The Northern Arts Association will be receiving £85,000 this year, nearly six times as much as any other English arts association. The Arts Council's direct expenditure in the Northern Region in 1967–68 was £155,822, and this excluded expenditure on national and touring companies, other national organisations, and on administration.
Does the right hon. Lady realise that these figures show that the North gets a raw deal? Why is it that money is poured by the Arts Council into London and the South-East and into Scotland and Wales in particular, whose culture and artistic needs merit no more attention than those of other parts of England, such as the North?
I am delighted to hear the note of indignation in the hon Gentleman's voice and I hope that he will do everything possible to stir up interest in serious art in the North. For historical reasons, other parts of the country have great theatres, great orchestras and great museums to be maintained. I am sorry that these do not exist as we would like them to exist in the North, and I hope that the hon Gentleman will encourage local interest in them. I assure him that, wherever local interest is shown, the Arts Council is only too willing to come to the rescue and encourage it.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, unless the Arts Council acts with a sense of urgency, there will shortly be a shortage of live theatres in the North, since a major circuit is proposing to sell its theatres? With the best will in the world, the Arts Council will not be able to spend more in the North unless it steps in now with aid to local authorities in buying the theatres concerned.
A careful study is being made by the Arts Council of our theatre, including commercial as well as repertory theatres. The simple answer is that the arts now receive twice as much as they did before. This additional money has stimulated a great deal of additional interest, for which I am most grateful, and I hope that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides will continue to agitate for higher priority for the arts.