HL Deb 25 May 1988 vol 497 cc969-1001

8.2 p.m.

Earl Haig rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what action they propose to take to promote work of quality in the creative and performing arts.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the purpose of my Question is to consider ways of improving the quality of art in this country. This gives the opportunity to find out which areas of the creative and performing arts are threatened by lack of funds and need special help. There is a chance to discuss the extent of the neglect suffered by some works of quality, while more popular and perhaps more conventional works sail on, benefiting from the box office and sponsorship. It is worth considering which areas of the garden are being neglected, in terms of the Arts Council's phrase "The Glory of the Garden", and whether the plants needed for the future are being properly cared for.

The word "art" covers a wide spectrum which embraces music, ballet and drama, as well as painting, films and video, sculpture and the crafts. Because of the limited time available, I should like to concentrate my remarks on my professional field concerning the visual arts in which I must declare an interest. However, before I do so, I must say that one of the results of tabling this Unstarred Question has been that I have received several letters which exhibit the discontent among certain small theatre companies, galleries and kindred associations. In spite of having had their government grants removed, they are doing their best to keep going by fund raising and using voluntary staff. Among them is the British Theatre Association, of which many young actors and dramatists make use through training courses for amateurs and professionals and through competitions to encourage young people to put on productions. With so many people of all ages making use of its resources, its library and its magazine, surely some financial support should be considered.

There is a danger that in a climate where cost is of primary concern standards go down. There is a danger of this happening in the theatre and in broadcasting, and there is a danger of it happening in the world of the galleries and the art schools as well. Although we must accept the economic climate, we need not accept a scale of values which helps to promote work of secondary quality.

In a moving Goodman Lecture delivered last week, Mr. Hussey defined the BBC's aims and responsibilities towards the arts. His talk was headed "Channels of culture". He mentioned the many programmes on art and architecture as well as the concerts and plays, many of them new and many of them giving opportunities for experimental works by young composers and writers. Of all the broadcasting networks in the world the BBC and the IBA are probably the best, and not least because of their identity with the arts.

The numbers of people of all generations who are learning to enjoy their programmes and learning about the arts thereby are on the increase. In Mr. Hussey's words: I believe we have introduced a complete generation to a world of culture which was in previous centuries mainly the prerogative of the leisured and middle classes". Perhaps I may add that watching the television is not the full answer. If everyone was made to discard the television for a while, and go to a desert island with a box of colours, it would be no bad thing.

The Government's aims have been to encourage private support for the arts through the box office and through sponsorship by commercial firms. I feel somewhat pessimistic on the subject of business sponsorship. I know that for the year 1986–87 compared with the grand total of more than £128 million disbursed by the Arts Council, some £26 million—that is, more than one-fifth—was disbursed to the arts as a result of business sponsorship. I wonder how much of that sum found its way to visual arts. Business sponsors prefer well tried and popular themes, and they have failed to help many of the less well established artists and smaller theatre companies. It is not good enough to say that industry and the private sector should do this job. It is to the Arts Council and the local authorities that we must look for support for the lesser candidates.

The bulk of the Arts Council's funds have been allocated to the major candidates—the national companies and orchestras, to which it has preached the gospel of self-sufficiency, the improvement of sales through the box office and the raising of capital through fund raising. Its responsibilities to the visual arts have taken second place. Proper appreciation of the recent generous increases in arts funding made by the Minister for the Arts on behalf of the Government is overdue. An increase of 16 per cent. over the next three years indicates powerful support of the arts and a sizeable contribution to them.

To expect major increases would be unrealistic but I am concerned about areas where government funds percolate but little and which are not fed from the box office or from the cash flows of business sponsors. These problem areas are benefiting very little from the Arts Council and local government. Providing the needs of the various customers in the Arts Council's departments within the budget received from the Government was a problem even in the days of greater plenty when I was a member. As chairman of the arts committee of the Scottish Arts Council I was aware that we had too many talented mouths to feed even in those days.

Those experiences are in the past, so perhaps I should approach the problem from the worm's eye view of the practising artist. Despite the complaint which is sometimes heard that we live in an atmosphere of political dictatorship, I must say that professional artists are able to enjoy an atmosphere of freedom. They have freedom of expression, and for those who are lucky enough to be able to exhibit and sometimes to sell, there is no bar to freedom of technique. However, their work does not always have a high degree of quality. Matisse once said: An artist who goes straight to the goal is in danger of going astray. When synthesis is immediate it is schematic.". Too often young artists produce inferior work which is exhibited with maximum publicity by museums and art dealers as a major work of art. Therefore, my first point is that there must be better selection procedures. One way to achieve that would be to have more broadly-based panels, some of them in local areas, which would make recommendations to local and national galleries as well as to the Arts Council. That would remove some of the closed-shop element where selections are in the hands of distinguished members of an art establishment.

Artists are less indifferent to criticism than the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, made out to your Lordships in the recent debate on architecture. The noble Lord cannot be here this evening but he has indicated that he would be happy for me to remind the House of what he said about the attitude based on the notion unprecedented in history that it is the artist's duty to express himself and the duty of the spectator or audience to be uncritical.

Criticism about modern art in this country has been strong and general, and many artists have had to face it. No serious artist would want to refute good criticism from those competent to judge, but the views of people with hang-ups and prejudices are hard to accept. I believe that more competent criticism is badly needed. As was said several times in the debate on architecture, it is important to give visual art education in the schools in order to help future members of society to use their eyes so that they become visually literate.

The setting up of more visual arts panels, comprising of a cross-section of artists, lecturers, writers and lay people from a variety of backgrounds, would help to build up a body of informed criticism much needed by the artist and the public.

Education is the key to enlightenment— enlightenment needed to create as well as absorb and understand. Time will tell (I am sorry that the glass in front of me does not contain whisky) how much money is available for those who choose an arts subject from among the available foundation subjects listed in the Education Reform Bill.

I hope that more money will be available to increase grants for special art training schemes in schools, including scholarship grants in independent schools. Grants should be available to enable more school visits to galleries and museums to be made. I am always impressed by the number of school boys and girls eagerly studying the work in our London museums. But how does that compare with galleries in other parts of the country, where important work is less available? The establishment of the Tate Gallery in Liverpool must be a step in the right direction.

Moving to the next stage, when a young person takes the step of entering an art school or college of design or craft, much will depend on the quality of teaching that he or she receives. It has been said that the modern movement has turned art schools into playgrounds where there is nothing objective or collective to teach. I would advocate the encouragement of the use of imagery based on nature during the early stages of all artistic training.

It is crucial that young students should be given the best possible education for their artistic development with top-quality tuition designed to suit individual personalities. Tuition should be available in a more tutorial form in the later stages of training. Gradually the individual will have to find his or her own salvation in order to find personal symbols of both the physical and spiritual world. However, ongoing guidance will be required if the young artist is to develop. There is constant need for research and self-discipline in the face of all the currents and influences from the different schools of painting, which can be bewildering to them.

Many of these schools of art and design are being closed, and those which remain are suffering cutbacks. Recent changes in the art school system have ensured that students are given a wider education in the history of art and architecture and in town planning. That is all very necessary to a student planning to participate in this complex age. The artist is particularly vulnerable in that situation because his potential as a financial asset may take some time to prove.

I propose, as an alternative to art school training, an apprenticeship scheme to help young artists through their training period, in which they would be trained under the youth training schemes. That could be done by establishing publicly-funded studios or craft workshops, or by grant-aiding artists or craftsmen ready to give artists long-term training. In those ways young people who have shown aptitude and enthusiasm in art while at school would find further art training available to them after their period of school education is over. I would hope that some special cases where problems arise over exams, or where candidates who come from less-cultured backgrounds and who generate feeling in their work, are given opportunities to train. The primitive artist, Wallis, a Cornish fisherman, who inspired Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood, was one example of an individual in that category.

There are other difficulties that a young artist faces when he or she completes their training. There should be greater opportunities to exhibit and sell. To ease that situation it is time to lessen the rift between public and commercial galleries, many of which would be happy to show more contemporary artists if they could afford to do so. Due to the financial difficulties one-man shows are expensive to put on and are seldom profitable. Commercial galleries which show the work of struggling artists who are gifted and doing well should be given grant aid.

As regards public taste, I have never found a lack of taste among the discerning public. At my own exhibitions the better pictures have usually been chosen by discriminating buyers. Nevertheless, it is true to say that the number of enlightened people in this country is restricted, and too often enlightened patrons are those without money to spend on works of art. The taste of the representatives of industry and trade is often questionable and lacks the sophistication required to promote work which is truly personal, original and new. The result can be that financial success goes to work which belongs to the well-worn paths of convention.

