I beg to move,
That this House draws attention to the fact that we are now in a period, like the Second World War, which is an appropriate time to multiply public support for the arts; and calls on the Government to take appropriate measures to this end and to encourage local authorities to do likewise.
One of the salient characteristics of our method of controlling public expenditure in this country is that increases in public expenditure tend to be incremental. We always find ourselves struggling to get 5 per cent., 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. added to the expenditure of a particular Department, or subtracted from the expenditure of a particular Department, but it means that the struggle for the use of scarce resources, which is such an important part of the political process, tends always to take place on the margin of the expenditure of important Departments.
One consequence of this is that those Members in this House who think that the whole pattern of expenditure is mistaken, those who would like to see the national cake cut up into slices of entirely different proportions, have an almost insuperably difficult task ahead of them, but there are exceptions to this. The exceptions occur when the total amounts are exceedingly small, and I think that for that reason public expenditure on the arts is such an exception.
The central thesis of my speech is that Government expenditure on the arts should be doubled, and that local authority expenditure on the arts should be more than doubled. That is why I have used the word "multiply" in my motion. I think that the smallness of the sums involved makes this practicable, and I shall argue that the benefits that will accrue from that are out of all proportion to the size of the sums involved.
I must meet the argument, because it is the most important argument against what I have to say, that, although all these things are desirable in themselves, we cannot afford them now. I shall try to argue the positive case for the increases for which I am calling on three grounds: first, the unique value of the arts to this country especially at this time; secondly, comparisons with what other genuinely comparable countries are doing; thirdly, and perhaps most important and most specific, the unmet needs for which the extra money is required.
First let me make it clear exactly what sums we are talking about, and what is the order of expenditure that we are to discuss. In the financial year 1973–74 the Government spent £47½ million on the arts. That was one quarter of 1 per cent. of total Government expenditure. Of that £47½ million, almost exactly half—that is to say, £23·4 million—went to the Arts Council to be further redistributed at its discretion, and £9·8 million went to sustain national and provincial art galleries and museums.
Local authority expenditure on the arts is extremely important, but local authorities are not required to give returns for their expenditure in this field and, therefore, any estimate has to be precisely that—an estimate—but the research staff of our House of Commons Library have been to great trouble to get me an informed estimate of the figures of local authority expenditure on the arts. For the financial year 1972–73 that amounted to £15½ million, which is 0·2 per cent. of total local authority expenditure.
In the financial year 1973–74, total expenditure on the arts in this country was approximately £63 million, or if we add to that the expenditure of local authorities on art galleries and museums it can be made up to £75 million. There is a further important source of patronage of the arts, and that is the private patron. Again, for obvious reasons it is impossible to put a precise figure on this, but informed estimates reckon that to be about £1½ million a year. At this point, as I shall not mention them again, I should like to say how grateful I am to the research staff in the House of Commons Library for getting these figures for me and, indeed, a number of figures that I shall use later in my speech.
I should like to say, in defence of the figures and of the staff who have worked so hard to provide them, that I do not want to hinge any of my arguments on the nice exactitude of figures. The fact that some of them are unavoidably estimates means that other speakers may, if they wish, by using a different basis of calculation, arrive at different estimates. The main point at issue in this debate is not the precise sums about which we are talking but their order of magnitude, and it is upon this that what I have to say depends.
Looked at from one point of view, the figures I have just read out illustrate a success story, because we have reached that level of public expenditure on the arts by a continuous upward development from a starting point in the Second World War, and that upward development, that growth of public expenditure on the arts, had to be fought for every inch of the way by people, some of whom are still fondly remembered for their work in this direction. When I talk of the unmet needs or criticise our attitude as a society to our willingness to spend money on the arts, I do not want anything that I say to be taken as reflecting on those who fought so very hard to get us to the present situation. On the contrary, what I shall say is that we in our time should adopt the same irreverent and pioneering attitude to public expenditure on the arts, the same unwillingness to stop at and be bound by the existing levels of public expenditure that we inherited, that those people did in their time.
