HC Deb 18 June 1979 vol 968 cc899-900
24. Mr. Arnold

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he is satisfied with the working of the Theatres Trust Act; and whether he will encourage the Arts Council to support the aims and objects of the Act.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

I wish first to congratulate my hon. Friend on adding a footnote to history by being the first Member to ask a question in the first arts question period.

I am satisfied that the Theatres Trust has adequate powers under the Act to enable it to assist in the protection of our theatres. The Government provide funds to the Arts Council for the support of our theatres and it is for the council to consider its relationship with the Theatres Trust.

Mr. Arnold

There was never any question of applying departmental funds to support the aims and objects of the Act, but will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking to keep the matter under review?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

My hon. Friend is right to say that when the original Bill was discussed it was made clear that the trust that was set up could not be supported from departmental funds. I am aware of the difficulties in which the trust now finds itself, and I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said. I am also due to meet my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) and the former Member for Putney, Mr. Hugh Jenkins, to discuss the matter. If my hon. Friend likes to join us, he will be welcome.

Mr. Crouch

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Theatres Trust is one of the most remarkable productions of the last Parliament? It is not a quango. It is more like a tango; it is a theatre adviser that is non-Government owned. Does he not agree that it cannot go on doing the Government's job much longer unless it is given some funds?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am well aware of the problems that face that body. It is something of a Frankenstein monster. [HON. MEMBERS: "Created by you."] It is not a monster that I created; it was created by one of my hon. Friends. I regard this as eminently the sort of body to be financed by an appeal to private sources.