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Mr. Renton : I will not follow the hon. Gentleman down that path. I am sure that he will try to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so he will be able to pursue that argument. Television is a rapidly changing world and competition in it changes quickly. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has therefore had to be aware of those changes.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) has strong support from me in one respect, because I find the combination of discussing the arts amidst the strong smell of overcooked beef an interesting but unpleasant experience. Perhaps it is the House's definition of nouvelle cuisine. We hear a great deal about the use of new technology in the House, but that combination is a remarkable presentation of it. I hope that your efforts, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to suppress those smells will soon be successful.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State not only on the positive, determined and successful role that he has brought to weaving together the different parts of his important Department--heritage, sport and tourism, as well as the arts and broadcasting--but on a rather mundane success : that he has managed to have a debate on the arts today. In the 18 months that I was Arts Minister--I found that a pleasant, happy time--I never succeeded in persuading the business managers that we should have a debate on the arts. Perhaps we should have council elections more frequently, so that we can have more debates on the subject.
One of the permanent features of such debates is the position of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) as Opposition spokesman on the arts. I suspect that he was in the same position in the debate in July 1990.
As I listened to the hon. Gentleman this afternoon, I felt that he was slightly like Sleeping Beauty. He had been in the thicket of briar for so long, frozen into silence, that when he was given the chance to speak the words poured
Column 882out almost without cessation. At times, listening to him was a little bit like reading a long book by James Joyce, because it was rather hard to know where the commas would come, let alone the full stops or, indeed, where the book would end. I know of his passion for the subject and I admire him for his persistence in speaking about the arts on behalf of the Opposition. Long may he continue to do so. The hon. Gentleman tends to be a Cassandra in sackcloth and ashes, who runs around complaining that everything is going wrong with the world of the arts. He behaved like that frequently when I was Arts Minister and I used regularly to remind him that in 1989-90 we had managed to get a record 14 per cent. increase in the budget for the Arts Council, which meant another £21 million for it. The hon. Gentleman never listened to me.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) said, the hon. Gentleman might do his cause better if he occasionally spoke with more enthusiasm and positive verve about the many good things that are happening in the arts in Britain today, of which he is well aware.
Only this morning, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central and I were debating on a programme on Channel 4. I heard much the same notes of Cassandra--I mention the word again--from him then. I reminded him that if we walked just a few hundred yards from 4 Millbank, where the programme was made, we would come to the Tate. Its exhibition on Picasso and the relationship between his paintings and his sculpture is the most successful that it has ever staged. The Tate, funded as it is by the Government, has had a number of extremely successful years and it can now look forward to trying to develop a gallery of modern art on the old Bankside power station site. That example, which is so close to the House, is a living exemplar to us of how one of our major galleries is doing so well and attracting huge crowds. One of the pleasant things that one notices when driving by the Tate at lunchtime is the enormous number of young people who are congregated on the steps of the gallery. They are there talking, eating sandwiches and using the Tate as a place to get together. That is exactly what a major art gallery should be like.
My old friend, Lord Gowrie, whose letter of 4 May, sent to us all, has already been quoted in the debate, has not only shown, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, that he will be a fierce and independent defender of arts interests as chairman of the Arts Council, but he concluded his letter with the words : "The arts need nurturing, not spoiling."
The purpose of the debate is to enable us, with our different viewpoints, to consider what is the best way to nurture rather than spoil the arts.
I should declare a number of interests, which are all recorded in the Register of Members' Interests, because I
Column 883am the patron, trustee or director of a number of arts bodies. I am also the chairman of a small start-up company, Interactive Telephone Services, which has interests in some of these areas. I should like to consider the way in which arts funding takes place. After Lord Palumbo released his mantle of chairman of the Arts Council he took a good swipe at me in an article in The Sunday Times for comments that I had made, as Arts Minister and subsequently, about the future of the Arts Council. Now that the Department of National Heritage and the 10 English regional arts boards are well established, I questioned the future role of the council as another intervening layer--a third layer--of authority, administration, spending and committees, governing how the precious sums of money that are available to the arts are distributed. Now that the Department is so well set, I argue that we should consider whether there was a case for major national clients such as the national theatre, the south bank, the two opera companies in London and national orchestras to be funded directly by my right hon. Friend's Department rather than through the Arts Council.
I have always argued that case with absolutely no ill will to the Arts Council ; after all, I have many friends who have served on its committees and board. I wish Lord Gowrie, whom I greatly respect, every possible success in his job. I also wish the same to Mary Allen, who is the new secretary general. She has a good stage career behind her, so she must have learnt a lot from that about the ups and downs of life and must be used to having the spotlight, sometimes a critical one, focused on her.
