Regional Arts and Culture

– in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 4th February 2014.

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Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central 2:30 pm, 4th February 2014

It is a pleasure to open this debate, Mr Caton, particularly with you in the Chair. I am pleased to have secured it, not simply to highlight the disparity between arts funding for London and the regions, but to make the case for arts funding in general. I will argue not for regional versus national institutions, but that the whole country is strengthened by a more equitable distribution of funding.

We cannot consider the matter in isolation from wider economic trends. Last week, we saw reports that between 2010 and 2012, 217,000 new private sector jobs were created in London, whereas my city of Sheffield lost 7,500. We are clearly not alone: private sector jobs have been draining away from the north to London and the south-east. There is a direct relationship because arts funding is important not just for our social life throughout the country, but for our economic growth. The arts provide nearly 1 million jobs in the UK economy every year, and 67,000 cultural businesses contribute £28 billion a year. In addition to that direct contribution, the impact of a vibrant cultural offer has a decisive impact on those who are choosing where to invest, where to start businesses and where to study. It is hugely important.

The report, “Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital”, which was published just before Christmas, sadly contained figures showing what many of us already knew, but in much starker terms: that arts funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Arts Council is massively tilted towards London, which received £68.99 a head compared with just £4.58 in the rest of England in 2012-13. The issue is not just about the Arts Council and the DCMS, though. Those funding imbalances form part of a bigger picture of disproportionate cuts to local authorities in the most deprived areas, and disproportionate private investment between London and the regions.

I am sure that those of us here today do not need reminding of the contribution made by the arts, but it is worth stressing that the arts shape places and communities, regenerate and energise, and invest in and develop future talent, so it is a problem if the benefits of the arts are not shared equally. “Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital” highlighted that, but the tension between funding in London and in the rest of England is not new. It was one reason behind the appointment of Jennie Lee, the country’s first arts Minister almost 50 years ago, and it was certainly behind her pioneering White Paper, “A Policy for the Arts”.

A great deal has been achieved. In Sheffield, we have some fantastic arts and cultural facilities. Last week, Sheffield Theatres was recognised as regional theatre of the year for the second year running. It welcomed audiences of almost 440,000 through its doors last year; produced 14 shows on three stages, including five world premieres; presented 72 productions by visiting companies; and transferred a new play to New York, as well as touring a large-scale play across the UK—but that success will be challenged if there are continual reductions in public funding. Public funding accounts for only 17% of the theatres’ turnover, but there is a tipping point. Further cuts would force price increases that would push our theatres beyond the reach of many local people for whom travelling to London theatres is already unthinkable. The problem is the same for our museums.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Shadow Minister (Defence)

Does my hon. Friend agree that regional theatres are important as incubators for young talent? In the north-east, in Newcastle, Live Theatre has been a great incubator not just of acting talent, but writing talent.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

My hon. Friend makes an important point. I am well aware of the importance of the cultural offering in Newcastle, and I will return to the point about incubating young talent.

Sheffield can report great success for our museums. Museums Sheffield, which is one of our two successful museum trusts, welcomed 1 million visitors across three sites last year, 96% of whom rated the museums good or excellent—but Museums Sheffield has lost 40% of its staff since 2012. It becomes more and more of a challenge to maintain standards against that background, with a declining core grant year on year resulting from central Government cuts to local authorities.

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. This morning, I had a meeting at the National Portrait Gallery to discuss, among other things, its work with Tyne and Wear museums which led to the excellent, Trailblazers exhibition at the Discovery museum last year and the current Laura Knight exhibition at the Laing. Does he agree that, although it is great to see such working together between London and regional institutions, we need strong, regional institutions with continued funding to foster regional talent and create exhibitions that can perhaps travel to London?

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

I agree with my hon. Friend, and I will return to the point she makes in the context of my experience of some of our institutions in Sheffield.

There is also under-investment in the visual arts sector in Sheffield. I am told that Sheffield has the largest number of practising artists per capita outside London, but we have limited provision for the exhibition of contemporary and visual art and do not have the resources to take advantage or to make the most of the opportunities they provide. We need to invest to reap the rewards. Our core cities provide a platform for artists on the way up: three of the four Turner prize nominees for 2013 had exhibited at Sheffield’s Site gallery in the past six years.

The Arts Council is at pains to point out that 70% of lottery funding is spent outside London, but that does not take us back even to the 2009-10 level of spend outside London, which was at 76%, and lottery funding is one-off funding. The lottery has supported some excellent capital developments, not least the stunning Persistence Works in Sheffield, but Arts Council funding has not matched that ambition with programme funding, which would enable us to animate these spaces to fulfil their potential.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Conservative, Hereford and South Herefordshire

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for this debate. I declare an interest as a director of the Hay festival. Does he agree that there is a difference between regional urban centres such as Sheffield, which have a distinct set of issues relating to the arts, and rural areas such as mine, where there is a need for an infrastructure to be maintained which would not exist without public support? I am thinking of Flicks in the Sticks in Herefordshire and the Monnow Valley arts centre—places that are very rural and do not have the advantages of an urban context.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

I would certainly not want to counterpoise the arts in rural communities against those in urban communities. We face different and distinctive issues. One that we face is the challenge for local authority funding, because we are facing a disproportionate hit from the reduction of local authority funding.

Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden Shadow Minister (Transport)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. Does he agree that one problem for regional arts is that we are being hit hard not just by a combination of local authority cuts, Arts Council cuts and so on, but by the sequencing of funding? The Arts Council operates on one set of criteria and time horizons, local authorities face another set, as does lottery funding, and the combination means we are hit by a multiple whammy. The sequencing needs to be sorted out as well as the quantum of available money.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

My hon. Friend makes an important point, and I will talk about private funding. The way in which different strands of public and private funding pose challenges for the arts is important, because it is often argued that we should look more actively for more private sponsorship of the arts. That is fine, but there too, the picture is weighted against the regions. Private sponsorship is exacerbating the problem, not solving it. In Sheffield, there are many deeply generous people, but we do not have major corporate sponsors. There is no private giving on any significant scale, not least because the London cultural organisations are hoovering it all up. In 2011-12, for example, 90% of all private giving to the arts by individual philanthropists was to London-based organisations. We need the Government and the Arts Council to redress the imbalance.

In its briefing for today’s debate, the Mayor of London’s office claimed that London needs the funds to compete with Paris, New York and Berlin, but Sheffield, too, is competing with European cities and beyond, and with decent investment, we can win. One of my constituents wrote to me with today’s debate in mind, saying:

“When friends and family visit they are always impressed by the quality of the performances in Sheffield. Often friends have never thought of Sheffield as a potential city break”— quite wrongly—

“but after they visit they always want to come back.”— quite rightly. It is not just London that needs tourism, and the point is that taxpayers from across the country are contributing to that London subsidy. To attract people to destinations outside London, we need action to rebalance our cultural capital. I recognise that the Arts Council is concerned with the issue, but what sort of message does it send out when the council’s 10-year strategy published in 2010 became the first public policy statement on the arts since 1965 to fail to acknowledge the scale of the imbalance in the distribution of resources?

The figures I mentioned at the start of the debate account for DCMS and Arts Council funding combined. Of DCMS direct funding to our national institutions, 90% goes to London. We can all accept the value of properly funding our national institutions—although they do not always have to be in London—but more can be done to ensure that national institutions, as my hon. Friend Chi Onwurah said, irrigate rather than drain the arts elsewhere in the country.

