§ '.—(1) A regional council may, as regards recreational, sporting, cultural or social facilities or activities, contribute—
- (a) by way of grant towards expenses incurred, or to be incurred, by a district council; or
- (a) by way of grant or loan towards expenses incurred, or to be incurred, by a voluntary organisation or other person, not being a local authority,
§ (2) In the application of subsection (1) above to facilities which constitute a harbour, the reference in that subsection to providing or maintaining facilities shall be construed as including a reference to improving or managing them.'.—[Mr. Alexander Fletcher.]
§ Brought up and read the First Time.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Alexander Fletcher)
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)
With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 31, in clause 12, page 10, line 25, at end add'and will be required to levy a one per cent. rate to that end'.and the following Government amendments: Nos. 32 to 46, 51 to 53 and 117.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Our purpose in this new clause is to meet undertakings given in Committee. First, our object is to make clear within one clause the powers of a regional council to assist recreational, sporting, cultural or social facilities or activities. We agree that we must avoid any doubt as to the power of regions to continue to contribute in this way.
It was, I believe, made very clear in Committee how important support from the regions is for such facilities and activities. Among those mentioned were the national companies in the arts, such as the Scottish National Orchestra and Scottish Opera. There was reference also to significant tourist attractions such as the Nairn swimming pool, and these are among the sectors which regions should be free to assist.
In this clarification in the new clause we have also taken account of the argument in Committee that the Bill as originally drafted was too confined in clause 13(4) in restricting the assistance that a regional council could give to such facilities as benefited substantial numbers of person residing outwith the district in which the facilities were situated. It was evident from the arguments presented to us directly and in Committee that there could be many instances not meeting this criterion where a region thought it appropriate to give assistance. We accept that a regional council should be free to do so.
I have made passing mention of the considerable importance of the aid which regional councils give to the arts, and it has been stressed in our proceedings by Labour Members and others, especially the Scottish Arts Council. For the avoidance of doubt we undertook explicitly to mention thatcultural activities and facilitiesinclude the full gamut of the arts, and this we do in subsection (1). Subsection (2) relates to contributions by a regional authority in respect of harbour facilities. It is a necessary drafting provision to enable such contributions to include assistance in improving or managing such facilities. This is to ensure consistency in the clause with the wording of the other amendments that are being submitted to clause 14, which provides that district councils should contribute towards the expenses of a harbour authority in providing, maintaining, improving or managing a harbour, and the existing wording of clause 17, which enables a district council to acquire a harbour for "sporting or recreational purposes".
I trust that the new clause will find favour with the House.
The various amendments to clauses 12–16 have been grouped together as they concern the responsibilities of island and district councils in providing sporting, recreational, cultural and social activities, which I shall hereafter refer to merely as "leisure". Many of the amendments do not alter the general intention of the clause to which they relate or change the underlying policy and intention of the Bill in respect of leisure. They are technical drafting amendments which in the main have been identified as necessary as a result of criticism of the 94 drafting in Committee. The House is indebted to Committee members for their meticulous examination of the Bill. A number of the amendments propose deletions to enable a more logical reorganisation in the drafting.
Amendment No. 43 is only slightly more substantial. Its aim is consistency of provision. Under clause 17 the powers and duties of improving, maintaining and managing a harbour are vested in the district council that acquires by agreement a harbour used wholly for sporting or recreational purposes. The amendment will enable a district council to give grants to harbour authorities for the same purposes including the managing of a harbour used wholly or in part for sporting and recreational purposes. I hope that this clarification of the purpose and- extent of the Bill in this respect will be acceptable to the House.
Amendments Nos. 52 and 53 introduce a saving provision in respect of the power in clause 13, as amended by amendment No. 37, to charge for admission to facilities provided by councils for leisure and recreational purposes. The provisions introduced make it clear that a council's powers do not extend to charging for admission to a facility which an enactment provides should be open to the public free of charge.
In conclusion, all of the amendments are introduced to clarify the extent and purpose of the Bill. I hope that they will be acceptable to the House.
