§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Lord Freyberg rose to call attention to the case for a change in the way in which the arts in this country are governed and managed; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is a pleasure to be able to introduce this afternoon's debate on the case for a change in the way the arts in Britain are governed and managed.
§ My pleasure arises chiefly from the fact that this Government appear to take the arts seriously, are on occasion prepared to make more resources available for them, and believe that the arts in general have a vital role to play in Britain's economy and social wellbeing. Such a view is a quantum leap from that of their predecessor, whom many have described as having a "policy vacuum" towards the arts—and indeed no government in the past 20 years have set forth their policy objectives for the arts or guidelines for the cultural sector as a whole. I therefore welcome the recently published Cultural Framework, following the DCMS comprehensive spending review. This is, moreover, the first occasion it has been possible to discuss the ideas contained in it since its publication on 14th December 1998.
§ Many of the proposals strike me as sensible and practical, including the streamlining of bodies that share similar briefs, for example on architecture, museums and the arts in general, and the introduction of a three-year funding plan. It is an impressively wide-ranging survey of funding and organisation. However, its very nature and scale mean that new problems are inevitably thrown up as well as solutions to current shortcomings. While remaining positive in 213 general, I should like to take this opportunity to examine several areas which I believe contain potential pitfalls, and to discuss the implications of some proposals which need to be addressed with caution and an open mind. The areas I should like to address are regionalism, best value and the turning of museums into independent trusts.
§ Regionalism is one of the most dominant themes of the Cultural Framework along with the proposed increase in English regional powers (under devolution, Scotland and Wales will make their own arrangements). The nine regions form a layer of bureaucracy between central government and local or county administration. Labour's longstanding commitment to devolving administration to the regions is understandably regarded with caution by the quite separate counties and metropolitan districts that already exercise considerable powers over quite large areas. Furthermore, regional loyalty in England is on the whole weak. Most people identify either with their locality or with the whole country and not much in between.
§ The current regional cultural bodies include Government Offices for the Regions (created in 1994) and unelected bodies such as tourist boards, regional arts boards and area museum councils. The Cultural Framework proposes establishing a new strategic body in each region to provide a strong voice for all cultural interests. At first glance, it seems a good idea to create bodies to champion the arts: it is also an undeniable fact that when local authorities are hard pressed it is all too often arts funding that suffers. Only last week, Westminster City Council drastically reduced its funding to such major arts institutions as the ICA, English National Ballet, English National Opera and the Serpentine as a way of offsetting the cost of looking after large numbers of refugees. The Orchestra of St. John's Smith Square and the Photographers' Gallery lost their grants altogether. It would be interesting to know whether a strengthened regional arts board would have had any effect on this or similar decisions.
§ The precedents are not encouraging. During the last Labour administration, in the late 1970s, greater regionalism did not prove to be a noticeable success. Simply moving decision-making to a town closer to local authorities did not appear radically to alter or improve the nature of decisions made to anyone's satisfaction. The same dilemmas exist now as existed then; namely, the lack of demand for regional government, the problem of what functions should be allocated to the regions, and the boundary issues.
It should also be remembered that stronger regional representation for the arts counts for nothing if funding at local level remains static or even decreases. This appears to be the case for the next few years. In July 1998, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that government resources to local authorities in three years 1999 to 2002 would increase.
above estimated inflation by an average 2.3 per cent.".
However, he also revealed that the,
standard spending assessments for environmental, protective and cultural services would increase by only 1.3 per cent. in real terms in 1999 to 2000 and then be cut by 0.6 per cent. and 0.95 per cent. in the following years".
What kind of message does that give? Not that the arts are important, certainly. Rather it puts cultural services under ever more pressure, which cannot be a good thing.
§ Gathering reliable data on local authority expenditure on cultural provision is difficult because of lack of comparable and consistent data. However, there is no question that cultural services have over the past two decades been given relatively weak financial support by local authorities. For example, just over half spend less than 0.5 per cent. of their total net revenue on the arts and 84 per cent. spend less than 2 per cent. The size of these budgets may well reflect the perceived importance of the arts among elected members, but one could argue that this is because the arts are usually in the charge of members elected on the basis of their political preferences rather than those who have a particular interest or expertise in the arts per se.
§ Local authorities have endeavoured to save money on cultural services in a number of ways: by restructuring departments, which is almost an annual event in some authorities; by leaving vacant posts unfilled and merging others. The level of service has inevitably suffered. For example, small branch libraries with low issues have frequently been targeted for closure, opening hours reduced and specialised services come under threat. There has also been a corresponding drive to increase income from both "unearned" sources such as grants, and "earned" sources, such as retailing and catering. Between 1982 and 1992, self-generated income as a part of local authority museum expenditure rose from 5 per cent. to 18 per cent., though the growth plateaued out after 1992 suggesting that museums found it hard to improve on this performance.
§ Part of the problem is that most local authority cultural services are discretionary, although library services are statutory. The enormous pressure on discretionary services has forced many local authorities drastically to slim down or abolish specialist committees, leaving fewer knowledgeable parties to argue the cause of each specialism. Since the reorganisation of local government in 1974, libraries and achives, museums and art galleries and the performing arts have increasingly been grouped together as similar services and this has led to tensions.
Even more unsatisfactory has been the amalgamation of cultural services with leisure services. Cultural committees therefore have to deal not only with libraries, theatres and museums, but also with parks, sports centres and other leisure facilities. Cultural services have even on occasion been split between education, environment and a central administrative grouping. The result has been a miserable diminution of standards and provisions at a local level. Local authority cultural services have the disadvantage of not being independently governed; most members are elected because of political preferences not because of interest
in the arts—yet these are the people who make decisions in that field. As Stuart Davies of the University of Leeds puts it:
'The level of interest in and knowledge of cultural provisions, let alone the quality of decision-making on that committee, is purely a matter of chance.'
What would a regional board be able to do when faced with this kind of destructive restructuring? Such a question is nowhere dealt with in the Cultural Framework and there seems to be no mechanism that would make a difference. Ultimately, the power of government in this context is limited. What it can usefully do is state its belief in the social and educational benefit, of the arts, and encourage local government to take a more strategic view.
§ Another worrying trend is the increasingly impatient attitude of central government to the local variety. The White Paper of August 1998, Modern local government—in touch with the people, offers an exciting vision for local government, but also expresses distrust and threatens penalties and sanctions if local authorities do not comply with what central government think is appropriate. The tension between local and central government is intensified by suspicions that government Ministers are more sympathetic to the idea of regional government than the reality of local government.
§ The Cultural Framework states that existing regional cultural forums—essentially communication bodies—are to he strengthened by the establishment of strategic bodies in each region. This raises some critical issues about the place of regional agencies in cultural development. What will the relationship between regional and local strategies comprise? What underlies the assumption that it is appropriate to have a cultural strategy at regional level? There may be a great deal of sense in being able to determine regional priorities for funding if government, or other funders such as lottery boards, provide a regional allocation—especially if it is significantly level and free of pre-determined decisions. But in the absence of substantial research on regional cultural mapping (the incidence of "culture" and the audiences for it) it may be difficult convincingly to move away from the historical priorities of, for example, the Arts Council of England.
§ Another trend in which local authorities are taking a keen interest is that of turning museums into independent trusts, thus relieving the authority of some of the museum's financial burden. This has worrying implications. While the move has many attractions—giving museum directors greater freedom to manage and other incentives such as being allowed substantially to increase sponsorship income—it can also seriously impede programmes not dependent on earned income and renders social and educational agendas less likely. A particularly alarming example is that of Buckinghamshire County Museum, opened by Buckinghamshire County Council in 1996 after a £4 million redevelopment. Visitor numbers leapt up—66 per cent. more in 1998 than in 1988—and an award-winning Roald Dahl's Children's Gallery was also opened.
§ However, after the creation of a new unitary authority at Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire's tax base was greatly diminished and led to considerable pressure on 216 discretionary services. In January 1998, the County Museum's budget was reduced by £250,000 (about 35 per cent.) in 1998–99, with further cuts forecast for the following year. There were six staff redundancies, admission charges were introduced and increased at the Roald Dahl's Children's Gallery and, in May 1998, the former museum director was given six months to explore the possibilities of transferring the museum to a charitable trust.
§ Another cautionary tale is that of the Museum of Kent Life, operated by Kent County Council, and founded in 1983, which became a charitable trust in 1993. Its revenue went up from 25 per cent. of its total income in 1992 to almost 75 per cent. in 1997–98, but at the same time the county council support was cut. Its revenue grant fell by 50 per cent. over four years, and its capital grant disappeared altogether. The cut in the museum's revenue grant was 12 per cent. greater than the average for the council. These two examples demonstrate that unless there is either an endowment for the trust, guaranteed fixed revenue grant, or support from the local authority (always hard to secure) the independent trust option will always be high risk.
§ The problem of funding museums has grown enormously in the past 30 years. Some 75 per cent. of England's 2,000 museums have been created since 1970, and many have persuaded local authorities to support them with grants. They are competing with each other for visitors and resources. This is a continuing problem, with many of the new institutions falling short of the traditional criteria of a museum.
§ But what has really bedeviled the arts divisions of local authorities is the obligation to focus on cost-cutting rather than what people want or need from a service. It has also, in the past two decades, been a major factor in preventing local authorities from taking a strategic view of the arts. To counter this short-term tendency, the Government are introducing one of its most interesting concepts, that of "best value".
§ "Best value" considers the effectiveness and the quality of local services alongside their cost. It was developed by the Labour Party when in opposition and its 12 guiding principles represent an attempt to consult with people on what they want from a particular service, while maintaining high efficiency—hence "best value" in the delivery of local government services. It is to replace compulsory competitive tendering (CCT) as the guiding criteria for individual services.
§ Many of the ideas of "best value" come from the private or business sector and in general local authorities have been obliged to follow more corporate goals. Those who have resisted have suffered heavily in annual allocations. Cultural services have had to reinvent themselves in corporate terms or be relegated down the authority's ladder of priorities. The language of the Cultural Framework suggest that the Government also believe in redefining the arts, in their case as a social and educational tool.
§ There is no harm in this per se, for the arts are wonderfully multi-purpose and the more people they give pleasure and sustenance to the better. If the Government can find a way to work out the complex 217 balance between regional and local arts strategies, while retaining their belief in the important and magical qualities of the arts, they will be on their way to changing for the better the way the arts in this country are governed and managed.
§ My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.22 p.m.
§ Lord Strabolgi
My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for initiating this debate and for tabling his Motion in fairly wide terms so that the House will have an opportunity to deal with different aspects of this important subject. I should like to congratulate him on his wide-ranging, eloquent and perceptive speech. I should also like to congratulate my right honourable friend the Cultural Secretary on obtaining from the Treasury an extra £290 million for the arts over the next three years.
In the limited time at my disposal, I wish to speak about the problems concerning the export of works of art and the effect that that will have on our national heritage. I am delighted that the Government have agreed to accept the Sherborne Missal in lieu of some of the inheritance tax on the Northumberland estate. The missal is one of the greatest masterpieces of medieval art and had been on extended and generous loan by the late Duke of Northumberland to the British Library where, I am glad to say, it will now be able to remain permanently.
That important national treasure has been retained in this country but, notwithstanding that, there is still a constant flow abroad of works of art. According to the latest report of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, only about 50 per cent. of items for which the committee has recommended that an export licence be deferred in order to give museums the opportunity to raise funds, stay in this country.
The Heritage Lottery Fund's grants for items of over £100,000 in value are awarded at up to 75 per cent., leaving a museum to raise at least 25 per cent. of the cost. That can be quite substantial. For example, on a £5 million painting, which is not unusual, the museum would have to raise £1.25 million from its own resources, which is often impossible. I suggest that there is a case for changing those terms and for allowing the Heritage Lottery Fund to contribute up to 100 per cent. for important art works which are under threat of export.
