§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Lord Annan rose to call attention to the problems facing the performing arts; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the Motion this evening I shall try to limit my remarks to 10 minutes in order to give those who know considerably more about the subject than I do a little more time to speak. Before doing so I wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, who so soon after his introduction cancelled an engagement at short notice to give his maiden speech this evening. We all look forward to it enormously.
§ In the near future the Government will have to face some major problems concerned with funding the arts. At present the national companies are not responsible for financing their buildings. For example, the National Theatre has no sinking fund for building repairs. That is all the more alarming since the building shows signs of sinking into the Thames. Over 15 years the building has developed cracks in the fly tower of the Lyttelton Theatre and water drips into the foyer from faults in the promenade. The repairs to the fly tower will cost £500,000 and the promenade repairs £300,000. The Royal Shakespeare Company has begun to murmur that some renovations will be needed in the Barbican.
§ What is the Government's policy on the matter? Do they intend to do what they have done for museums and galleries? They have been given a capital sum the income from which can be used to pay for the repairs formerly undertaken by the Property Services Agency. The capital sum given was quite inadequate to cope with the arrears of maintenance of over half a century. But, be that as it may, what is the Government's policy? They cannot expect the national companies or 585 the South Bank to maintain the buildings in which they work when sponsorship is diminishing and when a surplus is made, as occurs at the National Theatre from time to time, it is taken as a signal to reduce the grant by that amount.
§ Of course the companies and the orchestras are more concerned about the state of the recurrent grant. This is a singularly inopportune time for anyone to ask for more money for the arts. Mr. Mellor was successful in obtaining an 11 per cent. increase when an increase of about 5 per cent. had been expected. It is well known that the increase is just enough to cope with inflation and not much more. I foresee a bleak immediate future. The tourist trade will be down, sponsors less able to give, donations from businesses will decline and every public service, from the National Health Service and education to the railways, will be clamouring for more public money.
§ Much of what I say tonight may be deplored by some noble Lords. I believe that the Arts Council will have to make some very disagreeable decisions about priorities. As Keynes used to say—and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, will agree—the worst policy is to cut across the board and make equal misery for all. I therefore ask: how many national orchestras can we afford? Can we really afford six ballet companies? If the Royal Shakespeare Company has at last been brought to its senses and has reduced the number of stages on which it performs from 10 to four—two in the Barbican and two at Stratford—can there not be some rationalisation of effort elsewhere?
§ How many opera companies can we afford? Every Welshman, led by the Leader of the Opposition, will die on Offa's Dyke rather than see the Welsh National Opera disappear; and rightly so. It is a marvellous company. But the question remains: are Kent Opera and Opera North comparable in quality to that company?
§ There is one special case. I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, is abroad and cannot speak for the Royal Opera House. Some noble Lords may call the Royal Opera House the rich man's parade ground. The rich certainly pay for their pleasures. Seat prices have risen by 135 per cent. in five years. Donations represent 15 per cent. of the Royal Opera House income. In Paris, Vienna and Milan, 80 per cent. of the income for those opera houses comes from the state. At the Royal Opera House it is 36 per cent. Only five years ago the figure was 53 per cent. The Royal Opera, the Royal Ballet and Royal Birmingham Ballet give 450 performances a year more than any other comparable European company. For opera, 93 per cent. of the seats are sold; for ballet the figure is 91 per cent. Yet there are fewer in the chorus and fewer dancers than in New York, Paris or even Denmark. The Royal Opera House is a triumph of financial resourcefulness.
§ But the question is simply this: does our country want an international opera house where the world's greatest singers and a great ballet company can perform? If the answer is yes, I do not believe that the present situation can continue.586
§ What I say applies equally to the provinces. Let us take the Liverpool Playhouse. It is a theatre which is well worth saving. But how can the city council, in its present plight, operate a pound for pound subsidy? Expenditure on libraries can come out of the central government block grant. However, expenditure on theatres must come out of the community charge. We therefore have the paradoxical situation that the Arts Council says to Liverpool, "Raise your community charge", and the Department of the Environment says to the city, "Lower your community charge".
§ I agree that local support must be forthcoming to qualify for a grant. Think what Birmingham, Glasgow and now Sheffield are doing for their citizens. For years the Arts Theatre in Cambridge was ignored by the Arts Council until the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, intervened. However, I am bound to say that the meanness of that city is matched by the niggardliness of the greatest and richest of the Cambridge colleges.
§ Whenever anyone suggests that a company or a university department should be closed down there is an uproar. No wonder. That spells unemployment and a bitter sense of futility among the dedicated people who work their hearts out for the arts. I believe that one can diminish the uproar if one can persuade those in the same line of business that the decision was taken on judgments made by their peers. Peers—and who in this House will deny it? —make informed judgments. When Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer was chairman of the University Grants Committee he asked experts in every academic field to rank departments. Dons naturally denounced the results of those rankings in public. But behind locked doors and in the Athenaeum they recognised that the University Grants Committee had got the rankings about right. Will the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, consider having a word with Sir Peter to learn the wisdom of the serpent and see whether the Arts Council committees could undertake some ranking?
§ Like all those who love opera I have my criticisms of the Royal Opera House; there are too many new productions and too few are successful, often ruined by producer power. I have my criticism of the Royal Shakespeare Company; there are too many trendy productions that insult Shakespeare. Why cannot John Barton be brought back to produce "Julius Caesar" or "Macbeth", spoken as it was in Shakespeare's time in the accent which scholars have reconstructed? I can assure the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, that he need not look alarmed because I shall resist the temptation to give the House an impression of what it would sound like.
Those criticisms are simply provoked by the excitement that great art generates. Yet in these times it requires an act of faith by those who work for the arts to continue to believe in the eternal value of art in transforming the notions held by men and women of the nature of life. All that those underpaid and overworked devotees can do as they work in the theatre, orchestras, the film industry and all branches of the arts is to repeat to themselves the words of Henry James:
We work in the dark. We do what we can. We give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art".
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Lord Crickhowell
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, for introducing this important topic. It also gives us the opportunity to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo. We look forward to his speech with the greatest pleasure and interest. He has a sensitive and difficult job which involves much unpaid time and effort. It is wrong that the job of the chairman of the Arts Council should be unpaid; there is a need for legislation to change that situation.
I am glad that there is no need for me to reopen earlier arguments about the Welsh National Opera because an initial wrong has been largely put right. I say "largely put right" because, unexpectedly, there is a question about whether £50,000 of the promised £300,000 can be found. Despite that hitch, the Arts Council deserves credit for a change of heart, for the acknowledgement of its error and for its correction. The situation which faced the Welsh National Opera—and there are those who would die for it east of Offa's Dyke as well, because it is the major touring company in England—is typical of the problems confronting most performing arts organisations.
Before I turn to consider those problems it is right that I should give proper credit to the Government. Richard Luce made an important breakthrough by establishing a principle of 3-year funding. However, he left his successor an awkward inheritance—an increase in arts funding of 3 per cent. at a time when inflation was more than 9 per cent. The five major British opera companies warned that that would mean closure. Other performing arts companies were no less threatened. Mr. Mellor went into battle with characteristic determination. He found the ear of a sympathetic Chief Secretary, now Chancellor. The new enhancement fund makes a critical difference. David Hunt also played his part and found resources to write off the inherited debt of the Welsh National Opera.
But fundamental problems remain. The situation confronting that company will be all too familiar to the management of almost every company, large or small. Despite a remarkable record at the box office, success in attracting sponsorship and fund raising, it is dependent for the majority of its funding on Arts Council subsidies. Over a number of years those subsidies have fallen short of the rate of inflation. As with many other performing arts companies the programme must be planned several years ahead; artists must be hired and commitments made. The promise of 3-year funding is of very little help if the commitments for later years bear no relationship to the likely rise in costs.
I cannot emphasise enough the point about the length of the planning cycle. The only possible basis for the maintenance of performing arts companies is through long-term partnership with funding organisations. The majority of performing arts companies have virtually no room for manoeuvre. For years they have 588 pruned costs simply in order to survive. Their performers are not well paid and their numbers, which are dictated by the nature of their art, cannot be reduced. Many of their costs are outside their control. The room for increased sponsorship, or even its maintenance, is constrained by the economic circumstances of the time.
I have spoken of partnership. Even if those companies were tempted to be profligate they are the subject of appraisal and supervision. Representatives of the Arts Council attended almost every meeting of the finance and general purposes committee of the WNO. The ability to influence policy and economy exists with every client of the Arts Council and the arts associations. If partnership is to work it cannot be arbitrary. It depends upon the existence of successful relationships based on knowledge and mutual respect between officials. It depends upon the members of the council maintaining such relationships with their own officials that they are well informed and support agreed plans, including essential long-term corporate plans. It depends upon an equal level of understanding and support by the Government of the Arts Council's commitments and plans.
Partnership is not confined to revenue funding. Frequently it involves the provision of accommodation where local government has a particularly important role. We in this country do not have a good record on buildings, not only in relation to maintenance. We desperately need more theatres capable of staging opera, dance and large-scale performances of all kinds. That is why I have always been a vigorous supporter of the efforts being made in Cardiff and North Wales to build suitable theatres. I was saddened that as Secretary of State I could not find the money to build an opera house in addition to a commitment to a major extension of the National Museum of Wales. However, it is welcome news that he has given the go ahead for detailed studies of the Cardiff project and that a private backer has come forward with a substantial offer of funding for a theatre in North Wales.
One particular problem arises from the established terms of employment. In this country singers and musicians who are poorly paid for their basic work can demand large fees for performances for TV and video. That makes such broadcasts extremely expensive and therefore one seldom sees broadcasts or videos of British opera. The companies, the performers and the public all lose out. I am glad that recently the unions agreed to reduce some of those payments. But there is an urgent need to go further and to introduce new contracts that will raise basic earnings which, as on the Continent, require a reasonable number of TV and video performances. Apart from the benefits to the performers and the companies, the public would get better value for its subsidies because performances would be seen by vastly larger audiences.
Despite some philistine cries of protest, there is increasing acceptance that the arts need and deserve public subsidy, as they have received it in some form or another in most ages and in most countries. Without that support we should be unable to share 589 some of the greatest creative efforts of the human mind about which the noble Lord, Lord Annan, spoke. The loss would not simply be cultural. Thriving artistic institutions are an essential component of a successful social and economic environment and they are an absolutely vital tool of economic revival in previously depressed areas. I was delighted to hear the present Secretary of State for Wales express a similar view when speaking last Saturday to members of the Welsh National Opera after a splendid first night in Cardiff.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Baroness Birk
My Lords, I am sure that we are all looking forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, who has great courage in speaking so soon after his introduction. I believe that he will have an easy run this evening but I cannot promise that that will always be so. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, for initiating the debate. However, I do not agree with what he said about not fighting for more funds at present. Unless you fight for the priority which you believe is important, you never get anywhere. It is always the wrong time, especially for funds for the arts. I believe that we must continue with the battle.
