§ 3.9 p.m.
§ Lord Puttnam rose to call attention to the importance of the arts in the life of the nation; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, before raising my cultural banner, may I just say how grateful I am to the extraordinary number of your Lordships who have chosen to speak in this debate. I must admit that in my naivety, when this was first discussed, I thought there was a strong possibility that I would be required to speak for five hours. I saw this as a cynical manoeuvre by the Chief Whip to ensure that the hard-working Peers on this side of the House had an afternoon off. That is clearly not the case.
It is exactly 50 years since T. S. Eliot published a slim volume entitled Notes Towards the Definition of Culture. In it, he asserted:
Culture may be described simply as that which makes life worth living".
§ It is a wonderfully simple formulation. It is an expression of an inner truth with which all of us can surely identify precisely because, I am sure, we have all felt it at one time or another.
§ The arts are an essential element of the cultural and creative lifeblood of any nation. They sustain the conscience and vitality of a society. One measure of any community wishing to regard itself as truly civilised is the quality and depth of its artistic achievement.
§ I am extraordinarily honoured to open today's debate, taking place as it does against a backdrop of considerable and well-publicised upheaval in the artistic life of this country. Some of those changes, such as the role of the National Lottery in funding support for the arts, are already having a very profound impact. Other changes may prove more far-reaching and their impact rather less predictable.
§ I wish to address three principal issues: the nature of change; the "schism" that I believes continues to bedevil our concept of the arts in this country; and the relationship of the arts with government.718
§ One change is the development of new digital technologies which have the potential to alter radically the way in which art is created, communicated, enjoyed and, some would argue, even defined. Another change is the shift towards a "creative economy" whose principal output depends on the imagination of individuals rather than the manufacture of tangible goods. The results of some of those changes will take time to make themselves felt—10, 15 or perhaps even 20 years.
§ Ideas about what constitutes art inevitably change with time. That is only healthy. Ideas about the purpose of art may also be subject to earnest and constant debate. But the imaginative power of the arts—their unique capacity to enable us to see the world and ourselves afresh—remains immutable. How many noble Lords sitting in this Chamber 100 years ago would have dreamed that the "kinematograph"—that ghostly medium of moving images then barely two years old—would, along with its progeny, become widely acknowledged as probably the most influential art form of the 20th century?
§ Many of the self-appointed custodians of traditional culture dismissed cinema as little more than a novelty, another craze for the hoi polloi which would quickly burn itself out amid the gloomy city slums where it had most firmly taken root. Other less mean-spirited souls took a more enlightened and altogether more benevolent view. No less an artist than Tolstoy warmly welcomed the advent of cinema and set his sights on writing a screenplay. Sadly for us, his dream never came to fruition. But in hailing the invention of cinema, Tolstoy recognised that art is first and foremost a means of communicating ideas and emotions. Film was dubbed "the great democratic art" by some early commentators precisely because it could be enjoyed by all, regardless of class, income or educational ability.
§ As I know from my own experience, for far too long our film industry was bedevilled by a schism between those who saw the cinema solely in terms of art and those who saw it purely through the "box-office" window. So I am delighted that the film industry is at last learning to speak to government with something approaching a single voice. I have no doubt that the resulting dialogue will eventually benefit both the artistic quality and the commercial success of British film-making.
§ The debate about cinema is just one of a whole series of false dichotomies that have plagued public discussion of the arts in this country; the old versus the new, artistic quality versus commercial imperative and, of course, the most damaging of all, highbrow versus lowbrow.
§ Our concepts about the form and function of art have undergone many radical shifts in the course of this century. Modernism and post-modernism, in a variety of forms, ignited furious debate. Yet, if the history of the past 100 years has taught us anything, it is that we must continually remain open and receptive to innovation and experiment. What shocks us today becomes mainstream tomorrow. We must actively cultivate that "generosity of vision" which, while remaining critical, can encompass the new.719
§ Perhaps it was because she understood precisely that point that Jennie Lee, our first Minister for the Arts, once described herself as "the Minister for the Future". But that is only half the story. This country is fortunate in having an extraordinarily rich and diverse artistic heritage. Our poets, playwrights, musicians and painters have all left us works which are enjoyed and admired around the world, in many cases by those who have never had the opportunity to visit the United Kingdom and perhaps never will. The plays of Shakespeare, the prose of Dickens and the music of Elgar: each, in its own way, offers a unique glimpse into the imaginative life of this country. Art is an ambassador on behalf of the nation, helping to shape the way in which others see us. It is also the means by which we accurately calibrate the changes taking place within our society. If I am given a choice between a focus group and the work of a perceptive and independently-minded artist, I know which I should trust for an acute sense of our political reality.
§ The relationship between the arts and the state is necessarily delicate. The arts cannot survive without the state. But they thrive best at a healthy distance from the state. The 20th century offers plenty of chilling examples of what happens when that distance is diminished. The arts rapidly diminish with it.
§ Even in the most enlightened state, there will never be enough funding for the arts. However, if we want them, we simply have to find a way of paying for them. It is my hope that today's debate will help to stimulate ideas about how best that might be achieved.
§ I welcome warmly the announcement made in yesterday's Budget which, against a background of financial constraint, provides evidence of the Government's commitment to excellence in the arts and access to the best of our arts. As well as government, business has a role to play in promoting the arts. Backing from business rose by 20 per cent. in 1996–97 to almost £100 million. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts are undertaking a radical review of how business can be encouraged to give even greater support to the arts.
§ The National Lottery is an increasingly important source of finance. Some £1.2 billion has been injected through our arts councils over the past three-and-a-half years. For me, the most interesting new initiative arising from that is the arts councils' "stabilisation scheme" which allows selected arts institutions a one-off subvention, akin to a dowry, intended to secure their long-term financial and administrative stability.
A much more difficult task for the long term in arts funding is to find a sustainable equilibrium in our commitment between the past, the present and the future. That is an extraordinarily delicate task and one which I hope some of your Lordships will address. On the one hand, we have a duty to understand, protect and conserve our artistic tradition, our buildings, our paintings, our sculptures and our manuscripts along with all the other concrete expressions of our cultural and spiritual life. The buildings and gardens of this country
are among our greatest national treasures. As the late Lord Clark of Saltwood put it with characteristic eloquence:
If I had to say which was telling the truth about society, a speech by a Minister of Housing, or the actual buildings put up in his time, I should tend to believe the buildings".
Yet those buildings require constant care and attention if they are to survive for the enjoyment of future generations.
§ As recent events in the Palace of Westminster demonstrate, undertaking that duty can be a costly and, at times, even an unpopular task. That is no reason for evading the responsibility. Future generations are unlikely to thank us for bending to a fashionable clamour stoked by the media, principally in their own interests.
§ Some of your Lordships may have seen an article published in The Times last Wednesday in which Mr. John Tusa, director of the Barbican Centre, argued that the Government had effectively abandoned any concern for the traditional arts in favour of courting the luminaries of the shiny new world of the "creative industries"—fashion, pop music and film. In the past, Mr. Tusa has had many important and perceptive things to say about the arts. But in this instance his argument seemed intent on sustaining that desperately damaging and reductive schism between concepts of high and low art to which I referred earlier.
§ Of course, there will always be those who seek to defend "the purity and integrity" of the higher arts, concerned by the demands—as they would see it, the threatening demands—of greater public access. It has become all too easy to interpret any move to broaden our conception of the arts, to enhance access, as somehow diminishing "quality"; invoking that ubiquitous catchphrase, which even recently—and to my amazement—found its way into your Lordships' Chamber, "dumbing down".
§ I feel that I owe your Lordships some examples of what I think "access" really might mean. Over 8 million people a month now tune into Classic FM—wildly in excess of anyone's initial expectations. Although sneered at by some purists, it has, to its immense credit, significantly extended the audience for classical music in Britain. It has launched a magazine which is far and away the most successful in the sector, and a record label which will invest over £5 million in recordings of new classic music over the next five years.
§ A recent production of "Madam Butterfly" at the Royal Albert Hall played to a 96 per cent. capacity audience, 60,000 people, many of whom had never been to a live opera before. Those individual triumphs—and I could cite a dozen more—clearly indicate that traditional forms of art, even "high" art, and broad access are not mutually exclusive.
Reaching out beyond the core audience for any arts activity—be it ballet, dance, theatre, or the fine arts—is always dangerous and never easy. But it can, indeed it must, be done; if artistic endeavour in this country is to have any chance of a vibrant future. Williams Morris, a
great artist and educationist, and one of my personal heroes, looked forward to a time when, as he put it,
all men would he artists, and the audience for art would be nothing short of the whole people".
§ The arts and education are inextricably intertwined. That has always been true in a cultural sense. But evidence from around the world suggests that, in the 21st century, a successful meshing of arts and education will become ever more essential to social stability and economic success. Much, much more can and must be done if we are to take advantage of the extraordinary stimulus that the arts can offer to the education of the next generation.
§ In addition to being an invaluable educational asset, the BBC is the most powerful patron of the arts in this country. Its contribution is in every respect vastly greater than the sum total of central government funding. To that extent, it is no exaggeration to say that it fulfils the role once held by the Church. The BBC has served as a unique and honourable example of what politically and commercially disinterested patronage can achieve—from live opera to comedy, from the finest documentary to productions at the cutting edge of contemporary drama. It is an asset whose value to Britain is utterly incalculable.
§ I believe it is fair to say that, in every country of the developed world, it is now fully accepted that the arts cannot be left totally to the mercy of the market place. That being so, the question is: how do we continue to promote and build on the core values of our cultural heritage without resorting to a suffocating form of "curatorial narrowness?"
§ We are experiencing the emergence of a new global economy, fundamentally driven by two things—information and images— and these themselves are becoming practically synonymous as a result of digital technology. That may well mean expanding our whole notion of culture to embrace many new areas—for example, fashion, architecture, design, photography and even computer design—which have until now been largely excluded from serious discussion.
As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has put it:
Our future depends on our creativity".
§ We have to find the energy, the confidence and the organisation to exploit the opportunities that lie ahead, while never ceasing to promote an enduring commitment to excellence. In a world in which the shared assumptions of religion, community and tradition are disintegrating, the arts provide an increasingly vital means of identity and communication between communities and nations.
Art may be used to glorify power. It may celebrate revolution, or reaction. But all true art touches us because it is the expression of the human spirit, of our human spirit, and truly great art can reach out and
awaken, or reawaken, that shared humanity across generations as much as across cultures. John Ruskin observed:
Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the other two, but of these three, the only trustworthy one is the last"—
our cultural heritage. It is an honourable and an entirely inspiring thought, and one that I hope we can keep in mind throughout today's debate. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ Baroness Rawlings
My Lords, we are truly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, for initiating this important and potentially wide-ranging debate, demonstrated by the many distinguished speakers who will take part today. Artistic production is not an imaginative big bang out of nothing. It needs the nourishment that our heritage provides, even if it does so only to reject it. Today's art is tomorrow's heritage.
Many of your Lordships will no doubt be stressing the economic importance of the arts. They employ 2.5 per cent. of our workforce nationally. The performing and contemporary visual arts have an annual turnover of more than £1 billion. Their overseas earnings amount to £6 billion a year and design and related activities are worth £12 billion a year. The film, "Four Weddings and a Funeral" alone grossed £160 million, and the musical "Cats" over £100 million. That is an impressive list of which we can be proud.
The arts are an important part of our national identity. The creation by the previous government of the Department of National Heritage, with a Minister of Cabinet rank, was not only a recognition of its growing economic importance but also of its role in defining our national identity. By creating the National Lottery, the previous government also generated undreamt of funds.
In Italy they go further by combining the position of deputy Prime Minister with that of Culture Minister in the dynamic form, at present, of Walter Veltroni. The trouble only arises, as it did in France, when government interference results in using art to manipulate the national identity. With the rebranding of Britain as "Cool Britannia", Labour has entered the arts world with enthusiasm as if it were some down market shopping mall with, to quote John Humphrys, "infernal muzak"— an image of new Britain filled with possible pitfalls.
First, the polished image of "Cool Britannia" has already been tarnished and scarred by the success of the countryside march and by the accusations of betrayal made in a recent edition of the New Musical Express. Secondly, in its unbalanced approach, Labour has supported the cultural industries; but, by and large, they do not need the Government's support. They are an outstanding success by themselves. The success of British architects, designers, writers and musicians is not due to state intervention: it has come about because people want and appreciate what they produce.
After having accused the Conservatives for years of starving the arts, Labour is now trying to kill them off. The back-tracking on free access to museums is a case 723 in point. The measures announced yesterday are divisive and insufficient: £2 million for apparently one year only to maintain free entry to those museums which do not currently charge is, I believe, a sop and not a long-term solution. The radical proposal to privatise the Royal Opera does not reflect Labour's faith in the private sector; it is actually likely to reduce access, which the Labour Party claims it wants to maximise. The rationale, I fear, of the plan lies in the perception that Covent Garden is élitist. Élitism has no place in "Cool Britannia"; populism does. We are back to the old cynical adagio—give them panem et circenses. But what attracts the largest numbers is not always of the highest quality.
Thirdly, the manipulation of identity requires increasing government intervention. Wherever one looks there are signs that the arm's length principle is being eroded by the Government. For example, the National Lottery Bill, which has just completed its passage through your Lordships' House, makes provision for the distributing bodies to draw up strategic plans, the contents of which, though, are under the firm direction of the Secretary of State. With this increased intervention the arts will inevitably decline. The result will be pressure to conform to the overall design of "Cool Britannia", thus totally stifling all originality and creativity.
Finally, last month the Government announced that for two years from September primary schools will no longer be expected to follow the required programmes for art, music and dance. This surely will undermine the development of talent. Our great British talent has been the driving force behind the success not only of the cultural industries but of all the arts of our nation. The Secretary of State may want to reflect on the words of Blake,Let it no more be said that states encourage arts for it is the arts that encourage states".
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ Lord Jacobs
My Lords, I congratulate the Government on offering albeit small support to museums and art galleries to enable them to continue not to charge entry fees. I hope that when they have all the figures before them the Government will be able to increase that sum in forthcoming years. I am less confident about the proposal to privatise the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden if it is urged at the same time that a limited number of tickets should be priced at a more popular level. I do not believe that one can remove the financial support to the opera house and at the same time hope that a limited number of tickets will be offered at a lower price. That seems to me to be an unusual form of economics.
In discussing the importance of the arts the National Lottery cannot be excluded. Let us consider for a moment that £10 billion will be contributed by the British public over the next five years. I recognise that most of the British public will contribute to that huge sum of money in the expectation that perhaps a dream will be fulfilled. However, most of them agree that the likelihood of that is small. I believe that reflects perhaps undue optimism but at the same time great generosity 724 not only of spirit but in terms of money-giving. We should all be grateful for that. How the money will be spent has already, broadly speaking, been decided. There are five, or perhaps now six, different funds under which the money will be distributed. For the arts there are two major funds, the arts lottery fund and the millennium lottery fund. Each of those funds is to receive no less than £2 billion over five years. Those sums are beyond any expectations we might have had just a few years ago. However, I question whether it is possible for the private sector—which is supposed to produce between 25 and 50 per cent. of matching funds—to match these huge sums.
I organised a private survey to determine where the private funding comes from. Some 14 millennium projects were surveyed. The people who were approached all agreed without exception to respond to the survey but unfortunately they asked to withhold their names. Nevertheless the results of the survey were interesting. In every case the projects outside London were fully funded and there was confidence that the projects would go ahead. However, the funding came from European funds and much of it from local authority funds. In some cases local authorities confirmed that they had reciprocal arrangements with other local authorities to provide the necessary funds. As regards 14 major projects we did not trace a single penny of private funding as most of your Lordships would know it; that is, funding from private individuals or corporations. Therefore the funding of these projects is proceeding well, but there is a problem in London.
London, of course, does not have a central local authority with vast sums. It would be easier to support a project in Manchester or Birmingham than in London. Therefore private funding means just that; namely, money has to come from corporations and from private individuals. I share with others a vision of an arts urban regeneration on the South Bank of the Thames. A large number of exciting projects are already in existence there and new ones are being built. At the eastern end there is the Globe Theatre and the Tate Museum of Modern Art, which is of course a new project. The National Theatre is undergoing a vast amount of work. I refer also to the Hayward Gallery and the Festival Hall. About 25 per cent. of the British population can reach those buildings within about one hour's travelling time. Therefore those arts attract not only tourists—of whom there are many millions—but also about a quarter of the British population.
A scheme that has recently been in the news is the South Bank scheme. That is one of the few schemes for which private funding has been secured. However, ironically, public funding is missing in this case and therefore the project cannot proceed. A Member of your Lordships' House has been exceptionally generous in providing the private funding. I am connected with the Tate Gallery project. That project is in a different position from the other projects. The Tate Gallery project is financed by the millennium lottery fund whereas the other projects I have mentioned are financed by the arts lottery fund. One may ask what the difference is. It is simple to explain. The arts lottery fund provides 75 per cent. of all the finance required whereas the millennium lottery fund 725 provides 50 per cent. I have asked the Government whether there is a satisfactory explanation for this. The difference between the figures is considerable. The South Bank scheme needed £20 million of private finance. The Tate scheme at £130 million will need £80 million of private finance, of which I think about £3 million will come from local authorities. That is a vast sum and represents no less than 60 per cent. of the total cost of the project.
At the moment the National Theatre is undergoing total restoration. However, it already has three first-class theatres. When £40 million has been spent it will still have three first-class theatres. They will perhaps be a little more attractive, but I do not think they could be more comfortable as they are already comfortable. This is not really a new project. I do not condemn what the National Theatre is doing; I support it. Yet the National Theatre is receiving no less than £30 million out of its £40 million from the arts lottery fund. Of all the projects in London, the Tate Gallery project is, I believe, the one entirely new project. The gallery will open in the year 2000; it did not exist before. That project will receive only £50 million—although that is a significant sum—out of a total of £130 million. This matter needs to be looked at. I believe we all recognise that this country requires additional arts facilities in London as well as additional facilities throughout the country. I remain concerned that London-financed projects are finding the position much more difficult than those financed from outside the capital city.
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ Lord Birkett
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, on an exceedingly timely Motion.
I am increasingly fed up with much of what I read about the arts and much of what I fear about them; not, I hasten to say, in your Lordships' House but often in the newspapers and sometimes on television. I am fed up with the journalistic cliché that the artists of this country are the "luvvies" as though they are effete and mindless creatures, whereas some of the best intellects in the land are to be found among the artists. I am fed up with the fact that the arts are always accused of an endless bleat for more money. If the artists of the land have to speak out every day for more money it is because scarcely within living memory has decent support for the arts existed in this country. I am fed up with the thought that they are somehow spoilt and self-indulgent people, when actually the rigours and disciplines of the arts are as strong as in any manufacturing industry. I am fed up with applause from politicians of any party who have contributed very little by their policy to the wellbeing of the arts. I am fed up with patronising pats on the back for the artists of this country because they have somehow managed to survive with almost no sustenance whatever.
Sustenance is of course necessary. Let us consider the conditions of our orchestras in this country. There is scarcely one which is not teetering on the edge of disaster. How ironic that only a few days ago it was announced in America that the Boston Symphony Orchestra's reserve fund has now reached 100 million 726 dollars. And before anyone says, "That's the way to do it", let us not forget that in America there have been tax breaks to encourage sponsorship of the arts—something we have looked for for centuries and found notably missing from yesterday's Budget.
