Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Higgins: I can well understand the Government's motivation in this respect having had a number of individual cases in my earlier incarnation of people being defrauded by double-glazing companies and finding that, somehow or other, the companies had arisen from the ashes and, though their double glazing was not provided, the individuals engaged in selling it had again set up in business.

I am also well aware of the problems which may arise if a specific company engages in the practices described by the noble Lord and the employees find that, though they paid the national insurance contributions to the employer, the employer has not passed them on to the National Insurance Fund. In cases of the kind that I have pursued, the department has been quite good at immediately ensuring that the individual who paid the contributions received credit for them. I do not know therefore that in practice it is a tremendous problem.

The question is whether the director concerned should pay for the contributions which he collected and did not remit. It would be rather optimistic in such cases to suppose that the funds which the Government propose to collect under these amendments will necessarily be sufficient to pay the contributions which were not remitted. I shall return to that point in a moment.

Having said that, one cannot but have a slight sense of unease in regard to these measures since the principle of limited liability is extremely important and it would seem in these circumstances to be overridden. Therefore, those who set up a limited liability company may suddenly find that they are liable for national insurance contributions, even though the company formally ceases to exist. I do not know how many other similar cases there are where limited liability is overridden by legislation. However, this gives one a slightly odd feeling, even though one can well understand the motivation behind it.

Clearly, these are pretty draconian powers which the Government are proposing to take, even though the provision substitutes civil for criminal liability in some cases and in other cases introduces a Draconian criminal liability. I accept that it has been going on a long while and I therefore make an entirely non-partisan point.

30 Mar 1998 : Column 79

Why have those directors not been disqualified, all 850 of them, if they are known to be engaging in this practice?

The noble Baroness was kind enough to write to some of us in this regard. Apparently it is to be decided by a small, specialised, highly trained body of Contributions Agency staff liaising with the Inland Revenue over whether negligence or fraudulence is involved and, if so, which of the directors is culpable. A decision will be made on the degree of culpability in each case. That seems an extraordinarily onerous task to place upon the officials concerned. It may be that we should have a preliminary run over the amendment at this stage and return to it at Report stage.

It seems an extremely unusual exercise which the Government are proposing to undertake. We are told that there will be a full right of appeal against the decision, but I am not at all clear to whom the directors involved will appeal. It also seems that these measures are only to be imposed if someone makes a habit of it, if I may put it that way. Some directors certainly do make a habit of it. Am I to understand that there will be less stringent measures imposed on a first offence? I say that with great hesitation because I am not a lawyer, as the Committee will know. I therefore venture into this territory with many other more expert Members of the Committee. However, these are relevant questions which at this stage we should at least probe.

Lord Goodhart: I am a lawyer and I have some experience in this area. I am absolutely in support of the principle behind the amendment and strongly opposed to the way in which it is suggested it should be carried out. There is no doubt that serious abuses are being practised by these phoenix companies. Directors set up a company; run it for a certain time; take all the receipts they can obtain (they are not profits; the company usually ends up going bust); do not pay their debts; and in particular do not pay their liability for national insurance or PAYE. In those cases I have no reason whatever to disagree with the idea that those directors should be made personally liable. It is a gross abuse. Those who practise in the companies courts, as I have done to some extent, see it happening time and again and it is absolutely right that stern measures should be taken to stop it.

However, when we come to the way in which it is proposed to enact the provision, I have equally strong objections. What is taking place is a form of abuse which is well known in company law and described as either "wrongful trading" or "fraudulent trading"; that is, people who incur liabilities on behalf of their company when they know there is no reasonable prospect whatever of those liabilities being paid. One might have thought that the right course, as with other forms of wrongful or fraudulent trading, would be to send those cases, in the usual way, to be dealt with by the companies court. But what is proposed here is something completely different; namely under Clause 9, use of the adjudication procedure so that the decision will be taken initially not by the court but by some official within the Department of Social Security. The

30 Mar 1998 : Column 80

route of appeal--and this is perhaps even more extraordinary--will be not to the companies court, which is accustomed to dealing with problems of this kind and gets them day in and day out, but to the appeals tribunal. Such cases will be miles away from any other kind of case that the appeals tribunals deal with. This is completely the wrong route for dealing with such cases.

Therefore, while I am entirely in favour of the principle of hitting these directors hard, we need to do it in the right way by sending cases to a court which has experience in dealing with problems of this kind and not to a tribunal which has no experience whatever and whose ordinary cases are miles away from anything of this kind. While I do not oppose the principle, if the amendment is accepted today we feel strongly that it will be necessary to come back at Report stage to make a further amendment.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Haskel: I thank noble Lords for their comments. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, that the purpose is only to investigate one liability and not the liability of the directors as a whole in the way they ran the business if the business went into bankruptcy. It is only the question of whether they handed over the national insurance contributions. That is a matter which the adjudication procedure could handle.

Lord Goodhart: With respect to the noble Lord, I do not think you can separate the two. It is a single picture. The directors who run these companies do not pay their debts. Some of them may be national insurance, some will be PAYE, and some with be debts to private creditors. It is all part of the same picture. One cannot separate them out in that way.

Lord Haskel: These are national insurance offences concerning the non-payment of contributions. For instance, Customs and Excise have exercised a similar power in regard to penalties for VAT debts for some years. It could be modelled on much the same kind of procedure.

