Oral Answers to Questions — Government Ministers

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th November 1972.

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Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

No, Sir. I do not propose to appoint or dismiss any Ministers or to increase or reduce the number of Ministers in any Department or to alter the present allocation of functions to Ministers or Departments unless and until I make a statement to the contrary.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher , Oldham West

Will the Prime Minister dismiss the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Does he not realise that, contrary to the Chancellor's policies, a far more important cause of inflation today than wage push is the increasing monopolistic pricing power of the major corporations? The hundred largest companies in Britain now hold no less than 70 per cent. of the total assets of all quoted companies. When are the Government going to deal with the real causes of inflation, rather than follow their own phantom prejudices?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

The Government are not responsible for the structure of public companies in this country. On the question of dealing with inflation, the Chancellor having reduced taxes by £3,000 million he cannot do more to reduce inflation.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conway

Has my right hon. Friend had a "Private Eye" view of recent editions of the Grocer? Has he noticed that for two weeks running up to last week no price rises were recorded in its lists, compared with an average of 150 in the previous weeks?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

My hon. Friend is correct, but I have not taken any notice of the Grocer before, and I shall not start now.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

No, Sir. I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave earlier today in reply to a Question from the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher).

Photo of Mr John Smith Mr John Smith , Lanarkshire North

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Paymaster-General is going round to the public-spirited men who serve as trustees of our galleries in an attempt to blackmail and frighten them into agreeing that if they have a free day at their galleries they will put up charges on other days? Is not that a contemptible way for a Government Minister to behave? Does the Prime Minister know about that and, if he does, does he approve of it?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's allegations, or his extravagant language. Parliament has laid down the law in this matter, and my right hon. and noble Friend is discussing, with certain of the galleries which wish to make changes, arrangements that are suitable to them. In a number of cases these have already been agreed.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

Would my right hon. Friend concede that the arts are a highly controversial subject, and that a policy about which everyone agreed would probably be monumentally dull? Would he also agree that the Paymaster-General has many successes to his credit, notably the bringing of the arts to many more people in the regions?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I have no doubt about the controversial nature of the arts. As regards the regions, the grant to the Scottish Arts Council has increased from £950,000 in 1970–71 to £1,400,000 this year—an increase of £450,000. In England and Wales Arts Council grants to the regional arts associations have increased from £320,000 in 1970–71 to £800,000 in 1972–73—an increase of £480,000 in the time that we have been in office. I think that that demonstrates what is being done for the arts.

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth Vauxhall

Does the right hon. Gentleman really justify the action of the Paymaster-General in imposing entrance charges on children who want to visit our national treasures in galleries and museums solely for the sake of raising £150,000 a year for the Treasury?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

We discussed this at great length at Question Time the week before last, and the right hon. Gentleman knows my views. They are also the views of the Government.

Photo of Mr Ernle Money Mr Ernle Money , Ipswich

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that, far from being a subject for censure, it is a proud achievement by our right hon. and noble Friend to have spent more money on housing the arts and more on the performing arts than any previous Government?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is a much wider approach than existed previously. I have always felt that in the last 20 years a great deal has been done for the art galleries and for music but that the country has not met its obligations towards the museums. My right hon. Friend is now concentrating on the question of enabling museums to have better buildings and better resources for display.