I shall not debate this matter as a party matter. This is an area of activity in which the party to which I belong has a particularly fine record, of which one can be especially proud. No doubt the various parties on the Opposition benches can also point to achievements of which they are justly proud. I shall not be making any party points during the debate, so I hope that no one who speaks after me will feel any need to be defensive in his comments. I say that especially of my hon. Friend the Minister. The proposals I shall make for things which I hope the Minister will do with the backing of the Government, whom I support, are in no way meant to be criticisms either of him or of the Government's record so far. But I am talking now of unfinished business, of urgent needs for the future.
In one sense there is only one important argument against what I am proposing, because almost any civilised person is likely to have the view that in itself it is desirable for public expenditure on the arts to be increased. The only possible objection there can be to our doing so is the economic plight that the country is in at present. The only possible objection can consist in the assertion that, desirable though it is, we cannot possibly afford it. That is the only argument against my motion which I respect, because anyone who thinks on any other ground that it is not desirable to enrich and expand the arts in this country is unlikely in most circumstances to be an opponent with whom it is worth arguing.
But to those who say that we cannot afford it, I would say this: public financial support for the arts began, on any substantial and organised scale, during the darkest years of the Second World War, when we in this country were fighting for our survival against an enemy far more terrible than inflation, when we as a country were far poorer than we are today, when the average standard of living of most of the members of our community was immeasurably lower than standards of living today and when every penny which could be found of public money was diverted for other purposes. That is why I mention the Second World War in the wording of my motion. Anyone who says that we cannot afford it now must explain why, bad though our situation is now, we are less well able to afford what was afforded in far more terrible and dangerous times, when public subsidy of the arts began.
These public subsidies which first became an important factor in our national life and which revolutionised the theatre, music, opera and the performing arts generally, were continued by the post-war Labour Government in years which were again, though peacetime years, years of bleak financial austerity, shortage and continued wartime rationing. It was in those grey years that the Arts Council was incorporated, in August 1946. It was in those years that we had the Festival of Britain and built the Royal Festival Hall, which has so enriched the musical life of our capital city. There were plenty of voices raised in those days to say that we could not afford it. I remember fulminations in the editorial columns of national and local newspapers saying that we should not have the Festival Hall because we could not afford it. But there is no one now with the slightest concern for the arts who would unwish that building and the difference that it has made to the cultural life of this country, and particularly this capital, in the last 20 years.
It is not only our society which has behaved in this way and spent money on the expansion of the arts, especially the performing arts, in what were some of the darkest and most difficult days of our history. The brilliant director of the National Theatre, Peter Hall, has carried with him for most of his life memories of a vivid kind from his experience in post-war Germany as a young National Service man. In the current issue of the magazine "Opera" he recalls them, saying:
I have memories of Germany in 1949–50, still poor, still ruined, yet to my amazement spending money on the arts. No houses, yet building new opera houses. Making sure that the opera was going, the orchestras were subsidised, that the theatres were there. It was a revelation to me, as I had left a country where the Arts Council was a very under-subsidised struggling organization, where art was not in the centre of a town's life.
I have very similar memories from a similar time, in fact a year before Peter Hall's, when I was a young Service man in Austria. I vividly remember the Austrians, even poorer than the Germans, their cities destroyed by the war, insisting on the priority of having the Vienna State Opera rebuilt. In the remote country town where I happened to be stationed. I remember subsidised music and subsidised concerts of Schubert and Mozart, to which the audiences, consisting of farm labourers and peasant women, came in their droves.
Coming back to even later peacetime England, when the Labour Government came to power in 1964 after 13 years in Opposition, we came back to power in the middle of what was then the worst economic crisis there had been since the immediate post-war years, and yet again precisely at that time, for the first time, a Minister responsible for the arts was appointed. In those very difficult financial days, Jennie Lee, with the co-operation of Lord Goodman on the Arts Council, did creative and pioneering work of permanent importance which is still smilingly remembered and very gratefully remembered in the world of the arts in this country.
I would say that the argument that we cannot afford it because times are bad really holds no water in a historical context. It has always been when times were bad that some of the most valuable things of this kind were done in our society, and as far back as one goes, in times of great social upheaval, even civil war, one finds that that has been the time when some of the most important and lastingly valuable public projects, such as cathedrals, churches, public buildings and so on, have been created.