The National Art Collections Funds does sterling work but its funds, which are provided by its members and by legacies, are somewhat limited. Nevertheless, the NACF contributed nearly £263,000—half the price—to the purchase of Hugh Douglas Hamilton's marvellous 18th century pastel of Canova in his studio, which is a wonderful souvenir of the Grand Tour. It met all three of the Waverley criteria and is now, I am glad to say, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, having originally been destined for the Getty Museum in California.
The National Heritage Memorial Fund, which is a fund of last resort, has suffered from annual raids by the Treasury and has been cut from £12 million in 1993–94 to only £2 million in 1997–98. I am glad that the 218 Government intend to increase that by £1 million per year for the next three years. Even so, it will still be only half what it was five years ago.
Non-charging museums, when making an offer for a deferred item, must include 17.5 per cent. to cover VAT. That puts them at a disadvantage against overseas buyers who do not have to pay VAT. Those rules are governed by EU directives and I hope that the Government will press for changes, including the well-meaning but totally misguided proposal on droit de suite. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hindlip, is to speak on that in the debate. He and I have spoken on it on various occasions beforehand and I shall leave that to him.
The inheritance tax concession for conditionally exempt items, allowing the owner of a small house to give public access by prior appointment, has been withdrawn, I am sorry to say. In these difficult times there will be problems for the owners of small houses in relation to security if there is to be open access at any time. It is right that if owners of valuable works of art are able to escape the tax due on them and still keep them in their homes, it gives them a distinct advantage over other people who must pay the full amount of tax. The least they can do is to provide access. Therefore, I do not hold any particular brief in that respect. Nevertheless—and this is the point I submit—the effect of open access on small households will be to drive more objects onto the market and no doubt for export.
The reviewing committee believes that the Waverley system works well on the whole, but times have changed since that system was set up nearly 50 years ago. I agree with the committee that there is a need for new legislation. I hope that my noble friend and his colleagues in the Government will consider that.
I do not suggest that we should initiate tighter controls. As regards the EU, that would be impossible and many of our art treasures are deeply appreciated, particularly in the United States. But there should be a level playing field and we suffer from the handicap of the various measures that I have attempted to outline. I hope that the Government will consider how some of those might be mitigated so as to work less adversely against the retention of so much of our patrimony.
§ 3.30 p.m.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, it is a pleasant and almost perverse experience to start my contribution to this welcome debate by actually thanking the Government for helping the living arts at last.
My own cultural life started with church choirs and the radio hero, Dick Barton—whom all your Lordships are too young to remember. The former were consistent; the latter and his pals usually escaped from a terrible fate a minute or so before the show ended. Life in the funded arts system is much more Dick Barton than Thomas Tallis or Vaughan Williams. But with one bound the Secretary of State has allowed us to break out of what I described in your Lordships' House when I was chairing the Arts Council of England as a "mad hatter's tea party" and, last year, as,the worst crisis facing the funded arts in my adult lifetime".219 Thanks are due to him, to the present council and its chairman and to the Prime Minister. An unsung hero—perhaps "the" hero—is Sir Dennis Stevenson who led a distinguished posse to No. 10 when things were at their bleakest.
If I may drop names for a moment, the present Prime Minister shares with his predecessor great good manners and generosity with his time. As Leader of the Opposition he gave me the opportunity to tell him that when push comes to shove, as the Americans say, only 10 Downing Street can protect the minute but vital budgets: culture, the BBC World Service and the British Council. It was certainly so when I was arts Minister. The Treasury said "No" as it is paid to do. My noble friend, the then Prime Minister said, "Yes, dear, so long as you do not crow about it and irritate the colleagues". I discovered that if I attacked the arts establishment in Cabinet and in the press, I was cheered and given more money to give to that same establishment. Dick Barton ran a fifth column.
The huge sums distributed by the council in my time through the infant National Lottery put paid—or rather unpaid—to most schemes transparent or full of guile for current funding. However often we said so, the public, the press and Parliament, and sometimes the Government themselves, refused to believe that the Arts Council was not rolling in money. This was the mad hatter's tea party. We could buy expensive porcelain and teapots in terms of capital projects, but we could not buy any tea or cakes.
It damaged the then Prime Minister's sublime vision. The unsung villain was the otherwise saintly Sir Terry Burns. He and his colleagues loathed the lottery: backdoor hypothecated taxation; a sin against the fiscal equivalent of the Holy Ghost. The present Government, admittedly after pinching a sixth of the lottery loot for other purposes, have given the council control—as we asked—over the totality of lottery allowance and grant-in-aid; and that is good.
I am afraid that having thus far said to the actors—the Government—'Darlings, you were wonderful!", I do have to criticise quite a lot of the play. In spite of the good news, living arts funding remains a good 10 per cent. lower in real terms annually than six years ago. This is part of a national pattern. Governments wait until the funded arts system is on the verge of collapse—in spite of self-help, philanthropy or the huge rise in business sponsorship, which I am proud to say I initiated with the "pairing" scheme—and then bail out the system but not back to level pegging terms.
The living arts in this country are not Oliver Twists; they never get more. They are not scroungers. They earn domestic and overseas revenue, international acclaim (look at the Oscar nominations only last night) and they employ hundreds of thousands of people both directly and in terms of ancillary workers. It is not realistic against a backdrop of public concern for the health service or the nurses for the arts to receive more. They do deserve to break even and keep on doing so. The year 1993 was in no sense a bonanza year for the arts, yet it would be a triumph for the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister to get back to it. "Come on Tony; 220 Come on Chris; Come on Gerry; one more heave in the lifetime of this Parliament." And, dare I say, "Come on Ffion"? Admirable, independent arts professional though Miss Jenkins is, she does, after all, have unlimited access to the Leader of the Opposition.
I shall turn quickly to the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg. In my time there was and still is excellent management within the arts funding system. In London alone (there are more outside it) we have the London Symphony Orchestra, the Serpentine Gallery and the Almeida Theatre—a whale, a salmon and a minnow. At last both major opera houses appear to be in consistently reliable hands. Let the Government and the council now turn attention to better funding for the great Welsh National Opera and Opera North. All our orchestras have been on a four or five year pay freeze at base levels of sometimes less than £25,000 a year: those who fund them, departmental and Arts Council officials, have not. You need as much training to be a good orchestral musician as to be a medical specialist or a surgeon; but not a general practitioner, however worthy.
There has been poor and mixed management. Let us draw a veil and get on with improving it. I remain unconvinced that there is a better way of arts funding than the ministry giving part of its voted expenditure to an arm's length body. There are always arguments about the lengths of the arms. But it is true that the scale of the lottery success did implicate the department and the Treasury more than is healthy. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, that insufficient attention is paid to the role of local government—essential co-funders within the natural system. After food, shelter and basic healthcare, the quality of life and the plural excitements of our multicultural society are essential to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is rubbish to say that opera is more "élitist"—well done Rory Bremner for coming out in its favour—than rap or reggae.
I close with two quick questions to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. I am in favour of a mayor for London but the Greater London Authority Bill, where culture is concerned, is a cat's cradle of duplicated bodies, duplicated consultancies and duplicated strategies. It makes little sense in English and less on the ground. This House must look at it closely when it comes here. However, can the noble Lord shed a little intermediate light on what is to be the relationship between the mayor, the London Arts Board and the City of London Corporation?
London is a global attraction and the most valuable farm on the national estate. It must think as a world city. Alas, my political friends at Westminster City Council appear more benighted even than Gowrie—a place in Iowa once chosen by the New York Times as an archetypically boom dock town. Finally, has the noble Lord any information on the progress of cross-border touring between England and Scotland? Devolved Scotland may be, but the voteless English taxpayer still pays the piper for his tune.
§ Lord Jacobs
My Lords, I do not share the concern that so many noble Lords connected with the arts have expressed that the Government are not doing enough for 221 the arts. However, having heard the three previous speakers, I recognise, perhaps for the first time, compliments from all sides of the House to the Government on what they have already done. Of course, it is not perfect. The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, mentioned the matter of the arts receiving support from local authorities. Because local authorities are tremendously squeezed to find money for essential local needs, they try to cut the contributions given to museums and so on. It is difficult to see how the Government can influence that. They can, perhaps, only augment the sums given with their own resources.
Nevertheless, the country is blessed with a Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport who is truly enlightened. He has done a great deal for the arts in this country and I believe will do a great deal more. I regard the arts as having "won the lottery" in every sense of the phrase. If we consider the fact that the arts lottery fund will have £2 billion to distribute—it has already distributed a great deal—and the millennium lottery fund will also have another £2 billion, of which half will probably go to the arts, we can see that a tremendous amount of money has been, and will continue to be, contributed to the arts. Ten years ago, nobody would have believed that to be possible.
I must declare an interest—not for the first time here—as a member of a small fund-raising group which is working for the Tate Museum of Modern Art on the South Bank. It is just a mile or two down the road, as I am sure many noble Lords will know, opposite St. Paul's Cathedral. I believe that it will be the most important and exciting of all the millennium fund ventures. I have not forgotten the dome. I am sure that for 30 years or so the dome will be recognised as quite extraordinary. Nevertheless, I believe that the Tate Museum of Modern Art will still be recognised as extraordinary in 300 years' time. It will be one of the four greatest museums of modern art in the world. Of that, I have not the slightest doubt.
The museum will attract at least 2.5 million visitors per year. I am sure that many additional visitors will come to this country, no doubt for the first time, to see that great building and the works it contains. The cost of the whole venture is £134 million. I am pleased to state publicly for the first time that we have now raised £120 million; there is just £14 million to go. I am confident that that sum will be raised by the end of the year. The museum is due to open next year. It is on time and on budget. I believe that it will be an achievement of which we can all be very proud.
Noble Lords may think that if all is going so well with the project, why have I risen to speak about it? Perhaps to boast about it, yes, but there is, unfortunately, a problem. That problem is not in the construction of the museum but will start from the day it opens. From that day onwards it will be faced with financial problems. The museum does not intend to charge admission fees. That is the Government's policy but it is also the policy of these Benches. We believe that free entry to museums is very desirable. The museum will raise revenue from its restaurants and bookstall, but that will be insufficient to cover the cost of employing the 100 or so people (at least) who will be required. Therefore, from day one the 222 museum will begin to incur a deficit. That is a real problem. The deficit in the first year will probably be between £5 million and £6 million. We are naturally hoping that the Government can find the extra money to cover that—in which case our position will not be too bad—but we cannot be certain that they will.
I turn from the particular to the general. There are several hundred lottery-funded arts projects across the country—some from the millennium fund and some from the arts fund—which, from the moment they open, will run at a significant loss. I am concerned that no attention has been paid to that issue. The regulations of various boards entitle them to provide endowment funds for such new projects. They have chosen to do so, as far as I can understand, on only one occasion. Although the boards of the arts fund and the millennium fund have done a very good job, nevertheless, I think they are guilty of having used all the money and spread it too thinly to cover as many projects as possible, rather than ensuring that the key projects are sufficiently funded to cover their operating costs. When many of those projects open next year, the Government will be faced with immediate demands for between £100 million and £150 million to ensure that they do not lose money.
Finally, I have two questions for the Minister. That seems to be the appropriate number. First, is it possible for the Government to approach the arts board and the millennium board and ask them at least to investigate all the projects they have approved to ascertain the likely level of profit, break-even or loss? The Government could then at least have some understanding, ahead of time, of the financial burden involved.
