find the noble Earl quite frankly prepared to let this sum so hard won begin to decline. This is not a constitutional point; it is an aesthetic point. But I must explain just what I mean.

The figures of present expenditure under the two headings, performing arts and museums and galleries, are as follows: performing arts, GLC £13.4 million, plus £8.6 million for the South Bank, metropolitan councils £4.9 million; museums and galleries, GLC £3.7 million, metropolitan councils £8.2 million. Those figures add up to £26.9 million for the performing arts and £11.9 million for museums and galleries, making £38.9 million in all. All the figures that have been quoted have been somewhere around there. There may be some variations, but that is approximately true, as I think the noble Earl will probably agree.

The noble Earl has extracted £34 million from the Treasury from the money no longer to be available to the GLC and the metropolitan counties—it is not of course new money, but old money that he has saved from the vicious grasp of the Treasury—and has said he would give £16 million to the Arts Council to deal with the £26.9 million performing arts expenditure and £17 million to whoever it is (I think that it is Lord Montagu) to deal with the £11.9 million expenditure on museums and galleries. That seems a half-baked division, but if one adds up the two sides, one gets £33 million from the noble Earl to deal with £38.9 million currently spent by the GLC and the metropolitan counties.

The noble Earl has said that there was a deliberate shortfall of £4 million for the boroughs to make up. I make it £5.9 million, and with 5 per cent. inflation and some expansion here and there it will be nearer the £8 million that my noble friend quoted. The noble Earl must know that however much the boroughs ought to make that up, they simply will not. They are squeezed, rate capped and bullied by the Government, and excusably will put other things that they are short of, such as nursery schools and books for school children, before the arts. We can hardly blame them.

The problem of raising money for the arts has always been that they have been in competition with things that seem more vitally important. That is why we are happy to accept money from cigarette and drink merchants and why the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, once said that he would accept money for the arts from Mrs. Warren in her house of ill-fame if she should offer it. It is terrible to go backwards like this. I speak with the greatest seriousness. The GLC and the metropolitan counties have developed an interest in the arts which the boroughs have never shown.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Arts (The Earl of Gowrie)

That is not true.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

Nobody suggests that the boroughs could not do the same thing, and I think in time we may get them to, but we have all tried for a very long time to get the junior local authorities to give more money to the arts, and that has produced very little. What the noble Earl is acquiescing in is a straight cut of between £6 million and £8 million off the £33 million, which I make about 20 per cent., and also, almost more serious, the loss of a very valuable patron.

I am not terribly interested in the maintenance of the GLC or, indeed, the metropolitan counties. What I care about is the maintenance of the very fine variety and extent of the patronage of the arts which they have developed. If anybody thinks that my wish to have an authority to look after those things is a wrecking amendment, he needs his head examined. I believe that it is the only way to save a 20 per cent. cut in the arts throughout the country, over and above all the harsh measures already applied to us by the noble Lord. Let me say at once that I should oppose this authority being joined with the police authority, the fire brigades or waste disposal. I want it to preserve what I believe is in very serious danger of being lost.

What we want to know from the noble Earl—and I am sure he cannot tell us—is how the seven major institutions in the performing arts which are now supported by the Greater Manchester Council, to take an example, are to be financed: the Royal Exchange Theatre, the Contact Theatre, the Coliseum Theatre, the Octagon Theatre, the HallÉ Orchestra, the Northern Ballet Theatre and the North West Arts. Greater Manchester Council is spending £1.5 million on those seven fine organisations of national importance, some of which the Arts Council already supports.

Let us, for example, have a look at the HallÉ. I understand that the Arts Council has already told the Halle that it will not fully make up the county's grant, which was something in the neighbourhood of 50–50, but will leave a shortfall of some 20 per cent. and the poor HallÉ will have to go to 10 district councils and the already over-pestered public sponsors to make it up. The same sort of situation applies to the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society, the Northern Sinfonia and Opera North just to take music as an example.

How are the major museums and art galleries to be financed? Again, taking Manchester, we have the Greater Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, the Manchester Museum, the Contemporary Arts Centre, the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Area Museum Council. As a further point, what is to replace the £25,000 which the Greater Manchester Council gives to archaeology? On the evidence before us—and I could go into very much more detail, but I think that the Committee has had enough—we fear that what the noble Earl brushes aside as a small shortfall is turning into a wholesale and widespread reduction in arts grants which will do fatal damage.

The arguments about parks and recreation and about archaeology are different and will be put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, will talk about theatres. I have tried to explain the black fears felt throughout the world of arts and museums, and I only hope that the noble Earl will be able to reassure us with something more convincing than the statistics he used in his recent correspondence with Sir Denis Forman. I am sorry to go on so long, but I must give a few more details. I will take—I am sorry; I will not give any more details. I think that I have gone on long enough. I always find that when your Lordships begin to lose interest I do, too.

The Earl of Gowrie

That was a very graceful ending from the noble Lord, if I may say so. Though one or two of his remarks made me rather cross, for my part I can assure him that I was never less than hanging on his lips or interested. We are likely to have a long, interesting and detailed debate. I shall have many points of detail, not least about Manchester and institutions elsewhere, to answer at the end. But I think that it might be useful for the Committee if at this stage I re-state—and I shall be brief—the Government's overall response to arts funding as it is affected by the Bill.

I do not yield to the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, or indeed to anyone else, in my concern or interest in the quality of life in cities, in the growth of the leisure industries or in the arts. Indeed, my first experience of local government as an individual was as one assisting in an underground though legal campaign against the GLC, then in Conservative hands, for its proposals for Covent Garden (where I live) 15 years ago. I acknowledge that there are and have been real worries and anxieties that the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan county councils could adversely affect an area of life which we all value very much morally and which increasingly we are learning to value in material terms as well. Therefore, I spent my first six months as a Minister working on policies specifically designed to allay the bulk of these anxieties. I wish now, just very briefly, to state what we did to try to achieve this.

As, to be fair to them, the two noble Lords who have spoken from the Opposition Benches so far have acknowledged, I announced last April that the Government are to make available £34 million in additional central funding in 1986–87 and equivalent sums in later years. It is all very well to indulge in agreeable and amusing rhetoric about grasping sums of money of this kind from the mean-spirited Treasury maw, or whatever trope was used by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. In fact this is a very significant shift and a very significant shift in policy because it is not, in my judgment, generally good policy to move spending from ratepayers to central taxpayers without very good reason for so doing. We believed that there was very good reason for so doing, and so we did it. This money was to be for arts bodies and institutions which may otherwise face the risk of a sudden reduction in support after abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan county councils.

However, before anyone becomes at all gloomy about the shortfall, perhaps I may say that the important part of my statement so far has been in the otherwise innocent little phrase, "and subsequent years". In other words, what we have done is to raise the level of the bath water, and lots of institutions and individuals can go on bailing a little more money in on top of that as well.

Sixteen million pounds of this will be made available to the Arts Council to enable it to look after the needs of major performing bodies at present receiving grants from the GLC and the metropolitan county councils and to administer the South Bank complex. I think we are on the verge of what could be the most exciting arts centre in the country, or in London, in its history: a kind of Lincoln Centre only better, if you like. I am tempted to take up time at this stage in outlining all the tempting proposals which the Arts Council are dangling before me. However, I do not think that would be right. I will say a little more about the South Bank, if called on to do so, when I wind up.

A million pounds will be provided to the British Film Institute for the support of film activities at present assisted by the GLC and the metropolitan counties. As to the point that both the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, raised, that we in this country spend far less per head than other countries in terms of public subsidy of the arts, I think a number of points need to be made about this. It is a point thrown at me, and no doubt thrown at the noble Lord when he was Arts Minister, and one would like to protect our successors a little from this constant reiteration of a not very comparable issue.

In the first place, we do not include, as public spending on the arts in this country, what nearly all of our major competitor or allied countries count as public spending: the moneys spent by the broadcasting authorities on the arts. The BBC and the IBA companies spend upwards of about £230 million or £240 million annually on what could quite fairly be called arts activities. Secondly—and we should not be ashamed of this; just the reverse—we get a much better return in this country on the public investment that is made. Perhaps there are historical, traditional and cultural reasons for this, but as we take the blame for bad news we should take the credit for good news as well. My colleague and good friend M. Jack Lang has an annual budget of about a billion pounds. I do not think that any disinterested observer would say that the standing of British art was lower than that of the French at this moment in history.

We also have a much greater private sector in terms of the arts. I have constantly made it clear to my colleagues how important I think is the maintenance of the central subsidised core and how close is the connection between the subsidised core of arts funding and the very lively, dynamic and growing arts economy which we now enjoy worldwide and not simply in this country. Also, I do not think that subsidy is a very good guarantee or measure of artistic creativity or health.

3.45 p.m.

To go back to the figures: £17 million will be provided to meet the costs of the major museums and galleries. The patterns of funding, as will become clear in the course of today's debates, will necessarily differ between the museums and galleries affected according to their particular circumstances. In some cases the details have yet to be settled. Given that, it is rather easy for some people to say to the Government, "Well look, you do not understand what you are doing; you have not thought it all out". However, this is not the reason there are these differences. For historical reasons, different cities have different needs and have different institutions which have grown up through their history, demanding plural and different solutions.

It is envisaged that the Museums and Galleries Commission, which was mentioned, would be the channel for the recurrent central funding which I have announced will be made available to encourage the continuation of integrated local museum services through voluntary co-operation between successor district councils and largely financed by them. It will be for these councils to decide whether to establish trust bodies for the purpose. My officials and I at the Office of Arts and Libraries, as well as the commission, will be ready to advise them.

