Parliament:Peers protest cuts in arts

LORD FREYBERG, a 28-year-old hereditary peer, last night made his swan song with a call to protect the arts from cuts by local authorities after a tight settlement on the rate support grant by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Lord Freyberg, a sculptor, who will lose his seat on the crossbenches under the planned Lords reform, said: "Only last week, Westminster City Council drastically reduced their funding to such major art institutions as the ICA, English National Ballet, English National Opera and the Serpentine as a way of offsetting the cost of looking after a large number of refugees."

The Earl Gowrie, former arts minister and a Conservative hereditary peer, claimed that arts support was 10 per cent lower than six years ago in real terms, in spite of higher sums invested under Labour.

Lord McIntosh, the Deputy Chief Whip, said: "There is no justification for local authorities to be imposing cuts on any area of the arts." He said an extra pounds 125m would be spent on the arts over the next three years.