I thank noble Lords for their general support of the principle even though there is some disagreement as to the way in which it will be carried out. The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, asked which directors are culpable. The investigation of each director's responsibility and knowledge will be carried out so that only those shown to have acted knowingly and deliberately will be penalised. As far as concerns being able to collect money, I say to the noble Lord that one can only collect what is available. If they have spent it all or have got rid of it, one can only collect what is there.

Disqualification of directors is really a matter for the Department of Trade and Industry under company law. But disqualified directors can still work in companies and conceivably still be involved in some kind of national insurance fraud. The exact form of appeal arrangements will need to be looked at in the light of the transfer of the Contributions Agency to the Inland Revenue.

30 Mar 1998 : Column 81

The principle of limited liability, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, is not really intended to protect fraudsters and those who are seriously negligent in carrying out their responsibilities. I am sure the noble Lord agrees that people who carry out fraud should not be able to hide behind limited liability. I think I have dealt with all the points. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving this Motion, perhaps I may suggest that the Committee stage begins again not before 8.35 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

The Arts in Education

7.35 p.m.

Lord Tope rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to support the arts in education, and in particular whether they plan to offer appropriate financial support to drama students so that the future of theatre arts in Britain may be secured.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am raising this issue tonight to give the Government an opportunity both to clarify some of the confusions that have arisen in recent weeks over their policy towards the arts in schools and to give the House a progress report on the work they are doing to develop a permanent solution to the problem of funding drama, dance and stage management students.

I begin by expressing my gratitude to all those noble Lords who are to speak this evening and are thus assisting me in raising the profile of this issue, which has very serious implications for the future of theatre arts in this country.

The first problem I wish to raise centres on how we are to strike an effective balance in our national curriculum between "the three Rs" and the enriching and inspirational elements like art, music and drama. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Arts, Mr. Mark Fisher, gave an impromptu speech the other night at a reception by the Performers' Alliance and confessed that confusion had arisen because, in the same week as the Government wanted to be seen to be encouraging arts education in schools, the Secretary of State had announced that schools will not be required to follow the programmes of study for arts subjects at key stages 1 and 2. There was a widespread public impression that the Government were happy that schools ditch arts subjects. At the same time, the Chief Inspector of Schools, Chris Woodhead, appeared to say that you could not practise or appreciate art or music unless you could read or add up. Later he said that this was not what he meant, but so much of this is about perceptions, and at times the Government seem to have tied themselves up in their own "spin".

30 Mar 1998 : Column 82

We are concerned that in schools, especially in inner city or very small rural schools, where the arts have only a tentative foothold, the Secretary of State's announcement will be a signal to sideline them altogether. We are especially anxious about the role of the arts in the training of teachers. Even when an institution has a specialist interest in the arts, for example, it is usual for a complete music course to be taught in a total of nine to 11 hours over three years, and for dance and drama to be just minor parts of PE and English. It is no great surprise, therefore, and an even greater anxiety for the long term, that the number of arts graduates applying for PGCE courses is getting smaller every year.

The Secretary of State's announcement may well have had an unintended effect on funding within schools as resources are moved towards literacy and numeracy. The estimated average spend per student for subjects like art and design is just £2.70 per year. Instrumental music teaching has all but disappeared in some parts of the country.

On these Benches we have no doubt that the integrated teaching of art, music and drama feeds and enhances the teaching of literacy and numeracy. I hope the Minister will be able to come forward tonight with some practical proposals for ensuring that our schools do have a rich and balanced curriculum which will enable those with artistic talent to flourish and those who perhaps have rather less talent at least to enjoy and appreciate the arts.

I should now like to move to a more sharply focused issue, that of the funding of drama students in this country and how we can secure the long term future of theatre arts in Britain. Your Lordships will be aware that young people go to university to do academic degrees in drama and that their universities receive HEFCE funding. Those students will be entitled to means-tested help towards their payment of the £1,000 contribution to tuition fees. They will get 75 per cent. of their tuition fees paid outright by their LEA and they will have access to a subsidised student loan to help with their maintenance. However, such students may never set foot on the professional stage or on a film set.

Contrast that with the deal that we give to those students whose burning desire is to dedicate their lives to acting on stage, on television or on film. Under the Arts Council of England's interim funding scheme, we insist that students at independent drama schools, on three-year courses, persuade their LEAs to come up with a discretionary grant of £1,250. If the student lives in a cash-strapped local authority area where they can no longer afford discretionary awards, that student gets no help because, without the £1,250 "trigger", the interim funding scheme cannot pay out. What that means in practice is that, last year, only 227 of the 400 places granted to independent drama schools were taken up. The remainder of those places were taken by students who are, at this moment, battling to raise funds privately.

I have been appalled by the stories of hardship endured by young students whose struggles to fund themselves have been as horrifying as they have been

30 Mar 1998 : Column 83

heroic. It is commonplace for students to do paid work during the evening at weekends; some students have to defer entry to drama school for two years to raise the fees (which are typically running at £7,000 a year). Others have staged amateur productions, run car-boot sales and raffles, and used great imagination and enterprise to set up sponsored walks and so forth. Many keen students write hundreds of begging letters to the rich and famous.

The Development Director at LAMDA, Dominic Tickell, gives the example of one of its students, who wrote to 2,000 actors and actresses to request help in the months before he was due to start. He received enough money to help him to pay his first-year fees, but his money ran out. His health seriously deteriorated due to poor diet. By the time the drama school got him to a doctor, he was found to be suffering from malnutrition.

