The Arts

Prayers – in the House of Commons at 11:18 am on 20th June 1986.

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Question again proposed, That this House do now adjourn.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Blaenau Gwent 11:43 am, 20th June 1986

As I listened to the earlier debate on the arts, I was encouraged to believe that it would be a good day for this country when my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) takes over the task of the Minister for the Arts. I am sure that he will, with his natural eloquence, bring good policy into practice and, with his great determination, raise this matter to the level it deserves. I do not say that to disparage in any way the present Minister for the Arts. He must face an extremely difficult task in trying to sustain civilised standards in this Government. The right hon. Gentleman does his best.

However, my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South and I criticise the level of support that the Government give and their general approach to the arts. I think that I quote the Minister correctly when I say that he claimed that the Government were keeping up support for the arts. That is not satisfactory, especially in view of our present critical social circumstances, which were described by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South. At a time of heavy unemployment, when society is under great stress in other respects, the money, resources and intelligent effort devoted to providing for the arts all over Britain should be greatly increased. That is the test that should be applied to the Government. It is applied by some of those who are trying to grapple with our problems.

For the past 10 or more years, there has been a considerable increase in the communities in Wales who support the arts. Of course, the choirs are one of the most notable signs of culture there. The great revival in those areas is due partly to the determination of the communities —all the resources have come from them to recognise that, when faced with this crisis, there must be a great expansion of the arts. That is one way to deal with the problem. Individuals and communities such as mine in Wales are seeking to do that. We do not get anything like the support from the Government that we should have.

I recall the attitude of the previous Labour Governments to the arts. Yesterday, I read an ignorant article in The Times by Mr. Bernard Levin on this subject. Of course, I do not pay for The Times—I read a copy when I come here. Until the Wapping dispute is over, I do not propose to pay any money for it, and I am even less likely to do so having read Mr. Bernard Levin's article. He wrote as though the Labour party were opposed to the development of the arts. Everyone knows what Labour Ministers for the arts have done. Jennie Lee, especially, set new standards for Ministers for the arts. She was not called "Minister for the Arts", but she did that job. She did a splendid job and played a leading role in introducing the Open university. That system was set up when there was fierce competition for resources and the Department of Education and Science and the department with responsibility for the arts were faced with the strain of choosing priorities. Jennie Lee was one of those who insisted on the choice being made by Cabinet. She took the case to Cabinet.

I am proud when I see on the walls of the cottages of mineworkers, steelworkers or others of my constituents certificates from the Open university. Those people have been able to profit from the Labour Government's decision to go ahead with the Open university, despite all the attacks by those against it and the attempts to prevent money from being supplied to it. They ensured that it went ahead on the basis of applying the highest academic standards. I think that everyone recognises that, although I point out that the Government still restrict the amount of money available. The Government should increase the resources available instead of restricting the numbers of people who can make use of a full university education, some of whom might not have been able to take advantage of such education earlier.

One of the most disagreeable features, to put it mildly, of these restrictions is that they are often imposed by people who have had a good university education. Apparently, they are prepared to restrict the opportunities offered to other people. There were elements in the Department of Education and Science who wanted to resist the Open university because they said that there were other priorities. The Open university has now become the biggest university in the land. It is catering for wider and different sections of the community than ever before. That was done at a time of financial crisis and it shows what can be achieved under a Government with the will and imagination necessary to carry such matters further.

I am glad to hear the support that the Government are giving to libraries. However, much more ought to be done. Many of the provincial libraries are having the greatest difficulty in sustaining their service to the community because of the general restraints and cuts that the Government have imposed on the rate support grant. Individual libraries, such as the Fawcett library, are in danger of closing. I know that that is not the Minister's immediate responsibility, but he should be using his influence to try to ensure that resources are provided for that library. The same applies to the museum of labour history and other such institutions. There are many areas where, if the Government had the energy and imagination required, great assistance could be given to ensure that many varied institutions, at a time of social crisis, get the support they deserve. I hope that the Government will not be complacent. I hope that it will not be too far ahead when my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) will be able to take his proper place in the next Labour Government and place the service of the arts in the proper perspective that it should hold in a civilised nation. That is what we want to see.

I wish to refer to one specific matter on which I hope that the Government will give us the backing that I believe they could. It is a matter that I have taken up with the Minister before, but I shall emphasise it again now not just in the interests of the body—the Byron society, of which I am a member—but in the interests of the nation as a whole. The duocentenary of Byron's birth will take place in 1988. It will be a big occasion throughout this country. There will be big celebrations at Cambridge university, where Byron went, much against his will. He would have preferred to go to Oxford, he made that quite clear. There will be celebrations at Newstead and throughout the rest of the country.

It is by no means certain that what we do in this country will not be surpassed by what may happen in many other countries. So great was Byron's fame, so wide his influence and so important the place he holds in the literature of our country and in world literature, that there will be similar celebrations in Greece, Italy, the United States and many other places. There are now nearly 30 Byron societies throughout the world. Recently a society was formed in China and some other parts of the world and it provides a great service to the country as a whole. I hope that the Government will approach this matter in a properly imaginative spirit.

There has been a transformation in Byron's reputation over the past 50 or 60 years. If anybody doubts what I say, they have only to look back at the controversy in 1924 when the last major Byron centenary was arranged, 100 years after his death. At that time there had been so much defamation of his character that it was almost allowed to denigrate his poety, works and achievements. We did not have a Byron society in those days, but those who had gathered to try to present the matter properly to the nation and the world, found they were facing a defensive battle and that they had to present great arguments to protect Byron from the assaults from so many quarters, even 100 years after his death. That protection succeeded and in the past 60 years his reputation has been transformed.

It would be churlish for us in this country to deny the contribution that has been made by those in other countries, especially the Americans. The American scholarship has made great contributions to try to ensure that Byronic literature should be properly represented to the world. Over the past 10 years we have had a magnificent production of Byron's letters by Professor Leslie Marchand — published, naturally, by John Murray. That has now been matched by an almost equally magnificent production of Byron's poetry by Professor McGann, published by Oxford University. Byron is coming home to his first love of Oxford at last and that is a great development.

We certainly acknowledge the worldwide interests, especially the interest of American scholarship. However, we must take account of what has been achieved and contributed in this country.

Among the people at the meeting in 1924, to which I referred, when a few people got together to say that they were determined to protect Byron's reputation from the assaults that were made upon it, was a young and beautiful woman who for almost the first time came to hear about the name of Byron. She later applied her particular aptitude to writing about Byron. I think that everyone who has studied the matter will agree that she has probably written about Byron with greater Byronic wit and imagination than anyone else. I am glad to say that she is still with us. I went to see Doris Langley Moore the other day. Her biographical works, as I have said, have matched any that have come from across the Atlantic and exceeded them in wit and understanding. I am glad to say that she is still alive and radiant and I trust that she will play a prominent part in the celebrations of 1988, just as I hope that the Government will make special efforts to ensure that the occasion is celebrated in a proper spirit.

The best that the Government could do to celebrate the occasion—it does not exclude all the other things—would be to respond to the appeals which have come afresh from the Greek Government for the restoration of the Parthenon marbles to the people and the land of Greece. I know that there have been plenty of arguments about that. I am not asking the Minister to reply now. In fact, I hope that he will not, because I daresay he will give us the old official reply he has trotted out before, and we do not want that. I know that there has been plenty of argument among people who do know the facts. I am not necessarily including the Minister in that respect.

For example, one of the most respected Presidents of the Byron society, William St. Clair, who has written probably the wittiest and most graceful book on the subject, appears to come down against the proposition of the return of the marbles. That does not make the argument conclusive, by any means. There are a whole range of arguments on the other side, especially those advanced by Byron himself. Anyone who reads what Byron wrote could see that he was discussing not only what should happen and why he protested so strongly against the spoliation of the Parthenon, which caused a sense of outrage among Greeks at the time, or about what was happening to Greek heritage— they have as much right to cherish their heritage as we have to cherish ours —but was expressing his sense of ourtrage when he saw great nations trying to trample on the rights of small ones.

Therefore, the great poetry that Byron wrote on that subject was directed not only to what was to happen to the Parthenon marbles, but to the way in which the world was going, and what was to be the reputation of our country in this age and time. One of the things that we shall celebrate in 1988 is the spirit in which Byron looked forward to the ensuing century and more, and foresaw a different role for our country from the one that we were performing at that time. He looked forward to an age when our country would be speaking in the name of freedom, not in the name of an imperial power. He looked forward to the time when we would be able to show our common heritage with all those other countries. It is partly because Byron expressed that almost more successfully and brilliantly than any other of our poets that he commands that worldwide allegiance.

Therefore, I say to the Government: let them not reply to what I am proposing today. Let them consider it carefully, because when the deed is done, the Government who take the final step of restoring the Parthenon marbles to where they belong will be acclaimed for their magnanimity. It would be a good thing for this Government if they did it. However, I am glad to know that, when my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South takes up his position, and when my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) takes his position as Prime Minister, we shall carry out that act of magnanimity. That at least should be some incentive to the Minister and the Cabinet, which I know he has such difficulty in converting to any wise courses on those great matters.

Photo of Mr Michael Marshall Mr Michael Marshall , Arundel 12:01 pm, 20th June 1986

I hope that the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) will forgive me if I do not follow him too far in his Byronic interlude. As usual, the House listened to him with interest. His eloquence is seductive. As usual, I find that I have to check one or two of the omissions in remarks which, otherwise. are agreeable. The right hon. Gentleman was a little mischievous in trying to divide the loyalties of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) with regard to his educational background and his constituency interest. However, I know that my hon. Friend will look after himself.

The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the Elgin marbles. I was fascinated by the unholy alliance between himself and Melina Mercouri. Perhaps on another occasion he will tell us more of that. He also touched on the history of the Open university, but he was a little partial in not referring to the role played by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in saving it from an early death.

I declare my interest as a parliamentary adviser to the Society of West End Theatre. I should like to talk about the live theatre, particularly the commercial part of theatre. Because I know that other hon. Members wish to speak, I shall not rehearse the arguments and, indeed, the whole ethos that has given us such splendid live theatre. The figures are well known. My right hon. Friend the Minister referred to the scale of theatre going and its role in the tourist industry.

I pay particular tribute to my right hon. Friend the Minister, because the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) said, entirely Fairly, that there is a problem with the arts because it affects so many Government Departments. However, my right hon. Friend has been playing an especially valuable part in trying to co-ordinate efforts on the arts. I hope that I can encourage him to continue to do so in specific areas. I shall refer to other Departments in a moment.

The Minister's part was evident in the transitional arrangements after the abolition of the Greater London council. Again, my right hon. Friend played a signal role in obtaining tax relief for charities, the result of which we saw in the Budget. My right hon. Friend has said that he regards himself as a sponsoring Minister for theatre. I shall return to that matter.

The problems that face commercial theatre can be summed up simply. They are, that it is essentially a high-risk business. Only one in five productions is a major commercial success. Fortunately, there are those who wish to help the theatre, who are popularly referred to as angels. Although, naturally, they would like to see some return on their investment, often they are prepared to take a risk because of the personal association that their backing gives them with the theatre and because of their willingness to see cultural activity that may work on the margin. However, those people need more support, and the theatre itself requires that such people should be encouraged.

