The Government strongly support the fair distribution of funding for culture and arts across the country. Indeed, last week in Hull the chief executive of the Arts Council announced that the amount of lottery funding to bodies outside London would increase from 70% to 75%.
May I first congratulate the Minister on his re-appointment? I want to refer to what Darren Henley said in Hull on 28 May:
“If local authority funding is widely withdrawn, there will be little our limited funds can achieve. And no net gain to our increased investment of Lottery money outside London. It will be in vain.”
As the Minister has mentioned, Hull will be UK city of culture in 2017, but we have already lost a quarter of our council funding. Does he really think that we will see any progress on closing the unfair disparity between the north and London?
The hon. Lady’s point is well made to Labour councils up and down the country, which is that they must maintain their investment in culture instead of withdrawing it. It is a partnership, which is why the Chancellor of the Exchequer was pleased to give the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull £1.5 million to help it host the Turner prize, but that is accompanied by local authority investment of £3 million. The message to all those Labour councils is that they must support their local arts organisations—particularly those of the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant).
It is indeed good news that the Turner prize will be presented in Hull. It is not always popular on both sides of the House, but what more can the Government do to encourage other such events to support Hull as the city of culture, and to ensure that Hull benefits from that in the long term?
I know that my hon. Friend, who is standing to be the Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, is an aficionado of the Turner prize, as well as many other cultural events. He will know—I do not need to tell him—that Derry/Londonderry benefited from a huge range of events, from the BBC and other cultural organisations, and I expect Hull to benefit in the same way.
I am sorry that the Secretary of State is not answering this question, because only a couple of months ago, when he was the Chair of the Select Committee, he authored an excellent report highlighting the scandal of the imbalance in funding for the English regions compared with London. Now that he is in a position to implement it, will he?
I am afraid that this is the second time that Opposition Members have asked for the Secretary of State to respond. Unfortunately, they have to put up with me, and I apologise for that. I am pleased that the chief executive of the Arts Council took note of the excellent report put forward by the Select Committee. As a member of that Select Committee, the right hon. Gentleman should be aware that civil servants now pore over these reports as though they were sacred texts.