There are some great partnerships: Museums Sheffield has great links with the British Museum and the V&A, and there is really positive work between the British Library and our central library. I was at our Weston Park museum for the launch of the “China: Journey to the East” exhibition, which brought some of the best British Museum exhibits together with our own collection, inspirationally presented by our local team, but that was two years ago and it could not happen now in the same way, because many of the jobs have been lost.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Shadow Minister (Defence)

Does my hon. Friend also think that, although there are some good examples of collaborative working, there is a London snobbishness about the regions, in that there is a wish to retain certain artefacts in London? For example, the Lindisfarne gospels came to the north-east, to Durham, last year, which was a tremendous success. However, even though Durham university and Durham cathedral could adequately house them and have a permanent exhibition, there was the idea that it was somehow important that the gospels stay in London. Does he not think that moving some of our national treasures around the regions on permanent exhibition would be a way forward?

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

My hon. Friend makes an important point. My suggestion, echoing that of “Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital”, that national institutions ought to do more to irrigate the system could be fulfilled through that sort of initiative.

I am conscious that other Members want to contribute to the debate, so let me turn finally to the significance of the decline in local council funding. Local authorities have borne a disproportionate burden of the cuts, and those in deprived areas more so. With less money available and increasing demands for social care and other vital services, where will money for the arts come from? Arts Council funding is rightly based on the principle of additionality, designed to add to the base provided by local authorities, but local authorities simply do not have the resources to maintain core funding at the level we need.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

One of South Yorkshire’s great cultural assets is brass bands, as is the case in many parts of the country, but at the moment we are losing out to the strength of the brass band movement in Wales. There is certainly a discrepancy in funding for brass bands as far as the Arts Council is concerned, but local authorities, such as Sheffield, are also cutting grants to small village brass bands such as those in my constituency, because they have no longer have the funds to give them. Is not our brass band movement one of the most important parts of our cultural heritage in this country and should we not do something to help it?

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

I am grateful for that intervention from my hon. Friend, who is a fellow Sheffield and South Yorkshire MP. The culture of brass bands is tremendously important in our area. She describes the difficulty whereby relatively small amounts of funding are now beyond the reach of local authorities, which is pushing small cultural groups over the edge. That is a critical problem.

We are facing a real crisis in many of our big cities and in many other parts of England. I conclude with three questions for the Minister. What is he doing to convince others in Government of the threat posed to the arts by cuts in local government funding? What is the Government’s response to evidence of the cumulative impact of cuts hitting more deprived areas hardest, the lack of private investment in those areas, and the failure of public arts funding to redress that imbalance? Finally, what are the Government doing to rebalance the funding gap and ensure more equitable support for arts and culture across the whole country?

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Labour, Gower

As Members can see, a great number of people want to contribute to the debate. I will not set a time limit at this stage, but I appeal for Members to show a bit of self-discipline. We will only get everybody in if we keep contributions from Back-Bench Members down to five minutes and I want to call the Front-Bench Members at 20 to four.

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton Conservative, Truro and Falmouth 2:46 pm, 4th February 2014

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Caton. I start by congratulating Paul Blomfield on securing the debate. It is always a pleasure to join colleagues from across the House in celebrating the huge contribution the arts make not only to our sense of well-being and pleasure, but to the economy, in the way that the hon. Gentleman laid out so well. Everyone in this Chamber and in the House will wholeheartedly recognise the huge contribution of the arts. I am delighted to have recently set up an all-party parliamentary group, along with Opposition colleagues, to recognise the huge and growing role the arts have in our health and well-being. I shall enjoy working with Members from both sides of the House on promoting a greater understanding.

I am here because I represent, in Cornwall, one of the most creative parts of the country. I am pleased to represent Falmouth, which has a wonderful arts university that this Government enabled to exist. The hon. Gentleman was right to highlight some of the statistics and on the face of it, they do not make very good reading. The south-west has 12% of the national population and contributes 20% of the gross value added, but Arts Council and lottery expenditure there is well below that. On the face of it, it looks like we are not getting a fair crack of the whip. Regions with remote, rural, sparsely populated communities such as the one I represent have to compete with great centres such as Plymouth and Bristol, so in percentage terms we probably get even a smaller share of the money. However, focusing only on those statistics does not really paint the whole picture.

Over the past year or so I have been pleased to meet our regional Arts Council representatives, who have developed a deep understanding of the challenges faced in enabling rural communities to access the arts in the broadest sense, and of the opportunities for places such as Cornwall. They have been enabling partnership working, which is key to the future, and such funding is enabling really positive changes in Cornwall.

I want to highlight two recent examples. Last year, the For Cornwall museum partnership scooped more than £250,000 from the Arts Council. It is a partnership between Falmouth art gallery, the National Maritime museum in Falmouth, Penlee House gallery and museum, and Porthcurno Telegraph museum. They have been joined by the Royal Cornwall museum, which got an additional £253,000 from the Arts Council strategic fund. In the words of the really excellent Alison Bevan, the director of Penlee House gallery and museum, who led the partnership:

“With support from Cornwall Council”— so working with partners in Cornwall—

“we worked up a Museums Strategy for the county...The benefits of partnership working are obvious and we are trying to spread those benefits to other museums within the county. We have learned a lot from working together.”

Cornwall is well suited to such partnership working, which enables small and medium-sized organisations to work together.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Conservative, Hereford and South Herefordshire

I agree entirely with the powerful case my hon. Friend is making for partnership working. Our great institutions were founded on the basis of being universal—not just for this country but for the whole world. Despite the excellent work already being done by the Tate, the National Maritime Museum, the National Gallery and other places, is there not even more scope for the great collections to feed out more into rural areas? In Herefordshire, we would willingly and delightedly host a great work of art alongside the Mappa Mundi, for example, in Hereford cathedral. There is so much scope for partnership working to increase.

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton Conservative, Truro and Falmouth

My hon. Friend makes an excellent case. I know from my conversations with the Arts Council that it very much has that in mind. There will be a lot more touring of exhibitions and theatre groups. As already mentioned, not only the London-based organisations will be touring the regions. We have fantastic theatre companies born and bred in Cornwall that are now touring the rest of the UK. Culture can be exported around the regions from anywhere that excellence is produced, and I understand that funds allocated by the Arts Council should make that possible. I am sure it will apply to works of art as well.

In January, we in Cornwall were lucky enough to benefit from a new sort of partnership working: the cultural destinations programme, which will make available sums of money for working with arts organisations in my constituency. We will receive more than £340,000 to build a new partnership that will add value, appeal to visitors coming into Cornwall and help us grow our local economy in a sustainable way. It will create a unique identity, promote the extraordinary cultural wealth we have in Cornwall and enable the people who live in Cornwall, as well as visitors, to benefit from increased access to the arts.

The organisation that secured the money, the Cornwall Art Centre Trust, is led by the excellent Ross Williams. He says that the huge investment in Cornwall will significantly increase the cultural engagement of visitors and those living there. As we can see from those two short examples, lots of small and medium-sized organisations are coming together, rather than competing as they have in the past. They are now collaborating and understand that by working together, they can leverage more funds into the area to the benefit of visitors and residents.

