HL Deb 28 March 1985 vol 461 cc1147-8

3.18 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what provisions will be made for the running and maintenance of the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool if the Merseyside County Council is abolished, in addition to the funds promised by the Arts Council for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra for the financial year 1986–87.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, the Secretary of State will in due course have to assign the property rights and liabilities of metropolitan county councils to successor bodies by order under Clause 95 of the Local Government Bill. Otherwise, property will pass to the appropriate residuary body under Clause 60. Should it be necessary to make any incidental, transitional or supplementary provisions, the Secretary of State may by order do so under the provisions of Clause 96. In considering such orders, the Secretary of State will give careful consideration to the views of the society and other interested parties.

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply and for the assurance which I think lies within it. Does he agree that to survive properly the orchestra needs the unfettered use of the hall, that it is unsatisfactory to leave the future of this famous hall in uncertainty and that there need to be proposals for finding a new owner, bearing in mind that the net cost to Merseyside County Council at present is £235,000 a year?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, as I think the right reverend Prelate will be aware, I have recently visited the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society. I am a very great admirer of the orchestra and I think that it is very well placed in the hall where it finds itself. The question of future ownership, and matters associated with that, are therefore very strongly in my mind and in the mind of my right honourable friend. As the legislation progresses, we shall of course be consulting most closely.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, as the sum earmarked to replace the metropolitan funding is about £8 million short, will the noble Earl consider increasing it in view of the importance of the regions, particularly this one?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I have to say that I do not accept the figures put forward by the noble Lord. It seemed to me reasonable that boroughs and successor authorities should make a contribution to the arts, albeit a modest one, following the passage of this legislation, particularly in view of the benefits to their community not least in terms of infrastructural improvement and employment that the arts can bring.

Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the Welsh would wholeheartedly throw their weight behind the right reverend Prelate for the Philharmonic Hall to be saved for future generations? The Philharmonic was the mecca of the land of music and song—Wales.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, as a recent immigrant into Wales and one who lives within driving distance of the hall, I very much endorse the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek; but the fact of the matter is that the hall is not threatened.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that this Question illustrates the problem which has arisen by reason of the fact that, although he does not accept the figures, the figures are generally accepted and are nonetheless there? The noble Earl's failure to accept them does not abolish the situation which at some time someone must deal with.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I am not quite sure what the interrogative part of that remark was. As I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, was saying that he did not agree with me. My Lords, that causes me no surprise.