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Column 103as I did in relation to the White Paper. Who would have subscribed to a channel which said, "We will show you a programme depicting man with gorillas, bats in caves, and new reptiles in the Brazilian jungle"? None of us would have subscribed to such a channel. But, because there was open access through public service broadcasting, a mass programme has been built for Bellamy, Attenborough and others. These are mass programmes, not minority programmes.
None of the kids who are involved in such actitivities, thoughts and experiences would have seen those programmes if it had depended on their parents paying into a subscription channel. The Government have blocked people's experience. Instead of the marvellous new technology being used to expand human experience and to bring young people into contact with a wide variety of human experience, it is being blocked by charges in museums, the inhibitions that will come from the Green Paper on libraries, and by the switch away from free, open universal access to public broadcasting.
Thirdly, we have the beginnings of specific Government intervention in the arts. I refer to section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, for example. I doubt whether anyone will be charged with breaking section 28, but that is not the problem of censorship. Censorship is not designed to use laws to take people to court and to punish them. The function of censorship and censorship law is to inhibit the development of programmes because they might be subject to censorship. Thus censorship prevents creation.
We have seen the extension of the Broadcasting Standards Council. I have spoken to the new director, who I think means well. He appears to believe that somehow the Broadcasting Standards Council is a substitute for the existence of regulatory broadcasting. There is nothing in the White Paper on broadcasting to ensure good standards, but only provision to control decency and taste. That is another factor which will inhibit the proper development of our arts. The threat of another obscenity Act is also still with us. There is intervention in all those ways. [Interruption.] I am receiving all sorts of signals that I should shut up and sit down. It is a pity that I did not know earlier that this debate was on or I should have been here at the beginning.
The south bank is not for London alone--it was created by a Labour Government to be part of a national celebration of a national festival, so we have a major responsibility to get it right. The last thing that we should do is to turn it into a pork pie festival. The south bank has much to offer. Unfortunately, its functions have narrowed since it was started and I share the distaste of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North- West (Mr. Banks) that in place of the open space where books were available there is an expensive restaurant.
The problem with private sponsorship is that it sets the agenda for the arts. Matching public funds will be called into play to support private funds. I should like to see public funds setting the agenda for private funds, if necessary, to follow, and there are ways of doing that without determining what should be supported by a particular company.
Sponsorship is, of course, advertising. The benefits must be proved if the matching funds are to be
Column 104forthcoming. Another thing wrong with sponsorship is that it is limited to the safe and the glamorous. The Royal Insurance Company helps to determine the Royal Shakespeare Company's touring programme on the grounds that it wants the company to tour the towns in which is has a major presence.
The analysis by the National Campaign for the Arts shows that few of the smaller theatres receive sponsorship of more than 1, 2 or 3 per cent. Philip Hedley's theatre--the Theatre Royal at Stratford atte Bowe--found that it could not raise enough money through sponsorship to pay the salary of the man who was looking for sponsorship. It tried to get sponsorship for a play called "Pork Pies". A local meat merchant who made pork pies and cooked meat agreed to sponsor the play until he discovered that "Pork Pies" was rhyming slang for lies and that the play was about police corruption. When he realised that, he dropped the idea of sponsorship.
In the past 12 months, we have lost this country's first Minister of the Arts--Jennie Lee. Jennie was dedicated to the development and expansion of the arts. She believed in art for everyone. She saw, too, that it was related to the expansion of human wisdom and understanding. She was also the founder of the Open university. We must see the arts as a link with civilisation and education generally. As Shelley said, the arts are
"the unacknowledged legislators of the world."
We must understand that wisdom can follow the arts and wisdom can develop from the arts. We must understand, too, that the inspiration about which we have heard so much today is sometimes a concrete shared experience, not just looking at a landscape from the top of a 900-year-old castle, even at Dudley.
Earlier we heard about the tuba-playing technique of my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis), whose wisdom and good luck produced this debate this evening--for which many thanks.
I want to discuss dance and ballet. I must immediately declare an interest. I am a director of the London Festival Ballet--a position which provides no remuneration, but which gives me a small insight into this particular branch of the arts. The London Festival Ballet is soon to be renamed the English National Ballet to reflect its position not merely as the nation's second ballet company but also as a company that tours widely outside the metropolis and around the world, to the United States and Europe.
