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Arts for Children

11. Mr. Colin Burgon (Elmet): What plans he has for new initiatives in the arts for children as part of the reorganisation of the Arts Council for England. [102005]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): I am pleased to inform my hon. Friend that the Arts Council's announcement last week included an additional £300,000 over two years for young people's theatre, in addition to large increases for several arts organisations working with children.

Mr. Burgon: I thank my right hon. Friend and welcome the fact that, under the Labour Government, funding for the arts is running at record levels. However, the recent Gulbenkian Foundation report "Crossing the Lines" highlighted worrying trends in gender, age and class when it comes to access to the arts. What would be the best strategy to confront those worrying trends?

Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the Gulbenkian report, which is an extremely interesting and challenging document. It is precisely because we share some concerns highlighted in the report that we have established the new audiences fund through the Arts Council. It provides grants to pilot projects aimed at attracting new and younger audiences. We are also backing the new generation audiences scheme, which will provide free tickets to cultural events for schoolchildren and encourage them to exchange information using the latest technologies. That is why the funding agreement that we have put in place with the Arts Council requires an additional 200,000 educational sessions to be secured for the extra funding that we are providing.

Lottery Spending

12. Mr. David Watts (St. Helens, North): What assessment he has made of public attitudes towards spending lottery money on health and education projects. [102006]

The Minister for Sport (Kate Hoey): Lottery money for health and education is distributed by the new opportunities fund, set up by the National Lottery Act 1998. The fund's establishment was supported by 92.5 per cent. of those who responded to the White Paper that set out the Government's proposals before the Act was passed.

Mr. Watts: I thank my hon. Friend, but does she agree that most people in Britain would rather see their lottery

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money spent on health and education projects than on some of the side issues currently and regularly funded, and would want more money to be spent in that way?

Kate Hoey: As my hon. Friend suggests, it is true that people like to see national lottery money spent on something of which they approve. Money going through the new opportunities fund will cover a variety of ideas relevant to a range of activities including those for after school and at healthy living centres, and people clearly feel strongly that they want money to be spent in that way. The money is, of course, additional and it is important to note that it does not in any way replace Government expenditure.

Opera Tickets

13. Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): What discussions he has had with the board of the Royal Opera house on the level of ticket prices. [102007]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): I have discussed ticket pricing with Sir Colin Southgate, other board members and Michael Kaiser on a number of occasions. The board and management of the Royal Opera house are committed to enabling the public to experience world-class opera and ballet at affordable prices.

Mr. Leigh: But the truth is that there would have been many more seats available at affordable prices if the Secretary of State had not raided the national lottery so that the money available for good causes such as this has decreased from 28 to 18 per cent. Is it not the case that once the friends and corporate entertainers have taken their share, there will be a limited number of tickets at prices people can afford? Getting one of those tickets will mean joining the new ruling class, either by working for the likes of Bernie Ecclestone or marrying into the Sainsbury family

Mr. Smith: The hon. Gentleman confuses his capital and his revenue. The funds for the refurbishment of the Royal Opera house through the national lottery were funds for capital building work. Funds to support cheaper ticket prices at the Royal Opera house come through annual revenue subsidy from the Exchequer. We have increased those funds by 25 per cent. between this year and next year.

Museum Entry Fees

14. Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): If he will make a statement on the future of entry fees for museums. [102008]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): Funds have been made available to permit free access for children from April this year and for pensioners from April 2000 to the currently charging national museums funded by my Department.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: Is not this another example of the Government's policy being in utter chaos? Before the election, they promised universal free access to museums. When they came to power, a study found that the cost

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involved was simply unsustainable. In 1998, they did a U-turn to allow free access to children and, next year, pensioners. Could the Secretary of State tell us what the policy will be in the future? Is not the present policy unsustainable, and unfair to those on low pay and to disabled people?

Mr. Smith: First, we made no such commitment in our manifesto before the election. Secondly, we have done far better than we set out in our manifesto. I should have thought that a 22 per cent. increase in the number of children visiting our national museums and galleries since April of this year, as a result of introducing free admission, is something to be proud of, not carp about.

Mr. Eddie O'Hara (Knowsley, South): Charging entrance fees is a way for museums to raise money to balance their budgets and manage their business. My right hon. Friend will be aware of the recent furore caused by the revelation that the British museum was hiring out the Duveen gallery for corporate functions. Given the sensitivities raised by that revelation among the many hon. Members who place a great value on the Parthenon sculptures, would my right hon. Friend convey to the director of the British museum their concern that the museum chose to inaugurate the recent conference of experts, convened to examine the damage done to the Parthenon sculptures during their time in the British museum, by holding a function with refreshments in the Duveen gallery?

Mr. Smith: I am indeed aware of the concern to which my hon. Friends refers, and I am sure that the authorities at the British museum will note what he has said. However, I believe that the Parthenon sculptures in the British museum, which are available for free to 6.5 million visitors every year, are in the right place.

Tourism (East Midlands)

15. Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley): What strategies he is using to promote tourism in the east midlands area. [102009]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): The measures the Government and the industry are taking under the national tourism strategy "Tomorrow's Tourism" will help to promote the well-being of the industry in all regions, including the east midlands.

Judy Mallaber: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Will she note the recent report commissioned from the heart of England tourism board showing that tourists spend £61 million a year in Amber Valley and support 1,900 jobs? That is a 50 per cent. increase in expenditure over the past four years, and is largely the result of the mix of countryside, historic buildings and, increasingly, our industrial heritage.

Will my hon. Friend also note that we do not have high-expense venues such as the Royal Opera house that

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attract major funding, although we have benefited from the smaller awards of the lottery scheme? Will she promote our industrial heritage as a major part of our tourism strategy? Will she especially consider an early promotion for the national heritage corridor in the Derwent valley from the tentative to the final list of world heritage sites? That area was a cradle of the industrial revolution, with the historic mills of the Arkwrights and the Strutts. It now has museums that preserve our transport heritage.

Janet Anderson: My hon. Friend will of course know that the designation of national heritage sites is a matter for my hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts. I will bring her remarks to his attention.

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the importance of tourism to Amber Valley. I pay tribute to her support for the development of tourism in her constituency. As she will be aware, all regional tourist boards have recently submitted proposals, which will form the basis of their work for the next three years, to take advantage of the additional funding that the Government are providing for tourism in the regions. Is not that further evidence of the Government's commitment to the development of tourism--the fastest growing industry in the world--in stark contrast to the record of the Opposition?

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