Arts and Culture — Question for Short Debate
Viscount Younger of Leckie (Conservative)
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, on securing this debate. It gives me particular pleasure to respond this evening on my first occasion at the Dispatch Box, as the noble Earl and I entered this House at about the same time two years ago. As a Member of this House who continues to keep arts and cultural issues on the agenda of this Chamber, he is to be applauded. He may not be surprised to hear that I do not entirely share his views on the current status of the arts. I am pleased to hear that others, such as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, take a slightly more positive view. I also thank other Members for their contributions to our discussion. I particularly appreciate some support from the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, but I recognise his highlighting of some strains at a time of austerity, which we are all aware of. I shall endeavour to answer the points raised and I can write to those noble Lords whose points I do not have time to address.
First, arts and culture is a hugely broad topic and the need for support, while very important, has to be prioritised and constantly reviewed. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport covers communications, creative, media, cultural, tourism, sport and leisure economies. It also includes ballet and dance, so importantly raised by my noble friend Lady Hooper. A key resolve is to create the conditions for growth in this sector by removing barriers, providing strategic direction and supporting innovation and creativity. These points have been made succinctly by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey. Our overarching strategy is to see a thriving and resilient arts and cultural sector, drawing from a range of funding sources, appealing to a wide range of audiences and delivering high-quality culture. There are three strands to our long-term arts vision: financial stability, philanthropy and attracting new audiences.
First, I shall focus on financial support, where we have to start with some home truths. The first priority of this Government remains to create financial stability across the UK. Regrettably, this means sharing some pain-in some cases considerable pain-across all sectors of society. Of course, I would have preferred no cut to the arts and culture sector at all, but it would be unrealistic for cuts to be made in all other parts of the public sector except the arts. At the time of the 2010 spending review, departmental budgets, other than health and overseas aid, were set to reduce by an average of 19% over four years. However, while Arts Council England overall faces a significantly reduced budget, we have limited the reduction in the budget for regularly funded arts organisations to 15%, offering a little protection for front-line arts. Taking account of lottery as well as government funding, the Arts Council will receive some £2.3 billion over the next four years. This means that, in 2014-15, total arts funding via the Arts Council will have reduced by less than 5% in real terms, set against the comparable figure in 2010-11.
Now let me turn to lottery funding. One of the first decisions that we took in government was to revert the National Lottery to its original aims of supporting the four good causes by restoring the shares for each of the good causes of sport, heritage and the arts to 20%. The fourth good cause is the Big Lottery Fund, representing 40%. Due to continuing strong ticket sales, income projections indicate that there should be more than £1 billion of extra lottery funding for the good causes over the next five years, when compared with September 2010 projections. The arts good cause can expect to receive more than £1.8 billion of lottery money over the life of this Parliament. This is over £200 million more than was projected in September 2010.
Philanthropy was highlighted by some of your Lordships. I begin with a thought from Andrew Carnegie in 1888 that still resonates today. He said that to give money is,
"the noblest possible use of wealth ... The man who dies rich dies disgraced".
We have achieved much with regard to philanthropy in a short space of time. For example, we have launched the Catalyst scheme, whereby £30 million has been given to arts and heritage organisations to encourage match funding, and £55 million has been given to arts and heritage bodies to build up endowments. This was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Cormack. The Secretary of State last month commissioned three further reports to look at making legacy giving easier, harnessing digital technology to boost charitable giving to the culture and heritage sectors and looking at ways in which we can boost fundraising outside London, as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, mentioned. He also mentioned the importance of digital technology. I will need to write to him regarding his question on support for the conservatoires.
Some in the past have suggested that philanthropy is a means to replace public spending. Let me tackle this head on. It is simply untrue. As soon as this Government came to power, we carried out a comprehensive spending review as part of our strategy, whereby arts and cultural bodies such as the Arts Council, English Heritage and our major national museums knew the level of funding that they would receive over the period. We then encouraged the Arts Council to make the bodies that it supports aware of their budgets at the earliest opportunity, a request that it carried out in a speedy and professional manner. This was not an easy time for the sector or the Arts Council. Here, I pay tribute to the chair and chief executive of the Arts Council for the way in which it handled some difficult decisions. It is right not to assume that organisations that have received regular funding in the past should have a right to that funding in the future.
The third part of our strategy is to draw new audiences into the arts by, for example, utilising new technology. Last May, Arts Council England, in partnership with the BBC, launched a new free digital arts service, the Space, which could help to transform the way in which people connect with and experience arts and culture. Last summer, Arts Council England, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts-known as NESTA-announced a new £500,000 digital research and development fund for arts and culture projects that harness digital technologies to connect with wider audiences and explore new ways of working. Of course, nothing will ever replace the live experience, but if a child in Cumbria can watch a production 300 miles away from the National Theatre or Sadler's Wells, we can proudly say that our investment in the arts can benefit the whole nation.
We also wish, through Arts Council England, for more people to experience and be inspired by the arts, irrespective of where they live or their social, educational or financial circumstances. To support this strategy, the Creative People and Places Fund will focus investment in places where involvement in the arts is significantly below the national average. A total of £37 million from the arts lottery fund will be available to establish around 15 projects up to 2015.
When considering the wide reach of the arts across social groups, it is worth highlighting a finding from our Taking Part survey. When respondents were asked whether they had been to a museum or gallery on at least one occasion in the past 12 months, two socio-demographic groups had significantly increased their visits between 2005-06 and 2011-12: among black and ethnic minority respondents there was an increase of 10.7 percentage points to 61.4%; and from those in the social rented sector there was an increase of 9.2 percentage points to 55.6%.
I would like to touch briefly on the Wedgwood collection on the grounds that, although the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, has not raised it this evening, I know that it is a subject dear to his heart. The collection is designated as being of national importance; it is deemed by UNESCO to be one of the UK's top 20 cultural assets. The collection holds several separate but nevertheless interrelated collections. It includes not only the most comprehensive accumulation of Wedgwood ceramics in Britain, if not the world, but also a huge range of portrait medallions from the 1780s through to today and some exceptionally rare and important surviving original stonework block moulds. This is why the DCMS Culture Minister is working hard behind the scenes, holding meetings in recent days with other government Ministers.
I turn to the question of libraries. Between 2005 and 2010, there was a steady decrease in the proportion of adults visiting public libraries. However, over the past two years visits have remained stable and it is very encouraging to see that the downward trend has slowed. A figure of 600 library closures is regularly quoted in the media, but this is misleading because it includes libraries where a local authority is merely consulting on a library's future service and it assumes the worst-case scenario. It also includes libraries that have passed into community management.
Before I conclude, I turn to one or two other comments from your Lordships. I pay tribute to the contribution from my noble friend Lord Lloyd-Webber, who has given incalculable support to arts and culture not just in the UK but also globally. I do not entirely share his view of the arts in Britain, but I entirely agree that we need to nurture creative talent so that Britain continues to lead the world in this area. I also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Hall of Birkenhead, for the work that he has done towards the Cultural Olympiad, which was also highlighted by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Hudnall. I would turn very briefly to Brazil and the Scottish television questions, but I have run out of time.
In conclusion, I have attempted to answer as fully as possible on the specific focus of the debate, namely the Government's long-term strategy for the arts and culture sector. We take our responsibility to the future of arts and culture very seriously. With our focus on financial stability, philanthropy and new audiences, we shall create the opportunity for everyone to enjoy and participate in artistic and cultural performances and attract foreign visitors for many years to come.