This is against a background where the young drama students in question work from 8.45 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. and beyond on a five-day week for 33 weeks of the year on intensive courses requiring great physical and mental activity and athlete levels of fitness. I would seriously question how many university undergraduates work that hard, and that intensively.

Before I leave these issues of hardship, perhaps I may quote from a letter written by Christopher Fettes, principal of the Drama Centre London, who says:

    "A high proportion of the students at this school survive on a hand to mouth existence owing to the generosity of a very limited number of private beneficiaries who try to ensure that they receive at least one hot meal daily and are able to help them meet basic expenses for rent, lighting, heating and transport ... Quite simply, their wretched condition is a national scandal".

I have every confidence that our deep anxieties over this situation are shared on the government Benches. We want to see dance, drama and stage management students at independent drama schools put on the same footing as university undergraduates. We are not talking of huge sums here: for example, in 1997-98 there were just 2,263 students on courses accredited by the National Council for Drama Training.

The Arts Council of England has recently published its guidelines for the final year of the interim funding scheme. May we plead with the Government to lower the level of LEA "trigger" (perhaps to the £300 level set by the Arts Council for Wales) so that more students this year can access IFS funds? Perhaps the Government could look at ways of funding drama students from within the industry itself. Michael Cashman of Equity has suggested a levy on the pre-tax profits of television companies.

Finally--here I am talking not about students, but about actors, dancers and stage managers who have qualified--perhaps I may express some concern about the impact of welfare-to-work on young actors who may be pushed into inappropriate work which stops them using their expensive training. We are talking of very little money, but it is money that would have a huge effect on the future of the theatre in Britain.

30 Mar 1998 : Column 84

7.44 p.m.

Lord Freyberg: My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to thank the noble Lord, Lord Tope, for initiating this important debate.

Britain has a well-deserved international reputation for creativity in the arts which the current Labour Administration have been quick to harness, both for their own interests and as a tool to promote Britain to the rest of the world. They are quite right to do so: the brilliance of Britain's designers, musicians, actors, artists and architects, both young and old, is inspiring and exciting. We want more of them, not fewer, and that is precisely why some of the proposals to the structure of the national curriculum worry me, because I think they will stifle creativity at children's most formative ages rather than encouraging and giving it free rein.

The arts form an essential part of a broad and balanced education, giving children subtle insights, making them aware of the achievements and evolution of their own and other cultures. History, English and geography are all part of this process. Study in the arts gives children the opportunity not only to become practitioners, but even more important, for those who have no practical talent, to enjoy and understand as spectators. Of all these subjects, the only one to be included as a core subject after the age of 14 is English.

At the moment art is compulsory part of the curriculum up to the age of 14. After that it is optional. This is, I think, regrettable, because it gives already stretched schools licence to concentrate on the core subjects to the exclusion of others; indeed it could lead to the considerable reduction, if not the actual removal, of arts subjects in a number of schools. This can only be at the expense of those pupils who are drawn more to the arts than the sciences. However much provision for maths and sciences there may be--and the desire to raise the standard in Britain is understandable--there will still be people who have no aptitude or sympathy for numbers and technical problems. They should be allowed to stretch themselves too.

Far more serious is the fact that the Secretary of State for Education and Employment is currently seeking to ease the requirements for history, geography, art, music and physical education in key stages 1 and 2--that is, for children from the age of five to 11. This would result in those subjects only being covered within a broad curriculum, perhaps by teachers who have no particular skills or training in these fields, whereas at present usefully detailed programmes of study must be followed.

Furthermore, there is an intense pressure even on primary schools to perform well in league tables. These tables only reflect pupils' competence in English, maths and science, in tests taken at the ages of seven, 11 and 14 (at the end of key stages 1, 2 and 3). Anxious to be seen in a good light, schools will understandably neglect subjects that have no effect on their standing--in other words, the arts. A survey by the Royal Society of Arts in 1995 revealed that primary school pupils spend 50 per cent. less time on art than 10 years ago and that half the teachers of craft, design and technology in all schools are unqualified in the subject they teach. Surely

30 Mar 1998 : Column 85

continuing in this direction is harmful to children rather than beneficial. We want to increase creativity, not stifle it.

Ministers have pointed out that modifying the requirements of the non-core subjects at key stages 1 and 2 will enable teachers to meet literacy and numeracy targets, and that such a move is not intended to devalue the arts, or indeed history and geography. However, this is exactly the effect such a measure will have. In addition, although literacy and numeracy are desirable and necessary, concentrating chiefly on increased ability in these areas is unlikely to improve artistic abilities, which are also an important part of a student's education. Quite the reverse; schools with good arts provision tend to have higher achieving pupils in the core subjects.

Evidence is patchy, but there is an increasing impression that participation in the arts actually improves students' performance and behaviour across the board. Kenneth Robinson, Professor of Arts Education at Warwick University has stated:

    "The arts are essential in realising the potential of individuals. They can give children some idea of success and confidence, both of which are vitamins for achievements".
In music this is known as "the Mozart effect", and has been substantiated by research. It shows that children who are given instrumental music tuition also perform well in other subjects, particularly in mathematics. The arts in general play an important role in helping to develop creative and innovating skills. These are exactly the qualities that new and expanding industries seek.

