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expenditure. They must provide necessary documentation, while sponsorship and future work prospects were blighted by six months' uncertainty over their future.

Dennis Scard, the general secretary of the union, has written to the Secretary of State and I have seen the right hon. Gentleman's reply. He uses the arm's-length principle to wipe his hands of any decision making, which is wrong. That is why I tend to agree with one of his predecessors-- it is not good enough for Ministers to use that principle to avoid Government responsibility.

The fact that we cannot sustain our existing orchestras in London is a matter for national shame. Other capital cities manage to do so and it is a cause of enormous shame to all of us that we have not been able to do so in London.

Finally--you will be delighted to hear, Mr. Deputy Speaker--I must return to the discretionary area of local authority spending. Some of my constituents--young unemployed kids, who happen to be black--have come to me because they have tried to get grants from the local authority for dance and drama training, but have got nowhere. Perhaps there is a reason. I do not want to be patronising, but some of our unemployed youth could find a way out of the ghetto through the arts. It is a way out and we have many ghettos--economic, intellectual and cultural--in our country today.

One in six local authorities has a policy of awarding no discretionary grants. The percentage offering full grants for dance and drama has fallen from 83 per cent. in 1987 to 44 per cent. in 1992. About 40 per cent. of dance and drama students are unable to take up the places that they have been offered, which is equivalent to 280 drama students and 590 dance students.

Most dance and drama schools are entirely funded by fees from students and there is a significant shortfall--at present £3,000 per year--between the mandatory grant and the full cost charged by the school. The Government really should decide to make that area of discretion mandatory because so much talent is being wasted. Those kids have no chance of taking advantage of drama and dance courses because they cannot afford them. They come from unemployed families and impoverished backgrounds and they are dealing with local authorities whose discretionary decision making and funding are tightly squeezed, as I explained. The Government must look into the matter and I plead with the Secretary of State to consider it carefully.

Mr. Brooke : As was said, that matter concerns my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education. My question arises from the speech by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan). Would the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Banks) impose qualitative tests to assess the ability of those kids or is he trying to make the grant an automatic privilege ?

Mr. Banks : I would like to think about that, but, having done so, I think that there would have to be some sort of qualification. One does not just walk into a university. One has to have qualifications that demonstrate certain academic achievements. One would need evidence that a person would benefit, so that would have to be the case.

What worries me is the fact that I have been advised that some incredibly talented kids have not got grants. Advisers have told me, "They've got it. They could make it." Unfortunately, they cannot give them the grant because they have not got the money. That problem was the subject of a BBC television programme on one of my constituents

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recently. He has enormous talent. I suppose that, because of that fact, he might find a way out and become well known anyway, but kids with lesser talents are being deprived and it seems a waste of ability. I do not like seeing ability wasted.

Mr. Fisher rose

Mr. Banks : Yes, there should be some demonstration of ability, but I shall give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Mr. Fisher) who will undoubtedly have the responsibility for making such a decision in the not-too-distant future.

Mr. Fisher : May I suggest to my hon. Friend that he should support the approach that would accredit a small number of schools--perhaps 10 dance schools and 10 drama schools. Any students accepted to their courses would automatically get a mandatory full grant and accreditation would be the quality control that he is after. That system would ensure that the most talented students got the grants that their talent entitled them to and it would end the system whereby only people with rich parents or those lucky enough to live in certain local authorities went to such schools.

Mr. Banks : That was straight from the horse's mouth. Exactly. That is how we are going to do it. I like the bold and decisive way in which my hon. Friend moved to the Dispatch Box to announce the policy and I look forward to sitting behind him on the Government side of the House in a few months' time and to seeing him announce that policy. What an excellent fellow he is.

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington has obviously gone off to vandalise that Van Gogh. Why the arts ? Because the merits and worth of an age will not be judged by the efficiency with which it can kill people with bombs, bullets and bayonets. It will be judged by future generations on the quality of its architecture, literature, painting, poetry and musicians, such as the hon. Member for Twickenham who has just returned to his place. That is how we will be judged and that is the reason why we should be investing in the arts and why we should stand up and proudly declare so and not be bullied by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington and the arts thugs he represent. I am glad to say that there are not many of them.