However, I confess that I was always somewhat surprised at the amount of upset that those remarks of mine caused, not least to Lord Palumbo, because, after all, first the Office of Arts and Libraries and now the Department of National Heritage have funded the major museums and galleries directly. The British museum, the British library, the Tate gallery, the Victoria and Albert museum, the science museum, the natural history museum and the national gallery receive their moneys directly from the Government. Of course, they fight for more money--they use their sharp elbows to try to achieve that end--but, in my experience, that has always been a successful and good relationship.
If the Tate gallery, in the Turner prize awards, shows a collection of extremely modern exhibitions, including 12 tonnes of rice with red neon tubes down the middle, as it did recently, that does not cause the Minister to become upset. He does not say that surely there should be a portrait from the Royal College of Art there--a naturalist portrait--or that a portrait of the Minister should have been on the short list.
Mr. Renton : No indeed. I say that only to show that that is a successful, satisfactory relationship. If that is so between the Department and the museums and galleries, why is it thought to be impossible between the Department and the theatres and the orchestras or the opera companies ?
I confess that I often felt that the hostility with which my remarks were received by senior people in the Arts Council showed an unwillingness to think the unthinkable, an hostility to considering fundamental change, that is
Column 884often a characteristic of a dying organisation or an organisation that has been in place for a long time without looking at itself and trying to revive itself actively enough.
There will have to be a change in the organisation of arts funding. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State reminded us that 42 more organisations had now been delegated to the 10 regional arts boards. I am not surprised by that. I am delighted by it. After all, the regional arts boards are now all set up. By and large, they have strong chairmen, good boards and good directors. I am sure that they will expect to be increasingly responsible for more and more bodies in their areas.
Leading on from that, one must reach the conclusion that, between the Department of National Heritage, the Arts Council and the regional arts boards, three organisations are concerned with arts funding. Is that not one organisation too many, consuming too much administration money, possibly interfering with each other too much ? There is another strain to my thought, which is that the advent of large sums from the national lottery, which I greatly welcome--when I was Arts Minister, I always strongly supported the concept that we should have a national lottery-- will, in the case of the Arts Council, for example, perhaps double its budget. There will be an enormous increase in the sums of money available to the national heritage memorial fund. That, in turn, should cause radical thinking about the way in which arts funding is organised.
The Millennium Commission, which I greatly welcome, and which will be chaired by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, will have to take direct decisions about which project to support for the year 2000. I believe that, in taking those decisions, the Millennium Commission will show that there is a principle of ministerial intervention in deciding the relative importance of one arts project versus another. That principle will be established.
I believe--I realise that what I shall say will cause some disturbance among my friends on the Government Front Bench--that that will lead to a consideration of the validity of the arm's-length principle that Ministers do not, notionally at least, intervene in the way in which arts budgets are spent.
I remember that on the first day that I arrived in the Office of Arts and Libraries I was told about the arm's-length principle. I think that that very afternoon, three Members of Parliament came to see me to plead that London City ballet should continue to receive a large subsidy. I said, "That is nothing to do with me ; it is the arm's-length principle. It is entirely up to the Arts Council." I will not say from which side of the House the Members of Parliament came. They said, "Come off it, Minister. You can tell the Arts Council what to do. The London City ballet is very good news and you should jolly well make certain that it continues to receive the money that they have always had. We like them very much and you should certainly go and tell Lord Palumbo what to do."
Putting the London City ballet on one side, when the Royal Opera house or the national theatre or the south bank need large sums of money for backstage restoration at the opera house, for building repairs at the national theatre, or for redevelopment of the south bank, it is to the Minister that they go. They speak to him about it because they hope that he will find some way of producing a golden key and unlocking a door which will produce funds for them that would not otherwise be available. That happened in the
Column 885days when my noble Friend Lord Gowrie was Arts Minister, when Sir Richard Luce was Arts Minister and when I was Arts Minister. When it became possible for the freehold of the Coliseum to be bought because the Holmes-a -Court estate showed its potential willingness to sell it, it was to me as the Minister that English National Opera made its representations, hoping that I would be able to find the money with which the freehold could be purchased. I am glad to say that, in the end, I was able to persuade the Chief Secretary to do just that.
I accept that the arm's-length principle is deeply useful to Ministers. It enables them to say, "This awkward decision is not mine ; it is the Arts Council's." There must be a de minimis rule whereby many decisions will be, and should always be, delegated to the Arts Council or the regional arts boards.