Again, just to take these as examples (and we can go into other examples at wind up), I have already announced that ownership and management of the three London historic house museums, Kenwood, Marble Hill House and Ranger's House, with appropriate central funding, will pass to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, which has also indicated its willingness to take on the GLC's historic buildings division. This embodies the Government's view that responsibility for these houses should be kept with the historic buildings division, with which they are closely connected, and that their scale is too small to justify separate trustee status and direct financing. As previously announced, funding for the Museum of London, which again was mentioned, I think by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, will be shared between the Government and the Corporation of the City of London.

I have been impressed by the weight of representation in favour of maintaining the strong existing links between the Geffrye and the Horniman museums and the educational world. I have therefore come to the conclusion that this will be best achieved by devolving responsibility for these two institutions to the new ILEA.

I acknowledge to noble Lords who have spoken that the £34 million, of which I have given some examples in the area of its use, does not represent the full amount spent on the arts at present by the GLC and the metropolitan county councils. This was quite deliberate and was a principle, if you like, of precisely what I wished to do. I defend it most strongly, as I believe strongly (and have made plain throughout), that local arts activities should attract local funding.

The borough and district councils will therefore be expected to play their part after abolition, particularly in the case of local arts bodies within their own boundaries. These boroughs and districts, after all, will have been relieved of the levy to the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils. They will be exempt, additional to that relief, from full responsibility for the most expensive arts activities and institutions, due to the permanent increases in central funding with which I have just dealt. Therefore, they will be on side with other authorities who have excellent records in arts funding; for example, such lively arts cities as Cardiff, Bristol, Glasgow and Plymouth. It is not thought that culture has been decimated in Cardiff, Bristol, Glasgow or Plymouth because these cities do not happen to have metropolitan county councils.

I can only say to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, that he is quite wrong in thinking that the present travails in wrestling with their expenditure by boroughs and districts need necessarily mean they will be adverse to this important area, because in terms of its current regional development strategy the Arts Council has informed me that local authorities have responded well to its challenge policies. It suggests it will spend money if they value institutions enough to do so as well. That is very good news indeed. Therefore, I am confident of these positive attitudes continuing.

We all have to wrestle with our current costs, as central Government has found, but the totality of expenditure on the arts by these authorities is not of an amount liable to put them into some ratecapper's gaol. Greater Manchester spends 0.89 per cent. of its budget on the arts. Merseyside is much the largest, with spending of 2.18 per cent. South Yorkshire spends 0.11 per cent., Tyne and Wear 1.68 per cent., the West Midlands 0.17 per cent., and West Yorkshire 0.09 per cent. Given the other reliefs I have announced and the additional money from central taxpayers which the Government have put in, that is not the kind of area of expenditure which gives any authority any excuse whatsoever to decimate the arts. They need no excuse because they know perfectly well that it is in the interests of investment and jobs and the lively infrastructure of these towns to maintain this part of the quality of life. Therefore, the arts have nothing to fear from the policy of the abolition of the upper tier of local government. Certainly I would not remain Minister if they did so.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

I have no doubt that the noble Earl the Minister has successfully convinced himself of the rectitude of the policies he is following. Unhappily, he has not succeeded in convincing many people in the arts world outside himself. He has not succeeded in convincing the Arts Council, as they will be telling him shortly. He has not succeeded in convincing all those who are dependent on arts funding throughout the country.

I had thought of taking a brief and speaking in major terms in order to illustrate the great size of the contribution of the Greater London Council to the arts in London. It is a very important contribution, totalling something of the order of £15 million. But I felt it better perhaps to illustrate the problem from the point of view of a single recipient of GLC and Government support on the arts. I do so for three reasons.

First of all, this morning I had the pleasure and the privilege of showing Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales around the Battersea Arts Centre, which is celebrating its fifth birthday. Therefore, I have been talking to the people there and I feel informed about the nature of their difficulties and problems. I also feel encouraged and excited by the wonderful work being done in Battersea, a borough which so much needs that work.

Secondly, Battersea is a good case from the point of view of the Government. As I shall illustrate, if in Battersea they are in real difficulty, in fear of having to close down, then boroughs elsewhere must be in even more severe trouble.

Thirdly, this is a case in the area of the amendment to which I am particularly addressing myself. Subsection (5)(g) of the amendment provides that the body which we propose should be created under the amendment shall have, powers to contribute to the costs of artistic, cultural, recreational and sporting activities and to make grants to bodies carrying on such activities". As your Lordships will know, the Greater London Council is a tremendous grant-making body and some fun and nonsense has been had because some of the minor grants have been paid to bodies which easily lend themselves to newspaper jibes.

But if your Lordships look over the whole range of what is being done in London, you will see that the entire infrastructure of the arts in London is being supported by these grants. Sometimes they are 100 per cent. grants and the whole burden is being supported by the GLC. Sometimes they are only 20 per cent. grants, or smaller ones; but everywhere the Greater London Council is supporting and sustaining the arts in London.

Why is that important? It is important for this reason. The arts do not spring out of nowhere. The excellence and the peaks which we reach in the arts in this country are rightly renowned; and I would remind your Lordships that we are famous throughout the world for our artistic contribution more than in any other respect whatsoever. This springs not from a single genius or one great actor, but from a body of work being carried out all over the country. It is like a pyramid with a wide range of work going on in every major city in the country. From that massive body of work gradually are built up the high peaks of artistic excellence for which we are known.

It may be difficult to recognise that in some respects we are currently living in a golden age so far as the arts are concerned, but in the perspective of history it may be found in fact that this is the case. And we are in danger of wrecking the whole thing, because of this proposal to undermine the infrastructure. The nature of the infrastructure determines the ultimate outcome. The great thing about the arts support system in this country is, first of all, that the Government have kept their fingers out of it and, secondly, that it is plural; there is more than a single source. We have deliberately set out to make sure that the sources of arts support are more than just one.

Perhaps I may refer to the particular case of the Battersea Arts Centre. What does it do? What was it that Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales saw on her tour round this morning? She saw the theatre which puts on shows which receive good critical acclaim. She saw what is the only cinema in the area; all the commercial cinemas are closed due to the dire straits in which the cinema as a whole finds itself. This cinema in Battersea shows very good films. The Princess saw the activities being carried on with handicapped children, she saw performances of ethnic groups, she heard the steel band and classical music. It is a contribution to that part of the capital city which absolutely revolutionises the nature of the arts work in the area. That is a description of what goes on there. There is a cafeteria which bears comparison with those in this building and it is patronised by people from all strata of society in that part of the capital.

4 p.m.

I shall now turn to the financial situation. I was the first chairman of the Battersea Arts Centre. It got a good start from the Wandsworth Borough Council, and the present Conservative-controlled council has done well in this area. The council took on the responsibilities. It provides that wonderful old building, Battersea Town Hall, rent-free to the trust that runs the arts centre. That, in my estimation, is worth about £100,000 a year in itself. In addition, it finds another £83,000 to support all the tremendous range of activities that go on there. The Greater London Arts Association finds £30,000, the ILEA £2,500, and the Manpower Services Commission scheme provides £28,000. That, with £113,000 from the GLC, provides a total income of £257,000—a quarter of a million pounds of subsidy grant income.

In addition, donations and sponsorship from business are also very good. One of the best members of my board was a director of Morgan Crucible who not only persuaded his company to make a substantial contribution to the activities of the centre but also took a personal interest in them. He was there on the spot with other members of the trust. In spite of the poverty of the area and the fact that many concessions have to be made, the Battersea Arts Centre succeeded in taking £74,000 at the box office last year. That is an amazing achievement when you consider what is being done. Its total revenue was about £350,000.

What is the nature of the problem? They are very worried down there. They are going to lose their £113,000 from the GLC, which is one-third of their subsidy income. If it goes, where do they look to replace this? They have approached the Wandsworth Borough Council. The council had said that it will do what it can. However, it is already providing the building and £83,000. Can the council find another £100,000? I hope so. I shall do my utmost to persuade it. I am inviting Conservative leaders of the Wandsworth Borough Council, the people responsible for this area, to come and have a meal here. Like an earlier example that was given, I would personally sup with the devil—in fact, I would do my best to ensure that he enjoyed his meal—in order to get support for the arts. Will this be possible? The Minister will perhaps tell us.

If Battersea cannot get any more money from Wandsworth, or can get only a small proportion of the money from it, where will the other money come from? Will the Arts Council fund the Greater London Arts Association so that the money can be found from there; or will the centre have to reduce its range of activities just at a time when it is beginning to make a marvellous contribution—to such an extent that it is affecting the very nature of the society in which the centre exists? Its work and its appeal to all sections of the community mean that the centre is an influence for good within that society. It would be a tragedy if at this stage we were to lose the initiative and the impetus provided by the brilliance of the artistic director Jude Kelly and her managers who are great fund raisers. I give this example because it is one that I know best and one that is in the public eye at the moment.

I hope that the Minister will be able to say a little more than he has so far. We look for firm assurances. If he confines himself to expressions of his concern and interest, which we take for granted—we shall be unable to tell the people in Battersea where they are to go for the money that they are apparently going to lose. Unless before the end of the debate we hear something more than we have heard so far, it is my hope that your Lordships, in an expression of your concern for this type of activity, not only in London but throughout the country, will support the amendment.