One might even say, as I would, that it is when times are bad that we need these things most. That is particularly true in an age like ours, when the consolations of religion are not accessible to large numbers of people and when the deepest emotional and, if I dare use the word, spiritual experiences which are available to many, perhaps even to most, people are those provided by the arts and it is through the arts that increasing numbers of people find their deepest sense of contact with enduring realities and values.
In the light of the importance of the arts and of the considerations which I have outlined, it is footling to say that we cannot afford increases of expenditure of the order that I am asking for, especially when we consider just what other things we as a society spend immense sums on. Considering what we as a community spend on things like drinking, tobacco and gambling, all of which incidentally have given me enormous pleasure, the sums involved for the arts are miniscule and almost invisible.
Since we are talking about Government expenditure, perhaps I should make a comparison with Government revenue from these sources. The estimated Government revenue this year from alcoholic drinks is £1,110 million, from tobacco £1,325 million and from gambling a mere £240 million. The figure of additional Government expenditure on the arts for which I am asking is less than a quarter of the smallest of those figures.
There is no other sphere in our national life in which such a small expenditure could make such an enormous difference or, indeed, where Britain is so preeminenly in the forefront in world terms. When one considers what Britain has done since the end of the Second World War in a global context, one sees that there are only about two things for which we are really outstanding. One is the grace with which we have divested ourselves of what must have been much the largest empire that the world has ever seen and the fact that we managed to do so in a comparatively peaceful and civilised way.
The other is that Britain, or at any rate London, has became the world's artistic centre. We are acknowledged throughout the world to have the finest theatre. We are far and away the most important centre in the world for the public performance of music. More books are published here than anywhere else in the world, more gramophone records are made here and I believe that we are the world centre for dealing in works of art. This has happened in London in about the last 20 years. So there is no other sphere which so deserves our support and the financial nourishment which it is within the power of the Government to bestow.
But even if we consider this matter in vulgar terms of money, prestige and promotion, there is an enormous return to be got from our arts. There is, first, the incalculable prestige and promotion value of the foreign tours by the Royal Opera Company and the Royal Ballet Company. There are the gramophone records which sell by the million all over the world and the revenue that they bring. There is our world trade in books and the revenue that that brings.
But the specific example that I would give is the theatre, which, to put it no more highly, is an enormous earner of foreign currency. The tourist authorities have discovered in their investigations and surveys that over half of all the foreign tourists who visit this country give going to the theatre as one of their reasons for doing so. In, 1973, for example, of 1,300,000 American tourists over 1 million went to the theatre. So this is not just something that visitors say they will do: they actually do it. It clearly is one of the reasons for coming to this country, because it is something which can be found here which can be found almost nowhere else in the same quantity and quality. Bearing in mind the fact that the total spent by tourists in 1972–73 was £682 million, it is clear that the theatre alone makes an enormous, indirect, but very real, contribution to the earning of large sums of foreign currency.
We get revenue from our theatre in other ways. For example, it is the actors, writers, directors, designers and producers who work their way up through the live theatre, through repertory companies, and so on, who sustain the whole of the acting side of our television industry and the Anglo-American film industry, from which even those who do not go to the live theatre benefit.
Yet this goose which lays such golden eggs, the live theatre, we are in danger of allowing to die from starvation. At the moment, of 60 provincial theatres no fewer than 11 are having seriously to consider the possibility of closing. In London's West End half a dozen theatres are dark and two are given over to one-man shows. It has become almost impossible for an unsubsidised commercial management to put on a play which has a large cast and requires several changes of scene. It simply is no longer economically possible.
Last year was a disaster, financially, for the Royal Shakespeare Company and there has been talk, which I hope will come to nothing, of a merger between that company and the National Theatre Company. Talking of the latter, it has now become clear that for financial as well as other reasons the new building for the National Theatre Company will not open—estimates differ, but this would be mine—until summer next year at the earliest and possibly not until the autumn.
