§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, South-East)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Eighth Report from the Estimates Committee in Session 1967–68 relating to Grants for the Arts and of the Departmental Observations thereon (Command Paper No. 4023).It is a great pleasure for me to move this Motion, particularly as my Committee had the chance to consider the workings of the Arts Council not only in England but in Scotland and Wales. All of us greatly appreciated the tremendous help which we had from everyone to whom we made approaches—not only members of the Arts Council, but theatre managers and administrators and all those who welcomed us into their theatres and who sent us memoranda on different aspects of the subjects which we were investigating. One of the things which most impressed us was the willingness of everyone concerned to help us carry out our investigations.
Those hon. Members who have read the Report of the Chairman of the Arts Council for the last year, which was published recently, will notice that he and his companions came with some trepidation to the House to give evidence on the first day. I think that they wondered what sort of battle was going to be fought. But I believe that they realised that we were, basically, on their side and were giving them a chance to put their views about something with which they are so much involved. This is the general attitude of people whom Select Committees see. Once they get over the initial difficulties, they find that it is not nearly so fearsome as they had thought.
So our thanks are due to all those who helped us in the inquiry, and my thanks are due to the members of the Committee for their help and their support for me, and also to our Committee Clerk, who gave us constant and valiant support the whole time.
637 Two hon. Members who would gladly have taken part in the debate are prevented by illness from doing so: I think that both are in hospital—my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), the Chairman of the Estimates Committee, and the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke), who was a member of the Sub-Committee and who helped so much in our inquiries.
I should like to sound a warning note about the way in which administrative costs have risen not only in England but in Scotland and Wales. There tends to be a feeling that prestigious projects have to be undertaken. The Arts Council has recently moved into very palatial headquarters in Piccadilly and the Scottish Arts Council has also moved into large and expensive new headquarters. I am not labouring this, but it should be borne in mind that grant increases do not necessarily mean that administrative costs should increase as well. These bodies should, of course, have proper working conditions and the staff should be housed decently. One hopes that their example will eventually be followed and enjoyed by the theatres of this country.
In Scotland and Wales, there is particularly a shortage of theatres and concert halls. However, one is impressed by the enormous enthusiasm which exists for supporting the theatre, drama, concerts, the ballet and every aspect of artistic endeavour all over the country. One is full of admiration for all those who are helping to further the cause of the arts, in whatever way they can, whether as active members of supporters' groups, helping their theatres, or involved in running theatres or in administration in any way. Also, many towns and cities would not have theatres but for the fact that the Arts Council has been able to help them. We should pay enormous credit to it for the way in which it has helped many theatres, theatre companies and orchestras just to survive. Without the Council's help, they would have closed.
I want to deal first with Scotland and then Wales, and then come to England, mixing praise and blame, and perhaps dealing with the more pleasant things first.
The link between the Scottish Arts Council and the Arts Council of Great Britain is maintained at present by the 638 Chairman of the Scottish Arts Council and two other members who sit on the Arts Council of Great Britain. It was rathers vividly described to us by the Chairman of the Arts Council. He said that they applied for their ingots and loaded them into their saddlebags, then made their way over the hills and once they were there it was up to them to decide how to spend the money; the Arts Council did not interfere.
This is fine, but we found the same complaint in Scotland as in England and Wales. It was not only that grants are not sufficient—we know that they are not sufficient and that my right hon. Friend is doing everything she can in that direction—but there was a very valid complaint that none of the theatres, orchestras or companies knows far enough in advance what its grant will be. This makes life extremely difficult for them. We were told of a particularly hair-raising occasion for the Scottish Opera when it learned what its grant would be only two weeks before the season opened. That is an abominable way to treat a professional company. Companies of this kind have to engage artists often years in advance so as to get the singers they need. They want to know what the grants will be. Otherwise they are placed in an impossible situation. One hopes that never again will such a circumstance occur.
Scotland has an opera company which started in 1962. In the short time of its existence, it has performed at Edinburgh Festival and was invited to perform in Italy and sent a small company there. It has made a very good reputation for itself. My Committee had the pleasure of witnessing one of its performances in Edinburgh. We were most impressed by the standards, not only of the singing and the chorus, but also of the orchestra. It was a very high standard performance. The company's main season—I emphasise "main"—is seven or eight weeks spread over April to June, in Perth, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. It also has a small company of young singers who tour Scotland and England with shortened versions of operas without an orchestra but simply with a stage manager and pianist.
I hope that hon. Members noted the emphasis I put on the words "main season" of seven or eight weeks. 639 Altogether the opera company performs for about 13 weeks in a year. In 1966, it took on a professional chorus of 20 singers. It uses amateur singers as well, but it now has a professional chorus. This chorus, with a small nucleus of solo singers employed for the whole season, have to fend for themselves for the rest of the year. They do a few concerts and have radio and television commitments, but these can be counted only in days.
The Scottish National Orchestra has a much longer season than the opera company. It plays for the opera company. In view of the appalling difficulties under which both the opera company and the orchestra perform, it is surprising that they produce such high quality work.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)
Will the hon. Lady include in the list she has just given the most remarkable performance given in Vienna?
§ Mrs. Short
I am speaking only of my own experience in connection with the inquiry and I cannot speak of performances outside this country.
The lack of suitable concert halls and places in which to rehearse, particularly in Scotland, hampers the orchestra. It has no permanent home for rehearsals, although it hopes to have one in future. In spite of this, it has enhanced its reputation very considerably. The orchestra is anxious to do more concerts and more touring than it can afford to do now. The orchestra points out that with 50 per cent. more grant it could do twice as many performances as it does now.
Some local authorities in Scotland support the opera and the orchestra with great generosity; others not at all. The Musician's Union has suported the orchestra from its phonographic fund and Scottish Television has also helped. These contributions make a tremendous difference to the orchestra.
Five years ago the opera company tried to interest industry in Scotland to support 640 it, but without any success. It engaged a firm to carry out an appeal. The firm told the company that the Scottish Opera's name counted little in the general industrial and commercial world of Scotland. This is a dreadful indictment of Scottish industry. I hope that hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House will do what they can to see that Scottish opera is made to mean something to the industrial and commercial world of Scotland. Many of Scotland's theatre companies work under difficult conditions. We took evidence from the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre, which runs a main theatre and a close theatre club in a small theatre seating 150 people where experimental work is done. The Glasgow Citizens are to lose that theatre building. It is to be pulled down by the corporation, but the corporation has promised to rehouse the theatre suitably. We shall await the proposals with very great interest.
In absolute fairness to the Scottish Arts Council, I should say that it is very well aware of all the problems and difficulties with which the theatres and the orchestra have to contend. The Council is also well aware of the need to build up the audience of the future. The Council impressed on us strongly that not only in Scotland, but in Wales and England, the question of future audiences is of great concern to all responsible for supporting the arts. In Scotland, the Arts Council is subsidising a special travelling arrangement which brings young people from more remote areas to towns with repertory theatres. One is sorry that more is not done by local authorities to support the theatres in Scotland and that more help is not forthcoming from other sources. I very much hope that they will take note of what is said in this debate because my Committee felt very much concerned on this question.
The Chairman of the Welsh Arts Council also sits on the Arts Council of Great Britain and thereby forms a link between what is done for the theatre and the arts in Wales and the main body which dispenses the money. One was pleased to learn that grants for the Welsh Arts Council had risen from £140,000 in 1963–64 to £465,000 last year, which is an enormous increase and is very much appreciated in Wales. The art centre in Wales is slightly different from that 641 in Scotland, although many of the problems I have mentioned about Scotland obtain also in Wales.
Wales has no orchestral equivalent of the Scottish National Orchestra, although there is a passionate movement to see that one is obtained. There is the Simfonia Orchestra, an ad hoc orchestra recruited from among the 56 members of the B.B.C. Welsh Orchestra. Many of them work as free-lance musicians. It would very much like to become a Welsh national orchestra.
There is, however, an opera company. The opera company has to pay for the services of orchestras that it uses. Because it has not got its own orchestra, it must spend about £65,000 a year on hiring orchestras. It uses the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and, when it goes to Bristol, Birmingham or Liverpool, it uses those orchestras.
To set up its own orchestra would cost, I suppose, at least twice that sum. It must be borne in mind that when several different orchestras have to be used in the course of a year by one opera company doing the same works in the repertoire a good deal of rehearsal time must be repeated over and over again, all of which must be paid for and is unproductive qua the opera company's future development.
Therefore, although to establish an orchestra for the Welsh National Opera Company would be an expensive undertaking, we must bear in mind the cost of the additional rehearsal time that must be paid for with different orchestras and the long-term artistic development which would certainly accrue if it had its own orchestra.
The Welsh National Opera Company was formed in 1946. It has been responsible for bringing on very many Welsh singers of both sexes who have achieved great fame at home and abroad. The programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, contains the names of many Welsh singers who started with the Welsh National Opera Company. This is a tremendous source of pride to Wales. It has every reason to be proud of this aspect of the Opera Company's achievement. Many Welsh opera singers have achieved fame abroad, and in countries that are more generous to opera than we are many 642 Welsh singers earn their living most of the time.
Recently the Welsh National Opera Company undertook the professionalisation of the chorus. It now has a chorus of 36 singers who are fully engaged with the company. It also uses amateurs. I had the pleasure of seeing an absolutely magnificent performance of Boris Godunov at the New Theatre in Cardiff. At that time there were 127 chorus singers on the stage. It was a very good performance.
The Company has also joined Opera for All. A small group, as in Scotland, tours extensively with a pianist and a stage manager. It is not surprising that the Opera Company takes a fairly large share of the Welsh Arts Council's grant—about £150,000 in 1967–68, plus £14,000 which the Opera Company gets from Welsh local authorities. I am glad that in Wales at least the local authorities will support the Opera Company, although I shall have something to say about their lack of support for the theatre.
The Opera Company has similar problems to those applying in Scotland, but it has one tremendous advantage over Scotland in that it now has splendid new administration, rehearsal and workshop premises in Cardiff which is a magnificently converted old warehouse. I had the great honour of being invited to open this for the Opera Company last year. I did this with great pleasure, because when we were conducting the inquiry and were in Cardiff we saw the warehouse in its raw state, so to speak, with the inside being knocked about and none of the final touches even envisaged. It has provided beautiful rehearsal rooms, large and small, and a very good administrative suite. It is a most attractive building of which they can be and are proud, and they are very grateful for it.
Even this broadly based and, one would have thought, firmly established opera company, with a talented directorate in all aspects of its work, managed only eleven weeks bookings in 1967 and only 14 weeks bookings in 1968—a large proportion in Wales, though it visited Bristol, Birmingham and Liverpool. I am very concerned about this lack of work for such companies.
When we went to Wales we were concerned about the state of the Welsh theatre. We were concerned that the 643 Arts Council in Wales did not have a drama committee. We strongly recommended that it should set one up. I am glad to note that it has done so.
We were concerned about the way in which the theatre was organised and the way in which the grant was used. We made certain recommendations. I have been back to Cardiff and seen the theatre now working under new direction. It was in the New Theatre in Cardiff when I saw it. We recommended that it should use that theatre. The theatre is certainly on the right lines now.
The position hitherto was that the Welsh Theatre Company spent most of its time touring in Wales. Most of that time was spent working for schools, which is very necessary and laudable but not when it becomes the whole of the company's theatrical activity. It was playing in towns and villages in very bad village and church halls. It was doing plays in English and Welsh. It had not appeared at the New Theatre in Cardiff, for example, for several years.
As a result, it had failed to establish itself as a theatre company. It had no permanent base. It spent half its grant simply on paying travelling expenses just travelling around the country. At the end of the day there was nothing to show for all these activities. It was never able to attract well-known actors to join the company and appear, either on the basis of a one-week or two-week tour or even for shorter guest performances. I gained the impression that it was a sort of amateur fit-up organisation without any sense of direction, not knowing what it was trying to achieve and not knowing what it was aiming for.
We noted at the time that the company received £78,000 in a year. When this was compared with, say, the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry or Birmingham Repertory Theatre, which receive £40,000 or £43.000 in a year, the end results just were not worth the expenditure. We made very strong comments about this. There is now a new director who is very enthusiastic and has good ideas about the theatre's future development.
During the course of the inquiry we made many visits in England as well. I have mentioned some of the visits we made in Scotland and Wales. We visited 644 many famous and some less famous theatres. We went to the Royal Opera House and to the National Theatre. We went to Stratford and visited the Royal Shakespeare Company. We went to the Aldwych, where the Royal Shakespeare Company also plays. We saw the glamour that members of the audience see and expect when they go to the theatre. Theatregoing should be a glamorous, pleasant, comfortable, wonderful occasion.
We also went to see the backstage conditions at all the theatres that we visited. These were no surprise to me, but I think that some of my colleagues on the Committee were rather shocked, never having been backstage before. It is true that the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, is a slum backstage; it is a disgrace. None of us should feel complacent about the conditions which members of the company—whether they are actors or singers—have to tolerate, nor the unspeakably cramped conditions which the orchestra has to put up with. It is something which all of us want to change as rapidly as possible, and when the Market goes there are plans for the improvement and expansion of the Opera House there. The plans are not only to improve the auditorium and the stage, but also the conditions under which members of the company have to work.
Those conditions are found not only in this theatre but in many of our old theatres up and down the country. The contrast between the conditions in those old theatres and the conditions in new theatres built since the war—such as the Nottingham Playhouse, the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry or the Midlands Art Centre in Birmingham—is very acute. I think that people who work in the theatre have been too tolerant of the awful conditions which they have had to endure all their working lives. What is absolutely clear is that much more money will have to be spent to make many of our theatres decent and comfortable for the people who work in them and the audiences they hope to attract.
The pattern of support from the public varies a good deal. When the Welsh National Opera Company plays at the New Theatre, Cardiff, or the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham—which it did recently—it plays to 90 to 95 per cent. capacity. In Birmingham people were 645 queueing in the street to get tickets. When the Royal Shakespeare Company visits Cardiff it plays to an 80 to 85 per cent. capacity. But when commercial companies visit Cardiff and offer the usual sort of trivial bedroom farces, which to my mind is not worth the effort to put on, such companies play to an almost empty theatre. That seems to indicate that, in Wales at least, people have some discrimination and want to see the best drama, opera and music that they can. This rather contrasts with what happened when the Royal Shakespeare Company went to Bournemouth and played to a 29 per cent. capacity. It appears that the wealthy town of Bournemouth has not such good taste as Wales, and certainly not such good taste as Cardiff, about the theatre.
The other thing which one gathered from this inquiry was that while people are prepared to visit first-rate companies performing their normal established repertoire, they are not really willing to see anything new. They are not keen to hear new music, they are not keen to see new opera and they are not keen to see new plays, and that is rather a pity. The classic example which comes to my mind is that when the Birmingham Repertory Theatre put on "Hadrian VII" it ran for three weeks for its first professional performance and in Birmingham only netted a 43 per cent. audience capacity. Then it went to Puddle Dock and played for several years. Now it is at the Haymarket and it is still running. I think that Birmingham rather lost out on that one.
Having concluded that more money is needed, our second conclusion was that drama, opera, music and ballet cannot live from hand to mouth on a short term basis. We feel—and this was repeated to us by many of our professional witnesses —that forward planning is absolutely essential if singers, musicians and actors are to be chosen and repertories arranged and adequate rehearsal time found.
This was put to us again and again, and that is why we strongly recommend that grants should be in a rolling triennial basis, that they should be expressed as a floor and not a ceiling, and that there should be a carry-over of reasonable amounts of money from one year to the next. Companies which could make economies in one year would then know 646 that if the following year they wished to stage a more expensive and more exciting production, they would have the money to do so. Above all, this rolling triennial grant should be accepted by my right hon. Friend the Minister so that there is this degree of security and elbow room for companies so that they can plan ahead and know precisely how much they will get and what their financial position will be within certain limits.
I shall be very anxious to hear what my right hon. Friend has to say about this, because it will bring enormous relief to all those companies all over the country which the Arts Council is helping. This is very important.
It is time that we gave some considered thought to the whole question of patronage of the arts in this country and where the patronage of the theatre is to be found. There are still a few private donors, but I think they form a declining group. It is clear, and has been for a long time—and that is why the Arts Council came into being—that the whole of our cultural life cannot rely on this dwindling number of private patrons.
The State has played a valiant part of late, and I pay warm tribute to my right hon. Friend for the success of the work she has carried out in this respect. Certainly, without her efforts and her charm and the blandishments which she is able to exercise on all and sundry, we would not be in this position today, and great credit is due to her. In 1963, the Arts Council had £2,750,000 to dispense. The figure in 1968 was £7,750,000. That is a very considerable increase, and it has meant that very many more groups of theatres and companies have been able to be helped as the years have gone by. It is interesting that in 1968 there were 1,500 applications for help to the Arts Council and 950 of those were successful. That indicates a very fair spread over the country over a large number of organisations of different sizes from the large London companies and theatres to the very small theatres with small companies.
But it is local authority help which is so disappointing in so many parts of the country. As the House knows, a local authority can spend up to a sixpenny rate on cultural enterprises. None do and some give absolutely nothing, although they have a theatre, an orchestra, an 647 opera company or some other enterprise in their area.
We were amazed to find that Stratford gives not a penny to the Royal Shakespeare Company, although the company is internationally known and justly has a magnificent reputation. It brings an enormous number of foreign visitors to Stratford every year and all the trades people, the hotel keepers and the restaurateurs benefit from that. But nothing goes back to the company. That is an amazing situation. We were told in evidence that the only dependable income which the Royal Shakespeare Company has is its Arts Council grant. The company plays to very full houses—to 95 per cent. capacity —and this is a measure of its success. When the company appears, either at home or abroad, the performances are practically a sell out. It is amazing that local authorities should betray such a Philistine attitude to companies of that kind. By comparison, some local authorities have been quite generous, giving land for new theatres and loaning their chief officers to give skilled technical advice and also giving money as a direct contribution to the theatre.
Many of our best orchestras are in a difficult position, and many of the local authorities involved are unwilling to increase their help to them. I think that what the general public do not understand is that a small grant which represents only a fraction of a 1d. rate from a wealthy authority can mean a contribution which makes all the difference between life and death to the orchestra or the theatre. A few thousand pounds go a long way when one is talking about the help which an orchestra or a theatre needs.
Regional associations, which have been formed with some alacrity of late, play a valuable rôle in stimulating and coordinating local authority support, and we hope that these associations will develop all over the country.
When we are looking at the question of partners in patronage, I think we can say that more help could come not only from local authorities, but from industry—and I have mentioned the Scottish Opera example—and the trade unions. So far they have been very far from forthcoming. Some firms help their local theatres by taking blocks of seats which 648 they give to their employees, and some firms contribute directly to theatre funds, but not enough of them do so.
The trade unions ought to be concerned with the quality of life, with ideas for the use of increased leisure time, and with encouraging new talent of all kinds. They could, and should, do very much more than they do, and I should like to feel that the trade unions and the T.U.C. will consider what help they can give to the arts. I hope that they will decide that there is something that they can do to help workers in the theatre, whose plight is very serious indeed.
As I said earlier, theatres are working valiantly to take their skill and their talent to young people and young audiences to build up the audiences of the future. Many of them put on special performances in their theatres for schoolchildren and young people. Many of them send young companies to schools to perform on the school's own premises. We ought to congratulate all these theatres on the work that they are doing to stimulate interest in young people to become the audiences of the future, but we need audiences now if the theatres are to survive. I think that the Arts Council should consider more energetically how audiences can be attracted to the theatre.
One of the things which the general public do not realise—apart from the appalling back-stage conditions which are endured by theatre people—is the low rate of pay, and the insecurity of the life of professional people. They are among the lowest paid in the country. The Equity minimum is about £12 a week, and many of these people work very long hours for this rate of pay. Many theatres are kept going by the casual employment of trained actors and actresses. It is a minority of actors, dancers, and singers who get contracts for six months' work. The lucky few manage to achieve this.
Most of the theatres which we visited, and from which we took evidence, because of their financial situation, are able to engage only a small nucleus of a company, perhaps 10 or 12 actors and actresses, on a long-term basis. They then have to go through this awful business of auditioning a large number of people for the plays to be put on during 649 the season. This often means that a young actor or actress is engaged for two weeks' rehearsals, and two weeks' performances, which gives them a month's work, and then they are out of work again. When this happens, they have to go through the whole dreary dreadful business of ringing up agents every day to ask whether there are any auditions or work for them. Half the time the agents do not work for the youngsters. They work hard for the established actors who are always in work and who earn good salaries, and thus bring in a fair return to the agents. The agents do not work hard for the young actors and actresses fresh out of drama school, or for the youngsters with less than five years' experience. This is an extremely difficult, and indeed heart-breaking, situation.
We were most grateful to Equity, which gave evidence to us, and whose survey into working conditions in the profession is included in our Report. Equity had carried out a survey among all its members to find out what sort of pay these people received, and how many weeks and days a year they worked. The survey showed that more than half the male actors aged between 21 and 25—that means all the young actors who have come out of our drama schools; the figure is actually 51 per cent.—earned less than £500 a year from their professional work. It was found, too, that 54 per cent. of actors over 65 were in the same boat, and that more than half the men—55 per cent.—worked less than 21 weeks in a year. It was also found that 68 per cent. of actors worked less than 31 weeks in a year. A few obtained work in secondary employment, in films, television, and so on, but this is counted only in days and not weeks, and Equity concluded that the media employment for actors over the whole year was 15 weeks in a theatre and 22 days in films and television; that singers worked 26 weeks, with 15 days' extra work; and that dancers worked 34 weeks with 10 days' extra work.
The figures for actresses are very much worse. It was found that 56 per cent. of young actresses between 21 and 25 earned less than £500 a year, and that 86 per cent. of actresses over 65 earned about the same amount. The survey showed that 59 per cent. of all actresses worked less than 21 weeks in a year and 650 that 74 per cent. of all actresses worked less than 31 weeks. The media employment for actresses worked out at 11 weeks, with 21 days in other employment. It was found that singers worked 22 weeks, with 11 days' other work, and that dancers worked 22 weeks, with three days other work.