Let us consider the condition of our theatres, some of the most distinguished of them on the point of closure. Look at the condition of our opera houses, in disarray. We are all waiting to read Sir Richard Eyre's report on the daft notion that the Royal Opera House and English National Opera should somehow share their home and physical resources. I regarded that in the light of a well-timed provocation rather than a serious proposition.
What about our museums? They are in danger of their time-honoured free entry being eroded, with the nation having to pay for the treasures in them. Let us not forget that it is most actively in our museums that the past, present and future merge.
When, I ask, will we have a government that will recognise the importance of the arts to this country? When will they recognise that not because the arts are enjoyable, which they often are; not because they are decorative, which they often are; not because they provide an escape, as they often do from the rigours of every day life; and not because they are the jam on top, the reward a nation deserves only if it works hard enough, but because they are important? They are important to education, for example. The whole of history, geography, language and science can be discovered within the arts. They are important to social awareness. They make us more aware of each other. They are also the image of our society. As the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, said, culture is what distinguishes the civilised nations from the uncivilised nations. The arts are the poetic voice that teaches us things that nothing else can—no report, no White Paper, no Green Paper and no statistics can possibly teach us such things. It is the singer's voice, the dancer's limbs, the painter's brush, the actor's imagination, or the camera's perception which teach us about society because they teach us about ourselves.
When, I ask, will we have a government who recognise that properly, not in their words only but in their deeds?
§ 3.44 p.m.
My Lords, although I greatly admired the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, I do not share all the gloom that he expressed although he made a very sound point about the anxiety with regard to operas and orchestras. I go with him that far.
I am sure that I speak for other members of the All-Party Arts and Heritage Group, of which I am joint president, when I welcome the debate and thank the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, for the way in which he introduced it, with moderation and in an informative way.
Art is important in the life of a nation. We should all strive to increase its importance. I hope that this debate may do so. If the arts were even more widely appreciated among the masses—is that a phrase one is allowed to use in our classless society? —I would say 727 that there would be less crime, more understanding between various parts of the community and perhaps more national pride.
Therefore, like the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, I wish to stress the importance of the part that the arts should play in our education system. Although it is good that the Government now insist that the curriculum in primary schools should contain English, maths, science and religion, I have to point out that it also includes information technology—a subject of which I must confess I am happily ignorant. Would it not be better if, instead of having to learn information technology while children are still very young, in those formative years they should have the opportunity to learn art, music and drama?
I must confess that from the age of six I was made to recite poetry; and from the age of 14 I was made to act in Shakespearian plays. Of course if such education were to result from the present teaching of English, which is a compulsory subject, that would be splendid. But will there be such a thing as poetry reciting? Will that happen? Britain used to be an international example for the use of drama in schools. But now fewer than half of all local education authorities fund drama teaching. That is a serious omission on the part of those who do not do so. Perhaps they do not have the funds. The Government should consider that.
Under the United Nations charter of human rights, art is a fundamental right for everyone. The noble Lord, Lord Rix—alas he cannot be present because he has another parliamentary commitment this afternoon—has asked me to mention the arts for people with learning difficulties. That is an expression which I think is less satisfactory than mental handicap. Everyone has a learning difficulty of some kind. I cannot play the piano with more than one finger. The noble Lord, Lord Rix, is chairman of MENCAP, of which I am past president. Every year MENCAP holds a wonderful art exhibition. It contains a wide range of artistic skills. Some of the people who exhibit brilliant pictures cannot even talk, but their lives and other people's lives are enriched by what they do. Also we have our MENCAP Gateway Festivals which are wonderful variety shows in which only mentally-handicapped people take part and give splendid performances. The last was in Birmingham last autumn. The performances were very well attended.
Recently, MENCAP started a major project called Dilston College, which is in Northumberland. It is designed to be an international centre of excellence for mentally handicapped people in the performing arts. We are steadily learning to appreciate the talents of people with such handicap and to value their contribution to our shared artistic heritage. Can we hope that the Government will help them to lead a fuller life, perhaps by giving some help at Dilston College? I hope that we shall receive an answer from the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who is to reply.
I join with others in stressing the vital contribution that the arts make to the economy. They repay many times over the financial support that they receive from the Government. Our art galleries and museums are a 728 great tourist attraction, especially when admission is free. The Government should be thanked for what they are attempting to do in that regard. I hope that they will succeed in keeping our museums and galleries free and open. It will benefit the economy by helping the tourist trade.
As mentioned, in 1996 our tourist industries contributed nearly £10 billion to British exports. That is even more than our construction industry earned overseas. Above all, the more the arts are stimulated by government financial help, the more employment will be created. I know that that is a major consideration on the part of the Government.
I wonder whether I may dare to mention this—I hope it is not considered irrelevant or impertinent; and I speak merely as a life Peer. If the hereditary Peers were not allowed to speak in this debate, the number of speakers would be halved.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Lord Strabolgi
My Lords, as an hereditary Peer, I am very glad to follow the noble Lord. Lord Renton. Like him, I wish to say how grateful I am to the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, for initiating this debate. I am also delighted to hear about the Chancellor of the Exchequer's concession over museum charges, which will allow the British Museum, the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate to retain free admission, I hope for many years. I thought that the noble Baroness who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench was somewhat ungenerous in her reference to that.
Sadly, the position is not so hopeful concerning our regional collections; and it is about those difficulties that I wish to say a few words. The Museums Act of 1845 enabled town councils to establish public museums of art and science for popular instruction and entertainment. Our Victorian forebears believed, as the present Government believe, that the arts should be for the many and not for the few. The last 40 years of the 19th century saw most of the municipal museums being established. Many industrialists were great philanthropists, like their counterparts in the United States, and they helped to endow their home towns with galleries and museums; and they would often bequeath their own collections to them. The current exhibition at the Royal Academy is most impressive and, I believe, was a revelation. It gives an idea of the wealth that there is of fine paintings and sculpture from over 100 regional collections—a number being of grade A importance. Sadly, some of those works of art have to be kept in the vaults or the reserve collections and are usually not available for public exhibition, due to a lack of funds. Sometimes the local education services provided by the museum have had to be cut. That is because many regional museums are facing a financial crisis, as the local authorities that run them are under severe financial pressure, and museum funding is often a low priority.
The Bowes Museum, for example, a museum of national importance, is facing great difficulties. The hard-pressed local authority, Durham County Council, has been reported as requiring a cut of £30,000 from the 729 annual grant for the Bowes, and that could mean that the museum will have to be closed from November to March. I welcome the announcement that was made yesterday by my noble friend Lord McIntosh that the Government have invited Mr. Richard Foster to carry out a review of the present position and to make recommendations. Let us hope that that will help to save the museum and to retain for public view its important collection, which includes an E1 Greco and a Goya.
At Aylesbury, the Buckinghamshire County Museum has had its grant of £750,000 cut by 30 per cent. by the local authority, and the purchase fund has been reduced by a quarter; that is notwithstanding the fact that, in 1996, Aylesbury won the Museum of the Year award. Government support for the National Heritage Memorial Fund has been much reduced by the previous government in the past few years. I say that particularly to the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings. In 1993–94 the fund was awarded £12 million; that was reduced to £8.8 million the following year by the previous administration, who again slashed it to £5 million for 1997–98.
Successive governments have always stated that the responsibility for running regional museums rests with local government or the universities. That apparently remains the policy of the present Government. It is surely not enough just to have a designation system to recognise important collections, first set up by the Conservatives and backed by Labour; nor merely to have a code of good practice; nor even to have a new access fund. What is needed is also real financial help from central government for the hard-pressed local authorities. Otherwise, the losers will be the local people, who will be deprived of some of their cultural links.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Lord Charteris of Amisfield
My Lords, first, perhaps I may congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, on initiating this extremely interesting debate. My intervention will be short and, I hope, sharp. We all know from our study of history how important art and the arts are in all communities. We think of the Greek plays, the history and poetry of Rome and Egypt; and, coming down to modern times, all primitive societies, even the mud men of Papua, New Guinea, have their own form of art, as do the Aborigines of Australia. That is not my subject; noble Lords know about it already. It is merely a matter of interest. I wish to elaborate on a matter that your Lordships may not know about. It was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. I refer to the money given to the National Heritage Memorial Fund.
I had the good fortune to be chairman for 12 years of the National Heritage Memorial Fund from the time that it was started, on April Fool's Day 1980. Perhaps I may tell your Lordships how it came about, in case anyone has forgotten. In 1946, the socialist government, with much imagination, set up the National Land Fund with the product of £50 million from the sale of surplus war equipment. It was not placed under private trusteeship but left in the hands of the Treasury. The Treasury did one or two things with the money, but 10 years later, in 730 the 1950s, the Conservative government took back the original £50 million, leaving only £10 million. That is a hell of a way to treat a memorial fund. On we went, until we came, in 1978, to Mentmore. The house was up for sale. It and its contents could have been bought for £2½ million. But the Treasury, who were then running the National Land Fund, said, "No, we do not think we can do that." The house was put up for sale and was lost.
Then came a Green Paper, a White Paper, a Bill and the whole rigmarole, setting up in place of the National Land Fund the National Heritage Memorial Fund. That fund had private trustees, not controlled by the Government, and £12.4 million, which was all that was left of the £50 million from 1946. That £50 million would by then have been worth £600 million. I had the great honour of running the fund for the first 12 years of its existence. During that time we managed to spend £130 million. We saved 12 country houses and bought some famous pictures, music scores and all kinds of things. We did a jolly good job.
§ Lord Charteris of Amisfield
Thank you very much, my Lords. I was waiting for that! When I left the fund, the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, took it over. At the same time came the National Lottery fund and a lot of money. There are now two funds, the lottery fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, but we should not forget that it is only the National Heritage Memorial Fund which is a memorial to the people who died for this country.
This is how the fund has been financed since I gave up the job: in 1993–94 it received £12 million; in 1994–95, £8.7 million; in 1996–97, £8 million; and in 1997–98, £5 million. In 1998–99 it will receive £2 million, which in my opinion is a damned insult.
I beg your Lordships to remember the memorial aspect. Perhaps it does not matter; I do not know. I believe it does matter. The National Lottery money is very good and keeps coming in, but it may stop one day. There may be reasons why it will change. With the National Heritage Memorial Fund, under separate trustees, there will always be help.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Lord Crickhowell
My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, for initiating this debate. I shall follow him on one issue close to home. I am not one of the admirers of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, but I am an admirer of Barry, Pugin and this great building. I am thankful that over the past two decades it has been so splendidly restored. I believe it right that work on the accommodation for the Lord Chancellor should maintain the high standards set elsewhere in the building. I fear that on this subject the criticisms of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor are part of a regrettable attitude to our heritage. That is one of the central themes about which I intend to speak.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, I shall address the balance between the old and the new. For many of us it has been entertaining to observe the speedy 731 abandonment of New Labour by so many self-appointed spokesmen of the arts who had so recently prostrated themselves at the feet of Mr. Blair. Amusement, however, is tempered by anxiety about what is now in store for the arts. It is of course true that the arts, particularly museums and the performing sectors—music, theatre and opera—have faced financial difficulties for a good many years. I feel free to speak in strong terms today because I have been a consistent advocate for the arts in government and out, and gave them practical support as a Minister.
I believe it was not wrong for the Conservative Government to expect that a much greater share of arts funding should come from the private sector, particularly after corporate and personal tax rates had been cut. The weakness of the policy was that it demanded too great a change too quickly and underestimated the difficulties that would arise when recession came.
Despite all that, the 'eighties and early 'nineties were years in which the arts in Britain thrived and our worldwide reputation for music, theatre and opera had never been stronger. The threat that now faces the arts is not just a lack of money but of attitude. It is particularly ironic that the trendy populists and the pop artists should now be among the disillusioned after a period when Mr. Blair and his marketing men appear to have believed that only the so-called populist arts mattered. The fear exists that quality is to be pushed on one side in favour of the tawdry gimmick of "Cool Britannia", when what matters is quality. For most arts organisations the central problem remains lack of money and the inability to plan long-term programmes.
The Treasury is unlikely to become more generous. There appear to be only two means of escape from the mess we are in: a tax regime that gives more effective encouragement for private finance and the lottery. Much has been done in the first phase of the lottery, concentrated on capital programmes, to safeguard the nation's heritage and to modernise the buildings in which arts organisations work, though, sadly, not to create great new buildings.
The priority now is different. The urgent, overriding need is to secure adequate revenue funding. For many organisations it is literally a question on which their survival may depend. The 1993 Act provides the power to switch lottery funding from capital to revenue projects. The Government have promised review and action within months. It is important that they deliver. That is my first priority for action.
My second priority is to do something effective to tackle acute problems that face some important provincial and national museums. The Chancellor's small gesture yesterday, discriminating as it does against museums which already make charges, will not resolve those problems.
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, spoke of the provincial museums. Top of my list is the need to recreate the British galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum. For too long their condition has been a national disgrace. It is a humiliating experience to visit them after visiting the Indian and Far Eastern galleries, 732 for which generous overseas funding has been provided. Plans are being prepared, but the full funding is not yet secure. We have already waited too long. If this country is able to produce hundreds of millions of pounds for a temporary display at Greenwich, we ought to be able to provide the much more modest funds needed to conserve and display the treasures of Britain in the V&A.
This debate coincides with a defining moment in the history of the Arts Council of England. I have no objection if the chairman wishes to reduce the council to manageable size or to prune the overblown bureaucracy. However, reform must not be at the expense of expert knowledge or appropriate regional input; nor should it involve the abandonment of the arm's length principle. Past history and present government attitudes do not encourage the belief that ministerial interference will improve matters. "Dumbing down"—a phrase quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam—and the absurd and potentially disastrous proposals from Ministers about the future of the ENO and Covent Garden provide a stark warning of the dangers of following that route.
Two events, the Millennium and the enlargement of the European Union, and the fact that so many people care for the arts prompt the thought that 2,000 years of European culture—I include cinema—are a heritage, with all its rich diversity and creativity, that we need to carry into the next millennium so that it provides the foundation for further creativity, and caters for the needs and aspirations of vast numbers of people, our minds always open to the new, but never dismissing the old. We must pass on to the next generation quality, creativity and diversity, not just the populist fashions of the moment, represented by presentational gimmicks under a plastic dome.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, in joining in the congratulations rightly pressed upon my noble friend Lord Puttnam on introducing the debate, I was tempted to go over the top and say that it was the best thing he had done since "Chariots of Fire". But that would be entirely untrue: he has done three or four exceedingly good things between "Chariots of Fire" and today.
I hope that this debate may be the Government's chariot of fire. After all, it is their first venture into support of the arts. As a member of the Labour Party, of course, I receive it with rapture—perhaps modified rapture; nevertheless it is a good start. I hope to see them follow that path. There are one or two signs which are encouraging; for example, the need for free entry into national exhibitions. The methods by which the Government are approaching that policy clearly indicate that it is their intention to return to free entry to the national museums. I feel sure that when my noble friend responds to the debate he will not dissent from that. It may be a long way round, but times have changed and it is no longer possible to do it in a week as happened when I was Minister for the Arts.
Perhaps I may commit a solecism in the first of my minutes by quoting myself. After I ceased to be Minister for the Arts I wrote a little book and, if your Lordships 733 will permit, I should like to read from it. I state, "From these years"—that is to say, the years immediately prior to that time,stem a number of convictions tested by experience. For example, there is no line to be drawn between the arts and entertainment; high skill can be wasted on trash: and trash can be transmuted by skill into something like art; all art has an economic base; the sources of finance for art and entertainment must be various; in the arts there must be many employers and consumers; artists can easily be corrupted by money and even more easily lost for ever because of lack of money; that to produce an apex of high art it is necessary to have a wide based pyramid of competence".I learnt too that,geniuses do not spring out of nowhere; art reflects the society that begets it but also influences that society; art can as easily be killed by Government neglect as by Government suppression; it is the duty of Government to provide all those art forms which cannot be sustained by other sources of finance and to provide means for all its people to have access to them; that developments in the arts and communications frequently foreshadow the general trend and direction in which society is moving. As Oscar Wilde said, life imitates art.I also learned that the arts are interdependent upon each other, and should be seen with entertainment, the media of communication and with all the means of mechanical and electronic reproduction of performance as a single area of Government concern; that together the whole area is economically viable but separately must decline".It seems to me that the Government have learnt that lesson in the formation of the Secretary of State for culture, sport and so forth. I continue in my book:I saw that there must be universality of concern but multiplicity of control; that we must aim towards self-administration of art by artists and their organisations, but that the State has a vital role to play in fostering art and artists and in bringing them to the people.Finally, I became convinced that once men and women were mated and were housed and fed, art was the thing that mattered and many of the other preoccupations of mankind were but chaff in the wind".I see that the Government have accepted the principle of free entry. I see also that they are beginning to approach one of the great necessities of our time. It is not sufficiently realised that the excellence of our performance over the wider field in films is now building upon "Chariots of Fire". An extraordinary film—I make no comparison between one and the other—was "The Full Monty", which succeeded simultaneously in being both rude and decent. It was a remarkable film; a blockbuster; a world beater. It seems to me that we can do the same in other fields of the arts if we set about it in the right way. My point is that our performance—this applies to musicians as much as to actors—is bred in small groups throughout the country.
I received a letter from a former director of the New Victoria Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent. He drew to my attention, and no doubt to the attention of other noble Lords who received the booklet circulated by him, the number of most successful artists who, having started in that small, still struggling theatre in Stoke-on-Trent, have gone on to gain world renown. I refer to such people as Bob Hoskins, Ben Kingsley, Gerda Stevenson, Alison Chitty, Mike Leigh and Alan Ayckbourn.
It is the small theatres throughout the country which are presently in trouble. I hope that when the Government come to examine the subject of distribution and the need for access, they will pay special attention 734 to the small theatres because a number have already had to close and several others are in difficulty. Urgent action is needed at this time.
That is the essence of what I wanted to say and although I have not taken all my allotted time—yes, I have—I shall sit down.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Lord Hindlip
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, for introducing this debate, in relation to which I suppose I should declare an interest as chairman of Christie's, the auctioneers.
The debate has attracted wide interest, which is in itself encouraging, and, like other noble Lords. I have received a number of letters and briefing papers about it. I was particularly pleased to receive a letter from the National Campaign for the Arts. This quantified what many of us have long suspected—and indeed what the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, was so eloquently fed up with—that a very high proportion of the population of the United Kingdom visit museums—36 per cent. Our museums receive more than 100 million visitors a year. That is an enormous figure which, I am sure, any government would take note of. Despite this, though, the same briefing paper points out that government funding for the arts in the United Kingdom has fallen by £42 million in real terms since 1992 and, as the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, pointed out, though lottery funding has gone a long way to redress this drop, it is not guaranteed always to be there. The noble Lord, Lord Charteris, mentioned that aspect.
In fact, I do not take too pessimistic a view. I found three things in yesterday's Budget to encourage us that the Government are taking seriously their role over the arts. I think it would be churlish not to thank the Chancellor, particularly for his promise to ensure free entry to museums. I used to think that government had to take on the role of the leading patron of works of art which private individuals held in the 18th and 19th centuries. Like the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, I am now no longer convinced that this is true. I think it is better for government to try to encourage private patronage rather than become patrons themselves.