§ Mr. Martin J. O'Neill (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
The group of amendments and the new clause have been introduced as a result of the representations in Committee. We are grateful to the Minister for fulfilling his undertaking and for looking again at the rather doctrinaire application of the principle of concurrency that was held in the original Bill. I regret that, when introducing the new clause, the Under-Secretary did not give any flavour of the debate, the discussion and the strength of the representations that were made against what can only be regarded as an insensitively bureaucratic first draft.
The House would have been greatly assisted if the Minister had decided to withdraw the clauses and had provided us with a complete set of new clauses rather than this complicated system of amendments and paving amendments through which we have had to go and which the Minister has read with such passion and conviction.
We are qualified in our enthusiasm for new clause 2 because regional authorities that do not have the political mechanisms within their organisation to provide an adequate pressure group within the regional councils on behalf of the arts will be hard pressed to find the money. We have argued the case in Committee, and it must be reiterated on the Floor of the House, that the local and regional authorities carve up their resources on the policy and resources committees.
Most regional authorities have within the policy resources committees representatives of all the major spending committees. The policy resources committee, which could almost be called the cabinets of regional authorities, is where the budgetary debate takes place in its hardest political form. We remain dubious of the likelihood of the regional authorities being able to give the type of resources that are required by the arts in Scotland, if they are to continue in their present form. It is significant that national companies in Scotland such as the Scottish National Orchestra and the other bodies to which the Minister referred, depend for about 25 per cent. of their 95 grant income on regional authorities. Authorities such as Lothian and Strathclyde contribute a large proportion of the income that is received by the arts in Scotland.
The Government have gone some way to meet our objections, but we lack confidence in new clause 2, although we shall not oppose it. I regret that the Minister did not pay attention to amendment No. 31, and we shall be interested to hear his views. Again, we shall not push the amendment to a vote. Among other things, the Minister is responsible for the arts. He should reiterate the reliance of the arts in Scotland on local authority contributions.
There is a considerable variation in local authority provision, which may reflect the varying level of commitment. That was brought out in Committee and a letter was frequently quoted from the chairman of the Arts Council in Scotland, Gerald Elliot. He was anxious about the varying degree of commitment to the arts by local authorities.
We wish to learn what the Government feel about a 1p mandatory rate. They are singularly unenthusiastic to accept responsibility for rate increases, no matter how responsible they are for those increases because of their parsimonious attitude in the rate support grant settlement. If they wish local authorities to support the arts, they must consider other means of finance. If local authorities did not have to take the blame for charging a 1p rate they might be more imaginative in spending the money to support the arts.
The major authorities support the national companies fairly consistently. The fringe groups are most vulnerable to major cuts. The Scottish organisation for the promotion of dance and other groups whose contribution to Scotland's cultural activities should not be measured by their size have all made representations. A mandatory rate might insulate those groups from the worst excesses of inflation. It might equalise the burden between authorities, although it is a rough and ready method.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) said that there was a need to readjust the RSG between authorities. The proposal would mitigate the problems. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) could not tell us how the adjustments could be made to protect Arts Council activities and other artistic pursuits.
Will the Minister clarify the provisions in new clause 2? Paragraph (a) states:by way of grant towards expenses incurred, or to be incurred, by a district council".We know that the relationship between district councils and the regions has not always been as happy as it might have been. One of the major Scottish artistic events of the year is the Edinburgh Festival. I imagine that the Lothian region, which I expect will be constituted after the elections on Thursday in much the same way as it is now, would be reluctant to provide money that the Edinburgh district council ought to be finding for the support of certain artistic activities.
I recognise that hitherto the relationship in respect of the arts between Edinburgh district and Lothian region has been one of the few areas where there has been a measure of successful co-operation, certainly to the extent that one has been able to complement the other. However, there 96 could be some difficulty if local authorities were not of one mind on the arts. I should therefore welcome some clarification in respect of subsection (1)(a) of new clause 2.
We welcome contributions to voluntary organisations. We recognise that the Minister is really aiming at the fringe groups. The voluntary organisations often receive grants on a localised basis. I remember some of my colleagues from the Ayrshire constituencies talking about the support given to the Borderline Theatre Group, based in Ayrshire, and which attracts much support. That theatre group might have some difficulty attracting support if a greater pressure were placed on district councils without any great compulsion placed on the Strathclyde region. We recognise that the voluntary sector is accounted for. We therefore hope that the Minister will clarify subsection (1)(a) and the relationship between a region and a district.