Those figures are a shame, a scandal, and a disgrace, and it is high time that this survey by Equity was given much broader currency than it has had. I hope that by this debate we shall let people know what the situation in the professional theatre is, and the appalling conditions which have to be endured by our young talented actors, actresses and singers.
That raises the whole question of entry into the profession. We have a small group of drama schools which we all want to see flourish, but there are too many less good drama schools which ought to be closed down. What is a matter of concern is that from our inquiry we discovered that there are about 16 colleges of further education under my right hon. Friend's Department which run what they call pre-drama school courses. We first came across this when we went to Bristol. We visited the Old Vic, and went to Clifton Down, to the theatre's training school there. It is a very good training school. Students who go there train with the Old Vic, and some hope to be taken on by the company, but most of them have to get jobs elsewhere.
Colleges of further education are using pre-drama school courses as a bait to bring even more people into a grossly over-crowded profession, and I think that my right hon. Friend ought to take firm steps to close down these courses. This activity really is a waste of public money. It is a snare and a delusion to persuade any more people to become stage-struck. Far too many are stage-struck as it is. Far too many get in by the back door through amateur experience, and it is a scandal that there should be any encouragement at all by my right hon. Friend's Department in this way, when trained people who have done a three-year course at R.A.D.A. cannot get jobs, or are able to work for only 10, 11, or 12 weeks in a year. I hope that my right hon. Friend will say that colleges of further education have 651 been advised that these courses, advertised as free drama school courses, should not be put on. This has nothing to do with drama as a teaching method, of course, and I hope the House understands this. We are talking about colleges of further education running these courses in order to attract people to try to get into drama classes or the theatre. Training for the theatre is a highly skilled, highly professional job involving very many different artistic skills. It is not something that should be undertaken in a college of further education.
The Arts Council has produced its report on opera and ballet, and I ought to say just before I finish that already there has been some reaction from the regions to this report. There is some concern that this is going to have an adverse effect on the opportunities for people in the regions to see some of the best companies. It would appear that the Royal Ballet, for example, is proposing that the touring should be done by a small group of 26 dancers, which, of course, will not make it possible for the kind of ballets which most of the people in the provinces want to see to be put on at all. There is concern about Sadlers Wells touring, too, and the feeling is that now that the decision has been made that three new opera houses should be built touring companies really ought to be based on a new provincial theatre, so that the travelling expenses and the expenses of touring can be cut down and the distances the company has to travel shortened.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will be able to say something about this, because although the report has only just come out—it was somewhat delayed—there is already concern in the provinces that they are going to be adversely affected by the reorganisation of these two companies.
Of course, the Arts Council it sitting on a theatre report and we are very anxious to see this. I wish the Arts Council had the same productivity as my Committee, because we have produced this massive tome and they have taken a great deal of time to produce their report. We are anxious to know if all the aspects have been covered by the Arts Council. The question of training, for example, which we understood when the Arts 652 Council gave evidence to us has not been included in its terms of reference. We suggested that this should be included, but I do not know whether or not it has been, although I hope very much that it is part of the report.
The one thing I should like to say about the opera report is that I was delighted to see in the Press that almost as soon as the report was published the Welsh National Opera Company had an offer from a developer to build a new opera house for it in Cardiff. This is marvellous news, if it goes ahead. And the head of Granada Television, who has been a very generous supporter of the arts, has offered to make a contribution from Granada Television to a new opera house in Manchester. This rather indicates a new area of patronage of the arts—namely independent television—because they cream off an enormous part of the talent nurtured by our companies, in particular theatres and orchestras, and it is only right that they should put something back.
I will conclude, as I opened, with a quotation from the report of the Chairman of the Arts Council, who was converted during the course of the inquiry when he realised that we were really on his side and said that we could come and investigate the Arts Council any day. It was nice of him to give us permission, but I think he said that sitting back in some relief when he thought we had passed over the Arts Council and would not pass that way again. I hasten to assure him that it is the custom of my Committee to go back after a decent interval and find out which of our recommendations have been acted upon. So we shall be back to visit the Arts Council again even without the additional offer of sherry and biscuits at their expense, which they did not give us when we went to see them before.
This was a most interesting and a fascinating subject to investigate, and I hope I have given the impression to the House that there is an enormous amount we can he proud of in this country if we continue to encourage the development of talent in all forms of art all over the country—in England, Scotland and Wales. The fact that so many people now look to the Arts Council for help indicates that they appreciate that the Arts Council is there to help 653 and encourage them. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to give us some information about some of these important recommendations which I have drawn to her attention and that we shall have the support of Members on both sides of the House for the improvement of the situation as the years go by.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
The hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) began her speech by offering congratulations to the members of her Committee and to the advisers, and I am certain that it is the wish of the House that we extend our congratulations to her. She has been assiduous and hard working, and there is no doubt that she is deserving of our praise. She has made a very long speech today, but I do not begrudge her one minute. The amount of work she has done outside justifies the House's listening to any conclusions in the House itself. She made two or three points on which I want to comment very briefly.
I think we would all wish to support her belief that the Arts Council and all others who have to administer public money should keep their own administrative expenses to the minimum. I do not think that any of us want to say that there has been any great waste that we know of, but it is vital, when public money is spent on something such as the arts, that the administrators should not give the impression of giving themselves too much sherry and biscuits out of the grants made to them.
I should like also to support the hon. Lady's plea that recipients should know in time about the grants that are given. It is vital for one to know if one is getting a grant soon enough to put it to good use. I have to declare an interest as Chairman of the Malvern Festival Theatre Trust. We have never had anything to complain of. We have had very good notice and have been able to plan accordingly. That according to hon. Lady is not the experience of everyone, however, and I think it essential that one should always know in good time.
I felt that one point needed correction. When the hon. Lady referred to Scottish industry not giving help to the arts in Scotland, she left the impression that this perhaps applied to industry generally. I 654 do not think it does, because when she was talking I remembered the comment in the report from Sir William Emrys Williams, Arts Adviser to the Institute of Directors, that:It was his view that industry and commerce as patrons of the arts do far more for the arts than local authorities do and come an easy second to the Arts Council itself.So I think it would not be right and the hon. Lady would not wish to leave an impression that industry generally did not play a quite considerable part in keeping the arts going on the right scale in this country. But I agree with the hon. Lady that we must look to sources other than the Exchequer and the Arts Council it we are to keep pace with the demands in this particular field.
I strongly urge the right hon. Lady the Minister of State, who deserves all our congratulations for the special leadership which she has given in this field, to give a little time to cuddling up to the Chancellor. There is a lesson to be learned from America and other countries. They allow business, commerce and private people to make a contribution which is taken into account in their tax declarations. I am sure that we should be able to get much of the help which is needed in this way. At the moment, we have to pay for the money to be collected and then pay people to sort it out and distribute it. We should let industry, commerce and private individuals with special interests in this field give their grants direct and let them rank for tax purposes in this way. I am sure that that is the sort of patronage that the right hon. Lady had in mind when she said that we would have to consider some new fields.
This Report from the Estimates Committee is a formidable document, but it is fascinating and satisfying to read. It is full of information and it gives heart to those of us who are interested in this side of our social life. If I had to describe in a sentence the results of this work, I would call it "a record of success—so far". Perhaps the last two words sound a little churlish. If one approached this debate nostalgically or complacently, one could find oneself congratulating all the people concerned, the organisers and the artistes and certainly the Arts Council, and that could be it. But that would be wrong, because the congratulation is for what has been done in the past. We 655 have a special duty, when examining a Report like this, to look forward and to anticipate the future as well as to pay tribute—or even to criticise, as the hon. Lady effectively did—to what was done in the past. It is right and constructive therefore to add to my sentence the phrase "so far". It is in that mood that I wish to speak.
So far, then, thank heaven, all parties recognise the democratic right of the entire community to have access to drama, music and painting. I have no doubt that this will continue, and it should. Being something of a realist in these matters, however, and having fought about 16 elections, nine of them Parliamentary, remainder local government, I also have no doubt that, since this is election year, someone is bound to claim special credit for his own side for the success story.
I can almost hear that anonymous party supporter saying that the materialistic, philistine Tories only granted £3¼ million in 1964, whereas the enlightened and cultural Socialists raised that grant to £7¾ million by 1969. There is nothing unusual in this. The figures are quite correct, but the message behind them would be just as big a distortion as a self-congratulation by me "that a culturally enlightened Tory administration had rescued the nation from a grant of a mere £675,000 in 1950 by the then Socialist Government and had raised it to £3¼ million by 1964". Both would be stupid and distorted.
Time marches on, and, every year, particularly since the war, as the fabric of subsidised art has been extended, that very extension has meant that the opportunity to furnish and equip within that fabric has become possible on a broader scale—and not only possible but essential. These recent figures prove that and nothing more than that.
I am always reminded of two women talking about a neighbour. One said, "She is older than she says she is and she is older than she looks." The other one said, "Yes, she is pretty good at putting on the paint and powder, but she cannot fool a flight of stairs." And one cannot fool a flight of stairs on the advances made year by year under all Administrations, for grants have gone up under both sides.
656 On this discrepancy of figures, with inflation and devaluation, about one-third of this extra money has been eaten up and thus one gets a more reasonable understanding of what has actually been spent. But it is a happy occasion that all sides can be congratulated on being genuinely interested in something worth while and on having done something about it.
Time also marches on in a sense especially detrimental to the live theatre. With the invention of radio and television, audiences have been decimated. This has nothing whatever to do with the quality of the theatre or with the neglect or lack of interest of the people in charge of the theatre before. People used to spend their leisure time going to theatres but now have other things to do. Alongside that, wage standards and production costs have risen, special taxes have been imposed and private management has been crippled by all these things. Yet still it is manacled to pretty near the prewar price for a seat. Thus, as a result of the changing pattern of our society and our economic set-up, there have been great problems for the theatres.
As a consequence, the professional live theatre in vast areas of the provinces would have ceased to exist if the Exchequer and the local councils and the Arts Council had not stepped in in the way described in the Report and as has been enlarged upon by the hon. Lady. The message from this is clear. It is obvious that, since the cost of maintaining the theatre properties will increase much faster than audiences or seat prices will, it is essential in the provinces that local councils should become the owners of many theatres. They must be prepared to let them to producing managements at a rent which will recognise the balance sheet problems of the management, and which are not of their own making, but arise from the technical and social changes in the nation's way of life.
I believe that this can be done. If, in addition to production costs, managements must pay a real economic rent for theatre sites today, we shall not be able to offer this desirable facility to our people when they want and need it more than ever before. It has become a cliché, because it is true, to say that it would be right for the local authorities to do this, because the live theatre has just as good 657 a claim for this sort of preference as the public library, the museum or the swimming baths. They all come in the same category and it is not a matter of giving any special treatment to the live theatre.
So far, following the inevitable erosion of the live theatre in the Provinces, the record amply justifies the way in which the Arts Council grants have been used. There is no doubt about that: that is why we all support it. Overwhelming success has been achieved against formidable economic odds in keeping in being professional drama, opera and ballet for the enjoyment of a wide range of ordinary people at a time when otherwise, because of all the costs and problems they face, they would have been forced out of existence.
The Report shows all of this, but I must join the hon. Lady in expressing some regret that the Committee did not at the same time assess the contribution that the commercial theatre is making, despite the big handicaps it operates under. The commercial theatre is more than an insignificant junior partner in all this. Its contribution to keeping the arts alive and bringing these facilities within the range of our people is very considerable, and I should like to have seen the Report giving proper recognition to it. Not only is the commercial theatre making this great contribution to the personal enjoyment of our people but in the process has established this country as the centre of world theatreland.
This country is now recognised as the centre of world theatreland. Here is the powerhouse of producing the sort of programmes which go on television throughout the world. We are well on the way to this country becoming the Los Angeles of the world in matters of the raw material for theatre and television. We have to recognise the contribution which the commercial theatre has made to this.
In addition, it has made a considerable contribution to our foreign currency earnings. There is no doubt that the money earned from this source, because we have this reputation and position in the world, has made a worth-while contribution to our balance of trade figures. I recently had a good example of this brought to my attention.
658 It was given by an American travel agent whose business is mainly to arrange off-peak tours for 300 to 350 dollars for a 14-day visit to London, mainly for young tourists. The 14 days has to include a visit to one musical, one West End play and one classical play. But experience shows that the tourists go to three or four other theatres as well. He explained that when he tried to sell the same type of package deal for visits to Paris, Rome and Berlin, it failed partly because of the language difficulty but mainly because there is not the same variety and drama within their theatres that one finds here. He said that not only were these off-peak tours showing this sort of trend but the peak period tours as well.
People were now coming to see not so much the changing of the guard or other ceremonials which we put on our posters throughout the world, but because of the great attraction of our theatres and the entertainment quality we are able to offer. The Arts Council, the subsidised theatre and the commercial theatre are partners in bringing this about and it should be recognised as the true partnership it is. I think that most of that example would come from the commercial theatre and that we shall neglect the measure of the example that agent gave at our peril.
When I ask this House and the Chancellor to support the efforts of the Estimates Committee and anyone else to give proper place and respect to entertainment, I am not doing so merely to produce leisure activity for our own use—I do not despise that, and it is right, and I also ask the Government to give support by allowing private patrons to strengthen the effort by tax aids—but also because I believe that this industry offers a massive potential for the future in earning foreign exchange.
Throughout the world, standards are rising. Travel is becoming easier. Leisure is becoming more abundant. If we properly exploit our position as the centre of world theatre and television programmes, if we exploit properly our entertainment leadership, I prophesy that 20 years from now our balance of payments will benefit more from income from this source than from the export of motor cars. More and more, other countries are making their own cars and that sort of thing is a wasting asset in 659 exports. But here we have a source of earnings, which we should not underestimate in terms of a largely empty Chamber discussing something of great importance. It is important both culturally and in what it does for us economically.
I am sorry, therefore, that the Committee did not find some way of associating the commercial theatre with its Report. There is need to emphasise that the subsidised theatre and the commercial theatre are complementary to each other and not antagonistic. They both want to do the best for Britain and I think that there is antagonism here which can do harm and which is wrong. I have declared an interest in that I am Chairman of the Malvern Festival Theatre Trust, but for a number of years I sat on the boards of two of our leading companies, Moss Empires and Stoll Theatres, so I have knowledge of both sides.
I sense a conflict between the subsidised theatre and the commercial theatre which is unhealthy and very sad. Anything we can do, certainly from the point of view of this House, to end that can only be for the good. The subsidised operators sometimes seem to adopt a patronising air towards the commercial theatre, rather suggesting that the "commercial boys" are on their way out because of inefficiency or because of what are claimed to be lower standards or because of what is regarded as personal greed or monopolistic tendencies. None of this is true. Perhaps that is not the impression which the subsidised operators wish to give but it is there when they should be co-operating together.
If the subsidised theatre had to rely alone on its own box offices receipts against its production costs, it would not last two minutes. It is well to remember that, and one says it without bitterness. It is forgotten, or sometimes people in the commercial theatre think that it is forgotten, by the subsidised theatre that, while the subsidised operators receive grants from the Exchequer, the commercial theatre, through selective employment tax and corporation tax, as well as personal income tax, is very much contributing to the Treasury. Out of the £7: million given to the arts through grants by the Arts Council this year, I should think that about half was covered 660 by taxes collected from the commercial theatre, and that fact should be remembered.
One can understand the feeling of resentment in the commercial theatre at being patronised, if, indeed, that impression is true. On the other hand—and this is what makes the situation so sad, because they are both equally wrong—there is an unnecessary sense of resentment among commercial operators against the subsidised section. Some of the commercial operators are over confident. They have great experience and are sure of themselves and think that they produce with greater efficiency and less waste when battling against the social changes which affect their work. They say, "We have to pay S.E.T. and the subsidised theatre does not; we have to pay full local rates and the subsidised theatre gets reduced rates". This does cause a feeling of resentment which is sad, wrong and unnecessary.
Commercial theatre is often angry with the snide innuendoes that it has to tolerate from the pseudo-highbrow columnists, which seem to charge it with being greedy monopolists, when they are taking great risks to keep the theatre alive just as the subsidised theatre people are doing. The point that the commercial people make is that they have made the great names, the Oliviers, the Scofields, the names we mention with awe. By and large they were employed first by the commercial theatre. [Interruption.] I say by and large. I think it is true that many of our great names, the people with the greatest pull, who can get the crowds in the various cities the hon. Lady mentioned, started with commercial theatres. In those days there were no subsidised theatres. I am delighted now that these people, and all honour to them, work for a fraction of their true value in the subsidised theatres. Sometimes the commercial people feel that they have not got their fair share of recognition.
What the commercial theatre forgets is that but for the subsidised section over recent years it would have hardly any provincial theatres to use for its various productions. Whilst it may have produced the actors, of recent years the subsidised section has produced the authors and playwrights. It is usually from that section that they have come. There is this antagonism, unnecessary and sad, which 661 we ought to try to cut out. The two theatres are complementary and by and large are both making an equal contribution to the high standard we claim.
I am suggesting that there is this unnecessary chasm between the two. It must be healed by the growth of mutual respect and it is for us to try to bring about that healing process, which I think would be speeded up by the Government removing some of the anomalies such as S.E.T. and all those other special Government imposts which the commercial theatre has to bear and which the other subsidised theatre does not. The Government will be able to play their part by generously responding to the Theatre Investment Fund which was referred to by Lord Goodman on 28th January. The fund is a suggestion which, I gather from reading the newspapers, will be included in the report of the Committee to which the hon. Lady referred. I sit on that Committee and I cannot make any comments about it nor can any other hon. Member who sits upon it because the report has not been published and will not be published until the middle of March.
What I am commenting upon is not the report, which I have not officially seen, but Lord Goodman's references to it in the newspaper. He said that the recommendation from the Committee, which sat for two years, would receive sympathetic consideration.
In a report in the Observer of 1st February it was said that I as a member of that Committee had attached an addendum to the main report asking that the Theatre Investment Fund grant should be made adequate to do the job and that I have asked that proper credit should be given to the commercial theatre for the part it plays. Again that is a report in a newspaper and nothing to do with the official report. All I can say is that for once this leak would seem to be accurate.
All that the hon. Lady has said and all that I have tried to say is that the money spent so far has been well spent, it is doing the job that it is essential for us to do if we are to play our part as a live, civilised community and it has also the added attraction of offering a little bit of profit to the nation. I am never one to despise profit. If I could get all the parties to pay the same respect to 662 profit that I pay, we should all be in a much happier and better state.
No one ought to contribute to a debate such as this without paying his tribute to the right hon. Lady the Minister who has shown such leadership in these matters. Certainly it is a case of having the right person in the right job at the right time. She can rest assured that anything that can be done from these benches in pursuing the policy she is following will be done with alacrity and pleasure.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
Order. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to speak in this debate. Short speeches might enable all Members present to be called.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)
I am sure the whole House has enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls). He speaks with knowledge and enthusiasm and he has a great deal of experience of the theatre. I listened with pleasure to many of his remarks, and I and the House would agree with many of them—not all, I will come to those later. His speech was a valuable and informed contribution.
I want to say a word of congratulation to a number of people who have been concerned with this Report and are mentioned in it. First, we ought to thank the Leader of the House for giving us the opportunity to debate the Report. All too often Reports from Select Committees which have taken up an immense amount of time and energy are put on the shelf and that happens much to the annoyance of the Members of that Committee and also to those who are not members of the Committee who want to discuss the Report in the House. Now we have this Report before us, after a 14 month gap it is true; but better late than never.
Above all our thanks are due to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) for chairing this Sub-Committee which investigated the Arts Council. Together with her hon. Friends on the Committee, she has produced a remarkable Report. It is one of the most striking and interesting Select Committee Reports I have read. It is the fruit of intensive 663 investigation into nearly every aspect of the Art Council's work and makes extraordinarily good reading, both in its report of the examination of witnesses who appeared before it and in its conclusions.
It is clear from the speeches of my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Peterborough that the House is right in saying that the Arts Council comes out of the investigation with its reputation enhanced. There is no doubt that it has administered its very difficult task very well. There were one or two minor, muted criticisms or suggestions. It is particularly remarkable that the Report should be so favourable when the Arts Council has been subjected to considerable criticism from many people and organisations. This is natural. The critics are mostly creative people, enthusiasts of some art form who naturally feel that the regard paid to the art form in which they are concerned is insufficient. They feel that the Arts Council does not hold it in the high estimation that it deserves.
This is natural, and it is highly satisfactory that the Report puts these criticisms at rest, for a long time I hope. It makes clear that the Council has behaved justly in carrying out its work. It is no surprise that the Report has been welcomed by Lord Goodman, the dynamic Chairman of the Arts Council, who crows with some justification in the introduction to his Annual Report, over the favourable verdict recorded by the Select Committee. He ends, with equal justification, by saying that the Committee was chaired with dashing grace by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East.
My right hon. Friend the Minister responsible for the arts also deserves the praise of the House. Her personality and enthusiasm have had a powerful and beneficial influence over artistic development in the last few years. She has gained universal respect and gratitude and has demonstrated that the Government care as passionately for the spiritual as for the material welfare of the people of this country. I have only one criticism to make of her otherwise impeccable record, and that is her regrettable refusal to reconsider the lamentable decision of the Government to close 664 down the British Transport Museum, so depriving tens of thousands of Londoners and visitors of much pleasure.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer and his predecessor should also be praised for their contribution. In spite of economic stringency, the amount of money made available to the arts has increased enormously and is considerably greater than that provided by previous Chancellors of the Exchequer. I know that the hon. Member for Peterborough dislikes comparison being made between the amount of money made available for the arts by the present Government and by previous Governments. The hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) has taken the same view and regards it as ignoble and painful. I understand the dislike of these hon. Members for mentioning this subject, but it is surely legitimate to discuss it in the House where the record of parties in their various activities may properly be discussed, and political comment is not taboo.
