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Column 76provide a clear framework for day-to-day decisions on planning applications. The White Paper entitled "Future of Development Plans" published in January takes that approach further by proposing a single tier of mandatory district-wide development plans to be prepared and adoped by district councils using streamlined procedures. Such plans would need to be consistent with national and regional guidance issued by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and the planning policies of the county councils.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) rightly raised the question of rivers and pollution in his constituency. I was present when he recently raised the matter with the Prime Minister. The River Derwent near York, which provides a lot of water for his constituency, is of the highest of standards. The Rivers Don and Rother are not so good. Some £25 million will be spent on improving a stretch of the River Don, and improvements to the remainder of the Rother will be made through the extension of the sewage treatment works' capacity that should enable the Rother to be upgraded. I shall certainly draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to the hon. Gentleman's points.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) for raising a number of questions about the EEC. He is right that the way in which we deal with those matters in the House is not as satisfactory as it should be. I am having discussions with a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House to consider whether there can be some improvement.
The hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) raised the concern about the entitlement of certain foreign beneficially owned fishing vessels to remain United Kingdom registered vessels. I believe that he and the Government are on the same side of the matter. That is now before the Court of Appeal and I know that the right hon. Gentleman would not expect me to comment in more detail than that. The judgment is expected on 15 March and then, of course, the case may go to the House of Lords.
My hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) mentioned the working party the House Builders Federation that produced the report to which he referred. I know from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment that the report which my hon. Friend produced together with his colleagues is an admirable document and is being considered by the Department of the Environment and others. The hon. Member the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) raised the question of Newbattle Abbey college, and the Government's decision to cease payment of a grant to that college. Of course, the future of the college is a matter for its governors and trustees. I understand his disappointment at the decision, but I do not accept that the decision was made in haste. It would take too long to deal with the detailed arguments tonight, but I believe that they are set out very clearly in a letter to the hon. Gentleman from my right hon. and learned Friend, the Secretary of State for Scotland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Porter) raised the question of teacher shortage in primary education. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support of the GCSE and I shall draw his comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. There are more than enough
Column 77primary teachers nationwide, but there are recruitment difficulties in parts of London and the south-east. However, recruitment to primary school training is buoyant so there is scope for employing more teachers to meet present shortages. The implications of the national curriculum will change the pattern of demand for secondary subject teachers in the 1990s. We shall have enough teachers overall, but shall need more in some subjects, such as technology, science, and modern languages, and less in some others.
The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) spoke about the quality of water. The general point needs to be made that one of the great advantages of the Water Bill, which will privatise the water industry, is that it will create the National Rivers Authority. Then we shall have a much better mechanism for improving the quality of our rivers and waters. Privatisation will, of course, enable much more money to be spent on capital investment than in the past. Our recent record for cleaning up bathing waters is a good one-- two thirds of the 348 waters in England, Northern Ireland and Wales now meet EEC standards compared with only half in 1986.
My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) raised the question of compulsory purchase. Recently, on behalf of the Prime Minister, I answered a question from my hon. Friend and I was pleased to hear his views tonight. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has issued a consultation paper, but my right hon. Friend is right to stress that, where compulsory purchase is required, compensation must be fair, must be seen to be fair and there should be no undue delay.
The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) raised the question of the report of the Select Committee on the Environment about toxic waste. As the Prime Minister said to the House the other day, many of the issues raised in the report are already being dealt with. Consultation is near completion, legislation is being prepared and a detailed response to the report will be given by the Government in due course. He was also right to raise the question of Iran and I share his concern about the disturbing reports.
The hon. Member for Coventry, South-East wants a debate to urge people--
It being three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker-- put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 22 (Periodic Adjournments).
Question agreed to.
That this House at its rising on Thursday 23rd March, do adjourn until Tuesday 4th April and at its rising on Friday 28th April, do adjourn till Tuesday 2nd May.
Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
Question, That the Bill be now read a Second time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 54 (Consolidated Fund Bills), and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time.
Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.
Motion made, and Question proposed, pursuant to Standing Order No. 54 (Consolidated Fund Bills), That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Maclean.]
Mr. John Bowis (Battersea) : I am glad of this opportunity to celebrate the arts of this country and to apportion credit where credit is due--to my right hon. Friend the Minister and his team at the Office of Arts and Libraries and also to the many administrators in local government and in the arts centres for all that they do to make artistic achievements possible. I should also like to draw attention to the vitality of the arts in Britain and among British artists. In celebrating the arts, we should also look for ways in which to encourage them still further.
