§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
My Lords, I am sure I am interpreting the feeling of your Lordships correctly when I tell the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, how grateful we are to him for having introduced the Motion this afternoon. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Methuen, for allowing me to "chip in" at this stage of your discussion. I think this is your Lordships' hat trick with the Arts. It is the third year that we have held such a debate. I hope it will become an annual event, like the Chelsea Flower Show or the Derby, or even our own Defence debate, because it is a subject which this House is peculiarly well fitted to discuss. We have the men—and the woman, as today's "batting list" shows—and finally, in order to complete the catalogue of our transcendent virtues, we have the ability to discuss these matters perhaps rather more dispassionately than our more hard-working and partipris colleagues in another place.
I am not quite certain about that, but the Government are well-intentioned in that respect.
That is one reason why I am so grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams. Another reason, I must confess, is the wording of the Motion itself. I am very glad the noble Lord did not ask us to welcome the White Paper, as did his colleague, the good Mr. Blenkinsop in another place. I am glad because the White Paper puts me in mind of the rather less than charitable words of the late Mr. A. J. Balfour on the speech of a colleague in another place, when he said:Much that he said was true and much that he said was trite. But what was true was trite. And what was not trite was not true.I do not wish to subscribe to any such criticism of this White Paper, in places a rather ill-constructed and ill-written rag-bag of a State paper. I should prefer to switch the late Mr. Balfour's formulation and to say that since most of the Paper is trite therefore most is quite true, 530 and since little is not trite, not much could possibly be untrue.
Since I am in such a charitable mood this afternoon, let me be quite frank and admit straight away from this place that there are some quite good things to be dredged up from this ocean in which I am sure Monsieur Pangloss would have delighted to swim. For example, I welcome in paragraph 52 the mention of the £250,000 which the Government are making available towards the better housing of the Arts in the Provinces. Like the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, I hope this is but a first step. I am glad to note, too, that in paragraph 57 they have made a modest but sensible change in our planning which may prevent the quite unnecessary loss of theatres which we so badly need in the Provinces.
I think what is said in paragraphs 69 and 70 about Government and local patronage of some of the visual arts is sensible and encouraging, and I certainly should not wish to quarrel with the intention expressed in paragraph 87, that the Government propose to examine these matters further in consultation with the interested parties, to see what can be done to help authors and possibly other creative artists—the point to which the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, also referred. Unlike many of your Lordships in this House these days, I have yet to take the literary plunge, although in certain respects, to judge by others of your noble Lordships, I seem well equipped to do so. I look forward with lively anticipation to what the Government may have in mind to encourage people like me to dive in at the literary deep end and to help those of us who cannot yet swim in the literary waters.
Not least I welcome the increases in the Arts Council grants and the purchase grants of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Scottish Museum which are announced in the White Paper. Finally, I would congratulate the Government very sincerely on setting up the Committee to review the position of the London Orchestras, and on their choice of a Chairman for that very important body, Mr. Goodman, the new Chairman of the Arts Council.
I am a "new boy" in your Lordships' House to this vast subject. Many wiser 531 and more experienced hands are following me, not least my noble friend, Lord Aberdare, and may I, without making too many invidious distinctions and comparisons, say how glad I am that my noble friend, Lord Cottesloe, has spoken in this debate and that my noble friend, Lord Drogheda, will also be speaking. Since I have just mentioned Mr. Goodman, the new Chairman of the Arts Council, I hope I may also pay my tribute to my noble friend, Lord Cottesloe, the past Chairman of the Arts Council. All of us who are in any way acquainted with his work, and all of us who have heard him speak on the Arts in recent years in this House, know how much distinction and devotion he has brought to this task. I am sure we are all glad that he is still so closely associated with so many aspects of this work.
The first matter on which I should like to touch lightly is the question of Ministerial responsibility. I am sure that in this field we are wise to eschew dogmatism. I personally think that the old system of Treasury responsibility in this field, whilst perhaps it is all wrong in theory, has worked well in practice, certainly in recent years under a wise and enlightened Administration. Personally, I am not so utterly opposed to a full-blown Ministry of Fine Arts as most of your Lordships seem to be, judging from recent debates. I know that this is a foreign idea and therefore a highly dangerous one, but it does not seem to work too badly across the Channel. Indeed, I believe there are a lot of leaves which Miss Lee could profitably take out of M. Malraux's book.
Again, I think that if the idea was to vest this responsibility in a Departmental Ministry there was quite a lot to be said for vesting it in the Ministry of Public Building and Works, possibly a somewhat refashioned one. Certainly there seem to be certain disadvantages in the reshuffle of responsibilities the Government have opted for. It means—other solutions might well have meant this, too—that Government responsibility for the Arts will now be divided between London, Edinburgh and Cardiff—a very good thing, my noble friend Lord Dundee, if he were here, and my noble friend, Lord Aberdare and other noble Celts may say. And so it may be. But how will this 532 work out in practice? What, in fact, are going to be the appropriate arrangements to meet the special interests of Scotland and Wales about which we read in paragraph 77 of the White Paper? I should be very glad if either of the noble Lords who are to reply could enlighten me on this point.
There is one further matter of Governmental mechanics on which I should be glad to have the Government's comments. My noble friend Lord Cottesloe conjured up for us a vision of the Parliamentary Secretary being elbowed out by her Secretary of State in the scramble for funds in Whitehall. Given Miss Lee, I suspect this may be a somewhat idle fear. However, granted this reorganisation, I should judge it far better to vest this delegated artistic responsibility in a Minister of State rather than in a Parliamentary Secretary, and I hope that the Government will be prepared to consider this. I know they are a bit overdrawn on the Mintsier of State account at the present time. That said, I would wish Miss Lee all possible success in her present task. She brings to it many admirable and engaging qualities, and not least a quality of refreshing enthusiasm.
I hope, however, that the Government and the Minister will not, in their enthusiasm for the regions, neglect the centre. Seeing how much emphasis is placed on the Provinces, on the regions, on the work of local authorities outside London, in the White Paper, I must confess to some initial disquiet here. I trust that the noble Lords who will be replying will be able to reassure me. Of course we are all provincials, we are all regionalists, these days, and I, for one, yield to no one, not even to the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, in the desire to see the Arts in all their forms flourishing and properly supported and housed outside London. But on one condition, and that is that in supporting the periphery we do not weaken the centre.
London to-day, as has been said earlier in this debate, has a claim to being the artistic capital of the contemporary world. In drama we are probably pre-eminent, and in the other fields, as Lord Cottesloe said, in ballet, opera, music, the visual arts, fashion, we have much of which we can be proud. So it is vital, I believe, that we should not do anything to let our standards at the centre decline, to 533 fall below the highest levels which are attainable. That is one reason why I very much welcome the fact that the Government have accepted the principal recommendations in Mr. Goodman's report, with greater financial support for the four London-based orchestras. But in that connection, can the Government tell us when they propose to set up the proposed London Orchestral Concert Board and to allocate funds to it? Mr. Goodman certainly did not let the grass grow under his feet. I hope the Government will emulate that good example.
I have three other brief pleas to make for the centre and peaks, as it were, of our national artistic and cultural achievement. I know that I am following in one respect the comments of my noble friend, Lord Cottesloe, and possibly anticipating what my noble friend, Lord Drogheda, will say. The first is a relatively minor matter but a very important one concerning Covent Garden. Is the Minister who will be replying able to shed any more light on the future of the Covent Garden site? Can he tell us that the responsible authorities, the Government and the Greater London Council, are now firmly agreed that part, at least, of this site, when it is freed from the vegetables and the flowers which at present encumber and embellish it, will be available to the Ballet School, and possibly also to the Opera, for rehearsal and other purposes?
My second special plea concerns the South Bank, where, as we learned this afternoon, my noble friend, Lord Cottesloe, is so deeply involved. I should wish only to reinforce the plea which he made so eloquently and fully to your Lordships this afternoon. The South Bank, as we see it to-day, I think must strike any impartial and architecturally sensitive observer as one of our great missed opportunities. The site cries out for great architecture and for bold imaginative treatment. And what do we see when we take our drinks on the terrace outside? We see the Shell Building. I believe that these plans for the South Bank, the extended Festival Theatre complex, the Cottesloe complex, if I may so term it—and, indeed, also the new hotel on the other side of Waterloo Bridge, which I understand and which I hope will be both tall and slender—if realised could give us a South Bank of which we could at last be really proud.
534 But big projects, as we have been told, cost big money, and there may be temptation in times of financial stress to de-fenestrate this, like others that have gone before it. I believe it would be a real disaster if this were to happen. I hope, in short, that the Government will show themselves as kind to the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, the nation and this city to-day as they were to Lord Caradon and the United Nations two days ago.
There is one further aspect of the nation's cultural work at the centre, or flowing from the centre, on which I should like to touch: that is, what we do as a country to project our artistic achievements abroad. I am sure almost all your Lordships would agree that we ought to show to the foreigner the best that is available in Britain. No one who has seen, for example, the impact in New York of, say, the Royal Ballet, or has seen the impact of, say, a small exhibition of contemporary British painting in some remote provincial Arab town, can doubt the importance of this. It is important in the crudest terms of national prestige; and there are, of course, other and far better reason for doing this sort of thing, the kind of reason which the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, adduced in the peroration to his speech.
My real reason for raising this matter here this afternoon is that it receives only the scantest of scant attention in Miss Lee's White Paper. One paragraph, paragraph 37, is devoted to this out of the 101 paragraphs in the White Paper. Lord Francis-William's authors did four times better. I trust that this is not a reflection of the priority the Government attach to displaying our artistic talents and achievements abroad. We do too little in this way, as it is. Most of these activities require the essential pump-priming of the British Council. Last year the British Council had a quarter of a million pounds available for this purpose—just over 2 per cent. of their total revenue. This is a small sum in comparison with what other people—for example, the French—do; and it is a small sum in comparison with our needs. I trust that at the least the Government will be able to tell us that they have this matter under serious consideration, and are prepared to do all they can in present financial circumstances.
535 I shall now switch briefly to the Provinces. I shall be brief, not because I do not like the Provinces, but because I fear my absent noble friend Lord Egremont and the Motion which he has hanging over our heads. We all know how much a gap there is to be closed here. I do not think that the Arts Council were unduly exaggerating when they wrote in 1961, in their Report on housing the Arts:The intelligent foreigner visiting Britain to see how one of the most civilised countries in the world houses its Arts is likely to find little of significance and interest outside London.But, of course, the deficiencies extend far beyond the housing of the Arts in the Provinces and the regions, and it would be idle to suppose that this gap is one which can be quickly closed. It will need much time and much effort before we reach the Arts Council's own modest target of a good art gallery, an adequate concert hall and two good theatres in every provincial city of over 200,000 population; and it will probably take just as long before our smaller towns are adequately served in this way. But we shall certainly close the gap more quickly if in all this there is an active partnership between the Government, the regions and the local authorities. It will certainly help if, within the regions, the requirements are properly co-ordinated, and if there is a proper distribution of effort. It will help, above all, if full scope is given to the part which the amateur, the volunteer, the local enthusiast, and the private patron can play.
In all this there is a good deal to welcome in the Government's approach, as disclosed in the White Paper. I would here rub in, if I may, just one point. I have already welcomed the Government's decision to make a contribution of £250,000 towards housing the Arts in the Provinces. Miss Lee is clearly "egging on" the regional and local authorities to embark on further schemes. That is fine—but on one condition. Neither the present Government nor a successor Government should get itself into the position of turning off, or of having to turn off, the tap of central funds for these purposes once they have stimulated the flow of local enthusiasm. That said by way of generality, I should like to put three particular questions to the noble Lords who will be replying.
536 First, can they tell us whether ways and means have yet been found of adequately housing the great Burrel Collection in Glasgow? Secondly, can they tell us anything more about the position in Manchester? There has been a good deal of talk in the Press about the intention to establish there a "Covent Garden" of the North, two resident companies and a building to house them. As a concept, this strikes me as wholly admirable. Can the noble Lords tell us how far things have gone, and what support the Government feel able to give to this project? Thirdly, can they tell us anything more about the chance of a new concert hall in both Coventry and Plymouth? Your Lordships may recall that in their Report the Arts Council drew particular attention to the urgent need for these two halls in these two strategically placed cities. What we should like to know is how do matters stand now.
Much of what I have been asking for undoubtedly calls for more money: more money from the Government, more money from the local authorities, more money from the regions. We know that it will not be easy to find this money. That being so, I would urge the Government not to neglect any legitimate fiscal reliefs that would help the private patron to help our collections—or, indeed, other defined artistic institutions—whether in London or the Provinces. I believe that there are quite a number of simple measures which the Government, if they were so minded, could easily take. They have been advocated for a number of years now by highly responsible and respectable authorities, and not least by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, who is sitting on the Cross-Benches at this moment. What these measures have in common is, that because they have a slight whiff of unorthodoxy about them, and because they might deprive the Treasury of a minuscule amount of funds, and because some of them have been adopted abroad, they have hitherto been rejected by the zealous watchdogs of our national funds. These measures are, therefore, in a way, rather "old hat". Nevertheless, since we have a new Government, I shall trot them out once again as a personal offering for the noble Lords who are to reply for the Government.
Two measures are quite minor. In the first place, as your Lordships know, if a bequest in kind is accepted by certain 537 recognised institutions no estate duty is paid so far as the bequest is concerned. The suggestion is that this relief should apply to gifts of money as well as to gifts in kind. It seems quite illogical that an estate should get relief on a picture worth, for the sake of methematics, £10,000 left to one of our great art galleries, and not on a legacy worth £10,000 for the purchase of pictures left to the same gallery. I cannot for the life of me see why this small easement should not be made. It would stimulate private patronage, and it would help both our great national collections and our smaller ones.
The other relatively minor relief again bears on bequests in kind. At the moment, as I understand the position, they can be accepted in place of estate duty only if they are judged to be works of art pre-eminent for their æsthetic or historical value. This means, in practice, that only bequests of really national importance, judged by the highest standards and criteria, are acceptable. I strongly suspect that here we are putting our sights a little too high, and thus putting out of the reach of many of our smaller collections treasures, albeit relatively minor treasures, which they would be only too glad to acquire.
Now for the two more important proposals. The first has again recently been made by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, in his admirable foreword to the National Gallery's most recent Report, and it was powerfully reinforced by the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, this afternoon, when he called for a reserve fund—a sort of masse de manœuvre—to secure our national heritage of works of art, based perhaps, as the hard core, on the Land Fund, Mr. Dalton's famous Fund. I hope that the spiritual heirs of Lord Dalton sitting on the Front Bench opposite will look with sympathy at this idea.
My fourth suggestion is also familiar. It is, in the words of the Standing Commission, that we should adoptlegislation on similar lines to that of the United States of America where a donor, whether of money or of works of art, to certain charitable institutions such as museums, is entitled to claim the value of the gift as a deduction from his income for tax purposes, up to a given limit of his income for the year in question.538 I believe that in America the limit is some 20 per cent., and I think there is no doubt that this fiscal relief has been the most important element behind the creation and expansion of many of those marvellous museums across the Atlantic. I know that the suggestion has been made a number of times in the past. I know that it has often been rejected; and rejected by Conservative Chancellors. It may not appeal to the fiscal purist; it may not appeal to the social leveller. Nevertheless, I plead with the Government (and I do so as a private individual, and not speaking formally for the Opposition) not to be too puritan about this. As the Joint Commission themselves have said:We can think of no step which could more speedily and effectively restore private patronage to its former position as the main source of supply of works of art to our museums and galleries".I hope that the Government will give due considerations to these suggestions, because I believe that this is a matter of increasing urgency.