Some concern was expressed in Committee about "the other arts" that are mentioned at the end of subsection (1)(b). I presume that means the graphic arts. I hope that local authorities will not find themselves in difficulty if they wish to support any other form of art apart from the performing arts. Perhaps the Minister will consider that point and give an assurance that the graphic arts as well as the performing arts will be covered.
We do not seek to divide the House on our amendment. We recognise that the technical amendments to which the Minister referred are perhaps not the most satisfactory way of dealing with the amending of the original clause. To an extent, we must be thankful for small mercies. The Minister has shown some flexibility here and has moved away from the strong and bureaucratic approach which the initial draft of the Bill suggested.
There is some concurrency that is consistent with the requirements of a special situation in Scotland. We therefore give a cautious welcome—no more than that—to new clause 2. We hope that in the not too distant future subsequent legislation will return to a consideration of the financing of the arts. I recognise that at the moment the proposal in amendment No. 31 is still in embryonic form, but we hope that it may provide local authorities with an opportunity to look at the funding of and expenditure on the arts in a more relaxed manner.
We recognise that by new clause 2 the districts will not have to shoulder the burden of support for the arts. We are grateful to that extent. We only hope that the Minister will express the encouragement and support that all the Scottish regions require. Not all of them are generous in support of the arts. It varies from one to the other. I hope that the Minister will tell the Scottish regions that they should be spending money on the arts. The pursuit of recreation and leisure is of prime importance, both as a source of employment and to provide those out of work with the much-needed activities, at a reasonable cost, that ought to be made available to them to fill the time that they have through no fault of their own. We do not wish to push new clause 2 or amendment No. 31 to a vote but we should be interested in the Minister's response to the points that we have made.
§ Mr. McQuarrie
I wish to raise two specific points on new clause 2. Subsection (1)(b) uses the wordsby way of grant or loan towards expenses incurred, or to be incurred, by a voluntary organisation or other person, not being a local authority.Clause 20, on page 17 of the Bill, says: 97In section 55 of the 1973 Act (which empowers a regional, islands or district council to contribute towards the expenses etc. of a community council in their area), the word 'Regional', shall cease to have effect.New clause 2 refers to avoluntary organisation … not being a local authority".I contend that the community council is a voluntary organisation. Athough it is elected in its village area, the members of the community council do not enjoy any income, salary or expenses, or anything for loss of earnings. Is there an anomaly in the new clause? Could not the words "voluntary organisation" be taken as referring to community councils?
At present, regional councils subscribe to the funds of community councils, albeit in many cases only in small part. Can voluntary organisations be construed as including community councils? The latter are not local authorities in the strict sense of the word.
Sound voluntary organisations provide for the arts, and provide music and entertainment for the areas that they represent. In general they look after the welfare of the community. Therefore, I contend that if we accept new clause 2 the Minister should delete clause 20 and leave the power with the regional councils to make donations to community councils.
My second point is in connection with subsection (2) of the new clause. I should like to ask the Minister to clarify what he said about a harbour. I have in my constituency a boat haven called the Cairnbull boat haven. For many years it was the harbour for the herring fishing vessels of Inverallochy and Cairnbull in my constituency. The boat haven has fallen into a state of disrepair and requires money to be spent on it. There is no organisation in law empowered to be able to provide the necessary funds to put it into a state of order. Unfortunately, under the terms of the trust for the boat haven, if it falls into a state of disrepair, it goes back to the trustees. That would be sad in a small village such as Cairnbull, which has a great reputation over many centuries as a good herring fishing village. In this instance, the council will have the power to give money to put this boat harbour into order.
I hope that the Minister will reply to these two points when he replies.
§ Mr. McKelvey
I shall be brief. I welcome the new clause, if only because it proves that our arguments in Committee were based on common sense. In Committee the Government were so hell-bent on ending concurrency that their exuberance often overcame common sense.