The Department of Trade and Industry has a key role to play in the future of our west end theatre and, indeed, in live theatre as a whole. For example, a problem might come up unexpectedly, such as the frequency for radio microphones. Perhaps it will be known to many hon. Members that no major musical production is put on these days without the use of a radio microphone, the frequency of which has to be related to the whole frequency spectrum, taking into account every other radio broadcast. In the recent allocations of frequencies, we have run into problems. If those problems are not resolved, in a production of grand opera or a major musical, there would be a real danger of the leading singer suddenly being interrupted by a message from Joe's Taxis. That problem is serious. I am glad to say that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Trade and Industry, the hon. Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher), and his officials are showing a good deal of commendable urgency in considering the matter. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts is keeping an eye on it, too.

There is one major problem in which the Department of Trade and Industry has a particular role to play, where urgency is needed, and that is on overcharging for tickets. This country, particularly London, has a great reputation of value for money in live theatre. That reputation is suffering due to the activities of an unfortunate minority who have been exploiting the system. The figures, which have been published, are well known.

It affects shows such as "Cats", "Les Misérables", and "Starlight Express" where three times the going rate is the norm according to scalpers' prices. Just the other day, two tickets at £6·50 were sold for £80. Such exploitation is not good for theatre. It is not good. enough for our reputation as a tourist centre, and for broadening the habit of theatre going among the population. It is a manifestation of an Arthur Daley society rather than the best aspects of the Society of West End Theatre that I should like to see. What I find hard is that the society tends to bear the brunt, along with tourist authorities, for complaints.

What can he done to resolve that problem? Several things could be done. I shall not repeat the difficulties that there have been over registering agreements. There was a time, until a few years ago, when registered agreements among theatre owners would have allowed agreements on theatre ticket prices to apply. I can see the argument about opening up competition in other areas, but I am concerned about the side effects and casualties, as in this case.

The most useful way in which the problem could be tackled would be if the Government could bring forward, as a matter of urgency, the Bill on consumer goods and services, on which consultation is now taking place. That legislation is likely to include a proposed code of practice, which will contain an obligation to publish the commission element. If that were done, it would meet the recommendation of the Society of West End Theatre that at all times the full face value and the amount of commission that has been charged should be shown on the ticket.

I hope very much that my right hon. Friend the Minister will feel able to add his voice to the deliberations in the Department of Trade arid Industry. I think that he will be aware, as he represents a south coast constituency next to mine, that the tourist industry is a fragile flower., and if the reputation of overcharging becomes part of the disincentive to come to this country, the effects could extend further than live theatre.

I welcome the tax relief for charities announced in the Budget, although it will do little for the theatre because of the nature of charities. I wish to consider ways of assisting the commercial theatre, given the high element of risk that is involved in its work. Hon. Members have mentioned value added tax. The Minister will know that there is a. belief that the movement towards standardisation in the EEC may lead to change. I hope that he will add his voice to those which say that if we move in the direction of assistance for the arts, it should be in the form of exemptions rather than zero-rating. We must be consistent. Communications must not be seen as subject. to indirect taxation.

As for the tax incentives to the angels — who are sometimes called casual investors, although I prefer the term occasional investors, because it is not a casual process but a high-risk activity—we could return to the pre-1972 position by which tax relief on losses could be offset against other income or capital gains. I recall that there were problems and that people were said to be living on farms which became their country houses. It is not beyond the wit of man—I have already urged this on my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer—to create exemptions which could be related to centres of excellence and to employment. That is certainly the case with the theatre.

More specifically, the Department of Trade ad Industry could consider the implications of legislation affecting limited partnerships. Much of the law governing them is old and relates to the Limited Parterships Act 1907. That limits the number of partners in an enterprise to 20. Section 12 of the Companies Act 1967 contains exemptions to that rule. It is clear to hon. Members that that number is not large enough for theatrical enterprises. One is talking about a band of angels, 100-strong or more. I hope that the Minister can be persuaded to use the powers available in the Act and I hope that he will help in the process of reform.

Only one theatrical production has been financed through the business expansion scheme, so it is a bit early to judge its effectiveness. However, the five-year restriction on tied investment must be seen as a deterrent to theatrical investment. If the scheme is to be reviewed, that matter could be considered.

I have stressed the problems of theatre having to deal with several Departments, and I praise my right hon. Friend the Minister for his role in trying to improve co-ordination. In the recent changes, including the abolition of the GLC, many of us have been worried about the problem of consistency. Even now, it is said that local authorities may wish to take over the activities of the Health and Safety Executive. If that is to be the case, there could be different interpretations of the rules applying to theatres throughout the country. I hope that that might be regarded as no more than a proposal which will be subject to representations, especially for activities which need an overall approach that could be effectively monitored by my right hon. Friend.

If my right hon. Friend has a chance to reply to the debate, will he undertake to examine his Department's ability to make known its views to the Department of Employment before any change is agreed?

Before my right hon. Friend took office, the Society of West End Theatre had been told by the Office of Fair Trading that it could not trace a sponsoring Department for it. At that stage, anyone interested in live theatre was worried about whether they would ever have a proper dialogue with the Government. Of course, a distinction was drawn with the publicly funded sector of the theatre, which had a link with the Arts Council. But that sector has many problems similar to those in the commercial theatre, and it does not rely solely on state funding. It must look to markets for the resolution of many of the problems that I mentioned. But there was a hiatus in the commercial theatre— the area that touches most upon the lives of the majority of our citizens and visitors. My right hon. Friend has stepped into that hiatus. He said that he was in charge of a Department that had a sponsoring role. We are grateful for that, and for his action on transitional problems. I hope that he will not take it amiss—he has broad shoulders—when I say that much remains to be done in other Departments. I count on him to use his influence to carry them forward in the right direction.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Heywood and Middleton 12:16 pm, 20th June 1986

The last time that I spoke in a major debate on the arts I mentioned a wide range of subjects. Today, I shall concentrate on a narrow area that is vital to the British people.

In the early 1970s, the experiment of charging entrance fees for art galleries and museums proved to be unpopular and an economic disaster. In 1974, the then Minister for the Arts, Hugh Jenkins, abolished the fees. He was supported in debates on the charges by the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), who subsequently became Minister with responsibility for the arts. The right hon. Member for Chelmsford believed that legislation should be introduced to prevent the reim-position of admission charges for art galleries and museums. However, today, there are fears that the charges will be reimposed.

It has been denied that the changes in the Government's methods of funding are in preparation for charging admission fees at museums and art galleries. On 11 February this year, The Times said: Financial incentives have been announced to encourage national museums and art galleries to charge entry fees. How have the proposed changes in funding art galleries and museums given rise to such fears?

The Government have latched on to a recommendation in a report from the Select Committee on Education. Science and Arts as a way of making up the shortfalls in running costs imposed by the Government's restrictions on public spending. Hence the encouragement of voluntary admission charges for art galleries and museums. The Select Committee's eighth report of 1981–82, entitled, "Public and Private Funding of the Arts", recommended: The 're-vote' procedure for national museums and galleries should be abolished and where they engage in successful trading they should have the right to retain their profits. No one could disagree with that. The report also recommended that museums and galleries should be encouraged to expand all available sources of income. Again, no one could object to that.

The Government's response in Comnd. 9127 seemed to agree with the need to provide incentives to maximise earnings. Ay, there's the rub. On 26 July 1985, the then Minister for the Arts, Lord Gowrie, said: The Government intend to change this system to provide greater incentives for the national museums and galleries both to maximise their receipts (whether by the operations of their Vote-financed trading activities such as shops, by charging for admission where appropriate, or in other ways) and to use these more effectively. This also should improve the institutions' ability to respond flexibility to the needs of their visitors, in hours of opening and other matters…These changes should markedly improve the ability of the institutions to help themselves."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 26 July 1985; Vol. 466, c. 1541–2.] All that I can say to that is that Sam Smiles is never dead.

On 10 February 1986, the Government proposed that the present net grants should be grants in aid, the main aim being to provide a tangible incentive to earn revenue, the change taking effect from the 1986–87 financial year. For each institution, it is proposed that there will be a single grant in aid which covers its purchases and its running costs.

To give the institutions a stable basis for their forward planning, the Government do not intend to make any further changes in the arrangements for at least the first three years of the grant in aid system.

I have tried to outline the financial background to the proposals which have led to fears about the imposition of charges at museums and art galleries. The Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts sought the opinions of distinguished directors of major galleries on the new financial proposals in written and oral evidence. I am a member of that Committee and I took part in discussions with four major directors. I should like to support what Sir Roy Strong said in a letter to the Committee on 24 April: our primary concern about the change to grant-in-aid is that the system will be used as a means of reducing government support to the institutions. The Government has given a commitment that, for at least three years, the level of grant will be unaffected by the level of receipts. In real terms, Government support is already reducing: the planning figure (2½ per cent. increase) for the next two years will not keep pace with inflation and does not include a realistic allowance for pay increases outside our control. We fear that our increasing earnings will provide the opportunity for Government funds to be diverted elsewhere. The fact is that current and past funding has been totally inadequate and we shall need every penny of our increased earnings in order for us to achieve the level of performance, efficiency and service to the public which is our aim. When giving evidence to the Select Committee, Sir Roy said: Over the last five or seven years the funding of the V & A and the other national collections has been at an increase which is a figure which Government says inflation is and then there is a pay settlement for the Civil Service which is almost always in excess of that. At the moment we have a 2·9 per cent. increase for 1986–87 but it looks as though there will be a 6 per cent. pay settlement for the Civil Service. That has happened every year for five or seven years. No extra money has been given, whereas in the old days there…'We therefore saw and still see no advantages for us in the Minister's proposal for change, and I believe a majority of the institutions affected shared our view.' Do the other members of the panel share that same view? We also heard from Dr. Cossons, another famous director, on 24 April. He agreed with Sir Roy Strong and said: We therefore find ourselves in the situation where the increase in the level of basic funding is so far below the level of pay settlements and inflation that it is leading to a state of serious reduction in real terms in the level of museum funding from the Treasury. The implication of this for museums is very serious. I asked him to expand on that statement and he replied: Yes, I think Sir Roy has probably said everything I could say. The national museums are the victims of a system which is a cash limit system in which our grant is related to a predicted inflation rate, and when the salary and wage award is substantially larger than that — and we are all highly labour-intensive organisations—a large part of our budget goes on people. The amount which those people then have to spend to do the job which they are employed to do is seriously diminished so we reduce the staff numbers or both, but the net effect is one of reducing what we can do for our collections and for our public. It was precisely that pressure that propelled the trustees of the National Maritime Museum, on my recommendation, to go for a plural funding approach with admission charges in April 1984—I was Director of the National Maritime Museum until nine weeks ago. The Science Museum has no plans at present to charge admission but it is, nevertheless, faced by exactly the same problem and we have to address that issue within the next six months. I am convinced that, in all this, there has been completely inadequate funding for our national museums and art galleries. I was appalled some years ago when, during a visit to one of our national museums, there was a thunderstorm and I saw staff running around putting down bowls and buckets to catch the rain water. On making inquiries, I discovered that Government funding for repairing that ancient building was totally inadequate. We had a silly system. The Department of the Environment gave a grant of £1 million for repairs, but the Treasury charged 15 per cent. VAT on those repairs. I suspect that we shall never plug the leaks.