About a year ago ballet suddenly became the great darling of the arts world after being buried for nearly 30 years under the world of opera--which has for so long attracted the lion's share of funds and a large share of establishment investment in the arts in the metropolis. That transition came about because, last summer, a large number of international dance theatres descended coincidentally upon this city. The Kirov, ballet groups from Europe and great American dance companies came over to London and there was a response from people
Column 105leading to a sudden increase in audiences and an increase in the awareness of ballet and its potential as a modern art form. Londoners also responded because they woke up to the fact that our resources for putting on dance--either our own national dance companies or visiting companies--were completely inadequate when compared with other European cities. This led to a debate on why that was and what we might do about it.
It is a pity that, in the new plans for the south bank, the bold idea of having, for the first time, a national dance theatre based in London, has not been seized. The Minister has been sympathetic to this branch of the arts and I hope that he will consider the various plans to co-ordinate, if not a dance theatre, at least a receiving house--somewhere in London where visiting companies could play in the kind of conditions that they might expect in Holland, Denmark or Stockholm. Let us not try to reach for the stars by emulating the conditions in Paris or New York.
This woeful lack of facilities now rests with the Arts Council and the Government to consider. I welcome the recent Devlin report on dance by the Arts Council. I strongly endorse that report's call for the funding of ballet and dance companies to be on a three year basis--the Minister has now encouraged most arts funding to be on that basis. As a director of a dance or opera company, one must plan the full three years ahead. If one is unsure of the level of subsidy from the Arts Council, or any other funding body one is planning in the dark.
I endorse many of the findings of the Devlin report and look forward to that report giving a shot in the arm to Britain's dance world.
Despite this attention, the future of the London Festival Ballet and of its related organisation, the English National Opera, is in doubt. The ENO is lucky in having a more senior and distinguished parliamentarian than I on its board, and if the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) were here, I am sure he would agree that our common fear is that those two organisations may not be with us in five years, unless the Government can give us some advanced assurances that their funding will continue in the years ahead. As the Minister well knows, I am not speaking about funding from the Arts Council, which can be obtained in the usual way. I am talking about the grant which used to come from the Greater London council, which the Government quite rightly thought should be continued and which is paid, through Westminster council, to both English National Opera and the English National Ballet.
This money is now subject to a large question mark. The Minister has not yet said whether it will be forthcoming. It constitutes almost a third of the running costs of the London Festival Ballet--and I imagine about the same proportion of those of the English National Opera. If the money is not forthcoming, once the new system of community charge is introduced--there is no doubt that the city of Westminster will be unable to raise the money on its own because to do so it would have to charge an extra £20 per resident--those of us who sit on the boards of such companies will face a possible term in jail if we are not careful. When planning ahead, we might plan for a season that simply could be funded.
No groups have done more than the London Festival Ballet and the English National Opera to raise private funds. We realise that the system of raising private funds
Column 106has been greatly encouraged, not least through matching grants, which we have used to the enormous advantage of our companies and of the programmes that we are able to put on. We must have some assurances that, beyond private sponsorship, we shall obtain increased or continuing sponsorship from the Government so that we can plan for the future. We shall then be able to grow the trees about which the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) talked and to produce a ballet company which is not merely the second ballet company in this country but one of the better ballet companies on this continent.
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : I am grateful for this opportunity to talk about the arts, and I wish to talk about the major post-war mass art form--the cinema, which, although somewhat overtaken by television networks, is still an important popular art form. Audiences have increased from 53 million in 1984 to 74.8 million in 1987. Unfortunately, the philistines in the Government are destroying the cinema from without by their tax policies, and the enterprise culture spivs are eroding it from within.
The Financial Weekly of August 1987 provides a good summary of the position :
"The United Kingdom Government severely curtailed subsidies when it abolished the Eady Levy and the National Film Finance Corporation. In its place came the mainly privately funded British Screen Finance Corporation with an annual budget of about £1.8 million. But producers say the BSFC's fund represents a drop in the ocean and will largely benefit small film projects rather than the blockbusters. The French government, on the other hand, awards grants and loan guarantees as do the West Germans, the Italians and the Australians. The United Kingdom Government prides itself on having made film companies eligible under the Business Expansion Scheme but this is not considered to be anything more than a token gesture."
That is about right. The feature film figures for 1985 were 55, and in 1986 they dropped to 37. In the midst of the enterprise culture, feature film production figures are no longer collated by the Government. With the abolition of the Eady levy, and the NFFC, the stimulus has disappeared.