8.8 pm

Mr. Michael Spicer (Worcestershire, South) : In view of what I want to say, I must declare an interest as a humble painter, who occasionally sells paintings, and, more particularly, as someone who writes the odd novel, for which I am the recipient of benefits from the public lending rights arrangement.

Like the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), I agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) raised an important matter when, perhaps for the first time in this debate, he questioned what art is and what it is for. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West was right to consider that.

I suppose that a possible definition of art is that it is a physical manifestation of the individual human spirit, which throughout history has invariably acted against the oppression of the state. To that extent, therefore, the arts and state interference are in many respects antithetical.

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When, in history, the state has acted as patron of the arts, that is, it has supplied money to artists, it has done so most successfully at the behest not of councils, committees, quangos, royal commissions or even local authorities, but of individuals. The great Medicis, the best of the Doges, Louis XIV and even Prince Albert were, in different ways, artists themselves. They had their own eccentricities and, through their patronage, they expressed their spirit and sense of excellence. Their motivation may have been personal glorification or even the search for short-term popularity, but in their cases the nature of the relationship between the patron and the artist, even when that patron was using public moneys, was one to one. Pork barrel politics and compromises between extraneous sectional interests were minimal.

I hope that Lord Gowrie will display the individualism of a modern Doge, but, more probably, he will be constrained, as his predecessors were, by the paraphernalia of modern statecraft. When state committees, quangos and local authorities interfere, as they invariably do in the modern world, and manage state funds, not only is special pleading of the essence, but so is compromise between interests that have nothing to do with the arts, such as arise out of the regional distribution of moneys and the donation of moneys to sectional interests.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred, for example, to ethnic art. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West offered a new set of criteria for the distribution of moneys, ranging from employment to exports and, I believe I heard him say, the rate of return on capital. The latter criterion was surprising coming from him. Such criteria may be admirable, but, intrinsically, they have nothing to do with the arts. They have more to do with political correctness, to use the words of the heir to the throne.

In such cases, the patronage of the arts becomes, frankly, an extension of social and economic policy and it has little to do with the pursuit of excellence in art. Worse still is when such patronage becomes an overt instrument of state propaganda. That was certainly the case in Nazi Germany and it is the case with the European cultural fund, which is currently running at 70 million ecu or about £50 million--it has increased by almost 50 per cent. in the past two years.

The aim of that fund has nothing to do with the expression of individual spirit, but everything to do with the pursuit of European federalism. A classic recent example of the misuse of those public funds was the financially disastrous sponsorship of the Euro-soap "Riviera", which has proved to be the most expensive and least popular programme of its kind. It was not, luckily, shown in this country. The ratio of money invested to the number of people who watched the programme--to use the return on capital argument of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West--was the highest in the history of television.

Another example of the misuse of that so-called cultural fund was the 10 million ecu given towards the Barcelona Olympic games. That funding had absolutely nothing to do with sponsorship of the arts and everything to do with pursuit of a political ideal.

There are, of course, exceptions to the general rule that the arts and artists are best left alone. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) said, it was only when the French impressionists were left alone that they expressed their human spirit

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effectively. The same was true of the expressionists. That expression was, invariably, directed against the establishment of the day, which, quite probably, was much the same as the will of the state committees and quangos of the day.

The first important exception to the general rule is when intervention is directed towards the preservation and protection of a cultural heritage, for example, buildings and, given what my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) said, particularly church buildings. There is, for example, a case to establish a centre for the study and propagation of English music. No such centre exists and I believe that Malvern in my constituency would be an excellent place for it, given that it was the home of Elgar.

As several hon. Members have said, there is a weaker case for vast amounts of money to be given to the pursuit of a 16th century and 17th century Italian art form, opera. I always find it surprising when I study the relevant figures. Of the current planned budget of moneys for the arts, for example, which I understand stands at £195 million, more than £30 million will be given to opera--almost one fifth of the total.

