HC Deb 18 January 1982 vol 16 cc18-20
21. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will safeguard the future of the National Theatre in the event of a withdrawal of financial support by the Greater London Council.

Mr. Channon

I very much hope that this situation will not arise. Clearly the National Theatre must be put in a position to continue its work.

Mr. Hannam

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Greater London Council's proposals for the withdrawal of financial support from all centres of excellence represents the silly, daft Socialist dogma that rules in County Hall? Is he aware that nearly 5 million visitors have attended the National Theatre since it opened? Is that not evidence of the widespread support that the theatre receives from all walks of life?

Mr. Channon

Yes, I think that there is clear evidence in the figures that my hon. Friend gives of the widespread support for and interest in the National Theatre by people from all parts of England, and in particular, of course, from London. The Arts Council and the GLC are continuing discussions. I very much hope that the GLC will maintain its present funding arrangements in the coming financial year.

Mr. Christopher Price

Will the Minister repudiate words such as "silly, daft Socialist dogma" from his side of the House so that he may not be accused of silly, daft Conservative dogma in sacking the deputy chairman of the Arts Council, Mr. Richard Hoggart?

Mr. Channon

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I was guilty of neither silliness nor dogma on that occasion. All that happened was that a person who would otherwise have served for 10 years on the Arts Council—an almost unprecedented stint—will not do so. I believe that it is a privilege to serve on the Arts Council and that occasionally it is right to make some changes.

Mr. Cormack

In view of the new interest in the performing arts shown by the Leader of the Opposition, will my right hon. Friend ask him to have a word with Mr. Tony Banks to ensure that he does not do irreparable damage to this great national institution?

Mr. Channon

I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition can look after himself.

Mr. Faulds

My right hon. Friend may be able to look after himself, but I intend to help him. Anyone who has the privilege of knowing the Leader of the Opposition knows that that kind of silly, snide comment is nonsensical rubbish. However, I rose to make a quieter, more temperate comment.

Does the Minister not agree that if the GLC abdicates its responsibility for the National Theatre, the Government will have to step in and fund the National Theatre's operations to keep the great enterprise working properly and healthily?

Mr. Channon

I very much hope that both the hon. Gentleman and the Leader of the Opposition will use their influence with the Socialist majority on the GLC to ensure that such a state of affairs does not arise.