The Government actively encourage private sector support of the arts, particularly through their own pairing scheme, which has brought in more than £87 million in new money since 1984. The budgetof the pairing scheme was increased by £750,000 to more than £5.5 million in the current financial year.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the business sponsorship incentive scheme has been a huge success for the Government, bringing new money into the arts? What steps will he take to extend the scheme and expand the number of businesses participating in it so that the true partnership between public and private sectors may flourish even more?
My hon. Friend is entirely right. I completely agree with the emphasis that he places on the issue. The pairing scheme, as it is now called, has brought in almost 4,000 first-time sponsors since it was launched and has been responsible for increasing business sponsorship over the 20 years of its operation from a vanishingly small sum to roughly £70 million a year. Business sponsorship is a vital source of support for the arts in Britain. I intend to continue to give active support to the development of the pairing scheme.
Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the best ways to get businesses interested in the arts is to give them tax breaks for investment? I refer particularly to the film industry, in which Britain is seriously disadvantaged compared with the rest of Europe and much of the rest of the world. Labour has put forward concrete proposals, and so has the film industry. Will the Secretary of State speak to that other great philistine in the Cabinet, his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and provide the British film industry—before the Cannes film festival—with the leadership that it needs so that it may develop?
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his ingenuity in getting a film tax question into a question on the Association of Business Sponsorship of the Arts pairing scheme. As the House knows, the future of tax relief for film makers was raised in the Select Committee report on the film industry, to which, as I have already said, I intend to respond at the beginning of June.