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Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, is fully aware that, because of the arm's length principle, it would be entirely wrong for Ministers to intervene in detailed management issues that are for the board and the senior management of the ENO. The noble Lord is absolutely right to imply in his question that the Arts Council has a role in this respect. I can reassure him that the Arts Council is in

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discussion with the ENO, its board and management, about these issues. Indeed, the management of the ENO and its board have undertaken detailed work which has shown that there are substantial problems with the financial model under which it has been operating for some time. The Arts Council is working with them to ensure that this is dealt with.

Viscount Falkland: My Lords, the Minister should know better than anyone in your Lordships' House that selling the arts to the public is an inherently risky business and that management, by its very nature, does not like risk. So, when things go wrong, management tends to look at the heart of the business, which is the risky part—in this case it is obvious—and usually it has the good sense to look elsewhere for cuts. In this case it is looking at the heart of the business—that is, the orchestra and the choir. Does the Minister agree that the only way this company will get out of trouble is by singing and playing its way out? Let us have less management and fewer accountants, if anything.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, of course the chorus and the orchestra are central to the success of the English National Opera, as they are in any other opera company. I do not think that it would be fair to say that the English National Opera does not take some justifiable artistic risks in the kind of productions it stages, nor would it be fair to say that it does not also meet the need for popular works to be shown in a city such as London. The ENO is currently looking at a whole range of different measures to ensure that its financial position can be put right. It is not looking only at the size of the chorus and the contracts of the orchestra.

Baroness Warnock: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there are strong analogies between the state of the Royal Opera House 10 years ago and the present parlous state of the Coliseum? The difference is partly in the changes that have come about in the Arts Council during the past decade. Do not the Government recognise that they have some responsibility—in spite of the arm's length principle—towards preventing the demise of the great opera houses of this country? Do they not agree that it is no use insisting on the arm's length principle if what lies at the end of the arm—the hand, the operative part—has become so paralytically incompetent, as the Arts Council seems to have become?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I could not disagree more with what the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, said about the Arts Council as it is currently operating. It is not in any way paralysed and is undertaking its work in an excellent way. Ministers are constantly in touch with the Arts Council about the problems of the ENO and, indeed, about many of the other issues faced by the Arts Council. The noble Baroness is unduly pessimistic in suggesting that the great opera companies in this country are, in some

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sense, in demise. The Royal Opera House recovered very successfully from the difficult period it went through. The ENO will do the same.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that this is a classic industrial dispute? On the one hand, the management want to get rid of what used to be known as Spanish practices in the chorus; and, on the other hand, Equity, the trade union, has put forward other proposals. Could not this matter reasonably be referred to ACAS?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend. This is a classic dispute between management and the employees of a particular organisation, albeit a special kind of organisation. As I understand it, ACAS is willing to intervene if it is requested to do so by the parties to the dispute.

Lord Armstrong of Ilminster: My Lords, is the Minister aware—I am sure she is—that the more grand operas a company undertakes and the larger the house in which it performs, the more choristers it requires; and that a company which performs a large number of grand operas in a large house is unlikely to save much money, if any, by cutting the size of its permanent chorus and engaging freelance choristers where necessary? Is she further aware that the ENO's problems with its chorus are symptomatic of much wider and more fundamental problems of a kind that have bedevilled it intermittently since it moved to the Coliseum? We need an English National Opera company. If we cannot afford the ENO as it is, with its existing repertory policy and performing mainly in the Coliseum, will the Government consider setting up an inquiry, or asking the Arts Council to do so, to review what the role of the ENO should be within the national operatic framework, what repertory policy it should follow and where its home base should be?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, there are many questions in what the noble Lord proposes. I do not agree that there is a need for the kind of review that he suggests. Substantial lottery funds are being spent on improving the Coliseum for use by the ENO. That project is working on budget and to time. I believe that the Coliseum is an appropriate venue for the English National Opera.

Nottingham City Council Bill [HL]

Read a second time, and committed to an Unopposed Bill Committee.

Liaison Committee: Select Committee Report

3.32 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

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Moved, That the First Report from the Select Committee (HL Paper 57) be agreed to.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

Following is the report referred to:

    Select Committee on London

    1. The Committee has considered a proposal put forward by Lord Marsh for a select committee on London. A letter from Lord Marsh to the Chairman is printed as Appendix 1 to this Report.

    2. We consider that many of the issues raised by Lord Marsh are under active review by other bodies. Moreover, some of the bodies responsible for London are not directly responsible to the Government or, through Government, to Parliament; it is by no means clear to us to whom a report of a select committee might be directed. Furthermore the kind of inquiry envisaged by Lord Marsh seems to call for continuing review of a kind not well-suited to an ad hoc select committee. We do not therefore recommend the appointment of a select committee on London.

    Select Committee on the Equality Bill [HL]

    3. The Committee has considered a proposal put forward by Lord Lester of Herne Hill that certain of the matters addressed by his private member's bill on equality he considered by a select committee. A letter from Lord Lester is printed as Appendix 2 to this Report.

    4. Some members of the Committee felt that the inquiry proposed was sufficiently specific and time-limited, and that the subject would benefit from the taking of evidence in a select committee. On the other hand it was recognised that many government initiatives and consultations on equality issues wore currently envisaged—for example on age discrimination, disability discrimination, civil partnerships and the future shape of institutions to promote equality in a whole range of areas. Much of this activity was already so far advanced as to make duplication of effort by a select committee undesirable. We were also concerned at the length of any such inquiry, even if it were to be confined to the points listed by Lord Lester in his letter. We do not therefore recommend the appointment of a select committee on equality issues on the lines proposed by Lord Lester of Herne Hill.

    5. While we are aware that there is a general presumption in favour of the House's setting up one ad hoc select committee at any one time, we do not recommend a committee on either of the issues proposed to us. Moreover we recognise that there will be other demands on the resources of the Committee Office in coming months, in particular pre-legislative scrutiny as outlined in a memorandum we received from the Leader of the House (printed as Appendix 3) and the possible establishment of a sub-committee of the Economic Affairs Committee to examine the Finance Bill, to which the House has already agreed in principle.

    Appointment of two additional sub-committees of the European Union Committee

    6. The Committee has considered a proposal put forward by Lord Grenfell that two additional sub-committees of the European Union Committee be appointed. A letter from Lord Grenfell to the Chairman is printed as Appendix 4.

    7. Lord Grenfell's request is related to the recent review of scrutiny of European instruments conducted by the European Union Committee. We think that it would be premature at this stage to come to a view on Lord Grenfell's proposal before the House has had an opportunity to debate the European Union Committee's report and before the Government's response has been received. We recommend that a decision on this proposal be deferred.

    Select Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments—the "Sifting Committee"

    8. The Committee agreed that, with effect from the next session of Parliament, a select committee be established to consider the merits of statutory instruments. The Committee further agreed that the Procedure Committee be invited to agree the orders of reference of the Committee.

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