Many arts educators further believe that it is important to provide a broad and balanced curriculum in the primary years. Insisting that higher level English, maths and science must be attained at the expense of other subjects takes away pupils' chances to fulfil their potential in these spheres. Arts teaching in schools encourages a broader exposure to higher culture. It is a sad fact that while pupils at independent schools are likely to have access to costly music lessons, theatre and concert visits, children whose parents cannot afford such out-of-school activities suffer most. For them, the teaching of art subjects within the school is often their only access to them.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is shortly to advise the Secretary of State for Education on the scope of the national curriculum review. I urge him to include within the curriculum provision for pupils in art, design and the expressive arts. As the Government have recognised, the arts are not minority concerns. More people go to art galleries than to football matches. The British art market is an important financial concern. Last year's turnover was £2.2 billion while the music industry is currently valued at £1.6 billion. It would take a wilful person to ignore their importance in maintaining Britain's place among the nations.

Quite apart from money, the arts if introduced to people at school will enrich every area they encounter whatever their ability and age and continue to give pleasure, one hopes, for the rest of their lives. There is also difficulty in tertiary education. The study of fine and applied arts in further education also has special

30 Mar 1998 : Column 86

requirements, which the scrapping of discretionary awards for foundation courses by a majority of local education authorities in recent years has failed to recognise. Only 2 per cent. of students wishing to take art or design degrees get in straight from school. The rest attend a foundation course where they try out a range of disciplines, choosing one in which to specialise for their degree courses. Few of these disciplines will have been encountered before--even more so now that there is less emphasis on craft-based skills in schools.

This change in support for foundation students will encourage many students to go straight on to a degree course from school without discovering in advance whether or not they have a real aptitude for that particular discipline. It will also prohibit many less well-off families from pursuing a career in the arts. The London Institute which includes the capital's five major art colleges has found financial hardship to be a major factor in the decision by students from poorer families to withdraw from both foundation and degree courses.

It is harder all round for art students not to incur large debts which the very nature of their profession ensures they have little chance of paying off. Unlike the lawyer, banker or doctor, most arts graduates will never earn a regular salary. A recent survey by the Institute for Employment Studies of arts and conservation students found that one in three graduates in art and design were self-employed against a national average of less than 1 per cent. in the general graduate population. The report also discovered that making a living from the arts labour market was particularly hard for newcomers. Only 17 per cent. of graduates earn more than £15,000 a year and the majority are in the £10,000 to £15,000 band.

I am sure it is inadvertent, but by downplaying the role of the arts in schools the present Government have been discouraging the study of art and the importance of creativity at both school and tertiary level. I therefore beg them to examine the effect such schemes will have in the long term.

7.53 p.m.

Lord Colwyn: My Lords, I have listened with great interest to the first two speeches this evening, although I had some difficulty in keeping up with the previous speaker. I look forward to reading his speech in Hansard tomorrow and hope that the reporters did not have similar difficulty. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I widen the field and make particular reference to music. I am aware that many students and organisations involved in the teaching of arts looked forward to the new Labour Government.

In his preface to the Labour Party's Strategy for a Cultural Policy the Prime Minister said,

    "the arts and cultural industries help define who we are as a nation. They enrich our quality of life and create a thriving society. They have enormous economic benefits and bring enjoyment to millions and for far too long arts and culture have stood outside the mainstream, their potential unrecognised in Government. It has to change and under Labour it will".
It has changed, but not in the way expected. The Secretary of State for Education has announced that arts and music will no longer have an official place in the

30 Mar 1998 : Column 87

primary school curriculum. As both previous speakers have said, this decision has been justified to make more time for improvements in numeracy and literacy, but authoritative studies has shown that involving students in music increases their overall ability. The booklet produced by the Music Education Council, Music Industries Association and National Music Council The fourth 'R'--the Case for Music in the School Curriculum--I remind the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that there are four Rs, the fourth being rhythm--highlights research from several countries which shows that young people who are taught music in schools have increased memory and reasoning capacity, improvements in participatory and time management skills and, importantly, eloquence. This change in emphasis which downgrades music and other arts subjects in the primary curriculum will mirror the same disastrous effect which is now being revealed as a result of the decimation of the Instrumental Teaching Services and Theatre in Education.

I am sure that the Minister will remind us of the initiatives whereby musical instruments and tuition are now being funded from the lottery, but experts do not believe that these will compensate for the excellent local authority schemes and free lessons which existed 15 to 20 years ago. Actors and dancers have fared no better. A mandatory grant system should have been put in place for those wishing to study these subjects rather than make them rely on the discretion of the local authority.

The attempt to provide financial assistance with funds from the lottery linked to local authority discretionary payments will not encourage authorities who do not already make discretionary grants to do so now. I hope that the Minister will be able to say that a permanent replacement for the interim funding scheme for dance and drama students can be introduced so that many talented young people will not be deterred from entering drama school. As the noble Lord, Lord Tope, has said, another deterrent to arts education is the replacement of grants for higher education and performance studies by £1,000 per year tuition fees and maintenance payments that will need to be repaid by way of loans. This will be particularly difficult for young musicians who have to buy expensive instruments. Unless the Government can come up with a solution to these problems, actors, dancers and musicians who all work in an insecure and low-paid profession, will have additional burdens placed upon them which may well deter many from entering the arts.

Finally, I should like to make a few comments on one particular aspect of music; namely, jazz. I declare an interest in that I am a mediocre performer. I intended to produce my trumpet this evening but the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, informed me that props were not allowed. I am also joint-chairman of the Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group. Many music students study and perform jazz. The jazz policy of the Arts Council of Great Britain published in November 1996 recognised the importance of jazz and its inadequate profile in the UK:

    "In the last 30 years, many British Jazz musicians have established themselves as original voices within the global evolution of jazz. Their work is well documented and the stature of their

30 Mar 1998 : Column 88

    achievements acknowledged by their colleagues and audiences abroad. However, there has been insufficient opportunity in this country for this important contribution to world music to be fully recognised by audiences and for the work to be adequately profiled in Britain".

