I assure my hon. Friend that the regional balance of arts spendng is a regular part of our discussions. I shall draw my noble Friend's attention to the concern that is felt about the eastern region.
I must give much the same answer to the hon. Gentleman as I gave to my hon. Friend. I am aware of the success of the the project to which the hon. Gentleman referred.
Does my hon. Friend realise that the proposed abolition of the Greater London council and the metropolitan councils is likely to create a major financial crisis for the Arts Council and the arts in general? What plans has his noble Friend to assist organisations other than the big nine listed in the White Paper which, if left to the miserly mercies of minor local authorities, are likely to collapse?
I think that my right hon. Friend is a little too contemptuous of district and borough councils, many of which have a good record in these matters. It is important that the discussions being undertaken on the basis of my noble Friend's consultation document should examine all aspects of the problem. It is also important that the district and borough councils should make their proper contributions if the gaps left by the metropolitan authorities are to be properly filled.
Mr. Jim Callaghan:
Is the Minister aware that this year is the one hundred and twenty fifth anniversary of the Hallé orchestra and that £500,000 has been collected out of a £1 million supporters' appeal? Is he also aware that the Greater Manchester council is a major supporter of the Hallé orchestra? If the Government abolish the Greater Manchester council, what funds will be made available to support the Hallé, either direct via the Department or through the Arts Council?
The Hallé orchestra is one of the recipients of metropolitan council aid referred to in the document issued by my noble Friend. It is too early to discuss exact figures, but my noble Friend's attention will not be allowed to be distracted from the Hallé orchestra.
I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for that reply. Further to his reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Murphy), will he bear in mind that the needs of the population rather than historic funding are critical when he comes to deal with Arts Council distribution for the regions? On that criterion, the arts in the eastern region are especially disadvantaged, because it is a growth area.
Did the Under-Secretary of State read, during the weekend, the comments of the deputy secretary-general of the Arts Council, who described the Government's proposals for the arts, should the GLC and the metropolitan counties be abolished, as
muddle-headed and a recipe for chaos"?
What comfort can the hon. Gentleman offer to the 300 or so arts organisations in London which were not mentioned in the Government's consultative document? Thirdly, does the hon. Gentleman not realise that if the GLC is abolished the impact on the arts will be devastating and dozens of established companies——
The Arts Council has not, as yet, responded, as doubtless it will, to the consultation document that my noble Friend has issued. I think that the hon. Gentleman is ill-advised—as in many other circumstances he would be the first to say—to listen to any newspaper gossip.
Is the Minister aware that there is no point in offering pious hopes that the district councils will be able to take on the burden when the metropolitan authorities are dissolved? Will he give a firm undertaking that he will ensure that sufficient resources in respect of the arts are given to the district councils to continue the work that the metropolitan authorities are now doing?
I can give the assurance that discussions will be entered into about the redistribution of all or some of the elements in the rate support grant which at present go to the metropolitan councils for the arts and which will now go to the district and borough councils.