I am pleased to say that business sponsorship has increased from £500,000 a year in 1976 to over £30 million today. The Government's business sponsorship incentive scheme has brought nearly £25 million new money to the arts and to museums.
It is interesting that the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts has undertaken research which demonstrates that about 90 per cent. of all the organisations that become first-time sponsors decide to remain sponsors because they regard it as a good investment. That is most encouraging. For the first time under our scheme, we have had 1,000 first-time sponsors, so the House can see the scale of the increase in support through sponsorship.
There are increasing examples of sponsorship to support creativity and innovation. I do not remember whether the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber during the debate on the arts some 10 days ago, when I announced that the Arts Council had established an endowment scheme designed especially to give support through the private sector—although it is managed by the Arts Council—for innovation and experimentation. Of course, the Arts Council already does that with the taxpayer's money, and that is partly the role of the taxpayer.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that English National Ballet, of which I am a director, has taken the lead in business sponsorship? None the less, this cannot possibly enable the company to survive, unless the Government find a way of providing an adequate subsidy from their pocket after the community charge is introduced. Is my right hon. Friend aware that, as a director, I have a responsibility under the Insolvency Act 1986 to suggest that that ballet company should close if that money is not forthcoming soon?
I am very much aware of the important role that my hon. Friend plays in English National Ballet. I acknowledge his point that there is considerable concern about the possible effect of the introduction of the community charge, especially with respect to Westminster city council, on English National Opera and English National Ballet. I am in touch with the chairman and will keep in touch with my hon. Friend about this matter.