I bring this to the Minister's attention as it is only rarely possible in debates in this House to draw the Government's attention to the wealth of talent that this country has with its established and young jazz musicians. The parliamentary group has often brought the inadequacies of the Licensing Act 1964, which discriminates against the performance of live music, to the attention of Ministers. Currently on licensed premises, a landlord can provide wall-to-wall TV and reproduce any amount of recorded sound at any given level of decibels but he or she cannot employ more than two live performers. To give an example of the inequality of current legislation and to show the absurdity of it, if Robbie Williams and Louise were to perform on licensed premises without an entertainment licence the vast numbers of people who might attend would probably infringe fire, health and safety regulations and cause a local nuisance, but it would be legal. If a jazz quartet were to play in the same place to a modest audience the landlord would be in breach of the Licensing Act. That has been brought to the attention of the Home Office on many occasions, with the response that it hopes to be in a position to issue a paper in the near future.

That has a connection with music in education, for students need to perform and to have places to perform. I hope that the Minister will bring the problem to the attention of her right honourable friends so that the Act may be modernised. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tope, for introducing our debate, the Musicians' Union for its notes on the subject, and apologise for my slight deviation to jazz. I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply.

8.2 p.m.

Lord Rix: My Lords, because of my background, no doubt noble Lords believe that I will concentrate on entry into the theatre through the conventional, but hard-pressed route, of drama college. I have a confession to make: I never went to drama college. I developed a love of the theatre through plays at school, through amateur work with my mother, who ran the local dramatic society, and then through having to fill in 10 months' deferred service from aircrew training in 1942. It was not difficult to get a job and an Equity card, for in those days young actors were in great demand and the only ones available were too young for military service, unfit for military service or what was euphemistically known as temperamentally unsuited for military service.

I am happy to say that I was too young for military service, so when that great barnstorming actor-manager, Donald Wolfit, was playing at the New Theatre in my home town of Hull, I knocked on his door, acquainted him of my availability, was taken on stage to declaim my audition piece, which was Robert Service's North Country poem, Bessie's Boil which I had recited for my mother at a troop concert the previous Sunday at the Floral Hall, Hornsea. The description of such a large,

30 Mar 1998 : Column 89

inflamed swelling on Bessie's nether regions assured me of a job in "Hamlet", "King Lear", "Twelfth Night" and "Midsummer Night's Dream". No, I cannot claim any special relationship with drama colleges.

I can, however, remind your Lordships that we produce many of the finest actors in the world, and very few have the privilege of such an easy entry into an overcrowded profession as I. They have to be proficient in every aspect of theatre arts--speech, movement, song, dance, classic and modern plays, tragedy, comedy, farce--as well as being proficient in front of cameras, both cinematic and televisual.

Managers, producers, directors--both in the theatre and cinema--expect the highest levels of competence in all aspects of an actor's armoury, and that can only be provided by first-class training. Furthermore, the desire for,

    "a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage",
to become that "poor player" (in wealth not in talent, I hasten to add) is often engendered at school and how sad it is--nay, tragic--that our young are often now denied the joys of drama classes and visits to see work in progress or the finished product upon the stage. As the noble Lord, Lord Tope, stressed, Theatre in Education is an invaluable service. It can be used to deal with special needs such as languages. It can raise awareness about social issues such as drugs abuse, racism and violence, with results that traditional forms of teaching could never match and, through lack of funding, it is in danger of collapse.

Already 15 counties have no TIE company. Means must be found to enable all local authorities to provide a universal TIE service. The Government's stress on "Education, Education, Education," is laudable--if somewhat repetitive (obeying the comedic rule of three)--but the Government must remember that education draws more widely than simple literacy and numeracy. In fact, drama education can transcend most facets of the "three R's".

I am assured by British Actors' Equity (of which I am now, in my "last scene of all", a Life Member) that the Minister is in fact--and I quote--

    "doing something about dance and drama training."
I am sure that your Lordships would like to know exactly what that is, when the Minister replies. I hope that the Minister can assure your Lordships that the Government are heeding the advice of the Dearing Report and about to implement a workable, durable and all-embracing replacement for the interim funding scheme, and that any such scheme will leave all dance and drama students on accredited courses at least as well off as students at the music conservatoires. It would pay dividends.

According to my information, supplied by the National Council for Drama Training, music students are entitled to mandatory funding from LEAs while drama and dance students are not. That is clearly a grossly unfair anomaly, arising from the decline in discretionary funding as a result of local authority spending restrictions. Furthermore, central government funding for the music courses reflects the low student-staff ratio that is required for intensive music

30 Mar 1998 : Column 90

tuition; drama and dance do not require that. Indeed, one of my happiest experiences in the theatre during the past few years was seeing a second-year student production of "Chorus Line" performed by the Guildford School of Acting. At least three dozen aspiring young artistes sang and danced their hearts out with huge enthusiasm and daunting talent. And the staff involved to create this joyous occasion? Exactly four: one director, one choreographer, one musical director, one stage manager--a ratio which no music conservatoire could possibly match.