Secondly, could the Government also discuss with the two boards the question of whether some of the unused funds could be applied to provide endowments and foundations? While it is nice to have more and more new projects, the fact is that hundreds of loss-making projects would be a burden round the country's neck and certainly round the Government's neck.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Lord Rix
My Lords, I welcome this debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Freyberg, but in echoing a call for change in the way the arts in this country are governed and managed I might well be accused of sour grapes. Some of your Lordships may recall that in 1993, having served for nearly eight years, I resigned from the Arts Council and as chairman of its drama panel in protest at the council's self-imposed cuts in drama and the increasing erosion of the so-called "arm' s-length principle" which is an oxymoron for he who pays the piper calls the tune, and the calls from successive Ministers were becoming increasingly audible. Frankly, I do not find that particularly surprising or altogether objectionable. Indeed, we of the drama panel became the villains of the piece as far as the Royal National Theatre and the RSC were concerned. We imposed strict limits, sometimes standstills, on their annual grants, attempting thereby to provide sufficient funds to obtain local authority matching grants, thus sustaining our regional theatres, while at the same time offering help to our smaller, innovative and new writing companies. It was a delicate balancing act, with Sir Peter Hall and others 223 concerned with our national theatres constantly calling for direct government funding and, frankly, I could not blame them. Nevertheless, I was not too unhappy when I finally left 14 Great Peter Street.
However, I was very sad at leaving one particularly worthwhile Arts Council project. The Arts and Disability Monitoring Committee was established under my chairmanship soon after I joined the council in 1986. As might be expected, progress was slow and in 1991 we decided that action was urgently needed to promote the participation and employment of disabled people in the arts. At the time, approximately 650,000 people were working in the world of arts and culture but there was absolutely no information regarding the number of disabled people employed in these areas. We could only guess at a figure of less than 100.
Why were so few disabled people employed in the arts? To find out we decided to establish a disability employment initiative and our research revealed a number of fundamental problems: discrimination and segregation in education and training: access barriers in buildings; transport; communications; and, above all, attitudes. There was also, of course, a lack of knowledge among arts employers and the employment service of the creative talents of the disabled people.
One of the major recommendations arising from the initiative was that the Arts Council should set up an apprenticeship scheme with arts organisations to create arts professionals for the future. The scheme began just before my resignation and, I am happy to say, has been a great success, although on a pathetically small scale. Twelve disabled people have completed apprenticeships and 10 are still employed in the arts. The Arts Council is now seeking funding to develop the scheme nationally. However, this really is a case where the Department for Culture, Media and Sport should stop excusing itself by quoting the suspect "arm's-length principle" and have a word with its chums in the lottery, the Department for Education and Employment and the DSS to persuade them to provide the opportunities—including the development of the apprenticeship scheme—and the money to enable disabled people to work in the arts where they will grow and develop both as creators and participants.
As president of MENCAP I shall be forgiven, I am sure, if I dwell for a moment on the participation of learning disabled people in the arts. There are probably some noble Lords who believe this to be an impossibility. I am happy to disabuse them. For many years MENCAP has held an international arts exhibition of works by learning disabled people from all over the world. Entries pour in, and I have met such artists it the middle of Kenya, Calcutta, Woollongong and Wellington. The pleasure they get from their framed certificates of participation is almost as rewarding as the money they receive from the sale of their works, which are often of quite exceptional quality. But running such an exhibition demands resources, both financial and human, and frankly we could do with a helping hand.
What about my old stamping ground, the theatre? Well, of course, there is our splendid biannual Gateway Festival which brings together amateur groups with learning 224 disabilities from all over the United Kingdom who give quite remarkable and often moving performances at the Festival Hall in London or the Symphony Hall in Birmingham.
There are a number of extremely popular professional performance companies as well. One of the first I ever saw—and very good it was, too—was also one of the first of its kind: Kaleidoscope Theatre, founded in 1980, has an integrated cast of 30 players from all walks of life, many of whom have Down's Syndrome. They are welcome visitors with their productions and drama workshops to such prestigious venues as the RSC Swan Theatre as well as international festivals in Edinburgh, Hungary and Japan. They have broken down many cultural barriers.
Another national touring group is the long-established Strathcona Theatre Company, employing eight professional actors with learning disabilities, assisted by two directors. One of the first companies into Europe, Strathcona is now involved in an extensive educational programme, including workshops with medical students and a programme targeted at special schools dealing with drug awareness as well as the problems facing people with learning disabilities in the criminal justice system.
Then there is Chickenshed, which links mainstream and special schools in joint performances. It did not take the company long to recognise the closed-door policy that operates throughout the arts world towards those with physical, sensory and learning disabilities, especially the young. I am happy that many of your Lordships support the Chickenshed enterprise.
Finally, there is Heart'n'Soul, a national touring company of 10 professional actors and musicians with learning disabilities who have forged a name for themselves on the international stage, writing their own music and lyrics, expressing with startling clarity the way they see the world. In the past year, they have been working with MENCAP and we are seeking funding for this work to continue.
"Ay, there's the rub". Arts funding is devilishly difficult to come by at the best of times. For enterprises specialising in disability arts, it is even worse and for those with a learning disability, the bottom of the funding barrel is scraped again and again. To help matters, distributors of lottery funding, including the Heritage Lottery Fund, should be required to adopt best practice in access for disabled people, already developed by the Arts Council of England. Further, disabled people should be represented on all lottery boards and new national and regional cultural organisations. There needs to be continuous monitoring of disabled people's participation in the arts so that our goal of opening up cultural activities to all members of our community, in urban and in rural areas, can become a reality.
I trust that this timely debate will ensure that the arts generally, and disability arts in particular, are wisely governed, expertly managed, and generously supported in a manner truly worthy of the 21st century; otherwise, I fear that those,enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their currents turn awry And lose the name of action".
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, when I saw the terms of this Motion I thought that perhaps I would hear a general onslaught on the system of management and governance of the arts in this country. However, when I heard the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, I was immensely relieved to realise that I was mistaken and that the noble Lord was essentially drawing attention to the shortage of money at different points.
I believe that we have the right engine in place. We may have to improve it every now and again and to invent new things, but the system itself is not the trouble. The trouble is that, like a good engine, the arts cannot run without a plentiful supply of fuel, in this case funding. Funding input for the arts in this country has been noticeably smaller than in many other countries which do not do half as well as we do. I do not excuse of blame any particular government when I refer to our niggardly approach to the arts. Furthermore, the local government level of funding has not been good although some individual local authorities have done very well and have shown that, if local authorities put their minds to it, they can do very good work for the arts.
I am defending the present system which I think has worked pretty well under different governments. My noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey seems momentarily to have disappeared from our Front Bench although my noble friend Lady Ramsay of Cartvale is present. I shall be interested to hear the Government's reply to this debate. Generally speaking, I recognise the need for a regional approach, but I should like to know how it will be funded. How can we be sure that it does not add to the requirements rather than to the resources? That is why I believe that the general scene can be improved.
Before leaving that point, perhaps it is worth drawing the House's attention to the immense prestige which British arts enjoy internationally. As noble Lords will know, the United States' view of our actors is one of immense approval. Our films gain both support and awards.
Incidentally, that excellence provides us with some financial input. It cannot be said that the arts are only a drain; they play an immense part in our tourist trade. It has been calculated that, including the input from records, the total input from the arts exceeds the total expenditure of government at all levels. We are not considering something which merely draws out money, but something that we should nourish because not only does it increase our prestige in the world, but it is also profitable in the narrow sense of that word.
I had not intended to say anything on this occasion about droit de suite but, as it has been mentioned, perhaps I should point out that my attitude to all artistic matters stems from the fact that I began my involvement with the arts in the organisation Equity. I look at the arts from the point of view of the performer, the creator, the painter or the writer. If one looks at the matter from the point of view of the painter and the writer, then droit de suite is the same provision as we are asking for in favour of the artist, the painter and the sculptor. We have received that benefit in favour of the writer in the public lending rights. There was the same argument against 226 public lending rights. It was thought that it would be a disaster. That measure was opposed very strongly by the libraries. But in practice it has been found to work perfectly well. None of the dreadful things which were forecast came about. Public lending rights are now part of the justifiable income of writers. Droit de suite would be an acceptable addition. Perhaps on some other occasion it will be possible to develop a full argument in favour of droit de suite because I do not believe that such a debate has been heard in this Chamber, but this is not such an occasion.
I am in general agreement with what the noble Lord, Lord Rix, said on a couple of matters. He spoke about the necessity of the arm's length principle. I agree with him when he said that that principle must be maintained. The dead hand of government has never been placed directly on the arts. There must be a body between the Government and the recipient in the arts world. The arm's length principle is extremely important. The Arts Council should be maintained fully and it should be the body which funds the arts generally.
I am President of the Theatres' Trust and, in fairness, I should declare that. It has done a wonderful job. If it had not existed a number of theatres which are still flourishing would have been torn down. It is a body which was created to meet a need and it has done very well. The lottery has helped considerably. Here is something which was done off the cuff to meet a necessity, and it is done very well.
Those are one or two further points. I have not yet come across an answer to the regional problem, but I am sure that we shall find it eventually, and I hope that we shall do so in the reply to the debate. We can take a certain amount of pride in what has been achieved, although there are faults in many directions. On the whole, we can be pretty well satisfied with what has been done. But the arts must be given enough life-blood so that they can continue to bring wide credit to us throughout the world, which they have been doing during the past few years.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ The Earl of Clancarty
My Lords, I, too, would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for initiating this debate and also to congratulate him on what I thought was a very informative speech. I wish to make one suggestion to the Government, which I think implies an idea of government and management which is perhaps less to do with centralised control and more to do with knowledge, with the simple desire to find out what is actually happening within the visual arts in the UK.
This idea is a scheme for curatorship. One of the most fundamental situations that exists in the contemporary arts in the UK is that virtually the whole of that market is based in London, some would say in the hands of one person. That is not entirely true. There are other buyers and also buyers from abroad, as well as other forms of promoters. But if, from the start, an artist, for whatever reason, eschews London, then he or she inevitably eschews that commercial possibility, that livelihood. Yet that does not also preclude the majority of artists from 227 carrying out interesting work—in some cases very interesting work—as I know from my years in Sheffield. Yet they remain on a very low income and in a position of relative isolation. That means in effect that their work is not taken as seriously as it might be if they were located at the centre.
The conventional wisdom is that the "cream"—the so-called "excellent." artist—rises to the surface. We ought to ask: the surface of what? The argument, I think, that the "best" is always discovered is a false one. It is, to a large extent a circular, self-fulfilling argument. It has been reported, for example, how a relatively recently-established major contemporary London art dealer acquired his own artists through them being initially friends, and then friends of the artist, friends of friends and so on. Artists groups—however loosely knit, as in Britain—and thereby many individual artists, do not in this sense emerge from a vacuum, but from a political, cultural and economic environment which is able to sustain them, as, for example, the highly confident artists groups with quite separate distinctive characters which emerged in different German cities in the 1980s.
But in the UK we have the particular situation of a large city, London, with the whole of the rest of the country as a hinterland, both in a political and cultural sense. There is a feeling, I believe, that this situation will change as individual cities and regions within the UK achieve greater autonomy. But it will take a while yet. Indeed a certain degree of commercialism would not be at all a bad thing for artists working in the regions outside London, if in London artists have the opposite problem.
I would like to see initiated a scheme for what I would call roving curators. The prime function of these curators would be investigative. Their mission would be to travel the length and breadth of the UK, turning over as many stones as they can, searching out artists of all ages; investigating their work, in part simply to make contact., to find out what they are doing. They would be looking for art then, and at art, making contact with the artists rather than being curators in the more passive sense of simply letting the art come to them. It is important that these curators are independent, not based in institutions, but having links with them which could be facilitated through a project co-ordinator. They should not be independent in the sense of being primarily motivated by the commercial instinct. I do not see them as talent-spotters, but more as facilitators, surveyors and mappers. They should be based on-site, except that the whole point is that the sites have yet to be discovered. Perhaps one could say that they should be based on the road. I imagine a team of curators, but all acting individually. An individual curator should not be confined to a particular region, otherwise the project would become provincial or parochial. In practice I imagine them spending much of their time visiting studios or wherever else the artist may be working; developing long-term relationships with artists; facilitating links with other artists, region to region, artist to institution and so on.
Such a scheme could give a new meaning to the idea of the exhibition as a survey.
