HC Deb 22 May 1989 vol 153 cc671-2
55. Mr. Bowis

To ask the Minister for the Arts what discussions he has held about the future funding of English National Opera.

Mr. Luce

The funding of individual arts organisations is a matter for the Arts Council, but I keep in touch with the chairman and director of English National Opera.

Mr. Bowis

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is widespread admiration for the English National Opera, which has made enormous strides in the quality of its productions as well as in education, touring and attracting sponsorship? Is he aware that there is widespread unease that the company is unable to plan ahead because of the failure to reach an agreement with Westminster city council in particular? Will he talk to his colleagues in Government about that?

Mr. Luce

My hon. Friend is right to emphasise the English National Opera's standard of excellence in the arts. Its last season was remarkable and there were many new productions. There are five new productions in the coming season. It does an extremely effective job in generating new audiences for opera and I have nothing but praise for what it achieves. My hon. Friend is also right to draw attention to the fact that a proportion of its grant comes from Westminster city council. It is an important contribution to its overall funding. The Government provide just under £7 million and its total resources are about £15 million. Therefore, it is an important sum and I hope that Westminster city council, in considering what support it can give, will enlist the support of other London boroughs on whose behalf at present it gives support to the English National Opera.

Mr. Jessel

Will my right hon. Friend take this matter seriously as the English National Opera is an important and successful British institution whose viability is jeopardised by a side effect of the reorganisation of local government finance? Will he talk with our right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government on this matter as soon as possible?

Mr. Luce

In the past I have been in touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment on this matter and I attach great importance to it. It is right at this stage to stress that I look to Westminster city council to decide what it can contribute and then to generate support from other London boroughs to see what they can do to help English National Opera.