What can the Government do to help the theatre in its present straits? There are many things that the Government can do. The first thing that they can do, and immediately, is zero-rate the theatre for VAT. I would beg the Government to do so for all the performing arts. We all know from personal experience as ticket buyers for any form of entertainment that the law of supply and demand operates powerfully in ticket prices. Other things being equal, the cheaper the tickets are the more people buy them and the more expensive they are the fewer people buy them.
The fact that all the performing arts are being required to collect a tax of 8 per cent. on the tickets they sell artificially lowers their audiences or their income, depending on how one looks at it. It means that if they were able to charge what they themselves collect—in other words, if they could charge the lower seat prices without the 8 per cent. VAT—they would get a substantially larger audience. Conversely—this is what I suggest they be encouraged to do—if the performing arts were zero-rated but encouraged to keep their prices at the existing level, this would be an enormous immediate increase in revenue without any increase in seat prices or loss of audience. For even a comparatively small theatre in London's West End this would make a difference of some hundreds of pounds a week. In this way, by immediate action, the Government could help greatly to increase the amount of money available to the theatre and to the performing arts generally.
There are other ways in which the Government could help in the present situation. They could greatly increase the amount made available through the Arts Council for distribution to the arts generally. Here, since I am discussing specific ways in which the Government could assist the arts, I underline that they could make some changes which would in themselves cost the Government no money.
One important change would be to return to the triennial system of financing the Arts Council. At present, the Arts Council is on an annual budget, and we have the extraordinary state of affairs that less than eight weeks from the beginning of the next financial year the Arts Council still has not been officially informed what its grant for next year will be, which, in turn, means that it is unable to inform all those multitudinous organisations whose survival depends on it what their income for next year will be.
This is a disastrous situation for any organisation, but for certain organisations dependent on the Arts Council—for example, Covent Garden, whose budget runs literally into millions—it is preposterous.
The Arts Council would benefit enormously if it were allowed to go back to the old system of triennial finance. Under that system, in June of each year the Arts Council would be given an estimate of the grant likely to be made available to it in the following financial year, with further estimates of what would be available in the second and third financial years beyond that. At the beginning of the following calendar year, in about January, the estimate for the next financial year would be made firm, and the estimates for the second and third years would be revised in the light of inflation or any other relevant considerations. I plead with the Government, through my hon. Friend the Minister, to give serious consideration to returning to that system of finance.
There is yet another way in which the Government could give enormous assistance to the performing arts without themselves directly spending money—that is, to take steps to preserve the buildings in which performances of the arts occur, notably the theatres.
Theatres considered as buildings are subject to some very odd influences in our market economy. For obvious reasons, they tend to be in the centre of cities, and they tend, therefore, to be in those parts of cities which have maximum site values. London's theatres, of course, are concentrated in the West End, where site values are among the highest in the land. Moreover, because of their nature, theatres, though large buildings, are in use for only a few hours out of the 24. This means that, considered brutally in exclusively economic terms, they are uneconomic buildings, and this makes them a standing temptation to the property developer.
If market forces alone are to be allowed to determine the future of our theatres, I fear that many of them will have no future at all, because it will always be more profitable in purely monetary terms to knock down these buildings in the centre of cities, especially in London's West End, and replace them with multi-storey office blocks. If that is allowed to happen—it has already happened in a number of cases in London, which has lost some of its best loved theatres purely to the greed of the property developers—the future for the theatre will be dark indeed. It is within the Government's power, without spending money, to preserve these buildings for their existing use.
I shall not make specific suggestions as to how this might be done. Many suggestions have been made. Equity, the actors' union, has asked the Government to consider nationalising the buildings. A body which has been set up to try to save London's theatres has made the alternative suggestion that the sites might be nationalised. It would be possible to list the theatres so that either the buildings or the sites could be used only for their existing purposes, without nationalising either.
The Government should consider those possibilities carefully, and I beg them in any event not only to consider the problem but to choose one or other solution so that, without involving themselves in expenditure, they ensure that the theatre buildings themselves are preserved.
