All you need is a luvvie

Under Blair's new scheme stars will use their millions to help young hopefuls
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The Independent Online
Showbusiness millionaires are giving a mixed reception to a Labour Party plan to help fund young performers with earnings from their royalties.

Sir Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sir Cameron Mackintosh are among the millionaires that Labour is wooing for a radical scheme to help finance the arts.

The scheme announced yesterday by Tony Blair would involve the establishment of a new National Endowment for Science and The Arts (Nesta) to which successful artists and inventors would donate or bequeath copyrights or patent royalties to generate money for a new generation of creative talent.

There are likely to be tax inducements for donors.The scheme would not be compulsory.

By last night, however, there was a dearth of firm pledges to support what is one of the key planks of the party's arts policy.

Sir Cameron Mackintosh, a name definitely on the list of people the Labour arts team would like to contribute to the Nesta funds, ruled out leaving money to Labour's new endowment scheme.

He said he would leave royalties from his shows, which include Miss Saigon and Les Miserables, to the Cameron Mackintosh Foundation, the charitable foundation that he has set up.

He added that he has always voted Conservative in the past, but said yesterday he did not know yet how he would vote at the next election.

A spokesman for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber said Sir Andrew had not been approached about the scheme.

Mick Jagger also said he was unaware of any approach and knew nothing of the scheme. He would not be drawn on whether he would give money to such an endowment.

However, Sir Paul McCartney and Elton John are understood to have shown some interest. Labour Party sources claimed they had been supportive.

Sir Paul was not available for comment yesterday, but he is thought to have been particularly impressed with the argument that by leaving royalties from a particular recording to the fund, he could be sure that the profits from his work would remain in the country and fund talented young people.

A spokesman for Elton John said the singer gave the royalties from his singles to the Elton John Aids Foundation, but he was very supportive of new British talent both in music and in fashion. Labour sources are confident that the singer will support Nesta.

The key people behind the new policy are film producer Sir David Puttnam, an adviser to Labour's arts team, and John Newbiggin, a former adviser to Neil Kinnock, who now works at Sir David's company Enigma Productions.

Mr Newbiggin said yesterday: "If this scheme had been up and running 20 years ago The Beatles might not have sold their copyrights to Michael Jackson.

"But as well as the big megastars there would be small endowments. We are a world leader in fashion, design, music, advertising, and product design. We would envisage hundreds of these endowments being set up."

The Labour arts team is understood to be exploring ways to make the endowments "tax efficient" so there would be an incentive, in addition to altruism, to encourage successful artists to give money.

Sir David Puttnam said yesterday: "I would be very disappointed if we couldn't get a trust fund that would generate pounds 100m a year of investment income."

The money, he said, would be invested in people, in Britain's future.

Asked if he had in mind Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, perhaps, bequeathing in his will the royalties from one of his musicals, Sir David replied: "That would be a very good example."

And he added: "The National Trust is the largest membership organisation in the world. It has done an extraordinary job in promoting the physical heritage.

"We have another heritage, intellectual property rights of all sorts, from music to design. At present intellectual copyrights bring in $50bn (pounds 31bn) a year and that figure is growing by 15 per cent per annum."

The scheme was condemned yesterday by the Secretary of State for National Heritage, Virginia Bottomley, who said: "This luvvies' charter confirms my worst fears. This Labour scheme for a politically correct lottery will be at the expense of communities up and down the country."

Admitting it was an unusual idea, Sir David Puttnam said yesterday: "It must have seemed just as odd a suggestion to leave your land and buildings to the nation when the National Trust was set up."

Blair's busy day, page 6

How the trust would work

Nesta, the Labour Party's National Endowment for Science and the Arts, is designed to encourage successful performers, designers, inventors and artists to give or bequeath money to an endowment fund to help finance young talent. Tax inducements are being explored. A tranche of lottery money would also be used to swell the fund.

The Labour leader, Tony Blair, said yesterday: "I believe we must approach the promotion of excellence in a more structured way. That is why we want to create a National Endowment for Science and the Arts to invest in new talent and promote public understanding of the arts, science and technology. It would work through existing organisations, both public sector and voluntary, to identify the talent of tomorrow, and provide the support that is so important to help it flourish.

"The endowment would be launched with tranches of lottery funds after the millennium, and be built up with gifts or or assignments of copyrights and patent royalties to support the next generation, in the same way the National Trust encourages endowments of land and property. Nesta will therefore be self financing ... a 21st century National Trust for talent in Britain, backing human capital rather than buildings."

The money men

Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Sunday Times' 500 richest people in Britain ranks him 22nd with pounds 550m

Sir Paul McCartney: Ranked 30th, has a fortune estimated at pounds 420m. His company, MPL, is worth pounds 100m

Sir Cameron Mackintosh: Ranked at 55, is said to be worth pounds 250m. Les Miserables alone has brought in pounds 600m

Elton John: Ranked 115th, is worth some pounds 140m with musical copyrights of more than pounds 70m

Mick Jagger: Ranked 145th, worth pounds 110m and said to study the stock market between gigs