The inescapable conclusion in comparing the amount of money granted by this Government and by successive Conservative Chancellors of the Exchequer is that far greater emphasis is put by the present Government on the development of the arts. I do not think a comparison of the year-by-year grants would be fair, but the Select Committee Report shows that over the last three years Exchequer grants to the Arts Council have increased by an average of 31 per cent. a year. During the previous three years under Conservative Chancellors of the Exchequer the increase averaged only 21 per cent. a year. These figures are the practical measure of the relative value placed on the development of the arts by the two Governments, and show the difference in their philosophical approach to cultural development.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
Does not the hon. Gentleman recall that it was a Conservative Government who removed the entertainment tax, and will he tell the House the total sum involved in that?
§ Mr. Strauss
I do not see the relevance of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's remark to the amount of grant given through the Arts Council for the development of the arts.
§ Captain W. Elliot
If the price of theatre tickets is cheap, people are encouraged to go to the threatre and the theatre is helped in that way.
§ Mr. Strauss
That is not relevant to my argument. I agree with what has been said previously that, substantial though the increases have been, we should like to see them bigger still. An enormous amount remains to be done.
In this connection I would like to take up the point developed so well by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East about the gross under-payment to all those who work in the theatre. Although a subsidy is given to the threatre through the Arts Council, an enormous subsidy is also provided by the actors and actresses by their willingness to accept gross underpayment and to work in appalling conditions.
One of the outstanding achievements of the Arts Council during the last year or two has been the remarkable development in granting money for the housing of the arts. The Arts Council can operate only by providing opportunities for people to appreciate art and culture; it cannot itself provide art. Therefore, the provision of premises for the presentation of the arts is all-important. Until recently there was a serious complaint that London had received too large a slice of the national cake, but that accusation cannot now be justified either about the annual grant or about the grant available for the housing of the arts. Everyone recognises that national enterprises such as Covent Garden and the National Theatre must be in the Metropolis, but it is not always realised that a considerable part of the grant given, for instance, to Sadlers Wells, is taken up by touring in the provinces.
Emphasis is now rightly placed by the Arts Council and by the Minister on providing money for the development of the arts outside London. I am sure that that is right, but, in parenthesis, that should not mean the closing down of such places as the British Transport Museum, so that exhibits can be sent to the provinces. The last Report of the Arts Council showed that grants had been provided for 60 theatres outside London, whereas ten years ago it had helped only 15. In addition to those 666 grants, 70 grants were given to playwrights, and others for the commissioning of plays, for the training of directors, designers, administrators and related purposes. This has all resulted in a ferment of dramatic activity throughout the country.
London derives considerable benefit from this. Many of the most interesting plays to be seen in London recently have stemmed from the provinces, and this would have been impossible but for the grants which those companies or those theatres received from the Arts Council. There used to be a one-way traffic of theatrical productions—from London to the country. Now the traffic is two-way.
If I have concentrated my remarks on drama, it is partly because it would take far too long to cover the whole field and partly because it is the art form in which I personally am most interested. It is moreover, the art form in which Britain has excelled for some four centuries. It still does so today. London theatres, helped and stimulated and in co-operation with the theatre in the country, are outstanding today on any criterion. This is evidenced by the number of new British plays produced all over the world, and indeed from the number of British actors who are called upon to play parts in New York. It is certainly borne out by the popularity of the British theatre with foreign visitors. The first thing people ask me when they come from abroad is "Tell me the names of two or three plays I can go to see in London". The London theatres are filled with foreign visitors during the summer months. For all this some credit must go to the Arts Council.
Over the last year £1 million was pro vided for the housing of the arts. The lack of proper accommodation for putting on plays, art centres and the like has been the chief obstacle in the past to development in the arts. This policy was initiated in the Government's early days and was set out in the White Paper called "Policy for the Arts". It heralded an important new era for art development in the regions. Some £500,000 has gone to 28 drama schemes, £250,000 to 30 new arts centres, and there is a further substantial commitment for theatres in Sheffield, Birmingham and Bristol. All this is highly praiseworthy. Very much larger amounts of money are 667 necessary and it is to be hoped that this wholly desirable policy will be developed with substantially increased Government grant during the next few years.
I hope that the emphasis now rightly given to development outside London will not lead to any demand such as has been voiced in the past for the curtailment of grants to the arts in London. That would be wrong. Lord Goodman has said that when he first took over responsibility as Chairman of the Arts Council he thought that it might be necessary to cut down some of the grants to the major London enterprises. But he soon decided that this was impossible and undesirable. The right way to correct the balance between London and the provinces is not to reduce the amount of money given to London, which indeed should be increased, but to provide even more the money available for the provinces.
Complaint has sometimes been made that some of the big grant-aided institutions in London, because of their size and the aura surrounding them, behave with an independence, and some people even say an arrogance, inappropriate to an organisation that is dependent on and supported by taxpayers' money. I believe there is some justification for that criticism. It is a pity if they take a superior attitude to commercial organisations or consider they are a law unto themselves and can neglect the obligations which fall upon other public bodies.
I can give one small example. Recently the post of General Administrator became vacant at Covent Garden, because Sir David Webster was retiring. There is no more important post in the whole organisation. It is on the imagination, leadership and administrative qualities of the General Administrator that the smooth running and success of Covent Garden depends. Clearly the post was of such importance that it should have been advertised and applications invited from people all over the Commonwealth, Europe and the United States where there are a number of organisers of opera houses and administrators with outstanding reputation. Any organisation dependent on public funds would automatically have advertised such a post and selected the best of the applicants.
668 Covent Garden did no such thing. It appointed one of its own people, the Deputy General Administrator, a man who I have reason to believe has excellent qualities and who may have been appointed in any event. But that sort of attitude gives rise to a good deal of what I consider to be justifiable criticism. Covent Garden thought that it could ignore the accepted behaviour of other public bodies and appoint somebody from its own staff without advertising the post. We have every reason to believe that the man appointed will do extremely well, but the matter involved a point of principle. It is to be hoped there will be no repetition of such behaviour.
A criticism sometimes made by theatre critics is that some of the theatre organisations which receive subsidy are using public money to put on unworthy plays and that that money should not be so spent. They say particularly that the National Theatre appears to have lost its early flair. I do not accept this criticism. It is true that now and again their directors put on plays which are not successful and which personally I do not like, but it is inevitable that organisation of this sort, producing plays old and new, and which depend for their success on experiment and the taking in of new ideas and new people, must occasionally produce doubtful works of art and even complete failures. But expressing a personal view—and I see most of the productions that are put on in these theatres when the Whips allow me to do so—they still maintain an exceedingly high standard, and I feel that general criticism is not justified.
I make one small criticism, however. The National Theatre should not forget that its full title is the Shakespeare Memorial National Theatre. Nowadays it is rare to see a Shakespeare play put on there. I do not suggest that Shakespeare should be played the whole time but neither in this season nor in last year's was there any new Shakespearian production, and that is a pity.
The Estimates Committee was not, of course, concerned with the artistic success of the enterprises subsidised by the Arts Council. It was concerned with the administration of the Arts Council and its efficiency. It is particularly important that this investigation should have taken place. Although every other 669 European country subsidises in some form or other drama, opera and ballet, it is usually under Ministerial direction. We alone in Britain adopt the system in which money is given in substantial quantities, to a body that administers the patronage it represents without any control or influence from any Governmental Minister. It is, we all believe, the better method, but it makes it imperative that Parliament on behalf of the public should look into the organisation to see that it is efficient, and that the money is wisely spent and to ensure that the Arts Council bases its decisions on well-considered criteria. This investigation has now taken place by a Select Committee under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton. North-East. With one or two minor exceptions and useful suggestions the Arts Council has come out of this deep and detailed probe with flying colours. I think it has satisfied this House, and I hope that it will satisfy public opinion.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)
I intend to keep my remarks fairly brief, because I know that many hon. Members wish to speak. In any event, it is impossible to cover anything but a small part of the subject dealt with so well by the Estimates Committee.
I am glad to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate, because we have a responsibility to show that hon. Members share a keen interest in the arts, and I for one hope that we shall move quickly to the time when the arts will be available to all. Things are moving in that direction, and the right hon. Lady has played an important part in making that so. But we can encourage it even more, and it is with that in mind that I make these few remarks.
There is a great interest in the arts, and it has developed dramatically. Immediately it brings to my mind the need for a stronger emphasis on the regional arts committees. We need a stronger community of interest in the arts in the regions. I do not begrudge our four national companies the 32 per cent. of the Arts Council grant which they get, even if I sometimes regret that I cannot get a seat for a performance when I come from Scotland at short notice 670 and wish to enjoy a well-spent evening at the theatre. However good an omen that may be for the tourist in London, perhaps a little more careful provision might be made for those of us who want to see these performances but who do not live in or near London.
My point about the grant to the regions is that I should like to see the present proportion of 29 per cent. of the total Arts Council grant to a greater extent in the control of the regions. More could be done in that direction, again with the object of strengthening the community spirit in the regions.
The Estimates Committee's recommendation about regional theatre boards is very good, but perhaps I might say a word about the present difficulties of the repertory theatres. It is sometimes forgotten that there are over 50 theatres which belong to the Council of Repertory Theatres and that they are spread all over the country. They do marvellous work in appalling conditions. It is not only the backstage of Covent Garden which endures conditions that we must all deplore. They fight continually rising costs, and although their subsidy was increased three years ago, to a great extent it has been frozen since then. Taking only one example, costs in Colchester have risen by 30 per cent. in those three years.
In addition, there is the problem of old theatres, which also experience the appalling conditions to which I have referred. Here again, there are some interesting figures. In Nottingham's old theatre, there were 420 seats, and the management was able to fill approximately 55 per cent. of them. In the new theatre, there are 700 seats, and approximately 82 per cent. of them are filled. That is an example of what improved conditions can do.
Rising costs restrict production and, inevitably, fewer productions mean smaller audiences. Box office prices, which have risen three times in three years, cannot rise indefinitely to meet increased costs. Incidentally, I believe that the top price in Irving's Lyceum Theatre was 10s. 6d. One small but important point in which possibly the right hon. Lady could take an interest is that, in recent times, purchase tax has been imposed on materials which small theatres use for making costumes. I do not think 671 that her right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended to catch the theatre group which makes its own costumes. The intention was to impose a tax on the manufacture of commercial uniforms. It might be possible to alter this in such a way as to make a distinct improvement for small theatres.
There are the problems of even smaller companies and the tragic cases of those dedicated enthusiasts who tour in remote places. I would instance the Ballets Minerva. They take light ballet to some very remote areas. They are dedicated performers working for wages which few people would accept, and they do it with a will. I should still like the right hon. Lady to consider giving some moderate help to these deserving people. A comparatively tiny sum would enable them to flourish.
I turn to the position in Scotland. The Scottish Arts Council gets 9 per cent. of the total funds available. I should like to see it made available, as it is in England, to companies and interests other than the "nationals", with a special percentage being allocated specifically for the "nationals".
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) praised the remarkable achievements of the Scottish Opera and the Scottish National Orchestra in the last few years. They are known to be drawing international audiences, and they are playing virtually to capacity. We want to keep Alexander Gibson, Peter Hemmings and others, and we must keep them in competition with Covent Garden, because that is the standing which they have rightly achieved, national reputations. We should like to see our Scottish "specials" have the same national provision made for them in their own right as national companies of Scotland, which they are with their international reputations. We should like to see an allocation made for them, as is made for the English national companies, so that we should be able to spend our 9 per cent. grant on those other interests which are competing at present. We should then be left with our 9 per cent. to support Pitlochry, the Byre Theatre, Perth and many others, and to recognise the special difficulties created by Scotland's geography, sparse population and weather.
672 I understand that the right hon. Lady has attended the Pitlochry Festival in the last year or two. There is a very attractive reference to the Pitlochry Theatre in the winter edition of the Countryman. The contributor is a young crofter's wife, and she writes:The Pitlochry Festival Theatre is not far away, and this year we had a young actor/ stage manager, his wife and very new baby from April to August. David did a roaring trade for us selling eggs to his fellow players.These people have a remarkable way of fitting in with the local scene and making their contribution to the community.
While accepting the need for central Government patronage, I disagree strongly with the view of the Estimates Committee that increased private patronage is either impossible or undesirable. Inevitably, Government patronage has its limitations. Central Government patronage should include responsibility for seeing that private patronage, through the medium of allowances, is both made possible and encouraged.
I believe that tens of thousands of people want a direct opportunity to patronise the art of their choice and the artist of their choice. A British painter selling in the 1920s and 1930s often used to tell me how he sold his first pictures, priced up to £20, in the local shops. One of his two friends who similarly sold their paintings has recently died and his pictures are now fetching very high prices.
So today I see with pleasure very good original pictures hanging on the walls of quite humble homes. That is as it should be. Now that such paintings are more expensive than in the days when an original painting of worth could be bought for 3s. 6d., I think that we should have an arrangement with the Chancellor of the Exchequer whereby allowances are permitted for private patronage.
I must mention one other matter for the hon. Lady's consideration. I should have mentioned it earlier. I apologise. As the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will no doubt remind her, Scotland has a particular problem. It is many years since I first mentioned the Burrell Collection in the House. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) is as keen on it as I. But to have this collection locked up, and, I 673 suspect, moth-eaten and in very poor condition, year after year is so serious that it merits national attention. I do not think that the moneys available at present will meet the requirements, even counting in the great generosity of the owners of the Burrell Estate and the facilities which have been placed at the disposal of the collection. I hope that this will be kept in mind as possibly requiring particular attention in, I hope, the near future.
Lastly, I should like to refer to my hopes for private patronage. I hope that even the present Government will see that if support for the arts is to be found in this sector they should persuade the Treasury of the necessity for making allowances accordingly.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
I am anxious to be brief, so I merely say to the hon. Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) that I thoroughly enjoyed her speech. If she will accept, by way of an amendment, the deletion of Scotland and the insertion of the Northern Region and consequential amendments, I will accept all that she says.
I was anxious to intervene because I was Chairman of the first Estimates Committee inquiry into the Arts Council 20 years ago, so I can see the present Report in retrospect. For that reason, I want to join in the tributes which have been paid.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) and her Committee. To emphasise the tribute, I suggest that if we want to judge the progress which has been made by the Select Committees we should compare the two Reports. This Report is far more exhaustive, comprehensive and entertaining and incidentally the Committee seems to have enjoyed itself more than we had the initiative to enjoy ourselves in those days.
I pay sincere tribute to the Minister of State. It is a delightful anomaly to have a Minister who has occupied her office for so long and who, throughout that time, has enjoyed progressive popularity.
I pay tribute to Lord Goodman, because he has brought a verve and zeal to the work of the Arts Council which has had great effect upon its work.
674 Mention has been made of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I should like to mention two others, Hugh Dalton and Stafford Cripps, because without their interest we would not have had an Arts Council.
It is remarkable and significant that the conclusions of this report are similar to the conclusions that we reached 20 years ago.
My hon. Friend mentioned administrative expenses. We called attention to the proportion of overheads to income. The Arts Council at that time probably thought that we were a little unfair, because if we call attention to a proportion we must pay regard to the income, which at that time was no more than £½ million.
We must also recognise—this point has been made implicitly—that if we insist upon a high degree of public accountability, this in train brings a considerable burden of administrative expenses. But I would carry the point further. When we set up autonomous bodies by grant in aid we should allow them much more independence and discretion than we do.
I agree about the Piccadilly headquarters. They are far too genteel for a job of this kind. I should prefer a more workmanlike atmosphere. But I say no more. The important point is that Lord Goodman can say, with his usual ebullience and accuracy, that there is no suggestion of extravagance or waste throughout the report. In a report of this nature it is a remarkable achievement.
The second matter that we dealt with, which this Report also deals with, was the membership of the Council and panels. Like the present inquiry, we also had evidence from Equity and the Musicians' Union. I am delighted to see that Mr. Hardie Ratcliffe gave evidence before both inquiries. But I am convinced by the Arts Council's reply, which, I think, is unanswerable. The Council and the panels are well constituted. I should not like to see either the Council or the panels increased in size.
I call attention to the fact, however, that we not only took evidence from the Musicians' Union and Equity, but also from the Composers' Guild and the 675 Society of Authors. I still believe that on both the panels and the Council, there is still too great an emphasis on performance and entertainment. There is no sufficient place for creative artists. This is no reflection upon present members. The Arts Council is extremely fortunate in being able to attract members who have a very real excellence within their own art or profession. But I still feel, when we look at the Council and the panels, that there are too few creative artists.
I can imagine the difficulties of persuading these people to give such service. I can anticipate the difficulties that they might create—for example, that they would not by any means constitute good committee members. But it is important to try to obtain their services for two reasons. First, these specially gifted people are very sensitive to the society in which we live. It is important that we should appreciate, particularly in giving patronage, some of the subtle changes which are taking place culturally.
Secondly, we should consider the conditions that artists need to produce their best work. I do not want to talk about artists working in garrets, but about helping artists to do their work, particularly helping them over the first hurdles. Therefore, it is important to know the conditions in which they are living and working and what kind of conditions they need to produce their best work.
Remarkably enough, our main conclusion 20 years ago is the same as that of my hon. Friend's Committee. It is important to begin by saying that we recognised the high standards of the National institutions, that it is imperative to maintain those high standards, and to recognise the essential part that they play not only in London, but throughout the country. Nevertheless, we felt as long as 20 years ago that increasing emphasis should be placed on co-operation with and financial assistance to local authorities. We said that the Arts Councilshould now turn their energies to making the arts more widely accessible … being content at first, if necessary, with less ambitious standards.We went on to recommend that:The provinces (where the arts are not so readily available to the public) provide a more valuable field than the metropolitan area for the activities of the Council".676 It is significant that we said that 20 years ago and that the same thing is said in the present Report.
The Committee calls for more positive encouragement to local authorities. It calls upon the Arts Council to strengthen support of cultural activity in the regions. Let me say as emphatically as I can that it does not mean that nothing has been done in the past 20 years—on the contrary. The major change in the work of the Council in the past 20 years has been its encouragement to the activities in the regions. The most noticeable feature of the Council's work has been the great increase in its encouragement to local authorities and to the regions. It has had a remarkable effect in the Northern Region, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) knows better than anyone.
There has been a remarkable change in the Northern Region over the last 20 years. The Northern Arts Association has been tremendously effective. We are proud that it is the largest and most effective body of its kind in the country and that it is still acting with initiative and imagination as such schemes as its cultural passport scheme for young people show. It has also been successful in attracting increasing support from local authorities and private sources. We are greatly obliged to Barbara Hepworth for her help recently. It has been successful in widening cultural interests. It has had its effect on television. We appreciate the assistance which we have received from Tyne-Tees Television. We should now get some support from the I.T.A. Under the contract, it took a good deal of money out of the region. It would be appropriate if it were to plough some of it back.
The Northern Arts Association has aided Radio Durham. We appreciate the assistance which we have had from the British Film Institute. At the same time, there is much more to be done, particularly in education. For instance, I should like to see far more original works of art in schools and a far more direct association with the schools. I appreciate all that has been done by the universities, particularly in the North-East, where both universities have done a lot in contributing to the arts in the North-East. But still far more can be done. If my right hon. Friend wants to 677 help in one particular respect, I ask her to consider the field for which she is specially responsible.
When considering the Arts Council, we should be concerned not only about performance and entertainment but about creative art, which means patronage. We should look for patronage not only in London but in the provinces. It is to the credit of the Northern Arts Association that it has provided fellowships and assistance for artists living and working in the region. I am not a fan of his, but I am delighted that Tyneside has become Tom Pickard country largely because of the aid which this poet has properly received from the Arts Association.
As I say, a great deal is being done, but more could be done. This inculcates a sense of awareness and closeness in activity in the region. I do not want to destroy his privacy, but I am delighted that Mr. Lowry has an affection for the North-East and spends some time there and that I occasionally meet people who greatly appreciate this. We should encourage artists to live and work in the region.
Although the themes for encouragement remain the same, there has been a considerable transformation. In a sense, the Arts Association is a victim of its own success and, because of its success, much remains to be done. We are constantly told by the Front Bench that in the North we must help ourselves. We are helping ourselves. We have local authorities which are very appreciative of the arts. In her White Paper, my right hon. Friend the Minister refers to my local authority in Sunderland generously supporting its theatre. We do more than that. As far as I know, it is the only wholly municipal theatre in the country. We own it, run it, and pay all the costs of it. This is a local pride. We have developments such as the Billingham Forum. Many local authorities in the North-East are actively supporting the arts.
In the region as a whole, the rate support for the arts is less than a farthing. As we have also abolished the halfpenny, I suggest the unambitious target of a penny rate to support the arts. I know that this is a sensitive subject. Some people, including, I think, Lord Goodman, have said that we should make a 678 6d. rate mandatory. I doubt whether I should carry my enthusiasm as far as that, but we must recognise the difficulties of local finance. It is not easy to say to local authorities, "You must voluntarily provide support for the arts up to a 6d. rate". Incidentally, I say to the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) that in Sunderland we regard the theatre as much a part of the municipal services as the library.
We need more help from the Arts Council. It can help us only by increasing its support and recognising our special difficulties. Anyone who talks to Tyne-Tees Television knows our difficulties in the North-East in providing entertainment—the extra costs and the extra inducements which we need to persuade people to go there. But, in fairness to the Arts Council, the major responsibility must rest with my right hon. Friend the Minister. She must progress in implementing her view, which is properly repeatedly expressed, that grants to the arts should be regarded as a social charge. My special plea is that we must pay special regard to the development areas.
