Question: Arts funding and Government targets (to Estelle Morris, Minister of State for Arts)

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Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): How can the Minister reconcile the positive tone of the Secretary of State’s recent speech, which was warmly welcomed in the arts world because it appeared to be moving away from intrusive political objectives for arts funding, with the Government’s continuing and increasing addiction to quotas and targets? They affect museums, not least in the north-west. Does not she agree that the single greatest act of creativity and human ingenuity that the Government have encouraged in the arts is the invention of bogus statistics, which are designed purely to satisfy their meddlesomeness and Stalinist obsession with quotas?

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): The hon. Gentleman falls into the trap of thinking that, as a country, we have to choose between art, museums and galleries as excellent and worthy in their own right and the contribution that they can make to other parts of civic and national life. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that it was a case not of “either/or” but of “both”. Like her, I am happy to defend art for art’s sake – I believe that we should always do that – but that does not detract from the contribution that art can make to wider social agendas. It is important that art can contribute to well-being, community cohesion, regeneration, higher educational standards and better mental health. We should not ignore that.

On targets, the Government are investing in the arts – including in museums and galleries in the north-west as well as in other regions. The taxpayer has a right to ask us what return there has been for that investment. We therefore ensure that the investment is targeted and brings about positive outcomes, such as more visitors from a wider range of backgrounds. I am pleased that we have those statistics because they allow us to show the success of the Government’s policies.