HC Deb 01 April 1996 vol 275 cc10-2
11. Mr. Brazier

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what discussions she has had on the future funding position of the D'Oyly Carte theatre company. [21902]

15. Mrs. Lait

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage when she last had a meeting with the chairman of D'Oyly Carte to discuss future funding arrangements. [21906]

Mr. Sproat

I regard the D'Oyly Carte company as one of our national cultural institutions. I recently met Sir Michael Bishop, the chairman of D'Oyly Carte, who set out the company's current position, and I very much hope that the negotiations, which are continuing, about the company's future can soon be brought to a satisfactory conclusion for all parties involved, so that D'Oyly Carte can continue to flourish and delight audiences for years to come.

Mr. Brazier

Hear, hear. Does my hon. Friend agree that if the Arts Council spent a little less than £56 million on the Royal Opera house and stopped subsidising chopped-up sheep, it would be able to help D'Oyly Carte? If he is having any trouble persuading the luvvies at the Arts Council, could he remind them of the words of W. S. Gilbert:

But the privilege and pleasure That we treasure beyond measure Is to run on little errands for the Ministers of State."?

Mr. Sproat

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his knowledge of Gilbert and Sullivan. I shall make certain that the chairman of the Arts Council not only receives a copy of what my hon. Friend said but is told of the tone of voice in which he said it and the support that he received in the House.

Mrs. Lait

Does my hon. Friend agree that D'Oyly Carte is in the great tradition of light opera that has delighted the British for many hundreds of years? D' Oyly Carte in particular has delighted my family for at least three generations. Will he ensure that the Arts Council spends less on dead sheep and sleeping models and a bit more on ensuring that this great, beloved tradition receives the funding that it deserves?

Mr. Sproat

I certainly agree that the D'Oyly Carte company, which has been going for more than 100 years, and Gilbert and Sullivan are among our great musical and literary traditions. The Arts Council does much good work and it would be a great shame if one or two eccentric decisions took away from the appreciation of what it does.

Mr. Mackinlay

Is not the real test of the Minister's stewardship of the performing arts whether he can whet the appetite of young children at school? Is not the test for the Government not to favour one or two of the competing claims lobbied for here this afternoon but to ensure that young men and women and our kids at school have access to the finest performing arts—the operas and the ballets— which they are currently denied? We are a philistine state when it comes to promoting arts culture among our school children.

Mr. Sproat

One of the interesting things about Gilbert and Sullivan is that there is probably no better way of getting young people interested in music, opera and literature than this extremely accessible form of art. That is one of the reasons why we are so keen to see that D'Oyly Carte continues and flourishes.

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