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Column 896is to be properly discharged. It is just as important as the business of controlling truancy, for which central funds are necessary.
I should like to refer to the splendid sculpture park in Bretton, which is in the Wakefield district. If Ministers have not visited the park, I, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe), invite them to do so. I shall be there this Saturday to see what is happening before we launch yet more Henry Moore statues. Few sculpture parks can boast the Barbara Hepworths and the Henry Moores that we can boast. Both those people come from our area, and both were nurtured in the tradition and rigour of the West Riding. That is what informs their work. In Bretton, one can see sculptures in their proper setting. It is marvellous to behold families there on a good day. They take pictures and roam around the Henry Moore. These things are not sacred in that area ; they are familiar.
In this area of excellence, there is currently serious underfunding. If I could get hold of the Arts Council, I would make the case that it should be a priority. I hope that the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary will take a close look and see what can be done. The Wakefield council has gallantly set about funding the project. Now its continuation needs to be secured. I am quite sure that, in this regard, I shall have the wholehearted backing of the House and of the Department.
It is sad that a debate on the arts has to take place on an Adjournment motion. It is a great shame that such a discussion cannot be held in the middle of the week, when everything is throbbing and vibrant. However, the quality of the hon. Members present makes up for the lack of numbers.
Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South) : I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright). I agree with much of what he has said and, in particular, with his final remarks. We are all delighted to have this debate, but it is a scandal that the last one took place four years ago. It is equally scandalous that almost every time that we have an arts debate it is held in what could hardly be described as prime time. It is a great pity that, almost certainly, very little of what is said in the Chamber will be reported in the press tomorrow. While talking about the press, perhaps I should say that, although I entirely respect the desire of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State not to interfere, I hope that he will be able to encourage some of the so-called quality papers to carry a parliamentary page once again.
I was tempted to follow the hon. Member for Hemsworth and my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) by going on a scenic tour of my constituency. Sadly, I too can boast empty collieries. However, I can also boast fine historic houses, like Weston Park. I do not intend to take hon. Members on such a tour, but I should like to make a number of brief points.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) has returned to the Chamber. I regard the hon. Gentleman highly in many ways-- as a
Column 897Staffordshire neighbour and colleague and as the son of a dear friend who had the good sense to sit on the Conservative side of the House. It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman, when he speaks in the House, has to sound so totally cross about everything. He is not like that in private life. He is very much nicer than he sounds in the Chamber. His diatribe this afternoon would have made one think that nothing was right, that all was wrong.
Mr. Fisher : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy. Far from being a diatribe against everything, what I said was a diatribe just against the Government's policy, or lack of it. I have nothing but praise for everything else in the world of the arts, whether at local government level or the work of Lord Gowrie. My speech was an attack on the Government and nothing else.
Mr. Cormack : I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman's speech was not entirely worthy of him. One of the great features of the arts and our heritage is that many of us have struggled to keep them out of the party political arena. I am delighted to be chairman of the all-party committee on arts and heritage, which we founded in the mid-1970s and which has more paid-up members than any other all-party group in either House. We have successfully lobbied successive Governments. Some of the achievements of the past 15 years include the national heritage memorial fund and the establishment of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, which is now called English Heritage. In that time, too, we have seen the burgeoning of new arts galleries in London. I think of the Clore gallery at the Tate and the Sackler gallery at the Royal Academy. We have every right to be proud of all that has happened. By no means can all of it be the subject of praise for the Government.
I attended the opening of the Sainsbury wing at the national gallery and in a powerful speech Lord Sainsbury said--I hope that I can paraphrase him with reasonable accuracy--that although the family were delighted to be involved in that munificent gift to the nation--it was munificent--it was a pity that there was not more Government money for similar ventures. I echo that plea, just as I warmly endorse all the thanks that have rightly been bestowed upon the Sainsburys for what they gave to the national gallery. Britain has incredible riches. The hon. Member for Hemsworth was slightly derogatory about the capital city but I am sure he did not mean it because in many ways London is the richest capital city in the world, although perhaps that is a subjective view. It has theatrical and musical traditions that are second to none and its museums and galleries are collectively the best in the world. We have an enormous amount to be proud of and it is our duty to ensure that when it is passed on to succeeding generations it will be even richer than it is now.