Why are the arts always in chronic crisis? There is not enough money. Why should we have the lowest expenditure per capita on the arts among our major European neighbours—less than half that of France or Germany? Why are we losing companies of such excellence as the Kent Opera and the Liverpool Playhouse? The RSC was only pulled back from the brink after its London base was closed for several months. Many smaller companies all over the country are faring even worse. One is apt to forget the smaller companies and think only of the larger ones.
Since the Arts Council's housing the arts fund was wound up, there is now no major source of funds for capital renewal in theatres' national stock. There cannot be performances without buildings in which they can be held. The Theatres Trust, on whose council I sit, with its slender resources is attempting to do a first stock-taking, but without realistic funding it will be impossible to follow the study with action. More theatres will be in a state of disrepair or decay. I do not believe that that is always recognised.
Higher public investment leads to higher private investment both from industry and individuals. Arts Ministers have been quite right to boost sponsorship as much as possible. However, in 1989 some of the larger sponsors warned the Government that they were failing in their role as the core funder and threatened not to continue to carry the burden unless the Government played their financial part. That threat occasioned a prompt response, whereas cries for help from the arts community were dismissed as whingeing. I suppose that is par for the course.
Even if there is an arts lottery as a means of expanding arts opportunities—and it seems to me that that is a good idea—it is vital that the Government do not abdicate their responsibility because it would be 590 hazardous to leave the matter of funding in the hands of a lottery in the hope that it would raise the amounts required.
I am sure that we all feel that local authorities should be playing a greater role in arts support. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Annan, pointed out, local authorities are squeezed. They have to make terrible priority decisions—for example, should they take money from meals-on-wheels in order to keep a theatre going—in the context of the poll tax and charge capping. Therefore, at this time they cannot really fulfil much of an arts function. That is very sad, not only for financial reasons. Local authorities are in a position to create a link with people locally and interest them in the arts in a way which may be impossible if they are being performed centrally.
The last Arts Minister in Mrs. Thatcher's Government tried to paper over some of the cracks by earmarking money which was already within the Arts Council's budget—not new money—and calling it an enhancement fund. But that meant that incentive schemes being proposed or run by the Arts Council, including one for capital projects, were sacrificed to enable that rather dubious concept to exist. In introducing the new enhancement fund, the then Arts Minister, David Mellor, said:The Arts Council will draw up a detailed scheme which I will want to look at to see if it meets the needs of the hour".I find that very worrying. What price the arm's length principle to which I thought most of us were wedded as regards the Arts Council? If that takes place it looks rather as though the arm has been telescoped to a stump.
Unfortunately many arts bodies today have lost faith in the Arts Council. They see it as more anxious to conform with the Government's wishes than to respond to the needs of performers and the public. A symptom of the present crisis of confidence is that after nine attempts, a chairman still cannot be found for the London Arts Board, and nor has it a director. When he replies perhaps the Minister can tell me whether there is any news of that extraordinary situation in our capital city.
Finally, amateur as well as professional companies are feeling badly undernourished. With music and art now made optional in schools after the age of 14, and drama and dance not even foundation subjects, we are hardly encouraging children to enjoy the arts and participate in them. In fact it is an exercise in devaluation. The arts are always in crisis because we do not provide the funds necessary for them today and we are not providing an environment to enable them to flourish tomorrow.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Lord Palumbo
My Lords, it is with considerable trepidation that I rise for the first time in your Lordships' House, the more so since convention properly requires that my remarks are non-controversial. However, first and foremost, I am indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, for initiating this debate. Thinking it over, I confess that a debate on the arts could not take place in a more fitting and appropriate venue, because the Chamber is a work of 591 art in itself, conceived as it was by the great Victorian architect Sir Charles Barry, in collaboration with Augustus Pugin.
I crave your Lordships' indulgence for the points which I should like to make on the performing arts. I hope very much that when I have completed my speech, your Lordships will not feel constrained to censure me, as a former Member of your Lordships' House, Lord Beaconsfield, did when he said of that selfsame architect, Sir Charles Barry, that he should be hanged in public for his design of the Houses of Parliament.
My personal barometer for assessing the general health and condition of the performing arts and, indeed, the arts themselves, is twofold: first, I am anxious to discover how they are perceived in the eyes of the world at large, and in this case how our musicians, actors, dancers and singers are perceived in the eyes of the outside world; secondly, I am anxious to examine the very latest figures on attendances and on income generated from box office receipts.
There can be very little doubt that our artists are perceived by the outside world with admiration and even envy. Wherever and whenever they go abroad, they play to packed and appreciative audiences. One or two examples immediately come to mind: the recent hugely successful tour of Japan by the London Symphony Orchestra; the equally successful tours of Welsh National Opera, the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet in the United States; the triumphant tour of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1989 when it played performances of "Titus Andronicus" in Paris, Madrid and Copenhagen; and finally, the huge success of English National Opera only last year in the Soviet Union, where it was the cultural mainstay of the British trade month. By any standards these great companies, and many others who follow them abroad, must be counted a huge success.
My conclusion is that while the Japanese and the Russians may not always understand the language of Shakespeare, the language of the arts is nevertheless a universal language. It transcends geographical boundaries and considerations of race, colour and creed. I believe that it is in every way as effective as any diplomatic initiative in building bridges and communicating across the divide.
I turn now to the subject of the attendance figures, which is the second part of my yardstick for assessing the health of the arts. I need only say that in the year 1989–90, which is the last year for which figures are available, 45 million people attended the theatre in the United Kingdom. Box office receipts from the theatre in that year amounted to £17.5 million. In the same year 2.7 million people visited the opera and generated box office receipts of £25 million, while dance generated box office receipts of £11 million. These must be impressive figures by any standards.
Box office considerations lead naturally to the issue of the funding of the arts. We live in a plural society and therefore it is hardly surprising that our funding has the same plural complexion. Underpinned by central government but with handsome contributions of almost £200 million from local authorities, 592 supplemented further by the private sector in its many guises and occasionally by European money from Brussels, that partnership is surely the way forward for the arts.
I should like to take this opportunity to correct a widespread misconception; that the arts, like defence, environment, health and education, are a bottomless pit. They most certainly are not. A little money in the arts goes a long way. It would be possible to calculate with some precision the additional sum of money required to resolve some of our present difficulties and the deficit situations of some of our client companies. By increasing their revenue base from that additional sum of money, we could ensure that those deficits were eliminated over a three-year period.
Despite those difficulties I firmly believe that prospects for the arts have never been more encouraging in this final decade of the second millenium. I say that because the range and depth of artistic talent in this country is second to none, both within the single market and without it. The increased accessibility of the arts is playing a vital part in their popularity, and that increased accessibility will be further enhanced as a result of a deregulated broadcasting system.
If that prediction is correct and if, as I am sure your Lordships will accept, administrations and societies are assessed in an historical context, not by the battles that they win or the economic miracles that they achieve—important though they are—but first and foremost by the contribution that they make to civilised values and civilised life, then we shall enter and greet the third millenium with confidence and the dawn of a new era.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Lord Birkett
My Lords, it is a privilege and a great personal pleasure to be allowed to be the first to congratulate my noble friend Lord Palumbo on his maiden speech. I hope that all noble Lords will join with me in saying to him what an amazing, articulate, interesting and informative speech it was. As he himself said, it is a convention that a maiden speech should not be controversial. There is no convention that says that it should be inspiring; I thought that it was.
My noble friend's vision of the arts comes from his enormous experience in them. The nation already owes my noble friend a great deal. A large number of the greatest galleries in the land owe much to his wisdom and guidance. I am happy to say that I believe he regards landscape as one of the arts; Paines Hill Park would not have got off to the start it has without his guidance. It is well known that he is a notable private patron of the arts; that is not possible for some of us nor encouraged by others. Therefore it is very nice that this stock of wisdom and goodwill towards the arts should be now available to the nation because he is chairman of the Arts Council. In a slightly more sinister tone I must say that it is also very nice that we have the chairman of the Arts Council in your Lordships' House. It is so much easier to get at him!
It is a convention to say to a maiden speaker that we hope to hear more of him. In the case of my noble 593 friend Lord Palumbo I am sure that the House will agree that we want to hear a lot more of him on frequent occasions.
In the time remaining to me I should like to ride three hobby-horses. I shall ride them at a gallop because I do not wish to overrun my time any more than do other noble Lords. The first touches upon the introductory remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, to whom I also offer my congratulations for introducing the debate. He referred to the capital problem; the lack of any capital fund for the arts. Many speakers touched upon the need for capital both for maintenance and for new buildings.
A solution to the problem would be possible if the nation were to accept the idea of a national lottery for arts, sports and the environment. We recently had a complete debate on that subject in your Lordships' House so I shall not weary your Lordships for long. If the calculations which seem to be generally accepted are true, that when up and going a national lottery could produce a sum of around £1 billion a year towards arts, sports and the environment, and indeed other charities, many of our capital problems could be solved The next hobby-horse I ride I would not dare to ride without the first. It always seemed to me that in London the Lyric theatre—by which I mean dance and opera—-needs more stock of buildings. As a nation we already have the Royal Opera House, and the English National Opera leases the Colosseum. However, with the wealth of national companies and the wealth of talent that we have, the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and the Lyceum should be available to the nation. Although it appears to be a smaller issue, the Kingsway Hall —probably the finest recording hall in Europe—should be available to the nation also, It is not an easy matter to acquire these premises; in many cases they are in private hands and the owners may not wish to part with them. It would be unthinkable even to propose it were the thought not at the back of my mind that a serious capital fund could enable such a thing to happen if circumstances led us in that direction. Put together those theatres could form a centre for the performing arts in London which would set us off into the 21st century in a way that we cannot at the moment look forward to.
