Arts Council (Government Grants)

Oral Answers to Questions — National Finance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th July 1952.

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Mr. Vane:

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what conditions he has made, in connection with the Government grant, to ensure that a fair proportion of the total income of the Arts Council of Great Britain received during the last financial year was spent in London and in the Provinces, respectively.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

None, Sir. One of the purposes of the Arts Council as set out in the Preamble to its Charter is to deal with any moneys Parliament provides for certain general objects described therein. It would be inappropriate for my right hon. Friend to attach conditions to the grant-in-aid indicating the apportionments to be made.

Mr. Vane:

Will the Financial Secretary look into this matter again, in view of the fact that such a very large proportion of the funds of this Council are spent in London, particulary at Covent Garden, the Sadler's Wells Foundation, and on central administration; and will he see whether it would not be more appropriate to encourage the Council to spend a greater proportion of its funds on various activities in the counties, because most people would prefer that, rather than that it should descend into being the Arts Council of Greater London?

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I do not accept the implications in the earlier part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. Last year the amount spent in the Provinces was £60,000 less than the amount spent in London, the figures being £437,000 and £377,000. In any event, it is of the very essence of the purpose of the Arts Council that they should have a free hand in the allocation of these moneys, and my right hon. Friend would be very unwilling to interfere with rights which are given to them under Royal Charter.

Photo of Mr Anthony Greenwood Mr Anthony Greenwood , Rossendale

Would the hon. Gentleman resist the temptation to spread the money too thinly over too wide an area?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether he will make future grants of money to the Arts Council conditional upon their providing funds specifically marked for the maintenance of the Old Vic Theatre School;

(2) whether he will make future grants of money to the Arts Council conditional upon their securing the continuance of a theatre school, either under the supervision of the Old Vic or the Stratford Memorial Theatre.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

No, Sir. As I have explained earlier in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane), it would be inappropriate to attach conditions to the grant-in-aid in favour of particular projects.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

Would the hon. Gentleman consider taking some action, even if only by consultation with the Arts Council, to see that this unique national institution, which has a deservedly famous reputation for its work in theatre training today, is in some way maintained, either as part of the Old Vic or attached to the Stratford Memorial Theatre?

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

The House may be interested to know that, whereas last year the Arts Council allocated £26,500 to the Old Vic, they have increased the grant during the current year to £40,000. The House may further be interested to know that the decision to close the school attached to the Old Vic was taken a year ago.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby South

In view of the fact that the Governors of the Old Vic have received very large sums of public money, as the Financial Secretary has just said, and since we all hoped that they would make it into a national theatre, but instead have lost the money, have lost the best directors and producers, have lost the best artists, have closed the Young Vic and have now closed the school, can the Government do nothing to secure a better system of administration of this great national institution?

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I prefer not to comment on the right hon. Gentleman's comments on the very distinguished people concerned, without at any rate rather careful consideration.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby South

Can the hon. Gentleman give us some assurance that something will be done to prevent the Governors from selling the building of this school, so that there may be some hope that it will be re-opened?

Photo of Sir Edward Keeling Sir Edward Keeling , Twickenham

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a difference of opinion in the theatrical profession about whether it is a good thing to attach a school of drama to a particular theatre?

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I am well aware of the fact that expert opinion is far from unanimous on that issue.

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, when making grants in future to the Arts Council, he will make it a condition that a greater proportion of such grants be paid out in respect of drama, with a view to the encouragement of the provincial theatre, as for example the David Garrick Theatre in the city of Lichfield.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

No, Sir. As I have explained earlier in reply to other hon. Members, it would be inappropriate to attach conditions to the grant-in-aid.

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth

I was not aware that there would be such a spate of similar questions today. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this Memorial Theatre in Lichfield deserves great encouragement? Is he also aware that quite recently a special sum of £90,000 was allotted, conditional upon it being given for the rehabilitation of Covent Garden Opera House; and that David Garrick, who spent his youth at Lichfield, was the one and only pupil of Doctor Samuel Johnson, and possibly because of that reason he became the greatest light of the English dramatic stage?

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I am sure that all these and all other material considerations will be borne in mind by the Arts Council. As the hon. Gentleman is no doubt aware, a small grant was made to this theatre by the Arts Council in 1951–52.

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth

So small that it could hardly be seen.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I hope that the hon. Member does not mean to indicate that the grant was unwelcome?

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth

I mean that more would be welcome.