I am concerned about the fairly parlous structural state of some of our museums and galleries. My right hon. Friend, who is the most civilised man imaginable, made a passing reference to the Tate gallery. He was right about the Picasso exhibition but the Tate needs major structural repairs and it is important that they are effected. I hope that a prime task of the millennium fund will be to ensure that
Column 898the structure of every major gallery and museum, not just in the capital city but in the country, is in a fit state to meet the 21st century.
Often we do not sufficiently appreciate what we have. The hon. Member for Hemsworth rightly spoke about people who have fallen upon hard times getting solace from the arts. Some of the most moving pictures that I have seen in the past two or three years have been those of the citizens of Sarajevo gathering for concerts. There was a marvellous event when Professor Nigel Osborne from Edinburgh sat in the middle of the devastated olympic arena and played a moving cello composition that he had written for the occasion. He played in white tie and tails surrounding by a crowd of people who had literally risked their lives to hear him. Older friends to whom I spoke about that said that it brought back memories of Myra Hess playing in the national gallery to the people of London in the last war. The arts enrich and sustain. Anyone who had the chance to visit, as I did, one or two communist countries before the collapse of the Berlin wall will know what it meant for the people of those countries to be able to see good theatre, to listen to music and to get books. The arts have an overriding, enriching influence on our lives. As several hon. Members rightly said, the arts also bring money to this country. By jove they do, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) said, people come here not for the weather but for our incomparably rich culture.
The letter from Lord Gowrie that has been quoted in the debate should be quoted again. It states :
"Our enviable level of arts activity, with all that implies for employment, foreign exchange and national interests in general, cannot be sustained against this background."
The background that he mentions is the parlous state of public funding. I pay tribute to the Secretary of State for what he has done and for what he as a man stands for. There could be no more fitting holder of his office, and I am glad that he is supported and assisted by an Under-Secretary of State who adopts a robust approach to these matters.
However, we need more funding. I remember attending a conference organised by the Conservative party in 1979, shortly before our general election victory 15 years ago. My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham was there and probably remembers it too. Lord St. John of Fawsley, as he now is, was the moving spirit behind it and the Baroness Thatcher of Finchley, as she now is, made a passionate speech about the arts and money and castigated candle-end economies. She said that in the arts a little money goes a long way and that the savings which accrue when the arts budget is cut are minuscule in the context of the national budget. Those words are as true today as they were when she uttered them 15 or more years ago. Therefore, I hope that in the next round of public spending my right hon. Friend, supported by hon. Members from all parts of the House, will fight his corner as he has never fought it before. I make no criticism of his commitment, dedication and knowledge, which is considerable, but we must fight to preserve or increase the arts budget because it is a tiny sum.
Mr. Tony Banks : I was the one who raised the issue of the suitability of the noble Earl Gowrie as chairman of the Arts Council. I spoke not against him as an individual but because he is an ex-Conservative Minister. I know the way that these things go. Another reason for Lord Gowrie
Column 899perhaps not being an ideal choice is that his letter mentions cuts in the arts. The hon. Gentleman said that the Baroness Thatcher spoke about candle-end savings, but many people in the arts have to survive on virtually nothing. I remember Lord Gowrie quitting as Arts Minister because he said he could not live on a salary that at that time was £33,000. That is a strange message to send to artists who live on a mere pittance.
Mr. Cormack : I cannot quite see the aim of that intervention other than to get something off the hon. Gentleman's chest. His jocularity shows that it was totally irrelevant and I do not intend to be led astray. However, I will say that gamekeepers often prove to be the best poachers and vice versa. Lord Gowrie will fight robustly for the arts and will be an admirable chairman. He is immensely civilised, has a great knowledge of the arts, and is skilful with his pen as well as on his feet. He will prove to be a doughty champion. The Arts Council will be well led by him and will have my complete support. I understand the reasons for some of the doubts expressed by a former arts Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton), but there is a need for an Arts Council. There is a case for all the great nationals to be funded directly as are the great museums and galleries, but I certainly think that there is a continuing role for a robust Arts Council, and I believe that it will be under Lord Gowrie.
I have talked about the Tate and the parlous state of its fabric. We should recognise that our museums suffer not just from leaking roofs but from their frozen purchase grants. Although the national heritage memorial fund does a wonderful job, it is deeply disturbing to me that so many of the important objects, for which the Export Review Committee refuses to give an export licence, eventually go abroad. I am not one of those who would fight to the last to keep every object in this country, as that would be entirely ridiculous, but nevertheless it is disturbing how many of the things that are of great national significance have gone abroad. The prime reason for them going is the level of purchase grant that our museums and galleries have. There is great unease and real concern among trustees--all those whom I know--and the directors on that score. That must be addressed with vigour.