The Government could help also with the National Theatre building itself. In the light of the history of this project, it is interesting to consider its present position. For decades, radicals in the theatre have been campaigning to have a National Theatre and a National Theatre building. But, now that we are on the verge of having one, it begins to look to some people as though it is part of the establishment and we are in the paradoxical and ironical situation of seeing radicals in the theatre now campaigning against it.
The true explanation, when one looks into it, I think, is that in our present state of financial stringency, when the sums of money made available to the arts are so small, people working in other parts of the theatre are afraid that a gigantic institution such as the National Theatre—as it undoubtedly will be when the building is open and running, with all three auditoria—will pre-empt scarce resources and starve the rest of the theatre. It seems to me that their hostility to the opening of our National Theatre is based straightforwardly on a fear of the consequences for them. This fear could be assuaged, or entirely removed, and the conflict within the world of the theatre removed, by the assurance of additional resources which it is in the Government's power to bestow.
One of the undesirable consequences of the extreme shortage of money for the art which characterises our national life is that it incites conflict within the arts of the kind I have just instanced. It makes artistes in the same field jealous and frightened of one another, and, worst of all, it makes artistes in the same field frightened of expansion on the part of rivals because of the effect which that has on the availability of scarce resources.
The biggest target of that fear and jealousy over a number of years—certainly in London, and probably in the country as a whole—has been Covent Garden. It is natural that this should be so, because the Royal Opera House is far and away the biggest single spender of Arts Council money. For many years now, voices have been raised to say that Covent Garden should have less so that other artistic enterprises in the country could have more.
I believe that this hostility—financial hostility—to Covent Garden is misplaced for many reasons. One reason is that, in spite of all the difficulties and obstacles with which it has had to contend, Covent Garden has raised its standards during the past 20 years until they are at their best equivalent to any to be found anywhere in the world, and it has done this, and is continuing to do so, in spite of extreme shortage of money in its own operations.
The chorus at Covent Garden is far too small; it is smaller than that of the English National Opera at the Coliseum. The workship capacity is too small. Its backstage facilities generally are too small. The orchestra is too small, with the result that members of the orchestra are overworked and orchestral standards are lower than they would otherwise be, and lower than they need be.
There is need for a bigger orchestra pit at Covent Garden. In fact, the need is of two kinds—need for room to accommodate a larger number of musicians, and need also for room to improve the orchestral sound. Acoustics experts have advised that one reason why the quality of orchestral sound at Covent Garden is not as good as it might be is that the pit is so constricted that there is insufficient reverberation of sound in the pit before it emerges into the auditorium. What is desirable at Covent Garden therefore, is that the front row of the stalls should be removed entirely and the orchestra pit extended so that it could take the greater number of players needed and at the same time give the improved quality of sound which is so much needed. Again the obstacles to this are purely financial. To remove that one row of the stalls permanently would cost Covent Garden between £30,000 and £40,000 in revenue a year. In its present financial state it cannot afford to meet that expenditure.
Covent Garden is suffering in all sorts of ways. It has had to abandon some productions and postpone others. Completion of "The Ring" has had to be postponed until next year. Covent Garden is still hundreds of thousands of pounds short of the money that it requires even for the coming financial year. In this situation standards are not merely threatened; I am afraid that already standards are falling. I do not think that anyone who is familiar with what goes on at Covent Garden would deny—though perhaps many would not wish to say so in public—that artistic standards there are lower now than they were four years ago. I repeat that for an organisation of that size and degree of complexity—which, if it is to compete in the international market for singers and conductors, must lock itself into contracts with artistes two years ahead—not even to know what its income is going to be eight weeks ahead is to put it under almost crippling financial disabilities. I do not know what its income for next year will be. I suppose it will be about £3 million, or slightly more, but it would be surprising if it were as much as £3¼ million. The need, if it is to maintain its standards, is for about £4 million.
I should like to make some comparisons with the situation abroad. For example, the opera company at Frankfurt, in Germany, does not pretend to be one of the world's front-line opera houses. It does not imagine that it is in the same league as those companies in its own country such as Hamburg and Munich. Yet last year the Frankfurt Opera Company had a public subsidy of £4 million, and the public subsidy for this coming calendar year, in 1975, of £5 million was already voted on and committed at the beginning of last year. Subsidies of this order, almost twice what our national opera house gets, come not from the Federal Government of Germany but from the city authority of Frankfurt.
