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Mr. Lloyd : We always notice when the hon. Gentleman is here. I am grateful that he has had time to ask his question as it provides a further opportunity to advertise the rebate scheme. As the hon. Gentleman knows there are editorial comments, leaflets, advertising and the fact that local authorities make their own arrangements for letting people know. There will be no doubt at all that all those eligible for a rebate will have had plenty of opportunity to learn that fact.
The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Richard Luce) : Five major new galleries have been opened by national institutions during the last five years : the Tate gallery, Liverpool ; the Clore gallery on the Tate's Millbank site ; the Victoria and Albert's theatre museum in Covent Garden ; the British Film Institute's museum of the moving image ; and the Imperial War museum's new superhangar at Duxford. In addition, most of the national institutions have redesigned and refurbished areas within their existing buildings to create new gallery space.
Miss Widdecombe : Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is an excellent indication of his policy of partnership in the museum world, and that coupled with the 53 per cent. increase in Government grants for repairs and maintenance, it gives the lie to any claims that the museum world is in a state of crisis?
Mr. Luce : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is absolutely true that the amount of redevelopment and the opening of new galleries in the past few years has been enormous. A number of other new galleries are in progress, including the Sainsbury wing at the national gallery, further plans for new galleries at the British museum and the complete refurbishment of the Queen's house at the national maritime museum. An enormous amount is happening and, as my hon. Friend said, with the increase in the amount of money for building and maintenance, the overall resources and the improvement in the national institutions are progressing very well.
Mr. Luce : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have warmly welcomed the opening of the Tate gallery in Liverpool last year with the extension of the Tate to Merseyside. A vast amount of lending is now taking place. The Tate gallery, the British museum, the national gallery and the Victoria and Albert lend a large number of objects. With the extension of outstations of various national institutions around the country, there is much wider access to our collections.
Mr. Luce : The funding of the Northern Ballet theatre is a matter for the Arts Council. The House will be pleased to note that the council has decided to continue funding for at least two more years to enable the company to stabilise its financial situation.
Mr. Favell : My right hon. Friend will be aware that that news has been received with acclaim throughout the north. Is it not true that under Christopher Gable, the artistic director, the Northern Ballet theatre has made enormous strides in standards? Is it not also true that all arts organisations require a sound and firm financial foundation upon which to base their work?
Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is right. He is also right to pay tribute to Christopher Gable who has given remarkably strong leadership to the Northern Ballet theatre over the past few months. The standard of its productions is undoubtedly high and it is attracting new audiences to ballet, which is an important development. If Northern Ballet can get its own house in order, which it is well on the way to doing, it has a strong future.
Mr. Bowis : Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is widespread admiration for the English National Opera, which has made enormous strides in the quality of its productions as well as in education, touring and attracting sponsorship? Is he aware that there is widespread unease that the company is unable to plan ahead because of the failure to reach an agreement with Westminster city council in particular? Will he talk to his colleagues in Government about that?
Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is right to emphasise the English National Opera's standard of excellence in the arts. Its last season was remarkable and there were many new productions. There are five new productions in the coming season. It does an extremely effective job in generating new audiences for opera and I have nothing but praise for what it achieves. My hon. Friend is also right to draw attention to the fact that a proportion of its grant comes from Westminster city council. It is an important contribution to its overall funding. The Government
Column 672provide just under £7 million and its total resources are about £15 million. Therefore, it is an important sum and I hope that Westminster city council, in considering what support it can give, will enlist the support of other London boroughs on whose behalf at present it gives support to the English National Opera.
Mr. Jessel : Will my right hon. Friend take this matter seriously as the English National Opera is an important and successful British institution whose viability is jeopardised by a side effect of the reorganisation of local government finance? Will he talk with our right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government on this matter as soon as possible?
Mr. Luce : In the past I have been in touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment on this matter and I attach great importance to it. It is right at this stage to stress that I look to Westminster city council to decide what it can contribute and then to generate support from other London boroughs to see what they can do to help English National Opera.
Mr. Luce : A total of £18 million of additional money is expected to benefit 48 organisations since this scheme began in 1988. This represents £3 of private sector money for every £1 invested by the taxpayer.