I agree with the White Paper that grants to the arts arejust as essential as any movement of industry or provision of public utility service".It is fashionable to talk about the necessity of improving the infrastructure in the development areas. One of the most expeditious and economical ways of doing it is to help the arts in these areas. These are old industrial areas which must drag themselves out of the past into a new future. It is a great encouragement to know that they are trying to do this with such enthusiasm and imagination. It is important to recognise, at the same time, that because they are development areas they need further financial support from the Government.
I assure my right hon. Friend that I am not intervening to speak by way of criticism. I conclude as I began, by paying tribute to this very profitable partnership between Lord Goodman and the Arts Council and my right hon. Friend. I again pay tribute to the Estimates Committee for focussing attention on what needs to be done, this makes the job of the Government easier.
I therefore ask the Government and the Arts Council to recognise that while they have made progress, they must make 679 further progress; and that means seriously looking at the way in which the Arts Council works. Perhaps it should move towards being more of a budgetary body, with the effective work being done by the regional associations. If this is done optimistically, and if enough is done in time, this movement could become self-sustaining.
It is important in activities such as these that they should have grass roots, with the real promotion coming from the regions. One can feel enthusiastic and optimistic about this, largely because so much has been done in the past 20 years. There could be no greater encouragement than the foundation which has been laid It ought to mean that now we should have the confidence to go rapidly ahead.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I am glad to have been called to speak immediately following the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) because I wish at the outset to confirm what he said about the Northern Arts Association. I recently had the privilege to be invited to speak at the Association's annual general meeting. I was greatly impressed by the occasion and by the spirit which I found in the Association.
As congratulations have been expressed to a number of people and bodies, it is right that we should think of activities outside London. For example, Mr. Dunbar has done an outstanding piece of work with the Northern Arts Association. I am sorry, though in another way I am glad, that he has moved on to the Gulbenkian Foundation, for whom I am chairing a seminar on community studies.
I pay tribute to the work which this Association has done over a number of years, and also to its former President, Lady Crathorne, who died recently, who was the wife of a much-loved and distinguished former Member of this House. I was impressed by the general spirit of eagerness revealed by the Association in launching a number of valuable experiments. For example, the scheme of books of vouchers for young people, enabling them to spend sums up to a given amount as they wish on artistic occasions, has been an extremely good idea.
680 The right hon. Member for Sunderland, North was right to say that this is a bad moment for the House to lecture local authorities on financial matters and to urge them to spend more on the arts. I do not wish to introduce a contentious note into the debate, but we should realise exactly how strained local authority finance is at present. This problem has largely been caused by restrictions on the rate support grant. Local authorities are facing genuine financial difficulties.
While I am all for encouraging local authorities to give more to the arts, we must recognise that Parliament will not be over-popular if it expects local authorities to do more while they feel that the central Government are not bearing their proper share of the total cost of local authority services.
Another reason why I am glad of the opportunity to speak in this debate is that I am grateful to the Minister for being instrumental in my having been a member of the Arts Council for three years; and I am still, as it were, an outside member of the Music Panel. We can take pride in the way in which the Arts Council works. I join in the congratulations which have been expressed to the right hon. Lady for the extra resources which she has made available to the Arts Council. We know the great contribution which Lord Goodman has made as Chairman, and I wish to add my congratulations to the officials of the Arts Council, the permanent staff, on whom a great deal of the work necessarily rests.
I wonder whether we realise just what an invidious task the officials in the various branches of the Arts Council have in advising members on the allocation of sums. This work is done with remarkable efficiency and with remarkably little friction. Having occasionally been present at meetings of the finance committee of the Music Panel, I have been impressed with the high quality of professional advice which members of the various panels are given.
However—I say this not in a carping spirit—it is important that we keep up the momentum of this expenditure. At a time of rising costs, enormous problems would occur if suddenly, in real terms, the total of this expenditure were to fall. It is one thing for certain 681 activities never to have been financially assisted. It is another when people are told that they will receive no money one year when they have received it in the past.
We easily forget the enormous number of local authority activities, such as festivals, which do not receive large sums from the Arts Council; indeed, which do not even ask for great sums. Nevertheless, these activities are greatly helped by the few hundred £s they get. I do not say that all these activities are of the highest artistic value. I recall that when one festival orchestra was under discussion a member of the Music Panel asked, "Is this an ad hoc orchestra?", to which somebody replied, "Truthfully, one might better describe it as a group of 'odd hack' players".
Even if occasionally one may feel that resources are being spread rather thinly, the value of these festivals is enormous because they give people an opportunity locally to attend worthwhile functions. It is excellent for people to see and hear these things with their own eyes and ears, and we should never overlook the importance of this aspect.
Opera in London presents a tremendous problem for the Arts Council. Hon. Members who are not in the know probably do not fully realise the problems caused for the Board of Covent Garden and Sadler's Wells and the problems which are, equally, caused for Lord Goodman and the members of the Arts Council. Just as we have a theatre in London of which we can be proud—I fully endorse the remarks of the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) on this subject—so in a real sense London is today the musical capital of Europe, and we have standards of opera of which we can feel very proud indeed.
We do not over-indulge ourselves as a capital in having both Covent Garden and Sadlers Wells as opera houses. If one attends first nights at Covent Garden or Sadlers Wells—I am lucky enough sometimes to go to both—one finds that they are different kinds of occasion. In Covent Garden we have one of the finest international opera houses of any capital city. Equally, in Sadlers Wells we have a national opera house of which we can feel justly proud; not least, for example, because only last week there took place at Sadlers Wells are first performance of 682 the new production of the Valkyrie in English under a great Wagnerian conductor of whom we have until recently not seen nearly enough in this country.
I very much agree with the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North about the importance of musical education. Although this may not be strictly relevant to the debate, the right hon. Lady knows that I and many others feel great concern about education in the arts, and particularly about the education of the musically gifted. There is also the problem of the music colleges. Everybody recognises the distinguished history of the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music. But I am always nervous about the future of distinguished institutions which do not quite fit anywhere into our education system. Of course I do not say that every institution should have a precise slot. None the less, the future of the Royal College and the Royal Academy is something about which we should be concerned. And I very much share the view of the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North about the desirability of living works of art being seen in schools and the possibility of more co-operation.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) in what she said about the possibility of more private patronage. I do not look on private patronage as replacing what is now done publicly. I recall an article in The Times in March last year commenting on a speech by Lord Eccles. The Times said:What he proposed to set the people's patronage free was that tax concessions and rent rebates might go to those who contributed to the upkeep of the arts through approved channels.I think that speech and those ideas were worth very much consideration.
One other matter I mention which I do not think has been mentioned so far is the rather important subject of what in the Arts Council is referred to as "new activities". I wish to devote a few minutes to this difficult but important subject. There is a feeling in the country, which I think is quite widespread, that if they have a criticism of the Arts Council—and those of us who have been members must take their full share of it—it is that there ought to be some movement of funds towards the work of contemporary artists. I must say that the attitude of many lovers of art and music 683 to the contemporary arts sometimes gives me, at any rate, cause for regret.
In no other century would it have been thought conceivable that young children should be encouraged to perform music, and given wider opportunities than ever before, without ever taking part in the performance of contemporary music. If one is seriously interested in the arts, the contemporary arts must be, I should have thought, an integral part of that interest. I was chairman of a small subcommittee which considered whether there should be a New Activities Committee. Quite rightly, there is now such a committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Michael Astor, who used to be a Member of this House. When I speak for new activities I think particularly of activities under four heads. First, there are those artistic activities which do not seem to fit into any recognised tradition that is well understood. It is exactly the same with types of music that do not seem to come within an easily recognised tradition. By contrast, if we listen to a work such as Boulez' "Pli selon Pli", whatever we feel about it, we cannot regard it as an outrageously difficult work—it is a piece of music composed by someone who is thoroughly contemporary, but who has clearly felt the impact of the music of Debussy and others.
I am thinking of artistic work which does not seem to come easily into any recognised tradition. Another important distinction between new activities and some others is that many of these new activities are ephemeral and there is not a conventional end product. Much of the work done in what are called "arts laboratories" is ephemeral by nature and is work not intended to last. It is work which its practitioners feel enhances the quality of life and may provide a real sense of group therapy but it is not meant to be lasting. Thirdly, many of these new activities cross frontiers between different kinds of art. And lastly, most of those people who are interested in these new activities are particularly concerned with participation. We probably have to get a little away from the idea that the normal set-up in our contemporary artistic provision will be the kind of organisation where there are trustees, administrators and an audience on old-fashioned conventional lines.
684 I take a special interest in this subject because when I was chairman of the sub-committee which looked into the possibility of a New Activities Committee I was for the first time in my life at the receiving end of what I think is called a "happening". This may happen to me again in future but it was the first time I had experienced the unscripted incursion of an uninvited group of people into our discussion.
I think that now something very sensible has happened. The Arts Council, regrettably, has not been able to make a large sum available for these new activities, but nevertheless some money has been made available and it has been divided among a number of regions. My information is that one of the regional committees, the London Committee, advertised that those interested should get together in order to elect a panel. This panel will meet in open session, so that any artist may come in and express views as to how this strictly limited amount of money should be distributed.
I hope that the right hon. Lady the Minister will agree that in the age in which we live it is right that there should be an experiment of this kind. I think Lord Goodman, as Chairman of the Arts Council, and indeed some other people on the Council, have shown remarkable understanding of what motivates those interested in this new kind of activity. What we can reasonably do in our turn is to ask the avant garde that occasionally they should take yes for an answer—and that when some new form of committee activity turns out successfully and is recognised, this should not be condemned as "repressive tolerance".
I end comment by saying that I regard progress in the arts, and increased resources for the arts, as a mark of a civilised community. After all, what is the good of gaining in wealth in this country, and becoming better off in material terms, unless more people have access to cultural experience and there is a greater sense of the quality of life? I have no doubt that there is greater, and also more discriminating, enthusiasm for the arts today than ever before. The right hon. Lady should take full share of the credit for what has been done. I hope that many hon. Members on both sides of the House will feel that this is 685 more than an optional extra in our society, and an integral part of the sort of society in Britain that we want to see.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
It is a privilege to follow the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), who has made a most distinguished contribution to the work of the Arts Council in recent years. It will be difficult for anyone to follow him, not only in the work he has done for the Arts Council, but for the depth of sympathy in what he said. This is something which all of us with any knowledge of his work will know is warmly appreciated by all who benefit from it. We have all listened with considerable respect to but possibly not with agreement with every word he said.
In one part of his speech he referred to the possibility of private patronage for the arts. It has been suggested that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short), whose great work as Chairman of this Committee we warmly appreciate, and the Committee in the Report do not support the idea of private patronage. My reading of the Report in no way supports that idea. I can find no suggestion in the Report that private patronage is looked down upon by the Committee. The Arts Council in no way deprecates private patronage. We have to recognise that in the world today public patronage must take the lead, but that does not mean that the private person should not be encouraged to play his part.
In a recent article in The Times, Lord Eccles suggested that it might be possible to extend the whole range of private support for the arts by taxation relief. I have done a study of this in the United States of America and I am persuaded by what I have seen there that this is a totally impracticable proposition for this country. The system of substantial taxation relief for private support operated in the United States can work inside a very wealthy community but cannot operate effectively inside a community like ours. The taxation relief allowed in the United States is up to 30 per cent., which can be set against one's total taxation. The huge loss to the American Exchequer is one that only an enormous revenue can stand.
686 Only about one-tenth of this huge amount goes into the arts. The remainder goes for religious, educational and charitable purposes, and so on. If one gives taxation relief, one cannot pick out the arts. One is bound to say that anything else with a similar sort of claim shall benefit by the relief. One must say that those who give to charitable organisations of any sort shall receive it. The consequence is that the arts come fairly low down the scale.
As I say, of the relief given in the United States, which amounts to millions of dollars, the vast quantity goes to charitable institutions and religious organisations. One cannot tell people what proportions they should spend the money on. I am sure that the same would apply if we had a similar system in this country, and the arts would come out very badly.
The proposal is attractive at first glance, but Chancellor after Chancellor has looked at it and thrown it out. I am persuaded that whatever party is in power the proposition will be looked at again by Chancellors and thrown out again, because no one has ever been able to devise a means by which the system can be kept under control.
The great virtue of our system, a virtue pinpointed by the examination we are considering, is that public money spent on the arts is under control. We can examine it and know how much it is. We can criticise if we think that it is being spent wrongly. Under the American system no one knows what is happening. The individual charges up his expenditure against tax, and he makes the choice. From his point of view he may make the right choice, but the collective choices of all the individuals may not add up to the sum of the national priority. This is obviously wrong.
I do not wish to depreciate the work done in the United States as a result of the system there. It is a generous system, and it works for a very wealthy economy. Substantial and good artistic work is done as a result, but a close examination of the American scene persuades me that it should not be applied in our country.
But I believe that our source of revenue of patronage is too closely centralised, 687 and I have been wondering how it might be possible to spread more widely over the country the sources of revenue. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) said, it is very hard in these times to beat the local authorities and say that we want more money from them. Perhaps after some of the proposed changes in the local authority structure have been made local authorities will have more money. I hope that at some stage, although it will obviously not be in the immediate future. We shall have a regional form of government and regional organisations will then be able to draw on their own local resources. This is the ideal, and we should move towards it as quickly as possible, breaking away from the gross over-centralisation of this country. With the possible exception of France, we are the most centralised country of Europe, and I would not exclude some Communist countries from that statement. We shall not be effectively decentralised until the sources of revenue begin to be local sources. It is not sufficient to redistribute national revenue. We also need to create local sources of revenue.
What are we to do in the meantime? One possibility is that the Arts Council might officially pronounce what is in fact its existing policy in almost every case, and say out loud that local authorities will receive £ for £ for the revenue they put up. In practically every case, if a local authority puts up £1, £1,000 or £10,000 for approved local expenditure the Arts Council will find £ for £, or possibly more. If the Arts Council says as its openly stated policy—and if my right hon. Friend can persuade the Treasury to make it possible for it to say this, which is another question—that there will be payment of £ for £, it might be a great encouragement to municipalities to dip their hands a little more deeply into the municipal purse.
I do not think that this could be made mandatory, but we should give every possible encouragement to local authorities to find money, even to the extent of saying that where a recalcitrant local authority consistently refuses to do its duty the Arts Council should give a warning that under certain circumstances it would be prepared to start turning off the tap. That is a drastic suggestion, 688 but one that might have to be made in some cases.
The hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) said that it is the job of local authorities more and more to acquire theatres, and they are doing so. They are doing their best to shoulder this burden, and we now find that many of the large theatres all over the country are municipally-owned. This is excellent, but the theatres should pass from the commercial owner to the new municipal owner at a theatre price. Too many commercial theatre owners are trying to sell their theatres to local authorities at a commercial price as if for office development. This is not reasonable. If the theatre is to remain a theatre the seller should be prepared to sell it at the theatre price. The municipality should not have to dip into the rates to pay for a theatre a price above the theatre value, which is always much lower than the commercial value of the site.
It is true that the non-profit-seeking theatre—I use the word "seeking", because not all profit-seeking theatres are profit-making—no longer pays selective employment tax. I would like to associate myself with what the hon. Member for Peterborough said about this. I hope that the Chancellor will find it possible in the Budget to remove S.E.T. from the theatre as a whole. The commercial theatre has a struggle in the provinces, and it is time it did without this burden. I am hopeful that my right hon. Friend will find that this is one of the S.E.T. reliefs he can give.
It has been said tonight that the Arts Council's budget has increased to nearly £8 million, and that this is a very large sum. It is large compared with the money available when the Arts Council started after the war—I think that the figure 20 years ago was about £500,000—but the budget today is not large compared with the calls which will be made upon the Arts Council in the coming years. Some American economists have done some work on this question and have shown that, for reasons I will not go into now, calls upon patronage suffer from a sort of geometrical progression, and that once one sets one's feet on this escalator it is no use supposing that one will ever arrive at a plateau.
We have to face the fact without shirking that in future the community 689 will have to carry a larger burden of expenditure upon the arts. In order to encourage the House to face this, I would point out that we are taking £30 million a year out of the entertainment world in I.T.V. levy. Therefore, when we are thinking of the amount of money which ought to go back into the entertainment arts we should remember the £20 million to £30 million which is being taken away, rather than the £8 million, which is the figure my right hon. Friend arrived at and for which she deserves every credit. We must tell the Treasury "You must raise your sights very much higher. To do the job properly, you must think in these sort of terms."
I should like now to refer to the replies by the Government and the Arts Council to the recommendations of the Estimates Committee. There is a half-way house between the recommendation of the Committee in favour of direct representation of organisations on the Arts Council, and the reply by the Arts Council, that that would be a fundamental departure of principle. Although I am a member of the Arts Council—I speak here not in that capacity but personally—and I think it is a very bad principle which should be departed from as soon as possible.
We are very afraid of democracy in this country. We have to put up with elections which bring a wide range of representatives to this House and it is conceivable that among us are some who might not have been appointed if they had not been elected. I am treading on rather delicate ground here, but we know that, despite this, the system of every member being directly responsible to his own electorate works better than any other and is a protection against the disadvantages of appointment. Yet despite that knowledge, we run away like the plague from elections in all our other activities. We even refuse to elect our own Government, preferring to chose one man and vest in him the absurd responsibility, the wholly undesirable power, of choosing the rest of the Government. The fact that occasionally he has a stroke of brilliance and chooses someone like my right hon. Friend the Minister is no justification for the general proposition.
As far as the Arts Council is concerned—and here I speak as an appointee 690 and recognise the occasional wisdom with which such choices are made—I am persuaded that there is a halfway house and at least one-third of the Arts Council members and one-third of the membership of every panel should be appointed from among nominees proposed by organisations concerned with the work of the Council and its panels.
Every regional association should be entitled to a place on the Arts Council. By this means the availability, the knowledge and the responsibility which has made the Arts Council such a success—and it is a great success and is admired throughout the world—would be preserved. The introduction of a semi-representative or nominated element would remove the danger of the Council becoming in-growing or getting clique-ish, which is the environmental disease of all appointed bodies. It would also reduce the criticism of and complaints against the Arts Council. Much of this criticism and those complaints arise not from the Council and the panels being very often wrong, although obviously sometimes they must be, but because they are right or thought to be right in a remote and superior sort of way. The impression perhaps is that they know it all and we poor devils out in the sticks have no say. That is the sort of feeling which one knows there is about the Arts Council in going around the country.
They should have their say and the organisations should have their representatives on the Arts Council who would return to them and give an assurance that it had been said. The Arts Council has done a great deal to rectify this in appointing its retiring general secretary to the position he now holds, and he is doing good work in keeping the Council in touch with the regional arts associations. But he might be persuaded to agree that an official, however efficiently, seriously and well he does his work, cannot entirely replace the idea of a person responsible to the regional arts associations and operating for them on the Council. That is a matter which might be looked into.
§ Mr. Willey
Would my hon. Friend deal with the question of size? If he were to constitute the Council in this way, how big does he think it would be at the end of the day?
§ Mr. Jenkins
One might have a larger Council than now and one would be forced to create sub-committees, but that would be a beneficial outcome. I hope that regional associations would cover fairly large areas. Obviously one could not have representation of district associations. I hope that five, six or eight regional associations could be represented on the Council, as indeed, quite properly Scotland and Wales are now notably represented on the Council. I assure the hon. Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) that the voice of Scotland is heard in the Arts Council as fully and as vocally as it obviously should be.
A doubtful decision democratically arrived at is perhaps, more acceptable than a perfect answer which is autocratically imposed, and if it is more acceptable it is more workable than a perfect answer. That is not to say that I think that it would be right to describe the Arts Council as an autocratic body. Many of the complaints against it stem from anger that the Arts Council does not interfere enough. There was the complaint against it in the squabble at Nottingham. I am sure the Arts Council was right not to interfere there. I think that the Estimates Committee thinking on this matter of representation is on the right lines, and I hope my right hon. Friend will look again at the idea of some representative element on a body which would remain, in the majority, appointed.
Other recommendations of the Committee have been or are being adopted so far as funds permit, but I think we must guard against the possibility of the Arts Council becoming too strong. I have no doubt that the future is with public patronage, that it will grow and that the commercial element in all the arts is likely to continue to decline. I do not greatly welcome this because I think that the rôle of the private patron is important in the community and the private patron is likely to remain a most important element in some of the arts—for example painting. I think that the private patron will long remain, and rightly so, the most important element collectively in the purchase of individual works of art. There is little doubt that, generally speaking, the commercial element is in decline. It is very likely that industry itself will follow, perhaps a decade or so later. As Oscar Wilde said 692 "Life imitates art". But just because the future is with public patronage, we must avoid the development of a single source as the sole fountain of public funds, and when regional government comes, and I think it will, regional arts associations will be financed from their own sources.
Meanwhile, the balance between central and local sources is badly out of true. I do not think that the Arts Council is finding too much, but that local sources are not finding enough. I do not think that the Arts Council spends too much on London, but that Manchester does not spend enough on Manchester, Glasgow not enough on Glasgow, and so on. The balance needs to come up from local sources, not down from the Arts Council. We need to level the rate of arts spending up, and not spread it more thinly from a single national source.
I join in the tributes which have been paid to the Chairman's introduction to the Arts Council report. It is not only very good reading, but, quite uniquely among such introductions, it is extremely funny. The rest of the report, too, repays attention.
I have been sitting for a couple of years, but it seems longer, on a body called the Arts Council Theatre Inquiry which, as the hon. Member for Peterborough said, will be reporting in March. There is some misunderstanding about this. It has been suggested that the inquiry will recommend public support for the commercial theatre. As I understood Lord Goodman's remarks as reported in the papers, it is not intended that one profit seeking theatre should be subsidised, but that the theatre inquiry fund which is to be established should take shares, in private theatres or enterprises and should share profits or losses with the commercial entrepreneur. This seems to be a highly desirable development, and I hope that it will go ahead and be successful.
We have to be careful with our money in the arts, but the pattern of participation with commercial enterprises, which, according to Lord Goodman, is to be proposed by the Theatre Investment Fund is one which has much to commend it. There are many problems—keeping large 693 theatres going all over the country, building new theatres, and the various difficulties facing us in the world in which we live.
