§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)
I beg to move,That this House congratulates Her Majesty's Government on their statement, A Policy for the Arts, and in particular would welcome encouragement being given to local authorities to co-ordinate more effectively their programmes for the support of the arts on a regional basis.I move this Motion with particular pleasure because it is not often in the House that we have the opportunity of discussing, more than very briefly, a matter of this sort, although many of us accept the point that the future of the arts is a matter of real importance to our whole standard of living. I move this Motion of congratulation on the White Paper which was presented to the House a short time ago all the more willingly because I feel that at this time there could have been many excuses adduced as to why it might be difficult to make suggestions for the development and support for the arts than previous Administrations have adduced from time to time.
Therefore, I welcome the Government's White Paper. I welcome it as proof that this Administration regards the support of the arts as a vital element of our whole standard of living, and that part of the reason for our economic drive in our great attempt to improve our economic situation is partly in order that people should have the wider opportunity of self-expression and of taking part in the whole range of activities in the arts which, so often in the past, has been denied them. So far from the arts being regarded as some sort of fringe benefit which one throws in if there happens to be some kind of financial surplus, this is something which is understood today to be an essential part of our standard of living.
It is true that this whole question of opportunity for enjoyment of the arts is taking on a new character today, because, as many people have pointed out, we are moving into a period when opportunities for leisure and its enjoyment are becoming very much more widespread than they have ever been in the past. This brings great advan- 232 tages, and, if one likes, some dangers with it. One could say that there are the dangers that increased leisure may be purely exploited by commercial elements and concerned purely with a mass audience, and that, so far from widening the range of opportunities of participation and expression, we might find it not so much widened but narrowed if some influences were to have their full head.
It is not that I would wish in any way to deny the right of commercial ventures to play their full part in the arts, but rather that one should recognise that if one relies on these particular elements to develop alone one is not likely to give the kind of range of opportunity which, I think, most of us want to see. It is obvious, considering the cost of providing professional entertainment—particularly in the fine arts—that a subsidy of one form or another is absolutely vital.
It is nonsense to imagine that this situation has ever been very different. All that has changed is the character of the people providing the subsidy. Whereas, in the past, a great deal of financial provision came from private sources, today more and more call is being made on the public sector for support. While there is no reason to imagine that there is anything new in this financial aspect, because of the danger about which I spoke we must do all we can to see that the public sector plays its full part in ensuring that this and future generations are not denied the opportunities they should have.
When the Local Government Act, 1948, was introduced, 17 years ago, by the late Aneurin Bevan, local authorities were empowered for the first time to spend from their rate funds on the development of entertainment and the arts. It was hoped at that time that local authorities would take great advantage of those powers, but, unfortunately, that has not occurred. Very modest use indeed has been made of the provisions of that Act. While some local authorities have used them, many have not. It is a pity that we have had to wait all this time—from the passing of that Act until today—to have a new announcement of intent from the Government and an appreciation by them of the importance of this matter.
233 Most hon. Members will welcome not only the White Paper presented by my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Jennie Lee), but also her appointment. It was, in our view, a most suitable appointment and we are pleased that it has been arranged for her to play a special part and accept responsibility for the development of the arts. I say that in the widest sense in relation to her position in the Department of Education and Science. I regard my hon. Friend as a link between the Government and the arts.
It should be remembered that in their education policy the Government have recognised the importance of providing education for the whole population and not for an exclusive group, clique, or section. It is important that the artistic needs of the whole community are catered for and not just the needs of an isolated section of it.
If some hon. Members opposite would cease their chattering we might make rather better progress, for I am sure that other hon. Members wish to express their views.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
Is it not rather stretching things a bit to bring partisanship into art?
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
It depends on what one regards as partisanship. I am expressing a point of view which is widely held. If the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members disagree with it, they are entitled to do so and to express their own views. I was getting rather worried about the hon. Gentleman's verbal diarrhoea.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
The hon. Gentleman said that nothing had been done by the Government—that no Government statement had been made—since the passage of the 1948 Act. Is he not aware of the many pamphlets, White Papers and declarations of policy which have been published and the debates which have taken place since 1948, as well as the whole feeling that has been developed towards the arts? Is he not being rather too partisan?
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
I said that we had had to wait all this time for a general statement of policy about the whole of the arts. I am only too well aware of the propositions that have been made in 234 the past, including those concerning the National Theatre and such enterprises as the Festival Hall, although such propositions have been sneered at in certain quarters.
I appreciate that those and other steps were taken by former Administrations and by the London County Council, now the Greater London Council. Indeed, such propositions covered the Arts Council itself and made arrangements for the necessary financial provisions. I recognise the activities of former Administrations, but I do not think that it can be denied that we have now had the first general statement of policy covering the Government's attitude towards the arts as a whole since the introduction of the 1948 Act.
I particularly stress the importance of our not thinking about the artistic needs of only a small and limited section of the community. The Government are thinking in terms of the community as a whole. If that is partisanship, I am being partisan. This activity on the part of the Government is clearly in line with the policy they are following in education generally. It is logical that there should be a link between the Government and education and the arts. It is equally logical that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary should have special responsibility for the arts.
I also stress the importance of our realising that since there are wider leisure opportunities for the community to take an interest in the arts, we should not leave the arts purely for commercial exploitation. Flowing naturally from this is something which has received vigorous and effective comment in the Press recently. It is the whole question of the use and display of the arts in their widest sense. There was, for example, a vigorous and interesting article in the Observer last Sunday in which Ian Nairn commented on the situation in all too many of our museums and art galleries. There has been a considerable investigation into this matter and we must pay credit to the museums and art galleries which have made, or have attempted to make, real advances with the small funds at their disposal.
However, we are not concerned solely with museums and art galleries. Professor Hugh Hunt said the other day that we should not be surprised if the number of young people showing an interest in the 235 live theatre today is not as great as we might wish if we are content with the conditions which prevail in many theatres and centres which provide for the arts. I welcome the new developments which have been taking place, but it has always seemed strange to me that we have in the past looked upon many of our centres of entertainment—concert halls, theatres, and so on—in a rather puritanical way. We have tended to think of these centres as providing merely for the events which take place. We have not thought sufficiently about the provision of other facilities, for example, to enable people to meet and discuss the arts in these centres before or after the concert, play or whatever it might be has taken place.
For these reasons, a new view towards the arts on the part of the Government is essential and the terms of the White Paper indicate that such a view is now being taken. We are beginning to realise that the community as a whole should be able to take advantage of the entertainment provided by the arts and the live theatre.
What are the major needs? First, we must remedy the present lack of adequate information. Very little research worthy of the name has been done, although I realise that some new investigations are now taking place. It is extraordinary, for example, how little we know about the make-up of audiences, whether for the theatre or for concerts and about the composition of the attendance at exhibitions at art galleries and in other centres.
We also know very little about how many of those trained professionally as artistes are able to pursue their interests and get work in their own sphere. I recognise that the B.B.C. has shown some initiative in this respect, and that it hopes, with others, to set on foot some inquiries, but it is rather deplorable that we should have had to wait for so long for such investigations to be undertaken.
I hope that among other immediate needs my hon. Friend will take a special interest in training opportunities for living artistes. A good deal is already being done there, although it may be argued that more still needs doing. A good deal of this work is being done in the visual arts and music but very much less for the drama. Practically nothing is 236 being done for the film—that is being omitted almost altogether. We need at least one effective training school for film techniques. That might well be closely linked with the visual arts and other techniques, and it also has obvious links with television requirements. There are great opportunities for training developments in connection with the Youth Theatre. Experiments have shown the very exciting possibilities that exist, and it is unfortunate that we have not been able to give as much support in this direction as should have been given.
Professional employment is very important. There is no point in training facilities if we are not clear about what opportunities there will be for those who have had training to employ their skills. In this connection, we can look to an enormous range of potential employers to find out whether sufficient encouragement is being given. Among the most obvious are the television authorities—B.B.C. and I.T.A. There is also sound radio. Again, a certain amount is being done here, but it saddens me to see everywhere so much studio space not used to give professional theatre and music groups an opportunity of performing. I know that this cannot be a blanket condemnation, but I also know how much this lack of proper opportunity affects the possibility of recruiting new professional groups in the provinces, who otherwise, naturally enough, look to London as the only source of potential employment.
I welcome the new work that the B.B.C. is doing with its Third Programme, and its recruitment of and assistance in training young musicians. Local authorities, too, have a very much bigger part to play than they have played up to date. I do not think here purely in terms of direct employment of artistes—although much can be done there—but of indirect support. The 1948 Act enabled local authorities to spend up to the product of a 6d. rate in support, as the Act declared, of entertainment, and there was specific reference to music and the theatre, but it is doubtful whether more than, perhaps, the product of a ¾d. rate is spent. There are exceptions, and I pay tribute to some local authorities who spend a great deal more.
237 The Act also allows local authorities to spend larger sums if revenue is produced. There are authorities, such as the Bournemouth Corporation, which make a profit by running entertainment and use some of the surplus to offer subsidies to orchestras——
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
The hon. Gentleman seeks to indicate that the present Government's policy will in some way make these backward authorities spend more. Perhaps he can elaborate that point, and show how the present Government's policy will make any difference to authorities which have hitherto determined not to spend the money.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will possess his soul in patience. I intend to show ways in which the present Administration will be able to encourage local authorities to do mare than they are already doing. I was trying to be fair to local authorities by saying that not only can they spend up to a 6d. rate, but that some can and do make use of funds they acquire by running very profitable forms of entertainment. It is highly desirable that they should do so, and more are following their example.
Again, it should be naturally assumed by local authorities and the central Government that major redevelopments in cities and urban areas, in new housing schemes, in larger school buildings—or hospital buildings, for that matter—should include provision for something of beauty. The living artiste should be expected to make a proper contribution. It should be assumed as natural that the artiste has a place in the whole developing life of the new communities. It has all too often been true in the past that such provision has been struck out of estimates by Governments, frankly, of different colours. I should like to see a Government who asked questions if provision was not made for some contribution by living artistes in the form of sculpture, painting, or other ways. At the moment, so much of what goes into our new construction gets in by a side wind. Perhaps a well-intentioned architect manages to make some kind of provision from the sums of money available to him, but it is not done by direct, open provision.
238 I welcome the statement of my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General that his Department intends to purchase original works of living artists for display in some post offices, and elsewhere. I wish that could become very much more general, and one would also welcome it in industry. In some of the larger new building schemes industry does give opportunity to new artists, but I should like to see that practice become much more general, and almost automatic.
Equally, this activity should be extended to the trade unions, Co-operative societies, and the rest. There is no reason why they should not be expected, with everyone else, to make some contribution. I am glad that the T.U.C. has for some time set aside small funds for the purchase of works of art by young artists, and I would be delighted if it became the common thing for such works to be shown in trade union offices, replacing some of the exhibitions that may appear there at present.
I should regard this as a general feature which should be a normal thing in our way of life. We might have far more exhibitions of art in central new towns as they develop. Equally and naturally, the universities would be expected to play a big part, particularly with new ideas and experiments. There will always be the opportunity for amateur societies, music societies and others, to encourage, as they have in the past, professional artistes to play in concerts and other performances.
Another matter with which I hope the Minister will be concerned is the traditional field of the work of the Arts Council in attempting to maintain the highest possible standards in the arts. The Arts Council can be complimented on the work it has done with very restricted resources. I appreciate this very much. I, and I am sure many others, have from time to time criticised and attacked the Arts Council and I shall no doubt continue to do so. I see the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) opposite. She has played a major part in criticism of the Arts Council on occasions. Many of the criticisms, however, have been due to the lack of resources of the Arts Council and to some extent, perhaps, due to its set-up.
We are glad to know that more funds are now being made available to the Arts 239 Council, not so much as we should like, but, nevertheless, they do provide support. Above all, this provides a modest sum for capital expenditure on purposes which have always been ruled out in the past. However much the Arts Council would like to have made provision, that was quite impossible on the very modest sums made available. I hope that the Arts Council will not feel so restricted as it has been in the past about making contributions towards projects run by local authorities. It is perhaps understandable that the Council has not been able to do so much, but today there are some exciting projects for which local authorities have accepted responsibility. They are entitled to support in the same way as for other projects.
