asked the Minister for the Arts if he will report on take-up of the pound-for-pound matching scheme for arts sponsorship; and if he will make a statement.
Since 1 April 1985, £1·5 million has come in new sponsorship. Of this, £700,000 has come from 112 first-time sponsors taking part in the pound-for-pound matching scheme.
Does the Minister agree that the statistics that he has just given, together with those that he gave earlier to the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Murphy), show what a tremendous value-for-money exercise it is to match private sponsors with public money? Does he accept that it is counter-productive not to invest more money in the scheme, because the amount of work that it takes to hook a potential sponsor and the damage done by losing him if there is insufficient money will do little to futher the scheme?
I agree with that, which is why I have just announced a further £250,000 for the scheme. One of the beneficiaries of the scheme has been Jill Freud and company, which won an award of £4,000 for a production of "Under Milk Wood", touring south and east England and Wales at the moment.
Bournemouth this week.
On the current list of winners is the Ettrick Shepherds Festival, sponsored by Mrs. David Steel, so it would appear that the Liberal party has done quite well from this Government initiative.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the considerable achievements of regional opera in this country, not least the resounding success of Kent Opera in no less a place than my constituency's Canterbury Festival this year, and will he continue to see that regional opera is given generous support?
The regional allocations of funds is primarily a matter for the Arts Council, but I shall make sure that the council is aware of the enthusiastic support that my hon. Friend has mentioned for the arts in Kent, and particularly in Canterbury.