However, I do not enormously like pretence. Perhaps that is why I am not a very good politician. I have always thought that there was a good deal of pretence behind the arm's-length principle. In the future, the strength of the regional arts boards, the strong Department of National Heritage with a Secretary of State who sits in the Cabinet, the national lottery moneys and the Millennium Commission will require the Department of National Heritage to be more in the front line, establishing its own priorities, and in the firing line. That does not give me the worries that it appears to give so many other people. I wholly respect my right hon. Friend's judgment in that respect.
Mr. Brooke : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the cases that he cited as exceptions to the general principle have tended to concentrate on capital projects rather than on the revenue funding of specific artistic institutions and productions, and that he is taking us on to slightly marshy ground if he suggests that Ministers should be involved in lottery distribution ? We are determined to make certain that that is additional to public expenditure.
Mr. Renton : I accept that and I am wholly behind the principle that the lottery money should be in addition to existing public expenditure. I was only making the subsidiary point because I am not in any sense trying to lay down the rules. However, the Millennium Commission, which my right hon. Friend chairs and on which the President of the Board of Trade sits, I believe, as a second Cabinet Minister, will be required to take decisions about the way in which its share of the lottery money is spent. Those are likely to be capital projects, and Ministers will be in the front line. I welcome that and do not feel the great concern that many others have always shown on that issue.
I am immensely optimistic about the future of art, orchestras and galleries in Britain. Despite all the funding difficulties, the past 10 years have seen a renaissance of all kinds of art--from different cultures and ethnic origins--often helped by local authority money, patronage, sponsorship and the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts, and I am sure that that will continue.
A few weekends ago, I visited the Tate of the West for the first time, in the company of Sir Richard Carew Pole, without whose persistence the Tate of the West would not have been built. It was also funded largely by money from the Cornwall county council. It was a joy to be there, not only to see the gallery and look out on the famous beach which Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth looked at, as
Column 886one painted and the other sculpted, but to hear subsequently from Sir Richard Carew Pole about an investigation that had been conducted in the town only some 10 months after the gallery had opened, in which all local traders were asked what effect the gallery had had on their businesses. The vast majority said that the effect was thoroughly positive--there were more tourists, they were doing more business, and the whole town seemed to have been woken up again. It was more active and lively, and people were looking forward more positively than they had before that relatively small gallery had been built. That is a marvellous example of what artistic rebuilding in the centre of towns throughout the country can do in creating renaissances.
Not long ago, I was asked--I accepted with great pleasure--to review a book by my old friend, Sir Alan Peacock, who was chairman of the Scottish Arts Council and a combination of a formidable brain, a musician, economist and great iconoclast in the arts world. In his book, he quoted with approval the comment of two American professors that
"few of us are willing to take the responsibility of passing on to future generations a country whose beauty has been destroyed". I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will share that sentiment in this unusual arts debate this afternoon. By whatever means we arrive at it, we all wish to ensure that this country's beauty will be not destroyed but indefinitely preserved, added to and made more accessible to more people.
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland) : The debate has been well justified by all the contributions so far. I only wish that these occasions did not occur simply because the Secretary of State does not want to play a part in the local elections in Westminster. The debate's reflective tone, exemplified by the former Minister for the Arts, the right hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton), is of greater value than the partisan character that tends to divide the House when we debate other matters. It is not because a consensus exists in the House--there are different angles of vision. The Labour party spokesman, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher), speaks with great passion on, and an obvious commitment to, these matters. He does not simulate his sense of outrage that the Secretary of State did not do better for the arts in the public expenditure round.
I do not profess to take the same tone, although I share the hon. Gentleman's disappointment, for the reasons that have been spelt out dispassionately by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath). He made the important point that, when public spending is cut from the performing arts, it has a permanent or at least long-term effect. The postponement of capital projects is one thing, but the cutting away of funds from a living performing company can be extremely damaging.
The right hon. Member for Mid-Sussex asked whether the Arts Council was necessary and whether the arm's-length principle was simply a form of humbug. An answer lies in what the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup said about the history of arts funding. He recalled the lack of support for the arts during the bleak 1930s of his childhood and contrasted it with what happened in the post-war period. It is not entirely a propter hoc fallacy to reflect on the effect on the arts as a result of
Column 887the report of the committee chaired by Lord Keynes and the setting up of the Arts Council in its early form at the end of the war. Even more significant than the funding role of the Arts Council in the future may be its role as an advocate for the arts. The transfer of responsibility to the regional arts boards for funding some institutions is a healthy step, as it involves local communities more directly in the choice of institutions that they want to back. But there can never be a substitute for the nationally expressed voice of the Arts Council, which seems to have suffered in recent years. I do not blame Lord Palumbo for that because he had some bright ideas and a difficult row to hoe. He deserves credit for the millennium fund, among other things, which he personally advocated. As he returns to private life, I wish him well.
