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Grand Opera (Government Grant)

Volume 245: debated on Thursday 20 November 1930

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what will be the direct financial burden on the Exchequer as a result of the new arrangements for the conduct of opera at Covent Garden?

His Majesty's Government have agreed, subject to the voting by Parliament of the necessary funds, to make a grant of £5,000 for the last quarter of the current calendar year and a grant of £17,500 a year for five years beginning on 1st January, 1931, towards the expense of presentation of grand opera not merely at Covent Garden but also in the provinces. The remaining necessary funds will be provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation and by private subscriptions. The Government grant will actually be paid through the British Broadcasting Corporation, a special addition to their normal income being made for that purpose, and a revised agreement 'between the Postmaster-General and the Corporation will be laid before Parliament in due course.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the lease of the Covent Garden Theatre falls in in a few months' time, and that then the rent will be enormously increased; and that therefore the larger part of the Government subsidy will go to the landlords of Covent Garden?

In answer to the first part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, I believe he has been altogether misinformed.

Do I understand that this very generous offer is money from the Treasury, and not from the British Broadcasting Corporation, and that that corporation is only the medium for distributing?

It is money, of course, which will come from the Treasury by an addition to the income of the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Will any conditions be attached to the grant by the Government as to the price to be charged for the opera?

There is a good deal that may be said by way of explanation of this, as I think, very laudable scheme. The idea is that there shall be certain performances at Covent Garden something on the lines of those which have been given hitherto; and then at Covent Garden it has been arranged that there shall be a repetition of those perform- ances at very popular prices. There will also be popular prices for opera performances in the provinces. One of the purposes of this grant is to try to encourage and stimulate British opera production.

Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a position to say how many performances are to be given in Manchester, where opera is much more appreciated than in London?