Some of the proposals put forward by the Arts Council some years ago in its statement on housing the arts have gone forward, but many of them have not. Provision of the highest standard has not yet been made available in perhaps 12 major regional centres. I very much hope that we shall now be able to provide this. I am also encouraged by the new appointment of the Chairman of the Arts Council which was announced not long ago. I hope that this will be a sign of new energy, drive and eagerness to widen the scope of responsibility and the work of the Arts Council.
I hope that my hon. Friend will do what she can, as I am sure she is eager to do, to encourage the widest possible range of interest and participation more widely than the Arts Council has been able to take previously in both amateur and professional fields. Amateurs as a whole do not expect, and as a general rule do not require, very much in the way of financial assistance. Their main need is adequate facilities in the way of buildings, and so on. I should not think that their demand is likely to be very large, but, clearly, there is a need to ensure throughout the country opportunities on a relatively modest basis for small art centres, even in quite small communities. These could be available for both professional and amateur work and could also provide for experiment in some of the fun and gaiety that my hon. Friend has spoken about.
If this is to develop there is an urgent need for regional organisation. As hon. 240 Members know, I speak with some experience as, with the help of my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Ted Fletcher), I had some experience in the organisation of support for the arts in the north-east of England. The North-Eastern Association for the Arts has won a great deal of support throughout the area from a great variety of critics of varying political background. In the North-East, feeling that we were to some extent deprived of opportunity for effective participation in the arts and also of seeing something of the best in the whole range of the arts, it was thought desirable to establish an organisation combining all the local authorities in the area, representatives from industry, from the universities and the trade unions, the B.B.C. and I.T.V.
They should, first, find what the major needs were and get at some of the facts and then to let the people know more about what was going on. It is extraordinary what little experience people have and how little one knows of what is happening in an area next door. There is an important job to be done in the regions to get much more publicity for the major events taking place there. That is something of great importance.
We need a body which will be able to encourage local authorities and industry and all the component parts of life in the region to play a fuller part in all this work, encouraged by modest financial support to bring people together to discuss ideas for development. In all these ways a great deal can be done, as we have been able to show in the North-East. That has not been due so much to the amount of money we have been able to raise, although that has been most useful. We have been able to raise about £100,000 a year which, considering the size of the area, is relatively chicken feed for major work, but, nevertheless, is quite useful in encouraging projects which otherwise might not have got off the ground. These projects have been in both the professional and to some extent the amateur field.
We can encourage local authorities by regional bodies such as this. They would not supplant the local authorities, but would encourage them to experiment and to do work which perhaps they had not thought of doing, indeed to develop a 241 kind of competition. A local authority may have been a little nervous of taking part in such a project, but if there is the attraction of a little financial support from the region and other bodies and we can organise groups in the surrounding region with the certainty of backing for a project it should succeed.
Help can be given in organising transport subsidies to bring people in from outlying places who otherwise would not have much chance of seeing the best in the whole range of the arts. A regional body such as this would not be so much concerned with purely local amateur work which does not intend to attract a large audience, but rather to encourage more ambitious work, probably by bringing in much more professional bodies.
The North-Eastern Association has 70 local authorities linked with it, which is by far and away the bulk of all local authorities in the area. Sixty firms are linked with it. So far, the contribution from industry is not very large, but we hope that it will grow. There are two universities, the B.B.C. and the I.T.V., and a number of trade unions are making very modest—alas—contributions. It has quite a large number of local arts associations and societies, which are not being supplanted but are being encouraged.
Such a layout is sufficiently important for us to look to its development over the country as a whole. I do not mean that we should lay down any absolute pattern, but that this method of trying to link local authorities with industry and with trade unions on as wide a basis as possible is valid for the country as a whole. I should like to see it applied covering the regions which have now been adopted for planning purposes. I would like to see all this work co-ordinated with planning operations in the new regions.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary will be able to take the initiative in calling conferences of those concerned, again something after the pattern of our North-Eastern Association. I do not mean for a moment that it should be strictly on the same basis. Conditions vary from region to region. I hope that she will be willing to take the initiative in getting something of this kind going.
I also hope that my hon. Friend will review the position of the Arts Council. 242 It has done an admirable job on very limited resources. We are very grateful to the Council for all that it has done. The time has come to examine its position to see whether some changes may not be needed. For example, I think that the Council is rather ingrown. It could be to its advantage if representatives from the regions were appointed to the Council. Now that the Council is likely to be asked to play a large part in advising on major new construction schemes for theatres and other large projects, it needs to strengthen its specialist and advisory teams.
§ Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
Paragraph 67 of the White Paper draws attention to the crafts. Would the hon. Gentleman tell us his views on the crafts? What is his view of the suggestion that they should have direct liaison with the Arts Council?
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
That is a valid point, but I myself do not want to develop it. I hope that other hon. Members will follow up that point. I myself do not feel so competent to deal with it. I have already spoken for far too long and I want to ensure that other hon. Members have full opportunity of taking part in the debate.
I hope that the Arts Council will not feel itself restricted to making contributions to local authorities whose schemes seem to the Council to be of real value. I hope that my hon. Friend will consider the possibility of support for some major experimental schemes which might be rather outside the normal vista of the Arts Council. It may be more suitable for my hon. Friend to accept some responsibility for them herself.
I am thinking of the experimental work of Arnold Wesker and others at Centre 42 and of Joan Littlewood and her "Palace of Fun". I do not think that these things should be excluded, although it may be thought that these are not within the normal terms of reference of the Arts Council. However, if we want to instil a new interest in the arts in a much wider range of the population these are exciting and interesting projects which must be considered.
I hope that my hon. Friend will consider that she has sufficient responsibility in her appointment. It has been suggested that the appointment of a senior 243 Minister for Arts and Culture, or some other high-sounding name, completely in the void and not attached to a Ministry, might have been approved of. I do not think that that would have been wise. I welcome the fact that my hon. Friend is attached to the Department of Education and Science. Although this has been done, I hope that she feels that she has authority to deal with the whole range of the arts, even if they do not automatically come under the normal functions of the Department. I hope that my hon. Friend's voice will be clearly heard in respect of appointments, in respect of any developments which may take place, and in respect of adequate financial provision for the visual arts, galleries, museums and films.
As I have expressed in the Motion, I congratulate the Government on the initiative shown in the presentation of the White Paper. It is clearly stated as the first steps. I thought that some of the rather miserable criticism made in the leader in The Times was utterly unrelated to the situation. We appreciate the fact that this initiative has been taken and that we have been provided with a broad statement of the Government's intentions. We welcome particularly the fact that the Government say in the White Paper that they intend to expand their contribution to a number of bodies. It will be the job of hon. Members on both sides to ensure that these promises are fully implemented.
I have the greatest pleasure in commending the Motion to the House.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)
The House will wish to congratulate the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) on his good fortune in the Ballot, and on having used it to introduce this discussion upon the arts. Whether or not we agree with all that he has said, at least he speaks from knowledge and experience and as a frequent contributor in previous debates of this kind. As we know, he has, particularly in connection with the North-Eastern Association, a great deal of practical work to his credit. I shall comment later on his view that the hon. Lady the Joint Under-Secretary is correctly placed in the Department of Education and Science 244 for the proper discharge of her responsibilities to the arts.
Having said those kind words about the hon. Gentleman, I must say that I cannot say anything very kind about the Government—not as regards the content of the debate, but as regards its timing and character. The Government should have a guilty conscience for having denied the House an opportunity for a full day's debate on a White Paper which they pretend to be of the importance of this one. I except the hon. Lady from the strictures I am now making, because I know that she would have wished to have had a debate of this kind. Indeed, I believe that she pressed for it. But the Leader of the House and the Patronage Secretary should have bad consciences about this.
The fact is that there is great interest in the House not only in the White Paper, but in the hon. Lady's appointment to her new position and it is not possible within the scope of a private Member's debate of only three hours for hon. Members to treat this subject as fully as they would wish or to do it justice in speeches of an appropriate length.
I hope that this regrettable behaviour on the part of the Government will not be a precedent, because whatever else can be said about the White Paper it abounds in good intentions. If these good intentions are to be translated by the hon. Lady into facts and achievements she will need from her colleagues a great deal more sympathy for her objectives than she has been able to elicit for the possibility of having today the kind of debate which I am sure she would wish to have had.
I speak as a newcomer to these debates. In making a speech on the arts I enter what is to me a novel field of political interest, but I have already found that it is an extremely agreeable field and one in which a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House have taken a keen and individual interest for some time. It is also a field in which, perhaps more than in some others, fruitful collaboration across the Floor of the House is possible in the direction of enjoining on the Government progress of the kind which hon. Members want to see. Collaboration between committees of hon. Members from both sides of the House 245 who are interested in the arts exists already. As we often do on these occasions, not long ago we had a joint expedition to Knole, by courtesy of the National Trust, to see something of the way in which public money is being expended on that great house.
There is an excellent guide book on Knole with which hon. Members may be familiar. It is published by the National Trust. During our visit I found in it a story which I think is very instructive in the context of this debate. The Sackville of the day—I cannot call to mind the date—was in the habit of entertaining the poet John Dryden, who was a friend of his. He asked him to stay at Knole where he was holding a house-party. He decided that to amuse his guests it would be appropriate that they should each write a piece of original English literature and that the poet Dryden should say who had done best.
When the papers were collected Dryden, with very little delay, awarded the prize to his host, Lord Sackville, who had written:I promise to pay Mr. John Dryden on demand the sum of £500.That story is instructive, because, basically, it is what all artists inevitably feel about their patrons, whether private, the State, or local authorities. Judged by this standard, I do not think that the hon. Lady's White Paper is likely to win the Government many prizes.
I do not mean to deprecate what the White Paper proposes, or to suggest that it is by any means negligible, but it appears that the extra measures which the Government propose to take in support of the arts are disappointingly small compared with all the fuss that attended the production of the White Paper and the announcement of the hon. Lady's new appointment. I have been looking at the figures to substantiate what I have been saying. I have checked them as carefully as I can and no doubt the hon. Lady can put me right if I am wrong.
The Government have been making great play with the increase of the Arts Council grant by £665,000 but, as the hon. Lady and the House will know, that grant to the Arts Council is only one in isolation among many in connection with the arts. It will be found from Class VIII of the Civil Estimates that the 246 estimate for the current year of £10,152,000 for the whole of the support of the arts, that is, including museums and galleries as well as the Arts Council, compares with a figure for last year of £9,395,000. The total increase between this year and last year is a mere £757,000, but as nearly £500,000 of that increase is accounted for by rises in salary the position is that the true increase is a mere £279,000. I should have thought that that was not all that much to make a song and dance about.
Nor is this the whole story. The figure of £9,395,000, that is, for the last year of my right hon. Friends' Government, was an increase of 14 per cent. over the estimate for the previous year, whereas if one puts the salary increase element to the credit of the hon. Lady's Government and forgets about it one still finds that for the year immediately succeeding the publication of the White Paper the Government are only budgeting for a rise in support for the totality of the arts of something like 7 per cent., or half the amount achieved in the last year of my right hon. Friends' Government.
I stand to be corrected on the figures if I am wrong, but I sought to get them out of the Estimates and I do not think that the figures for this year justify the somewhat derogatory things which the hon. Lady has been saying about the performance of the previous Government in the matter of the arts.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State, Education and Science (Miss Jennie Lee)
Would the right hon. Member agree to make a comparison also between the provision for the arts made by his party in its first year of office as well as in its thirteenth year of office?
§ Mr. Ramsden
I shall deal very fully with that in a moment. The hon. Lady will appreciate, when she makes that point that the contribution made by my party in its first year of office and that made by her party in its last year of office when it was previously the Government are very much akin.
§ Mr. Ridley
Am I wrong in saying that the last Government put the grant to the Arts Council on a triennial basis and that a large proportion of the increase in grant was planned two years 247 ago by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)?
§ Mr. Ramsden
It is true that the triennial system of financing was introduced during the term of the last Government. I shall refer to that in a moment. I should have thought that the figures which I produced sufficiently disposed of the hon. Lady's charges for me not to have to take into account my hon. Friend's point as well.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
I intervene merely to say that the hon. Member is not taking into account the promise which we have in the White Paper to make an additional grant for orchestras as soon as we have a report on what is required.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I realise that there is a large element of promise in a document of this kind, but I have attempted to consider the question on the basis of what is firmly in the Estimates as projected for this year or as having been spent under previous Administrations.