The Arts Council has not sung with a clear voice in recent years. I hope that, under its new chairman, Lord Gowrie, it will not merely be independent--I have no doubt about that--but will have clear authority when it speaks for the nation on those matters. It is not always open to Ministers of the Crown to speak with authority on those issues, not only because they are understandably reticent about expressing artistic priorities but because, within the scheme of things, the arts inevitably do not have the prominence of some other areas of our national life.
In his opening speech, the Secretary of State mentioned "Albertopolis". I was beginning to look forward to a rendition of "Albert and the Lion" by Stanley Holloway, but perhaps we did not have quite the roar that Holloway would have given us. But the Secretary of State reflected an acceptance that the arts lie at the heart of society and are the basis of the nation's civilisation, and that the ideas and notions that they convey are often inexpressible by other means. What may be peculiar to the arts is the fact that, if they are to be part of our environment, new ideas are the prerequisite of success.
It is in the sphere of novelty and innovation that public funding is important. The market does not automatically provide for new forms of expression ; nor does it always go to those parts of our country and communities that have not had the opportunity of hearing or seeing a specific art form before. Public funding will always be necessary in order to increase access to the arts in those areas and to spread experimentation. If we under-resource the nation's arts, we shall have to resign ourselves to a duller society.
The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup referred to two notable connoisseurs from Russia who had, through their private patronage, brought a wealth of impressionist paintings to the Hermitage. Private patronage has an important part to play in society today--indeed, it always has.
The right hon. Gentleman's reference to those two Russian connoisseurs made me think of a Scottish connoisseur called Alexander Reid, who became a partner in a firm known today as Reid and LeFevre. He spent a formative part of his life in Paris, where he shared accommodation with Vincent Van Gogh. He was the subject of a notable portrait by Van Gogh which, I am happy to say, hangs in the municipal collection in Glasgow. As a result of his wise advice to the tycoons of the day in Glasgow, many of them invested in the purchase of paintings by Sisley, Monet, Pisarro and others whom he
Column 888had known and admired. Their paintings were, in turn, passed on to the great municipal collection in Glasgow. That happened as a result not of public intervention, but of connoisseurship and wise patronage. That will never be displaced, any more than will the need for public funding.
We cannot rely on sponsorship to provide continuity of artistic endeavour, which is why the Secretary of State must win his battles with the Treasury. There has been generous sponsorship from a number of major national companies. The Secretary of State mentioned two--British Telecom, with its involvement in orchestras, and the Allied Lyons link with the Royal Shakespeare company. Those sponsorships are welcome, but we must remember how private sponsorship failed the Royal Shakespeare company for a time, and there were dark nights in the Barbican. We must recall how close the Barbican came to losing that central part of our current national artistic provision.
Those who sponsor the arts are conscious that they cannot provide core funding, but can only help to boost it and enable those involved in the arts to do better work and to take their work more widely around the country.
I shall spare the Secretary of State a lecture on the importance of the arts, as I do not doubt that he well understands the significance of the arts to our national economy. If he is looking for a job in the future, he could do worse than chair the British Tourist Authority. Were he deployed in that role, his recounting of the excellence to be discovered in Britain today would doubtless bring many more visitors to our shores. He is right to draw attention to the extraordinary quality of work being done in all parts of Britain today--not only by those professionals whose contribution is admired throughout the world, but by amateurs and those who enjoy participating in the arts and the community, even in simple ways. Their contribution to the arts is of immense importance. Our funding policy can never lose sight of the importance of encouraging the young to have an understanding and appreciation of the arts. Like the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup, I am concerned about the evident decline in support for education in the arts. That is not the direct responsibility of the Secretary of State, but it must cause him concern. I hope that he will discuss with his colleagues what more can be done to provide musical instrumental training of the young. The treatment of music in the curriculum and of the arts generally appears not to have fostered the acquisition of those skills. The fact that itinerant, peripatetic music teachers are being withdrawn from schools in rural regions is disturbing. Another issue for which the Secretary of State is not directly responsible, but which has caused great anxiety in the arts world, is that of discretionary grants for the performing arts in unrecognised institutions. The issue of who enters the performing arts is becoming an increasingly haphazard process which appears to depend increasingly on where one lives and how rich one's parents are, not on one's talent or whether one is likely to become the next Peggy Ashcroft or John Gielgud. That is not acceptable and I hope that the Secretary of State or, when he winds up the debate, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage will mention that problem. It is not directly a matter for them, but it is giving rise to justifiable concern.