There may be a case for some state sponsorship of certain arts with a limited public appeal, the performance of which incur large overheads. As the hon. Member for Newham, North-West said, in terms of preserving our heritage, it would be unsatisfactory if the quality and essential excellence of Royal Shakespeare company productions were lost to our country. I was delighted to hear from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about the Allied Lyons tie-up with the RSC, which must be a good thing.

The objective of support from the taxpayer should be to provide a bridge towards funding by those who enjoy the artistic creation in order to ensure, among other things, maximum public participation. The emphasis behind the use of state money should be directed towards promotion, making a work intelligible and ensuring the widest possible display of it. What is less acceptable is that state funds should be focused on subsidising the entertainment budgets of corporate business. One must admit that that seems to be the case at Covent Garden. I was extremely encouraged to hear today that Glyndebourne has been extensively developed at no expense to public funds.

The value and development of culture depend on the efforts and the talents of individuals, not on the injection of state funds. Genuine art will die if it is merely the product of a collectivist state programme, which, as I understand, is the essence of the Labour party's position on that matter--I think that the words that it uses are "cultural policy". I think that that is what the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) said.

Mr. Fisher indicated assent .

Mr. Spicer : Culture is no more and no less than the sum of its creative parts. I suppose it is because I believe that that I am a Conservative and not a socialist. It is why I believe that the state's role has to be a permissive and generalised one, especially in the context of a state that is giving the money through a network of bureaucracy and committees. It should not have a directional and interventionist role. Its emphasis should be on publicising and promotion rather than on picking winners.

The state bureaucracy is not much good at running businesses. It is even worse at painting pictures or at

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composing music and it is worst of all, as has been pointed out today by implication, at building buildings. The Department of the Environment building in Marsham street is perhaps a living testimony to that.

The hand of the state, especially its bureaucracy, should be as far removed as possible from the creation of artistic work. Art and government are in many ways opposite ends of a pole. Potentially, the most damaging situation of all arises when they are regarded as inseparable.

8.21 pm

Mr. Paul Murphy (Torfaen) : The speech of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) was very interesting. I was in his constituency only a few weeks ago, at the birthplace of Sir Edward Elgar. I wonder whether, if local government had not made it possible for me to have the opportunity to listen to and appreciate the works of Elgar, I would have been in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. This excellent debate has been extremely interesting. A number of right hon. and hon. Members have referred to the fact that the timing has been unfortunate : given that four years have elapsed, one might have hoped that we would have been able to debate these matters when more right hon. and hon. Members were able to take part.

The standard and quality of speeches on both sides of the House, with the notable exception of that of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks), have been high. The hon. Gentleman's speech reminded me of Disraeli's commentary on Gladstone--about the difference between a disaster and catastrophe. If the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington fell into the Thames, it would be classified as a disaster ; if one pulled him out again, it would be a catastrophe. I understand that the hon. Gentleman's majority is something approaching 53. I hope that there are 54 or 55 Conservative opera lovers in Hayes and Harlington who may read Hansard and that the House will be rid of the hon. Gentleman by the time of the next election.

The debate has illustrated that the arts and culture--I do not think that there is anything wrong with the word "culture"--play an important role in continually renewing our society. For many of us, the way in which we express ourselves culturally is among our most important experiences ; but there is more to it than that. As several of my hon. Friends have said, the cultural industry, if we may call it that, employs a great many people in this country--perhaps 500, 000--and has a turnover of about £14 billion, in publishing, broadcasting, film and recording as well as in what one might call the straightforward artistic industries.

I stand at the Dispatch Box tonight because I am the Opposition spokesman on the arts in Wales. In the Principality, at least 5,000 people are employed directly as a result of their involvement in the arts world. In invisible earnings, only banking, travel and shipping earn more than the arts. More than £3 billion has come to this country as a result of invisible earnings from the arts industries. Cities such as Edinburgh prosper as a result of investment in the arts. Only last year, that city gained £44 million as a result of the Edinburgh festival. In Cardiff, the Welsh national opera, St. David's hall and the Sherman theatre have all brought distinction and prosperity to our city.