The Earl of Bessborough

I am interested in these amendments. I cannot support the idea of a new authority, but I certainly have some sympathy with the noble Lords, Lord Strabolgi, Lord Donaldson and Lord Jenkins, in what they have had to say about the performing arts. I had thought of speaking on this under a later amendment regarding transitional support for voluntary organisations. Although my preference would be to see an amendment making some more permanent rather than purely transitional arrangements, that amendment seems to me a step in the right direction; that is to say, in the direction of ensuring that sums comparable to what certain voluntary organisations have been receiving hitherto reach them from other sources. However, I think it better to make my remarks on these particular amendments.

In referring to those organisations I was thinking not of the somewhat bizarre groups listed in the advertisements published recently in the national dailies to which my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter referred last week, but of the kind of responsible organisation—and here I declare an interest—of which I am president, the British Theatre Association. The association has among its members not only the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, but also the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, repertory and regional theatres, theatrical managements, British Actors Equity and all the television companies. It also has the largest theatre library in Britain and a major training programme. Yet it receives very modest grants per annum—£ 16,000 from the Arts Council, for which we are most grateful, £10,000 from the Department of Education and Science, for which we are most grateful, and £8,500 from the GLC. Yet we, in Britain, claim to lead the world in theatre. Certainly, it is a major tourist attraction. There have been various calculations, but most people agree that at least 25 per cent. of London audiences come from overseas.

There are a certain number of highly respectable charities which deserve to continue to receive adequate assistance. I was partially reassured by letters from Lady Porter, the leader of the Westminster City Council, concerning the future of the arts and the numerous grant-aided organisations currently supported by the GLC. We must agree, I think, that the Westminster City Council and the borough and district councils should play their part. But it must be uncertain whether they will. Will each arts body have to apply to a number of different councils?

As I say, I have been reassured by Lady Porter, and I am also considerably reassured by my noble friend Lord Gowrie. I know and appreciate what he has done in regard to the £34 million, and I very much appreciate what he has said to us this afternoon in relation to additional central funding—and I think it is additional—in 1986–87, and equivalent sums in later years, for arts bodies and institutions which might otherwise face the risk of a sudden reduction in support after the abolition of the GLC and the MCCs. It seems to me appropriate that I should raise these points in connection with these amendments to be inserted before Clause 42.

However, in expressing sympathy I should of course say—and in this I declare another interest—that, as President of the Chichester Festival Theatre Trust, I am fully aware that it is possible for a theatre to survive (and, after all, that theatre formed the nucleus of the National Theatre) depending entirely upon the monies it generates itself and the support and generosity of its audience, its society membership, its Patrons of the Year and current generous sponsorship from, for example, Nissan UK Ltd. The Chichester Theatre has indeed succeeded very well without any support from the Arts Council, or from local authorities.

However, I must admit that there is some uncertainty about depending solely on industrial sponsorship and other patronal support, which may not necessarily continue for many years. We in Chichester were very grateful to Martini Rossi for their support over a number of years, and, as I say, we are equally grateful to Nissan UK Ltd. for its £250,000; but that will continue for only three years.

I also have to admit that Chichester is a special case, and there would perhaps be little hope of repertory and other regional theatres in other parts of the country receiving such generous private support. I should add that theatres which have received such support are grateful to my noble friend Lord Gowrie for his incentive scheme in support of business sponsorship. Many of us are grateful to him for that.

At all events, I think that there may be something to be said for including in this Bill some provisions concerning the performing arts, and I hope that later this afternoon or at the Report stage the Government may come forward with proposals which might meet the qualms of those of us who wish to see these arts thrive, not only in London but throughout the regions.

Baroness Nicol

I hesitate to enter this very artistic argument, but, nevertheless, I propose to bring noble Lords all back to earth with a bump, literally, because I want to turn the Committee's attention to the parts of the two amendments which are concerned with parks—national parks and the green belt. Recreation as enjoyed in the parks and in the open spaces of the metropolitan areas and the GLC is as important as the arts to a very large number of people, and I hope that it will be treated with the seriousness that it deserves. I shall not keep your Lordships long, but I want to remind the Minister of a discussion we had on Clause 6, which was I think on the third day of this seemingly endless Committee stage. Concern was expressed from all sides of the Committee about the fragmentation of responsibility in relation to parks, and many of the arguments are not repeatable in the context of these particular amendments because they were concerned with the general expertise and the general upkeep of parks and open spaces.

4.15 p.m.

However, at that point we said we would try to pay particular attention to those parks and open spaces in London which crossed boundaries, and about which great anxiety was expressed. At that stage there was a good discussion. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, was very sensitive to the concern expressed, and so was his noble friend Lord Skelmersdale. They were sympathetic, although they did not offer us any great solution at that time.

Amendment No. 132E offers a solution, and I hope that the Minister will appreciate the fact that we have discarded all our other anxieties—at least for the moment—and have simply concentrated on that one. This amendment refers only to those areas where parks and open spaces cross boundaries, and that is the problem we are trying to solve. The general arguments have been made. I shall now make one or two of the particular ones as quickly as I may.

The fragmentation of responsibility means that we are open to differences between approaches of different authorities. It means that there may be a different emphasis placed by different authorities on a particular area. I should like to use Hampstead Heath (although it has its own amendment later on) to illustrate what I mean. Three different borough councils are concerned with Hampstead Heath, and I understand that two of them are not on speaking terms. So can you imagine how those three borough councils could possibly run Hampstead Heath to its best advantage? There are other areas of London, which I shall not list because time is short, which are in exactly the same difficulty.

The Earl of Gowrie

I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way, and I am listening to what she says very carefully. However, in that case would not the answer be for the borough councils to get on speaking terms? Hampstead Heath is not a highly political issue.

Baroness Nicol

I do not know these boroughs; I am not a Londoner. I am only pointing out the difficulties which could be encountered, not only in relation to Hampstead Heath but elsewhere. It may not be a matter of not speaking to each other. There are different priorities in different boroughs. Some have more money for this kind of work than others; some have more expertise. To put this very important function into a situation of danger is really to create difficulties where none needs exist. The amendment that we propose for the GLC will do nothing to protect the body of expertise about which we were all so concerned when we dealt with the earlier amendment, and we look to the Minister to follow up the rather promising remarks that he made and to come forward with something that will meet that particular argument.

The concerns that are covered by these amendments have been voiced by a number of very important bodies, including the Countryside Commission, the National Conservation Council, the Royal Society for Nature Conservation, the CPRE—and you know what that is—the Civic Trust and others, including the National Farmers' Union. It gives me great pleasure, as it always does, to be able to quote the National Farmers' Union. In a very helpful letter which it wrote in April this year, it says that: Virtually every major land use report produced in recent times has identified the urban fringes as a planning and land management problem of national importance". This refers particularly to the green belt issue, which is also contained in this amendment and to which I wish to refer, although I do not wish to keep the Committee too long on it.

The NFU says: much of this recognition is intrinsically related to the future of Green Belt designations. The GLC and the MCCs have increasingly addressed themselves to this problem and in many instances very successfully. The NFU believes, therefore, that there is no doubt that this effort needs to be maintained. The question is whether a strategic authority or the co-ordination of several "local authorities is the most effective means of doing so". It then goes on with its argument. It ends up by saying: Regrettably we remain unconvinced that the commitment, skills and financial resources currently addressed to critical open land issues will survive the abolition of the strategic authorities … "the implications of the prospect of an increasingly fragmented approach to land use and management decisions affecting metropolitan open land", they consider to be in doubt.

I shall not quote at any more length, nor go on about it any further than that. I say simply that this is our opportunity to bring back a degree of co-ordination on these important areas. I ask your Lordships when you are discussing the rest of this amendment to consider these important issues and if it comes to the point, to remember that if you vote for these issues, in the event of a Division, you will be supporting something which is important to a vast number of people. Please do not lose sight of it in your discussion on the other artistic issues before you.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

This has been a less polemical debate than any—and I think I have been present at all of them—so far during the Committee stage of this Bill. I hope not to damage in any way that easier and more friendly atmosphere. I am glad to be able to begin by agreeing wholeheartedly with one thing said by the noble Baroness who has just sat down. Like her, I think the idea of allocating responsibility for Hampstead Heath to three separate local authorities is an unwise one. I am quite sure that there are alternative methods of securing that that extremely important area is properly looked after by one authority.

Perhaps I may throw out a suggestion to my noble friend. The City of London already looks after Epping Forest up to very high standards, and various other areas outside London. Surely it might be possible to persuade that great and public-spirited body to consider taking over responsibility for Hampstead Heath. I am sure that if it would, that would be a much better solution than three local authorities, whether friendly or not. Like the noble Baroness, I know nothing about their mutual relations, but I am sure that that would be a better idea. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for having raised this question because in the whole Bill I myself found the proposals for Hampstead Heath the least attractive.

I am sure that the whole Committee listened with great attention and sympathy to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins. In my case it was with a great deal more sympathy, though not more attention, than when he speaks on some other topics to which he devotes his considerable abilities at other times. His account of the Battersea Arts Centre, no doubt coloured by the illustrious company in which he last viewed it, was very moving. I do not think there is anybody in this Committee who would wish to see that kind of enterprise damaged.

However, if one studies—as I shall again in Hansard—the noble Lord's speech, it does not seem to follow inescapably from the figures which he himself gave that the disappearance of the GLC would necessarily strike a fatal blow at an activity of that sort. He himself said that the Wandsworth Borough Council was looking at it sympathetically—I think I paraphrase his views—and after he has given them a good lunch I suppose they may look even more sympathetically, because the noble Lord is an excellent host. But the amounts involved to make up, if necessary, the GLC contribution are not very substantial.