I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State might well say that the lottery will be able to help. As one of those who fought for the lottery, I am delighted about that and welcome the new money but, as has been said on a number of occasions, it is no substitute for Government and national responsibility. It is vital that it should be additional money against an increasing national budget, not against a frozen or decreasing one. That is important and I would welcome assurances from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary when he replies. I know that he shares my concern about the wonderful museums that we have throughout the country and I look forward to hearing what he has to say.
I have a particular interest in, and concern for, another group of buildings--our historic churches. In so many of our towns and cities, the only building of real historic interest and significance is the church. I speak as church warden of a small village church. The village has a relatively tiny population--under 300 people--and we are raising £100,000 to repair our church. Although we have
Column 900the aid of a grant from English Heritage, for which we are extremely grateful, we shall have to raise the bulk of the money ourselves. If we have a similar problem in five or six years time, it will be beyond the resources of such a small area to raise a similar sum again. That tale could be repeated time and again up and down the country.
I declare an interest as a trustee of the Historic Churches Preservation Trust, which, every year, gives away some £500,000. We are climbing a mountain that is getting bigger by the year. One of the problems is the vexed question of VAT on repairs to listed buildings. I hope that my right hon. Friend, who is a former Treasury Minister and, in that capacity, received me with trustees on that subject some years ago, will talk to the Chancellor and other Treasury colleagues about it. That problem will not go away ; indeed, given the increasingly parlous state of the Church of England's finances, it will grow bigger year by year. Any nation that allowed some of its fine historic churches and cathedrals to be put in jeopardy could not call itself civilised.
Only today, incidentally, I received a letter from our former colleague, Sir Hugh Rossi, who heads up the new Historic Chapels Trust. Again--I am not just concerned about the buildings of the established church--there is a real problem. I welcome the new trust and I am sure that Sir Hugh will give it dedicated and splendid leadership, but it does not have funds and resources. He is looking for ways and means of raising the finance to sustain those religious buildings that are no longer used, but that are an important part of the life and history of the country.
In many of the mining towns of Wales, Yorkshire, and even parts of my native Staffordshire, the chapel played a central part, but now, in many cases, a handful of people go, or none at all, and it is redundant. Far too many of those buildings have been turned into furniture repositories, office machinery sales rooms and all sorts of wholly unsuitable uses. It is excellent that Sir Hugh's trust exists to try to preserve redundant chapels but it needs money.
That brings me to the point that I made earlier--the sums that we are talking of are very small. They are tiny in the national budget. My right hon. Friend's Department has, in comparison with other Government Departments, a very small budget. I am not a prodigal spender, and I do not advocate open-ended commitments and blank cheques, but there is a national responsibility. I welcome the establishment of the National Heritage Department, but it is sad that this is the first debate on the arts since it was established. I was one of those who argued for its creation 20 years ago and constantly made reference to the need for uniting arts and heritage under a Cabinet Minister, so of course I am glad that it is there, but if it is to fulfil its potential, it needs a proper budget to meet all of its responsibilities. At the moment, it does not have that, and we should all do everything that we can to try to ensure that it gets greater resources.
We are dealing with one of the most important subjects that Parliament can debate, because, in a few years' time, amid the furore of a Tuesday and Thursday, the particular issues that might have excited passions today on many other fronts will be forgotten. If our civilisation is to survive, it is important that the buildings that encapsulate it and the works of art that speak of our heritage and history are preserved. It is now the responsibility of the National Heritage Department to do that. I am sure that there is not a single hon. Member in the House who would not wish my right hon. and hon. Friends success in their tremendous
Column 901task, but we need to give higher priority to the subjects that we are debating today, in financial terms as well as parliamentary time.
Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington) : After the last few words of my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) I feel almost like breaking out and singing Rule Britannia or perhaps even the national anthem, so deeply do I feel about such matters. This is a club : it is the "we all love the arts" club--the luvvies' club--and I am not a member. I am on the outside--a Philistine. Indeed, if you, Madam Deputy Speaker, will excuse the ethnic expression, if it were down to the unanimity of many hon. Members, I would be blackballed. I am delighted about that, because it is not the sort of club that I want to belong to.