The arts play a role in society that goes far beyond the mere provision of leisure occupation. The arts also have a valuable therapeutic role, as those of us who are interested
Column 889in penal policy--as I am, wearing another hat--can vouchsafe. In prisons we see remarkable examples of prisoners involved both in performing and in sharing the experience. Such activity helps to re-educate them, and to correct their view of themselves and their understanding of the world to which they must ultimately be returned--it should not be left entirely to happenstance.
It is desirable that such a role, as played by artistic organisations, should be enlarged and enhanced for the civilising effect it has on those people in our society who are much in need of it.
Despite the Secretary of State's recitation of the strengths of the arts world in Britain today, there are a number of areas of weakness and great concern. I do not wish to produce a shopping list of demands, because it would be a long one, but I must allude to the plight of the orchestras. Too many of them are in heavy deficit. If I were to single out one orchestra for particular attention, it would be the home orchestra of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup--the Bournemouth symphony orchestra. It services a substantial area of southern England and I understand that it has a deficit of £250,000, but has fewer resources to draw on than some of the better-known London orchestras. Although the Minister takes the view that he does about the arm's-length principle, I hope that he will have a word with Lord Gowrie about that orchestra.
The right hon. Member for Mid-Sussex is correct in recognising that things will change. One should not simply mouth support for the arm's-length principle when, in reality, ministerial influence exists and can be exercised beneficently. But if the Minister seeks to wind up the Arts Council, I think that I am prepared to have my cake and eat it.
I also draw the Secretary of State's attention to the extraordinary importance of the BBC to the arts. It is particularly important to draw attention to it at the time of the review of its charter. The BBC's orchestras alone constitute one of our greatest national advantages. They are particularly important in those parts of the country that do not have great resident orchestras. The orchestras travel to small communities and play new music. Orchestra members are allowed the flexibility to play in small groups and in reduced numbers in halls that could not accommodate full-size orchestras, which, of course, is the case in many parts of the country. There is evidence that the BBC is looking for ways of disembarrassing itself of the cost of financing its orchestras. If that were to happen on a major scale, the current underfunding problems faced by other orchestras would become immensely more difficult to deal with. Although it may be an historical anomaly that the BBC has been able to create great orchestras, they are an asset which we should not allow to slip away through inadvertence or by putting pressure upon the BBC's funding arrangements and making it rethink the appropriateness of what it does.
That is only one of the many ways in which the BBC is a bountiful donor to the artistic world, but it is perhaps the one which is most seriously at risk at this time.
I hope that the Secretary of State will feel that the debate has been worth while and that he will prevail on his colleagues to make debates about the arts a regular feature of our political life. I think that it has been too long since we last had an opportunity to consider these matters.
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Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham) : It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) in the debate, as 38 years ago I used to play with him in a band. We attended the same college ; and the president of our college junior common room was the Secretary of State for National Heritage.
I cannot always agree with everything that the hon. Gentleman says, but I share in his tribute to the BBC in respect of music, not only in relation to its splendid seasons of promenade concerts which were mentioned earlier and its upholding of the orchestras to which the hon. Gentleman referred, but also in relation to what it has achieved through BBC Radio 3.
I draw the attention of the Secretary of State--whether or not he discusses it with the new chairman of the Arts Council ; I hope that he will--to the whole position of orchestras. The chairman of the Arts Council is also a Balliol man, but I think junior to the other three persons I have mentioned. I hope that the Secretary of State will consider the long-term position of serious music in this country after the BBC's next charter, which I hope will take place. The National Heritage Committee--upon which I sit--in its report last year about the future of the BBC, while recommending the renewal of the BBC's charter for the next 10 years, anticipated that, with the growth in satellite and cable television channels, and as the time would come when people would be able to call up and put on their telephone bill any video that they wanted, then the whole concept of a daily menu of programmes through four television channels, which everyone is used to, would wither away. The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott), who also serves on the committee, will confirm what I am saying.