On 15 February I will be welcoming to Truro Sir Peter Bazalgette, who will accompany me to watch the English Touring Theatre’s acclaimed production of “Eternal Love”, and I will be lobbying hard for further investment in the excellent Hall for Cornwall and other arts organisations in Cornwall.

A lot more needs to be done to make sure that we attract investment into Cornwall, and we need to tackle the unfairness and some of the anomalies that have crept into our system. However, I am encouraged by the new approach taken by the Arts Council, as evidenced by the money we have received over the past two years. We will be able to grow and appreciate our arts even more in Cornwall.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter 3:54 pm, 4th February 2014

Like other hon. Members, I do not want this debate to become a tit for tat between London and the regions. All of us who represent the English regions acknowledge the vital importance of London as a cultural hub and powerhouse for arts and culture. Other hon. Members have already described London institutions touring and going out to the regions, but many of our constituents in Cornwall and Devon enjoy the odd trip, if they are fortunate enough, to London to visit our wonderful museums and theatres.

The recent “Rebalancing our Cultural Capital” report revealed an imbalance in funding, and I am pleased that the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, of which I am a member, agreed to my request to hold an enquiry into this issue. We hope to do so and to report in the next few weeks. As my hon. Friend Paul Blomfield has made absolutely clear, it is not only Arts Council and lottery funding that are a problem. The imbalances combine with the much bigger challenge, which he pointed to, of raising private and philanthropic support in the English regions. Compared with London, where huge financial services companies and others are based—they get the kudos from supporting the Royal Opera House, for example—we in the regions do not get the same capital and funding support from the private sector, however hard we try. When we put that together with local authorities’ withdrawal of support for arts and culture, we have a really serious imbalance.

I am sure hon. Members are aware that unitary and upper-tier authorities are in the process of deciding their spending priorities for the next three years, following the announcement of their funding in the next comprehensive spending review period. Some are already issuing dire warnings about having to retrench and fund only services for which they are statutorily responsible. As we all know, that would mean great peril for the arts and culture in many parts of our country. I am sure we all acknowledge the difficult economic climate the Government face, having had to extend their austerity programme, but I am sure the Minister and his Secretary of State are aware of the invaluable contribution to the nation’s well-being and to our economy that a flourishing arts and cultural sector makes. They will doubtless be making those points forcefully over the next months to the Treasury and to Government colleagues.

The symbiotic relationship between arts and culture, and social and economic well-being, is extremely visible in my own constituency of Exeter. One of the reasons why Exeter has become such a desirable place to live and work, and for businesses to relocate to, is the rich, attractive and varied culture we can offer. From our national award-winning museum to the sharp, edgy and award-winning Bike Shed Theatre, we have built up in recent years a cultural capital that attracts and keeps young talent and thrills and entertains residents and visitors. That is recognised by my forward-looking local authority, Exeter city council, which, despite suffering big cuts in funding from central Government, has managed to sustain its support for arts and culture in Exeter. That is in stark contrast to nearby Somerset, for example, which ended all support for the arts after the Government’s first round of cuts.

That leads me to the two requests I want to make to the Minister. The first is that he and his Secretary of State should use their offices over the next days and weeks to remind local authorities, as they face tough spending choices, of the value and importance of arts and culture. The leader of Devon county council, for example, has recently issued a warning about having to pare council spending down to mere statutory requirements. We do not want any more councils going the way of Somerset. We want more to learn from the example of Exeter. A further round of savage cuts in local government support will tip a lot of excellent and valued cultural organisations over the edge.

My second plea, through the Minister to the Arts Council, is that it use its funding clout to encourage local government to do the right thing. The Arts Council inevitably comes under huge pressure to step in, in areas where local government is withdrawing support, to ensure the survival of at least some cultural footprint. But I am afraid that—if that is what happens everywhere—all that would do is give the green light to philistine local authorities that want to withdraw support, giving them the impression that the Arts Council will simply step in and replace the funding. A far more sensible approach would be for the Arts Council to base funding decisions, where possible, on continuing support from local government. That would reward good councils such as Exeter and deter bad ones such as Somerset.

Finally, like Sarah Newton, I welcome the commitment by Sir Peter Bazalgette, the new chairman of the Arts Council, to look again at the regional imbalance identified in the “Rebalancing our Cultural Capital” report. I look forward to his visiting Exeter later this month and to showing him—perhaps on his way to Cornwall—how the combination of a visionary local authority and a strong arts scene can create a virtuous circle from which our whole community benefits, even in these straitened times.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Conservative, Suffolk Coastal 2:59 pm, 4th February 2014

It is a great pleasure to contribute to this debate, and I congratulate Paul Blomfield on securing it. Arts and culture add to our quality of life, and we all recognise their importance at a national and local level.

Arts and culture already have a vibrant presence in the regions, and some arts initiatives do not require any commercial support. I pay tribute to the investment made by TV companies such as ITV and Channel 4, and by the BBC, which continues to fund productions by independent companies. I might also mention Glyndebourne, which manages to be rather successful without a single penny of subsidy, or the extraordinary Melvin Benn, who brings the greatest of modern culture to places around the country—including my constituency, where he stages the wonderful Latitude festival. Of course, I recognise that much of the arts requires substantial support from the public purse, or from the pockets of the public via funding redirected from their purchase of lottery tickets. I value the contribution that the lottery makes to bringing a wide variety of culture to large parts of the country.

I want to recognise the extraordinary cultural legacy in my constituency of a gentleman called Benjamin Britten, the centenary of whose birth we celebrated last year. In my constituency, we have sustained his extraordinary legacy, which has involved children and world-class artists. On 22 November, the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth, we held an event called Friday Afternoons. It is estimated that 100,000 children from around the world contributed to that celebration of probably one of the greatest ever British composers. In that vein, I will give a quick plug for the director of Aldeburgh Music, Jonathan Reekie. He has served with great distinction, and I want to thank him. He was recognised in the Queen’s birthday honours last year and is moving to take up the leadership of Somerset House in London. That will be a great loss for our regional arts and culture.

Other institutions that have been recognised by the Arts Council include Red Rose Chain and Eastern Angles. If anyone wants to visit the east of England, I urge them to come and see an Eastern Angles production, because they will be blown away by the creativity achieved on budgets that are, to be blunt, not very large. The Arts Council has made more money available to the regions, although I recognise that it is nowhere near as much as is available in London.

I completely endorse the comments from Mr Bradshaw about how much more challenging it is to get philanthropic donations outside London. I hope that the Government take that on board. I was particularly pleased to see the autumn statement building on the great work that has been done on tax credits for film and high-quality TV—that has, by the way, led to a great renaissance in Northern Ireland, with the production of “Game of Thrones” and the development of the film and television industry in Belfast—by committing to launching a consultation this spring on the introduction of a tax credit to support regional play writing, which would benefit theatres that commission new work.

I turn to local government. The right hon. Member for Exeter is right that we should support creative local governments and say, in a pantomime fashion, “yah-boo” to the baddies—the philistines of local government. I do not want to be too political about this, but when certain councils announced that they would cut every penny of funding to libraries or the arts, there was a risk of shroud-waving. Councils around the country have recognised that investing in the arts locally is as important as investing in new roundabouts. In Basingstoke, where I used to work, the council took a decision in the ’60s to do something about that to attract businesses. The council recognised that Basingstoke needed a cultural offering to encourage executives to locate there and to make the town feel good about itself. I commend councils that have continued to recognise the importance of arts and culture funding.