I am not at all clear, and I am sure that my hon. Friends are not either, what the hon. Lady means when she gives the White Paper the sub-title, "The First Steps". If she means the first steps under a new Labour Government, none of us will quarrel with such a title, which would be perfectly objective, but if she means that nothing has been done so far for the arts under previous Administrations, the title is extremely misleading.
I think that I ought to put the facts on record. Expenditure on the arts, including expenditure on historic buildings, has grown from just over £4 million in 1951–52, to nearly £7 million in 1958–59, and to over £13½ million last year. These figures are to be found in the publication, "Government and the Arts", put out by the previous Administration in the summer of last year.
I ask the House to note that the increase from just over £4 million to £13½ million during those years represents an annual average rate of increase which is about the same as, or perhaps even a little more than, the increase proposed by the hon. Lady's Government this year over what was spent last year. Thus, in this year, when for the first time, apparently, the hon. Lady's party has 248 discovered the arts and has produced this White Paper, with all its attendant publicity, the substantial contribution which her Government are prepared to make is no greater than the annual average rate of increase in the Government's contribution to the arts over the past twelve years or so.
In this context, anyone who tries to wax too party-political on this issue or in comparing the records of the parties lays himself open to looking rather silly.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that my hon. Friend takes over in the last year of a triennium and that the real test of the Government's intentions will come next year, with the beginning of a new triennium? To break through a current triennium is in itself a considerable achievement.
§ Mr. Ramsden
Yes, I accept that the hon. Lady has her work before her. All I complain about is when she attempts to begin it by belittling the achievements of her predecessors.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heller (Liverpool, Walton) rose—
§ Mr. Ramsden
I do not want to take too long. We have not very long for the debate, and I have given way several time already.
The hon. Lady keeps saying—she said it again last night—that we have never before had a policy for the arts in this country. If she really believes that, she ought to look again at Lord Bridges' 1958 Romanes Lecture, where she will find very succinctly set out a policy for the arts which has, in fact, been developed step by step under the previous Administration. She will find there also the two or three remaining steps touched upon by Lord Bridges which still fell to be put into execution at the change of Government and which are being implemented by her own White Paper. A reader of that lecture six years or so later is struck by how closely the blueprint laid down by Lord Bridges has been followed and is still being followed in the development of a policy for the arts.
Lord Bridges made various suggestions. He proposed that there should be a body concerned with museums and galleries equivalent in status to the University 249 Grants Committee. We have that now in the Standing Commission. He suggested—my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) mentioned this earlier—that it was desirable to alter the financial arrangements so that grants to the Arts Council should be made further ahead than just for one year. We now have the three-yearly method of financing. He also suggested splitting the Arts Council Vote so that it would no longer be expected to finance four opera groups in addition to its other activities, and this is now reflected in the present form of the accounts.
Lord Bridges made two other suggestions on that occasion, and both of them feature in the White Paper now before us. One was that there should be better provision—perhaps it would be more accurate to say some provision—for capital expenditure for housing the arts. I am glad that a start is being made on that this year by the inclusion of a capital element in the Arts Council grant, with provision for, I believe, up to £250,000. We welcome this.
Lord Bridges' other and more important suggestion concerned what he referred to as the diffusion of the arts. I find in this the most interesting part of what he had to say. He pointed out that the principal difficulty in State patronage being provided for the arts on a scale which would not look ridiculously parsimonious to those who really cared about such things was the view widely held in the country not only by private individuals but even by some local authorities and Government Departments that it was not right to spend money on the arts when, for example, work and expenditure still fell to be devoted to things like hospitals, improved housing, schools and so on. He described this in 1958 as an entrenched attitude, and I think that there is still evidence of its existence today. He thought that, before State patronage could operate effectively, this attitude had to be overcome.
Lord Bridges referred also to the view that it is in some way wrong to spend money on the arts which might be said primarily to benefit the well-to-do instead of improving the physical conditions of life of the less fortunate. He said that he detected in both these attitudes a vestigial relic of puritanism, and he went on to suggest how they could be over- 250 come. He said that the right way to break down such attitudes was to try to create a climate of public and official opinion which would not only assent to greater expenditure on the arts, but would actually come to demand it for people as a right, and he indicated that the only way to do this was by an improvement of education in appreciation of the arts so that there would be a new generation coming along who would expect better things than their fathers had had.
Lord Bridges' solution to the problem was, as he put it, diffusion of the arts partly by education and partly by better distribution, that is, ensuring that the best is available for all those who want it, not just in the metropolis but, following the lines of what the hon. Member for South Shields has said, in the provinces as well, these things being made available through the good offices not just of the central authority but of the local authorities, too. It seems to me that, stripped of a lot of its verbiage, the White Paper contains really no more than the hangover from the policy for the arts set out by Lord Bridges which the previous Government did not carry through, and these elements form the central core of what the hon. Lady has put before us. To that extent, we can, I think, accept the hon. Gentleman's Motion.
I want to say a word about the hon. Lady's new post. I doubt whether it was necessary to mark the new emphasis on education by putting her in the Department of Education and Science. She would have been in a better position to do her job from some other post in Whitehall. One of the things that the arts have suffered and suffer from in this country—and here I include the preservation of historic buildings as well as amenities—is the proliferation of official bodies with responsibility for promoting the arts and an even greater proliferation of unofficial bodies dedicated to jogging the elbows of the official bodies.
The result is that the efforts of those who care for the arts lack proper co-ordination in many cases and they tend to get defeated in detail by those who do not care so much. The hon. Lady's new post adds unnecessarily to this proliferation because it puts another finger in the pie—indeed, more, because her 251 responsibilities do not extend either to Scotland or to Wales, I understand.
The opportunity of creating a new post should have been taken to reduce some of the existing proliferation and overlapping. Many people, I think, may regret the decision that responsibility for this should have been taken from the Treasury. But if one concedes that it was right to do so, then surely it would have been much better if overall responsibility had been given to the Minister of Public Building and Works—and I mean the Minister. This is a job which, if proper weight is to be put behind it, will need to be done by a Minister of Cabinet rank even if not by a member of the Cabinet itself.
In addition to responsibility for ancient monuments and for making grants for their preservation, the Minister of Public Building and Works should also have been given responsibility, which now falls to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, for the listing and preservation not only of buildings, but of groups of buildings. I do not believe that this job is being done properly as it is. The situation is one where time is certainly not on our side. If proper resistance is to be organised to developers who are doing, from their point of view, a perfectly proper job in giving the public what it needs in the way of super markets and multi storey car parks and to local authorities concerned with improving rateable values, a very strong hand must be on the reins in Whitehall—and it must be situated where it can be exercised with effect. I make nothing personal of this, but I do not think that the hon. Lady, situated in the Department of Education and Science, will be able to carry the guns required.
To the extent that the White Paper sets out two logical steps in the development of a policy which was initiated as long ago as 1958 and has been enlarged by the last Government during the last five years, we can accept it, but we feel that an opportunity was lost, with the creation of the hon. Lady's new post, in that she herself has been placed where she will not be able to exercise her influence and her undoubted talents as fully as she might have been able to do in another Department. I hope that it will not be long before this mistake can be put right.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)
I welcome the intervention of the right hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) in the important and interesting field of the arts. I did not agree with much that he said and particularly disagreed with his attempt to denigrate the White Paper. Indeed, he made very heavy weather of it. His comparisons with the previous Administration were as fallacious from the point of view of its arithmetic as they were of its spirit. He was entirely wrong in his conclusion that the Government have not made an immense advance on the last Government's performance.
The White Paper contains so much provocative matter and covers so wide a range that it is difficult to confine one's remarks in the limits imposed by this short debate. Much as I would like to comment on the whole range of ideas contained in the White Paper, I propose to restrict myself to a very few observations, which, I hope, will be constructive ones.
First, I want to add my congratulations and thanks to my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science who was largely responsible for preparing this White Paper and drawing up the policy it contains. I consider the White Paper to be an outstanding State document which will prove to be of historic importance if the action it envisages becomes translated into reality—as we all assume it will be.
§ Mr. Strauss
The hon. Member laughs, but on this matter, as on so many others, he is probably in a minority of one.
The White Paper has two special merits. One is that it provides what we have never had before—a comprehensive Government survey of the whole field of public support of the arts and it considers this a matter of such social importance as to justify the appointment of a Minister especially charged with this responsibility. What is perhaps of equal importance, contrary to the fears of many, the Minister is not to usurp the functions of the Arts Council in deciding where Government subsidy should be given and how divided.
The other merit of the White Paper is that, in place of the previous reluctant 253 and niggardly approach, it breeds a crusading spirit of keenness—a determination to do not as little as possible but as much as possible. Further, it appeals—and I hope that it will appeal successfully—for the active participation of all those in public and private life who are in a position to help and it gives proof of the Government's sincerity by declaring an immediate substantial increase in the Exchequer grant to the Arts Council—a far greater increase than has ever been made before.
In the past, the Chancellor has normally cut down the Arts Council's grant applications, although these were based on estimates prepared by the recipient bodies which had already been pared to the bone. The result, as the White Paper indicates in paragraph 93, is that many of our potentially finest artistic enterprises have been running on a Poor Law relief basis, shamefully lower than in every other European country, while those responsible for their activities, instead of developing and experimenting, have had to devote much of their time trying to keep these enterprises alive.
Now we have reason to hope that those days are over. The belief that a Labour Government would do more to raise the cultural life of the country was a major consideration in the minds of many who voted for the Labour Party at the General Election. The White Paper fully justifies their confidence.
I am particularly interested in the emphasis given in the White Paper to enabling those who live in the provinces to see and hear the best London productions of opera, ballet and the theatre. That this has not happened in the past, and is not happening today is a real grievance which has often been voiced by those who live in the provinces and their representatives in the House, who argue that it is unfair that such a high proportion of the Exchequer subsidy For the arts should be concentrated on London.
As some rectification of this anomaly, a condition to some of the Arts Council grants has been that the recipient opera and ballet companies should tour the provinces extensively. But this is an 254 imperfect solution. It rarely provides the provinces with the same standard of performance which Londoners enjoy. The reason is that the equipment and facilities in even the best provincial theatres are comparatively poor and the companies are required to appear in many small towns where the facilities are shockingly bad, making a good performance impossible.
This, in turn, demoralises the companies whose members find long absences from home and weekly changes of miserable "digs" depressing enough anyhow. It is getting increasingly difficult, and soon it may become impossible, to persuade London performers to co-operate, particularly when they know that, when they do perform, neither they nor their company can do so at their best.
The situation is deteriorating and there is only one remedy, which will take time. This is touched upon in the White Paper, but not developed. To give the provinces what London gets, the leading national companies—Covent Garden, Sadlers Wells, the Royal Ballet, the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company—should not be expected to spread themselves thinly over the provinces and appear in wholly unworthy and ill-equipped theatres. They should concentrate their provincial tours on a small number of first-class theatres in about eight population centres. For those who live outside the towns where the theatres are located, coach services should be organised to bring them there. In that way and in that way only can those who live outside London enjoy the same quality performances as Londoners.
But that immediately raises a serious problem. Where are the centres to be? Where are the new theatres to be built, or existing ones brought up to standard? Which local authorities are to be encouraged and which discouraged from providing such theatres? An overall plan is required. An authoritative commission should be set up immediately to make a national survey, in consultation with local authorities, and to report where the good theatres should be located. Grants should be provided by the Arts Council accordingly and in the theatres selected in this national network the national companies could play repertory for a month or more at the highest London standard.
255 I hope that the Minister will consider this proposal. It is the only way in which the provinces can be properly served. If one were forced to make a choice, I would personally give such a programme priority over the building of the National Theatre and the new opera house on the South Bank which is estimated to cost at least £14 million.
There are two other matters with which I want to deal as briefly as possible. The first is the desirability, set out in paragraphs 68 to 70 of the White Paper, of embellishing public buildings with sculpture and paintings. There is no more effective way of helping artists, especially the younger ones who have not yet established themselves, to earn a living and at the same time to bring living art to the people. The scope is limitless. It is not only the Government and local authorities who can play their part, but nationalised industries and private undertakings.
It is not only the new buildings which should display sculpture and paintings, but the existing ones. The waiting rooms in hospitals and railway stations, post offices, the entrance halls to Government and private offices, which today are for the most part dreary and depressing, could all be made gayer by murals and paintings. Housing estates and public parks could all be made more attractive by sculpture. The L.C.C. did valuable pioneering work in this direction and its example could usefully be followed throughout the land. The opportunities are unlimited. So is the number of good artists who are capable of worthily utilising those opportunities if given the chance. I hope that my hon. Friend will consider it, one of her main objectives to stimulate such activity.