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A number of Conservative Members said that the Opposition should not criticise the Government's arts policy ; that was not quite right. It is the job of an Opposition not only to oppose and to highlight such matters but to ensure that there is a proper balanced debate.

This country's spending per person on the arts is less than that of other major Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. This country spends about £10 per person, whereas Germany spends £24 ; France, £21 ; Canada, £17 ; Sweden, £27 ; and the Netherlands, £20.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) was right to say that some of the criticisms concerning the failures and problems of art and arts policy have not been expressed in the House for about four years. There have been failures in investment. Underfunding has led to disrepair, closures and cuts, increased charges in museums and so on. An Arts Council survey showed that, of 32 theatres, 30 were now in deficit.

The good news about which the Secretary of State spoke is the work of local authorities, which spend perhaps £200 million to £300 million a year on promoting artistic ventures of one kind or another in Glasgow, Newcastle, Cardiff, Glasgow, Sheffield and other places helping to regenerate those cities.

However--and I know that this is the direct responsibility not of the Secretary of State for National Heritage but of the Secretaries of State for Education, for Wales, for Scotland and for the Environment--there have been substantial cuts in council funding in the past few years, which have inevitably meant that our local authorities' arts budgets have been cut. That has meant that many arts organisations are now confronted with financial insecurity because they have no guarantee of continued revenue support. There is also the problem of compulsory competitive tendering. However important that may be in terms of local government, it means that the emphasis has to be on the commercial rather than the artistic side. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) rightly pointed to the problem of discretionary grants. In Wales, such grants have virtually disappeared : our young people no longer have the grants that enabled them to train in ballet, dance, music and so on. That means that an area of activity is now denied to our young men and our young women--or at least to those from less privileged families.

Most arts organisations expect their grants to remain static or to fall in real terms in the coming year. There is a huge variation in what our local authorities now spend on the arts. Clwyd, for example, spends £1.5 million on theatres and concert halls alone ; West Glamorgan spends only 23p per person on the arts.

The biggest restriction, which the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) mentioned, was on the arts in education. Music teaching in many schools has been reduced or almost entirely cut. In South Glamorgan, 36 peripatetic music teachers have been made redundant. There has been a severe decline in visits to museums, theatres and concerts, and school orchestras in some areas no longer exist. We have to consider also that, as a result of the reform of local government, which is partly happening in England and is rapidly happening in Wales and in Scotland--in a sense, those two countries are guinea

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pigs and pointers to what might occur in England--the impact of the move to unitary authorities could well have a damaging effect on our arts, music and other ventures. For example, Wales now has eight large county councils, all of which are due to disappear. They will be replaced by 24 unitary authorities, inevitably much smaller and without the resources. Will those unitary authorities in Wales--and later also in Scotland and England--have the same commitment to financing, bolstering and supporting artistic ventures that now depend heavily on county-wide funding ? There are geographical restrictions, as a small borough council may not feel inclined to support the arts in an area many miles away and may not have the money to do so. We have already seen the consequences of the abolition of the metropolitan counties--a reduction in expenditure on the arts of nearly £9 million.

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) rightly referred to the importance of orchestras. We should be concerned not only about those important orchestras with which London is blessed--we can walk from this House to the south bank or catch a tube to the Barbican and listen to them- -but with orchestras in the regions and counties of Britain, such as the Welsh national orchestra and the Bournemouth symphony orchestra, about which we have heard today. Many other orchestras that depend on local government support could disappear, including county and youth orchestras.

Even more significant is the future of those now training to be members of orchestras. Where will their training come from if peripatetic teachers disappear ? Young men and women will lose the opportunity to join school orchestras, move to county orchestras and then join the main orchestras in London and the regions. The talent that undoubtedly exists will not be tapped ; it will be lost as a direct consequence of local cuts in finance and the reform of local government that now faces the whole country.

