The current allocation for touring in England in 1982–83 is £7·5 million, including an additional sum of £400,000 provided from the supplementary grant announced on 20 December 1982. The touring budget for 1983–84 is £7,865,000.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his care about touring. Does he recognise that one of the distressing aspects of the saga of the visit of the Royal opera house to Manchester was its on—and-off nature, despite the great deal of investment and commitment that the operation received? Is he prepared to say that with the new arrangements people will be able much more to rely upon the visits taking place, instead of the previous rather doubtful prospect?
I understand my hon. Friend's concern. I am pleased to say that the Royal opera company has been able to announce that its visit to Manchester will take place later this year. We must all hope that it will be a tremendous success. Future plans will be discussed in detail with everyone concerned, including the Greater Manchester council and the city of Manchester. I hope that we can avoid future uncertainties in this way.
Bearing in mind the outrage in Greater Manchester when the Royal opera house originally called off its visit, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we should say publicly in the House that we think it should be an annual obligation on the national companies to tour in this way, and that they should not merely return to touring when they have been bailed out by the payment of a one-off sum?
Most of the national companies tour extensively. The Royal opera house has special problems, including enormous costs. There are those who consider that the money could be better spent than on tours by the Royal opera house. I accept that the national companies have an obligation to tour.