My third hobby-horse is quite different. It is a subject that I introduced into your Lordships' House only a few days ago in the short education debate introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. It concerns the new school for the performing arts which is to open in Croydon in the autumn and of which I am president. I make no apology for introducing the matter again because it is a piece of thoroughly good news for the arts. From time to time we can do with good news in our debates. On the last occasion on which I introduced the subject I was taken to task by the noble Baroness, Lady David, who said that I could expect very little support and encouragement from those Benches for a CTC. In fact it is technically a CTCA—a city technology college of the arts. She said that she would look very carefully at the career of the school and of the schools around it in Croydon. I got 594 a slightly sinister impression that my school would be looked at and its success judged in relation to the success and careers of others schools in Croydon.
I intend to take no responsibility whatever for the other schools in Croydon. The point about our school is that it will provide an education in the performing arts for 14 to 18 year-olds in a way that has never been done before. It is fulfilling an educational need which in my experience has not been addressed before. It will give the students at the school a real experience of the arts world, not merely of the performance, but the technology, business, legal and union backgrounds. It will give a view of the entire world of the arts which people who intend to enter the profession must have if they are to make a success of it.
Whatever our views may be on the maintenance of schools in general and the provision of budgets for them, I do not hold with any attitude that, because of drawbacks in other educational departments, looks askance at a bright and encouraging school which is about to start. I expect to find universal encouragement in your Lordships' House for this school and its future.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Viscount Mills
My Lords, in November 1989 the Arts Council recognised the urgent need to support the development of dance in the 1990s, and indeed extra funding has been made available to certain sectors. Yet, as we have heard from several noble Lords, everyone in the performing arts today will tell you that the overriding concern is money. Dance is no exception. Despite its high artistic standards in this field, Britain lacks the resources, theatres and regional infrastructure possessed by many of its European counterparts. Our dancers suffer from bad conditions of service and low pay and have to contend with inadequate facilities. Sufficient funding is vital to prevent at worst the disappearance of entire ballet companies. In 1989 the Northern Ballet Theatre very nearly faced such a closure and less severe financial problems have resulted in many companies having to cancel or postpone tours and productions.
However, it must be emphasised, as my noble friend Lord Crickhowell has already said, that continuity of funding is also important. To allow any coherent arts policy to be implemented and to ensure that the traditions and the evolution of dance can be continued, there must be some degree of stability and reliance of funding. Dance, like all the performing arts, has to depend on multifarious sources of income embracing ticket sales, sponsorship and government subsidy, all of them unpredictable.
It is to be hoped that dance companies are making every effort to maximise efficiency and revenue and to keep expenses down. During a time of recession sponsorship is more difficult to obtain as the same number of prospective beneficiaries chases a reduced number of sponsors who may themselves have less to give. Inevitably, there is a greater dependence on whatever government subsidy is available, both locally and nationally. The allocation of funding by the Arts Council continues to cause considerable 595 controversy and this problem, we hope, is being addressed at present. Let us hope that a solution is found which allows an appropriate distribution of funds and which also ensures that the performing arts, such as dance, are granted the continuity of funding that is so vitally necessary. Failure to do so could result in the complete loss of artistic traditions built up, in the case of classical dance, over more than 200 years. Already a drop in standards in dance is becoming apparent.
I have argued for the need to maintain an on-going and adequate level of funding for professional dance companies. No less important is continued funding for training young dancers. In the past discretionary grants from local authorities were available for this purpose, but at present, excluding the Royal Ballet School for which separate provisions are made, award of these grants has become increasingly rare. This prevents talented children, whose parents lack sufficient financial means, from pursuing dance as a career.
Obviously the standard of dance performers is largely dependent on the quality of the training they receive. We are indeed fortunate in this country to have developed a system of classical ballet training embodied in the Royal Academy of Dancing syllabus which is now recognised in 48 countries throughout the world. The quality of the dance training in this country has meant that our young dancers and dance teachers are in considerable demand. However, the lack of opportunities here has meant that an increasing number are forced to seek their first jobs abroad, frequently in other EC countries. This poses a potential future problem. At present steps are being taken by the Council for Dance Education and Training to have dance teaching qualifications such as those offered by the Royal Academy of Dance recognised as national vocational qualifications within the UK.
When that has been achieved national recognition would ensure the free movement of qualified British dancers and ballet teachers throughout Europe as well. Failure or delay in recognising these dance qualifications could result in other EC member states introducing alternative standards which would inevitably restrict the freedom of movement of British qualified dancers and teachers in the EC.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, like many other noble Lords who have spoken, I wish to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Annan, for selecting this subject for debate. In doing so, I regret that he thought it necessary to give his distinguished blessing to the dreadful current usage of "the performing arts". The arts do not perform; people perform. If you must, the subject can be described as the "performance arts". I may be fighting a losing battle but, so far as I am concerned, it is never correct to refer to "the performing arts".
This country is no longer at the top of the league of material significance. In the Gulf we are concerned 596 with blowing up ourselves and everyone else. However, the French are stronger than we are and they take a much more sensible view of their responsibilities. The one area in which we stand high is the one which we neglect. To take a purely materialistic view, the arts are a plus in our balance of payments. Heaven knows, we need that plus!
However, our major theatrical and operatic companies survive by cutting corners. Our minor organisations in many cases are either collapsing or are on the verge of doing so. The state of the buildings which house marvellous performances is often so bad that if the legislation covering factories applied to more than one of them, no one would be allowed to work in them.
Those of us concerned with the matter have been struggling to persuade successive Governments to provide sufficient funds to enable the job to be done well. When I passed a not uncomplimentary remark about this Government the other day, I meant to say that they seemed to have got the message. I was not suggesting that, like Dr. Johnson's dog, they may not be doing it well, but the remarkable thing is that, considering their economic predilections and confusions in that area, they are doing it at all. We must be very grateful that they have seen the light. There are some exceptions to this rule, but in general the notion that there is an area in which the Government are concerned—this area is perhaps a most important area; at least as important as any other area in the performing arts—is now generally accepted.
The theatre is the art in which we have always excelled. Our performers, writers, composers, designers and directors are admired the world over, and deservedly so. The British theatre is also a hard-working and hard-earning industry. In the crudest economic terms it has attracted tourists—not many of them come to watch us play football or cricket, do they?—and has brought related earnings into Britain. Those earnings are not negligible; they are big league. I simply do not believe that people who have won us so much admiration and respect and earn us so much money, even though the profits may not show on each individual theatre's balance sheet, have suddenly all become inefficient wasters.
It is precisely at a time like this, when theatre activity itself is perceived to be at risk, that we need to look beyond the obvious, the most newsworthy problems, and lay sound foundations for the future. My noble friend Lady Birk has mentioned the Theatres Trust. I have been involved with that organisation ever since its foundation. Now that the Arts Council seems no longer to be taking much interest in buildings, I think it must work with the Theatres Trust—the two organisations will work well together—in trying to make sure that we do something about the essential basic organisation. We cannot have good theatre if there are no theatres. There is a danger of neglect in this area. I am glad to say that the Theatres Trust is expanding its interest and is being increasingly recognised for so doing.
I have another small pat on the head for the Government. They have recognised the existence of 597 the Theatres Trust, and that organisation is now accepted by the Government as being a valuable organisation. I hope that in future the theatre buildings will be better looked after than they have been in the past. That applies equally to whether the building is currently privately or publicly owned. Theatres must be preserved, and the question of their ownership is quite immaterial.
We have seen the theatre make wonderful progress in recent times. There is amazing potential. As the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, said in his most notable maiden speech—I join other noble Lords in congratulating him—there is an opportunity here which must not be neglected. Some theatres are now reappearing. The Hackney Empire, for example, is now in productive use. It was sometimes called the "sleeping beauty" and one sometimes wondered whether this sleeping beauty would ever reawaken at all. We must not say that because a theatre goes through a bad patch it is therefore gone forever and we need not worry about it. We must worry about all the theatres with which our country is so well provided.
Theatre is a complex organism in which every part depends on every other part. Scale is important; so is continuity. The greater the pool of skills and the better the distribution of venues, the healthier the activity will be. If any part is neglected, or if the continuity of tradition is interrupted, the whole fragile apparatus is put at risk. It certainly cannot be assumed that when we finally decide to restore support the activity and energy will instantly reappear. It is therefore vitally important that we keep going.
When I was Arts Minister 15 years ago I reminded the Cabinet of what Jennie Lee had said was needed. She said it was coherence, imagination and generosity. What has been said in this debate makes it clear that these three necessities are still not entirely unrecognised. There are those who see the necessity here. I hope against hope that the Government will not exclude throwing money at the problem. This is something which everyone is always instructed not to do, but as concerns the arts it seems to me that throwing money at them is much more productive than recrimination or advice.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Lord Hutchinson of Lullington
My Lords, the performing arts attract 17 million people a year. Pre-eminently they depend on the genius and commitment of the artist, rich in talent, poor in reward. Their sustenance and support depend on the wisdom, efficiency, expertise and independence of the Arts Council. Are they safe in its hands? I must confess to some doubt, although I hasten to assure the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, that I am a lifelong opponent of capital punishment.
Today the council seems but a shadow of what it was when I knew it under the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, and the only chairman of the past five not to come to this House, surprisingly, Kenneth Robinson. The council has slid off now to the obscurity of Great Peter Street, 598 insulated from the artists and the public which it exists to serve. No longer are there those rigorous, lively, monthly debates between department heads and panel chairmen and councillors that were the catalyst of our decisions, as the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, would say, in our age. Now the council communes with the chief executive alone and its decisions appear to come down from the Government.
"It's my duty", says Mr. Mellor, "to ensure proper distribution of funds". "I have decided", says Mr. Luce, "that the bulk of clients should go to regional boards chaired by my nominees; and the council's role is to be purely strategic", formulating what he calls a national policy for the arts—ten boards replicating 10 times the decimated and economical expertise of the council. There is no audible squeak about all this from the unseen and unheard councillors, of whom two appear to be practising artists and eight businessmen. I fear that this emasculated council will become a body of bureaucrats liaising, assessing, monitoring, reporting, targeting and pumping—pumping hot air.
This year's annual report of the Arts Council is not encouraging: a glossy format with pages of upbeat and anodyne articles. Of the revolution in the administration of the arts, the anxieties reflected in the resignation of Luke Rittner and the RSC's abandonment of the Barbican there is no mention. Of the desperate plight of regional theatres, the demise of Kent Opera and the National Opera crisis there is not a word. The crucial question of local authority finance is ignored. As for sponsorship in a recession, there is no place in the report. What do we find?—a fine photo of the noble Lord with Mrs. Thatcher, hardly, I fear, at arm's length.