Last Saturday, as I was sitting in Southwark cathedral for the installation of our local archdeacon, I found myself considering this debate and how to frame it. I was sitting alongside the memorial to William Shakespeare. Perhaps that was an omen, as I believe that it sums up the theme of my debate--the past excellence of our arts and the ways in which we can emulate that. Looking around that cathedral--not just at the Shakespeare and Chaucer windows, but at the fine architecture--my awareness of that excellence was heightened, and as I listened to the anthem by Thomas Tallis I realised that the ceremony was a celebration of our artistic excellence.
On Saturday afternoon I went with my 11-year-old son to the Festival Hall to attend one of the Ernest Read children's concerts. My son was performing with his school choir as part of that concert, which to me was as much a symbol of our debate on the arts as the excellence of the cathedral and its service. Those concerts introduce young children and their families to the best of British musical performance and encourage them to participate. I stress the importance of participation as well as of understanding and observing the arts. In my own childhood I recall being introduced to music by being persuaded to take up the piano at an early age. I later took up the clarinet. Then, finding that one could get the maximum enjoyment with the minimum effort by changing instruments, I switched to the double bass. That enabled me to get into the school orchestra, so I got to know a lot of music without quite so much rehearsal and practice time as the clarinet would have required. I then discovered that the double bass was a somewhat unwieldy instrument to play in a military band, so I took up the tuba. Such was my introduction to music.
Alongside my introduction to music I was persuaded to take part in school performances--anything from Lear to A. P. Herbert. I rendered a performance --if that is the right term--of the Mikado and did something to Gilbert and Sullivan. I am not sure what I did, but shortly afterwards D'Oyly Carte closed down. All this shows that from a young age one can participate in the arts. It also shows that if one takes up the tuba and indulges in a little thespianism one can end up on the Back Benches of the House of Commons, but if one does it will be the last that one sees of the pleasures of the stage and the concert hall.
For about 12 years one of my indulgences was being a performer in the Blue Review. Very often I trod the boards under the directorship of my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert). I well remember on one occasion before I came here being taught of the perils of the whipping system and how the Whips did not encourage hon. Members to depart from this place to enjoy the arts. I will put on record one version of my hon. Friend's composition, although I hasten to add that I do not intend to sing it :
"There are many, many ways to keep on top.
When they say go' we often have to say stop'.
At night they all seek leave to see the opera.
To stay, we say, would be more right and properer.
We get some argy-bargy.
If they miss their Pagliacci ;
But they stay in place
Or else they face
I have learnt from bitter experience that this place limits our ability to get out and enjoy the arts as we might like. However, we can play a part in encouraging others to discover the arts. We should encourage people to set out on a lifetime of discovery of the arts. That voyage of discovery is not just a discovery of the enjoyment of the arts--although that is important. There are many ways in which the arts contribute to society. When I was chairman of an education committee, we endeavoured to bring the arts into education, not just by teaching pupils to appreciate music and drama but by encouraging drama, music and painting as part of the teaching of other subjects to bring history, geography, language and science to life in a way that the drier forms of teaching cannot.
There is a great role for the arts in what may broadly be called enforced leisure, which may be due to sickness, unemployment or imprisonment. Throughout those periods of enforced confinement, the arts can play an enormously important part in helping people to find self-confidence and self-awareness and to regain their self-respect. The arts also play a part at work. We know the need for good designers and the good use of language at work. The arts also have a role to play in public life, in ensuring that we in public life bring artistic qualities to bear when making judgments and decisions as to how to improve the environment.
The social benefits from the arts are legion. The basic facts against which this debate takes place are that 251 million people attend arts events, of whom 49 million attend theatres and concerts, 70 million attend cinemas, 73 million visit museums and galleries--it is not just west end theatres but houses outside London and even local arts
Column 80centres--and 10 million people attend concerts, of whom 2.5 million attend symphony concerts, 2.2 million attend chamber music concerts and 5.7 million attend rock and pop concerts. Specialist, local and independent museums attract vast numbers of people. Those figures show the vitality of the arts, and the industry directly employs 200, 000 people.
