HC Deb 21 January 1980 vol 977 cc25-7
29. Mr. Freud

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what funds have been made available to (a) provincial theatre and (b) provincial opera for the coming year; and if he will express this in real percentage terms of the previous year's allocation.

Mr. Macfarlane

Funds for provincial theatre and opera come from a variety of sources, including the Arts Council, local authorities and private bodies. The level of funds from the Arts Council in the coming year will be a matter for the council to determine in the light of its own grant-in-aid.

Mr. Freud

Does the Minister accept the real contribution made by the provincial opera and the provincial theatre? Will he be mindful of the dangers of giving ever-increasing grant aid to the National Theatre while the total grant aid to the arts remains static?

Mr. Macfarlane

I take note of that. My right hon. Friend and I agree that the contribution by the provincial opera and theatre should be encouraged. However, I do not wish to make any commitment this afternoon.

Mr. Rowlands

Is the Minister aware of the threat to the Welsh National Youth Orchestra as a result of Welsh Office cuts to education authorities? Will he have a word with the philistines in the Welsh Office so that a magnificent youth orchestra is saved?

Mr. Macfarlane

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's latter remark. I certainly do not accept that there are philistines on this side of the House. There is none whatsoever. We recognise art in all its forms.

Mr. Rees-Davies

In the light of that question, I rise as one of the Minister's cultured hon. Friends, to see whether he will pursue an idea which the Tourism Committee considered with Equity and the Theatrical Management Association. Will the Minister consider the possibility of a theatrical society to provide tickets for both provincial and London theatres to encourage the recent insurgence of theatre goers by enabling them to purchase tickets for a year in bulk? Does the Minister accept that in that way we might encourage people on the home front to continue their interest in the living theatre in London and the provinces? Will he originate discussions on those lines to see if we can do something to help the living theatre?

Mr. Macfarlane

My hon and learned Friend—dare I say my hon. and cultured Friend—has certainly made a most interesting suggestion, and as soon as any details are forthcoming my office will be only too happy to give it detailed consideration.