The national arts strategy will,identify the shape and feel of the arts in the period leading up to the millenium … seeking ways to harness and energise the creative talent of the nation".It will be,a 10 year programme for the refurbishment of the cultural fabric of the nation, including the cathedrals"—the cathedrals, my Lords; the Arts Council? I note that the council's new premises were indeed taken over from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and that, ironically, they carry on the door a statue of St. Luke. Surely it is the deficits, not the cathedrals, that need to be addressed by the Arts Council.
One can have a national strategy for bureaucrats, but for the arts, never! The performing arts are unpredictable; genius and talent rise and fall, succeed and fail, without respect for packaging, marketing or cultural apartheid. Arts organisations need and want advice, assistance and, above all, the protection of a central independent council in the role of the artists' champion, responding to ideas and able to stand up to central and local political pressures. It must share in the evolution of work, it must have an international dimension and it must be housed in the cultural capital of the nation, which could so easily become the cultural capital of Europe and possibly even of the world.
I read that the translation of the new Minister for the Arts from Chief Whip to the arts is to him like moving from running a prison to running a brothel. 599 That sounds to me as if we can expect an improvement in arts funding. I welcome the perceived virility of the new Minister. I beseech him through the noble Viscount who will reply to the debate to give the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, a hands-on job, funding all the principal performance arts organisations, to give the council a role which will continue to attract staff and council members of the very highest calibre and, above all, to restore to it its independence and its arm's length stance.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Lord Gibson
My Lords, after listening to the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson, I feel a little tame and rather like the tail end of the Lord Mayor's Show. I cannot help thinking that it was a little unfortunate that the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, spoke before the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson, and that he would no doubt have wished, if he had been otherwise placed, to say something in reply and perhaps break the convention of abstaining from controversy in a maiden speech. However that may be, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, for the opportunity of this debate. I apologise for my absence at the beginning of the debate. As it happens, together with other Members of your Lordship's House, I had an appointment with the Minister for the Arts, so perhaps I may be forgiven. I therefore missed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and half of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. I shall remedy that by reading their speeches in the morning.
I listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, and I congratulate him on it. He did not deal with many of the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson, but he hardly could have done so uncontroversially. It was an excellent speech and I am sure we shall hear him on many occasions. We should be grateful to him for taking on a fascinating and very difficult job which I did in the 1970s when it was a great deal easier than it is today.
The noble Lord, Lord Annan, dealt with the problems of the national companies and so I shall not deal with them. However, I should like to emphasise one point. Although we urge the necessity for plural funding we must recognise that funds from the private sector are inevitably variable. They depend not only on the state of the economy but on the taste very often of the heads of those institutions which make the grant. In the case of our permanent arts companies, the great national companies—the orchestras and so on, the landmarks of our artistic scene—private sector funding, because it is variable, is appropriate only as a contribution to variable costs. If the nation wants these things, their fixed costs must be met by the state. What can then be left in part to private funding are the variables—programming, new productions and the like.
There is a great parallel here with the museums, where the cost of maintaining the buildings and conserving and presenting the collections should be shouldered by the state, leaving the private sector to help with acquisitions and exhibitions. To my mind, the state's responsibility for overheads should be 600 indexed for inflation and repairs and maintenance should never be allowed to fall into arrears as they have been. Only the variable costs should be subject to economy in bad times.
I want also to say something about regional affairs. Nearly a year ago we debated the proposed restructuring of arts funding and the devolution then envisaged. I believe that the committee to advise the Minister on what should be funded centrally and what regionally by the proposed regional arts boards is still sitting. In that debate, while supporting the principle of devolution, I urged that the Arts Council should not lose all its regional clients but fund directly probably some 40 of the most important arts companies in the regions, especially those doing much work outside their own regions and above all those which also work abroad and have an international reputation. After that debate I was encouraged to believe that this would be the case but I am not sure how this reorganisation is going—whether the Minister's advisory committee has reported and whether any noises are coming out of it. I hope that the Minister will have some information for us this evening.
What I do know is that those in charge of the most important regional companies are very apprehensive about being devolved to the new regional arts boards. I should like the Minister to tell us what consultation there has been with the major revenue clients other than the regional arts associations before establishing the criteria for devolving those clients.
Your Lordships may recall that the Minister for the Arts—then Mr. Luce and subsequently Mr. Mellor—laid down criteria for devolution. They were, first, that excellence in the arts would be maintained and enhanced. We can all subscribe to that; it is like saying that one is against sin. The second criterion was that regional structures must be capable of assessing and monitoring the organisations devolved. What is crucial is that the officers doing the assessing should have the necessary experience to assess what are in effect national companies located in the regions. Those bodies deserve to be assessed by national criteria. In my judgment that is best done at national level. They deserve the close attention of the best officers in the Arts Council, and it is no good expecting that all 11 regional arts boards will be staffed by officers of the experience which should be available at the centre. Furthermore, the Arts Council itself will be gravely handicapped if its own officers are not in direct contact with what is happening in the regions. That is a very important point.
I have talked to the chairman of the Hallé Orchestra, which, though its home is Manchester, is certainly a national orchestra. He tells me that the orchestra gives more concerts outside Manchester and the North West than inside. Last season it gave 95 concerts outside and 75 inside. It receives much more local authority support outside the North West—last season, 042,000—than inside—last season, £334,000. The fear is that the local authorities in the North West, all under pressure to cut expenditure, will say, "We've got to give to the new arts board north west so why 601 should we contribute also to the Hallé directly?" The arts board north west may well say, "Why should the Hallé spend 60 per cent. of its time and by implication 60 per cent. of our arts board money outside the North West?" And finally the arts board north west may well say, 'We support two orchestras, Liverpool and Manchester. Each spends less than half of its time in this region. Let's support one, and let it give all its concerts in our region". To regionalise such orchestras as the Hallé seems madness to me. I hope that wisdom will prevail.
Finally, I have just enough time to say a word about Ministers for the Arts. In my five years at the Arts Council I reported to four Ministers, two Conservative and two Labour. While broad strategy on funding was constantly discussed, none of them ever suggested to me how much or to whom grants should be made, let alone gave instructions. Is this changing? I noticed, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, Mr. Mellor saying he would concern himself with the detailed application of the enhancement grants, I suppose he thought that, having argued with the Treasury for extra cash, it ought to have been spent in accordance with his argument. I just wish that he had trusted the Arts Council: he could have done so, and also trusted the basis of the system.
I believe I detect a less hands-on approach with Mr. Renton. The fact is that, though timely in national terms, the arts grant has such a high profile that Ministers for the Arts are bound to feel concerned, and they are tempted to interfere. When they do so the arm's length principle goes for nothing. Ministers for the Arts must stick to broad policy and keep their hands off the decisions for grants; otherwise the Arts Council will become an advisory body—and who will want to serve on it then?
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Lord Elibank
My Lords, we are invited by the terms of the Motion to consider problems affecting the performing arts. I should like to spend a few minutes considering two problems which have caused me concern. The first is the appropriate amount of government subsidy to the arts. This seems, in the eye of the public, to be assessed by relating any increase that the Government offer in the total grant to the grant which was offered in the previous year. If it is an increase in excess of the cost of living the Government are praised; if it is below they are generally abused; but the essential base is last year's grant.
It is very difficult from that sort of base to assess whether this country is in fact putting enough money into the arts as a whole compared with our neighbours. It is much easier to make a comparison, say, with the armaments industry and the outlay on armaments of our rivals and possible enemies, in percentage terms, than it is to make the same comparison in arts expenditure. Of course, the Government's outlay is not the only one. As the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, said in his most excellent maiden speech, the local authorities themselves put in something like—I think I am quoting correctly—£200 602 million. Of course, a large part of that has come directly or indirectly from the Government, and so comparison is difficult.
It is fairly easy to compare specific artistic projects. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, referred to the Royal Opera House which compares its receipts from governments with what other major opera houses in Europe receive from their governments. Comparisons show that it receives less but that it puts on many more performances. However, that sort of direct comparison is much more difficult in other forms of the performing arts. Nations vary in their enthusiasm and in the tradition they have in respect of individual arts. We might say that so far as Britain is concerned the theatre is perhaps our chief glory. We might say with some confidence that our theatre is as good as, and probably better than, any in the Western world. The Italians might make the same claim for opera and the Germans would certainly make it for all forms of music.
I can remember when I was stationed in Essen for three months—Essen being a not particularly distinguished town in the Ruhr—that the town managed from its own funds and from funds given by the government to put on a continuous programme of opera right through the winter and at the same time to maintain a symphony orchestra which gave regular and very high quality performances. I doubt whether there is a provincial town in this country which could equal that. It merely illustrates the priority given by the Germans to music. If we are to put money into the arts should we, as the military preach, reinforce success, or should we spread the arts subsidy, as we have, fairly thinly over all our performing arts?
The second problem concerns the number of people who actually attend artistic performances. The Arts Council report contains the results of a study which was either commissioned by it or adopted by it. The report states that about 25 per cent. of the population attend the theatre. That is a very reasonable and acceptable percentage; but the percentage of those who attend opera and ballet is a little over 6 per cent. I am a confirmed opera lover but I wonder how far we can justify the enormous expenditure in subsidies which we have to make to maintain our operatic standards at their existing level. It is true that the same report shows that operatic attendances have increased by 15 per cent. in the past four years. That is a source of great encouragement, but of course it is from a fairly low numerical base.
Those are two of the problems. I believe that we must try to look ahead with a mixture of enthusiasm, hope and faith in order to justify the expenditures we are now considering. Education is one of the main grounds on which we should invest in the arts. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, mentioned a rather fine form of reinforcing the life force. I believe that we educate our young because those of us of a certain age have derived enormous pleasure all our lives from the arts and we desperately wish them to have the same opportunities. For that, I for one am certainly prepared to pay my taxes.
Lastly, I should like to mention the element of national pride. There are certain things—buildings, 603 perhaps, rather than performances—in which the whole country can take a certain pride. For example, the National Opera House in Sydney is a source of great pride to all Australians, most of whom have no intention of ever going inside it. The same is true of our Royal Opera House. It now badly needs refurbishment and enlargement. I am not sure what stage the negotiations have now reached or whether they are faltering in any way for lack of funds; but if they are I most earnestly exhort the Government to step in and offer whatever funds they can make available.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Lord Donoughue
My Lords, I must join others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, on a remarkable maiden speech. It was so fluent and so authoritative that I feel he really deserves to lead a more effective Arts Council. I had some sympathy with the delightfully gentle observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson. We have to thank the noble Lord, Lord Annan, for opening the debate in such a characteristically brilliant way. I opened a similar debate some four years ago. I am not sure, I must confess, whether much has changed. However, I am sure that the noble Lord will have more effect: he is absolutely right in saying that many difficult choices lie ahead. His point on renewal capital is central to the problems that exist.
