HC Deb 13 May 1983 vol 42 cc529-32W
Mr. Murphy

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will set out the principal achievements of Her Majesty's Government within the office of arts and libraries responsibilities since May 1979.

Mr. Channon

The creation of the office of arts and libraries, with separate Ministerial responsibility, a distinct identity and a separate budget, has underlined the Government's commitment to the arts. Within the constraints of available resources and during a period of economic difficulty the overall level of arts activity has been broadly sustained. The office's principal achievements since 1979 include the following:

National Heritage

(1) The passage of the National Heritage Act in 1980 created the National Heritage Memorial Fund to assist the preservation and acquisition of items of outstanding national importance. The fund has received a substantial initial endowment and total Government contributions to date amount to over £25 million.

(2) Under the 1980 Act a Government indemnity scheme covering the loan of works of art for public benefit has been developed. This enables such loans to take place without insurance costs to the institutions and individuals concerned; in England alone some 230 separate exhibitions have already been covered in this way.

(3) The taxation and other arrangements for protecting works of art which form part of the national heritage have been kept under regular review in conjunction with the Revenue Departments. In particular, changes have been the current levies on imported foodstuffs in the same manner as his answer of 10 November 1982, Official Report, columns 170–72.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The following is the information requested for the United Kingdom as at 11 May 1983:

made in the arrangements for conditional exemption and the douceur so as to facilitate the retention of important works of art and other heritage objects in private hands, or their sale by private treaty to public institutions. The publication of an OAL guide to the arrangements for conditional exemption, acceptances in lieu and private treaty sales has been widely welcomed.

(4) Encouragement has been given to owners to offer items of heritage quality in lieu of capital taxation liabilities; as a result Her Majesty's Government has formally accepted important in lieu offers from 19 estates since the summer of 1979, in satisfaction of tax liabilities of some £4 million.

(5) The arrangements for the control of export of works of art have been improved. The reviewing committee on the export of works of art has considered a total of 58 applications for export licences resulting in the retention in this country of 31 items judged to be of national importance, of which 23 are now in public collections.

(6) The office of arts and libraries assumed responsibility for the Government art collection on 1 April 1980, and has taken steps to improve the effectiveness of its operations, including computerisation of its inventory.

Performing and visual arts

(7) The level of support for the performing and visual arts has been broadly maintained. In the financial year 1983–84 the level of commitment to the Arts Council, British Film Institute and Crafts Council has reached over £100 million. A supplementary grant of £8 million was made available at the end of last year to deal with some pressing problems in arts bodies. Special scrutinies are being undertaken into the Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespear Company.

(8) The Arts Council has been able to support a very wide range of arts activities, particularly through increasing emphasis on regional arts.

(9) The British Film Institute has been encouraged to develop its film production interests and particular emphasis has been placed on meeting the needs of the National Film Archive.

(10) Additional financial provision has been made for the Crafts Council, permitting the council to acquire and open a new gallery and resource centre. The council was granted a royal charter in 1982.

(11) A campaign for business sponsorship of the arts was launched with the help of a distinguished committee of honour and has seen a substantial growth in the amount of private sponsorship, to over £10 million a year. Regional meetings on sponsorship have been held and two booklets produced by the OAL.

11(a) Grants have been made to the theatre trust to enable it to continue its work to presrve theatres.

11(b) A grant has been made to the theatre investment fund by Her Majesty's Government. Taken with an equivalent grant by the Arts Council, and matching money from the Society of West End Theatres, a sum of £500,000 will be made available to help with investment in plays.

Musums and Galleries

(12) The OAL has assumed responsibility for the standing commission on museums and galleries, which, renamed the museums and galleries commission, has been strengthened to enable it to give better guidance and help to local museums. Since 1982 it has administered a small capital grants scheme benefiting local museums, and support for the area museum councils has been sustained.

(13) The level of funding for the national museums and galleries has also been broadly maintained and there has been a continuing programme of building work partly financed with help from private sources. Substantial additional accommodation has been provided at the British Museum, the National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert museum, and the Wallace collection and the Imperial War museum's HMS Belfast have been refurbished. Further major works are in progress at the National gallery and at the Tate gallery, where the Clore foundation is generously funding the construction of a new Turner gallery.

(14) A National museum of photography is being established by the Science museum in Bradford. A new Theatre museum is to be provided with new premises in the old Flower Market site at Convent Garden to house the Victoria and Albert museum's theatrical collection.

(15) This Session's National Heritage Bill, now nearing the completion of its Parliamentary passage, will grant trustee status to the Victoria and Albert and the Science museums, placing them on a similar footing to the existing national trustee institutions. The Rayner scrutiny report on these two museums, and the ensuing action document, have been published.

(16) A contribution of £250,000 has been made to the Royal Academy appeal fund.

Libraries and Information Services

(17) Work has commenced on the first phase of a new building for the British library.

(18) The library advisory council has been strengthened, renamed the library and information services council and given a wider remit including information services. Two reports on the future development of libraries and information services have been published and a report on the impact of electronic publishing is being prepared for publication. The council is considering a number of important issues, including the future manpower and training requirements for library and information specialists.

Public Lending Right

(19) The Public Lending Right Act 1979 introduced the right of payment to authors whose books are borrowed from public libraries. The scheme is now in operation and some 4,700 authors of 32,000 books have been registered. Some minor amendments to the scheme have been introduced.