§ 2. Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)
If he will ensure that arts organisations benefiting from public funds make some unsold tickets available for use by schools. 
§ The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Alan Howarth)
I can confirm that we plan to introduce a requirement that every arts organisation subsidised by central Government must have an access policy for young people and that that should include an element of free or concessionary tickets. We have made it clear to the Arts Council of England that we intend to build that approach into the next revision of 765 our funding agreement with it for 2000–01. Meanwhile, we have asked it to take account of that in on-going discussions with arts organisations.
§ Mr. Jones
I thank my hon. Friend for that initiative. With £125 million extra available for the arts, how, specifically, does he intend to achieve a better, fairer regional spread, with Wales and the north-west in mind? Many children do not have an early introduction to the availability of music and the theatre, so may I commend to him the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society, which is working with families? Ian Wright, the timpanist, has informed me of the popularity of the concerts that the Phil organises for children. Can my hon. Friend ensure that more children are given returns and that the money made available is not wasted?
§ Mr. Howarth
My hon. Friend is right to praise the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society. I attended one of its concerts for children, and it was a very exciting and happy occasion.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning the extra £125 million that we have provided for the arts. With that additional resource, we have embarked on a determined policy of devolving funds to the regions. In the present financial year, combined grant-in-aid and lottery money have increased in the regional arts boards by an average of some 44 per cent. We are determined that all our people, and all young people in particular, should have access to the very best of our culture.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)
I welcome the Minister's indication of the Government's thinking, and the direction of their spending. Does he accept, however, that if there is to be a universal entitlement to access to the performing arts, it will depend heavily on the willingness of education authorities and teachers to co-operate fully? When authorities and teachers are burdened with core curriculum requirements, examinations and form-filling, they are not always as responsive as they might be to the idea of taking children to such events. Will the Minister enter into a dialogue with his colleagues in the Department for Education and Employment, and with the teaching profession?
§ Mr. Howarth
The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We are already engaged in close dialogue with friends and colleagues at the Department for Education and Employment.
The right hon. Gentleman will have noted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment has asked the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to look again at the role of education for creativity in the curriculum, in response to the thoughtful and important report by Professor Kenneth Robinson and his group. He will also know of the establishment of the National Foundation for Youth Music and the additional resources from both the Department for Education and Employment and my Department that are being spent on music for schools.
We recognise the importance of the issue that the right hon. Gentleman has raised, and are already vigorously pursuing policies that I hope he will endorse.