I have heard a couple of things that interest me. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) talked about bringing the arts to prison. The mind boggles. Imagine the Krays dressed up in tights and prancing around--that sounds rather good--or Ronnie Knight singing like an opera singer instead of like a bird ? Perhaps we should bring in the Trojan horse for those on the other side--they might be able to use it for other purposes.
In the Whips Office there is a Conservative research department brief on the arts. Under the heading "The Governments's Approach" it says :
"The central aim of Conservative arts policy has always been to encourage wider access to, and higher standards in, the arts. This aim applies at every level of artistic activity, from amateur dramatics to Grand Opera."
That is very good, very narrow, very exclusive and very elitist, is it not ? There is no mention of anything but amateur dramatics in the arts. Why not darts ? That is a game played in most working men's clubs throughout the world and in this country, particularly in the north-east and north- west, but there is no mention of improving the standard of darts playing. Ten-pin bowling is one of the most enjoyed leisure pursuits. Those who play have to pay the full cost of using the bowling lanes, but there is no mention of the Government becoming involved in improving standards there. The same is true of tiddlywinks. Table tennis is probably played by more people in this country than any other sport, but there is no mention of that. What always angers me about arts debates is that they are too damned elitist and closed shop.
There is no reference to the sports that I mentioned because they are not Establishment sports or pursuits--although given the decimation of the arts world in America and here due to a particular kind of illness, one wonders what the arts world gets up to in respect of some leisure pursuits. Our heritage is what the Establishment says it is. Time and again, I have asked for somebody to tell me in simple words--because I am a simple chap--what is so special about the arts and what is so ordinary about working-class pastimes.
I refer, for example, to the sport of my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe). Watching him dashing for the tape in the Olympics, either just behind or just ahead of Steve Ovett--the sheer form of that man running for his country--was to witness an artistic form. It was something special and really nice. Compare that with the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South about looking at churches, which
Column 902would bore me to tears. Once, I visited Athens. It seemed like a Wimpey building site and I was absolutely bored. However, that is my view. If somebody else thinks that old broken brick is marvellous, that is up to them--but do not expect me to accept your view of what is special. In the same way, I do not expect you to accept my view of my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne.
We must be more generous and take a more general view of leisure pursuits. Take Pavarotti. Nowadays, he has to be helped on to the stage and leans against a backdrop. He has to be supported by other singers in case he falls over. He holds a handkerchief that is soaking wet, and he weighs 25 stone. His voice is going now. How on earth can he be seen to be singing a love song to a supposedly young lady but in reality to a woman of the same age and nearly the same weight who rocks and rolls every time she stands up ? If others want to say that watching such a performance is their pastime and heritage, let them do so, but they should pay the full cost and not expect me, my constituents or anyone else to put our hands in our pockets to the tune of nearly £40 a seat to support them. If they are daft enough to follow that pursuit, let them be daft enough to pay for it. For my sins, I have supported Bristol Rovers for 50 years. They are now struggling in the second division of the Endsleigh league. They are not doing well and are almost broke. When I attend their matches, and if I am not invited to the chairman's box, which is just a little wooden structure- -nothing like the luxury box in which the hon. Member for Newham, North- West (Mr. Banks) sits when he goes to Chelsea
Mr. Tony Banks : The hon. Gentleman amuses me, but he is not getting away with that calumny. I am a Chelsea season ticket holder and I have been a regular supporter for 40 years. I queue for my ticket, sit in the stands, and pay for my seat--which is more than I can say for some Members of Parliament.
Mr. Dicks : I will take a guess that the hon. Gentleman has a cup final ticket, which many Chelsea supporters do not--and I bet that he did not have to queue for it. However, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees that those of us who support soccer and appreciate its beauty--and the artistry of Manchester United, Newcastle and Blackburn Rovers in particular --pay the full economic cost of entering the grounds. Nobody says, "The cost of a stand seat is £60, but we will give you £40 towards it because it is important in the wider context of the heritage of our country." I suppose I should go down on one knee when I say that.
Football is our heritage. It was founded in this country, but nobody seems to care whether Hartlepool United goes out of existence, because the luvvies do not watch Hartlepool United but go in their droves to watch opera and ballet, kiss each other on both cheeks and say, "Darling, how nice to see you." That is why poor Hartlepool United and, to a lesser extent, Bristol Rovers have to struggle to make ends meet, week in and week out. I get fed up with it, I am sick and tired of it, and I hope that one day some common sense will be shown by members of my Front Bench and that something will be done.
