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The Earl of Clancarty: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Will the Minister give some thought to the state funding what might be termed the cultural equivalent of "blue skies research"; that is to say, the long-term work of some artists whose project is not itself commercial? Will the Government consider that, or will it mean in the end that all artistic cultural work will have to operate under a tyranny of commerce?
Lord Haskel: My Lords, all benefits for people on low or no income are available to artists in the same way as they are available to anyone else. If the artist is working on a project in the long term, in the expectation of payment, he or she could possibly claim family credit, housing benefit or council tax benefit, depending on his or her circumstances.
Young unemployed artists can also be given help to further their careers through the New Deal for young unemployed people. For example, artists could study on an arts-related course in full-time education or on a training option; they could follow the self-employment route of the employment option. In the main, artists can seek support from the various organisations I listed in my initial reply. The Government will support artists on long-term projects, but not necessarily on welfare.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, I apologise for rising prematurely; if I am still premature, I shall sit down. Will my noble friend request the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to introduce droit de suite, which could do for the poverty-stricken artists what the public lending right has already done for the struggling author?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, in relation to the answer given a moment ago, will the noble Lord say how employment benefits interrelate with an artist working on a long-term piece of work who could be deemed not to be actively seeking employment?
Lord Haskel: My Lords, the artist could be claiming jobseeker's allowance. People claiming jobseeker's allowance cannot expect to hold out indefinitely for a job. They have a period of up to 13 weeks during which they can restrict their availability and job search to the specific type of work in which they are interested. That can apply to artists in the same way as it applies to other people. If the artist's claim for jobseeker's allowance continues after the permitted period has elapsed, he should perhaps broaden his horizons and look for other types of work which will enable him to leave jobseeker's allowance more quickly.
Lord Haskel: My Lords, he can claim family credit if he can show that he is working on a long-term project where, though the income is irregular, he expects to receive it. It is also subject to other conditions.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is it not the case that in the past artists who have shown any potential have managed to find wealthy patrons to support them? Is there, in this day and age, a lack of wealthy patrons to support artists?
Lord Haskel: My Lords, there may be a lack of wealthy patrons. That is why the Government set up a number of schemes such as the National Endowment for the Arts, Science and Technology (NESTA) and the
Earl Russell: My Lords, will the Minister consider further the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, which has considerable implications? Will he consider whether the 13 weeks own-occupation period under the Jobseekers Act might be applied flexibly in such situations? For example, it would not have protected Jane Austen during the period when five publishers refused the manuscript of Pride and Prejudice.
The Government recognise the educational value of games such as chess, "Go" and draughts and I very much welcome the opportunities which many schools provide for the pupils to take part in such activities. It is important that young people have access to a range of extra-curricula activities which cover sports, the arts and intellectual games and which enhance the broad and balanced education provided by the national curriculum.
Lord Hardinge of Penshurst: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that more or less encouraging reply. Given that the UK Children's Chess Championship currently attracts 35,000 children from over 1,000 schools, and the impressive competitive record of this country, will the Government consider building on those successes by treating chess and other mind sports as valid alternatives to traditional physical sports for children more temperamentally or physically suited to them, perhaps drawing on the successful model used in Holland?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am delighted to hear about the success of the national chess competition for children. As I said, it is important for children to have access to a range of extra-curricular activities which cover sport, the arts and intellectual games. There is no reason why children should not opt for chess instead of, say, football as an extra-curricular activity. But there can be no question of children opting out of lessons in physical education. I am sure the noble Lord
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, that is a very good question. I was not entirely familiar with "Go" myself, although it does sound extremely exciting. I understand that it is a territorial board game which dates back several millennia and is thought to have originated in China. But I cannot say to what extent it is now being played by British school children.
Lord Ironside: My Lords, if the Government do recognise "Go", do they also recognise "passing go" or "not passing go"; in other words, by implication, do they recognise Monopoly as being an intellectual game?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I have played a lot of Monopoly in my time, but I think I would rather prefer to see children learning to play Bridge. That is a really good mind game which develops critical thinking skills and is an enjoyable social activity. I had even wondered whether we ought to be introducing poker in schools, but perhaps that is a little dangerous. I should perhaps reveal that my grandmother played poker every afternoon of her adult life and made quite a lot of money out of it. So perhaps it is an example of an extra-curricular activity contributing to employability.
Lord Kilbracken: My Lords, as the captain of the House of Lords chess team, may I ask my noble friend whether she is aware that the noble Lord, Lord Hardinge, achieved a brilliant win in the match against the Commons last week, the result of which is still being hotly disputed?
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