In the vast array of evidence which came before the Committee, which my hon. Friend chaired in such a distinguished manner—and the members of the Committee were very assiduous in their duties—relatively little fault was found with the Arts Council. If the Committee did not heap praise on the Arts Council to quite the extent suggested by Lord Goodman in his introduction, the absence of censure was revelled in by my noble Friend as though that absence constituted the most flowery of compliments. Perhaps it did, but in this there was no word of the person whom all of us who have anything to do with public patronage know to be the source of our inspiration. It was perhaps right that there should be no word of this because it was, in a sense, a report made to her. I refer, of course, to my right hon. Friend, whom we all think of as the Minister of the Arts. Under her guidance this Government have the proud knowledge of having become a great patron of the arts. This is a fine achievement, and nothing and no one can take that away from them.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)
Sometimes one reads criticisms of days like this in the House of Commons when no one takes part in the debate except the Members of the Committee who have made the Report. That is not true today, and this is in itself a great tribute to the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) and her Committee for the excellent and stimulating Report which has brought so many hon. Members to the debate.
The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), with his usual modesty, did not make the point that were the Arts Council to be either elected, or appointed, he and my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) would, I am sure, find places on it.
I am honoured to take part in this debate and to follow the hon. Member for Putney, who is a member of the Arts Council, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Handsworth, who was until recently a member of the Council. In a 694 way they should both have a sense of relief, because they have been investigated and have been given clean bills of health. No wonder they are delighted with this Report.
The House is a perverse place. We had not had a debate on the arts for five years, and now we have had two in a week. The right hon. Lady will have to bear with me. I shall have to say some of the things which I said a few nights ago, but today we are considering these matters at a more reasonable hour.
I join the many hon. Members who have paid tribute to Lord Goodman and his colleagues on the Arts Council and to the members of the staff of the Arts Council. The public in general are deeply indebted to them for their selfless and valuable work in the interests of the community. The whole House is in their debt.
I should like to say a few words about the recommendations of the Committee. Altogether, 13 recommendations were made, and we have the observations of the Department on them. I propose to ask the right hon. Lady about two of the recommendations. Recommendation No. 3 says that the Departmentshould again enter into negotiations … for putting the grant in aid on a rolling triennial footing. …The right hon. Lady said in her Observations:If these negotiations are successfully concluded in time, it is agreed 1969–70 should be used as the base for putting the grant on this new footing.I do not think that I need argue the merits of the case. It is crucial to organisations to know some years in advance what their minimum grant will be. Have these negotiations been concluded? Reading the report of the Royal Opera House for last year, one does not get the impression that it feels that it has this grant on a rolling triennial basis. Will this be ready for 1970–71, even if it is not ready yet?
The other important recommendation is No. 13, thatthe Arts Council should collaborate with other relevant bodies … to piece together a more complete picture of overall support for the arts than at present exists.We all know that many of the figures are not known. Nobody knows how much private support there is for the arts. 695 Nobody knows for certain how much local government support there is for the arts, and it is important that in its observations the Arts Council says that it will back the suggestion made for the piecing together of a more complete picture of overall support for the arts.
I hope that the House will be told how far that has gone. After all, the Report was not made yesterday. I read it with great interest two Christmasses before last, and it made very pleasant Christmas reading, too. The Report was not made two weeks ago, and I hope that these observations have been backed up in the way promised by the Arts Council and the Department. I hope that the right hon. Lady will be able to reassure us on that.
We all support and encourage the work of the Arts Council, and I agreed very much with my right hon. Friend the Member for Handsworth when he said that one test of a civilised community was the priority which it gave to the arts. There is no doubt that is one of the more pleasurable, and certainly important, duties of the Government, of whatever political opinion, to take this problem very seriously indeed. Governments of all political shades have given the arts a higher priority in the allocation of public expenditure over the years, and I am certain that that will continue in the foreseeable future.
In view of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), and in view of a comment made by the right hon. Lady in the middle of the night during our last debate, I must apologise to the House for making one partisan point. I shall get it over quickly, and I hope that the House will forgive me. Everyone whom I know in the arts hates party politics being brought into the arts, and I share that view. However, the hon. Lady and her right hon. Friend cannot—and I understand it—resist the temptation to boast of the enormous sums of money which their Government have spent on arts and to imply that the Tories both neglected the arts in the past and would continue to do so in the future. I see that the hon. Lady wishes to make the point again. Of course I concede at once that grants to the arts under the present Government 696 are higher than ever before. I think, however, that in this field more than in any other political field it is the worst possible thing for us to impugn each other's good will.
If I may give the facts, under the Conservative Administration the grants to the arts in this country were more than trebled. Of course, the absolute expenditure was lower, the basis from which we started was lower, but the expenditure was treble what the Labour Party were spending when they left office. That is the sort of argument which both sides of the House can advance on all sorts of issues. We were pledged in 1964 and 1966 to give still higher priority in the nation's resources to the work of the Arts Council. With the increased standard of living in this country, I am certain that, whoever is in power the arts will get their fair share of the increase. I am reminded by the right hon. Lady of the violinist who thought that before he played there was silence. Nobody is in that situation. I am sure that the right hon. Lady will resist the temptation to be partisan and that this is far from her intention in the arts, although we know her to be a bonny fighter on other issues. I have to make these remarks in view of some of the statements made earlier in the debate and I apologise to the right hon. Lady if she has no intention of being partisan. I am sure that the whole House will welcome it if neither of us is partisan.
Dealing with the costs of the arts, which my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) and the hon. Member for Putney mentioned, there are a number of questions which I must ask. I had a very interesting debate on the theatre with the hon. Member for Putney in Eastbourne and both he and I, and I am sure many other hon. Members, would like to press the right hon. Lady this evening to ask her right hon. Friend the Chancellor to consider seriously the abolition of the selective employment tax on the commercial theatre. That would be most welcome and would end an anomaly. Every hon. Member knows the position of my right hon. Friends and myself on this tax in general; we are committed to its total abolition. But the sooner it can be abolished for the commercial theatre, the better.
697 There are many other costs which have risen in recent years—devaluation has been one cause—and there are some centres of the arts—and my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) drew attention to this in relation to the repertory theatres—which I doubt are any better off than they were two or three years ago. I support her plea to the right hon. Lady about the purchase tax on costumes. I have done a little research into this and it is a very complicated matter, but a concession would cost very little and would help considerably.
I believe that the Arts Council has three vital jobs to do, and the Estimates Committee has done an excellent job in analysing them for our benefit. But there is one extra job which perhaps has not been mentioned. The hon. Lady drew attention in her Report to the invaluable nature of the advice which the Arts Council gives on so many occasions, and I think that has been very important. There are three major tasks of the Arts Council. One is the maintenance of standards. The second is the spreading of opportunity all over the country—and how I agree with the points made by the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Handsworth, about the work of the Northern Arts Association. I know that my hon. Friend has a deep interest in the work of that association and I hope that he will have an opportunity of catching your eye later on, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The third is the encouragement of innovation and new techniques and the young, about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Hands-worth spoke earlier.
It is true that the Arts Council is now the only sizeable patron of the arts in this country. I do not think there is an hon. Member in this House who needs to be satisfied that it is a very good thing that the Arts Council should exist and should be a big patron. There may be a small minority of people outside the House who ask why the consumer should not pay and who believe that symphony orchestras should not be subsidised but should be paid for by those who want them. I reject that wholly, as, I think, does the whole House. It will never be possible in the foreseeable future for these bodies to be self-supporting.
698 The hon. Member for Putney referred briefly to the study of productivity in the performing arts by Professors Baumol and Bowen in the U.S.A. It is obvious that productivity in the performing arts cannot rise beyond a certain point. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, for example, cannot give more than eight performances a week. I wonder how much productivity has risen since the days of Shakespeare. Moreover, the R.S.C. was not available then. Cost will go up and there will be an enormous gap to be closed somehow.
I very much welcomed the well-informed letter in The Times yesterday about the increase in patrons. A number of hon. Members have raised that point. It is unfortunate that the Arts Council should be the only sizeable patron in the country. Patronage should be a partnership, and who are the best partners? Local Government was one factor the hon. Lady's sub-committee investigated. I thought they were a bit harsh. I disagree with the sub-committee and agree with the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North. I do not think that a mandatory rate can possibly be imposed on the local authorities.
§ Mrs. Renée Short
Would the hon. Gentleman tell me in which recommendation was suggested a mandatory rate on local authorities?
§ Mr. Channon
The hon. Lady did not make a recommendation but she quoted with approval some remarks of Lord Goodman, who said that he was in favour of a mandatory rate.
§ Mr. Channon
I did not say that. I said that the hon. Lady's sub-committee drew attention to the remarks of Lord Goodman in a favourable way, and Lord Goodman said that he was in favour of a mandatory rate. I did not say that the hon. Lady recommended it, but she did the next best thing. I disagree with both her sub-committee and Lord Goodman. I think that local authorities in this country have too little, not too much, discretion. But that does not mean that there is not plenty of scope for further encouragement of the arts by local authorities.
699 I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Handsworth that this is the last moment for hon. Members to criticise local authorities which are facing appalling financial problems at this moment. As Peter Hemmings, the Director of Scottish Opera, said at the Conservative Party seminar on the arts about the problems of Glasgow,How this city can cope with developing major artistic organisations and at the same time cope with re-housing a million people is a very difficult question to argue.It is very difficult to criticise local authorities, which are faced with appalling problems which it would not be appropriate for us to debate this evening. It is true that they are entitled to spend a 6d. rate, and have been so entitled since the 1948 Act. Revaluation has changed the figure. Although I have not checked my figures for a month or so, I believe that it would cost the London Borough of Islington, for example, £830,000 a year. It would cost the G.L.C. £15 million a year; and although I am delighted that next year they are to make their largest contribution ever to the arts in this country, I do not think that even the greatest enthusiast among us can imagine that they will spend £15 million a year on arts for some time. In any case, there is no definition in the 1948 Act of entertainment. There is no definition requiring local authorities to spend money on the arts; the money could be spent on fireworks, if they wished, and not on concerts or exhibitions. I think that a mandatory rate is a mistake.
However, some things can be done when we are reforming local government. A general requirement should be put on local authorities to take an interest in this problem. There is also a strong case for an annual circular recommending the spending of a certain rate product, which could describe those associations which could help. That could have two results. It would give local authorities the ultimate freedom and it would arm them against those who argue that expenditure on the arts is wasteful. This is still, in some places, unfortunately, a potent argument at local elections. Ministerial advice and encouragement here is preferable to the present vague provisions.
700 There is something to be said for a small agency, possibly attached to the bigger local government office, recommended in the Maud Report, on management of local government. This could have two functions—bringing together councillors and officers of different authorities to share their experience, and bringing together councillors and those involved in running the arts in their areas.
We have had some unfortunate experiences—very few, luckily—in municipal theatres in recent years, and this idea could have helped to avoid them. It could also provide an information service on how local government could help the arts. It need not be more than a small professional office which could, among other things, survey artistic facilities in the area and provide for their future improvement.
Local authorities could give more facilities. Some are very good and some are not so good in this respect. Perhaps they could give interest-free loans for decoration of premises used by local arts associations. Local government can do plenty here.
There is also plenty to be done in the regional arts associations. They have a tremendous future. The hon. Lady's subcommittee said—I hope that I have quoted her right this time, or I shall get into terrible trouble—that one of the most important decisions which the Arts Council would have to take over the next five years was about the development of the regional arts associations. I entirely agree. This is an extremely important decision. Although we talk a good deal about these associations, let us not overestimate their success.
After the first five years of the Northern Arts Association, it had an income of only £150,000, compared with a target of £500,000. It has done a wonderful job—I agree with what was said about Mr. Dunbar—but the problem is not yet over, and, compared to this body, many other regional arts associations are in their infancy.
A problem which will arise with the continual expansion of the arts and of these associations is the lack of trained arts administrators. I much enjoyed visiting the course run by the Polytechnic in conjunction with the Arts Council, which I hope will prove to have a very useful rôle. I am delighted, also, that there 701 is to be an Arts Council inquiry under Sir Leslie Scarman into this problem.
One thing that we should consider is diverting more national funds through regional arts associations. That would enable them to fulfil a larger rôle, help to diversify taste and use national funds to encourage local patronage. I still believe that organisations of major importance at a national level, such as major theatres and orchestras, will always want, at least for many years, direct access to the Arts Council itself. I see no reason why there should not be two organisations—a more powerful regional arts association and the Arts Council dealing with national organisations in any particular region.
I am alarmed by the thought that the Arts Council will be the only patron of any size in future. How many artists in the past would have received Arts Council grants? Would it have backed all the winners? This flies in the face of all history.
The State has two duties—not only to provide the lion's share, as it will have to do, of funds for patronage, but also to create conditions in which others may also contribute. I hate the word "patronage"; it connotes something quite different from that which we mean and we should have some humility here. It is not just money which will create a good climate for artists, although it may help.
I think that the study of the hon. Member for Putney is most interesting, and I will come to that, but I disagreed with the Estimates Committee when it said, in paragraph 128,It does not seem likely that private patronage can be increased to bear the burden.I think that it is possible to revive private patronage, that it is desirable and that, in the long term, it is essential in the interests of the artistic life of this country.
Of course it has declined and insufficient attempts have been made to halt its decline. But in other countries private patronage has not declined to the same extent. I favour official patronage, of course, but voluntary patronage can do things which the official kind cannot. It can take risks and can innovate, it can prefer long-term investment to short-term returns. It cannot be helpful for ever for the arts to be dependent solely 702 on Arts Council funds. Today, private patronage is largely exercised by charitable trusts and by business—and by private people, of course, with covenants and supporters' clubs. There are plenty of ideas for reviving private patronage and I am sorry that the Committee did not go into them, because that would have been a very interesting study of how to help the arts.
There is the idea of a State lottery and of the lapsed copyright fund and of the tax allowance system. The hon. Member for Putney has given his view of the American allowance system. I am sure that he knows that practically every other country in the Western world has a tax allowance system—although not the same one, of course. We are virtually the only advanced Western industrialised nation without a system of tax allowances of some kind in this field. The United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia—practically all advanced industrial nations have a system of this kind. That does not mean that we should necessarily adopt one, but when he bases his argument on the American example, the hon. Member must realise that there are about 20 other examples. There should be a study of all the systems in these various countries.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
We, of course, go a very small way towards this goal with our covenants system. I am not opposed to a very cautious look at whether that can be done. What I am suggesting is that the idea that it is possible to do anything substantial as a result is incompatible with our taxation system.
§ Mr. Channon
I have always believed, as I said, that the Arts Council will, for the foreseeable future, bear the lion's share of patronage. All I am saying is that we should study these systems. There are many lessons which they can learn from us, but—I, too, have studied the American system—we may have something to learn from them. If that system were adopted in this country, of course we should have to adapt it to see that there were no abuses. It is interesting that, in America, it is the middle income groups who have contributed most of the cash and interest to such a scheme. Many hon. Members have favoured such a scheme. I think that the Government should make a study of it, and I wish 703 that the Estimates Committee had done so.
I agree with the Estimates Committee and with the hon. Lady—whose speech was most helpful to the House—about the appalling conditions and pay which performing artistes have to tolerate. It is right to say that they are providing a degree of subsidy to the arts as great as that of the Arts Council. For too long we have been prepared as a nation to exploit the devotion and willingness of people with a sense of dedication. They have been made to put up with, and are prepared to put up with, appalling conditions and pay.
I have one or two criticisms of the Arts Council which I raised in a recent debate on a matter on which the Estimates Committee is not keen, either. That is the system of grants to individuals and the principle of a public body supporting private individuals. How can one be sure that one will pick the right people or that the right people will apply? I welcome the fact that the Arts Council is to give more publicity to the scheme, but I am still very worried about it. There has been public concern in the past about these individual grants and I hope that there will not have to be public concern in the future. We must recognise that these individual grants have reached the large figure of nearly £120,000. I should be against removing the Arts Council's discretion to make such grants, but I wish that it would have an examination of the whole system.
I agree with other hon. Members concerning matters that are not wholly covered in the Report and that there are many other activities in the arts to which we should turn attention—for example, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Handsworth pointed out, the problems of museums and music education. We need to rethink our whole music education and I also agree with his remarks about the music colleges.
I shall not go into the question of the National Film Institute and the National Film Archive, raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason). They have an enormous task and future generations will regret it if we do not adapt the National Film Archive to the rôle that it should play. I 704 was sorry when, last year, the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr), to establish a system of statutory deposits, was not passed by the House. No one suggested that it could have been implemented at once, for the financial implications were too great, but the principle should have been put on to the Statute Book. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will try again.
It is inevitable but regrettable that, throughout the speeches, the subject of cash has played such an enormous part. It is inevitable because the arts will always need money. We want to create an atmosphere in this country in which the arts can flourish without political control. The House is united on that. Much has been done and there is much more to do. We want to maintain standards. While the Government should provide patronage through the Arts Council—that is a very important duty—it is not enough in itself. We must harness the immense and growing enthusiasm which exists for the arts in this country and form much more clearly than it exists a partnership between the State and private people.
Since the war, it has been the task of the Government to increase State patronage to meet the need. The task of the 1970s and the 1980s will be for the State not only to play its rôle but to encourage a situation in which the local authorities, business and private patrons recognise their responsibilities for the well-being of the arts. The hon. Lady and her sub-committee have done this House, the Arts Council and the country a service by their Report. I hope that their recommendations and the public debates which follow them will have the beneficial conclusions which we wish to see.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Ifor Davies (Gower)
I agree at once with the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) that it should not be a mandatory condition on local authorities to support the arts. I do not agree with the impression which seems to have arisen in some speeches that we should not persuade and encourage them to do all they can to make a contribution. The question, after all, is when is the right time?
705 The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) emphasised the need for new activities, and I agree. I am glad that the Arts Council is giving so much support to small organisations. The right hon. Gentleman referred to some of them as "odd hack" as well as ad hoc. I have looked through the list for Wales. There is no "odd" body there; they are all deserving.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) said that the main change in the last 20 years has been the encouragement by the Arts Council of arts in the regions. Having heard English and Scottish Members, I am sure that the House would agree that the debate would be incomplete without reference by a Welsh Member to what is happening in Wales in the arts, in addition to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short). I join other hon. Members in congratulating her and her sub-committee on an excellent Report.
I am glad, therefore, that I have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I hope the House will understand if I concentrate my remarks on some aspects of the arts in the Principality. At the outset, I join others in referring to one significant event in relation to the arts in general. This was the appointment by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, on taking office, of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Jennie Lee) as Minister for the Arts. She believes that action speaks louder than words, and her actions have not only inspired all those interested in the arts but she has injected new hope and, what is perhaps more important, new money into the arts. She also has not operated on the basis of remote control. For example, she has come herself to the Principality and it has been my pleasure to be in her company on more than one occasion.
Another significant event was the transfer of executive responsibility for the arts in Wales to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales. He, too, has played a noble part in the unceasing battle for grants. In so far as the greater part of the grants are channelled through the Arts Council of Great Britain, I pay warm tribute to Lord 706 Goodman, the Chairman, and to the officials of the Arts Council. The co-operation and understanding between the Arts Council of Great Britain and the Welsh Arts Council, under the able chairmanship of Colonel Crayshaw, is gratifying.
It is noteworthy that the grants from the Arts Council to Wales for the year ending March 1969 reached a record figure of over £527,000. I take the point that in this debate we should not make party political points, but I do not apologise for pointing out that this figure compares with the figure of five years ago of £140,000—a difference of 376 per cent. I cannot let the occasion go without making that comment.
I recognise that part of the increase has been to meet increased costs, but it also represents a most substantial encouragement in real money terms to new and increasing activities. I am glad to pay tribute in this context to the Welsh Arts Council for the increasing allocation it has made to help not only the Welsh National Opera Company and the Welsh National Theatre Company, but also to the numerous smaller bodies in Wales. The challenge is all the greater today because of the growing and sharper recognition that opportunities to enjoy the arts are important to good living standards. More and more people feel a sense of deprivation if they have little chance to visit theatres, concert halls and art exhibitions. Many, indeed, are anxious to cherish the forms of culture inherited from the past.
Quite apart from helping to satisfy these aspirations, the arts and traditional culture are relevant to the economic development of any country. They are an integral part of the environment. How often we hear this word "environment" echoing around the Chamber in our debates. There is no doubt as to the importance of the environment. Without this the country is less attractive and industry and the tourist trade will be affected. People cannot be expected to settle contentedly without the opportunity of a wide range of cultural activities.
Unfortunately, in Wales there is a serious deficiency of good buildings and facilities for the arts. There is not a single purpose-built concert hall or a modern theatre equipped for professional drama of a high standard. There is no 707 opera house and no national symphony orchestra. This is remarkable because there is no country which can boast of better opera singers and a greater interest in orchestral music. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East has referred to the attendance at a performance in Cardiff. There was recently a remarkable performance of "Falstaff" with Sir Geraint Evans in the title rôle. Every one of the leading rôles was played by Welsh men or women of international repute.
As the Report points out on page 327, the Welsh National Opera Company has had to purchase a disused warehouse and adapt it for rehearsals and training. Here is an example of people helping themselves. It is no less than a miracle that the company has survived at all in view of the difficulties confronting it.
In passing, I would like to pay a tribute to the late Dr. W. H. Smith, for his great services to the company from its early days. If this company is to continue and expand, and heaven forbid it should not, it is essential to embark on radical changes in its organisation and its programme planning. It is good news that it is preparing to increase the number of its performances and is taking into its itinary, apart from Welsh centres such as Cardiff, Swansea. Llandudno, such places as Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Oxford. I am pleased to hear of the negotiations with Southampton. I was interested to note that in a speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Henig) on 27th January, he saidLeicester has the rather dubious distinction of being one of two cities—Stoke being the other—of more than a quarter of a million people which have had no opera by a major touring company during the last three years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th January, 1970, Vol. 794, c. 1389.]I can tell my hon. Friend that I am sure that the Welsh National Opera Company would be pleased to hear from Leicester and Stoke.