The arts also provide therapeutic benefits--the social good that comes from the arts for the individual and the community. Some years ago, I went to Greenwich for the introduction of a community arts project on a difficult estate where there was much vandalism. By bringing in a community arts team and encouraging the people of the estate to come together to create a wall painting, the project brought a feeling of pride in the estate which had not existed before. It also encouraged a determination to protect the estate from outside vandalism and produced a new feeling of self-awareness and self-confidence in the people living there. That example could be repeated throughout the country.
The person who finds that he or she can create through the arts rarely becomes a vandal, graffiti merchant or litter lout. People who find that they share a common interest in the arts are rarely social misfits but instead join others to promote that interest. People in prison can find a new purpose in life through the arts. All too often we are forced to say what a pity it was that such people were not introduced to the arts before they got into trouble because they might have been prevented from ending up in that position. It is much better if we can encourage a person to become interested in the arts at the ground floor level of life so that the arts become a basic part of his or her make-up.
The arts can provide an integral safety net so that when we face tough times we can fall back on our knowledge, understanding and love of the arts to help us through. The arts are not a luxury but a necessity, an essential ingredient in the life of the individual and the nation. The state and the taxpayer should therefore never opt out of supporting the arts. The Government and the state have a role as a patron. That has always been so and it always will be so. Patronage cannot come out of the clouds--the Government must play a part because of the costs and implications involved.
Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool) : I have been waiting for the hon. Gentleman to come to this point. All that he has said so far has been acceptable--anyone who does not encourage the arts is foolish--but having come to the question of supportive systems for the arts, is he satisfied that the Government have put enough into the arts? Should we appeal to the Government to put more into the arts? What are his views on the fact that some hon. Members believe that we should have more voluntary supportive systems for the arts?
Mr. Bowis : The brief answer is no--we shall never be satisfied that there is enough support for the arts. However, the Government and particularly my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts have gone a long way to increasing that support and the confidence with which we can plan future support. The plural nature of funding and work to encourage other sources of funding is equally important, but we can never be satisfied that there is enough funding. There will always be new developments in the arts to be considered and funded.
Mr. David Martin (Portsmouth, South) : The Government's expenditure programme on the arts has increased by 33 per cent. in real terms since they came to office in 1979, so they have certainly made a contribution.
Mr. Bowis : I entirely accept the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Martin) that there has been a substantial and significant increase in the arts funding. Even more important so that people can plan ahead we have three-year funding, which has been rolled forward for the fourth year. As well as the role of patron, the state also has a role as the guardian of standards. If the Government and Parliament did not play a role in encouraging high standards in the arts but opted out completely, we should have a mixture of the tawdry and the pedestrian. That is all that the market alone would produce. The market has an important role to play, but it needs guidance from Parliament and Government. The state must encourage the innovator with talent, because too often the innovator is left behind by private sponsorship, so support must be given from the public sector. In a sense the message that we should give is similar to that which we give to new, young exporters--that we shall provide some export guarantee back-up for them. The state has a role to play as educator--through schools, youth services and continuing education.
The Government's role should be the pursuit of excellence, and to provide cash support for that which is of top quality. The Government should promote the spread of excellence in both central and regional development. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister has done a great deal to encourage regional development. That applies as much to London, which is far more than just the west end, as to areas outside London. What happens in the boroughs is crucial to the development and health of the arts. Support for touring companies and performers is important, as is support for taking things out of the cellars and drawers and putting them on show, around the country and abroad, to advertise the quality that this country possesses.
Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale) : My hon. Friend mentioned the role of the boroughs, and I presume that he was referring to local authority support for the arts generally. Is he aware that some of the regional opera companies have expressed concern that clause 28 of the Local Government and Housing Bill will restrict grants for economic development, and that grants for regional opera companies and other arts organisations may be caught by it? If that is so, does my hon. Friend agree that it is a wholly undesirable development?
Mr. Bowis : If that presents an obstacle to good arts funding, we should certainly examine it. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Minister will say something about it. It also underlines the need to scrutinise Arts Council funding as well as local government funding. The one can help to balance the other.
Mr. Greenway : This has been one of the great successes of "The Glory of the Garden". For a short time I was governor of the Theatre Royal in York and we implemented "The Glory of the Garden" policy to great effect by persuading local authorities to make their contribution.