Experience tells us that when art is politically motivated it tends to become pompous and pretentious. Fortunately, most of the monuments to fascism and communism have been destroyed. But if you take even a great artist like Rubens, he becomes far less great when he commemorates the life of Marie de Medici. Those noble Lords who were lucky enough to have seen it I am sure would agree that Vaux le Vicomte, built by the same team who constructed Versailles, is a much finer building, with finer contents done for a private individual than for a government.
We also all know the cliché of the camel being a horse designed by a committee. Today, government patronage is bound to be run by committees. Despite the fact that I find the building beautiful, I wonder about what is going to go into the Millennium Dome, and I also wonder whether the money would not be better spent supporting institutions like the National Gallery 735 and the Tate Gallery in all its various forms throughout the country, which I am sure noble Lords would agree—in fact several have already said it—represent the best of the past and also give us the best chance of putting great works of art on view for the public in the future.
To revert to the theme of private initiatives, I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to three examples of private patronage. One is from the past, a picture by Stubbs, surely England's greatest painter, which has just gone on view in the National Gallery. It was commissioned by a Prime Minister, but in a private capacity. There is a rumour that the picture was to have been an equestrian portrait of King George III. But Lord Rockingham fell out with his monarch and the portrait was never painted. I think it was a good thing.
There are two other examples to which I should like quickly to draw your Lordships' attention. One is the truly remarkable collection of pictures, put together by Janet de Botton, which has just gone on view in the Tate Gallery. It is an extraordinary collection which even the most enlightened museum director could not have formed. It needed the individual taste, flair and determination that only a private individual can bring to collecting works of art. I am sure your Lordships would not approve of everything in that exhibition. I am equally sure that your Lordships would not approve of everything in an exhibition from another great patron of art, the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi. I refer to the Sensations exhibition in the Royal Academy last year. But, interestingly, the Royal Academy's own poll showed a 90 per cent. approval rating for that exhibition. There was nothing androgynous about it. To pick up from what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, said, that was the full Monty.
Private patrons also supply another vital ingredient. They provide the money to buy works of art. Of course one must look to the public good, particularly when these works of art are acquired or held on to with taxpayers' money. Over the years though, even without tax incentives, private collectors have been extraordinarily generous in lending to museums. We should encourage and promote this partnership between private and public patronage. In my remaining half minute I should like to suggest three ways of doing so.
I should like further to commend—I was very pleased to see that it was mentioned in the Budget—the system of offers of acceptance in lieu. That was strengthened yesterday. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, had anything to do with it, but, on behalf of private owners, I should like to thank the Government very much for doing this. I should also like to commend the system of conditional exemption which again was the subject of mention in the Budget. It has served the country well. Lastly, I should like to suggest that the Government look at the possibility of reducing the level of capital gains tax on works of art. That would be enormously stimulating to private collecting in this country.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ The Marquess of Bath
My Lords, a nation gets awarded the character that it deserves. By neglecting to promote some aspect of this character, that aspect becomes increasingly insignificant within the image which other nations regard as our worth. And this might also hold true for the way future generations of our own nation come to regard what we ourselves were worth.
The evidence is abundant that here in Britain we have the potential to excel in the performance of all the arts. But these arts can only flourish when given patronage and financial encouragement. The potential is certainly there, but it is for society to bring it to fruition; and it is for government to give society the necessary lead on how this can be done.
There is a danger if the arena for artistic performance is permitted to become too centralised, with the regions required to focus upon what is going on within the capital city, to discover the potential of their own individualistic excellence. The situation will become healthier if we can revive the notion of there being a thriving local culture within each region: proud of its own traditions, and of its aesthetic potential.
Government should therefore assume the responsibility to promote the re-emergence of the English regions, so that they are encouraged to create their own local artistic excellence, in distinction from one another, and in competition with one another to draw the maximum number of tourists to come and be entertained in the significant regional manner. But this should involve the creation of regional assemblies whose main purpose will be to tailor the quality of life within that territory, so that its true individualism can be perceived for what it best might become.
It should also be the responsibility of the regional assemblies to promote the full artistic potential of those who are still at school, through the format of the education that they put on offer. There should be state-run schools within each of the regional systems, specialising in some particular aspect of the arts: whether that might be specifically in the arts, in music, drama, ballet or cinema. It could be said in passing that this might be parallelled in schools for sporting excellence, too.
Then once the artists have left the nest, so to speak, government should promote the keenness of regional competition through the constant incentive of prizes—not exclusively for artists who dwell in those regions, but on an international basis, so that artists from other cultures feel encouraged to come to these shores to compete with those of our native talent; and in so doing introducing elements of their own cultures to inspire the participants within ours.
Finally, there is the question of improved display: a display at sites of easy access for the region as a whole. It should not be necessary for an aspirant artist to visit the capital city to discover the inspiration for his native art. The finest collections should be on his very doorstep. The regional assemblies should be in a position to allot funds to transform existing museums so 737 that they can fulfil this required function. Funds should also be used to put on arts festivals where the special character of the region can be publicly proclaimed.
The artistic potential of the nation is thus indirectly linked to the government's ability to enable the English regions to re-emerge in a spirit of their most colourful individualism. So the most significant step which government could take today in the encouragement of the arts will be in the creation of our regional assemblies. I urge that this step should be taken without delay.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, is to be congratulated on introducing a debate which has managed to produce a speech suggesting that the history of this country be run backwards. I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, in his professional capacity, might find some way of doing that. However, I found his own speech a little depressing in that I believe it illustrated one of the worries about the arts that people like myself—they call me a highbrow without causing offence—have reason to feel; that is to say, a certain tendency to regard the arts not as individual expressions of particular human capacities, but as a sort of spectrum running all the way from acknowledged high art—the works of Bach or Beethoven—to any other form of public entertainment which is not itself a simple object of commerce.
The noble Lord was unfair to Mr. John Tusa whose article in The Times did reveal very real worries on the part of many lovers of the arts. It is not only a question of money. Money has figured largely, as might be expected, in our debate and no doubt subsequent speeches will again refer to the importance of public and private patronage.
But there is also the question to which Mr. Tusa drew attention, which is that if one is to have a country vibrating with the enjoyment of art and its creation, it is important that those who set the tone for public life take that into account. It was depressing to many of us that the incoming Prime Minister should, for three much-advertised parties in Downing Street, confine his appreciation of the arts to what I believe is known as "pop music". I do not believe that pop, pop, pop is the sound that we most like coming from No. 10 Downing Street.
Similarly, the Secretary of State for Education, no doubt with the best of intentions of doing something about our apparent inabilities in numeracy, literacy and information technology (whatever that may be), has downgraded the importance of the arts, particularly music, since it is the art with which I am most concerned.
One of the most encouraging things over the past few decades, which have been mostly discouraging, has been the evidence of the widespread interest in the making of music all over the country and the enormous number of young artists of promise, both vocal and instrumental, who have come forward through the competitions at Leeds and the concerts at St. John's Smith Square, which is our local concert hall. If they are no longer to 738 have the possibility of taking music lessons in particular in the schools, it is going to be very hard to see where the stream of performance is to come from in the future.
This year we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Donizetti, a rather more important musician than some of those admired by the Prime Minister. When Donizetti was eight years old he went to a school in Bergamo which provided free teaching of music to the sons of the citizens of that city. I wish that our much richer cities, far away from this little Alpine town, could make sure that if there are Donizettis about, they will not be lost to the British public.
It is important that the difference between art and other forms of entertainment, which are perfectly respectable in their way, should constantly be made clear to the young, otherwise they will fall in with the fashion of peer groups and the fashions transmitted to them by American television and other inroads on our cultural life. They will then be less valuable as citizens because they are less concerned with the things that matter most. It seems to me that Members of your Lordships' House who do not have ancestral mansions or other forms of ability either to acquire or to display works of art can at least take that task upon themselves as they go around the country and meet the young.
I speak with some feeling because one result of my growing infirmity is that I can no longer attend art exhibitions. I can no longer stand in picture galleries without incurring considerable pain, so I am very much restricted to the two institutions which the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, rightly commended to us, Classic FM and the BBC. It is their music which keeps hope alive that this country will still enjoy the artistic renaissance which its young fully deserve.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Lord Balfour of Inchrye
My Lords, twice in the past three years I have found myself the only speaker on the arts in the debates following the Queen's Speech, so it is a relief to find that I am one of many speakers today, even if I am No. 13. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, on initiating this debate.
Since my last speech, in October 1996, much has happened in the world of the arts, notably a change of government with a new attitude and approach to the arts. While commending much of what the Government have been doing in various other areas, I regret that the arts are not among them. I deplore the worshipping at the populist altar, to the almost total exclusion of an appreciation of the more life-enhancing, lasting and what I consider to be worthwhile forms of artistic expression. Reluctantly, I entirely agree with Sir Peter Hall's opinion that neither of the two major parties cares much about the arts and that most of our present-day politicians are philistines. I say that despite the encouraging news yesterday on museum admission charges.
The last government's preoccupation with market forces above all other considerations inevitably led to a descent to the lowest common denominator, while the monotonous regularity with which they dumped successive Ministers on the arts—most of them quite 739 useless appointments—has only been exceeded by the frequency of governmental changes in Italy. Every politician now bares his or her populist credentials: baseball caps worn back to front, and knowledge of and attendance at Britpop awards are deemed obligatory, but surely it is not necessary to resort to such behaviour to earn the respect of the electorate. Far from it—I recall how the late and much lamented leader of the Labour Party was once asked a number of questions about popular culture. I think he got one right.
I must say how much I agree with a recent letter to The Times which suggested that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, far from being censured for availing himself of the opportunity to borrow pictures from the national collections, is to be congratulated. The correspondent went on to say that it ought to be compulsory for all Ministers of the Crown to have at least 30 pictures from the collections and to attend art appreciation courses. What a splendid idea, which I would extend to the Shadow Cabinet!
In a speech at the Mansion House in March 1997, the Prime Minister said:The arts and cultural industries have been on the side-lines for too long. They are not peripheral to our lives. I want them to be part of the main agenda".Like the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, I sometimes wonder exactly what "the main agenda" is. Some weeks after taking office, the Prime Minister was photographed at a reception at 10 Downing Street talking to a pop music idol whose foul and abusive language on TV and radio, loutish behaviour both on the ground and in the air and open advocacy of drug-taking do irreparable harm, not credit, to this country. My local paper described the conduct of some of the fans of this band in the streets near the performing venue. It was, quite simply, disgusting. I note that some in the pop music world have already started criticising this love affair with the Government, saying that it is bound to end in tears or, in the case of the Deputy Prime Minister, a bucket of iced water. No wonder a British businessman in Tokyo, attending the exhibition of British art on loan from the Tate, remarked,In terms of its image, Britain needs all the help it can get. British culture should be seen to counterbalance had behaviour".I dislike intensely this new, so-called "culture" which really consists of a clique of pop stars, record producers, models and fashion designers, and I regret the ostracising of the really important individuals in the arts today. When will leading figures in the theatre, like Peter Hall, Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard, or in music like Peter Maxwell-Davies, Harrison Birtwistle or Charles Mackerras, or writers such as Ted Hughes, Beryl Bainbridge or Martin Amis be invited to 10 Downing Street? They are the cultural individuals whose work does good for this country, not the "celebrity" icons of "Cool Britannia" which, in reality, is nothing but the trumpeting of the tacky, tawdry, trivial, trite and, above all, the transient.
Simultaneously with the Government's view of the arts, there is a perpetual lowering of standards in the media, which is hardly conducive to the well-being of the arts in the life of the nation. Naturally, no coverage of the arts can be expected in the tabloid 740 press—unless it focuses on some scandal—but it has seriously declined in recent times in the so-called "quality press" also. BBC Radio 3 is a travesty of its former self, while Radio 4 is about to axe its excellent programme "Kaleidoscope" and the late Frank Muir's autobiography was thought "too literary" for listeners. Those are just a few examples of a deplorable trend. George Orwell's words apropos Hollywood are entirely applicable here:It is always assumed that anything demanding thought, or even suggesting thought, must be avoided".I have argued before in this House that the arts ought to be placed alongside education. The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, also made that point. I say that despite the dismal level of education that we have reached as a result of the policies pursued during the past 30 years. I am delighted that the Secretary of State is trying to improve education. I am pleased to note that my view was endorsed by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, who, in an interview in The Times a year ago said:We need to rehabilitate the arts as a legitimate area of public policy. One way is to start putting them back where they belong—at the heart of education. Arts and education feed each other. Schools and colleges are the source both of the artists and the audiences of the future".I agree with every word of that.
In conclusion, I must express my disquiet at the current state of music in schools. A recent survey has shown a nationwide shortfall of more than 700,000 instruments, and about £40 million is said to have been cut from music teaching budgets in the past three years. Sir Simon Rattle has observed:Having fought the last government about what the curriculum might look and sound like, now to find ourselves at odds whether music is important enough really to be on the curriculum at all is horrifying to all of us, because we see the possibility of a generation of children who never have the chance to discover the power of music".I earnestly hope that the Government will take heed of those words, spoken by one of our most widely admired personalities in the arts who really does do something to boost the artistic reputation of this country.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover
My Lords, at the time of the election, the Labour Party published a document with the rather ambitious title, Create the Future, in which it was said that British artists and people with creative talent will only be able to fulfil their potential when they have the wholehearted support of a government with an effective strategy. "When indeed?" as the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, asked so eloquently. Today, no one in the arts can believe that that wholehearted support is evident.
I too saw the article by John Tusa and felt that it represented a widely held feeling. For those of your Lordships who did not see it, perhaps I may quote just one sentence. Mr. Tusa said that he thought that the Prime Minister was signalling,that Oasis is as important to Britain as opera, that chat shows are as important as novels, that T.V. soap operas are more valuable than live theatre and that all sorts of other key ingredients of the arts matter not at all".741 In the weekend press there were reports, seemingly emanating from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which was perhaps only kite-flying, that opera at the Royal Opera House was likely to be privatised; in other words, that we should be returning to the 1930s, and discarding our greatest opera company that, despite the crises that affect all opera, has been so successful over the past 50 years.
In the brief time available this afternoon it is upon this apparent danger to the cultural life of the country that I feel as a past chairman of the Royal Opera House I must comment, even though it may be very hard for your Lordships to believe that privatisation can be a serious option. The example to justify so-called privatisation of opera was said to be the Metropolitan Opera House in New York that flourishes without public subsidy. What ignorance that revealed. First, the Met benefits from the economies of scale of having no fewer than 1,700 more seats than Covent Garden. Secondly, the wealth of New York is many times that of London in terms of potential benefactors. Thirdly, the Met, like the Boston Symphony Orchestra, has a huge endowment built up over many years of tax breaks for art patrons and non-socialist governments. Those reasons make New York no model for London.
The comparison that could, and I suggest should, be made is with European opera houses which are similar in size to the Royal Opera House. In London the Royal Opera House and the English National Opera together receive less than £30 million from Arts Council grants. The equivalent figure in Paris for opera and ballet at the Bastille and the Gamier is about £78 million. Berlin's three opera houses receive over £80 million, while Munich has about £66 million. In other words, the Royal Opera House and English National Opera together receive between a half and a third of the subsidy of opera houses in Europe. It is not surprising therefore that seat prices have as a result been much higher in London, although not as high as is often suggested. At the ROH, for example, almost 40 per cent. of all opera seats and over 60 per cent. of all ballet seats in the past season were below £35.
It is six years since I was chairman of the Royal Opera House, but I must declare an interest in the future of the ROH in my present capacity as chairman of the governors of the Royal Ballet, the trustee body that holds the Royal Charter. Sharing the Royal Opera House with the opera company, the ballet will he greatly threatened if opera at the ROH is privatised and consequently reduced to occasional seasons as in the 1930s, or is damaged by gross under-funding in the future. It is hard to believe that at the very time we are to have an opera house properly equipped for the next century, with far better facilities both for the artists and the public, we are to abandon or greatly reduce public support for the opera company and thus make it impossible to achieve the full potential and greatly increase access by being able to give far more performances of opera and ballet than was ever possible in the past.
742 The new opera house will also be able to reach out to millions through greatly increased broadcast and television performances. Already between 3 million and 4 million watch ballet and opera on television. Over 2 million watched the Royal Opera House performances over Christmas, and 2.9 million watched the gala at the closure of the opera house.
London must surely continue to enjoy world-class opera and ballet and rival the very best in Europe. Our objective must be to make possible the achievement of the very highest standards. The Royal Opera House as a centre of excellence can bring benefits for all opera and ballet throughout the land, and opera and ballet should be seen by many more millions on television. This deserves what at the election was described as the wholehearted support of the Government.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Baroness Rendell of Babergh
My Lords, in speaking on the importance of literature I must declare an interest, for although I would hardly claim to have contributed literature to the nation I have certainly produced a lot of fiction. As my noble friend Lord Jenkins has just informed the House, there should be no clear line of demarcation between art and entertainment. In 1990, 64,000 books were published in this country. That figure had increased to 102,000 by 1996. The publishing industry contributes about £1 billion per annum to the UK economy through exports. But talk of numbers and sales is rather to state what publishing is worth to the economy than to the nation's cultural and intellectual life. National life benefits enormously from the quality of published material and this is in a healthy and flourishing condition. Perhaps nothing reflects taste among readers so clearly as last Sunday's general bestseller list in the Sunday Times with works by Ted Hughes, Peter Ackroyd and Bill Bryson at its head.
Poetry is enjoying a revival. Some of this interest is due to the Poems in the Underground project which drew the attention of tube train travellers to previously unknown treasures. Both the Whitbread and W. H. Smith awards, although open to fiction, biography and travel-writing, were won by the same book of poetry: Ted Hughes' Tales from Ovid. Hundreds of arts festivals are held in the United Kingdom each year, about 50 of which are devoted to literature or include important literary events. Among these are established favourites: the Edinburgh, Cheltenham and the Hay Festivals as well as such relative newcomers to the scene as the Female Eye National Festival of Women's Writing and the Daphne du Maurier Festival at Fowey in Cornwall. The literary festival provides pleasure, instruction and general enjoyment to thousands, encourages reading and does as much as anything to promote love of literature. Creative writing schools also provide great stimulus to potential writers. Many more have been established in recent years. While it may be true that writing cannot be taught, where there is talent, keenness and ambition the latent gift can be encouraged to express itself. The Arvon Foundation has been spectacularly successful at achieving this. In August that veteran assembly the Writers' Summer School will convene for the 50th time at Swanwick in Derbyshire.
743 I am concerned by the plight of young writers starting out for whom the public lending right does little, supplying as it does extra funds to those popular authors in little need of it and practically nothing to the young and struggling. There is a case for revision of the public lending right so that it provides more substantial funds to such authors, perhaps by offering a smaller slice of the cake to the successful and popular—or, dare I suggest, nothing at all? —and a bigger slice to those with only one or two literary novels to their name. We are all familiar with the image of the pram in the hall as the enemy of promise but perhaps a more powerful adversary is the spectre of want. Not everyone, however talented, is as motivated as Anthony Trollop and gets up at five and writes before going off to his or her job.
It has been said that our England is a nest of singing birds. I paraphrase that and say, less euphoniously, that our United Kingdom is a nest of singing birds. No doubt some of them will go on singing without outside aid as they have always done, but there is something disquieting about imagining the creative output that may be lost because insufficient attention has been paid to latent talent. However, the National Lottery has enabled the Arts Council to address problems which earlier it was unable to tackle. Since the Arts for Everyone scheme was announced in the autumn of 1996, under the express element, literature awards totalling £1,107,000 have been made for 287 projects and, under the main element, just over £2,000,000 has been awarded to 20 projects. Two more rounds are still to come. Young people and the disabled have been particularly targeted. A sum of £475,000 from Arts for Everyone has gone to the Hiatus project in Birmingham involving young people in producing television dramas. Bournemouth libraries have benefited through a workshops project linking the creative aspect of writing with an active enjoyment of reading. Thanks to a grant from the same source, the Poetry Society has launched a two-year programme to bring poetry to the people.
