I congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on his appointment, and welcome him to his new responsibilities. The House knows that he has a genuine and deep love of classical music: indeed, he has the reputation of having the largest collection of compact discs in the whole of Putney. However, he must know that he will be judged not on the size of his CD collection, but on his ability to obtain money for the arts.
As several hon. Members have already said, the arts are facing a financial crisis. He knows that this week the Royal Shakespeare Company goes dark in London, and that the Theatre in Crisis campaign, launched today, identifies 30 of the 32 English repertory theatres as being in deficit. When we add the national theatres, the real deficit figure for the performing arts is £16 million.
Will the Minister tell the House today whether he believes—as we do in the Labour party—that the arts should receive an increase this year above the rate of inflation? On that will depend whether his time at the Dispatch Box is happy or unhappy. One thing is certain: it will be a short time before the next general election and a Labour Government who do value the arts.