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The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Morris) : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising his point of order at the beginning of main business. I have read yesterday's Hansard, and I note that my colleague the First Deputy Chairman dealt with the issue at the time. It is, however, worth reminding hon. Members on both sides of the House that, if they intend to refer to other hon. Members, they should do those hon. Members the simple courtesy of dropping them a note, or putting a note on the board. If neither course is possible, they should do their best to contact the hon. Members concerned in their offices.
Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Morris. If your ruling applies to me, does it also apply to the attack on me that the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) has just perpetrated?
(except Article 128 on page 33 of Cm 1934)'.
(excluding Article G D(18) on page 16 of Cm 1934).'.
No. 213, in page 1, line 9, after II', insert except Article 128(1)'.
No. 214, in page 1, line 9, after II', insert except Article 128(2)'.
No. 215, in page 1, line 9, after II', insert except Article 128(3)'.
No. 216, in page 1, line 9, after II', insert except Article 128(4)'.
No. 217, in page 1, line 9, after II', insert except Article 128(5)'.
No. 53, in page 1, line 10, after 1992', insert
but not Article 128 in Title II thereof'.
Mrs. Clwyd : The purpose of amendment No. 5 is to enable the House to discuss article 128 of the treaty, which concerns culture and creates a new legal competence for the Community. Previously, the Community justified its actions on cultural affairs by reference to article 235 of the treaty of Rome.
If the amendment is put to the vote, I shall ask my right hon. and hon. Friends not to support it.
I regard article 128 as one of the most important in the treaty. It relates to the essence of civilised living, and it will lie at the heart of future developments in Europe. When Jean Monnet, the founding father of the European Community, was asked some years later what lessons he had learnt, he replied :
"If we were to do it again, we would start with culture." I wholeheartedly support the idea of the Community's stimulating intellectual ideas, cultural activities and artistic creation. However, I can see some dangers ahead and I shall discuss them later.
Article 128 calls on the European Community to
"contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity".
Paragraph 1 also talks about.
"bringing the common cultural heritage to the fore."
I am not sure whether I know what a common cultural heritage is, but I suspect that it is grounded in the ideas and values of the Renaissance, in the Enlightenment Project and in liberal political thought. Certainly I believe that to be a better approach than seeing Europe's cultural heritage in terms of what the writer Ken Worpole described in a speech in Vienna last year as a
"spatially bound and historically continuous national cultural past".
Culturally, history seen in those terms is on the one hand romantic and safe, but on the other illusory and dangerous.
I believe that the approach that I have outlined as a basis for European heritage is more likely to be useful and less open to abuse than that which seeks to define it in terms of ethnic origin, racial background or some spuriously defined European identity.
Having said that, it is important that cultural development within the European Community should act to some extent as both challenge and counterpoint to some of the shallower cultural developments in the United States which threaten to engulf the western world. Some of that culture is shallow and tacky. That is perhaps not surprising, as it is the product of commercial and private patronage as well as an expression of triumphalist
Column 273capitalist values. While one may deplore snobbish distinctions between so-called high art and low art, we should not be afraid to contrast good and bad art and seek to build on the European traditions of good art.
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland) : Listening to the hon. Lady's somewhat surprising attack on American culture, one is bound to ask whether she has ever heard of jazz. Does she think that that is a product of unbridled American capitalism?
Paragraph 2 of article 128 calls for co-operation between member states in four specific areas : first, the improvement of knowledge and dissemination of the cultural history of the European peoples ; secondly, conservation and safeguarding of cultural heritage of European significance ; thirdly, non-commercial cultural exchanges ; fourthly, artistic and literary creation, including the audio-visual sector.
Paragraph 3 calls on the Community and member states to foster co-operation with third countries as well as with various international organisations. No one should be surprised that Britain was adamant that any proposals under article 128 should have no effect unless they were agreed unanimously.