One example of erosion from the inside is that of Elstree studios. Incidentally, the Government have just refused to list the studios, although they acknowledge that they form an important part of the history of the British film industry. They say that that is not a good enough reason to list them. That gives the property developers freedom to exploit the site to a greater degree, which in turn places the studios under greater threat--a further erosion of the facilities in this country.
I remind the House that the studios were first sold to Cannon by Thorn EMI in 1986. Gordon Borrie wanted to refer the takeover to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, because Cannon owned other cinemas, but he was overruled by a Minister. Cannon then sold off the massive collection of 2,000 feature films and newsreels dating back to 1894, so our heritage as recorded on film was arbitrarily sold by people who wanted to asset-strip one of our major studios.
Elstree studios is the place where "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and several other Indiana Jones films were produced. The last major feature film made there was "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?". The studios were closed after the last Steven Spielberg production and sold to Tranwood Earl, which resold them to Brent Walker at an enhanced profit.
Column 107Because of the high price of the studios, the latter will have to sell the outside lot and probably close three sound stages, thereby reducing the facilities for people like Steven Spielberg. It is worth reminding the Minister why Steven Spielberg comes to the United Kingdom to make feature films that cost more than £10 million each. He comes not because of the exchange rate but because--he told me this himself in this building--of the craftsmanship and skill in this country, which are far superior, incredible though it may sound, to the skills in Hollywood. That is because Hollywood has allowed its training system to fall into disuse, and that is what is happening here.
Because of a lack of Government support, in 1987 Pinewood changed from full -time staffing with proper apprenticeship schemes to maintain and develop skills, to a four-wall studio. So now we depend on freelance employment, and skills and training are being eroded. In time that means that the United Kingdom, whose abilities and skills are ahead of those of the United States, will suffer a further erosion of its film industry.
The potential to make big-budget and, more importantly, small-budget films is being eroded. Small-budget films perhaps reflect more accurately our indigenous culture and attitudes. British Screen Finance Ltd., which replaced the NFFC, receives a miserly £1.5 million a year, and that will soon end. By contrast, in 1987 Australia gave £18 million and West Germany £15.7 million to their film industries.
Now there is a threat to Channel 4 in the Government's White Paper. It has been financing low-budget theatrical productions. If we want to maintain feature film productions that represent our way of life, the Government must provide more support by direct means and through a more sympathetic tax regime.
Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central) : I join many other hon. Members in congratulating the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) not only on choosing this subject for debate but on an excellent speech. He spoke extremely well in the last debate on this subject, but I thought that he capped that tonight. It was remarkable to hear Conservative Members talking so passionately and with such knowledge about community arts and participation in the arts, and I agree with everything said about them.
The hon. Member for Battersea made a distinguished opening, and every speech since has lived up to that high standard. We have come to expect as much from the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) and from my hon. Friends the Members for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) and for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks).
There have been some other very interesting contributions. I thought I was going to fall out with the hon. Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Blackburn) because of his earlier remarks, but I was delighted when he moved on to a passionate advocacy of the importance of the regions, and indeed, of people like David Bomberg, and I think he had the House with him there. I was particularly delighted with the contribution from the hon. Member for Kensington (Mr. Fishburn), coming to our debate for the
Column 108first time and raising with such knowledge from outside the House the whole question of dance and the Devlin report. I think he added to the quality of the debate.
It has been, I think, an excellent debate, for which, as I say, the House is in the debt of the hon. Gentleman. I am delighted that this debate has not concentrated on funding, and I certainly intend to avoid that today. We tend to have very sterile arguments about funding in these debates, and we all have our views on how to interpret the figures. I will leave it to those companies, mainly national but all over the country, which know that they will only get a 2 per cent. increase this year when inflation is 7.5 per cent. The Government must make their peace with them or bear them in mind next year, because they will suffer and the arts will suffer when they are, in relation to inflation, so poorly funded this year.
Let us not get into a debate on funding. I want to talk, in the minutes left to me, about policy and strategy, and I think we do so in an interesting and perhaps rather optimistic context, when we gather from the Downing street press office that the Prime Minister intends this year to take an interest in the arts and to become a champion of the arts. We on the Opposition Benches are always happy to welcome sinners, even at such a late hour. The record of her Administration to date on the arts has not been good, but if she is seriously going to take an interest, that offers enormous opportunities to the Minister : I hope he will grasp them.