Column 903The Conservative research department brief also states that the west end theatre is a success and that
"11.5 million people attended shows at West End theatres in 1993-94."
However, it does not reveal that the most successful shows are those where supply and demand come together--as in the case of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals--and make a price. The public are prepared to pay the full cost to see a damned good show. They are prepared to queue for tickets, or even to wait three or four months for them. In the arty-farty world, where it is a case of an obscure opera staged in the back of beyond, it is said, "It will go out of business unless we give it money." Of course it will go out of business if it is a load of rubbish and nobody wants to see it unless someone else pays for the ticket. That is the problem with the arts : so much rubbish is put on that nobody wants to see unless someone else makes a contribution.
I mentioned Manchester United and Arsenal. People pay the full cost to see them. The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) mentioned the wonderful game that Wigan played against Leeds last Saturday. Everyone involved paid their own way. There was no subsidy of the kind given to transporting musical instruments. Players and fans paid the cost of their own journeys. They went to Wembley, where it cost them a fortune not only to watch the game but to pay for the barrels of beer afterwards--and good luck to them. There is no subsidy for those working-class lads up north who--unlike a load of middle class twits swanning around in their bow ties and long frocks--support their team and pay their own way out of their hard-earned wages. They paid the full cost, and quite right. We are all very proud of them. The Conservative research document also makes reference to an access initiative,
"aimed at encouraging a wider range of people to participate in the arts, and at"
this is the best bit
"improving (or deepening) the quality of their experience of the arts."
Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State share with me--to use the "in" phrase--what is meant by deepening the quality of experience of the arts ? That is politically correct tripe of the worst kind. Nobody wants to improve or deepen the quality of my experience of Bristol Rovers, but now we are to have a chap with a little hat and a badge saying, "I can deepen your understanding of the arts--let me talk to you and help you to understand the arts." I have never read so much tripe. If that is the sort of rubbish coming out of central office, God help us.
The briefing also states that
"Conservatives have provided record resources for the Arts Council. Between 1979 and 1993, the Arts Council's grant increased by 45 per cent.--over and above inflation."
What a boast. What a record. Some of my constituents have a job to survive, yet we boast of giving the Arts Council increases "over and above inflation." What sort of society does that ? Value added tax has been imposed on domestic fuel because of the need to overcome the Government's debts or the country's debts, yet we can fire off money to arty-farty people and the luvvies. The poor, the sick and the elderly would be offended if they ever bothered to read that. They would ask, "Why do we have to struggle ?" Am I to tell them, "If you cannot heat your flat tonight, I will put you in a car and take you to the Royal
Column 904Opera house, and the Government will give you £40 to get in--and that will keep you warm as well." That is the logic of this nonsense. How can we talk of making savings to get Government finances right when that sort money is sent down the plughole ? It is a disgrace and a shame and I hope that common sense will take hold one day and that some of us will have a chance to put things right.
The briefing adds that although the Arts Council grant will fall in 1994-95 it will still stand at £186 million, which will still be "£800,000 more than was originally planned in the 1992 autumn statement."
The luvvies will not like that. They will say that it is not enough. On the other hand, an extra £1.6 million will be provided in 1995-96--again, more money wasted.
I did not vote for the national lottery because 20 per cent. of the funds raised will go to the same gang of vested interests who seem able to bend the ear, neck and both legs of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. It is estimated that that 20 per cent. will be worth £75 million. I say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State : give me that £75 million and I will make the life of some of my constituents a lot better. I could ensure that life was a bit easier for the many old age pensioners who have to live in those dreadful flats in Lambeth and who have to bar themselves in at night because they are unsafe. I would arrange a holiday for them--a cruise--instead of giving money to the plonkers in the arts world. Words fail me.
I have a new definition of the arm's-length principle. The arts world in general, and the luvvies in particular, should be at arm's length from taxpayers' pockets. Their grubby hands should be kept as far away as possible from taxpayers' pockets.
If the European Parliament can have Eurosceptic members, why cannot the Arts Council have "arts-sceptic" members ? I am available when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State wants someone on the council to pull it apart and close it down or to close down his Department, which is costing the taxpayer £1 million.
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : I am still trying to absorb the fusillade of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks). I did not expect him to finish so quickly, but I am glad that he did.