Something in the region of 200 literary awards are presented in this country each year. The Arts Council's Writers' Awards go to the winners of 15 separate categories: fiction, poetry, genre fiction, biography and so on. Each award is of £7,000. Such an award is enough to keep a young author during the writing of a book. The Arts Council is presently looking at ways to expand this project and increase the number of categories. Perhaps it should also consider that young creative writers need places in which to work, havens of peace and quiet important to any author, and set aside funds for the setting up of such retreats. The Eastern Arts Board is currently conducting a feasibility study into the possible establishment of a residential centre which would aim to attract professional writers from all over the country seeking a retreat in which to work.
Books need readers. As well as through advertising and the media, literary festivals, book clubs and reading circles, much is being done and needs to be done to reach potential readers by the means of literary evenings in libraries and theatres and author lectures and readings. One enterprising publisher I know takes her young authors into pubs and clubs to read from their work to a clientele who might otherwise never hear of them. The 744 buying of books is difficult or impossible for a large number of people and they depend on the public library. It is vital that public libraries are maintained and stocked with the best literature publishing has to offer.
The Arts Council is working intensively through schools and libraries to encourage reading. With the National Year of Reading set to start in September, we note that most libraries in the United Kingdom will be holding special events to encourage involvement. The Library Association's two reading initiatives Sharing a Story and Playing Around with a Book are expected to continue throughout the year and summer reading campaigns are planned. The libraries' involvement is invaluable for their role in highlighting the importance and pleasure of reading. Literature is probably the only branch of the arts which may be enjoyed at no cost at all.
The National Year of Reading should make a significant difference in literacy levels. Exploring values and life itself through literature may be more effective in developing useful and happy citizens than the formal teaching of morality, while violent and anti-social behaviour may to a large extent be the result of lack of experience in the organisation and expression of emotion. The discerning reader learns something new and valuable every day.
Books face great competition from a vast range of entertainment, but literature manages to hold its own. It will only continue to do so through persistent promotion along the lines that I have mentioned and through the encouragement of aspiring writers. In his splendid introduction to the debate my noble friend Lord Puttnam mentioned Tolstoy and the writing of a screenplay. A British Tolstoy may be out there, waiting to be found.
§ 5.2 p.m.
The Earl of Carlisle
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Rendell. I am grateful to her, as I am sure all noble Lords are, for having drawn attention to the promotion of literature through prizes. We all—the House, the nation and the arts—owe a great debt to the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, for initiating the debate. He said that art is an ambassador.
For the past three or four years I have had the pleasure and privilege of working in the Baltic states. Noble Lords may recall that in 1991, after the Berlin Wall came down, the three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—which are much undersized states compared with their eastern neighbour, produced what was called a singing revolution. They won through song. They linked hands from Tallinn down to Vilnius, and they held massive singing festivals in Tallinn. The Russians called it a day and walked out. Art has political and cultural significance.
In his maiden speech on 18th December 1997, during the debate on the Unstarred Question on free access to museums, asked by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, at col. 813 of the Official Report said:Victorian Britain was engaged in nothing short of a massive experiment in public education",in the South Kensington area 150 years ago. Our arts and our culture through our museums need to regenerate that theme and also embark upon a massive experiment in public education.
745 Like all noble Lords, I have no constituents. About one morning every fortnight I invite A-level pupils from a variety of schools—from Wells to Harrow. This morning, 10 Harrovians came to your Lordships' House. They sat in the other place and had a tour. One of them said, "We want to know more about the Office of the Lord Chancellor. Can we see where he lives?" I said, "Not yet but when the refurbishment is completed I hope I may be able to take you there".
I salute the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, who is not in his place today, for all that he has done to refurbish that once magnificent set of Pugin Rooms. I should be wary of giving the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor advice. The last time that one of my ancestors did so, it was the fifth Lord Carlisle. At the age of 35, like the noble Lord, Lord Owen, who is not in his place, he became Foreign Secretary, and like the noble Lord so far, he never held Cabinet office again.
In the 1750s that Lord Carlisle attempted to offer advice to the Lord Chancellor on a measure to facilitate divorce. Lord Hardwicke referred to my ancestor as an adulterous young aristocrat. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is a distinguished advocate and Scotsman. I suggest that he introduces into his chambers a Raeburn portrait of a Scotsman who was also a learned Lord, because last month the National Portrait Gallery held an exhibition of Raeburn paintings. Those noble Lords who visited would not have been disappointed.
That exhibition had several results. It introduced English people to the works of a great Scottish portrait painter. It introduced them to 18th and 19th century Edinburgh. It boosted the numbers of people visiting the National Portrait Gallery, who may never have visited it at all.
I have now another salutation. It is to the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and his colleague on the Cross Benches, the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg. Since 14th May they have persistently and determinedly encouraged and exhorted, and no doubt provoked, the Treasury Bench with string after string of well-worded, incisive Questions.
I know that he does not like being called the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms, but I salute him and his team in his department for enabling free access to museums for the foreseeable future. When he replies perhaps he will explain the words, "for the foreseeable future".
I shall explain what Dr. Charles Saumarez-Smith and the National Portrait Gallery are doing to encourage energetic and imaginative access. First, they are building a £10 million restaurant on the top of the museum, which may generate wealth to be spent on the museum, and enable more people to see around it and, it is hoped, make donations. Secondly, it is installing an escalator to enable people to get to the top floor. It will need private sponsorship and the support of everyone.
When showing people around this House, I realise that our young people are deficient in their basic knowledge of British history. Our museums and galleries, in particular the National Portrait Gallery, have a substantial role to play.
746 There is an omission in the debate. No Member of the Bishops' Benches is to speak. Perhaps one of them will speak in the gap. I wish to draw attention to our nation's greatest, sublime and soaring monuments; the cathedrals. I hope that when necessary the Bishops will apply to the National Lottery because it would be a tragedy if we allowed the cathedrals to return to their condition at the end of the Second World War.
§ My final point—
The Earl of Carlisle
My Lords, I shall deal with it later. I hope that the Lindisfarne Gospels are returned to where they belong. They are the greatest pieces of 8th century work belonging to Europe.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Lord Crathorne
My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak in this debate which was so eloquently introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and to affirm the importance of the arts in the life of the nation. In a debate with so many speakers it is difficult to cover new ground, but I wish to discuss two points which have been mentioned only briefly. I shall begin close to home.
This morning, about 50 members of the All-Party Parliamentary Arts and Heritage Group went to the Tate Gallery to see the wonderful exhibition of paintings by Bonnard. It was truly a life enhancing experience. I mention that group, which was earlier referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, because of all the organisations within Westminster it is most concerned with the subject of today's debate. As secretary of the group, I receive many letters stating how much the visits and events we organise enhance the lives of MPs and Peers at Westminster. I am glad to say that I have received letters to that effect from my noble friend Lord Renton. Since the election, new Members of Parliament have been slow to join, but the numbers are now increasing.
This morning at the Tate, we all welcomed the Budget news that money would be made available to some museums in order to prevent them having to charge entrance fees. The all-party group has been working hard on that problem with the Secretary of State. We are delighted about the announcement and feel that we can claim a small amount of credit for it.
Having called attention to the importance of arts in the life of Parliament, I shall move to a different point; the built heritage. I am pleased that the noble Lord. Lord Puttnam, referred to the built heritage and left us in no doubt about this feelings. Architecture is one of the arts and is as important as painting, opera and even film making. In many ways, it is the most important of the arts because we are surrounded and influenced by architecture. We are conditioned by our environment. I sometimes wonder whether there is a connection between the fact that we in this Chamber are so well behaved and the exceptional environment in which we operate. In addition, I am pleased about the improvement to the Lord Chancellor's environment.
747 The present Government have stated that they are committed to new design and architecture. This is fine. However, they have been silent about historic buildings and have not sufficiently indicated the fact that they value buildings of the past. Perhaps I should declare an interest as chairman of the Georgian Group, which is one of the statutory bodies charged with protecting Georgian buildings. There is a painful contrast between the amount of money and attention being lavished on the Millennium Dome at Greenwich, as mentioned by other noble Lords, and the vague financial commitment to secure the future of the Royal Hospital at Greenwich which was recently designated a World Heritage Site. That group of buildings is superb and the Government must consider committing money to it from somewhere.
Another case which comes to mind is the Royal William Victualling Yard in Plymouth. It is another magnificent complex of buildings which seemed destined to become a retail shopping outlet with backing from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. That is not the best use for those buildings and a more acceptable scheme appears to have been overlooked.
I conclude by making a plea to the Government. Please do not underestimate the importance of the built heritage in the life of the nation.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Baroness Amos
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Puttnam for initiating today's important debate. I believe that the arts are integral to our society. Artistic activity can inspire people's knowledge and imagination and it is important that this is recognised.
To date, the contributions that I have made in your Lordships' House have been in the arena of human rights and equality, but I shall depart from that in today's speech. In the short time available to me, I should like to comment on the importance of development and investment in the arts and in particular the importance of investment in new writing. I must at this point declare an interest as one of the directors of Hampstead Theatre.
Whenever I travel, I am always reminded of the way in which British theatre leads the world. I strongly believe that we need to find ways in which we can build on its worldwide reputation and success. In order to maintain that success, we must invest in development. We need adequate investment in the creative artist and in art form development as an entity in itself.
In recent years, many arts companies have paid less attention to experimentation and the nurturing of new talent because of financial constraints. That is having a particular impact on theatre. We need to support and promote talent as it emerges so that we continue to reap respect and admiration around the world. But it is also important to develop an appreciation of the arts among our young people and I would endorse the comments on the important relationship between art and education. For example, Hampstead Theatre recently made a new departure by producing a set of plays, all of them new writing, targeted at young people. To date, it has 748 been a great success and it has been heartening to see the way in which large numbers of young people have become engaged with those productions.
In plays, big and bold statements can be made about how we live our lives, and that was certainly true in those plays. They can provide diverse groups of people with an opportunity to understand how others live, simply to enable them to see the other side of the question. They can open up new vistas, challenge our preconceived ideas and also provide us with a sense of community. They can help us to express our emotions. It was good to see those young people laugh, cry and be moved by the content of those plays.
Therefore, it is important that we celebrate the breadth and depth of the talent which exists. But in celebrating it, let us remember also that practical support must be given if our arts companies are to maintain their position in the worldwide market. For that to happen, we must invest in development and commit to the new.
We live in a diverse society, a society where it is important that majority and minority voices are heard and where minority cultures need to be respected. For those reasons, greater access to the arts is vital. That can be achieved only by a creative approach to funding and a serious debate about the sometimes, I believe, fake assumptions which are made about art which is popular. Because something is popular or commercial, it does not mean that it must be of poor quality. Money is one of the keys to access. Low prices make the arts available to those who can ill afford that luxury. But as important, it removes the barrier between the arts and those who have never felt their right to participate in them. It is important to create an environment which allows many rather than the few to participate in a diverse and rich range of activities.
I very much endorse the partnership approach. Let us not forget that there would be no performing arts in this country if artists, back-stage staff and all the personnel who look after and produce the work did not, in some way or other, contribute to that partnership. It is that partnership which will deliver greater access to the arts and will deliver also the opportunity to celebrate and enjoy the rich diversity which is at the heart of our society. I very much hope that the Government will continue to support new developments and invest in the new.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Lord Inglewood
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I must start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, for introducing this important debate.
There are a myriad of arguments—and noble Lords will have heard many of them—for having a thriving arts sector. In my comments, I should like to focus in particular on the economic aspect, not because I disparage the other aspects but simply because an industry which contributed £9.6 billion in 1996 to our country's exports must be taken seriously as an economic entity. Also, I do not propose to provide answers to questions. Rather, I wish to make points which can contribute to a wider debate.
749 It is a truism—but it is nevertheless true for all that—that we are living in an age of technological revolution. At the time, it is often very difficult to identify the characteristics of a revolution. But it is clear that at the centre of that revolution lies the value of intellectual property. Central to our nation's success in making the most of the intellectual property that we can generate is creativity. And central to encouraging and promoting creativity is a thriving arts sector. Of course, that revolution is taking place in a world where our fellow citizens have more money and time than ever before.
Against such a background, we need a national debate about the role of the arts and creativity in society very much along the lines of the one that we had in this country in the 19th century about science and education. We must take forward that debate in as rounded a way as possible.
I believe that that is already starting. Some of your Lordships may remember in the last government the so-called "Cool Britannia" initiative which became a theme of the then opposition party's approach to the arts and those issues. We know what happened on 1st May and I do not wish to rehearse that particular piece of history. But the crucial question which we must ask ourselves is how we develop and encourage creativity and then exploit it so that here, in this country, we become winners in the next century.
There are a number of points at which we should look most carefully. One of the characteristics of creativity is that it is essentially anarchic and anti-establishment. It follows by definition that any political party which gains office becomes, by virtue of that act, part of the establishment. It is probably naïve, and probably it will not happen, for governments to expect to receive a lot of gratitude from parts of the arts sector. It is the price that is paid for having a thriving arts sector.
Just as creativity and the arts are becoming economically more important, in turn they become engines of economic regeneration in the wider country. Last weekend, I was in the north-east of England and saw the "Gateshead Angel"—the "Angel of the North". Quite apart from any other consideration, how on earth could Gateshead have promoted itself to the extent it has by taking any other form of advertisement? In the north-east one sees projects such as the Baltic Flour Mills and the Sunderland glass museum which will be major employers in the locality. We have seen that in the north with the Tate in Liverpool. In a world where more travel will take place and people have more leisure, that is a way of creating jobs where they are needed.
The arts is a very important instrument of realpolitik for this country. After all, if it is not a tautology, the English language is the lingua franca of the globe. The Government put money into the World Service, as much as anything else, to increase their influence around the globe. The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, referred to film. British films are admired everywhere. Mention has been made also of architecture. Our architects are some of the most esteemed anywhere in the world. We look 750 at the work of the British Council. We see our nation's interests being promoted not by fire power but by soft power.
In all that, the role of the Government is very important. The principal benefits come from the Government being an enabler and a patron rather than a direct deliverer. The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, mentioned William Morris as one of his heroes. He is also one of my heroes. In his essay Hopes and Fears for Art he said that gods and governments cannot help those who do not help themselves. We must try to ensure that in whatever patronage the Government can bestow, they bestow it wisely and bravely in the national interest. For example, in an article in The Times, written by my noble friend Lord Hurd of Westwell, he mentions specifically the spectacular new British embassy building in Berlin.
Having said that, I am still not convinced—and I speak looking back to my time in the then Department of National Heritage—that the administration and systems of government in this country are really addressing that problem as well as they should. On the one hand, there is the Department of Culture, Media and Sport but yet, in that general area, the DTI plays an important part. Those noble Lords who travel by Tube may have seen the poster for Powerhouse UK, which is about design. In turn, fashion is the responsibility of the DTI.
I am concerned also—I hope not in a destructive way—about the role of the Department for Education and Employment. I understand the financial constraints against which it operates. But if one looks at the activities of the arts sector, how much money is being spent on things which really should be paid for from the education budget rather than the arts budget? Of course, educational access is important but sometimes I suspect that educational access is being paid for by the arts part of our nation's budget when it should be paid for from the educational part of the budget. Again, if one looks at the lottery and the way that is operated, a lot of what is being done is entirely laudable and in the public interest. But it is providing funds for the DFEE.
In the context of education, historical perspective is very important. After all, things do not happen in the abstract. There is a need for the disciplined rigour of context, albeit that the new creation may be interpreted in a radical or unexpected manner or may quite simply be a rejection of the past. Today's enfants terribles will become tomorrow's old masters.
In many ways, I believe that the economic and political characteristics of the arts are similar to those of the environment. After all, in the early 1980s, greenery—if I may put it that way—was a radical political theme, but now it has become a mainstream one. Perhaps we may see the same here. Equally, the economics of this sector are difficult to measure. That poses problems for bean counters in the Treasury and elsewhere. The relationships between the payments and the benefits are not always so obvious. Again, if I may use a rural analogy, it is somewhat like my home area where subsidies are paid to hill farmers to benefit the Lake District and the visitors who go there on their holidays.
751 In an era where the state is, quite rightly, withdrawing from certain funding activities, how will the arts generate the money that is needed? We cannot have the arts without the necessary funding. Of course, there will be some central government money, some lottery money, some sponsorship and some money from what I might call "sales proceeds", be it the selling of pictures or the selling of tickets. But perhaps—and I put this forward knowing that it has been put forward by others—we ought to have some kind of US-style tax breaks.
The future presents a particular kind of problem for those who may not be successful in the arts. As the father of two daughters, it is not only a case of, "Would you put your daughter on the stage Mrs. Worthington?", it is also: would you want your daughter to marry an unsuccessful solicitor or an unsuccessful artist? I believe that the standard of living that one would get if married to the former would probably be rather better.
There are many important issues related to this topic. The great paradox is that, as the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, said, digital technology is going, in certain respects, to revive the traditional Renaissance, humanist concept of education, linking the scientific and the creative. Without the creative, we shall not be able properly to exploit the scientific innovations which seem to be endemic to our age and at which we in this country are so good.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ The Earl of Clancarty
My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, for instigating this important debate. It has been difficult to know how to react to the news of yesterday's Budget, after the extraordinary newspaper predictions at the weekend which raised the expectations of a lot of people in relation to the national museums and galleries. But now that the dust is settling things do look better than they did in December. I give a cautious welcome to the Government's initiative.
Can the Minister confirm that this is the beginning of a firm commitment to free all the national museums and, if so, what is the time-scale and the amounts of money involved? Can the Minister also give us some idea of the future position of anomalous museums, such as the Bradford Photography Museum? I understand that the extra £2 million to selected national galleries will help to maintain the status quo in terms of free admissions—this is clearly good, though I am worried that the conditions attached to this fund may allow a culture of commerce and finance to strengthen further its control on museums. The Government must now help the charging museums, with the one simple condition attached that their charges must be lifted.
As the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has told us, there is also at present, as a result of government cuts, tremendous concern for the regional local authority museums, a large number of which now charge for admission. I would greatly welcome the extension of the legislation that already exists in Scotland where local authorities have,to ensure that there is adequate provision of facilities for the inhabitants of their area … for … cultural activities".752 That is interestingly-worded legislation, as the use of the phrase "cultural activities" appears to blur the distinction between consumption and production. Within the present structures this provision should be a bargain made among central government, local authorities and the people of the area, yet it seems clear that, with the latest round of cuts, central government is not keeping up its end of the bargain.
I want now to turn to another matter, and make a few observations on the problems of being an artist in Britain, in particular those artists who have survived—and have done so up to now—on benefits or a mixture of benefits and part-time work; and also on the nature of the work that they are carrying out, and its position within society.