For all of these performances the company is forced to hire orchestras. Page 328 of the Report says:The employment of so many orchestras from outside Wales for a spread of short seasons means costly rehearsals to the Company as well as causing great difficulty in forward planning.708 My hon. Friend quoted the figure of £65,000. The Report goes on:There can only be one possible solution, namely the founding of an opera orchestra. This could also form the basis of a Welsh National Symphony Orchestra.I submit that this would present no difficulties.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend omitted, in a reference to orchestras in Wales, to make any mention, perhaps it was not a deliberate ommission, perhaps she does not know as much about this as I do, of the fact that there are two orchestras, the National Youth Orchestra under the most able conductorship of Mr. Arthur Davidson and the Glamorgan Youth Orchestra under Mr. Shepherd which have already built up a very high reputation. These orchestras are the pride of Wales.
The local authorities, working through the Welsh Joint Education Committee and the Glamorgan County Council, deserve the highest praise for what it has done with these youth orchestras. It is already carrying out the spirit of recommendation No. 13. I would also draw attention to recommendation No. 9, which refers to the opera house at the Craig y Nos Hospital which my right hon. Friend has visited. I would be glad if she could give an assurance that whatever may be the future of the hospital the Adelina Patti Theatre there should and will be preserved for artistic purposes.
There is a growing consciousness in Wales about the need to provide new buildings for the arts, especially well equipped theatres. This theatre in Craig y Nos is serving a most important purpose and I hope my right hon. Friend will listen to my appeal.
I would also refer to recommendation No. 7 which calls for a review of the position of drama in Wales. This recommendation also refers to the Grand Theatre at Swansea, which my right hon. Friend will recollect she had the pleasure of reopening last year. This was only made possible by the foresight of the local authority which has acted in accordance with recommendation No. 13, thus ensuring the future of this theatre. It deserves every appreciation and I hope that many more local authorities will 709 follow Swansea's example. I agree with the emphasis that has been placed upon encouraging local authorities to play a far more vital and siginficant part in this respect.
I was glad to hear the hon. Lady say that despite past difficulties the Welsh National Theatre was now on a much better footing. There is no purpose in looking back. I hope that it will now go forward from strength to strength. There is a significant comparison to be drawn between the great success of the opera company and the theatre company. I sincerely hope that the future of the National Theatre will be as distinguished as that achieved by the opera company. Through the activities of the Arts Council a great deal has been done to stimulate and satisfy a growing appetite and the demand for a better range of facilities to enjoy the arts. There is a great deal to be done if we are to meet the new ambitions now stirring.
I am glad that this has been clearly recognised in the White Paper "A Policy for the Arts". In its last paragraph it emphasises that the proposals outlined in the White Paper are no more than the first steps in the direction of a fully comprehensive policy for the arts. I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Southend, West that whatever party is in power the House should always agree that support for the arts is essential. As the right hon. Member for Handsworth has said, it is one of the great tests of a civilised community, and it deserves the highest priority in our national life.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
During this debate we have heard of the glories of British artistic achievements, and I pay tribute to those as I do to the work of the Arts Council and the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North East (Mrs. Renée Short) and her Committee. I will direct my speech to one aspect which has been neglected. In paragraph (iii) of the observations of the Secretary of State on the Estimates Committee's Report, there is this passage referring to music:Here, as in drama, it is difficult to accept that artists have any justification for feeling that they do not get the professional support they need.710 This does not apply to the young British orchestral conductor. Paragraph 128 of the Estimates Committee Report says:Britain is no longer 'the country without music'.If this is so, it is largely because the conductors of our orchestras come from foreign countries. Of 163 concerts advertised this current season by the five London orchestras, only 31 were or are advertised as being under British conductors. Of 182 concerts advertised since February, 1968, under the Royal Festival Hall subscription voucher scheme, only 16 were or are advertised as being under British conductors. All these concerts, except those given by the B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra, are advertised as being given in association with the Arts Council. Of 13 major orchestras in Great Britain, only three—the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish National Orchestra and the B.B.C. Scottish Orchestra—have young assistant or apprentice conductors. All the major London orchestras, except the B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra, have foreign principal conductors. We have just heard that the next principal conductors of the B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra and of the City of Birmingham Orchestra are to be foreign nationals. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Ulster Orchestra are already in the charge of foreign nationals.
I hope, in quoting these figures, that I shall not be misunderstood. It is not my intention to draw frontiers in the realm of art. I could not, even if I wanted to, and I do not want to, take a narrow insular view. I believe that we have gone a little too far in hiring foreign conductors and do not do enough to help young British orchestral conductors—and we have some of great worth.
I have talked to many of these young men and corresponded with them. May I give briefly the career of one of the lucky ones, and I underline the word "lucky" because it is purely a relative term:It is, I think, worth mentioning that I studied at the Royal College of Music, London, was trained as a conductor, continued my studies abroad, worked and conducted in Germany, and, since returning to this country in 1965, I have been engaged as conductor to the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, have conducted for the B.B.C. and for other important organisations and orchestras and have been engaged in other musical work. I am sure 711 that any number of reliable musicians will vouch for my work as a conductor, and for the talent which I am told that I have, and this can be backed up by a large number of laudatory press reviews of my work and by tape recordings of my broadcast performance.I can back that up; I have seen these laudatory reports of his work. Now we see why the luck is relative. This young man is aged about 30 and he is fairly distinguished. He goes on to say:However, because of the very few opportunities open to me, I am earning something like £7 or £8 per week …This was early last year:… from music teaching and am drawing supplementary benefit in order to bring my weekly earnings up to £10 or £11. On this, I keep myself, my wife and our two children; as you can well imagine, there is not enough left even to buy orchestral scores etc., let alone gramophone records or other items which would normally be considered essential for the artistic development of a young conductor. Incidentally, upon asking recently at my local labour exchange whether they could find me any other work to help keep body and soul together. I was told that all they had were vacancies for a chef and an office cleaner, both full time-jobs.As a postscript to that letter, may I read a letter from the Arts Council of Great Britain to the father of another young man trying to make his way.This means of course that your son has to submit himself to the heartrending and formidable task of 'knocking on the doors' of the various orchestral managements seeking for engagements. You will know that there are many other young men trying to climb the same ladder, and few of them do in the end manage to get established unless they can demonstrate what must inevitably be above average, or even outstanding, talent.I have many letters which illustrate this heartrending knocking at doors.
The dilemma of the young British conductor is that he cannot get conducting opportunities without experience, and he cannot get experience without the conducting opportunities. There are good arguments for saying, "Let us get the best conductors, no matter from what country they come", but many of these foreign conductors are quite unknown and certainly no better than many of our young men. Even so, I would not discourage the young, unknown musicians from coming to this country and taking their chance, as long as our young men get a chance too, and I do not believe that they do.
712 Some time ago, in reply to a letter from me, the Minister was kind enough to give me her thoughts on this subject:Meanwhile, I am sure you will agree that it would be very undesirable to attempt to interfere in any way with the essential freedom of orchestras and companies to approach those conductors whom they feel are most suited for particular posts.I wonder if that is absolutely right. I am not sure that I entirely agree with it. I see her point, but surely, where State and other public money is provided with the object of fostering music, it is reasonable to allocate some of it to fostering the development of our young British conductors with talent. The Minister went on to say:But I believe that there will be increasing opportunities for our own young men to develop their skills, particularly perhaps with opera companies.This letter was written in August, 1967. I assure her that the problem is still there, and I hope she will bear it in mind.
In speaking of the young British conductor, I may be accused of being prejudiced in favour of my own nationals. If so, I am not the only one. Towards the end of 1969 a critique written by William Mann, the music critic, was published by The Times:An orchestra manager, a few weeks ago, casually asked me whom I would suggest as the next principal conductor of his symphony orchestra. I mentioned the names of two or three experienced and reliable British conductors with sizeable repertoires. No, they would not do: useful for several concerts each season, but not enough glamour to draw large audiences every week to their concerts in and out of town.There is a good deal more of interest in that article which I could quote.
I will go on to an interview between Alan Blyth of The Times and a Mr. Haitink, who took over as principal conductor and artistic adviser of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Mr. Blyth in his article said:Mr. Haitink is as anxious to encourage young artists as he is to promote good music. 'It's not good for any orchestra to have only foreign conductors. And it's stupid to say that you have no young ones. There must be some, and the only way to find out is by giving them a chance. It can be done—look how Colin Davis has established himself'.What can be done about this? The Arts Council should take action and says, on page 33 of its Report, that it gives the necessary support where needed. I believe that it ought to look particularly 713 at the situation of the young British conductor.
My last quotation—and I apologise for so many—is from the publication Music and Musicians in May, 1969. It is a quotation from an article by Mr. Noel Goodwin, in which he said:One practical means of improvement would be for the Arts Council to insist, as a condition of grant, on the appointment of an associate conductor with each major orchestra. It would, of course, be made at the orchestra's discretion and for a specified term, with the appointment renewed or changed after that period according to merit and circumstances. Such a scheme would at least offer one means of enabling genuine talent to develop without having to rely on the 'lucky break'. It is a sobering thought that if such a break had not come his way, even Colin Davis might at one time have been lost to music.I would ask the Minister to consider that suggestion.
Is there any tie-up between the National Youth Orchestra and the young British conductor? Is there scope for this and, if so, will the Minister look at that matter? Could she also look into the whole question of the selection of conductors for the major orchestras and concerts in London and throughout the country? I am not saying that she should dictate or limit in any way the employment of many well-known conductors from other countries. That is out of the question. But could she not see whether an opportunity could be created for young British conductors of talent to give experience? I am sure that there are other ways in which we could help our young people. If the Minister will look into this matter, I am sure that she will find under a wealth of musical talent available in this country that it will refute the gibe that Britain is a country without music.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Miss Jennie Lee)
The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot) made a most passionate plea for the young conductor. He vividly brought out the fact that our young conductor is apt to be regarded as casual labour and to be grossly underpaid. One knows that it takes a very high level of dedication for the young musical practitioner to carry on against all the material difficulties.
It is noteworthy that when my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) so ably 714 and comprehensively introduced the Report of the Estimates Committee of which she was Chairman, she spoke with compassion about the position of the young actor or actress in the repertory companies. The best and most fortunate of them in leading parts may earn up to £40 or £50 a week, but many others receive as little as £15 a week—when they are working. Because they are regarded as casual labour they face great difficulties.
It may be thought discourteous of me in the first instance not to give my thanks to the Estimates Committee and to my hon. Friend. But she will be the first to appreciate that when we are giving thanks to all those who, either in a full-time professional capacity or in a voluntary manner, are promoting the artistic life of this country, it is perhaps right that we should first of all praise the young, and often the not so young; dedicated people who carry on careers of great distinction, others in more modest ventures, and even those who go out of the profession altogether. It is easy to state this problem. It is not so easy to find the answer.
One hon. Member mentioned that the Welsh Singers were very popular abroad, which is, of course, true. We expect our artists to be received in other countries, and we also expect foreign artists to come here, though we appreciate the problems of Equity and the trade union difficulties. I do not see that the answer to the problem lies in impeding the free exchange of artistic talent from one country to another.
I turn to the point made by my hon. Friend about over-employment in the theatre and the need to ensure that we should not give too much encouragement to colleges of further education in this respect. I should like to quote from a letter sent out by my Department on 20th May, 1969, which reads as follows:Such courses in drama can be a lively element in the students' programme of liberal studies and their experience of the arts and as such have a proper place in further education. It appears, however, that there is In increasing tendency for colleges to treat these courses as vocational courses and to advertise them as preparatory or pre-drama school courses, sometimes giving prominence to the number of past students who have gained places in drama schools.It goes on at length precisely to discourage any attempt to recruit students to such colleges on the basis that it is a 715 preliminary training to help them to become full-time professional actors and actresses.
Although we must be careful not to put the emphasis on encouraging young people into a profession in which only a few can find a place, we must not discourage the teaching of drama so far as it is taught in our schools since it will promote the enjoyment of drama as a subject and, what is more important, as a form of education. This is a hope for the future. We can be optimistic about our future audiences. It is an unusual school in these days in which the young children do not gain a sense of line, design, colour and music. I am confident that this generation will grow up with different expectations, different habits, and that we shall not then need to plead for patronage in the arts.
There remains the difficulty of the older generation, many of whom have never had the habit of patronising the arts, and others of whom have never had the opportunity to do so. But we should not be too pessimistic. I read a leading article in one of our great newspapers the other day which said, in effect, that opera was one of the indoor past-times of kings and courts but was not for the ordinary man or woman. I do not know where that experience has been gained. My earliest memory was of sitting with my father and drumming out all the popular tunes from 11 Trovatore, Poet and Peasant and the Carl Rosa repertoire. I can still feel the pain resulting from stretching my fingers, because I was no natural musician. I was a product of my environment. That environment was a mining town, and I can remember crowds rolling into the local theatre when the Carl Rosa or D'Oyly Carte companies visited us. In the early part of the century, we had music halls with visiting companies coming to them. They were supported by a minority public, but it was an eager public which enjoyed fine music.
Our beloved Sybil Thorndike and Aneurin Bevan used to share a favourite joke. Years ago, a delegation came to Parliament from the Tredegar Working Men's Club protesting about the income tax that it was required to pay on the profits that it made on concerts. The club was advised that, if it did not want 716 to pay tax, it should not make profits, and a number of suggestions were made about how it could avoid the pernicious income tax. One suggestion was that it should stage a classical play. Sybil Thorndike came to Tredegar with "Medea", and the people crowded in once more.
We have to keep in mind the need to sustain great art at the higher levels. We have it already, and I pay tribute to the standards achieved at Covent Garden and at the Coliseum. Fine work is being done. However, those high standards have to be maintained, and they are very expensive. I have insisted that there should be no cutting back on Metropolitan standards in order to spread the available money more evenly throughout the country. That would be the worst possible disservice. I am proud that we have not only maintained London standards but improved them.
It is becoming more and more recognised that not only is it well worth doing in itself, but it also attracts tourists in greater numbers than ever before. The numbers of tourists going to our theatres in London, Edinburgh and elsewhere represent tickets by the million. No one has made an exact calculation of the return that there has been, but it is very substantial, and, although we do not plead with Chancellors of the Exchequer on quite such a crude level, we are glad to be able to tell them that the increased money which the Government have given to the arts has not been entirely on the liability side of the balance sheet.
It is not easy for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to find the money which all of us concerned with the arts, including my right hon. Friend, would like to give. It would have been extremely easy for him to have looked at that quite substantial figure of £.3¾ million which we were committed to give as our share of the capital cost of a national theatre and to say to himself, "Perhaps I can prune back there". He did not do that, and I was never under pressure at any time. In fact, the only pressure came when there was a change of management at County Hall and it was suggested that we should make it £3¾ million at the point of completion instead of at the point of tender—
§ Mr. Channon rose—717
§ Miss Lee
The hon. Gentleman need not be nervous. I was very grateful on that account.
My first encounter with the Government came when my right hon. Friend's predecessor was Chancellor and we already had our allocation of money. It is not easy for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to give supplementary aid, any more than it is for this House to agree to it. However, on that occasion, it meant the difference between life and death for one of our greatest symphony orchestras.
It would be churlish of anyone to assume that concern for the arts is confined to only one side of the House. It would be a lie not only inside the House but wherever one goes in the regions, especially when one sees the combined operation of public money, local authority money and private patronage which sustains our enterprises. It is demonstrably true that there is a more eager interest in the arts throughout the country today than there was several years ago. That is due not only to what might be termed an accelerated contribution by way of annual subsidy but to two other factors. One is the stimulus which has been given to communities which had no theatres, arts centres or concert halls—or, if they had, they had become slums—by the introduction of the new principle of a Housing the Arts Fund. It should be stressed, too, that of the 109 projects being helped by it, only 11 are in the London area, and that includes the outer London area.
I hope that some of my hon. Friends will not be too pessimistic about the contributions made by private and local patronage. When we had committed £2¼ million from the Housing the Arts Fund, the total commitment was £10½ million. I made that point at Question time, and I make no apology for repeating it, because it is fascinating. It shows that £8¼ million of the capital required has been committed by local authorities and private patrons, which is not bad going. Incidentally, I hope that I shall not be asked to break down that £8¼ million and to say how much came from the local authorities and how much from private sources.
In its Report, the Estimates Committee calls for a proper study and co-ordination of the sources of patronage, 718 and the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) asked how much private patronage there is. The Arts Council has these matters very much in mind. Taking the combined operation to which I have referred, the proportions fall fairly between central Government, local government and private patronage in terms of building. We have to get it as well for what is often a more tedious business, which is providing the annual subsidy required to carry on these undertakings.
I was fascinated, as always, by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), because when he is right he is very right. However, when he goes off the rails he goes such a long way. I may add that he does not often go off the rails, but he would be a very dull fellow if he did not do so occasionally. I was fascinated by what he said about the American taxation system. I agree that it just does not suit our economy. It would not work in this country.
We must keep in mind that we have a covenanting system and that many of our great institutions and business concerns already know how to make an allocation to the arts. We must also remember that the Inland Revenue is not so harsh. If a concert hall is being built or there is a programme for theatres in the community, little advertisements can be put in the brochures which are published. I hope that the Inland Revenue will take the same attitude to someone who contributes from his business to a community project as has been taken when the contribution has been exclusively for employees. The day of paternalism is passing. If someone is to make a contribution to the theatre, the arts centre or whatever may be his first love and interest, we do not want to confine it exclusively to such people as teachers, miners, bus drivers or whatever they may be; more and more we want it to be in a community sense.
I am not as pessimistic as many hon. Members have sounded when they have talked about future sources of patronage for the arts. We must be prepared from the centre to give a great deal more than we have given in the past. What has been done by the Government, of which I am proud and to which I am grateful, is by far the best guarantee of what they are prepared to do in future.
719 The job of the Arts Council is not simply to confine its attention to immediate matters, but to do long-term planning over the next five years, the next decade or several decades ahead. Therefore, I am grateful to the Arts Council—and my hon. Friend was on the Council's Music Panel—for keeping its wings on. It did not think that it had to be too careful. It has said that Scotland ought to have an opera house, that Wales ought to have an opera house and that the North ought to have an opera house.
We have now the report on Covent Garden, which must be allowed to expand. It has plans now, in two stages, both for giving us more comfortable seats and also—and this is desperately needed—to improve conditions for the actors and everybody working in the theatre. We are all agreed on these matters. But big sums are involved. Between £5 million and £8 million is talked about as the immediate figure for the Covent Garden project. For each of the three opera houses £5 million is talked about, and in addition there will be the annual running costs.
I was delighted when the Lord Provost of Edinburgh—and I have had many arguments with him about the matter—at last sent a letter saying that the Edinburgh Council was willing to pay rather more than half the cost of an opera house for Edinburgh. The ball is in our court. It goes to the Arts Council, it comes to me, and then it goes to the Chancellor. But this is the way that it should be. The first great city outside London which comes forward with a definite proposition is the most likely to be first in the queue.
We must plan ahead for more buildings in the country. I am sure that every hon. Member will agree that the Housing the Arts Fund has helped enormously to encourage many areas, which were hopeless before, into the belief that they, too, can have an enjoyable and cultivated centre.
I thought that some hon. Members were rather dismal about the regional art associations, but I do not think that we are doing too badly.
§ Miss Lee
But my right hon. Friend did so much to help the Northern Arts 720 Association establish itself. He knows something about it.
We had three regional art associations a few years ago. We now have nine in varying stages of development. I was asked at Question Time today how much was being provided for those regional art centres, and I was able to tell the House that we were providing 750 per cent. more than in 1963–64. A percentage as big as that must mean that it was very small at the other end. So it was.
I see several hon. Members who are particularly concerned with the Northern Arts Association. I have had a spot of trouble with them. First, Scotland and Wales felt that they were being neglected and not getting their fair share. I do not think that either Scotland or Wales could make that claim now. But the Northern Arts Association has said that, compared with the population of Scotland and Wales and with the activities which it is developing, it is falling behind in the queue.
A proposal has been made that subsidies for the arts should be on a per capita basis. I hope that we shall never go in for that, because the more genuine activity there is at the local end the more entitlement there is for support from the centre. As the Estimates Committee and the Arts Council have said, at some future time we may be able to afford to be missionaries. We shall be able to go into any dark corners which may remain where there has been no local initiative. But it is only right now that those parts of the country which have shown most initiative should have the greater aid.
I am sure that my hon. Friends from the North-East, if they do not already know the figures, will be delighted to know that while the Northern Arts Association's grant for 1969–70 was £85,000, in 1970–71 it will be £115,000—an increase of 35 per cent. I do not think that that is bad.
I do not complain when one part of the country after another claims that it is not getting its fair share. I should complain if they were indifferent; if they were not each eagerly partisan to see that they were getting their share of whatever encouragement was going.
I can assure the hon. Member for Renfrew. East (Miss Harvie Anderson) 721 that the situation in Scotland is even better than she thought. She mentioned 9 per cent. The Scottish figure is now up to 11 per cent. We all know that while the overall grant went up by just over 200 per cent., the Scottish Arts Council grant went up 372 per cent. and the Welsh Arts Council grant has risen 260 per cent. I hope that this will not cause any bad blood between Scotland and Wales. If it does, they can fight it out between themselves without bringing us into it, because they are now independent as far as the arts are concerned. In 1964 they merely had their committees. Now they have their independent Arts Councils.