That is all I have to say, and, in view of Lord Egremont's invisible but spreading shadow, it is more than enough. I have been critical of some aspects of the White Paper, but not, I hope, unfairly critical. In conclusion, since I believe that this is pre-eminently an issue which transcends Party politics, I should like to lift some words from the White Paper and to quote them with approval: that in this field thereis no excuse for not doing as much as we can and more than has hitherto been attempted.
§ 4.30 p.m.
My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord for introducing this subject, and for the dramatic and moving way in which he expressed himself. As a humble practitioner of the Arts, I would say how much we painters appreciated his kind remarks about us. He saw in us some object of compassion—perhaps a little more than compassion. Why particularly we appreciate his remarks is that so often those who have responsibility for museums and art galleries think in terms of traditional stuff which is dead, pictures painted by people no longer with us. However great their merits, you cannot go far wrong, especially if you are well 539 advised. You can go wrong with the modern painter, but that is the fun of the thing: to take a chance and support those very people to whom the noble Lord referred who wish to have a little encouragement. That it all too rare. Most of the art galleries and art academies in this country require our support and our interest. We can recognise the normal things, such as a fine piece of Chinese porcelain or an Old Master; but the present-day masters are another matter. That field is more controversial, more difficult, but much more fun.
What strikes me at once in this rather elusive subject is that whereas the National and Tate Galleries continue to obtain a highly representative collection of Old and not-so-Old Masters, very often against considerable odds and in grave danger of losing the best, provincial galleries still lag behind. This is not solely due to lack of adequate funds, for in some cases they are well enough off to buy some pretty good stuff on the whole. But they lack a body of what one might call dedicated men and women who are qualified to administer their galleries and take the responsibility of coming into the market to buy, with the confidence that comes from knowledge and experience, and are also in the position to chose the right kind of directors. One can think of obvious exceptions, such as the Barber Institute, with its highly efficient board of trustees and its staff.
I remember only too well some thirty years ago being co-opted on to a committee to select works of art for a local exhibition. Having sized up the various members of the committee, I asked the chairman after the first meeting why he had selected So-and-So to serve on the committee. His answer was that they did not know what else to do with him. I wonder whether things have changed by now. I hope so. That was some years ago, but we still lag behind in this respect. I do not think that local councils realise that we are dedicated people. We know our job, and it is for them to seek our advice and bring us into their counsels, and not say, "He is not one of us, for he has not been elected by popular representation". That is not the point. When you are dealing with a work of art you 540 must have somebody who is dedicated to help you along—and, God knows, plenty of us are willing to do so!
I wish to stress this point, not in a spirit of carping criticism but because the time is overdue when local councils should be in a position to get into the market for works of art which our larger institutions may no longer require, but which I feel local art galleries and museums probably do require. I refer not only to Old Masters, but to people like Sickert, Augustus John, Wilson Steer and the French Impressionists—provided they can afford them, and provided that they do not buy the wrong ones, for there are plenty about. I refer also to furniture of outstanding interest and so on. As the contents of our country houses gradually find their way into the market, it is all wrong that they should go overseas. The provincial galleries should take their place and try to keep in this country those things which a private owner can no longer afford to keep.
The second point I want to make is referred to on page 5 of the White Paper, where there is a reference to museums, art galleries and concert halls which have failed to move with the times, retaining a cheerless, unwelcoming air that alienates all but the specialist and the dedicated. I feel that enough use is not made of them for organised parties, accompanied by a lecturer or some person qualified to explain the various exhibits which the building they are visiting may contain. In America, for instance, far greater use is made of their museums for educational purposes. It is not a mere coincidence that Claverton Manor, near Bath, where the recently formed American Museum in Britain in a very short while has established an excellent display of American-made furniture and other exhibits, is now regularly visited by students and school-children, in addition to its normal numbers of day visitors. During 1964 7,000 school-children visited this museum, 35 schools sending schoolchildren there regularly. Private individuals support this institution as well as corporate bodies; and now membership is being organised on the other side of the water. All this reflects great credit on the Director and the policy of the museum but it is an activity which could be widely emulated in this country.
541 In America this is very much the case. I receive the Museum News from the Toledo Museum in Ohio. In this quarterly magazine the educational activities of this Museum are constantly emphasised. To quote from a recent number:The Toledo Museum's initial, and still basic policy, is not only to collect great works of art, but to use these treasures in teaching.Your membership helps thousands of children to explore the joys of art and music in the Museum. Many tours and classroom activities for children are possible because of membership contributions which are used exclusively for children's free education.I rather harp on this, because up to now it has been hardly mentioned in the debate.
The question of the educational side of museums is extremely important. The Gulbenkian Foundation Report, issued in 1959, is of great value in the present context. They, too, emphasise that it is in the Provinces, rather than in London, that the Arts particularly need help. That is said on page 8. Patronage of the Arts is reviewed, not only in relation to charitable trusts but also in relation to people in this country who, as the Report says, would like to be patrons of the Arts but are deterred from doing so by taxation. The Report refers to certain tax concessions in the United States, a matter which has also been mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. The deductions for charitable contributions of up to 20 per cent. of the taxpayers' income is then mentioned; with a further 10 per cent. for educational organisations. Other tax concessions are mentioned. Unfortunately, a Royal Commission and the Waverley Committee reported against adopting the American concessions. I hope, however, that this matter will be studied again by the present Government.
There is another point which one should bear in mind, and that is the question of the times when museums and art galleries are open. Their present opening times may be all right for those who do not have to keep fixed office hours, but a great many people are automatically excluded from visiting these art galleries and museums. I know the practical difficulties. It is chiefly a question of overtime payment; but surely the conditions of opening could be looked into and improved so that everybody could go.
§ LORD ROBBINS
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the National Gallery is now open in the summer months on two evenings a week until 9 o'clock at night?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that information. I happened to know that, but I was thinking of other galleries as well. I was very glad to see that the present Government have taken over the Fine Arts and museums and are on their way to forming a beaux arts in this country, which I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, is overdue. I worked in France during the war as Monuments and Fine Arts Officer to the 21st Army Group, and I was immensely impressed with the work which they had been doing ever since the Guizot administration of the 1830s, their first monument being scheduled in 1840. It has taken us literally a hundred years to catch up, for it was not until 1953 that we got a law worth having, in comparison to the French. So I congratulate the Government on that change of policy.
Now I should like to make what will be an unpopular suggestion in administrative quarters. Could not the duties of the Ministry which deals with the houses listed under the 1944 and subsequent Acts be amalgamated with the Ministry that deals with the preservation of historic houses? What really is the difference? There is a parallel in France in houses of historic interest scheduled and preserved with the help of a grant, and houses also of historic interest but on the supplementary list, the preservation of which does not necessarily mean a grant. The second list, known as Monuments Inscrits, are obviously not of such outstanding importance as those which rank for a grant and which are known as monuments classés. The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, will no doubt recollect that when he was bringing in his 1953 Bill, I strongly urged him to amalgamate the two Ministries, but, I regret to say, without success. I think that at the time he was in favour of it. But I still refuse to change my opinion, and I think it is a great pity that the two are not together.
In the section headed, "Housing the Arts", the White Paper has mentioned my own home, Corsham, as an example of the adaptation of an existing historic 543 building to use as an arts centre. I think that large houses of historic interest of this size must sooner or later find a further use, or they are bound to run the risk of demolition, unless they are taken over by the National Trust. But I strongly deprecate the idea of handing an historic house over to an institution in its entirety. It will certainly acquire that "institutional look" which we deplore; and, perhaps more important, it will lose that kind of historical link of which a house of this kind should on no account be deprived. Houses are not mere inanimate lifeless bits of stone and plaster. They are living entities and should be treated with respect. We are happy with the Bath Academy of Art and its 330 pupils. I hope that they are happy and enjoy the amenities of the house.
I also deplore the removal of chattels which have been part of the riches of these historic houses for years. This sentiment is to be found elaborated in the Twelfth Annual Report of the Historic Buildings Council for England. On page 5 the Report refers, as an example, to the needless loss of one of the finest pictures of the French portrait painter Largilliere, which, with three other portraits by the same painter formed an essential part of the Throckmorton Collection at Coughton Court, in Warwickshire. The house had been transferred to the National Trust but the contents were only on loan. However, when the family trustees decided to sell items in the collection, they offered the contents of the house to the Government in the first instance. The Historic Buildings Council strongly advised the Department to come to terms and so preserve the unique collection intact. This advice, unfortunately, was not followed. The Largilliere portraits were put up for sale, and one of the fine portraits went to Washington, not only being lost to Coughton but also to the nation.
My Lords, I wonder whether I may interrupt the noble Lord for a second. I have been listening with great interest to what he has been saying, and I express my agreement with him. I hope, therefore, that I can count upon his support in our efforts to persuade the Government to restore the old Admiralty House paintings to Admiralty 544 House when it is refurbished and in operation once more.
My Lords, the previous Labour Government, just before it went out of office, had in draft form (I know this from having been called in to advise) a clause to take over guardianship of the historic chattels of a historic house which might be considered an essential part of the premises. This arrangement they have had in France for some years, and I hope that the present Government will also turn their attention to this matter and resuscitate this child of theirs which has been so long in cold storage. I think that is probably the best way of dealing with the matter. The difficulty they had at that time was whether to make the guardianship compulsory or voluntary. In France it is voluntary, but I do not know how it will be possible to get away with it.
There was an interesting article in The Times yesterday, in which the writer spoke up for the collector. He wrote:Too often, when I visit a museum, it seems to me that the cases are crowded with things which have had all the meaning leached out of them by their long imprisonment. They need to be taken out of their glass prisons, looked at intimately, handled lovingly. No museum curator can risk this kind of treatment for his treasures, except as an occasional favour to an expert or a V.I.P. But the private owner can do what he pleases with the things he possesses. That, after all, is the point of owning works of art at all. The picture can be moved from one wall to another the object can be turned round and round in the hand, revealing successive aspects of itself.The writer says much more than this, which some of your Lordships have already read so there is no need to repeat it.
I should like to revert for a moment to my home, Corsham, as a centre for the Arts, with the Bath Academy. Many of us are hoping that before long the splendid building known as the Royal West of England Academy at Bristol will, when we regain possession of the whole of our premises, become another important centre for the Arts in the West of England. It is ideally suited for this, with its central position and its proximity to the Cotswolds, where there is an ever-increasing interest in the visual Arts and where we find some of our strongest supporters. At present the Corporation of Bristol occupy part of our premises 545 as a College of Art, but as soon as they have built their own building we shall be free to prepare our new centre for the Arts. A few doors away is the splendid Bristol Museum, with which we are in close touch, the Director being a very useful member of our Council. My Lords, I hope you will forgive me for having touched on a rather personal note, but I always think it better to learn at firsthand what is actually happening, and I hope that it has served to illustrate the White Paper. What I have been telling you is, after all, my life and dreams, which I hope will come true.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR EDUCAT ION AND SCIENCE (LORD BOWDEN)
My Lords, may I begin by adding my own voice to the many which have thanked the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, for introducing this Motion to us this afternoon? I would also thank noble Lords who have spoken on the Motion so far. As has been very obvious to us this afternoon, it is a subject exciting great interest on both sides of the House; and so far as I can see, the subject is entirely non-partisan. If I may be forgiven for saying so, I thought that some of the noble Lords who spoke from the other side of the House were a little critical and a little harsh in their descriptions of the policy of the last Government. It may well be that when we have been in office for thirteen years we shall be less critical of ourselves than they were. None the less, I agree that much is to be deplored in the way in which, for many years, this country has neglected its Arts, its artists and its artistic treasures.
We therefore take very great pride—and I hope that we may be forgiven for this—in the fact that this White Paper is the first which has ever been issued on this subject. The inspiration comes, I think, in direct line of descent, from the ideas of Hugh Dalton and Stafford Cripps, who were members of Governments long past and perhaps almost forgotten. But it is because of their inspiration that the present Government decided to appoint a Minister charged with responsibility for the Arts.
I find myself rather puzzled by the criticisms of the organisation voiced by noble Lords from the other side, who 546 feel, as they apparently do, that a system which worked remarkably well, considering its obvious organisational weakness, should be perpetuated in future. It was always an anomaly that the Treasury—which, as Mr. Gladstone remarked, was originally established to save candle ends—should be charged with the administration of such matters as the Arts. It so happens, as often is the case, that devoted civil servants who were members of the Treasury exercised an influence beyond their ordinary professional duties; none the less, it seems to us to be far better that the responsibilities should be taken over and discharged by someone answerable directly to Parliament, someone knowledgeable on the subject with which she is dealing, and someone of rare enthusiasm and very great drive.
The criticisms adduced against her organisation have similarly been adduced against the transfer of responsibility for University Grants Committee from the Treasury to the Department of Education and Science. But here again I think the arguments in favour of the move are more than enough to counter those against it. There are no absolute rights or wrongs in these things; but I think, on balance, that it is better that a matter of this kind should be in the hands of someone able to urge the Treasury to do things which it cannot publicly admit that it would like to do, and someone who is able to answer for her actions to Parliament, either in this House or in another place.
The White Paper, in my view, is very much to be welcomed. We all realise that it is only the first of many steps, and we do not imagine that the White Paper outlines a policy which will last unchanged for very long. It was a first attempt, and it was produced in a great hurry; yet I think it does very great credit to the people who wrote it. As a result of the pressure which has been brought to bear by the authors of this particular document, the Government have increased the grant to the Arts Council by more than £700,000 this year, at a time of great financial stringency, and this is a matter on which the Chancellor should be congratulated.
I am sorry to raise a partisan note, but it is worth reminding the House that at the time of another financial crisis, in the early '50s, soon after the Party opposite 547 took over, they cut the grant to the Arts Council by about £5,000, in an attempt to balance the national Budget.
My Lords, I have some inhibitions about interrupting the noble Lord so early on, and the last thing I wish to do myself is to import anything which is Party polemical into this discussion, which has so far been completely unpolitical, as I feel it should be; but in view of what the noble Lord has said, I must remind him that during the tenure of office of the last Administration the general supports for the Arts were increased threefold.
§ LORD BOWDEN
Indeed. This I welcome; and I hope that we shall do even better. Because, after all, the sponsorship of the Arts by Governments is really the mark of a civilised country, and one finds it almost everywhere among those countries which pride themselves on being members of our Western civilisation.
It is difficult to make precise comparisons, but one must remark that, despite the threefold increase to which the noble Earl has just referred, this country still occupies a very modest place in any league table, if I may so describe it. For example, the land of Hesse, which is the poorest of all the German lander, and has a population of only one-tenth of the population of this country, is spending rather more than £2 million a year on the Arts. That is almost as much as we are spending, and is about as much as we were spending a year or two ago.
So, despite the increase, despite all that the last Government did, and despite all that the present Government hope to do, we must still admit that we in this country are not by any means over-generous in the support we give to our artists. It is very much to be hoped, as I have said, that this White Paper marks the beginning rather than an end, and is only one stage of a very considerable increase in the expenditure which the Government will incur on behalf of the Arts and the artist. For let us remember that the image of this country, like the image of many other countries in the world at large, is very much influenced by the success it achieves in establishing the Arts.
To put it in very crude financial terms, which I should perhaps not over 548 exaggerate, the attraction of the country as a centre for tourism, for example, is much influenced by the impression abroad of the Arts, music, theatre, pictures, and so on, that are available for visitors to see here. In some quite small cities in Italy in which small opera houses survive, the possibility of closing them down has been known to cause strikes in the factories by people who fear that an important source of income for their city may be lost. The Arts can be made to pay, and it is worth remembering that what we are doing is not merely giving a subsidy, is not entirely done out of a sense of our obligation to the Arts, but is an investment for the future.