I raised the matter on the Floor of the House at the time. The present Minister said recently in Committee that the Government had gone some way to improve the system by providing more money for repairs. I hope that he will he able to mention that today. The proposed method of funding our museums and galleries is, I believe, merely a back-door method of introducing admission charges to help with the running of our national institutions. If that is so—I invite the Minister to say whether it is or not—it will have a devastating effect on those in our society who cannot afford to pay admission prices—old-age pensioners, the young, the unemployed and the extremely poor.

I hope that the Minister is not about to put the clock back to the 1970s by sending out a message to our citizens that we get what we pay for—the age-old prerogative of the harlot throughout history.

Photo of Mr Christopher Murphy Mr Christopher Murphy , Welwyn Hatfield 12:29 pm, 20th June 1986

In recent years much has been written and spoken of the significance of increasing leisure time. I should like to contribute to that in terms of the value of the arts during this debate.

From the outset, and despite the ritual carping of the Opposition, it should be recognised and appreciated that the Government have fulfilled the two major strands of their arts policy: to keep up the level of state support and create the conditions in which the arts can develop by attracting additional funds from other sources, and to safeguard Britain's heritage. In the light of the economic difficulties inherited from the Opposition parties that is no mean achievement in more ways than one. The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) criticises the picture painted by my right hon. Friend the Minister, but the Government's picture has its provenance and the Opposition's painting is a fake.

The role of the arts in the tourist industry has already received wide analysis and by now should be self-evident. What has apparently received only narrow analysis is the role of the arts vis-a-vis the developing lifestyle of Britons. Clearly, in the short term, with the unfortunate rise in unemployment, more free time has been available to some people. But perhaps of more long-term significance is the positive choice that is being made between work and leisure, and between increased income and increased time off.

Already more people go to the theatre than attend football matches. Indeed, to put that in perspective, more than 40 million people a year attend our museums and galleries. This changing pattern of life needs to be reflected in Government policy decisions and in the actions taken by private enterprise. A good example of such forward thinking is to be seen in the London docklands, where the regeneration of that derelict area seeks a balance between the needs of work and play and those of commercial and residential use.

It is neither sufficient simply to recognise the new importance that has been attached to the arts, nor to expect that the Government should be left to provide the necessary funds. Obviously, there is a role for the Treasury Bench in national funding and fiscal incentives, but there is an even greater role for the arts to increase their income through marketing and self-development. I urge them, as my right hon. friend has done, to step up their efforts in those directions.

While such attention is being devoted to the future it is especially welcome that great value has been placed on our past, because our heritage is strongly bound to the arts. In that context, it should be recalled that at the end of last year the Government acceded to the convention for the protection of the architectural heritage of Europe under the auspices of the Council of Europe. Such a commitment for caring for the past, as further evidenced by a budget of nearly £100 million, will provide valuable opportunities for the arts of the future. Enjoyment of the heritage has become a major pastime of many families and of our foreign visitors.

The logical connections between the arts and the heritage, and between them and the growth of leisure are fully comprehensible, but the schizophrenic attitude towards charging is wholly incomprehensible. I fear I must disagree with some of the views expressed by the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan). The public expect to pay to visit a stately home, but not a public museum. Why not? The public expect to pay to attend a theatre or concert hall, but not to pay to visit a public gallery. Again, why not? Voluntary contributions are already pointing the way, especially after the signpost erected firmly by Sir Roy Strong at the Victoria and Albert museum.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Heywood and Middleton

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but he has just mentioned me by name. He asked why we should not charge for entrance to museums. In my speech I pointed out that charges would affect the poorer sections of our community. However, the Institution of Professional Civil Servants has recently done some research on the charges made at the Victoria and Albert museum. It says: Thousands of people have been put off visiting one of Britain's cultural meccas…In December 1985, just 66,692 visitors came, compared with 128,005 in December 1984. The November figure was 27,049 down on the same month the previous year. This makes a nonesense of the museum's aim to raise £500,000 through charging from 1,700,000 visitors Charging is just nonsense.

Photo of Mr Christopher Murphy Mr Christopher Murphy , Welwyn Hatfield

I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman says, but he must recognise that the contributions made at the Victoria and Albert museum are voluntary. I sought to stress the value of voluntary contributions and the lead to museum and gallery charges by Sir Roy Strong and the Victoria and Albert museum.

Photo of Mr Gerald Bowden Mr Gerald Bowden , Dulwich

Is it possible that the picketing outside the Victoria and Albert museum by civil servants and curatorial staff from neighbouring museums did more to put off visitors than voluntary contributions?

Photo of Mr Christopher Murphy Mr Christopher Murphy , Welwyn Hatfield

My hon. Friend makes a very valid point. It is probably far too early to draw many conclusions about the consequences of contributing at the Victoria and Albert museum. But I believe that economic reality tells us that if—I emphasise "if"— the institution is allowed to keep the finance that it gains through charging, that should be encouraged and will produce beneficial results. Indeed, I think that the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton may agree with me on that. With the necessary safeguards for students and the elderly, and perhaps a free day as is often found on the continent, let us gain the revenue from people enjoying their leisure, and that will include a great number of tourists from overseas. Such gain would enhance our arts and heritage, as the growth in private museums and private galleries that charge has emphatically shown.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

Could it not be that the British tourist industry is strong partly because people are attracted to Britain by our free museums and art galleries? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should put that factor into the equation. Moreover, those of us who live in London already pay rates and taxes, so why should we also have to pay admission charges?

Photo of Mr Christopher Murphy Mr Christopher Murphy , Welwyn Hatfield

One of the great attractions for overseas tourists is the arts and heritage to be found in the United Kingdom. Moreover, I believe that tourists would still want to come to Britain even if they were expected to pay, just as they pay in many other European countries which also have a great arts and heritage to offer to both tourists and their own people. The Government are extremely keen to cut the amount of taxation. Those who wish to contribute further towards the arts and the heritage should have the opportunity to do so through admission charges. Even if the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) does not agree with me, I hope that he will feel that I have answered his points.

As the arts, and with them, the heritage become associated more and more with the leisure activities of the many rather than the personal pursuit of the few, the partnership between the public and private sectors must become more and more realistic, to the benefit of us all.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West 12:40 pm, 20th June 1986

This is our second full day's debate in 1986 on the arts, and I wish that we were discussing either some proposal from the Government, the Arts Council's budget or its allocation to client groups, rather than indulging in an artistic jog through the arts world. Nevertheless, the debate is welcome.

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) mentioned the number of arts questions tabled. Now that we have a Minister able to answer arts questions in this House, there is some point tabling arts questions. However, 10 minutes once a month is hardly sufficient. The average number of questions per month over the past 12 months has been 10, and we are not even getting through those. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would ask his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for more time for arts questions; that would be supported by both sides of the House.

The House has always had a great interest in the arts, but I detect that that has become sharper in recent years. The arts have taken a higher political profile for two main reasons. First, in part, is the current economic climate, in which even the arts world recognises that it must fight its corner in an era of attempted public expenditure cuts. Secondly, the activities of the local authorities, mainly Labour-controlled, have greatly broadened the definition of arts and therefore the extent of public expenditure on the arts. I use the phrase "expenditure on the arts" rather than "subsidy of the arts" advisedly, because we must get the terminology right. Otherwise we could lose many of the arguments about resource allocation by suggesting that investing in the arts is not a fit and proper way to use public expenditure, whether national or local—it is a soft option, a sort of dream topping, on which one should not spend public money. We hear the terms "defence expenditure" and "arts subsidy". My terminology would be that we invest in arts, education and housing, spend on defence and subsidise agriculture—although that point is rather lost as the Ministers who were in the Chamber a short time ago have now gone. It is important that the terminology is correct.

The definition of what is the arts is not simply metaphysical: it holds the key to the public purse. By broadening the definition of arts and by moving from a rather elitist, essentially 19th century understanding to one that recognises a more popular cultural base means that many more art forms have become eligible for public investment by local authorities and regional arts associations. Therefore, it is essential to keep moving the frontiers of definition within the arts.

There is little doubt that Mozart and Bach would have composed film and television scores and used electronic keyboards and synthesisers. Shakespeare would undoubtedly have written plays for television — indeed, posthumously he has—[Interruption.] Posthumously, he has been given a great deal of television coverage, although, unfortunately, he has not benefited from the repeat fees that he no doubt would have welcomed. It is an interesting point. I believe that it has been said that if we had been able to claim all the copyright fees from Shakespeare since Tudor times, there would never have been a balance of payments problem in this country.

Had Shakespeare been knocking around today, he might also have been contributing to EastEnders and Coronation Street, because he was essentially a commercial playwright who earned his bread.

Photo of Mr Gerald Bowden Mr Gerald Bowden , Dulwich

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that if Shakespeare had been around today he, like Sam Wanamaker, would not have been allowed to establish a playhouse in Southwark because of the short-sightedness and small-mindedness of Southwark council?

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

That is an interesting point. I know that Sam Wanamaker has been pushing that idea around for a long time, and I have spoken to him about it in the past. I should very much like a playhouse to be established in Southwark on the site of the old theatre. I believe that it would add a great deal to London, provided that we did not start treating the arts merely as heritage. The hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) rather suggested that he still sees the arts as heritage, but Shakespeare was very radical in his day. Had he been around today, some Conservative Members might have said that his plays were too political and should not receive GLC subsidy. Those are all interesting points, but I agree with the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) that that theatre should be established in Southwark.

Photo of Mr Christopher Murphy Mr Christopher Murphy , Welwyn Hatfield

To correct any misunderstanding, I should make it clear that I do not necessarily equate the arts with heritage. Like the hon. Gentleman, I accept that there is a great role for the living arts and looking towards the future. On the subject of Shakespeare, does the hon. Gentleman accept that Shakespeare was an excellent example of private sponsorship and that succeeding Governments could have gained considerably from such sponsorship?

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

The GLC was not around at the time, but had we been around I am sure that we would have given Shakespeare a grant.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

I am sure that the GLC, especially under my hon. Friend's chairmanship, would have given Shakespeare a grant. It would then no doubt have been attacked by Conservative Members for profligacy.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

As many people subsequently realised, Shakespeare to some extent re-wrote history in favour of the Tudors, which may have had something to do with the source of his funding.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

In his day and posthumously, Shakespeare was one of the richest men of all time, but the GLC would no doubt have given him a grant all the same.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

If he was that rich, he would no doubt have been contributing a great deal in tax and rates./

I feel that the drift of my speech has been somewhat lost, although I am glad to have stimulated so much activity on the Tory Benches. One could go on to talk about Leonardo da Vinci using photography and video but I shall not go into any further examples for fear of raising too much interest among Conservative Members. I have used those examples to demonstrate the clear link between art forms and the state of technology, a link which is not recognised in the enabling legislation relating to the arts.

The Local Government Act 1972 defines culture very much in 19th century terms—classical orchestral music, ballet, opera and art galleries—and no one would deny that they are art forms, but 20th century art forms such as television, photography, video, record distributions, community radio and community bookshops simply do not figure in that legislation. That is important. because, although authorities such as the GLC tried hard to promote cultural diversity, we found the legislation serverely lacking and at times exceedingly frustrating when we sought to extend the range of arts organisations to be funded.