I should like to see a situation in which good work is available at a price within the pockets of small, knowledgeable collectors. That is only possible under a scheme which will prevent losses to the galleries. My hope is that the Arts Council and the galleries can get down to working out a scheme for publicly-funded artists, and they should consider the financial requirements for backing it. They should then approach the Government to ask for some extra money for a cause which is very much in line with governmental attempts to educate, employ and fulfil the younger generation.

The scheme would enable commercial galleries to stage unprofitable exhibitions by giving them grants to cover costs. They would include the gallery commission of 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. on sales and the cost of publicity and catalogues. All that would be on the understanding that the gallery would make no profit from the exhibition. The artist would have been given the opportunity to exhibit his pictures with greater hopes of sales because the pictures would be offered at a price excluding the gallery commission charge. He or she should also be reimbursed for the cost of materials. If that kind of scheme were to become available—and I hope that my noble friend Lady Trumpington, who, in her inimitable and charming way, will reply to my Question, will give some positive response to the plea—I am sure that there will be no lack of takers among both the artists and the galleries.

Time has prevented my referring to the work of the sculptor, especially to his work for public places. There has been a lack of new sculptural projects in recent times, and there is a need for someone in the Government to generate new opportunities. The impression I have is that some of my aesthetic friends with government responsibilities as Ministers have their inspiration dampened by economic realities. I hope that there may be a chance at last of making regulations whereby part of the spending on new buildings is devoted to embellishments so that sculpture and kindred works of art are conceived as part of, and in harmony with, the buildings of which they form part.

I should like to touch also on design. It is perhaps true to say that despite the efforts of a number of individuals to improve design in the handcrafts—and I include the aims of the Scottish craft centre in that context—the message has not got through to industrial design. I believe that the first subsidy for the arts was introduced in the Victorian age in order to produce better industrial design and so assist British industry in selling overseas. That was the result of a report from a Select Committee on the arts and their connection with manufacturers, dated 16th August 1836, which took the view, that from the highest branches of poetical design down to the lowest connection between design and manufacturers, the arts have received little encouragement in this country". Would the report of a similar body reporting today be much rosier? Perhaps in some respects, yes. But are not the Germans, the French and the Italians ahead of us in matters of design?

When the mass production of utilities came with mechanisation in the 19th century, decadence began and with it nostalgia and escape into the past. Craftsmen working today may well look to the past for inspiration, provided that their work has vitality and form. Living in the modern environment, they can work in terms of the traditional and the modern.

Markets for well made and well designed objects are good; so it is up to designers and craftsmen to exploit those markets. Tastes vary and fashions change. But the real test will always be design. Improvements in design will come from better education in visual matters among employers. It must stem from the classroom and the boardroom. Looking ahead, more financial incentives for quality goods will generate better design, and better design will promote better returns for the businessman.

Finally, I thank all the noble Lords taking part in this debate. I am particularly happy to see the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair, here to make his maiden speech. The noble Marquess and I were at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts together. He is a practising artist; he works and produces some beautiful paintings of flowers which are highly desirable. I know that his contribution will be helpful and informative.

I have tried to set out the guidelines for this debate. I hope that discussion will move beyond my limited perspectives and bring out the importance of creativity. The noble Lords, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, and, I hope, Lord Jenkins of Putney, with all their experience as Ministers for the Arts, will, I trust, widen the debate, along with other noble Lords who have rendered service to the arts in their different ways, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, who for some years was chairman of the Arts Council. It is good that Members of all parties can debate a subject which need not be party political. We shall be particularly interested to hear the views of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and I hope for a favourable response from the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington.

8.24 p.m.

The Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair

My Lords, we hear too much these days about the price of art and not quite enough about the value of it. It may seem that the price is merely factual, whereas the value is controversial, and that would land me in a spot. But in fact it is the prices that are eccentric, capricious and sometimes idiotic, going up and down like a yo-yo, as they follow the dictates of ephemeral fashion. The value of art, on the other hand, is to do with the eternal verities. A human being is an aesthetic creature before he is an ethical one. The singer Robert Tear said to me recently. "Art and artistic utterance is an imperative of the human condition". He added a note of caution that of course artists need money, but that sponsorship could be both liberator and gaoler.

I shall only speak about the visual arts which I have tried to practice for nearly 50 years, and music, of which I have been an unskilled but passionate amateur for even longer. How best to give support to the arts? The noble Earl, Lord Haig, has said that he and I were students at the same art school just after the war. We may have seemed to be rather elderly art students, but then our art studies had suffered a six-year interruption. By the way, may I offer public congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Haig, on recently being elected an associate of the Royal Scottish Academy; perhaps a fairly young 70 year-old, to be an associate of the RSA.

At this time when we were students, the LCC gave grants to ex-servicemen and women and to thousands who would follow them to study at various art colleges within their domain. Out of this mass of people, the LCC quite rightly expected a few hundred would make a living from art, and out of that few hundred a mere handful would go on to achieve fame.

At the same time, there were in Germany around 300 opera houses. Many of these were no more than training grounds for the singers of quality to go on to the great houses such as Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Frankfurt. To achieve pinnacles in any medium of art one needs very broad bases. We have those bases now in this country so that our artists have grown from provincial, national styles to planetary fame. We can thank initially the initiative of the British Council's art department that our painters and sculptors are exhibited and bought throughout the world, both by private collectors and by museums. Our musicians, particularly our singers, are acclaimed in every opera house and concert hall throughout the world. All this has been achieved by dedicated teachers working with modest budgets on talent that was already there naturally.

However, home-grown support for British art will come most effectively from the will of the people, if that is what the people want. Dostoevsky said that beauty would save the world. This prophecy and high ideal can only come about if everyone is in tune with the artists who create the beauty. It requires more than discerning collectors of paintings and sculpture, more than intelligent commissioners of architecture, more than commercial and public sponsorship of music.

Comprehending the value of art cannot be bought nor taught. It has to come from that often misused German word "Zeitgeist". I have seen in the National Gallery recently groups of small schoolchildren and the painting which seems to be their favourite is a vast, terrible picture by Giordano of Perseus turning Phineas to stone with the Medusa's head. The children sit there pop-eyed, but they are very young children. One very seldom sees older children doing that, but they should continue looking, not necessarily at that but go on to Rembrandt, Turner and to the moderns of the Tate.

It might be thought that the painters and sculptors of what is called the avant-garde have failed to earn public sympathy. Yet much of the innovatory art of the first half of this century has become the popular imagery of the second half. For example, the station designs, the posters, even the patterned fabrics of the seats on the London Underground, are testimony that the public has, without realising it, accepted a particular aspect of modern art.

Joseph Brodski, who won last year's Nobel prize for literature, said in his address: Art is not synonymous with but, at best, parallel to history. That is why it is often found ahead of progress. Architecture is the art that everyone sees and lives with. It is, or should be, the greatest of the visual arts: consider the Parthenon, Chartres Cathedral, Wren, Robert Adam.

The noble Lord, Lord St. John of Fawsley, speaking on a Question on architecture on 30th March, said that governments can create conditions in which good architecture can flourish. He went on: The Secretary of State for the Environment therefore has a secondary but crucial role. He is a trustee of the possibilities of civilisation."—[Official Report, 30/3/88; col. 831.] The noble Earl said that there was need for embellishment of architecture. There is one government which has been doing that for nearly 20 years—that is, the Government of Ontario. Their current programme is for the commissioning, acquiring and funding of works of art for public buildings, and it is the responsiblity of the Ministry for government services. The programme allows for up to 1 per cent. of the cost of a public building to be put aside for the commissioning or acquisition of works of art. Since the introduction of the programme in 1967, Ontario has spent 1.4 million dollars on public art for 20 building projects.

I thank your Lordships for being so patient and kind in listening to me. I hope I have conveyed my belief in the vital need for art in all our lives and that support for the creative and performing arts must be more than money. I reiterate, it must come also from the will of the people.

8.32 p.m.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, I regard it as a triumph for the House to have a debate on the arts opened by an hereditary Peer who is a professional artist and replied to by another hereditary Peer, in his maiden speech, who, I understand, has also been a professional artist. I do not think that the Life Peers, of whom there are about 300, can touch that. We therefore congratulate not only the maiden speaker but also ourselves on the occasion.

I should like particularly to congratulate the noble Marquess on his maiden speech. Almost everything that he said was extremely sympathetic to my general approach to the arts. He used one phrase which I thought was very interesting. I believe he said that it was Robert Tear—a very fine singer whom we all know—who said that man is aesthetic before ethical. I may have that slightly wrong, but it was an extremely interesting remark.

The noble Marquess also said that in order to build pinnacles a broad base is needed. That is a very important observation in relation to today's debate to which we all, I am sure, will refer. We hope to hear the noble Marquess again, and often, and we congratulate him fully on his maiden speech.