As your Lordships are doubtless aware, and as we heard earlier, there is a growing rebellion among many pop musicians, writers, artists and others over the Government's plans for welfare to work. Successful pop musicians, for instance, have argued that they could not have reached the positions that they are now in without the long periods on benefit when they were free to experiment and develop their musical ideas—perhaps for 10 years or more. There are a number of ironies here: Tony Blair and his Government proclaim a vibrant contemporary culture but they would not he able to do so without those they laud having come through a particular system of support. Tony Blair has been erecting a "house of culture", but ignores or refuses to admit the foundation stones on which it is built. Another irony is the fact that those among creative artists who have the voice to be critical are precisely the successful ones, at least they are the commercially successful ones, in the Government's own terms of their assumed identification of art with commercial success.
But what about those artists who cannot or choose not to operate in a commercial sense, who are engaged in long-term—that is to say, lifelong—"independent research, what in science is termed "blue skies research" but is also I believe extremely important in the arts? The long-term broadly non-commercial situation is a reality for the great majority of artists living and working in the UK. Extremely successful commercial artists are the exception rather than the rule.
Gordon Brown said yesterday:We will make work pay".What then of the work of the artist? From the artist's point of view, does Gordon Brown mean that he will make the work you already do pay, or does he mean that he will make you do work which pays? Because this asks us to think about what we actually mean by the terms "work" and "value". Is it possible for this Government to accept that the contribution that artists make to culture is through the work that they do rather than through paying taxes from earnings which would be a bonus on top of that work? Gordon Brown has made it clear that the Government want to make sure that people are not better off on benefit doing nothing than they would be working. Artists may be on benefit, but they are not doing nothing—they are working. Theirs is a cultural work. Could not the Government or society itself agree to pay the artist what he or she would 753 receive as benefits for being unemployed, as a payment for this cultural work which is their major contribution to society? When or if the artist comes into the position where he or she is able to pay taxes, they would no longer need these payments.
At present we are in danger of streamlining the funding, the facilities (including museums and galleries) and work structures they have to inhabit into a commercial cultural system without anomalies. In that sense, this is a government that seems to like "tidying up". The tighter and more controlled the structures that the Government set up, the more a culture will be created which, for all its apparent variegation, will be prescribed, determined only by those structures. We should instead be allowing for a diversity of artistic projects ranging from those that function in the market place to those which might be seen as a cultural equivalent of blue-skies research. Otherwise the end result might be that we face a situation like that in the former eastern bloc countries where their authorities countenanced only socialist artists: we would support only commercially-viable artists.
Perhaps one of the good things that has come out of this present situation is the desire on the part of many artists and others no longer to live a lie. If the artist is presently supported for not working, why cannot he be supported for working as an artist? There are at present a great number of artists, writers and musicians working on very low incomes all over Britain. Gordon Brown may say that he wants to expand the opportunities for work, but the effective result may be simply to stop artists from being artists. I present this not as a demand, but as an appeal to legitimise a situation which already exists, but which is largely hidden. Its revealing could change the whole nature of the cultural landscape in this country.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Lord Montague of Oxford
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Puttnam, in his excellent speech opening this debate, referred to the profound effect of the lottery. As an immediate past millennium commissioner I would like to take noble Lords on a quick canter around the country—stopping not for a second in Greenwich—to discuss some of the excellent projects which are newly taking place. We must remember—as we have heard several times this afternoon—the importance of buildings.
The noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, asked a most interesting question; namely, whether we can do anything for cathedrals. We are doing so. I refer to the completion of the St. Edmundsbury Cathedral. This project will complete the north transept and the cloisters and will link the chapel and the unfinished tower. That will complete the last substantially incomplete English cathedral. Our noble friends the bishops are able to apply for funding and are doing so. That is to be welcomed. We have heard today about books. In Norwich we are building a great library. I say "we" but we are providing only 50 per cent. of the cost of this great library and the great square which will be built in Norwich. There will be a millennium library, a business 754 and learning centre and a heritage attraction. In London, in addition to what is happening at Greenwich we are helping the British Museum. We have given it £30 million towards its £94 million cost of putting to good use the central area which will arise as a result of the moving of the British Library.
Durham is being dubbed the renaissance city of the north. There will be a theatre, a centre for lifelong learning and a new library. In Newcastle there will be an interactive visitor centre where the secrets of life will he unveiled and the mysteries of evolution and life on earth explored. Each of these projects to which I refer will cost at least £100 million, of which the Millennium Commission will provide half. An observation has been made that only £50 million is being made available to the new Bankside Tate Gallery. When the Millennium Commission came into being we decided that we had to have some ground rules under which people applied to us for funding. The ground rules stipulated that we would provide either 50 per cent. of the cost of a project or £50 million, whichever was the greater. It is up to applicants whether or not they apply to us. The Tate applied to us on that basis. When there are projects to finance up and down the land a body such as ours must follow a strict financial discipline: otherwise, every single project could overrun its budget and will reapply to us for additional funds. That is why we have established these rules which we shall not vary.
In Manchester the Lowry Centre will be built, comprising exhibition space to feature that great English artist, L.S. Lowry of "matchstick men" fame. There will also be built a 1,650-seat lyric theatre. Portsmouth Harbour can come alive for visitors. A great tower will be built from which one can see "HMS Victory" and the British fleet, all of which will now go to Portsmouth. The commander-in-chief is already located there. That will be a great spectacle. From the tower one will be able to see the Isle of Wight. It will be a hub of activity and, I am sure, a great attraction.
In Bristol there will be built two theatres and a science centre. In Cornwall the Eden project will be established. What a tremendous project that will be. A great, deep quarry will be partially covered over. The scheme will be designed by the same architects who built the Eurostar station at Waterloo. There will be a similar imaginative design by Eden in Cornwall. In addition to being a great attraction to visitors it will provide much economic benefit to Cornwall, which is one of the poorest, albeit most glamorous, parts of the country. In Birmingham there will be the Millennium Point with new multimedia technologies and a home for historic and modern artefacts. A Hindu temple will be built in the west Midlands. I do not know whether noble Lords have seen the temple that was built in Neasden which received much publicity. It is a quite magnificent affair. I have not seen anything like it before. I could not believe I was in Britain. I urge noble Lords to visit it if they have not done so. It is exciting, stimulating and a true work of art.
The Earth Centre near Doncaster is being built in an area of high unemployment for miners for whom there is no other work. It will be used for environmental research and as a sustainable technology centre. 755 Sheffield will have a new art gallery and a public winter garden which will revitalise the centre of Sheffield. In Northern Ireland there will be the Odyssey Project, a science centre and an IMEX cinema. I hope my noble friend Lord Puttnam will agree that these new IMEX cinemas are a magnificent new cinematic art and quite fascinating. I urge those who have not visited one to do so. In Wales there will be a new botanic garden. We have heard about the importance of gardening. In Scotland we shall link Glasgow and Edinburgh by removing the obstacles which stand in the way of the canal which used to exist. That will bring pleasure to many.
We are not forgetting that the millennium is the mark of a Christian period. We shall provide the funds to floodlight 400 churches. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, who became so angry with us on one occasion when we would not provide funds for the new opera house in Cardiff. If he had not become angry with us I doubt we would have taken the subsequent decision that another similar project on the same site should go ahead. There will be a new lyric theatre in Cardiff.
The noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, referred to the Royal William Yard at Plymouth. We had some proposals for that and we were disappointed that it is now to be a retail centre. I agree with the noble Lord that that is a quite unsuitable purpose for that magnificent site. I have spoken for seven minutes and I am so grateful that my time is up because I do not have time to say anything about Greenwich!
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Lord Feldman
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, on introducing this debate today with his customary eloquence. It has given us the opportunity to discuss a subject which is close to our hearts and of great benefit to our nation.
I had the good fortune to come from a family where the arts were considered important and were encouraged. My father was a good amateur violinist. My sister, Fenella, became an actress and her Hedda Gabler received even more acclaim than her roles in the "Carry On" films. My son Nicholas has achieved great success in the music charts. At school, as a form of light relief from work, I organised many visits to the theatre, the opera and concerts. I realised then that you have to catch them young.
It seems to me that we should reconsider a long-standing idea to give the under-18s an arts passport which would give them access to selected arts venues around the country without charge. I am sure this will have an enormous effect on the future of the arts in our country. As my noble friend Lord Inglewood has suggested, perhaps the cost could be met from the education budget. The Government raised expectations on what would happen to the arts if and when they won the election, implying that more money would emerge and that there would be more support and encouragement for all the arts. So far there is great disappointment throughout the arts, although the Chancellor helped yesterday as regards museums and galleries.
756 I understand that the creative industries task force includes film, video, television, design, rock and pop music, but why deny representation to the other arts such as classical music, theatre, opera, ballet and museums? Are they not creative too?
I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, whom I respect, will understand it if I say that John Tusa did not create a schism by his article. In fact the schism was created and caused by the Government's rather clumsy approach to the matter. During my term on the English Tourist Board I worked to establish a closer relationship between tourism and the arts. As a result, the London Arts Season was created to bring tourists to London in February and March—an off peak time of the year—in 1994, 1995 and 1996. The season brought together all the arts in London and brought £75 million of additional revenue to the capital. It was followed in 1995 by a national year long campaign called the Festival of Arts and Culture which produced £150 million.
Let me give noble Lords some statistics. Fifty per cent. of overseas visitors are drawn here by our arts and heritage. Each year our West End theatres alone sell 12 million tickets, of which 4 million are sold to overseas visitors. More than 50 million visitors come to our museums, galleries and historic properties every year. The arts-related spend on tourism is over £3 billion a year. However, the value to our nation from the arts does not just rest with buying tickets or paying an admission fee. There are substantial economic benefits too.
Overseas visitors arrive in our planes, ships and ferries. They eat in our restaurants. They travel on our buses, trains and in our taxis. They stay in our hotels and they buy goods in our shops. All these activities create jobs, and I have found that arts tourists come hack again and again. The arts, whether sponsored or commercial, lead to job creation on a large scale, adding to the life, fulfilment and prosperity of our nation.
I find it intriguing that after the general election, the name of the Department of National Heritage was changed. Much of the arts that we celebrate are part of our cultural heritage, so yet again New Labour has carried out an unnecessary exercise in rebranding. This reminds me of Sam Goldwyn, the great American film producer, who, when told by a critic that his films were always full of old clichés, was extremely upset. The great man called together his directors and screenwriters and said, "Gentlemen, enough of the old clichés. Give me some new clichés!". New Labour has given us many new clichés, but no new money for the arts.
I believe that we should continue to align tourism with the arts. One project which I feel is important is the establishment of an arts bureau in London which, combined with a tourism element, would promote the arts within our country and around the world on a 12 months of the year basis. I hope that the application that we made for lottery money will in time prove successful. Something like that would boost the arts, bringing more visitors to our country. It would also bring increased economic benefits.
757 I wholeheartedly agree with the spirit behind the debate. It is to be hoped that something good will come of it, that some new ideas will emerge and, more importantly, will be put into effect.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Lord Freyberg
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, for initiating this timely debate. There is one important issue that has been neglected for many decades which I urge the Secretary of State to address as part of his departmental review. That is the redistribution of works of art in our national collections.
There are several reasons why that is necessary. At the moment, thanks to historical accident, important works of art are often housed in inappropriate museum collections when they would be seen and appreciated by far more people if they were accommodated somewhere else. For example, the Victoria and Albert Museum, while largely a museum for the decorative and applied arts, also owns a considerable number of fine paintings by such artists as Degas, Fantin Latour, Ingres, Delacroix and Tiepolo, to say nothing of the 415 magnificent oil sketches by Constable. All those languish largely unknown and unseen compared with the large numbers of people who enjoy comparative works in the National and Tate galleries.
One of the reasons for the V&A's large holding of pictures is the National Gallery's refusal from the beginning to accept work by living artists. When in 1887 John Sheepshanks gave more than 500 pictures to the South Kensington Museum (as the V&A was then called) he did so with the intention that they should form the nucleus of a National Gallery of British Art. Ten years later the Tate Gallery was built at Millbank for just that purpose. If the Tate had existed earlier, it is certain that they would have gone there. It is lamentable that no one has had the imagination or nous in the past 100 years to arrange for their removal to the place where they would be properly appreciated.
The Constables were bequeathed to the V&A for a slightly different reason. At that time, in 1888, the National Gallery refused to take oil sketches, though it was happy to accept Constable's large oils from the same source. Today no such distinction is made. Meanwhile drawings by Constable are divided between the Tate, the V&A and the British Museum. Surely it would make sense for scholars and the general public alike to reunite this great collection as a pair to the Turner bequest.
Whatever else the public perception of the V&A may be, it is not of a major art gallery with a range of paintings, prints, drawings and a vast number of watercolours, from 14th century Italy to present day Britain. Visitors largely ignore these elements of its holdings and instead prefer to think of it as the greatest decorative and applied arts museum in the world. That is what they come to see. If its unsung pictures were moved to a more appropriate setting, several whole galleries would be freed for some of its massive reserve collection currently languishing in its capacious cellars and storerooms.
758 Similarly, visitors do not go to the British Museum for its decorative arts collection. But it exists, as do equivalent anomalies in all the major London museums. One of the greatest problems in redistributing works of art is the understandable reluctance of museum directors to let go anything in their collection, however sensible the idea might be in principle. This is why it is necessary for the Secretary of State to get involved, to bash heads together, or at least to convene a rational discussion of the whole issue and force museum directors to be practical rather than territorial.
One of the ways museums have attempted to redress this situation in the past has been to arrange for works isolated in the wrong museum to be placed in a more suitable location on long term loan. For example, the V&A's Bellini has been on the walls of the National Gallery since 1895. That is obviously the right place for it and it would not make sense for it ever to return to South Kensington. Unfortunately, other loans are often made on the understanding that the objects will eventually return to their original home no matter how illogical that would be.
It should be noted that the director of the National Gallery, Neil MacGregor, took an excellent lead in this direction a couple of years ago, presumably hoping to kick-start others in the same direction. He handed over some fine miniatures to the Victoria and Albert Museum, which already boasts the national collection of miniatures, and a number of Greco-Roman Fayum portraits to the British Museum.
What is important for all the museums is that they should concentrate on their core purposes and remedy the accidents of history where practical and appropriate. They should be encouraged to examine properly the merits of placing particular articles in relevant museums, even if the ownership of these works is not changed.
I do not suggest that the regrouping should be clinical and absolute, but commonsensical. It would, for example, be a great shame to deprive the V&A of its range and mixture of exhibits in its period galleries. But we must be sensible about it where anomalies are obvious.
As regards wholesale reorganisation between the museums, there are two substantial precedents. They lie in the fur and feathers of the National History Museum that once were all housed at the British Museum along with the Elgin Marbles, until common sense removed them to South Kensington. Meanwhile the V&A was established in 1852 as a Museum of Manufactures. It quickly developed as a museum devoted to ornamental art, while its industrial side also grew to such an extent that in 1913 the Science Museum was founded.
The imminent removal of contemporary art works from the Tate Gallery to Bankside is an ideal moment to take stock of which other works of art are stranded in uncongenial collections and where they would be most appreciated and visible.
The major museums and galleries of London have for too long been left the victims of their history and patronage. It is time to reconsider their scope and 759 function, not singly, but as a group, serving the public rather than themselves. It would surely make sense to rationalise the most glaring anomalies.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Dholakia
My Lords, perhaps I may also add my congratulations and thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam. This debate gives me a golden opportunity to focus attention on minority arts. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Montague of Oxford, for mentioning some very interesting examples, and in particular the Neasden temple. Just for information, over a million people have visited the temple over a period of about two years. A substantial number of them are from different faiths. That shows the importance of such a beautiful and wonderful structure.
Just before I entered the House I was handed a leaflet from an organisation called ADiTi. I was asked whether it was at all possible to mention the organisation. It is the national umbrella organisation for South Asian dance. It is doing some very noble work in the community. As noble Lords will know, dance is one of the most powerful and eloquent means of self-expression. The thing that impressed me most when I read the leaflet was that the organisation's funding has been withdrawn by the Arts Council of England. It asks:How is this a reflection of the Arts Council's commitment to cultural diversity?".It is just as necessary to establish cultural relations within groups which co-exist within a society, as when they exist in the form of separate states. Indeed, it could be argued that it is even more important to do so when those groups are differentiated not only by race but by all kinds of social traditions, which are very often not understood by members of other groups living in close proximity. It has often been said that racial differences act like a trace element in the body politic, exposing all the weak places. When the arts are neglected and under-valued by the state, the result of that neglect will show up most clearly in its effect on ethnic minorities.
As early as 1976 I headed a department at the Commission for Racial Equality which also had a responsibility for the arts. We began to be aware of a sense of neglect, amounting to discrimination, being experienced by artists from ethnic minorities living and working in this country. We found that the official view of the Arts Council of Great Britain at the time was that no special need was recognised and no special policy was required—in effect, there was no need to change anything. The same attitude was held, with some honourable exceptions, by most regional arts associations and local authorities. In other words, the contribution which could have assisted towards the creation of an integrated society was ignored.
At that time, the first condition of eligibility for any kind of public funding was that the artist or artists concerned should be "professional" in the sense then considered to be the first condition of eligibility for public money.
To be fair, after a certain amount of educational endeavour on our part, the Arts Council eventually had a change of heart. In 1980, it announced a policy of 760 "affirmative action" in relation to the art and artists of ethnic minorities. I am glad to say that that state of affairs still exists today. We also found that for lack of money, space and opportunity, most people in this country had seen very little of the work of ethnic minority artists living in our own communities.
After the first of several meetings with the chairman and members of the All Party Parliamentary Heritage Group, the suggestion was made that we should organise a programme of performances, at the Commonwealth Institute, in which every possible ethnic minority in Britain should be represented—not merely West Indians and Asians, but Africans, Chinese, Poles, Ukrainians, Scots, Welsh and Irish. The audience was entirely invited, and consisted largely of representatives from local authorities from all over Britain. It was the first time that people gained an idea of the arts that were available on their doorstep.
After that, a small trust was formed, funded by the Gulbenkian Foundation. It organised no less than 22 festivals in cities all over Britain, all of which provided an opportunity for the best artists in local communities to perform in public for the first time.
But today, after more than a decade of cuts across the board in arts funding, the ethnic minority artists, who had only just begun to catch up, are once again disproportionately disadvantaged. That must be a shocking indictment of a society, when art exemplifies the finest contributions in the life of its citizens. When resources are scarce, competition becomes keener. A sense of grievance among the losers is evident. Low expectation based on had experience leads to alienation, and to the kind of behaviour that we all deplore and regret.
Britain, rather to its own surprise, has a world-wide reputation for pre-eminence in the arts. However, that reputation is built on a lop-sided Euro-centric projection of our society. It is surely of vital importance to be recognised as the multi-racial, multi-cultural society that we are, and that that should be represented in all that is good for our country.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Viscount Bridgeman
My Lords, I, too, wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, for initiating this debate. Several noble Lords have spoken about the plight of the smaller museums in this country, and I wish to speak briefly about that category. The current magnificent exhibition at the Royal Academy bears striking witness to the treasures that are in the possession of museums across the United Kingdom. At this stage I must declare an interest as a director of a company which holds archives of photographs of pictures owned by museums and art collections. It is in the small museums in this country that we see the funding difficulties at their most stark.