However, because we have to make difficult choices, it does not mean that they should be made against a tighter financial background. They should be made against the background philosophy of fundamental support for the arts. We should not yield an inch on that.
British society is blessed with some of the greatest artistic performers in the world, but it is always reluctant to pay for them. By international standards, British governments, both central and local, are mean. Cambridge has been mentioned. Edinburgh is notorious. And there are a number of others. Many of the most mean are accidentally Conservative local governments. The Government could therefore take a lead and ask them not to penny pinch.
British companies are less mean, and they are improving. The honours system could be used even more to encourage support for the arts. I look forward to a time when donations rank equally with those to the Conservative Party in securing admission to this House.
British individuals are mean. Speaking personally, as someone who has been connected for over a dozen years with a leading London orchestra in trying to raise funds, I am bound to say that the established rich in Britain, not unconnected with this House—what is called old money—do not give. The turnout today is quite good, but it is not as impressive as that for Monday's debate on racing. That debate saw an excellent turnout. I wonder, however, whether it shows a correct sense of priority.
Sponsorship and the giving of money in Britain now depend heavily upon two sources—Japanese 604 firms in this country, to which we should offer great appreciation, and, as always, the Jewish community. Without them, British music would be in serious trouble. Our society, our Government and our education system influence values. They must give a lead and set an example so that giving to the arts is seen as a positive good and a social norm.
The Government's proposals for delegating support for the arts to the regions were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Gibson. The Government have made four major exceptions: the two opera companies, Covent Garden and the English National Opera, and the two leading theatres, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre. Those companies are described as national flagships because of their national and international standing. I would not argue against that. However, I should like to ask why no orchestras are described as flagships. It is very damaging to our great orchestras that they should appear to be denigrated in that way. One accepts that it is a problem which occurs in any flagship system. But there are several orchestras in London of great national and international reputation. No other city in the world can compete with London as a centre of orchestral music. Berlin or New York cannot compete with what we have here. It is a strength that we should enforce and not denigrate.
Our orchestras travel internationally. The first example of excellence given by the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, was the London Symphony's triumphal tour of Japan. If one looks at the league table internationally, our best orchestras are as good as, and probably rank higher than, our opera companies. To classify them merely as "regional" damages their ability to attract great artists and great conductors. The great conductors of the world often accept less money when they come to London and would not wish to conduct a regional orchestra.
I look forward to hearing the noble Viscount's comments. We note that the new Minister for the Arts is reconsidering the policy of delegation. I ask through the noble Viscount on the Front Bench that the Minister should reconsider a curious anomaly. I wonder whether it would not be logical to designate two orchestras as flagships.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Lord Goodman
My Lords, I speak as the most veteran member of artistic administration. When I reflect briefly on the jobs that I have held, I must have a high degree of responsibility for the chaos that now exists. However, I have not come here to apologise. As a veteran I am very pleased that I have been able to sit here since 2.30 p.m., waiting to hear Lord Palumbo's speech. I regard that time as being well spent. His speech gave me a feeling of confidence that the arts are in safe hands.
A number of points have arisen in the debate that require more than seven minutes to deal with, but I should like to mention two matters of some importance. One of them was illustrated with characteristic vigour and colour by the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson. He referred to the quite appalling 605 attacks that have been made on the independence of the Arts Council. It is frightening to discover that more recent Ministers for the Arts have not had the least idea of the basic foundation of the Arts Council. The dual principle of independence was a novelty to them and, having heard about it, they were outraged that it should exist.
The Arts Council has never been popular with the Civil Service and when the Civil Service finally detected that it had escaped the leash and was free to spend the money as it liked, it determined to do something to stop it. I do not think that there has been a more stupid arrangement than that which delegates the responsibility for distributing the money, and for watching over and administering the arts, to 10 or 11 regional authorities. If the slightest moment of reflection had been given to that situation, it would have been apparent that it could only mean a thorough decline in artistic standards.
The Arts Council is one of the great British institutions and we ought to be horrified at any notion of dismantling it. The Arts Council has a vast number of very well informed committees to advise it. There are committees for every form of artistic discipline. Where will the 11 new regional authorities get the committees? They do not exist. People of the quality of those who have willingly volunteered to serve on the Arts Council cannot be multiplied by 10, but no one has thought of that point. There has obviously been a great determination to curtail the independence of the Arts Council.
Recently I had the advantage of speaking at some length with the new Minister and he inspires me with a good deal of confidence because he told me that he was reflecting on what to do about the delegation scheme. He conveyed to me, without saying so, that he was minded to make considerable changes in the proposals. That is the most encouraging thing that I have heard for a long time. I have been greatly exercised by a feeling that an institution that we had all served, respected and admired, was in danger of being dismantled in favour of 10 new organisations that have no track record at all and which could not hope to have the facilities that have been developed by the Arts Council over the 50 years or so that it has been in existence.
The statesman from Wales expressed criticism that the chairman and members of Arts Council boards were not paid. It would be very wrong if they were paid. There is already enough criticism of the expenditure of the Arts Council. It is required to restrict expenditure as much as possible. If 11 new chairmen are paid, the cries of rage that will arise from the deprived beneficiaries cannot be imagined. I earnestly hope that any such notion will be dismissed.
I feel that the emphasis on money is just a little excessive. The most important consideration in the arts is quality. Quality cannot be bought with money. Of course, that is not to say that I believe you can run orchestras, theatres and ballet and opera companies without it. However, money should not be allowed to become an obsession. In my view it has recently become an obsession so far as concerns the Arts 606 Council and its supporters. Everywhere you go, everyone is talking about how the extra money can be found.
I should like to give a word of warning about the suggestion for a national lottery. If the Arts Council really thinks that if we had a lottery it would be the first beneficiary, it had better think again. During the debate which took place in this House on horseracing just the other day, it became clear that racing has its eye on such a pot. If we stop to consider the number of people who have their eyes on that pot, it is obvious that the Arts Council must look for other sources.
We must not do anything which will enable the Arts Council to consider itself alibied in relation to subsidising the arts. A lottery is another form of alibi. A form of alibi which was very useful but excessively used was the question of private and commercial funds. I am a great believer in an alternative source of support for the arts other than from the Arts Council. There must be a kind of court of appeal for someone who has failed to get his orchestra, his novel or his play subsidised by the council. Such a person should at least be able to apply to another organisation which could provide him with private moneys. That is a most important consideration. However, again, it has become an obsession with the Government—and not this Government alone—who are constantly pointing out the vast resources which are available from commercial institutions. If you examine the matter closely and scientifically, such vast resources do not exist. It is quite certain that you could not substitute private funds for the public funds which are submitted because there are just not enough of them.
I should like now to give your Lordships one instance of the importance of public subsidy in relation to the theatre. I visited my first West End theatre at the age of six. It was a play called "The Garden of Allah". I do not believe that anyone present in the Chamber is old enough to remember it. However, a study of that time would show that the theatre was indeed in a deplorable situation. Almost every play which was produced was set in upper-class drawing rooms and dealt with the scandals that took place in them.
I was present when, for the first time ever, the West End theatre saw fit to put on a Cockney play. It was called "Low Tide" and was written by an East-End bookseller. It was a remarkable play. However, it took years before the theatre was prepared to make such a change. In the hands of commercial interests, there is no doubt that the theatre was in a sad and unsatisfactory state. If one studied the theatre lists of that time, no evidence would be found of any Shakespeare play being presented. I do not want to suggest that all valuable dramatic literature was expelled from the scene. Of course, Bernard Shaw works went on being produced after a brisk exchange with the censors. Similarly, Ibsen was played after an equally brisk exchange. However, the notion that the theatre was an adequate instrument to portray the dramatic talent of this country is completely fallacious.
607 I believe—I hope rightly—that the Arts Council is now in very safe hands. I urge the chairman of the council and its members to protect to the last drop of their blood, and to the last pound in their bank account, the liberties which we have extracted with great difficulty and which the present Government, not brazenly or wantonly, but out of sheer ignorance, are neglecting. The Arts Council's dual policy, which has kept it going and caused it to be admired all over the world, has been that there should be no governmental interference with the council's decisions and that the function of government is merely to supply money.
The report in question is an abominable document to many civil servants. But I believe that this most dangerous thing which is about to happen is the product of the imagination of a civil servant. The line between the Arts Council and civil servants is not a strong one. I believe that I have addressed your Lordships for more than seven minutes. In the circumstances, I should like to say once again that I wish the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, every success. If the debate has served the purpose of awakening him and the other members of the Arts Council to the dangers which exist, it will not have been in vain.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Lord Auckland
My Lords, about two decades ago I moved a debate in this House on a report which had just been published on the Arts Council. Having heard the quality of speeches tonight, I can only say about myself, "What an upstart"—especially as I coined a phrase at that time "Penicillin before Puccini". I hope that that does not sound too philistine. However, as I have a special interest in both the health service and the arts it is a question to some extent of priorities. There are 60 million people in this country. Penicillin is a life saver; of course, Puccini is not a life saver, although life without him would be very dull.
I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, that the London orchestras are first-class. I entirely agree with him. I have one particularly good friend who used to be a leading violinist in the London Symphony Orchestra. I too believe that our orchestras can hold their own against those of any other country. The same principle applies to the English National Opera. Anyone who has seen its performance of "Hansel and Gretel" will agree, certainly in the musical sense, that it was a treat from the first to the last bar. The standards achieved in its music, although not always in its settings, are absolutely first-class.
I should like to say a few words about the regional arts. There is a country called Scotland. The Perth and Pitlochry theatres, with which I am mildly acquainted, have put on some absolutely first-class shows. They only receive a grant of about £360,000 per year. The Pitlochry Theatre in particular presents plays of exceptionally high quality. Those who know Scotland well will agree that it is very much a tourist area. Indeed, a large number of overseas visitors go to Perth and Pitlochry and of course to other parts of Scotland. I should like at this stage to put in a plea for the 608 Scottish National Orchestra which has toured widely, as has Scottish Opera, which has some marvellous singers. Mention has already been made of Wales, and everyone knows that the young person who won the Young Musician of the Year competition not so long ago came from Wales.