The Minister, in his opening speech, congratulated the Government on muting the impact of the abolition of the GLC. In our last debate on this, I said that within six to 12 months Up to 100 arts organisations in London could cease to exist". — [Official Report, 28 February 1986; Vol. 92, c. 1183.] I would not wish to change one word of that, because the impact will be felt most in the ethnic and community arts sectors. It will not be evident to Ministers and hon. Members but it will be felt deeply by the communities affected.

Last Monday I asked the Minister a question about the black arts centre at the Roundhouse. I have received a letter from Remi Kapo who is doing his best to get things going at the Roundhouse. He says: I feel that it is unrealistic of the Arts Minister to expect a centre like the Roundhouse, in the light of the social situation that exists in Britain today, to be able to raise £8·5 million without the direct assistance of the state". Now that the GLC has gone, the only source in London of capital money for the arts has also gone. The Arts Council has got rid of its housing the arts budget. Capital constraints on local authorities are such that they cannot make capital contributions. Where can the black arts centre at the Roundhouse go for the money? I ask the Minister at least to meet representatives from the Roundhouse so that they can explain their position to him and so that he can consider their plight more sympathetically

When I walked into the Chamber today I had already predicted exactly who would be here because the subject attracts the same crowd. I recall years ago going to watch footbal matches. I turned up on the terrace and knew exactly who would be standing nearby and who would get the Bovril at half-time.

Some right hon. and hon. Members believe that we should not provide money for the arts. They believe that the arts should stand or fall according to their resources. The matter comes up frequently at Question Time. The arts have been supported from outside for a long time. We enjoyed a diversion earlier when we discussed Shakespeare. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the patronage of individuals enabled the arts to flourish. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the state has had that role. The state, on behalf of us all, not as an alien creation, invests in the arts. But many are still reluctant to acknowledge the state's role in cultural matters. Many think of the arts as an elusive private world rather than a complex social, economic and political structure.

The state works through non-elected quangos, which are given an assumed indentity to make them look as if they are elected bodies. They are described as councils. I think of the Arts Council the Sports Council, the British Council and the Press Council. The illusion is that they are democratic, but we know that they are not.

The state attempts to obscure its role in policy matters by adopting such spurious devices as the arm's length principle. I reject that principle. It is intendend to take the arts out of politics, but it does not. This debate is in a political forum. Under the arm's length principle Government influence is by remote control.

The appointees to all the quangos described as councils tend to reflect the same view of the world as the politicians who make the appointments. That is only human and is as true of a Labour Government as of a Conservative Government. This shows the high level of hypocrisy that exists in British politics all the time and not only now. We delude ourselves if we say that politics can be removed from certain areas of activity. It is said more and more in the House, especially by those who do not like what is going on in the various spheres of social activity, that politics should be taken out of education, the Civil Service, health and the arts, and Mr. Widdicombe more or less suggested that we should take politics out of local government. That cannot be done. We in this place should know as well as anyone that politics are central to all aspects of society's organisation, even to the quality of the air that we breathe. At one time we could say that the graveyard was the only place where politics did not intrude, but given the controversy surrounding the death benefit I am not sure about that now.

I have been assured by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan), who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench, that the next Labour Government will set up a Ministry of culture that will cover all cultural activities. It will operate as far as possible through elected local authorities.

The Minister has made great play about the amount of money that is being spent on the arts. I do not want to detain the House for too long by going through all the different forms of analysis that can be presented to show that instead of spending large sums on the arts, the Government have removed funding.

If I could find the document among all the detritus on the Bench from which I am speaking, I would refer the Minister to a statement that has been issued by the Arts Council which shows that on the basis of the retail price index—this was argued by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South—the arts have lost out in real terms since the Government were elected.

I shall not cross swords with the Minister on that arid topic. I shall merely contrast the amount that we spend on defence, which is £18,000 million a year, with the budget for the arts that is operated through the Minister's Office. Only 0·6 per cent. of the Government's expenditure for 1985–86 was directed to the arts. The values of a society that can spend such vast sums on weapons of death and destruction and so little on great creativity that the arts present for the people as a whole are all wrong.

We spend money on the arts because it is one of the finest areas of public investment in both social and economic terms. It is an investment in human creativity and there is no finer investment that we can make. It is in the arts and through the arts that we see people at their best, whether they are producers or consumers. The Minister has said that there are more people enjoying the arts than enjoy football matches. and that is true. Also we tend not to get the crowd violence at the opera house that we see, unfortunately, at football matches from time to time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South, has said that the Labour party would invest heavily in the arts. That is because the arts remove the blinkers from our eyes. The artist can convey powerful messages about the nature of the society in which a people live. That is why over the years, and in different systems, the artist has found that books have been burned and work has been suppressed. That has happened because of the immensely powerful medium that the arts presents for those who want to get over a message, and that is why the next Labour Government will invest in the arts in a big way. It is one of the finest forms of investment, and through the flourishing of the arts the British people will perhaps understand more of the nature of the society in which they live.

If cultural activity is taken as a whole, it is an extensive industry. The Musicians Union produced some evidence recently to show that copyright produces about 2·5 per cent. of gross national product. The amount is greater than that produced by the motor car industry and the food manufacturing industry. That shows the size of the cultural industries we are considering.

According to the institute of employment research at Warwick university, jobs in the leisure, artistic and sports category are set to increase by 30 per cent. during the 1980s. When that is added to the £6,000 million produced by the tourist industry, it can be seen that the cultural institutions are an enormous industry. The industry needs more planning, support and encouragement than it is getting from the Government. I look forward to the day when my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South, as Secretary of State, with a full Cabinet position — the head of a Ministry of culture— will unveil to a packed House—there will be more people in it than there are today—the new, cultural industry strategy of the new Labour Government.

1 pm

Photo of Mr Robert Rhodes James Mr Robert Rhodes James , Cambridge

I am not in complete disagreement with what the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) said. I shall present my case to the House. My first book was published when I was 26 years of age. It was the first of 14 books which I have written. That book is about to be reissued. I never received a penny of public money to be an historian and to write my books. I am a supporter of Government assistance and support for the arts. I should like the hon. Gentleman and the House to hear in mind that some people who entered the fields of music, art and literature have had to do so alone. Perhaps we have been better off—not financially —as a result.

I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Blaenau, Gwent (Mr. Foot) is not present. I thought that it was fairly typical to try to attract Byron back to Oxford from Cambridge. I have a high regard for the right hon. Gentleman because he was the author of "The Pen and the Sword", which I still regard as one of the finest biographies, if not the finest, written in the past 30 years.

I welcome the opportunity to make a brief intervention, not least because it is the first occasion I have had to congratulate, publicly, my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts on his appointment. He and I served happily in the Foreign Office under the leadership of Lord Carrington. I am glad that my right hon. Friend is in his present position. Perhaps I should declare an interest in public lending right in that last year over 20,000 people borrowed my books. As this week has been, so far, the best week for higher education in this Parliament, I hope that this benign generosity will continue.

As the House is aware, there are five university museums—Cambridge, Oxford, Birmingham, London and Glasgow—whose costs are still met exclusively from the budget of the University Grants Committee. There has been a consistent annual reduction in the universities' budgets, in real terms, of 2 per cent. That has had a particularly strong effect on the universities and museums which are inevitably at the bottom of the list of priorities.

If I declare a personal interest in the case of Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge, it is not simply because it is in my constituency. My father's first cousin, the late Montague Rhodes James, who was most famous for his ghost stories, was the provost of King's and Eton, and the second director of the Fitzwilliam.

With the exception of occasional donations and assistance for acquisitions, the museums are still treated as though they are part of universities; whereas in reality they are national institutions of real quality and importance. I remember, as a schoolboy, the great benefit I received from the Ashmolean in Oxford. The museums are not just for the universities; they are for the people of the cities, visitors, tourists and scholars. To regard them simply as part of the universities is, in my view, a ridiculous anachronism. I have made that point to previous Secretaries of State and I reiterate it to the new one. I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts to discuss this matter with the new Secretary of State and to look hard at this lamentable anachronism.

Obviously, we in Cambridge are delighted by the news that the Royal Observatory is coming to Cambridge. We are grateful for the student grant review. As the vice-president of the appeal fund for Ely cathedral, I am delighted by the help that we have received from John Paul Getty II and the deserved honour that he has received. As trustee of the Cambridge symphony orchestra, I have looked again at the way in which the Budget has assisted the arts and the heritage.

Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts in his discussions with the my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will, while thanking and praising him for the changes in the Finance Bill, emphasise that this is a good first step but should not be regarded as the end of encouragement to business, industry and individuals to invest and to promote not only their past but their children's future in all elements of the arts.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock , Portsmouth South 1:06 pm, 20th June 1986

I apologise to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. and to the Minister for having to leave after my contribution but I have to attend an important artistic event in my constituency — my daughter is dancing in the local festival —and I am committed to being there to see that major achievement.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock , Portsmouth South

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman thinks so.

The Minister hit the nail on the head when he commented on the lack of Social Democratic party policy on the arts. That lack is regrettable but I am pleased to say, and I am sure that the Minister will be pleased to hear, that we hope that the SDP's new policy on the arts will be produced by the end of July. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will eagerly await a copy. I am sure that it is aimed in the right direction.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

Will the hon. Gentleman assure the House that, if that document is produced by the SDP, it will not immediately be repudiated by its leader?

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock , Portsmouth South

I shall come later to the finer details of how we arrived at that policy.

The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) rightly drew attention to the quote that he and my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) used. They drew the attention of the arts world and the population generally to the importance of the newer forms of the arts, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). They both used the examples of "The Boys from the Blackstuff" and "Cathy Come Home".

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock , Portsmouth South

The hon. Member for Paisley, South did so. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West drew attention to the lack of importance given to new forms of the arts.

Hon. Members used those programmes to stress the importance of the artistic ability of the writer and the performer to bring across to the population the many things that were wrong in society and the reasons why there had been deterioration to such an extent that the new form of television production was the only effective way of getting them across. That is an important point.

It is no secret that there has always been a certain unease in the relationship between artists and politicians. It has been increased of late by the master and servant relationship which has been such a feature of the Tory approach. That unease could be dispelled if the arts were made an issue of state. The arts are generally in need of that reassurance. I am glad to say that the alliance is pledged and committed to make the arts an essential part of its political manifesto at the next general election.

There is no civilised society that does not recognise and respect artistic endeavour. There can surely be no healthy society where the arts are not vital to society's well-being. I hope that there is no future Government, of whatever persuasion, who do not aim to encourage the arts and to promote public participation in and appreciation of the arts.

An effective cultural policy cannot be separated from the philosophy which it informs. Equally, it must embody a vision of society and an awareness of the consequences of current social change. At no time in recent history has our society faced such a rapid and overpowering change as it does now. It is a technological and social change for which our political institutions are, regrettably, insufficiently prepared. Meanwhile, two issues are being pushed from the political fringe to the main stream of the new political agenda and that push is long overdue. Those two subjects are the arts and the environment. Therefore, the importance of a cultural policy as an essential part of any political party's manifesto has never been more apparent or more important.

