MPs have criticised Arts Council England (ACE) and Government decisions in a well-attended parliamentary debate held on Wednesday. Many of them quoted information from the MU’s briefing paper.
Conservative MP Robert Neil led on the situation at English National Opera (ENO) and laid the blame at ACE’s door:
The difficulty is the lack of any apparent evidence base for these decisions… it's the lack of any proper consultation or impact assessment.
MU member Kevin Brennan MP criticised the decision to cut funding to the touring side of Welsh National Opera, which tours extensively in England. He noted that this cut coupled with the cut to Glyndebourne now means that cities like Liverpool will have no opera, and questioned how this meets the ‘levelling up’ agenda.
Harriet Harman MP made the point that reducing funding for opera makes it more exclusive rather than less, because it hits the touring and outreach work that companies do. As she put it:
Because Britten Sinfonia has lost its annual grant of half a million pounds, it will not be able to do is education and outreach work in the East of England.
She also made a point of saying to ACE that it was not too late to change their minds about the decisions that had been made.
Damian Collins MP, the new Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee noted that "art for art’s sake should be accessible to the whole country," and criticised what he sees as the lack of a clear strategy from ACE, particularly in the case of ENO:
We need to get to a place where the ENO can plan for the future, invest in the future… but part of that plan needs to be a fair funding settlement to enable it to develop that plan and strategy.
Stuart Andrew MP was the Minister who responded and he made it clear that the cuts to organisations in London had been a Government recommendation:
“Access to high quality arts and culture needs to be more fairly spread, that is why we asked Arts Council England that funding is distributed more equally right across the country, and as my ministerial colleagues have said in ministerial statements, Arts Council have fulfilled on these objectives and we’re not apologetic about fulfilling our policy commitments”