I welcome the clause, because it gives regional councils the opportunity to contribute to the cultural, sporting and social activities and facilities which we all hope to enjoy, but I hope that the Minister will explain how all that will be paid for. After all, some regions are bound to be nervous about spending money on those items lest it be considered that they had acted unreasonably in the view of the Secretary of State.
It would therefore seem logical for the Government to give serious consideration to amendment No. 31, which would allow a 1 per cent. rate to cover that expenditure. That would not only encourage regional councils to act within their discretion on this form of payments, but would ensure that they had the money to spend on the purposes provided in the new clause.
I hope that the Minister will tell us why amendment No. 31 is not acceptable, and how he will convince the various regional councils that if they act in accordance with new 98 clause 2 and make the money available they can safely spend that money without incurring the wrath of the Secretary of State or the kind of action that has been taken against Lothian regional council.
§ Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)
I was not a member of the Standing Committee, and therefore I was not deeply involved in the debates there. However, on Second Reading I raised queries about the policy in Stodart of giving responsibility for sport to the districts and taking it away from the regions. So far, by and large, the region has had responsibility, because of the availability of education authority sports facilities such as playing fields, sports halls, swimming pools, and so on. However, that does not mean that certain district councils, such as Annandale and Eskdale, have not been extremely active and provided excellent facilities.
In new clause 2 my hon. Friend has struck a balance which, in the long run, may be the best, except of course when it comes to the problem of finance. I suspect that hard-pressed authorities will be reluctant to help other authorities, whether regions or districts, to provide facilities for which they are basically responsible.
In his other capacity as Minister with responsibility for sport in Scotland, my hon. Friend will have been pleased at the development of local sports councils over recent years. They have fitted in with the district councils and, in some circumstances, the regional councils, to assist the development of sport, not only in the provision of facilities, but, more importantly, in the organisation of administration, helping with coaching and in a hundred other ways in which voluntary sport works in this country.
New clause 2 will enable the regional councils to assist the districts to continue the development of sport locally. That is probably the best compromise that the Minister could propose to the House. Naturally, I shall not be completely convinced until we see the structure work in practice. That brings us back to the financial issue.
In this new approach we must highlight the warmth of encouragement and confidence that we give to the voluntary side of sport in this country. It can manage its facilities extremely well. All that it needs is a little pump priming from the Sports Council or from the local authorities. In that way we are far more likely to develop in the right direction. We must use the motto of the Sports Council, "Sports for all". That means sport for everybody, from youngsters right through to the top. Therefore, I support my hon. Friend in his new clause 2. I hope that in the long run the structure that he proposes will work satisfactorily.
§ Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)
I was not on the Standing Committee which dealt with the Bill. However, I congratulate my hon. Friends on raising this matter in Committee and on bringing pressure on the Government to bring forward this amendment. It certainly clarifies the role and power of regional councils in assisting sport, leisure, recreation and the arts. It is appropriate that the Under-Secretary should speak by w ay of introduction, and I hope that he will reply to the debate. He is the Minister with responsibility not just for industry and education in Scotland, which he is trying his best to wreck, but also for sport and for the arts in Scotland. Wearing the latter two caps his record is no better than it is on industry and education.
99 The Minister's weekend statement, in which he cast doubts upon the possibility of Scotland's participation in the World Cup, seemed to be at variance with that of the Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for Sport at the Department of the Environment, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Macfarlane) who explicitly said in a reply to me just a matter of weeks ago that he was against a boycott. For the Minister to give off-the-cuff statements, apparently without any authority, is a great disservice to Scotland's international football team. However, perhaps we should not be all that surprised when we consider his lack of service to sport in general.
§ Mr. Alexander Fletcher
It is probably not necessary to clarify this point for anyone in Britain other than the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan). However, I think that I should do so, because he has raised the point. There is no question of United Kingdom teams boycotting the World Cup in Spain. There is no comparison between the World Cup in Spain and the Olympic Games in Moscow, where Russia, the host country, had created the difficulties by its attack on Afghanistan. The extremely obvious point that I was making on Saturday was that if hostilities between the United Kingdom and Argentina are continuing during the World Cup, in my view it would be impossible for any United Kingdom team to meet the Argentine in a football match in Spain. That is a perfectly straightforward and simple fact which even the hon. Gentleman should have no difficulty, not only in grasping but in agreeing with.