228 It would be making a survey in the truer, more objective sense of showing the artists who are sought out as much as those who are already known. It could be for a co-ordinator to guide the project so that it covers as many areas within the UK as possible. In the larger sense, as an overall project—and I believe that this is a very exciting point—we are talking about creating a cultural map of the UK, which could prove to be a wonderful and appropriate project for the start of the new millennium. This project could perhaps be funded on a trial basis out of the Millennium Fund, although the main benefits of such a scheme, which might well include commercial ones, would be appreciated chiefly in the long term. Perhaps the most important aspect of such a cultural map is how it might change and develop over time.
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Lord Hindlip
My Lords, I, too, would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for giving your Lordships the opportunity to debate the Government's policy for funding the arts in which, I, as chairman of Christie's the auctioneers, must declare an interest. I begin by saying that as regards the commercial art world we receive strong support from the Government on a number of important issues. I personally wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, for his part in that and to congratulate the Government on their continued support for the system of acceptance of works of art in lieu of tax, which the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, mentioned. This has further enriched our national collections. Ministers and their advisers have been both imaginative and generous and deserve our thanks.
It was not my intention to speak about droit de suite today. However, I wish to pick up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. Droit de suite would be much easier to support if it benefited a wider group of artists. The problem with it is that the cost of collecting it restricts its benefits to a small group of the well-off heirs of about seven continental painters. I do not think it is in artists' best interests if the market-place is driven away from London.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport's paper, A New Cultural Framework, contains some good ideas. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, on that. The majority of people who deal with it would applaud its efforts to streamline its structures, and the merging of English Heritage and the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments must be sensible. The paper is extremely easy to read, unlike the briefing paper which we received from the new Arts Council which seems to have escaped from the pages of "Pseuds Corner" in Private Eye.
It needs to be said, too, that whatever else their failings, the previous Conservative government, through the National Lottery and its various distributing bodies, left the arts better funded than at any time since the post-war government of Clement Attlee. I know from his charming quote from Lewis Carroll in your Lordships' House two weeks ago that the Minister does not like repetition. Therefore I shall try not to go over too much old ground. However, two of the Government's actions have diminished the previous government's legacy. As has 229 already been mentioned this afternoon, the sixth good cause has taken a substantial amount from the heritage lottery funds and the voracious appetite of the Millennium Dome—I cannot share the enthusiasm for that of the noble Lord, Lord Jacobs—has made further inroads into funding. I wish the Government had dropped this project, handsome building though it is. But it is too late for that. Will the Minister give some assurance that the visual arts will be represented in the dome and also that great Christian art will be represented, which has made such a vital contribution to man's culture over the past thousand years?
Any suggestion that exhibiting great paintings would not be popular must be dispelled by watching the hundreds, nay thousands, of people queuing up to get into the Monet exhibition at the Royal Academy. The record of 600,000 people who visited the previous Monet exhibition in 1990 looks set to be beaten. It is quite possible that this exhibition will draw even more than the 1.5 million people who visited the Cézanne exhibition in Paris, which I believe took place last year. The only problem associated with these hugely successful and hugely popular exhibitions is that the sheer numbers make looking at the pictures difficult. It must be everyone's dream to be able to have a private view, to ring the academy and ask, "Can I come with a friend next week and see the pictures when the galleries are closed?" Of course, for the majority of people this simply is not possible. However, it has been possible in a great many private houses in Britain which contain a significant number of worthwhile works of art. However. as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has already mentioned, last year's Finance Act abolished the practice of viewing of exempt works of art by appointment.
As the Minister may remember, I have mentioned this point in your Lordships' House before. However, since doing so, I have had the opportunity to talk to a number of people involved in this matter and to assess the effect of the new rules. I am convinced that as a direct result of the changes of last year—here, again, I echo the words of the noble Lord. Lord Strabolgi—important works of art will be sold. Perhaps I should rejoice in that because a substantial number of these sales will be entrusted to my firm. But, from the standpoint of national heritage and arts policy generally, I cannot rejoice. As many noble Lords have pointed out, even the Government's own agencies admit that they are going through a period of consolidation; less money will be available to museums to make acquisitions. It cannot therefore be a good time to confront owners with a choice which will force a significant number of works of art onto the market coming from houses which simply cannot open full time to the public. Again, the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, made that point.
As has been said often, where tax has been postponed or public money spent, benefits must accrue. If the principle were not already accepted that those in receipt of the benefits should accept certain constraints, this Government have made the case crystal clear. I have no sympathy with owners who will not accept that. However, I say to your Lordships, one more time, that viewing by appointment provides public benefit in an 230 extraordinarily sensitive and attractive way. It protects the core heritage of works of art in private hands. It prevents a flood of works of art coming onto the market—which will lead to export—at no cost to the Government. It also encourages private owners to act responsibly as curators, keepers and collectors for the future. New technology can guide the public to explore what is where and what is worth making an effort to go to see. By asking visitors to make appointments and to identify themselves, owners have at least some security against theft. No government surely want assets stolen in which they have a substantial stake.
The measure also avoids hard-pressed museums being asked to find temporary homes for works of art they do not want. Here the new rules have already shown themselves to be unfair. I hear that one owner, in an effort to comply with them, handed a group of pictures to a local museum which accepted them but declined to put them on view. That luckless owner has now been assessed for tax. This surely was not what the Government intended when they introduced the rules last year. If they did, it signals the end of exemption as we know it and would give the lie to the Arts Council's propaganda about the bright new future.
Despite the jargon of the briefing paper, I think that the future is bright; it is not grim. By conceding that they might think again about viewing by appointment, the Government can only gain. If they cannot do that, at best they will seem stubborn and at worst spiteful and doctrinaire. I know that the Minister is none of these. Will he then give your Lordships an assurance that he will at least ask his colleagues in another place to give viewing by appointment a second chance to prove its worth? I am sure that neither he nor they will regret it.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ The Earl of Drogheda
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for initiating this debate. I am particularly grateful to have the opportunity of speaking in it.
I must declare an interest as I wish to ask the Government to embark on a new project and establish something that I believe is overdue; namely, a museum of photography in London. There is an enormous interest in photography. A large proportion of people take photographs, if only as a record of their holidays. This can pave the way to a deeper interest. There is a parallel in the way in which people with only a few square feet of garden of their own love to visit the great gardens of this country. Similarly, people with even a minimal experience of using a camera themselves can derive a particular pleasure from looking at photographs that rise to the level of art.
Although there is a national museum of photography in Bradford, there is virtually nothing in this field in London. I would like to suggest that a photographic museum be founded in London that would be to photography what the National Gallery is to painting. However, unlike the museum of photography in Bradford, which is part of the Science Museum, it would either be independent or come under the wing of the Victoria and Albert Museum, although ideally it would 231 be housed in its own building. The V & A has a huge photographic archive and, although it has recently opened a room at the museum dedicated to the display of photographs, it has insufficient space for the display of more than a tiny fraction of its collection. The India Office library also has a valuable and fascinating collection of old photographs that are hardly ever seen. I am convinced that the public would find the display of these photographs both revealing and highly enjoyable.
As to costs, I feel sure that a large proportion could be raised from the photographic industry. It is perhaps worth mentioning that curatorial costs would be far lower than in a picture gallery. Paris has two museums devoted to photography; it is surely high time that London had one.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Lord Bragg
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for raising the subject of the arts and I congratulate him on his speech. However, I want to challenge his Motion in general terms. I believe the evidence shows that in the past 21 months the arts are well set to be better governed and better managed than ever before. With the increase in the length of life that we are promised, and the increase in leisure, they need to be. They are vital capital for our future.
At last the arts in Great Britain are poised to build on the superb platform of opportunity constructed by Jennie Lee in the 1960s when boldness was our friend and we saw the arts as a Promised Land. In that seminal decade, the arts bloodlessly and seamlessly embraced liberty and equality, quality and fraternity—very heaven. Now it has come again. Without question, there is much to do, but much has already begun.
There is much that is not yet right. Companies which hoped that Chris Smith would slip into a telephone box and emerge as a Superman instant fixer have often been disappointed. Telephone boxes, perhaps, are too transparent for that these days. It takes time to clear up some of the silt of 18 years; it takes time to dig new navigable channels; and it takes time, once a course is agreed, to make it clear to all. But from what I see the will, the vision and increasingly the means are there. The question, as always, is how to fit the amplitude of a visionary landscape into the frame of political possibility.
I believe that the Government have made an impressive beginning, the more impressive because they have worked within budgetary constraints and against a Bleak House inheritance, which of course notched up achievements, but also left neglect, bungle and cynicism—a tradition which Conservative councils like Westminster carry on regardless, trampling over the arts with loutish indifference.
If I seem to contextualise too dramatically, it is because I believe that it is essential that what the Government are doing now is seen in context; otherwise they will be most unjustly accused of debts and failings not their own. We cannot be dragged down by a past created by others. Today, vitally, the arts need the commitment of confidence; a new start is, in itself, an agent for confidence. It has been badly lacking.
232 One growth industry in the Conservative years was the culture of complaint. I know; I was part of it. We all knew that the high road to applause at any arts gathering was to attack the Government. The attacks had reason. But then it became an addiction, and the complaints clique has observed no alteration. But now, I submit, the tune has changed; the show has moved on. Complaint must take a look at evidence.
In a fraction of the total time which will, I trust, fall to their lot, the Government have already stabilised, organised and revitalised the arts, both now and the future prospects. Of course there have been omissions, errors and failings, but they are as nothing compared with what went before, and they are as nothing compared with the successes of the last mere 21 months.
Let us look around the estate at the first crop. It is a fair time to take stock: in education, £180 million over three years for music funding and £30 million for the Youth Music Trust. Out of that will come a country in which all children will have access to musical instruments at school, to music teaching and to the riches of music. We will play and sing as never before. We now know that it has been proven—in America, but it was a good study—. that listening to Mozart when you are young makes you smarter, not only at music but at all learning.
Dance and drama students will now enjoy new schemes of support which will radically reinvigorate those two great arts, lately dying at the roots from a thousand cuts. The academies were threatening to become finishing schools for the wealthy only. These and other measures will unlock dreams and talents which can change society.
Access is another pillar of Labour policy. The sum of £5 million a year is to go into the new audiences fund; there is to be free access for children and old age pensioners to museums, and more to be hoped for; and all the Arts Council grants are linked to wide access.
As to excellence—which is the third part of the core, with access and education—there will be large increases, to use a shorthand, for the National Theatre, the London Symphony Orchestra, The Art Angel, which gets a 100 per cent. increase, the orchestras in Bournemouth and Birmingham, and so it goes on. In broadcasting—the most interesting for me—the Government are setting the legal framework for digital. Digital could, among other things, bring the full harvest of the arts to the British public. Niche channels will, I believe, proliferate for poetry, painting, opera, dance, classical music and golden oldies—a thousand channels could bloom—and at last the best would be available to the most, when we want it and in depth. It will be a new found land.
As to the Arts Council, it has brought the Opera House (that rather sad symbol of arts governance over the past decade) under control—a remarkable feat. It had been "a shambles" according to the former chairman of the Arts Council, my noble friend Lord Gowrie. The Arts Council has now pointed it in a good direction.
The Arts Council gained a huge overall increase in funding—£125 million over the next few years—and there is more regional funding and increased power for the regions. For me, that is most important. I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, on this issue. Of 233 course the regions have to be run with enlightened efficiency, but so does everything. My friends in Northern Arts and the other nine regions have warmly welcomed the radical changes of Gerry Robinson and Peter Hewitt of the Arts Council. I believe that this will encourage local authorities to release money and release enthusiasm, which, so far, has very largely been not present. So welcome to Gateshead Music Centre; welcome to Keswick's Theatre by the Lake; and welcome to the same story which is being unfolded elsewhere and which will gather in force over the years.