Continuing to summarise the Government's role, I believe that the Government must encourage the crucial participation to which I referred earlier and tell people to try doing things, not just to sit still. That message must go out to people of all ages. The Government must also provide incentives for plural funding so that new funding opportunities are created and total resources for the arts increased.
Besides what the Government can give the arts we should highlight what they can receive from them. We should put grants into perspective by reminding ourselves of the 200,000 jobs involved and the 250 million people who attend, and of the £30 million that is estimated to come from the arts through local rates. VAT on the arts now contributes £55 million, compared with £35 million in 1983, and the arts earn about £1,500 million directly and indirectly from overseas earnings and from overseas visitors to this country. In addition to all this, the education, industry and social fabric of our nation benefit unquantifiably from the arts.
The Government can be proud of their achievements. My hon. Friends have referred to some of those achievements and I shall highlight a few others, particularly the work of the British Council to which increased funding has been given. The British Council and our embassies, high commissions and consulates do good work abroad. I went to a detention centre in South Africa for young men who had got into trouble in Soweto and found to my surprise that funding from Britain had resulted in English literature being learned there. I went in unannounced, only to discover that they were reading "Macbeth" with evident enjoyment--a plus for British literature as well as for the work done for people in need.
professionalism that its staff put into their work, for the benefit of the people of the countries that they serve. However, whenever I meet British Council staff, as I do fairly regularly, they complain that they have suffered cuts and have had to undo the damage done by those cuts through extra effort and raising revenue themselves. I commend what the Government are doing, but I make a plea to them to raise the expenditure limits in the spirit of the hon. Gentleman's submission.
Mr. Bowis : I have nothing against people raising additional money from elsewhere. I, too, have spoken to the British Council recently and I understand that it received a substantial increase in funding this year, so perhaps the pleas of the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members in all parts of the House have been heard. The British Council's work can therefore continue with confidence.
I also want to highlight the success of the Government's policy of helping inner-city regeneration. I commend the work done with other Departments which led to the British music industry sponsoring the city college for the technology of the arts. I commend the record number of museums that are opening and the record attendance figures, which are soaring towards the 100 million mark--the figure has doubled during the Government's period
Column 83of office. Theatres that were closed for some years are reopening, which is good. A great deal of business sponsorship is being found, and the three-year funding is a healthy development. I plead with the Arts Council to feed it through. Sometimes the client bodies do not receive the three-year funding, at least not on the level commensurate with the Government's funding of the Arts Council.
Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central) : Before the hon. Gentleman gets too carried away by his own rhetoric about museums and starts congratulating the Government on opening private, independent museums in which the Government are not involved, will he reflect on the attendance figures this year, about which the Minister has just replied in a parliamentary written answer? Attendance at the British museum, the Imperial War museum, the national gallery, the science museum, the Victoria and Albert museum and the Wallace collection has declined, and that is related to the fact that the Government have so underfunded the museums that they have to charge for admission, so attendance is falling catastrophically.
Mr. Bowis : Figures fluctuate. The figures for the national maritime museum show that attendance has risen over the years. The hon. Gentleman should examine the results of charging rather carefully. It often means that museums can open on days when they had hitherto been closed. That presents new opportunities for people to go and see them, so let us await future developments.
I should like my right hon. Friend the Minister to seek means of additional support for, and to remove occasional obstacles to, the success of opera. Enormous strides are being made to bring opera to new audiences. I do not mean only "Aida" at Earl's Court or productions in docklands but the whole range of initiatives, outside and inside London. I commend Westminster council's work in taking over performances so as to provide cheap seats at the Coliseum for people who have not seen opera before. The record of the English National Opera is to be commended, too. It has done good work to improve receipts from the box office and from sponsorship. Over the past five years those receipts have risen by 72 per cent., and sponsorship by more than 140 per cent. Grants have risen by 16 per cent. and are increasing by 2 per cent. per year--nothing like the rate of inflation, or the 13 per cent. given to the Arts Council by the Government.
I hope that the Government will look carefully at the financing of bodies such as the ENO. The funding that used to come from Westminster council can no longer do so because of the new local government finance system. The triumvirate of the Office of the Arts and Libraries, Westminster council and the Arts Council needs to come together to resolve the problem.
