Regional Arts Associations

Oral Answers to Questions — The Arts – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st October 1985.

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Photo of Mr Michael Meadowcroft Mr Michael Meadowcroft , Leeds West 12:00 am, 21st October 1985

asked the Minister for the Arts what recent representations he has had on the allocation of resources to regional arts associations.

Photo of George Young George Young Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

Unfortunately, my hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts was taken ill today and I am standing in for him at short notice. He sends his apologies to the House.

My hon. Friend met the chairmen and directors of all the regional arts associations on 18 October. He has also received a deputation from Merseyside arts bodies, and has corresponded with representatives of other regions. The allocation of resources is a matter for the Arts Council.

Photo of Mr Michael Meadowcroft Mr Michael Meadowcroft , Leeds West

I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will convey to his hon. Friend our regret that he is unwell. We particularly wish to assist him in his new task. Is the Minister aware that in West Yorkshire, as in other metropolitan areas, there is worry about what will happen when the metropolitan county councils are abolished? When will the Minister respond to the Arts Council's bid for £35 million to replace the metropolitan county money, and what further guidance is to be given via the rate support grant formula to assist district councils in developing their arts funding?

Photo of George Young George Young Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his kind words about my hon. Friend. I spoke to my hon. Friend a few minutes ago and I found him very much like Florestan at the beginning of the second act of Fidelio. I am sure that he will recover. On the second point, my hon. Friend hopes to make an announcement about the allocations for next year, in December. On the matter of post-abolition funding, as the hon. Member knows, we have already committed £34 million of additional central funding for the arts after abolition. The Arts Council subsequently made a bid for more resources, which we will have to consider in the context of the public expenditure discussions. As I think the hon. Member will know, that will have to await the broader considerations that are being discussed at the moment.

Photo of Mr Anthony Nelson Mr Anthony Nelson , Chichester

Since my hon. Friend is in such close and frequent contact with the newly appointed Minister for the Arts, may I ask him to transmit the message that many of us hope that he will be rather more a champion at the Chancellor's door than a supplicant and defendant in the star chamber?

Photo of George Young George Young Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

Of course I shall pass on those sentiments. No one wishes my hon. Friend a speedy recovery more than I do.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

We are all pleased to learn that at least the Minister for the Arts is in a better condition than I fear most of the arts are. We pass on our good wishes, and no doubt we shall meet him in a few weeks' time. Will the Under-Secretary of State remind him that the arts crisis, the cataclysmic collapse in arts funding. is the worst ever? Will he also remind him that this is due to the abolition of the metropolitan counties and the GLC? Thirdly, will he remind his hon. Friend of the promise given to me on 2 August last year by the previous Minister that the present level of public support for the arts would be maintained? When are we to get that assurance from the present Minister?

Photo of George Young George Young Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

I reject the assumption behind the hon. Gentleman's question. In our manifesto in 1983 we said that we would keep up the level of support for the arts, and our record shows that we have done better than that. From 1978–79 to date the central Government arts budget has more than doubled in cash terms, that is, a real terms increase of nearly 18 per cent. This year's budget is almost 6 per cent. up in cash terms on last year's budget. In the context of the very difficult decisions that the Government have had to take on public expenditure, the arts have done quite well.