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Mrs. Ellman: Merseyside county council took responsibility for the arts.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic society has suffered budget cuts of more than £1.2 million in real terms over the past five years alone. I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Minister for Arts and the Arts Council for the support that they have given to the orchestra, but will they continue that support, including a possible bid to the lottery stabilisation fund? I note that the royal opera house recently received a lottery grant of more than £9 million from that source.

The Playhouse in Liverpool has been closed since January. Talks are under way to secure the reopening of the Playhouse in part of a new major retail development in Williamson square. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister, North West Arts, the Arts Council and others to support the theatre. It could be linked with the Everyman to give both theatres a secure future.

I seek a specific assurance that the survival of the Playhouse will not be at risk because of the commercial interests of the retail development in which it is to be housed, and I call on all those who gave commitments to ensure the future of the Playhouse to honour them.

I asked a parliamentary question last year about funding for Liverpool theatres, and discovered great disparity and inequity. I was told that, for 1997-98, public funding in theatres in various locations was as follows: Liverpool Playhouse to receive £700,000; Liverpool Everyman to receive £300,000; Birmingham Rep to receive £3.2 million; and Manchester Royal Exchange to receive £18.5 million. I welcome the funding that has been given to all those ventures, but why is Liverpool apparently not getting a fair deal?

Liverpool has displayed its excellence in theatres small and large, in music and in many other areas. In particular, it has shown the importance of the arts in local regeneration and community development, and in bringing opportunities to alienated young people, yet it appears that obstacles are still put in the way of enabling the best use to be made of available public funds.

For example, Artskills in Dingle, Liverpool 8, has worked successfully with disadvantaged young people since 1996, and its "Great Teams" murals hung outside St. George's hall this summer. Under its single regeneration budget, Dingle wants to extend the project to the Granby area, but it is having difficulty bringing together new deal funding and European social fund moneys. I trust that those difficulties will be resolved so that we can have joined-up thinking and show once more how the arts can contribute to the local community and to the development of young people.

The exciting Hope street project is seeking regeneration of the Hope street quarter--the area that houses the Everyman theatre, the cathedrals and the philharmonic hall. It wants to show how physical and cultural regeneration can go together, and I hope that the project can secure significant funding to enable its work to progress.

We have a new focus for our region. The new north-west regional development agency is being set up, and more powers are to be delegated to the region through

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a restructured North West Arts. The north-west regional development agency, together with the north-west chamber, will bring new opportunities for our region, provided that they, regional Government Departments and North West Arts work together to promote regional strengths. Sufficient funding must be available if devolved powers are to be meaningful in the local area.

I welcome the new integrated regional dimension to our policy making, as the arts have much to gain from it. A strategic vision is needed. After all, planning for Liverpool's now world-famous maritime museum and Tate gallery took place at the time of the Merseyside county council, and I hope that the development of our regional perspective will restore strategic planning and vision to the arts in our area.

Liverpool is buzzing with cultural activity and enterprise. The Merseyside Music Development Agency, with its "creative Liverpool" project, and ACME--the arts, culture and media enterprise--are both working to support the arts and to promote arts-related businesses as part of regeneration, building on local strengths. Liverpool must not be allowed to lose its artistic talents. We are all responsible for promoting opportunities in which artistic talent can flourish. We must provide the infrastructure that will make it possible and attractive for the many people in Liverpool with great artistic talent and aspirations to remain in Liverpool and deploy their talents effectively.

Liverpool has now set its sights on becoming European city of culture in 2007. I hope that the Minister feels able to back that vision and recognise Liverpool as the cultural capital not just of the north-west but of the United Kingdom. Oscar Wilde commented after the first performance of Lady Windermere's Fan:

Liverpool's play has been a long-running success story. The audience must now rise to the challenge.

10.7 pm

The Minister for Arts (Mr. Alan Howarth): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman) on securing tonight's Adjournment debate, for which she has chosen an important topic. She spoke with passion and enthusiasm about the role and achievement of the arts and the creative industries on Merseyside, and rightly so. Liverpool has been an astonishingly rich source of artistic activity for many years and more recently has been noted for the growth of its creative and media industries. As she said, Liverpool has been buzzing.

The traditional industries--import and export, the docks, car manufacturing--are being supplemented by new, growing industries, which are giving rise to a healthy mix of creative industries and cultural tourism businesses in the region. I should like to explain some of the ways in which the Government are fostering those new sources of growth. First, we are doing so through direct support for the arts. As my hon. Friend knows, central Government funding for the arts in England is channelled through the Arts Council of England. The Arts Council funds some arts organisations directly. It also provides the

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bulk of the funding for the regional arts boards, which in turn fund other artists and arts organisations within their regions.

As my hon. Friend reminded the House, in the later years of the previous Government, funding for the arts stood still. The Arts Council was forced to freeze funding to most of the bodies that it supports, both the regional arts boards, which include North West Arts as the board responsible for Merseyside, and its client bodies, which include the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society.

