HC Deb 22 February 1993 vol 219 cc669-70
9. Mr. Bowis

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will review the regulations affecting small theatres.

Mr. Brooke

Although the regulations affecting small theatres are not the responsibility of my Department, I have, like my hon. Friend, an interest in their work.

Mr. Bowis

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, beneath the great success of British theatre is the heartbeat of the small theatre which provides the first opportunity for many writers, producers and actors? However, the small theatre is a tender flower which needs to be protected. It has suffered various problems in the past, including those relating to the 48-hour rule. The small theatre is now moving into the licensing world—which, although not covered by my right hon. Friend's Department, is legislated for in the House-and there is a risk that the cost and bureaucracy of licensing may once again put the small theatre at risk. Will my right hon. Friend keep a close watch on that issue?

Mr. Brooke

As I said in my main answer, I share my hon. Friend's interest and I have been delighted to be able to attend performances in small theatres since I took on my present job. As my hon. Friend is aware, a review of the licensing laws in pub theatres was carried out a few years ago. The then Home Secretary concluded that the public performance of plays should continue to be licensed under the Theatres Act 1968. In making that decision, he was particularly mindful of the fire and safety implications. I am not persuaded that there is any reason to reopen the issue.

Mr. Dafis

The Secretary of State may be aware of the problems that have been created by the local management of schools, particularly grant-maintained status, for small theatre and education companies. Will the right hon. Gentleman study the way in which partnership funding currently works? Will he also consider ways in which the problems can be remedied, specifically by strengthening the funding and the contribution from the Arts Council of Great Britain in order to compensate for the current loss of funding from local education authorities?

Mr. Brooke

The question posed by the hon. Gentleman is more a matter for education Ministers than for me, but I recognise the read-across that he has established. One of the facts that have been brought home to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and myself during the past year is the extent of the overlap between our responsibilities and those elsewhere. I shall glady look at the issue raised by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Hawkins

Will my right hon. Friend accept that many small and medium-sized theatres such as the Grand theatre in my constituency of Blackpool have benefited from Government support in recent years? Does my right hon. Friend accept that such Government support is much appreciated?

Mr. Brooke

In 1993–94 the Arts Council of Great Britain will allocate more than £40 million to drama and mime companies. In addition, drama companies benefit from the council's touring fund and the regional arts boards. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity of mentioning that.