I offer my apologies. Like other hon. Members, I have tried to keep in touch with the debate, but I have treated it somewhat like a buffet-- dipping in and out while electioneering elsewhere. I register my support for the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), who, like others, complained that this important debate on the arts is being held today. We all know why that is so. If elections are going on in which we have a great interest--why should not we have an interest as politicians of sorts ?--the House should rise for a day. We should get away from this nonsense. The last arts debate took place four years ago on the day of the European elections. No doubt the Government's business managers will be thinking of some other subject for 9 June.
I am not criticising the Secretary of State--no doubt he takes the opportunity that he is given--but such
Column 905arrangements convince me that the Government use arts debates such as this as a throwaway, a chuckaway and a sort of filling. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington made a number of points that are worth dealing with, and it would be worth doing so at a time when the House could consider them properly, without its mind being fixed somewhere else or hon. Members hoping to get away as quickly as possible to do a bit of last-minute fanatical canvassing--not that we need to do so in the London borough of Newham, but I understand why Conservative Members might be panicking tonight.
I always know that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington will attend the arts debate, as he knows that I will. He certainly could not be described as a luvvy. There is nothing luvvy about him. He is a sort of artistic anti -Christ who comes into our Chamber. He made a number of arguments, however, that we need to deal with. One thinks of Andy Warhol's dictum that everyone is famous for 15 minutes. It seems a pity that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington always chooses his quarter of a hour in an arts debate. One has the image at times that he would probably be happiest if he were out vandalising a Van Gogh, burning a book or bombing a ballet, but the question that he asked--what is art ?--is an important one. Even the ramblings of a lunatic--I am not suggesting that the hon. Gentleman is a lunatic--contain the odd gem.
We addressed that question when the Labour party controlled the Greater London council. I was fortunate to be chairman of the arts committee and I looked at which organisations were receiving the money. I found that the money was going to the great institutions : the national theatre, English national opera, London Festival ballet and London orchestral concerts. I did not argue with that, but I wondered where the rest of the money was going. Why was not it going to regional organisations, community arts, ethnic arts or working-class activities, a description that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington might prefer ? Middle-class people, particularly white middle-class people, were determining what was art. They decided that art was what they liked most. The hon. Gentleman is right to touch on that subject. Often, one found that those people went to opera not because they appreciated the music but because it was a good place to be seen. It makes me want to throw up a bit when I go to an artistic event and see people posing because it is a good place to be seen. I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman because some of the people who attend such events could easily pay a much higher price for their tickets. Why should people in the London borough of Newham subsidise the arts for them ?
I want to make opera, ballet and wonderful concert music available to the people of Newham. Subsidies are not targeted, as they should be, to expand audiences for those great art forms ; they are targeted at a narrow group of people who have the fortune and economic ability to enjoy those art forms.
One must consider other factors when considering arts funding. In the GLC days, we said that we should not dismiss transport. If there is no public transport or scant public transport by the time concerts, opera and theatre performances finish, ordinary people who do not have cars will not be able to get home. That is another in-built disadvantage that they face and another in-built advantage that those with a higher economic mobility have in enjoying the arts. We must consider the arts in their totality.
Column 906The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington is right to point out that one needs to consider carefully who is defining what art is, because when that has been defined public money and investment can be directed to it. I am not arguing against such investment being made- -this is where I part company with the hon. Gentleman--but we should ensure that those who could benefit most from investment in the arts do so and that those who could afford to pay somewhat more do so too.
I listened to the hon. Gentleman's speech, but it would be almost beyond anyone to deepen the appreciation of Bristol City
Mr. Banks : Or, indeed, Bristol Rovers. That would probably be even more challenging than deepening an appreciation of Bristol City. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) spoke of the economic advantages of the arts. He has left the Chamber. I will forgive him doing that, but I could forgive him almost anything having sat at a concert in Smith square and having heard him play Mozart. It is fantastic to have such ability and talent, which I did not associate with the hon. Member for Twickenham. Given the way in which he jerks around all over the place, I thought it would be impossible for him to play Mozart, but he did so--and to concert- performance standards. I found that it was a wonderful experience and I am deeply grateful to him for it. I could forgive him anything because of that ability to enrich my life and the lives of others through that beautiful music. He is a talented guy in artistic, if not political, terms. One should consider some of the arguments that the hon. Member for Twickenham advanced on the economic contribution of the arts. I should have thought that this was something that monetarists could grasp. Although we go over the statistics from time to time, they do not seem to sink in with the Government in the way that they should. London is the region about which I am most concerned. Some 11,700 organisations in the capital are involved in arts, culture and entertainment. They employ more than 200,000 people, which is equal to London's construction industry during the boom and to 6 per cent. of total employment. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington should think about those facts. A number of people from Hayes and Harlington may be employed in the arts industry--not just those who perform, but those who provide the background services, carpenters, scene painters and those who move the sets around. Thousands of people are associated with the arts. They do skilled and unskilled work. There are those who provide the food and so on.