The noble Earl, Lord Haig, who opened the debate, spoke on the visual arts. I told him that I would speak on the performing arts, which I shall now do. In my opinion the Government have one function and one function only in relation to the performing arts. They must see that enough money is provided over and above box office takings to make work of quality possible. I claim that the Government are beginning to fail to do that. We spend much less per head on the arts than do most other civilised countries. Germany spends three times as much and France spends four times as much. Indeed, this year's arts and libraries budget—excluding the capital sums for the British Library—is one-third of 1 per cent. of the Chancellor's Budget. However, although we certainly want more government support the last thing we want is for any government, least of all perhaps this Government, to have any say in what is quality. We must insist on the arm's length principle. In the present case, I would sometimes prefer a bargepole. Too little money to do the job properly will always be a threat to quality.

The performing arts have two problems of their own. The first is to find something of quality to perform, the second to instill quality into the performance. The only way that government can encourage composers, writers and choreographers to compose and write is by ensuring that the worlds of the theatre, concert, opera and ballet are vigorous, successful and widely spread so that directors and impresarios are always looking for new and original works. One way to do that would be to abolish VAT on entertainments. However, as I failed to persuade my Chancellor, my right honourable friend Mr. Denis Healey, in my time, I cannot blame the present Minister too much for a similar failure.

What seems to me fatal is to keep changing the way that assistance is given. The attempt to move over further and further from central to private funding of the performing arts is, in my opinion, misguided. It means a check to steady development and turns a director into a money-raiser rather than an artistic adventurer.

In a debate in 1985 on the abolition of the GLC, the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, said something which I should like to pin on the breast of the noble Baroness who is to reply. He said: I have constantly made it clear to my colleagues how important I think is the maintenance of the central subsidised core of arts funding. I wish I could be confident that the present Minister for the Arts feels the same. My fear is that he regards private funding and sponsorship not as a welcome addition to "the central subsidised core"—to use the words of the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie—but as a gradual substitute for it and an excuse for its reduction.

I give one or two current examples of how cuts and changes can kill quality. A very bad example of quality-knocking was the Arts Council's announcement of ENO's grant, giving an increase of only 2.5 per cent. against the council's own increase of 8.4 per cent. which ENO was confidently hoping to share. That involved the rethinking of its whole programme with the last-minute scrapping of its proposed new production of "Tannhauser". That was to have been the most important new production of the year, produced by Ken Russell and designed by Stefan Lazaridis. The whole company was stimulated and excited by the task before it, but suddenly to be told it was off led to a slump in morale and a loss of quality all round, and left it with an unbalanced and much less interesting programme.

The others of the big four—the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre, and the Royal Shakespeare Company—are in the same boat. All are fearful of having to reduce the number and quality of their new productions. We all know, or should do by now, that new productions are the lifeblood for any repertory company.

The figures are frightening. In real terms the Arts Council grant to the National Theatre is down by 13 per cent. since 1979 and to ENO by 25 per cent.—a really wicked drop. The Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company were specially assisted as a result of the Priestley Report which was issued in 1983. That report was intended by the Government to find out what savings could be made in those two companies, but it came down on the other side and reported that neither institution could reasonably be expected to continue on its then funding level. Therefore, their accumulated overdrafts were paid off and they were given a proper increase, though not as much as was recommended. The report urged that more generous funding should be continued year by year. That was too much for the Government, so today Covent Garden is down 7 per cent. in real terms on its 1984 figure and the Royal Shakespeare Company is down 13 per cent. from the same date.

I wish to add to what has been said about the Royal Opera House. It is not always realised that it runs three companies; the Royal Opera Company, the Royal Ballet and the Royal Sadlers Wells Ballet. Last year between them they gave 476 performances compared with 76 at La Scala—which does not tour—and just over 300 at Munich. I shall not bother with the other figures. The box office takings pay for 42 per cent. of its costs compared with 17 per cent. in Paris; 19 per cent. in Berlin; 26 per cent. in Vienna, and 27 per cent. in Munich. The Royal Sadlers Wells Ballet has just returned from a triumphal tour of the Far East (incidentally, sponsored by Glaxo) and some noble Lords may have seen the enthusiastic account in the Financial Times on Monday. The Royal Ballet sets off shortly to take part in the bicentennial celebrations in Australia.

Leaving aside the big four and taking an instance outside London, Mr. Braham Murray, who is the director of the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, one of the best provincial theatres in the British Isles, claims that he will have to raise personally a quarter of a million pounds to maintain quality in his next year's programme.

Perhaps I may turn for a moment to the museums and galleries. In real terms the position is just as bad. The purchase grant of the British Museum is down by 26 per cent. since 1979; the National Gallery by 43 per cent.; the Imperial War Museum by 24 per cent.; the National Maritime Museum by 28 per cent.; the National Portrait Gallery by 31 per cent., the Tate Gallery by 23 per cent. and the V & A by 36 per cent. Let it not be forgotten that purchase grants to museums and galleries are as much their life blood as new productions are for the performing arts.

However, I must give honour where honour is due. The Science Museum has gained an increase of 97 per cent. and the Natural History Museum an increase of 12 per cent. in real terms since 1979. I see a sinister influence behind the Government. One can choose one's own villain saying, "Damn quality in the arts; give the money to something useful".

So much for the big ones. I should like to give a few random instances of smaller concerns. The Almeida theatre in Islington is expecting a cut of £23,500–12 per cent. of its budget—from the Greater London Arts. Most noble Lords will know of the theatre's international reputation for the promotion of worthwhile plays and contemporary music. A cut of this size must sadly affect the quality of its performance. The Academy of Indian Dance is to lose its entire grant from the GLA; it will probably have to close. Even if it does not, it can hardly maintain the very high quality of its present work. The Shaw theatre in Euston Road is to be closed and its grant transferred to the Belsize theatre. This is particularly damaging not only to Islington but also to the National Youth Theatre of which we are all so proud and which has run its summer season there for the past 25 years. The BritishTheatre Association was referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Haig, and I shall do no more than agree with every word he said about it.

Perhaps I may look briefly outside London. The Oldham Coliseum is in trouble. It was carefully examined by the Arts Council which agreed that it was seriously under-funded and led it to expect an increase in grant. However, it did not get it and its plans for the coming season have been ruined. The Northern Arts Association supports five theatre companies which are doing fine work in rural and urban areas providing theatre where there is none. It used to perform seven or eight productions a year but now the number is down to two or three.

Art centres are closing in Swansea, Cheltenham and St. Andrews, among other places. I could go on for ages, but I believe I have given enough detail for the moment. Perhaps I may return once more to ENO and speak at the same time for the Festival Ballet. Those two famous and much-loved exponents of the performing arts are both running into further trouble. Each had substantial assistance from the GLC. The Government clobbered that. They promised that any assistance to the arts that was lost would be made up from elsewhere. Both grants, each of about £1.25 million, were taken over by Westminster City Council. Now, as a result of more awkward changes resulting from the Local Government Finance Bill, Westminster will be unable to continue these large subsidies, leaving both companies in despair with all their plans at risk and staff morale crashing.

In order to rub in the direct responsibility of the Government, I quote the actual words of the Minister in the debate on the Local Government Bill of 1985. The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, said: The arts have nothing to fear from the abolition of the upper tier of local government. Certainly, I would not remain Minister if they did so". He did not remain Minister, though for other reasons, but I fear that the companies are going to lose their money. It is the same old story: first, destroy something, the good with the bad; then promise to make up the loss; then destroy something else so that the loss has to be made up in some other way. Then, usually after agonising delay, make it up, but only partially, with the sponsoring public being expected to pick up the balance. This is not the way to encourage quality in performance.

One cannot blame the Arts Council or the Greater London Arts. They can distribute only what they are given. And if they are given too little they have to make the hard decisions of what good things to cut and damage.

I conclude by quoting again from the debate of 1985. This time perhaps I may quote words of my own. I said: 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 at all before the war to about half of what it ought to be. It is still about half of what it should be. The Government should double the present figure of funding to the Office of Arts and Libraries for the performing arts and for museums and galleries within the next four years. In the total budget the cost would be negligible, but the effect would be to transform the problems of the arts in this country. It would give quality a real chance of showing itself more often than it does now.

I know that money cannot buy quality, but I also know that cuts and changes can completely inhibit it. If the present decline in government support for our great national institutions is allowed to continue, some of them may even founder. Where there is no art, no performance, there can be no quality. I hope the Government will look very carefully at the need for limited amounts of additional money.

8.47 p.m.

Lord Colwyn

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Haig for the opportunity to have a short debate this evening on the creative and performing arts. I add my congratulations to the noble Marquess on his excellent and interesting maiden speech.

It is quite rarely that I am able to move away from health matters, put on my other hat—that of a very average but keen Dixieland trumpet player, band leader and orchestral contractor—and widen the issue by drawing the attention of the Government to the poor state of recognition and remuneration of the country's jazz musicians. It is also a particular pleasure for me to address my remarks once again to my noble friend Lady Trumpington.

