Royal Shakespeare Company

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 9:20 pm on 20th February 1990.

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Photo of Mr Terry Dicks Mr Terry Dicks , Hayes and Harlington 9:20 pm, 20th February 1990

I spoke against the decision not to give the ambulance men that increase, so I am on the right side. On the community charge, only 4 per cent. is allowed for inflation in the rate support grant settlement; that is why I voted against it recently. All those figures are way below inflation, but 12 per cent. funding was given to the arts this year, and I believe that 11 per cent. will be given to the arts next year. Why is that genuine need, as represented by child benefit, the ambulance men or an inflation allowance in the rate support grant are downgraded when they receive Government grant, yet the arts receive 12 per cent. funding, way above inflation?

The arts are the only areas of activity not looked at by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but every other aspect of Government spending is examined year by year to see if it is fair. Perhaps the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) has a point, bearing in mind his views about the background of the Chancellor and of his wife. The Government emphasis on public expenditure control cannot be as firm as they claim when they give money to the arts.

I can see no case for any arts subsidy, and there is no case for helping the Royal Shakespeare Company. Economic costing is the only fair way in which to operate. If people think that something is that good, they are prepared to pay the full cost. The only reason why people go to the RSC now is that the rest of us pay 30 quid towards their seat. That cannot be right. No leisure pursuit, mine or anyone else's, should be subsidised. My football watching and old-age pensioners' bingo playing have as much right to be subsidised as the arts although, preferably, nobody should be subsidised.

The definition of what is or is not art has never been given by the arty-farty crowd opposite—[Laughter.] I am sorry if I used the wrong word, but I do not know the French equivalent. To subsidise or not to subsidise, that is the question. In my view, the answer should be an emphatic no.