|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Earl of Gowrie: My Lords, perhaps I may correct the Minister. I said that 1993 was hardly a bonanza year for the arts, but nevertheless it would be considered a triumph for this Government if they could recover in real terms the level of funding that was then available. I am talking about current funding, not lottery funding.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am delighted to hear both the godfather and godson responding as they have done. But as a result of the comprehensive spending review, the Government have found an extra £290 million for the activities of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, of which £125 million is extra funding for the arts. That has happened after a number of years--I will not specify 1993 or any other year--in which it will be generally recognised that there were, at worst, cuts in arts funding from government and, at best, a standstill in arts funding. If I thought I could satisfy my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney on the financial side, I would die happy. But I know that it is not possible to do that.
Let me face the matter head on. Of course this level of government spending comes with strings attached; but let me explain those strings and seek to respond directly to the noble Lords, Lord Gibson and Lord Chorley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, who seemed to think that what is involved in those strings is political interference.
Before I go any further into government objectives, against those who seem to think that there is something sinister about delivering government objectives, let me set out the objectives of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and see how many noble Lords think it to be wrong. First, there should be access for the many and not the few to arts in this country; to culture generally and to media and sport. Secondly, we should promote excellence. We should provide those who are providing the arts with an opportunity to excel and give them the opportunities for innovation which will in turn bring excellence.
Thirdly, there should be educational opportunity. I shall come back to that because it was referred to by a number of noble Lords. That means educational opportunity both in education in schools and of course professional training for those who work in the arts. Fourthly, we should enable our creative industries, which this Government identified as being enormously important for the economic as well as the cultural life of this country, to achieve their artistic and economic potential. If anybody thinks there is anything sinister about those objectives, let them tell me about it; I do not believe that that is the case.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport provides almost no direct services; it relies on sponsored bodies. Is it wrong that the department should seek to secure that those sponsored bodies to whom it gives money--not just for one year, but now for three years--are achieving their objectives? Is it wrong that, having given this three-year funding, we should require them to plan effectively for a three-year period or for longer? Does that in itself constitute an attack on the arm's length principle? The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, seems to think so. I am reminded of my mother who, as she got older and long-sight afflicted her, said that there was nothing wrong with her eyesight; it was just that her arms were too short. I suspect that the noble Baroness thinks that there is nothing wrong with her eyesight; and I suspect that she is wrong.
As a result of the spending review--remember, we are going back somewhere close to zero budgeting over all departments, not just the DCMS--the DCMS will become more strategic, but it will have to ensure that those objectives are properly held to. We have therefore set up funding agreements with all of our bodies which will provide explicit and challenging statements of the underlying outputs and levels of performance requirement. They will reflect our own public service agreement target. They will be the key sponsorship and planning documents linking DCMS and its non-departmental government bodies. For the first time this year the funding agreements, in particular with the 18 national museums and galleries, will be concluded and published before 1st April and not, as under the previous government, half-way through the financial year. That is managerial responsibility rather than irresponsibility.
Let me turn to museums and galleries. There will be £99 million extra for museums and galleries over the next three years. That is a huge increase after years of cuts. There will be a £15 million challenge fund to provide support for the 43 designated museums. We will introduce a new national museums body for museums, libraries and art galleries. I heard what the noble Baroness, Lady Brigstocke, said and I simply do not agree with her. This is not an attack on the Museums and Galleries Commission; this is an opportunity to have funding agreements which cover the whole range of interlocking activities of museums, libraries and archives--archives which have never been represented on a national level before. This reflects the way in which local government actually deals with museums and libraries and I believe it is an advance because this is an advisory body, not a fund-giving body.
I could go on about museums, but I want to concentrate on just one issue; that is, the issue of access to which I referred as a strategic objective of the department. By the Secretary of State's announcement on 14th December we have ensured that there is enough money, first, for those museums and galleries which have free access at the moment, to continue to provide free access; secondly, to achieve a situation whereby those who at the moment charge for admission will not need to charge admission for children from 1st April this year or for pensioners on 1st April 2000. There will also be enough money for those national museums and galleries who wish to offer universal free access in 2001-2002 to do so and discussions will continue with them with that in mind.
I am grateful for the comments of the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, about Merseyside. Indeed, I endorse what both he and the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said about the conservation centre there. We are pleased that we have been able to offer this free access package to the national museums and galleries on Merseyside and the Secretary of State will be visiting Merseyside in March in order to discuss that with the trustees. So I do not believe we have anything to be ashamed of in relation to museums and galleries.
A number of noble Lords--no; a few noble Lords--notably the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, expressed doubt about the Quality, Efficiency and Standards Team (QUEST). I want to emphasise that QUEST will be a watchdog looking at all areas of DCMS responsibility, and at DCMS itself; in other words, we are prepared to take our own medicine. It will undertake a mix of studies: some about individual institutions; some cross-cutting and some learning from the experience of one institution to help another. There will be a very small core team. Studies will draw on expertise from outside, including sponsored bodies, the private sector and local authorities. QUEST will report directly to the Secretary of State. It will have its own identity. It will issue independent advice. Its budget for the first three years is £500,000 a year. If we were going to be instituting Big Brother in the menacing way that some noble Lords seem to think, we would be funding it a good deal more generously than that.