In paragraph 14 of the White Paper mention is made of the desirability of promoting higher standards of architecture. Nothing could be more important if beauty and grace are to become an integral part of everyday life, for the architecture of a city determines the spiritual atmosphere in which its people live and work. The buildings which are put up today determine it not just temporarily, but for the next 100 years.
It is, therefore, deplorable that in our large towns, particularly London, we have allowed during the last 15 years the 256 erection of so many monstrous huge buildings which will dominate city vistas for generations to come. This is wholly unnecessary, as high office and apartment buildings can be things of great beauty, pleasing and indeed exciting to all who see them. Many such fine buildings have been erected during recent years in New York as well as other American cities and throughout Europe, but regrettably few in Britain. For generations to come our town dwellers will have to suffer from this failure. It is time to call a halt.
This is not at present the responsibility of my hon. Friend or of the Government, but I suggest that it ought to be. It is a national responsibility which transcends that of any local authority. An aesthetic consideration is involved which transcends the immediate gain available to a private developer concerned only with making the maximum profit out of the land which he owns.
It is fine to have art centres, picture galleries and good theatres in our cities. It is equally important, possibly more important that the buildings which constitute the cities, particularly the giant buildings which dominate them and which all their inhabitants see daily, should be examples of the highest expression of architectural art. As they were in ancient Greece and Rome and the great cities of Europe in medieval times, so they should be in modern England. I beg my hon. Friend to take seriously this too often neglected aspect of culture in a civilised society and to consider with her colleagues and the architectural profession what best can be done about it.
In this and all the other proposals in the White Paper my hon. Friend is fortunate in having a marvellous opportunity for making the country richer in the arts. The climate is right for an advance. There is an awakening sense of responsibility among local authorities; influential public opinion is growing more alive to the need to do things; and we have a Chancellor of the Exchequer who, instead of desiring to apply the brakes, wants to apply the accelerator, slowly but surely.
The most heartening part of the White Paper is perhaps not its contents and its immediate proposals but its sub-title—"The First Steps". We appreciate that the succeeding steps cannot be as fast as many of us would like, but we 257 have every confidence that during the coming years the actions foreshadowed in the White Paper will fully live up to its exciting promise.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I want to make a very short speech. I do not intend to spend time on the no doubt fascinating question of whether the Conservative Party would be better or worse than the Labour Party over the arts. Nor do I want to say much about whether the hon. Lady the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science is in the right place in the Government, except this. The Ministry of Public Building and Works is a most admirable Ministry for preservation. But if it is to take on responsibility for the arts it will have to break into a field in which, up to date at any rate, it has had no experience and for which its qualities are very ill-suited.
§ Mr. Grimond
That may be, but its main work is preservation. It puts out a great spread of white gravel and affixes a notice which says that it is the headquarters of Westminster and that people must behave themselves. It then maintains the monument in the condition in which the Government inherited it. The Ministry of Public Building and Works has extremely good craftsmen. Its restorers are wonderful. But I do not believe that it would have the right approach to the living arts.
I found myself in agreement with the three principal points made by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) on provincial theatres, the importance of Government patronage and the standard of building. I should like to follow him in giving encouragement to the Minister, although mine will be of a more negative sort. The hon. Lady can comfort herself with the thought that she is one of the very few members of the Government who are unlikely to do much harm. How much good she may do is a very different matter because no one knows how to produce good art. Good art has emerged out of patronage, persecution, affluence, poverty, atheism and the 258 Church. I do not suppose that any Minister will be arrogant enough to suppose that she can conjure up good art from the deep. All that I can assure the hon. Lady is if there are good artists, and if she does the wrong thing, they will get round it and art will emerge somehow. If she does the right thing she may be of help to them.
I should like to turn to paragraph 76 of the White Paper, which says:There is ample evidence of the need for a more coherent, generous and imaginative approach to the whole problem.Generous—certainly we should be generous in the provision of facilities, and I want to say a word about that later. "Imaginative" is a word of which I am a little chary, especially when it is used in connection with public Departments. The imagination of Ministries is something about which I feel a little unhappy. I feel all the more unhappy when I look round to see what they do in their own immediate surroundings.
The Palace of Westminster is not a great example of imagination. If the Harcourt Room, for instance, is an example of what imagination means in Government patronage, spare us from it. I have sat in conferences with my more serious-minded colleagues when we have approached Ministers about some aesthetic problem. We have all deplored, the standard of public taste, but have sat in ministerial rooms which beggared description. They were sometimes of a squalor and ugliness which any ordinary member of the public would have rejected long ago. Yet we are the people who are set up as arbiters of public taste. I hope, as the right hon. Member for Vauxhall said, that we shall have a better standard of taste from the Government and a better example.
The question of coherence is linked with the regional approach to which I am extremely sympathetic if it means certain things. I agree with it if, for instance, it means decentralisation. I agree with the right hon. Member for Vauxhall that there is great need for a chain of proper regional theatres, not necessarily in the middle of large towns, because very few people live in the centre of these towns, and there is a tendency to go to some pleasant surroundings in the country, 259 where one can dine and see a play or an opera as at Stratford and other festival centres.
There are certain forms of art, like opera, which must be conducted on a regional basis. But art is a very quicksilver affair, and I do not think that we can lay down that art will fit into a given regional pattern. It crops up in the most extraordinary places. Mr. Wallis begins painting pictures in St. Ives. Art pops up in Liverpool, in coffee bars, in Mary Quant shops—indeed, in all sorts of odd corners. This is the living art of this country, and very good it is. It does not conform to any standards of regionalism or any other great coherence which we try to impose on it. It will grow up in all sorts of odd corners. Let us by all means provide it with facilities and encourage it, but do not let us force it into a pattern.
One of the most encouraging things of recent years has been the success of art in the schools. Children draw, dance and sing extremely well. I hope that this sort of thing will be promoted and encouraged for all it is worth. It may be, as the White Paper suggests, a flash in the pan. But let us have the flash. The pan will be no worse for it afterwards.
I am a little frightened by the analogy with the social services in paragraph 98 of the White Paper. I do not think that art is a social service. The Government's attitude to art should, in my view, be to encourage people to take part in it. It is not for us to say what is or is not art, or to lay down what is or is not good taste. We must provide good facilities for acting, opera, and so on, and encourage as much variety as possible. To talk about art as a social service creates an over-centralised picture.
Paragraph 100 of the White Paper says that there is a revoltagainst the drabness, uniformity and joylessness of much of the social furniture we have inherited from the industrial revolution.I suggest that "social furniture" is a drab, uniform and joyless expression and that it should not appear in a White Paper on art. It will undermine our confidence in the Government's ability to deal with art if this is the sort of expression which is used about it. Further, if it means anything, it probably is not true. I doubt whether Victorian 260 building is much worse than modern building. The Industrial Revolution produced many aesthetic horrors, but so have local authorities, the Government and the universities; and they are continuing to do so. The standard of modern architecture is not so good that we can afford to be supercilious even about Victorian architecture. There was a lot of good art and taste in the Victorian era.
I am slightly frightened by the idea that art must be put in centres. I should be a matter of general taste. It should exist in the home, the car, clothes, and everywhere else. Whilst centres are perfectly good for holding exhibitions and concerts, we do not want to get into a dichotomy in which we have a dose of art from four to six in the afternoon in the art centre and then dress, speak, and behave non-art for the rest of the day.
May I make one or two suggestions? I hope that the Government will go in for regionalism as a form of decentralisation in the provision of facilities. We should have an opera house in Scotland. It is a scandal—and I know that the Minister will be sympathetic to this—that there is no opera house in Scotland. It is quite true that the dressing facilities of most Scottish theatres and, I dare say, of north English theatres, are inadequate. By a fluke, I believe that the modern art gallery in Edinburgh is a success. It was, as a matter of economics, stuffed into a house which the Government happened to have in the middle of the Botanic Gardens. But this has not worked out too badly. It should be considered whether it could be extended on its site because the sculpture in the Botanic Gardens is effective. In this way an artistic form is created almost by chance. I hope that we shall not impose a pattern by saying that there is a site for an art museum and therefore we must have one there. Let us spend the money possibly in the Botanic Gardens and on acquiring more pictures.
On the question of the acquisition of pictures, there is far too big a gap between the funds available for provincial and Scottish and Welsh galleries and the funds available to central galleries in London. It is difficult to buy an ugly Impressionist picture. The National Gallery has bought two at vast expense—those two dancers by Renoir. I confess that the latest Cézanne may 261 show an important historical development, but it is not worth £½ million.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
The right hon. Gentleman, in a very interesting and free-flowing speech, has covered many points. He has just referred to the purchase of pictures in the Western world. Surely what is wrong is the price aid the fact that these pictures are set as valuables like diamonds and other valuable assets at a price— —
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Samuel Storey)
Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot make a speech. An intervention must be made just for the purpose of clarification.
§ Mr. Grimond
I wholly agree with the hon. Member. Let him be comforted, however. One can go about the country and buy reasonable pictures which are out of fashion. One has only to scrounge about in galleries and elsewhere to find them without having to pay out £½ million. These big prices are out of all reality. The pictures for which they are paid are bought for prestige purposes either to bolster the ego of the gallery director or to be put in a bank to bolster the funds of a corporation or a rich man. I do not entirely disapprove of this, because their money might just as well be employed in buying expensive pictures as buying anything else which somebody with £500 million would spend it on.
But the Government should not encourage this tendency. If they have a lot of money to spend, I would rather see them encouraging living artists and provincial galleries than spending vast sums of money in that way. I would let "Titus" go to Los Angeles. It is a charming picture, but I do not believe that it is worth the sort of money that the Government would have to pay.
Furthermore, I would deny money to museums and galleries which keep stuff in the basement. Art is meant to be looked at and to be enjoyed. Why not send some of those treasures to the Palace of Westminster, the embassies or the museums and galleries, or sell them? They are not meant to be kept in cotton wool because a scholar may one day want to look at them.
I would make a charge for admission. It would not be a big charge, but if people can spend the money they do on whisky 262 and cigarettes it should not be a great hardship to be asked to pay a shilling or two to go into the National Gallery or the Tate. People pour in for exhibitions, and I am encouraged to see it. The recent exhibitions at the Tate have been packed. An exception could be made for children or schools, but if a charge for admission meant that we would have better and more cheerful museums or that we could have a museum in which furniture, pictures, and all forms of art of a certain period were exhibited together in an appropriate house in the provinces, and so on, it would be worth while. To a Government who are pressed for money, I suggest that they should consider making a charge.
I finish this short and incoherent speech—but this is a short debate and many people want to speak—by saying that I am not at all pessimistic about art in this country. The trouble is that people do not look for it in the right places. There is good design to be found in all sorts of ordinary things, like clothing and motor cars. There are one or two first-class architects. There is excellent ballet. Our patronage of ballet and opera has not been all that bad, but it is in danger of being over-centralised. Certainly, compared with many countries we are parsimonious.
My last point is that when we say that we will patronise the arts and that local authorities, trade unions and everyone else should do so, artists are people who want decisions. One of the frustrations for them is the endless passing round from committee to committee in which somebody says, for example, "We do not like that design. Cannot we move it?"
If we are to have the type of design of which the right hon. Member for Vauxhall spoke, of streets laid out to a plan, with statues and the rest, it must be an artistic undertaking done as a whole by a man who probably is not able to adjust his designs. This is a tricky matter for local authorities, but we must face the fact that art is not something which can be cabined and confined within the rules of the Civil Service. I wish the hon. Lady the Joint Under-Secretary every good fortune in her new office, and on the whole I would advise her to keep out of the Ministry of Works.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), as he has said, has a somewhat incoherent idea of what constitutes coherence. He has, however, made an entertaining and enjoyable speech, although I profoundly disagree with him on one point. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that art is a fluff, something that grows on top of society. I suggest that it is an actual emanation of the sort of world in which one lives. The sort of art, and, indeed, entertainment, whether one talks in terms of pop, jazz, culture or whatever it may be, which emerges from a society is an aspect of the very nature of that society. It contributes to it, it comes from it.
