As the Minister, at an early stage, read Sir William Rees-Mogg's letter, will he accept that if the level of funding for the Arts Council next year falls significantly below £98·5 million, one of the four national companies based in London may have all financial support withdrawn? Will he accept also that a proper level of funding for those companies is needed, especially as we await the recommendations on this subject from the Select Committee on Education and Science?
The Government have yet to announce public expenditure plans for next year. All these factors will be borne in mind. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman would wish to raise alarms. There is no evidence that what he says is true and that any one of the four great companies is in danger.
In view of the widening interest in the affairs of the Arts Council and the demands for far more money to be put at its disposal, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the council is a somewhat remote and nebulous body and that even most people interested in the arts have no idea who serves on it? Will he think seriously about introducing an element of democracy into the membership of the council and allow groups such as the TUC—[Interruption.]—which has an important arts committee, although the ignoramuses on the Conservative Benches do not understand that, to be represented properly on the Arts Council?
There have often been individual trade unionist members of the Arts Council, and that might well be a very good idea again. What I cannot accept is that people should be represented as of right. There would be no end to that process. All sorts of groups want to be represented as of right, including all the local authority associations and many others as well. That would be even worse than the present situation.