Let us take a museum in a large town in England. It will probably have negligible endowments. It is likely to be under the control of a local authority which is itself under considerable financial pressure and where the priorities for the arts are not as high as we would like. There was the case of one major city whose very fine 761 museum came under the control of the parks and cemeteries department! If, in addition, the museum is unfortunate enough to be in one of the newly constituted unitary authorities, experience has unfortunately shown that the problem is further exacerbated. Unlike its larger brothers, it will not have the resources to fund a profitable publications department, which is likely barely to break even. It is also unlikely to have a booming tourist trade. Its limited hanging space may well be further reduced by a sense of obligation to the community, and indeed the need to earn cash, by hiring some of its valuable space for contemporary exhibitions, thus compelling it to keep even more of its works of art in its reserve collections away from public access. The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, referred to the reserve collections of the larger V&A. That is much more crucial with a smaller collection.
It is a vicious circle. Everybody loses—the nation's heritage, in the form of the public who are denied a sight of these works, and the museums themselves because their works will not have the earning potential from reproduction rights; and so back to the public again, since the ability to acquire new works will in many cases be all but extinguished. These are the Cinderellas of the museums world. Their contribution to the history, the culture, and indeed the contemporary life of the communities they serve is beyond measure. The lottery grants have been a lifeline, but with the grant to the Arts Council, in common with the other lottery funds, to be cut by £60 million per year, this invaluable group must not be the ones on the margin which are forgotten.
The lottery grants have been a great help to capital projects, but perhaps I may make a plea for some form of parallel revenue funding. I take as an example a very fine provincial museum collection which last year loaned 120 of its pictures, more than ever before, nationally, locally and overseas. It could not afford to take part in the exchange programme, so this was a purely good-will gesture. The paperwork involved in this operation is ever-increasing. The net result will almost certainly be a cutback on its activities for the current year. Capital projects are one thing; revenue support is another.
I conclude on an encouraging note. Three years ago Sheffield galleries were on the point of collapse. There was serious talk of closures. Sheffield, the seventh largest city in England, gave the third lowest grant to its museums. However, thanks to an enlightened initiative by the City Council, two of the largest museums have been made into an independent trust. Sheffield was a fortunate recipient of lottery funds and the curator now has the prospect, for the first time in years, of a development fund and a purchasing fund. The Sheffield example is the very best kind of matching effort, matching lottery grants with imaginative local initiatives. I very much hope that the Secretary of State will be as generous as he can to this most deserving category of museums in this country.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
My Lords, I begin by joining in the thanks to my noble friend for giving us the opportunity to debate this important Motion. I am in the somewhat unfortunate position that the noble Lord, 762 Lord Dholakia, has given my speech for me. Nevertheless, as seems to be traditional in your Lordships' House, I shall go ahead and say it all again.
I too wish to concentrate my comments on the influence of Britain's ethnic minorities on arts today. Many noble Lords have spoken about the sheer vibrancy of the arts in Britain. I wish to argue that this is in large part due to the influence of our ethnic minorities and that we should not only recognise this but celebrate it and promote it.
The problem I have is in trying to cite specific examples. There is such an amalgamation of different ethnic groups with different art forms and different levels of cultural influence that it is impossible to define any boundaries and in some ways it is invidious to attempt to do so. Nevertheless, I wish to give examples, and I shall do so.
In the world of dance I would cite the choreographer and dancer Shobana Jeyasingh, who has a new show opening in the coming week in which she will fuse western contemporary music with classical Indian dance forms in a very exhilarating performance.
In the world of theatre I would cite the Tara Arts Theatre, an Asian theatre group based in my own borough of Wandsworth, which has recently toured the country with Molière's Tartuffe.
In the world of sculpture I would cite Keith Khan, an Asian Trinidadian living and working in London, whose sculptures have been seen by tens of thousands of people at the Notting Hill Carnival.
I would also cite the Notting Hill Carnival itself as a form of art. It is the largest street festival in Europe and has a tremendous vibrancy, which anyone who attends can see.
In the world of poetry I would cite Benjamin Zephaniah, who is such a well-established poet that one hears him on Radio 4 almost every week.
In the world of literature I would cite recent Booker Prize winners, Ben Okri, Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro and Arundhati Roy. These are all British writers writing on their experiences outside Britain and contributing to British literature.
I would also cite the art form of food and cooking. I do not know whether members of the Catering Committee of your Lordships' House regard food and cooking as an art form; perhaps they should do so. I should like to cite Peter Gordon's restaurant, the Sugar Club, where he fuses Pacific cookery with European cookery, creating a new type of food.
In the world of music, which is perhaps the simplest example, I would cite the band Simply Red, which I believe is the Prime Minister's favourite pop group, which draws on the reggae tradition, of which I suspect some noble Lords have heard. I would also cite the group Cornershop, which is currently topping the charts in Britain with Punjabi lyrics and joins together classical Indian music with British pop music.
The point I wish to make is that artistic traditions are feeding off each other and creating new arts forms. Young people, particularly in metropolitan areas, take all this for granted; it is nothing new to them. I believe 763 that many of these arts represent the voice of youth and the voice of social cohesion, and that alone is a cause for celebration.
I know that there is some concern that cultural diversity has not been properly serviced by our funding system, a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and my noble friend Lady Amos. Although I am sure those are valid criticisms, the last thing I want to do on an occasion like this is to complain. Perhaps it is inevitable that our funding and training institutions will lag behind what is happening on the arts scene today. I hope that their shortcomings will be overcome, but I suspect that there is a degree of inevitability about them.
I believe that one of the central reasons for Britain's vibrant arts is its cultural diversity. I believe that this is a cause for celebration, and I thank my noble friend Lord Puttnam for giving me the opportunity to draw this to your Lordships' attention.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Lord Eden of Winton
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, who so eloquently introduced this debate, will forgive me if I hijack it for a moment in order to draw your Lordships' attention to the problems currently afflicting the Royal Armouries museum.
The Royal Armouries is Great Britain's oldest national museum. For eight years I had the honour to be its chairman. During that time plans were developed which have now found fruition in the establishment of the Royal Armouries in three different locations: at Leeds; at Fort Nelson, above Portsmouth; and at the Tower of London. Yet with three locations the Royal Armouries still has the same grant-in-aid as it had when it occupied only part of the Tower of London. Now spread throughout the three areas, it has the opportunity, which it has seized, more imaginatively and more adequately to display its world-renowned collection of arms and armour.
The museum was able to go to Leeds because, with the help of the Government, it became the first private finance initiative museum to be established—I believe that it is so far the only one. But, as noble Lords will appreciate, because of the involvement of the private sector, the Royal Armouries museum is unable to benefit from the revenues derived from admissions, retailing, catering and hiring facilities, which go directly to the private sector investors. That restricts the amount of revenue income that the armouries may be able to draw.
At Fort Nelson the Royal Armouries has been developing the most imaginative displays of its artillery collection. It has enormous potential, as the noble Lord, Lord Montague of Oxford, mentioned when referring to Portsmouth. It is all part of the Portsmouth defence of the realm heritage, which is well worth a visit. The Royal Armouries will be making a modest bid for assistance from lottery funds to enable it to proceed with the full display of its artillery there. I hope that, as a result, both at Fort Nelson and at Leeds, it will be able to display—through the medium of pageant, historical 764 presentations and much educational work—the history of warfare over the ages, demonstrating man's infinite capacity to inflict horror upon his fellow beings.
The Tower of London remains the one crucial problem which the Royal Armouries museum is now facing; yet it is surprising that it should be a problem at all. The Royal Armouries, as a working arsenal and as a museum, has been at the Tower of London for more than 700 years. It is a vital and central part of the Tower exhibits and exhibition. In 1983 the National Heritage Act came into being and established the Royal Armouries as an independent trustee-managed body. But more recently, during the period of the last government, the Royal Palaces Agency came into existence, charged with the responsibility for managing the unoccupied Royal Palaces, which include the Tower of London.
The Royal Palaces Agency, not surprisingly, wants full control over everything that goes on in the Tower of London. Frankly, it seems to be offended by the sheer presence of the Royal Armouries in the Tower. The result is that the Royal Armouries is no longer able to raise funds in the Tower for its own operations. It did a deal recently in which it gave up its commercial income on the promise that it would receive a financial settlement. It was expecting at least £600,000 a year; it was offered, as I understand it, £200,000—half of the expected proceeds from the shop which it has been forced to give up and which it was hoping to open in the newly-displayed White Tower.
The Tower as a whole makes a substantial profit. Last year its income from admissions was £15 million. The Royal Armouries was asking for 4 per cent. of that. All it has been offered is 1 per cent. The adult admission to the Tower is currently £8; the Royal Armouries was asking for 30p of that, but it is to receive less than 10p. Frankly, that is offensive and also shortsighted, particularly for a national museum which had more than 3 million visitors in the past year.
A grave injustice is being committed. It is quite extraordinary that such damage is being done to a vital part of our nation's heritage by the department of heritage, all apparently being brought about because of the overweening ambition of one of it minions. I ask the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who has sat so patiently throughout the debate, to help me by bringing to the attention of his right honourable friend the Secretary of State the urgent need for him to take an interest in this matter; to see the Royal Armouries trustees and the Master of the Armouries in order to correct a grave injustice.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Lord Gibson
My Lords, there are few people in public life today who will actually deny the central importance of the arts; but how many who attain political authority really mean what they say? They mean it in Opposition, but they tend to be less enthusiastic in government, and that applies to both sides.
We must hope that the views of the noble Lord. Lord Puttnam, find favour with the Government that he supports. He made a powerful case for the arts and 765 I congratulate him on bringing it forward so effectively. The addition to your Lordships' House of so formidable a practitioner of the arts is a real bonus.
The fact is that too many people in this country still think of the arts as, while desirable, no more than the icing on the cake to be trimmed when economy requires it. Benjamin Britten put it even more strongly when he received the first Aspen Award in 1964 and in his acceptance speech observed,The average Briton still thinks of the arts as suspect and expensive luxuries".That is 30-odd years ago and perhaps we have come on a bit since then.
Why is it wrong to think like that? To find the answer we have only to think what past societies are remembered for: as a number of your Lordships have said, primarily their cultural expression, their painters, architects, poets and composers; furthermore, the liberating effect of the arts on society. The first thing a dictator does is to constrain and suppress the arts. It is the liberating effect which so abundantly justifies the public support for the arts.
Public subsidy, supported by private, has enormously widened public demand for music and drama throughout the country and brought a national musical and artistic life with a richness and variety undreamt of 50 years ago. It could not have been done without subsidy. However, it would not have been nearly as well done if we had not created an Arts Council to dispense the funds and thus protect the recipients of those funds from political interference. But there is the rub. As the size of public provision has grown, it has become more difficult for politicians to resist interfering; more tempting for them to ignore the "arm's length" principle, which was the original reason for the existence of the Arts Council. What could illustrate that better than Mr. Smith's apparent readiness to determine the future of opera in London with the Arts Council little more than a spectator of events? As someone who chaired the Arts Council 25 years ago, in the days when Ministers of both political parties observed the arm's length principle scrupulously, I find that very sad. I see one former Minister still in his place; I am sorry that the other has left because I like to be even-handed in these matters.
Still, I congratulate Mr. Gerry Robinson on his appointment as the next chairman. His public remarks so far seem to be very much to the point and he is clearly not a man to be pushed around. The Government which appointed him will clearly want him to be a success. Good luck to him! But he will need it. Apart from yesterday's welcome announcement of some help—though not much—for museums, the Government have not so far shown themselves to be very sympathetic to the arts. Many speakers have already referred to severe cuts in arts support. However, in the little time left I propose to speak of the arts in education.
The Prime Minister asserted that the arts are central, not peripheral. Many of us hoped that he meant it and that a Labour Government would extend to secondary schools the compulsory inclusion of art and music in 766 the curriculum, it being already compulsory in primary schools. But they have moved in the opposite direction. It is now, for at least the next two years, compulsory in neither.
Of course I understand that the Secretary of State is trying to make more room for basic skills and I am not pleading for a return to progressive, so-called "child-centred" education which may even fail to teach children to spell. Far from it. What I am pleading for is the arts as a means of arousing in children a desire to learn more, and I am saying that this happens most noticeably in very young children. There is plenty of evidence that where children are introduced to the arts early it helps to improve their basic skills as well, and certainly that their whole attitude to school—their motivation, their bearing and their involvement—all improve when they begin to experience the arts at an early age.
Of course I understand that the Secretary of State has no intention of excluding the arts from the primary curriculum. I know that he wants head teachers to make use of the arts. But as I understand it, it is to be left to head teachers to decide how, and how much, to use music, drama, painting and so on to help children. And I fear this will mean that in schools in relatively well-off areas, with a high proportion of pupils from professional and middle class families, it will be easier to include the arts and head teachers who want to do so will be able to, while in deprived areas, with children from the poorest homes, where inclusion of art and music is perhaps even more essential, it will be much more difficult; and, with fewer peripatetic musicians available, it will be almost impossible.
This is the reason for the concern which many of us feel about this single, to us important, move, and I only hope that the Minister, when he replies to the debate, will be able to say something to alleviate our concern.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Lord Hastings
My Lords, I think I should declare some sort of interest in that I have been actively involved in the world of ballet for some 66 years. Quite recently I had to retire on the ground of age as a governor of the Royal Ballet after 23 years, and currently I am chairman of the Dance Teachers Benevolent Fund, which covers teachers in every aspect, from classical ballet, contemporary and modern, right through to ballroom and Latin American dancing. That is relevant to my remarks about education, although the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, rather pre-empted what I was going to say.
A few years ago, under the previous government, when we were debating the Education Reform Act, they included music in the core curriculum. An amendment was moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, that the words "the arts" should be inserted instead. Being late in the evening, the amendment was lost by 26 votes to 27. Most of the 27 had walked in from the Library and most of the 26, who had listened to the debate, including myself, voted for the Labour amendment. By so small a margin was damage done to the teaching of drama and dance throughout the entire education system, which has 767 suffered quite considerably as a result. Now the same thing, alas, is going to happen to music. It will, no longer form part of the statutory core curriculum.
What the last government did—and this Government are repeating the mistake—was to undermine the possibility of creativity in the arts in general in schools and enjoyment and appreciation of them. I say to this Government, who say that education is their flagship, that an education that does not expose students from the earliest of ages throughout their careers at school to the arts in general—and even to one particular art in some schools—is not a fully rounded education. I hope that they will review this and cancel the present policy. I believe it is vital to the whole future, in the words of the noble Lord's Motion, "life of the nation".
The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, will remember that when he and I were together in Florence celebrating the 75th anniversary of the British Institute of Florence and that marvellous film "Chariots of Fire" had a gala showing I told him that I was not at all happy about the record of the Conservative Government in their support of the arts. I thought it had been inadequate and mean minded and I was hoping for something better from the next Labour Government. So far, I am afraid I am disappointed. I dare not ask the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, whether he is. But the fact is that there have been cuts in real terms, theatres have closed and will continue to close, and the situation is not very promising.
That brings me to a particular complaint in that I strongly object to the misuse of the word "élitism", which nowadays is used in government circles and in the media as a derogatory term. If we are talking about elitism, surely we are talking about high standards, quality and excellence, and not mere affluence, which seems to be uppermost in the minds of those in government circles and in the media, correlating it with the higher intellectual forms of art—"highbrow art", the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, said. That must surely be wrong and I hope it will be put a stop to.
That brings me to a matter which I think the Government must take into account when they are considering the whole problem of the arts. I refer to the question of prestige, which is a fact of life whether they like it or not. Our friends on the Continent, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, have no difficulty in recognising the importance of prestige and they give subsidies roughly three times those received in this country. Prestige is important for the reputation of our country as well as to the tourist industry, which engenders millions of pounds—far more than any subsidies given out. The fact is that we have a reputation for being a philistine country.
The noble Lord, Lord Hindlip, quoted statistics from the National Campaign for the Arts. I think that reputation is probably unfair on millions of ordinary people who enjoy the arts and get education and stimulation and sometimes spiritual comfort out of them. Therefore, I am hopeful that when and if this Government manage to save a lot of money by reforming the welfare state and by preventing waste in both central and local government which we know exists, they will spare a few dimes for the arts and 768 change their attitude, because I am afraid that the philistinism starts at the very top, in government circles, in the Treasury and in Cabinet. That attitude must change; and the sooner it changes, the better.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Viscount Simon
My Lords, there have been some notable contributions today made by people who have an intimate knowledge of the subject about which, I have to admit, I do not. I have a great love of classical music, particularly baroque and baroque choral music: hardly a day passes when I do not listen to some. But that is the extent of my knowledge. I hope that my completely different approach in tonight's debate will be both controversial and will provide food for thought. Your Lordships may be surprised when I tell you that my contribution to the debate is solely confined to the practical effects of music on crime and disorder, which is also an important part of the life of the nation.
There are many among us who like modern pop music—personally, I loathe it. The stronger the beat the more it is liked. I cannot for one moment imagine that there is one noble Lord here today who has not heard the boom, boom, boom emanating very loudly from cars driven, usually, by the youth of today. Not only can the youth not hear emergency vehicles approaching but, in time, they will not be able to her anything due to deafness brought on by the excessive volume. Some councils are addressing the problem of excessive noise from car stereos as, I believe, youngsters in Weston-Super-Mare have discovered when they are not only heavily fined but have their equipment confiscated as well.
I do not know if there has been any research into the effect of the strong, hypnotic beat, but I would not be surprised if it were found that it made people aggressive and less tolerant of others.
But I return to classical music. In just three weeks, rowdy groups of teenagers, who used to menace passengers, wreck equipment and scrawl graffiti, have quietly faded away from the Tyneside Metro station of Shiremoor. Why? —you may well ask. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, might be encouraged to learn that these youths, accustomed to the beat of modern music (if it can be so described), cannot stand the sound of Delius being played. I am led to understand that the early indications are that reports of juvenile disorder have been considerably reduced and, therefore, the initial trial is regarded as a success. The volume of music is pitched so that it can be appreciated by those who like it and loud enough to deter those who do not. Your Lordships may be interested to learn that the youths were initially subjected to orchestral and choral extracts from Delius's Hassan which was broadcast for 12 hours each day. Chief Inspector Allan Curry of the Northumbria police said that vandals,were not disposed to standing around when this music was played".He also saidwe will try any new idea to reduce crime and disorder".Curiously, the idea of using classical music in the fight against crime was picked up at a seminar on security which discussed ways in which music can have 769 a psychological influence on people in public places. In some instances I am not sure if I agree with such manipulation but, in the case of potential criminal actions, I approve and hope that this initial trial will be extended.
So, it has been shown that classical music as one form of the arts, can be important in reducing crime in certain circumstances and this, in turn, must be of benefit to the nation, and to the life of the nation.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Lord Rotherwick
My Lords, in the 17th century Thomas Hobbes wrote in Leviathan,no arts; no letters; no society; and which is the worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short".In 1874, in another place, Disraeli said,upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends".In 1997 Tony Blair declared the priorities of the Labour Party in power to be, "Education, education, education".
It is my primary contention that the arts are about many things—relaxation, entertainment, spiritual values, and above all, education. Who can deny the educational value of the award-winning films of the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, among them "The Mission", "The Killing Fields" and "Chariots of Fire"? Who can deny that the thousands of schoolchildren visiting our museums and galleries are enjoying an educational excursion? And who can deny that our theatres daily portray aspects of history, emotion, action and consequences that both edify and educate their audiences? All three—cinema, museums and theatres—train and educate young Thespians and technicians to go abroad, as did the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and prove themselves to be the best.
It is my secondary contention that the Government, in pursuit of education as a priority, should assist the arts in their many forms to provide the level of services that it has been their custom to do. That need not mean a wholesale subsidy for all-comers as I shall now demonstrate.
