21 Feb 2005 : Column 1

House of Commons

Monday 21 February 2005

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

National Campaign for the Arts

1. John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland) (Lab): What discussions she has had with the National Campaign for the Arts on Government support for its objectives. [216946]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): I have met delegations from the National Campaign for the Arts on four occasions within the last year and have read and commented upon its arts manifesto, which I recommend.

John Robertson: I agree with my right hon. Friend that the excellent manifesto launched by the NCA needs looking at. One key point in it relates to the problem of intragovernmental discussions. For example, when children are involved, we need to consider education and skills. What steps is she taking to co-ordinate arts
21 Feb 2005 : Column 2
policy as suggested by the NCA, and will she state what real-terms spending on the arts will be in the coming year?

Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend for that question. He makes the important point that cross-departmental co-operation—whether it be the Department for Education and Skills, the Department of Health or the Home Office—is important to maximise the practical benefits of the arts and to focus on the intrinsic value of art and culture to our society.

I also welcome the opportunity to record that the performing arts have received an unprecedented 60 per cent. real-terms increase in funding over the last six years, because this Government believe in funding the arts, providing stability and rewarding excellence. The arts will receive a further 9 per cent. in real terms next year, and I expect that, in each of the following years, when funding to the Arts Council is flat, arts organisations will receive at least a real-terms increase.

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): Is it not the case that the NCA has said that the need for Government support for the arts has never been stronger, yet just today the chairman of the Arts Council has spoken again of the feeling of betrayal among arts organisations about the Government's freeze in arts funding for the next three years? That comes on top of the reduction of almost 50 per cent. in the money for the arts coming from the lottery. Is it not the case that the biggest boost that we could give to the arts would be to stop using the lottery to substitute for taxpayers' money and instead restore it to its original purpose, thus benefiting each of the original four good causes, including the arts, by more than £100 million a year?

Tessa Jowell: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but remind him that Government support for the arts has never been stronger: a 60 per cent.
21 Feb 2005 : Column 3
real-terms increase over the last six years. I draw his attention to the fact, which is worthy of close scrutiny, that if his party were to—

Mr. Speaker: Order. We will not worry about that.


2. Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): What support the Government have given to enable increased access to museums in the last five years. [216947]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): Over the five years from 2000–01 to 2004–05, I have allocated £1.3 billion to the museums and galleries sponsored by my Department. That funding has increased from £228 million to £286 million each year, a real-terms growth of 12.5 per cent. Within the £1.3 billion, we have provided around £140 million in compensation for free admission and that has seen the number of visitors to the museums that previously charged increase by 75 per cent.

Mr. Hendrick: Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the national football museum in Preston, which is on course to triple the throughput of its visitors to 100,000? I thank the Department for the funding that it has provided through the Football Foundation, but will she confirm that the museum will be added to the section 33A list for VAT?

Tessa Jowell: I congratulate my hon. Friend, who has been an excellent advocate for the football museum. The fact that its funding is now on a stable basis is in no small part due to him. He will also understand that decisions about the VAT status of museums are a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Will the Secretary of State accept from one who agrees with free admission that the compensatory payments provided by the Government are not sufficient?

Tessa Jowell: No, I certainly do not accept that the compensation for museums and galleries is insufficient, as has been shown by funding settlements since the policy was first introduced. The policy was introduced for a clear and explicit reason: to open our museums and galleries to everyone, regardless of their background or ability to pay.

Mr. Bill O'Brien (Normanton) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is aware that many people are encouraged by the advice and information given by her Department regarding museums. Will she take note of the waterways museum, which requires further support and encouragement, because our waterways system and the culture that goes with it have a great deal to offer? Will she examine the situation of the waterways museum and give support where that is needed?

Tessa Jowell: There are ongoing discussions about the waterways museum in recognition of its importance and the excellence of its offering to the public, and I hope that they will be successfully concluded.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): While it is true that free entry has increased the number of visits to
21 Feb 2005 : Column 4
museums, it is worth pointing out that an increase in the number of visits is not the same as an increase in the number of visitors. Is it not true that the Government have inadequately compensated museums for forcing them to abolish entry charges? Only last week, staff at the Science museum went on strike, with the director blaming the Government for "consistent undervaluing and underfunding" following the abolition of entry fees. Will the Secretary of State give an assurance, as I have, that if directors and trustees of museums wish to charge visitors and if they, as professionals, want to do what they consider best for their museums, they will not be penalised for doing so?

Tessa Jowell: No, I certainly will not, for the clear reason that free entry has led to a 75 per cent. increase in the number of people going to museums that previously charged. Many such people are going for the first time ever, so we will not close our museums by excluding all people except those who can afford to pay.

3. Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough) (Lab): If she will make a statement on the role regional museums play in the education of children. [216949]

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): Regional museums play a valuable role in supporting the education of children and young people. Over the past two years, my Department, in partnership with the Department for Education and Skills, has invested more than £20 million in regional museums' education programmes.

Jeff Ennis: I am sure that the Minister is aware of the report entitled "Education Outside the Classroom" recently published by the Education and Skills Committee, on which I serve? One of its main recommendations is that all schools should appoint educational visits co-ordinators. How will the Department help to develop their role in tandem with regional museum curators?

Estelle Morris: The report produced by the Select Committee was timely because a lot of evidence now shows that learning outside school complements what happens in the classroom. It is no longer a nice optional extra, but essential to achieving the quality of education that we want to provide for our children. I tend to think that it is up to schools to decide how to deal with it, but if they think that it is appropriate to appoint a member of staff to co-ordinate visits, I am sure that, through the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and strategic commissioning programmes, together with a close relationship with our Department and the Department for Education and Skills, we would wish to help them. We want to help schools to overcome barriers to children making visits, but I hesitate to be more prescriptive about how they should do that.

Mr. Adrian Flook (Taunton) (Con): Over the next few years, Somerset county museum, which is based in Taunton, will face considerable challenges in bringing everything that it can to children, so it will have to look to the Heritage Lottery Fund. Does the Minister agree that it will no doubt make a splendid case and keep an eye open for the application when it is made?
21 Feb 2005 : Column 5

Estelle Morris: I can keep an eye open, but there is nothing that I can do about the application because it is not up to me to decide how the money is spent. If I may raise the hon. Gentleman's hopes, the HLF has already given £400 million for educational activities, so I hope that he and the museum in his constituency are assured that it regards education and heritage in museums as high priorities. I wish him well and applaud the enthusiasm with which he talks about the museum and the contribution that it might make in respect of children in his constituency.

Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware that Luton has a wonderful museum service that is one of the regional centres for the eastern region. It has first-class staff who do a wonderful job for our local children, but our museum is under pressure from funding cuts because of the recent budget set by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat council. Although I welcome the Government's extra funding for museums, will she do her best to protect them from local funding cuts?

Estelle Morris: That is infuriating when, as my hon. Friend knows, the Government are investing massive amounts in the regions. Indeed, we are the first Government to invest central Government money in the regions in that way. I applaud those local authorities that have seized the opportunity and increased their funding as well, but I deplore those that have taken the opportunity to remove money from museums. That is a picture of what would happen if the Tories ever got their hands on central Government funding.

Next Section IndexHome Page