I believe that we should also take the regional theatres into consideration. I am especially concerned with the Thorndike Theatre in Leatherhead which has survived through some dire times and which has received very generous financial benefaction from the Kenwright family. The theatre has now been revamped and the company puts on high quality productions before they are transferred to the West End. The same applies to our choirs. I should like to put in a personal plug at this stage because my wife has sung in our local choral society in Surrey for 20 years. Last year the society visited Germany and gave two concerts in Cologne Cathedral. Very shortly the choir from Cologne is to visit Surrey to sing with our society in Mendelssohn's great oratorio, "Elijah". I mention that because I think that it is often believed that the finest singers come from France, Italy or Spain. That is no longer true. I should be the last to denigrate singers such as Placido Domingo or José Carreras, but again I wish to be personal and bring up names like Gwyneth Jones, who has sung all over the world. We are a musical country and that should be recognised when we consider the arts.
Funding is rather like the diagnosis and the cure: we all wish to see almost unlimited money going to the arts, particularly the regional arts. It is not only Covent Garden and the English National Opera that give pleasure. Many people will have seen Opera for All, the group which travels all over England, Scotland and Wales to districts where people cannot always reach the cities. It plays an enormously important role.
I wish to associate myself with the tributes paid to the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, on his excellent maiden speech. Perhaps more consideration could be given to the regions because tourism is a vital aspect of funding for this country. At present it faces problems for reasons which are well known, but not all tourists go to London. They go to Scotland, Wales and the small towns. The main word in the Motion is "problems". When we allocate funds there are problems anyway. But my final plea is this. Yes, of course London must be funded. It is the capital city. But the regions are also important.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Lord Lloyd of Hampstead
My Lords, I propose to confine my remarks to an area of the performing arts which is sometimes regarded as less significant than the traditional forms of opera, theatre and so on. It is perhaps worthy of note that we have so far heard 14 speakers and I am the first to propose to refer to films. I qualify that by pointing out that in his splendid opening speech the noble Lord, Lord Annan, was good enough to couple the film industry with the other arts in his concluding remarks. However, it is fair to say that I am the first speaker to venture to deal with the film industry.
609 The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said in this House recently that the arts in this country are always undervalued. I do not know that I go along totally with that, but the words can be justly applied to the attitude of government towards films. The government have seemed always to take the view that there is no reason why the film industry should need support. Their minds are much directed towards the rather glitzy Hollywood atmosphere where the film industry has been totally self-supporting throughout its days.
It is sometimes overlooked that Hollywood has a vast domestic market for which to provide films. This country is in the same position as other European countries which have to wrestle with a small market. Therefore, the industry requires some form of external assistance, which is more readily forthcoming, I am bound to say, in European film-making countries than in our own.
In the limited time at my disposal I wish to concentrate on the production aspect of films which unfortunately has been undergoing a serious decline. It is universally recognised in this country that we have a tremendous wealth of talent. I am familiar with it from my former chairmanship of the National Film and Television School and the British Film Institute. One fact is clear: if we do not have a solid base of feature film production there will be a brain drain —it is already taking place—which will create a cultural and commercial disaster in this sphere.
Films are an extremely high risk industry and expensive to produce. I confine myself to what are usually described as low or medium budget films which can be said to cost at present between £2 million and £6 million. In the light of that, there is a problem which has perhaps been added to by the extraordinary speed with which one Minister with responsibility for the film industry has succeeded another. We have had 11 since 1979, which has made it extremely difficult to establish continuity. Nevertheless, a hopeful development occurred last June when the then Prime Minister decided to hold a seminar at No. 10 to discuss with leading figures in the industry the whole position of the film industry. Since then, there has been a change both or Prime Minister and of the Minister responsible for the industry. One wonders whether the same degree of commitment remains.
I ask that because one valuable development might be through encouraging British co-productions with other European producers. The Government have already backed out of any support for the Council of Europe's fund for that purpose. However, unexpectedly, this seminar produced a proposal for a £5 million fund over three years to attract European money. I was saddened to read in The Times yesterday that the DTI now appears to be pouring cold water over the scheme. I hope, therefore, that the discussions which I understand are soon to take place will nevertheless produce a fruitful outcome.
In the limited time that remains to me I wish to refer briefly to one of the main matters which emerged from the seminar: how to find more effective ways of attracting new investment. It was agreed that subsidies 610 or handouts were not wanted but that certain fiscal and financial incentives were. Three proposals are put forward for this purpose and I can mention them only briefly. First is relief for new investment in UK film production; secondly, a method of writing off expenditure incurred in producing films; and, thirdly, taxing visiting artists. There are ways in which, by reasonable modifications of the existing law, these matters can be brought into focus and considerably assist with finding investment for new films.
I conclude by saying that it is recognised on all sides that fresh incentives are needed if this vital industry is to be restored to health. I express the hope that the indications given by the previous Prime Minister's initiative will be likely to produce helpful consequences for the film industry.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Viscount Mersey
My Lords, first I wish to mention that fertile seedbed of performing artists, the Royal Academy of Music. This deservedly has a reputation as a centre of excellence. It is, however, very small, internationally speaking. Its total income of £3 million is equal only to the annual profit of, say, the Juilliard in New York. In Paris a conservatoire has been built that is far bigger than any of our colleges or our academy. The conservatoire cost £40 million to build and it was entirely paid for by the French taxpayer. I dare say that New York, Paris and Leipzig wish to take over London's enviable position as the music capital of the world. Thus they expand their colleges and they offer other carrots such as free tuition. So far, London is maintaining its position. But the coming of the single market in 1992 will prove a danger. It would be sad indeed if our brightest young musicians went abroad and London lost its pre-eminent position.
The Royal Academy is our oldest music college. Only rarely has it relied entirely on government money. In the 19th century all funding was private. In the 20th century the funding was entirely public only for a short period in the 1970s. Presently the Royal Academy enjoys mixed funding. The private funding comes from its own Royal Academy of Music Foundation, while the public funding comes from the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council. At first glance both of those sources look healthy. The foundation has raised a respectable £4.5 million. As regards the public funding, the principal, Sir David Lumsden, said:The PCFC have announced that, unlike most other educational establishments within the sector, the Academy will receive in 1991–2 an increase on the previous year's grant rather than suffer a reduction in funds. We are very pleased at this outcome. It vindicates the Academy's stance".Therefore one might say that the glory of the garden lies just south of Regent's Park.
The glory also lies in star teachers such as Robert Tear, Anne Sophie Mutter, Hans Werner Henze, Lynn Harrell and Sir Colin Davies. Those teachers are international names who have trained up young genii which noble Lords may not yet know of. However, 611 they certainly will know of them in five years' time. I refer to Peter Sheppard, Neil Davies, Mark Wigglesworth and Evelyn Glennie. Perhaps the academy's greatest achievement was to attract the Stenzl brothers from West Germany. I maintain that those two men are Germany's finest young pianists. Noble Lords lucky enough to go to Salzburg for the Mozart bicentenary will hear them playing his double piano concerto.
The Stenzls chose London because of its pre-eminent position, but they chose the academy because of a star piano teacher, Stephen Bishop Kovacevich. Would that I could continue in such a hopeful vein. However, I cannot. Stephen Bishop has now left the academy. Anne Sophie Mutter will leave in eight days' time. Hans Werner Henze and Robert Tear will also leave. Lynn Harrell leaves in September and Sir Colin Davies will leave next year. The academy can no longer afford to keep them. The private funds that paid their salaries are now all needed to maintain the students.
It costs £6,500 a year to fund a student. Of that sum only £2,500 funds the tuition. The other £4,000 is meant to fund simple living, which in London is very expensive. Soon it will be possible, and tempting, for a British student to collect his grant and take off for Paris where the living is cheaper and the teaching is free. The academy accepts that the ability to compete with the huge foreign conservatoires is paramount. For that financial ability to be real, my noble friend Lord Gowrie has recommended in his report that a simple extra sum of £ 1,000 per student per year should be made available. It would indeed be a good thing if the Government could provide that by central block grant.
The source of that extra funding could so easily be a national lottery. The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has already referred to that. The per capita contribution would be considerable. I know, for instance, that the average Spaniard spends £1.20 per week on his national lottery while the average Irishman spends £2.20. There is an additional reason for having a British lottery in that it would pre-empt the attractive offers to partake in foreign lotteries that are already flooding into this country. At the moment Her Majesty's Customs intercepts 3 million lottery letters every week coming in from the Continent. However, after 1992—that is exactly when the British student will so easily be able to take his music grant abroad —that Customs machinery will be dismantled and we shall be bombarded with foreign lottery material offering prizes of at least £1 million.
It therefore seems to me to be almost a necessity to introduce a British lottery. At a contribution of only £2 per person per week its annual gross income would not be a mere £1 billion, as the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, has said. Its gross annual income would be £5 billion. That is more than enough for every kind of performing artist and—the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, will be pleased to hear this—for every performing horse.
612 It is good to be on top and to be the best of the bunch. London is just that in the world of music. London must continue in its pre-eminence. However, we pay our music colleges rather little. With the new freedom of the 1992 market we shall become second best, unless we turn that freedom into a challenge. We must nurture our young musicians. We can at least double their funding by means of a lottery. We can rival Paris and New York.
It is odd to think of that former Academician, Sir Arthur Sullivan, setting to music 100 years ago words from Patience (or Bunthorne's Bride) that are so apt today. He made Bunthorne sing:By the advice of my solicitor I've put myself up to be raffled for".For Bunthorne, read Norman Lamont, and we are home and dry.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, for interrupting the beginning of his speech. I must also apologise to the noble Viscount if I fail to follow him on the advantages and disadvantages, intricacies and threats, of lotteries pouring into this country from abroad. I am sure that we should look at what the noble Viscount said with great attention. I myself have no very strong views on that matter.
Like other noble Lords, I wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Annan, for introducing this debate. I agree entirely with the message that he sought to convey. It will allow me not to go over familiar ground which he covered so cogently. As I understood it, the noble Lord was saying that the challenge and the problems of the arts cannot be met without greater expenditure and that expenditure must come from the Government, at least in part. The noble Lord also said that he thought this was a bad time to ask for extra expenditure. I, on the contrary, remembering the message of the noble Lord's former colleague at King's College, Cambridge, Lord Keynes, believe that a recession is the right time to spend money. Therefore this is an excellent time to spend more money on the arts.
I, too, wish to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, on his excellent and eloquent maiden speech. I hope that the next debate on this subject will be opened by my noble friend Lord Hutchinson and replied to by the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo. I believe that that would even the scores. I hope, however, that the noble Lord has received a message from this House—that when we debated this subject in April 1990, almost a year ago, we were much concerned with the degree and form of devolution of the Arts Council which was then proposed. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, referred to that. I hope that when the Minister replies to the debate he will tell us where that matter now stands. The criticism of that plan made last April, and repeated today by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, is extremely cogent.