In Gwent, 52 peripatetic staff teach music ; 40,000 lessons are given every year ; 5,000 pupils are taught ; 1,200 music exams are taken, with a 95 per cent. pass rate ; there are 23 music groups ; and, on 18 April in St. David's hall in Cardiff, 350 young people from Gwent performed in a Gwent showcase concert. The possibility of that happening after the reform of local government, once our counties have disappeared, will become increasingly remote. Another problem is that small arts centres, which now depend heavily on county funding, could disappear. The director of the Llantarnam Grange arts centre in my constituency, Sara Bowie, sent me a letter saying :

"our main problem always remains that of insufficient core funding--a problem which faces many of the arts organisations today. it is . . . almost impossible to plan to grow and develop when our funding is so hand to mouth and not consistent from year to year." The Wales Association for the Performing Arts has also written to us, saying that it is deeply troubled about theatre in Wales because of local government reform :

"This unique provision in Wales is held up as an example of outstanding success in theatre in education services throughout the British and European arts community and unless this central funding is provided, the education resource element of the service, for example the wide range of workshops, teachers packs and follow-up study services, will be severely endangered and possibly lost." The danger that the whole country faces because of the move to unitary authorities is substantial, and I hope that the Secretary of State will argue with his Cabinet

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colleagues who represent Wales, Scotland, the environment and education that it is vital that we do not lose that element of funding for the arts as a result of the reform of local government. May I mention two other matters in Wales ? The first concerns the national museum of Wales, of which I am a governor. At our last annual meeting, shortly after the Queen opened the new addition to the museum, we were told that, at the same time as that superb development was taking place in Cardiff, the schools' museum service was seriously at risk as a consequence of cuts in local government funding.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) said, the Welsh Arts Council received an increase in relative terms. Strangely enough, however, the reduction in the English Arts Council's budget has meant that the Welsh national opera, which toured in England, has had its budget considerably reduced. In common with other opera companies, it has had to make a cut of £500,000, to make singers, musicians and skilled technicians redundant, and to put on fewer performances and productions.

As the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) said, opportunities for new composers--and especially for new commissions by living composers--are now severely reduced. Obviously, the opera companies put on the most popular operas which bring in the most money, with the result that new commissions are denied. The director of the Welsh national opera company, an American of great distinction, Matthew Epstein, who brought a great deal of dedication to his job and a great deal of commitment to Wales, has resigned as a direct result of cuts in the money going to the Welsh national opera. In a letter to Lord Davies of Llandinam, the chairman, he wrote :

"This lack of funding cannot be seen as a fault of the Arts Councils, regularly vilified by many in the public and press, but rather as a result of inadequate funding and support of these Councils at the very highest level of government, as it is expressed through the Department of National Heritage.

The arts in the U.K. are under the greatest threat and siege, and the situation must be improved if the entire public of cultural life is to survive.

While understanding the fiscal reasons that these decisions must be taken, in a sense . . . I make myself redundant."

I fear that his retirement is a loss not only to the Welsh national opera but to England and Wales.

Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth) : I am pleased to hear my hon. Friend's references to the Welsh national opera. He knows of my interest not only personally but because the opera's headquarters is in my constituency and I am a trustee to the proposed opera house. Does he agree that the strong cross-party support of the Welsh national opera is twofold ? First, the fact that it is a flagship and provides an image of Wales at home and abroad is extremely important economically as well as in arts terms. Secondly, it has sought to reach every village, town and community in Wales--I pay tribute to Matthew Epstein for that, too--and inner-city communities such as Splott, so that opera is taken to the whole community rather than remaining remote and for the few.

Mr. Murphy : I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. A great aspect of the Welsh national opera was not simply that it put on opera productions in the new theatre in Cardiff--I hope that it will do so in the new opera house in Cardiff in the years ahead--but that it went out to the

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valleys of south Wales, for example, and the valley in my constituency, where it put on the great production of "Noye's Fludde" involving many school children in my constituency.