Now, my Lords, many questions have already been posed this afternoon. It is rather difficult to know in what order to deal with them, so perhaps I may take them in the order in which I happen to have recorded them. I should like first to mention the project for a major expansion of the Arts in Manchester. This is indeed a most ambitious and a most thrilling idea. Your Lordships will know that many universities, both in Britain and in other countries, have actively encouraged the Arts. I was most impressed, for example, when last I was in America, to go to Cleveland, Ohio, and find there a lively school of opera which was organised almost entirely by ex-students of the department of the university. There was a very good company, and they had built a large tent in which an audience of several thousand people could see opera in conditions which, during the summer, at least, seemed to me to be almost perfect.
I found there a lively school of native opera. The work I heard had been composed by a student of the university who had left some years before and it was produced by young people who were or who had been students at the university. It was, I thought, a charming opera. It concerned a tragedy of the Colorado silver mines and at one point the hero sang a most touching aria to his lady love whose name was, I am afraid, too obviously, Mrs. Bixby. This persuaded me, for the first time in my life, that it was better if operas were sung in a language incomprehensible to me. However, the opera was charming, the music 549 good, the theatre imaginative. The whole enterprise was developed by the university.
There is an admirable model for the University of Manchester which is engaged in a great programme of expansion as part of a programme of major urban renewal. The university already has one or two charming little auditoria used by amateur musicians; the Medical School of the university includes a large number of very good string players. The fact that the Professor of Medicine and several of his colleagues constitute a string quartet of great competence is one of the more remarkable facts about a remarkable city. I am reminded that years ago when the Stratford on Avon theatre was less widely known than it is to-day, it was said that an advertisement by Sir Frank Benson appeared in the theatrical journals saying: "Wanted, good fast bowler; willing to play Hamlet."
The University of Manchester has appointed Dr. Redlich, who was in the Opera House in Vienna before he went to Edinburgh, as professor of music; and Mr. Hugh Hunt, who was the producer of the Bristol Old Vic, as professor of drama. Both are actively encouraging young people to study the Arts in theory and practice. It was obviously most desirable that, there should be some place in the city where people who have learned to practise the Arts should be able to follow their professional avocation. It was partly for this reason that the Town Clerk, Sir Philip Dingle, Sir Maurice Pariser and others devised this most ambitious plan to build an opera house which would be allied to a theatre as part of the process of rebuilding the centre of a great city. The plans of the new buildings are extraordinarily attractive. They will cost something of the order of £2 million. The programme is now being worked out in detail, and I expect that before long the representatives of the city will be approaching the Government with some anxiety to see how far it will be possible to get help from the funds administered by the Arts Council. It is an imaginative project and I hope it will come to fruition.
I should like now to touch on certain other matters connected with the Arts which have so far been neglected. We 550 have spoken of the patronage of the Arts by the State. This is the subject of the White Paper; but I think we should underestimate the potential we have in the country if we referred only to the achievements of the Arts Council and of the other bodies which come directly under the Government. For example, the churches have traditionally been patrons of the Arts. The most beautiful churches we have in the country were all designed, so I was once told, "to the glory of God but not to accommodate a congregation". They are among the greatest of the artistic treasures we have in the country to-day; but the only architect who was even canonised was St. Hugh, who built the Cathedral of Lincoln. To this day the Church encourages architects and sculptors. There is, for example, a magnificent Epstein in Llandaff, another Epstein in Coventry and works by Graham Sutherland and Henry Moore at St. Matthew's, Northampton. All these magnificent examples of modern art have been commissioned by the Church in its traditional role as patron of the living Arts.
The Churches buy silverplate and textiles of all kinds, and they have commissioned works of music for many hundreds of years. The Walton Coronation Te Deum was commissioned by the Church, as was Benjamin Britten's War Requiem. I speak under correction on that; but it certainly received its first performance at Coventry Cathedral. Since before the time of Johann Sebastian Bach the Churches have been the centre of music; and ever since Bach, I believe, cathedral organists have been grossly underpaid. I have always hoped that something could be done to relieve this situation. There are many cities whose music depends almost entirely on the unaided efforts of the church organist. The responsibilities of the Church are very great. I was interested in the proposal that the remarkable church in Smith Square, not half a mile from your Lordships' House, which, if rumour is to be believed, was designed to be like Queen Anne's footstool, upside-down, should be turned into some sort of centre for the Arts now that it was no longer needed for ecclesiastical purposes.
I believe it is worth remembering that the really great musicians of the past stood on the shoulders of many other 551 able men. Bach, for all his fame to-day, was known in his own time as a good member of a very competent profession. It is essential, if great musicians are to appear in the future, that there should be a firmly-based and well-established profession. The Church, then, is a very active patron of the Arts. So, let us remember, are our broadcasting companies. It is impossible to establish precisely how much the B.B.C. spends on music. It has commissioned many works, both music and drama, in the last few years; and, of course, both B.B.C. and the independent television companies spend millions of pounds a year on the production of music and on drama. I think it is true to say that the total sums disbursed by these bodies on the Arts are many times greater than those at the disposal of the Arts Council.
So far in this debate we have neglected the crafts. The Arts and crafts go together in the same way and are as little to be distinguished from each other as are science and technology, which have so often been debated in this House. Many of the crafts, of course, are supported by the great Livery Companies of this City. The Goldsmiths' Company commission young artists and give many a young man the chance to make his career as a designer. They have, in particular, commissioned some very beautiful plate this year from Atholl Hill, and given it to the University of York.
These are among the patrons with whom one is familiar. But there are other patrons of the Arts whose influence is as great as any I have described. There is one building in Coventry which was built by a State corporation. It received little or no publicity; but of its type it ranks, I believe, with any such building in Europe. Opinions on the merits of the Cathedral at Coventry may perhaps be varied. Some people may deplore it; others may adore it. But no one who has seen the railway station in Coventry, designed by British Railways themselves, has any doubt about its great artistic merit and functional efficiency. I believe it is very important that buildings like railway stations should be beautiful. After all, they are seen by enormous numbers of people and it is the impact of the railway station in a metropolis on the visitor which often first determines 552 his view of the city he has come to. I hope very much that the sacrifices we have had to make in rebuilding Euston Station will, in the end, prove to have been justified.
I pass now to perhaps an even less familiar patron, the Government at large and the way in which the Government house themselves and house other people. I think it fair to say that most Government offices have an air of shabby gentility and petty penury which goes ill with the great affairs of State transacted within them. I believe I am right in saying that Mr. Gladstone once refused to pay for window boxes to be put in Whitehall, on the grounds that this was not a function of Government and he felt that the money could not be properly justified. It is unfortunately true that the rooms in which great officers of State have to live are of a deplorably lower standard than those which their opposite numbers in industry would expect as a matter of course. I hope very much that as a very long-term project this kind of matter can be put right. It seems to me to be monstrous, for example, that a building put up by a notorious jerry-builder named George Downing should have subsequently to be rebuilt at enormous expense to house a Government office in not very great convenience. It seems to me that the Government has a great duty to play the patron in designing its own offices and buildings and, furthermore, in keeping them clean.
The single achievement from which I personally have derived the most pleasure since I came to Westminster has been in inspiring the Ministry of Works to paint Richmond Terrace. It was a filthy old building, but has considerable charm. Since it was painted it looks much better. Furthermore, I was able to persuade the Ministry to remove the dustbins in which ashes had been kept until recently, in Whitehall. Small things of this kind matter a great deal in the overall assessment of the artistic sensibility of a country. I now work in a building which would rank high in a list of the ugliest buildings in Europe. It still has the blast walls which were built to protect it during the war; yet from it there have come designs for schools which have won recognition all over the world and which, your 553 Lordships may remember, won the highest award at the Milan Trienniale not long ago.
Children are extraordinarily sensitive and receptive to artistry and very much influenced by the environment in which they live. I feel most strongly that young children should be encouraged by all possible means to see and appreciate the best when they have the opportunity. Unless they are shown it and are exposed to it when young they often lose their flair for it and any interest which they may have had. Your Lordships may remember that, in his old age, Charles Darwin lamented the fact that he had never practised music and had lost the interest which he had in it in his youth. I believe this to be a matter in which the Government must have an interest. I believe, furthermore, that some of the achievements of the schools are strikingly good and augur very well for the sensibility of future generations which we hope will be less willing than we are to tolerate squalor in public places.
One of the pleasantest features of London since the war has been the way in which a few, but only a very few, of its public buildings have been cleaned. So far as I remember, the process began with the Athenæum, and, as we know, most of St. Paul's Cathedral has now been cleaned. One or two of the buildings in Whitehall are extraordinarily charming, but, as I discovered when I asked for Richmond Terrace to be cleaned, there is still a strong and vociferous minority—I hope it is a minority—who believe that the patina of age—by which they mean, three inches of London dirt—has a merit sufficient to ensure its retention. I hope that sooner or later we can educate ourselves to do better than that.
Those of your Lordships who have been to Paris recently will know how extraordinarily beautiful that city has become in the last few years since the cleaning process really got under way. I was astonished to discover that some of the railway stations which I had always thought of as monstrous and ill-designed piles of masonry, have a very real architectural significance and beauty, when one can see them. This brings me to the point which I made before, that it is most important that the artistic merit of public buildings, be they railway 554 stations or not, should be regarded as important when the designs are finally approved.
Several other questions were put to me, and I hope that my noble friend Lord Snow will be able to deal with those which I cannot answer at this moment. The noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, asked about the progress of the negotiations over the South Bank. The answer is that the matter is now under active consideration. I am given to understand, by people who know the Civil Service better than I do, that this means that someone is searching vigorously for the file.
My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Cottesloe is not in the Chamber at the moment, may I take up that point? Sometimes "under active consideration" means less than nothing, as I am sure the noble Lord will know. I hope that in this case it means a good deal more. I hope that the particular suggestion put by my noble friend, that at least funds should be provided to enable Mr. Denys Lasdun's designs to go ahead, will receive sympathetic consideration.
§ LORD BOWDEN
I hope that this will be done. I speak "without the book", but I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, lunched to-day with the Secretary of State, and they discussed the matter, so that probably he is better informed than I am. Certainly we have not forgotten it, and the matter is being considered urgently.
Another matter raised was the question of exempting from Death Duty gifts to the Arts. This is a matter which I am quite certain is under consideration by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but I hope the noble Lord will forgive me for reminding him that the Chancellor has had rather a lot on his mind in the last few days and has not been getting quite so much sleep as he would have liked. I am sure that, once the major crisis with which he is wrestling has passed, he will look at this matter.
It is true to say that not only the great museums and collections of America, but also the great universities, owe almost everything to this system. My own interest in this system has come from the tremendous success with which 555 the universities have been built up from gifts of this kind. I hope that some such system may be introduced in this country. It would be wrong of me even to hint at anything the Chancellor may wish to say, but I am sure that he will be ready to consider the matter when he is able to do so.
I believe that my noble friend Lord Snow will deal in more detail with the question of books. I think it fair to say that the system which has been used in Sweden, and to which the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, referred, is being studied. I believe that the first step has been taken; a detailed investigation of the system has already been carried out so that a proper assessment can be made. In regard to the Civil List, to which my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams referred, the only comment I can make is that it is the sole responsibility of the First Lord of the Treasury, and I will do my best to draw his attention to the observations which my noble friend made.
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether it is regarded as for ever and all time the sole responsibility of the First Lord? This seems to be an anachronism at the present time. And why is the only thing that can be done about this matter to draw it to his attention? Why cannot we have more light on questions in regard to the Civil List?
§ LORD BOWDEN
My Lords, I will do my best to find out the answer the next time I have a chance to speak to the First Lord himself.
As I say, we regard this White Paper as evidence of our hopes and our aspirations. I believe that it shows that this Government will do their best to try to develop the Arts. The example of France has often been quoted, and we are told that they order these things better in France. It is worth remarking that the patron Saint of France, St. Denis, when he was decapitated in Paris, put his head under his arm and walked the six miles to the site of the Cathedral where he is now buried. When the Archbishop of Paris reported this to Voltaire, he said—and I think he was wholly right to do so—"In such a case, it is the first step that counts." I commend with all possible 556 enthusiasm this White Paper, which is simply the first step towards a new policy for the Arts.
§ 5.22 p.m.
My Lords, I ask for your Lordships' indulgence at this time, because this is the first occasion on which I have addressed your Lordships' House. I am going to confine myself to some of the problems of the Arts in Wales and, in particular, to trying to examine how the current scheme to build a National Theatre in Wales can be helped by some of the steps set out in the White Paper.
I hope that your Lordships will bear with me while I relate briefly the story of the latest attempt to build a National Theatre of Wales. Up to date, it has been a fairly sad story, but there is still time for the story to be given a sharp twist and perhaps a happy end. At the moment, the many people who are interested in the cause of a theatre for Wales are having to struggle through a fairly boring chapter, in which the two main characters have reached stalemate. Indeed, some people are getting so fed up with this stalemate that they are prepared to chuck the book away for all time.
The two bodies concerned with this scheme are the Welsh Committee of the Arts Council and the St. David's Trust. The St. David's Trust was formed in 1959, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, to give life to the recommendation made in the Arts Council Report of 1959, entitled Housing the Arts, that a national theatre of Wales should be built in Cardiff. The Trust engaged an architect, Mr. Elidir Davies, who designed the Mermaid Theatre, and asked him to prepare plans for this theatre. The aims of the Trust were simple—namely, to get hold of a site, launch an appeal for a building fund and, at a suitable time, appoint a council or board of governors who would be responsible for the final stages of the development of the scheme and would run the theatre.
Between 1956 and 1961, the Welsh Committee of the Arts Council were the only body who did anything at all for the theatre in Wales. During those fifteen years, they ran many tours of plays, both in Welsh and in English, round theatre-less towns. They also, in 1948, attempted 557 to establish a permanent theatre in Swansea, but this had to be closed two years later on account of lack of support. The Arts Council further gave valuable support to the many small semi-professional drama festivals, which at that time were cropping up all round Wales, where some very significant new plays in Welsh were produced and many translations in Welsh of European classics were performed.
To jump rather quickly to the vital year in this story, 1961, at the end of that year the hopes of everybody interested in a Welsh National Theatre were very high. The St. David's Trust had asked the Cardiff City Council for a site upon which to build a National Theatre and they were guaranteed by the Cardiff City Council, in a magnificently generous way, what is probably one of the great theatre sites in Britain. The City Council also gave the Trust enthusiastic support in other ways, and even gave them a promise of support towards the building fund and towards running the theatre. By this time, the Trust's architect had prepared his plans, which were for a multi-purpose theatre, which would serve not only as a National Theatre but also as a concert hall and as an opera house for the Welsh National Opera Company, and which made it possible to increase or decrease the seating capacity by a system of raising or lowering the roof.
In their 1963–64 Report, the Welsh Committee of the Arts Council had this to say about the plans of the St. David's Trust:All the evidence gathered by the Welsh Committee suggests that, although multi-purpose theatres have been built in many parts of the world, they are unsatisfactory.There are several interesting things about this statement by the Welsh Committee. For instance, this is the first time that the Welsh Committee made any mention of the St. David's Trust in their Reports after four years of its existence. They still have not made any mention of the Cardiff City Council's generosity in guaranteeing the St. David's Trust a site for this theatre. So, not only have the Arts Council condemned the idea of a multi-purpose theatre—and I would say here that the Committee did not reveal the names of the experts whom they consulted, and there are plenty of experts in this country who would not agree with their condemnation 558 —but they also came out in favour of a small theatre seating 450 people. They have since agreed to increase the number to 700 seats. And the St. David's Trust have come down from a maximum of 1,500 to 800 seats. But behind this truce, which I think is probably an uneasy one, and behind this quite ridiculous compromise, that there should be either a small studio theatre or a big one, but nothing in between, is the fact that the Arts Council and the St. David's Trust have violently opposed concepts of how to form and build a National Theatre of Wales.