To give an example, one can see a difference in the nature of what goes on at the present time from what was the case a few years ago, if one considers the impact that public money already has upon the art and entertainment that we enjoy. If we were to remove the existing public money, parsimonious though it is, we should lose all our major orchestras, all our ballets and opera companies and half the repertory companies throughout the country, all of which are dependent upon the Arts Council in greater or less degree, and so upon public money. The injection of public money is of vital importance to the whole artistic activity of the country.
What we are talking about in the White Paper and the reason why we support it is not only that it provides for an increase in the total sum, although, as has been pointed out from the Opposition Front Bench, this increase is modest in itself. It is not only this which commands our support. It is also the attitude in the White Paper, which is a new attitude, and it is also that the White Paper envisages and promises a much greater development. Before making my detailed criticisms of the White Paper, I should like to give that general support for what, I believe, is a really new and most promising approach.
The injection of public money into the arts is an aspect of a general characteristic of the society in which we live. Private enterprise itself is now dependent in large degree upon a substratum of public 264 money given to private enterprise quite freely without control by the last Government—far too freely, without adequate supervision. This contrasts with the parsimonious, careful and detailed doling out of sums to the arts. The motto seems to have been, "Too little and too late". The White Paper announces a change and is to be welcomed, but there is much more to be done.
If, for example, we are to recognise public responsibility for the arts we must consider the instrument of our aid. What may have been an adequate channel for a trickle may be quite inadequate for an increasing flow. Secondly, we must look at the whole scene. Co-ordination and coherence must replace chaos and confusion. Thirdly, we must recognise that while it is within our power to increase central aid, the main source of public money, particularly in the vital matter of building, must be the local authorities. We have yet to discover why, broadly, they have, with some important exceptions, failed to shoulder the responsibility which was offered to them in 1948 and what we can do to help them to shoulder it more adequately in the future.
The main instrument of our patronage is the Arts Council, a body which has struggled nobly with most inadequate means. We wish good fortune to its new chairman, without in any way wishing to detract from those who have occupied that position in the past. The Arts Council has many experienced members on its central body and on its various panels. It has an extremely good staff, but it needs to be radically reorganised to undertake its new rôle. At present, it is a little aloof and inclined to inbreeding. Its atmosphere is sort of university-cum-green room and it is not the feeling which we need for a body which is to be the main instrument of a great development of the arts, not merely in London, but throughout the country.
I doubt whether any weekly wage earner has ever entered the portals of the Arts Council building in St. James's Square, except for the purpose of cleaning it. This is the sort of change that we need to make. An element of nomination possibly even an element of election, needs to be introduced into the Arts Council. It needs to become more regional, more responsive, and more 265 democratic. It needs to establish not only the friendly relations which it has with the regional Arts Councils, but organic links with these bodies, which should have some form of representation on the governing body of the Arts Council itself.
It should become a body capable not only of distributing more money, but of exercising a very much wider authority than it does at present. As I have said elsewhere, all public money should be channelled through it. There should be no special Treasury relationships. Here I quarrel with the right hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) who seemed to think that the special relationship with the Treasury, whereby the Royal Opera House is put on one side from the general channel of patronage, was a good thing. I do not think that it is. It is bad, because it puts the Royal Opera House in a special and separate position, and there has also grown up a special and separate method of subsidy.
The Royal Opera House subsidy is calculated on the basis of a percentage of the box office take. At the moment it is 17s. 6d. in the £. It is a thoroughly bad method of subsidy. It places a premium on popularity, because the more popular the show, the higher the subsidy. This places far too great a strain on the Administrator who, if he takes a risk, involves not only his box office take, but the subsidy. There was a suggestion that this was to be extended to the National Theatre. I hope that that has been satisfactorily knocked on the head. The Minister may be able to say so when she replies to the debate.
The Arts Council should be allowed to determine who gets the money, and the method of subsidy. The direct box office take, whether £ for £, or 10s. in the £, is a bad idea. There are very much better ways of doing it. For example, one can estimate the probable take of a theatre, say 75 per cent. or 80 per cent. of seating capacity, or the basis of reasonable seating prices geared to the paying capacity of a broad section of the community. Add that up, and calculate on the other hand the cost of putting on the productions and subsidise at a point as near as one cart get to the difference between those two figures. There are, of course, other ways of doing it.
266 I come now to the question of coherence. When we have reformed our means of patronage, we should give the Arts Council full responsibility. By that I mean responsibility over the whole field, including films and television. If we are not ready to do that—and it may be that we are not—I hope that the next step which the Government will take after the measures indicated in the White Paper will be to give the Minister overall responsibility, as has been recommended by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop). I think that it is proper, at least as an interim measure, that the Minister should be within the orbit of the Ministry of Education, as she now is, but she should be a full Minister of State, and should exercise functions at present being carried out, or rather not being carried out, by the Board of Trade, the Postmaster-General, and other people.
The situation with regard to films is ludicrous. Here we have a known and admitted monopoly of distribution which is strangling the independent British film industry, and which is universally known to be strangling the industry to death. The only people who will not admit this are the stranglers, A.B.C. and Rank, the duopoly distribution organisations.
The late Government took the step of submitting this to the Monopolies Commission. The Commission takes two, three, or possibly four years to report. By that time the independent British film industry will be dead. One of my hon. Friends says that it is dead. That is not quite true. There is still some life left in it, but there is no doubt that it cannot go on for another two years, and this is widely and generally admitted throughout the industry. By the time the obvious is discovered to be so by the Monopolies Commission, there will be no independent British film industry left. We need a third circuit, and we need it now. I hope that it will be possible for the Minister, in consultation with her colleagues, to devise some means of anticipating the inevitable verdict of the Monopolies Commission in this respect.
The Postmaster-General is responsible for television. He takes a levy from the profits of the I.T.V. companies. In a full year, this is estimated to yield about £15 million. This is a very sizeable sum of money in terms of art. If this money 267 were to find its way into a subsidy for the arts, a real revolution could take place. Such a sum could do enormous good, but what is happening to it? Instead of being put to that sort of appropriate use, or even possibly to help the B.B.C., it is handed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to go into the general Exchequer fund. This seems to be quite wrong.
The State must learn not only that there is a right way of giving money but a right way of taking it. The I.T.V. levy is taken in the wrong way. It is taken from the gross profits, which means that it comes off the quality of the programmes. It should be taken after production costs have been met, which would encourage programme expenditure. It could be a larger sum in total, or it could be the same sum, but the point at which the levy is exacted should be subsequent to programme costs.
That is another matter which I hope my hon. Friend will feel is not excluded from the general bounds of her responsibility, and that she will feel it right and proper to discuss this with her right hon. and hon. Friends. A Minister of the Arts surely would readily grasp the point which I have been making, which seems to have eluded the Post Office, and perhaps it is the sort of point which may be expected to elude the grasp of the Post Office.
There are many other things which need to be done. What is the Arts Council going to do—and here I enter a note not of criticism, but of questioning—with the £250,000 which has been promised for the purpose of encouraging local authorities to begin building theatres and other arts buildings? It is about the price of a single, not too expensive, medium-sized theatre, so it cannot be for that purpose. Is it to service loans to pay for architects' fees? If so, who is going to pay for the buildings? Is it the case that the Arts Council, with this £250,000, can envisage the sort of tenfold increase or more arising which will enable it to encourage local authorities to start building? If we start off this year, we have to be able to give them a reasonable assurance that if they embark on plans they will get support from the Government to carry them through. I hope and believe that the Minister will tell us that this is the case.
268 Some local authorities have funds available, but most do not. If the State is prepared to offer £ for £ in the case of approved building projects we shall have some real arts buildings. If not, we shall have to await the introduction of some method of raising local money which is less regressive and harsh at the lower levels than is the present rating system. I greatly welcome the news that the Government are looking into the matter, because one of the reasons why local authorities have not availed themselves to the degree that we hoped of their right to spend the product of a 6d. rate is that under the present rating system almost every expenditure by the local authority is resisted by those who are concerned with local government finance.
But all this should not disguise the fact that the White Paper constitutes a great step forward in spite of what has been said from the Opposition Front Bench. The recognition that the State does not exist only for the defence of the realm or even for the material welfare of its people is a very great thing. That is what the White Paper amply and in specific terms does. It says that the State exists so that people may collectively expand their spirits. This is the virtue of the document, and I am happy to join with my hon. Friend in welcoming it.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Sir Hamilton Kerr (Cambridge)
The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) made a wise choice when he used his good fortune in the Ballot to put down this Motion, and I warmly commend him for doing so. I want to reinforce his reference to the British Film Institute. As a former governor, I know the valuable work which it does. The National Film Archive is an immensely important addition to our national history. I ask the hon. Lady not to forget the Institute.
I have two regrets about the debate. The first one is personal. I regret that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) is deprived through illness from being here. He has fought in the past many notable battles for a National Theatre and for increased grants for the galleries. I know how valuable his support is and how deeply he is attached to the service of the arts. A 269 more serious regret is that so important a subject as this is the matter of a few hours' debate on a Private Member's Motion. I wish the Government had allowed time to discuss at greater length the vital question of giving help to the arts.
I have listened with growing interest to this discussion. It seems that both sides are competing with each other in wishing to spend money on the arts. As a man of Scottish and Irish blood, born in the United States, this fills me with interest. I remember talking to Mr. J. W. Brown, the hon. Member for Rugby in the wartime Parliament, who said that in England it took about 40 years for any new idea to be accepted. This was reinforced by a recent experience I had when I was having my hair cut. I said to the assistant who was cutting my hair, "I get maddened by this country having so much talent which is completely neglected." He said, "You are wrong. If you can survive a lifetime of neglect you are a world beater." Events seem to be moving at last. A few more trumpets are blowing outside the walls of Jericho. Let us hope the walls will start to fall down a little more quickly.
There are two aspects of aid to the arts—aid to living art and aid for the preservation of our national treasures—which I want to stress. I refer, in particular, to the opening paragraph in the introduction of the White Paper, which, to my mind, lays down an absolutely vital principle—a principle which cannot too often be repeated, and must constantly be put before public opinion, namely, that complete liberty is the only atmosphere in which artists can work and in which art can flourish. Hon. Members have referred in earlier speeches to the fact that the days of private patronage are over—such days as those of the fifth century in Greece, Augustan Rome, the Middle Ages, and Europe in the eighteenth century.
Now the State has become the main patron. Committees are notoriously bad judges. The Harcourt Room has been referred to. I think that I am a modest person, but I may be the only one who is willing to admit that he may have bad taste. The decision of a committee shows how difficult it is to reach a genera] level of agreement, except perhaps on 270 a solution which is not altogether satisfactory. I hope that the principle will be continually maintained that complete liberty is essential to real artistic creation.
We must bear in mind the awful mistakes which are made in many countries, notably those behind the Iron Curtain, where people believe that art is first and foremost a social service, and that this criterion must come before artistic excellence. How many of us have wandered from time to time through the galleries of countries behind the Iron Curtain and have been bored by endless pictures of young, buxom ladies and young people riding farm tractors, or Stakhanovites discussing new projects in the glow of steel furnaces. I do not mean that these are not fit subjects for artists. But in this connection I think of Courbet in nineteenth century France, who painted so powerfully peasants in the fields, artisans and roadmenders, or Daumier, who showed us the Paris Commune, with the terror of the shooting of people at the barricades, and the tricolour flag flying.
These artists put their art first, and their message came later. It is important to remember that an artist who is given complete freedom by his patrons will more often than not convey a new and interesting message. The great Proust, the writer, once said that a great artist is like a surgeon performing an operation for a cataract. He gives us a new vision. How true this is even in respect of the ordinary objects that we are used to seeing every day. Hon. Members who take a walk on the Terrace, or those who go down the river, see London very often through the eyes of Whistler—London with its wonderful blue light, and the haze of evening, which, as Whistler said, transforms the squalid warehouses into the semblance of Moorish palaces.
How many of us who do not speak a word of Russian feel that we know Russia through the work of the great Russian novelists. Travelling to Moscow, before the war, I remember looking out over the endless plains—the dirt tracks—which seemed to disappear into the limitless distance, and the birch woods. I remember subconsciously looking for a manor house, such as the one where Natasha and Prince André met in "War and Peace", or walking down a street in 271 Moscow and looking for a lumbering and dreamy figure resembling Pierre Bezuhov. Artists, if given freedom, will widen our vision.