Something of this kind happens to the even more important and better opera houses in Hamburg and Munich. Those opera companies are all subsidised to the extent of about £6 million a year, and that is the order of subsidy which all the international opera houses, except for Covent Garden, enjoy. It is the order of subsidy for opera houses such as La Scala and Vienna. Hamburg and Munich get these subsidies of £6 million not from the national government but from the regional government, from the Bavarian Government in the case of Munich and from the Hamburger Land Government in the other case. What a contrast with the picture of public subsidy in this country.
Another extremely important effect of public subsidies in the performing arts is to enable ticket prices to be kept lower than would otherwise be the case. This is especially so with opera. It is particularly important for social reasons, if for no other, that ticket prices should not be allowed to rise the slightest fraction more than is absolutely necessary. It is only by public subsidy, especially of the most expensive of all the performing arts, which is opera, that ticket prices can be kept down to a reasonable level.
I turn to the situation of orchestras in this country, and this is the last of the specific examples which I want to give. The situation governing orchestras in this country parallels that which governs the theatre and opera houses of which I have been speaking. In London we are uniquely favoured by the number of first-class orchestras which we have. There are four symphony orchestras in London, in addition to the symphony orchestras of the BBC, our outstandingly fine chamber orchestras, the Academy of St. Martin's in the Fields and the English Chamber Orchestra and the orchestras of our major opera houses. No other city in the world has that number of orchestras and, in consequence, this amount of first-rate orchestral music. We give, of public money, to each of our four London symphony orchestras about £120,000 a year. The major orchestras in other countries with which they have to compete get subsidies of over £1 million a year. Even the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam—and I remind the House that Holland is much smaller than this country and has a much lower level of national resources—gets over £1 million in public subsidy, as indeed does the orchestra in Paris, while the orchestra in Berlin gets over £2 million of public money.
People may think that in the United States the situation is significantly different. Most of us have a picture of the arts in America as being entirely dependent on private patrons and very little provided for by public money. By our standards that is not the case. Recently I met in London the man who manages the Los Angeles Orchestra, which would not claim to be one of the front-line American orchestras. It is not an orchestra of world class like Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago or Cleveland. Yet the Los Angeles Orchestra gets a subsidy of $500,000 a year from the county authority. The county government of Los Angeles makes available another $500,000 for facilities such as the free use of the Hollywood Bowl for its concerts. Therefore, from the county authority the orchestra gets a total subsidy of $1 million a year. The Los Angeles city gives the orchestra $65,000 a year in addition.
I am not asking the Government to give subsidies of this order to all four of London's symphony orchestras. That could not be justified on artistic grounds, let alone financial grounds. There is not the artistic need or the possibility of having four world-class orchestras in London. But what I should like to see happen—and it is within the Government's power to help it to happen—is the amalgamation of those four orchestras into two, one based at the Royal Festival Hall and the other based at the Barbican Hall, which is due to open later in this decade. I should like to see those two properly established orchestras absorb the other two, and those musicians in the other two who were not absorbed into the two established symphony orchestras would be very much needed by the orchestras of our national opera houses where orchestral standards are not as high as they could be or need to be.
One aspect of the question which we are discussing concerns the working lives of the artistes involved in the arts. One of the most important ways in which the arts are subsidised at the moment, and should not be subsidised, is by sacrifices made by the performing artistes. It is possible for our symphony orchestras to produce works at the level at which they do produce them only because the musicians are overworked; they work many weeks at a stretch and often without a day off. They have low salaries, with low or no pensions. They have very bad rehearsal facilities in outlying places, involving them in yet more burdensome travel at difficult hours. This kind of subsidy for our arts is the one kind of subsidy that we ought to try to abolish. One of our aims in reestablishing, for example, the symphony orchestras of London on a different foundation should be to transform completely the working conditions of the musicians.
