HC Deb 22 November 1982 vol 32 cc577-8
21. Mr. Tilley

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what subjects he expects to discuss at his next meeting with the secretary general of the Arts Council.

Mr. Channon

I hold regular meetings with the chairman and secretary general at which a variety of matters of common interest are discussed.

Mr. Tilley

Is the Minister aware that Kelmscott House, the home of William Morris, who was a great Socialist and artist, is being lost to the public and that it has been bought by a man who intends to turn William Morris' study into a kitchen? Will the right hon. Gentleman have an urgent meeting with the secretary general of the Arts Council to evolve a plan so that not only is that house restored to the public, but the achievements of Morris and his followers in literature and design are made available to the public through performance and exhibition?

Mr. Channon

I cannot believe that this is a matter for me. The hon. Gentleman should perhaps approach my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment about the house. I very much enjoyed attending, together with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, in whose constituency it took place, the reopening of the William Morris museum recently.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

When my right hon. Friend next has discussions with the secretary general of the Arts Council, will he find out what sums are paid to the administrators of the Royal Opera House and the National Theatre? It is rumoured that the sums amount to £60,000 a year or more. Instead of bleating for more money from the taxpayer, is it not possible that they could run their affairs and their jobs more efficiently in the first place?

Mr. Channon

The Royal Opera House probably spends less money than any other international opera house in the world. I do not know the details of the salaries of the administrators. If the House in general wishes those details to be discovered, I would have no objection.

Mr. Freud

When he next meets representatives of the Arts Council, will the Minister discuss the provision of marketing expertise, especially for civic theatres, possibly by involving industry that sponsors and aids the arts?

Mr. Channon

Yes. That is an extremely good idea. The arts organisations vary considerably in marketing expertise. Some are extremely good at it. There are plenty of lessons to be learnt. I shall bear the hon. Gentleman's suggestion in mind.

Mr. Silvester

Will my right hon. Friend discuss with the secretary general of the Arts Council the great concern that has arisen about the subsidy for the Royal Opera House since there are plans no longer to use a theatre that has been specially converted for its benefit in the city of Manchester?

Mr. Channon

Yes. That is a topic that I shall be discussing with the chairman and the secretary general of the Arts Council in view of the widespread concern that has been expressed. It is an extremely complicated matter. I do not believe that all the facts have yet emerged. It is, however, one of the main topics that I shall wish to discuss.

Mr. Whitehead

Is the Minister aware that he has had in his possession for some months a letter from the chairman of the Arts Council which stressed that, unless a minimum of £98.5 million was paid in grant this year, substantial cuts would have to be imposed on national companies and regional activities which, to some extent, the Arts Council has supported? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that a figure of 4 per cent. or thereabouts, rumoured as the amount to be given this year, would be disastrous for the national companies and the regional system?

Mr. Channon

The House must recognise that it is impossible to exempt the arts completely from financial constraints that are inevitable in the economy as a whole. I shall naturally do my best for the arts. Hon. Members will be interested to see the details of the grants when I am able to announce them.