The total government grant-in-aid for the London museums, which do not charge for entry—that is to say, the Tate Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum and the National Gallery—was £27.7 million in 1986–87 and had risen to £75 million in 1996–97. Over the same period the total number of visitors had risen from 9.1 million to 15.1 million. That means a government subsidy of £3.04 rising to £4.97 for each visitor. Many of these are tourists and I do not believe that they should be assisted to this level, especially when many overseas museums charge an entrance fee. Obviously, museum trustees should always have the final say in charging policy, but I recommend that the Government should think again about the level of support they provide for the cultural and educational aspirations of overseas visitors and consider new ways of tapping into these lost revenues.
770 The film world is dominated by America where seven Hollywood studios control 90 per cent. of US distribution income and make one-third of all American films. The Hollywood system of giving artists a contract incorporating a share of the net profits has been subject to much dispute over the past three or four decades. The trouble centres round the accounting procedures used by the studios to calculate net losses on films such as "JFK", "Batman, the Movie", and "Coming to America". In preparation now is the Garrison litigation, which cinema experts consider may lead to the end of Hollywood's domination of the milieu.
This may be a window of opportunity for the British film industry which already has a reputation for excellence, particularly in the training and nurture of world-class technicians and award-winning actors and actresses. However, despite the tax breaks available to wealthy "angels" the funding of British films has always been problematical. Fresh ideas and top quality scripts go overseas and in the process millions of film-goers are treated to re-written versions of British history. Those of us in the know can laugh as Audie Murphy wins the European war single-handedly in film after film. But many of our citizens "learn" the amended versions and believe the message it insinuates. Some of these films expose hitherto unknown passages of history while others make a travesty of it. In "Braveheart" William Wallace is credited with cuckolding the future English King and, by implication, fathering Edward III. In reality, Wallace was executed in 1305 and Edward III was not born until 1312, making it the longest gestation period in history. How much better it would be if a government, in pursuit of education as a priority, were to give better tax incentives to individuals to fund more accurate British films.
Drama in Britain is alive and is a clever way to educate the people in a range of subjects. It is of itself a very telling voice of the people. British theatre is dominated by the smaller auditoria, often with little or no grant support; for instance, the Little Theatre Guild, the highly respected Almeida and the threatened Greenwich theatre, and by repertory companies, all of whom feed the internationally-known venues such as the RSC, the National and Drury Lane. The repertoire ranges from Ayckbourn and Agatha Christie through Chekhov and Ibsen to Shaw and Tennessee Williams. Never mind the Bard and his famous lines beginning,all the world's a stage";all the world is to be found in our theatres. The growing practice of touring companies performing in schools and village halls is to be commended, but a government in pursuit of education as a priority might well consider the possibility of providing financial assistance sufficient to ensure that by the time every child has reached 16 years of age he or she has attended at least one live theatre performance.
Finally, I would ask the Minister whether either the amount or the pattern of funding is adequate from a government in pursuit of education as a priority.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Lord Chorley
My Lords, I too express my thanks to my old friend, if I may so describe him, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, not only for initiating this debate, but for his outstanding speech, starting us off nearly four hours ago.
I should like to address two issues. The first is the role of the arts in, to use that rather portentous phrase, cultural diplomacy. I refer to the work of the British Council, of which I am a deputy chairman. I refer secondly to the health of our regional galleries and museums. On the face of it, they may seem unconnected themes, but they are linked by a common problem and thread, which is: where should we draw the line and the boundary between state funding on the one hand and private and local funding on the other?
I shall illustrate my first theme, cultural diplomacy, with a quotation from the Evening Standard of 9th March this year. Under the banner headline "Othello conquers China" and the lower headline,The National stuns Beijing in 'emotional phenomenon'",the first paragraph of the article states:Britain's National Theatre pulled off a spectacular triumph in Beijing at the weekend when it brought one of the least demonstrative audiences on earth to its feet in scenes of tears, cheers and flowers with the acclaimed Sam Mendes production of Othello that is half way through a round-the-world tour".That tour was organised by the British Council. Prior to that, there had been performances of Othello in Warsaw where a friend of mine who saw it had exactly the same story to tell.
Thinking of that, I could not help but be reminded of an occasion eight or 10 years ago when the Royal Shakespeare Company had a similar success succès fou in Budapest. Our ambassador sent us the letters that he received and they were astonishingly heart-warming. That was just before the collapse of the Russian Empire, so I believe that over the years, bit by bit, cultural diplomacy played its part in the great victory that led to the end of the Cold War. So, one can indeed say that the pen is mightier than the sword—or, at any rate, a good deal cheaper.
I could go on to give all sorts of examples in all the main fields of the arts in which the British Council is closely involved. However, I say simply that all that has been achieved against a background over the past 20 years of relentless cuts in our parliamentary grant. There have also been relentless investigations. Two years ago we were forced to reduce our UK staff by one-quarter (1,200 staff). In carrying out all our work, we as a nation spend a fraction of the amount spent by our main competitors, France, Germany and the United States.
I must now turn to my second theme, which concerns our great regional collections, to which reference has already been made. Both yesterday and today we have heard about the Bowes Museum and the Buckinghamshire Museum. There are many other examples of regional museums being in difficulties. We all know that many are run down and dowdy. I suspect that some of them are steadily falling behind in conservation work. Acquisition budgets, the lifeblood of 772 any gallery, have been cut. The acquisition grant of the National Galleries of Scotland has been cut from £1.8 million to £660,000 in three years. A number of noble Lords have referred to the appalling cut in the grant of the National Heritage Memorial Fund from £12 million to £2 million—and so it goes on. The list is endless.
One cannot help contrasting that attitude with that of our predecessors when one has seen the splendid exhibition of regional art in England which is currently at the Royal Academy and which reminds us of the exuberant self-confidence and civic pride of our Victorian forebears, who both conceived and made possible what was then the wholly new concept of public provision. Much of the art that they bought was contemporary. I refer, for example, to the great pre-Raphaelite painters, whose work is being so splendidly selected and shown at the Royal Academy. How much contemporary art can our galleries afford to buy today?
Here, one must pay tribute to the tremendous work of the National Art Collections Fund, which in 1997 managed to offer grants of £3.2 million. But the NACF cannot do it alone; nor can the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, and his family trust. What a contrast there is between the richness and confidence of those Victorian businessmen—we tend to deride them now—with the mean and measly attitude of state provision today when, as a nation, we are infinitely richer and more prosperous than 100 years ago.
However, one might ask: why state provision at all? Today the Government take about 40 per cent. of our GDP; 100 years ago the proportion was probably 10 per cent. So, inevitably, if we wish to consider ourselves a civilised society, the Government must take a greater responsibility. Given the lottery, they are the new patrons. Of course, the lottery is project-based, but the running costs of our museums and galleries really must be the responsibility of the Government.
However, the Treasury keeps moving the goalposts. We thought that we had the National Lottery well protected in the 1993 Act. Not a hit of it—we now have a sixth good cause which, on any commonsense ground, should be funded from taxation. I quite understand why Chris Smith wants to use the sixth good cause—because he cannot get the money from the Treasury.
We see the budgets of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, English Heritage and the Arts Council being steadily eroded. Much has been made of the Chancellor condescending yesterday to help over museum admission charges. We pat him on the back and say, "Thank you". But the question should never have arisen. It should be taken for granted that such costs are the responsibility of government. We are a rich society and if we wish to be considered a civilised society, government (whether local or national) should take responsibility for the running costs of our museums and galleries; or, if we are to adopt that ghastly concept of "rebranding Britain" and if we are to sell ourselves abroad culturally, the funding of the British Council. The mark of a civilised society is surely proper provision for these things by the state.
773 I believe that although he has "wobbled", as the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, said, Mr. Chris Smith and his arts Minister, Mr. Mark Fisher, are on the side of the angels. However, the Treasury shows all the signs and hallmarks of wishing to lead the Philistines. The 64,000 dollar question is: where do the Government as a whole stand? We have hard-pressed curators in the regions and they are not impressed by big show-biz and pop parties at No. 10. Time will show, but I suggest that at the moment the national jury is out.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Ely
My Lords, I apologise for failing to put my name down for this debate and I am grateful for the opportunity to fill in the gap as I gather that we are slightly ahead of ourselves. I promise to be within the accustomed time limit of four minutes.
It is not possible for me to ignore the fact that at the bottom of my garden lies Ely Cathedral. Faced with that reality, I am bound to dissent from the proposition that the arts, or art, have in some way replaced the Church and tradition. I acknowledge the fact—and it is a fact—that the Church assumes a lower profile in the life of the modern British public. I acknowledge and welcome the fact that there is an enriching contribution from the ethnic communities to the artistic life of the nation. I have attended the Hindu festival of Diwali and have very much enjoyed Indian dance in the company of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Bradford.
However, it is surely the case that liturgy is a living and changing art form. At the time of the funeral of Diana Princess of Wales it was apparent that there was a need for public liturgies. Many Bishops, including myself, took part in public memorials and the saying of prayers in cathedrals, parks and public places because the cathedrals were too small for the number of people who wanted to assemble. Liturgy is indeed an art form and is alive in our culture today.
I celebrate and warmly welcome innovation in the arts, as did the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, in his splendid introduction to this debate. But art is a tradition and has a history. Its theory goes back to the very origins of western culture in the writings of Aristotle. The relation of art to human imagination and public life is not revolutionised by digital technology; rather, the latter is interpreted by the former. There is still a very warm and living contribution to be made to art by the Church. We in the Churches are very conscious of the duties that we owe to the nation in the inheritance that we have received. I invite any noble Lord who is here to visit Ely Cathedral to see its transformation over the past few years by way of restoration. Magnificent work has been done in that building. Ely Cathedral like many others in this country has programmes of music. That music crosses the whole spectrum. In my case we have a Rave in the Nave, which on the basis of some of the speeches this afternoon I do not advise noble Lords to attend: the band of the Royal Marines Plymouth and the University of Cambridge Music Society—all playing to capacity audiences. The Church makes a vast and continuing contribution to the performance of high 774 quality music, largely at its own expense. That includes the commissioning of new works which sometimes are regarded by congregations as controversial.
Much of this debate has concerned the Government as patron of the arts. That is well understood. There are still a number of rich people who are prominent patrons of the arts, and there are some practitioners who have become very wealthy by performing the arts. I remind noble Lords that there are also some very poor people who give vast amounts of affection and time to care for the heritage of this nation in its parish churches. I believe that it behoves us to appreciate, respect and support them.
§ 7.2 p.m.
The Viscount of Falkland
My Lords, this debate has been eagerly awaited by your Lordships' House, and the number of speakers bears testament to that. It has also been eagerly awaited outside the Chamber, if that can be judged by the amount of briefing material that has landed on our desks. We have a star player in the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, who introduced the debate so ably. I believe that the Benches opposite are extremely fortunate to have the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, among their number. I remind noble Lords that at one time he was a firm supporter of the SDP—the same origins from which I sprang—but we then went our separate ways. I am quite sure that with the noble Lord's expertise and experience (which I will deal with in more detail in a moment) the party opposite will make good use of him. The debate today has brought forth so many different points and subjects from which other debates could spring. I shall not attempt to deal with all of them in a winding up speech.
The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, is very well placed to deal with a subject on which he only touched: the problems of the arts and the new technologies, globalisation and other areas which so intrigued him. I recall some years ago being a member of a film group who with other noble Lords, some of whom may be present today, visited Pinewood post production of one of the noble Lord's films: "Memphis Belle". I was struck by the enthusiasm of the noble Lord. He is a creative producer who takes an interest in every element of his films. On this occasion he was particularly proud of the special effects which were produced by computer—the newest technology—to portray the flight of a Second World War American bomber. It was a true story which was told very well in the film, but the effect of daylight bombing raids over Germany and the effect of the flak on the crew of the aircraft was all achieved by computer.
I do not know whether the film was very successful. I see the noble Lord nodding, and I am very glad of that. I enjoyed it enormously. I went home to discuss it with my wife. I said that David Puttnam (as he was in those days) had been very interested in the new technologies but I wondered whether they were going too far and affected the balance between the development of character in film and the new technologies. I believe that to some extent that has happened in American cinema. I do not say that that occurred in the noble Lord's film. 775 I fear from his remarks that there is a danger to the values so well expressed by the noble Lord. I believe that the noble Lord was rather harsh on John Tusa. What John Tusa said had to be said and was a good time to say it. I am glad that it created some dissent.
I am also glad that the New Labour Party—the people's party—is now slightly treading on the toes of the arts establishment because it is creating much heat and energy. We have had some of that from the noble Lord, Lord Birkett. I have never seen him so impassioned when speaking from the Cross-Benches, and for good reason, but I do not take such a pessimistic view. I believe that the heat and the passion which has been generated—there were echoes of this in the debate today—can produce some good.
This morning together with a number of other noble Lords and Members of the other place I was lucky enough to visit the wonderful exhibition at the Tate Gallery of the paintings of Pierre Bonnard. I congratulate the Tate Gallery on one of the most superb exhibitions of French painting that I have ever seen. It was beautifully displayed in an order which gave proper sense to the exhibition. The beautiful paintings move one as they should. One of the great things that art does, apart from informing and entertaining, is to move one. Films should also move one. Films are not just for entertainment. They can entertain without moving; they can inform and challenge. Film can become art but that is difficult for a collaborative work involving many elements, both creative and technical.
Essentially, when we introduce art education to children we give them an opportunity to appreciate our historical culture and to become more involved in whichever art attracts them most, whether it be literature, music, cinema or whatever. When they come across great works they should become emotionally moved. I was moved today by the exhibition at the Tate Gallery. I see the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, nodding in agreement. It was an astonishing occasion. I only wish that every child in the country could see that exhibition. Unfortunately, such exhibitions are very expensive to stage and that would not be possible. I hope that the Government will take on board a good deal of what has been said today about education and the arts because that is supremely important.
Because of the constraints of time I simply follow the path trodden by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and other noble Lords. I refer to music. Like other parents who have been lucky enough to have had their children educated in the private sector, I have always made sure that mine have had a proper arts education. They still do. If my youngest child attended a school where there was no arts education, I would remove him from that school. I consider that to be essential not only to his instruction but to the quality of his life and his future success both domestically and professionally.
What has happened to music in schools is not just a scandal, it is a disaster. To take away music from the curriculum of primary schools, in addition to taking away the ability to have free instrumental tuition in schools has had a disastrous effect. I have had one piece of briefing newspaper which I have thrown aside, but 776 I remember the figure. Since 1994 apparently 300,000 children have been unable to take up any musical training. That is in a country which produces, not from private schools but from state schools mostly, a national youth orchestra which is unparalleled in the world. What is the DfEE doing? Will the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport—a cumbersome title—take that on hoard, and try to get to grips with the DIEE to get something done about that?
I should like to move now to museums and galleries. "Culture, Media and Sport" is a cumbersome title, but we have good reason for not being too irritated by it. because the exhibition at the Royal Academy, which has been mentioned by many noble Lords, is sponsored by the Peterborough Football Club, the chairman of which is a long-time supporter of the Liberal Party. I make a distinction between the Liberals and the Liberal Democrats, but I think that he is still fond of us. He is Mr. Peter Boizot, creator, as some of us know who eat cheaply, of the excellent PizzaExpress Group. He has cleverly brought to the attention, by sponsoring the exhibition of the regional collections, the problems of galleries and museums throughout the country.
As many noble Lords have said, the galleries and museums throughout the country, many of which are late Victorian and which sprang up after the Great Exhibition, have suffered from diminishing funding which has put many of them on the brink of going out of business altogether. It may be a good idea for some of them to go out of business, but they should not be forced to do so in these circumstances. The museums and galleries need to get their act together and join with government to try to rationalise the situation. They must co-operate in order, if necessary, to cut the number of galleries in the same way that we have had to cut the number of racecourses around Britain and a number of other things, to tailor the numbers to modern funding abilities. That is something about which I should like to hear more from the Government.
I was extremely pleased that we heard from the right reverend Prelate. I hope that he was not prompted by remarks from someone who said that the Church should have a voice, though, even if he was, we were glad to hear him. I hope that he will not take this as a bitter note of criticism—the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, is not here but the right reverend Prelate will probably be hearing from him in due course, because it is normally a debate introduced by Lord Sudeley which attacks the Church for not using the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible.
But the noble Lord has a point. He has always had a point. I cannot understand why the Church, which, after all, has the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible, which are as fundamental to British cultural and literary life as Milton and Shakespeare—they are part of the rhythm of our national language—appears to fail to take that on board. What they call accessibility is one thing. I do not like accessibility. People have to work to get the best out of things. I wish that they would make more effort to see that, where it is required, ancient forms are preserved.
777 Having ended on that rather ratty point. I look forward to the noble Lord's answer. I am optimistic, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Birkett. I am slightly better tempered today, and slightly more optimistic, but I may well become like him in due course.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Lord Luke
My Lords, I have seldom followed a speech with every sentiment of which I have agreed. We have had a long and interesting debate. For that, like many other noble Lords, I must thank the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam. Like the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, I first heard of the noble Lord when he produced that wonderful film "Chariots of Fire", which I enjoyed all the more because I was privileged to know Harold Abrahams in his latter years. I am sure that we would all agree that that was one of those rare films which one can see again and again and still enjoy as much as the first time.
The noble Lord's speech was thoughtful, involving and, as has been seen during the whole of this evening, most effective in stimulating your Lordships' subsequent efforts. What are the arts? What is art? I have tried to construct a list. I have obviously left some out, but I have done my best: it includes painting, sculpture, opera—here I must mention my noble friend Lord Sainsbury, and I hope that the Government will think again about their purported plans for the opera, as we are all very worried about them—ballet, music, dance, theatre, photography, film, poetry, literature, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Rendell, of whom I am a great fan, architecture, gardening as an art, which no one else has mentioned, cooking, so originally mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede—of course it is an art—and I had never thought of liturgy as an art, but as the right reverend Prelate said, of course it is.
Art uplifts the spirit. It is for aesthetic enjoyment, for pleasure, for relaxation. It helps self-understanding and thereby self-expression. It is a vital part of education, as several noble Lords emphasised. I must mention in particular my noble friend Lord Renton, who underlined the importance of art in educating those with learning difficulties.
I improved my education today, because I did not know the story that my noble friend Lord Hindlip told us about Stubbs and the then Prime Minister. The mind boggles slightly, does it not? History is one of the most important subjects in the curriculum. It is brought to life by art. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, mentioned, as did my noble friend Lord Bridgeman, and the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, the excellent exhibition at the Royal Academy of pictures from regional galleries. I must mention one in particular, because it brought back memories from my earliest childhood. It is the painting of the little boy standing in front of the Puritans and being asked, "When did you last see your father?". That is probably why I have been interested in history all my life. That was in my very first history book. Now I know where it came from.
778 The arts help us to see who and what we were, and therefore how we can best confront ourselves and our own lives. Art relieves stress. It helps to bring about the complete human being. It enhances creativity, as was said by my noble friend Lord Inglewood. It is therapeutic in every sense of the word. As a product of the imagination, it encourages the development of imagination, as the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, said. The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, made the interesting point that classical music can discourage crime. I did not know that.
I will give you more than directions concerning fishing. I would fain make you an artist".So said Izaak Walton. Was he right? Is fishing an art? Indeed, is speech-making an art or is it a craft? I suggest that the noble Lords, Lord Birkett and Lord Beloff, are examples of speech-making as an art, but where it is a craft there is this poor effort of mine.
