asked the Minister for the Arts what response he has received to the publications issued by the Office of Arts and Libraries to stimulate private sponsorship of the arts.
I am delighted to say that the business sponsorship incentive scheme continues to be highly successful. It has brought £5·5 million of new money into the arts since it began a year ago, £4 million from businesses, to which £1·5 million has been added under the scheme. The House will be glad to know that, in view of the success of the scheme, my hon. Friend is transferring an extra £250,000 to it to meet the demand. He is today announcing 57 more awards in respect of over £800,000 new sponsorship; the new list includes 54 brand new sponsors from all parts of the country.
Will my hon. Friend convey to the new Minister the good wishes of Conservative Members and our regret that he is indisposed? Will my hon. Friend also convey our congratulations on the stimulation of the arts, which has been an admirable feature of the Government's record since they came to power and is further evidenced by this afternoon's announcement? Will my hon. Friend guarantee that such matters will be given the correct amount of publicity, because that will help to stimulate the arts further?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind words. The scheme has done more than anything previously to raise public awareness of business sponsorship schemes. The arts organisations are enthusiastically selling the scheme to sponsors, but I shall raise with my hon. Friend the Minister the subject of publicity, to see whether more might be done.
I should like to be associated with the good wishes being sent to the new Minister, and I recommend that in future he should not eat in restaurants recommended by Lord Gowrie.How much business sponsorship does the Under-Secretary think will be necessary to keep open the South Bank, particularly the Royal Festival Hall. if the money that the Arts Council is asking for is not forthcoming from the Government?
I am confident that under the new regime that we have announced the South Bank will be run responsibly and efficiently and that some of the scares raised by the GLC will be shown to be unrealistic.