I now turn to the second function of the Government, namely, the preservation of our national treasures. I was interested by the reference in the White Paper to the museums. How many of us have wandered from time to time around a small provincial museum which is squalid and badly lit, and whose directors are badly paid? Such museums are failing in their purpose, because their conception of history is wrong. It is often believed that history has a fixed period—perhaps it stopped at the great Reform Bill, or the Parliament Act of 1910. But history is a living process. It is being lived every day. In our provincial museums I would like to see not only the history of the men and women who lived in the area, the buildings they built, and the furniture they used, but also, perhaps, the implements that they used in the field and factory. I would also like to make these museums the centre of living life of the present day, and to see meetings of local arts societies, musical concerts and dramatic performances. I would like to make these museums, hitherto neglected, the cultural centres for their areas.
Secondly, I want to see our museums encouraging the creative instincts. In this connection, I should like to refer to the Jeffrye Museum, in Whitechapel Road, which has attached to it a craft centre, where people, inspired by the examples they see there have a chance to construct a chair or paint a picture. Such a museum becomes a vital centre, where people can go every day.
Lastly, I should like to see a new type of museum, perhaps a museum devoted to artists and their interests. So often when one goes into a museum one sees paintings or objects displayed of periods or countries. I should like to see a museum where are represented artists—either by their original paintings or reproductions—who have tried to pursue the same objective. A room devoted to artists who have studied movements would include, say, the Laocoon, the Venetian masters and Van Gogh. Such a museum would prove of immense interest to artists.
272 These are the points I wish to make, the encouragement of living art in an atmosphere of complete freedom which must be continually guarded and watched, and secondly, the care of our national heritage, and, in particular, making our provincial museums living scenes of local life.
An immense challenge faces us in the coming age of leisure. We are told that by the turn of the century there will be a working week of only 16 hours. What a chance presents itself either for an immense outburst of creative activity, or else sheer disaster implied in the decline in our national character. Perhaps we may learn in the coming years the truth of my favourite Chinese proverb, that if you have money to buy a loaf, buy half a loaf and a rose.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Ted Fletcher (Darlington)
First, may I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) on his good fortune in securing time for a discussion on this subject and introducing it to the House. Secondly, may I congratulate my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary on the publication of the White Paper. It is more than a Report of good intentions. I believe it to be literature in the best sense. It is full of humanity and there is a lack of pomposity. These elements shine quite clearly through the Report. It will be recognised as her Report in a personal sense rather than just another Government document in which she has dotted the i's and crossed the t's.
This White Paper follows a document published by the Labour Party over five years ago, a policy statement called, "Leisure for Living". This was the first major statement ever made by a political party on the use of leisure and support for the arts. Many of the proposals in that Report have been incorporated in the White Paper. We in the Labour Party have always said—this is made clear in the White Paper—that we are concerned about the quality of living.
Our case against modern society is that not merely is it selfish, or that often it shackles economic initiative, but, also, that it perverts the sense of amenity, and that the tawdry values engendered by the profit motive often stunt the capacity of our people for free creative 273 expression. Because of that we believe art should be in the life of the people, part of the life of the people, and not something imposed on the community, as was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins). It should be something which must grow out of the community.
I believe that it was right and proper that the functions of the Minister responsible for art should be transferred to the Department of Education and Science. I believe that we should have a wider responsibility not only to make the finest provision for the arts, but that this should be part of the curriculum in our schools and the Ministry should have an opportunity to create artistic and cultural interests among students. The Arts Council has an enormous leeway to make up. In the past, in spite of the high standard it has achieved, it has been unable to provide the amount of public support for art because it lacked the funds to do so. We hope that in future the Arts Council will have adequate funds at its disposal. It is encouraging that the amount at the disposal of the Arts Council is to be increased by 30 per cent. following the publication of the White Paper. Reference has been made to the £250,000 established for capital grants to local authorities, and regional associations of local authorities, for building purposes. This must be regarded only as an earnest of the Government's intentions because, obviously, capital grants to finance art centres will amount to much more than £250,000, perhaps for each centre. As a consequence, much more money must be made available in the future for this purpose.
I am particularly interested in the reference made in the White Paper to the part that regional organisations should play in the provision of artistic and cultural amenities. I wish to say a word about the North-Eastern Association of the Arts, to which my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) referred. At the risk of being regarded as parochial or provincial, may I say that I consider there are important lessons to be learned from our activities in the North-East over the last four or five years. Until 1938 very little was spent in the North-East on arts and amenities. Newcastle City Council of which I was, and still am, a member, spent a little over 274 £1,000 a year on cultural and artistic activities. Most of this money was given in donations to amateur music and operatic societies. In 1958, the Labour Party secured power and I became chairman of the finance committee.
Despite the fact that over the next two years we increased the sum to £20,000, I recognised that this amount was quite inadequate and in conjunction with my colleagues on the council I took the initiative in calling a conference of local authorities in Northumberland, Durham and North Riding of Yorkshire to consider the formation of the North-Eastern Regional Council for the Arts. Following our first meeting, 28 local authorities agreed to make a contribution amounting to a ¼d. rate on the old valuation—it is now ⅛d. on the new valuation—to set up an arts council. Our next job was to get down to the question of writing a constitution for our new association. We have a council of 30 members, half from the local authorities in the region.
The employers' associations, such as the Chamber of Trade, and the Federation of British Industry, have representatives on the executive committee. The trade unions, through the T.U.C. regional council and the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions are also represented. The two universities of the region, Durham and Newcastle, have representatives, and both the B.B.C. and I.T.V. are represented on our council. We have, in addition, three persons who are specialists in various aspects of the arts, so it is a fully representative body.
Immediately we had formed the council we had the good fortune to secure the services of my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields, who was "rusticating" at that time from membership of this House. He was our acting secretary until he was re-elected as a Member of the House in October of last year. It is a tribute to his initiative arid energy that our initial number of 28 local authorities has now increased to 70. Every major local authority in the North-East, with the exception of a few rural councils, are now affiliated to our association.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
The hon. Member has said a good deal about his work on the Newcastle City Council, his interest in the arts and the formation of this association, which is a very powerful 275 body. Is it not a fact that Newcastle Council is responsible for proposing to demolish Eldon Square, one of the finest squares in the city? What did his association have to say about that?
§ Mr. Fletcher
The hon. Member has little knowledge of the situation in Newcastle. That decision was not taken until a full inquiry into the circumstances was held. In fact, our planning authority has a full list of the historic buildings in Newcastle which will be preserved. This is done in conjunction with various organisations which are advising and assisting the council. I am not suggesting that a regional authority has the power to influence local authorities in making planning decisions of this description. It is, of course, a matter for consideration whether Eldon Square is an artistic heritage or not. I do not think that it is.
§ Mr. Fletcher
It may interest hon. Members to know that we are preserving the Royal Arcade at an expenditure of an additional £80,000, with very little assistance from central Government funds.
§ Mr. Fletcher
No. I can say quite categorically that members of the Conservative Party on Newcastle City Council objected to the expenditure of £80,000 to preserve it. The philistines and the people who want to wreck Newcastle are members of the Conservative Party and not the present Labour administration.
There are today 70 authorities affiliated to our North-Eastern Association for the Arts. This year it will be possible for us to raise £100,000 to spend on the arts. The sum of £55,000 will come from local authorities. From industry, whose response we found disappointing, we shall receive about £5,000. The Arts Council are giving this year £30,000 and we receive an income from affiliated organisations such as cultural and artistic societies, women's clubs and trade unions. How do we spend this money? What 276 would have been the effect on the North-East if the association had not come into existence? When it came into existence three years ago, our orchestra, the Northern Sinfonia Orchestra was on the point of collapsing for lack of finance. It has been possible for our association to devote about £30,000 a year to keep this renowned chamber orchestra going and to allow it to expand.
As far as drama is concerned, we have invited many drama companies to visit the region for three months and we have financed the inevitable loss. We have given grants to various theatres in the region to enable them to appoint full-time managers, for instance, at Middlesbrough and Darlington. We have assisted the People's Theatre, one of the most progressive amateur theatres in the country, amateurs who have themselves raised £150,000 to build their new arts centre in Newcastle. We have assisted the visual arts by making donations to private commercial galleries as well as municipal galleries.
We have assisted in the written and spoken word by establishing an arts review to provide an opportunity for promising writers to have their work printed. We have poetry readings subsidised by the association. We recently had a B.B.C. competition organised jointly by our association and the B.B.C., with a prize of £500. It may interest hon. Members to know that over 250 scripts were received by the B.B.C. for this competition for a play. It will, no doubt, be broadcast in the near future. We have provided transport subsidies for organisations in outlying villages and small towns so that their members can get into big centres of population in order to attend concerts and theatre.
However, this is only the beginning of our enterprise in the North-East. We are now setting our sights a little higher. We are aiming to get a quarter of a million pounds. We will have a conference of local authorities in October to try to induce them to increase their contributions. Apart from the physical aspects of providing money, we have transformed the attitude to the arts in the North-East. There is now a vigorous movement there as a result of our activities. Art organisations have been established throughout the region and there is a new understanding 277 amongst people on what the arts are about.
In addition to our activities, we have stimulated the local authorities in the region to do something about making provision for the arts. In Sunderland, the local authority is doing a magnificent job. They have taken over as a civic theatre the Sunderland Empire, at a cost to the rates of over £20,000 per year. Great national and international orchestras are brought to Newcastle and the subsidy for this is met by the local authority. We have found it possible to talk about the arts not in terms of their being precious, but as something which belongs to the people. We try to bring these amenities to working-men's clubs. We try to encourage brass band music, for which there is a tremendous following for in Northumberland and Durham. We have assisted in the development of folk music, of which we have a very vigorous tradition in the North-East. We have financed folk dancers to go on tours abroad from Northumberland and Durham.
There is a vigorous and pulsating life in the North-East. We are on the periphery of things economically and possibly culturally, but London can look after itself. In these past years, we have had to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We have had little assistance, until latterly, from the Arts Council in the work which we have been trying to do. We believe that art and culture is all-embracing. Whether it is, as far as our region is concerned, listening to the vigorous music hall items in Bambra's Music Hall, folk-dancing or listening to jazz or symphony music, it is part of the life of the people, and we believe that it should be encouraged.
I am grateful that some attention is being given to housing the arts. More money will have to be made available if we are to tackle this matter in the vigorous manner which will be necessary. I am sorry to be parochial about this, but I think that we in the North-East have made a contribution to this matter. The Arts Council has called our association "the prototype of future patronage", and I believe that now that my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State has defined his regional boundaries it might well be the pattern 278 for other regions, that there may be other associations of local authorities determined to do something about the provision of more money for the arts. We want to see the British Film Institute brought into the region. There is a possibility that this might happen if we can get some financial assistance.
We are doing a tremendous job in Sunderland—indeed, the idea originated in Sunderland—in trying to establish a civil theatre circuit to provide employment for actors and actresses. Under this scheme they would be able to tour a whole circuit of civic theatres and so have continuity of employment. Mr. Reginald Birks, of the Sunderland Civic Theatre, has done a lot of work on this scheme. There have been a number of conferences, one recently in London, of local authorities to consider whether this is a practicable idea. I hope that it will be found to be practicable because it would permit groups of actors and actresses to travel the circuit and be provided with continuity of employment.
I would like to see many more civic orchestras. Every local authority of any standing—certainly those with populations of more than 100,000—should have a civic orchestra. There was a tradition in years gone by when every town had its brass band. The brass band seems to have gone out of fashion, but I see no reason why small orchestras of, say, 12 or 15 players should not be attached to every local authority of borough status. The members could be employed teaching in schools, playing at civic functions, giving concerts, and so on.
Local authorities must receive help from central funds. The Arts Council could establish a system whereby £1 is provided from central funds for every £1 raised locally. That would give great encouragement to local authorities and I am sure that if they or regional bodies of local authorities received £1 for every £1 raised locally, much good work could be done. In this connection, the Arts Council is represented on our association and is able to watch expenditure and ensure that public money is not wasted.
I have developed the theme of a local approach to this problem at considerable length because, as I suggested earlier, it is a pattern which might be copied in 279 other regions. I welcome the White Paper as representing a serious contribution towards bringing the arts and amenities closer to the whole community. At the outset of my remarks I welcomed the language of the White Paper, since it is a personal document in many respects. One can see the hand of my hon. Friend in it.