There is no doubt, and I do not think anyone involved with these things will question what I am saying, that an improvement in the working and living conditions and the security of the artistes concerned would have a considerable artistic bonus. It would result in a considerable rise in standards, and the better these people are the more money they make, so there is even a financial aspect to that matter, too.
So far I have spoken only of London, and I have done so for some very good reasons. In a country as tiny as ours it is inevitable that artistic ventures should be concentrated in the capital city. It is also unavoidable that centres of excellence in a small society like ours have a profound effect throughout the whole of society and influence artistic activities taking place everywhere else. However, there is another side to the coin, and that is the artistic improverishment of the regions. The situation is utterly extraordinary when compared with the situation in Germany, Italy or even in some respects France and the United States.
It is not possible for our excellent London-based ochestras and opera and ballet companies to meet the need in the regions by touring because there simply are not the places for them to visit and perform in. It is an astounding fact that outside London there is no theatre which can take the full stage productions of the Royal Opera Company of Covent Garden. With the doubtful exception of the Hippodrome in Bristol, there is not a single theatre which can accommodate the productions of the Royal Ballet Company of Covent Garden. Outside London there is only one fully-equipped concert hall, and that is in Liverpool. This is a fantastic degree of improverishment. I shall not launch into comparisons between this country and other countries because on that front they would be painful to any patriotic Englishman.
When considering spending money on the arts, especially the arts in the regions, we should consider the effect the arts have on community life in ways which are not directly artistic. We have seen what can happen in the case of many repertory theatres in the regions. The buildings become social centres with restaurants, coffee shops, clubs, jazz concerts, lectures, film shows and so on. But they can also become centres from which people move out into the community. The actors in these repertory theatres can, and do, get involved with amateur theatrical enterprises in the communities in which they live. Perhaps most important, the actors and musicians can be made available for work in schools.
Here enormously valuable work can be done and has begun to be done. I have in mind not just that actors should visit schools and put on plays, or that musicians should visit and give concerts, but that they should actually rehearse with the children, direct them in plays and concerts, and sit around with them in seminars or in the classroom to discuss what they are doing. In other words, the professional artistes should create a workshop situation in the schools. This can be done, and the means to do it are there if the artistes are there. Young actors—and most of them are young—have shown themselves to be extremely enthusiastic for enterprises of this kind, and all that is needed is encouragement and a bit of money from the local authority.
The local authorities have so far shown themselves unwilling to spend more than a pitiful amount on promoting activities of this kind. In 1972–73 they spent £2,500 million on education, yet they spent less than £16 million on the arts. The training that it is possible to give children by bringing artistes, in co-operation with the local authority, into the schools is of incalculable value in all sorts of ways. Not only should all our children be involved in the theatre, drama, painting and music as a normal part of education, but everyone should be taught to read music as one is taught to read a language and everyone should be taught to play an instrument.
This is training not only the professional artistes of the future, who are a very small proportion of the children involved. It is preparing the audiences of the future and even the patrons of the future. Some of these children will be local councillors or will work in firms and schools. They will have a hand in buying pictures and commissioning artists in all sorts of ways. I know that local authorities face their worst financial crisis for a long time, but I apply the same argument to them as I applied to the national Government at the beginning of my speech. Because times are bad and the need is great, now is the time for them seriously to rethink their priorities. In times of extreme financial stringency I do not believe in making cuts across the board. When the authorities have to cut they must most seriously consider which things can be done without. They must be prepared actually to increase expenditure in some other areas. We did precisely that during the war, and the arts were beneficiaries, and we should do it now.
There is one other source of patronage, and that is the private patron. We have a number of private patrons in Britain. The Guinness company assists the Wexford Festival, the Wills company the London Philharmonic, the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation assists the London Symphony Orchestra and, most imaginative, the Midland Bank gives help to the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet Companies at Covent Garden. What these private firms do is itself an indication of how much more can be done with Government encouragement. I plead with the Government most seriously to consider emulating the United States and other countries in making the money that is given to the arts by private individuals and business firms exempt from tax to some degree. That kind of encouragement for the private patron would be of enormous benefit to the arts.