Things have been further complicated because the Welsh Committee have now changed their policy for their own company. In fact the Welsh Committee of the Arts Council have announced that they will cease their tours of theatreless towns, and instead build up gradually a permanent company with a permanent base in Cardiff. They have also stated that, in the light of experience of the past sixteen years, they will start a process of selecting and building up the facilities in four or five years as touring centres. To this end, in 1962 they formed their own Welsh Theatre Company. In their latest report they hint strongly that the Welsh Theatre Company should be, or is, the first step in the formation of a National Theatre Company, and it is impossible not to see and think that the Arts Council are setting themselves up as rivals to the St. David's Trust. This could be for good reasons, but it is a rather dangerous move. The St. David's Trust, in their turn, I fear, have been far too cautious, and would have fared better, and their fine concepts would have been damaged less, had they taken up a do-or-die stand some time ago.
The absurdity of this state of stalemate which exists between the Welsh Committee of the Arts Council and the St. David's Trust can best be summarised, I think, in this way. The Arts Council are not empowered to build a theatre, yet they have not shown very much cooperation or enthusiasm towards one body which has taken upon itself to build a theatre and raise the necessary money for this purpose. Not only that, but they have now started a rival idea and company, which they themselves finance, and are thereby in danger of setting themselves up as instigators of a National Theatre, 559 which is surely not a very desirable situation. We all know that if the Arts Council refuse to support an organisation of this sort everybody else will be cautious about giving it support.
So where does the hope lie? I feel that it is such a stalemate that perhaps Her Majesty's Government should step in. Here I am quite "green" about Government procedure: I do not know what sort of body of inquiry could be set up—whether it could be set up by Miss Lee or by the Secretary of State for Wales, or what. But I certainly think it essential that some body should be set up to mediate in this rivalry between the Welsh Committee of the Arts Council and the St. David's Trust. I suggest that such a body should collect any further evidence and information which they might think it necessary to have before the final idea and shape of a National Theatre is decided upon. Thirdly, they should decide how the board of governors of this theatre should be appointed. Fourthly, they should decide who appoints an artistic director of this theatre—and surely nothing will move until a director has been appointed. Fifthly, they should examine the possibilities of establishing a completely Welsh film industry.
B.B.C. Television have been responsible for some fine documentary films, and it is obvious that the talent behind these films could well move over to making films for the cinema. T.W.W. have also made some documentary films. Therefore, there is a real basis for a small film industry to start. The advantages of a film industry working closely with the National Theatre are manifestly obvious, particularly in a country like Wales. Finally, and most important, I suggest that this body should budget for the National Theatre's needs, and be able to put to the Government, in a most convincing form, the case for the National Theatre, and thereby be able to ask the Government for an assurance of a substantial annual grant to be paid directly to the Theatre Company or through the Arts Council.
Here may I say that I hope that the Government will go on considering Wales as a nation, and not just as another region of Britain. I feel that this is a matter of urgency. It would be sad to know that 560 more generations of children are to pass through school without there being a theatre in their country developing a culture which is rich in tradition and to which they are the rightful heirs. I would plead that Wales be allowed to "think big". After all, Wales generally, and South Wales in particular, is booming. In fact, those competent to judge of such matters say that Wales is the most booming part of Britain; and there is plenty more "boom" to come there yet. How can anybody seriously talk about building a "baby" National Theatre for Wales, when Cardiff and its catchment area contain 60 per cent. of the total population of Wales—in fact, it is on a similar footing, in size and population, to Newcastle and Tyneside—which is a country famed for its interest and achievements in education, and where the majority of the population are naturally interested in its culture?
There has been talk about Wales having no tradition, or only a slender tradition, in the theatre. This is an inaccurate statement to make. Wales has contributed almost as much to the British theatre as it has contributed to the British Labour Party. It must also be stressed that, because to date there has been no actual theatre in Wales, a large amount of potential Welsh theatre talent has found its niche in the Welsh B.B.C., and in its teaching, and in London and elsewhere. It would be fair to say, I think, that a large proportion of the best dramatic writing over the past thirty years is to be found in the archives of the B.B.C. in Cardiff. It is surely obvious that it is going to need a vital and efficiently run, and rather glamorous (in the good sense of the term), organisation if these people are to be persuaded to spend very much time working for it.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DROGHEDA
My Lords, owing to the departure of the noble Lord, Lord Amulree (I see that he has now returned to the Chamber, but I do not think it means he is going to take part in the debate), I am speaking in his place, and I find myself in the happy position of being surrounded by maidens. It is a great honour to be able to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dinevor, on his admirable maiden speech. It seemed to me to be slightly controversial, and I hope he will forgive me if I do not 561 follow him into these Welsh fastnesses of his, which I am afraid are very much unknown territory, so far as I am concerned. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, is to speak later in the debate, and no doubt he will wish to support Lord Dinevor's remarks. Certainly when the Royal Ballet Company go to Cardiff we find the theatres far from satisfactory.
I greatly welcome the White Paper, and I agree with a great deal that is contained in it. Its sentiments seem to me to be largely impeccable, and it must command support. I ought to explain to your Lordships that I have a personal interest, in that I am Chairman of the Royal Opera House, and for a long time past Covent Garden has been the largest single recipient of Government funds in this field. I know of no reason to suppose that that position is likely to be altered, and I should be very worried if it were likely to be altered. I feel that, while the grant which we receive is substantial, our contribution has not been an unworthy one. I think that we rank high among the great opera houses of the world, and one should remember that, in addition to housing an opera company of increasing excellence, we are also the home of the Royal Ballet, which has a unique international reputation. When talking about more widely disseminated support for the Arts Miss Jennie Lee has on more than one occasion said that nothing must be allowed to happen which might in any way impair the standards of the principal national institutions.
From Covent Garden's point of view, the prospect of greater endeavour outside London in the fields of opera and ballet is something which we wholeheartedly welcome. It has always seemed to me deplorable that there is no permanent opera house outside London; and the advantages which would accrue from the existence of one or more such houses would be great. Therefore, I warmly welcome the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, about the prospective development in Manchester. I have certain doubts how far a theatre-cum-opera house is going to be ideal for either Art, but I should be delighted to be proved wrong. In any event, the main thing is that something really looks like being done up there.
§ LORD BOWDEN
My Lords, perhaps I may explain that the proposal is to have an opera house and a theatre quite separately.
§ THE EARL OF DROGHEDA
I am sorry, I completely misunderstood the noble Lord. So much the better. I am sure that everyone in the provinces would agree that the maintenance of high standards at the centre is in the general interest, and I think it very important, therefore, as the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has said, that everyone should bear in mind that there are definite risks if the available resources are to be spread out too thinly. There is not, unfortunately, a limitless purse into which one can dip to finance all the desirable artistic enterprises, and I cannot help fearing that, if the number of recipients is to be greatly increased, the sums available for Covent Garden and the other national institutions such as Sadler's Wells, the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and so on, may prove to be inadequate.
It must be borne in mind that the requirements of all these institutions will inevitably grow. As the general level of wage rates rises, so will the wage rates paid by the subsidised theatres. Covent Garden is already in a very precarious financial position. We have a heavy bank indebtedness for reasons which are well enough known in Whitehall, and we can spend greater sums of money if we are to do the job properly. We cannot recover the full increase in costs by putting up our seat prices. If we were to attempt to do this, we should be taking serious risks with the level of attendances. In fact, we are almost certainly going to be obliged to put up our seat prices by 7½ per cent. this autumn, and, I should think, again the following autumn, although Miss Jenny Lee has said very clearly that she considers that our prices are already too high. But, whatever happens about our seat prices, I urge that the first task must be to sustain the existing national institutions, from whose activities should flow the standards of quality without which artistic endeavour is worth little. I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Snow, will be able to say something helpful on this point in his reply.
563 Greater local initiative is tremendously to be encouraged, but it must be borne in mind that with a few notable exceptions provincial centres themselves have not so far been over-generous in their own spending in the Arts; and I think they must be strongly encouraged in this direction. I have not so far been aware of any consistent effort being made to stimulate the necessary attitudes of mind in this respect.
In the Arts Council Report for 1961, some figures were given for the amount of local spending. It was stated then that approximately £300,000 was being spent by the municipalities on the Arts. The latest official figure which I have seen relates only to 1961–62; it is said the figure may be about £500,000. Since then, I have no doubt, it has gone up further, but the amount of money which could be spent under the Local Government Act, 1948, on Arts and entertainment is in the region of £50 million. So there is still a long way that they can go without asking anybody's further permission. I think probably the major problem in the Provinces at the present time is the shortage of suitable theatres, particularly for staging opera and ballet. In paragraph 95 of the White Paper there is a reference to the establishment of a building fund. The sum allocated for this purpose is only £250,000, which would not, I fear, go very far in relation to the cost of the provision of a new opera house. It might just about pay the fees. The Secretary of State for Education announced the other day that the cost of the buildings of the new National Theatre, including what were described by the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, as the subterranean works, has been revised up from £9½ million to £14½ million, and this is before work has started. I should be very sorry if the spending of this vast sum of money will in any way interfere with developments in the provinces, because it is a serious matter to find adequate theatres at the present time
At Covent Garden we have had a good deal of experience in this field, because one section of the Royal Ballet Company spends the greater part of the year in touring the provinces, and our difficulties are shared by Sadler's Wells which has an opera company permanently on tour. Until adequate theatres are available 564 throughout the provinces, they will not be in a position to appreciate either opera or ballet as they should be performed, and therefore I regret the inadequacies of the Government's contribution to the building fund.
There are two further matters to which I should like to refer briefly. First of all, paragraph 37 of the White Paper talks of the continuing responsibility of the British Council for displaying overseas the best of British drama, music, and the visual arts. This has already been touched upon by other noble Lords. One would think, from the way that this is worded, that a fairly substantial sum of money was expended annually by the British Council under this system; but in fact, as I pointed out in a speech last year, the sum involved is not much in excess of £100,000, which is in the region of 1 per cent. of the total British Council budget. I should therefore like to urge upon the Government that they should not follow the bad example of their predecessors, and that they should arrange for a significant increase in the sum of money made available to the British Council for artistic touring purposes.
In an admirable speech which he delivered at the Royal Academy banquet the Foreign Secretary referred to the importance of cultural exchanges, and to their value in creating what he referred to as a many coloured tapestry. I hope he realises that, with the present amount of money now being spent under this head, the British contribution to the tapestry is going to be somewhat lacking in colour. Compared with other countries, our spending in this respect is deplorably low, and I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Snow, to tell the House whether it is the Government's desire that a signnificantly larger sum should be spent upon these cultural exchanges, and also that there should be a much better system of planning in this field than exists at present. If we can afford hundreds of millions of pounds for armaments, I do not know why we cannot afford a few hundred thousand for showing the world the best of our artistic achievements, and I should have thought that this is something which would find a ready response from the present Government.
The other matter to which I should like to refer arises out of a rather bleak 565 little sentence in paragraph 85 of the White Paper. This paragraph deals with the problem of finance to permit greater expenditure on Arts. The sentence reads:One possible source is private contributions, which in the past have provided useful assistance on a modest scale.I feel that the scale of this assistance is bound to continue to be modest. The noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, expressed the hope that seven-year covenants on the part of businesses would be deductible for the purposes of corporation tax. I echo what he said, although I should like to go further. I have never been able to understand why we in this country are unwilling to follow the example of the United States of America and allow sums donated for artistic purposes, up to a small proportion of each person's income, to be deductible for purposes of taxation. Unless this is done, it is out of the question that important sums should be made available from private sources. I confess that I do not know the objection to adopting the American system, but we all know what enormous benefits have flowed from that system in America.
I do not know how far your Lordships are aware of the position in Germany, but there both corporations and individuals are allowed to deduct up to, in the case of corporations, 5 per cent. of their net revenue, and in the case of individuals 5 per cent. of their income, as donations to recognised causes, if the money is given through the intermediary of a Government or municipal agency, or through a public corporation. I think there is a great deal to be said for following this example. In Germany they also have another system whereby a corporation can give a very small percentage of its total turnover and wage bill. In fact the sum is 0.2 per cent. In Denmark there is some arrangement, although I am not sure of the details, and in Finland likewise.
I do not know why we are unwilling to take any steps in this direction. It is the policy of the Government that the amount of money expended on the Arts should be greatly increased, and this policy must command general favour, but if such support is always to be found directly from the Exchequer I can well foresee inhibitions in Whitehall when it comes 566 to agreeing to the amount. In any event, I believe that personal initiative in this field is greatly to be encouraged. Representations have been made to various Chancellors of the Exchequer in the past, without any success, despite the usual sympathetic murmurs. I urge that the matter should receive fresh consideration from the Government, and I hope in his reply the noble Lord, Lord Snow, will be able to agree to this request.
Finally, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, made some reference to the moving of Covent Garden Market and to the hope that if and when this happens the need of the Royal Opera House for expansion would be borne in mind. The move of the Market is, I fear, still many years away, but I should like to echo what the noble Earl said, because we desperately need an opportunity for improving the facilities of the Royal Opera House. I should like to express the hope that the vast sums which look like being spent on a new Opera House on the South Bank—not the home of Covent Garden—will not stand in the way of the needs of Covent Garden.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ LORD BIRKETT
My Lords, I, too, must crave your indulgence for speaking before your Lordships' House on the first occasion. I hope to avoid anything that might be construed as controversial in any real sense of the term, but I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to one or two matters which I regard as perhaps omissions from the White Paper, which in every other respect I, too, welcome. I would add my voice to those of the noble Lords who have spoken already in this debate in welcoming the White Paper as it stands and as a statement of intention. In many ways it seems to me to be more a statement of intention than a description of a first step, because it is perhaps too soon to expect even one step in many of the directions mentioned in the Paper.
It brings out one important point, which is the whole principle of State patronage. It is often said that with the decline in influence and, more importantly, in affluence of the great private patrons of the past, the State must of necessity take their place and provide patronage for the Arts. I think this is not the end of the matter; indeed, in 567 my view it is not even the beginning of the matter. The most difficult and thorny question is whether the public purse should pay at all for what is, in most cases, a small minority interest. I raise this point because I think it is important, if only in order that it may be subsequently destroyed.
I have noticed recently on the radio, and indeed on television, several discussions, arguments and debates raging round this point, including one in which Miss Lee was among those present. There never seems to be time to give a really adequate answer. Of course, it may be argued that even though attendances at concerts and subscriptions to all forms of artistic schemes, and attendances at art galleries, are all rising, interest in the Arts remains a very small minority interest. I think statistically this is inescapable. The question remains, is it right and proper in a country that is democratically-minded that the many who do not appear to want the Arts at all should directly and indirectly pay for those who do? Indeed, on one of these programmes I think the question was put most succinctly by somebody who said, "The Beatles, after all, draw no subsidy from the Arts Council".
I think there are two answers to this, and it is important that one should regard them both together. The first is surely that no system of taxation, no system of rates, can ever be singled out item by item, ratepayer or taxpayer by ratepayer or taxpayer. The individuals who make up a nation are, I think—and I say it with some humility, for I am no expert in financial matters—taxed or rated or generally burdened with financial burdens for the sake of the whole fabric of the Realm rather than for each individual element within it. If only those people paid taxes who directly received some benefit from them, I doubt whether there is a tax in the country which would stand up under that principle.