For many years a great many working people have been conditioned, by their environment, work and way of life, to consider that the best in music and painting is outside their range. Now that people, particularly youngsters, have more leisure time, they are showing a keen interest in drama, music and the visual arts. I have always believed that the public's enjoyment of the arts should be recognised for what it is—the enjoyment of something that should be available for all, something gay and not something that is precious to any one section of the community.
The Leader of the Liberal Party has taken exception to the fact that "social furniture" is referred to in the White Paper. Many people in the regions outside London, particularly in the North, have grown up in an environment of drabness and uniformity. They want to escape from that and enjoy the better things in life. They are joining choral societies, brass bands and theatrical groups. With more leisure time available as a result of automation, there is bound to be an upsurge in the quality of the life we lead.
We should realise that this is a discussion about the quality of life. We spend a great deal of time talking about economic factors—statistics, the possibility of continued employment, economic progress and the rest of it—but we spend too little time talking about the quality of the life we will lead once we have overcome these other problems; once we have attained security, lack of unemployment and sufficient homes.
The White Paper is a most important contribution to that end. I do not suggest that it closes the door on any further thinking on the subject. It is, however, an earnest of the intention of the Government. I hope that in future there will be a widening of approach, particularly in the provision of art centres. More money must be spent and while I have had some 280 experience of persuading local authorities to spend money on the arts and while I appreciate the difficulties involved, a greater financial contribution must be made. Local authorities must think not only in terms of sewers, new houses, and so on. Money is provided for minority interests such as swimming baths, museums and libraries, but it takes a great deal to convince local authorities to provide at least a ½d. rate for cultural and artistic activities.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) referred to the provision of amenities when new buildings are erected. The Department of Education and Science could help here, and I hope that local authorities will be enabled to spend ½ per cent., if not 1 per cent. of the cost of new buildings on statues, landscaping and good pictures. A lead in this matter could be taken by the Department.
We are discussing a departure from the policy of the past. We have had 13 years of apathy and neglect. They have been years of marking time. It might be argued that the previous Government spent a little more than previous Governments, but——
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
Before the hon. Gentleman proceeds, may I ask whether he is aware that the expenditure was trebled and was not just "a little more"?
§ Mr. Fletcher
If time permitted I would question all the figures used in this debate by hon. Gentlemen opposite. To talk about £10 million or £14 million does not reveal the true picture. Global sums include such things as the preservation of historic buildings.
I am dealing with matters which have a different revenue aspect. It is fair to say that in the provision of money for the arts previous Administrations have marked time. I agree that there have been increases, but they have been more than offset by increases in costs.
At last, we are about to make a new start. The foundation stone for a new look at the arts has been laid by the Government. I commend the White Paper and hope that this time next year we will be having another debate on this subject and will be looking back on today's discussion as a milestone in the history of going forward towards making a real contribution to this most important aspect of 281 our political thinking; that is, the quality of the life we are leading in the middle of the twentieth century.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
The hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Ted Fletcher) has left me very little time in which to comment on many of the points, some of them erroneous, that he has made, but I would at once say that he was wrong about Eldon Square. The Newcastle City Counell deliberately tried to destroy a group of buildings of international repute, and buildings which are on the special list compiled by the Ministry of Housing. To plead, in mitigation, that the Royal Arcade has been saved ignores the fact that that building has been moved to a new site, and its façade is all that posterity will see.
Frankly, I do not think much of this White Paper. I do not know what is meant by the "temporary inflatable structures" that are mentioned. I would only tell the hon. Lady the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science that "fine words butter no parsnips"—and there are not many parsnips in this document. I think that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) did far more for the arts than the hon. Lady has so far done—and without, perhaps, quite so much show. He increased many of the grants, but was given singularly little credit from the other side.
I do congratulate the Government on one thing, and that is on having established the hon. Lady with responsibility for the arts. This follows exactly the suggestion which I and some of my hon. Friends put forward three years ago that there should be a Parliamentary Secretary for the Arts. I do not remember the Prime Minister patting me on the back and congratulating us on our suggestion. We received very adverse publicity from the other side, but now there is sublime and general welcome. If I may blaze the trail ahead for the hon. Lady a little more, I would say that I hope to see her in the Cabinet, because she is not strong enough where she is. This work ought to be separated from that of any other Ministry. We should now move to a Ministry of Fine Arts in its own right.
282 The main criticism of that idea has always been that it would in some way set up a Government taste that would be imposed on artists everywhere. I do not believe that to be true. I think that the Arts Council has imposed a national taste of its own to a far greater degree than any Minister could do. There has been much criticism of the Arts Council, but I think that the Minister would be less dogmatic, hidebound and rigid, because she would have to work through many more organisations than does the Council.
There is no parliamentary control of the Arts Council. It spends public money, but is not accountable to this House for it. No Minister is directly responsible for it, and we cannot put down Questions about it. This, indeed, is taxation without representation. It can be very seriously questioned whether it is right that any body that is not the direct responsibility of a Minister should spend public money. The only other body in this position is the University Grants Commission which, in the name of academic freedom, is allowed to escape detailed accountability. This anomaly should be tidied up. Is it true, or is it not, that, as alleged in the Sunday newspapers, the Arts Council has a special box at Covent Garden where its members can see the performance at any time, thereby jumping the queue? If that is true, it proves the point I have been trying to make.
I agree that a body of the type of the Arts Council is necessary for what I call the corporate artistic activities—the opera, the ballet, the theatre, etc. It is true that we must have a body of this sort to dispense patronage to such corporate art activities, but I want to see patronage dispensed much more diversely. I want to see many other bodies take it up, and use Government money for the purpose. Apart from the Arts Council and the British Council there are many private bodies which could usefully be employed, and receive Government assistance to patronise artistic activities in this way.
There are the many local authorities. Almost everyone who has spoken in this debate has called for further patronage in new buildings by L.E.A.s and other bodies. I am sure that this is a "must", and a job that the hon. Lady 283 will have to tackle. The Government themselves in all their doings could use more public money to commission sculptures, pictures, literature, and the rest. I should very much like to see a Ministry of Fine Arts use all the channels of patronage and not have us just rely on the Arts Council.
The secret of patronage is diversity and diffuseness. The only time when this country produced worldwide artistic distinction was in the eighteenth century, and that was because countless individuals were able, through their wealth, to patronise countless artists. I do not seek to resurrect that situation—we cannot do it, of course—but what we can do is to copy from that period the multiplicity of the organs of patronage. If we concentrate everything in the Arts Council and channel all moneys through a few pairs of hands, we will not get the sort of diversity, richness and individualism that will lead to an artistic renaissance.
Tolstoy has said:Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.I do not believe the Arts Council to be the right body to transmit that feeling. It is biased against private enterprise, as it quite freely admits. It likes municipalised, sterilised performance. It likes proved and finished work. I doubt very much whether it would have supported Shakespeare, or Reynolds, or Constable—and I am quite certain that it would not have supported Diaghilev, the greatest ballet master there has ever been in this country.
Despite what the hon. Member for Darlington has said, the North-Eastern Arts Association is doing its best to drop a private theatre in Newcastle, and it has made life for a private art gallery there extremely difficult. I have not the time to go into the merits of these cases, but, to say the least, very serious doubts can be expressed about whether the best way to dispense patronage is through such Arts Associations.
I want to refer to the regional arts associations—or "little Emrys's", as I call them—because, as far as I know, Parliament never debated their constitution and Government never laid down how they were to be constituted. It seems vitally important that we should 284 do so. It is important that we should say how the regional arts associations are to be set up, where their money is to come from and what their membership should be. It seems that it is not Parliament that has said this, but the Arts Council itself.
I think that the North-Eastern Arts Association is too big. Its membership is far too big. There are 36 members of that association—that is even more than the Cabinet, which is admitted by all to be too big. Then we have this extraordinary habit of having a trade unionist, an employer, a housewife and every sort of representative on these associations. We do not have artists on the regional boards for industry—why have employers and trade unionists on the regional bodies for the arts?
It seems to me that we should continue to develop the associations in the same way as the Arts Council has been built up; that is, through having a few people skilled in art, or with knowledge of art on bodies regional in character. The chairman of an association should be an ex officio member of the Arts Council, to provide a very close link with it, and there should be very strict rules as to personal and political interest in the representation on these bodies.
I quarrel with some of my hon. Friends over subsidy for the arts. It has been said that only by increasing the subsidy can we prove our love of the arts and our determination to do them well. It has been argued almost on a party basis.
Subsidy is a terrible foot in the door for inefficiency and sloppy management. I am not saying anything against artists, but something against those responsible for the management of artistic activity. I am certain that Covent Garden could make a lot more money. I am certain that if Covent Garden combined its present policy with an advertising campaign and employed someone to run that campaign so that demand rose year by year, it could put up prices for seats for the best performances and considerably reduce the subsidy. The same could probably happen in regard to the theatre to some extent. For generations the theatre flourished and thrived not only artistically but financially. Television can be employed to assist the theatre, 285 to increase its audiences, and used not as a competitor but as an assistant.
More than anything, we should charge for entrance to public galleries. The Leader of the Liberal Party suggested this. The fact that more people visit exhibitions when charges are made than when they are not, shows that it is no longer possible to go on advancing the argument that we must provide—in a rather patronising way—free art for the people when they are prepared to pay a shilling, or whatever the charge may be. Art exhibitions on the Continent have far higher charges and many of them are self-supporting. I wonder whether we are right in our present policy.
Whatever we do about charges for entrance to galleries and museums, there can be no excuse for the Arts Council to lose money on its exhibitions. I believe it loses something like £70,000 a year on exhibitions of pictures. The Royal Academy makes a profit, on average, of £23,000 a year. This surely is another instance in which subsidy has weakened the resolve to be efficient and successful. I very much hope that the Arts Council will be asked not to make a loss on exhibitions in future.
I should like to see some more ideas put forward and more steps taken. Without going into the many suggestions which I could make because I have not time to do so, I return to consideration of the subject in terms of the individual. Art is for the individual and not a matter for the Government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) said, it has a lot to do with the liberty of the individual. It is senseless to tax our society to a point where it cannot afford any art of its own and then to provide society with art from Government institutions through municipalised art, and that alone. One of the troubles about art in this country is that we live in a Socialist society where tax rates are too high. Will the hon. Lady, the Minister, have a word with the Chancellor of the Exchequer? She will find that many things he has done in his Budget and many things he would have liked to have done will do much more harm to the arts than anything she can do. Death duties, Capital Gains Tax, Surtax will kill completely private patronage and private collection.
286 I do not want to end up in a country where every work of art is in a public gallery and all art is municipalised, sterilised and organised by a corporation. I want art to be a relationship between one individual and another. Above all, I do not want it to be a ritual performance of what has been written and painted in the past, but something which is living, a renaissance, so to speak, of art; a reawakening of our national culture. I am certain that if we are to do this we must have a very different approach from that which I see in the White Paper.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Miss Jennie Lee)
We are all indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) for giving us an opportunity this afternoon to discuss the arts. I think the White Paper has been received by most of the Press and public opinion with great courtesy and great kindness. I have no quarrel at all with some of the criticism. Indeed, I would have been alarmed if there had been an atmosphere created that this White Paper set out the full policy for the future of British art.
What we say quite clearly in it is that this is a beginning. But there are different kinds of criticism, and my sympathies went out to the right hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) because obviously in speaking from the Opposition Front Bench he had to do his best and had to make out so far as he could a comparison showing that there had been no progress and that the attitude of the present Government and provisions and promises of the present Government were virtually no different from what had happened before.
One of the first things I did on being asked to investigate the state of the arts was to ask for a chart to be prepared for me, fairly, I think, going over the full period during which hon. Members opposite were responsible. I should not have thought it fair or responsible for me to have tried to judge hon. Members opposite by what they had done in any one month, or three months, or even a year, but I think it perfectly fair that I should bring to the House a chart which sets out all 13 years from 1951 onwards when it was the privilege and responsibility of hon. Members opposite to look at the arts policy of this country.
287 I have the chart here. It shows a general graph of provision for the Arts Council including provision for Covent Garden. I have the whole set of figures set out. Although I shall not quote all of them, I shall quote one or two to illustrate my point. If hon. Members opposite want the chart put into the Library I shall be happy to oblige. I found that 1951, the year when hon. Members opposite went into office, was a crisis year, a year of great economic difficulties; but I do not think any hon. Member would say that the pound was in a more perilous position in 1951 than last autumn when the present Government took over. When hon. Members opposite went into office in 1951 their excuse for not dealing with the arts was that there was an economic crisis. Compare the attitude of the two parties. In the autumn of last year and the first months of this year, in spite of all the difficulties and preoccupations of the Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a 30 per cent. increase was conceded to the Arts Council—£665,000 extra on its grant compared with the previous year.