In the 1960s much argument was devoted to what was labelled the technological society of the future. That future is now with us. Much has also been written about the increased leisure time, a concept which many hon. Members justly feel has been done to death. Yet increased leisure time has arrived for a significant number of people in the form of dehumanising and debilitating unemployment. How can questions concerning educational objectives be answered satisfactorily? I shall try to expose the weakness in the current policy and what we should be doing in the future to answer that undoubted need.

In a post-industrial society the arts policy has a vital educational role to play, offering a range of solutions to questions about lifestyle and the use of time in the increasingly leisured age in which we find ourselves. It is not always commonly assumed that the Government have responsibility for leisure and the creation of pleasure. However, the ancient and unquestioned issues of state, such as defence, education and health, are merely self-serving if detached from the more central objective; the creation of a civilised society which combines work with leisure and labour with pleasure. The arts are inseparable from a civilised society and we must accept, once and for all, that the arts are an issue of state in their own right and should be recognised as such.

The structural reform which I believe we undoubtedly need is having to be looked at seriously and hopefully that reform will take place. Nowhere is the divorce of the arts from the old issues of state more apparent than in the structure of the state support for the arts. The machinery of government is at fault. Broadcasting comes under the Home Office, heritage comes under the Department of the Environment, the arts in education comes under the Department of Education and Science, the promotion of arts abroad comes under the Foreign Office. the subsidised arts are sponsored by the Office of Arts and Libraries and the commercial arts, until 1985, were primarily a matter for the Department of Trade and Industry.

Can you imagine, Mr. Deputy Speaker, any Government structure more calculated to avoid all possibility of a coherent cultural policy? We must not continue to bind ourselves in a deep-rooted fear of a centralised Ministry of culture. We should all urge the Government and any future Government to reform the structure to create that Ministry, which is undoubtedly needed, and in whose support so many hon. Members have spoken.

I am glad to say—I draw the attention of the hon. Member for Paisley, South to this point—that I and my colleagues in the Social Democratic party have at long last got our act together as regards our arts policy and our Liberal partners have devoted much of their time to the debate. Although our deliberations have been independent, I am glad to say that on this issue we came to the same conclusion.

There are basic and practical reasons why there should be a Ministry for the Arts, combining the areas of common purpose, such as the arts and libraries, broadcasting and film. It is equally right and important that the Minister for the Arts should have Cabinet status. I hope that the alliance, if in a position of power, will propose that that responsibility should be exercised by one of the three non-departmental Cabinet Ministers, with the day-to-day responsibility resting with a Minister of State.

The cultural quangos which have been spoken about by other hon. Members are things that the alliance would like to see fundamentally changed. We also share the anxiety over the position of non-Government cultural bodies such as the Arts Council, the BBC, the British Film Institute, the Museums and Galleries Commission and the Crafts Council. The concept of freedom and choice has come to be embodied in the arms length principle that other hon. Members have mentioned. However, that important principle has increasingly come under attack from Right and Left. I suggest that the Left denies its continued usefulness as a principle, while the Right abuses it by appointing to the quangos those who share the same political preferences.

We in the alliance deplore those positions, and find them wholly unacceptable. We favour the retention of at least some quangos, but we are equally committed to radical reform of quangos by having directly elected people from regional organisations on them. Hon. Members might make the normal accusation that a balancing act is apparent in those suggestions but, as the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) said, what is needed is for change to be taken a step at a time. The abolition of quangos in some areas and better ways of appointing members of quangos are the first steps that we should take. Therefore, I feel that the setting up of a Ministry is of prime importance, to give the arts the involvement that they undoubtedly need.

I refer to the financing of the arts. Now that they are under pressure to offer a wider-ranging and more comprehensive service to society, it is obvious that extra resources must be found for them, yet no Government —I make no exception for the alliance—can promise that vast increases in funds will be readily available: nor can the arts simply mark up their prices and still maintain access to everyone.

There is a need for local authorities to produce a four-year arts development plan for submission to their regional arts associations, which could issue challenge funds for a range of agreed developments over that four-year planning period. The main concern would be to enable an expansion of resources by a participative approach, which would buttress the arts grant system with tax incentive structures and other legislative and fiscal measures. That w ill undoubtedly become apparent in our document, which I hope will be published by the end of July.

One effective method of encouraging private citizens to give to the arts would be to extend direct tax breaks to the private donor. That would attract greater spontaneity of generosity than is currently possible under the unwieldy four-year covenant system, and it would provide an obvious incentive to the donor to do more.

I have outlined some of the ways of financing the arts, but it must be stressed that direct Government expenditure must be forthcoming and must be seen in a more creative way than it is now. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have talked about the difficulties in which many people in the arts find themselves over VAT, and hon. Members have also rightly brought to the attention of the Minister the National Campaign for the Arts' latest handout, which refers to the sum of £140 million a year that the Exchequer gets directly from the arts. What a major step forward it would be if such resources could be directed back to the arts. What a major boost it would be at all levels if that innocuous sum could be put aside. I hope that the Minister will seriously consider the points made by his colleagues on that matter.

The first phase of any increase should aim to achieve a fairer balance of expenditure between regions where investment in the arts has been low and metropolitan London where investment has been highest. The second phase should allow a general increase in per capita expenditure throughout the country. The implications of an enlightened arts policy extend far beyond the artistic community. The advance of information technology and cable and satellite will pose fresh challenges not only to a Government but to an artistic world through the 1990s and into the next century.

The increase of tourism and leisure time will necessitate the upkeep of Britain's cultural image and the expansion of its cultural resources. The political view that there are no votes in the arts is outdated and misguided. The alliance has the will to act as a catalyst to the abundance of British artistic talent and to invest in that potentially powerful industry. The failure of any political party or politician to recognise that would be a major folly.

My constituency of Portsmouth is rich in heritage and flourishing in the arts world. Nevertheless, the only theatre in the city of Portsmouth, the King's theatre, is under grave threat, once again through lack of resources and the lack of ability to produce the goods that are needed in an area with a population of nearly 250,000 people. Once again, VAT has grave implications for the organisation that runs the theatre. Valued though its attempts are to sustain the theatre, it cannot go on indefinitely trying to achieve what is best artistically in the city of Portsmouth. I do not want that theatre to close, or the theatre to suffer in my constituency. The Government should be committed to helping theatres such as the King's theatre and others in the south which are struggling. That can be done only if there is a change of heart in the Government towards the way in which they treat the arts in general and theatres in particular.

In an area so rich in heritage as Portsmouth and Hampshire, enormous bonuses could he obtained from investment in the right area, not only by creating more tourism but by creating instant jobs by opening more of our heritage to more people. It is sad that, after 50 to 60 years, people will be charged to visit HMS Victory. The same is true for museums. Charges will be a deterrent to people taking their families to visit major attractions such as HMS Victory. There is so much wealth in our heritage that the Government should be able to identify areas of special interest and place resources there. A few million pounds invested in pump-priming exercises would show a return not only of many hundreds of jobs but of countless millions of pounds brought into the country through tourism.

I hope that today's debate is not exceptional, and that we need not wait another two years for a debate on the arts. The hon. Member for Paisley, South said that the previous large-scale debate on the arts was on 14 June 1984. That is interesting, because it is the day on which I was elected to the House.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

We cannot have everything can we?

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock , Portsmouth South

The excuse that day was that many Tory Members had to be in Portsmouth, South, defending that Tory seat from my challenge. Their presence hindered their candidate's ambitions of getting here, and helped mine. It was distasteful that the Government used my by-election and the European elections to hide the arts debate then, and they are using a Friday today.

I hope that the number of hon. Members who have taken part in the debate shows the Minister that he has the sympathy of the House. All that he needs is the strength to take this issue to the Cabinet and get more resources from the Government.

I apologise for leaving the Chamber now, but on this occasion my family is more important than this place.

Photo of Mr Gerald Bowden Mr Gerald Bowden , Dulwich 1:22 pm, 20th June 1986

The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) indulged in a romantic reverie about the ideal future—the Socialist utopia—in which the arts would be fully funded by the state, or fully directed by the state. Did he take into account the reality in areas where local authorities have a responsibility to promote the arts but have reacted in a small-minded and philistine way? I cite examples in my constituency. The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) kept his conscience clean by saying that he did not buy The Times, but he took advantage of the copies in the Library. Such privileges are not available to my constituents who cannot read some newspapers in the public libraries because of the censorship exercised by Southwark borough council. The council refuses to stock some newspapers, for political reasons. Is that the generous attitude to the arts which the Socialist authorities of the future will adopt? If it is, we should note it now.

I noted also the patronizing—if not denigrating and disparaging — way in which the hon. Member for Paisley, South quoted the firm which said that it wished to sponsor only those exhibitions with which it felt comfortable. Has he considered the activities with which Socialist Councils feel comfortable? In my constituency, there is a fine heritage site at Nunhead cemetery. It is a remarkable legacy from the past. Through beneficial neglect, it has become a nature reserve with wildlife exceptional in south London. An enthusiastic band of people have formed themselves into the friends of Nunhead cemetery to help to preserve and conserve it and to ensure that the facilities are made known to the area and treasured by it. But they are prohibited by the restrictive trade union attitudes of Southwark borough council from taking any part in maintaining the paths or clearing the ground.

Is that the way to harness enthusiasm for and participation in the arts? Is this how a Socialist authority will in future supervise, mastermind and direct the arts? If so, there is every reason to have "The Glory of the Garden", with a great deal of diverse funding and activities, rather than one central coherent cultural policy. That would be the dead hand which would devastate the flowering of the arts.

The Globe playhouse and Shakespeare's role in Southwark was referred to earlier, and I am pleased to see that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) is now present. We have seen the absurd hostility which Southwark council has directed towards this imaginative scheme, and I wonder whether the Opposition spokesman for the arts will use his influence to assist Southwark council towards enlightenment and to encourage it to reconsider the matter.

It is interesting to note that Shakespeare, who has been prayed in aid for the Opposition's view, worked at diverse levels. He produced great art, as we now recognise it; he produced popular entertainment, as we might now perceive it; and he was involved in a commercial activity which made great profit, to the ultimate benefit of the community at large. Edward Alleyn, the actor-manager of Shakespeare's company, made a great fortune which he used to establish schools in the southern end of the borough in Dulwich. He left other charitable bequests for the care for the young and the elderly.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

I thought for a moment that the hon. Gentleman was about to claim that Shakespeare was one of his constituents. Returning to the reconstruction of the Globe in Southwark, has the hon. Gentleman spoken to the Minister to see whether any funds are coming from that source, because Southwark borough council is extremely hard-pressed?

Photo of Mr Gerald Bowden Mr Gerald Bowden , Dulwich

It is a matter of planning rather than of funding, and the hon. Gentleman may like to use some of his influence on his Socialist colleagues on Southwark council. If we could overcome their inexplicable hostility to an imaginative cultural centre, it would do a great deal to regenerate life in an otherwise deprived part of London. I know that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey will forgive me for putting it in that way. I wish that Southwark council would think again. What I say will have no influence, but what the Opposition say may influence it.

