§ Mr. Jessel
To ask the Minister for the Arts whether he has yet received the report he commissioned from Mr. Richard Wilding about the role of the Arts Council and Regional Arts Association.
§ Mr. Luce
I have now received the report which I commissioned from Mr. Richard Wilding in December last year about the structure of support for the arts in England.
Mr. Wilding's report is the first major review of the structure and organisation of arts support for many years.
I commissioned the report at a time of major growth and development in the arts and a change in the nature of arts funding by central Government, the private sector and local authorities. I felt it was important that the structure for distributing these funds was still achieving its primary objectives: to create an environment in which the arts in England could flower; and to sustain the confidence of the arts world and the public in the system of distribution of taxpayers' money to the arts.
The report was to examine areas of possible concern: accountability for the public money spent by regional arts associations; lack of coherence between national funding bodies and the RAAs; cumbersome structures for handling business; and the cost of administering the whole system.
Mr. Wilding has now prepared his report, following extensive consultations with the Arts Council, the regional arts associations and other bodies and individuals with an interest in the subsidised arts sector.
I am keen to ensure that everyone who has an interest in the administration of the arts has the opportunity to comment on the proposals which have resulted from this 121W process. That is why I have arranged for publication of the report, copies of which are available on request from my office. I have also arranged for copies to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Mr. Wilding has produced a detailed and carefully researched analysis of the current framework for policy making, administration and funding of arts in England. He had identified a number of areas where he thinks there are weaknesses and has proposed specific changes for improvement.
In so doing he has produced a very challenging document which unquestionably provides an invaluable foundation for debate in the arts world. I want that debate to be thorough but I also want to avoid prolonged uncertainty. In view of this, and the extensiveness of Mr. Wilding's own consultations, I propose a limited consultation period and would welcome comments on his recommendations, in writing, before 31 December. I shall want to take these comments fully into account before reaching decisions about Mr. Wilding's recommendations.