Returning to the overall aims of article 128, I begin by pointing out to our European partners that the public expenditure settlement for the arts in Britain next year shows that our Government are prepared to renege on both the letter and the spirit of its provisions. If the future of European culture and article 128 depend on the actions of this Secretary of State and this Government, bad times are ahead.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most essential cultural provisions of any civilised country is the ample provision of libraries? Those of us who had the privilege of being educated partly in public libraries--and who make no apology for that --believe that it is deeply regrettable that so many libraries are closing and that existing libraries are open only on certain days. Indeed, it is now almost impossible to find libraries which are open every day from Monday to Saturday, and then only for restricted hours, through no fault of the staff. Should not one of the first priorities be to reassure people that there will be adequate provision of libraries and books? Apart from all the rhetoric, such provisions have done so much in the past, and hopefully will continue in future, to give people the opportunity to read and to widen their horizons, giving them an understanding of events which otherwise they would not have.
Mrs. Clwyd : That is a good point. There is tremendous concern about the future of British libraries. My hon. Friend is not one of the great supporters of the European Community, but he will notice as I proceed with my speech that I shall state that I hope that, when it comes to maintaining our culture and all that it means, the Community will press member Governments to make adequate provision for libraries, so that people may continue to enjoy what they enjoyed in the past under
Column 274Labour Governments. They are worried because provision is diminishing under this Government. Perhaps the Minister will offer us assurances on that.
After the 1922 autumn statement the Select Committee on Treasury and Civil Service decided for the first time ever to question the Chief Secretary to the Treasury about the national heritage budget. It is to be congratulated on so doing. In its report, published on 16 December, the Committee points out that in real terms, using the Treasury GDP deflator, the spending of the Department of National Heritage will fall by no less than 5.4 per cent. in 1993-94 compared with this year. The Committee goes on to say that expenditure by the Government on the performing arts will fall in real terms by more than 10 per cent. over the course of the survey period, compared with 1992-93.
Judging by these figures which, to our European partners, are both shameful and pitiful, the future of music, literature, drama and the fine arts is far from safe in the Secretary of State's hands. It is no wonder that Peter Jones, the outgoing director of English National Opera, has described the figure as
"a killer blow for arts organisations big and small".
He and others have quickly spotted that, at the first opportunity, the Secretary of State has broken the Conservative party's promise in its election manifesto to maintain expenditure on the arts. It is a pity that successive Prime Ministers and Arts Ministers have not been able to match President Mitterrand and Jack Lang, the former French Minister of Culture, in providing inspirational drive and massive cash resources for the arts and culture. That being so, is it any wonder that, while Paris flourishes and threatens to become the cultural capital of Europe, London becomes ever more polluted and less pleasant to live in, with its culture on the verge of decline?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Robert Key) : The hon. Lady tempts me too much. I noticed that there were no wails of anguish when the arts budget increased by 30 per cent. over two years in the previous two years. I noticed also that she still regards Paris as only a threat--quite rightly, because the artistic talent of this country is second to none in the world and will continue to be so.
I further notice the way in which the hon. Lady endorsed the comments of her hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) about libraries, which were astonishing. His views on public libraries are antediluvian and bear no relation to the excellent library facilities that we have. As a matter of interest, it is Labour libraries that have been closing, notably in Derbyshire, and it fell to me and to this Government to insist that some of them be reopened.
Mrs. Clwyd : The Minister has not answered the main point of my attack. He has not denied that there will be cuts in expenditure on the arts in the coming year. His answer was a diversionary tactic. Nor does he have much to say about the future of libraries. He can only accept my hon. Friend's valid concept of the worth of the library service to the British people. I hope that the Minister will address the points that I am making rather than try to divert the argument.
Column 275member of the Council of Ministers and were considering applications for cultural funds from, say, Windsor castle to pay for repairs there and from the Coliseum in Rome, on what basis would she and her hon. Friends decide which was the more European proposal? 4.15 pm
Mrs. Clwyd : I appreciate the deep-rooted dislike that the hon. Gentleman has for the European Community, but I fail to understand the purpose of his question. One would make decisions as a Minister according to the priorities of the day, so it is impossible to answer his question. I should certainly not promise £60 million of public money to repair Windsor castle without making sure that the money was not available from elsewhere.