I can envisage a cynical member of your Lordships' House--should there be such in a House which generally shows that cynicism is not a feature of maturity--wondering why I should want to encourage young actors and dancers when so many of those who have done their aspiring are unemployed. My point is that unless we promote training, those who make it to the stage may tend to be those with money or with luck, and not necessarily those with talent.

That leads me to my final point. One of the discoveries of recent years has been the acting, dancing and singing talent of people with disabilities, including people with learning disabilities. In the excellent debate on the arts instituted by the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, on 18th March, your Lordships may recall the noble Lord, Lord Renton, making this point when he was good enough to say something on this issue in my enforced absence. Some of your Lordships may have seen the excellent work of one or other of the groups of people with disabilities or pan-disabled and non-disabled actors. A number of them have performed in our major auditoria. It is even harder for this group to get started and I am glad to say that Mencap's Dilston College in Northumberland has ambitious plans for what we hope will be the first regional theatre and arts centre, then a national and international centre--and learning base--accessible to all disabled people, to non-disabled people and the local community as a whole. I shall be taking the liberty of providing the Minister with further details in due course.

It is good that being on the stage and both getting--and giving--pleasure is no longer restricted to those physically able to make their exits and their entrances with consummate ease. I hope that the lack of funds, at present bedevilling the theatre and its adherents, will not limit the opportunity to those who possess personal resources, luck or physical and mental dexterity. If given the opportunity, many men, and women, until recently considered beyond the pale will, in their time, play many parts.

My Lords,

    "perchance you wonder at this show; But wonder on, till truth make all things plain".

8.7 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, that is a hard speech to follow. So, if I may, I shall switch away to my noble friend Lady Thomas who reminded me that last week we saw the finals of the BBC's young musician of the year awards in which five brilliant young musicians showed their skills and their talent which had been nurtured when music was an integral

30 Mar 1998 : Column 91

part of the education system. I shall not repeat the same kind of irritable speech I made on 18th March. But can we expect in years to come the same quality of musicians if we just rest on our laurels and go the disastrous way, as seems to be happening, of taking music out of the primary school curriculum?

I turn now to drama about which I know a little more. I have no business at all in an education debate because I am hardly educated. I was well educated until the war. I was five at the outbreak of war. I was only well educated because I went to a school where the teacher was new and I was the only pupil. I was then dragged around without any schooling for several years by my dear mother who was charming and affectionate but had rather strange ideas about education. After the war, because my behaviour was crude and she thought it was about time that we conformed, I was sent to a prim middle-class--if I may use that unfashionable term--preparatory school for boys where I had to catch up on five years of lost work. I became temperamentally unsuited to school, rather like the soldiers mentioned by my noble friend.

The one person who came to my rescue was an excellent English master found to have been temperamentally unsuited to armed service. He taught us by reading the novels of John Buchan. As a result I have long been an admirer of John Buchan and many other authors, too. He made me an avid reader. I moved up in the school and had another English teacher who was keen on drama and wrote excellent children's plays. As I had been dragged around by my mother so as not to notice too much of what was going on--a lot of it I did not want to see--I read a great deal and listened to plays on the BBC. I was educated mainly by books, magazines, comics and the BBC.

My involvement in drama enabled me to overcome all my anti-social habits because immediately I found something that I could do. I could speak relatively clearly, I was not clumsy; I did not knock anything over; and I had the great satisfaction of putting in the shade certain boys who were academically better. I have no wish to boast, but they were very bad indeed.

That experience straightened me out. I managed to pass the normal entrance examination to a public school and live through that dreadful period, again clinging to the raft of drama. It helped again, except that my tutor in the school insisted that in the evenings new boys read plays out loud. I had no problems reading out loud; but the trouble was that the plays were always those of Galsworthy. Galsworthy is a dramatist I hate, but I have realised in recent years--I did not see television at the time--that like many second-rate dramatists his plays make good television material. It is rather like poor books making good films.

Having struggled through that experience, I found myself in the Army. As a matter of fact, I was not temperamentally unsuited to National Service. No drama, of course--although there was enough going on around me--but I nevertheless became stage struck. I was attracted to theatre and drama, and eventually found myself working as a junior in the

30 Mar 1998 : Column 92

office of a theatrical agent. I was hired mainly to look after the film side of the business. A company of actors would be looking for work and were out to meet casting directors and watch films being made. However, during the dark days of the winter I had to cover the drama schools.

The drama schools are interesting. The noble Lord, Lord Rix, will correct me, but, in terms of the theatre, drama students do not show their talent until later. I never wanted to be an actor because my mother would not have permitted me back through the front door. She was the daughter of an actor and could not bear them. At school acting is an escape. It allows one to communicate and develop social skills which have not previously been encouraged. What transports you from that stage to the drama school? When I was covering the drama schools, selection was based on a feeling that would-be students were enthusiastic, physically strong, had a good memory and were not completely mad. Many of the great actors who have emerged from that time were completely mad and some at that time did not complete the course. As the noble Lord, Lord Rix, said, many of the greatest actors did not go to drama school. I suggest that they were temperamentally unsuited!

It is no accident that many dyslexic children are drawn to the theatre. They can use the skills which compensate for their lack of reading skills. We should not ignore children who have had a difficult time. My childhood was not so difficult; many children have very difficult times. Drama is excellent for them and for our weaker brethren, particularly from inner city areas, and I hope that the Government will encourage it. When preparing for this speech, I spoke to a teacher who recently began teaching drama in an inner city school. He started with the younger children and said that the older ones who had missed the lessons ask, "Why couldn't we have done that? It would have taught us so much and would have been helpful in going out into the world and getting jobs."