From Edward Alleyn's schools and almshouses came the offshoot of a most interesting private gallery, the Dulwich picture gallery. I shall not go into its history, but a series of incidental and almost accidental events produced a magnificent collection of pictures of worldwide fame and status. The gallery is private -and responsible for its own upkeep, but it has harnessed the community to it in a most constructive way. It makes an entry charge. I have no qualms about that, because many people are prepared, and indeed happy, to pay to see this great private benefaction. It has brought into play the friends of the Dulwich gallery who give of their services, time, expertise and enthusiasm voluntary to ensure that the gallery is staffed in a way which would not be possible if salaries had to be paid for their attendance.

I am grateful to the Minister's predecessor for looking favourably on the appeal launched by the Dulwich gallery to improve its security. It received sums from institutional donors, individuals and the Government, for which the people of Dulwich are extremely grateful. The Dulwich picture gallery appeal had a mixed bunch of contributions, rather than funding from a single source. I see that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is present. In a previous incarnation he made some contribution to the Dulwich gallery as chairman of the arts committee of Greater London council. It was gratefully received, but it was not without strings, whereas that which came from Government came freely and without any pressure.

Multiple funding and support is a strength of arts provision in Britain. I hope that I shall be forgiven by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) if I trespass into his constituency, but I recently came upon a most interesting form of private enterprise provision in the arts, which, perhaps, cannot be found elsewhere.

A private gallery has been established on the island of Portland on the Chesil beach. Those who walk along that wild, romantic seafront come across a small stone building which is an art gallery. One might not think of that part of Portland as a centre of arts excellence, but this gallery plays a full part in community life there. It is multi-faceted. It recently mounted an exhibition on the work being done to improve the seaworthiness of the Chesil beach. The firm of civil engineers involved sponsored an exhibition at the gallery to show the local community what is happening. The arts are being used as a form of communication and community adherence there.

The gallery was founded by an enthusiastic individual who had been a teacher in an art school. She wants to give young artists who are unable to get sponsorship through commercial galleries or those who wish to display their work without going through the difficulties of mounting an exhibition in a big gallery the opportunity to show their work while living in the gallery. That has not been promoted by the local authority or the Arts Council: it might be described as private patronage. It is the sort of initiative to be encouraged.

I fear that, if we had a Minister of culture and a "coherent culture and arts policy", there would be no momentum for such private promotion. The opportunity would still exist, but without that blend of enthusiasm, challenge and a hint of commerce it would lack spark. I wholeheartedly applaud the approach which my right hon. Friend the Minister has taken. We should not look to just one source to finance the arts. We should seek pluralism. In that way, we will ensure the strength of the arts so that they may flourish, their independence assured.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher , Stoke-on-Trent Central 1:33 pm, 20th June 1986

No Opposition Member would disagree with the hon. Member for Dulwich (M r. Bowden) about a plural approach to the arts. We complain that the Government are neglecting their resposibilities as part of that plurality.

The hon. Member for Dulwich will remember that the Minister's predecessor, Lord. Gowrie, had a high profile as the Minister with responsibility for the arts. When he was Minister, the arts were on the political agenda. At least, the Minister was on television. That might not be quite the same thing, but Lord Gowrie felt that the two were synonymous. Unfortunately, the energy and activity that he brought to the arts and art policy was almost wholly destructive.

Under the new Minister, the Government have returned to the more usual quietude, near passivity, even, possibly, torpor in regard to arts policy. Perhaps most people in the arts world would say that that passivity is preferable to the damage wrought by his predecessor.

If someone cannot do good, he should at least do nothing. The Minister's languid non-style demonstrated just how that passive attitude towards the arts has developed in the Government's thinking. I listened carefully to the Minister's speech and shall take up some of his points. He laid down what he believed was an adequate framework for the arts. He used words such as challenge, tremendous, outstanding, and immense, which were all verbal attempts to inject vigour into a policy that was noticeable for its lack of it. No amount of tired adjectives can hide the complete inadequacy of the Government's policy towards the arts.

The Minister said that after 10 years, business sponsorship now amounted to £20 million out of his figure of £320 million spent on the arts. That is less than 7 per cent. It was complained that that was not even on the margin. One must agree that 7 per cent. represents a very marginal element of expenditure on the arts. The Minister also referred to private patronage and spoke about the generosity of John Paul Getty and the not entirely unconnected fact that he was made a knight. He also mentioned Mrs. Sainsbury—perhaps she can expect to be made a dame in the near future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) said that the Government's policies were more like those pursued in the 19th century. Typically, he was being too generous. In lauding private patronage, the Minister was bravely leading the country back to the 18th century. The Government can certainly take no credit when it comes to funding the arts. They are doing little to promote private patronage through tax incentives even though that might be consistent with their views.

Undoubtedly some very good things flow from private patronage. One need think only of the Sainsbury bequest to the University of East Anglia, which represents a most remarkable embellishment of that part of the world and is much to be welcomed. But such bequests reflect no credit on the Government and do not represent an adequate national policy for the arts. The Minister also referred to Budget changes, and to immense opportunity. Perhaps he could put some figures on that benefit. He shakes his head, because he probably knows full well that those changes will have a minimal impact on the arts. If he demurs, he should tell us what the benefit to the arts would will be in cash terms.

The Minister also exhorted people to attend performances. We would all agree with that, as it is a fine and laudable aim. But it is riot an adequate policy for expanding the range and variety of audiences or for making the arts available to everyone. His words would have more impact if he was prepared to put pressure on the Chancellor of the Exchequer in order to abolish VAT on the performing arts. That, together with a more expanded economy would have an effect on audiences

The Minister made great play of marketing and claimed that Opposition Members and many of those in the arts thought that marketing was a dirty word. That is absolute nonsense. One of the best examples of marketing the arts that the world has ever known was supplied by the Labour-controlled GLC. It did more than anyone to promote, energise and excite people about the arts in Greater London. Marketing was its speciality. When the GLC existed, one could not open a newspaper without seeing well-designed, attractive and seductive advertisements telling people to visit the South bank or other projects. One seldom sees such advertisements for the South bank now, perhaps because the South bank is under-financed and cannot promote its programmes which were, of course, inherited from the GLC.

Thus the Government's policy is one of marketing, increased exhortation to attendance, tax changes, private patronage and business sponsorship. They are the old Conservative nostrums. They all have a part to play, and no one doubts that. My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) made it clear that the Labour party believes in a pluralist approach. All of those aspects of policy have a role to play, but they do not add up to a national policy. Thus the Government's policy is totally inadequate. The Government do not even begin to address the wider variety of the arts or the need for experimentation, for education, and for community arts, or the needs of rural areas, public libraries and arts centres. All those things must play a role in the arts, but none of them is assisted by any of the policies outlined by the Minister.

The truth is that this Government have created a crisis in the arts that has demoralised artists and administrators throughout the country. If the Minister listens to those he meets when he travels throughout the country, he will know that that is true. If he has not heard that, he has not met the right people. Those administering or creating the arts and the audiences say that the Government's policies. are wholly inadequate. The Minister must be deaf or be: meeting only a selective range of people because one has. to tread carefully to meet people in the arts world who congratulate the Government on their policies.

Some vital and exciting things are happening in the arts because of the Arts Council, such as the building of the Victoria theatre in Stoke-on-Trent — the first purpose-built theatre in the round in this country, rather amazingly. It will be a magnificent theatre and I urge the Minister to visit it. We are grateful to the Arts Council and local authorities for making it possible. However, that does not disguise the fact that so much could and should be happening that is new, exciting and good in the arts. That is not happening because the arts are under funded and administrators are being distracted by having to rush around defending their budgets against inflation and other factors.

The Minister mentioned funding, especially that for the Arts Council. Can he confirm that in a recent letter to the Arts Council—which I understand is not confidential—he indicated that the 1987–88 grant would include an increase of only 2·5 per cent? Can he further confirm that such an increase would be below the likely rate of retail price index inflation? Does he, as a fair-minded man, accept that RPI inflation is not the same as inflation in the arts, which are very labour-intensive? The arts have particular problems, so even if the grant were protected against the normal rate of inflation, it would not be adequate to protect the Arts Council's clients in that year. I should be grateful if the Minister would answer those points when he replies.

If I am right in my fear, the Minister must admit that it is a cut in real terms, and inevitably the whole regional development thrust of the Arts Council will have to be frozen. The Minister will know from previous debates that I am not one who fully likes "The Glory of the Garden". I accept that it was probably better than nothing as a regional policy, but although its critique that too much money was being centralised on London was correct, its remedy and treatment were faulty. There is a danger that it will simply recreate in the centres of excellence the same imbalance regionally as hitherto there was nationally.

There must be a dimension to "The Glory of the Garden" for rural areas, arts centres, diversity and touring, which did not have a look in in that document. However, I accept that it is the right direction for the Arts Council, if the wrong specific development. If the Arts Council is to suffer a cut in real terms yet again, that policy will probably have to go as well.

The Minister attempted to make us believe that everything was fine with funding for metropolitan counties. That is not true. Because of the work of local authorities—and no thanks to the Minister—the damage from abolition that could have been wrought on the arts has, for this year, been prevented to some extent. I welcome last week's agreement with Merseyside city council about funding. However, the Minister must acknowledge that even that agreement will leave half a dozen clients—for example, the Philharmonic hall—with a shortfall of funds.

The Minister's idea that everything is fine on Merseyside and elsewhere is simply not true and he knows that because he is a fair-minded man. The situation may not be so bad as some of us feared, but that is thanks to the local authorities. All is far from well this year and the impact of abolition for the metropolitan areas in 1987–88 will be grim indeed. Is it true that the Arts Council funds to address the problems of abolition in 1987–88 are to be tapered from £25 million to £21 million? Is the Minister still asking local authorities to find £4 million more, and how does he intend to resolve that problem? Will he urge his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to release local government from its financial constraints so that it can address that and the many other problems facing it?

There is one further specific point to be dealt with in this catalogue of questions about the Arts Council. Will the Minister side with the Arts Council in its attempt to get a fair deal for visual artists and photographers who, in my view and that of experts who know far more about the subject than I do, are being put in a highly invidious position by the Government's failure to ratify and implement the Berne convention. As I am sure the Minister knows, counsel's opinion is that section 4(3) of the Copyright Act 1956 is in contravention of the Berne convention and is enormously to the prejudice of visual artists and photographers. Will the Minister join the Arts Council in putting pressure on the Department of Trade and Industry to resolve the matter and to ensure that new legislation equalises the position and brings it into line with the Berne convention? I think that that will cost the Minister nothing, but the arts world, and especially the visual arts, will be extremely grateful.

To return to my central point about the funding of the Arts Council in the metropolitan areas, the whole thrust of expansion of the arts in those areas has been lost. The money may have been saved, but the enormous drive that those authorities — as bodies as well as funding organisations — to expand the arts in those areas has been lost, together with the impulsion towards new audiences and new ways of looking at arts provision and further expansion of arts content. The metropolitan authorities and even the GLC had only begun a process that must continue for the good of the arts world. They gave a brief glimpse of the kind of arts culture that would benefit this country and reflect all aspects of life in this country, an arts culture that would reflect in our cities and rural areas the views, aspirations and ideals of minorities as well as wider communities, of those who dissent from what the Government are doing as well as those who applaud it, those who are suffering under the Government as well as those in other parts of the country who are prospering, those who are angry at what is happening in our society and wish to change it as well as those who are content. The arts policy of the metropolitan counties allowed that variety of expression and that kind of vision of the world in which we live, and that is what the arts should be doing.

