HC Deb 22 July 1991 vol 195 cc746-7
25. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Minister for the Arts what is the average total subsidy out of public funds paid for each seat for performances of opera in the Royal Opera house.

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Tim Renton)

In 1990–91, the subsidy per seat for opera performances at the Royal Opera house was £27–28. By comparison, the figure at Welsh National Opera was £33–69.

Mr. Flynn

Will the Minister explain to those of us who are having difficulties with the concept of citizenship why the citizen millionaire, Gerald Ronson had a state handout of £52 a fortnight ago when he attended the opera house with his wife, whereas a citizen who is homeless and 17-years-old gets nothing from the state and one who is unemployed and aged 24 receives the princely sum of £31 to last the entire week? Is that fair?

Mr. Renton

I will deal with the small part of the question which referred to the Royal Opera house, which falls within my responsibility. It is fairly obvious that the subsidy per seat goes very much more directly to those who sit in the cheap seats at the top of the house than to those who sit in the expensive seats at the bottom. It goes far more, for example, to those who pay £4 to sit in the upper slips. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that when I was at the opera house last week, I saw the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and the noble Lord Varley. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that they were not sitting in the cheap seats.

Mr. Jessel

Does it weigh with my right hon. Friend and with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that not only opera, but all the other arts and heritage, pull into Britain visitors whose spending on hotels, restaurants, shops and travel generates income, employment and a tax yield to the Government? Should not that and the possibility of a national lottery for the arts be taken into account?

Mr. Renton

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. It is obvious that performances at the great theatres and opera houses in London are attractive to tourists from both within this country and without. That pulls in a great deal of money, including VAT revenue on tickets. It is also noticeable that the subsidy for performances at the Royal Opera house is much less than that in Rome, which is more than double that of London, and much less than that in Vienna or Berlin. It is clear that if we were to decide in due course to have a national lottery, the proceeds of that could be helpful in, for example, restoring the fabric of the Royal Opera house.

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