I have argued this case because I believe that it is right that what is now so positive should be stressed, and these are just a few headlines. We must throw off what Richard Hoggart called "the poverty of ambition". He meant the working classes in the 1930s. Over the past two decades, I fear, it has infected the whole. Internally, individually, where it matters so much to each of us, the arts can be revolutionary. We as a nation can grow into Shakespearean ambitions. Why not? The foundations are laid; the game is afoot. I hope that Jennie Lee is looking down at her old party and perhaps even raising a glass as she sees her soul go marching on.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Lord Gibson
My Lords, I speak as a one-time chairman of the Arts Council—some may say it was a very long time ago, but to me it seems like just the other day. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, who was Minister for part of the time that I chaired the council, has the same recollections. We had happy times together, despite an occasional disagreement.
As I look at the council today, I am concerned that it seems to me, in spite of the optimism—not to say euphoria—of the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, to be squeezing itself out of existence. On the one hand, it is devolving to the regions almost all decisions about grants to the arts. I am not against that process; my own instincts are very much the same. We started the regional arts associations in my time. But it is a matter of extent. I just hope it turns out to be practical and for the best. On the other hand, the Arts Council is left with the national companies as regards which Government Ministers increasingly seem to feel the need to intervene.
I am not sure whether that is a very happy process. I sometimes wonder whether the Government intend the Arts Council ultimately to become a purely advisory body. I hope not because I strongly believe, as most noble Lords have underlined this afternoon, in the arm's length principle and I deplore any trend away from it. We used to set great store by it. It was the reason for our creation and the basis of our operation. It was the whole reason for our existence. It was considered a great achievement. I think it is still considered a particularly British way of doing things.
When I chaired the Arts Council I was invited by the French Government to go to France to have a look at the way they subsidised the arts, and by German city governments—Munich, Hamburg and Berlin—to do the same there. I enormously enjoyed it. It was very instructive and I learnt a great deal. But I came away 234 envying the size of subsidy more than the system and I came to recognise that the larger the subsidy, inevitably the greater the political involvement in the arts. I did not want us to adopt that system here. I thought we had the best. I think that what I saw in France and Germany is beginning to happen here.
In a sense it is inevitable. When I first chaired the Arts Council the subsidy was about £10 million. When I left, five years later, it was about £18 million, which was not a great deal more, bearing in mind the rate of inflation in the 1970s. The subsidy is now more than £200 million and there is also the lottery money. The total is of an entirely different dimension. Although many of us wish that it were more—I echo the plea of the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, that at least level pegging with inflation should be achieved—nevertheless it is a sum that is large enough to have, as it were, a political dimension apart from the high profile character of the arts themselves. So it is not surprising that Secretaries of State and Ministers find it rather hard to stand back.
I urge the Government to distinguish between the broad question of the allocation of resources—geographically and so on—which is a political matter, and perfectly legitimately so, and interference in the internal organisation and administration of some of the companies, particularly the national companies. I do not believe it is a good idea for the Secretary of State to be quite so closely involved with the Royal Opera House. I do not want to underestimate his helpfulness to the Royal Opera House. I do not have any special knowledge of what goes on at the house nowadays, but I feel grateful for the £5 million that he has secured for it. Things there are going very much better. However, if there is to be an Arts Council at all, it should be the Arts Council which does the intervening, if intervening is necessary.
Stories continually reach me—they may be incorrect and I hope very much that the Government will deny them if they are—that the Secretary of State, naturally distressed by the poor administration at the Royal Opera House in recent times, has insisted that in future the head of the artistic side of the house shall not be the boss and that the artistic director must either be subordinate to or at the most co-equal with the administrator. There is one prerequisite for the successful development of any artistic company; in fact, almost any organisation. It is that there should be one pair of hands at the executive top of the organisation. The head of an opera house can either be an administrator, who is respected throughout the house by the staff and all the artists for his or her artistic sensitivity, or the head can be the artistic supreme, who nevertheless is ultimately responsible for budgetary control and for the administration of the house. The set-up very much depends on the personality and experience of the characters involved. The only basic rule is that there must be no doubt over who is in ultimate charge. Divided control means that the chairman and the board will intervene more often than is desirable and in the end it is a recipe for disaster.
It is 12 years since I retired from the board of the Royal Opera House and I have no special knowledge of what goes on there now. But I beg the Secretary of State to let the board appoint the right man or woman to lead the house without divided control. I have not had the 235 pleasure of meeting the new chief executive of the Royal Opera House, Mr. Kaiser, but if he is anything like as good as everyone who I meet says he is, he is the man who ought to have the undivided control. It would then be his task to find an artistic director to be responsible to him.
I just hope the Minister will tell us today that the Royal Opera House board is not constrained in this matter and that if there is to be an Arts Council, the council shall in future be the point of reference for the opera house and not the Minister. There is an alternative, which is to adopt a continental system. It then becomes the Minister's job to intervene. But I hope that we will not allow that to happen. I hope we will not do that. If we did, we at least would know, second best though it would be, who is responsible for what and to whom.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Baroness Brigstocke
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for the opportunity not only to speak in this debate but also to listen to the fascinating earlier speakers. I did not realise that it was going to be a political debate, so before I start my prepared remarks I feel that I must set one record straight.
I have been chairman of the Geffrye Museum in the middle of Hackney since 1990 when there was another government. We have had the most marvellous support and help to develop really exciting educational programmes for adults with special educational needs, for the community, many of whom do not speak English, and for all the schools around. I should also say in passing that when I took over as chairman of the museum from the Inner London Education Authority we needed to do an enormous amount of upgrading of the curating. So the present Government do not have a monopoly on exciting and innovative ideas in museum organisation.
When I was at school my art teacher told me that I was hopeless at art, but I think I developed an eye later on by studying at university classical archaeology, especially architecture, Greek vases and sculpture. For the past 25 years I have been privileged to be, first, a trustee of the National Gallery, then a governor of the Museum of London and, as I said, from 1990 chairman of the trustees of the Geffrye Museum. I am a commissioner of the Museums and Galleries Commission. I have, I trust, learnt something over the years not only about the arts themselves but also about the workings of museums and galleries and, most important of all, about the dedicated and professional experts whose quality is renowned throughout the world: the directors, keepers, curators, attendants, designers, conservators, security advisers, researchers and lecturers.
I wish to make a plea to the Government to preserve the quality and high standards of the best of our arts management and to think carefully before rushing into an artificial merger as is now proposed between the Museums and Galleries Commission and the Libraries Commission. It is such an unnatural union that it can be explained only by a desire to save money.
236 Library and archive services are statutory functions for local authorities, while museums are discretionary. Therefore, museums will always tend to have a lesser allocation of money and resources. The reality is that the majority of local authority funded museums in the country are struggling to survive, let alone provide a modern, efficient and effective service. Is the decision to merge the commissions simply an expedient to save money by creating one body rather than two?
Many local authorities are currently considering ways of transferring their museums to trusts. That trend is likely to gather pace over the next few years. It is my view that it is to be welcomed, given the Geffrye experience, provided that adequate safeguards are in place to ensure continuity of funding by the local authority.
I agree that there is a need for some change in the management and administration of the arts. However, I am worried that the Government are trying to change far too much far too quickly. I have three worries. It was last July, nearly eight months ago. when the Government published the DCMS comprehensive spending review consultation document identifying concern that the national museums need some co-ordination. No details of its plan have yet emerged. The nationals may need some co-ordination and rationalisation; they do not need a nannying control to curb their creativity and initiative.
I have mentioned the need for more funding of the arts in the regions. My third worry concerns the Museums and Galleries Commission. I wonder whether the Government really do recognise the essential work that the commission is doing to ensure that the experienced and professional departments are supported and encouraged. Moreover, staff morale must be considered.
Perhaps I may remind the House of the role and some of the functions of the MGC. It was founded in 1931 and has operated under Royal Charter since 1987. It had as one of its most able chairmen the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, whom I was pleased to see in his place earlier in the debate.
The Museums and Galleries Commission sets standards for museums. It provides advice to government and others on issues affecting museums and galleries. Its registration scheme is a great success. The scheme was introduced in 1988 and has become the benchmark of acceptable minimum standards for museums. More recently, the MGC has developed the Designation Scheme, which has recognised the quality of collections by identifying and celebrating pre-eminent collections in non-national registered museums. There is a new scheme called Cornucopia, which will provide an authoritative database of UK museum collections. I do not have time to tell the House about collection care and management, conservation, the register, and the work that the commission does in the field of museum education, particularly through its support for the Group for Education in Museums. It is the MGC that runs the Acceptance in Lieu and Government Indemnity schemes; it provides security and environmental advice; and it has a popular publication on pest control.
237 Finally, I wish to emphasise that there is much to be proud of in the management of museums in this country. Thoughtful and considered support from government is needed—I emphasise "thoughtful and considered"—building on the best practice that exists.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Viscount Mersey
My Lords, I, too, wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for introducing this interesting debate. I declare an interest in National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside—through my wife, who is a trustee—to which I shall confine my remarks.
The picture is good. NMGM has won 18 national and international awards in the past 10 years. Last year it won the European Museum of the Year award for its new conservation centre. Those achievements have been recognised and rewarded by government, who provide a grant-in-aid of £13 million a year. On top of that, the National Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded £24 million for the project called NMGM 2001, which involves a major expansion and rebuild in, mainly, the Liverpool Museum and the Walker Art Gallery. That £24 million is the largest single grant ever made to a museum project.
So NMGM has a bright future, and the city of Liverpool has a bright future. Government have been generous and I am the last person to look a gift horse in the mouth. I do not regard this as a political debate. However, I know that there is one area of concern to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty; namely, admission charges. NMGM does charge, and admission figures have fallen—although not by the colossal 38 per cent. that was asserted by the noble Lords in their letter to the Independent last August. Nevertheless, I should like to explain the purpose of charging, and its nature on Merseyside.
It is simply to reclaim VAT. Without a charge, costs would rise by 17.5 per cent. To indicate how serious that is, this huge project, NMGM 2001 (which is now costed at £34 million) would cost £40 million if VAT had to be paid. Government have made additional funding available to let school parties and senior citizens in for free. That is good. Fortunately, a partly free gallery can still reclaim VAT. But of course the big question is: why do government not allow VAT exemption on entirely free museums?
The Minister has told me that the Treasury will not allow it. That follows the path trodden by Hacker and Sir Humphrey in "Yes, Minister". That series depicted the Treasury as quite sovereign and quite unaware of which party was in power and who was Prime Minister. It was fiction. The First Lord of the Treasury is the Prime Minister, and surely if he told the Treasury to make all museums and galleries exempt, they would have to kowtow. I, too, remember the distant days when my noble friend Lord Gowrie was Minister for Arts and Heritage, and that he went to see the Prime Minister, my noble friend Lady Thatcher, in Downing Street and asked her, as he has just told us, to restore a particular grant—and it was done, by the Dick Barton technique.
238 Now to the method of charging. It is called Eight Plus, and I suggest that it is the least bad method. A payment of £3 gives free admission for one year to all eight museums and galleries. The trustees had to impose this, and DCMS opposed it in the summer of 1997. However, in a way I was pleased to see that in its publication in summer 1998, not only did the DCMS praise it, the department even cited it as a major achievement of its own. This is not a party-political debate at all. It is standard Whitehall practice, and standard human nature, to claim that any good idea has been yours all along.
The DCMS published a paper to which the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, referred, called A New Cultural Framework. Two points worry me. It proposes to establish a quality, efficiency and standards team whose acronym is QUEST. It is meant to be some kind of watchdog and I always quail when I hear of such things as it smacks of too many generals. I should be pleased to hear from the Minister what exactly QUEST is about and whether it has relevance to Merseyside.
There is also the question of introducing legislation to give trustees greater autonomy. There is no need for it as regards NMGM, it has autonomy enough already. Perhaps it is more for the regional museums. What the NMGM trustees require is recognition that the Eight Plus pass is excellent value and there are high hopes that it will bring the number of admissions back to the old pre-charging days.
Finally, I return to the big scheme, NMGM 2001. To make the Government's grant of £24 million up to £34 million, NMGM needs to raise £10 million by August. It is urgent. Should it fail, the lottery award will be forfeit. At the moment, it is a mere £1.8 million short of the target and I hope that every noble Lord in the House will wish NMGM all success in making the target at the last moment, just like Dick Barton.