§ Mr. Canavan
Our argument is with the Argentine junta, not with the Argentine football team. The Minister's statement seemed to be at variance with the statement of his colleague at the Department of the Environment.
§ Mr. Canavan
The hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) was sacked from the job as Minister with responsibility for sport.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will now return to the amendment.
§ Mr. Canavan
I am not a stupid old fool. The hon. Member for Dumfries, who was sacked and given a knighthood as some phoney reward for his services to a discredited Prime Minister, must be a silly old fool ever to have been a member of that Government.
§ Mr. Canavan
As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted by a sacked Minister and another incompetent Minister with responsibility for sport, the Minister's record of giving financial support to sport in Scotland is no better than his failure rate in giving financial support to Scottish education and industry. His deplorable record on Hampden Park, which was a project on which the regional council and the district council—[Interruption.]——
§ Mr. Canavan
It has. The hon. Gentleman is showing his ignorance by saying that, because it was a tripartite 100 project involving Strathclyde regional council, Glasgow district council and the Minister. When the Minister withdrew his commitment to give financial support the project collapsed and Scotland was left with a national stadium which is more like a gigantic public lavatory than a stadium of which the nation can be proud. The Minister should take responsibility for that, and I hope that the purpose of this amendment is not simply to pass the buck to Strathclyde regional council or any other regional council and leave it to provide financial support for either sport or the arts.
§ Mr. Fletcher
For the clarification of anyone who may be in doubt following the hon. Gentleman's remark about the Hampden Park episode, I should say that the first party to withdraw was Glasgow district council. The second party to withdraw was a majority of the premier division football clubs in Scotland. Only after that did the Government feel that it was no part of our purpose to force a stadium on to Scottish football at a time when it seemed most reluctant to accept it.
§ Mr. Canavan
The truth is that if the Minister had given more encouragement to Glasgow district council, to Strathclyde regional council and to the Scottish football authorities we might have had a chance of a national football stadium of which we could have been proud instead of the national disgrace that we now have. The Minister cannot be allowed off the hook on this matter, because he was mainly responsible for the project and his withdrawal of a firm commitment on the part of the Government was mainly responsible for the collapse. I hope that he will not use this amendment simply to require local authorities to provide the necessary financial support. The Minister's record of support for the arts is no better than his record of support for sport.
A project in my constituency is threatened as a direct result of Government policy. It is the sort of project that comes under the terms of this amendment. I refer to the MacRoberts Arts Centre at Stirling university. The university is being hit by the educational policies of the Government and, despite representations made by local Members of Parliament, including myself, it seems as though we are talking to a stone wall.
If we had the backing of the Scottish Office perhaps we should be able to do something more for the University of Stirling, but unfortunately the Minister who is responsible for education in Scotland has said virtually nothing. He did not even give us the backing that we expected when we went to see the Secretary of State for Education and Science.
A recent bulletin of the Scottish Arts Council describes some of the activities of the MacRobert Arts Centre. For the year ended March 1981, the centre presented 370 performances of 197 different events which were attended by 115,320 people. Productions included the first performance by the Scottish Theatre Company of "Let Wives Tak Tent" and also the opening night of "Civilians". Other visiting theatre companies included Perth Theatre, 7:84 Scotland, Wildcat and the New Shakespeare Company and there have also been visits by D'Oyly Carte and Scottish Opera, which played to near-capacity audiences.
101 Because of Government cutbacks to the Arts Council and the Scottish Arts Council, D'Oyly Carte, for example, has, I understand, lost its grant. Will it now be left, under the terms of the legislation, to local authorities to step in to make some sort of recompense for the drastic cutbacks imposed by the Government, who refused to give the Arts Council and the Scottish Arts Council a big enough budget?
The MacRobert centre is funded by a grant from the Scottish Arts Council and it received £84,270 for the year ended March 1981. The University of Stirling gave £67,000 and Scottish local authorities, particularly two local ones in which the MacRobert arts centre is situated—the Central region and Stirling district—and other Scottish local authorities that contributed, gave a total of £21,953. Total attendances at all events were 115,320.