Of course the Wandsworth Council, it must be remembered, will as a result of this Bill be relieved of the GLC precept which comes to a considerably larger sum, I am quite sure, than the £113,000 to which the noble Lord referred. I assure the noble Lord that there is nobody, I think, on this side of the Committee who would wish to see an enterprise of that sort damaged.

I fully understand—I think all your Lordships fully understand—that if you are running an organisation to which you have given your heart and spirit, and you have been supported financially in large measure, or indeed wholly, by a particular authority, you are alarmed and dismayed, if you are human, by the prospect of its disappearance. The necessity, as the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said for the Hallé Orchestra, having drawn support from the Manchester authority, to have to go round to 10 district councils is no doubt a disturbing one.

We all of us would feel some disturbance if a change takes place which makes us have to look to other sources than those from which we have previously obtained support. That is human and understandable, and I hope, as other noble Lords do, that my noble friend who, as Minister for the Arts, is in a specially favourable position for doing so, will be able to give as much reassurance as possible this evening.

Where I think I part company with noble Lords is on two matters. First, I should like to add a word about the theatre. The organisation to which the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, referred is not dependent on the GLC for more than, on his own figures, a very small contribution; indeed, it is a prosperous body. But it is only fair—and here I should declare an interest as a director of the Associated Communications Corporation, which owns about half the London theatres—to point out that a large part of the strength of the London theatre is the commercial theatre.

It is in a peculiar position in as much as the commercial theatre pays rates, as well as taxes of one sort or another, and yet manages to operate, whereas the National Theatre is sustained out of public funds. We are not in our organisation necessarily very jealous people, but the contrast is a little vivid. It is at least reassuring to know that, whatever the outcome so far as the National Theatre is concerned, the London theatre remains the strongest and best in the world, and will continue, I am glad to reflect, to draw tourists from all over the world to enjoy the great variety of performances which it sustains.

Lest this sounds in any sense hostile to the National Theatre, which I am not, I would say that only the other night I attended at one of our theatres the first night of a play which had been transferred from the National Theatre. At the National Theatre—I must make this point—I am told that it had lost money. I am glad to say that at ours it turned out to be profitable and fully booked.

Perhaps I may come to the central point on this amendment where I part company with noble Lords opposite. The need to sustain the manifold, interesting, stimulating and, in many ways, magnificent artistic life of the capital and of course of some of the metropolitan counties as well does not, it seems to me, justify the creation of a large, new authority simply for the purpose of administering support. If your Lordships look at the first amendment before you, it is obvious that a body that would have such wide responsibilities—for parks, recreation, the arts in the strict sense, the theatre; support for all these recreational activities—would have to be a substantial one. It would have among other things—I assume it would have to have precepting powers—machinery within it for determining the relative priorities of all these different and, on the whole, worthy causes. That, as anyone with administrative experience knows, predicates a substantial administrative machine. It predicates a considerable number of officials putting up memoranda to the members of the authority, arguing the case for their particular side of the authority's activities. One is contemplating quite a substantial bureaucracy, quite a substantial precept and a very large organisation.

4.30 p.m.

I wonder whether your Lordships really have such a lack of confidence in the good intentions and good efforts of the London boroughs, many of whom already do a great deal, as we have heard, as does Wandsworth, to support admirable activities in this area even though burdened with the GLC precept on top of that. I wonder whether your Lordships really have such a lack of confidence in the good sense and good intentions of the boroughs to make them feel it is necessary to impose on top of them this massive and very expensive organisation.

We have, as I say, the good fortune to have in charge at the moment on this amendment the noble Earl the Minister for the Arts. I have sufficient confidence in him and his abilities to believe that if the gloomy views expressed as to what will happen when the GLC goes really show signs of fruition, my noble friend will take any action that is necessary. But I do not believe that in advance of the change—and accepting, as of course one must, that there will be dislocations, there will be awkwardnesses and there will be troubles; because all these transitions involve that—we must rush into setting up a very large body indeed. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, referred, I thought slightly disparagingly, to the Arts council as a quango; but the body proposed in his amendment would be a super quango.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

Before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that he has just made a very important point about the size of the body. I am not speaking for the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, but in my speech I made it clear that I was not particularly anxious to have all these things brought together. I thought that they could perfectly well be run separately. I think it is very important that that is not a major issue in the suggestion. What we want is that they should be taken care of. I do not see why it should not be in half a dozen bodies.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I can understand the noble Lord's view and I understand the clear distinction there is between that and the view in the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, to which I was, as the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, will appreciate, mainly referring. In the case of the Lord Strabolgi's amendment, it is proposed, as I understand it, that there shall be one body set up by this amendment to do all the things from (a) to (g) listed in it. That is the target, if I may so put it, of my criticisms. I certainly intended no such criticism of the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, which, if I will not do him terrible damage, I should like to say seemed to me much more sensible.

The Earl of Gowrie

While one of my noble friend's many admirable points is clear in the minds of the Committee—and may I say how grateful I am for the kind words that he said about me—it might be useful for me to remind the Committee that I have asked what is the Wandsworth Borough Council's precept for the GLC this year (they would be the funders of the Battersea Arts Centre) and it is £47 million.

Lord Birkett

If there were a target for the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter (and I am sure that he intended no such thing) it is I. I am exactly that bureaucratic official to whom he referred, who must needs produce reports for committees of members of whatever body it be. This is by way of declaring my interest, which. I have been rightly obliged to do before your Lordships on many occasions recently; and never more acutely than today.

Today my interest is doubled, not merely because I belong to the GLC (I work for it), but because I work in precisely the area which this amendment covers. It may be supposed that if this amendment were carried my interest would actually be almost outrageously acute because somebody might ask me to go on doing what I am doing now. I am not sure that any authority would be wise to do that and I am not at all sure that I would still have the resources left to comply with it if they did.

I hope your Lordships will believe me when I ask you to discount this special interest but to account for the general interest which I always declare. But simply because I do work in this area, I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I spend a little time covering a number of different areas. I cannot plead to speak to one area only because in every bit of this amendment there are things which affect me.

First of all, as is usual, the arts. I will not weary your Lordships again with paying even further tributes to the noble Earl the Minister for his good sense in trying to arrange things after abolition, in the event of abolition. The noble Earl knows—and I think that your Lordships know already; many noble Lords have already spoken to this—that there are some general concerns. First, of course, there is this famous shortfall. The noble Lord has himself declared as a matter of purpose and not of accident that the difference between us, I think, is only that he foresees a certain degree of shortfall and I and various others, including in fact the Arts Council, foresee another. Unless I am mistaken, the secretary-general came up with a figure of £8 million shortfall, which is currently what I think, rather than £4 million. However it turns out, I think it will be worse than the noble Earl believes and worse than many people believe; and I fear not merely for those organisations that he intended should look to the boroughs or to the districts for their funding but for others which I think will suffer.

Furthermore, there is inherent in the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties one important principle. After abolition, one would be looking mostly to single-funding; that is to say, single public funding. Of course there is private funding, corporate funding from businesses, individual sponsorship and even patronage available. But in public terms one would be looking in most cases, and certainly for very big organisations, to one funding body. That is a dangerous principle, because if you have at least two funding bodies then, in the lean years for the one, you can hope that it is a fat year for the other, but that in some way your subsidy, your grant, will be maintained. With one, there is no such hope. When it is a lean year for one it is a lean year for all.

What is more, the big local authorities such as the metropolitan councils and the GLC which are in danger of abolition, are the very bodies which have an enormous funding base. It is not simply the size of their precept in the amount of money they spend but the manoeuvrability of it across an enormous base of activities. Therefore when one looks for help in the arts, help in the open spaces, help in sport, help in any of the areas we are talking about today, it may be forthcoming from another area of that local authority's precept. Not so with the Arts Council. It must look directly to the Treasury or not at all. I believe that the principle of not having multiple funding will eventually militate against the interests of the arts. That of course is built into any abolition proposal and one must accept that that is a logical consequence of it.

There is also of course the problem of capital funding. This is an unfortunate accident of 1985 or possibly of 1984. The GLC in particular had put together a fund for capital funding of arts bodies and buildings and we have deliberately named it "Housing the Arts" to copy the Arts Council—as it were, to hold hands with it on this very important matter. Imagine our dismay when, at the very moment we had done it, the hand we held out to grasp sank beneath the waves, because the Arts Council's fund for housing the arts was demolished. It was announced in The Glory of the Garden that there would be no more capital funding. So, if the GLC is abolished and there is no Arts Council capital funding, no housing the arts fund, in London at any rate—and I dare say this will be echoed around the country—there will be no capital funds and that is serious for the arts.

Lastly, and this is not a point of abolition but a point of Government policy at this moment, the noble Earl has announced already that central Government funding of the arts has reached a plateau. This phrase has now become the catch phrase of the year, I regret to say, and plateaus are springing up in all sorts of boroughs and all sorts of districts which had never before thought of inventing a plateau. However, it is a gloomy moment for those organisations that are almost committed to growth; who have been encouraged, not only by people like the GLC but by the Arts Council, to grow, sometimes in capital growth. There are new theatres. For example, I think of the Almeida, a magic little theatre in Islington; of the Half Moon Theatre; and so on. All these places have been encouraged to grow. Indeed, the Whitechapel Art Gallery has recently shut, but will shortly open again; that has been encouraged to grow. It cannot be supposed that after that growth its demands for funding will remain the same; logically they must grow. It cannot be supposed that they will get less. Where will they find those funds in a plateau situation? The noble Earl no doubt may say that they will have to look to the market place for sponsorship. In many cases they already have, and they have done it brilliantly, and probably will not do any better. Therefore I believe that double funding and the strategic overview that local authorities, of whatever complexion, can take in the arts are important; and for that reason that part of the amendment seems to me to be sensible. When it comes—

The Earl of Gowrie

I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. He has put great emphasis on these two points. Taking the latter point, I would concede to this degree to him that it would be quite wrong for this Minister, or for any Minister, I think, to encourage publicly-funded bodies in the idea that growth of public funding was pretty well infinite. It is dictated by the growth of the economy as a whole, and by no other considerations. But the earlier point I do not concede to him. The fact is that if you take cities such as Bristol or Glasgow, there is precisely a multiple funding of the arts. The taxpayers, through the Arts Council, give money and so does the local authority. There is nothing that militates against district and borough councils giving money to the arts, particularly in view of the very substantial savings—I mentioned £47 million for Wandsworth alone—which will result from this policy.

