To ask the Minister for the Arts when he last met the chairman of the Playhouse theatre and the Everyman theatre, Liverpool, to discuss their level of Arts Council funding.
I have not met the chairmen of these theatres to discuss Arts Council funding.
The tragic abolition of the Merseyside county council created a very tenuous future for the theatres on Merseyside. Does the Minister agree that the Merseyside cultural heritage is important, not only for the people on Merseyside, but for a national, and indeed international, catchment area? Should not its continuity be ensured by regular Government assistance and certainty of security? If the Government can ensure the future of the Tate gallery on Merseyside, why not the Playhouse theatre and the Everyman theatre?
I hope the hon. Gentleman will agree that the range of performing arts and heritage facilities in the Liverpool and Merseyside area is very remarkable. I feel that Liverpool and Merseyside should do more to get that across to the nation if they want to attract more tourists. The theatres to which he referred—the Playhouse and Everyman — have been very successful. A substantial proportion of the resources are raised by box-office means and through the private sector, but I am very glad that the Arts Council has agreed to maintain its support pending a study of funding arrangements in the Liverpool area and in acknowledgement that the city authority has come in with an extra £200,000.
I commend the Liverpool Playhouse to the Minister, especially its production of "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists", which will be on at the Theatre Royal, Stratford in my constituency in Newham from 14 April to 14 May. In view of the funding problems faced by the Theatre Royal, would the Minister care to accept an invitation from me to see this production of "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" and, if he comes, I shall buy him a curry in Stratford immediately afterwards?
That is one of the most generous and surprising offers that I have ever had and, to use Government jargon, I shall carefully consider the invitation. I have visited the Playhouse in Liverpool, which is an admirable theatre. I am keen on promoting touring around this country, not just from London to outside London but around the regions. That is very important.