It is of great advantage to the arts that there should be a multiplicity of patrons. It is not good for the arts or the patronage that all the commissions should come from one source or that they should all come from sources of one particular kind, like local authorities. It is considerably to the advantage of the arts that they should come from as many different sources as possible, and the very quirkiness and eccentricity of the private patron often adds to the value of his patronage and to what comes out of it.
I am not speaking of one side of industry. The TUC should get much more involved in the arts than it has done in the past. I am pleased to say that it has at least set up a special committee to deal with the subject. I hope that the trade unions here will learn many lessons from the Scandinavian trade unions, which have been fruitful patrons of the arts.
I hope there will be more co-operation of another kind from some of the trade unions involved in artistic ventures. The technicians, electricians, stage hands and so on who work behind the scenes in the performing arts are every bit as indispensable to the success of performances as the actors and singers. They do not always behave in that way, however, and, to do them justice, they have not always been treated as if they are indispensable. They should be brought into the community enterprise and made to feel part of it, and I hope that in response to that kind of approach they would be much more co-operative—I am thinking in particular of the recent dispute at the Coliseum—than they have sometimes been in the past. In disputes of that kind there are two sides, and one of the two sides at fault was certainly the union side.
Yet another way of financing the arts which would not cost the Government anything would be the use of the lottery system. I would very much like to see lotteries used to finance artistic enterprises. Almost every one of the buildings, for example, of the kind for which I listed the need earlier could be paid for by one monthly national lottery of the sort that is employed in France. I have listed a catalogue of specific needs that exist in the world of the arts. They are needs which it is within the power of government to meet.
Although I have spoken at great length, the case that I have made is in many important respects incomplete, and I shall leave it incomplete. I have said virtually nothing about the visual arts. I have said virtually nothing about the need to subsidise creative artists as distinct from performing artistes. I have talked almost entirely about the performing arts for two good reasons. The first reason is that by far and away the biggest spenders of public money are the performing artistes. It is therefore more relevant to talk about them than about any other kind of artistes in the context of a debate of this kind. The second reason is that I happen to have had a lifelong involvement in one capacity or another with the performing arts. It is a subject of which I have some knowledge. I know something about the organisation and running of that sector of the arts.
I have not talked about all the major areas of need in the performing arts. I have said almost nothing about ballet, for example, yet we have a world famous ballet company—it is widely thought to be the best ballet company in the world—that does not even have a theatre of its own. It can perform on only half the evenings of the week in a theatre which it shares with an opera company.
I have said nothing about the film industry, yet it is moribund for lack of public money. It desperately needs public finance. I will give one figure and from that one comparison hon. Members can draw all the lessons that I wish to draw. The British Film Institute now provides for the British film industry £110,000 a year in subsidy. France subsidises films to the tune of £13 million a year. Italy subsidies its film industry to the extent of £14 million a year. The incompleteness of my case and the fact that I have left out so many deserving areas of artistic activity means that the case is very much stronger than that which I have been able to make even in the time available. I am sure that the case will be much strengthened by other speakers.
My last point is that all the needs that I have instanced could be met by one man if he were determined and if he had the imagination and the political will to do so. They could be met by one decision from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The total increase in central Government expenditure that we are talking of is of the order of £50 million a year or less. It may be tactless of me to recall it, but there was an incident in this Chamber only a week ago last Wedesday in which, contrary to the Chancellor's expectations, he found himself called upon by a vote of this House to find an extra £54 million in his forthcoming Budget for expenditure in the next year. I cannot pretend that he was pleased by that. He lost his temper and shouted at many people, including me.
I am prepared to forgive my right hon. Friend for that. I am prepared to overlook that incident, on condition that he listens to me in the context of this debate. The example to which I have referred shows that the Chancellor can, if called upon, find a sum of that magnitude in the Budget even at short notice. If we look more than one year ahead it can be done given the political will.
It is something of a paradox that the survival of the creative arts depends on money which is made available by party politicians. Given that that is the case, there is nothing that we can do collectively or individually which is of greater value and enrichment to our national life and the community that we are supposed to serve than to increase the money which it is in the power of the Government, drawn from our numbers and sustained by us in office to give, and without which the arts cannot survive.