I see that my time is up. I apologise for being somewhat anecdotal and reminiscing. So much was said by my noble friend, and I have enjoyed the debate very much.

8.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I have greatly enjoyed the debate so far, certainly the idiosyncratic education of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, and the self-effacement of my noble friend Lord Colwyn who described himself as a mediocre jazz player. I do not know whether anyone in the House has heard my noble friend play, but I would not describe him as mediocre.

First, I apologise for omitting to put my name on the speakers' list until today. I had thought that it was down and I admit that I am culpable. Secondly, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tope, for introducing this important and timely debate. I was proud and privileged to be a new Member of this House when the national curriculum was introduced. I remember

30 Mar 1998 : Column 93

the intensive debate about its prescription and the number of subjects which should be included. From the outset, I considered that the inclusion of music, art and drama, which fell within another subject, was most important. I have no difficulty defending that decision. Many practical activities are important; for instance, painting, drawing, sculpting, pottery, design, working with many different materials, understanding texture and textiles, drama through the English curriculum, experience of acting, stage management and stage drama production, the appreciation of art and music and an awareness and knowledge of museums and galleries.

The arguments which the Minister has used since the disapplication of the national curriculum in these areas are not strong. The subjects will continue to be taught, as the Government expect, but if the obligation to do so is removed there is no guarantee of that. More importantly, less imaginative schools will meet their obligations to the letter under the literacy and numeracy programmes, but will not use art, music and drama to enliven their teaching. That will be the saddest thing of all because the most vulnerable children in those schools will be disappointed. I find the disapplication of those subjects most disappointing.

No one who has spoken tonight will argue with the importance of reading and writing. I am on record as saying almost too many times--I am not sure that one can say it too many times--that reading is the cornerstone of all learning. Literacy and numeracy are helped by using art, drama and music as educational vehicles to improve achievement and attainment in those subjects.

Ministers underestimate how such skills can be addressed through such practical subjects. That point was made so well by other noble Lords tonight. Drama helps with confidence building, the development of speech and its use in reading with comprehension, expression and so much more. Music helps with co-ordination, computation, team work and basic arithmetic. The therapeutic effect of music and drama, particularly on less able children and adults and those with disabilities and, more importantly, on disturbed young people and adults, is well established.

When replying to a question last week, the noble Baroness dismissed transport costs as not being very significant for schools in rural areas. Those schools which make visits to the theatre or museums or galleries have a very real difficulty in meeting transport costs. The equivalent of 20p or so on every gallon of petrol is an aspect of finance which they cannot ignore.

I want to refer to another aspect which has not been mentioned so far in the debate today; that is, money for the arts and heritage from the national lottery. That will reduce as a result of changes to the lottery introduced by the National Lottery Bill. As we know, funds are to be diverted to health, education and the environment from the five originally stated causes. We know that that will cause real anxiety not just in the voluntary sector but for bodies within the

30 Mar 1998 : Column 94

arts and heritage which are expecting that money to flow to them as one-fifth of each of the allocations of the national lottery monies.

In its manifesto, the Labour party pledged:

    "Labour has already proposed a new millennium commission to commence after"
and this is important,

    "the closure of the Millennium Exhibition, to provide direct support for a range of education, environment and public health projects, including those directed at children's play, currently excluded from lottery benefit".
Not only has the principle of additionality been breached but the pre-emption of funds which will now take place ahead of the millennium fund being wound up, by creating a sixth fund, will cause grave anxieties. Many of those bodies which are out there working with young people, particularly with less able people, children with disabilities and some working with adults in the community, will lose out as a result of losing that proportion of money which will go towards the sixth new cause.

As an interloper in the debate, I shall not abuse the indulgence of the House by speaking for too long. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, mentioned in some detail his concern about students who wish to go on to study art, drama and music. I look forward to hearing what the noble Baroness has to say on policy and proposals to assist students who wish to study dance and/or drama.

8.22 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tope, for initiating what has been a most enjoyable debate. It has been marked by high-speed delivery but also, I admit, by admirably clear enunciation. It has raised a number of important issues about the arts in education and future support for dance and drama students. I, too, may have to go quite quickly in order to cover what I wish to say in the short time available to me. But I am very grateful for the very well-informed contributions to the debate although I, too, am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, was not able to play his trumpet in the Chamber.

None of us taking part in the debate needs reminding of the great importance of the arts to our lives, to our culture and to our prosperity. Exposure to the richness, creativity and diversity of the arts helps to shape our individual and national characteristics. I believe in that passionately. One side of my family is full of theatre people. Indeed, my mother, unlike that of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, was an actress. I have been personally involved for many years in dance, especially in classical ballet.

The Government places great importance on the role of the arts in education. That is demonstrated in our provision and plans for education at every stage. I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that I do not believe there is any confusion about it. The diversity of the arts, and the need to cater for the special interests and talents of individuals of all ages provides both a challenge and an opportunity for those responsible for education. The Government's response has been to

30 Mar 1998 : Column 95

make provision for people to pursue the arts within mainstream education and through a range of specialist provision. We are committed to providing an education which gives an appreciation and understanding of the arts to all as part of compulsory education. That is absolutely as it should be.