As jazz music has such limited representation, it is the poor relation of all art forms. For example, in the visual arts, due to world-famous institutions such as the Royal Academy, there is a hierarchy of excellence. The work of a minor artist might sell for a relatively small sum while that of a top grade painter could command thousands of pounds. That is as it should be. Furthermore, because of these world-famous institutions, the artist of merit can become internationally celebrated.

Classical and pop music have access to their own specialist media through Radio 3 and Radio 1 respectively as well as through many smaller commercial stations all over the country. Popular music can be "plugged" many times a day and a performance of particular merit may lead to the sale of hundreds of thousands of records bringing its performers national and international recognition and the associated financial advantage. Musicians in a minor pop group may earn £100 for an evening's work, whereas performers in internationally-known bands can earn £25,000 for a single performance. Pop celebrities can earn several million pounds each year and classical musicians—whether in orchestras or as solo performers—also have the potential of great success and, indeed, international fame. However, their recordings have a specialist medium by which their talents can be communicated to those likely to appreciate them the most.

As a result of the access to the public that Radio 3 affords, a range of earnings exists so that an unknown and unrecorded soloist can expect some hundreds of pounds per concert and a major British performer can earn at least ten times that sum.

British jazz musicians, among whom are some of the finest performers in the world of this art form, have no such public voice. The corollary of this is that very few jazz records are made, and even those that are, are recorded under the most severe financial constraints, because in the main there is no access to the type of medium necessary to plug them—unlike the pop and classical performers or graphic artists. Therefore there is no hierarchy of excellence. A jazz musician of average talent will receive between £20 and £35 for a night's work. Similarly, a musician of the highest calibre—every bit as brilliant, in his own way, as for example David Hockney in the visual arts, or Yehudi Menuhin in the world of classical music—will be grateful to receive £50 or £60 for an evening's work. Further, he will remain virtually unknown.

The situation contrasts considerably with his American counterpart who can demand around £2,000 per night and achieve international recognition, merely because he has the mass media exposure which is the lifeblood of the performing arts. It is well to remember that if the Beatles' recordings had had no access to the public, via the radio, they would probably have remained an unknown and relatively impoverished pop group. Such is the current predicament of jazz musicians in this country today.

With the creation of jazz radio stations, serving at least the major cities, it would become commercially viable for recording companies to record our best performers, some of whom would undoubtedly go on to receive the international stardom that they deserve. Many would be paying taxes on their considerable earnings rather than drawing unemployment benefit, as many of them are forced to do now. The demand for such stations is beyond dispute. Many major cities in Europe and America provide their jazz-loving citizens with the opportunity to hear the music and musicians of their choice. Therefore, surely it is shameful that the city of London, which is one of the greatest cultural centres in the world, should have this void in its artistic spectrum. I shall be most grateful if my noble friend the Minister can give me any news about the enabling legislation which would permit the setting up of such a jazz radio service. I am aware of plans to introduce such legislation but I am informed that it is subject to continued delay.

I am also aware of one particular company, headed by David Lee, which is ready and willing to invest its own capital to provide such a jazz radio service for the half-million or so jazz fans who live in London. I hope that the Government's philisophy to give our citizens greater freedom of choice will be demonstrated by their finding time to consider such legislation in the future.

8.55 p.m.

Lord Birkett

My Lords, let me begin by adding my congratulations to those already given by other speakers to the noble Marquess on his maiden speech. The fact that it was both assured and genial bodes well for the future. If that was a maiden speech, then I look forward enormously to all his future speeches. I was much struck, as indeed was the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, that he should quote Robert Tear, who is not only a much admired and indeed much loved singer, but also a highly intelligent and philosophical being. It is sometimes forgotten that performers are capable of philosophy as well as of performance.

I noticed that Bob Tear spoke to the noble Marquess about the combined attractions and dangers of sponsorship. That is something I think that everyone is aware of. Certainly the attractions are there in financial terms, but the dangers are more subtle and much rarer than people make out. Nevertheless, they are there. Indeed, when the noble Earl introduced the debate, he touched upon that issue when he pointed out how most attrative the normal course of sponsorship is to sponsors; but how very unattractive, it seems are the rarer and more rarified aspects of art.

Speaking for myself, I see an enormous amount of sponsorship every year, because for some time now I have been privileged to be the judge—or, at least, the chairman of the panel of judges—for the annual awards of ABSA (the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts). Therefore I see the entire spectrum of sponsorship in every year; it is fascinating and it is growing. However, one sees the shape in which it is growing and there are certain areas within our arts which it does not touch. For example, as with certain beers, there are bits that are never touched by sponsorship. However, the situation is scarcely the fault of the sponsors. I suppose in the long run it might be construed as being a fault of imagination, but you cannot blame sponsors for not immediately allying themselves to the totally unknown. I suspect that that remains a problem area of our multiple funded future.

The noble Earl, in introducing the debate, also mentioned the British Theatre Association and the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, was happy to support him in that matter, as indeed am I. The British Theatre Association recently suffered a tremendous shock by having its grant from the Greater London Arts Association entirely removed. However, I am happy to say that it appealed against that decision—a totally mistaken one in my view—and its grant has been restored, albeit with a little bit knocked off; but, then, everyone gets a little bit knocked off these days.

I do not think it was a punitive "knocking off', regretful though the British Theatre Association no doubt is about it. Indeed, it is nice to think that organisations like the Greater London Arts Association can make a mistake and acknowledge it. It is something which is not totally frequent in artistic, let alone political, life. I am most pleased to see that grant restored, because the British Theatre Association respresents a special part of the performing arts; it represents a great network of background, what is nowadays called infrastructure. I suppose its most famous asset is the library. The library is used throughout the land. Everyone in the theatre world needs it. Even in international terms it is renowned.

However, it is not only the library that the British Theatre Association organises. It is involved in countless areas of activity for the unseen bits of the theatre; for training and for the amateur world of the theatre. I should declare an interest here as I am chairman of the Theatres Advisory Council. I see that aspect of the theatre—indeed of all the performing arts—most clearly, because that organisation, which is the principal umbrella organisation of the theatre, encompasses countless organisations which are almost unknown to the public at large. They deal with the training of the theatre world; they deal with the technicians—the back-room girls and boys of the theatre world—who are absolutely essential for the flourishing theatre of which we are so proud. However, such organisations receive little acknowledgment and need funding.

Funnily enough, the British Theatre Association has made great inroads into sponsorship. It is amazing that it should have done so because sponsors are not usually attracted to the back room; they rather like the front room, or preferably the portico with their name over it. Therefore it is most admirable that the BTA has gone as far as it has in regard to sponsorship. However, it needs a considerable amount of central support. Therefore I urge the Arts Council, the Greater London Arts Association and all other bodies coming within the Government's purview to consider carefully whether the British Theatre Association is in fact seriously underfunded.

It is very nice to be able to speak immediately after the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn. Not only are some of us in this House able to speak and indeed to eat better because of his good dental attentions, but it is very nice that he should be able to speak about jazz as a practising musician. I echo in every way what he said about the neglect of jazz in this country. I think perhaps it is a phase through which we are going: there was a time when it was more famous. The pop world is so glamorous and the classical music world so refined and so exquisite nowadays: in between there seems to be a great hole where the jazz musician is being neglected.

Happily, I was conferring only the other day with colleagues on the South Bank about the place that jazz should have in the musical life of the South Bank. I am happy to say that they are very conscious of that place. It is not simply the neglect of the media and the funding authorities that is a problem; it is the fact that there is no visible centre for jazz. A few years ago there was a project to have a national jazz centre in Covent Garden and it was to be perhaps the start of a new era for jazz—somewhere where the enthusiast could meet the jazz musician and the jazz musician could meet the public, and from where the recordings of which the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, spoke, might come.

That, alas! foundered as part of the general miasma which followed the abolition of the GLC. The site still exists; the property is in the hands of the London Residuary Body, as it should be; but somehow the steam has gone out of the enterprise. I wish it could be put back in. A centre for jazz is needed. Whether it should be there or somewhere else, I know not. However, I should love to see that enterprise revivified so that something could be done to allay the fears and the dismay that the noble Lord has uttered about jazz.

That brings me to the principal thing I should like to say this evening. It stems from the lack of capital funding, because, frankly, it was such a lack that did for the national jazz centre. It is the lack of capital funding that may do for a number of famous organisations, and indeed do for the hopes of a number of yet unexisting organisations. Without capital funding the background of the arts cannot possibly flourish. It is not merely a question of putting the slates back on the roof but of asking what shall be done to create the dance centre for London, for example. We ought not always to talk of London, but in this case John Drummond produced a very well received and brilliantly argued report on a dance centre for London, and if we are to have one it will cost a great deal of money. Whether it is an existing building converted, or a new one, it will cost many millions of pounds. And it is needed, because there is no really good dance house at all in London.

