asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts what proportion of the budgets of Opera North, the English National Opera, and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, are to be met from centrally allocated funds in 1985–86.
The percentages are: Opera North, 56·7, English National Opera, 54·5 and Royal Opera House, 49·0.
Is the Minister aware that the figures will not be regarded as satisfactory in the north? Does he realise that he expects far too high a proportion of the funds to come from private sources in the less affluent north, with the result that people in the north will have to accept lower standards of production? Is the Minister aware that Opera North's recent performance of "The Mastersingers" received favourable comment except for the production itself, which many commentators regarded as below par? It is entirely a matter of funding and the figures are unsatisfactory.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the continuance of the company as a separate company. I note that the figures show that a lower proportion of funding is expected to come from private sources in the north than is the case in London. On the other hand, a very large increase—25·8 per cent., the largest of all—has been made in the funding of the Yorkshire arts in this year. That is helping many new bodies—for example, Phoenix Dance.
Is my hon. Friend aware that British opera, ballet, orchestral concerts and many other arts, have a high standard of excellence, attract huge numbers of foreign visitors to our shores, and generate employment not only in the arts but in hotels, catering and so on, out of all proportion to the funding with which they are provided? Is that sufficiently taken into account by the Government in assessing the degree of funding that would be beneficial?
My hon. Friend is right, and it is one of the considerations that my noble Friend takes into account.