HC Deb 20 May 1996 vol 278 c13
12. Mr. Steen

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what plans she has to fund touring productions of light opera in provincial towns in Britain. [28768]

Mr. Sproat

Specific arts funding decisions are, of course, taken at arm's length from the Government by the Arts Council of England and the regional arts boards. Ministers will consider shortly the Arts Council's proposals to use lottery funds to support the financial stabilisation of some arts companies. The Arts Council's chairman, Lord Gowrie, has recently written to me suggesting that D'Oyly Carte might be part of an associated pilot project.

Mr. Steen

The problem is with the Government— [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear."] Wait a moment. The D'Oyly Carte has been in touch with the Arts Council for three years, asking for some money. All that it gets from the Government is 10 per cent. of its running costs, whereas grand opera gets 90 per cent. of its running costs. Are the Government going to allow one of the great and most cherished institutions in the country to collapse when there is £300 million of Arts Council money in the lottery that is not being used? It is the Secretary of State's problem—it has nothing to do with the Arts Council.

Mr. Sproat

The House will be pleased to know that, since our most recent Question Time—after the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier)—I wrote to the chairman of the Arts Council, who wrote back. The Arts Council will now investigate whether the stabilisation fund can be applied to D'Oyly Carte as part of a pilot project. The Government are of course acutely aware of the great value of D'Oyly Carte and of the entire Gilbert and Sullivan canon. The Arts Council provides those moneys. The Government have no money with which they directly fund organisations, whether D'Oyly Carte or any other, but I hope that the Arts Council will do what the great majority of hon. Members and the country want it to do.