Where does one look for capital funds? The answer is, nowhere. The Arts Council used to have a Housing the Arts Fund. It was always too small, and eventually they despaired of it and gave it up altogether. At the same moment the GLC and the metropolitan county councils went out of existence, and they were bodies which, for good or ill, had a broad enough budget base to be able to sustain big capital funding when it was required. Nowadays there is nowhere to look. We have no capital funds left.

Where are we to find the funds to build a home for the Welsh National Opera, for example, or, as I have said, a dance house for London? How is the Round House to be helped on its way to becoming a great centre for the black communities? How are countless enterprises simply to keep themselves alive? Every householder knows that when the bad news about the roof strikes, the bill is always ten times bigger than you thought it would be; and in capital terms many of the arts face a very alarming future simply because there is nowhere they can look for capital funding.

If we are talking in terms of hundreds of millions of pounds over the years, it is no good looking to the Government and saying, "It is time you put your minds to this and put a fund together", because I doubt that they will. Therefore there has to be some major stroke we can achieve to produce this money. There is one; and quite simply it is that long-debated but still entirely plausible notion: a national lottery.

It is a pure accident that this morning the national health lottery, or whatever it was supposed to be called, bit the dust because it had been pointed out that its operations would be illegal. The Director of Public Prosecutions had made that plain. This is not a matter of gloating on my part because the arts have had notions about lotteries for as long as the medical world and medical charities have had them. I suspect that the only reason that enterprise foundered was because it did not think it needed to alter the law. The truth is that it did.

I am well aware that to introduce a national lottery would require major legislation, simply because the prizes allowed by present gaming legislation are not big enough. There is no point whatever in having a national lottery if you cannot offer a prize big enough to attract people. When I say "big enough" I do not just mean the very big No. 1 sum—the one that brings out the programme that says "spend, spend, spend" at the end—but enough money for enough people to win so that the public does not despair of winning. There must be a good enough chance of winning the lottery to attract people to it. If there is, the instance of West Germany shows that very large sums of money can be achieved—almost painlessly, I suspect. We are talking of sums of over £100 million a year— sums that match exactly the current grant-in-aid to the Arts Council—so that the dream of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, of doubling that sum is possible with a lottery.

I am well aware of many factors about a lottery, and I will not detain your Lordships for long this evening because this is a subject that would take your Lordships a number of days to debate in its full complexity. I introduce it because I know that it is a sensible proposition for the future of the arts and indeed for other charities. I am very well aware that the arts are not alone in thinking that a lottery would be a clever idea. Already the medical world and medical charities have thought so; sport has long thought so; and it may well be that no lottery Bill could be devoted exclusively to the arts.

I am also aware that there is vast opposition to the nature of a lottery all around the country. I say "vast" simply because the number of reasons for that opposition is large. I do not believe that the opposition itself is very strong or very widespread; but I recognise, for example, that there are many people who hold the religious conviction that a lottery is simply flying in the face either of biblical commandment or of good moral sense. I do not hold that view myself, but I recognise that there are those who do. With that unshakeable conviction I cannot argue because one cannot shake an unshakeable conviction.

There are those who believe, more subtly, that lotteries and all gaming bring with them social evils. However, I should point out to your Lordships that lotteries of the kind I am speaking about do not have quite that same quality of dragging one over the cliff as a well lit casino or a sunlit racecourse do. One cannot keep putting money in every time one loses, as in those places. Lotteries occur so regularly that one puts money in once only each time.

I am aware that many people fear that other charities would suffer if a lottery were introduced. I doubt whether the conflict is such that minor betting—say the tombola of the charity fair—would suffer as a result of a major national lottery. I am aware that people think that the pools and other major gaming enterprises would suffer, and even that National Savings would suffer. I doubt that. I do not think that the things are close enough to be compared. Above all, one has to remember that if a national lottery were to be introduced for the benefit of the arts, every time people lost money on it they would not be giving to some egregious character standing round the corner of a racecourse who might run away with the money in any case but to the arts. If people win they will be happy, but if they lose they should also be happy because the money is going to fund something which is of the essence of the quality of life.

I am aware that there are even some who say that there should be no such thing as a lottery because the Government should be funding the arts anyway. I am of the persuasion of those who think that the Government should fund the arts more than they do. I have said so on numerous occasions, and I still think so. But I am realistic enough to realise that the Treasury is not going to double its grant to the arts because my opinion is that it should. The guidelines for this decade are clear enough. It is a multiple funding world we live in. It is a self-help world we live in. This provision seems to me the very essence of self-help, and I cannot believe that it is not a good idea.

The final objection that people raise is that this could be an invitation to fraud. I beg leave to doubt whether in the world of sophisticated computer technology in which we live it is not quite simple to make an absolutely fraud-proof lottery system. Other countries have done it well, and it would earn us the money—perhaps for other things besides the arts—that would give the security for the future that we all want. It would give the plurality of funding that the Government so often urge upon us, and it would give the 21st century a ray of hope for the arts which at the moment I do not think it has.

9.11 p.m.

Lord Elibank

My Lords, I, too, wish to add my congratulations to the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair, on his maiden speech. It is a real pleasure to welcome among us a practising artist; there are all too few.

I also wish to thank the noble Earl, Lord Haig, for introducing this debate because it gives me an opportunity to talk about my favourite art form, which is opera. In doing so I realise that I shall probably retread some of the ground already covered by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, but reinforcement cannot be bad. I am sure that he will be quite happy to support any remarks that I make on this subject.

Opera has for me two dimensions: one is a personal one and one is a national one. The first is infinitely less important but a good deal more vivid, and I shall start with that. I can remember as a young man in the late '40s and early '50s attending my first operatic performances in the Royal Opera House. The price of the tickets for a quite extraordinarily uncomfortable seat on a bench in a quite remarkably stuffy atmosphere was one shilling and ninepence. My memory is getting a little frail, but I think that that price rose to two shillings and threepence over the course of a few years. For that money one saw in some discomfort great performances.

Taking a friend with one, for four shillings, which is the equivalent now of about 20p, one could have an excellent night out. I normally did so about once a month. When I look at the more melancholy situation today, when my wife and I wish to go to the opera it costs me something between £30 and £40. That is admittedly for somewhat better seats but they are far from the best seats in the house. The result is that I can go only once or twice a year, perhaps.

However, the picture is not quite as black as that because in the past 30 to 40 years there has been a notable development in television and video. It is quite possible to see very competent performances in your own drawing room. However, it is never quite the same and I for one miss greatly my fairly frequent attendances at the Royal Opera House. So much for my problems, though I believe that they are reflected by many of my generation.

The national problem with opera is that it is so desperately expensive. The casts are scores and sometimes hundreds of people. Performances frequently involve international stars, glamorous costumes and the like. The current report from the Royal Opera House lists production costs for some productions in the season ending in 1987. I believe that it is worth commenting on two productions in juxtaposition. One was a production of "Rosenkavalier" which cost £10,000 and the other was a production of "Otello" which cost £325,000.

I did not see either of those performances and I cannot comment on their quality. However, one should not assume for one moment that the more expensive production was not worth the money. It may have been stupendously worth the money and the production for £10,000 may have been rather poor. It is worth dwelling on that matter because it highlights the temptation to management, when financial screws are put on it, to resort to revivals and rehashing of old productions. That involves getting the scenery from the attic or storeroom, cleaning the costumes and perhaps rehiring the principals in the original production.

That course is not unsatisfactory and at a certain level it is possibly the best that a given opera house can do. However, it has its perils. If it continues indefinitely, and if most of the productions are simply refurnished old productions and none of the new and glamorous productions can be put on through shortage of funds, the quality of the house declines.

That is the way in which a decline in quality is most likely to make itself manifest. It means that anyone in government who is interested in the standard of our opera must look beyond the statistics of financing and attendances to the type of production that is being produced. Unless that is done, it is impossible to form an objective assessment of how that opera house is doing.

There are other problems with opera. One that I have always found difficult to grapple with is that there is little doubt that it appeals to what is known, in sociological jargon, as the A and B groups; that is to say, those who have more money and better education. It is a sensitive matter to ask for money from overall taxation to subsidise the entertainment of groups which are, by definition, rather well off.

The third and perhaps least important problem is that of language. Most international opera is in German or Italian. It is questionable what percentage of those attending can make anything of the dialogue. There are ways round that. The ENO performs operas in English. There are also programme notes and even subtitles in some proscenia. However, it is a rarified art form as it is played internationally.

Financially, as the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has observed, Royal Opera House receipts have averaged about 40 per cent. of costs over the past few years. At the same time, the amount of grant coming directly or indirectly from the Government has gone down from 54 per cent. of total receipts to 46 per cent. I should say that sponsorship has remained fairly steady at about 8 per cent.

