The Government support the arts through the Arts Council and regional arts boards. Our common aim, for all art forms, is to encourage quality and innovation and to make the arts as widely available as possible. To that end, the Arts Council expects to spend more than £43 million this year on live music, ranging from opera and orchestras to jazz and reggae. The regional boards also fund a good deal of music making at a more local level.
Does the Minister accept that the provision of small venues is particularly important as a seedbed for new musical talent? Is it not an absurd anomaly that section 182 of the Licensing Act 1964 requires a public entertainment licence where more than two live musicians gather at a venue such as a public house, but not when a discotheque is held there or, worse still, when muzak is played on the pub's loudspeakers? Will the Minister consider a change in the law, and will he meet a deputation from the all-party jazz group to discuss how the law can be changed to provide better opportunities for inspiring young musicians to get a live venue?
I am always prepared to go to great lengths to encourage jazz, which is a particular enthusiasm of mine. Changes in the law on noise are a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, but there are good reasons for having entertainment licences, as I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge. If he would like to acquaint me further with the nature of his problems, I should be happy to see him.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It was indeed an outstanding success right across the country, with tens of thousands of amateur musicians and professionals taking part in a great national celebration. We are considering whether to repeat the exercise next year and are discussing the details with the organisers, although we have come to no conclusion yet.
Is the Minister aware that besides himself, President-elect Clinton is with it, Nigel Kennedy is swinging towards it and, more importantly, millions of men and women are appreciating it in greater numbers? However, the Arts Council is cutting grants to the regional jazz boards. Grants have been withdrawn from Eastern Jazz and the Scottish Jazz Network. Jazz Central is under review and others could follow. That demonstrates that the Arts Council is ignorant of this kind of music. Therefore, will the Minister knock together the heads of those on the Arts Council to bring about a much more sensible jazz policy?
I stand by the long-standing tradition of arm's-length management and funding, and I would not wish to interfere in the artistic judgments of the Arts Council. However, as I have discovered, genuine problems arise from time to time—for example, where jazz is played in clubs for profit or where an entry fee is charged—and there may be some scope for discussion there. I acknowledge the basic point that the hon. Gentleman is making—that there is tremendous enthusiasm for jazz, which young people are taking up in greater numbers in schools, including my eldest daughter, who is taking up the saxophone. I pay tribute to the teachers who seek to inculcate jazz.