More important than this, which is possibly arguable as a matter of financial philosophy, is the historical conception of the Arts. I think it is a truism to say that the Arts of one day become the popular Arts of the next day. It is demonstrably true, however. The Beatles, 568 or indeed any popular music of to-day, could not and would not exist without a whole series of influences going back to Mozart—specifically, not in a general sense. I think this is true in all the Arts. They progress historically forward, and as they do so they influence far more than the Arts themselves. I feel that a painter has a far greater influence than his exhibition alone; he influences more people than merely those who visit his exhibition. The influence that he has extends to design, through conceptions of colour and of shape, and may be seen in everyday things as well as in paintings or in the more obvious things such as architecture, where quite clearly the design is bound to affect the environment of every individual who walks down the street.
Most important of all in this direction is language. We pride ourselves on having a very rich and flexible language. It is not merely by common usage that this language has become so rich and flexible, but surely by the admixture of common usage and the great literature of the past, and of the present for the matter of that. It is for this reason that I welcome particularly the Government's intention not in any way to influence the taste or restrict the liberty of artists. I should like to quote the whole sentence again:No one would wish State patronage to dictate taste or in any way restrict the liberty of even the most unorthodox and experimental of artists.I hope it is symbolic that that appears in paragraph I of the White Paper, because it seems to me a most important principle.
The noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, has brought your Lordship's attention to the dangers of political censorship under totalitarian régimes, and, heaven knows! this is a more serious danger than that to which I am about to refer. There is also a danger, I think, from the natural inclination of everybody to regard himself as the best critic available. Everybody, I feel, likes to think of himself as the best critic of paintings, of films, of theatre, of anything he sees. This is particularly dangerous when works which are publicly subsidised in some way are difficult, are spiky, thorny, unattractive or even plain unintelligible. It tends to 569 create an immense resentment in the minds of a large majority of those seeing them. And I think that all experimental art, all new art, is to the end of time liable to remain caviar to the general, at least to the general of the generation in which it is produced. I think it is noticeable that the more rarefied Arts are the ones which appeal to the fewest, and they are at the same time the most expensive.
There is perhaps even now a gap growing between the public and the experimental artist. What was caviar to the general perhaps fifty years ago may now be perfectly acceptable. But as "the general" increases in size, as the number of people who wish to attend concerts and go to galleries and take part in all forms of artistic endeavour increases, so it would seem that the distance between the general public and the avant-garde in all the Arts increases. I say it "seems" so because it does appear to most of us, I believe—and I am sure many of your Lordships will share my worries on this subject—that twelve tone music, abstract sculpture and painting, avant-garde and experimental theatre and the like are very far removed from anything one has experienced before and indeed from anything one can properly and immediately comprehend. I wonder however whether in fifty years' time we shall look back and agree that the gap was increasing. The history of art is littered with illustrations of first performances, first exhibitions where contemporary critics have said, "A bold, amazing, daring innovation"; yet when we look back at half these works they seem to us merely pretty or tuneful, now alarming neither in their novelty nor in any other way; but they alarmed critics at the time. And I believe this situation will continue for many years to come. People believe that the gap between the public and avant-garde is widening.
Indeed, in your Lordships' House there were some pointed questions raised about the purchase by one of our great galleries of a painting by Picasso, and I think I detected beneath those questions not merely puzzlement as to the meaning of the work of art involved, but some doubt as to whether it should be called a work of art and some serious doubt as to its ultimate value. I dare say many of 570 your Lordships shared those doubts, if I am correct in diagnosing that they were there. Yet to-day Picasso is almost an old master by comparison with half the artists one can see proudly hung in expensive galleries in the centre of London. So in regard to experimental theatre or experimental painting or experimental film making, I should like to think that the most unorthodox and experimental of artists will go on for many years enjoying protection from any restriction on their liberty. As State patronage grows, as undoubtedly it will and must, it is all the more important that their liberty should be more strictly safeguarded.
It is for this reason that I must declare a special pleasure in noting that the three theatres mentioned specifically in the preliminaries of the report dealing with the Arts Council's present grants—three big theatres are mentioned, the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the English Stage Company—are all noted for their experimental work. And here perhaps I should declare an interest as I am a governor of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I find it particularly encouraging to note that experiments flourish in a company dedicated to and founded on the performing of our greatest dramatic hero. I think it particularly interesting that experiment should be conducted in the theatre specifically to help and to illumine the company's work on Shakespeare. I find this not merely a progressive and stimulating attitude but one whose results are becoming more apparent every year as the company progresses.
Within the theatre experiment is, I think, particularly rife. It is for this reason that I am especially disappointed at one particular omission from the White Paper. Here again I should declare an interest as I am by profession a film maker. The omission is that of any reference to film making except for a slight drawing aside from the problem under the convenient cloak of the Monopolies Commission, which is at the moment considering many of the internal problems of the industry. It is true that the British Film Institute is mentioned, but mentioned more as an institution and guardian of the history and indeed the literature of the cinema rather than as an active participant in film making. 571 The truth of the matter is that the British Film Institute, which already enjoys State support, has often wanted to be interested in film-making, has often wanted to make some contribution to producing new artists, new talent, new techniques, but has never yet found the funds. It has had, and it runs, an experimental film-group, but it has never had anything like enough funds to make more than what perhaps your Lordships will forgive me for describing as almost an abortive effort, not in quality but in the amount it is able to do; and for the present it is able to do no more.
We in this country still have no national film school. We have a film industry that has produced over many years a great number of films, of many of which this country can be sincerely proud. In these circumstances, the lack of a national film school seems extraordinary. Most countries of Europe have flourishing, almost old-established film schools, where young artists and technicians can learn their trade and from which they can proceed into the industry and enrich it—as in Europe they often do. One has only to look at the Polish Film School and the results achieved in the ordinary feature and documentary films that are made there to see how important it can be. I say that we have no school yet. There are steps in hand, I know; and I know that the Government are seriously concerned with the possibilities of a film school, the best way to set it up and the best way to give it support. Nevertheless, in this year of 1965 we are still without an officially recognised film school.
We are also without any real attitude towards films as an art. I think it was noticeable from the White Paper—it refers merely to films as being under discussion by the Monopolies Commission—that there is an attitude which implies that films can very well look after themselves, because they have always done so in the past and because, for the most part, they are expensive, glamorous and entirely popular entertainment. This has been true of the large volume of film production since it first began—indeed, since it was first a side show, a peep show. Because this is so, however, it should not blind those responsible for 572 Government policy towards the Arts from looking at films also as an art. I find the present attitude, which is perhaps not stated but I feel to be inherent in a good deal of thinking, of those in high authority on the subject, to be roughly comparable to saying, "We need take no account of literature because paper-back thrillers sell well from the bookstalls."
I think your Lordships will be relieved to know that I do not intend to put forward a series of concrete proposals. To start with, I have no authority to do so, I have no particular wish to do so, and now, at any rate, will not be the time—at the moment of a publication entitled First Steps—to put forward any concrete proposals on the subject. I should, however, like to end simply by reinforcing this view to the Government and to those responsible for the White Paper: that films can, and must, be considered as many things other than a self-contained, self-sufficient and self-supporting industry. An industry it is, an art it is, and one capable of giving pleasure to many millions, to but few people, to cultured and to uncultured audiences, to specialised audiences and to generalised audiences. I hope that your Lordships will agree with me in urging that any future policy on the Arts from the Government should include thinking on films and film-making which is not restricted to thinking of it as purely a commercial industry.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
My Lords, I, too, should like to add my thanks to my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams for initiating this debate. I sympathise with him, too, in his arguments on authors, with but one reservation, and I hope something will one day be done about this. The reservation is that authors do what comes naturally to them and what they like. This is one of the most desirable things in life, and usually is not well rewarded.
I have particular pleasure in congratulating Lord Birkett on his outstanding maiden speech. I have particular pleasure for two reasons—first, that he is the son of his most illustrious father, who, I am told, made one of his greatest speeches on preserving the beauties of the Lake District. The other reason is that I agree with everything, he said and wish to follow up some of the things he said.
573 I should like to congratulate the Government on the White Paper. The first steps are quite small, but one hopes that from them there will be great strides. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in a speech not so bland as one is accustomed to hear from him when he is speaking on defence or aviation—rather acidulated, I would say, for him—took but little account of the economic difficulties of the Government, particularly when he referred to the money that we have allocated for the United Nations and compared that amount and the way it was done with the money given to the Arts Council.
One has the feeling, after reading this Report, that the Government want to take advantage of the great cultural renaissance that is going on in this country. Other countries are well aware of this. Our playwrights are having an enormous success, both in America and on the Continent. At the moment, the Americans are consulting one of the members of our Arts Council with a view to setting up their own Arts Council. There is now as much decline in private patronage in the States as there is here. I do not quite understand the proposals that have been made for private patronage, but this is a fact, and Mr. Abercrombie has gone over to discuss this particular American Arts Council with the Americans.
Even in the setting up of the British Crafts Council (which is not so much the Cinderella of the Arts but the orphan) I can discover no Government Department which is responsible for the crafts. The British Crafts Council has inspired the setting up of an International Crafts Council, with fifty-two member countries—a veritable non-political United Nations—to promote the crafts. With the advent of mechanisation there has been a decline of activity in the crafts. But the coming of automation, paradoxically, should compensate for this. I am told that automation depends on engineering, and engineering depends on the crafts. To-day, we run the danger of letting our hands atrophy, and we should prolong and expand the teaching of the crafts in schools to meet the needs of increasing leisure, if for nothing else.
Paragraph 67 says that the Government are aware of the contribution to education and leisure which the crafts 574 make. But the most important and significant paragraph for me is paragraph 77. Here, I am sorry not to agree with Lord Cottesloe, the recent Chairman of the Arts Council, to whom we owe a great tribute. Paragraph 77 goes right to the heart of the matter, and it is really a leap forward, because the Arts have been put where they truly belong. The Arts have been taken away from the Treasury and transferred to the Ministry of Education. They now have a Parliamentary Under-Secretary to speak for them. This is a good thing.
In the minds of most people, as Lord Birkett has said, there is still the idea that the Arts are a kind of self-indulgence, a luxury—caviar, as he said, an acquired taste; something special, but not essential to life, and most expensive. Again, as Lord Birkett said, when Miss Jennie Lee and Sir Edward Boyle were interviewed on I.T.V. after the document was published, this view of the Arts was immediately expressed. The interviewer, a clever lady who should have known better, started by sayingMiss Lee, why do you want to subsidise the Arts? Why do you not subsidise the Beatles or subsidise whisky?I am not particularly averse to a small subsidy on whisky. Taken in moderation, it does good and spreads happiness.
The truth is that putting the Arts under the Secretary of State for Education goes right to the heart of the matter. The Arts prolong adult education throughout life. The adult education which one can receive in evening classes is one thing, and I would class it under adult instruction. But there is no limit to the fields of adult education throughout life of which one can take advantage when one has an interest in the Arts. The Government of the country are continually engaged in expanding compulsory education so that more and more people can become better educated in all sorts of ways. This is difficult enough, and needs more and more money.
When it comes to the Arts, the idea is prevalent among enthusiasts that there is a public ravenous for culture. I believe this to be a fallacy, unrealistic and unhelpful—sometimes even dangerous—in promoting the best in the Arts. Nobody will deny that there is a large public where an appetite for the Arts can be stimulated. But there is so little money 575 available that a very careful administrative job has to be done in distributing it both fairly and profitably. Enthusiasm which runs to sentimentality frightens local authorities which are not taking as great a share in the promotion of the Arts as they should. I heard that one Council, representing 40,000 people, requested suggestions for artistic projects. They received so many that they thought it invidious to choose: therefore they made no allocation whatever.
But if this is uncommunicable enthusiam and frightens local authorities, it petrifies trade unions who do even less for the Arts. One of the most fervent crusaders for the Arts is Arnold Wesker. I think that his project for an Arts Centre at Camden Town is an excellent one, but I deplore the sentimentality which lies behind his appeal. The idea is, he says:…ultimately to present all artistic work free to the community.One has only to look round to see the fallacy of this when one finds the rank and file actors in the Provinces not earning as much as unskilled labourers. How can such magnificent efforts as the Nottingham Repertory Theatre survive on such a far-flung hope?
Such loose thinking undermines good administration. For instance, in paragraph 53 the Government approve Arnold Wesker's idea of having groups of fully professional artists ready to respond to calls on their services from other parts of the country—a free culture service like the Health Service, or a sort of mail-order depot for artists. I deplore the idea of putting the Arts under "Welfare". I prefer the businesslike attitude which is taken in a recommendation of the Goodman Report on the London Orchestras, which suggests, "No subsidies without strings." The orchestras will get their grants if they comply with certain conditions.
I was most interested in Lord Drogheda's plea for Covent Garden, where subsidies for opera are so large that they almost seem extravagant, especially as most of the seats are so expensive. This is where, somehow, we lag behind countries on the Continent. There opera appears to be more democratically administered. But let us not forget that a distinguished opera house is one of the 576 biggest attractions of a capital city. It is a shop window for the world; it is a magnet for tourists from abroad and visitors from the Provinces. Perhaps also it is compensation for those who put up with the noise and overcrowding of the city. I only wish we could subsidise the opera so that there were more seats at more modest prices.
Finally, the sophisticated pleasures of the Arts, desirable as they are for a fuller life, require that the seeds for the education and knowledge necessary to appreciation must be sown early in the schools, both primary and secondary. It is possible, but more difficult, to generate a spontaneous interest later in life; but certainly for painting and music one has to sow the seeds pretty early. Therefore, much encouragement should be given in schools. The White Paper will give encouragement to all who are engaged in the Arts and will make it difficult for any future Government to go back on its proposals for a more coherent policy on the Arts generally.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, I join with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, for having introduced this Motion. Had he not done so I was considering introducing a similar Motion myself, though I doubt if I should have done it so ably as he did. The title of the White Paper gave me rather serious doubts at first, but I was encouraged when I read the first paragraph, which assures us that there is no intention to influence the path along which our Arts shall go. The last thing on earth we want is controlled art. That is where I differ from one other noble Lord, who suggested that a full-scale Fine Arts Ministry should be set up. The danger is that such a Ministry would try to determine the pattern of our art, and independent art would be a thing of the past.
However, I share the doubts expressed by my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, about the transfer of payments from the Treasury to the Ministry of Education and Science. The noble Lord, Lord Bowden, said that Treasury administration was rather anomalous, but I do not consider that it was administration at all. The administration was done by the Arts Council. All the Treasury did was to give the money, which is surely a most 577 appropriate function for them. I only wish that they could give a little more. I hope that the Ministry will not try to influence the Arts Council as to how the money is distributed.
The White Paper certainly shows that the Government are becoming increasingly aware of the necessity of encouraging and supporting art; but, as its title implies, these are only the first steps. In fact, it does not contain very much that those of us who have any connection with the Arts do not already know. Nevertheless, it is an encouraging step.
I should like to congratulate the two maiden speakers who, unfortunately, are no longer here. I should like to mention something which the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, said during his speech. He was saying that art is for the minority rather than the majority, and therefore the majority should not have to pay for it. That seems to me a rather false argument. I daresay that always throughout history art has been the interest of the minority, but if we are not to have art we shall cease to remain a civilised country. Since the majority pay for most of the things which concern certain minorities, I do not see that there should be any exception in this case. The noble Lord mentioned the fact that the Beatles get no subsidy from the Arts Council. Well, my Lords, I should be the last one to object to the Beatles obtaining a subsidy from the Arts Council if they needed it; but fortunately they are popular enough not to require it. They have no fees to pay to any orchestral players, since they do all the work themselves, and their engagements are invariably crowded out.