Returning to central Government, I applaud the work done to try to secure the status of European city of culture. I congratulate Hull on winning city of culture this year; we know how much good that designation has done for Derry/Londonderry during the past 12 months. I also want to say “well done” to Alan Davey from the Arts Council. I was on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee at the start of the Parliament, and there was a deep intake of breath when it became clear that things would not be done as they had been before. I think that the Arts Council has done extraordinarily well. By focusing on quality rather than simply spreading money around, it has improved the quality of the offering available around the regions.

I want to celebrate what is happening in the arts and culture outside London. I recognise that there will always be a case for national funding, but we must encourage Sir Peter Bazalgette and Alan Davey to continue to think about those of us outside the M25. Long may culture and the arts rule!

Photo of Alison Seabeck Alison Seabeck Shadow Minister (Defence) 3:05 pm, 4th February 2014

It is a pleasure to follow Dr Coffey and listen to her talking about the success of the Britten anniversary, which I think most people in this room appreciated. I thank my hon. Friend Paul Blomfield for securing the debate, because clearly there is a great deal of concern, across parties and around the regions, about the matter that we are debating.

I want to talk particularly about Plymouth. The city is home to one of the nine largest independent theatres in the country, which puts on some amazing productions. It is extremely concerned about the ever-widening gap between London and the regions and the serious financial imbalance that exists; London is assigned 14 times as much taxpayer money per head than the rest of England. As a Londoner, I also acknowledge that there has been a skewing of funding from some of the bigger institutions in the centre of London to those in the outer areas.

Institutions such as the Queen’s theatre in Hornchurch or perhaps even Greenwich theatre might make a case for revisiting the way in which funding is distributed. Will the Minister tell me—I genuinely do not know the answer—whether any detailed work has been done recently to look at all the individual funding streams and investigate whether investment in those areas resulted in economic growth? I was pleased to hear from my right hon. Friend Mr Bradshaw that the Culture, Media and Sport Committee is going to do some detailed work on that. It is important that we understand better exactly where money is going in the regions and what the outcomes of such investment are.

Who is served by the arts and cultural events put on in Plymouth? Apart from Plymouthians, the evidence shows that the audiences who visit our theatres come from a vast rural hinterland that extends to Exeter, into Cornwall and beyond. Those visitors often stay overnight, which also helps our local economy. Audiences find that going to Plymouth is much better value for money than buying an expensive train ticket to London and a very expensive ticket to an event, for which they may almost need a bank loan. People in Plymouth simply cannot afford to do that. Cornwall is recognised by the EU as one of the most deprived regions in the UK, if not in Europe. It is unfair to isolate our region as the current arts funding set-up does, and I agree with all colleagues in the room that the matter really needs to be looked at again.

The transmission of live events on big screens and in cinemas has been a wonderful way of bringing live performances out to the regions and even into poorer parts of London. It has given people a way to see, for example, the Royal opera or the ballet. It is not the whole answer, however; it is something of a halfway house, and people would like to see the real thing.

As we have heard, the impact of cultural development on an economy is significant. We can see that by looking at what has happened in Gateshead or Glasgow, or with The Lowry in Salford. In Plymouth, we are looking at setting up a new cultural centre in the former civic centre, and a bid has been placed with the Arts Council for the necessary funding. That development would create international contemporary arts studios, independent film options, theatres of different sizes and outdoor festival performance space. That is a really exciting potential project that I hope the Arts Council will look at sympathetically, not least because 4 million tickets are sold for just those nine large regional theatres, as compared to 13 million in London. That is not an insignificant amount, but we could certainly do better. The regional theatres are faced with London’s getting 90% of philanthropic donations and 70% of business sponsorship. The match funding imbalance, which so many Members have already touched on, is significant.

I am afraid that I must come back to the cuts and the potential impact on Plymouth. I want the Theatre Royal, the Drum theatre, the Barbican theatre, the Plymouth arts centre and our museum to flourish. I want visitors to come, and to see our city as a real cultural treat. It was the home to Beryl Cook, Joshua Reynolds and Robert Lenkiewicz. We have a thriving college of art and design that is seeking to become a university—fingers crossed on that. We have production companies such as TwoFour productions, and a rehearsal space at TR2 used by west end productions. That is obviously one benefit of having links with London, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter touched on.

Our city council is facing swingeing cuts. It took the bull by the horns and has not thus far dug into the arts and leisure budget as much as other councils have.

Instead, it bid to be UK city of culture. I am delighted that my hon. Friend Diana Johnson is here and I wish her city well for 2017. The leader of Plymouth council, Tudor Evans, felt that making our bid was the right thing to do. He said publicly that it would be an abdication of the council’s duty

“to readily accept its (Plymouth’s) cultural decline” as a result of the cuts. That is absolutely right, but since he will have to find a further £60 million over the next few years, he will be pushed harder than ever simply to manage his core services.

The screws are being turned on Plymouth and on other local authorities, so I urge the Minister to consider fully the report, “Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital”, as well as the recommendations of the Select Committee.

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Labour, Gower

Order. If we are to hear everyone speak, we need speeches to last less than three minutes, with no interventions.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip 3:12 pm, 4th February 2014

I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Caton. I congratulate Paul Blomfield on securing this debate. He introduced it well. I may not be the popular perception of a luvvie, but my great-grandfather trod the boards at Covent Garden and, as Members would have heard during the pre-debate banter, I have two sons—one an actor and the other in training, both at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. I have been to many small arts centres and theatres around the country, following my elder son, Peter, to see how things are going on, so I have a bit of perspective.

I agree with most of what has been said so far. I must say that some things that have been mentioned in relation to the cuts are not new. I can remember one of the first things I did when I came to Parliament was to go on an all-party delegation to the Arts Council—probably in 1998—to try to save the D’Oyly Carte theatre, which was about to go under. Luckily, Lord Bishop stepped in to save it, and I believe that it is still doing very well, which is a great delight for fans of Gilbert and Sullivan such as myself.

We have heard about how productions move out of London, and that applies to exhibitions and orchestras as well. It is also absolutely true that some very good performances by companies and orchestras outside London should appear in this city, and they do. I take the point made by Mr Jones, who I think has just departed, about the Lindisfarne gospels. If an area has a particular relic or artefact that relates to it, that will be treasured a little more than all the other riches we can find in museums. There is obviously a limit to that, because we want national collections, but some movement could take place.

Other things encourage the arts as well. We have lots of US film production companies over here because of the tax breaks. The locations are not just in London; they are filming all around the country. That inspires people. There is also a lot going on in the regions. It is not just about theatres in regional centres, or those in rural settings—there is a whole load. I have been to lots of small theatres and arts centres. Some of them are good; some are excellent. Some struggle with some of the performances; some do not.

It is most important that, to encourage people to go to such places, we ensure that our young people are interested at an early age. They must not see theatre, music, dance or whatever as being elitist. That is why I would recommend that the Minister speaks to some of his colleagues in the Department for Education and elsewhere to ensure that such arts are not forgotten. We have heard that the arts are often the first to suffer cuts because they are not at the front line. I would say the same about education. People must learn the value of these things. If we put money into them now, we might not have to subsidise them in future because they will be self-sustaining.