Mr. Fisher : I am an optimist : if she bothers to read a debate such as this--as I am sure, if she is going to get involved in the arts, she will--perhaps there is hope. It certainly offers an opportunity, as I say, for the Minister to exploit. Whether this is a tactical move by the Prime Minister or not, there are opportunities for the Minister to make a stronger pitch for the arts.
The other interesting context of our debate today is the announcement last Friday by the distinguished novelist, A. N. Wilson, in the pages of The Spectator, that he will in future be voting for the Labour party. It is interesting that one of the prime reasons he gives is the very poor record of this Government on the arts, and their failure over museums and libraries ; and he gives a great catalogue of the Government's failures. Whereas the Prime Minister offers the Minister opportunities, the latter should perhaps read Mr. Wilson's remarks to see that there are many creative artists in this country, who still need to be convinced about the record of this Government.
I certainly agree with the personal remarks that the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South made about the Minister. The whole arts world is aware that he fulfils his responsibilities conscientiously ; he has absolutely no enemies, and many friends, wherever he goes. I will go further : some things which have happened under his aegis--the move of the Tate to the north, the relocation of Sadler's Wells and, most particularly, three-year funding--stand out as distinct achievements, which will be remembered when this Administration are dead and buried.
I join my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South in saying that three- year funding is all very well, and certainly an improvement, but it is no good unless there is the
Column 109money to fund it, and three-year funding going down below the rate of inflation is a permanent drain on most companies rather than a help.
However, in spite of those few isolated achievements, the record of this Government on the arts has been one of failure--not just failure to fund adequately, but failure to back local authorities when they are expanding arts provision and failure to widen access for the disabled, for black and Asian people and for women.
There was also a failure last year to grasp the possibilities in the John Myerscough report. The Minister was handed an economic argument which he did not pick up and run with. He should have gone straight to the Treasury and made a strong economic case. He failed to do that. There has been a failure of leadership from the Government and the Minister and a failure of imagination. The opportunities, the audiences and the creative artists are there, but over the past 10 years of this Administration we have lacked a Government with a clear policy and strategy. That failure undermines any specific good achievements or intentions--and I am sure that the Minister's intentions are good.
We all agree that the British Theatre Association is a unique national and international institution. However, at the end of this month it is in danger of closure unless the Minister accepts that he has a responsibility for that institution. Of course it may be right from the Minister's point of view and that of the Conservative party that he should try to find alternative means of support. Perhaps he can make an exciting announcement to the House tonight. I somehow fear that he will not be able to do that. The partners that he has tried to marriage-broke for the BTA library--the Victoria and Albert museum, the British library and the Central School of Speech and Drama--are all willing partners, but they all want some Government funding. The Minister should understand that he must accept a national responsibility for institutions like the BTA library which fulfil a national function.
The hon. Member for Kensington (Mr. Fishburn) referred to the Devlin report and its relationship to the Northern Ballet Theatre. The Minister's comments in response to an Adjournment debate the other night were marginally encouraging. However, he should recognise that the report recommended closure so as to properly fund other aspects of dance. Those recommendations were based on the understanding that there should be no increase in funding. The Minister should consider how positive investment in the very popular art form of dance has worked in France. That art form has captured the imagination of young people. Positive investment by the French Government in that art form has unleashed an enormously exciting new wave of interest in dance in France. The Minister must understand that he should have a policy of expansion towards dance and he should be backing new ideas.
The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) referred to the Victoria and Albert museum. He most responsibly, courteously and cautiously referred to very difficult areas and issues. However, I thought that he was a trifle unfair on the director. It is not a matter of personal responsibility. I do not think that the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South intended to be unfair. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South that we should consider the problem in a financial context, because next year the V and A's wage bill will be more than
Column 110the total grant. In those circumstances, the new director had an almost impossible task and had to look for radical measures. Hon. Members on both sides of the House recognise that something had to be done about the organisation of the V and A. However, we may wonder whether a five-page document which contained no financial analysis or implications for the future was the proper way to plan the future administration and the curatorial skills and scholarship in a great national museum. Many hon. Members would doubt whether that short and, I believe, inadequate document should have been given to the trustees just 15 minutes before the trustees' meeting. It is doubtful whether the trustees were aware that there would be redundancies involving nine of the most senior and respected staff including international experts like John Mallet. Many of us would question whether simply giving those nine members of staff a three-and-a-half minute interview in which they were told that their contribution to scholarship and the museum was at an end was the right way to proceed.