Several Hon. Members rose--
News of the Government's incompetence over the British Library project, which has rightly merited comment from the Treasury Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee, has long since reached Europe. The management of the project, which compares badly with the way in which, for example, the French manage their great national and international schemes, is making Britain a laughing stock. Much of the world admires the best of European culture--Italian painting, German music, French literature and British drama--which, for the most part, have been liberating cultural forces in Europe and have helped to develop societies which are liberal, tolerant and civilised, but I am conscious of the fact that, in Europe and elsewhere, art continues to perform many roles. Governments and established institutions in Europe have often encouraged art to express national pride and identity.
Locating art and culture in that way in specific places at specific times may be no bad thing. The problem comes when art and culture are used to create a nationalism which is exclusive and threatening and when art and culture are used emotively to stir up national passions. In the years between the two world wars, Goebbels on behalf of Hitler used many art forms--films, radio, music, dance and sculpture--for such purposes. In that way and at that time, European culture became embroiled in--and debased by- -a perversely destructive ideology.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) : I hesitate to interrupt my hon. Friend lest I bring down upon my head scalding denunciations of my lack of culture, of which I am aware. I do not disagree with much of what my hon. Friend has been saying about a lack of commitment or finance for important aspects of our national artistic development, but will she spell out why she thinks that there should be any commitment in the Community to make that good ? I see no indication that the sums of money or commitment about which she has been speaking would be forthcoming from anywhere else.
Mrs. Clwyd : I shall not pour scorn on my hon. Friend, who frequently makes valid points in debate. I am not certain of the point of her intervention, but I will give her one example of how the EC has assisted in providing money for cultural purposes.
Column 276When I became a Member of the European Parliament, one of the first actions of the socialist group was to insert a line in the budget to support less-used languages. I am glad to say that that line is still there and that it supports, among other languages, the Welsh language of which I know that my hon. Friend has some knowledge. Many activities in Wales depend on the money provided by that line in the budget. When it was suggested recently that the money might be cut, considerable lobbying ensured that it was sustained.
When I was a Member of the European Parliament, there was real awareness of the need to protect the diversity of culture and language in the European Community. I have no doubt that such sensitivities still exist and that money will be found when the need is established by Members of the European Parliament who, I hope, will be given more power by the treaty to influence the content of the budget.
No one should doubt that, if fascism arose again in Europe, art would once again be contaminated and artists would be tempted to collaborate with evil forces. The recent discovery that Heine R. Mu"ller, one of Germany's finest authors, was an agent of the security police and supplied words for Stasi files, is a grim reminder of how artists can betray values. If such a regime arose, there would, of course, be differences because a modern European dictator would almost certainly concentrate more on controlling pop art and pop culture and would make more use of advertising and communications agencies, which have a curious ability to act without regard to moral values.
Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North) : I share the hon. Lady's concern about the perverted use of art for ultra-nationalistic purposes. Is she confident that the article that we seek to amend will not be used by European institutions and the Commission in particular as a vehicle for European propaganda for a European state with a European culture? To a certain extent, that would be a perversion of the use of art. Is the hon. Lady not concerned that the article might be used to exert pressure to rewrite European history books? Perhaps we would find out that Waterloo was an honourable draw.
Mrs. Clwyd : The answer is that I am not in the least concerned about that prospect. I was taught no Welsh history in Welsh schools because that became part of the curriculum only comparatively recently. I sometimes wonder how I, as a person of distinctive nationality, could have been denied the history of my country within the United Kingdom. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to address that, rather than speaking about what the Community might do to rewrite history.