The idea that one can have 10 federal bodies monitoring expenditure and other matters, and that this can be done efficiently and without an increase in 613 expenditure, seems to me nonsense. We must be told how that is proposed to be carried out. I would add that it is even more of a nonsense to have a federal structure where only five members of the federation are represented on the central council. What is the position of the other five members? Are they second-class members, or not members at all? How do they make the views of their constituencies known?
Another matter which we discussed and which has been mentioned in the debate today is that the position of the Arts Council was being eroded and emasculated—the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, referred to that—and its authority was being undermined. In my view, and I believe in the view of most of your Lordships, that situation is a serious blow to the administration of the arts in this country. To interfere in the Arts Council in that way would undermine the arm's length principle which is at the heart of the matter. Unless we maintain that arm's length principle the centralising tendencies of the Government, which we have seen exhibited in the words of Mr. Mellor and other recent Ministers for the Arts, will be rampant. If there is one subject that politicians are not qualified to talk about, still less act on, it is the arts. I have always had doubts as to whether one should have a Minister for the Arts. If one has such a Minister one must have a strong and independent Arts Council between him and the artists.
The second issue which has been raised in the debate is finance. I need not repeat the dramatic figures which the noble Lord, Lord Annan, set forth, comparing government support for the arts in this country with support for the arts by our neighbours in France. Germany and Denmark. The effect has been that our major national and other institutions have to find a far higher percentage of their revenue from the box office. In the case of Covent Garden, it is 58 per cent., as against 25 per cent. in Hamburg and 17 per cent. in Paris.
The consequence is obvious. It raises the price of seats inordinately and exorbitantly. It deprives the public, who are the taxpayers paying for those institutions in some part, of the possibility of visiting those venues. That in itself is a serious matter which deserves the Government's attention.
Finally, a decreasing proportion of expenditure will be provided by the Arts Council—40 per cent. next year—for the financing of a body such as Covent Garden. How is that gap to be filled? It was in order to fill the gap that sponsorship became so fashionable. That accorded very well with some of the ideas of the former Prime Minister and it introduced into the world of the arts an enterprise culture to eliminate what was seen as a welfare state and dependency culture. That was the message which sponsorship was to deliver.
We must remember certain things about sponsorship. It is not without its uses. It provides the icing on the cake. But it does not do other things. It cannot provide a reliable source of revenue. As its exponents readily admit, it is a form of advertising. That is how Luke Rittner and the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, 614 described it. Those who use it will stop their sponsorship just as advertisers stop their advertising campaigns.
Sponsorship has a curious impact on the companies which become dependent on it. It affects their culture. They employ a large number of people who are unproductive in the sense that they have nothing to do with the arts but who are concerned with raising money. That section of the staff of the Royal Opera House has increased 50 per cent. in the past eight years. It also means that the boards of those companies are stuffed with rich businessmen who are there to touch other rich businessmen for money. That is not the principle on which the boards of opera houses should be appointed.
The message which this debate sends to the Government is a very simple one. No amount of administrative tinkering and reorganisation will resolve the problems which face the arts. It may make them worse but will not by itself make them better. Until the Government recognise that the arts, like so much else in this country, need investment and that the primary responsibility for that investment lies with the Government those problems will not be tackled.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Lord Morris of Castle Morris
My Lords, we have had a splendid debate and we are extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, for introducing it. I am sure that he will be heartened and encouraged by the number of speakers and by the strength of feeling and power of utterance which the subject has evoked. On behalf of all of us on these Benches I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, on his most distinguished maiden speech. How eloquently he upheld the performances of our artists at home and abroad, and how fortifying were the figures he gave us.
It is clear that in your Lordships' House the performing arts (pace my noble friend Lord Jenkins) are not regarded as the icing on the cake or the frill around the cutlet, but are recognised as an integral part of the very stuff, texture and colour of our national life at all levels.
Yet has not this debate made one thing abundantly clear? Her Majesty's Government have no policy whatsoever on the performing arts in this country; or, rather, in the past 10 years they have had more arts policies than hot breakfasts. Recently, as one Minister for the Arts has succeeded another with lightning speed, the left hand has not known what the right hand was doing. Opera, music and theatre have been a political football and the arts have been, in Chaucer's immortal phrase:Now up, now down, like bucket in a well".Mr. Richard Luce, towards the end of the period of comparative calm and sanity over which he presided, suddenly commissioned the Wilding Report. All powers were to be devolved to the regional arts associations (pace Lord Goodman). The ACGB was to be more important, but more impotent, and the performing arts were to flourish like the green bay tree 615 under local control, while screaming aloud for local sponsorship, or any other sponsorship—any port in a storm.
Then, to our infinite regret, exit Mr. Luce, stage left. Enter, through a trap door with fire and smoke, Mr. David Mellor. The Wilding Report retires to the back burner, the chairmen of the regional arts associations are to be appointed by the Minister, central control is strengthened, and we kiss devolution goodbye. Out of his sleeve the new Minister produces the "Enhancement Fund"—not new money, but a top slice of his budget, as my noble friend Lady Birk pointed out. The strong shall be rewarded while the weak go to the wall. There will he no lame ducks waddling around this marketplace!
But before he had time to turn round Mr. Mellor was whisked away to higher pastures, and his part is played for this performance (with remarkably little rehearsal) by Mr. Renton. Mr. Renton is less convinced than his predecessor of the virtues of the enhancement fund, and he varies its distribution. He seems less overtly interventionist, more content to let the Arts Council control the distribution of resources, more at ease with the trusty old arm's length principle. Perhaps there may be a "steady state" theory in Government policy, as the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, profoundly hoped.
But, within weeks we learn that one very high profile client, the Welsh National Opera, is in deep financial trouble and facing a deficit of some £842,000. As the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said, this is a very serious matter. The Arts Council is not disposed to throw it a lifebelt, and we steel ourselves to watch the inexorable progress of the iron steamroller of market forces as it crushes this delicate flower in its path. But, surprise, surprise! Enter the Good Fairy, in the shape of the Secretary of State for Wales, who waves his magic wand and the deficit vanishes in a flash of light. For this relief much thanks, as the noble Lord Crickhowell, explained.
What price the arm's length principle now? From the Minister on this matter we hear only an ear-splitting silence. What a policy! What a pantomime! The inconsistency, the shilly-shallying, the lack of purpose or plan could hardly be better illustrated than by the debilitating mess attendant upon the premature winding down of Greater London Arts and the continuing delays in setting up the new London Arts Board to take its place. I hope that the Minister will comment on that when he replies. The momentum built up over years has been lost. The London Boroughs Grant Committee (which has publicly determined the arts as its lowest priority) failed on 6th February to set a budget, leaving dozens of its clients at real risk of liquidation. Now the Arts Council has had to step in to take direct control of London's arts funding while the confusion is resolved.
The message which comes through loud and clear is that funding of the arts is important, but consistency of policy is equally vital if the performing arts are to know where they are going. The message is equally clear that the arts as a whole will never flourish in this 616 country so long as the Government regard the post of Minister for the Arts as no more than a waiting room for a likely lad.
The Minister will of course tell us in his reply that Government funding for the performing arts has increased by x per cent. in real terms over whatever period of years fits his case best.
I could reply that it has been reliably estimated that, excluding replacement and earmarked funding, the core funding of the arts is now down to 78 per cent. of what it was in 1978–79. And we shall both be profoundly unimpressed with each other's figures. Never before have we heard of blackouts in the Barbican at the same time that we hear of the death of Kent Opera and of the Liverpool Playhouse calling in the receivers in two months' time, and so on and on.
As has been evident from all sides of your Lordships' House, there is a growing demand for the performing arts in this country. Yet, as Milton put it:The hungry sheep look up, and arc not fed".So far as concerns the citizens of this country, the Government would do well to remember that man does not live by bread alone.
§ 7.50 p.m.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, for initiating today's debate on the performing arts. I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, on his interesting and informative maiden speech. I know that all noble Lords will look forward to hearing him in future debates in this House, particularly in his important role as chairman of the Arts Council. I shall endeavour to reply later in my speech to the learned contributions of other noble Lords. I have to confess that probably their experience in these matters is rather greater than mine.
The noble Lord, Lord Annan, seeks to draw attention to the problems facing the performing arts. With great respect perhaps I may suggest that attention might also have been drawn to the extraordinary growth, health and vigour of this great national asset. I am not suggesting that all is well, but the fact is that over the past decade the arts in Great Britain have gone from strength to strength. That is particularly true of the performing arts. I commend to your Lordships the most recent annual report of the Arts Council of Great Britain. It provides an informed and balanced overview of the state of the nation's theatre, music and dance. Far from being a litany of gloom and despair, it is a record of achievement, confidence and even cautious optimism.
In his personal contribution to the report the secretary general of the Arts Council suggests—rightly in my view —that the arts in Great Britain are enjoying a renaissance. Certainly in terms of quality, diversity, accessibility and volume, the arts have reached unprecedented levels. In 1989–90 about 17 million adults (nearly 40 per cent. of the population) attended plays, concerts, the opera, ballet and exhibitions supported by the Arts Council. That was about 1 million more than four years ago.
617 There is plenty of other good news. Since it was founded the Arts Council has helped establish five new dance companies, seven new opera companies, 34 new regional theatre companies, 30 new theatre buildings and 10 new art and photography galleries. There will be over 600 arts festivals in Britain this year excluding amateur events. What other capital city can boast four great international orchestras, a national theatre with three performing stages, the Royal Shakespeare Company making a welcome return to the Barbican, two great opera companies and the range and quality of the West End commercial theatre?
I invite noble Lords to consider also the range of provision outside London. There are truly fine orchestras of the standing of the CBSO, the RLPO and the Hallé. There are regional theatres and art galleries. Glasgow's tremendous success as the European City of Culture in 1990 has set a standard that others will have difficulty in matching. Like Glasgow, Birmingham has now emerged as a great city of the arts with its new concert hall for the CBSO and new homes for Birmingham Royal Ballet and the D'Oyly Carte Company.
But all is not good news. There are difficulties, some serious and some pressing, as your Lordships have identified. I would suggest that many derive from short-term economic circumstances and are not faced by the arts alone. But the real problem goes deeper. There are three main reasons.
