HC Deb 15 February 1988 vol 127 cc699-700
48. Mr. Butler

To ask the Minister for the Arts whether he intends to take powers to fund directly major national art institutions including the Royal Opera House, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

Mr. Luce

No, I think it better that funding arrangements should be made by the Arts Council.

Mr. Butler

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the institutions are making very good progress as it is? Will he assure me that things will not change?

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his alertness. It is important to maintain the arm's length principle in the disbursement of all the sums of money to the performing arts. It is right that the allocation to the four flagships should be maintained by the Arts Council, and not directly by me.

Mr. Fisher

Will the Minister confirm that the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Opera House are not only contributing in a fine way to our arts life, but are doing an enormous amount for the economy by attracting tourists? Why, then, is the success of the National Theatre being penalised by a standstill budget this year? If the Minister is serious about his Government backing success in the arts, why is the Arts Council not investing more money in the National Theatre?

Mr. Luce

I have no doubt of the important role of the four organisations, not just the National Theatre. It is for the Arts Council to decide how it should disburse its money, but it is worth pointing out that £30 million of taxpayers' money goes to the four national companies, which constituted about 20 per cent. of the Arts Council's total budget. It is perfectly open to organisations, such as the National Theatre, to bid for three-year funding, which I assume it will do shortly, and to bid for incentive funding over the next few months. I believe that if they can prove themselves they will be entitled to additional money. It is up to them to negotiate it with the Arts Council.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Does my right hon. Friend agree that some of Peter Hall's productions, good as they always are, are extremely lavish and even unduly expensive? Does he also agree that Peter Hall is directing his target at the right base, which is the Arts Council, which has made its decision on the future funding of the National Theatre, not the Government?

Mr. Luce

Yes, generally speaking the standard of artistic performance at the National Theatre is outstanding. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is for the Arts Council, the National Theatre and other big organisations to decide on the level of budgets. It is for them to negotiate direct with the Arts Council.

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