Lord Birkett

I am much obliged to the noble Earl, and, taking his first point first, of course I entirely accept that there is no obligation upon any government to foresee an endless growth in public funding. I was speaking of the expectations of those already encouraged in their growth at the moment when the plateau first starts to exist. I was not for a moment suggesting that the growth principle must, simply because it is inherent in the arts, be accorded space and validity by any government. But those which have already been encouraged to grow will be bitterly disappointed, faced with this landscape full of plateaux.

On the second point about the multiple funding, I immediately concede that what the noble Earl has said is entirely true. There are many cities in which multiple funding will continue to be the case. Indeed, it will be not only double funding but in many cases will come from three or four sources. However, there will be a number of major bodies, particularly national ones, which once looked to a very big local authority and to the Arts Council, which will find themselves looking to one authority only. This is not a general principle, but I think it applies in many important cases, in spite of what the noble Earl has said.

4.45 p.m.

Perhaps I may now turn for a moment to the question of parks. Those parks in London that are not local and borough parks and are not royal parks come under the control of my department of the GLC; and there are over 5,000 acres of them. This amendment deals particularly with two sorts of parks. One of those is where borough boundaries cross the parks, and there will automatically be a very difficult problem about who will control them in the event of abolition. That, I think, is probably the shorter and lesser of the two problems, because presumably a stroke could cure it by turning a park into one borough or another. But the problem is acute enough, if you take the proposals at their face value and hand the parks to whoever controls the territory at the moment.

Your Lordships will find, for instance, a famous instance in Hainault, where we have two public golf courses. The other day we figured out, with the aid of a slide rule, that if the proposals were put into effect and we handed the parks exactly to those authorities who control the land at the moment, there would be at one point an 11-hole golf course, a 6-hole golf course and a one-hole golf course owned by three different authorities. My staff, not wishing me to be left at a loss in your Lordships' Chamber, told me today that in fact in one of the holes the green would be in one borough and the tee in another. I said I thought that a joke had gone far enough already; but this is to show your Lordships the assiduousness with which my staff work on these problems.

I do not believe that these kinds of borough boundary problems, absurd though they may seem in general, are actually as important as the other category that comes under this amendment; that is, parks which need some strategic overview. Your Lordships have already been much concerned about Hampstead Heath. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has made a suggestion which would involve the City of London, which indeed runs Epping Forest and, by some curious accident of history, also the Burnham Beeches and various places. Indeed, the City runs them very well, though there are conservators—do I have the right word? At any rate, there is a body of people duly elected to look after that within the control of the City of London. There is also an amendment coming up later in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, which suggests that Hampstead Heath might go to the Department of the Environment. Whether that would mean that it would become a royal park I am not too sure; but various suggestions have been made in regard to this particular park. I really would not dream, in my position, of getting into any controversy about where responsibility for it should go, except to say that it is so large that it requires a really large, strategic authority, whether it be a retained GLC or something else.

The other day I worked out that about £2 million a year is required to look after the whole of Hampstead Heath as it is. I must not deceive your Lordships; that calculation includes facilities and events there which are the subject of quite different proposals, such as Kenwood House and the open air symphony concerts. Nevertheless, £2 million a year revenue and capital is what is needed if Hampstead Heath is to be run as an entity, as it is today. So I concede that in that case the need for a strategic authority is enormous.

However, that is not the end of it. There are the great Victorian parks which we control, and I have to confess to your Lordships that I think many of them are run down. Battersea Park itself is handsome enough in all sorts of ways, and more handsome now, I hope, by the opening of the famous pagoda, which I hope that your Lordships have seen and which has been contributed from Japan. In my view it is exactly what Penniethorne, the park's designer, would have placed there had he been asked what he thought would be right for the end of the north carriageway. He would surely have said, in the late Victorian era, "You must have a Japanese pagoda". So I entirely welcome this addition. But there are areas of that park—one of them exactly where the pagoda now stands—which are slightly run down and in need of renovation so that they are in keeping with what they represent: the Victorian wonders of our park world. Victoria Park and Dulwich Park are the sisters of Battersea and they need the same treatment. That means, I am afraid, money.

But in a way even more important than these admitted splendours of our landscape are the two new parks which are abuilding, Burgess and Mile End. These two parks have absorbed over the past decade about £2 million worth of expenditure. They are now half-finished—or two-thirds in one case and half in the other—and for them to be left in this condition would be absolutely tragic. However, the boroughs concerned—Southwark for one and Tower Hamlets for the other—will, even granted the extra precept they may be entitled to for lack of the GLC burden, as the Government spokesman put it, find it difficult to continue. I believe that some kind of overall authority must ensure the completion of those parks. Abercrombie in 1943, so long ago, when the bombs were falling on London, thought of certain areas of London deprived of open space, not given the facilities of parks which the rest of London enjoyed. It would be tragic if that endeavour were brought to a halt. That, if anything, is an argument for a strategic authority for parks.

As regards sports grounds, they are for the most part in GLC ownership and are taken up by the parks. They exist within the parks. Just recently, the Brixton Recreation Centre has been opened. Huge controversies have surrounded its building, its cost and everything else, but, as anybody who read the Scarman Report will know, it is an absolutely vital ingredient in the life of London. It is now open for the first time, with a toe in the water. They are trying to make the best of this enormous complex, its demands upon the local populace and the demands of the local populace upon it. It is very early days yet to say how it is going, but it would be tragic if it were to come to a halt now. It is an endeavour which is of almost the same dimensions as the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace. So this, too is certain to require some kind of strategic overview.

So, indeed, does the green belt. One thinks of the green belt merely as a defence mechanism for London, but within it there are all sorts of quite extraordinary endeavours that I do not believe district councils, even county councils, would lightly pursue. I do not want to weary your Lordships with too much detail, and I shall give just one example. There are three farms next door to each other—Park Lodge Farm, Knightscote Farm and Langley Farm—all in the Denham airfield area. One of them is a working farm where children from inner London can see the normal everyday, average working life of a farm, such as the milking, the mowing, the various forms of cattle and everything that a farm does.

Next door, Knightscote Farm is an historic farm with a museum of antique farm implements that puts one straight back into a Hardy novel with one jump. You go through the doors and it is a different era. It is nothing like developed enough and it is nothing like well enough shown. It has never had enough money for that. Down the hill, there is Langley Farm, which is the start of a Victorian farm, with a Victorian kitchen and everything that farming was a century and more ago. This little triangle of farms could be something magical, not merely for the local inhabitants, who in a sense need it least, but for the inhabitants of central London, whose lives are not dominated by the country, as are the lives of those out in the Buckinghamshire area. That is another thing that would vanish without an overview and without some strategic input.

I shall not weary your Lordships with too much detail on entertainments. The noble Lords, Lord Strabolgi and Lord Donaldson, have mentioned the entertainments within our general sphere. Thamesday, for example, is something that we invented only five or six years ago and it is subsidised to the tune of about 50p. Many theatres are subsidised to the tune of many more pounds than that. That, too, would vanish and it would be sad, as it is an occasion on which society is seen at its best. I do not mean in the entertainment that we put on. I mean in the way that we react to it and behave. All these things need a strategic authority.

Let me finish by saying one last word about the conception of giving such responsibilities to the boroughs or to small local authorities. I have absolutely no reason to doubt the abilities, in many ways, of boroughs, but they cannot in every respect be relied upon. One has only to look at the funding pattern of the arts and at the horticultural abilities of boroughs. If there were a park of mine which I was obliged to give to the London Borough of Newham, I should be delighted, knowing that it would be in wonderful horticultural hands. But there are other boroughs, which I dare not name in this House, to which I would not willingly entrust so much as a cabbage patch, although those same boroughs may be brilliant at the arts. So there is no consistency to this pattern. There may indeed be good things happening, if the boroughs inherit them, but there may not. They are not to be trusted, not because of unwillingness, but because of inconsistency. The pattern will not do and strategic authorities must exist. I beg your Lordships to support this amendment with that point in mind.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

I so admire the noble Lord's energetic and enthusiastic style. It is attractive, and I can well see that it may be very attractive to many noble Lords who have not made a final decision on these amendments. But where he was fundamentally wrong in the message that he wanted to convey to the Committee was in not taking clearly into account that the bodies that are to be abolished are the Greater London Council and metropolitan counties—not the money that they spend. The money will not suddenly fade away into nothingness. The money will still be there to be spent by others. I do not accept the fact that a single strategic body, such as the GLC or the others, is the only channel through which that money can be wisely and properly spent. I think that the debate on the whole of this Bill is tied up by that one aspect.

If your Lordships believe that there has to be one big, overwhelming body, you ought to resist the whole of this Local Government Bill. But if you believe that you can be as efficient and, in many ways, more discriminating by having joint local authorities working together to achieve the same ends, with the same money available, you have to support the Bill. I have come to this conclusion in regard to Amendment No. 132E of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and Amendment No. 132FA of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson.