So the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington must think a little beyond the "arty-farty" group, as he describes it, and realise that involved in and supporting the arts are many thousands of Londoners who work hard, not necessarily for large amounts of money, and contribute greatly to the economy of the capital city.
It is estimated that 40 per cent. of all artists in the United Kingdom are based in London. The estimated turnover attributed to all that activity has been put at £7,465 million. That is almost 6 per cent. of our gross domestic product. Public subsidy amounted to no more than £500 million of that. I assume that that is taking central Government and local government investment together. That is a wonderful return. I say that to the hon. Member for Hayes and
Column 907Harlington because he is the main, or indeed the only, sceptic here. Such arguments are worth bearing in mind, but he never touches on them during his 15-minute rants in our rare arts debates. Overseas earnings from the arts were estimated at £3,800 million, against imports of £2,500 million, giving a net balance of £1,300 million to the economy of the capital and the nation. That is a significant economic contribution. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington dismissed the people involved in the arts as luvvies. I have some sympathy with him about some of the people involved in the arts. However, when one examines the people who enjoy the arts, one realises how significant the figures are.
It has been estimated that in 1990 there were 94 million attendances at cultural events, 27 million at the cinema, 21 million at museums and galleries, 17.5 million at clubs and smaller music venues, 12 million at theatre, opera and dance, 11.6 million at historic houses and 4 million at concerts.
I am an avid soccer supporter so I can perhaps say this to the hon. Gentleman more easily than anyone. Those figures are a hell of a lot higher than the figures for those who go to support football, although I take what he said about the fact that football and football supporters often get a rum deal.
Mr. Dicks : I do not disagree with anything that the hon. Gentleman says. All that I am asking is why people want to attend arts events only if part of the cost is paid by someone else. If the hon. Gentleman went to Arsenal, he would have to pay the full cost. I cannot understand why one aspect of life receives a subsidy. I accept the figures that the hon. Gentleman has given, but I do not understand why the arts should expect to be subsidised by the rest of us.
The reason why the arts expect to be subsidised is that there is a good return on the investment. We invest in education and we invest in the arts. The hon. Gentleman seems to have picked out one area of public investment. I do not like the word "subsidy" for the arts. I think that we subsidise defence, but we invest in the arts and in education. We invest in people's creativity--their manual and their mental creativity. That is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington should come to the Theatre Royal in my constituency in the London borough of Newham. It is heavily subsidised by the Arts Council, the London arts board and the local authority. It is difficult for us to do that. We have kept seat prices as low as possible because the theatre is in an area of economic deprivation. The hon. Gentleman should come to the theatre and see the pensioners and unemployed people who come and enjoy performances. He tends to confine his criticisms--as I do at times--to something like the Royal Opera house. If he came to the Theatre Royal at Stratford, he might see the type of people whom he would be happy with in Newham or Hayes and Harlington enjoying theatre and receiving the benefit of a seat subsidy. The subsidy costs us dear in the London borough of Newham because we are a hard-stretched local authority.
Column 908I should like to deal with local authority support for the arts. The Secretary of State praised local authorities and said what an excellent job they were doing. I wonder how much he appreciates how difficult it is for those local authorities to maintain that level of funding for the arts. During National Heritage questions I often ask--not recently, because I seem to be unlucky in getting into the frame and being called--how many times the Secretary of State has talked not to the Treasury but to the Department of the Environment about the arts provision that local authorities make.
Arts provision is one of the discretionary areas of local government expenditure. If hard-pressed locally elected councils face cuts in statutory areas of expenditure, it is not surprising that they chop away at the discretionary areas. I feel deeply annoyed that Newham and Waltham Forest--two Labour authorities--but mostly Newham, work hard to keep the Theatre Royal open while just down the road in Liberal Democrat Tower Hamlets the council has closed down the Half Moon theatre. It is easy for local authorities to talk about how they show up in terms of overall expenditure. If they shut out discretionary areas of expenditure, they can save money for people in their area, but those people simply move into areas such as Newham. They can use the facilities that the Newham charge payers have to keep going. That is parasitic. That is what is happening in London local authorities.