Finally, we must also remember that the arts are not just about pleasurable experience. I have found that some theatre productions, films and satire put across an argument much more strongly than what we say in this place with our brilliant oratory. I finally decided that I was going to vote against the Iraq war when I saw Rory Bremner on the television, because the satire made me realise how absurd the idea was. My current crusade on modern-day slavery is well served by audiences seeing the reality of things rather than simply reading bland things in newspapers.

Photo of Gordon Marsden Gordon Marsden Shadow Minister (Transport) 3:16 pm, 4th February 2014

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Caton. I congratulate my hon. Friend Paul Blomfield on securing this debate. He has really shone a light on the disparities in regional arts funding. My constituency, Blackpool, has attracted under £1 million from the Arts Council over the period covered by the report, compared with the £23 million granted to London. Seaside and coastal towns such as Blackpool are often on the periphery, but there can be a determined focus on funding issues, such as occurred in the mid-2000s. Along with other MPs from seaside and coastal towns, I put points very strongly to the Heritage Lottery Fund regarding seaside parks and public spaces.

How we define things such as arts and culture will vary enormously, but for me they are about performance, the visual, the oral, the written and heritage. The north-west is a rich crucible for each of those; one has only to think of art at Port Sunlight, Anthony Gormley’s men on the beach at Crosby, the Liverpool poets, L. S. Lowry, the Hallé orchestra and Carol Ann Duffy—I have made my point.

Blackpool, in the north-west, is a paradigm for how those things can be done not just locally but opened out to all sorts of people across the country. Over the past 15 to 20 years, Blackpool has reinvented itself for the 20th century. We have done so via regeneration; via the development of the seafront and the public realm; by promoting public art such as the glitter ball; through works of art featured in St John’s square; and through the reinvention of the town and the winter gardens. All that was done through funding from the last Labour Government, the regional development agencies and Europe, with the co-operation of the council.

We have created new headlands with European money, especially the tower headland, and we have had major new art exhibits such as the Comedy Carpet, which celebrates the theatrical and showbiz history of Blackpool. We have the Grundy art gallery and the Carnegie library, which have fantastic local history collections, including the Cyril Critchlow collection of playbills. That was part of a determined programme of physical and cultural renewal. Those Members who have not recently been to see how the winter gardens have been restored to splendour or the major renewals to the tower are welcome to do so.

Throughout the process, the local authority and local bodies have played a crucial role in the vigorous pursuit of collaboration with the Victoria and Albert museum and the exchange of ideas and initiatives with York, and they have contributed significantly to the injection of cultural elements into the regeneration programme. For example, FYCreatives, funded with money from the Government’s local enterprise growth initiative, has design and art, and gallery space. There are initiatives in the centre of the town and I pay tribute to council officers and to the cabinet member for tourism, Graham Cain, and the leader of the council, Simon Blackburn. He, in particular, has put the heritage issue on the front foot.

The Civic Trust has been a major force for highlighting heritage. We have had incredible community support for oral history, and there is a marvellous war memorial in the town, supported by the Royal British Legion and the Comrades Club. There is a range of different things, but we depend on good bids being made to unlock the available funds. That is the reason, in crude terms, why we have failed to draw funds into Blackpool. Others have pointed out the same thing. The good work done in the community includes Wordpool, a literary festival that reaches out as an alternative for children and young people, the Fylde coast dance initiative, and in the next couple of weeks the Showzam project in the centre of the town—a display of circus, magic and new variety—as well as the illuminations themselves. All those things are magnets to bring people into the town, but we need support to succeed, and to make a reality of Blackpool’s heritage plans, including the excellent suggestion for a new museum of popular culture and the seaside, which has gone to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Places such as Blackpool do not need a handout; they need a leg up, from Arts Council England, from Departments, in recognition of the scale of the cuts, and from the Minister, whom we need to fight our corner.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East 3:21 pm, 4th February 2014

I congratulate Paul Blomfield on securing the debate. I note what Mr Bradshaw said, and unfortunately much of the debate portrays the issue as a battle between London and the regions. In reality, there are two aspects of the matter to take into account when decisions are taken. First, the arts and the creative industries are part and parcel of people’s quality of life; secondly, there is the question of promoting growth and enterprise. The simple fact is that 63% of people who come to this country as tourists come to London first, so it is only right for there to be investment in London, to encourage growth and prosperity.

Sitting suspended for Divisions in the House.

On resuming

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East 3:45 pm, 4th February 2014

As I was saying before the Divisions, the key to economic growth is investment. Given that, what has been said about investment in London must be corrected. In “Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital”, the Mayor of London clearly states that the per capita spending in London for arts lottery funding in 2012-13 was £17.26, not the £86.40 that has been cited. We must have the correct facts and figures, so I look to the inquiry by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee to ensure that we have the right figures before we move forward. The subsidy in London is the lowest of any part of the country, and that needs to be understood.

I used to serve on the London assembly as deputy chairman of the Economic Development, Culture, Sport and Tourism Committee. In 2007, I commissioned a report on the state of theatres in London, and I am told that it is still the definitive report on the requirement for funding of theatres to encourage the creative industries in London and the creative culture that promotes so much of London’s tourism. Actually, very little spending is needed to enable many of London’s theatres to prosper, grow and bring in private sector funding. That needs to be addressed.

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South

Even if the Mayor of London’s figure is right—personally, I do not think that it is, so I too look forward to the Select Committee’s report—the funding level in London is four to five times more than that in the English regions. How can that possibly be defended?

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Labour, Gower

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman replies, I remind Members that we need to keep our contributions down to something like three minutes and interventions will probably prevent us from doing that.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Thank you, Mr Caton.

In answer to my hon. Friend, the key is driving economic growth. The reality is that the creative industries in London account for one in 12 jobs in the UK and one in eight jobs in London. The point is that if we invest in London, we will create faster economic growth for the long-term benefit of the whole economy. The creative industries in this country are worth £71.4 billion, which is a huge amount of money. If we want to see investment, it must take place in that sector.

The Communities and Local Government Committee, on which I sit, is conducting an inquiry at the moment on devolution of funding, not only to London but to other cities and regions. With devolution comes responsibility, and I take the strong view that when the Arts Council or any other grant-awarding body is giving out money to invest in the creative industries—the arts, the culture or any other creative area—it should be done hand in hand with matched funding from local authorities, to ensure that we maximise the amount of money available. We talk about devolution to local authorities and beyond; with devolution comes the responsibility to invest in arts and culture, and not to say, “We’ll decimate the arts and culture, and we’ll invest in other areas.”

I think we have to be clear that this should not end up as a battle between London and the regions. The opportunity is there to invest in the creative industries in both London and the regions. We have to ensure that the facts and figures quoted by all hon. Members are correct.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North 3:50 pm, 4th February 2014

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Caton.

A remarkable milestone in the cultural heritage of my Stockton North constituency will be reached this August, when Billingham international folklore festival marks its 50th anniversary. The festival started with an Irish dance troupe dancing in the town hall, run by the late Phil Conroy, and we now have an internationally renowned event with a rich blend of the traditional and the contemporary. I hope that hon. Members from all parties accept my invitation to join us between 8 and 16 August, but if they cannot, they can instead come to Stockton between 31 July and 3 August, when Stockton international riverside festival takes place, showcasing the best in small and large-scale street theatre.

