Theatres (Lichfield)

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 30th June 2003.

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Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Shadow Minister (Trade and Industry) (Trade and Economic Affairs) 2:30 pm, 30th June 2003

What plans she has to visit Lichfield to discuss support for theatres in the city.

Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris Minister of State (Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State tells me that she will visit Lichfield tomorrow as part of a regional visit to the west midlands. She looks forward to opening the Lichfield Garrick arts centre and the festival that will take place over the summer.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Shadow Minister (Trade and Industry) (Trade and Economic Affairs)

May I welcome the right hon. Lady back to the Front Bench? Members on both sides of the House are glad to see her there.

Does not my question demonstrate the importance of Question Time? I ask a question about the Secretary of State visiting Lichfield and the Minister responds immediately by saying that the Secretary of State will do so tomorrow.

When the Secretary of State visits the Lichfield Garrick, will she look at the theatre's innovative ecological system? All the cooling is generated by natural sources and does not use air conditioning. Is she aware that the system was designed by the chair of the school of architecture at the university of Cambridge? In Lichfield, we lead the way not only in the arts but in technology, and we have a green Conservative district council, too.

Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris Minister of State (Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

The hon. Gentleman spoilt that at the end, but never mind. I thank him for his generous comments.

My right hon. Friend always does what she says; she promised to visit and she is delighted to be able to do so. I shall draw her attention to the ecological cooling system that has been installed, although I bet she would sooner see a performance than an ecological cooling system. However, I am delighted that the building is a good one.

The hon. Gentleman makes a serious point, because when we invest capital in places such as theatres and arts centres, we also want to see living architecture and technology. I hope that many people not only from his constituency but also—dare I say?—from my constituency in neighbouring Birmingham will be able to take advantage of the new facilities.

Photo of Dr Jim Marshall Dr Jim Marshall Labour, Leicester South

May I also welcome my right hon. Friend back to the Front Bench? I am tempted to ask the Secretary of State to go via Leicester on her way to Lichfield tomorrow, to discuss the problems of the Leicester Haymarket theatre, but I know that you, Mr. Speaker, would rule me out of order if I were to do so.

When the Secretary of State is in Lichfield tomorrow, discussing the future of theatres there and elsewhere, will she bear in mind two points? First, when the future of a theatre is being discussed, it is essential that all the theatre's members of staff, including those who are members of the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union—the appropriate trade union—should be involved in the discussions; and secondly, where Arts Council money is involved, it should be spent on keeping theatres open, rather than on closing them.

Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris Minister of State (Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is looking forward to talking to my hon. Friend shortly. Of course I take those points. When public money is spent on theatres, it is important that everyone with an interest has a chance to express a view, but it is a cause for celebration that the increase in theatre funding has been so substantial during the past year. It is now £70 million—£25 million more than the previous year. My hon. Friend asks about who is consulted, but if the extra resources were not going in it would not matter who was consulted—no one would have any money. I take his point, but I am sure that he will join me in welcoming the extra resources being given to this very important part of our national heritage.