§ 4.51 p.m.
The Earl of Carlisle
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for introducing the debate. I start by echoing or supporting my noble godfather and kinsman Lord Gowrie who initiated the debate. He asked the Government—who started extremely well in their funding for the arts—to go that extra mile over the next 12 months so that the arts will be brought up to the standard which the previous government so unwisely and injudiciously allowed to slip through lack of funding.
I voice one strong concern. I hope I am proved wrong, but I am concerned that the Government may introduce a centralised, bureaucratic control over museums and galleries. I suspect that the present Government regard the Arts Council as inefficient. They are trying to use it as a vehicle for imposing their authority. There has been a tendency over the past 18 months in all areas of government to see too much centralisation. Currently we have trustees and directors of our galleries, museums and institutions. That has worked well. I maintain that the independence of the governing bodies is of fundamental importance to the success, health and future prospects of our museums and galleries.
239 Perhaps I may give an example of a gallery with which I am most familiar: the National Portrait Gallery. The chairman happens, by no accident, to be a businessman of immense distinction, Mr. Henry Keswick. He gave his counsel during the preparation of the four-year corporate plan, a document which, as I am sure the noble Lord's department will agree—and will have studied—is a microcosm of how a small gallery is organised. The board of trustees, comprising 14 individuals, contains a former head of the Diplomatic Service, the editor of a national newspaper, a former chairman of a standing committee of the arts, three professors of distinction in their historical fields for different centuries, a sculptor, a banker and four ladies who are eminent in their fields of journalism, welfare and charity work. They come from diverse backgrounds and give their time and expertise to advise, warn and encourage, rather like a constitutional monarchy. The system works well.
One interesting point is that there are three ex officio directors, one of whom is a busy, senior Cabinet Minister. It is unlikely—indeed, I do not believe it has ever happened—that the Minister has attended the meetings of the board of trustees. Perhaps the noble Lord will encourage those Ministers who are trustees either to alter their diary plans so that they can attend meetings of the trustees or be allowed to send a deputy instead; or even relinquish their positions so that another individual who could give a little time and expertise could attend as a trustee.
I understand that there are about 1,500 trustee positions on museum and gallery hoards up and down the land. Many are appointed or are in the gift or patronage of the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State. No doubt he Secretary of State delegates his authority at times and seeks advice. However, in this day and age when I understand the Government wish more people to be involved in decision-making, I do not believe that it is right for the Secretary of State to have so much patronage
I have three questions for the Minister. Does he agree with me that a greater openness in the appointment of trustees to our galleries and museums should be introduced? Would not the Secretary of State prefer to see his own patronages handed over to a group of professionals who know the problems of maintaining galleries, with their priceless art treasures and an insufficient budget? Will the Government look at the entire trustee situation?
I am concerned that an accounting officer has been appointed to the British Museum. To whom is that accounting officer responsible? Is it to the Department of Culture or to the director of the British Museum? If I am right that the department has an influence over the budget within the board of trustees, that appointment seems to me to be a retrograde step which I hope will be reversed.
Perhaps I may pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Rix, who mentioned the disabled. I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but I believe that, so far, he is the only noble Lord to have done so in the debate. About eight months ago, I took a group of young people from the Blue School, Wells, round the House. They were 240 studying for politics, A-level. They came up the stairs of the Victoria Tower and as I took them up, I noticed that one of the young girls was blind. To my joy, on the right of the Robing Room, there is a tactile model for the visually impaired. I took the young lady over there and she told us what we were going to see. She was delighted; indeed, enchanted. It made her visit, which made our visit. Perhaps we could have a tactile model for the visually impaired in Westminster Hall.
Only 28 per cent. of our museums have a disability policy; only 23 per cent. have an action plan. In 1988, only I per cent. of our museums had Braille. Ten years later, it is only 4 per cent. There are certain measures that the Government could take to help. I should be delighted if they would withhold money from galleries which did not do more for the disabled, in particular the blind and visually impaired. I hope that the Government will encourage and reward those museums such as the National Portrait Gallery, which are doing just that.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Chorley
My Lords, I too thank my noble friend for initiating this debate. He drew attention to the dangers of the overhead cost of too much regionalism and, perhaps even more important, funding starvation at local government level. I should like to add only one illustrative point that has concerned me for some time in that area. I refer to the problem of the conservation of works of art and buildings in the care of local authorities. Noble Lords will recall that this time last year the Royal Academy hosted a magnificent exhibition of the treasures of regional museums and galleries. Some of those pictures have not been seen for many years because of funding problems. A number of them have had to undergo considerable restoration. All of the reports I hear indicate that the conservation problems of works of art at local government level are rather serious.
To return to the main thrust of the debate. I have often felt, perhaps rather flippantly—although the debate so far has tended to support me—that a rather better funding regime would do wonders for many of the perceived management and governance problems. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that most of the debate has been about funding. As a nation we appear to have a peculiar resistance to arts funding. It does not matter which administration we have; we do not like spending money on cultural activities. I remember the days of Jennie Lee, about which the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, reminded us. For example, two weeks ago we had a debate on the British Council from which it appeared that our main European colleagues, France and Germany, spent about twice as much per head as the UK on cultural diplomacy. Ninety per cent. of their spend is governmental whereas in our case it is only half.
The story is much the same on the wider arts front. I came across a survey conducted by the Arts Council last year. It showed that in 1994 public spending on arts and museums in Germany was £56.50 and in France it was £56.80 while in the UK it was a mere £16.60. One may argue that that was in 1994 and that we now have a new government. We have heard about the increases. I suspect, however, that they would not make much 241 inroad into that difference. Perhaps the lottery can be prayed in aid but, as the noble Lord, Lord Jacobs, reminded us, there are considerable problems in that respect. I believe he made the sensitive and important point that there will be great problems and a lot of tears over future running costs.
Our philistinism is most apparent in the performing arts and reaches its peak—as referred to by a number of speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord Gibson—in the opera of which we are enormously suspicious. Adequate funding is the first key principle for the state's relationship with the arts. The second is Keynes's arm's-length principle that government should not be involved in direct funding. We should note the remarks of my noble friend Lord Gibson with his immense knowledge and experience on that point. In this country we have the British Council as a tier and the NHMF, to which I shall turn in a moment, which administers the Heritage Lottery. We also have English Heritage which has a rather different status. I believe that these structures are of enormous importance for the simple reason that Ministers, and increasingly the Treasury, always want to interfere.
Another area in which the relationship with government is important is taxation. Many organisations who operate in the arts and heritage world are charities and VAT bears heavily upon them. We have heard examples of that. I do not believe that so far anyone has mentioned the problems for some charities of the abolition of advance corporation tax. For example, the National Trust will lose some £2 million a year when the phasing-out arrangements come to an end. The Government agreed 18 months ago to consider the taxation of charities in the light of these developments. Perhaps the Minister can confirm my understanding that they expect to report on this matter shortly before the Budget. Inevitably, that being the case the Minister will not be able to tell us very much more except possibly a date.
I should like to flag up two points. First, a number of noble Lords have made reference to the acceptance in lieu provisions. It now appears to be confirmed that no change will take place. I hope that that is correct because I believe this to be enormously important. Secondly, we come to the old chestnut that surprisingly has not been touched on so far this afternoon: the anomaly of having to pay full VAT on repairs to listed buildings while alterations to those buildings are VAT-free. This bears very heavily particularly on the Church and private listed house owners. The under-funding in recent years of English Heritage merely exacerbates the problem.
I conclude with some brief observations on the National Heritage Memorial Fund. The NHMF is now dwarfed by the Heritage Lottery Fund which it administers. This country has been extraordinarily lucky to have as its chairman my noble friend Lord Rothschild who has built up from scratch the structures and staffing needed to vet applications. For example, last year there were some 4,500 applications and the NHMF committed over £350 million. We should also congratulate my noble friend on some of the initiatives that have been taken, for example the imaginative Urban Parks 242 Programme. The Heritage Lottery is often accused of being overly bureaucratic. I do not believe that it should be so criticised. One cannot responsibly distribute these sums of money in an even-handed way without a considerable volume of paper work. Some of its projects are exceedingly complex financially and legally and also rather politically sensitive. I particularly commend the resolution of the future of the main buildings at Stowe—here I declare an interest—which was finally completed under the new chairman Mr. Eric Anderson. That was a very complicated operation.
In marked contrast the NHMF proper has seen its grant drop from £8 million in 1996–97 to £5 million last year. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, went into that in some detail, and I support everything that he said. The figure of £5 million is half a loaf while we had only a crust before. Frankly, I believe that it should be brought up to its proper level. There appears to be a lack of appreciation as to what the NHMF proper does. It does what the Heritage Lottery is not allowed to do. I have in mind its ability to make grants towards endowments which can be crucial. I should very much like this important area to be looked at. I shall leave it at that.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, I join with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord. Lord Freyberg, for introducing this interesting and timely debate. It began with three speeches from hereditary Peers, was continued by a number of others, and has included contributions from one or two who, like myself. have not attained that distinction.
Unlike nearly all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate, I have never had any connection with the administration of any of the arts—museums, galleries or anything of that kind. I wish to tackle what has emerged as a central question, first mooted by someone I should like to call my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, (I cannot call him my noble friend) and the noble Lord, Lord Chorley. It is the general question of the money we spend on the arts.
The money spent. whether through government, local government or donations to charities, depends on the importance which the electorate is believed to attach to the object of expenditure. My worry is that respect in this country for the major arts has been evidently declining. I am in that respect a cultural pessimist.
As my own interest is in the opera, and not in soap operas, I rarely watch television. However, in order to cheer myself up, I manage to watch one series of programmes almost every year: the contest between young musicians culminating in their festival in Leeds. When one watches that, one understands that there is an element of hope. That hope is the musical talent which appears to be widespread among our young people. If I were in a position to spend money, which I am not, my plea would be that we make the most of that talent.
Giving children lessons at school in instrumental music, vocal music and participation in orchestras or chamber ensembles has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Bragg. However, he seemed to have a totally erroneous picture of what has been going on. All the 243 authorities in the music world—our leading musicians and leading critics of music—have repeatedly pointed out to us in the past few years that there has been a massive falling off in the allocation to schools by local education authorities for peripatetic music teachers for lessons in school. I find it extraordinary that in a speech which was so upbeat he should be so misleading. I can only think that his general attitude of being upbeat must reflect the fact—I know not whether it is true—that for the past two years the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, has been in residence abroad and not in this country where he could have observed what was going on. Perhaps he has been somewhere fashionable like the Seychelles. Who knows?
The issue is important. It must be given importance in schools. Every talent must be given the opportunity to develop. It is more than a matter of private interest. As other noble Lords have pointed out, despite the falling off in our expenditure on the arts, Britain has maintained a major place in the world. Reference was made, understandably, by the noble Lord, Lord Rix, to our achievements in our theatre and cinema. But the orchestras, and the opera houses of London, despite their current difficulties, attract and have attracted worldwide attention. Music could be the art in which Britain can again excel itself, as it did when Mendelssohn came over to teach piano to Queen Victoria, and as it has done at other times in our past.
I do not expect much from central government, but what one could receive—and we are not getting it at present—is some indication that the Government believe in the importance of the arts. If they had held that belief, they would not have created a department which links the arts with sport, leisure, the media, and goodness knows what. They would have had a proper Secretary of State for culture and, perhaps united with culture, education. After all, responsibility for what goes on in schools lies with the Department for Education and Employment. it gives employment to bureaucrats. I am not altogether clear what the department does as regards musical education.
The Government are headed by a Prime Minister who frequently tells us that his only interest in culture is what I believe is called pop music. Therefore not much leadership will com., from Downing Street. But I hope that other Ministers will give a lead. If it can be made plain to the growing generation that the arts are important, there will be no difficulty in raising funds to pay for what the country needs.