I do not apologise for making a pitch for those two events, which with other arts groups, including our fabulous ARC centre and Tees Music Alliance, have taken the widest range of cultural experiences to the widest possible audience. Yes, we have had tremendous success in arts and culture. The last time I had a debate in this Chamber, the Minister mentioned the richness he had heard about. Of course, much more could have been done in the north-east if the region had a fair share of the massive pot that is available for arts and culture.

The north-east is more typically associated with shipbuilding and manufacturing than with the arts, but the people in the north-east have a real passion for the arts. Since the late 1990s, the region has had budding significance in the creative industries, spurred by the finances made available under Labour and the regional development agency, as well as from the European Union and national lottery funding. A clever combination of investment and foresight has resulted in the north-east, one of Britain’s poorest and most deprived areas in many measures, establishing some of the finest creative arts infrastructure in the country. For instance, we not only boast of international attractions, such as the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and the Sage Gateshead concert hall, but of national and regional establishments, such as ARC in Stockton and the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art.

Despite all that, ease of access to the arts remains far from fair for the regions. Some two thirds of the population live beyond the reach of the productions and collections of the so-called national cultural organisations, and three quarters of decisions on arts funding are taken centrally rather than regionally—a proportion that continues to climb. There is another aspect to this: the vast majority of money spent on the lottery tends to be spent in poorer areas, but they do not get their return from the national lottery. They have a higher proportion of spend and, as a bare minimum, they should be getting a return on that investment.

I shall talk in the few seconds I have left about arts for ordinary people. The ARC in Stockton is a multipurpose cultural venue with hundreds of events a year. In a single year, it hosted 230 professional performances and 80 community performances, engaging more than 110,000 visitors. A hundred artists are employed to provide 1,000 creative learning opportunities, enjoyed by more than 14,000 children, young people, adults and older people. That is what the arts are about—not just fancy museums and opera houses in London. but what is actually happening out in the regions. It is time that we had a fairer share of the money that is available.

Photo of Nick Brown Nick Brown Labour, Newcastle upon Tyne East 3:53 pm, 4th February 2014

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Alex Cunningham in the debate. Let me quickly put a word for opera houses in London, of which I am very fond.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Caton. I congratulate my hon. Friend Paul Blomfield on the way he introduced this well attended debate, which has struck a chord with hon. Members from all parties. It is striking that every hon. Member who has taken part has made the good point, which I endorse, that this debate should not be about London versus the regions.

I was not surprised by the findings of the report, “Rebalancing our Cultural Capital”. It is right and proper that particular funding is provided to important institutions of national and international standing and it is logical that those will be located in the capital, but that point only goes so far. I was genuinely surprised by the extent of the funding and the ratio of £69 per head spent on the arts from all sources in London, compared to the £4.60 for the rest of the country, a ratio of 15:1, or 14:1, as my hon. Friend Alison Seabeck said.

I welcome the Select Committee inquiry. If these figures are contested by the Mayor of London or Bob Blackman, or whoever, it is right that the facts are established, but I suspect that this report will not be far of the mark. Its authors have reflected carefully on the implications of their finding and have come up with a number of modest, sensible, workmanlike proposals. I hope that the Minister agrees at least to consider them and see if they are workable. The report recommends that, of the different funding streams administered by the Arts Council—the money from the Department, the Arts Council and the national lottery—the national lottery segment is hypothecated, at least in part, to a specific fund dedicated to the non-London part of England; in other words, to regional arts.

When one takes into account the private sector funding, 82% of which is spent in London, with the remaining 18% spent in the rest of the country, the thrust of the expenditure pattern is all too clear. The proposal in the report is modest and is all the more justified when we look at who is contributing into the lottery. Some 56% of households in the north-east region play the lottery. In London, the region with the lowest participation in percentage terms, 32% of households play the lottery. So it is possible to win the lottery without playing it: all you have to do is move to London. If the figures in the report are right, it is fair to find some way of altering the balance.

Let me make a plea for the north-east. We were able to get the Sage, one of the most wonderful concert halls—similar to the symphony hall that the people of Birmingham have—which is acoustically accurate and designed for the performance of great music, but it costs money to bring orchestras of worldwide distinction to venues of this kind and to the north-east of England. If we could have a little fund that would make up the difference between the amount of money that one can reasonably get from the sale of tickets and the cost of providing the orchestral concerts, that would go an enormous way to bringing the Sage building back to its original intended purpose and would boost the arts in the north-east of England.

Photo of Tessa Jowell Tessa Jowell Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood 3:58 pm, 4th February 2014

It is a pleasure to follow my right hon. Friend Mr Brown. He has laid down a powerful challenge, because this debate, and therefore its conclusions, falters on the uncertainty and ambiguity of the figures in two respects. He has made the point about the lottery, but when the claimed discrepancy between London and the rest of the country is interrogated, it does not take account of the postcode distribution of those figures. A cultural institution based in London but doing a lot of performance and so forth outside it will still count against the London tally.

I say to the Minister that there is a pressing need for figures that Members can have faith and confidence in. That would begin to deal with this sense that London is being set against the rest of country, when in fact its great cultural institutions are interdependent with those in other parts of the country.

I feel very proud of the previous Government, of which I was a member, for many reasons. One is the funding of regional arts and the restoration of funding for regional museums.

My second point, which Jesse Norman also made—unfortunately, he is not in his place—is that the figures are misleading. He has a rural constituency and therefore has an interest from that perspective. The regional nature of the figures means that the allocation to rural areas is subsumed in an overall regional average that is heavily dominated by cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle and Leeds.

Today’s debate, for which I thank my hon. Friend Paul Blomfield, is a welcome and important starting point, but we need an undertaking from the Minister that he will improve the quality of the data. To coin Jennie Lee’s phrase, the role of an arts Minister in relation to the arts community is money, policy and silence, but I think it should be money, policy and silence—but better figures.

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Labour, Gower

I call Kerry McCarthy, but I have to ask her to resume her seat by five minutes past 4 so that the wind-ups can begin.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 4:01 pm, 4th February 2014

I congratulate my hon. Friend Paul Blomfield on securing this debate. It is a great pleasure to follow not one but two former Labour Secretaries of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friends the Members for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) and for Dulwich and West Norwood (Dame Tessa Jowell). It is very good that they have turned up to speak.

I will not spend a lot of time paying tribute to Bristol’s arts and cultural scene and creative industries, which are well known. Bristol has everything from the natural history unit to Aardman. We had the “Gromit Unleashed” exhibition, if I can call it that, in the city last year. There were some 80 Gromits dotted around the city centre, and more than 1 million visitors came. People came from Japan to take pictures of themselves with the Gromits, which shows that Bristol does not always do things in the established way. There is a big counter-cultural scene in Bristol, which for the most part operates outside the realm of Arts Council funding and is probably happy doing so. The Banksys of this world, for example, have no need for anyone’s money except their own these days.

As we have heard, arts in the regions have been disproportionately affected by cuts to arts and culture. The Bristol Old Vic’s artistic director Tom Morris described it as a “triple whammy” of national cuts, local cuts and the greater difficulties that places outside London have in getting philanthropic funding. We know from research published by the shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government that the most deprived local authorities have suffered a disproportionately large share of funding cuts, which has a knock-on effect.

Photo of Yasmin Qureshi Yasmin Qureshi Labour, Bolton South East

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a similar situation in many constituencies? In Bolton, the crescent building, which has a museum, a library and an art gallery, has had to make 25 people redundant and sell 36 pieces of art so it can survive.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

Cuts have a cumulative impact. Not just the Arts Council cuts but other cuts are having a real impact. The artistic director of the Nottingham Playhouse has said that cuts will particularly affect the theatre’s ability to commission new plays. He concluded that cuts are

“about centralisation....loss of identity and undermining of the regional voice”.