It is to fair to see how hon. Members opposite handled a crisis situation. In 1951 there was no increase for the Arts Council. Instead there was a decrease of £5,000. Obviously in a crisis the first thing that had to be cut was the arts. We, even in a crisis, seek to give the arts priority, but hon. Members opposite said, "We can chisel away £5,000." When the country had had the advantage of Conservative rule not for six months but for a whole year, hon. Members stepped up the grant made to the Arts Council. They stepped it up by an amount slightly less than one-fifth of what the present Government have given in this crisis year. Having taken that adventurous step, hon. Members opposite obviously thought that they had gone too far, so in the following year they made a decrease of £10,000.
We can go through this chart. It shows that although we got off the ground in a matter of weeks after taking office, produced a White Paper and acted upon it well within six months, it took hon. Members opposite over six years even to begin to get off the ground. In 1954–55 there was a decrease of £10,000. That was put back with an additional £25,000 the following year. There was a daring 288 £45,000 increase the following year, then £68,000, then £55,000. Then hon. Members opposite thought that they had gone much too far.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I am not clear whether the hon. Lady is still talking just about the grant to the Arts Council. I conceded that she had done the Arts Council well this year. What I complained about was the failure to make a very substantial increase in the totality of grants. Ought she not to compare year by year the whole effort put into support of the arts?
§ Miss Lee
I will come to all that. In the meantime, it is well to get the priorities right. We said that we were concerned above all, in this immediate crisis situation, with the living artist; we wanted to go to the rescue of our painters, our singers, our sculptors, theatres falling into disuse, all the things which were of an emergency nature, so I begin with these. In 1959–60 the increase was £7,000. But why should I go on? The highest increase in the arts grant in any year under hon. Members opposite was in 1963–64 when it reached something less than two-thirds of what we have given in this year. In that year the arts grant, excluding Covent Garden, was £400,000.
I should like to put all this behind us, because I have stressed on all the occasions on which I have spoken on this subject that, if we are to have an arts policy worthy of this country, we must crash through both political barriers and class barriers. I would be the last to say that concern for the arts is confined to any one part of the House. We need every individual that we can find in any part of the House, in the parties outside, and in the communities outside, to pool their concern, their skills and their resources if we are to bring Britain forward into the first rank in relation to the arts.
I am afraid that I must make one other reference to those 13 desperate and unlucky years for this country. For 13 years not one single penny was set aside for capital expenditure on the arts. It was not that the problem was not known. It was not that the Arts Council did not provide very able and carefully documented statements asking that provision should be made for housing for the arts. But for 13 years, under a Government 289 who talked at times of crises and then soon afterwards about "never having it so good", about the affluent society, and all the rest of it, the type of affluence we had apparently found no place for the building of a single opera house in this country.
I will give the House a little progress report of what has happened since we took over. I shall not go back so much on the details of the White Paper, because I know that hon. Members present now are very familiar with them. They know the contents of the White Paper. Above all, as we stressed in the White Paper, we wanted action.
I turn to Government support for the arts to see even if in these last few months anything has been done to forward our promises. One of the first points is that £¼ million has been set aside as a commitment to encourage building for the arts. It may astonish some hon. Members, but I received the most learned advice that I could not spend this £¼ million, that it could not be done in time, and that by the time all the slow processes of getting a project started had been gone through I should find that this was rather too large a sum. I am delighted to inform hon. Members that we have already committed £215,000 of that £¼ million.
I assure the hon. Member who thought that the Arts Council was living entirely a life of its own that just as formerly there was an assessor from the Treasury sitting on the Arts Council there is now an assessor from my Department sitting on the Arts Council and reporting. The hon. Member need have no fears that public money is being loosely or carelessly spent. All this has been gone into carefully.
Nevertheless the Arts Council has been hard at work. I repeat that £215,000 of the £250,000 is already committed, in Birmingham, Boston, Bridgnorth, St. Austell, Shaftesbury, Weymouth and Worcester. I must be careful, because I know that all the others will come treading in on our heels. No—I will not be careful, because I want all the others to come treading in on our heels. The whole purpose of setting aside this fund of £¼ million to encourage building for the arts was to see what response would be won from various parts of the 290 country. The response that is coming in is wonderful. It is everything that we could have hoped for.
I would draw the attention of hon. Members to the fact that the White Paper clearly states that, if this money is spent in the current year, substantially higher sums will be available for building for the arts in following years. I am perfectly willing to be pressed by hon. Members opposite to go in the direction in which I want to go. They will find that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a good memory. He is also an honourable man. This is a very firm commitment. We are doing our end of it. We are spending the money all right. We are spending it on desperately necessary projects. This is a relatively trivial sum. We shall be delighted to have the support of hon. Members on both sides of the House in stressing the fact that we have got to get further sums, as we have promised, in successive years.
I come to art centres. Here I have the whole lot set down—Birmingham, Boston, Bridgnorth, and so on. Some of them are very modest, involving sums varying in amount from £10,000 to £500. However, the schemes that are envisaged here belong sometimes, as in the Cannon Hill scheme in Birmingham, to very large projects, but sometimes to very modest small-town schemes where an additional £1,000 or £1,500 makes all the difference between their existence or non-existence. Above all, they provide an incentive to neighbouring towns, the inhabitants of which say, "What can be done in a small place like Bridgnorth can be done in our town".
I go on to the Film Institute. I agree with every word that has been spoken by various hon. Members about the plight of our film industry. I was in Rome the other day. I visited the fabulous building erected before the Second World War: it is not the sort of centre for training that we would erect in modern Britain, but there is no doubt about it that it is unfair to ask distinguished public servants like Sir William Cold-stream to look after film archives and build up facilities for training directors and producers to give us the type of quality films we want unless the House of Commons is to provide him with the money with which to do it.
291 On the matter of films, reports come to me from my assessor sitting on the Film Institute. We are now in a very much closer relationship than ever before in the past. It is reported to me that there is a terrific response coming from the regions—Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Norwich, Manchester, Cardiff, Nottingham, Ipswich, Keele University—with a great many others showing interest. Clearly, if we are prepared to provide the facilities, there is a hunger in this country—inside London and outside London; Scotland, Wales, North, South—to begin to have the facilities for opera, for theatre, and for quality films, of which most citizens have been starved for far too long.
I come on to another point of action following the White Paper. On taking office I found that one of our great orchestras was in mortal danger of being destroyed. I refer to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It was no easy matter to deal with the cynics and the defeatists who said that there was nothing else to be done but let it die, but some of us fought very hard so that it should not die. We did not want to take the defeatist line that there were more orchestras than audiences in and around London. We were prepared to take the optimistic line that we would provide better facilities and halls and greater encouragement to build up audiences to meet these wonderful orchestras which are the envy of many parts of the world.
I am very glad to tell the House that last night I was informed that the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is going on from strength to strength. Why is this? Among other things when the Russian Ballet comes to London for a six weeks' tour the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will perform with it. It has other engagements and, far from dying, this great orchestra has been saved. It has been saved because even before the Goodman Report is published and brought before the House it has been made perfectly clear in my White Paper that if the recommendations of the Goodman Committee mean that more money will be required to sustain our excellent orchestras that money will be forthcoming. I can assure hon. Members therefore that here again the Chan- 292 cellor of the Exchequer is keeping his promise to me literally in every sense, and I think that hon. Members will be very satisfied when this Report is brought fully to their notice.
§ Miss Lee
It will be published soon and I am sure that the right hon. Member will be as satisfied as I am when he sees it.
We are finding that the Arts Council and its committees, working with very limited and inadequate staffs, are coping heroically with the problem of having five times as much money as formerly to spend on grants to young artists. It is still not very much, but £50,000 is five times, £10,000, which was the limit that hon. Members opposite even in their most affluent days were able to find. We are going ahead. Scholarships are being arranged as fast as is humanly possible. A great deal has been said about the North-East Arts Association by my two hon. Friends, the Member for South Shields and the Member for Darlington (Mr. Ted Fletcher) who have done so much for it. I endorse everything that they have said.
The great thing about that association is that it gives the best kind of encouragement to local authorities to spend money on the arts, because the individual councillor may be a little hesitant and tempted not to spend, knowing the claims of housing and health and aware of higher rates, unless he is assured that he is meeting genuine public opinion in the area. When arts associations are set up, one can appeal to the best among industrialists, local trade unions, private donors, schools, universities, and local councils, and to contributions from the centre. All this is being done.
Associations are growing up in various parts of the country. I have been spending every weekend visiting those already in being or seeking to establish themselves or to become larger. The Arts Council quite properly gives £40,000 to the North-East Arts Association, which is more than to any other association, because that association is doing more. This is part of the answer to the question about the quality of the Arts Council.
293 We must keep in mind that the Arts Council is a nominated and not an elected body, and because it is nominated this puts an added responsibility on the Government to ensure that it is truly representative. Therefore, in modern times a strong appeal is being made to bring new elements into the Arts Council. This is not to discount or denigrate in any way the wonderful work which has been done by distinguished members of the Council in the past, but there is need to ensure that the Council does not have the atmosphere of a political or social clique and that its doors are wide open so that we can all go into No. 4, St. James's Square. I certainly should like to go in there with a good trade union working squad, because for 13 years a most wonderful building has been neglected and is in a very bad state of disrepair. There is something to be said for getting a group of plumbers and painters to do a salvaging job on it.
It is true that the Arts Council is adjusting itself to the new things of a new time. Before ever the present Government were elected the Council produced its Report, "State of Play" to show how concerned it was to see that art centres and multi-purpose buildings were sustained. The Council was already beginning to be "with it". I should be doing the Arts Council no service if I tried to say that it was everything that we desired. The Council no doubt would not say that the Minister was everything it desired, but I am the best helper it has had so far: I have obtained more assistance for the Council from the Treasury than anyone else has ever obtained, and that is something to go on with.
We are bringing in regional representation in one way or another. The Council, for instance, delegates to the North-East Arts Association the spending of a certain amount of money. That is one way of getting representation. None of us is satisfied with the Victoria and Albert Museum grant which has been raised from £50,000 to £100,000, but I have had a glowing letter explaining what this has meant to the Walker Art Gallery, because it has had an allocation which has enabled it to get something which they wanted very badly. Time prevents my reading the letter but it is the type of letter that comes to us from art galleries, struggling 294 theatre companies and individuals and organisations who feel that at last they have a Government with a coherent and imaginative policy and the beginnings of a generous policy to help them ensure that a better type of life is available to people, whether they live in villages or in cities.
I enjoyed the speech of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). It was on the run, and he had read the White Paper rather carelessly. It was not necessary for him to say that he did not want the whole of one's artistic experience to be confined to an hour or two spent in an art centre, because he would have found it set out very clearly in paragraph 14 of the White Paper thatIn any civilised community the arts and associated amenities, serious or comic, light or demanding, must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be regarded as something remote from everyday life. The promotion and appreciation of high standards in architecture, in industrial design, in town planning and the preservation of the beauty of the countryside are all part of it. Beginning in the schools and reaching out into every corner of the nation's life, in city and village, at home, at work, at play, there is an immense amount that could be done to improve the quality of contemporary life.We want to go through the schools and the homes, but above all we have to track down the loneliness among communities of people, whether old or young, experienced in the arts or rather shyly making their first tentative approach, so that they can have warm contemporary buildings where they can meet together.
There is a great deal of interpenetration of interests. If we can get young people to go along to buildings which are contemporary and gay, where they can dance and sing as they like, then perhaps they will become interested in good design and craftsmanship and we can create an atmosphere which will be better than that of a great many forms of commercialism. It is as easy to be cynical and defeatist about what we are trying to do for the young as about what we are doing for the orchestras and what we are doing in making a beginning for the arts. But I do not believe that those who take that sort of view are in tune with contemporary Britain. There is a great longing for us to be more of a community. Before we arrogantly say that any group of our citizens are not capable of appreciating the best in the arts, let us make absolutely 295 certain that we have put the best within their reach.
§ It being Seven o'clock, proceedings on the Motion lapsed, pursuant to Standing Order No. 5 (Precedence of Government Business).