I think that my noble friend has to resist the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, not necessarily because of his speech, but because in the general arguments that we have had on the vital question of whether or not we are really to get rid of the dangers that exist in the big authorities he comes down on the wrong side. Having made the decision, as we did on Second Reading that they ought to go, then there should be no half measures about it.

But as regards the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, I should like to make a special appeal to my noble friend. I hope he will find it possible, when he makes his final speech, to say that he will take it away and look at it with the idea of trying to find words which will bring back the main message that it has to give. I think it is possible for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, to be put in words which will not cut across the main argument that divides the Committee on the question of whether this Bill is a good or a bad one. So I hope that my noble friend will do his utmost to see whether he can look sympathetically at that second amendment and can undertake to come back with something that will be workable.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, is the victim of the bad tactics of his colleagues. It is not for me to advise the Benches opposite, but on this issue they may well have been better off had they had the sort of advice that I would have given. The advice that I would have given is this. They have overdone it. They want to have the big authorities on so many issues; they have already voted through four and this would be the fifth. So it has become absolutely clear—whether it was the intention of all who voted for them is another matter—that the central tacticians who organised the general approach to this Bill were looking to find ways of preserving central control of all the things—something similar to the GLC and the MCCs—that we think are a danger. If they had not had all those other victories, on previous amendments, this one standing alone may have stood a chance.

We must not forget that we are politicians and parliamentarians. While I enjoyed very much the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, at the end of the day it reflected only part of the things that parliamentarians ought to look at. This Bill has gone through all its stages in the other place, which is the powerhouse of Parliament, and it has been passed on to us in this form. It is perfectly clear to all of us that the other place, by their majorities, show that they do not want the GLC and the metropolitan counties to exist any more, and for this Committee to give the impression of manoeuvring in order to send the same thing back again is not doing a service to what is the real value of your Lordships' House, which is a revising Chamber.

5 p.m.

Lord Howie of Troon

The argument about what has happened in another place is an important one; and as an old hand of the other place, if I may put it that way, the noble Lord is well placed to speak about it. But surely he would agree that legislation must go through both Houses; and although we have to bear very much in mind what has happened elsewhere, elsewhere has to bear in mind what we do. It is not enough for the noble Lord to say that it has gone through another place and that therefore we must roll over and wag our tail, as it were. If the other House has not been totally correct, it is up to us to pull them into place.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

I am not very good at rolling over and wagging my tail; so I would agree with that.

Noble Lords


Lord Harmar-Nicholls

But the noble Lord has said something which we ought to face up to. The two Houses are not equal. The two Houses have vital parts to play, but in terms of authority we are not equal. At the end of the day the other place is the sovereign part of Parliament. Our function is—and we have always known what is our function—by all means to let the other place know what we feel about things and to have on the record what we believe, with a certain expertise sometimes which they do not have. I think it is vital that we should do that. But to push it to the point where we use our voting muscle in order to upset what they have done, as blatantly as we are doing with all of these amendments, so that we virtually retain the central authority, I believe will be damaging to Parliament as a whole. I also believe that it will interfere in the long run with the relationship which should exist between the two Houses and the relationship which in the past has been very valuable because each has known its place without in any way rolling over and wagging tails as was suggested.

Lord Somers

There is one other command that one occasionally gives to dogs, and that is "Sit!".

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

I do not know how accustomed the noble Lord, Lord Somers, is to dogs, but if he can guarantee that every time he says "Sit!", they sit, I would say that there was some point in his intervention. I am saying that we are getting to the point where, if too often we tell the other place that they have to sit when we say so, and it is against their own will, we will have a breakdown in the relationship of the two Houses which will not be to the advantage of parliamentary government as we know it. What I think is perfectly clear and cannot be denied—

Lord Shinwell

May I ask the noble Lord a question? Is not the trouble that the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, is obsessed with just this? He is concerned with developing competition, no matter where it is, and so he does not at all mind competition among a great variety of local boroughs—competition about the parks and how they should be run, competition about funding, competition about everything, as long as he gets what he wants in the way of competition. It is a matter of principle.

On the other hand, the noble Lord who made a very remarkable speech, with much of which I agree, and who is obviously anxious to promote the development of the arts in every capacity, in every generality and so on, said that you have to deal with it universally and strategically; you cannot deal with it in bits and pieces. That is the problem before your Lordships' Committee. There are those who are in favour of competition among a large variety of local boroughs, and God knows what will result from that; and there are those who prefer something definite, understandable and strategic in its quality and quantity. That is what we want. I hope that we will vote for that.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, knows how much I respect his point of view, and he is absolutely right. He and I have sat together in Parliament for something like 30 years, and he has judged me right. Nine times out of 10 I believe in competition. I think it brings out the best. But I also believe at the appropriate time in co-operation. I believe—and I have experienced it in my time in local government—that it is possible for local authorities to co-operate and together to do something which is infinitely better than having some strategic authority which is not really answerable to the people in the intimacy of the local areas. So competition, yes, but co-operation also.

The whole burden of my reaction to the opposition to this Bill is that so many noble Lords opposite do not think it is possible for local authorities to co-operate, come to a consensus and do a job. I believe it is possible and, indeed, it has been done so many times in the past. It was co-operation in coming to a consensus on which we had to rely before we had a Greater London Council and before we had the metropolitan counties. The evidence is there. It worked then. I believe that, given a chance, it will work again.

All the Bill asks is to give them a chance. If the fears of noble Lords opposite prove to be right and they cannot co-operate and they cannot do it, my noble friend has reserved the powers to see that the co-ordinating factor is there in the hands of the Minister, and he will see that they do it. Personally, I do not think that his interference will be necessary on many occasions. I believe that the co-operation, the consensus and the working together are there. I think that given this opportunity, they will grasp it because they have learnt that if they do not get together and do not arrive at a consensus which is in the general good, they will have another greater London authority or metropolitan authority to interfere with their plans. Those of us who have to do business in the provinces—I have control of small businesses, family businesses, which are my own—find these metropolitan boroughs are very expensive. It is not only a matter of what they are likely to save in the cost of running themselves; but the extra tier of government which interferes with planning applications and so on costs money to individuals and to individual companies.

The Countess of Mar

I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I asked him this question earlier in the Committee stage of the Bill. Why, if things were so good prior to 1974, was it a Conservative Administration who set up the metropolitan boroughs, and why prior to 1962–63 was it a Conservative Administration who set up the GLC? If they worked so well, there was no need to change them.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

The noble Countess asked me the same question yesterday, and so I give her the same answer today. I did not think that it was perfect then. I thought that there was room for a lot of improvement. I think that they ought to have done things better than they did. I opposed my right honourable friend when he brought in the metropolitan counties. I could not see that that was the right way then. All the things that I feared would flow from them have in fact flowed, and we see the nonsense that has come out of the Greater London Council and some of the others. So, certainly, it was not perfect; but I am saying that we went down the wrong road. If we had gone along the road of persuading them, or, by giving power to a Minister, seeing that they did co-operate better, we would have been better off today than has been the case by going the GLC way.

I have been interrupted and so I hope that noble Lords will not think when they look at the time that it has all been my time; it has also been the interruption time. I know I have lost many friends—at least I hope they are lost only temporarily—but it is not my fault. My final plea is to my noble friend; and I attach more importance to this group of amendments than to any of the others. I shall tell him why. I believe that the theatre and the leisure activities generally are the only way to ensure that in future years we will be able to have the full employment or near full employment we need. My noble friend Lord Weinstock, in a speech he made the other day, was a little derisory about small businesses not being able to do it, and the chairman of ICI took time off from counting his extra salary to say that he did not think that the smaller authorities could do it either. Among the oldest-established manufacturing industries it looks as though the machine will do the work in the future and men will not be employed to do it on the old scale. But in the theatre we are at the centre of the world. In the theatre and in the allied businesses Great Britain has an opportunity to become for the world what Hollywood was for America. We have not scratched the surface of what is going to flow from the extension of television, theatre and general leisure activities. It has not begun yet.

If we can remain the leading authority in this area, this will produce jobs and wages and provide the world leadership that we have had in the past and can have again. It is because this group of amendments ties up with that point that I ask my noble friend on this occasion to look at the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, to see whether he can find some wording which will bring about some of the best elements of that amendment.

I do not believe that my noble friend can accept the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi; that would show a weakness very detrimental to the normal working of the Government. But my noble friend might be able to accept the second amendment. If he can do that, he well may receive the support of the Cross-Benches and of one or two other members of the Committee who could have been led astray by the enthusiasm and energy of the noble Lord, Lord Birkett.

Lord Strabolgi

I have listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, who has ranged far and wide in his interesting speech. I nearly said "my noble friend" because we are rather friends outside this Chamber, although I hardly ever agree with a word he says. I also do not agree with his argument about the constitutional position of this Committee. Surely the position here with this Bill is that it was guillotined in another place. That is all the more reason why this Committee should consider it in even greater depth and in more detail.

We have had a very interesting debate. I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in it.

Viscount Colville of Culross

Is the noble Lord about to wind up?

Lord Strabolgi

I was hoping to.

Viscount Colville of Culross

It would be most helpful if the noble Lord would first help me with a point of procedure. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, moved Amendment No. 132E and he spoke also to Amendment No. 132FA. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, spoke to Amendment No. 132G as well. Three different forms of authority are dealt with in these amendments. There is a completely new statutory authority in the first amendment. When he was dealing with his amendment the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, spoke of an authority that was transitional. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, who referred specifically to Amendment No. 132G, introduced again the residuary body. It would be enormously helpful to some noble Lords to know which proposition is now being put forward.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

The noble Viscount is mistaken. In fact I was speaking to subsection (5)(g) of Amendment No. 132E.

