HC Deb 16 December 1975 vol 902 cc1156-7
15. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what recent steps he has taken to ensure the survival of theatre in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

The survival of the theatre in the United Kingdom is the concern of many different organisations and individuals, including the Arts Council, local authorities and private promoters. I am sure that the supplementary estimate of £2.3 million, if approved, will help the Arts Council to meet the needs of the subsidised theatre as well as its other clients.

Mr. Hannam

Will the hon. Gentleman recognise that these last-minute grant announcements are causing a near breakdown in the living theatre where plans are having to be made now for tours next year? What type of grant will be made by the Government for the coming year is not known, so will the hon. Gentleman consider a triennial system so that the theatres' plans can be formalised and agreed?

Mr. Jenkins

The Arts Council, like everybody else, cannot escape entirely from the effects of inflation. That is why the Government's plans for getting inflation under control are as important in the arts as anywhere else. It is useless to have a triennial system in an inflationary situation. The best way of proceeding is to meet the Arts Council's needs as best we can at the time. A triennial situation with forewarning is desirable and we shall return to it as soon as we can, but controlling inflation is the first necessity before returning to such a system.

Mr. Flannery

Is my hon. Friend aware that many people are more worried about the continued survival of the United Kingdom within the Common Market than about the survival of the theatre? But is he also aware that we should like a great deal more money to be given to the theatre? Does he agree that it ill becomes Opposition Members, who are constantly asking for cuts in expenditure, to ask for more money to be given to an organisation, even though we agree that it needs more money?

Mr. Jenkins

I think that my hon. Friend will agree that I have enough to do to ensure the survival of the theatre without taking on the survival of the United Kingdom as a whole.

Mr. Cormack

What representations has the hon. Gentleman made to Treasury Ministers about the removal of VAT from the theatre? Does he realise that this, above all, would help to create a prospect of certainty for the theatre?

Mr. Jenkins

Questions about VAT are for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but within the grant given to the Arts Council an amount has been allowed for the replacement of the VAT it has to pay.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the subsidised theatre could learn a good deal from the commercial sector, particularly about making economic use of resources? Will he do his best to bring the two together?

Mr. Jenkins

The relationship between the subsidised and the commercial theatre has never been better.