That is a picture of declining support for our principal national operatic house. I do not think that we can look at it in any other light. The ENO has managed to get grants, including, as the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has said, a subscription from Westminster City Council, which, taken with other income, makes 56 per cent. of its total income. It then manages to generate 44 per cent. In the end the last annual accounts which I have seen for the year ending 1987 show that the Royal Opera House was £1 million in debt, whereas the ENO had managed to break even, which in the circumstances is a stupendous feat.

Attendances are very good. The Royal Opera House has managed to pack people in to approximately 90 per cent. of capacity, while the Coliseum has reached about 81 per cent. Those are very high figures and a tribute to the attraction of both houses.

Who are the audiences? Students are reasonably well catered for provided they have sufficient time and are sufficiently robust to queue, often for long hours. They can get reasonable seats at very reasonable prices. At the other end of the financial scale there are the wealthy, who have no problem with high seat prices, and business and company entertainment sponsors, who again have no problem with high seat prices. In the middle is a band of not so well off enthusiasts who find it increasingly difficult to meet the prices. I think that over the years they will be squeezed out of the audience, certainly of the Royal Opera House and possibly of the ENO also.

It is only right to mention the considerable efforts that both houses are making to encourage children to get to know opera in their formative years. They contact many schools and local authorities to attract children to performances, often free, dress rehearsals and so forth. I think that both houses are doing all they can to build up a future audience. Whether that will be enough to sustain the present high attendance rates time will show.

I think that opera has a fundamental dilemma. Those of us who love it and want to see it prosper have this great problem: where there is a demand on government funds for urgent projects—if I mention the National Health Service that is just because it is one that happens to be in the spotlight at the present time—how can we justify asking for more funds from the Government to support such a rarified activity as grand opera?

One could phrase that question in another way and say, how can you check that any given government are funding the arts sufficiently, and in particular the operatic art, or are being mean and underfunding? The only way that I can see of setting any kind of standard is to look at what our cultural rivals are doing. Again the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, referred to this and it is a particularly interesting comparison. I know that he will excuse me if I remind the House of some of the figures that he quoted.

I am quoting from the Royal Opera House report for 1986–87. It selected some half-dozen of the principal opera houses of Europe—not I hasten to say those in America, Japan or Russia but our direct cultural competitors. If one looks at the percentage of grant given to those six houses by their sponsoring governments or state authorities it averages something like 73 per cent., whereas the Royal Opera House receives 46 per cent.

When one considers our cultural rivals whose standards in the arts we respect, can it be right that we as a nation subsidise the corresponding activity 50 per cent. less than they do? Viewed by that standard, as a nation our contribution to the operatic arts is quite inadequate and I fear, as the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said, that a 2 per cent. or 2.5 per cent. increase in funding will be inadequate to maintain our senior opera houses in the first division of the European Community.

9.24 p.m.

Lord Gibson

My Lords, I apologise for inflicting an unscheduled speech on your Lordships. This morning I telephoned the Whips' Office but without the usual and expected result.

I should like to say how much I enjoyed the maiden speech of the noble Marquess, which I thought was remarkably refreshing and thoughtful. We are very grateful to him. I am especially grateful also to the noble Earl, Lord Haig, for the way in which he framed his Question. He has tried to focus the debate on quality, which is a matter of the utmost importance and something of which one often loses sight. It is sometimes insufficiently recognised that quality or excellence in any of the arts can only be achieved by rigorous discipline, whether in the theatre, the concert hall or at the easel and whether in creation or interpretation. Whatever the form of the art and the talent of the artist, there is no quality without discipline.

Some of your Lordships may know the story of the little old lady who was stopped on a street of New York by a stranger who asked her, "Can you tell me the way to the Carnegie Hall, madam?" She replied, "Young man, you must practise, practise, practise". She may not have understood the question—she was probably an immigrant from Germany—but she was uttering a very important and basic truth.

Unfortunately the laudable desire to encourage self-expression, promote access to the arts and develop participation in the arts in particular have tended to obscure that basic truth. Much of what is nowadays often referred to as "art" is not art at all but therapy—social therapy. It may be very desirable and important but it has nothing or very little to do with art. I am not at all opposed to the public funding of therapy but I rather doubt that it is appropriate to be undertaken by the national government. Of course it is a field in which real artists, if they are willing, can indeed lend a hand, but it is not art, and funding therapy will of itself seldom if ever lead to excellence, and it is excellence to which the Question of the noble Earl directly addresses itself.

It is particularly in the visual arts that the need for discipline to achieve quality has not infrequently been lost sight of in recent times. There has been a school of thought that has ignored the need to master the art of drawing, for instance. What one might call the splodge-away-and-express-yourself approach has had a powerful and harmful effect where it has predominated in some art schools. It does not produce quality any more than ignorance of grammar is conducive to quality in literature.

What can the Government do about this situation? They have two duties: to legislate and to fund. Outside those areas they cannot have a major role in these matters. It is interesting that in the Education Reform Bill that is now before your Lordships' House the Government, in my opinion quite rightly, attempt to introduce a more rigorous approach through a national curriculum. I do not think that they have the approach quite right since they specify music and art as foundation subjects and by specifying music alongside and distinct from art they naturally infer that art means simply visual art. This would include drama and dance, which are both arts which require a rigorous discipline if they are to be mastered.

I find the Bill's attempt to produce rigour a little clumsy and I hope that it will be remedied on Report. However, I applaud what I believe to be the Government's intention and hope that it will ultimately be realised. So in this sphere of legislation the Government can help indirectly to promote excellence by rejecting the educational approach which has refused so often to distinguish between what is good and what is bad.

I absolutely support the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, on this point. The Government must not get into the business of deciding which arts to fund and which not to. The buffer system between government and the arts, represented by the Arts Council, is a precious asset which we must continue to nurture. It is imperfect. It leads to bêtises, which are easy to scorn—and I admit to some bêtises in my time—but it has brought immense benefits and on the whole has spared us the consequences of political meddling in the arts.

There are two ways in which the Government can and do promote quality. The question is one of degree. The first is by their funding, through the Arts Council, of the national centres of excellence: the great theatre companies, the National and the Royal Shakespeare, the symphony concerts, the opera companies, and the smaller companies, many of which do excellent work and from which the national companies draw much of their talent. Likewise, the Arts Council funds experiment without which there is no future. No doubt the Government could, and in my view should, do more. Indeed, if they recognised the effect of their investment in terms of education, employment and tourism, they would increase what they do.

There has been one real advance lately. Mr. Luce is to be congratulated very genuinely on the three-year commitment which he secured from a Treasury which normally dislikes forward commitment but seems in this case to recognise that forward planning is a basic requirement of any business. It is not enough, but at least it is a commitment. What I would not congratulate Mr. Luce on is his speech at Newcastle, I think last autumn, in which he accused people in the arts world of a welfare state mentality. The role of the state in arts funding is basic. The state ought to be proud to be doing it, as it is in France and Germany. If one does not have enough money for the genuine needs of people who rightly rely on you, it is bad psychology to abuse those needs. I do not wish that factor to detract from my genuine feelings of pleasure that Mr. Luce has secured this three-year commitment.

The second way in which the Government can promote excellence is a direct way. They are the single most important patron of architecture. I shall not repeat the remarks that I made in a recent debate in your Lordships' House on architecture when I indicated how I thought the Government might exercise their responsibility for good architecture. However, departments of state have enormous architectural patronage to dispense and for important sites they should delegate their powers to select architects to small committees of informed persons, as they did when they commissioned this great Palace 150 years ago.

Yesterday, on leaving the Chelsea Flower Show in Chelsea Bridge Road, and facing the drab ugliness of Chelsea Barracks, I suppose put up in the fifties or early sixties, I thought, what an opportunity missed. It is almost unbelievable on that site. On the other hand, as one walks down Whitehall and comes upon William Whitfield's fine new building by Richmond Terrace on your right after leaving Parliament Square, what an opportunity taken! So they can do it. I just wish that the Government would give more thought to the best method of ensuring that the right thing happens more frequently.

Those are some of the ways that I believe the Government can promote excellence. At this time of night it behoves me to be brief. The Government are already doing quite a lot but, as our school reports used to say, they could do better.

9.35 p.m.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, I must apologise for intervening in this debate, because my name is not down on the list. Unlike the noble Lord, I did not ring up the Whips' Office, and, unlike him, I have already spoken once today and therefore this is more of an apology than he has to make. I must also apologise because I was not present at the start of this debate and therefore missed the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Haig, and that of the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair.

I was stimulated to leap to my feet once more by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. In particular, I wish to say a word about sponsorship, to which he referred as a means of funding the arts. To me it is absolutely self-evident that sponsorship should only be regarded as a top-up to arts funding and that it cannot possibly be a substitute for the funding which the Government should and did provide and I hope will continue to provide on a more generous level than at present.