However, even within that bleak overall situation for the arts nationally, bequeathed by the previous Government, it has been possible to focus some resources where they are most needed, including Merseyside. In the last full financial year, North West Arts allocated £2,592,246 to arts organisations and activities in Liverpool--some 27 per cent. of its total spending--and the Arts Council allocated £1,507,000.

Liverpool has also benefited from the national lottery. To date, Liverpool has received £17.5 million for lottery projects financed by the Arts Council, including capital projects, the "arts for everyone" main scheme and the "arts for everyone" express scheme, as well as grants from the heritage lottery fund.

My hon. Friend mentioned the difficulties faced by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society and the Everyman and Playhouse theatres in Liverpool. I understand and appreciate her concern about the problems faced by those organisations.

The Government are putting right the neglect of the arts that we inherited. My Department will receive additional funding over the next three years of £290 million, of which no less than £124 million will go to the arts. That represents the largest-ever single increase in spending on the arts in England. It is good news for the arts, and good news for the arts on Merseyside.

The good news is not just about money. The Government believe strongly in delegating responsibility and financial resources to the regions and to areas where decisions can best be taken in line with local interests and local needs. The new Arts Council, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State appointed earlier this year, shares that view. The Arts Council proposes that a substantial element of the extra resources for the arts that the Government are providing should be delegated to the regional arts boards.

The Arts Council expects the RABs to receive average increases in funding of 19 per cent. next year, 11 per cent. the year after, and 4 per cent. the year after that. Those increases in funding reflect our desire to make funding more equitable, taking into account not only current average per capita funding, but factors such as deprivation, which is an important consideration on Merseyside and in my hon. Friend's constituency. That will be an enormous boost to the arts in the regions, and to local decision making. Detailed allocations are a matter for the Arts Council, and will be announced next month, but I am confident that North West Arts will benefit substantially from the overall increase in resources available.

The Arts Council also proposes to enhance the status and flexibility of the regional arts boards by giving them more responsibility for direct funding of some of the companies and organisations presently directly funded by the Arts Council. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

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Society is one of the organisations whose funding it is proposed to delegate to North West Arts. North West Arts will naturally be provided with the appropriate resources to provide funding for the bodies that it inherits.

I am deeply aware of the concerns of my hon. Friend and others who have raised with me the problems faced by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society. I appreciate that these are difficult times for the society. I wish the society's chairman, Peter Johnson, chief executive, Antony Lewis-Crosby, and their colleagues every success in their continuing efforts to put the society on to a firmer financial footing for the future.

The RLPS plays an important role in the music infrastructure of Merseyside, and it is one of our major regional orchestras. It has a well-established education and community access development unit, and has established strong links with local community groups, schools and other music organisations. Everyone with an interest in the arts wishes it well, but its future needs to be based on something more tangible than just wishes. It needs support from all concerned.

The Arts Council, which funds the RLPS directly, certainly understands that need. In the last financial year, its grant in aid to the society was £1,482,800, or almost 30 per cent. of the society's income. The Arts Council and North West Arts, which is due to take over responsibility for direct funding, continue to monitor closely the situation in the RLPS, and I understand that they are keen to assist in whatever ways they reasonably can. The Arts Council has already assisted the society through a short-term difficulty by providing an advance of £0.5 million in this financial year.

I should like to emphasise the importance of partnership in helping to sustain creativity in the arts, support education and social inclusion and promote regeneration and economic opportunity. Where such partnerships have been most successful, they are often built on contributions from many partners: artists, audiences and patrons, businesses, donors, central Government and local government. Central Government play their part, through our overall support for the creative industries and directly, via the Arts Council or regional arts boards; but local government also has an important role.

Clearly, every local authority must be free to decide its own priorities in line with local needs, provided that it meets its statutory obligations. In the context of the arts, however, it is worth noting the economic, artistic and social benefits that the west midlands derives from the City of Birmingham symphony orchestra, which receives £1,058,000 from the city of Birmingham. Similarly, the city of Manchester provides £583,000 for the Halle orchestra. Business, too, plays an important role in partnerships that support successful artistic ventures. I would like to encourage a spirit of partnership in support of the arts across the country, including Merseyside.

My hon. Friend mentioned Liverpool's theatres. There, too, taxpayers' funding is decided by the regional arts board. North West Arts will make allocations for the next three years to all its funded bodies, including those on Merseyside, in December this year or shortly afterwards. I understand that a report on theatre in Merseyside is due to be delivered to the Merseyside consortium for the arts in early December. The report will no doubt help to inform North West Arts' decisions about funding,

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drawing on research into the levels of funding given to comparable theatres in other major urban centres such as Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester.

My hon. Friend will understand that it would be wrong for me to try to pre-empt the decision by North West Arts, but I am sure that, in reaching its decision, the regional arts board will want to take into account the strong views that she expressed. Nevertheless, let me again emphasise the importance of partnership. Support must come not just from Government, through the Arts Council and North West Arts, but from other parties.