Despite worries in Europe about the rise of right-wing forces and an increase in racism, there is yet no sign that fascism is seriously on the march. However, concerns have been expressed, not least in the European Parliament, that the concept of European culture must not become an expression of fortress Europe, creating barriers to immigrants and propelling racist forces within the EC.
Column 277One of the principal reasons for setting up the EC was to prevent central Europe from developing in that way and to ensure that democracies, guided by pluralist principles, would become the norm rather than the exception. Those who would break up the EC and replace it by what President Mitterrand has called "tribal Europe" would risk loosing political and cultural forces which could destroy our democratic values. No one should be in any doubt that, in a tribal Europe based on competing nation states, cultural forces would combine for the worse with the new politics.
There is, of course, another and more hopeful side to what I have been saying. Art does not always serve the needs of Governments. It can be critical, questioning, unnerving, radical, and even revolutionary in intent and content. It can make Governments sweat and even blow them off course, sometimes by the power of simple explanation, sometimes by using irony, ridicule and satire, or it can, as in the case of films and television, embarrass Governments by the sheer power of its imagery combined with explanation. We know that that is true. It is one of the reasons, for example, why the Government have sought to interfere with the broadcasting authorities over programmes such as "Zircon", "Real Lives", "Death on the Rock" and "Tumbledown". Nothing, not even drama, is safe from interference from the Government.
The people of Europe know just how revolutionary art can be. Writers played an important role in helping to create the climate in which the French revolution could take place, a revolution which has been more written about than almost any other event in the history of the world. On the very morning that the revolution broke out, even Wordsworth--a reactionary poet- -was forced to make the refreshing comment :
"Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive".
Two hundred years later, the last Conservative Prime Minister, now Lady Thatcher--for whom notions of liberty, equality and fraternity meant nothing--made it clear to the House of Commons and to the French people that she could not understand what the celebrations were about.
More recent political upheavals, in Russia and Czechoslovakia, were given impetus by the work of writers such as Solzhenitsyn and Havel. Fortunately, oppression sometimes encourages creative art, and art sometimes inspires action through imparting knowledge, raising emotions, creating expectations and giving people courage. Tomorrow, in the European Parliament, there will be a debate on the priorities identified in article 128. Perhaps I can make some suggestions to enlighten that debate by highlighting the following points. First, the Community laws, which have so far been adopted with a view to creating a single market, do not provide a genuine defence of pluralism. Unless we can act quickly, there will continue to be an alarming decline in the heritage of artefacts, traditions, styles and ideas which underpin Europe's pluralist identity.
Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber) : I wanted to get in before the hon. Lady went on to discuss the views which may or may not be expressed in the debate tomorrow in the European Parliament. My point relates to the third paragraph of article 128, which refers to
Column 278responsibility for co-operation with international organisations and specifically refers to the Council of Europe. There has been tacit agreement up to now that the European Community deals with a lot of things but that the Council of Europe has the lead position, as it were, in respect of culture. Does the hon. Lady feel that this article will change that balance?
Mrs. Clywd : No. I am sure that the Council of Europe, UNESCO and other organisations will have a continuing role to play and that the one will not diminish the other in any way. I am sure that the hon. Member does not need further assurances on that matter : I have no doubt that that will be the case.
Mr. Stuart Randall (Kingston upon Hull, West) : I should be most grateful if my hon. Friend would explain to me why the Labour party has taken the position that it has. Essentially, article 128 seems to be about encouraging national diversity. It is all about co-operation between member states and third-world countries. It is not about harmonisation. Why are we discussing this? Is it just because we have put down a probing amendment, or is it about extending the competence of the Community in this way? I should like to know.