I draw noble Lords' attention to a Written Question I put to the noble Lord, Lord Young—I am speaking from memory and I hope I have it right—in which I asked him how much money had been spent on sponsorship for sports and the arts last year and how much taxpayers' money had been forgone thereby. If my memory is correct, the answer was that £75 million had been spent on sponsorship and that £65 million of that was taxpayers' money forgone. So the idea that sponsorship is free in some way is an absolute nonsense. Some £7.5 million or whatever it is— £10 million—is quasi-free. What we are doing is taking the taxpayers' money, handing it over to businessmen who then spend it as they like, not in the public interest but in their own interests. Why otherwise should they do so?

Sponsorship has real limitations. Moreover, a sponsor wants the maximum exposure. Therefore it is inevitable that he will support the conventional and the popular. It is very rare, as other noble Lords have said, for anyone to support the new, the minority and the relatively unknown. What has not been mentioned is the immense amount of time that the administrators in the arts have to spend in raising money.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

I did so, my Lords.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, that was before I came in. It is ludicrous that the people who are chosen to run an opera house, a ballet company, the Whitechapel Arts Gallery and so on should be chosen partly with that criterion in view. It is not a question of whether they are good at running a ballet company, whether they are good at running an opera house or an art gallery, but whether they are good at raising money from mega-rich philistines. That is a third reason why I believe that the limitations of sponsorship on which the Government are so keen should be considered in a wary way and should be seen simply as a top-up to existing funding from the Government.

I should like briefly to repeat that the public role in the arts cannot be overestimated. I regret that I have said this before to noble Lords, but in the history of this country one of the most remarkable revolutions in my lifetime has been the efflorescence of music. That was due to the Third Programme, to CEMA and to the Arts Council. Without that infusion of money, capital and support it would never have happened. Both these contributions could not have been made without public funding. Therefore it is ludicrous for any government to suppose that they do not have a real responsibility in this area.

Finally, I take up a point on which the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, touched. We cannot forget the straight economic benefit of the arts to this country. London is the biggest tourist capital in Europe. It is so partly because of the airport, partly because of language and partly because of the arts. One can have a conference here and the people who come to the conference can go to high-class opera, high-class ballet, high-class theatre and wonderful exhibitions and galleries. No one has been willing to try to quantify what the economic benefit is from that. I bet your Lordships anything you like that even with the rather miserly funding that the Government offer the arts, the straight economic benefits that this country receives from tourism and conferences to which the arts contribute substantially make them a good economic proposition.

9.40 p.m.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Haig, introduced what has been, until now, an interesting discussion between like-minded people. There has not been a word of dissent. The poor Minister is left to block many of the things we have been saying. I agree with what the noble Earl said about quality. Framing his Question as he did has tied us down much better than when we have open-ended arts debates.

I should like to congratulate the noble Marquess on his maiden speech. Unfortunately he is not here to be congratulated. He spoke about spending 1 per cent. of the funds on embellishing architecture, and I should like to point out to him that unless everything has been changed we have that facility when government buildings are being put up. When I was a Minister in the Department of the Environment during the Labour Administration I talked to people from the Arts Council about how we could use that 1 per cent. I tried to obtain agreement that it should be used to embellish architecture, erect a piece of sculpture, exhibit paintings or in some other way bring art into the public domain.

One of the most important things to which the noble Earl drew attention was the importance of education to art. That is our only hope for the future if we are to change attitudes in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Gibson, mentioned art being included in the national curriculum under the Bill which is going through the House at the moment. He is right, because he and my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge put their names to an amendment that I tabled designed to include "arts" in the curriculum. It would otherwise have meant spelling out "performing arts", "literary arts" and so on. The Government resisted that amendment. They gave no reason for their resistance, which was incredible.

The Minister then said that it would be better to pick out music and art because they would be pursued more rigorously if they were named. We had to point out that that meant that we were cutting out drama, because to have drama on the back of English and ballet on the back of physical education is not good enough. On different occasions we have been told that unless subjects are mentioned in the curriculum—art is supposed to be a foundation subject—they will not receive much time in the curriculum or much teaching. The problem is a difficult one.

When I was at the Department of the Environment I set up a heritage education committee. Asa Briggs was appointed chairman. I managed to get the Daily Mirror to sponsor what we called "a wideawake trail". There was a competition each year which any school could enter, and they could choose any project. There were judges and the projects were voted on. The Daily Mirror gave a number of awards. I was asked to give the prizes in the first year.

A head teacher from a school in a deprived area pointed out that not only had the children had a great deal of fun and been enthusiastic when carrying out the project, they had brought their parents into it as well. This school was collecting old chimney pots and the mothers and fathers were running around helping. In an area where there was nothing beautiful, and nothing visually exciting or comforting, everybody became involved. If the Government mean what they say, they should start straight away by doing something about the curriculum, which is now being discussed on the Education Reform Bill. I know that it is not her responsibility but I hope that the Minister will pass on our remarks to her right honourable friend so that all is not lost at this stage.

Another important factor affecting the arts is the abolition of the Greater London Council, to which the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, referred. Making up that money has been extremely difficult—in fact it has not been done at all. In the first year there was money over because it was paid out by the GLC and the metropolitan counties. As the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, said, we must remember that we are talking not only about London but about the whole country. It was thought at the time that the local authorities would take over. However, the local authorities did not have the money. From where were they to get the money? Many of them were rate-capped, so again we have seen a shrinkage in the arts. This year, as a result of rate-capping and because of the different priorities between which it must choose, Camden's funding to Greater London Arts has been cut by 40 per cent. It cannot afford to do it, so once again the arts have suffered.

The arts also suffer through some of the other legislation we have passed. I refer to the very much debated Section 28 of the Local Government Act, which prevents local authorities giving money to promote homosexuality, although it is difficult to know how that will be defined. "Promote" is a very loose phrase. Devon County Council has cut £10,000 from one arts centre for putting on a show emanating from a gay group. A number of other local authorities have made it clear that they will not take a chance. Although something may not fall foul of the authority or the law a council will exercise far greater caution. Together, all these factors affect the money going to the arts all over the country.

This is also a matter of structure and strategy. Certain sums of money are available in other government departments and in areas such as the probation service which, if co-ordinated, could go into schemes to help train young people who would otherwise be unemployed. However, there has to be proper co-ordination. Sponsorship has been mentioned but sponsorship must be the frill on the arts cake, not the other way round. Private sponsorship should not be the main money, with the seedcorn coming from the public purse.

Funding is an appalling problem. A week or so ago we were pleased to hear that the Horniman and Geffrye museums are to be funded once ILEA goes and will be free-standing museums with their own boards of trustees. Although when they were told about this the friends of the Horniman were rather pleased, they were certainly worried as well because they did not know where the money was to come from. We are not sure because what we have been told is rather vague. It adds to the responsibilities, which become more fiscal than artistic, of the curators and directors of the museums. The same comment applies to the large galleries and museums. They are not doing the job for which they have been trained and engaged and it is a continuous fight.

At one time I was a governor of the British Film Institute. The director was an absolute wizard at raising funds and through his work we received an enormous sum from Paul Getty. It was given for new archives and not for moving to another building. However, in the next round of grants we were cut and did not receive a proper increase. No matter what the political views of the governors, everyone felt most angry. It is so frustrating and dispiriting and one wonders what is the point of throwing all one's energy into the institute if the money is merely being spent on projects which the Government should be undertaking and which involve bricks and mortar.

I do not know how we can achieve a change, except through education. I feel that there is a certain attitude in the country. The questions in this connection by the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, were most interesting. It seems to be an attitude which transcends all governments and is not peculiar to one or another. We as a country do not value the arts as we should and I do not know how that can be changed.

Speaking for the arts one feels strongly that the attitude is that you are involved in the frillier side of life and not in the serious, manly side. I know that the noble Baroness does not believe that, but I am speaking of a general attitude which pervades the country. The noble Lord, Lord Elibank, asked why in this country we do not fund the arts in the same way as France or Germany. Maybe it is the way in which people are brought up or perhaps it is built in and has historic origins. However, people in this country view the arts in an entirely different way and it is that kind of barrier that we must break. The Minister having to obtain a little more here and a little more there is ridiculous.

I should like to conclude by quoting what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, at a recent dinner. He said that it now appears that we have a very healthy economy. He continued: It is a surprising tragedy that at a time when we appear to be thoroughly prosperous and have large sums of money to disburse there should be this total starvation of the arts". Every time the Prime Minister or other Ministers boast, as they are entitled to, that they believe the economy is now so much stronger, I wonder why on earth the arts do not get their fair share.

9.56 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Trumpington)

My Lords, it is a brave man, or for that matter woman, who would seek to define the word "quality" when promoting art in whatever form. That is one reason why I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Haig, who is an artist of outstanding quality, for raising this specific Question. He has also given me the opportunity to put to the House with pleasure and pride the Government's commitment to the arts.