First, the tremendous growth of interest in the arts, which is a thoroughly good thing and welcomed without reservation, has meant that there is constant pressure for the expansion of arts facilities. The second reason is linked to that. Every additional pound invested in the arts in developing new facilities further fuels the demand, not only among the public but, understandably, as a result of their expanding expectations, of the artists themselves. The third reason is that even though successive governments have increased funding for the arts—I shall say more about the present Government's record in a moment —those increases have had to be apportioned among a growing list of clients and have not been evenly distributed.
Successive Ministers for the Arts and the Arts Council have rightly established priorities and have made difficult choices, recognising that the arts are dynamic and that the old must sometimes give way to the new. That process of change is fundamental to the health of the arts. I therefore suggest that the financial difficulties of some of the arts organisations, to which noble Lords have referred, need to be viewed in a wider context. They are not born of failure or decline, nor indeed of government neglect, but result from success, the internal dynamics of the arts and the difficulty of satisfying the appetite of the arts world and the general public.
The Government have an excellent record on funding of the performing arts. I shall restrict myself to several basic statistics to demonstrate that. The Government's grant to the Arts Council of Great Britain in the next financial year will be £194 million. That is an 11 per cent. increase on the current year's 618 grant of £174 million, itself an unprecedented increase of 12.5 per cent. on the previous year. Lest noble Lords be tempted to think that these two very good years—with increases well ahead of inflation—mask a less impressive earlier record, I should point out that since 1979 the value of the Arts Council's grant will have risen next year by 38 per cent. in real terms. Over a still longer timescale—I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, will be interested to hear this—the grant has risen over 200 per cent. in real terms since the end of the 1960s, which is often regarded as the golden age of the arts.
The truth is that public subsidy is a significant element of the total arts economy. But it is not and should not be the only element. Self-generated income has risen by over 40 per cent. from £91 million in 1988–89 to an estimated £125 million next year. Local authorities also spend a good deal on the arts, though I am bound to say that some are more generous and far-sighted than others. Collectively they contribute over £200 million a year. That is right, and enormously welcome. The public purse alone cannot reasonably be expected to provide all the resources which the arts world seeks, given the range of all the competing demands, some plainly of greater priority, for public expenditure. Nor in a democratic society such as ours should the state ever seek to assume that all-powerful responsibility. It needs little imagination to foresee the deadening consequences of such an arrangement.
It really cannot be in the interest of the arts to become over-reliant on a single source of funding, whatever that source may be. The best way that an arts body can safeguard its future and independence is to draw its funding from a variety of sources: not only central government, but also local government, the public, business and private patrons. It is also vitally important that they organise themselves in a business-like way and market their productions to maximise benefit at the box office. The increasing plurality of sources of funding is emerging as one of the great strengths of the British system as it is evolving. But there is some way further to go. Our past successes have been based on it: our future successes may depend on it.
So the performing arts face problems, as we must all acknowledge. But they are not problems of under-funding except in the limited sense that there is never at any one time sufficient money to satisfy every aspiration.
Although more remains to be done in supplementing public subsidy with other sources of income and improving business skills, many arts organisations have made impressive steps towards increasing their financial independence through better planning, better marketing and increased sponsorship. In this they have been greatly encouraged by government policies to that end. I shall touch briefly on some of them.
One of the most important developments was the incentive funding scheme set up by the Arts Council in 1988–89 to help arts organisations maximise self-generated income and to strengthen their artistic and financial planning.
619 Arts organisations had to demonstrate how they would double the value of an award over three years and translate that into artistic goals. Over the three years of the scheme 146 awards will have been made totalling £13.3 million. In the first year alone actual income growth of £16.2 million was achieved for investment of £4.3 million. The scheme has been a tremendous success. I know the fact that it is no longer open to new applications has caused some disappointment around the country, in particular for organisations hoping to benefit from it. However, the Government and the Arts Council took the view last autumn that some retargeting of incentive funding for the arts was timely. As a result a new enhancement fund is being put in place. Its purpose is to strengthen selected leading arts organisations—large and small, in and outside London—to enhance artistic standards and to improve financial and business planning.
Matching contributions will be sought wherever possible. The sum of £7.5 million for each of the next three years has been put aside for separate schemes in England, Scotland and Wales. Once the fund comes into operation in April I think we shall begin to see the vital contribution it will make to strengthening the artistic and financial position of many of our best companies.
Business too has been encouraged to play its part. The Government's business sponsorship incentive scheme was launched in 1984. This has brought over £38 million into the arts, including a government contribution of £12.5 million, and over 1,700 first-time sponsors. Seventy per cent. of the awards in 1989–90 went outside London, which is a tribute to the range of arts events taking place away from the capital and to the interest they attract from local business.
The Government have also encouraged much more professional and effective marketing of the arts. A one-year experimental scheme in 1986 provided important lessons. These have now been disseminated widely to arts organisations through a report called Encouraging the Others. Other important developments flowing from the scheme are the development of distance-learning packages, a training programme for senior managers and assistance in developing marketing consortia. To date the Government have also contributed £90,000 to Business in the Arts, which offers bursaries for training arts managers and places businessmen with arts organisations to advise on their management. That advice alone already has an estimated monetary value of a quarter of a million pounds, with more on the way.
Another very welcome, and potentially significant, development was the introduction towards the end of last year of the gift aid scheme. The aim is to allow potential donors to make straightforward one-off gifts of money, which are then topped up by 33 per cent. by the Inland Revenue. Some donors are also able to claim tax relief on their donation. Although it has been in operation only for three months, a wide range of arts organisations has already received gifts. I 620 commend the scheme to your Lordships individually as well as collectively, and shall be delighted to arrange for further details to be provided on request.
In addition to maintaining and increasing the value of public subsidy, the Government have therefore done much to help expand the total arts economy through other sources of income and to help the arts world to help itself. It will continue to do so. At any time, but especially against the background of an almost insatiable demand for the arts, one of the fundamental tasks of all who fund the arts and all who receive grants is to get the most out of available funding. This involves everyone in setting clear priorities, sometimes involving hard judgments, and pursuing them with all due economy. This lies at the heart of the structural reforms of arts funding to which several noble Lords have today referred. I shall not burden the House with the detailed reasons for the reforms. Suffice it to say that the cultural landscape has changed enormously over the 45 years since the Arts Council was set up. The increasing involvement of local authorities in arts funding and the growth and coming to maturity of the regional arts associations were two of the main manifestations. The time was therefore ripe for a review of what the funding system does and how it does it, and how to bring together all the elements of a decentralised and plural funding system in pursuit of common aims.
Much has been said, in your Lordships' House today and elsewhere, to suggest that the reforms herald the end of the Arts Council. I can assure noble Lords—among them the noble Lords, Lord Goodman, Lord Bonham-Carter, and Lord Hutchinson—that nothing could be further from the truth. The reforms are designed to underline and clarify the respective functions of the Arts Council and the regional boards and, at root, are about the most effective allocation of those functions. The Arts Council will be principally responsible for determining the first ever comprehensive national arts strategy, consulting widely with all involved in the arts. It will monitor the implementation of the strategy and will directly administer grants to our national flagship companies and a portfolio of other clients yet finally to be decided. The new regional arts boards will increasingly administer artistic activity based in the regions.
In December my right honourable friend set out the way in which he wished to see the changes implemented. His conclusions were informed by the need to ensure that the regional boards were demonstrably capable of discharging their enlarged responsibilities effectively and economically. There was also understandable concern in some arts organisations at the prospect of their funding being transferred to bodies not yet in place. It has therefore been decided that the boards will need to have adequate time to become established and that it would be sensible for the delegation of clients to take place step by step. That staged approach will also allow later decisions on the scale and timing of further delegation 621 to be informed by the work that is proceeding in parallel on the new national arts strategy to which the Government attach great importance.
What the reforms will deliver, however, is what Jenny Lee once termed the best for the most. They will do so at the least possible cost. They will also maintain artistic standards. Administrative cost and artistic standards are matters to which the Government have attached, and will continue to attach, the greatest weight in implementing the reforms. However, the reforms are about more than effective policy-making and administration. I have said that the resources available to the arts do not come exclusively from central government. Local authorities are substantial contributors, and the present regional agencies, which are independent of central and local government, have done much to foster partnerships with local authorities and to bring money into the arts at district and county levels.
It is the aim of the structural reforms that regional arts boards should continue to develop these already excellent relationships. The scope for doing so has been highlighted by a recent Audit Commission report, which looked at local authority provision and identified the need for local authorities to set clearer objectives for their spending and to co-ordinate it more effectively. The new regional arts boards will comprise a wide range of regional interests, including local authorities, and will be uniquely well placed to offer advice and assistance to local authorities. An essential element of the reforms is thus the further development of co-operation at regional level between central and local government and the new regional boards in pursuit of the objectives of a national arts strategy which all will have helped fashion. I commend the reforms.
In the time available—I have about three minutes left in which to speak—I shall not be able to answer many of the questions raised by noble Lords. Perhaps I may refer to one of the most important points raised by many noble Lords including the noble Lord, Lord Annan, about capital funds and sinking funds of national companies. My right honourable friend is aware that the state of repair and preservation of those buildings is becoming a matter of increasing concern to their occupants, to the Arts Council and to the Theatres Trust. As noble Lords know, that was established,to promote the better protection of theatres for the benefit of the nation".Individual companies are responsible for the maintenance of their buildings as part of their general overhead expenses and the costs have to be met in the usual way from funds at their disposal, including Arts Council grants.
We know that many companies which tend to operate within tight budgetary constraints have difficulties in allowing for this expenditure.
Against that background the Theatres Trust has proposed an audit of the state of the national stock of theatres. That proposal is very much in tune with the more ambitious millenium initiative being proposed 622 by the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo. The trust is in touch with the council and is suggesting that they might jointly take the matter forward.
My right honourable friend will carefully consider the outcome of those discussions. However, I must tell your Lordships that the Minister has only recently announced the commissioning by his department of a major study of the building renovation needs of the national museums and galleries. At present he has no plans to initiate any further work centrally on arts buildings.
I am afraid that due to the time I have not answered all the points raised in the debate. I assure your Lordships that my right honourable friend the Minister for the Arts will study the debate closely and read all the contributions that have been made.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Lord Annan
My Lords, it remains only for me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo. Indeed, I congratulate all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate for the wonderful way in which they contained their passions within the space of seven minutes. We shall wish to digest what the noble Viscount said and hope that the Minister for the Arts will cogitate our remarks. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
Motion, for Papers, withdrawn.