§ 1. Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
What steps the Government are taking to support theatre in the regions. 
§ The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Dr. Kim Howells)
Following an extensive review of the needs of regional theatre throughout England, the Arts Council of England is, from 1 April this year, investing an additional £12 million in supporting nearly 200 theatre organisations. This figure will rise to £25 million in 2003–04 and after, bringing the total grant-in-aid figure for theatre to £70 million a year.
§ Paul Farrelly
I thank the Minister for his reply. Perhaps he is aware that the New Victoria theatre in my constituency, a magnificent theatre-in-the-round, is one of the regional organisations to benefit from the largesse of the Arts Council and the Government, with an increase of 50 per cent. over the next three years. Can we expect that commitment to regional arts to continue into the future, silencing those miserable moaners who say that we are doing nothing for the arts outside London?
§ Dr. Howells
As my hon. Friend points out, the figures represent considerable increases in support for the arts, in particular for theatres. I assure him that the need to continue to support the arts, which is such an important part of investment in this country, will continue.
§ Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South)
In warmly welcoming the Minister's statement, may I ask whether the Arc, Stockton is included in the announcement? Arc was closed last autumn in a most unfortunate way. Will the Arts Council and my right hon. Friend's Department offer safety-net options for theatres that are closed in such an untimely way?
§ Dr. Howells
I understand that the theatre in question is receiving a considerable increase in funding and a good deal of financial help. I am certain that if the case is put to the Arts Council, it will receive sympathetic consideration.