The Arts

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 10:39 am on 20th June 1986.

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Photo of Mr Toby Jessel Mr Toby Jessel , Twickenham 10:39 am, 20th June 1986

Thank you. That full-page advertisement in The Times says that it is issued by the "Tape Manufacturers Group." I understand that those manufacturers are all to be found abroad, and that 60 per cent. of them are Japanese. The advertisement says that it is issued by that group. in the interest of the tape buying public. It continues: Oppose the tape levy. It is a gift to the greedy…if you have to cough up more money because of lobbying by greedy record companies, there must be plenty of other fat cats waiting in the wings for their extra dollop of cream. A Tape Levy is wrong on moral and legal grounds. If it is imposed during the next session of Parliament it sets a ghastly precedent for the righting of any number of imagined wrongs. That is sheer nonsense. It is laughable to say that a tape levy is wrong on moral grounds. As for saying that it is wrong on legal grounds, if the House, following the proper procedures, authorises a levy on tapes, it is legal. The advertising agency or public relations company who wrote that advertisement did so in ignorance of that fact. The tape manufacturers have been unwise in their choice of advertising or public relations company.

I hope that the Government will not give in, and have no truck with this advertising campaign by the tape manufacturers. I also hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts will convey our feelings to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who is responsible for such issues. The Government should stick to their guns, hold firm, and proceed with the levy in the interest of live musicians. They should give further proof—if any is needed—that the Conservative party, and this Conservative Government care about the arts and want fair rewards for professional artists. If the Government hold firm, they will earn the lasting appreciation of the musical world.

The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan), who is sitting in the Gangway next to the former Leader of the Opposition, but who is now returning to his seat on the Opposition Front Bench, was full of doom and gloom. Characteristically he exaggerated, using words such as catastrophic, depredations, philistine, reckless, squeezing and so on. But none of that could disguise the fact that in the United Kingdom the arts are flourishing as never before. My right hon. Friend the Minister gave a tremendously impressive list of achievements. I shall not repeat it, as it will appear in the Official Report. But the hon. Member for Paisley, South clearly did not listen to my right hon. Friend. The hon. Gentleman went on to talk about abolition in a tone of gloom and doom, I recall that two years ago he mentioned a crisis in the arts. Most of that talk focused on Greater London and then, to a lesser extent, on the six metropolitan counties. None of his prophesies came true.