The metropolitian counties were also starting to increase the audience for the arts as well as training in the arts, but there is a great deal more to do. I am sure that the Minister, like other hon. Members, will have received letters from constituents who have enormous talent, or whose children have enormous talent, but cannot go to the drama, dance and music schools that they need, and to which the country needs them to go, because they can no longer obtain discretionary awards. Some of the most frustrating and tragic constituency cases involve young people with talent, ability and great enthusiasm whom local authorities are having to inform that there is no money for discretionary awards so they cannot help them develop into dancers, visual artists or actors. The Government are saying, "If you have money, fine, you have a chance to develop. If you have no money, tough luck." That is not fair to the individuals. It is not good for the arts or for the country that such talent should be wasted. What does the Minister intend to do to address the question of discretionary awards and in-service training?

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The hon. Gentleman's remarks are pertinent to me because recently I was told about a 12-year-old who is an excellent dancer with a wonderful pedigree and background but who is unable to obtain the funding to go to the only place in Britain to give her a chance of a career as a dancer. The problem affects not only teenagers and young adults, but the very young. Other countries which attach importance to culture ensure that young people with talent are supported.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher , Stoke-on-Trent Central

I agree. Such young people will not necessarily be Nureyevs, David Hockneys or Janet Smiths, but they should be allowed to develop their love of and interest in the arts and to provide the basis of the new audience which will comprise not only middle class people with an enriched education or people with a home background that widens their appreciation, but be a wider and new audience. To some extent local authorities were helping to develop that wider audience. I hope that the Government will examine seriously the possibility of imposing a mandatory rate so that all local authorities will be able to take the arts as seriously as the metropolital authorities took them.

We must consider the importance of the rural areas. We must establish arts centres in such areas and encourage touring dance and drama groups, large and small, to perform before expanding audiences. We must target interest on the neglected sectors and potential audiences.

I am thinking of the ethnic minorities and the rich mutual exchange of arts culture and arts dialogue. The new and wider audiences will come from the young through theatre and dance in education, artists in residence and writers in schools. Arts education must be built into the core curriculum and should be part of the core teacher-training curriculum. It is important that primary school teachers in particular have an understanding and love of arts teaching.

The excellent Gulbenkian report lies on the shelves gathering dust because of lack of funds. That is a tragedy. The majority of young people experience no educational drama. In some secondary schools they have that opportunity, but the majority of secondary schools are not able to offer such education. The majority of young people experience no dance education. The visual arts are crammed in with design technology, which is an insult to the worthy elements of a curriculum.

Children leave school without confidence in their ability to think or express their feelings through creative writing. The awful truth is that many young people leave school without visiting the theatre, a museum or a gallery and without having been to a dance performance or concert. They have never even been given the taste of the possible horizons. The Minister might find that hard to believe, but it is true throughout the country.

The Minister should address the neglect of young people which will make it impossible to create the wider audience. There is no sense in what the Minister is doing. The arts are central to life and to the life of our young people. The arts are important in terms of how we see our world and how we interpret it, to the stories that we tell ourselves and to the way in which we help each other to look at the world around us. They are important to the way that we open our eyes and express ourselves. All that is important to our young people and to the health of our society. Unfortunately, the Government are doing little to expand the waiting audience that could be benefiting in so many ways. It is sad that the Government lack the necessary vision. It was certainly not apparent in the Minister's speech, well intentioned though he is. If the Government have a policy, it tends to be one—this is the view that is expressed by Conservative Back Benchers rather than by the Minister—that is based on the arts being a placebo. Conservative Members regard the arts as a source of pleasure and decoration and, possibly, even a distraction from the problems that face our society, but that is not enough for the arts. The arts must be much more than that. They must be challenging. They must extend our vision and make us question and reflect on our life, our culture and the way in which we interact. The arts must concentrate our minds and thoughts rather than distract us. That is a vision for the arts that the Government lack.

Serious though the underfunding and under-resourcing of the arts are, it is a fact that we have a Government and a Minister with responsibilities for the arts, well- intentioned though he is personally, who lack the necessary vision. That is why the arts arc in crisis. That is why artists throughout the country are despairing. Incidentally, they are waiting with impatience for the next general election so that they can vote for a Labour Government who will have the necessary vision and will provide the funds to implement it.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North 1:56 pm, 20th June 1986

I could not possibly go down the same road as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher), especially as it led to an absurd and unacceptable conclusion upon which the nation will repudiate him within two years of this moment, or thereabouts.

The hon. Member said that when many children leave school they are unable to express themselves through creative writing. That is an extravagant claim. If children leave school with that inability, that must be the result of bad teaching. There has never been a time when there has been a richer culture for our children. Some television programmes, for example, are bad and crude, but many of them are extremely rich. Children are able to pick up much from television as well as from reading.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

The hon. Gentleman spoke for 26 minutes and I believe that I should be allowed to continue uninterrupted.

I am currently marking 500 or 600 English language examination papers at O-level or above. They include some most interesting and imaginative essays that are full of highly creative writing on all sorts of topics. They come from all parts of the country, including deprived areas, the hon. Gentleman's assertion is bunkum.

It has been tedious to listen to a catalogue of woe from the Opposition Benches, including those occupied by the Liberal and SDP parties, which has been directed only to money. It seems that Opposition Members have no concept of the content of the arts, no concept of the joy of beholding a piece of sculpture, reading a fine book or watching a fine film. There is none of that concept on the Opposition benches.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

As I have said, I listened to the hon. Gentleman for 26 minutes and I have a right to make my contribution.

The danger of the Opposition's approach is to undermine the role that individuals and groups of individuals can play. It is all very well to sit back and feel good because millions of pounds of other people's money are being spent on the arts, but individuals want to make their own contribution to the arts according to their means as well as to other things. The Opposition are wrong to overlook that attitude and to dismiss it.

It will be recalled that £71 million of the former GLC's money was redistributed to the London boroughs recently, including Labour-controlled boroughs. For example, £4·2 million was received by the London borough of Ealing. Not one penny of that sum has gone into the arts. That was a windfall if ever there was one for that borough, and other boroughs had similar windfalls. That is true right across London. It is dreadful that none of the money has been directed to the arts.

I know the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan) well and regard him highly and I am sorry that he is not in his place. I was surprised by his assertion that the museums are charging. The hon. Gentleman sat with me on the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts. We heard the Minister—he is in his place today—say to that Committee only a few weeks ago that contributions to museums were contributions only. They were made voluntarily. It was additional money for the work of the museums and would never become charges under the Government. The hon. Gentleman said that they were charges and that the Government had something to answer for. He was not even-handed when he said that.

Recently, in written and oral questions, I asked about the future of the Sadler's Wells theatre. I ask my right hon. Friend in his response to the debate, to reiterate the Government's commitment, in principle and morally, to the Arts Council and to the work of Sadler's Wells, which is greatly appreciated in London and elsewhere. On more than one occasion recently, Sadler's Wells has found itself threatened with possible closure. If that theatre feels that it has the moral support of the Government, the Arts Council—in terms of cash—the support of the public. which unquestionably it has, the support of industry, business, and so on, it can have confidence in its future. I am sure that the theatre has a rich future and that it is appreciated by hon. Members.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) referred indirectly to newspapers and magazines. There is no greater expression of the nation's ability to read, write, think, argue, discuss, debate and develop points than our diverse newspaper industry. That includes magazines and the rich background of book writing and pamphleteering. Newspapers and magazines on tape are available for the blind and the elderly. If the elderly can no longer see they can listen to tapes.

Newspapers have always been available in public libraries in this country for anyone wishing to read them. They are available in the Library of the House of Commons. The newspapers available and distributed in libraries have always included way out publications, from my point of view—it may not be everyone's point of view — such as the former Daily Worker and the Morning Star of today. Such newspapers are dedicated to undermining our political system.

Sadly, many Labour authorities are banning The Times, the Sun and other National Union of Journalists newspapers from libraries which, after all, are run by public funds. That deprives those who wish to read newspapers of their right to do so. The Labour party must face the fact that that is censorship of a serious and unacceptable kind. The country is disturbed about it. A council in Ealing has banned newspapers from Ealing's libraries which have been available for generations. The public, some of whom voted Labour, are up in arms about that, and rightly so.

If it is the duty of the House to support the arts—that includes one's right to read what one wishes and one's right to say what one wishes, within the law—it must follow that it is outright censorship and downright aggression by the Labour party that newspapers should be banned. The Labour party must face the hard word censorship, which it does not like.

If such action increased and if newspapers such as The Guardian and The Observer were banned, we would be reduced to a Russian position, where people are allowed only to read Pravda. That is a logical conclusion to what the Labour party is doing in many boroughs.

If Labour local authorities take it upon themselves to censor newspapers and magazines, the Government have a duty to preserve freedom of speech. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will exercise the powers which I believe he has under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 to order those local authorities to ensure that The Times, The Sun and the other publications which have been banned in that Fascist manner are restored to libraries.

Freedom of speech is fundamental to the life of the nation. When it is attacked, as I have described, the House has a duty unremittingly to keep the matter before the nation. Conservative Members will continue to do that. We are not concerned with what is happening at Wapping. That is a different issue.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

It is a different issue. The central issue is a man's freedom to read and to speak. I shall not go into the rights and wrongs of Wapping, because that is another matter. It is outrageous that the Labour party allowed it to happen and condoned it in the House. I hope that Labour Members will change their minds and support freedom of speech, as they have always done.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South 2:06 pm, 20th June 1986

By leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to pick up the last point made by the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway). I shall fight side-by-side with the hon. Gentleman in defence of the presence of publications in libraries, so long as he will join with me in condemning the monopoly whereby about three people, including Murdoch and Maxwell, dominate the press. That is infinitely worse than any censorship exerted by any local authority. We have fewer newspapers than any other major country. There are aspects of expression and ideas which are not reflected by the press. There is a monopoly by the class supported by the hon. Gentleman. I shall go along with the hon. Member for Ealing, North to defend publications if he will join me in my condemnation. I have said that publicly; let him say the same.

Will the hon. Member for Ealing, North, come with me to see the major wholesalers—Menzies and Smith—and insist that they offer at every outlet every journal published in this country? If he does, I shall go with him on a deputation to his local council in relation to the local library. I shall leave it at that, unless the hon. Gentleman says yes.

A number of valuable points have been put forward but I have to concentrate on only a few of the main themes. I should like to pick up a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher), supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), on abolition. We are concerned not just with funding but with the fact that the abolished local authorities were those that had given us a vision of the type of developments that can play a part in the arts. One of the greatest tragedies for the arts has been the fact that abolition is destroying those local authorities.

Conservative Members claim that there has been full restitution of funding. On the contrary, there are two major aspects where there is still a calamitous and potentially dangerous situation. There are not only the half a dozen companies to which reference has been made but the other groups, about which we do not hear, which would have received support from local authorities, if moneys had not been salted off to make the restitution. Local authorities, regional arts associations and the Arts Council have found the funding, on top of the Government's initial amount, for the bodies that were put at risk, but it has meant that that amount does not go to the rest of the arts. That is an important point.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham North-West referred to some of the minor groups about which we have not heard. We have heard about Sadler's Wells, but we have not heard about the consequences for other organisations which have been put at risk because their money was necessary to save Sadler's Wells. That is the crucial point.