As the hon. Member for Kensington said, there is a general lack of morale in the V and A. The museum has been badly handled, but I do not put the bad morale down entirely to the director. I hope that the Minister will consider his role in all this. I asked that question of him the other day in respect of Professor Martin Kemp who, when he resigned as a trustee, said that he was doing so because of Government interference.
On that occasion, the Minister chose to answer that there was no interference in the museum's day-to-day administration, but that did not answer the question that I put to him. I asked whether there had been Government interference or involvement in the restructuring plan. I asked whether the Minister knew about it, whether he or his officials had seen Lord Armstrong, chairman of the trustees, and whether he was involved in the Treasury negotiations that miraculously produced at least £300,000 and possibly £1 million to fund the redundancy programme.
If tonight the Minister answers no to all those questions, I will agree with the hon. Member for Battersea that it is incredible that that most valued of institutions should not concern the Minister. If the Minister answers yes, I ask him to explain the full extent of his involvement. They are important issues that affect right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House. Is it right that the board of trustees should not include a single member who has any museum experience? As the hon. Member for Battersea said, the trustees are all distinguished and eminent in their fields, but none has any museum experience.
Other serious questions must be answered. Of course the museum must keep up to date, but is a display of the Sock Shop the epitome of British design, and the one aspect of it that the Victoria and Albert museum should be displaying? I understand that the museum's next exhibition will be about Burberry raincoats, and the one following that will be in Harrods. Right hon. and hon. Members may recall that last year, the museum exhibited Elton John's memorabilia, which served as a preview of a sale at Sotheby's. The House has a right to ask serious questions about the policy direction that the museum is taking. The Minister owes the House his views and opinions.
Column 111I turn to the subject of administration. The arts world as a whole applauded the Minister when he set up a much-needed and long-awaited review of the organisation and structure of the arts and appointed his former senior civil servant, Richard Wilding, to conduct it. Mr. Wilding is widely respected and liked in the arts world. The word from the regions is that the way in which he is genuinely listening and examining the situation is much appreciated.
I hope that the Minister will reaffirm tonight that whatever happens as a result of that review, the importance of the regions and of local authorities will be paramount, and that they will not become ciphers or regional offices of the Arts Council. If developments at a local authority level are to be fostered and nurtured, there must be strong links between them and regional arts associations. I hope that Mr. Wilding will have the Minister's backing, and that the Minister will encourage Mr. Wilding along those lines in his remarks tonight. As to strategy, there are many key issues for the Minister to grasp. Ironically, and happily for him, positive moves can be made at very low cost. Some can be made at no cost at all to the Government. There are ways in which the Minister could make his leadership of the arts count and in which he can develop and co-ordinate policy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) said, in London there are major developments both in respect of the Royal Opera House and its effect on the local community, and of the south bank. The Minister ought to take a line, as did his counterpart in respect of the Pompidou centre in Paris. He should be not only putting in money but taking a lead in setting standards and criteria in the way that projects will be scrutinised, so that the best results will be obtained.
The arts in London cry out for the Minister to bring people together. There is Greater London Arts, the abolition of ILEA, the London boroughs arts scheme, and the residuary body. Some of the London boroughs, because of Greater London Arts, are developing fast but in isolation from each other. There is a crying need for co-ordination. In the absence of a democratic body such as the Greater London council, there is a desperate need for someone to hold the ring, and the Minister can play a strategic role in that regard. The right hon. Gentleman also has a strategic role to play in the widening of access, which is apparently one of the Prime Minister's interests. I shall believe that when I see it, although it is welcome that she is prepared to say so. The Minister should be responding more positively, for instance, to the "After Attenborough" report on the arts and disability, and I hope that he will send a message of extreme disapproval to the Arts Council about its application for a disabled access exemption certificate. That sends the arts world the wrong signal, and I hope that the Minister will get in touch with the new chairman of the Arts Council to say that it is not good enough. Will the Minister look in particular at the built environment? Prince Charles has given a lead, and I am glad to say that the Minister has backed the Arts Council's "percentage for arts" initiative. He is not, however, encouraging the local authorities that are also adopting the policy, such as Swindon, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Dundee and Wakefield.
Column 112The Minister is not getting his act together with the Secretary of State for the Environment, who is sending out completely contradictory advice. His White Paper "The Future of Development Plans" says that aesthetic aid should be a key element in planning applications. Last week, only weeks of issuing that White Paper, he sent out a planning policy guidance note saying exactly the opposite : "Whatever you do to local authorities, do not take aesthetic matters into account." There is a lack of co-ordination there.