I should now like to refer to one subject which has so far been rather left unmentioned during this debate, and that is the state of our orchestras. I think that few people realise what a frightful financial difficulty it is to keep an orchestra going. One has only to read the Goodman Report to see what problems each of our major orchestras are up against—and this applies not only to the major orchestras but to the chamber orchestras as well. I should like to read a letter which appeared in The Times on June 3 from Mr. John Trevelyan, who is the Chairman of Philomusica, a rather small 578 chamber orchestra but one of our very noted ones. He said:Your Music Critic comments unfavourably on inadequate programmes supplied for Philomusica of London's concert of Bach Cantatas at the Royal Festival Hall yesterday, and complains that the programmes did not give the words of the Cantatas performed. The reason for this is that the orchestra cannot afford to lose financially on the programmes in addition to the heavy loss which such concerts inevitably produce.Unfortunately the public do not seem to be aware that it is almost impossible for a small specialised orchestra to provide a concert without sustaining a fairly heavy financial loss. The promotion costs of this particular concert amounted to approximately £1,000, of which not more than £450 was paid to the performers for rehearsals and concert. The takings amounted to approximately £600. The balance comes partly from the Arts Council grant, but a considerable proportion has to come from private contributions.We have to cut costs wherever possible without any loss of artistic standards, and one way in which we can do this is by having the simplest of programmes without programme notes. To have included the words of the Bach Cantatas would have increased the cost of the programme to an amount which we would not have been able to recover from the sales.We who struggle to provide good music played by an orchestra with an international reputation sometimes wonder why we continue to do so.That is not the only orchestra in which that is the case. All of our four major orchestras in London—the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, the New Philharmonia and the Royal Philharmonic (I do not mention the B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra, because their position is perfectly assured), are under the same difficulties. Every concert results in a heavy loss, which is only partially made good by the Arts Council grant.
It is often asked: can London support four major orchestras? They do not play only in London. Their headquarters are in London, it is true, but they play all over the world. The London Symphony Orchestra, for instance, together with the Bach Choir, went to Italy last year, and within the course of five days they gave four performances of Britten's War Requiem; and I think it was the London Symphony Orchestra which went recently with another choir to Japan and had a quite phenomenal reception there. So there is no doubt that, as has been already said, music is one of our greatest exports.
579 I should like to quote now from paragraph 43 of the Goodman Report, which says:We should in passing mention that our attention was drawn to examples of Continental orchestras, such as the Berlin Philharmonic and the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. These were offered to us as models of how an orchestra should be financed but the situation of these orchestras, each of which is the main one providing music for a great city, is very different from that of the four orchestras ministering to the needs of London.I do not altogether agree with that statement. One must remember that London is certainly more than four times the size of either of those two cities, and therefore it should be perfectly capable of supporting four orchestras. There is a good deal to be said for zoning these orchestras; in other words, having their headquarters in various parts of London, not all grouped at the centre and not all performing at the Royal Festival Hall or the Albert Hall. But, of course, the difficulty there is that it entails the building of more concert halls, which is a vital need to-day, not only in London but all over the country. We must have more concert halls of a reasonable size in order to be able to give concerts by orchestras of any size, and in very few of even our major cities can one find those.
I should perhaps declare a small interest, since I happen to be Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Royal Philharmonic, which is now, so to speak, zoning itself by giving weekly concerts at the Odeon Theatre at Swiss Cottage, but of course that is not a very satisfactory place. The acoustics of a cinema theatre are not ideal for an orchestra and, incidentally, it is not big enough for any performance to get back from the sale of tickets the returns which our expenses demand. The expense of building these new concert halls would admittedly be very large, but one must remember that once they are built they are there for future generations to enjoy.
Also there should be support for small chamber groups, string quartets and other smaller chamber groups; and, also, the Arts Council would do well to give a little support to music publishers. Music publishers to-day are in a very bad way; in fact, so much so that one of our best known publishers have refused to publish anything in future unless they are 580 quite assured that it is going to be what could reasonably be called a best seller or is at any rate going to bring in a profit. This is probably going to rule out publication of an enormous amount of really worthwhile music.
Suppose a composer writes something for a not very normal combination—such as, say, a trio for horn, clarinet and piano. It may be excellent and worthwhile music, and very well worth preserving, but it will not be published simply because it will not have a very large sale. That is where I think composers are suffering; the publishers are simply not taking new works unless they are quite certain that they are going to be very saleable. There is no doubt that education in the Arts is a most vital thing, as has been said in the White Paper. The noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, mentioned the I.Q. of authors, but I think an even more questionable thing is the I.Q. of those who read their books. I think that the standard of books would probably rise to a much higher level if the I.Q. of the average population were a little higher—and again, of course, that can be done only by education.
So far as music is concerned, it is a difficult problem, because not only have you got to have the funds and the facilities for teaching music; but you must have your teachers; and they are not easy to find. Really good music teachers are very few and far between, because not only have you to be a good and capable musician with a sound knowledge of the subject yourself, but you must have that little extra something for putting it over to your pupils and arousing their enthusiasm in the subject. It is a very exhausting and a very wearing life. It can be very rewarding, of course, but, unfortunately, as I say, it is not easy to find many people who can do it really efficiently. I only hope, therefore, that as time goes on we shall establish more teacher training colleges throughout the country. That is a vital need.
The noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, mentioned the crafts, and I should like to say a word on them before I sit down. I feel very strongly that the crafts should be recognised much more. In the past we have been accustomed to speak about the Arts and the crafts as though there was a very firm line of demarcation 581 between them, but in reality the line is very hard to define. Some of the higher crafts are really Arts in their own right. I do not know how many of your Lordships have been to that excellent exhibition of the Crafts Council in Haymarket; I have, and I must say that I was astounded at some of the really beautiful workmanship, which was really quite as inspired as any art. So I most certainly think that the crafts should have support and gain recognition. My Lords, I have not said much that has not been said, and said better, by former speakers, but I hope that Her Majesty's Government will remember that to-day the orchestras are in a very difficult position, and that they will do something to make that position easier.
§ 6.45 p.m.
My Lords, we are talking to-day on the patronage of the Arts. It is very difficult to assess how much is in fact spent on the Arts in Britain, as there are so many different bodies involved: the central Government, the local authorities, many official and private bodies and large numbers of the public in general. The expenditure by individual members of the community on art is enormous; and, as the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, pointed out, the old idea that Britain was a country of Philistines is no longer true. I should like to take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, in spite of his admirable maiden speech, when he says that art is a minority interest. Hundreds of thousands of people not only visit the free national museums but also pay large sums every year in fees for admission to private collections.
Nowadays, we are all patrons of the Arts. As indicators, I would suggest that one looks at the increase in the sale of art books, both in hard covers and in paper-backs, or at the phenomenal increase in the sale of gramophone records. The problem is not only that the public buys and studies other people's artistic efforts, but there is a large increase in the creation of artistic products by the individual citizen. The whole of Britain to-day is full of voluntary groups. There are music societies, there are amateur dramatic groups and there are frequent local art shows. We have become a nation of "do-it 582 yourself" in every branch of the Arts. With increasing leisure, tens of thousands of people, old and young, become not only consumers but producers—and not only producers, but people who are willing to pay to provide enjoyment for others. For example, there are the local enthusiasts who have subscribed large sums to build and run local theatres, such as in Chichester, and recently in Guildford, as my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams has mentioned.
To-day, there may be very few big patrons, but the big ones that have gone have been replaced by thousands of small patrons. Not only has art itself been democratised, but the patronage of the Arts has been democratised. At the top, we still have Royal patronage, which has changed into Government patronage, but at the bottom we have hundreds of thousands of small patrons. Perhaps the only group who are not yet pulling their weight are the local authorities, as was mentioned by my noble friend Lady Gaitskell. But we must remember that it is only since 1948—that is to say, seventeen years—that they have had legal authority to levy rates for this purpose. In the life of a country which yesterday celebrated the 700th anniversary of Simon de Montfort's Parliament, seventeen years is a very short time. Some local authorities have made excellent use of their legal powers. In others, the councillors are preoccupied with more mundane matters—for example, public housing. With rates as heavy as they are to-day, they are unwilling to raise them, even by a fraction of a penny. But I must point out to your Lordships that the remedy is in the hands of the local art-lovers. They should elect councillors who will spend money on the Arts—because I do not accept the view that those interested in the Arts are a small minority.
The central Government, however, are still the main source of patronage of the Arts, as this White Paper shows. Many different Ministries are involved. Some people have suggested centralisation of control in a Ministry of the Arts. Unlike the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, I do not favour a single Ministry of the Arts. I do not believe in centralisation for centralisation's sake. On the contrary, I would do the reverse: I would increase the number of separate channels for the 583 flow of tax money into the Arts. There are many diverse forms of art, different groups of producers, different groups of consumers, a large number of different areas. All these different channels should be exploited.
It may be true that Britain's total expenditure on the Arts lags behind that of some countries. My noble friend Lady Gaitskell, speaking in a debate in your Lordships' House a year ago, gave some figures pointing particularly to Germany, which my noble friend Lord Bowden also mentioned to-day. It is well known that in Germany, as a result of the division of the country among the princes, many cities have State theatres. I am not sure, however, that a National Theatre will solve the problems of dramatic art in Britain; although it is better than none. National Theatres create new problems, as the National Theatres in France have shown, where actors become civil servants and are promoted from one grade to the other, very often on the grounds of seniority. It is not a very flexible system.
We are debating to-day Government policy in the Arts. The White Paper is an impressive document, but I venture to submit to your Lordships that it does not do justice to what is being done. My noble friend Lord Bowden spoke of patronage of the Arts by radio and television. It is mentioned in the White Paper in paragraph 72; but it has been dismissed on the ground that the Government are not responsible. Constitutionally, this is true. But the Government set up the B.B.C.; they established its Charter; they periodically review its activities; they are blamed for its occasional failings. I think they are entitled to take part of the credit for its many achievements.
The B.B.C. to-day is one of the greatest patrons of the Arts. Let us take music as an example—I am talking of serious music, and not of popular music, like that of "The Beatles", who I understand are envisaging changing their name to "The M.B. Eatles." But, to deal with serious music, in the last printed Report of the B.B.C., that for 1963/64, your Lordships will see that 2,500 hours of serious music were broadcast in one year on four different programmes, in 584 addition to 5,300 hours of serious music programmes originating in the regions. This means a total output of serious music of something like 20 hours a day, and on each day a different set of programmes. This is a great deal of music.
Music on the B.B.C. is an item of very heavy expense. Copyright has to be paid to the composers, fees to the performers and salaries to a large number of technicians. But thanks to the B.B.C., the financial position of the B.B.C Orchestra, as the noble Lord, Lord Somers said, is assured. The B.B.C. maintains several permanent orchestras, not only the Symphony Orchestra in London, but the Northern Orchestra in Manchester, the Scottish Orchestra in Glasgow and the Welsh Orchestra in Cardiff. There are also the B.B.C. Concert Orchestra, which is not quite so classical, and the B.B.C. Choral Society. So, the B.B.C. is truly a royal patron of music. And this patronage is not paid for from taxes but from the fees paid by licence-holders.
Apart from the enjoyment of music by millions, it gives employment to thousands. It employs all kinds of musicians, under contracts both long and short; it employs conductors, instrumentalists, soloists and composers. The B.B.C. not only broadcasts thousands of musical works but gives many first performances; in other words, it launches new works on the air. In the year that I mentioned, 1963/64, 67 works were given their first performance on the B.B.C., and in 1964/65 the figure was even larger. In addition to these first performances, which work out at something like three a month, the B.B.C. commissions new works and pays for them; and this is a great opportunity for new composers, for the Mozarts and Haydns of our day. In 1964, it commissioned 21 works from 21 different composers: and another five have been commissioned for the Aldeburgh Festival this year.
The B.B.C. is the same generous, imaginative patron in drama. One thousands hours of radio drama are broadcast by the B.B.C. each year. Just think of the steady employment that is given to dramatists and actors. There are another 400 hours of television drama which brings in actors and stage designers, 585 to say nothing of all the technicians. Even that most elusive of the Arts, poetry, is broadcast for 60 hours a year. Not only are the poets paid but also the actors who read their works. Incidentally, the poets themselves are not necessarily the best readers of their own verse; it often requires a trained actor to bring out the beauty of the poetry. All this, incidentally, makes up for the great and increasing difficulty of getting poetry published in the little magazines which, as we all know, have a notoriously heavy mortality.
I have had myself something to do with planning radio programmes. I once ran a small radio station for three years. It was during the last three years of the Palestine B.B.C. Service, which was in fact an offshoot of the B.B.C. The previous Controllers of Programmes had all come out from the B.B.C. and I was sent to the B.B.C. here for training. One of the things I discovered was that the B.B.C., because they do so much, have great difficulty in supplying music and drama of an adequately high level. I wonder whether your Lordships realise the voracious appetite of a great network like the B.B.C. for good material? It is like running half-a-dozen variety theatres for 24 hours a day with new programmes daily for each of them. The great listening public, millions of them, are not content with repeat programmes, just as theatre audiences are not content with revivals, even of the classics. They want new material and good material. The B.B.C. naturally aims high, but there is just not enough good material to go round. When publishing a newspaper, there is never space for everything, but it is always difficult to find first-class material to publish.
One of the problems of broadcasting, whether radio or television, State or independent, is the lowering of standards with the increasing quantity of output. This was one of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, in his maiden speech. There is just not all that number of geniuses available, and some spots have to be filled in with the second-rate. This is not the fault of the B.B.C.; it is part of the "democratisation" of the Arts. One's problems have not ended when one finds someone who is a genius, 586 someone the public likes, who becomes very popular. One has to be very careful to take him off and give someone else a chance. When that is done there is at once a public demand for him to be returned to the microphone. One of the first things which I was taught when I went to the B.B.C. was to take off a star before he became too popular. Once he is popular it is almost impossible to take him off. That sometimes applies to political commentators who are Members of either of the Houses of Parliament. The problem is, what happens to the man once he is taken off? When a great network is under a single control, as the B.B.C. is, if a man is taken off there is often nowhere else for him to go. So being a patron of the Arts in a modern State is not always easy.
I should like to end with a few remarks about the problem of the Arts in particular in a Welfare State. It is not only a question of the lowering of standards through the increase of demand. The fact is that audiences become more and more conformist. This is very understandable in the small countries which have Welfare States, like Sweden and New Zealand. I have been to New Zealand where they have remarkable achievements to their credit. There is little poverty and a high standard of living. But society there has become so much a one-class society that it is very largely comformist. This is due partly to its isolation. It is very difficult to find the money required to take an orchestra or a theatre company to New Zealand; it does not pay. That may be a special case, but with the "democratisation" of the Arts it is not easy for the unusual—as the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, pointed out—to become established and to flourish.
In New Zealand the poet or the ballet dancer, for example, finds the atmosphere uncongenial. Most of them have to go elsewhere. The question remains in a Welfare State—it may become a question in this country: How does one maintain artistic vitality? This is one of the subjects on which I was lecturing last winter in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in a course on "The Welfare State". My answer is that if a Welfare State makes the maximum use of the machinery of the State for economic and social purposes, why does it not do the same for cultural 587 needs? In other words, the State has to be more and more involved. I use the expression "the State" in the widest possible sense. It has to be more and more involved at every level as the great patron of the Arts. I say—at all levels, central Government, local government and statutory authorities such as the B.B.C., together with big foundations which have done so much for the libraries and other cultural services, and those private non-profit organisations, for example, Glyndebourne. If all these could be roped in to secure vitality in the Arts in the Welfare State I think we should be doing credit to this country. As I say, I do not suggest a central Ministry of the Arts, but we need a Government point of view and Government enthusiasm. These, I venture to submit, we have in the latest White Paper, which I personally warmly welcome.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, had it not been that the two speakers ahead of me have withdrawn. I should have had to do likewise, and therefore I am grateful to them. As it happens, I must leave immediately after making my speech, for which I deeply apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Snow. I hesitated about whether I should speak at all. I shall not make the speech in general terms which I was going to make, but come to one or two particular points in order not to waste the time of the House. I had intended to draw attention particularly to paragraphs 5, 6 and 14 of the White Paper. Possibly the noble Lord may have something to say about them in his winding-up speech.