The second point that I should like to make is about language, which is perhaps the most powerful cultural influence. That being so, the EC must seek ways of protecting and promoting languages, including those spoken by minorities. The Minister and I have one thing in common : we speak the oldest living language in Europe--Welsh. He may now speak Spanish better than Welsh, but I know that he can speak the Welsh language, which goes back to the sixth century. Unlike Anglo Saxon, we need no help in understanding language that was written in the sixth century. I shall use a few words, which I shall spell out in detail afterwards :
"Gwyr a aeth Gatraeth oedd ffraeth eu llu"
That is part of a sixth century poem in Welsh, which everybody who speaks Welsh understands. The Minister, no doubt, will want to repeat those words. Unfortunately
Mrs. Clwyd : It is difficult to translate poetry, as every hon. Member will know. It is a battle-cry about men going into battle at Catterick camp in Yorkshire. It does not sound quite as good in English as it does in Welsh. If Conservative Members press me, I will happily recite the whole poem in Welsh.
Unfortunately, less than a quarter of Welsh people now speak the Welsh language, but I have no hesitation in prophesying that the language will never die. It has lived next to a very strong culture and, despite the centuries of
Column 279living shoulder to shoulder with that culture, has managed to survive. I am sure that the new Welsh language Bill will ensure that it will survive and that the European Community will recognise the importance of other languages and cultures and help to sustain languages such as Welsh. Special attention must be paid to translation, publishing, book distribution, promotion, reading, inter- library co-operation and, of course, broadcasting.
The Chairman : Order. I repeat that I cannot translate it. I had some difficulty passing O-level Latin, if that was Latin. It is important, and I hope that hon. Members will not abuse it, that we must know exactly what everybody is communicating. I must ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to be kind enough to translate it for the record.
"faith, hope, charity, these three ; but the greatest of these is charity"- -
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) : The hon. Lady mentioned with great and justifiable pride the traditions of the Welsh language, but we are talking about the European dimension, and Hebrew is a much older language which has been in continuous use. Surely Hebrew is part of European culture and civilisation as well? It is the particularity of this- -the direction of funds, the support of what and for whom, who controls it, and what are the democratically accountable elements--which determines part of this debate, and I hope that the hon. Lady will have regard, first, to Hebrew and, secondly, to who will democratically control these funds.
Mrs. Clwyd : The hon. Member may be interested to know that Hebrew and the method of teaching it very quickly to people have been the foundation for some of the rapid courses in teaching Welsh. I thank him for that observation.
In many ways, the process of the European Community and the European Parliament in deciding priorities and budget lines is more democratic than in the House. When I was a Member of the European Parliament, it was possible to vote a budget line by line--something that is not possible under the procedures of the House. The hon. Gentleman might like to give the European Community and Parliament some credit for that.
The biggest problem facing the Community--and, thus far, the Community has done little to alleviate it--is the scourge of unemployment. It is the Community's biggest challenge. It is clear that the development of cultural industries across Europe could play an important role in both bringing down unemployment and enhancing civilised values. Here is a potential area of enormous growth, particularly where cultural industries link up with developments in information and communications technology. The Community has the ability to set up and maintain cultural networks and to create and strengthen cultural links.
The European Community is the ideal forum to create a European film industry, the creation of which would provide new and exciting prospects for Europe's film buffs. A successful European film industry would have important spin-offs for many art forms, as well as providing a boost for jobs. Britain has every reason to support such a venture because of the collapse of our own film industry. Both here and in respect of the cultural industries to which I have just referred, the EC should be prepared to give grants and loans for imaginative projects.
Mr. Key : I am sure that the hon. Lady would not wish to leave the story half-told. This country has the benefit of some of the greatest film makers in the world. She will acknowledge the way in which, despite the very tight public expenditure round, we have joined Eurimages, the European film agreement, which will have an impact on the British film industry.
Mrs. Clwyd : Despite the rosy picture that the Minister paints for us, I am afraid that not many people would share his view of the British film industry at the moment. Certainly film makers themselves would not do so.
The European Community should consider ways of making member states improve the quality of life by encouraging better standards of design in all areas, including public buildings and spaces. In Paris, Seville, Barcelona and elsewhere, design has been an important driving force behind inner-city regeneration. The EC should seek to ensure that national Governments and cities have coherent planning policies and access to good architects.