Can the Minister give us some clarification on whether he is expecting local authorities, for example the Central regional council, to use their powers under the Bill simply to use up more and more of their money to make up for the inadequacies of the Government? Considering the lack of rate support grant and the general lack of financial support from the Government to local authorities, I am sure that the regional council will be as generous as possible. Nevertheless, the Government cannot be allowed to escape from their responsibilities either, or the Minister, instead of being the Minister with responsibility for sport and for arts in Scotland, will be in danger of ending up being branded as an unsporting Philistine.
§ Mr. Maclennan
In the debate on clause 12 in Committee the Opposition, in the person of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), made a strong case for saying that responsibility for the arts ought to remain squarely with both the regions and districts. The hon. Gentleman deployed the case against the arrangements in the Bill with considerable cogency. In doing so he rehearsed the fear expressed by, among others, Mr. Gerald Elliot, the chairman of the Arts Council in Scotland, that removing responsibility for the arts from regional councils would almost certainly lead to the danger of a reduction in the funding of the arts by local authorities.
Therefore, I am surprised that the official Opposition have expressed such support for new clause 2, which seems to fall short of the proposals made by the hon. Member for Garscadden in Committee. The new clause is merely an enabling clause, which underlines what the Minister made clear in Committee, which is that it was hoped that regional councils would consider continuing the funding of the arts. I understand that he did not believe that the Bill prevented them from doing so.
§ Mr. O'Neill
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's difficulty, because this is the first time that he has shown any interest in this matter. He did not attend any sitting of the Committee and did not table an amendment to clear up the deficiencies in the clause that he is attacking. Therefore, I do not see why he should choose to attack the official Opposition.
§ Mr. Maclennan
If the hon. Gentleman's interventions are to be abusive I shall be more scant in the number of occasions on which I give way to him and his Front Bench colleagues.
102 I wish to see the Bill come through the Report stage with a greater clarification of the Government's intention than is likely to follow from the remarks of the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. O'Neill), who did little more than welcome new clause 2. The new clause is solely permissive and does not remove the anxieties that have been expressed in Scotland, and were well deployed by the hon. Member for Garscadden, about the predicament of the arts.
Only about 10 per cent. of the funding of the arts and other leisure and recreational activities came from the regions under the old dispensation, but the position was thought to be sufficiently serious for representations to be made by all those in Scotland who are concerned about these matters. The then Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), pointed out fairly that discussions would have to take place with the local authorities about adjustments in the rate support grant, because he saw no reason why the total net expenditure should change as a result of the inclusion of clause 12.
In opening the debate on new clause 2 the Minister was not able to tell us much about the Government's intentions in that respect. I hope that he will do so in his reply, because there is considerable concern, particularly in the regions with small, impecunious district councils, that they may find it difficult to make good from their smaller rate base the shortfall in expenditure on leisure and recreation facilities, which have hitherto been the responsibility of the regions.
Can the Minister say what discussions have been held with CoSLA on these matters, and will he give an assurance that when the rate support grant for 1983–84 is calculated there will be no less money available and that proper allowance will be made for inflation, to ensure that the attempt partially to do away with concurrency of functions does not lead to a reduction in the funding of the arts, sport, leisure and recreation?
§ Mr. Alexander Fletcher
I should like to reply by referring to the remarks of the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. O'Neill). I do not wish to suggest that the Government's view of the matter following the Committee stage and the representations that were made to us by a number of bodies, including the Scottish Arts Council, is anything other than a move towards meeting the opinion and concern that were expressed by Opposition Members and by those other bodies.
We had second thoughts about the matter following the strength of the representation. There is no need for me to suggest otherwise. Among other things, our attention was drawn to the important contribution from the regions in recent years to the arts in Scotland. I have a few figures that might help to illustrate the point. In 1980–81 the Scottish National Orchestra received almost 16 per cent. of its grant from local authorities and almost 42 per cent. from the Government through the Scottish Arts Council Scottish Opera received 3.7 per cent. of its grant from local authorities and almost 62 per cent. from the Scottish Arts Council. The local authorities made a smaller contribution, but it was an important and significant contribution to the arts in Scotland.