I have listened to the plea which has been made for that beautiful little theatre at Craig y Nos. Despite my love for Wales and my considerable knowledge of it, I never know how to pronounce it properly. I assure my Welsh colleagues that negotiations are going on between the Hospital Management Board and the Welsh Office and that there is a universal desire that, whatever happens to the hospital as such, that beautiful little theatre should be saved. All that I can do from my remote vantage point is to wish them luck and to hope that will come about.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
I appreciate the importance of what my right hon. Friend said about not placing regional expenditure on a per capita basis, but is she aware that there was widespread concern in the North-West that Scotland and Wales were doing far too well and that our population in the North-West was perhaps not receiving its fair share? It may be that the local authorities in that area should be doing far more, but I hope that she will not think that it is only the North-East which is concerned about the present imbalance of expenditure.
§ Miss Lee
I hope that I may give a word of comfort to my hon. Friend. The North-West Arts Association in 1969–70 had an allocation of £24,000. In 1970–71 it will have an allocation of £45,000, an increase of 88 per cent. There will always have to be balancing and adjustment, and in seeking to correct what may seem to be a favoured position in one part we may have once again to go back and look at the general position.
722 An enormous amount has still to be done on development in the regions, but we should be grateful for the wonderful work which has been done, most of it from unpaid, voluntary sources. We may be proud that while we had only 20 repertory theatres in 1950 we now have about 60. I discussed this matter with the Secretary-General of the Arts Council only yesterday, and he assured me that the working conditions in the repertory companies had been improved, as had the remuneration of many of the young artists. This was not being complacent. It was not saying that it was anywhere near as good as we wish it to be, but we are travelling in the right direction.
At one point in our debate I wondered whether we were to confine ourselves almost exclusively to opera, ballet, the National Theatre and the great orchestras, which are enormously important. It was only at a rather late stage that we had the first reminder from the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) that we have to consider not only the great artists of the past but also the young talent of today, the avant garde. That is perhaps the most difficult problem the Arts Council has to face. It is easy to win support for the works of an established genius. It is easy to support a great institution with deep roots in history. But when there is a great tidal wave of young hopefuls coming forward with ideas of every kind, how can one select?
As Lord Goodman and others have said, it is essential that we should build bridges to them and remember that sometimes our young colleagues are rather shy about crossing those bridges. I shall not tell tales out of school, but hon. Members who talk about requiring more creative artists to be on the major committees might be a little surprised if they knew of some whom I have asked but who have felt that they would be compromising themselves by becoming members of the Establishment. It is not an easy matter. We must be diffident. We must have some humility and keep in mind all the time that very few genertaions have known their great artists during their lifetime. Some have had recognition in their lifetime, but most have had to wait. Because we have this great flowing forward of talent, we might 723 find that in trying to be too precise and censorious about something which did not reflect our tastes, or which we could not understand, we were crushing the new life that was our future.
We cannot lay down firm rules on this matter. We must play it by ear and do our best. The relations between some of our experimental youngsters and the Arts Council are definitely improving. I found on my way into the House that I had had a circular sent to me from my friends from St. Katherine Docks. I remember when Henry Moore and Bridget Riley came to see me when they were starting this marvellous project for getting 80 to 100—it was certainly a considerable number—of young painters and sculptors places to work there which they did not have before. They have done it very largely on their own initiative and by their own effort. The more we can help the young artists, in particular, to help themselves, the better.
One hon. Member talked about our not doing enough in education. We never do enough in any field, but we have made surveys of the arts in the schools for the first time. We are encouraging the less good areas to model themselves on the more progressive. We have a marvellous and growing good feeling between our schools and our theatres. I think that without exception our repertory theatres, and some of the other institutions, have their links with the schools. All goes forward.
I do not want to go into all the main recommendations of the Estimates Committee. That would take too long. Hon. Members taking part in the debate will have before them Command Paper 4023, in which the observations of my right hon. Friends, the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for Wales, and the Arts Council are already set out. A great deal of background information is there.
I assure hon. Members that every word said in the debate will be carefully studied by the Arts Council and no doubt by the Estimates Committee. I remember that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East said that she would see how far its recommendations were carried out.
I am conscious that I am taking up a great deal of the time of the House. If 724 there is any specific question which has not been answered in the debate, it will be answered later. But one question is crucial and needs answer straight away. The main recommendation addressed to the Department was the third about forward planning on a rolling triennial basis. I warmly endorse the importance of forward planning not only for the Arts Council but for many of its clients, particularly clients such as the Royal Opera House and Sadlers Wells, whose grants are very large and who have to make very large commitments. This is impossible for them unless they can see clearly well ahead.
We have not done everything we want in that respect, but we are certainly making progress. In February, 1968, I was able to inform the Arts Council of its grant for 1969–70, and last August I was able to tell it that it could plan on the basis of a grant of not less than £9.2 million in 1970–71. I am now glad to be able to say that, subject to Parliamentary approval, its grant for 1970–71 will be £9.3 million. As for 1971–72 and 1972–73, we are in the process of working out a system which will give the Arts Council forward figures for planning purposes on a rolling triennial basis.
We have not yet quite concluded those arrangements. I am tempted to say more on the subject, but I must not do so tonight. I assure the House, however, that we are aware that it is crucial for those running an undertaking, large or small, to be able to plan ahead; and I agree with the recommendation of the Estimates Committee that the forward planning should be a base and not a ceiling and that the Council should know the minimum amount on which it can hope to make progress.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the Estimates Committee expressed the hope that the Scottish Art Council's allocation would be worked out in the same fashion?
§ Miss Lee
Of course. We appreciate that the Scottish Arts Council and the Welsh Arts Council have the same problem and that the solution suitable for England would suit them.
I feel somewhat round-shouldered with the amount of thanks that I must give at every level to those who have made the 725 encouraging progress possible in the last few years. There has been not a hint of complacency from any part of the House. We know that we have made a beginning and have stimulated an interest in the arts greater than at any time any of us can recall, but we also know that much more needs to be done.
Sometimes I repeat under my breath "There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, She had so many children she didn't know what to do." I mention that because when we debated the arts some nights ago the hon. Member for Southend, West, quoting from some remarks made by the Secretary-General, said that we had reached a standstill position in terms of grants for the arts.
I took this matter up carefully with the Secretary-General, who in fact did not say that we had reached a standstill position comparing today with 1964. Nor did he say that we had reached a standstill position comparing this year with last year, or with any previous year. There has been an increase each year, but if, when there is a total increase in cash, there is also a considerable increase in commitments, it may mean that while new projects get their share, established projects are placed in a standstill position. The logic of this is that we must be extremely careful to see that we do not take on so many new projects that we are not able to sustain proper growth in projects which already exist.
I add my thanks to those expressed by hon. Members to the Estimates Committee, which has done a wonderful job and the Report of which will give guidance for a long time to come. It gives us an excellent basis of discussion so that the appropriate dialogue may take place between the Estimates Committee, the Arts Council and ourselves.
We have thanked many people in the private sector, the public sector, local authorities—the lot. Although I am opposed to any compulsion being placed on local authorities, we must do everything we can, by way of encouragement and example, to be of assistance.
I have sometimes been embarrassed by the praise that has been poured on me personally. However senior Ministers may be, they cannot carry forward projects without the agreement and support 726 of their colleagues. I have been fortunate, therefore, in my office. When I was appointed in 1964 there was a certain amount of scepticism. I recall phrases like "A Harold Wilson gimmick" and "A façade with no content" being used.
I was asked to take this job and to concern myself with matters affecting the quality of life—the very basis and nature of our civilisation. The Prime Minister told me that he and many of his colleagues would have to give a great deal of time to economic, international and other problems and that he wanted a higher priority given to the arts, which are the essence of our faith and philosophy.
In these years I have had his steadfast encouragement and support. But even Prime Ministers do not just press buttons to get all their own way. Ultimately it is the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the general will and "feel" of the Cabinet that matter. And always behind the Government is the House of Commons—and I mean both sides of it—and all the pressures which exist outside the House. I am always delighted to have put on me the kind of pressures that enables me to carry out those things that we all so much desire.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
It is a very special pleasure to follow the right hon. Lady, particularly after the last few sentences of her most interesting and helpful speech. She used a phrase which widened the whole scope of the debate when she talked about her appointment some years ago to this new task in Government responsibility when she used the phrase about the basis of our life and the quality of our life that was to be her concern.
I do not want to round her shoulders with more praise, but the responsibility she has exercised on behalf of the Government and the country is appreciated both inside of the House and outside. The right hon. Lady, in widening the meaning of this debate, has enabled me to say that we have a responsibility which goes beyond opera, ballet, music and the arts to the very quality of life we are creating as we rush headlong towards the end of this century.
727 It is most necessary that the House should have given itself a day to consider the real need for patronage of the arts. What does it mean? First, we have to look at the real need for art itself. In this modern world one can just about understand it, but if one tries to look ahead towards the end of the century then it becomes almost beyond comprehension because it is moving so fast. Sometimes, like the man in the song, I feel that I would like it to stop so that I can get off to find time to think again, to look, to listen, perhaps to laugh and even to cry, but above all to understand and to believe.
Look at our unlovely world today, our slums, our suburbs, our shops, our factories, our offices. Not all of these have we inherited; many we have created in the last few years. In an age of balance of payments we have tended to show concern only for material things. It was not always so. In richer times things were less utilitarian but still functional. In the 18th century we were not only rich but we were cultivated. We built richly and designed beautifully. We created style, we produced an art that raised us as a nation in the eyes of Europe and in the eyes of the world. In the 18th century there were at least five distinct periods of great innovation and change in art in Europe and above all in Britain. We look back today on what we created then in love and admiration; this is one of our greatest heritages.
In the 19th century, however, we were even richer, but somehow the beauty and the line were lost. The speed of change and the rate of material progress seemed to be too much for us. We seemed to miss our way as our profits grew and our empire expanded. Looking back over two centuries, particularly the 19th century, was this failure, this loss of direction, perhaps because the patrons were less good, perhaps because they had less understanding of the quality of art, perhaps because the rate of progress was so great and the movement of things so fast that they had less time to get off, to look, to understand, to see and to listen?
I have always regarded the great patrons of the arts as the people for whom we should thank God. The 18th century produced great musicians in 728 Europe, and how much they were helped by their great patrons and how brave those patrons were. The right hon. Lady was right when she spoke of the great difficulty facing her not as she looks backwards but as she, her colleagues and advisers, try to look forward and give the encouragement which her material resources enable her to do. That is patronage and to do it well is to do it bravely.
Our nation has enjoyed great patronage in the past. Our artists, musicians, architects and designers have developed greatly because of the faith and confidence that someone, some time, put in them. We live in very different times today and sometimes it is disturbing to realise just how different. I had a vivid experience five or six years ago in Southern Germany when a German friend of mine, knowing my interest in art, took me to a little village called Crelingen in Bavaria to see the great altar-piece carved by Tilman Riemenschneider of the 15th century. This great sculptor had perhaps the greatest influence of his time, on wood carving in particular, and sculpting generally.
With us was a colleague, a business man, who was somewhat pragmatic in his view of this great work of art. He was quite unmoved and commented to me as we came out of the church, something to the effect that the Church would have done better to have spent its money on the poor 500 years ago. It is an understandable problem. We could say that he took a humanitarian view. There was a time when the Church, centuries ago, spent a great deal of money on patronage. That same sculptor, who started under individual patronage, was subsequently taken up not only by the Church, but by the local authorities. Wurzburg Town Council commissioned him to carve the great Adam and Eve which can be seen there today. We have to be grateful to those town councils and the ratepayers for what they left behind them.
Where are our patrons today? In a wider context, is a building only to be a building? Should we not be considering the need to spend a little more to get better design and to consider the impact on society of what we do in every-day life. A building is much more than a building, it is something which intrudes 729 on society, it could give us delight or it could make us disgusted. It is something which can make us bored. In my experience, where commercial interests play a great part, too often the final arbiter is the financial controller. He must not have this last word. Is it extravagance to spend a little more money and take a little more time to achieve good design? So many people will tell us that it will not be appreciated and that everything should be functional; that the factory must be designed by an engineer in order to produce goods efficiently; that the laboratory must be designed by a scientist and that a building should be designed to enable it to perform its utilitarian purpose. But in other ages other thoughts prevailed. It is thus buildings we are preserving which are giving pleasure and bringing tourists to see the heritage of Britain. We have a duty in this country—which we can voice here tonight—to see that we establish from this century a heritage for those who will follow us. I believe that people will appreciate that little extra thought and extra expenditure on good design and good art.
The right hon. Lady was right in saying that the opportunity in our schools to learn and to understand art has never been greater. Nothing fascinates me so much as when I visit schools, particularly primary schools, and see the excitement which is generated by children of every background: not only the children who come from grand homes and are surrounded by great works of art and books. Children today are able to express themselves in an exciting way. What I am afraid of is that they may leave those exciting times at school and find themselves in a desert when they go out into the world.
This is our challenge today—to see that we do not leave a desert for the child who becomes a man and works in a factory, an office or a Government Department and finds that life has become barren and that there are not enough opportunities to rediscover the things which he first saw in the formative years of his youth. This applies very much as we look into the future, because we will need to produce more things for people to derive greater pleasure from in their spare time. We shall have more 730 spare time and a greater opportunity for art expression and art enjoyment.
This has rightly been called an age of music. We are assailed on all sides today by the sound of music—some of which we like and some of which we do not like. Our task here is to decide how we can help people to enjoy it. We take music into the regions and the provinces, and I support that absolutely. But here we must be careful because patronage and subsidy can be wasteful. There is a responsibility here on the Minister and on the House to watch that patronage and subsidy are not wasteful.
Concerts, opera and ballet in the provinces are fine for those who want them, and people should have them. But it would be wrong to force them on an unwilling audience, because there are so many places today where music can be seen and heard to perfection. This is so in our capital cities—and the right hon. Lady mentioned this in particular. It is here that we have to create a great magnet for people to come to see and hear the great performances. I would not want to see that weakened by a misuse of patronage and subsidy.
I want to say something else about an understanding of music because I think that today more people are receiving an opportunity to understand that music, ballet and the opera from what they can hear and see on radio and television. It is often excellent. Some operas that I have seen on television, even in black and white, are better than live shows. They are beautifully produced, and there is almost a more intimate contact with the performers than is sometimes possible from the less expensive seats in a great opera house.
I have learned more about music and opera from the B.B.C. than from anywhere else. I buy records because of what I hear on the radio and on television. May Anna Instone and Julian Herbage go on for ever. It seems that they have been on the air ever since the war ended, and they delight me every time I hear them on Sunday morning. The B.B.C. has shown how responsible it is on this question of art patronage, particularly in music and opera. I am therefore a little concerned lest it should come down in any way at all from its great achievements in the past. I hope 731 that there will be no decline in its achievements in the future.
I do not want to weary the House for much longer, but I should like to quote something said by a great man of music in this country, Yehudi Menuhin. According to him, music is not just music. He has a school for young children from the age of five who want to learn to play the violin. I think that he has about 35 children there now, but he made this statement when he had but 31 pupils. When criticised that perhaps he was teaching them only music he said:I hope they will be whole men and women in whom music will produce qualities of heart, mien, and behaviour that are sadly lacking in many youths in these days of rebellion and riot.That is a fitting commentary on the real power of music in the development of man.
I touched on provincial theatres when I spoke about music and opera, but while sitting here I realised that in the small city which I represent, Canterbury, the smallest city in England, there are two living theatres. There is one which is supported by the Arts Council, and a competitor has now arisen at the University, but the local Marlowe Theatre is not dismayed at the competition. The right hon. Lady may not know this, but whenever a visiting opera company plays at this small theatre it is a sell-out. In recent months and years I have discovered to my dismay that if one wants to get into the theatre when there is a performance by a visiting opera company it is necessary to book seats well in advance.
I propose, now, to say something about artists and painters, because we have not heard much about them. I want to help them, and I believe that we must help the artist by buying his work. He, for his part, must prove himself by producing work which can be sold. I am not asking the patron, be he Government inspired, Arts Council inspired, local authority inspired, or wherever the inspiration may come from, to buy something which he does not want. The best way to help an artist is to buy his work, and, above all, to help him to prove himself. He will prove himself if he is good, if he has quality. It is very difficult for the patron to know even what is good, and what he should buy. The great thing is that there 732 should be some encouragement for the greater purchase of paintings and sculpture.
I am concerned about the nation being the patron on its own. I know that this is not the intention of the Government, and the right hon. Lady has reminded us that this is not her intention. We must do something positive to help the individual patron to emerge, again because it is the individual—and here every individual is concerned—who has a duty to his fellow citizens and to society to help in this respect. Some have a greater duty and a greater responsibility than others. For example, if a man owns a shop, that shop impinges in some way on society. A man who builds an office, or a factory, in a greater way also impinges himself on society, and so he, too, has a responsibility. We are not short of people who recognise these wider duties in life, but we have made it very difficult for them to perform as patrons. This has become an expensive thing. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), who spoke from the Front Bench on this side and said that we must consider and we would ask the right hon. Lady to consider, although I know she said there are opportunities there already—a further examination of the tax concession to the individual and the individual company who might be so persuaded to take what I would call this greater responsibility in society.
Industry purchases art already, but we need to encourage our modern industrial leaders to take their place as responsible leaders in our society, that is leaders in the whole of their lives. Trade union leaders too should be encouraged. I remember visiting the headquarters of the General and Municipal Workers Union some years ago and being taken round by the General Secretary, the noble Lord, and being most interested by the pictures on the wall. I asked if they were borrowed from the Tate Gallery, they were worthy of the Tate Gallery, but no, they were chosen by a committee concerned to support living artists. I take my hat off to them.
I could, of course, give many examples of industrial leaders, industrial companies, with a similar feeling. There is no self-aggrandisement, no advertisement, in such purchase, but it creates an ambiance in which people can live and 733 work. And it is something wider than this; it is the purchase of a work by a person from the outside.
I want this age to leave behind something as good as I found in the little German village of Greglingen. Five hundred years ago the Church was not enough; the town council and the individual were also patrons. Often it was an individual who found an individual artist, believed in him, supported him and set him on his way to the patronage of princes and Popes. And today the State alone is not enough. The State can help itself by encouraging the individual to participate again in patronage.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
The House, I am sure, will respect the sincerity with which the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) made his contribution to this debate. While not agreeing, of course, with all he said, I can clearly assent on one or two points.
All of us are worried about the future quality of life for the nation and of course the integration of the best principles of theoretical art into the practical side of life, whether in buildings or in other facets of life. Unfortunately perhaps, the hon. Member and I would disagree on the attribution of blame for the deterioration in some respects, as we see it. The widespread and strong attacks of commercialism, which the hon. Gentleman mentioned particularly, have much to do with the deterioration in some aspects of our life.
At this time in a debate of this character so many points have already been made and so many congratulations extended that it becomes a little monotonous for those who are still waiting. Nevertheless, I feel that I too, speaking with some knowledge of the Scottish Arts Council, must extend to my right hon. Friend and to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Scotland, the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan), the appreciation of the Scottish bodies for which they have worked so hard, to which they have been so courteous in the past and which feel assured of their continuing assistance and sympathy.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mrs. Renée Short) and the Committee have done a 734 grand job. There are two more recommendations on which my right hon. Friend may have something to add in future. One is No. 6:The Arts Council of Great Britain, with the Scottish and Welsh Arts Councils, should review the position of organisations receiving substantial proportions of the national allocations…".Can such organisations and events as the Scottish Opera, the Scottish Orchestra and the Edinburgh Festival, whose influence is outwith their own national boundaries, be treated in this way? I am also interested in recommendation No. 13 and perhaps the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, if he speaks in the debate, would comment on these matters.
On paragraphs 56–63, I hope that the House will forgive me if I seem to be taking a rather insular point about the Scottish Arts Council. The opportunities of debating this topic are so rare that I should be failing in my duty if I did not take it up. These paragraphs deal with the relationship of the Arts Council with the national body—its membership, composition, and financial allocation. This is not such a narrow parochial point, since in music, drama and literature there are distinct nuances and a separate character which we want to preserve as our contribution for the interest and enjoyment and knowledge of the world.
I agree with the sentiments of the White Paper in 1965, that if a sane balance of population between north and south is to be achieved, this kind of development is just as essential as any movement of industry or provision of utility services. It said that, if the eager and gifted to whom we must look for leadership in every field were to feel as much at home in the north as in the south, each region would require high points of artistic excellence. That should be part of the background of our communal life in the new circumstances of redevelopment and new towns.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) that when we use the ugly term "infrastructure" in the preparation of new towns, provision should be made for the arts as well as, for example, for a health centre. The new towns seem to be profiting at the expense of the older towns and the populations which are being left behind by redevelopment.
735 It seems to me that this paragraph is related to the remarks which my right hon. Friend made, with a great deal of agreement in the House, about London's art treasures—that, because of the great importance of the Metropolis, special attention had to be paid to the ballet and the opera. This is part of the argument in some of the regions. We have the same problem. These amenities are just as important as are industry, new housing, hospitals and clinics. That comes back again, of course, to the local authorities.
In that spirit, the White Paper talked of museums, galleries and halls which are cheerless and gloomy and which have an atmosphere of undue solemnity. There is no reason, I agree, why attractive presentation should be left to those organisations whose primary concern is with quantity and profitability.
Both the population and the local authorities of Scotland recognise that the Government have every reason to be proud—I say this in no party spirit—of their record of increased financial contribution to the arts. Scotland has shared in the general benefit to the United Kingdom. This was acknowledged by the organisations which were interviewed by the sub-committee, whether the Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Opera or the Scottish Arts Council. All the office bearers there acknowledged the great assistance and benefit that has been received in recent years.
In 1957–58, the allocation to Scotland was 8.3 per cent. of the national allocation. It was only 6.6 per cent. in 1962–63, despite the fact that it was considered earlier that a formula of about 12.08 per cent. should be agreed upon. In 1965, when Lord Goodman came to Edinburgh, he described the situation as one in which the arts were decided on a poor law basis.