§ 5.16 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, is always a hard act to follow. Before his speech, I was minded to follow the upbeat tone of the noble Lord, Lord Bragg. In fact I shall continue with that upbeat tone, but while the matter is fresh in my mind perhaps I may refer to an interesting point made by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, about consensus in the electorate. I had always shared his view until a week ago when I had to provide a piece for French television on the choice of a poet laureate here. I mentioned to the French producer how wonderful it was that in France literary prizes and other such cultural matters were 244 greeted with enthusiasm by the French populace. He said, "Don't believe a word of that. It is true that we subsidise our cinema and it is assumed that we have a consensus for that. And people take an interest in the vast number of literary prizes here". I told him that in our country literary prizes, and the choice of the poet laureate, are of general interest only if they are accompanied by the lists of odds published by Ladbroke's and William Hill. I have no objection to that. However, the French producer also told me that in a recent poll of television viewers the great majority preferred game shows and quizzes. If one considers the weekly returns on cinemas in France, American major films are always at the top for attendance figures rather than the excellent smaller scale French films. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, is always so challenging. It is hard to resist following on that point.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for presenting to us in a level-headed way the position of the funding of arts in this country. I tend towards the view of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. I believe that it is the right engine. The engine needs tuning from time to time; and perhaps even a major service. I believe that we have had that.
To continue on the upbeat trend, I think that the arts today are extremely healthy. Much credit must fall on the Secretary of State. He has done an excellent job so far. I disagree somewhat with some of his published words, but his actions speak louder than his words. The amount of money which has gone into the arts, and the way in which it has been directed, require our admiration.
A large amount of money has gone into cinema, a particular interest of mine, which has perhaps overloaded the production side. However, the Government now appreciate that to continue to subsidise production through the lottery without attending to other aspects, such as distribution, is heading for trouble, and corrections have been made. Therefore, I am also upbeat and optimistic about that aspect. The additional £290 million is an enormous fillip to the arts in general.
Many people are writing and painting. Even script writers are writing more and better scripts because the film industry has been revitalised. We hope that more of the profits from that industry will come to us rather than go to America. Only time will tell.
In this wide-ranging debate there have been a number of interesting contributions. I take on board in particular what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda. I believe that the need for a national photographic collection is an absolute priority. Those of us who like collections of photographs and skulk around the bookshops looking for old pictures of village life in the area in which we grew up often wonder why such photographs are not exhibited in galleries, as described by the noble Earl.
Looking around the estate, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, the estate is in pretty good order. I was intrigued by his remark about Mozart making you smarter. Yesterday, an American lady came to have tea with me and asked politely whether I could provide another pot of tea because tea makes you smarter. 245 Having had an entrepreneurial background, I believe that there might be a future for tea and Mozart, possibly located next to a gymnasium so that people can develop not only their brains but their bodies. I believe that the situation in that respect is good and that the arms' length principle has been supported by your Lordships.
The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, was light on the Westminster Council. In the fine tuning, or even a major overhaul, which needs to take place, it will not do for a council which has within its area so many artistic activities to cut the art budget by 28 per cent. Cutting the arts budget is one thing, but then to say that it is being done because of the enormous burden of asylum seekers within your patch is insulting to the intelligence and to the arts activities within your area. The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, is young and polite, but I am now old and rude. I should like to register a protest that such petty bureaucrats can wander so oafishly around the artistic arena. I wish the noble Lord had been even more outspoken about that, but perhaps the Minister will be able to comment.
Perhaps I may mention in passing what is happening in Trafalgar Square. London is unlike Paris; we do not have monumental architecture. We have subtle, scaled, domestic architecture, often in village conglomerations. The monumental architecture of Paris is absent in London, which is better for it. Trafalgar Square is the only heroic square in London. It is admirably sited, looking down Whitehall with its early 19th century neo-classical buildings and past the Cenotaph. However, the absence of a statue on the plinth is causing a great deal of anxiety in some circles. The decision of the Secretary of State will play a major part. It really will not do for political correctness to tell us that we need something on the plinth to diminish what is already there and which represents our past. Whether we like it or not, it is an heroic area and it needs an heroic or imposing statue on that plinth.
I congratulate the cookery writer, Pru Leith, on raising the prospect of having a statue, but the suggestions which have been made for a small transparent replica of the empty plinth on top of the plinth, for example, is frippery and triviality of an extraordinary degree. We should ignore it; we should return to common sense. Surely we do not have to be so politically correct that we must deny Trafalgar Square, with Nelson's Column, the statues and wonderful collection of architecture, ecclesiastical and monumental.
That was one of the bees in my bonnet; the other bee in my bonnet is a personal one. I have several relatives who are professional painters. I am lucky enough to have one or two paintings which are not masterpieces but are good paintings several hundred years old. They have lasted exceedingly well within a family which has had more ups and downs than most. The reason is that the paintings were beautifully prepared. The painters of the 17th and 18th centuries knew the mastery of paints, the techniques of applying paints on other paints and of drying. They knew all the techniques to use for preparing surfaces.
246 Yesterday I was told by a leading restorer that many of the paintings which he sees after 25 years are almost beyond repair. I believe that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport should get together with the Department for Education and Employment in order to ensure that the art schools pay attention to the preparation of surfaces. Indeed, the art schools brought back drawing, which sadly lapsed for a long period. A great deal of important painting now being undertaken will be lost. Those techniques were second nature to the painters of bygone centuries, but, sadly, they have been neglected. I am supported in that by David Hockney, but it is a particular point that I wish to raise and I hope in such a wide-ranging debate your Lordships will forgive me for doing so.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Baroness Anelay of St. Johns
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for giving us this opportunity to discuss the problems facing the government and management of the arts today and to explore the changes which could be made for the benefit of all.
I have been in post for only two months, but I have already been able to meet some of those who are involved in the management of the arts. Like my noble friend Lady Brigstocke, I pay tribute to their long-term commitment and dedication.
There is a delicate balance between the power of the donors of subsidies who may be individuals, charities, companies or government, as against the independence of the artist. I believe that during the past 21 months that delicate balance has been tipped towards the power of the Government. The Minister often says that this is an enabling government and I wholly accept that he believes that, but the reality of government action often falls short of that ideal and I believe now looks dangerously like working to undermine it.
I do not in any way call into question the Minister's passion for the arts. He has proved that by both word and deed, and he is much respected in this House for it. But I do wonder whether his Government's interest in the arts is less passionate than calculated. It is one thing to recognise the power of the arts in society, and quite another to seek to harness that power to a political agenda. It is not for politicians to make aesthetic judgments. Governments should operate on an arms' length principle, to which so many noble Lords have referred. That can be achieved only if intermediary bodies such as the Arts Council act independently of government while remaining accountable to the public, not all of whom will be taxpayers. My noble friend Lord Gowrie pointed out that there will always be arguments about the length of the arms in an arm's length policy. The basis of my argument this evening is simply that those arms have grown shorter recently.
The statement made by the Secretary of State at the Tate Gallery in December demonstrated the contradictions within the Government's arts policy. On the one hand, there is a sensible desire to ensure that as much money as possible reaches those organisations which provide public services so that there is a reduction 247 in what is described as the "landscape of quangos". On the other hand, the means which has been found to achieve that result is to create larger and more heavy-handed intermediate bodies. That is likely to reinforce a strongly centralising move towards increased Treasury control. I question whether that is desirable.
My noble friend Lady Brigstocke referred earlier to the merger of the Museums and Galleries Commission with the Library and Information Commission. I concur with all her remarks and echo her concerns on that matter.
Reference has also been made to the establishment of QUEST. QUEST has been inserted into the system in a way which endangers the arm's length principle. The very existence of QUEST makes one pose the question as to what is the Government's view of the long-term role of the Arts Council. Bereft of experienced staff and shorn of power, it now faces a challenge from QUEST—an organisation which will monitor standards and efficiency in the arts and answer directly to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
I am concerned also that the Arts Council, in compliance with the Government's strategic objectives, is meekly, if chaotically, dissolving itself into cultural annexes of RDAs. There can be only one outcome of that; that is, a massive dilution in the quality of knowledge which informs decisions about who gets what. I am concerned about an Arts Council which sees what the Government are doing and yet remains silent.
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, referred earlier to the question of raids on the National Lottery. I cannot let this debate pass without commenting that the real raid which occurred on the lottery happened last week and it was carried out by this Government. The National Lottery Order, which passed through this House on Thursday evening last week, means that the original lottery good causes of charities, sports, the arts and heritage will have their share of the proceeds cut from 16.67 per cent. to 5 per cent. for the three months from 15th February. Together they stand to lose £200 million, which they otherwise would have received. That is the amount being diverted to the New Opportunities Fund to pay for projects which are indeed very worthy in themselves but which I believe should more properly be funded from taxation.
Even when the lottery funds are used for their original purpose, things can still go badly wrong. I refer to the failure of Musicworks. That is the Government's flagship inner city music teaching project which has been forced to close with £50,000 debts. That is just one year after receiving £1.1 million in lottery grants. The Secretary of State had described the project as,personifying everything which New Labour is trying to achieve in music".Indeed, it was an extremely valuable project. Musicworks ran programmes for the unemployed and for young offenders, as well as teaching children aged five to 11 to play instruments and sing. Will the Minister tell the House whether a rescue plan is now in place? Is Musicworks working fully according to its original plans? Did the courses for 170 young students start on 18th January as promised?
248 I wonder whether the announcement yesterday of the launch of local cultural strategies is too late to save Musicworks. Is it too late to rescue the dozens of libraries which are being closed by local authorities around the country? Indeed, a spokesperson for the Library Association, Sherry Jespersen, pointed out:There is a huge gap between the government's vision for libraries and the reality of closures, reduced opening hours and cutbacks".Let us hope that the local cultural strategies have some better function than comparable organisations had in the 1970s, referred to earlier by the noble Lord. Lord Freyberg. Perhaps those strategies are merely a re-run of an old idea that failed. Perhaps that should he the subject of a detailed debate on another day, when we see the results of those projects.
My noble friend Lord Hindlip referred to the damage which will be done by the Government's changes to the rules governing access to tax exempt works of art. I hope that the Minister will agree to re-examine that issue.
I turn now to the question of what could be the future of management and government of the arts. I believe that the taxpayer should continue to act as patron of the arts. But what more can be done to encourage an increase in direct funding, and with what impact upon the management of the arts? Those are questions which we shall need to examine in detail over the coming year and I undertake to raise those matter through Unstarred Questions.
I am impressed by the approach of the Royal Opera House's Michael Kaiser whom I met recently. He asks whether its 16,000 friends who currently pay £45 per year for the benefit have ever been asked for £46. Indeed, could the role and support of "friends" be increased generally? Are there ways in which to simplify the tax system to make giving more attractive'? There were reports last year that the Secretary of State wants to switch gift tax relief from institutions to donors. We shall look forward to seeing whether there is any progress on that issue hut, like other noble Lords, I recognise the inhibitions upon the Minister in commenting on matters which may be in the Budget next month.
Is it also right that the future of so many arts organisations should lie in the hands of people who have no financial stake in them? How can we, or should we, build upon the excellent work of ABSA to generate yet greater awareness among corporate sponsors of the mutual benefits which accrue from forging links with arts organisations?
There are many matters that we shall need to examine. The question has arisen about the participation of disabled people in the arts, the matter of endowments and my noble friend Lord Mersey raised the issue of VAT. There is also the important but precarious position of local authorities. They will all have to be considered.
Finally, as the old Left knew perfectly well and as the cultural Right has always known, there is nothing elitist about great art and great thought. They are and should remain at the heart of society. "Elitist" is not a bad word in itself. For, of course, nothing is too good for the 249 working woman and man. On these Benches, we shall continue to keep that belief at the forefront of our considerations as we scrutinise the Government's arts policy over the coming year.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, in expressing my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for introducing this debate and to virtually all noble Lords who have taken part in it, I have some difficulty because I am really quite shameless. I believe that what we have seen over the past 21 months is an astounding success story. We have a turn-round in government attitude towards the arts, and governance and management of the arts, which is quite astonishing.