Newham tries to keep open its recreational facilities such as swimming pools and leisure centres. Other Tory and Liberal authorities close them down. People who live in Tory or Liberal areas cannot be prevented from coming to Newham. It is grotesquely unfair. It is made even worse if Ministers start slagging off my authority for being a high spender. We subsidise people around us in the arts, leisure and recreational facilities and we deeply resent it.
Mr. Brooke : I take the point that the hon. Gentleman raises. It is one that we have discussed with some of the great city authorities in the context of their regional hinterland. Does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that it is possible for the process that he describes to work in the opposite direction--that Camden council tax payers can use Westminster facilities and that Westminster maintains a music library on behalf of the whole country ?
Mr. Banks : Of course I acknowledge that. I was talking about the east end of London. In the spirit of friendship on this rare occasion, I will concede that point to the right hon. Gentleman. But I suggest that he examines the problem. We are talking about discretionary areas of local authority expenditure. Clearly, something has to be done. There must be some acknowledgement that when the Department of the Environment makes its standard spending assessments it looks at what services are provided, not what services are needed in discretionary areas. That is a matter that he could usefully discuss with his colleagues in other Departments.
It is true that in the past two years cultural provision has been seriously affected by the reduction in local authority expenditure on the arts in London. The further reduction of standard spending assessment allowances for London for 1994-95 will exacerbate the position. SSA settlements have seriously affected some of London's poorest boroughs, including my own of Newham, neighbouring Hackney, Haringey, Islington and so on. All those boroughs are associated with strong support for the arts.
Column 909I acknowledge that the City of London has increased its expenditure on the arts. That is good, but the City is in the unique position of being far and away the wealthiest local authority in the country. It worries me that there is still so much uncertainty about arts expenditure. The cuts that the Department of National Heritage has announced for the next four years are worrying. We reached a good position when we had a rolling programme and some predictability about arts funding- -not about cuts but about an increase. One must pay tribute to the right hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) for achieving that. Many people said that, for a Tory, he would have made a good Arts Minister. That was until he took the hands-on artistic policy rather too literally. That greater certainty about money for the arts was what was most needed.
I understand that a decision is due any day about the lottery. I am an agnostic on lotteries. I would also like to be seriously rich, so I shall undoubtedly buy some tickets when they come my way. If I win, you will not see my bottom for dust, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I agree with what the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) and others have said--the money generated by the lottery must be new money for the arts or whatever. Perhaps I am a cynic or suspicious, but I do not think that that will happen, because, when Treasury Ministers make their assessments, they will take into account the global amount of money available.
The Secretary of State, or whichever Conservative--or Labour--Member has the job, will find it difficult to argue that the Treasury should simply dismiss that money and not take it into account when deciding the arts settlement. It is all right to give an undertaking in the House and to set out with good intentions, but I can well imagine the sort of pressures a Secretary of State will be under when faced with that spending round. The Treasury will say, "But hell, you're getting an awful lot of money from the national lottery."
I should like a guarantee from the Secretary of State that Mr. Branson will not get responsibility for running the lottery. My suspicions about Mr. Branson are very deep. I feel that he injected £5 million into the county hall leisure complex recently to bail out the Japanese group Shiryama, which was due to hit the wall. I remain firmly convinced of that. His involvement might have saved the group's bacon and in doing so he has also saved the face of Ministers. If county hall--immediately opposite the Palace of Westminster--had ended up the sort of shell that Battersea power station is, imagine Ministers' embarrassment.
Am I being basely and groundlessly suspicious or could Mr. Branson have been given a nod and a wink that if he stepped in to bail out the county hall project he would get the lottery ? I hope that that is not the case, but I shall be watching closely who gets the lottery and I hope that it is not Mr. Branson, or all my suspicions will be proved correct.
I also have a query on the funding for the London and regional orchestras as a result of the £3.2 million cut in grant aid to the Arts Council. I declare an interest as I am the parliamentary adviser to the Musicians Union--something that I thoroughly enjoy. Apart from the London symphony orchestra, London orchestras get a very rough deal and have additionally had to contend with the effects of the Hoffman review, which has caused additional