In the limited time that I have left, I will focus on the fact that not all parts of Bristol benefit evenly from Arts Council funding. We have talked about the discrepancy between London and the regions, but there is a discrepancy even within Bristol. None of the 15 national portfolio arts organisations in Bristol, which share the £4.3 million grant in aid that goes to the city, are based in my constituency of Bristol East. Of the 79 projects in Bristol supported by the Arts Council through its national lottery-funded grants for the arts, only four are based in Bristol East. That is partly because the city centre is home to historical and cultural buildings and activities, but we need to consider how we can use arts funding to take things out to the communities, and to bring the communities into the city centre, too. There is a divide, and many people do not feel that they share in the artistic spoils of Bristol in the way they should. I have been approached by the Arts Council’s south-west office on precisely that issue. We met a couple of weeks ago, and I am reassured that the Arts Council is committed to ensuring that Bristol’s imbalance is addressed.

Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) 4:05 pm, 4th February 2014

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Caton. I congratulate my hon. Friend Paul Blomfield on securing this very important debate, which has been attended by 16 Labour Members.

One of the pleasures of holding the arts portfolio is being reminded of the excellent quality of the arts across the country. My right hon. Friends the Members for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw), for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown) and for Dulwich and West Norwood (Dame Tessa Jowell) and my hon. Friends the Members for Plymouth, Moor View (Alison Seabeck), for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden), for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) and for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) have all attested to that fact. Nobody can doubt the quality of regional arts, the audience for regional arts or the talent that comes from regional arts, so we need to ask why there is such a funding disparity.

Much has been made of the independent report “Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital”, which found that Londoners get nearly £70 a head and the rest of the country gets £4.60 a head, a ratio of 14:1. The report’s figures do not include the spend on the Cultural Olympiad or the millennium dome, but they have been questioned this afternoon. Obviously one would expect more money to be spent on national institutions, which tend to be in capital cities. The National Gallery is bound to cost the taxpayer more than the Walker art gallery. Equally, it is true that some of the work undertaken by the national institutions directly benefits the regions, such as the National Theatre’s streaming of “Richard II” to cinemas across the country and the British Museum’s portable antiquities scheme. Given the questions, though, it is disappointing that, three months down the track, we have not had a clear analysis from Arts Council England showing the proportion of the benefits of spending that falls in London and the proportion that falls elsewhere, which would inform the discussion.

Even on the analysis that Arts Council England has provided, the picture shows a serious problem. Over the five years between 2010 and 2015, some £2 billion of public money will be spent on cultural institutions in London, excluding the British Library. The direct spend of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is £447 million, of which 90% is in London. In a series of parliamentary answers to me, the Minister has not justified the rationale for that support. It is an accident of history that the Liverpool museums and the Geffrye museum are nationally supported while the Laing art gallery in Newcastle and the Dulwich picture gallery are not. When people learn that Arts Council England supports 77 performing arts organisations in London but only seven in the north-east, it is clear that the imbalance is not just about a handful of elite institutions.

Arts Council England says that grant in aid funding is £22 a head in London and £8 a head elsewhere. As hon. Members have said, how can it be right that people in the east midlands and the east of England get only a fifth of what Londoners get and that the east midlands, a region of 6 million people, has no major partner museum? The lottery spend under Arts Council England’s control tells a similar story: £12 per person in London compared with £2.99 per person in the west midlands and £2.78 per person in the north-west—in other words, less than a quarter.

Arts Council England seems to think that it is some sort of triumph that just 31% of the lottery funding that it distributes was awarded to London’s institutions. That seems less commendable when one discovers that London accounts for only 10% of lottery ticket sales, whereas people in the north-east get 3.6% of the spend but pay for 7.6% of lottery tickets. The authors of “Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital” suggest that the rebalancing should begin with the lottery money. We need a proper audit of what is going on, taking account of DCMS support, Arts Council England grants, Arts Council England-distributed lottery funding and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It is notable that HLF’s distribution matches the population far more closely than Arts Council England-distributed lottery funding. London, with 15% of the population, gets 19% of the spend. The east of England, with 11% of the population, gets 10% of the spend. Yorkshire and Humber’s 10% of the population is perfectly matched with 10% of the spend. That proves that it can be done and suggests that there is a relationship with the institutional structures of the organisation. The Heritage Lottery Fund has a far more rooted, regional approach to decision making.

One thing I find worrying is this statement in the Arts Council briefing:

“The Arts Council cannot make up the shortfall and we want to work with local authorities who continue to value and invest in arts and culture”.

At first blush that seems reasonable, but then one takes account of the disparate and unfair funding settlements meted out by the Government to local authorities. Liverpool and Hackney, which are among the 10 most deprived local authorities, are seeing 27% reductions in spending power, while local authorities in Surrey, which has some of the 10 least deprived, are seeing 1% increases in spending power. In the real world, cash does not equate to commitment, whereas on the Arts Council model, despite having seven museums, a major orchestra and being the home of the Beatles and Daniel Defoe, Liverpool’s funding might fall and Surrey would become the most cultivated county in England.

Furthermore, the Arts Council proposed to take local authority investment into account in Manchester and Middlesbrough, but not in Kensington and Chelsea, which puts no money into the V and A, or in Westminster, home to the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, which has just axed its entire arts budget, despite all the cultural and economic benefits that flow to local communities from being home to those magnificent institutions.

Normally, public subsidy goes where the market fails, but that cannot be said for the arts. London has the largest population of the well-heeled middle classes, the most tourists and the most philanthropists. I am delighted that the Minister, in partnership with the Wolfson Foundation, has spread money across the regions, and I am not cynical enough to think that the Bowes Museum in my constituency has had a particularly large grant because it is the seat of the shadow Minister—it is obviously because it has the best collection of European paintings between London and Edinburgh—but will the £4 million make up for the discrepancy in the philanthropic spend per head? I doubt it. In London, the spend per head was nearly £60, but in the midlands it was only £1.83.

I end with one simple question for the Minister. He cannot continue to hide behind the Arts Council’s skirts. He has totally failed to persuade the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government of the need to take account of the value of the arts in local authority settlements. Can the Minister persuade the Arts Council to take radical steps to reverse that trend? If he does not, we will see an existential crisis outside the M25. In Somerset, the Brewhouse closed; in Darlington, the arts centre closed; and, in Richmond, the Georgian theatre at risk. The losses will be felt not only now, but for many years ahead as young people across the country lose the stimulation and opportunities provided by the arts.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 4:13 pm, 4th February 2014

I am grateful for the chance to respond to this important debate, and I congratulate Paul Blomfield on securing it. It was apposite that during the debate, an e-mail arrived in my inbox from Sheffield Theatres inviting me to the premiere of “The Full Monty” at the Noel Coward theatre on 25 February. “The Full Monty” began in Sheffield a year ago and has since successfully toured what we call “the regions”—that is, the rest of the country outside of London. That is a good example of how theatres outside London continue to produce high-quality productions for the enjoyment of people living outside London.

