Mellor Resignation: Departure likely to upset BBC and arts

THE DEPARTURE of David Mellor will not please the arts world or the BBC.

With the Government shortly to issue Green and White Papers on the future of the BBC, Mr Mellor was one of the ministers more sympathetic to the corporation. Unlike many colleagues, he was in favour of retaining the licence fee. He was also insistent that the BBC should continue to provide a full range of programmes rather than shrink to an American-style public service broadcasting system.

Mr Mellor's commitment to the arts is unlikely to be replicated. He helped to obtain record increases in spending both as a minister and when he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury. His last action as Chief Secretary just after the election campaign had started was to give the English National Opera the money to buy the freehold of the London Coliseum.

The combination of the Heritage portfolio being in the Cabinet, his closeness to the Prime Minister and his own high-profile personality meant that the arts had a higher profile than in recent years.

But he may be most missed by supporters of a state-regulated national lottery, which would give pounds 1bn to the arts, sport, heritage and charities.

Mr Mellor was strongly in favour of the lottery which, while government policy, will still need expert steering through the House of Commons committee stages, where there will be many opponents.

Lord Palumbo, chairman of the Arts Council, described him as a 'brilliant reforming source for the good'. The news was sad for the nation and a great loss to the arts.

Jeremy Isaacs, general director of the Royal Opera House, said: 'I am personally sorry he has gone and I wish him well.'

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