§ Mr. Bowis
Will my right hon. Friend take a brisk two-step, first to the Arts Council to discuss with it the criteria by which it allocates money for the arts, and to express the concern of this House that there might be some 652 risk of the council not including a solution to funding for the Northern Ballet? Will he then take a brisk step on to the chairman of British Rail and discuss with him his recent statements that he may be considering withdrawing the entertainment express contract, which, of course, gives great support to touring companies, including dance companies?
§ Mr. Luce
On my hon. Friend's latter point, I note the concern that has been expressed by many people in the arts world. I have been in touch with the chairman of British Rail to draw his attention to the widespread anxiety about that matters and I hope that he will take these views into account.
As to dance policy, the Arts Council is considering the independent report. My hon. Friend drew attention to the Northern Ballet. There was a very impressive Adjournment debate in this House, which was widely attended. I took the chance to convey to the chairman of the Arts Council the strong views of the House, and I know that he will take those views into account.
§ Mr. Flannery
Did the Minister discuss with the chairman of the Arts Council the details of the Northern Ballet, Manchester, which tours more than any other company, and for which there is very deep affection throughout the north, and, indeed, in a much wider area, so that its continuance can be assured?
§ Mr. Luce
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have drawn very strongly to the attention of the chairman of the Arts Council the views of this House, which have been widely expressed, about the value of the Northern Ballet. It is, of course, for the council to make the decision. I should point out that it is not a final decision, that this is just one of a number of options that have been put forward in an independent report, which the council will have to consider shortly.