Oddly enough, the Welsh national opera also went to Bristol, the home of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington. Indeed, it went to one of the most deprived parts of that city--a housing estate with high unemployment and no bank or launderette, where 22,000 people live. Its director received a letter from a teacher from Hartcliffe school in that part of Bristol, who wrote :

"It is with some shock that we read that you will leave W.N.O." She said that his Cinderella project on the Hartcliffe estate was admirable and that

"Above all, it showed Bristol and the S.W. that despite the riots, poverty and surrounding difficulties, children and parents of the area could work together to deliver a real gem' of a production." The letter explained how the production had affected people from that part of Bristol. For example, a young lad called Paul Hands was going to the royal opera house for a week and to drama school ; 100 students were working with D'Oyly Carte ; and 25 students were working with professional musicians. Matthew Epstein and the Welsh national opera company were excellent at taking opera to the people, but that has stopped happening as a direct result of what has happened to the funds.

Mr. Renton : Is not the hon. Gentleman telling us only one side of the story ? I say that although I have great respect for the achievements of Welsh national opera and the artistic knowledge of Matthew Epstein, whom I remember with great pleasure meeting two or three years ago. But Mr. Matthew Epstein has been in the job for only two or three years and I can remember a substantial subsidy being given by the Welsh Office to Welsh national opera in either 1989 or 1990 to wipe out its accumulated debt. That subsidy was the successor to a similar one given to Welsh national opera about five or six years before--again, to wipe off accumulated debt. That is the other side of the picture. While I sympathise with the emotion with which the hon. Gentleman makes his case, there is another side. Perhaps Welsh national opera has been regularly living beyond its means despite special subsidies from the Welsh Office. Perhaps its financial organisation has not been that good.

Mr. Murphy : The financial organisation of Welsh national opera has been superb--there has been no great problem there. There has been a long- running saga of underfunding, which it has taken a long time to wipe out. The problem was caused by the cuts in money from the English Arts Council rather than the Welsh one. We are all agreed that the money that has come from the Welsh Office has been admirable, but it has been insufficient to allow the company to do what many of my hon. Friends want opera companies to do--to take opera out to the people and communities so that everyone can enjoy it.

I recall going to an opera in Cardiff some years ago when there was a different director ; so bad was the production that 50 per cent. of the audience walked out--I was one of them. Times have changed considerably since then. What has happened to opera is sad news for Wales.

Mr. Michael : I must tell the right hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) that, although there have been

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generous contributions from public funds to assist the development of Welsh national opera, it was made clear at a recent meeting of parliamentary friends--not only by Matthew Epstein, but by others involved in the company--that the tightening of the budget and the demands that come with different contributions, particularly those from England, require additional performances. That requirement creates a constraint. If we are not to lose the additional productions that will be necessary for the success of the new opera house or the community-based contributions, we must ensure that the screw is not tightened. But that is what is happening.

Mr. Murphy : I entirely agree--the issue is one of access. Some 51 per cent. of all adults in Wales went to some sort of artistic event last year--a staggering percentage, especially when we consider that in Wales, with its rugby and other sporting traditions, more people attend sporting activities. I understand that in the 1980s, more than 37 million people in Britain went to the theatre every year. We must widen access, and we have the opportunity to do so because of technology. The hon. Member for Twickenham talked about the increased technology that will come to this country over the next few years. Technology and videos can be used to widen audiences dramatically. We must ensure that we try to make the arts more accessible to young people. There is a strong demand for live music venues. Libraries should be protected and safeguarded as much as possible.

Although there is inevitably a role for sponsorship, that alone is not enough. Sponsorship is strongly influenced by the prevailing economic climate. It tends to favour large and well-known companies and venues and is certainly biased towards London--42 per cent. of sponsorship occurs in London, whereas there is 5 per cent. for Northern Ireland, the east, the east midlands and the south-west of England put together. Sponsorship is rarely long term.

I was glad to hear the Secretary of State talk about the national lottery in terms of additionality. We are all concerned that any money from the national lottery that goes to the arts should be in addition to finance already provided by the Treasury to the National Heritage Department, to the territorial Departments and to the Department for Education.

