HC Deb 18 February 1980 vol 979 cc26-7

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

27. Mr. FAULDS

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he expects to make the announcement of the financial allocation to the Arts Council for the financial year 1980–81.

Mr. Speaker

Question No. 27.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I hope to inform this House shortly of the Arts Council's grant-in-aid for 1980–81.

Mr. Faulds

I am sorry to have disturbed the right hon. Gentleman from his slumbers. Does he really think that it is fair to pretend, as he did in a previous answer, that the fact that occasionally the administrators of various of the arts bodies are given a hint as to what they will get really meets the requirement of the people practising the arts throughout the kingdom of actually knowing what the allocation is going to be?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I respectfully point out to the hon. Gentleman that if he has a question on the Order Paper he does have to ask it before I can answer it. That is the normal convention of the House. I am most grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for your helpful intervention.

I do not pretend that it is an ideal system. I should welcome an earlier official announcement. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have been having reviews of public expenditiure. They were taking place until last week or so. In these circumstances, it has not been possible to give a definitive announcement. I trust that I have been as helpful to the Arts Council as my predecessors were.

Mr. Freud

When the amount of the grant is finally announced—I accept that regional arts councils have a good idea of the sorts of sums that will be allocated—will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the sums that are given to the National Theatre are published? Provincial theatres are apprehensive that an extraordinarily large amount of their grants goes to the metropolitan area, and specifically to the National Theatre.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I believe that that is the course that is followed. I shall certainly convey the request of the hon. Gentleman to the Arts Council.