Richard Luce – 1985 Speech on the Arts Council

Below is the text of the speech made by Richard Luce, the then Conservative Minister for Arts, in the House of Commons on 14 November 1985.

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement.

I have decided to announce the Arts Council’s grant-in-aid for 1986–87 now to meet the need for the earliest possible sign of provision for the arts after abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan county councils. Subject to parliamentary approval, the grant for the Arts Council next year will be £135·6 million. I understand that this will enable the Arts Council, in accordance with its normal practice, to enter into commitments worth nearly £137 million for the financial year. The grant of £135·6 million is a substantial increase above both the current year’s—1985–86—grant of £105 million and the provisional planning figure of £122 million originally set for next year.

Last year, my predecessor announced £16 million in additional central funding for the performing arts, and £1 million for film, in the abolition areas. Since then, a strong case has been made for more funding. The Government have decided to respond. I am therefore raising the £16 million to £25 million for the Arts Council, and the £1 million to £1·3 million for the British Film Institute. With the £17 million already announced for museums, this brings the total of additional central funding for the arts in the abolition areas next year to over £43 million.

The remaining basic provision of £110·6 million for the Arts Council—a further increase on the originally planned £106 million for next year—is intended to meet other special needs which have been put to me by the Arts Council, especially to continue its strategy of regional arts development. It also includes £0·6 million of continued special support for the Scottish national companies, made necessary following changed responsibilities in local government in Scotland.

These additional sums are a demonstration of my determination to keep up the Government’s support and, in particular, to give arts bodies in the GLC and metropolitan areas a good foundation on which to build. In that context, I invite the districts and boroughs in those areas to give early and constructive thought to the contribution they can make to this joint venture. They have an important role to play.

So have private companies. I hope that business sponsorship of the arts will continue to grow in the abolition areas as in the country as a whole. I shall be looking to see what further action I can take to encourage this through the business sponsorship incentive scheme next year.

Some uncertainty is inevitable at the beginning of a period of transition. For this reason, I propose to give maximum help to the Arts Council in the first year. As time goes on, local authorities which have been relieved of GLC and MCC precepts should be able to increase their share. The central Government’s contribution of £25 million for the Arts Council will accordingly be tapered down. It will be about £21 million in 1987–88, and about £20 million in 1988–89.

All other grants within my arts programme will be announced in a more detailed statement in December. I have not yet taken decisions on the allocations for individual arts bodies, but in overall terms the amounts available will be broadly at the levels which were allowed ​ for in the last public expenditure White Paper, and subsequently communicated for planning purposes to the bodies concerned.

Today’s announcement will now enable the arts to plan ahead with confidence.