That can hardly fail to have a knock-on effect in the very long term-- looking 15 or 20 years ahead--on the four radio channels, including Radio 3. I think that this could possibly have a serious effect on taste for good music in this country, even despite the tremendous acknowledged success of Classic FM, which most people have admired and which has grown so much in the past year.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend, firstly, on the positive survey that he gave the House of the arts scene in Britain and, secondly, on the national lottery. I was glad to hear him say that he was determined to make the proceeds additional to public expenditure. The more often that this is repeated the better, and I was glad to hear him say it again today.I am convinced that history will show that the national lottery was a great achievement for this Parliament and this Government. It will do a tremendous amount of good. I see Britain as one of the capitals of the arts world. As the Secretary of State said, on any weekday in London there is a vast range of theatres, concerts, opera, ballet, museums, art galleries and special exhibitions. All over Britain there is a tremendous array of cathedrals, abbeys, castles and country houses which are open to the public. It is a tremendous heritage.
My constituency boasts Hampton Court palace and Kneller hall, where the painter used to live and which is now the Royal Military School of Music where British army bands are trained, whose high standards of excellence are the envy of the entire world. We have Horace Walpole's Strawberry hill, which was the beginning of the
Column 891gothic revival in this country. It gave rise to every neo-gothic building that one can see, whether it is the Palace of Westminster, which was rebuilt after the fire ; St. Pancras station ; every Victorian town hall ; or every Victorian school with pointed windows. All those buildings stem from Horace Walpole's Strawberry hill at Twickenham.
We have Marble Hill park, now excellently run by English Heritage following the abolition of the Greater London council. Last September, I had the tremendous privilege for an amateur pianist of playing with the London Mozart Players at the last outdoor concert of the season in Marble Hill park, which was attended by 5,400 people. We have the art gallery at Orleans house, and many fine Georgian houses.
The whole country has a tremendous range of historic buildings whose preservation we all want to support. English Heritage, for example, maintains more than 400 of them. The National Trust, which is a different kind of body, not only looks after buildings, but has a great deal of beautiful countryside and coastline. It also runs 320 properties, including about 190 historic castles and houses. The Government have many historic buildings open to the public ; local authorities have about 500 buildings open to the public ; and in private hands there are about 1,300 members of the Historic Houses Association and those 1,300 houses are open to the public. All these statistics were listed in a report of the Select Committee on the National Heritage which was published a couple of months back. In the performing arts, we have a huge amount of talent. There is a large number of brilliant actors and actresses, brilliant producers such as my constituent and neighbour Dr. Louis Marks, who produced the BBC series "Middlemarch" which attracted so much favourable comment from all over the world. We have superb musicians ; we are one of the most musical countries in the world. Here I have to declare an interest as a member of the council of the Association of British Orchestras--although unpaid.
I am very glad that not only my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), but also the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland mentioned orchestras. I should say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup is a Balliol man as well, which makes five.
Three right hon. and hon. Members have mentioned orchestras. None of us should apologise for doing so. The whole House would hope that the Secretary of State, the new chairman of the Arts Council and his new secretary general should devote particular attention to the problem of orchestras, which they failed so signally to resolve last year.
Despite what my right hon. Friend said, orchestras are one of Britain's success stories. I believe, as I implied in my earlier intervention, that the standards of the top British orchestras are very high indeed. They achieve the most remarkable standards of accuracy, musicianship and spiritual dimension in their performance. They are extremely close in standard to such orchestras as the Chicago, Vienna, Berlin and Amsterdam orchestras, mentioned by my right hon. Friend.
Column 892In the richness and diversity of our orchestras, we have a provision unrivalled anywhere in the world. Their repertoire is tremendously varied and adventurous, although some of them face alarming budgetary difficulties. I hope that the whole House will support the most careful study and see if more can be done to find a solution.
I do not think we should ever play down our achievements in the arts. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central was a Cassandra--however Cassandra is defined and whoever Cassandra was. He was rather dismal and gloomy in what he said and I do not think that we should take such a despairing attitude ; if we do, it will have a dampening effect on what the arts should achieve. We should build on our strengths and we should uphold the arts, which are largely a success story.
The arts are very important in this country, first and foremost for their intrinsic value, because what people perceive through their eyes and ears in the arts enriches and fulfils their lives and can excite and stimulate them and uplift their spirits. That is the most important thing.
Secondly, the arts have an undoubted economic value. Visitors come to Britain not for our weather but for our traditional scene, our heritage, our monarchy, our royal palaces, such as Hampton Court, our military bands, our cathedrals, our castles, our country houses, our villages and towns-- many of which have great character--and our beautiful countryside, as well as our superb theatres and many of our concerts and other live arts performances. That is why visitors come to Britain ; and when they do, they spend not only upon the arts and heritage, but upon hotels, restaurants, shopping and internal travel. Many of those activities are labour-intensive and the visitors, by their spending, generate employment and income and a tax yield to the Government.