But the team will be concerned with identifying good practice and seeing where good practice can be transferred from one part to another part of the DCMS's activities. It will work in collaboration with the National Audit Office and the Audit Commission. Its activities will include a review of targets and indicators and of administrative structures; a study of second-tier delegation; a study of the private-public partnerships; a look at the cost of commercial innovation; and a look at the cost of making lottery applications. All of those are objectives which are thoroughly in line with the wish of the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, when introducing the debate today.
I turn to the particular points raised. I accept that it is possible, by selective quotation, to justify the charge made by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, about local authority expenditure over a period of time. It is certainly true that some local authorities have been less generous than others--if I can put it in that way--in funding the arts. This year there has been the most generous settlement for local government for many years in which the block for recreational activity and cultural services has achieved an increase of 3.8 per cent. That is no justification for local authorities to impose cuts on any area of the arts. Where the department has responsibilities, as it does under the Public Libraries Act, we shall ensure that those are fulfilled.
Noble Lords have questioned whether our devolution to regions, which is part of the policy of and for the Arts Council for England, will result in wise and efficient decisions. I thought that my noble friend Lord Bragg adequately answered that point with his example from the north of England. The criticism of Westminster City Council which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, shows the obstacles that we have to overcome, but we do not believe that they can be overcome by increasing centralisation. Of course, we do not approve of the cuts which have been imposed by Buckinghamshire in the past, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg. We believe that the money is there if councils are willing and able to use it.
My noble friend Lord Strabolgi and the noble Lord, Lord Hindlip, referred to the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme. The noble Lord, Lord Hindlip, expressed the fear that works of art would be forced on to the market as a result of the restrictions on viewing by appointment and the insistence under the Finance Act 1998 that there should be publicly announced hours for viewing. I simply do not believe that that will take place. The Acceptance in Lieu scheme provides that if there is any good reason why the works of art should not be viewed where they belong, so to speak, they can be seen in museums and galleries. The noble Lord, Lord Hindlip, referred to hard-pressed museums. He spoke of the possibility that they might decline to put the works of art on show and that the people concerned might lose their tax exemption. If he would be good enough to write to me about that matter, I shall certainly take it up. My understanding is that there is generally not any difficulty on that score. That is the key to the success of the Conditional Exemption Scheme. However, I must
The noble Lord, Lord Jacobs, referred to lottery funding and to the need for that to be more flexible so that it would cover revenue as well as capital. I entirely agree with him on that point. That is what we provided for in the National Lottery Act 1998. We may not have gone as far as he would like but we have gone a good way to achieving greater flexibility.
He asked whether it was possible to encourage more endowments and foundations which would secure the long-term viability of projects funded by the lottery. He is quite right; lottery projects need to show financial viability. There has to be a long-term feasibility plan. I believe that his objectives are also those of the Government. He asked about the Millennium Commission. I can assure him that no projects will be funded by the Millennium Commission which would allow deficits. A proper business plan will be encouraged.
The noble Lord, Lord Rix, and the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, referred to the needs of the disabled. We are very sympathetic to those needs, but I do not think that we would go as far as the noble Earl in suggesting that we should withhold money from galleries who do not provide for the disabled. There are sometimes reasons which make such provision difficult. However, I certainly take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Rix, about representation of the disabled on committees.
I was asked by my noble friend Lord Jenkins about droit de suite. He defended droit de suite, against the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Hindlip, and others, by saying that it would go to artists. Where droit de suite operates, 80 per cent. of the money goes to 20 per cent. of the artists. I do not see the heirs of Picasso and Matisse as being a particularly worthy cause.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, made a valid and interesting point about roving curators which Neil MacGregor of the National Gallery has, indeed, discussed with Alan Howarth, the Minister for the Arts. The noble Baroness, Lady Brigstocke, made a similar point. It is true that there is a problem for artists outside London and a problem of availability of experienced and skilled curators in our museums. We shall be taking forward the suggestion which has been made.
I shall, if I may, pass over the matter of the Dome which is perhaps peripheral to our discussion. I was interested in the suggestion of the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, about having a museum of photography in London comparable to that in Bradford. There are a number of museums of photography. I think he would agree that it would be better to start a new museum from an existing one rather than to start from scratch.
My noble friend Lord Bragg asked us to pay tribute to Jennie Lee, the first effective Minister of the Arts, and I am glad to do so. I do not think it matters that she was placed in the Department for Education and Employment, whereas our Minister for the Arts is in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. It is not where you are, it is what you do that really matters.
The noble Lord, Lord Gibson, puzzled me. He seemed to think there was a danger of too much ministerial control over the Royal Opera House. I should have thought that the experience of the past six months shows that Ministers have successfully brought together what would otherwise have been warring parties to what I believe and hope will be a successful conclusion.
I was pleased to hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Brigstocke, said about the Geffrye Museum although I must insist that the museums, libraries and archives council, which is planned, is not an attempt to save money and is certainly not a merger. We propose a new powerful advisory body which would give advice to government over a range of services and activities which have natural links.
I have come to the end of my allocated time and I apologise to noble Lords who I have not answered. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, who accused my noble friend Lord Bragg of being absent from the country, that throughout the period to which he refers, my noble friend has had a season ticket to the upper east stand in row P at Arsenal Football Club, even if the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, did not have the opportunity to see the "South Bank Show" during that period.
I think that we have a great deal to be proud of and that the majority of speeches this evening have encouraged that view. I am grateful, again, to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for introducing the debate and for an opportunity to set out the Government's position on these matters.
The Earl of Gowrie: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down--I am aware that he has had to answer a lot of points--I gave notice to his office of two specific questions of importance. Perhaps he will be kind enough to write to me.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page