Although the Bill is aimed at ending concurrency of powers, we did not take such a dogmatic view of the arrangements that we wished to end contributions by the 103 regions. Therefore, new clause 2 is aimed entirely at enabling the regions to continue to support the arts in Scotland.
The hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire referred to funding in future. The central issue is whether the rate support grant distribution formula should be adjusted to reflect the change of responsibility. That issue will require discussion in the working party on local government finance, prior to making up the 1983–84 settlement. It will be necessary to have regard to all the changes embodied in the Bill, of which leisure and recreation is only one. The hon. Gentleman's point is taken.
§ Mr. O'Neill
Will the Minister concede that we are discussing an extremely complicated issue, which is the readjustment of the rate support grant to take account of what might be a relatively small amount? Is there not a danger that that relatively small amount will be lost in the negotiations? Is the Minister confident that his officials will be able to keep track of it and ensure that the local authorities are able to continue to accept the figures that are being suggested? Has there been any sign that the local authorities are conscious of the difficulties that they may have to face?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am sure that the local authorities are aware of that. I am also sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that the RSG settlement is a complicated matter, made up of many items, including small items that must be taken into account. Therefore, I do not believe that there is anything different or unusual in asking the people responsible to take into account the items to which we are referring this evening.
The arts in Scotland depend heavily on public subscription. It is common knowledge that the expansion of the arts and leisure activities in Scotland, although we have been able to maintain considerable funding through the Scottish Arts Council and the Scottish Sport Council, even at a time of financial restraint, will require to depend more and more on the private sector and on attracting funds from the many businesses that trade in and around Scotland.
The hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire raised the question of the mandatory rate with regard to amendment No. 31. We considered whether we could accept the spirit of the amendment, which we take to be that a council should be statutorily obliged to levy rates of a given amount that can be spent in fulfilling their duties under subsection (1) of clause 12. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that that is contrary to the practice that no part of a rate is allocated by statute for particular purposes. It would be unwarranted interference in the affairs of local government. I am sure that he appreciates that the last thing that the Government want to do is interfere in local government affairs in this or any other respect.
The hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire also referred to paragraph (b) of new clause 2. He asked about the inclusion of the graphic arts. We specifically refer to the need topromote music, theatre, opera, ballet and the other artsbecause, among the representations that we received, anxiety was expressed about the Scottish National Opera, 104 the Scottish Ballet and others. The graphic arts are in no way excluded. They are referred to in the reference to "the other arts".
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) referred to the difficulties of community councils and asked whether they were voluntary organisations. I do not think so. They are set up by statute under local government legislation. They would not, therefore, be referred to as voluntary organisations in that sense. They are part of the local government structure and are therefore not necessarily excluded by the new clause.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East also referred to Cairnbulg boat haven. There is nothing in the Bill or the amendments that would prevent local authorities from helping. Indeed, provision is made for local authorities to spend resources to develop leisure facilities of that kind. The only objection that I can think of is if a trust deed affecting Cairnbulg prohibited a public body from taking part. The trust deed might have to be amended, if the local authority—Grampian region or the district council—wished to make a contribution to develop the harbour. That would be a normal matter for the trustees on the one hand and a local authority on the other to take into account.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) reminded the House that regional councils have an educational responsibility. I use the word in the broadest sense. He also reminded us that the distinction between leisure and recreation is not precise. Hence the powers in the Bill to allow regions to continue to participate in the type of activities that we are discussing. The same applies to sports activities.
I emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries said about the need to encourage voluntary efforts, especially through the Sports Council, and the encouragement that local authorities can give. As my hon. Friend knows from his experience in these matters, a small sum of money from a local authority for a voluntary effort in sport or recreation can go a long way towards satisfying the needs of a local community, especially a rural one. I am conscious of my hon. Friend's point.
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. McKelvey) asked how the region is to pay for its contribution and referred to what he described as the wrath of the Secretary of State in matters affecting local authority expenditure. He need have no fear, nor need any local authority that presents its case for reasonable expenditure, because that is what we are dealing with in these and other respects.
Therefore, in considering the matters that we have further discussed today, I hope that the House will support the new clause and the other Government proposals before us.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a second time, and added to the Bill.
§ It being Ten o'clock, further consideration of the Bill stood adjourned.
§ Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), again considered.