Arts and Culture — Question for Short Debate
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Labour)
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl for tabling this Question this evening. In many ways, it is an indictment of this Government that the question at the heart of the debate has to be asked. However, I welcome the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, to his new role. I hope that he has taken note of the very powerful messages from around the Chamber this evening and I look forward to hearing what I hope will be an enlightening and reassuring response.
I do not want to dwell on Jeremy Hunt's recent misfortune, but the context for this debate is a department that has been struggling with a lack of leadership for some time, so much so that there are persistent rumours that it will be abolished altogether at the reshuffle. The creative industries need a stronger voice in government and a stronger Secretary of State at the Cabinet table, not no voice at all, and they need a champion for a coherent arts and culture strategy across government, working with the Treasury, BIS and the Department for Education, for example, as our party intends to do.
In the short time I have left, let me give some illustrations of what should be included in that strategy. First, on funding, the Government need to identify the role that culture can play in leading us out of recession. The creative industries already account for 8% of our GDP and have the potential to grow at double the rate of any other sector. Philanthropy may have a role, but it should not be expected to plug the gap left by receding public subsidy and it has a limited reach-for example, 81% of private giving goes to organisations in London. As we have heard this evening, arts organisations need financial confidence and certainty to maximise the contribution that they can make to our future prosperity.
Secondly, we need to address the crisis in regional and local funding. On top of 28% cuts so far, the Local Government Association calculates that local authority funding for the arts will have all but disappeared by 2020. This cannot be allowed to happen. Community arts are where our next generation of writers, performers and artists learn their skills, and access should not be the preserve of those living in the metropolitan areas. This is why we need a statutory duty on all local councils to support the arts in their area.
Thirdly, we need an international strategy that recognises that the cultural industries not only attract inward investment but are major exports of this country. We are a major global player in, for example, design, music, animation and film, so next time David Cameron and Vince Cable lead a trade delegation abroad, perhaps they should be accompanied by our cultural rather than our manufacturing leaders.
Finally, we need to address the glaring mismatch between, on the one hand, the Education Secretary's agenda, in which creativity, art and design, music and the performing arts are all but squeezed out, and, on the other hand, the skills demanded by the cultural leaders and innovators who will be contributing to our economic wealth in the future. These are the sorts of issues that we would like to see highlighted in a long-term strategy. Without it, as this debate has shown, the potential of the arts risks being set back for a generation.