HC Deb 04 November 1954 vol 532 cc572-3
8. Miss Ward

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the Report of the Public Accounts Committee on the high percentage of Arts Council expenditure in London and the fact that Covent Garden expenditure has to be met out of the Arts Council Grant causing this disparity, he will consider treating Covent Garden as a National Opera House on the same basis as the National Gallery or Tate Gallery.

Mr. H. Brooke

My right hon. Friend would be most reluctant to diminish the valuable part played by the Arts Council in encouraging opera and ballet at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, but he keeps under constant review the form of the financial arrangements to which my hon. Friend draws attention.

Miss Ward

Is my hon. Friend aware that he has got hold of the wrong end of the stick in that answer? Does he think it fair that the Arts Council should be publicly castigated by the Public Accounts Committee for the expenditure of money which it is bound to spend because of the Minister of Works? Will he reconsider the position so that the Arts Council can obtain the full value, which it ought to have, of the money which is sent to it for the purpose of spreading art in all parts of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Brooke

I said in my original answer that my right hon. Friend keeps under constant review these financial arrangements, which, I agree, constitute a very real problem, and I do not think there is any easy solution to them.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

Is not the hon. Lady asking for an attempt to be made to cover up something to which she apparently does not object, namely, the spending of far too large a proportion of available funds in London rather than in the provinces?

Mr. Brooke

The terms of the Question make clear what my hon. Friend wishes to be done. In the current year the Arts Council is spending on opera and ballet outside London a very great deal more than the figure mentioned in the Report of the Public Accounts Committee.