Lord Strabolgi

I hope that makes matters clear to the noble Viscount.

Viscount Colville of Culross

No; it only deals with one of the two mysteries.

Lord Strabolgi

I propose to move Amendment No. 132E finally in a moment, and to vote on it, although we have spoken on the spirit of Amendment No. 132FA, and we can decide on that amendment after the Committee has come to a decision.

I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. It has been a very interesting and very well-informed debate, as always.

The Earl of Gowrie

I am placed in a little difficulty by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. I have already made a short general speech about the Government's overall position, but I assumed that the Committee would want me to answer some of the points which have been made to me.

Lord Strabolgi

I apologise to the noble Earl. I thought he did not wish to speak again. I sent some signals across to him, and he did not respond. If he wants to wind up with a reply, I shall be very grateful.

The Earl of Gowrie

I thank the noble Lord. I am not usually reticent and found to be sitting on my hands, but I was not aware that other noble Lords did not want to contribute further.

My noble friend Lord Colville of Culross succeeded in pointing out to us that we have a number of rather complex and tangled issues involved in these amendments. I should like to respond positively, not so much to the amendments as to the spirit in which they were moved. There are dark, contentious and difficult areas of this legislation between the Government and the principal opposition parties. These have been reflected in many of our debates in Committee, and are likely to be reflected in some of the debates we are to have in the future.

5.15 p.m.

What has been very encouraging and very warming this afternoon is the enormous interest on all sides of the Committee in the future of the arts in London and elsewhere, in our culture, in our leisure industries and their growth, in the quality of life, and the rest of it. I believe we should start by assuming that we are all on the same side in respect of those issues. We should not fall into the trap of confusing the structural arrangements for dealing with matters that we care about with the issues that we care about themselves.

I do not want to speak at length because it has been a long debate, so I shall have to go at a slight trot in order to meet some of the many points which have been put to me. As I try to respond to individual points, I want to send a subliminal signal or message of reassurance. I want to reassure the Committee and all who have spoken today that any fears as to the future provision for the arts and recreation in the metropolitan areas are really out of place. I do not say that there will be no disruption or uncertainty. My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter made the point very well. When one makes any change, whether one considers the change well conceived (as I do) or ill conceived (as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and others, perhaps, do) there will be a certain period of uncertainty. In my judgment, in this field of human activity matters will settle down a great deal more rapidly than many people think. I and my colleagues will certainly try to lubricate the system sufficiently to see that they do.

Listening to some noble Lords, I was reminded of a rather obscure poet I had to study some years ago, named Francis Quarles, who wrote these lines: We'll cry both arts and learning down And hey! Then up we go". I do not consider that this description bears the faintest resemblance to the Government's view of the future of the arts after abolition. Far from crying them down I will, as I have said, be making £34 million extra central funding available on a permanent basis to meet the needs of the major arts bodies in the GLC and metropolitan areas. This is a very substantial proportion of their total spend. It will be distributed in a variety of ways appropriate to each major body or institution—including using the existing (and I may say overlapping) expertise of the Arts Council and the regional arts associations.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

It is very kind of the noble Earl to allow me to intervene. This is a very important point. I did not interrupt the noble Earl when he made that statement before, so I think I should be allowed to interrupt now. My view is perfectly clear. The sum of £34 million is not additional money. The noble Earl said that he had raised the level of the bath water—but he let it out first. This is a transfer of money from ratepayers' money through the precept to central money. As such, that may be an advantage. The continuity may be a good thing. But it is in no sense new money.

The Earl of Gowrie

I do not wholly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, for this reason—and I am aware that I have the stern eyes of two previous Chief Secretaries to the Treasury upon me. It is a reason which probably caused my right honourable friend the present Chief Secretary to the Treasury a certain amount of difficulty with my proposals—which, out of his great wisdom and goodness, he decided to forget about.

When one transfers funding from ratepayers to central taxpayers on a permanent basis—a new level of the bath water—one's transfer of this funding is not accompanied by any instruction to or sanction on local authorities not to continue spending in that area. In other words, you relieve them of quite a lot of their bills and are still allowing them to spend what they want. That seems to me to be a quantum increase of a kind which in some ways is a little embarrassing to the Government—but it is an embarrassment which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, would bear with equanimity.

I want to make it clear, since much of the debate has dealt with London, that the proposal in Amendment No. 132E for a London authority for arts and recreation would not have the expertise that I have ascribed to the Arts Council and the regional arts associations. That is one of the principal reasons for my objection. The other principal reason is, of course, the objection mentioned by my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls and others, which is fundamental for the whole of the Bill—that the creation of such a body would run completely counter to the whole thrust of our policy in this Bill.

There are, numerically, very many arts bodies currently supported by the GLC whose character is esssentially local. The borough councils already support a considerable number and many councils are now showing a willingness to make further contributions after abolition. I am not talking about pie in the sky, I am talking about nice slices of pie which are already arriving on the plate. Local councils throughout England support local and regional arts activities and I can see no reason to wish to place the boroughs other than on all fours with them. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, mentioned the Battersea Arts Centre. Good for him, and good for the centre! But how appropriate a candidate the Battersea Arts Centre is for local authority spending; indeed, it does receive support from Wandsworth. I am sure the noble Lord will continue to put the case for the centre very well. As I was able to remind the Committee in an intervention, Wandsworth is to be no less than, I think, £47 million better off annually as a result of this Bill becoming an Act.

Joint authorities of the kind envisaged in Amendment No. 132E are appropriate only for functions which need to be carried out on a London or country-wide basis to a uniform standard. This simply is not the case for arts and recreation. Companies, rather like fashions, come and go over time and rise and fall in quality. Local choice of what to support is of the essence and the size and objectives of bodies vary greatly. I have relieved boroughs of the need to contribute to the national bodies based in London and the Bill will relieve them of the heavy GLC precept.

I rapidly remind the Committe of some of the arrangements I will be making to ensure the continuation of major arts and cultural facilities in London. Let me take the example of the three main London historic house museums mentioned in subsection (5)(a) of the new clause. There is no need for a new London authority to take on these. Clause 43 of the Bill already provides for them to be transferred to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission—to which Clause 5 and Schedule 2 also transfer other functions relating to historic houses in London now exercised by the GLC's Historic Buildings Division. I am convinced that this transfer, which we shall have an opportunity to consider in more detail when we reach Clause 43, represents the best solution for the three houses concerned. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission is already experienced in the management and presentation of our historic heritage. It will also be able to draw on the wealth of expertise in the GLC's division to which many noble Lords have paid tribute; and I am glad to echo that tribute.

The amendment also proposes that the Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Purcell Room, the National Theatre, the National Film Theatre and the Hayward Gallery should go to this new London authority. Clause 46, which we shall be able to debate today, provides for the South Bank complex to be vested in the Arts Council of Great Britain. I must say that the Arts Council is frankly delighted. I know that it has many friends in your Lordships' House—not least on the Opposition side. I have to say that it has not found, as tenant of the GLC in one of those institutions, that it has had the happiest or easiest of relationships with its landlord in recent years. The success of the great Renoir exhibition at the Hayward and what I understand is another marvellous exhibition of Degas at the moment (I have not yet had the good fortune to see it) shows what the Arts Council can do with a free rein.

We want the South Bank to flourish, not flounder in uncertainty. I am convinced that the best owner for the South Bank has, therefore, already been found. It will be in expert and professional hands and under special Arts Council management it will go from strength to strength. I see no need for a London-wide authority to take it on.

I do not propose at this stage to deal in any great detail with the issue of Hampstead Heath. I understand that that will be the subject of a later debate and I have the Minister responsible, no less, sitting beside me. I might cause him infinite anxiety if I ventured into that territory.

Noble Lords also mentioned the need for a London-wide body to look after the GLC's interests in the green belt. I can assure the Committee that such a body is in no way needed. The Government have already announced details of how we propose to consolidate ownership by transferring the GLC's interests to the appropriate borough and shire county councils. These authorities will have exactly the same obligations to protect the land under the 1938 Act as does the GLC. As a number of noble Lords—most of them, I have to concede, on this side of the House—have reminded the Committee, the Secretary of State is always there. The Secretary of State's consent will continue as now—as, indeed, it would under the amendments—to be required for any disposal or development. The persistent belief in a necessity for overlap and duplicatory powers is precisely what has over the years tended to swell bureaucracy, add to costs, provide rich playing grounds for political manipulators and export employment from cities. It is our desire to correct this tendency to overlap which leads us to bring this Bill in front of your Lordships' House.

We have had a good run over arts issues so I shall now say something about sport. It is a dangerous myth to assume that sport and recreation provision needs a county authority and that it will collapse without one. Again, as with the arts, it is rather insulting to the many sporting as well as artistic cities throughout the land that do not have, need or want a metropolitan authority to suggest that they are athletic as well as cultural deserts.

I turn now to the various issues relating to the metropolitan counties as covered in Amendment No. 132FA, which is similar to Amendment No. 132E for London. This aims to create a new joint authority for the arts. The arguments against a London authority for arts and recreation, which were put very clearly by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, hold equally well for the metropolitan counties. Nor do I see any point in the alternative of adorning the joint authorities already provided for in the Bill with an interesting assortment of arts and recreation functions.

