HC Deb 13 December 1993 vol 234 c675
12. Ms Lynne

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what representations he has received regarding the threat of funding cuts to theatres in Greater Manchester.

Mr. Sproat

I have received a number of representations from hon. Members and others about theatres in Greater Manchester.

Ms Lynne

Does the Minister agree that, in the very year when Manchester will be designated the city of drama, it is ridiculous that the Library theatre and others in the area should be under threat? Does he agree that that is partly due to the fact that the Secretary of State did not secure the necessary funding in the public expenditure round and that local authorities have been forced to make cuts in their grants, because of the lack of money from the Government?

Mr. Sproat

No, I do not agree. The Library and the Forum theatres in Manchester are supported by the local authority, which meets this week to decide their future. I very much hope that it will decide to continue its support for those theatres.

Mr. Simon Coombs

Is not the recent fiasco of Arts Council funding for regional theatres in Manchester and elsewhere futher evidence that the council is simply losing its grip? This afternoon, the House has already addressed the funding of the London orchestras, which concerns me greatly, as my hon. Friend knows.

Since the Arts Council seems to have lost its grip on its responsibility for the artistic and cultural life of this country, will Ministers consider taking a fresh grip on the Arts Council by re-examining the arm's-length relationship?

Mr. Sproat

My right hon. Friend has a tight grip on the Arts Council and has managed to give it an extra £800,000 that it did not expect to get—[Interruption.] That is 1.7 per cent., which is not much in these circumstances. My hon. Friend will know that the London orchestras are being discussed by the Arts Council this week.

On provincial theatres, Lord Palumbo agreed that perhaps that matter could have been better handled by the Arts Council. Perhaps I might use this occasion to say that that is always something that the Arts Council does on the arm's-length principle, and it is not a matter for the Department of National Heritage to decide.

Forward to