There are problems in various Departments. The poll tax will have an enormous effect on English National Opera and on local authorities' ability to fund the arts, while the DTI has problems resulting from the withdrawal of MSC funding. In education, problems arise from the national curriculum and the restriction on funding of school visits to theatres and other displays of the performing arts. In the Home Office, there is the question of the broadcasting White Paper--to which the Arts Council, to its credit, has responded positively and critically, speaking up for the arts, but on which I have heard no comment from the Minister.
The whole country faces a major problem in relation to freedom of speech. Mr. Salman Rushdie is in acute difficulties. He needs every Member on both sides of the House to support the absolute principle of freedom of speech, but the Minister has said nothing about that either. I hope that he will take this opportunity to break his silence, and will state categorically not that Mr. Rushdie's book is offensive but that, on the contrary, it is a very fine novel--a great work of the imagination--and that Mr. Rushdie is entirely free and right.
If this debate can achieve anything, it will encourage the Minister to take the initiative on some of the aspects that I have mentioned. It will cost him no money to adopt a strategic and policy-making role.
The hon. Member for Battersea described the arts as a source of great celebration in the House and throughout society. I agree, but I hope that he will accept that they are a source not only of celebration but of dissent and uncomfortable opinions. The arts must stretch us as individuals and as a society. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West referred to the beautiful image created by the words of the poet Cecily Herbert of a tree planted for the future. If that tree is to give us all hope, the arts must not just celebrate ; they must also offer the opportunity for challenge and dissent. If the Minister can respond to such a wide range of strategy, the arts and the House will pay tribute to him.
The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Richard Luce) : I echo the views expressed by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) about the atmosphere of the debate, which has been very positive. Without a shadow of doubt the speeches from both sides of the House have been remarkable. Where would we have been without the hon. Members for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan), let alone many of my hon. Friends?
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) on launching the debate and giving the House the opportunity to discuss the arts--a subject that is becoming increasingly important to people's lives in Britain and will continue to be so into the 1990s. My hon.
Column 113Friend made a remarkable and very moving speech about the importance of arts to individuals in Britain. I enjoyed his description of the variety of instruments that he has tried to play over the years and, as the hon. Member for Newham, North-West suggested, he can almost form his own one-man band. My only claim to fame in public is that, when my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), who, sadly, is unwell and unable to be here tonight, and my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon West (Miss Nicholson) played a duet in the Festival hall to raise funds for research into AIDs, I turned the pages. I got it right and I am very proud of that.
The hon. Member for Paisley, South mentioned the late Jennie Lee. My hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) made a very generous speech and was very kind about the fact that I have broken various records and described myself as the Methuselah of Arts Ministers. It is right and proper for me to mention the late Jennie Lee who, in her own way, was a remarkable Minister for the Arts. She was the first Minister for the Arts and sadly a number of us did not have the opportunity to attend an occasion when various tributes were paid to her. I am not blaming anyone for that, but it is only right that I should take the opportunity to pay tribute to a remarkable Minister for the Arts, although there have been differences in emphasis and approach between her policies and mine.
What has been remarkable about the debate is the respect shown by both sides for each other's interest in, and support for the arts, and although there are clear differences of opinion and approach, that is very important if we are to make any progress.
I shall try to answer the various points that have been raised and use the last few minutes of my speech to talk about one aspect of my strategy-- reconciling artistic excellence with the right of access of people of all backgrounds in all parts of the country to the arts. But I shall begin by making one or two general points.
My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea raised a number of issues. In particular he talked about funding the arts. He is right to say that the Government believe that the taxpayer has a role to play in supporting the arts and that the highest standards of excellence cannot be maintained without a measure of support from the taxpayer. I have sought to strengthen that use of taxpayers' money by the introduction of three-year funding, which is a rolling programme. There will be a continuous policy of three- year funding. I have introduced one or two new elements such as incentive funding, in which sums of money have been set aside to reward those organisations that show their ability to increase their self-reliance.
I am very glad that the first awards are being made, ranging from the Leadmill complex in Sheffield to the Royal Shakespeare Company and the English National Opera which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea and others as it has now qualified for incentive funding. Last week I visited the excellent Tricycle theatre in London, which, despite the tragedy of being almost burnt down two years ago has shown enormous enterprise and has achieved an award, as has the 369 gallery in Edinburgh and other theatres such as the Cumbernauld theatre in Scotland. That is an important additional element of funding for arts bodies and helps to fulfil the overall strategy which hon. Members were talking about--the diversity of funding within the arts. When we
Column 114are talking about funding, I believe strongly that we cannot meet with success unless we have a sensible partnership between the public and the private sectors. Of course, I include local authorities as well as central Government.
