§ 44. Mr. Wareing
asked the Minister for the Arts what recent discussions he has had with the Arts Council about funding of the arts on Merseyside; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Richard Luce)
I have discussed the Merseyside situation with the chairman of the Arts Council, and my officials have been in constant touch with officers of the Arts Council and the Merseyside Arts Association. I am very pleased that a satisfactory settlement has been reached, which secures the future of all the major arts organisations on Merseyside.
§ Mr. Wareing
Bearing in mind that it took eight months of intense negotiation to reach a settlement for the performing arts, I do not think that the people on Merseyside can be as glad about the situation as the Minister's answer suggests that he is. Is he resisting the attempts of the Treasury to cut the Arts Council's budget? Does he realise that not only the voluntary sector on Merseyside will be at stake, but that institutions such as the Philharmonic Hall could still be threatened with closure next year if the budget is cut and the Government's contribution is any less than it was this year?
§ Mr. Luce
The people who live on Merseyside have every reason to be pleased that there is now a conclusion to the long negotiations. I am glad that the Arts Council, which contributed over £1 million, and the local authorities are playing a positive part in that settlement. 14 It is the last of the areas to reach a settlement. I believe that there is a positive long-term future for all the major arts bodies on Merseyside.
§ Mr. Ottaway
When my right hon. Friend was considering Arts Council funding for Merseyside, was he aware of the large sums being made by Sir Peter Hall and Trevor Nunn, which could well be used on Merseyside and in the east midlands?
§ Mr. Luce
I note what my hon. Friend has said. As I have already made plain, as has the chairman of the Arts Council, the question of the guidelines for the terms and conditions of directors of organisations, such as the National theatre and the Royal Shakespeare company, have been referred to the Cork inquiry, which is looking into the future of subsidised theatre.
§ Mr. Alton
I thank the Minister for the personal help he has given this year in securing funding for many of the arts institutions on Merseyside. Has he had a chance to consider the representations made to him about the "Act Now" venture, which he saw earlier this summer, and will he be able to provide any funding for that in the future? Will he also comment on business sponsorship for the arts on Merseyside and how successful that can be?
§ Mr. Luce
I have already had a meeting with representatives of those who have been behind the "Act Now" venture, and I have great admiration for the work that they have done. I am considering the points that they made to me and I hope to have a meeting with them in Plymouth next week during meetings of the Council of Regional Arts Associations.
On sponsorship, the Digital Equipment Company has come in with support to the tune of just under £400,000, supplemented by extra sponsorship and awards from the Government, which makes a total of £500,000 for dance and ballet throughout the country, not just in London. That is a supremely good example of what businesses can do to help the arts. I hope that businesses on Merseyside will play their part in this.