The endless productions we see on television are sometimes art, sometimes craft and sometimes neither. However, the continuous arguments about funding the arts and the impossibility of being able to compromise on excellence mean that, however generous the Government or other funding bodies, there will always be a gap between the aspirations of the many to partake in the arts and their provision in a way and at a cost which is reasonable. Hence television, which at its best is staggeringly good at making art for everyone.
Education is a lifelong process. My education is continually being improved by television. I learn from a great deal that it shows, although sometimes television is trite and shallow and far too overbearing in its condescension towards ordinary mortals such as myself—at least that is what I think. But the arts owe television an immense debt of gratitude, as do many other activities. However, it can only show what is available to be seen, so it must never be used as an excuse for a diminution of support for the arts. Living art is about new talent, new imagination and new perceptions, all of which, sadly, need funding.
Someone—I do not know who—said that the trouble with the arts is that those who practise art do not always provide an acceptable product. In my opinion, Classic FM is an excellent case in point, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam. BBC's Radio 3 used to be very nice, but it always had to educate one with sometimes difficult modern music. Classic FM never tries that one, and I think it is marvellous. The station has enormously increased the enjoyment and knowledge of classical music in this country.
In 1836, Lord Melbourne said:God help the Minister that meddles with art!I do not know the exact context, but I am sure that he would not have approved of the constant meddling with art indulged in by all modern governments, I suppose as a condition of subsidy. I wholeheartedly support what was said on that point by the noble Lord, Lord Gibson.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who is the Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard, and not as described by the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, is by far the most versatile speaker on the Government Front Bench and we look forward to his speech. I wish to ask him two or three 779 questions. While welcoming the Chancellor of the Exchequer's attention to the arts, is any money going to the museums and galleries which have already been forced to charge for admission? Are they not caught in a catch-22 situation. Can he confirm that only an extra £2 million will come from the Government and that only for one year? The rest of the money will come from National Lottery sources.
With regard to the Bowes Museum, I am delighted to hear that steps are being taken. It is one of our great regional museums and I hope that it will not be forced to curtail its activities or, even worse, to close. Finally, can the Minister do anything to address the problem at the Tower raised by my noble friend Lord Eden? I had not heard about it, but that kind of thing should not happen at all.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Puttnam has been congratulated by every speaker, and rightly so. He has opened up a remarkable debate on a wide range of subjects. Looking back at all the contributions, he united us on the big issues, even though we disagreed on many secondary issues. We are all united on the centrality of art in our society and we have pride in being so good at it. That is one of the aspects that has come to light as a result of speeches on almost every art form.
In responding to the debate, my job is largely to express the Government's point of view and to defend them when they are criticised. However, first, I wish to refer to three themes which have run through the debate. I am not sure whether I shall become personally involved in all of them. The first is the classic debate between high and low art and high and low culture. My noble friend Lord Puttnam was criticised for appearing to allow a leak in the dyke of high culture by referring to some matters which other noble Lords do not think of as being what the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, proudly described as "highbrow". A number of noble Lords took part in that debate, almost all on the highbrow side.
I issue only one word of caution: let us never be quite so clear that we know what is high and what is low culture and will be seen to be so in 100 or 200 years. Your Lordships will remember the great kitsch scene in Brecht and Weill's "Mahagonny", where the retired loggers, are persuaded that they have come to heaven on earth and have to listen to appalling barrel organ music. Eventually they say: "Das ist ewig kunst"; it is eternal art. I believe that we might sometimes fall into that trap.
The next issue is the debate between the economic and aesthetic importance of art. If my exposition, such as it is, of the Government's position tends to concentrate on the economic importance of art, that is not because I in any way underestimate the aesthetic importance or the centrality of art in our society, not just in our economy. However, your Lordships must understand that if the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is to obtain money for the arts it must persuade other departments, notably the Treasury, that there are economic benefits for our society, too.
780 The third theme which ran through the debate more prominently than I expected—and I was pleased—was the dual importance, first, of art in education and, secondly, of art as education. I hope to refer to both those issues as I set out my stall.
I repeat that we are brilliantly good at art in so many ways. I am not talking about "cool Britannia". The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, spoke of the National Theatre production of "Othello" in China and there are many such examples. I shall comment on the work of the British Council later. But, after all, in an art form which was not referred to very much, we won nine Oscar nominations this year and six Oscar nominations last year. That must be worth something.
Before I leave the general points, I should like to illustrate the economic versus the aesthetic view and the social versus the individual view by quoting somebody who is probably not quoted very often in your Lordships' House. Trotsky, in Literature and Revolution, 1924, said:Even the successful solution of the elementary problem of food, clothing, shelter, even of literacy would in no way signify a complete victory of the new historic principle, that is, of Socialism. Only a movement of scientific thought on a national scale, and the development of a new art. would signify that the historic seed had not only grown into a new plant. but had even flowered. In this sense, the development of art is the highest test of the vitality and significance of each epoch".I hope your Lordships will agree with the last sentence of that.
For me, there are also, as those who have ever read or owned Everyman's Library will remember from the inside front cover, the words of Shelley, who said:Poets are … the trumpets which sing to battle … Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world".In many ways, there are poets in this House. They are among the legislators. Perhaps that is not a bad thing.
I start by saying that the Government acknowledge and welcome the diversity of art—and that comes back to the discussions we have had on high versus low art forms. A number of noble Lords, and notably the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and my noble friends Lord Ponsonby and Lady Amos, have referred to the diversity which has come to our culture, particularly in recent years, from writers such as Ben Okri, Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro and many others, and the contribution which art can make to the building of a multi-cultural, multi-racial community. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that art is central to that mission, is very well taken.
Noble Lords will be fed up with the mantra of this Government "for the many, not the few". But in this case, it is appropriate that I should remind the House of it and remind the House how determined we are not just to promote the arts but to promote the arts for as many people as possible. I realise that the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, with his passionate defence of the artist's contribution to society, will feel that that is an inadequate argument. I hope that as I proceed, he will feel less than fed up about much of what we are doing.
The next issue arises as regards what is the proper role of government in the arts. Government have a fundamental responsibility to make possible a mature, 781 civilised society, and the arts are integral to that. Therefore, it is right that the Government should have arts at the heart of many of their policies. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, that it is not the Government's job to decide on individual grants or to dictate to artists how they should work. But government subsidy for the arts enables a wide range of artistic activity not dominated by commercial consideration and it widens access by providing the arts in places where the commercial presenter would think it not profitable to go.
The noble Lord, Lord Hindlip, referred to the necessity for both private and public sponsorship of the arts. About 18 per cent. of the income of the arts in this country comes from central government. That is a reasonable proportion, although the argument will continue in different arts as to where it applies. My noble friend Lord Jenkins, reflecting on his time as Minister for the Arts, represents a view to which many of us would wish to return but the cold winds of globalisation and economic competition make it extremely difficult for us. However, I agree in particular with the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, that the Government should be an enabler rather than a provider so far as possible.
When referring to the economic aspects of the arts, a number of noble Lords have talked as though we concentrate too much on the mechanical rather than the creative arts. That is not the case. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Feldman, that the Creative Industry Task Force includes the arts and music as well as design, media, film, software and publishing. I should say to the noble Lord. Lord Crathorne, that it includes also architecture and the built environment. It is designed to improve the economic circumstances in which our creative industries—a phrase I do not like—can develop and flourish. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, that it is addressing also the issues of intellectual property and piracy. It is quite important that those should be included.
I turn now to the really fundamental issue of education to which many noble Lords referred, and quite rightly. The noble Lords, Lord Gibson, Lord Hastings, Lord Inglewood and many others appeared to be very worried by the fact that the national curriculum, particularly in primary schools, now includes more specific provision for the three Rs and is more flexible in other areas. They should not be afraid. I am surprised that anybody should object to specific provision for the three Rs being made in our primary schools. I thought that that was a point which was now quite widely agreed. We are not saying that artistic education, cultural education, should be downgraded either in our primary or secondary schools. But there should be a greater degree of flexibility and less of the prescription to schools by central government as regards what should be done which was, I am afraid, a feature of the final years of the last administration. I hope that the years will show that the change will not be to the disbenefit of education in the arts in either our primary or our secondary schools.
782 The noble Lord, Lord Feldman, proposed something which he called an "arts passport" for under-18s. If he looks at the new audience programmes which were announced yesterday, and which will be elaborated upon in the next few days, he will find that we are doing very much the same as he proposes.
Particular attention was quite rightly paid to music in schools. Certainly the statistics are appalling. The number of children learning instruments has gone down significantly in recent years. With the noble Lords, Lord Beloff, Lord Balfour, Lord Hastings and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, I agree about the importance of music teaching in our schools.
We have set up a music forum which is concerned with the music industry more widely but it has identified straight away music education in schools as one of its priorities. It has not yet reached conclusions because there are still issues to be determined as to whether we need a national body to promote music in schools and how we can involve working orchestras and players in our schools. However, we have that problem in hand and we are addressing it seriously. I should add also that the National Endowment for Science and Technology and the Arts, (NESTA) which is an important part of the National Lottery Bill—which has just passed through your Lordships' House unscathed—includes a recognition of the need for financial support for individuals of particular talent in the arts in music and all the other arts as well as in science and technology.
Before leaving that point, perhaps I may refer to the subject of literature, raised by my noble friend Lady Rendell, and another noble Lord. My noble friend referred to the National Year of Reading. I should like to add to what she said about the importance of promoting libraries. Indeed, we are working together with the Department for Education and Employment on major programmes for promoting the work of our local libraries.
Until we heard the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, for which I thank him, we did not hear much about the importance to our economy of the arts as exports. I acknowledge the work of the British Council, which is in the forefront of presenting the best of British creativity through over 2,000 arts events to be mounted this year. The noble Lord chose one, but I could give at least 20 examples. However, I shall spare your Lordships that exposition. If the arts are as important to our economy as I believe they are—£50 billion in our gross national product—then the export value of our artistic industry should not be underestimated. I believe the figure for that is £12 billion.
I feel that I have already dealt as far as I can with music in schools. However, I should like to refer briefly to the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Simon as regards crime and disorder. Indeed, he spoke of Delius having charms to soothe the savage breast. I must say that it sounds a little like "anti-musak" to me, and I do not care for it. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that the Home Office will be interested in what my noble friend said and in the experiment that he described.
Surprisingly, until the speeches made by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, there was very little reference to the film 783 industry. In a way I am glad of that, because the very high powered film policy review group which we have established will be reporting next Wednesday. Therefore, there is very little that I can say about its conclusions—indeed, nothing I can say about them—I can only speak about its objectives. We are concerned to double the domestic market share of British films and to ensure that we have a larger and more diverse audience for film in general and for cinema in particular.
We are also concerned to ensure that the training provision fully meets the industry's needs and that there is a financial framework which facilitates and encourages investment in the British film industry. Incidentally, I should tell the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, that there were very significant improvements in the tax treatment of film finance in the July 1997 Budget. When the noble Lord studies it, I hope that he will agree that those improvements were very significant and widely welcomed by the industry. The review group is also interested in export performance and in attracting inward investment. We look forward to receiving that report shortly.
I suppose that it is tempting fate in the presence of the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, to refer to the National Lottery legislation. However, a number of noble Lords referred to the need for more flexible funding within the existing distributors on the National Lottery. I believe that the National Lottery legislation, which your Lordships approved, will go a good way towards achieving that aim. What we cannot do—and, indeed, will never be able to do—is put revenue funding on an equal footing with capital funding. If we were to do so, revenue funding would gradually silt up the amount of money available so that there would be no capital left.
However, we can ensure that distributors seek out need rather than waiting for applicants to come to them. We can also help distributors to cut down on bureaucracy and require them to produce strategic plans which will ensure that applicants know the way their minds work, and avoid time-wasting with irrelevant applications. We have allowed distributors to pool funds in joint schemes and to use vouchers. I believe that all those initiatives are significant improvements which I hope the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, will recognise.
The noble Marquess, Lord Bath, made a passionate plea for our regional culture. One of the things that we are doing within the National Lottery is to encourage regional distribution funds and thereby promote regional culture. The regional development agencies which the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions is to establish will include members from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to give effect to that aim. The same will be true of all lottery delegation.
I leave that point with thanks to my noble friend Lord Montague of Oxford for saving me from the necessity of spelling out the wonderful projects of the Millennium Fund, which will cover all parts and all regions of this country, and, indeed, all countries of this nation outside Greenwich—to which, too, I shall refrain from referring.
784 Many things remain for us to do. We recognise that fact. For example, NESTA is still not in place. I recognise the point that the noble Lord, Lord Charteris, made on the need to keep up the endowment of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and the same will be true of NESTA. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, has been most helpful as regards our thinking in that respect.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, made a strange comment about us only encouraging commercially successful artists. In due course, I believe that the noble Earl will find that that is not the case. One of the points about NESTA is that we are prepared to take risks which the venture capital market is not necessarily prepared to take. Indeed, I believe that that is something significantly different. We want to work with local authorities very much more than we have in the past. We do not want to dictate to them, but we recognise that there are difficulties with the constraints on local authority expenditure.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, said that local authority museums were the Cinderellas of the museum world; and, reluctantly, I acknowledge that that has at times been the case. I shall return to regional museums later because many noble Lords referred to them. However, the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, made a particular point about the redistribution of collections. That is one of the issues we are considering as part of our departmental spending review. By late summer, I hope that we shall have something positive to say to him.
I said that there were many things that we still need to do; and, indeed, that there are probably many things that we have not done right. We have still not settled the issues surrounding the Royal Opera House. The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, spoke powerfully on that point. It is not true to say that we have been considering privatising it, which is what the noble Lord suggested. Indeed, that has not been part of our consideration. The noble Lord, Lord Gibson, seemed to think that we were taking control of the future of the Royal Opera House and of English National Opera and putting it into the hands of the department. However, they were always in the hands of the department rather than those of the Arts Council, and the review is being undertaken by an independent body chaired by Sir Richard Eyre. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will not think that we are being too intrusive in that respect. The report is due by 1st May and I hope that the noble Lord will be happy with its findings—
§ Lord Gibson
My Lords, the point is that the committee chaired by Sir Richard Eyre will report to the Minister and not to the Arts Council, which would have been the case in my day.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
Well, my Lords; as always, I yield to the greater knowledge of noble Lords. I shall have to think about whether there is any point to 785 be made about the involvement of the Arts Council. The noble Lord is right to say that the Eyre Committee will report to the Minister. I should also say to the noble Lord, Lord Jacobs, that it is true that we have not yet sorted out the South Bank. Indeed, that will involve us in very intensive discussion within the next few days and weeks.
I now turn to regional museums. That leads me to the changes which were announced in the Budget yesterday. Speculation at the weekend on the amounts of money that would be made available—particularly that mentioned in the Independent on Sunday—was wide of the mark. That is regrettable. A £9 million package was announced to promote access and education at museums across the country, and up to £5 million for the new audiences programme for the arts to help arts organisations broaden their audiences; to bring new people to the arts; and to encourage young people to participate. Initiatives supported under the new audiences programme will include a scheme to offer reduced price tickets for school leavers, additional touring funds, support for orchestras to build closer links with young audiences and regional challenge schemes including those to assist educational and social regeneration. Only in the next two weeks will we be able to make further announcements about the kind of schemes that will be supported.
Many noble Lords asked me about regional museums. The disparity in funding between regional museums, local museums, Ministry of Defence museums and national museums is a great problem. I do not pretend that we have found the answers to that. However, our departmental spending review will consider that issue, among others, and we shall report on it before the summer Recess. I must respond directly to the noble Lord, Lord Eden of Winton. I was not aware of the problems that he described with the Royal Armouries Museum but I shall write to him and place a copy of my letter in the Library for the benefit of other noble Lords. Although I am unable to propose a solution for regional museums, I acknowledge the importance that is attached to them which has been evident in this debate. I am conscious of the difficulties that they have experienced over many years as a result of reductions in funding.
Noble Lords will be aware that before the election we committed ourselves to the spending plans of the previous Chancellor for this year and next year. Therefore the prospect of large windfalls, other than those announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget, is not great. However, we shall certainly bear in mind the points that noble Lords have made.
I have exceeded my time, although I believe that we are within the time that is allocated for the debate. I conclude by thanking all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. It has been enormously helpful for the Government to hear the wide range of expertise and passion that has been expressed this afternoon. I hope that my response has not been too discouraging for those noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I repeat my thanks to my noble friend Lord Puttnam for making the debate possible.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Lord Puttnam
My Lords, I shall not detain the House long. On behalf of the House I thank the Minister for what has been a frank and sympathetic summing up, probably as befits the subject. It is left to me to thank noble Lords for providing and sustaining what I found to be a fascinating, informative, wide-ranging and good-natured debate. I am very much in your Lordships' debt for making it so.
I identified wholly with just about everything that has been said this afternoon, most particularly with the views of the noble Lords, Lord Gibson and Lord Hastings, regarding the role of the arts in education. There is no more important issue. I believe that there is absolute unanimity in the House on that. I say "just about" because I detected some level of misunderstanding, but that of course is in the very nature of art. Petty squabbles in the world of the arts, as in politics, quickly become splashy news stories for a voracious press. I did not for a moment suggest that Mr. John Tusa created schism, but I felt that in some respects his article sustained it. By not making common cause within the arts we become extraordinarily easy meat for those negative instincts that always seem to be lurking within the Treasury. That does our case no good whatsoever.
Perhaps I may finish with a rapid canter around four heroes, or five if you include my love of Donizetti, or six if you include my affection for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, in whom I have enormous faith and confidence. He is a good man doing a difficult job. My first hero is Diaghilev. Had he lived during my era, Diaghilev would probably have made the greatest of all film producers. In some respects I am glad that he was not a competitor! He wrote a letter in June 1921 to the London press, having received ghastly reviews from the Sunday Times and the Daily Express for the opening of his opera, "Chout". The letter makes the case far better than I could as to why I would always urge generosity towards the new. Diaghilev wrote,When I was sixteen, I heard someone say that not a single melody was to be found in all of Wagner; at twenty. I was told that Rimsky-Korsakov's music was mere mathematics: at twenty-five, that Cézanne and Gauguin were frauds. As for Debussy! Strauss! Le Douanier Rousseau! Matisse! For fifteen years people hooted at them, without even suspecting they were making fools of themselves".Art, I am happy to say, has no fixed point in time. It evolves, mutates and changes. I see that very much as a strength and not a weakness.
Another hero of mine and of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, is William Morris. I have already quoted him but I must quote once more. He said that he looked forward to the time when,all men would he artists, and the audience for art would he nothing short of the whole people".That is why I am passionately in favour of inclusivity not exclusivity. Another very important hero who is no longer much discussed is Sir Robert Meyer, to whom I owe an enormous debt. Robert Meyer's "Music for Children" resulted in my going at the age of 11 to the then newly built Royal Festival Hall to hear a Saturday morning concert. It was for me an utterly transforming 787 experience. I am not sure that I ever got over it. I had never heard an orchestra before. My son—my fourth hero—yesterday conducted an orchestra in two schools in North London, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. He is an enthusiastic young conductor. He told me that before starting either concert he asked the audience how many of them had ever heard an orchestra before. He told me that in both cases a tiny smattering of hands went up. That worries me more than I can say because it seems to me that many children today are being denied that very transforming experience which altered my life and, I have to say, is possibly the reason I am in this House today. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
Motion fir Papers, by leave, withdrawn.