The grant in 1965 was £200,000. This year it is £705,000–3½ times that figure. While we express our thanks and appreciation to the Government, nevertheless they will recognise that we are still not satisfied. They must never tire of well doing. They are as aware as I am of the continuing clamant need of development of the Scottish National Orchestra and Scottish Opera.
I want to correct one point made by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for 736 Wolverhampton, South-West. She described the difficulty of Scottish Opera in not knowing until two weeks before the new season what the allocation was to be, hence the importance of the point about the rolling programme. But it was not in respect, for example, of the Scottish National Orchestra that the other point was made by Scottish Opera—that, with a 50 per cent. increase, it could double its production time and that, in some instances, it would have been cheaper to have cancelled its programmes rather than to have continued with them.
I do not want to elaborate the difficulties too much, but I want to point out to my right hon. Friend and to my hon. Friend that success begets success. We are all aware that some social services within themselves are breeding the need for further financial resources. For example, in the National Health Service, a kidney machine is produced, and that is instantly followed by increased demands for similar wonderful instruments in other parts of the country. Even with the increase in revenue grant from the Arts Council, which has permitted certain improvements in performing standards, still too much of these revenue grants go towards the preservation of older buildings and are only coping with inadequate machinery. It is because of unsuitable buildings that audience figures are often so low.
The national report says that as a result of increasing costs the welcome increase in grants has enabled companies merely to remain in the same place. The Times of 10th January has a leading article titled, rather ungenerously, "A policy in tatters". It suggested that the fault was an over-emphasis on the needs of the Metropolis, which were met first. It said that the regions should do more for themselves. I agree. The cooperation of local authorities is essential if the Government's initiative is to succeed.
The 1965 White Paper said that Glasgow had embarked on a scheme for a cultural centre, including two theatres and a concert hall. I regret to say, more in sorrow than anger, that this is not so today. True, plans were drafted, but after consideration and debate those plans were criticised to such an extent that no progress has been made towards the construction of this building, which is a necessity.
737 In 1964 we suffered the disastrous loss of the wonderful St. Andrew's Hall, acoustically one of the finest in Europe. Glasgow, the home of the Scottish National Orchestra, has been without a proper concert hall for all these years. The result has been that this fine orchestra, with a growing international reputation, has been forced to rehearse in miserable and inadequate places, and perform for the greater part of the time in humiliating, drab and dreary circumstances.
To submit artists and musicians to such conditions is ridiculous. On the credit side, the old City Hall has been refurbished at a substantial cost, with the assistance of Strathclyde University. This is a big improvement, but it is still too small with only 1,200 seats as opposed to the vast seating capacity of St. Andrew's Hall. There are many other facilities which we lack and accommodation is required for such things as conferences. This planned scheme would have included such accommodation. One by one the commercial theatres are going and the absence of a first-class concert hall in Glasgow is intolerable. It has now become a matter of extreme urgency. An immediate decision is needed at local authority level.
I was delighted to hear of what has happened in Edinburgh. Something of the same sort is needed for Glasgow. The Citizens' Theatre desperately needs another site away from the atmosphere of dereliction and redevelopment. If the theatre has to close down through lack of support it will be a tragedy unless the local authority undertake to build a new theatre. There is a guarantee about a site, but the construction of the building is another matter. There is no quarrel about this, but there is anxiety to find another building before the whole enterprise collapses. There is a need in Edinburgh for an opera house and in Dundee for the continuation of its repertory theatre. The initiative must come from the local authority in drafting plans and submitting proposals to the Arts Council.
I am not unmindful of what the local authorities in Glasgow and Edinburgh have done. They have at least saved the King's Theatre in Glasgow and the theatre of the same name in Edinburgh. The rateable value of Glasgow's contri- 738 bution to the arts is 2.6d. and Edinburgh's 2.3d. In spite of the generosity of the local authorities, they are still not spending up to the permitted limit of 6d.
Four years ago the Glasgow Herald asked what was being done about the Burrell collection in the City of Glasgow. The Government have contributed £250,000 to the construction of the building. The local authority is moving here, but too slowly.
I am not speaking in a party political sense. Both sides of the House must make a co-operative effort. If there is a bipartisan spirit in the House, I hope that it will sink down to the grass roots of the local authorities. Political argument or the exploitation of local issues will vitiate much of the good will emanating from the House of Commons. We must come to a common understanding about this.
I differ from some of my colleagues on how the extra finance should be raised. Paragraph 110 of the Report refers to Lord Goodman's suggestion that there should be a mandatory rate. The wording suggests that the contribution need not be the full mandatory rate of 6d. but could be any figure. The previous Secretary-General said that he would settle for a contribution of 1d. in the £ towards the arts. If by co-operation with the local authorities a way could be found to raise the finance it would be worthwhile considering.
I conclude by referring to one other point. The New Glasgow Society publishes a little magazine and it describes the need for new buildings in much harsher terms than I have used:The obsession to cut the rates at the cost of much else is now being felt at every level of city society, whether it be over Hampden Park or the Citizens' Theatre. Faced with the prospect of a city of booze, betting and bingo, the physical and mental withdrawal of thinking people from the metropolis may even accelerate. An encouraging environment is as vital to the future prosperity of the city, and the retention of our best citizens, as is the provision of factories or council houses.There is a need for leadership in the regional council and certainly that applies to Glasgow. Whether such leadership be by the local authority, by an officer of the Scottish Arts Council, or by a respected personality in the locality, it could bring together the local authorities, the universities, the colleges, and the trade unions on the lines of what is being done in 739 other regional associations. That is an urgent need, particularly in Scotland.
I hope that the House will forgive me for having taken advantage of this debate, which is merely to take note of the situation, to put as forcibly as I can, and with as little partisanship as I can, the urgent and clamant needs of the arts in Glasgow and the West of Scotland.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
This has been an interesting and fascinating debate. In order to allow other hon. Members to have a chance to participate, I will raise only a couple of points in which I am most interested. However, I should like first to add my congratulations to the right hon. Lady the Minister of State on her work as Minister for the Arts.
I wish to say a few words about the local authorities and the creation of financial support where such authorities are hesitant to give it. Since the setting up of the North-Eastern Association for the Arts, on which I am glad there has been a good deal of congratulatory comment, nearly all the local authorities have become annual contributors. This says a great deal for all those who have had the courage to help to stimulate and build this association and for Mr. Dunbar, who now, alas, has left us.
I sometimes wonder whether we could not help a little more in assisting local authorities with their problems and in overcoming their hesitancy in supporting the arts. Could there not be a little more publicity on the subject of building up the arts and regional arts developments on the lines that they help to provide interesting leisure hours. The great difficulty is that so many young people are so bored. In some of the new towns, for example, there is nothing to fascinate them or interest them.
There is a great deal to be said for providing facilities, in the artistic sense, with a view to attracting young people. I have taken a great interest in the arts since the early days of the war, when the stimulus came through C.E.M.A. I am glad that more money is going into supporting the arts, but it should not be forgotten that the original concept emanated from the Coalition Government.
740 During the war, I had occasion to visit the town of Malmesbury with a National Expenditure Committee. It was our task to inquire into the production effort of a factory there. We heard that a small troupe of artists supplied by C.E.M.A. was coming to Malmesbury to give a show at the local theatre. At the factory, we were told that hardly any seats had been booked for the performance that evening. However, during the afternoon break, several of the artists who were to perform in the theatre that evening came into the canteen. They so inspired the young people employed at the factory that, by 4 o'clock that afternoon, there was not a single seat left vacant in the theatre.
In the early days when we were concentrating on creating an enthusiasm for the arts, there was the thought among many sections of the community that the subject was too high falutin for them to be interested in it. However, that wartime experience of mine has remained with me. It has always been my view that it is important to create an interest among the young. The right hon. Lady said how much young people today enjoy the opportunities which come their way, and that is profoundly true. It should be pointed out to local authorities occasionally that, when they support the arts, they provide an effective leisure opportunity for those living in new towns and mining villages.
I well remember an occasion during the war when Sybil Thorndike and a very good Shakespearean company went to Durham County and played in many dreary mining towns in very difficult circumstances. They performed the best known Shakespeare plays such as "The Merchant of Venice" and "As you Like It". They did not go in for the lesser known plays. However, it was a moving experience to read about the effect that their performances had in the County of Durham. Though I do not share the political opinions of most constituents in Durham County, it is well known that the college at Lumley Castle has had a profound effect on people living in mining communities. It has helped to demonstrate the benefits which they can obtain from an interest in the arts.
There is a small but very efficient gallery, the Stone Gallery, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I hope that the right hon.
741 Lady has visited it. If one talks to the very energetic proprietor, who has these monthly exhibitions of art, he will say that the support that he gets from the Durham miners is out of this world. Therefore, we know in our bones that the more we can do to give an opportunity of showing what can be offered in the art world, the more we are providing an interesting leisure for those who deserve the best that can be provided.
Concerning local authorities who drag their feet, I suggest that it would be worthwhile the Arts Council using the regional arts associations to talk to such local authorities on the basis of an interest in leisure rather than just using the word "arts".
I have raised my next point for many years, but I never like to miss an opportunity, because I have never won this small battle even with a Conservative Government. I do not know whether I shall win it with this Government. It would be interesting—this would help in making the Chancellor's position a little easier in giving as much money as he can afford to the Arts Council—if we had any idea of the end product of the Royal College of Music and Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. I understand that the Treasury is responsible financially for the maintenance of these establishments. When public money is rightly spent on maintaining the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Drama and on training the young, I think that there should be an end product.
I know of several young men trained at one of the drama schools who could not, at the end of their training, get into anything in the drama world. One young man had to go into an ice factory. That kind of illustration is extremely regrettable. I hope that at some time the right hon. Lady will be able to persuade the Chancellor to give us a full statement on what happens to those who are trained at the Royal College of Music and R.A.D.A. at public expense and, when they have finished, find it difficult to make use of their training.
It is rightly said that even a top-ranking student from the Royal College of Music cannot get into one of our major orchestras because he has not had sufficient training and experience. A sug- 742 gestion was made a long time ago that we should have a training orchestra so that those who want to go into orchestral work and make a career playing in our major orchestras can be trained further to make it easier for them to enter employed in our great orchestras.
I was inspired when I heard not so long ago that the B.B.C. had realised the need and had provided a training orchestra. Recently I asked Lord Hill what kind of success this training orchestra had had, and he gave me a very depressing report on the result of the B.B.C.'s experiment. Could the right hon. Lady find out what happens to all those students? One of my god-daughters whose father was killed in the First World War went to one of the royal colleges. She did not want to teach but really wanted to sing. She had a delightful voice, but at the end of her training she was not old enough for the college to assess what her voice would probably be like in her more mature years. So she went off and interested herself in foreign languages, and is now doing something quite different.
Does the right hon. Lady or the Arts Council try to follow up what happens to the students of the royal colleges? For most of them further study would be worth while, or they would not have obtained their places. Has the Arts Council considered the possibility of arranging a training orchestra for those who go through the Royal College of Music?
When we discuss the Arts Council and the money that is very rightly spent on the arts through it, nobody so far as I know ever refers to the Treasury's responsibility, as it maintains the royal schools of music and drama, for what happens to those who have been through the colleges. What is done to try to help them to find their future as they wish either in music or drama? Perhaps, when the right hon. Lady has a moment to spare from her very interesting experiments and the pressure she exercises in her own delightful way on both the Chancellor and the Chairman of the Arts Council, she could find out whether more could be done to see that the money spent is justified and that the effort and talent which exist among our young find their fulfilment in the arts.
I have fought this battle for a long time. No Chancellor, even though he is 743 responsible for supplying the money, has ever really tried to give the public information on the results he feels flow from the money spent on maintaining the royal schools of music and drama.
It has been a most interesting debate. We have been delighted in the North of England with the support we have had. We have received support from local authorities, industrialists, the Arts Council, private individuals, all the people who do the voluntary work, from the universities—from everybody. The results are very rewarding in our part of the world. I only hope that when we have the next big debate there will be even greater progress to report to the House.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Dr. David Kerr (Wandsworth, Central)
Had I been fortunate enough to be called earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I had intended to assure you that I would resume my seat in 20 minutes. I would like to offer you my assurance that I shall indeed sit down at 10 o'clock, if not a little earlier.
This has been a varied debate. It has shown, among other things, the contribution which women make to the work of the House. I am always lost in admiration for my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, never so much as tonight when she seemed to throw away any notes provided by her Department and spoke so magnificently off the cuff, making so many of us, myself included, feel that when we speak we are dragging our verbal hobnail boots through treacle.
It was a remarkable performance by her, but added to that was the remarkable performance of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) in producing what I presume the Times Literary Supplement would call…a weighty volume without which…Together they might prompt the hon. Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot) to address himself to the need for more lady orchestral conductors. I thought that that was a singular lack on his part. He seemed to concentrate only on the men.
The tenor of the debate has shown what an enormous variation of approach 744 exists, at least what could be heard through the screech of grinding constituency axes. I urge the Leader of the House to consider carefully the establishment of a new Select Committee which would more satisfactorily shoulder the burden which has already been shouldered ably and effectively by the Estimates Sub-Committee. That new body could keep under continuous review our progress in the arts. This suggestion may not commend itself to many Ministers. However, my right hon. Friend who always welcomes nagging to enable her to further her work, might welcome the establishment of such a Select Committee. I hope that she will give some thought to the possibility of the excellent work that has been done by the Estimates Sub-Committee being usefully continued in this way.
Paragraph 116 of the Report deals with the British Film Institute, of which I have the honour to be a governor. It is an interesting body of which to be a member, and it is noteworthy that the Arts Council's work outside the sphere of films is paralleled closely by the work done by the B.F.I.
Some of the details of the work of the B.F.I. contained in the Report are symbolic and characteristic of what the Arts Council is doing in other spheres. For example, the question of grants is dealt with rather cavalierly in paragraph 116, which tends rather to dismiss the work of the B.F.I. and says:Unlike the Arts Council, it is not primarily a grant-awarding body"—and adds, rather as an after-thought(though it does make grants …The B.F.I. certainly does make grants and most important of its grant-making functions is the establishment of regional film theatres. Here I must pay tribute to the efforts of my right hon. Friend in spreading artistic activity and appreciation away from London and into the provinces.
To give a progress report since the Estimates Committee's Report was published, there are now 33 regional film theatres open and another six are to be opened in 1970–71. About £100,000 of capital grant is made available annually by the B.F.I. towards the establishment of these regional film theatres, and each year we subsidise their running to the 745 tune of more than £30,000, thereby catering for an audience of about 800,000 We work throughout with the collaboration of local authorities; and since much has been said about the efforts of local authorities in the arts, I am glad to add my tribute to those efforts.
We naturally have the occasional failure. This is regrettable and, in the context of the three-year rolling programme, I must tell the House of an unfortunate experience which we had at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In 1966, the B.F.I. gave an undertaking to contribute £100,000 to develop a film theatre there as part of a big arts centre. The city authorities were to quadruple that contribution over a period of time. Unfortunately, in 1969, owing to the pressure of financial shortages, we had to withdraw from that project—at a time which made things extremely embarrassing for Newcastle-upon-Tyne and even more embarrassing in some respect for the B.F.I.
§ Miss Jennie Lee
I am sure that my hon. Friend would not deliberately mislead the House. He will be aware that the Newcastle-upon-Tyne project never came before the Chancellor of the Exchequer and that there was at no time a written document of any kind from the Government on the subject. There was a certain amount of rumour and a number of exchanges, but nothing materialised from the Government's point of view. It would, therefore, be wrong to give the impression that there had been a Government commitment which was withdrawn.
§ Dr. Kerr
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that intervention. I hope that I have said nothing to indicate that the Government were involved in it. As to rolling programmes and triennial budgeting, the B.F.I. would have been in a happier position had we been able to look at this on a triennial basis. In Newcastle we have excellent co-operation with the education authority and are going ahead with a new scheme which involves co-operation with Newcastle-upon-Tyne Education Committee and the Gulbenkian Foundation as well.
One of the functions of the Arts Council which perhaps we have overlooked 746 today is that it published an excellent report on the obscenity laws. This is not irrelevant to our discussion. In the last few days we have seen action by the police against a film produced by a very reputable American director Andy Warhol, a film called "Flesh" which achieved public exhibition in London for three weeks and then action was taken against it by the police under the obscenity laws. This runs entirely counter to the whole system of film censorship, certainly counter to the expert opinion of people like John Trevelyn, secretary of the British Board of Film Censors and counter to the views of people like The Times film critic.
It seems that there is no point in talking about the climate of grant aid, be it to films or theatre, if at the same time action is taken under another Government Department which is obstructive to the full flowering of artistic endeavour. In common with a number of other people, I regard this particular action as the very gravest departure from the more liberal climate of recent years and one which seems to set in danger some of the more hopeful developments in the artistic field. I would have the gravest misgivings in having my morals, my reading and cinema-going and theatre-going dictated by a new Trinity consisting of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland. I take the greatest exception to being told what I may and may not see by a half-educated bigot in Scotland Yard answerable to no one in decisions of this kind.
I promised that I would sit down in 15 minutes, but I want to refer once again to the problem of archiving which has beset the British Film Institute. We are facing a quite new problem. Hon. Members have referred to grants from the I.T.A. I am happy to record publicly that we have a very generous grant from I.T.A. for archiving of material from independent television sources. Unhappily no similar grant has come from the B.B.C. One can understand why. It would be nice if we could have some help in archiving B.B.C. cinema films. In addition, as the Estimates Committee Report points out, the film industry as a whole apart, from commendable exceptions, is failing to assist the work of the British Film Institute.
747 We are facing some new problems of archiving. There was an interesting and in some ways threatening letter in The Times this week from Roy Strong, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, which said:We shall be drawing on the British Films Institute rather than building our own archive as yet."As yet" is a little threatening. It seems a little odd that already the idea of archiving films is spreading away from the entrenched work of the B.F.I. It is true not only of the National Portrait Gallery but of the Imperial War Museum, which section by section commands a rather disproportionately high rate of acquisition finance—or more accurately, the B.F.I. commands a disproportionately low rate by comparison.
In general, this is, I suppose, a day for congratulations all round, and I am fortunate and happy in being able to add mine to the many which have been beamed upon my right hon. Friend the Minister of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East. Perhaps I can again use the example of the British Film Institute to symbolise the work across the whole range of the arts. I recall with gratitude that, under my right hon. Friend's aegis, the work of the Institute has extended away from London and that the finance made available to it has been multiplied at least three times in the last five years. I hope that the next five years will see a similar increase in grants and under similar aegis.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. John Smith (Cities of London and Westminster)
I apologise for having been absent during the early part of the debate, although I have been punished now. I apologise all the more because the right hon. Lady the Minister of State, with the typical assiduity and thoroughness which enabled her to make such a success of her job, has sat on her bench for longer than I have seen any Minister in any debate before, and I am most grateful to her for that attention.
A great many people still view artists and those who seek to promote them as passengers on the ship of State, who potter about and get in the way of the crew. But, in fact, artists and those who appreciate them, far from being passengers, are a main point of the voyage and the Arts Council, if nothing else, is a 748 permanent witness that Governments agree with this.
There are few enough of us, both inside the House and outside it, who are interested in promoting the arts and we shall only damage our own cause if we fall out with each other. We really are Gideonites, if any movement ever was. Nevertheless, I want to make one minor criticism of the Arts Council—that it runs great danger of becoming institutionalised. It is a particularly unsuitable body to be subject to this process. I realise that it is spending public money and therefore must be responsible, and that it spends a lot of money and is therefore inevitably complicated. But patronage is an art and not a science. It is a shame to read in the Report a sentence like:the matter should then be referred to the existing sub-committee on organisation and administration or to any other set up ad hoc.That is not the language of art.
It is true that grants are overwhelmingly made to organisations and that this must be so, because a great part of the money is needed for the performing arts, opera, music and the drama. I do not grumble about that, particularly about the grants to opera and the ballet, which not only have been a tremendous success but in themselves embrace so many other arts. Nor can one complain about grants to organisations like the British Institute of Recorded Sound or the British Film Institute, which have to be organisations in order to perform their tasks. But the more institutionalised the Arts Council becomes, the harder it will be to make grants to individuals, the more it will scare off individuals from applying and also scare of individuals from serving on the Arts Council itself.
It is more grants to individuals which I feel necessary. The report speaks of…the difficulty of a public body making private awards to individuals.But surely it should be looked upon not so much as giving public money to an individual but rather as giving an artist to the public. Many true artists are not good at organisation. The person who possesses artistic genius does not necessarily possess genius at putting his case to the Arts Council. Lord Goodman saidThose who are enterprising will get more, whilst those who are quiescent will get nothing.749 Many fine artists are quiescent and it is a shame to encourage only those artists who can sell themselves. I should also like to see encouraged the shy, the humble, the obscure, and even the peculiar.
I do not think that it matters in the slightest degree if the Arts Council makes mistakes. There is plenty of room for the haphazard in patronage; indeed patronage which was not occasionally haphazard would not be good patronage. Ideally patronage should be a matter of individuals on both sides. I had hoped to say a little about the private patron, and the non-public patron, namely industry, but I shall limit myself to saying that individuals on the Arts Council or in a private capacity outside are the best patrons for individuals practising in the world of art. The private patron does exist, and moreover he is very numerous. He may be a very small patron and may act in all sorts of invisible ways—for example the person who offers a house and a place of work for an artist is a patron.
Art has become increasingly and enormously popular. The best of all money for the arts is the shillings of the multitude. I do not particularly believe in patronage through tax relief; I am not specially attracted by the conjunction of taxation and art. I would far sooner see patronage done in the way in which it is increasingly being done, that is by the purchase of minor works of art by a very large number of people.
If the Arts Council can encourage this patronage of individuals by individuals, it will do an even better job than it is doing at present in stopping us all from looking at our feet and helping us occasionally to look at the stars.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Eighth Report from the Estimates Committee in Session 1967–68 relating to Grants for the the Arts and of the Departmental Observations thereon (Command Paper No. 4023).