The other aspect is that the Government's funding was desperately short. It was £10 million short by the Arts Council's second calculations but it was £19 million short in the total calculations because £9 million should have come from major capital projects which the Arts Council said it could not cope with. By my calculations the funding was between 14 per cent. and 16 per cent. short. That is the truth about abolition and it is no use the Government or the Minister saying anything to the contrary.

Another aspect of the debate is the economic case for the arts. I want to stress three points which I think have been minimised by Conservative Members. It is not a case of the Government somehow generously dipping into pockets and giving out — the donation concept that Conservative Members have mentioned. The hon. Member for Ealing, North complained that we are always talking about money. He asked why we could not lift our eyes to higher things than money. I have noted that it is those people who are well-heeled who are always talking about other people raising the question of money.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

The hon. Gentleman is as well-heeled here as I am. That issue was reinforced by the Bernard Levin article, which has been referred to. Bernard Levin was talking about working men, and trade unions. He said why cannot they raise their eye from the trough to those areas of life which cannot be measured in terms of cash, but which constitute the reason for living? When? Not, to be sure, while the Labour Party is led by men like Michael Foot, and Neil Kinnock nor while the TUC is represented by men like Norman Willis. He dared to talk about Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock and Norman Willis in connection with the trough. We have a poet as the General Secretary of the TUC. We should be pleased about that. The truth is that the Government have made an absolute apotheosis of the trough. They say, "Get into the trough and take the pickings," and "Get on your bike and look for jobs." They say we should invest and ban exchange controls, and let investment go where it will. The Government have made a positive idol of the trough. Working men who have to struggle should not be dealt with in this way.

I want to deal with the real economic case for the arts. I will talk about the trough because people require jobs. In the arts we have a group of people who are among the worst paid and suffer longer periods of unemployment than almost any other section and who often work in the worst conditions. In fact, the arts are not receiving donations; they pay for themselves. The National Campaign for the Arts shows that value added tax returns £140 million to the Exchequer. That is more than the amount of money coming into the arts from the Arts Council. The arts in this country are self-funding and they are magnificently more than that in relation to the amount they contribute to the general economy of the country through tourism. Were it not for tourism and North sea oil, under the Government we would now be in a terminal condition in relation to our balance of payments. That is the contribution the arts make. We should not talk about spending on the arts because it is a crucial investment for the whole economy of the country.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman will accept and reinforce to the Minister the point that in areas of great deprivation, such as my area in the docklands of London, instead of the money and profits going into a sector which does not benefit the local people, we could do much to promote the extension of the South Bank into the docks. There are many young people looking for training and work in the arts, and opportunities in places central to our capital city would bring tourism, revenue and artistic progress. That is what we should be promoting in the docklands, not the capital profit that is made by developers of office blocks, which will have no benefit for local communities.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

What the hon. Gentleman says about the South Bank and the docklands is true of the economy as a whole.

Let us look at the scale of the arts. About 200,000 to 250,000 people are in broadcasting. About 200,000 people are in printing, the press and publication—the written word. About 70,000 are involved in the popular music industry—in recording, as artists, producers and so on. We are dealing with a major industry. Broadcasting alone is bigger than the whole computer industry, about which we hear so much. So we are dealing not with small dollops of money to a small group of people, but with the necessity for more investment to a very large section of our community.

The arts pay. The Government's method of creating jobs is to make tax cuts. We say that there should be direct investment in jobs. One area should be the arts. Through tax cuts, it costs about £47,000 a year to take someone off the dole. It takes just over £2,000 to take someone off the dole through investment in the arts. At one thirteenth of the cost, we begin to get jobs back, so the arts pay for themselves. They are self-funding and massively productive in the economy.

I should love to have gone into the Shakespeare business, but I am afraid that I cannot because I am short of time. However, I shall deal with three specific points.

The first is the Roundhouse. We should like the Minister to give us an assurance that he will come forward, if not with the £8 million that I think he should for the whole of the black community in this country, at least with the £1 million, so that a start can be made on proper production there.

Secondly, I refer to the squeeze on the universities and its effect on university museums. I have had discussions with directors of most of the university museums. I hope that shortly I shall he able to say something more publicly. But I recognise that they are public institutions as well as university institutions. The task is how to give assistance while still retaining the relationship with the university. We take the point on board.

Finally, I refer to charging. The Conservative party, which says that we should not keep talking about money, is the very party that has been squeezing our museums and galleries so that they are being forced into charging for admission. I shall refer to the irrelevance of the term "charging" in a moment. The Conservatives encourage that by saying that the museums will keep the money that they make. But it would be easier for a poor man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for him to squeeze his way between the cash desks at the V and A without the embarrassment of paying. There is a world of difference between erecting a sign at the exit, as is done at the Burrell, saying, "If you have enjoyed this museum would you like to contribute?", and having two girls at cash desks with a narrow space between, through which working people have to pass. We have seen from the figures that some people turn away. It has not helped attendences, and there is no excuse for it. We should be encouraging admissions.

If ever there was a sign of the bankruptcy of ideas and spirit in relation to the arts, it is the fact that one of our major institutions has had to depend on American benefactors to bail it out, to its shame, and that one of our national institutions has introduced charging, not even honestly and openly as direct charging, but as a voluntary contribution. That is all done under the benevolent gaze of this torpor of a Government.

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham 2:18 pm, 20th June 1986

With the leave of the House, I shall seek to answer some of the many points raised in the debate in a short time. Unfortunately, that means that I have to disallow myself from referring to a complimentary reference in Shakespeare — after all, this is a debate about Shakespeare — to a wonderful character called Luce. However, I shall not take up the time of the House on that score.

I listened with care to what the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) said and to the forceful speech by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher). He feels passionately and strongly, as does the hon. Member for Paisley, South, about the arts. But when he accuses me of lacking vision, that is below his normal standard. He really means that people can have vision only if the state does everything for the arts. That applies to other walks of life. Simply because I have a genuinely different approach from the hon. Gentleman —I respect his views—it is unfair to accuse me of not having vision. Yes, I have vision, but it is of a different scale and nature to that of the hon. Gentleman.

Before I reflect upon the two speeches of the hon. Member for Paisley, South, may I respond to some of the excellent remarks made by my hon. Friends and others. My hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) mentioned the importance of diversity in the arts. That goes to the heart of one of our great differences of opinion with Opposition Members, who constantly say that they do not oppose sponsorship, the Budget changes or museum recipts measures, yet at the same time try to disparage them. The strength of the arts depends upon diversity, not only in funding but generally, and upon not assuming that central Government should interfere in every aspect.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) made an excellent speech and raised many issues, many of which related to his constituency. I fully endorse his comments, especially about the importance of tourism and the contribution that the arts can make to tourism.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) made a distinctive speech and mentioned Sadler's Wells. I repeat that I agree entirely that Sadler's Wells is a great centre of excellence. I am glad that the Arts Council has played its part in funding it for this Financial year, along with a great diversity of funding from sponsors and other sources. That has provided a solid base, and we can look to the future with confidence.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes-James), who could not be a better Member for that great university town, does great service for that city. He spoke strongly about the university museums and highlighted the Fitzwilliam museum. I note carefully what he said, and I respect the work of the great university museums. I shall take into account his important remarks on that score.

My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) mentioned the importance of marketing and sponsorship. I agree with him, but I pay tribute to his work in the Council of Europe in promoting many of the Government's policies and thoughts about the arts.

The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) raised many points. He especially probed again about the Roundhouse. I sought to answer his questions at Question Time the other day. but he asked me whether I would consider meeting representatives from the Roundhouse. I am prepared to do that, as long as he understands that the Arts Council will provide the money to fund the transitional period. I shall listen to their views.

The hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan) mentioned the policies, which have been confirmed this week, to remove some of the obstacles to museums raising extra revenue. He suggested that that is a back-door method of forcing museums to introduce charges. I must take the opportunity to refute that. The Government's policy is to leave it to the discretion of the trustees of museums— who after all know the position best and can judge whether it is right and will easily generate extra revenue, and enable them to improve their services—to introduce charges or voluntary donations. It is entirely up to the trustees and no part of my policy to try to force the issue.

The Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts recommended unanimously in 1981–82 that we should remove some of the obstacles to revenue-raising. The decision in line with that should be broadly welcomed by the museums and galleries.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

I have very little time and I must not give way if I am to be fair to other hon. Members.

The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) made a powerful speech and focused on the Byron Society and asked me to take an interest. He gave me notice that he could not be here for the winding-up speeches, but I assure him that I shall take a close interest in the arrangements for the 1988 celebrations of the 200th anniversary of Byron's birth.

The right hon. Gentleman then led me down an avenue towards Melina Mercouri and the Elgin marbles. The Government's stance is quite clear and oft-stated. We have replied to the Greek Government. I understand that, if it is ever returned to power, the Labour party will return the Elgin marbles. Has it thought the matter through properly? The marbles are important, but they are not unique. There are other great and marvellous collections of Syrian and Egyptian material for example. Do the Opposition realise where the precedent of returning the Elgin marbles would lead'? I wonder whether they have thought it all through.

The hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (M r. Hancock), who also gavenotice that he could not be here for the winding-up speeches for good reasons, confirmed for me the confusion that still exists in the so-called alliance. I was not clear whether he was for the arm's length policy or against it and I became even more confused when I listened to him.

The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud), my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) and others mentioned VAT. I note what they said. It is part of the wider Government policy on VAT and indirect taxation that VAT should be as broadly based as possible. Hon. Members know that the Government have introduced other tax incentives to try to help the arts.

My hon. Friend the Member for Arundel does a great deal for the west end theatres and I was glad to meet the Society of West End Theatre. I have noted the additional arguments that he made and I shall try to respond in more detail by letter.

I hope that I have now responded to all except the hon. Member for Paisley, South. His speech bore out everything that I said at the beginning. However sincere he may be, he is in the habit of being a prophet of doom. Of course there are many problems, but he will not acknowledge that there are good things in the arts world. It is far more difficult for me to give credibility to what he says and to what the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central says if they do not pay some tribute to the good things that are happening.

The hon. Member for Paisley, South must understand that the policy that he is adopting towards the Arts Council, which has been supported by successive Governments, would undermine it and the principle of the arm's length policy. If the hon. Gentleman were Minister with responsibility for the arts, he would increasingly take decisions about the disposal of funds. That would mean more centralisation.

I must also consider the difference in approach and philosophy towards the public and private sectors. The hon. Member for Paisley, South believes that arts funding should be done by the state, 'whereas I believe that there should be a partnership between the state and the private sector. With the right framework, tax measures and encouragement—not just sponsorship, the Budget and the receipts policy for museums — we shall create an environment in which the private sector can play a much more positive role in increasing funding for the arts. That is what we all want, but we differ in our philosophy and approach. The hon. Gentleman believes that the state should do everything, whereas I believe that the strength of the arts is in its diversity. It has become evident during this excellent, admirable debate in which many hon. Members have participated that our approach is different in that respect, and the Government feel strongly about it.

It being half past Two o'clock, the motion few the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.