I stress that it is Opposition policy that local authorities should have a statutory responsibility for the promotion of the arts in their area. That is a commitment that the Labour party will give at the next general election. Similarly, we believe that there is a role for regional government--we shall set up a Welsh Assembly in Wales, a Parliament in Scotland and regional government in Britain. Those organisations, like their counterparts in the rest of Europe, will have a great influence and will strongly support the regional arts up and down the country.

Wales has a serious potential crisis in arts funding. I hope that the message will be returned to Ministers in the Welsh Office--as it will to members of the Standing Committee on the Local Government (Wales) Bill-- that there must be some interim support for artistic ventures in the next couple of years. If that is not forthcoming, the Principality will be seriously disadvantaged.

This debate has been extremely interesting. We have not had the time or opportunity to touch on other sectors in

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which the arts impinge on everyone's lives. More than 3 million people are involved in the non-professional arts sector. We could also discuss conservation and heritage, and educating and training artists. We lose graduate designers to other countries. As my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) said, we certainly lose our best film makers, often to the west coast of the United States of America.

Mr. Jessel : Did I hear the hon. Gentleman aright ? Did he say that his party proposed to set up regional bodies for England as well as for Scotland and Wales ? Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that, whatever mixed feelings there may be in Scotland and Wales, there is bound to be hardly any support for the idea of setting up enormous and hugely expensive regional bureaucracies all over England--adding another tier to existing bureaucracy, interfering with people's lives and taking begging bowls to Brussels ?

Mr. Murphy : I do not know where the hon. Gentleman obtained his evidence that there is no feeling for regional government in parts of England. If he travels to Newcastle and the north, he will find that there is a strong feeling that, if Scotland has some sort of national government, the same must happen to the regions of England. There is no reason why those governments have to be similar in form all over the country ; that is not the case in Spain. The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that, at the last general election, the Labour party gave a commitment--which it will reassert at the next election--that there will be regional government throughout Britain. If that regional government is set up, one of its major functions will be to sponsor the arts in the regions of England as well as in the countries of Wales and Scotland.

The debate has been interesting and useful. I hope that the artistic community in Britain will have an opportunity to listen to, and read, the debate. In my valley I have five male voice choirs, three brass bands, ladies and mixed choirs, a lively theatre company, a local authority theatre, an arts centre, two museums and an enormous range of cultural societies. In addition, we produced Janet Price and Gwyneth Jones. All that came from one relatively small valley of south Wales, which is not full of "luvvies"--whatever they are supposed to be--as the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington would say. We produced all that from one valley. Perhaps not every constituency is as good as mine in producing that sort of artistic development and activity, but most are. The potential exists for every part of this country to develop artistic strength and an artistic wealth of experience among men and women. I fear that such development is threatened by the uncertain future of local government changes, central Government cuts and budget restrictions in schools.

At the last election, the Conservative party said that it would maintain support for the arts. I am not sure whether it has kept that promise completely, but unless it takes that statement seriously it will let down not only this generation, but generations to come. 8.49 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Iain Sproat) : I begin by agreeing with the hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy), who has wound up the debate for the Opposition. This has been an extremely interesting debate. Those who doubt the

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civilising quality of the arts might change their minds, as there has been a certain civilised quality about the evening which is not always evident in our debates.

I will try to answer some of the points that were raised. I start with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher). I acknowledge absolutely the genuine fervour and passion of his support for, and commitment to, the arts. I do so wholeheartedly and without qualification. But I think that it probably does not do the cause that we both have at heart--that of helping the arts world--any good to paint the current situation so black.

Of course we wish that things were better in many areas--although we might disagree about what those areas are. Everything is not as we would wish. But the fact is that the Government have said that they believe strongly in the arts. The Government have put their money where their mouth is, in that they have increased spending for the arts.

One can quibble about the percentage points--whether it is 45 per cent. for 1992-93, or 38 per cent. because of the cut which has just been made in the Arts Council grant and the filching away of Greater London council money. But, in spite of all that, we are still talking about a 35 per cent. increase in real terms in Government spending on the Arts Council.