The importance of the arts to Merseyside extends far beyond just the performing arts. As my hon. Friend pointed out, in recent years there has been a tremendous growth in the creative industries in and around Liverpool. Earlier this month, my Department launched a report on those creative industries--industries such as music, publishing, design and the arts--which, as she observed, now generate £60 billion of revenue a year, and employ 1.4 million people nationally.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said:

With a growth rate of 5 per cent., the creative industries are generating new jobs and new wealth for Britain more rapidly than any other part of the economy.

For that reason, the Government are taking steps to encourage creative entrepreneurs. Policies are being introduced to stimulate inward investment, to deliver training opportunities and to help businesses to increase their productivity and competitiveness in order to achieve sustainable employment and economic growth in that highly important sector of my Department's remit.

The arts and creative industries are also important in that they can counter social exclusion and draw communities together. My hon. Friend made that point powerfully. The arts can provide a real link between education, lifelong learning, community development and economic regeneration. Let me give some examples from Merseyside. Much important work is being done in Liverpool by the Merseyside ACME--arts, culture and media enterprise--which is a partnership between the five Merseyside local authorities and the north-west regional arts board.

The partnership has attracted £2.97 million of European regional development funds through the Merseyside objective 1 programme to support the expansion of the creative industries and contribute to the economic regeneration of some of the most deprived areas of Merseyside up to the millennium. Let me express my admiration for a number of projects that ACME has supported through its access and participation programme, all of which are well known to my hon. Friend.

ACME enabled the Greenhouse multicultural play and arts centre to run a project around the Windrush festival. The project involved children and teachers in schools in both Toxteth and Dingle who worked with elders from the Caribbean community. Their work helped to build better understanding between people with different cultural backgrounds and from different generations, and celebrated, through performing arts, the Caribbean contribution to British life over the past 50 years. The project resulted in performances of music and dance in all the participating schools, and at the opening of the Caribbean garden at the museum of Liverpool life.

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Greenhouse has also been heavily involved in another ACME-funded project: L8 Children, Young People and Regeneration. Greenhouse has worked in schools in Toxteth and Dingle, using visual arts, dance, drama and poetry to enable participants to explore issues of regeneration that affect themselves and their communities. In that way, it is hoped that young people in Liverpool 8 will be able to have a voice in the decision making that affects their lives and futures.

In Dingle, a project called Voices is aimed at giving young people a voice, enabling the expression of their lives and visions--in contrast to damaging media stereotypes about the area. Young people will take part in a range of art forms and develop new skills. The project will build young people's capacity to participate meaningfully in the regeneration partnership. Part of the project will be the design and installation of artwork depicting the history of Liverpool 8 in the new city council housing office in the area. I welcome what my hon. Friend said about the importance of those and other such community cultural projects benefiting from the range of programmes that the Government have introduced, and the need for co-ordination between regional cultural agencies and other agencies.

The projects are excellent examples of local, community-based, community-led schemes. There are, of course, other larger and more prominent examples of how cultural development can take the lead in the economic and social regeneration of city centres and deprived areas. In my hon. Friend's constituency, as she mentioned, there is the excellent example of the Tate gallery, Liverpool, which was a catalyst for the development of the Albert dock complex--itself a symbol of Merseyside's renaissance after a period of economic decline.

The success and reputation of the Tate gallery in Liverpool has attracted considerable private-sector support, including major businesses such as Granada Television, Unilever plc, Save and Prosper Group Ltd., Mobil Oil, English Estates and Littlewoods. The Tate gallery is committed to the development of Liverpool as

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a city of learning. It will help to build the region's reputation as a centre of educational and training excellence and innovation, and as a provider of skilled arts professionals for the employment opportunities of tomorrow.

I should also mention, as my hon. Friend did, the conservation centre, which earlier this year won the European museum of the year award for the national museums and galleries on Merseyside. The NMGM institutions are renowned for their innovative interpretation of museum collections for people of all ages. The eight national museums and galleries have won 17 national and international awards in the past 10 years for excellence in education, as well as awards for architecture, tourism and scholarship. They have also been awarded £24 million of lottery money--the biggest heritage lottery fund grant yet for developments across seven museums, although it went especially to the Walker art gallery and the Liverpool museum.

The debate has covered a wide range of issues. The fact that we have covered so much is evidence, if that were needed, of the vitality and diversity of the arts and the creative industries on Merseyside. My hon. Friend spoke of her hope that Liverpool might be the European city of culture in 2007--indeed, she staked a claim for Liverpool as the cultural capital of the United Kingdom--and that would be wonderful. I know that she and many others in Liverpool will work toward it. They will certainly have my personal goodwill in their endeavour.

The good news for the arts, not only on Merseyside but nationally, is that, thanks to the Government's commitment, they are once again at the heart of public policy. We are providing more funding for the arts and more support for the creative industries, and giving more scope for local and regional partnerships to make the most of this vital and thriving sector. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this important topic, and for allowing me the opportunity to give the arts and creative industries on Merseyside due recognition.

Question put and agreed to.

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