It was only when we had the last speech, a most interesting one, by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, that the particular aspect of the Arts in a democratic community was fully touched on. I feel that there is still too much and intellectualism in the field of the Arts, not necessarily among the artists but among many of those who surround them. On the other hand, we have to be careful not to get the uncomprehending conformism, to which the noble Viscount referred, by going too far. I shall not go further on this point, but it has some bearing upon the part of the local authorities and regional art councils, if 588 that is what they are to be called—art associations—in this matter.
I was rather interested to read, under the sub-title "Provincial Museums and Galleries", that local authorities which spent their ratepapers' money would find that this expenditure does not qualify when calculating General Grant. That seemed to be in the form of a mere statement, and I am wondering whether there there is any possibility in the mind of the Government that such expenditure might in the future rank for General Grant. When it comes to the consideration of Section 132 of the Local Government Act, 1938, I thought it most revealing—as my noble friend Lord Drogheda pointed out—that if local authorities took full advantage of this permission to use a 6d. rate to spend on the Arts and associated amenities, they could spend up to £50 million a year; whereas they are probably spending only £500,000. Obviously we should then run into the danger, by spending so much, as was pointed out by the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell—who made a very wise speech—of forcing art on those who do not want it.
We have to be selective in some respects—I am sure of that—but, at the same time, I hope that local authorities will be persuaded to spend rather more on the Arts than they do at the present time. I should welcome an extension of this power to spend up to a 6d. rate to the county councils, who, apparently, do not have it at present. That is mentioned in paragraph 38 of the White Paper. The Greater London Council does possess that power. It seems to me it would be a very good way for these local authorities, especially county councils, to co-operate with the regional Art organisations that may exist, the most notable one of which is that in my own part of the world, in the North-East.
I want to refer briefly to what the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, said about authors in his opening speech. I am grateful to him for raising the whole subject. Here I have no axe to grind—apart from indulging (I think that is the right word in my case) in a little journalism before the war, and apart from having in a drawer an unpublished masterpiece which was turned down by three publishers some 18 years ago, I have no interest to declare. But what would life be without books? The whole community 589 depends upon them. We are educated by books at school and we educate ourselves with them after school—or we ought to be educated by them. I am one of the first to claim that I have been educated by books after I left school. And in addition to their tremendous importance in social life, they represent a considerable export, apart from royalities received by firms overseas who publish English books.
It seems to me incredible that 500 million books are borrowed every year through the public lending libraries and the authors receive practically nothing for this. That cannot be right. I am sure that if it were explained to people who borrow books that they are not doing any particular good to the people who produce them, they would be only too willing to make a small contribution. It seems to me a gross injustice that the people who depend on professional writing for a living get almost nothing from the public libraries. I should not like the noble Lord. Lord Snow, to go away thinking that his noble friend behind him had no support elsewhere on this matter.
But it is not only a question of lending libraries. Other countries, notably Sweden and France, give grants to authors, and to painters and sculptors as well. They give grants to those who need help at the beginning of their careers, as is pointed out in the White Paper. They also guarantee a living income in exceptional cases for a period of years, and give pensions to artists who have given good service. I think that all these things need to be carefully looked at by the Government, although I know it is always a question of where the money is to come from and of priorities. Certainly I would support any Government, of whatever complexion, which could see their way to improve matters in this respect.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, Thomas Carlyle wrote that a distinguished man once declared, "The devil fly away with the Fine Arts!". As we come to the end of this debate, I feel sure that not one of us would agree with that sentiment. On the other hand, I am sure that we are all agreed in welcoming the opportunity given to us by the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, to have an 590 interesting debate on this subject. In particular, I think we have all welcomed the tone he set in introducing his Motion, that there was to be no Party feeling over it and each of us was to contribute what he could from his own knowledge. That principle has been followed by every speaker. Even the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, who often likes to throw a firecracker or two, was surprisingly quiet.
My noble friends on this side of the House have contributed a number of expert opinions. We have heard from my noble friend Lord Cottesloe, who speaks as the former Chairman of the Arts Council, and who is a considerable expert; from my noble friend Lord Drogheda, with his expert knowledge of Covent Garden; my noble friend Lord Somers, who is an extremely well-qualified musician; my noble friend Lord Hastings, a frustrated author, but a considerable expert on the Arts, and my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, an acknowledged expert on Admiralty House. So, in a way, there is really no task for me, other than to add a few words of my own.
I should like first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dinevor, on his maiden speech. His father was a good friend of mine and a much respected Member of your Lordships' House. I am sure that the noble Lord will prove to be an asset to the House, particularly to its Welsh representation. In what he said he showed his own intimate knowledge of the theatre. He was not perhaps altogether uncontroversial—and I have to declare an interest in what he said, because the noble Lord made it clear that I was Chairman of the St. David's Theatre Trust and, therefore, rather involved in what he said about the Welsh National Theatre.
Without commenting too far, I think it is true to say that the Welsh love a good argument, though sometimes it is perhaps carried too far. If we are to have a National Theatre in Wales, we have all got to pull together and forget many of our differences. It would be deplorable if we were to fail for lack of agreement between the St. David's Trust and the Welsh Committee of the Arts Council. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Snow, will not accept the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Dinevor, that Her Majesty's Government should intervene 591 at this particular moment. I am confident that, with the good will of the Welsh Committee of the Arts Council, we can solve the difficulties.
I would also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, whose father played such a notable part in this House and was one of its most brilliant speakers. I would say, from having heard the noble Lord, that the father's mantle had fallen upon his son.
My Lords, the Arts are a particularly individual activity. The artist is a creative person and ill-suited to a world of estimates and budgets. Moreover, it is often the case that the most creative artist is not recognised in his lifetime, and it takes future generations to give him his due. Therefore, it is a difficult, even sometimes a dangerous, field for the Government to intervene in, and in certain cases, totalitarian Governments have intervened in such a way that the results have been most lamentable.
The great periods of our artistic achievement in the past are associated with the rich patron, who had money to spend on embellishing his house or his locality or his State, in competition with other rich patrons; and many famous names in music and painting—Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci—all at one time or another depended for their livelihood on the support of a rich patron. To-day, such rich patrons no longer exist. Wealth is more evenly distributed, and costs have risen enormously—the cost of living of artists, the cost of materials and the cost of buildings. I ask myself the same question as did the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel: who is to take the place of the rich patron?—for the moment I would rule out of consideration the support that can be given by the Government, as this is in the nature of a last resort.
In the first place, as has been mentioned by other noble Lords, and, in particular, by my noble friends Lord Drogheda and Lord Hastings, there are the local authorities, who under Section 132 of the Local Government Act, 1948, have the power to spend the product of a 6d. rate on entertainment in all its forms. It has been pointed out that this would amount to a matter of some £50 million, but in fact the total probably spent, if we include entertainment as a whole, is somewhere in 592 the region of £3 million. This, of course, includes activities such as band and jazz concerts, beauty competitions, carnivals, circuses, dances, funfairs, professional wrestling and the like. And when we reduce that figure to expenditure on the Arts proper, it is more likely to be in the region of about £500,000—and even this figure is not constant: there are enormous differences between one area and another. We are all aware, for example, of the great and imaginative contribution made by the London County Council (now the Greater London Council), and other local authorities, such as those in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Sunderland.
From what I have said, it is immediately obvious that the vast majority of local authorities make little or no effort to assist the Arts. Successive Annual Reports of the Arts Council have drawn attention to this failure on the part of local authorities. In State of Play, the 19th Annual Report of the Arts Council concludesthat section 132 has not yet proved to be in itself a major new source of patronage for the Arts".I should like to make it clear that I do not blame the local authorities. We are all aware of the present burden of the rates, and a local authority can hardly be blamed for not wishing to add to that burden. Moreover, they are not only being pressed to spend money on the Arts; they are also continually being urged, both in this House and elsewhere, to spend more money on social purposes generally—on facilities for youth and on facilities for sport. Unless the present rating system can be revised, and a greater proportion of the burden transferred to the central Exchequer, it is difficult to see how the local authorities can do much more than carry out their duties in the field of education, housing and other local services, which will only be to the detriment of the Arts, the Youth Service and recreational facilities.
I should, however, like to support what was said by my noble friend Lord Hastings in drawing attention to the interesting suggestion made in the White Paper, that the powers of the local authorities in the fields of entertainment and the Arts should be extended to county councils. It seems to me that this idea has a great many advantages. If full 593 use is to be made of money spent on the Arts, it would seem sensible to plan on a regional basis, and county councils are in a better position to co-operate in this way. Moreover, the county council is often the local education authority, and plans for the development of the Arts on a regional basis could be better coordinated with the educational system.
Another potential patron of the Arts is industry, and there are examples of effective patronage by industry. But here again I do not think we must expect too much. Industry is already overwhelmed with demands for financial support from every type of charitable organisation; and in fact most large industrial concerns have departments set aside entirely for consideration of such appeals. On the whole, I think that the record of industry in supporting charitable and artistic causes is a good one. I am sure they have a part to play in financing the future development of the Arts, but we cannot expect industry alone to emerge as the modern equivalent of the rich patron. The same is true, I believe, of other organisations that can contribute in a significant way in a co-operative effort to foster the Arts—for example universities, charitable trusts, trade unions, the B.B.C., I.T.V.; and, of course, interested individuals.
I conclude, therefore, that the best hope of getting this kind of co-operation for the Arts in the future lies in regional co-operation between local authorities, industries and these other bodies that I have mentioned. Already this has been put into practice in the North-East, as my noble friend mentioned, with the establishment of the North-Eastern Association of the Arts. This seems to me to be an excellent precedent. It has a Council on which are represented local authorities, the chambers of trade, the Federation of British Industries, the Trades Union Council, the Federation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, the Universities of Durham and Newcastle, the B.B.C., I.T.V. and some individuals with specialist knowledge. This seems to me to be an excellent pattern of organisation which we should seek to extend over the country.
I was happy to see in this morning's Western Mail that Wales is not far behind, and that the Welsh Committee of the Arts Council have announced the 594 establishment of the North Wales Arts Advisory Panel as a preliminary step to the setting up of the North Wales Arts Trust, which I gather is following the example of the North-Eastern Association of the Arts. But however much we can achieve in regional associations, there still will not be enough money for the Arts as a whole, and it has always been recognised by successive Governments that there must be support from central Government funds. This is the position, of course, in countries other than ours. This being so, it seems to me that there is no better way of channelling Government support than through an independent body such as the Arts Council. I have argued the difficulties of State interference in the Arts, but this, at least, can be minimised by working through an independent body such as the Arts Council.
On the other hand, there are real dangers inherent in a monopoly of this sort, and which depends on the wisdom of the Arts Council in carrying out their functions. They wield enormous power. I think it emerged in what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Dinevor, in discussing the situation in Wales, that it may well be that money can be raised locally for an enterprise, but it is not so easy to raise unless there is a guarantee from the Arts Council that any subsequent annual deficit can be financed. The fact that regional or local organisers come to look to the Arts Council for any annual subsidy gives them a decisive voice in the whole project. Moreover, other bodies which might otherwise be expected to contribute towards a building of a project may often make their support dependent on the agreement of the Arts Council. It is important, therefore, that the Arts Council should be as imaginative as possible in the use of their powers if we are not to get stereotyped development of the Arts regionally. I hope it will be their policy to give as much freedom as possible to local initiative. It is all too easy for a body disbursing Government money, especially a committee, to play safe, but there is no such thing as safety in the Arts. It is the very negation of artistic progress.
It seems to me, from considering the whole field covered by the White Paper, that London on the whole is well served by the Arts. We have heard from others 595 of your Lordships who have spoken some of the outstanding contributions made to the artistic picture in London by the Royal Opera House, Sadler's Wells, the National Theatre at the Old Vic, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Aldwych, the English Stage Company, the Mermaid Theatre and London's four orchestras. It is most important (and I would echo the words of my noble friends Lord Jellicoe and Lord Drogheda) that nothing that we can do regionally should affect the prospects for those great London achievements. But I believe that what we should concentrate on is regional progress, and I believe that this should grow from regional roots fertilised by Arts Council grants.
Finally, I should like to support what has already been said by one or two other speakers—and I was pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, mentioned it—on the question of the crafts. There is only one paragraph on the crafts, paragraph 67, in this White Paper, but I believe it is an important one, because it draws attention to an area which has not hitherto received much attention. The crafts, after all, underpin the Arts, and yet they are in a kind of no-man's-land at the moment. There is the Arts Council responsible for the encouragement of the Arts, there is the Council of Industrial Design which also receives a Government subsidy, within industry, but there is no one really looking after the crafts in between those two bodies. I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, who mentioned the formation of the Crafts Council of Great Britain, which has only recently come into being, to try to draw attention to this gap and to see what can be done to fill it. I might mention that I have no connection whatsoever with the Crafts Council, but two Members of your Lordships' House are on the General Council, my noble friend Lord Eccles and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark.
My noble friend Lord Somers mentioned the exhibition at 40 Haymarket, which is well worthy of a visit, because there is nothing "fuddy-duddy" or "olde-worlde" about the crafts to-day. These are the crafts of 20th-century Britain which deserve all the support they can get and which I think have a very practical relevance in modern economic 596 terms, in that we so often admire the craftsmanship of other countries, particularly, perhaps, Italy—and an enormous amount of Italian goods made by Italian craftsmen find its way here—when in fact there exist in this country the most excellent craftsmen. They should receive all the support they can get, and they might be able to contribute even more to our own exports.
One last point occurred to me in listening through the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Methuen, spoke about historic houses, and my noble friend Lord Somers about teacher training colleges. Although it is, perhaps, slightly wide of the scope of this White Paper, with the tremendous demand now for additional teacher training colleges it seems to me that the two might be linked up, and perhaps one or two of our historic houses might be able to contribute as teacher training colleges if it was desired to expand them. I would end by quoting Sir Alan Herbert's little verse:As my poor father used to sayIn 1863,Once people start on all this artGoodbye morality.This is perhaps still the view of some of us, but it is certainly not the view of those of us who have taken part in this debate this afternoon and who, I am sure, are all determined to further the needs and to continue support for the Arts and crafts.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF TECHNOLOGY (LORD SNOW)
My Lords, art is long and life is short—and I think many of us felt the truth of this adage as this debate proceeded and the mocking and cheerful shadow of the noble Lord, Lord Egremont, has presided over quite a large part of the proceedings. Our speeches are long, they are getting longer, and they ought to be diminished. However, I think we are all grateful to my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams for initiating an exceptionally good-natured and, on the whole, very valuable debate, a debate to which both sides have contributed all kinds of experience, and which has been distinguished by two excellent maiden speeches by my noble friend Lord Dinevor and the noble Lord, Lord Birkett. I am sorry that he is not here to listen to the high regard which we have 597 For his remarkable effort, which was worthy of his father, and an extremely important contribution to the debate itself.
He in fact raised a point which probably had to be raised in order to be answered: why do anything about art at all? I think the short answer is that all good societies value art, not as a decoration, but as something essential to the core of life itself. Any society, the moment it has risen above the subsistence level, and sometimes before, has in fact thought that art was one of the greatest of human expressions. Men and women in all societies all over the world for a long time have tried to make beautiful things, partly for money, partly for fame and self-esteem, but also for the glory of God, for beautifying their own lives and, most simply of all, to speak with their own voice. It is in that comprehensive sense, it seems to me, that art is best approached. It is not something you take off your coat and put on a fancy coat to do. It is part of our lives, and every bit of our lives.