Above all else, what brings money and resources into the arts is the box office, which no one has acknowledged properly. I regard the private sector as an increasingly important source of funding. As my hon. Friends have said, the economic strength of the country helps with its success there but it is you and I, Mr. Speaker, actually attending arts events, who are the biggest extra source of funding for the arts. As I see, looking to the 1990s, increasing numbers of people enjoying the arts, the biggest extra source of funding will be support through the box office. That is not to say that sponsorship does not have a singularly important role. I thought that some of the remarks about sponsorship were sad and negative. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Blackburn) and others said, sponsorship is an additional source of funding for the arts. I was struck recently by what was said by Lord Goodman, who has not exactly agreed with everything that I have done in Government. In an article in The Times he wrote that over his time as chairman of the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts, which was over many years from the 1970s until this year when he retired, he had not come across a case where sponsorship had interfered with the artistic performance of arts bodies. I thought that that was an impressive testimony to sponsorship's role in supporting the arts. It gets extra resources for the arts, and that is what we want. It is part of a pattern of looking to a variety of sources through self-reliance and avoiding overdependence on one source of funding--a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack)--is important.
Many other points were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea which fit in with issues raised by other hon. Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West talked about support for the regions. He rightly acknowledged many of the changes that have taken place, including the switch of resources through regional arts associations and by other means to strengthen arts in all parts of the country. He referred to the Sadler's Wells Royal ballet moving to Birmingham. I am glad to be able to play a small part in helping finance that move. My hon. Friend also referred to the Tate of the north, as have other hon. Members. He was right to stress that there has been a switch of resources to many other parts of the country to strengthen the standards of excellence of the arts.
The hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) is not here, but he made an impressive speech as a former teacher about the important role of schools. If I allow myself enough time, I shall return to that issue.
My hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South made an impressive speech. I am grateful to him for what he said. I was struck by the way in which he expressed his views about the Victoria and Albert museum. It is a great institution. I believe that it will remain a great institution, and that the chairman of the trustees and the director have its interest very much at heart and want to do whatever they can to improve it. I have confidence in them. I do not know that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central was disagreeing with me, but I believe that it is right that there responsibility should be delegated to chairman and trustees and, of course, to the director, in the day-to-day
Column 115management of these institutions. If, every time they made changes or ran into problems, I were immediately to intervene, that would undermine the principle of the delegation of responsibility. My overall accountability to the House, my overall responsibility, is the welfare of these institutions, of the great national museums and galleries in this country.
It goes without saying that I take a very close interest in the Victoria and Albert museum and the other institutions. I have been very closely briefed by the chairman and the director on recent developments at the V and A. I have also been heavily involved, over the last year, in discussions with the institutions about corporate strategies--five to 10- year plans--for these institutions. The V and A has been involved in that. Last year I talked to the people there about it. Over the past year, indeed, there has been intensive discussion about corporate strategy.
It is interesting that many of the remarks about the V and A indicated no quarrel with the concept of change in administration and management. However, some hon. Members argued that the way in which the matter has been handled might have been different. It is only right that I should note the views expressed in this House. Clearly, the mood of the House is that anything that can be done to improve the atmosphere should be done. The director of the Victoria and Albert is most anxious to have good relations with the staff. She is anxious that there should be high morale. I shall ensure that the views and anxieties that have been expressed are well and truly noted. I do not think that it would be helpful, at this stage, to go further than to say that I note very carefully what has been said. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West, as always, made an interesting speech. His speeches are never uninteresting. He talked with passion about the south bank. The recently announced scheme of further redevelopment there is still at a very early stage. The South Bank board is inviting the widest possible comment. It will, of course, require planning permission, as well as permission from the Arts Council as the freeholder. The Arts Council and I will be examining very carefully the artistic, financial and architectural aspects of the proposal. No contracts will be signed without my agreement. Of course, as the hon. Gentleman knows, a lot of discussion has to take place before the scheme can get to that stage, and it will be my task to watch that with interest.
I welcome the concept of a partnership between the commercial sector and the public sector in respect of this great arts centre on the south bank. I hope--indeed, I think--that the House will support the harnessing of private sector resources to public sector resources to make it a success.
