HC Deb 14 March 1978 vol 946 cc207-9
9. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he next expects to meet the Chairman of the Arts Council

Mrs. Shirley Williams

My noble Friend the Minister of State with responsibility for the arts, meets the Chairman of the Arts Council frequently. I last met him on 31st January and arrange to meet him whenever occasion demands.

Mr. Ridley

I apologise for getting the right hon. Lady's sex wrong in the Question. It was not my fault.

Will the right hon. Lady ask the Chairman of the Arts Council whether he will publish the salary of the Director of the National Theatre? As we are allowed to know the salaries of the heads of nationalised industries, it seems to me to be in the interests of open government that we should know the director's salary as well.

Mrs. Williams

I accept the hon. Gentleman's apology. I was rather surprised at his lack of perception whether I was a man or a woman.

The salary of the Director of the National Theatre is a matter for the board of the National Theatre, and I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should address himself to the board.

Mr. Flannery

When my right hon. Friend next meets the Chairman of the Arts Council for discussion, will she bear in mind the plight of the provincial theatres, some of whose representatives met some of us recently? We were informed that £37 a week was often the wage of actors and that for about 10 to 15 weeks a year they have to go on the dole. Will she discuss that matter with the Chairman of the Arts Council, as the position of the provincial theatres is regarded as very serious by many people?

Mrs. Williams

The preliminary question is the saving of the major provincial theatres so that there will be jobs for those who want them in the theatrical profession. My hon. Friend will be aware that the theatrical profession has a great many people in it who are seeking work. I accept what he said about the low pay of actors in some provincial areas.

Sir Bernard Braine

Will the right hon. Lady accept that it is important for her to get her priorities right? Before she takes up any of her valuable time on a meeting with the Chairman of the Arts Council, will she arrange a very urgent meeting with local authorities to discuss the lock-out at lunch-time of tens of thousands of children up and down the country? Without making any comment on the dispute—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is too well experienced not to know that he is stretching the Question from here to Cardiff. I remind him that it is about the Arts Council.

Sir B. Braine

I always accept your advice, Mr. Speaker, but the Question referred to a meeting with the Chairman of the Arts Council and I am suggesting to the right hon. Lady, who is responsible for the education ultimately of all children in this country, that there is a far more urgent matter for her to deal with here and now.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Back in the capital, may I ask the Secretary of State whether she will give her support to the Arts Council in resisting the Scrooges of the Inland Revenue, who are now proposing to tax the prizes which the Arts Council gives to authors, artists, poets and others of the deserving poor, who get a very poor deal already from our society?

Mrs. Williams

The hon. Gentleman will not expect me to comment in detail but I am very much aware of the problem and concerned about it.