Mr. Hague : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the scheme has done a great deal to encourage many organisations to improve their professionalism, particularly in marketing? Has that not brought considerable benefits to many consumer and arts organisations? Can my right hon. Friend say a little more about the benefits brought to Yorkshire and the north?
Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is right. One of the main purposes of the scheme is to provide an incentive to organisations to diversify their sources of funding and become even more professional in their management. Under the initial scheme we have already achieved a £3 return for every £1 invested, which is a big improvement on what was targeted-- £2 for every £1 invested. That shows the enthusiasm with which some arts bodies are receiving the scheme and the effort they are making to obtain extra sources of funding from the private sector.
I am pleased to be able to say that, of all the regions, Yorkshire comes second with 20 per cent. of all the awards.
Mr. Butler : Can my right hon. Friend tell me what importance is given to the regions under the scheme? Do they lose out to London? Can he tell me to what extent business sponsorship has grown in total?
Mr. Luce : Over 70 per cent. of the organisations that receive incentive funding are based outside London. I am anxious to achieve the highest standards of excellence throughout the country. That is important to the success of the arts, which should be accessible to people throughout the country.
Mr. Luce : I have no plans to do so. The national museums and galleries commission their own building surveys and present their conclusions in the context of the corporate plans which they submit to my Department.
Mr. Haynes : It is time that this Minister woke up. Is he aware that national museums and galleries are falling down? We need a national audit to put that right. I am asking this Minister to wake up, as well as Social Security Ministers.
Mr. Luce : I enjoyed the hon. Gentleman's contribution, but he should recharge his batteries, change direction and embrace as warmly as he can the fact that I have increased resources available to museums and galleries for building and maintenance by 53 per cent. Will he give his strong support for that?
Mr. Fisher : Does the Minister accept the statement made by the trustees of the Victoria and Albert museum that they have inherited a £50 million backlog from the Property Services Agency and that the trustees of the Tate gallery have inherited a £27 million backlog? The increase for the coming year will be only 2.1 per cent. If the Minister accepts those figures, what will he do about them? If he does not accept them, will he accept the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) of a national audit to establish how badly placed our national museums are?
Mr. Luce : The hon. Gentleman is tending to fall for the Armageddon syndrome--everything is coming to an end in the arts world and there is a crisis, which there is not. A series of problems are being tackled. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman did not acknowledge that this year we shall spend £48 million on building and maintenance of our national institutions, and that the amount over the next four years will increase by 53 per cent. When will he acknowledge that?
The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. Richard Luce) : The Civil Service is an equal opportunities employer. It has a range of policies to ensure equality of opportunity for all staff. The ethnic origin of applicants and new entrants to the Civil Service is monitored.
Mr. Janner : Is it correct that, as a result of monitoring exercises, the Minister has found that his Department does not employ one person from an ethnic minority in grades one to four, or grade six, and only one in grades five or seven, which is better than most Departments in which not one black person is employed in grades one or two and only one in grades three or four? Does the Minister agree that this is a deplorable reflection on past promotion and
Column 674recruitment policies? What does he propose to do about it, when the Civil Service is giving such a poor lead to the nation's employers.
Mr. Luce : I acknowledge that the number of Asian or black people employed in senior positions in my Office is small--only 1 per cent. of those above grade seven. The number of Asian or black people employed within the service as a whole reflects the number throughout the country--
Mr. Luce : Indeed, it is only in the lower grades, but as they become more experienced their promotion prospects will increase. I am not satisfied that equality of opportunity is adequate for staff to reach senior levels. I am therefore glad to be able to tell the House that all Departments have agreed to draw up a comprehensive action programme to increase equality of opportunity for black and Asian staff, which I hope will help.
Mr. Marlow : How does one resolve some of the queries arising out of this monitoring nonsense? Does my right hon. Friend have a sort of colour code in his Department? Perhaps, if one was going to be objective about it, my right hon. Friend could help the House by letting us know what the ethnic classification is of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner), who asked the question?
Mr. Luce : There are understood procedures, and I understand the question that my hon. Friend asked. It is important that equality of opportunity is ensured, so that there is a fair and open system and that people are recruited on merit.
72. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service how many students were recruited into the Civil Service (a) direct from schools and (b) direct from universities (i) in the past year and (ii) 10 years ago ; what were the costs of the recruitment exercise in each case ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Luce : Information is not available in the form requested. The Civil Service Commission recruited a total of around 7,000 people in 1988 of whom over 2,500 were young graduates. Most recruitment of school leavers is carried out locally by employing departments.
Mr. Greenway : Does a school leaver have as much opportunity to get to the top of the Civil Service as a recruited graduate? If not, will my right hon. Friend do something about the old boy network which prevents this?
Mr. Luce : School leavers who do not have university experience have that opportunity if they have the talent. They can join the Civil Service at a particular level with two A-levels and, if they prove themselves after two years, can be transferred to the fast stream. This means that there are opportunities for people of all backgrounds and experience to work their way to the top.
Mr. Luce : I am surprised that the hon. Lady is not aware that there is a programme of action to recruit more women into the Civil Service. The fact that there will be a great decline in the number of 16 to 19-year-olds coming on to the market in the next five years means that the competition will be intense. There already is a programme of action to ensure that there is equality of opportunity for women.
Mr. Patrick Thompson : Can my right hon. Friend give figures on the recruitment of students in science and engineering? Does he agree that if there has been an increase it must be good news in terms of better recognition being given to the work of our engineers and scientists?
Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is right. Last year was a record year for recruitment of engineers and technology specialists, although there are still problems in other specialist areas, such as computing. Because a much more flexible pay system is evolving in the Civil Service, we can deal more effectively with problems concerning the specialist skills that we so badly need.
Mr. Barnes : Is there not a need to protect and, often, to re- establish traditional Civil Service impartiality? The Government oblige civil servants to involve themselves in the production of propaganda, the worst of which are probably the poll tax leaflets. Is it not a disgrace that the Government are forcing civil servants into a position where their traditional standing begins to be threatened?
Mr. Luce : The hon. Gentleman must have missed last week's debate when the rules and regulations on Government advertising were made clear. It is perfectly proper to carry out such advertising, provided that it is in no way party political. I would go much further than that and say that it is surely the duty of any Government to ensure that their citizens know their rights and responsibilities and the important implications of legislation. It is important that the community should know for its own sake the facts and details of the community charge.
I totally refute the suggestion that the Civil Service is not impartial. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee recently stressed that in its view the Civil Service was certainly impartial.
Column 676placements of their members in industry and commerce, outside the Civil Service? Has he had any response from the trade unions to such initiatives?
Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is right. He may be aware of the bridge programme, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and I launched about two months ago, in which we are drawing further attention to industry and commerce on the prospects of more secondment and more exchanges between the Civil Service and the private sector. There has been an initial response to the programme. I hope that there will be an increase in such exchanges. I have no reason to believe that the trade unions object to them.
Dr. Marek : Did the Minister consult the trade unions before the Secretary of State for Social Security made his statement to the House recently about operational changes within his Department? What do the trade unions think about the matter.?
Mr. Luce : My right hon. Friend made it plain in his announcement last week that he would consult the trade unions on the staff changes, as is the case with every agency that we establish. I would like to take this opportunity to stress the significance and importance of my right hon. Friend's decision, which will ensure that the vast bulk of the operations of the benefits office, of the national insurance contribution service and of the information technology service are turned into agencies with clear performance targets, so that the services to the consumer can be made plain and can be improved upon. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome that warmly.
Mr. Luce : No further agencies have been established, but on 17 May my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security announced that he had decided that virtually all the operational tasks of his Department should be given agency status with clear target dates for when those agencies should be launched. I expect more agencies to be set up before the summer recess.
Mr. Key : That is good news. Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what improvements he is considering in training for the management and delivery of services to the public? However, will he also consider the implications for the many staff who face a considerable period of uncertainty in the agency programme, such as those at the aircraft and armaments experimental establishment at Boscombe Down, about which no decision has yet been made on agency status?
Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is right to stress the importance of those developments. Part of their purpose is to ensure improved performance and better management of the service and services to the public, and I believe that those aims will be achieved. In the announcement of all the agencies, plenty of time is being given. In the case of the largest agency--the benefit service--which involves 70, 000 people, the change will not be made until spring 1991. That will give plenty of time to look at the future and to plan the staff required.
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