In our manifesto we undertook,

    "to review the scale and quality of all courses which serve our cultural industries and to identify ways in which existing budgets can be spent more effectively to achieve higher quality, better targeted training".
Acting decisively on that commitment we have set up the Creative Industries Task Force and the National Advisory Committee for Creative and Cultural Education, agreed a review of performing arts in higher education, planned a National Endowment for Science and the Arts (NESTA) and made a public commitment to long term government funding to replace the interim funding scheme for dance and drama students. I will return to some of these.

First, I would like to outline the arrangements for the arts in schools. As noble Lords will know, art and music are compulsory national curriculum subjects for all pupils between the ages of 5 and 14. The Secretary of State announced in January that in order to allow primary schools to provide the necessary focus on literacy and numeracy in the vital early years--and I am grateful for the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, in that regard--the detailed statutory requirements of six subjects, including music and art, would be lifted. But I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, and the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, schools must still teach all national curriculum subjects and requirements to teach art and music in secondary schools remain unchanged. After Easter, the QCA will be issuing guidance to primary schools on how to ensure abroad and balanced curriculum.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, that because we are committed to creativity in our schools, the Secretary of State has asked the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education, chaired by Professor Ken Robertson, to make recommendations on how we might identify, encourage and nurture creativity in our young people. The committee will be taking a close look at the arts in schools as part of its work.

For exceptionally talented children of school age, we shall go on maintaining the music and ballet scheme at specialist independent schools. The five music schools and three ballet schools currently participating in the scheme provide intensive specialist training alongside a broad and balanced academic curriculum. Those schemes have produced some of our most outstanding performers.

Our colleges and universities face the challenge of meeting the learning needs of students who will go into the performing arts and entertainment industries. The range and nature of employment in the arts is diverse. It includes working environments as different as the Globe Theatre, night clubs, cruise liners, holiday camps, music publishers and the Royal Ballet. As with all competitive sectors the standards necessary for success are high.

30 Mar 1998 : Column 96

In 1996-97 FE colleges reported: art, design and the performing arts and media studies as the third largest of the FEFC's ten programme areas; 15 per cent. growth in enrolments in art and design; over 6,500 students on national diploma courses in performing arts; just over 1,000 on popular music courses including, I expect, some jazz; and almost 1,500 on the first diploma in performing arts. In total, over 9,000 students, mainly full-time, were enrolled for arts courses.

The new GNVQ in the performing arts and entertainment industries is currently being piloted and there are 822 students enrolled in schools and colleges. There are nearly 6,500 students doing GCE A-levels in drama, music or dance in schools and colleges.

I turn next to higher education, there are a number of dance and drama courses which qualify for public funding in our universities. There are also a limited number of specifically designated courses at private dance and drama schools. All are eligible for fee and maintenance support through the mandatory awards system. And over £18 million is allocated by the funding council in teaching funds to the specialist institutions providing dance and drama courses in England as well as to the music conservatoires. This funding will support the education of over 2,800 students next year. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, was a little hard on students studying these courses, many of whom will not become performers. Of course some of them will, but others will become teachers of either dance or drama in secondary schools or elsewhere.

The particular contribution made by specialist institutions has been recognised by the panel chaired by Sir Stewart Sutherland, whose recommendations resulted in additional funding for those specialist schools where there is evidence of higher costs being incurred. The HEFCE has also recently published a review of the music conservatoires under an advisory group chaired by Sir John Tooley. Again, the valuable contribution made by them to both the higher education sector and the country as a whole was acknowledged in the report.

Before turning to future funding for drama students, I want to mention briefly the work of the Creative Industries Task Force. This interdepartmental body has been working to identify ways of maximising the economic impact of British goods and services in the creative sector. As the noble Lord, Lord Freyburg, suggested, this is an increasingly important sector in the British economy. Among the initial areas that it is considering are how to encourage the teaching of creativity in primary and secondary schools; how to go about training creative people in business management; and how to encourage businesses to invest in training for craft skills.

I turn now to the Government's plans to support drama students. We recognise the importance of education and training for dance, drama and stage management and are pleased to be supporting the interim funding scheme which was introduced by the Arts Council of England last year. This set out to provide assistance with tuition fees for students in dance, drama or stage management courses at

30 Mar 1998 : Column 97

independent schools approved under the scheme. It will be available for eligible students not only in this academic year but also in the next two. I am aware that local authority expenditure on discretionary awards has been declining and that there are vast differences in the availability of support between authorities. All students, not just drama and dance students, have been affected by the situation. That is why we are planning to replace that scheme by new and more effective arrangements, about which we will be able to say more later when Councillor Lane has completed his report.

I return now to the interim scheme. During its first year it is supporting some 580 students with the cost of their fees and 232 of those students are studying drama. The scheme is supported by 66 per cent. of local authorities, including some which have not previously supported awards in this area. I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Rix, that we are also responding to the Dearing recommendation that permanent arrangements for the equitable support of dance, drama and stage management students should be provided to replace the interim scheme when it expires. We have initiated the work that is necessary to take this forward. I am most grateful to both the dance and drama sectors for their co-operation and support.

My department and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are now working with the sector, the funding councils and others to replace the Interim Funding Scheme. A new permanent scheme will target the most promising students with potential to become performers or to make a significant contribution in other ways to the performing arts--for example, as directors. We will ensure that these students are able to complete their courses irrespective of their family financial circumstances and we will build on the progress and understanding gained from the Interim Funding Scheme in developing new arrangements.

The Government hope to be able to announce the new arrangements this summer, with a view to implementing them in 1999. We are determined that students with talent in these very important art forms should receive the support that they deserve. The last thing we want is for them to live in wretched conditions.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page