Grant funding for the Royal Opera House--it is, after all, three companies- -has fallen from 53 per cent. in 1985 to about 37 per cent. and is heading towards 34 per cent. One continually needs to assess the danger point for these establishments, because the switch from a balanced budget of public and private sponsorship to excessively private sponsorship can lead to a rather dull programme. At the New York Met, which is 90 per cent. privately sponsored, there is no new work at all and certainly nothing of the
Column 84quality of this year's Covent Garden programme. I sound a warning note that we should not let that balance get out of kilter. Staying with the world of music, but moving across the river, I believe there is some good news coming on the south bank. I welcome the proposal to bring the private and public sectors together and Terry Farrell's designs to improve that concrete jungle. That is good news. It is also a good example. It will certainly improve the concert halls and the Hayward gallery. I would question whether we actually need to build a rehearsal hall more or less identical to the main Festival hall right alongside it. I understand from musicians that one either needs to have the actual hall available for the top conductor and top orchestra, or one can make do with the Henry Wood hall, Holy Trinity, which is available now, and perhaps that space could be better used for some other purpose--for example, a theatre of dance for London.
Also we need to encourage those who will take the decisions to address their minds to the need to have an orchestra in residence on the south bank. It has worked successfully at the Barbican with the London Symphony Orchestra. The royal philharmonic orchestra is now an ad hoc touring orchestra, and I would have thought the London philharmonic orchestra, either on its own or merged with the Philharmonia, if that is practical, could become the resident orchestra of the south bank and raise the quality of music there. Turning to theatre, I am a great believer in the Institute of Contemporary Arts, and I am sad to see that a question mark still hangs over it. If one looks at the quality of that institution over the years, starting some 40 years ago with the young artists Bacon, Hepworth and Moore then coming through and being promoted as the face of modern art, one sees what they have done since to encourage not just the visual arts but also theatre and film, the theatre de complicite , DV8, the programme coming in now of novostroika from the Soviet Union with the Almanakh group of poet performers. These things are excellent examples of the encouraging of modern innovative art, and the continued partnership between the ICA and the Arts Council should be encouraged.
On the smaller theatre, I have referred before to pub theatre, with which I have had some involvement, and the need to look at licensing. These are too small to qualify as fully fledged theatres and tend to be lumped with clubs, thus needing 48-hour membership, which deters people from coming in. They have all sorts of difficulties, and now they are plagued by some London authorities, the latest one being Camden with the Hampstead theatre and the Viceroy. We need something like the initiative being taken by the London Association of Studio Theatres, which is drawing up a code of practice. If that code of practice could be adopted, by all local authorities but especially in London, we could remove that particular hindrance to the small theatre.
An even smaller theatre is the Theatry of Puppetry. Puppetry does not often get a mention in this place, but I will mention it because its national centre is in my constituency at the Battersea arts centre.
Column 85There is a danger that this national, indeed, international, resource was overlooked in the changeover from ILEA to the local boroughs, and I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister to look carefully to see that its interests are preserved.
I cannot pass by on today of all days, the eve of the Budget, without mentioning the danger to the nation's reading posed by the constant threat of VAT on the written word. I put in the plea, which I hope and am confident will be heard, that it would not really be helpful to the arts, the literary world or education in this country if a 15 per cent. tax, surcharge, penalty or whatever one likes to call it were imposed on the written word. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will join me in making that message very clear to our right hon. Friend the Chancellor. There is no legal requirement for it and it could only damage the education and indeed the economy of the country. I know from my own inner-city area how many people need to benefit from learning to take advantage of the economic opportunities which exist.
Mr. Leadbitter : The hon. Gentleman has raised an important matter. He has just completed a quartet of important concerns, referring to the Royal Opera House, the theatre and the written word. He referred to the amount of money going to the Royal Opera House, which has dropped from over 50 per cent. to 33 per cent. He will recollect that his hon. Friend indicated following my first intervention that there had been a Government improvement in funding of 33 per cent., so, with the shortfalls to which the hon. Member has referred and the increases to which his hon. Friend has referred, does this not suggest an organisational problem and that the imbalances to which he referred might arise from conflicts within the art world, the power of certain personalities and the institutionalisation of the art forms that he has described? Mr. Bowis : I shall not go into personalities, but a danger of imbalance is implied. It does not conflict with what my hon. Friend was saying because, of course, total figures can go up. I was referring to the percentage of the total and the need to keep the balance right. It will still be possible for the overall figures to increase, as I hope will be the case.
