HC Deb 10 December 1984 vol 69 cc734-6
34. Sir David Price

asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking in conjunction with the Arts Council to ensure the future of the English National Opera.

Mr. Waldegrave

My right hon. and noble Friend is in touch with the Arts Council, which is keeping the situation under review.

Sir David Price

Is my hon. Friend aware that the English National Opera's financial difficulties arise largely because of its recent American tour? Is he further aware that that raises wide issues of whether nationally sponsored companies should tour abroad, bearing in mind the risks involved? What are my hon. Friend's thoughts on this matter?

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend is right. The English National Opera's difficulties arise from an American tour and especially because of the failure of some promises in America to find money for the company. It has always been the case that Arts Council money cannot be used for touring abroad. Such tours are undertaken at the risk of the companies concerned. I understand that the tour was a triumphant artistic success, which is why my right hon. and noble Friend is keeping closely in touch.

Mr. Ray Powell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Do you have any discretion in regard to a Minister coupling questions? You will have noted that the Secretary of State for Wales today coupled two questions tabled by Conservative Members. That resulted in the exclusion of 11 out of 22 questions, most of which had been tabled by Labour Members. The Secretary of State coupled question No. 4 with question No. 17, the latter of which was tabled by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Terlezki), and question No. 10 with question No. 7, which was also tabled by a Conservative Member. At 3.10 pm Welsh Questions were delayed until after questions relating to public accounts had been dealt with. After question No. 11 had been taken we proceeded to questions on the Arts, with the result that questions Nos. 12 to 22 were not asked. Such coupling is not unusual. The Secretary of State has previously coupled five or six questions, especially when they relate to the coal mining dispute. Today, he should have coupled at least my question No. 14 with question No. 4 and he could have taken more questions with question No. 7, which was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies).

I do not want to delay the House unduly, but there is another important point that arises out of Question Time today. Is it in order for a Conservative Member who rarely attends the House, but when he does so on a Friday complains about other Welsh Members—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman's latter point—it is not a matter for me. I note his point on the linking of questions. That is entirely a matter for the Minister concerned. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have noted that I called him immediately after the supplementary questions of the hon. Members who tabled questions Nos. 4 and 17.

Mr. Powell

I am very grateful.

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has any grouse, has he? Moreover, all hon. Members who tabled a question that appeared on the Order Paper today were called to ask a supplementary question. We got through the whole list of 22 hon. Members, at least in supplementary questions.