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Lord Drayson: My Lords, Afghanistan is an important priority for us, as is Iraq. As we have said in the past, our prime focus is the activities that we are undertaking in Iraq. Any decisions relating to any potential UK deployment in Afghanistan need to take into account the balancing of our commitments.
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The noble Lord said: My Lords, in introducing this welcome opportunity to debate the contribution made by the arts to urban regeneration, I can do no better than start with an observation by an eminent former Member of your Lordships' House, John Maynard Keynes, who, in 1945, conjured up the possibility that cities that were half in ruin might one day be remade as great, artistic metropolises.
Well, my Lords, I am delighted to report that in just about every respect that is at last happening. I am not so much introducing a debate as relating a success story, and a slightly unexpected one at that. Lord Keynes was, of course, speaking as chairman of what was to become the Arts Council, and that "Arts Council" was itself part of a wider movement of reform that, to all intents and purposes, transformed this country.
The optimistic vision of the role of the arts in post-war regeneration that Keynes articulated was all of a piece with the creation of the NHS, the widening of public education and the establishment of the welfare state. In fact, it was an integral part of the many changes that society wholeheartedly embraced in response to the horrors and the hardships that typified the first half of the 20th century. Free access to health, education and the arts were seen as a kind of trinity of opportunity that was fundamental to the development of a genuinely civilised society.
It is also probably true to say that the best part of 50 years elapsed before that particular trinity was rearticulated with anything like similar conviction. It took the creation of the National Lottery to deliver the resources required to inject life into what had been the hand-to-mouth, make-do-and-mend, day-to-day cultural experience of this country.
I have recently been accused of being one of those people who seeks to take the politics out of politics. While I honestly do not believe that to be true, I will do my reputation no favours by making it clear that this cultural success story does enormous credit to the vision and perseverance of politicians of all parties and, at least until now, the comparative restraint successive governments have shown in ring-fencing
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lottery resources in such a way as to make what for so long appeared to be impossible not only possible, but deliverable.
Please step forward the noble Lord, Lord Baker, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, who I am delighted to see is participating in today's debate, and our soon-to-be colleague the right honourable Virginia Bottomley. The then Prime Minister also deserves major plaudits. The Liberal Democrat Benches should be allowed to glow a little because they have always tended towards a constructive and engaged policy in respect of the lottery. My own party's contribution was essentially to recognise a good idea when it saw one and, when the time came, to allow it to flourish.
When, in the summer of 1994, the noble Lord, Lord Chadlington, invited me to serve under his admirable chairmanship on the first Arts Council lottery panel, we had some vague but fairly unformed ideas of how investment in the infrastructure of the arts could result in wider improvements to the nation's social fabric. But once plunged into the complexity of the commitment to the Royal Opera House, our thoughts ran little further than the notion that if you redeveloped a disused railway arch as a community theatre or an art gallery, someone may be encouraged to reconsider the potential of the arches adjoining it. In many respects our earliest ambitions were, quite literally, that modest, but not for long.
By 1996, we discovered that our funding of arts infrastructure was paying dividends well beyond our wildest dreams, and we began to plan and invest accordingly. In part, the drive in favour of regeneration was fuelled by the Government's commitment to what was, in effect, a self-denying ordinance; the concept of "additionality", which was interpreted as laying an emphasis on capital expenditure. I was delighted and somewhat relieved to see that commitment reappear on page 50 of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's five-year plan, rather unimaginatively entitled Living Life to the Full.
So what, in those early years, did my then chairman and I learn about the impact of the arts on urban regeneration? We learnt that a well thought through investment in arts infrastructure invariably led to greatly enhanced pride, and a breaking down of cultural and social barriers within communities. We learnt how to redefine access and we tested the ability of interest groups to share their thinking, along with their facilities. We learnt that the concept of "partnership funding" produced imaginative sources of private and community investment that we at the centre had never even thought of. We learnt that if you permit people to take a fresh look at their environment, to get a sense of what is
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possible, they begin themselves to set about improving it. We learnt that what could be made to work in the arts could also be replicated in other areasin sport, in education, in provision for the elderly, and so on.