My noble friend has enticed here another artist of note, namely the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen, who made an excellent maiden speech in the debate. Somewhat unusually the noble Marquess lists in Dod's his recreations as "wine, women and song". I am a woman and I love wine, but your Lordships will no doubt be highly relieved to learn at this time of night, and with my kind of voice, I shall not burst into a rendering of "Drink to me Only With Thine Eyes" when I say what pleasure his speech gave me. He actually sent me his special apologies for leaving.

I was absolutely riveted by the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. After all, she did much for the arts for which we are grateful, and I shall see that her words reach the destination she wished for them. But I would say, "Be of good cheer, old girl; all is not as black and gloomy as you made out."

The Government's commitment to the arts to which I referred earlier was endorsed in our manifesto of 1987, when we pledged ourselves to maintain the level of funding in real terms at its 1979 level. We have in fact done much better. The Government's objective is to create the best possible climate in which the arts can flourish, allowing the maximum number of people to have access to a wide variety of arts. What we are trying to do is, first, to keep up the real value of public support for the arts, taken as a whole; and, secondly, to encourage arts bodies to expand their other sources of income at a faster rate so that, thirdly, the total resources available to the arts will grow, and within that total the proportion provided by the private sector will rise.

I was grateful for the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, concerning last year's funding announcement, giving the arts a framework for those things which I have just mentioned. It specifies definite figures for each body over not just one year but three years; and it provides in most cases a grant in the first year which is deliberately generous. This gives institutions elbow room, time to draw up plans and make decisions on their future strategy; and it provides various sums to help them strengthen their financial structure and to fund incentive schemes. The use of taxpayers' money in this way—to act as a catalyst for the expansion of total income—we call incentive funding and is an essential element of the plural funding policy.

An extra £5 million has been made available to the Arts Council in the current year; £6 million in 1989–90 and £7 million in 1990–91. Of this it is expected that a total of £12.5 million will be committed to the incentive funding scheme. The purpose of the incentive funding scheme is to improve overall artistic standards by widening the funding base of Arts Council client organisations and by improving their business efficiency.

The remainder of this extra money—upwards of £5 million over the three years—will be committed to the touring of artistic events and exhibitions throughout Britain, bringing the best the arts can offer to a greater number of people. In the current financial year the Arts Council hope to provide extra weeks of theatre, dance and opera. We think this is a considerable step forward—the arts, after all, are the possession of the whole country, not simply of London, even if we do believe that London is the theatrical capital of the world.

Standards in the performing and creative arts are also encouraged by positive collaborations with local authorities. In the visual arts, in particular, the Arts Council continues to enjoy notable success in improving the standards of training and exhibition-making in local authority museums and galleries. Manchester, Bradford and Stoke are noteworthy in this regard. The Arts Council continues to play a leading role in the encouragement of sculpture in public places in our towns and cities. Looking beyond the arts for support of the arts, the council has been active in fostering collaborations with private industry and public bodies, including British Rail. The independent galleries supported by the Arts Council flourish, and this year both the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens and the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank have become fully-fledged independent bodies after 20 years within the Arts Council itself.

Although the Arts Council has supported, and continues to support, some major exhibitions, aspiring and lesser-known artists are also helped. Both the Arts Council and the regional arts associations help the individual artist by making funds available for bursaries and fellowships and by placing artists in schools, which is a double benefit. It gives secure employment to the artist and enables him to inspire and encourage the young. There is also considerable scope for partnership between independent funded galleries such as the Hayward, the Whitechapel and the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh and commercial galleries, to promote the work of promising artists.

I turn now to my noble friend Lord Haig's most interesting speech. He made five specific proposals. He asked first that there should be a better selection procedure for artists exhibiting in public galleries. It will never be possible to remove the so-called "art establishment" from the selection procedure. Judgment by the art establishment is another word for judgment by one's peer group—the method practised by the regional arts associations, where most of the direct support given to artists is administered. Artists prefer this method, by and large.

Secondly, my noble friend suggested that commercial galleries should be subsidised when they put on unprofitable exhibitions by struggling but gifted artists. The education of public taste, and the pursuit of profit, do not always go well together. When they do, so much the better, but often an artist's work is exposed to the public not to acquaint that public with a new thing but to develop a market for that work—that is the business of the commercial gallery. The Arts Council believes that the two objectives should be kept separate—that public subsidy should be kept separate from the operation of commercial galleries. However, the council is prepared to support commercial galleries where both objectives can be served—for example, in touring works of art—but in general terms, the council will continue to support art by funding exhibitions in the network of independent, publicly-funded galleries.

My noble friend's third proposal is that good work should be sold at affordable prices. Perhaps this question should be addressed to those dealers who choose such high commissions! But there are already ways of making it easier to buy pictures. For example, the Welsh Arts Council operates a successful interest-free loan scheme. Such inducements, however, are separate from the proposal to subsidise galleries themselves. Surely the answer here is not the creation of an artificial, propped-up market for art but better marketing of exhibitions by the galleries themselves. The Arts Council's new marketing department will be very glad to help.

I should like to add that it is not just in art galleries that artists can display and sell their works. Some hospitals that I visited when attached to the DHSS used their wall space for just that purpose. Theatre foyers have wall space and a captive audience. I remember a charming exhibition of watercolours for sale by Lewis Casson on the walls of, I believe, Glyndebourne some years ago. The red dots told their own story of success in all those venues.

Fourthly, my noble friend proposed that artists should be trained or apprenticed under YTS. My answer to that is no. Our excellent art colleges already provide artists with a broad range of transferable skills and they have shown themselves resourceful enough in getting work in the design, fashion and media industries, as well as in producing their own paintings and sculptures.

I simply do not accept that other nations are better than ours. Here I include our undoubted leading role in jazz. My noble friend Lord Colwyn is a good example, though in his speech he did not blow his own trumpet but spoke movingly of the poor jazz musicians. I fear I cannot go far down the jazz radio service road this evening; but neither, alas, can I walk the lottery lane with the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, through lack of time.

The final point put by my noble friend Lord Haig was that part of the money for new buildings should be spent on art. Here I certainly go along with my noble friend's suggestion. It is one which the Government can encourage without seeking to introduce mandatory legislation.

The Arts Council has recently adopted a percent for art policy, and it is very good to see that a number of local authorities and developers have chosen to spend a proportion of their new buildings budget on arts and crafts. The Arts Council will be pleased to offer general guidance to any body or authority wishing to employ this technique. Section 52 of the Town and Country Planning Act is a useful tool.

Perhaps I may refer here to two particular examples. The Government themselves provided for the inclusion of a Paolozzi sculpture in the new Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster. Birmingham City Council, in its imaginative plans for a new convention centre, has wisely provided that a proportion of the total budget of £90 million should be spent on the creation of works of art as an integral part of the design. Within the overall provision, £250,000 is to be spent on a sculpture by Raymond Mason, a Birmingham-born sculptor of international renown.

In one of today's papers I note that Sheffield is looking to pioneer a percent for art policy and that too is good news. The remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, about museum directors becoming fund raisers was, if I may say so, a little naive. It seems that if one looks across the Atlantic in particular, that is one of the reasons they are there. The noble Lord asked about more public money, especially for the Royal Opera House, the English National Opera and the National Theatre. The Arts Council increase in the current year is 84 per cent., with 3.5 per cent. to incentive funding and touring, both of which will help big companies. There will be 2 per cent. towards new developments, which leaves 2.9 per cent. for existing grants to be increased. I say to the noble Lord, with great respect, that one cannot fund innovation and pass on the whole increase to existing bodies.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, perhaps I may intervene to raise one point. I shall not argue statistics because it is too dull at this time of night. My statistics are jolly good and I doubt whether those of the noble Baroness are so good. I shall leave that. I cannot understand what she meant about impresarios and directors in America. Have I misunderstood?

Baroness Trumpington

Yes, I believe so.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

I shall shut up because that is quickest.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I think that is the quickest thing. I shall read Hansard and I shall write to apologise to the noble Lord if I find that I am wrong.

Encouragement of the arts in whatever form is the classic example of you can only please some of the people some of the time. My noble friend Lord Haig took a somewhat jaundiced view of television. Unfair, I say! I wonder whether he watched the wonderful ballet based on Lowry the other day. The opera recordings are wonderful. It is simply not realistic to expect that if government pay out enough money the arts will ipso facto flourish.

Local councils can do a great deal to help. It is good to know that so many are responding to the public's craving for beauty in their lives. Arts bodies can do yet more to help themselves—to market their excellent product better.

Inevitably, I have not answered all the points made during this fascinating debate. The whole community—government, business, private givers, the consumer at the box office—need to join to make the arts flourish. Even then, as the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, said, one still cannot be sure that "flourish" equals "excellence". In the end we need to preserve what is best of the past, to encourage the artists and performers of the present and to provide the arts with a healthy future.