It has been estimated by the tourist board that visitors from abroad produce in income about £8 billion a year. Anyone can work out as a piece of simple arithmetic that, in a population of 55 million, that amounts to something like £140 to £150 per head of population, or about £400 per household, per year. That is money in the big league ; it is equivalent to not far short of half the cost of the national health service or 5p in the pound on income tax. It is very substantial, and we would be crazy not to go flat out not merely to hold it up, but to increase it still further.
I know from what my right hon. Friend said that he is very much seized of that, and I am glad that his Department, which he is welding together so successfully, covers tourism as well as the arts and heritage, because, from an economic point of view although not in every other sense, these things are linked. That showed not only in what he said today, but in his evidence to the Select Committee on National Heritage.
Business sponsorship is very important, and I am sorry that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central seemed to play it down. It is a hundredfold increase, from £500,000 per year in the late 1970s to £58 million a year now. When we compare that with the estimate of £80 million that the national lottery is expected to produce for the arts--or £80 million that it is expected to produce for the heritage--or the Arts Council budget which is of the order of £200 million, when it has found its level, we can see that it is in the same league.
Business sponsorship is very important and my right hon. Friend referred to the generous sponsorship of Allied
Column 893Lyons for the Royal Shakespeare Company of £3.3 million over three years and the £500,000 from British Telecom to the orchestras. The one which makes me uneasy is tobacco sponsorship. The purpose of sponsorship is to improve the image of the sponsoring company, to promote goodwill and indirectly to promote the sale of its products. In a typical constituency with 1,300 15-year-olds, according to the Royal College of Physicians, 24 per cent. of 15-year-olds now smoke and, if there is no change in the pattern, about one-third of them or 100 of the 1,300 will die from smoking or smoking-related diseases. I do not want the arts, about which I care passionately, to be abused to foster goodwill for a product which is lethal. I hope that the arts will take that view and will look harder for other sponsors, and that eventually people will spend less on tobacco and more on other things. I hope that producers of other products will in turn provide the sponsorship for the arts that is currently provided by the tobacco companies.
Many arts events are attended by doctors. It seems that they are often musical. They go to a lot of concerts. I believe that they could make their influence felt rather more if they pulled together. Perhaps they could get the BMA to organise them to do so. I should like to mention two final matters in which I have an interest. I have three choral societies in my constituency : the Hampton choral society, of which I am president, the Twickenham choral society and the Teddington choral society. All over the country, choral societies perform their range of oratorios, requiems and masses at two or three concerts a year. They are a mainstream British musical tradition. I note that my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) is in his place. The three choirs festival, which highlights what I am saying, sprang up in his county in the 19th century ; choral concerts now take place all over Britain. This is an important and a particularly English tradition. In London these choral societies find it increasingly difficult to get funds, because they seek to obtain them from the Greater London Arts Association, which is dominated by politically correct people from inner London. Thus an ethnic body in central London can easily obtain arts funding whereas a choral society in outer London cannot. To some extent, that could threaten the societies' future. I would ask the Under-Secretary to be kind enough to send for information on this point and, when he has had time to do so, to let me have a letter on how choral societies, not only in my own constituency and in greater London but all over the United Kingdom, can be upheld in the future.
My final point relates to our military heritage. Anyone who travels from Devonshire to Portsmouth can see HMS Victory in Portsmouth dockyard--and HMS Warrior. These are 19th century ships that have been preserved. However, if people in 100 years' time want to see a second world war ship-- apart from HMS Belfast, which has been preserved on the River Thames, and one or two smaller ships--they will find it difficult to do so. Hitherto the preservation of such ships has been effected by a few philanthropists, including our former colleague Sir Philip Goodhart, who has preserved a submarine. It may become increasingly difficult to find a destroyer or a frigate because the only ones left will be those that have been sold to other countries.
Column 894I very much hope that the Secretary of State, who has already informed the Select Committee that he is seized of this matter, will give careful consideration to the funding of the preservation of warships, as part of Britain's military heritage. I am thinking not so much of the day-to-day revenue costs of keeping ships open as of the fact that they need major repairs from time to time to enable their hulls to survive. I hope that this activity can be funded by one part or another of the national lottery, so that the warships of the mid-20th century will be preserved for posterity. I should be grateful if the Government would give continuing consideration to that point, and if I could be told what they have in mind.
Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth) : I begin by apologising to the Under- Secretary of State, because I shall have to leave before he makes his response. Nevertheless, I assure him that on Monday morning I shall open my Hansard with trembling fingers and read every word that he utters this evening. I eagerly anticipate that.
The House will be relieved to know that I shall be mercifully brief this evening. It is always a great joy to follow the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), who took us on a little tour through the beauties of his constituency. I should like to mention some of the beauties of mine.
We have, for instance, Featherstone Alps, perhaps better known as a pit top, but it looks pretty just after it has snowed. We also have eight pits that have been closed down in the past 18 months. We have empty factories and a great deal of unemployment. Yet I think it crucial to speak in this debate, because it is in times of poverty and near-despair that we need the arts more than ever--and we need them where we live.
I would not want to denigrate Lord Gowrie and the Arts Council. On the whole, I happen to think that the council does an admirable job. It is all too easy to carp, because we all believe that we could do the job better. But it is not the Arts Council's job to look at what is happening deep down in the regions.
One of the problems in the regions is the lack of money given to our local councils. They are certainly not the be-all and end-all for the arts in my part of Yorkshire. They do go in for healthy fights with other bodies, and so they should. Unless, however, they have the money to prompt and to assist, and to fight other interested bodies, the arts do not stand a chance.
I think particularly of the hatchet job that the Secretary of State for Education has done--we are consistently deprived by his actions. He has decreed that education authorities be given only an absolute minimum of central funds. The West Riding used to enjoy a fine musical tradition of orchestras, peripatetic music teachers and so on. That tradition was second to none. If people want to see a dramatic improvement in education standards, they have only to look at the difference between how music, art, the dance and drama were taught a mere 20 years ago and how vibrantly they are taught now. All this is threatened by imposing on schools the responsibility to duplicate what used to be done by the grand county council of West Riding, which stretched from Dent all the way down to Hemsworth, Barnsley and beyond.
As a result of the change, the quality of artistic back-up, and of the help with starting projects that is so crucial to the
Column 895arts, no longer exists. The Under-Secretary of State should take up his sword and fight the Department for Education. I applaud what he has done for team games ; now I urge him to take on another educational policy which is extremely short-sighted.
We still have a strong tradition of male voice choirs ; some of the best ones come from the old West Riding. The tradition of their excellence continues. This relies very heavily on the work of people involved in education. Nonetheless, it includes everyone, from the top people--the miners--right down to the doctors. They all sing together happily, and to some purpose. Indeed, they often come to the Albert hall to bring a little civilisation to this cruel and barbaric city.
The problems of brass band have been compounded. In this context, I must express gratitude to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State--this is beginning to sound like a love-in--for his work. I hope that the hon. Gentleman thoroughly enjoyed himself last Saturday, when huge crowds came from the north to the centre of this city and showed it how to behave. With all those people at Wembley, there was not a single arrest. That would not happen in Hayes and Harlington or any other such place.
Brass bands have a very serious problem which I have mentioned in the House previously. This arises from the closure of the pits. Frickley, which is in my constituency, was closed just at Christmas, and with it went the funds for the brass band. Those funds came not from the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation but from individual pits. Money was contributed by individual miners, and a certain amount came from the management.
This did not cover the entire costs, and it did not enable band members to live in luxury or to get off work. Members still went down the pit or went about their other jobs. However, funding was provided for youngsters participating in a village tradition. Those young people simply could not afford to buy such expensive instruments. Purchase was often on a shared basis.
It will be a very serious loss if, now that we have a grand arts Department, this kind of thing ceases. Apart from anything else, there is huge unemployment in my constituency. Youngsters leaving school cannot find work. I am thinking in particular of males. Boys do not have an opportunity to work with men who can show them how to behave and how to do a job.
In such a setting, a young lad stepping out of line was soon dealt with. Now boys are left on the streets. The kind of contact they need is available only through male voice choirs, brass bands and orchestras. Members of brass bands come together with string players to form orchestras, which have been very successful.
This is a fine heritage from the old West Riding, which was controlled, in turn, by Labour and Conservative councils, both of which contributed wholeheartedly to the tradition. The fact that the orchestras are rapidly dying out cannot possibly be blamed on the opting-out of schools, as no schools in the Wakefield area have opted out. The problem arises from the devolution of funding to schools. I am arguing not that schools should not control their own funds but that the Government ought to recognise that there must be some central financial control if this function