The hon. Member for Paisley, South made a speech that I enjoyed. I am very proud of the link with his city--Glasgow. I refer to my decision, with the approval of the cultural Ministers of Europe, that Glasgow should be the cultural city of Europe for next year. I am full of admiration for the way in which Glasgow has taken full advantage of that status, demonstrating to the outside world that the state of the arts, both performing and heritage there is quite remarkable, and that they can bring great benefits to the city and to the country.
Column 116My hon. Friend the Member for Kensington (Mr. Fishburn) made a speech about the English National Opera. I acknowledge very strongly the achievements of the English National Opera and of the London Festival ballet, of which my hon. Friend is a director. Both those institutions are partly financed by the Westminster council. I note what my hon. Friend said. I hope that all the London boroughs will continue to play a part in supporting those institutions, and I shall follow progress with very close concern.
I want to respond to the remarks of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central about strategy, and to end by making a particular point about the need, as I see it, to combine the highest standards of artistic excellence in this country with the right of people, wherever they live, to enjoy it. That is very much a strategy of mine. I believe that we have an overwhelming duty to ensure that the standards of artistic performance are of the highest and that, side by side with that, we have total freedom of speech and expression. People need to have their eyes opened to the enjoyment of the arts, whatever their background, wherever they live and whatever their education. That is why I welcome the increased attendance at museums in Museums Year and the increased audiences for dance and classical ballet, at the theatre and for so many forms of art. I want to do whatever I can to encourage that further.
One example of how we can do that is through education. I have had discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. There is now an opportunity in the Education Reform Act and with the other changes, because art and music are foundation subjects, to invest still further in our children and to open their eyes to what the arts can offer. Another way forward is to make an even greater and more effective link between the education units set up for performing arts on the one hand and heritage and museums on the other, and with the imagination of headmasters and teachers so that they use those facilities in such a way that their pupils can benefit. My right hon. Friend and I are discussing ways in which we can achieve that.
Various hon. Members have referred to broadcasting and I agree that it is an important area. It is noticeable that the media are playing an increasingly important role in supporting the arts through their latest programmes, for example "Signals" on Channel 4 and "The Late Show" on BBC2. Those and other programmes have shown how broadcasting can help to stimulate public interest in the arts. I have been in touch with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to discuss the ways in which broadcasting could play a more prominent role. We want to improve accessibility to the arts and as touring is one way of achieving that, we have injected more money into the Arts Council to help to encourage it to increase touring in this country. Our treasures are now being loaned on a much bigger scale. Some injustice is often done to our national institutions. The British museum now lends approximately 2,500 objects of art around the country. The Victoria and Albert museum lends over 3,000, and the Tate gallery also lends a great number. That has helped to increase and improve accessibility to the arts. The care and accessibility of our treasures is a priority and that is why we have injected more pump-priming money into their marketing. We are also pursuing policies in both the inner cities and in rural
Column 117areas and have given pump-priming money to the Carnegie trust to help it to stimulate more schemes to improve accessibility for disabled people.
Those are just some of the examples of the ways in which I am seeking to strengthen access to the arts in this country. We have artists of the highest quality and should
Column 118thank them for their contribution to our quality of life. There is a great upsurge of public interest in the arts-- in our environment, in architecture and in the performing arts, and that is something that we can only welcome because it can only help us to achieve and enhance our quality of life.
Column 119Transport Safety
Mr. George J. Buckley (Hemsworth) : I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this Consolidated Fund debate. It is perhaps appropriate that the preceding debate was about the arts as this transport safety debate could be regarded either as a tragedy or as a farce.
There has been a disturbing increase recently in the number of transport disasters and the public are becoming increasingly concerned about such major disasters. They must be wondering whether the transport system is beginning to feel the inevitable strain of inadequate investment. Pressure on it is being increased by the number of cars on our roads and the number of passengers using a reduced number of trains. Such pressure inevitably leads to tragedies such as those that we have experienced recently.
Reductions in staff and an increasing interest in reducing costs by reducing staff will lead to further pressures. There must be public fear about the reduction of staff, and one wonders whether there is a strategy for a transport system in which profit is the main concern, and whether the increasing profit motive which bedevils the Government's transport strategy will lead to a reduction in the maintenance and safety checks necessary to maintain a high standard of safety on the railways. If such pressure is put on transport systems, incidents such as those at Clapham, Purley and Glasgow will increase. Many ferry passengers suffered in the Zeebrugge tragedy as a result of the pursuance of profit margins.