I think Members in all parts of the House can agree that we have had a good debate. Alex Cunningham pointed out that the last time we had a debate on the regional arts, hon. Members could not resist telling the House about the thriving arts organisations in their constituencies. The paradox in a debate such as this, when the message is that the arts and the arts outside London need more money, is that most of the messages we hear are about thriving arts communities outside London.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Exactly. That is the theme: arts funding is doing very well, but it could be better. We have had some fantastic contributions. My hon. Friend Sarah Newton talked about north Cornwall museums benefiting from the support of the National Maritime Museum. Two former Secretaries of State—the right hon. Members for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) and for Dulwich and West Norwood (Dame Tessa Jowell)—spoke in the debate. The right hon. Lady said that the figures perhaps did not give the full picture of how London and the regions are interdependent. The right hon. Gentleman asked the current Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to speak to local government. I am sure he will be pleased to know that my right hon. Friend will speak to the Local Government Association, and she will, no doubt, make it plain how important it is that local authorities continue to support the arts.

We have heard my hon. Friend Dr Coffey talk about Aldeburgh, Alison Seabeck talk about the Plymouth theatre and my right hon. Friend Sir John Randall talk about the power of art to transform political debate. Mr Marsden did not mention the £3 million that is coming to Blackpool and Wyre from the Arts Council’s creative people and places fund. My hon. Friend Bob Blackman talked about the importance of the arts and Mr Brown, perhaps the greatest culture Minister we never had, talked about the Sage Gateshead. Kerry McCarthy, who won the seat that I contested in 1997—I turned a 5,000 Labour majority into a 17,000 Labour majority—does not need to tell me about the thriving arts scene in Bristol.

We can trade statistics back and forth, but it is my understanding that 70% of lottery funding goes outside London or to projects that benefit the whole nation. That percentage has increased from 60% before the coalition came into power. It is important to note that the first act of the coalition was to increase the proportion of lottery funding going each to the arts and to heritage from 16% to 20%.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

Simply to correct the Minister on his numbers, in 2009-10—the last year of the previous Government—the lottery spend outside London was 76.3%. It has fallen in 2012-13 to 68.4%.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

My briefing from the Arts Council says the opposite: that it is 70% now and was on average 60% under the previous Government. We can trade statistics, but lottery funding has increased and additional funds are available: £45 million for the strategic touring programme, which helps organisations tour outside of London; £37 million in the creative people and places fund, which was specifically set up by the Arts Council to support the arts where they are not well represented in certain regions; and £15 million to support 6,500 apprenticeship places, many of which will be outside London. There is also the £171 million that I secured with the Secretary of State for Education for music hubs. For 2015-16 alone, the Arts Council will have something like £570 million to invest in the arts up and down the country.

It is important, however, to understand why in the pure statistics it looks like London is getting a disproportionate share of the funding. The national museums are based in London, but the Victoria and Albert Museum is opening a multimillion pound extension in Dundee and it works with Sheffield galleries, as I know from my visits. The British Museum only this week sent me a wonderful publication detailing all the work it does across the country with other organisations. Plus Tate works with 26 contemporary art museums in the UK. The Science Museum has homes in York, Bradford and Manchester. The Royal Armouries is based in Leeds. The Imperial War Museum has bases in

Duxford and Salford, as well as in London. There are also organisations that tour, such as the English National Ballet. I spoke to the director-designate of the National Theatre, Rufus Norris, about his ambitious plans to support theatre and produce productions outside London and bring them into the National Theatre. That will no doubt be helped by the Chancellor’s generous decision to create a tax break for theatre specifically to support productions outside London.

The list goes on and I could go on and on, but I want to list some of the places that I have visited as culture Minister. I went to Durham to view the Lindisfarne gospels and saw the huge impact the exhibition had on the city. I have visited the Turner Contemporary, which has already welcomed 1 million visitors, the Hepworth Wakefield, Nottingham Contemporary, Sage Gateshead and Bristol Old Vic, which is one of the foremost advocates of arts policy in the country.

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South

I thank the Minister for giving way. I am listening hard to his catalogue of stuff going on in the regions. Based on that, is it his position that the current balance of spending per head between London and the regions is about right and that the report and its recommendations for rebalancing are not a useful contribution?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I was going to go on to mention the Mary Rose museum in Portsmouth, Thinktank, which is the Birmingham science museum, Liverpool, which has been European capital culture and contains one of our national museums, the Manchester international festival, Manchester’s plans for a new arts centre called HOME, Aldeburgh, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal, Opera North, the Lowry and the Bowes museum. It is no coincidence that the shadow culture spokesperson holds the Bishop Auckland seat given the huge philanthropic act of Jonathan Ruffer, who saved the Zurbarán paintings and opened up Auckland castle, which I visited a few months ago.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

Rather than continue reading out a lengthy list of excellent regional arts organisations, perhaps the Minister could answer the question posed by David Mowat and reassure us that when the Secretary of State goes to talk to the Local Government Association, she will come armed with good practice examples of where local government supports the arts and cultural community in the way that so many have outlined in today’s debate.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

It is important that the right hon. Gentleman has stopped me in my tracks, because I could go on until the end of the day about the superb regional arts centres found outside London. I could talk about the national impact of Cultural Olympiad or about world war one. I think the question put by my hon. Friend David Mowat was well answered. We are doing brilliantly, but could always do better. That is what Sir Peter Bazalgette, chair of Arts Council England, said. He is confident that funding is available for our great arts organisations outside of the capital and that organisations in the capital work closely with those outside. He has, however, said “could do better” and “judge us in two years’ time,” which is right. To hon. Members who feel concerned, their message has been heard.

Photo of Yasmin Qureshi Yasmin Qureshi Labour, Bolton South East

I honestly do not mean to be facetious, but when the Minister has discussions with the chair of Arts Council England and other Ministers, will he please ask that the museum, library and art gallery on Le Mans crescent in Bolton is given extra funding, so that it does not have to sell any more artwork to survive?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Lady is not being facetious in the slightest, but it is important to understand that Arts Council England is based on the arm’s length principle. The shadow culture Minister said that I cannot hide behind the Arts Council’s skirts, but what is her position? Will there be a fundamental change of policy by the Labour party? There have been rumours that Labour would cancel all funding for the big five, the Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company and redistribute that money around the regions. Is that what the Labour would do? It is all right to moan, but she really must come up with an alternative policy. Is it her position to direct Arts Council funding or to direct funding per head in the regions? What is the Labour party’s position? It is about to be explained.

Photo of Nick Brown Nick Brown Labour, Newcastle upon Tyne East

It is. The Labour party’s position is most certainly not as set out by the Minister. I am enjoying his speech, but it is unfair to David Mowat not to give him the direct answer that he was hoping for.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I feel that I did give him a direct answer. I explained that the chair of Arts Council England had said that things were going well, but could always do better, that the message has been heard loud and clear and that judgment should be made in two years’ time.

I will not support the recommendation from Patrick Diamond, the former adviser to the previous Labour Prime Minister, to close the British Museum and move it outside London, probably costing several billion pounds. I will also not support Labour’s proposals to stop funding the big five. [Interruption.] The shadow culture spokesperson is going to rule that out.

Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

I certainly am going rule out that we are going to end all funding to what the Minister calls the “big five”. I have not said it and I do not think it.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

That is good to hear. I am glad that that rumour has been put to bed, but I remain in the dark on the hon. Lady’s regional policy. Labour has initiated a second review of the creative industries, so we will wait to hear its conclusions.