I think that it is also very important to emphasise the money--another £200 million--that has been spent by local authorities. There has been a huge increase in business sponsorship of the arts. Although it is true that there is a blip in sponsorship at the moment, it is not as big a blip as it might appear. I think that the hon. Gentleman said that there was a 13 per cent. fall in sponsorship of the arts last year. But that was a fall on the previous year, when we had a huge increase in sponsorship from the Japan festival. Someone else said that Glyndebourne raised £38 million over a few years. That has certainly increased the base upon which the percentage was judged.

We have come from the point of £500,000 in sponsorship of the arts almost 20 years ago to something approaching £60 million in business sponsorship every year. That sponsorship has done a great deal for the arts. Although we might wish that it was more, I think that it would be wrong to underestimate the increases in this area. Of course, the funds from the national lottery are still to come. At this stage, I can give the assurance for which hon. Members on both sides of the House have asked : lottery spending will be additional to spending which the Government would otherwise have made. The hon. Member for Torfaen asked for that assurance at the end of his remarks, and I can tell him that that is the case. Although I do not wish to make too much of the speech by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, I think that it may be damaging, because many people who have listened to the speech or who will read about it in the newspapers tomorrow will think that the situation is much gloomier than it really is. The fact is that the cut in expenditure for the British Arts Council is 1.7 per cent. A cut of only 1.7 per cent. during the worst recession that anyone can remember is not a ferocious cut.

The hon. Gentleman also said that the arts had been singled out for cuts. I think that many people in the House would say, would that it had been the only area to be hit. I wish it were not so, but the English tourist board, the Sports Council and the national maritime museum have had spending cuts. The hon. Gentleman should not say that the arts have been singled out for cuts.

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Mr. Fisher : While we can debate and discuss the global figures--we have done that, and will continue to do so--will the Minister not accept that what is important for individual regional theatres, orchestras and galleries is the money that they receive ? Will he not accept simple, basic, factual statements, such as that purchase grants to the national museum have been frozen since 1985 ? Most regional theatres have to produce fewer productions with smaller casts. Almost every regional theatre is reducing its rehearsal times and casts, because its grants have become less in real terms in the past 15 years.

The Minister must acknowledge that galleries, theatre companies and orchestras which are playing to full houses are in deficit. The reason is that, leaving aside the macro figure, their grants are smaller now than they were.

Mr. Sproat : I do not wish to hide behind what my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) called the "humbug" of the arm's- length principle--hon. Members opposite repeated this afternoon that they believe in the principle--but the downside of the principle is that the people that you and I might like to fund, Mr. Deputy Speaker, do not get funding because the decision is made by the Arts Council. I agree with the hon. Gentleman on that point.

The Albert memorial was referred to in the debate, and there was a misunderstanding about it, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State tried to clear up. The £1 million that will be spent on refurbishing the Albert memorial this financial year did not come from Arts Council funding from the National Heritage Department ; it came from English Heritage, which squeezed the money from its own bureaucracy. It is true that, in future years, some 50 per cent. of the money that we believe will have to be spent on the Albert memorial will come from the Department of National Heritage, but this year, as it happens, not one penny has come from that source. I now come to the very dullest part of my speech, for which I apologise. Hon. Members have referred to spending by the Department of National Heritage on itself. I am glad to say that it is not as was charged. I will quote from this helpfully copious note, which says :

"DNH central running costs and capital show a real terms decrease of almost 12 per cent. . . . in the period 1993-94 to 1996-97." It has been reduced.

"There have been significant capital costs associated with setting up the new department and those are set to continue reducing. The running costs are not an additional burden on the public purse, because they are saved in the departments which used to house DNH responsibilities."

I apologise to the House for that tedious piece of information, but it is important to get it on the record.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) very courteously apologised for having to leave the Chamber--we all know what is going on in the country at the moment. Various other hon. Members, such as the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott), also apologised for having to leave before the wind-up of the debate.

My right hon. Friend made a number of very important points which I will touch on briefly. First, he mentioned the decline of music in schools, which a number of other hon. and right hon. Members also mentioned. It is a very worrying problem. It is mainly a matter for the Department

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