HC Deb 03 March 1966 vol 725 cc1477-8
37. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he has yet reached a decision on support for the National Youth Orchestra.

Miss Jennie Lee

As I told the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) on 24th February, we are now examining legal difficulties affecting the Department's powers to assist the National Youth Orchestra financially. But I again repeat the assurance that I gave earlier in this House that we are determined to save this orchestra.

Dame Irene Ward

While thanking the hon. Lady for believing that this is a genuine attempt, may I ask her to explain why it appears to be so much easier legally to get on with the children's theatre than with the National Youth Orchestra, since both seem to be in harmony?

Miss Lee

I assure the hon. Lady that no one is keener than I am to cut through the red tape, but when we get hold of public money to spend there must be public accountability. There are certain legal difficulties in the Department, but, as I have said, I agree that the National Youth Orchestra should be saved. On the question of the children's theatre, a great deal of preliminary work is being done and, in the next Parliament, we will give the matter high priority.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Can the hon. Lady give some idea of the legal difficulties involved? Is she aware that we have been pressing for this for a very long time and that we want to see something done quickly and properly?

Miss Lee

There are no powers available to the Department at present to give grants for private schools of this nature. This is a genuine legal difficulty which we are trying to get over. I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no hesitation on the part of anyone in wishing to save this very special orchestra.

Mr. Shinwell

Would my hon. Friend invite the Leader of the Opposition to join the National Youth Orchestra?