The noble Lord, Lord Jacobs, said that the arts had won the lottery. The arts has certainly benefited from the lottery, but it has had a great deal more in the period for which this Government have been in office. The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, and his godson referred back to a golden age of 1993. I thought that that was rather undermined by the noble Lord, Lord Rix, reminding us that he resigned from the drama panel of the Arts Council in exactly that year because of under-funding. I shall not give a statistical series of funding for that period.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, perhaps I may correct the Minister. I said that 1993 was hardly a bonanza year for the arts, but nevertheless it would be considered a triumph for this Government if they could recover in real terms the level of funding that was then available. I am talking about current funding, not lottery funding.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I am delighted to hear both the godfather and godson responding as they have done. But as a result of the comprehensive spending review, the Government have found an extra £290 million for the activities of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, of which £125 million is extra funding for the arts. That has happened after a number of years—I will not specify 1993 or any other year—in which it will be generally recognised that there were, at worst, cuts in arts funding from government and, at best, a standstill in arts funding. If I thought I could satisfy my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney on the financial side, I would die happy. But I know that it is not possible to do that.
Let me face the matter head on. Of course this level of government spending comes with strings attached; but let me explain those strings and seek to respond directly to the noble Lords, Lord Gibson and Lord Chorley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, who seemed to think that what is involved in those strings is political interference.
The new focus on output and outcomes applies across all government departments; they must all produce a public service agreement. We have not heard much 250 about that yet. It was published in December. It will become apparent that this is an increasingly important aspect of the way in which this Government operate. It will show how each department's spending will deliver government objectives alongside increased efficiency and improved effectiveness.
Before I go any further into government objectives, against those who seem to think that there is something sinister about delivering government objectives, let me set out the objectives of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and see how many noble Lords think it to be wrong. First, there should be access for the many and not the few to arts in this country; to culture generally and to media and sport. Secondly, we should promote excellence. We should provide those who are providing the arts with an opportunity to excel and give them the opportunities for innovation which will in turn bring excellence.
Thirdly, there should be educational opportunity. I shall come back to that because it was referred to by a number of noble Lords. That means educational opportunity both in education in schools and of course professional training for those who work in the arts. Fourthly, we should enable our creative industries, which this Government identified as being enormously important for the economic as well as the cultural life of this country, to achieve their artistic and economic potential. If anybody thinks there is anything sinister about those objectives, let them tell me about it; I do not believe that that is the case.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport provides almost no direct services; it relies on sponsored bodies. Is it wrong that the department should seek to secure that those sponsored bodies to whom it gives money—not just for one year, but now for three years—are achieving their objectives? Is it wrong that, having given this three-year funding, we should require them to plan effectively for a three-year period or for longer? Does that in itself constitute an attack on the arm's length principle? The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, seems to think so. I am reminded of my mother who, as she got older and long-sight afflicted her, said that there was nothing wrong with her eyesight; it was just that her arms were too short. I suspect that the noble Baroness thinks that there is nothing wrong with her eyesight; and I suspect that she is wrong.
As a result of the spending review—remember, we are going back somewhere close to zero budgeting over all departments, not just the DCMS—the DCMS will become more strategic, but it will have to ensure that those objectives are properly held to. We have therefore set up funding agreements with all of our bodies which will provide explicit and challenging statements of the underlying outputs and levels of performance requirement. They will reflect our own public service agreement target. They will be the key sponsorship and planning documents linking DCMS and its non-departmental government bodies. For the first time this year the funding agreements, in particular with the 18 national museums and galleries, will be concluded and published before 1st April and not, as under the previous government, half-way through the financial year. That is managerial responsibility rather than irresponsibility.
251 Let me turn to museums and galleries. There will be £99 million extra for museums and galleries over the next three years. That is a huge increase after years of cuts. There will be a £15 million challenge fund to provide support for the 43 designated museums. We will introduce a new national museums body for museums, libraries and art galleries. I heard what the noble Baroness, Lady Brigstocke, said and I simply do not agree with her. This is not an attack on the Museums and Galleries Commission; this is an opportunity to have funding agreement:; which cover the whole range of interlocking activities of museums, libraries and archives—archives which have never been represented on a national level before. This reflects the way in which local government actually deals with museums and libraries and I believe it is an advance because this is an advisory body, not a fund-giving body.
I could go on about museums, but I want to concentrate on just one issue; that is, the issue of access to which I referred as a strategic objective of the department. By the Secretary of State's announcement on 14th December we have ensured that there is enough money, first, for those museums and galleries which have free access at the moment, to continue to provide free access; secondly, to achieve a situation whereby those who at the moment charge for admission will not need to charge admission for children from 1st April this year or for pensioners on 1st April 2000. There will also be enough money for those national museums and galleries who wish to offer universal free access in 2001–2002 to do so and discussions will continue with them with that in mind.
I am grateful for the comments of the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, about Merseyside. Indeed, I endorse what both he and the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said about the conservation centre there. We are pleased that we have been able to offer this free access package to the national museums and galleries on Merseyside and the Secretary of State will be visiting Merseyside in March in order to discuss that with the trustees. So I do not believe we have anything to be ashamed of in relation to museums and galleries.
A number of noble Lords—no; a few noble Lords—notably the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, expressed doubt about the Quality, Efficiency and Standards Team (QUEST). I want to emphasise that QUEST will be a watchdog looking at all areas of DCMS responsibility, and at DCMS itself; in other words, we are prepared to take our own medicine. It will undertake a mix of studies: some about individual institutions; some cross-cutting and some learning from the experience of one institution to help another. There will be a very small core team. Studies will draw on expertise from outside, including sponsored bodies, the private sector and local authorities. QUEST will report directly to the Secretary of State. It will have its own identity. It will issue independent advice. Its budget for the first three years is £500,000 a year. If we were going to be instituting Big Brother in the menacing way that some noble Lords seem to think, we would be funding it a good deal more generously than that.
252 But the team will be concerned with identifying good practice and seeing where good practice can be transferred from one part to another part of the DCMS's activities. It will work in collaboration with the National Audit Office and the Audit Commission. Its activities will include a review of targets and indicators and of administrative structures; a study of second-tier delegation; a study of the private-public partnerships; a look at the cost of commercial innovation: and a look at the cost of making lottery applications. All of those are objectives which are thoroughly in line with the wish of the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, when introducing the debate today.
I turn to the particular points raised. I accept that it is possible, by selective quotation, to justify the charge made by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, about local authority expenditure over a period of time. It is certainly true that some local authorities have been less generous than others—if I can put it in that way—in funding the arts. This year there has been the most generous settlement for local government for many years in which the block for recreational activity and cultural services has achieved an increase of 3.8 per cent. That is no justification for local authorities to impose cuts on any area of the arts. Where the department has responsibilities, as it does under the Public Libraries Act, we shall ensure that those are fulfilled.
Noble Lords have questioned whether our devolution to regions, which is part of the policy of and for the Arts Council for England, will result in wise and efficient decisions. I thought that my noble friend Lord Bragg adequately answered that point with his example from the north of England. The criticism of Westminster City Council which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, shows the obstacles that we have to overcome, but we do not believe that they can be overcome by increasing centralisation. Of course, we do not approve of the cuts which have been imposed by Buckinghamshire in the past, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg. We believe that the money is there if councils are willing and able to use it.
My noble friend Lord Strabolgi and the noble Lord, Lord Hindlip, referred to the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme. The noble Lord, Lord Hindlip, expressed the fear that works of art would be forced on to the market as a result of the restrictions on viewing by appointment and the insistence under the Finance Act 1998 that there should be publicly announced hours for viewing. I simply do not believe that that will take place. The Acceptance in Lieu scheme provides that if there is any good reason why the works of art should not be viewed where they belong, so to speak, they can be seen in museums and galleries. The noble Lord, Lord Hindlip, referred to hard-pressed museums. He spoke of the possibility that they might decline to put the works of art on show and that the people concerned might lose their tax exemption. If he would be good enough to write to me about that matter, I shall certainly take up. My understanding is that there is generally not any difficulty on that score. That is the key to the success of the Conditional Exemption Scheme. However, I must 253 insist that this is a tax concession and in return for such, as the noble Lord generously acknowledged, there must be proper opportunities for public viewing.
The noble Lord, Lord Jacobs, referred to lottery funding and to the need for that to be more flexible so that it would cover revenue as well as capital. I entirely agree with him on that point. That is what we provided for in the National Lottery Act 1998. We may not have gone as far as he would like but we have gone a good way to achieving greater flexibility.
He asked whether it was possible to encourage more endowments and foundations which would secure the long-term viability of projects funded by the lottery. He is quite right; lottery projects need to show financial viability. There has to be a long-term feasibility plan. I believe that his objectives are also those of the Government. He asked about the Millennium Commission. I can assure him that no projects will be funded by the Millennium Commission which would allow deficits. A proper business plan will be encouraged.
The noble Lord, Lord Rix, and the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, referred to the needs of the disabled. We are very sympathetic to those needs, but I do not think that we would go as far as the noble Earl in suggesting that we should withhold money from galleries who do not provide for the disabled. There are sometimes reasons which make such provision difficult. However, I certainly take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Rix, about representation of the disabled on committees.
I was asked by my noble friend Lord Jenkins about droit de suite. He defended droit de suite, against the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Hindlip, and others, by saying that it would go to artists. Where droit de suite operates, 80 per cent. of the money goes to 20 per cent. of the artists. I do not see the heirs of Picasso and Matisse as being a particularly worthy cause.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, made a valid and interesting point about roving curators which Neil MacGregor of the National Gallery has, indeed, discussed with Alan Howarth, the Minister for the Arts. The noble Baroness, Lady Brigstocke, made a similar point. It is true that there is a problem for artists outside London and a problem of availability of experienced and skilled curators in our museums. We shall be taking forward the suggestion which has been made.
I shall, if I may, pass over the matter of the Dome which is perhaps peripheral to our discussion. I was interested in the suggestion of the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, about having a museum of photography in London comparable to that in Bradford. There are a number of museums of photography. I think he would agree that it would be better to start a new museum from an existing one rather than to start from scratch.
My noble friend Lord Bragg asked us to pay tribute to Jennie Lee, the first effective Minister of the Arts, and I am glad to do so. I do not think it matters that she was placed in the Department for Education and Employment, whereas our Minister for the Arts is in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. It is not where you are, it is what you do that really matters.
254 The noble Lord, Lord Gibson, puzzled me. He seemed to think there was a danger of too much ministerial control over the Royal Opera House. I should have thought that the experience of the past six months shows that Ministers have successfully brought together what would otherwise have been warring parties to what I believe and hope will be a successful conclusion.
I was pleased to hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Brigstocke, said about the Geffrye Museum although I must insist that the museums, libraries and archives council, which is planned, is not an attempt to save money and is certainly not a merger. We propose a new powerful advisory body which would give advice to government over a range of services and activities which have natural links.
I have come to the end of my allocated time and I apologise to noble Lords who I have not answered. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, who accused my noble friend Lord Bragg of being absent from the country, that throughout the period to which he refers, my noble friend has had a season ticket to the upper east stand in row P at Arsenal Football Club, even if the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, did not have the opportunity to see the "South Bank Show" during that period.
I think that we have a great deal to be proud of and that the majority of speeches this evening have encouraged that view. I am grateful, again, to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for introducing the debate and for an opportunity to set out the Government's position on these matters.
§ 5.59 p.m.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down—I am aware that he has had to answer a lot of points—I gave notice to his office of two specific questions of importance. Perhaps he will be kind enough to write to me.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I shall be glad to do that. I realise that the noble Earl talked about cross-border touring, but the matter was too complicated to deal with in the time that I had available.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Lord Freyberg
My Lords, I thank all who have contributed to this afternoon's debate on such a wide range of subjects. I note with interest the Minister's comments and I look forward to a further discussion on some of the topics raised. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.