The terms of reference for the financial scrutinies will be:
To examine the financial affairs and prospects of the Royal opera house and the Royal Shakespeare company and to make recommendations
The study team will be led by Mr. Clive Priestly, undersecretary in the Management and Personnel Office, and comprise an independent consultant, Mr. David Allen, and an accountant, Mr. Ian Trumper.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the increased support for the arts and on the assurance that he has given this afternoon. Does he accept that the financial scrutiny of the Royal opera house and the Royal Shakespeare company should be in line with that of other national companies and with overseas companies such as La Scala, Milan?
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. With the Royal opera house it will be necessary to make some comparisons with what happens at other great international opera houses. These organisations receive large sums of public money and from time to time there should be special financial scrutiny. This is what we have arranged.
May I also congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing these financial scrutinies? How long will the study team take to present its report? Secondly, will the staff be consulted?
Has the Minister's attention yet been drawn to a letter that I sent him on 5 January? It dealt with correspondence that I had received purporting to have come from a political adviser at the Department of the Environment, Mr. Ed Berman. He advised arts associations in the north-west that there was £1·5 billion sloshing about and that they had only to apply to local authorities for the money? Will the Minister please make a statement on this?
I must confess that I do not recall the hon. Gentleman's correspondence. I shall check immediately. It seems that a very surprising remark was made. I shall look into the matter urgently.
Will my right hon. Friend adress his financial scrutiny of the Royal opera house to the charging and ticket issuing policy of that body? Is he aware that many of us feel that its policy has restricted the number of people who have been able to obtain tickets, and that now, in changed financial circumstances, few people apply for tickets because they believe that the number of those who obtain them is very small?
Ticket prices and box office policy will be among the matters that the scrutiny team will consider. It has always been the policy of the Royal opera house to offer comparatively cheap tickets in addition to very expensive ones so that people of modest means can go to the Royal opera house.
In view of the Rayner connections of this group, will the right hon. Gentleman urge it not to follow the unhappy precedent of the recent Rayner report on the Victoria and Albert museum, and to visit the various institutions that it is surveying while they are open? Will accountants' or consultants' fees that stem from this exercise come only after tendering for the work that has to be done?
No. I think that it has been decided who will undertake the scrutinies, as is the normal practice. Without accepting what the hon. Gentleman said about the scrutiny of the Victora and Albert museum, I can assure him that the scrutineers have every intention of making exhaustive visits to both organisations.