Finally, there is the question of libraries. I went to the launching of the library campaign and I welcomed it as such because it is right that people should be made more aware of their libraries and should put greater pressure on local authorities to keep them as a high priority in local government spending. Although the Library Association has it right, the library campaign is fighting a campaign which relates to the position before my right hon. Friend made his announcement on the Green Paper consultation.
Having looked at their literature, which refers to 165 library service points closing down, one knows that the actual figure has gone up from 14,000 to 18,000, so that is misleading. Reference is made to a 13 per cent. fall in the number of books, but one knows that there has been no fall. There is reference to library book stocks falling by 4 per cent., but the actual stocks have increased from 110 million to 116 million, so that, too, is misleading. There is reference to a cut of more than 1,000 jobs, when one knows that staffing is up to the highest level for 10 years. That, too, is misleading.
Column 86One sees reference to the Government forcing libraries to make people pay when one knows that the Government have actually introduced legislation prohibiting local authorities from charging for lending books but permitting those who wish to bring in some additional income from other sources. All that is a pity, because it takes attention away from what should be a good campaign to look for ways of encouraging more people to make better use of their libraries and to put greater pressure on authorities to spend more on them. To summarise, Bishop Creighton said that the one real object of education is to leave a man continually asking questions. I believe that the object of the arts is to enable men to seek answers to those questions within a framework of aesthetic and cultural understanding. I believe that the arts bring an awareness of what is beautiful and hence a determination to avoid and reject what is ugly. I believe that the arts give individuals, communities and nations an identity and self-confidence. I believe that the arts demand of Governments a light and sensitive touch which seeks to nurture without seeking to mould. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, we have the environment in trust for future generations. In the same way, we have the artistic heritage in trust for future generations. I hope that future generations will look back on our stewardship and say that we enhanced the artistic life of this country.
Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool) : I came into the Chamber--it seems only a few moments ago--to find that for the first time in my experience of 20 years in this place, special time had been given to the arts. That is not to say that the arts have not been mentioned before, because nothing new happens in the House of Commons. Perhaps I missed other debates on the arts.
The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) has raised a subject which touches the very pulse of human personality in our society. The search for the enhancement of human dignity and our latent talents begins with a child's education. The teacher pursues those talents. The essence of teaching is not to instruct, but to ask questions and see how best the great discovery of seeking answers can generate a child's activity. When I was a teacher I used to have a saying that there is success in every child if only we can find it. That is the teacher's function.
The hon. Member for Battersea has done a service for the House by considering a broader brush of the world of the arts. He has referred to opera houses, the written word and the theatre. I cannot recall whether he mentioned the film industry. If he did not, that may have been an oversight, but we must consider that very important topic. The very seedcorn of dealing with the larger parameters of the arts begins in our schools. When I talk to teachers I find that they are very worried about budgeting in schools. That worry is pressing on teachers to such an extent that we must listen to them. My teachers are not well paid for their excellent work. They have to take money from their own pockets to meet the expenditure shortfalls and so pay for the necessary equipment and instruments to present wider artistic opportunities to their children.
The arts are the great regenerative force within the educational process. The arts are fundamentally useful even to the child pursuing a career in civil engineering.
Column 87They are also fundamentally useful to budding economists. If a child entered that profession, he would be wonderfully 100 per cent. correct because no economist agrees with another and each believes that he is right.
Apart from that degree of cynicism, the Government are not sustaining the very foundations of the art world which are present in our schools. Geniuses like Attenborough have brought this country a remarkable reputation for producing films which attract thousands of people outside this country. Those films provide inspiration, which is part of the experience of art, to go out and try to emulate that genius in some other form within an individual's own abilities. I went to see a film directed by Attenborough not very long ago. I came away feeling a little proud of the fact that I had learnt something about India. Before then I had read some of the more diverse views and the historical distortions in the British press which were responses to the power struggles of the time and which failed fundamen-tally to give us the true picture of what happened in parts of the Commonwealth and before that in the British empire. There are real truths in film art. I am only a lay person and I am limited in the language referred to by the hon. Member for Battersea. Perhaps I could do better in the written word. However, the Government must be mindful to promote and encourage the arts and be acquiescent in areas like the film industry where we must do more. There is genius trying to gain expression in this country. As I said about children, there is success in everyone if only we can find it. I believe that one of the great art forms is conversation between human beings. People may say that that is not an art form, but it is. When I listen to people who unfortunately are not well off, who are exceptionally poor, who cannot really spend much time thinking about anything else but how to make ends meet, I discover that their conversations are limited, prejudicial, restricted and unhappy. We need money to solve that problem. There is a great deal of latent talent imprisoned because of poverty and simply because people's houses are cold. Who the hell can read a book in a cold house? All human experience is art. The enhancement of art's separate parts will never reach the desired heights if we neglect what makes the human emotions tick and if we neglect what makes people move and do things. Ambition is good enough for many people, but great ambitions have been buried because people have not had the opportunity in society to open out and flower.