I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for devoting so much time to what might be described as the context that informs our present, relatively happy position, but I think it is important. I am quite certain that many of the noble Lords who have generously agreed to contribute to this debate will have their own examples of that dreadful but much used phrase, "best practice". So, in the time remaining to me, I will concentrate on just two or three examples of what has been achieved and why I believe we have every right to celebrate.
I returned yesterday evening from Newcastle where I was able gaze across the Millennium Bridge at the Baltic Art Centre and the Sage Gatesheadthree iconic structures that any city in the world would all but die for. It is sort of a miracle really, but it is a miracle resulting directly from the vision and the commitment to their community of a handful of really good souls. It is the kind of miracle that can only result from a combination of political stability, tenacity and good timing.
You have to go back almost 20 years to find the genesis of the Gateshead miracle, to a time when Councillor Sid Henderson and his head of cultural services, Bill McNaughtbacked to the hilt by their then leader, George Gillappointed a full-time arts officer, Ros Rigby, and initiated an extraordinary community arts and public sculpture programme. That really took off in 1990 with the National Gardens Festival, at which no fewer than 70 works of art were displayed.
The installation of Anthony Gormley's monumental Angel of the North eight years later was very much the natural consequence of that early faith in the power of public sculpture. Other local heroes, such as Les Elton, Tony Pender, Peter Hewitt and Andrew Dixon pressed forward with their Case for Capital, a document launched in this building by a young Opposition Front-Bench spokesman named Tony Blair. It precisely set out the vision that almost a decade latergreatly supported by the Arts Councilbecame the splendid reality that I encountered yesterday.
Before moving south, I cannot resist indulging in a bit of local pride by mentioning the phenomenal success of the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. Rebuilt with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and launched in 2001, it has since received more than 1.5 million visitors and was last year runner-up in the English tourism "oscars". We are now hoping that Sunderland will perform equally well in the Premiership next season: I think I hear a muttered reference to yet another miracle!
I would like to finish by taking a look at a case history that pulls all of those threads together. It is just across the river, a short boat ride away to Southwarkthe Tate Modern. Let us start with the fact that, from scratchor with a little help from Sir Gilbert Scottwe have created the most successful museum of modern art in the world. Attendance has been double the then seemingly
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optimistic original expectations. The total number of visitors from its opening on 12 May 2000 to date is well over 21.5 million. By way of comparison, visitor numbers are running at roughly double those of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
But for the purposes of today's debate, there is an even better story to tell. I will take it as read that the dramatic improvement to the skyline across from St Paul's is a source of delight to all but the staunchest members of the Victorian Society. The Tate Modern is already estimated to contribute annually between £95 million and £140 million in economic benefits to London. It has generated something close to 2,000 new jobs in the area of Southwark, and that is set to double in the coming decade.
Your Lordships have patiently listened to me "banging on" for over seven years now about the growth and importance of the cultural industries. So much so that it would be perfectly reasonable to expect me, or them, to begin to run out of steam. Well, I may be, but the cultural industries continue to go from strength to strength. They now represent over 8 per cent of this nation's GDP; that is up from 5 per cent when I started banging on a few years ago. They continue to grow at double the pace of the rest of the economy. It is the linkage between the creative or cultural industries and regeneration through investment in arts infrastructure that really lies at the heart of this debate.
I beg noble Lords not just to take my word for it. Take that short ride down the river and experience what "regeneration"an inadequate word for what I am trying to describereally feels like. We should then cast our minds back to the Southwark wharves of Dickens's time, or the 1930s, 1950s or even the 1970s, all in their ways decades through which the community struggled in what became a byword for exploitation, unemployment and hopelessness. But if, my Lords, the sum total of human activity is to pull people out of misery and into living fulfilling lives, a trip around Southwark today may be enough to convince you that we have not all been wasting our time. I am no Pollyanna because of course much remains to be done, but the direction of travel feels right.
The Tate estimates that the cultural sector within just its own study area will grow by some 55 per cent over the next 10 years. That translates into well over £0.5 billion a year in value and some 20,000 additional jobs, all within a vastly improved environment. I see that as the real value that the arts bring to urban regeneration, and it is happening all over this country. I beg to move for Papers.
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