Royal Shakespeare Company

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 9:30 pm on 20th February 1990.

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Photo of Mr Frank Haynes Mr Frank Haynes , Ashfield 9:30 pm, 20th February 1990

That really was a two-faced contribution. I watch what the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) does in this Chamber: whenever a proposal that the Government oppose is made from the Opposition Dispatch Box in the interests of those people at the lower end of the scale, particularly the lower-paid workers, the hon. Gentleman goes into the No Lobby. He does not support us, and that is why his contribution was two-faced. He does not realise that many people in the lower income group are interested in the arts. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] Who said rubbish? This is wrong—we have the deputy Chief Whip saying, "Rubbish," to a contribution that was made by the Opposition. I shall have to refer him to the Chief Whip for the contribution that he has just made.

It is important to note that the two-faced contribution of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington was as bad as the Minister's speech. The Minister is not listening, but talking to the deputy Chief Whip who just said, "Rubbish." I said that the Minister's speech was as bad as the hon. Gentleman's speech because the Minister put on a lot of gloss and left out much of the substance underneath. The Minister should realise that there is a lot of suffering in the arts.

There is a crisis, and not just in the London area, where everyone wants to come to work, live and make pots of money. I live in a constituency up in the east midlands, where people struggle. We have an interest in the arts, but slowly but surely, because of the Government's attitude, we are losing it. The Minister has some responsibility for that. They tell me that he is Minister for the Arts, yet he can stand up at the Dispatch Box and say, "It's his responsibility and his responsibility, but not mine." Who is he kidding? The Prime Minister appointed him to do a job on behalf of the arts of this country. It is high time he started to do it properly.

The Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) has a smile on his face. I shall remind the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes that not long ago we had a first-class debate on the film industry. I remember talking about his beautiful mother who worked in that industry—she is gorgeous. I am not afraid to say that I have held her in my arms—[Laughter.] I am talking about real art.

Nottinghamshire county council and my own Ashfield district council contribute fairly strongly to the arts locally, but the Government destroy them by the cuts that they have made in grants to local authorities. That means that there have to be cuts here, there and everywhere. That is what they are like; that is what they are all about. They make cuts here, there and everywhere.

The Minister must realise that there is real quality in the arts at the lower end of the scale, and we want to lift the people who provide that into the gloss about which the Minister talked earlier. The gloss can look after itself, but what is beneath that needs looking after and the Minister is responsible for that. That is why we have had this debate today. That is why we want to tell the Minister in no uncertain terms how we feel and what should be done. We do not want to listen to stupid contributions such as the one we have just heard from the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington.

There is a crisis in the arts throughout Britain. The Minister made a little comment to me at the last Question Time on the arts. He made a marvellous contribution today, which was real acting: it was not honest; it was not true. I suggest that you, Mr. Speaker, consult the powers that be with a view to providing a drama award in the House. Let the first award be made to the Minister for the Arts. I have got my own back, have I not? I was waiting for the opportunity and, by God, it came along tonight. I have had to wait since 2.30 but, by God, it was worth it.