HC Deb 16 February 1987 vol 110 cc651-2
38. Mr. Gareth Wardell

asked the Minister for the Arts what representations he has received about the future of the Sherman theatre, Cardiff.

Mr. Luce

I have received three representations. The university college, Cardiff is in touch with the Welsh Arts Council and the local authorities concerned about the future of the theatre.

Mr. Wardell

Will the Minister make urgent representations to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales about the desperate plight of this theatre? It is an important theatre, especially in terms of Welsh language productions. There have been precedents whereby the Welsh Office has given one-off payments, such as in May 1979, when a £750,000 trust was set up. The income from that led to the installation of a professor of geriatric medicine in the National School of Medicine in Cardiff. I shall be grateful to the Minister if he will make such representations.

Mr. Luce

Both my right hon. Friend and I know the importance of the Sherman theatre to Cardiff and, indeed, to Wales. I observe that the University college has decided to give a tiding-over sum running into early 1988. This will give time for the theatre to look for other sources of funds. The Welsh Arts Council already gives considerable sums and it is reasonable to look to local authorities to play their part too. The South Glamorgan county council plays its part, and other local authorities should look upon the Sherman theatre as a good investment for their areas.

Mr. Grist

Does my right hon. Friend accept that Cardiff city council already gives generously to one theatre in Cardiff and to the finest concert hall in Britain? The county council should certainly give more support, but there is room for central Government short-term financing which will, unfortunately, be necessary over and above anything that the university will give. The university funding is ceasing at short notice.

Mr. Luce

I know the importance that my hon. Friend attaches to this theatre. The Welsh Arts Council receives money direct from the Arts Council of Great Britain—taxpayers' money. It gives a sizeable sum and is taking a keen interest in the whole question of the future financing of this theatre.

Mr. Freud

Does the Minister not feel that the Government have some responsibility for the continued existence and wellbeing of university theatres in general? When UGC funding dries up, is it not important for the Government to provide interim finance so that the wellbeing not only of the theatre in Wales but of those in Exeter and Oxford can be preserved?

Mr. Luce

I must reiterate the point that I have already made, that the Government through the Welsh Arts Council, are already giving considerable support. For this financial year the Welsh Arts Council is giving £250,000 to the theatre. This shows the importance that it attaches to it. With all these theatres, it is partnership and the variety of sources of finance that are important. That is why it is right to look to local authorities to play their part.