Art Market

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 21st March 2005.

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Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory Conservative, Wells 2:30 pm, 21st March 2005

What steps she is taking to promote the UK art market.

Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris Minister of State (Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

The Government support the UK art market in a number of ways. Our policy of free admissions to national art galleries and museums has substantially increased public access to contemporary and non-contemporary art, and raised awareness and interest in the visual arts. The own art scheme, administered by the Arts Council, is directly supporting the art market by enabling the general public to buy art through interest-free loans.

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory Conservative, Wells

Is the right hon. Lady aware of the damage that will be caused by the implementation in January next year of the directive on the artist's resale levy, which will drive art sales out of this country to centres such as New York which do not impose the levy? Given that the European Commission never carried out a regulatory impact assessment, given that the Government's own assessment concluded that 1,000 jobs would be lost as a result of the directive and given that—to be fair—the Government voted against the original directive, will she demand an urgent re-examination of this further example of job-destroying European regulations?

Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris Minister of State (Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

The right hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that the Government have argued vociferously in Europe about the droit de suite. We should bear in mind, however, that the art market is tremendously strong in the United Kingdom at present. It is worth £4.2 billion to the economy, so I do not think that it is vulnerable or weak.

Let us be clear about what this measure will mean. It will mean that artists or—for 70 years after their deaths—their successors will have a share of the resale value of any work of art that goes to the British art market. Given that art inflation is significantly above general inflation, I suppose there is an argument that those who produce works of art should have a fair share of the profit; but we have always felt that it would have been better for us not to be party to this measure, and have argued to that effect as vociferously as possible.

I think the right hon. Gentleman would have to admit that the art market has recognised the work that the Government have done. We will continue to defend, in a number of ways, a market which, as I have said, is incredibly strong at present—probably far stronger than it was when the right hon. Gentleman's party was in government.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

Droit de suite may be a good idea in principle, but would it not be better for the levy thus raised to be spent on promoting the arts generally, rather than going to the families of artists—some of whom will take ages to trace, and may be incredibly wealthy themselves?

Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris Minister of State (Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

That may be so. I do not know how easy it would be, but as my hon. Friend knows, that is not part of the proposal. We are currently consulting on the details, a process led by my noble Friend the Minister for Science and Innovation. I am sure that he will read my hon. Friend's comments and reflect on them, but I do not want to give the impression that Europe will be swayed. The motive behind the proposal is to ensure that the person who produces a work of art has a share of the income when it is sold, sometimes at an immeasurably higher price in a relatively short period.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

As the Minister will know, in 2003 very strict regulations were imposed on the UK art market to implement United Nations sanctions banning dealing in material that might have been looted from Iraq. The regulations have now been in force for some time. Has the Minister made, or will she make, an assessment of their effectiveness and their impact on the UK art market?

Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris Minister of State (Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

I am aware of the huge amount of work that the hon. Gentleman has done in this regard, and of his part in the enactment of the legislation. We have not yet made a valuation, but I will ask whether this is an appropriate time for us to do so. Once the legislation has had time to settle down, we can establish what has happened. I entirely agree that a valuation ought to be made at some point.