I ask your Lordships to contemplate how well the arts will be served by a joint authority for the police or, indeed, the fire service, which is what this original amendment provides—although, in fairness, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said in his speech that he wants a separate joint authority and not have the arts functions simply added to an existing body. I must say—I am sure that the noble Lord is right within the confines of his thinking on this issue—as one who believes in the gaiety of nations that I am rather sorry that the police and the fire service are not being suggested as the appropriate bodies!

5.30 p.m.

More seriously, the amendment would, I think, have the grave disadvantage of nullifying the proposals for the major county council museums and other institutions which I have already outlined. It would in particular, I think, militate against Merseyside. As noble Lords will know, we intend to use these provisions to recommend the establishment of a trustee body to take on the Merseyside County Museum, the Maritime Museum, the Walker, Lady Lever and Sudley art galleries and the Oratory. That will ensure a secure and permanent home for them with a body of equal status to existing national collections such as the Victoria and Albert Museum. We shall have an opportunity to discuss the proposals for the new trustee body in more detail when we come to Amendment No. 133A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi.

The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, raised issues connected with Manchester. In the case of the Greater Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, which was referred to, I see little point in overturning the proposals that I have announced to replace the contribution from the county council with direct grant-in-aid from my department; nor indeed in disturbing the additional central support offered for the Manchester Museum and the Whitworth Art Gallery via the University Grants Committee.

May I come to the issue of parks, which was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and, in a London context, by the noble Lord, Lord Birkett? On country and river valley parks, many of your Lordships will have seen a briefing note circulated by the Countryside Commission which describes the input of the MCCs to large-scale countryside management schemes. What I think is not made clear in that note, although I am advised by the Countryside Commission that this is the case, is that such schemes are now nearly always conducted in partnership with district councils. They also receive the encouragement and support of the commission itself. Moreover, the role of the various authorities involved varies between schemes in different parts of the country. For example, while in Greater Manchester the bulk of funds for such schemes is at present provided by the county council, in West Yorkshire it is the districts which take the lead and employ the staff.

Essentially my point is this. The promotion of these schemes is not now the sole province of the MCCs. We should therefore be fooling ourselves if we imagined that transfer to a joint authority would be the only or the best way to ensure that these projects are successfully completed. District councils already have the necessary powers and experience of these matters and have demonstrated a number of successful examples of the kind of positive co-operation that we expect to take place following abolition. I am sure that the very persuasive powers and expertise of the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, in this field could be employed—even if not as now professionally, certainly in the general interest—in promoting precisely that kind of co-operation in respect of Burgess Park and Mile End Park. The Government have consistently said that they will not be found wanting where people are prepared to help themselves.

I apologise to the Committee for responding at some length to what has, after all, been a wide-ranging debate. I have tried to make clear to the Committee that the thrust of these amendments structurally runs counter to the purpose of the Bill. Our aim is to devolve responsibility for recreation and the arts to the democratically elected local authorities which are already in place and closely involved in such matters. The creation of further new joint authorities is quite outside our proposals and there is absolutely no point in loading yet more functions on to other joint authorities which would be unsuited to the task.

As I have explained, we are taking the necessary steps to provide a secure future for the major and expensive museums, art galleries and other arts institutions. The amendments would do a great disservice to those arrangements which have generally been welcomed; and, for that reason as well as for the others I have adduced, I urge the Committee most strongly to reject them.

Lord Strabolgi

I listened with interest and attention to what the noble Earl said, but I am afraid that on this side of the Committee we remain unconvinced. The trouble, I think, has been that a decision was taken to disband the GLC and the metropolitan county councils and then the noble Earl had to pick up the pieces so far as his portfolio is concerned and do his best. He has done fairly well, but he has not done well enough. For example, so quickly did he have to produce results that in his White Paper he forgot two of the Houses completely—Marble Hill and Ranger's House. There is yet another about which he has forgotten and which we shall come to discuss later in the Committee.

I think that the noble Earl has had to cobble this together at great speed and that not enough consideration has been given to the issues concerned. He had to do something with the South Bank: "All right, let's give it to the Arts Council," just like that. I agree with all that he said about the Hayward Gallery. I think that the Arts Council does a very good job there. I, too, enjoyed the Renoir exhibition. But I do not think that the Arts Council is suitable to run the Royal Festival Hall or the Queen Elizabeth Hall, for reasons that I attempted to put forward to your Lordships. It may work out but there are the difficulties that I described. There are all the other activities on the South Bank. I do not think that it has the experience, or even the knowledge or the wish, to run those various activities.

For all those reasons, I think that we must proceed with the amendment. I have little to add to what the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, said in his absolutely brilliant speech. Therefore I should like the Committee to come to a decision on Amendment No. 132E.

5.37 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 132E) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 143: Not-Contents, 172.

Airedale, L. Jacques, L.
Amherst, E. Jeger, B.
Ardwick, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Aylestone, L. John-Mackie, L.
Bacon, B. Kagan, L.
Banks, L. Kaldor, L.
Barnett, L. Kearton, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Kennet, L.
Bernstein, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Beswick, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Birk, B. Kirkhill, L.
Birkett, L. Listowel, E.
Blease, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Blyton, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L.
Boothby, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Lockwood, B.
Bottomley, L. London, Bp.
Bowden, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Briginshaw, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Broadbridge, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Brockway, L. McNair, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Mar, C.
Burton of Coventry, B. Mayhew, L.
Campbell of Eskan, L. Melchett, L.
Caradon, L. Milford, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Mishcon, L.
Chichester, Bp. Monkswell, L.
Chitnis, L. Monson, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Nicol, B.
Collison, L. Ogmore, L.
Croham, L. Oram, L.
Cudlipp, L. Paget of Northampton, L.
Darling of Hillsborough, L. Perry of Walton, L.
David, B. Phillips, B.
Davies of Leek, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Denington, B. Reilly, L.
Diamond, L. Rhodes, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. [Teller.] Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Roberthall, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Energlyn, L. Rochester, Bp.
Ennals, L. Rochester, L.
Esher, V. Ross of Marnock, L.
Evans of Claughton, L. Sainsbury, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Scanlon, L.
Ezra, L. Seear, B.
Falkland, V. Seebohm, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Serota, B.
Fitt, L. Shepherd, L.
Foot, L. Shinwell, L.
Gaitskell, B. Simon, V.
Gallacher, L. Stallard, L.
Galpern, L. Stedman, B.
Gifford, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Gladwyn, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Glenamara, L. Strabolgi, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Grey, E. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Hampton, L. Tordoff, L.
Hanworth, V. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Walston, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Hayter, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Hereford, Bp. Whaddon, L.
Hooson, L. White, B.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Wigoder, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Wilson of Langside, L.
Hunt, L. Winstanley, L.
Ingleby, V. Winterbottom, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Hood, V.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Hornsby-Smith, B.
Allerton, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Ampthill, L. Ingrow, L.
Annaly, L. Kaberry of Adel, L.
Arran, E. Kemsley, V.
Astor, V. Kimberley, E.
Barber, L. King of Wartnaby, L.
Bauer, L. Kinnaird, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Lane-Fox, B.
Beloff, L. Lauderdale, E.
Belstead, L. Layton, L.
Bessborough, E. Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Loch, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Long, V.
Brentford, V. Lothian, M.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Bruce-Gardyne, L. Lyell, L.
Caithness, E. McAlpine of Moffat, L.
Caldecote, V. McFadzean, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Campbell of Croy, L. Margadale, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Marley, L.
Cathcart, E. Marshall of Leeds, L.
Cayzer, L. Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.
Chelwood, L.
Clitheroe, L. Merrivale, L.
Coleraine, L. Mersey, V.
Colville of Culross, V. Middleton, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Minto, E.
Cork and Orrery, E. Molson, L.
Cornwallis, L. Monk-Bretton, L.
Cottesloe, L. Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Cox, B. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Craigavon, V. Moran, L.
Crathorne, L. Morris, L.
Crawford and Balcarres, E. Mottistone, L.
Crawshaw, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Croft, L. Newall, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Dacre of Glanton, L. Onslow, E.
Davidson, V. Orkney, E.
De Freyne, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Pender, L.
Denning, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Dilhorne, V. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Drumalbyn, L.
Duncan-Sandys, L. Portland, D.
Dundee, E. Quinton, L.
Ebbisham, L. Rankeillour, L.
Eden of Winton, L. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Ellenborough, L. Reay, L.
Elles, B. Renton, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Renwick, L.
Elton, L. Richardson, L.
Erne, E. Ridley, V.
Fanshawe of Richmond, L. Rochdale, V.
Ferrier, L. Rodney, L.
Forbes, L. Romney, E.
Fortescue, E. Rotherwick, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Rugby, L.
Gainford, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Gardner of Parkes, B. St. Davids, V.
Geddes, L. Salisbury, M.
Gibson-Watt, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Gisborough, L. Savile, L.
Glanusk, L. Selkirk, E.
Glenarthur, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Gowrie, E. Shuttleworth, L.
Grantchester, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Somers, L.
Gridley, L. Southborough, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Halsbury, E. Swansea, L.
Hanson, L. Swinfen, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Henley, L. Terrington, L.
Holderness, L. Teynham, L.
Home of Hirsel, L. Thorneycroft, L.
Tollemache, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Tranmire, L. Whitelaw, V.
Trefgarne, L. Windlesham, L.
Trumpington, B. Wynford, L.
Ullswater, V. Young, B.
Vaux of Harrowden, L. Young of Graffham, L.
Vickers, B. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.
Vivian, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

5.49 p.m.

[Amendment No. 132F had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 132FA not moved.]

Lord Skelmersdale

I think this would be an appropriate moment to take the Statement. I therefore beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.