The point made by my noble friend Lord Bowden, that Coventry railway station is a very beautiful building, is to me a real example of how art should be approached. That is art. If we do not make our cities comely to look at, then much of our lives becomes imperceptibly more ugly. The litter on the London streets is a very good example of anti-art which no self-respecting city should tolerate for a moment; a thing which horrifies people from different countries. Go to any Tube station about six in the evening and you are scuffling through inches of paper. This is anti-art, and it is a sign that art in its real sense is not penetrating deeply enough among us. In the same way, our language, and any ordinary exchange in that language, is itself a kind of art. This beautiful, plain, subtle, language, which we use across the Floor of this House, ought to be a matter of pride to us, and ought to be something which we cherish and regard as much a form of art as things more lofty, more difficult, and more seriously regarded.
For all these reasons, I am proud that Miss Jennie Lee has taken up her position at the Department of Education and Science, and has produced this White 598 Paper. I am proud for a good many reasons, partly because of the enthusiasm which she brings to this task—that is half the battle—and partly because of her sympathy of character which enables her to fight down a good deal of, not exactly opposition, but (shall I say?) inertia. But much more than either of those it is because she has a real desire to see that other people experience delight. Delight is an important part of all art. Dr. Johnson once said something like, "Art exists to instruct and to delight". It seems to me that there could not be a better or simpler definition and one which, I confess, when I am asked to admire certain features of the 1960s, I find it somewhat hard to feel is strongly exemplified. Therefore I welcome the first steps, which is the title of this White Paper.
I am not going to dissemble. I believe that noble Lords opposite would not wish me to dissemble. I wish that we had been able to do more. One does not alter the opinions or interests of a lifetime because one happens to be speaking at this Box, and I should like the Government to spend much more money on the Arts. It seems to me unlikely that we have our priorities right. I cannot believe that the amount which is spent on art, in comparison with the amount spent on many other things, could possibly be the answer at which we should arrive if we were able to start with a clean sheet and say, "This is the gross national product: how are we to spend the money?" In fact the way in which national budgets grow up is a curious process of accretion, and once a pattern is set it is the Devil's own job to break it.
Some time ago the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, was fond of saying that for years in the 1940s and 1950s we were spending more on the egg subsidy than on the whole of the universities. That is one of the most startling statistics I know. The sane man would say that to spend £35 million on an egg subsidy and £28 million on universities was sheer mania; but in fact this grew up. So I think we are still not doing anything like enough in the way of direct expenditure on the Arts. Nevertheless, I do not believe that the problem is primarily one of money, and before I finish this speech I wish to come to certain qualifications and thoughts of my own.
599 The White Paper says that the problem of patronage in a democratic society is a very difficult one to solve. I go further: I believe that the problem of patronage in any society is difficult to solve. I have seen it in countries which are not Parliamentary democracies, and it is still difficult. There are features which have not yet been mentioned in this debate, but I think the first thing I must wipe off (because I do not want to detain your Lordships from a well-earned rest) is to answer some of the specific points which have been raised from both sides of the House.
My noble friend Lord Francis-Williams was, rightly, deeply concerned about the condition of living artists, as was the noble Lord, Lord Methuen. Lord Methuen was, I think, more concerned with painters, and my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams was more concerned with writers. I think that my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams will allow me to say that I cannot be expected to be indifferent to the conditions of writers. I have lived with them for the better part of my life. I have seen suffering; I have seen extreme success. There is much luck in it—we all know that. Those of us who have somehow achieved a reasonable public never know how it happened. We also do not know how it is that some people have never succeeded in having that same luck.
I know of writers of very great talent who have never had any luck at all. The problem is how to help them. Remember that there is only one real help, and that, unfortunately, is usually beyond one's power to give. The only real help a writer wants is for someone to read his book; the only real help a painter wants is for someone to buy his pictures; the only real help a playwright wants is for someone to go and fill those empty seats. Unfortunately, life is not easily adjusted, and one has to accept that for many, often very talented and deserving, this will not happen. This fact has to be faced.
My own priority in order of need is, I think, different from that in the White Paper. Speaking for the moment only of writers, I am inclined to think that very young writers do not normally need much help. If the impulse is strong enough, then people can write in circumstances 600 which later in life seem almost impossible. We have all seen people writing after their normal work is finished, writing in jobs, making do on very little; and somehow they have come through. And if that determination and impulse are not strong enough, it may often be a false kindness to give them help to embark on a career which at the best is going to be rough—because the literary life is a rough one. Therefore, although in certain cases financial help can be given, with good sense and good results, I do not believe that it is with the very young writer that such help is most needed. I believe that it is most needed, first by people for whom in middle life things are suddenly going wrong or by people who want to change the nature of their art or their method. There are a good many interesting and valuable cases of this kind. In these cases money could be well spent. But more than that there must, in my view, be some provision from Government for people who have rendered real service to literature and are towards the end of their lives. There is nothing like enough provision for these people, and some cases are much more sad than those noble Lords who are not in the literary profession can easily imagine.
Miss Lee is at the moment in conversation with the Publishers and with the Society of Authors. One agrees that something must be done, but the technique is not so easy. The Swedish system has been carefully studied, but it has certain disadvantages. It is not quite so obvious as when it is expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, for whose really friendly remarks on behalf of writers I was passionately grateful. I thought it was an extraordinarily charming contribution that he should feel as strongly as he obviously did about the fate of unfortunate writers. But the idea that a royalty on a book taken out of the library should go to the author would certainly not touch our problem. I have to make that clear at once.
The circulation in libraries follows roughly the sales of a book in its ordinary commercial edition, and the only result of putting a small royalty on books taken out of the library and paying it to the author would merely be that successful authors would be slightly richer, which 601 is unnecessary, and unsuccessful authors would not be helped at all. So I am afraid that noble Lords will have to remove this particular concept from their minds. It is possible that one could take a royalty from all library books and then put that into a fund to be administered and given to deserving cases, but I suspect that other solutions may easily be preferable. At any rate, we know the problem and we feel deeply concerned. One would be a monster if one were not concerned, if one has friends who have had this sort of experience. And I can assure noble Lords that everything said here has been taken to heart, and taken to heart with gratitude.
I now have to speak rather rapidly about Lord Cottesloe's speech. We are all much in his debt for the work he did at the Arts Council and for other of his artistic functions. He has done real service to the artistic side of the State, and we should like to say so here and now. On the other hand, I felt that his extreme reluctance to admit that the Arts Council's place could possibly ever be in human history different from what it had been by accident a little hard to understand. It was a very curious place for the Arts Council to be anyway. It happened to be well administered by old friends of mine at the Treasury, but it is not a place any Government would normally put an Arts Council. It is quite a simple administrative change which seems to me to have everything in the world to be said for it. But this appears to make the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe feel the barricades are going up at once. It really is not as revolutionary as that.
Also I found a certain unconscious humour in his fear that Miss Lee would not be able to fight her battles, either in her Department or with the Treasury, whereas Treasury civil servants were able to fight their battles easily. Anyone who knows Miss Lee would feel this is a slightly bizarre view. I would take on anyone in this House or in any Department rather than Miss Lee. I think it is fair to say that if she had not been doing this job it is very unlikely we should have got as much money.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, asked a number of questions which I shall have to answer rather quickly. We have, of 602 course, studied what Malraux and his officials are doing in France. The pattern is somewhat different from ours, but we entirely agree that there is much to be learned, and we have had a high official over there recently. The problems of Scotland and Wales have rather risen in the course of Lord Dinevor's speech. There is an Arts Council Committee for both. And in matters of common interest relating to the Arts, Miss Lee will act in consultation with the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales. It is in fact the normal administrative arrangement.
With regard to the Covent Garden site, I cannot say anything definite. I rather suspect that the Market is going to be there a long time. With regard to the point, which the noble Lord, Lord Drogheda reinforced, about displaying British art abroad, I can assure noble Lords that we have this very much in mind. It is extremely important. The amount we spend on it is very small, and I should be most disappointed if we could not gradually extract something more for this extremely valuable task. I cannot guarantee that; I am giving a personal opinion there, but you are in me at least preaching to the converted.
With regard to the Goodman recommendations on orchestras, we hope to give an answer very shortly. As to the halls at Coventry and Plymouth, that question has been noted, and I will ask Miss Lee to write to the noble Lord. As to the Burrel Collection, I am delighted to say that I hope the difficulties will soon be resolved and the Collection will be seen in Glasgow. My noble friend Lord Dinevor, in his fascinating maiden speech, told us about a Welsh quarrel. I have got into rows in my life, but I do not propose to intervene in this. I think any Englishman who stuck his neck out would be slightly mad. However, I am going to bring my noble friend's remarks to Miss Lee's attention. After all, she has Welsh connections.
The noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, made some interesting comments, with great authority, of course. I can say here and now that it is absolutely firm and determined Government policy that the standard of Covent Garden and the ballet company shall not be impaired in the slightest, any more than the independence of the Arts Council will be impaired. 603 But the actual details of the financing are still being threshed out. These great contributions to London and British life must exist at their present pitch of excellence. This is quite certain. The fiscal steps he was talking about have been, of course, tried time and time again with Tory Chancellor after Tory Chancellor. We shall try again. On the face of it, I can see not the faintest objection to these American devices, but presumably the Treasury have had serious objections or otherwise they would now be common form here. At any rate, they will be explored, as they say.
The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, spoke among his other general comments about the need for a film school. This, again, is a matter in which the Government are keenly interested. We recognise the importance of the concept, and, to use this awful official jargon, the matter is under active consideration.
I wish to finish on a somewhat different note. My noble friend Lord Samuel and the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, touched on problems which I think are real and deep and which had not come up in the course of the debate. The first of these problems is that there is a genuine contradiction in our society. The kind of art that many of us like is not the kind of art which is going to be easily acceptable, certainly not now, perhaps never. As Mr. J. B. Priestley said quite recently—I wish he were more closely concerned with the discussion because he has had a lifetime's experience in this domain of the theatre and entertainment—"Take a spirited performance of Stockhausen and try this on my own native Yorkshire", and he does not think it will be all that enthusiastically received. There are levels—not necessarily in quality. I am not saying Stockhausen is the greatest composer who have ever lived, or even better than many more popular composers. But there are in fact persons who are highly regarded, persons whom noble Lords know, and who are influential, the sort of Civil Service of the Arts, persons who it is very hard to see will ever have any kind of mass or even major audience at all. I think we must not deceive ourselves about the difficulty of this problem.
I will try to take a non-controversial example. Noble Lords will know 604 that the Nouveau Roman in France has had all the critical attention in France for getting on for ten years. But I shall be astonished if these books are ever read in the sense of Dr. Johnson's definition, either to instruct or delight, either in French or any other literary history. If we do not realise that there are intrinsic difficulties in our particular separated, fractionated and fissured cultural world, then we shall do less than justice to the task, or what we can realistically expect to do.
That leads me to my final point. It is this. We are all talking as though it is really quite simple—you want some money, you want to give it to a body whom we all respect, and let that body do what it wants and then you get a healthy artistic climate. I do not believe that for a single minute, because we have forgotten the most important thing of all—namely, that there has to be participation the other way. There has to be participation from the people who are being exposed to these plays or films, these books or pictures. We cannot drop our artistic benevolence into a kind of vacuum. This is the greatest sin of the Western artistic world.
There have been some harsh remarks about subsidised art in Communist society this afternoon. I suspect that I know more about the Russian literary situation than any noble Lord who has spoken. I agree that there are restrictions which most of us would find extremely irksome, and which in many ways have been damaging to parts, though not the whole, of their literary art for a long time. That is of course loosening, and now the position has become something where a fair degree of artistic freedom now exists.
In passing, I should like to say that there are a great many idée recus and illusions about this whole business. It is a common theory—I think I back it myself—that there should be no censorship in art, that given complete freedom then the rest all falls out. This, in fact, in history is entirely untrue. The best art historically, as a matter of actual fact, has been done in circumstances of rather rigid censorship. The greatest novels in the world were written under the old Czarist censorship, with a great deal more fear than anything we have inflicted upon ourselves. It may very well be that certain pressure, certain tensions 605 and so on are much better for art than an absolutely relaxed and permissive atmosphere.
However, that is not really my point. I tend to feel that these restrictions are bad in themselves. But what is not bad, what is one of the most impressive things in Russia at the moment, is the response which any artist gets. It does not cost a penny, and I wish that sometimes we concentrated a little of our attention not on the pathetic, small sums of money which we try to find and use, but on those things which are spiritually valuable and cost not one single penny. The Russians have a device—I believe it could be used with advantage all over the world—of what they call readers' conferences. I know about these, because my wife and I have both participated in several. It is quite simple. All over the Soviet Union, when a writer has a book out, about three months after the book has been published, if it is any kind of success, the writer is expected to appear and meet his readers. The typical setting is a room which accommodates about 300 people of all kinds—engineers, working men, doctors, school-teachers and so on. The writer is then told, politely but quite firmly, what they think about the book.
The Russians are pretty good at speaking on their feet. Sometimes these remarks are prepared; sometimes they are impromptu. Russian speeches tend to be fairly long. A normal speech would be about ten minutes. There would be about 100 people wanting to speak, so your Lordships will realise that it is a fairly long drawn out process. But it is of immense value, at least to the writer, that for the first time he is really feeling his audience. Writing is a fairly lonely game, and unless you write for the stage you never feel your audience like this. This sort of thing could be done here, and it would tell writers what readers really think—not what their own friends think, or people who are thinking on exactly the same lines as themselves think, but people for whom the books are, in the long run, written. It is this kind of participation which I hope we shall be able to encourage.
I am entirely in favour of this White Paper. I believe that it is an admirable first step, and that the most valuable 606 thing about it as it seems to me, is not the money, good as that is and useful as it may be, but that the White Paper breathes hope. The most important thing I would say, apart from finding the money, is that, after it and alongside it, we must produce a climate of hope and belief in which art can really flourish, both by those who create it and by those who accept it and appreciate it.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
My Lords, although most of those who have listened, and indeed most of those who participated, have departed from us, drawn no doubt by the naturally greater magnet of the Lancaster House reception—and who shall blame them?—I think we have had a most interesting and useful discussion, and I should like to thank everybody who has taken part in it.
I would particularly thank my noble friend Lord Snow for the sympathy (which of course one would expect from somebody who is himself engaged in the creative Arts) which he has shown to the many ideas put forward in the course of this debate, though I must say, if he will forgive me, that I thought his rejection of the proposals to see whether something could be done to ensure that the author gets something from those who borrow his books in libraries, was somewhat superficial—
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
I am sorry. I understood my noble friend to say that, since what one might call the pattern of book-borrowing was the same as the pattern of book-buying, it would simply mean that the rich author would get a little richer and the poor author would not get anything.
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
My Lords, I am glad to hear that the matter is still under examination and discussion, because my own researches, including 607 talks to a number of Swedish authors, who are good authors, seem to suggest that it is advantageous. But I do not want to open another debate at this time of night. I simply want to say that I think all those who are concerned in any way with the creative Arts, whether they are themselves writers or painters, or administrators or performers, feel that the White Paper marks an important and imaginative step. The feeling that it gives us is that, although there are, as it says, a great many matters still to examine, that examination is being conducted with energy, with enthusiasm, and with imagination. Most of us would feel that a great deal of that energy, imagination, and enthusiasm comes from the personality of the Minister most directly concerned, Miss Jennie Lee. We feel that she brings to this matter an enthusiasm both passionate and gay. We can put our trust in such an enthusiasm, and can do so with a good deal of justification. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.