The hon. Member for Battersea referred to the theatre. It is a long time since I had the chance to go to the theatre because this House is a bit of a crazy place. Of course we like to be here, but 100 per cent. of my time is interesting only to me. I love this place and I want to be in it. I do not have time to go out, so I am ignorant about the theatre. When I was a young boy I used to write one-act plays ; I did not get much further because one must accept one's own mediocrity. Nevertheless, I know that the theatre is important for the players, the playwrights and those who make profits from it. I would not deny people the right to make profits, because that is an important element of the
Column 88industry. I do not deny that the theatre is important, and if it is not supported properly, it will wither away in the same way as the film industry.
Mr Bowis : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, although support for the arts has been apparent in respect of teaching drama and English literature, it has not until now been in evidence in respect of music and the arts, which for the first time have entered the national curriculum? Does the hon. Gentleman celebrate with me that step forward?
Mr. Leadbetter : Yes : the hon. Gentleman and I are at one. My comments are meant as an attack on the institutionalisation of our systems. What frightens me to death is the abrasiveness of the Government, who have gained power partly by telling people that they will widen choice and freedom of expression--but instead, we have seen 10 years of interventionism of the worst possible kind.
This is no longer a namby-pamby debate about percentages and extra funding : it is a debate about attitudes. When we leave the Chamber after this three-hour debate, will we say to ourselves, "That was a good debate--now let us us have our dinner," or will we follow it up by insisting that this and any future Government will give proper attention not only to finance but to the other great armies of encouragement that can expand and promote the whole world of art, so that people may experience the joy and satisfaction of learning, of being responsive to the talents of others, and of living in the world of imagination? Simply enjoying the company of creative people is itself a great part of art.
We must embrace the comments of the hon. Member for Battersea and become ambassadors for the arts in our own constituencies, not just prattle statistics. I wonder whether right hon. and hon. Members are conscious of a new trend, whereby the Prime Minister, and senior, junior and aspirant Ministers visit constituencies and instead of reading their prepared Whitehall briefs, as was the tradition, make announcements of moneys that will be dolloped here and there. There are agencies all over the country dealing with unemployment, and they are given a few thousand pounds here and there. However, I can tell the electorate that the Government are not really handing out any money. There are great schemes afoot, all associated with the arts. A few days ago, in the northern region, the Government were handing out money. I said to one colleague, "It is not fair." We have been promised support for a great project. I am told that the principles involved will be pleased to provide donations for Hartlepool arts school and for its college of further education. They will make those donations because they are decent people, but they know that if the project does not develop, the Government will not give the millions of pounds that they have promised, and a stopper will be put on it. I return to the fundamental heads of art that lay people such as myself understand : drama, film, libraries and museums. I find in every quarter that the people concerned with their management complain that they lack resources. That appears to be the truth. I am not in a mood to question the claim that there has been 33 per cent. extra funding, or that the Royal Opera's funding has not been reduced from 50 per cent. to 34 per cent. However, I find it strange that honest, decent and highly professional people in opera and the theatre should complain if there
Column 89has been increased funding. They complain because of the lack of adequate funding to keep pace with the demands made on the particular head of art with which they are concerned.
I have not prepared any figures, and one must be amiable and not challenge the claims of right hon. and hon. Members. Nevertheless, there is a three- line Whip, so that any right hon. or hon. Member who speaks in tonight's arts debate must appear to be at one with all the others. Not a single right hon. or hon. Member wants any harm done to the arts. Countrywide, we all want to improve the system so that we shall get the best from the arts. There is unanimity on that point. If there is that unanimity, we must not be afraid of acknowleging that in some sectors of the arts--such as the film industry--we must listen to the people who run them, and accept that they are the professionals and are not wasting our time by bleating about nothing. In other words, just for once will the Government, instead of talking, listen?