The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Nigel Huddleston)
It is a pleasure to respond on the Government’s behalf to this important debate, which comes at the end of a hugely challenging year for all the sectors mentioned today.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Julian Knight) for securing the debate, and pay tribute to him and the members of the Select Committee, from all parties, for conducting the review that forms the basis of the debate and provides such informed evidence and recommendations. I appreciate, even if I do not completely agree with, the comments made by the hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson), with whom I spent many years on the Select Committee. I have many fond memories of that, and I absolutely understand the passion Committee members have for these sectors, which is shared across the House. We have seen that today.
The passion shown today is a demonstration of how important the digital, culture, media and sports sectors are, not just for our economy and our heritage, but for our wellbeing as a nation. At a time of incredible hardship for many, so often a book, music, a sports game or a TV programme has provided some welcome respite from the destruction and disruption caused by the pandemic. We have heard passionate speeches today from hon. Members on both sides of the House highlighting what we already know: that as well as making a huge economic contribution, DCMS sectors enrich our lives and make them more fulfilling. In many ways, they make life worth living, and we should never forget that.
Many Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for Clacton (Giles Watling) and for Warrington South (Andy Carter), have highlighted the vast contribution DCMS sectors make to the economy, with £116 billion from the creative industries, £75 billion from tourism and £151 billion from digital, and the millions of jobs sustained by those sectors. Before I discuss the sector-specific support, I will touch on the pan-economic and multi-sector schemes that have illustrated the Government’s resolve to do whatever it takes to see organisations and businesses through the pandemic.
As many hon. Members have highlighted, the Chancellor, in his Budget speech last week, announced the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of September, which is hugely welcomed across our DCMS sectors and will help to not only secure jobs but enable planning and reopening. Our sectors have many self-employed people and freelancers, as many hon. Members have mentioned today. I am keenly aware of the financial need in which many have found themselves. The Chancellor extended the self-employment income support scheme, and an additional 600,000 people can now access this support, on top of the 67% of the self-employed who have already received assistance. More than 70,000 freelancers in the arts and entertainment sector have received money via this scheme. In addition, Arts Council England has awarded £51 million to thousands of individuals needing support.
Let me turn to other measures. There is obviously the new recovery loan scheme to replace the existing schemes, and the Budget included an enhanced support package for leisure and hospitality businesses that must remain closed until step 3, with restart grants worth up to £18,000 per premises. The Chancellor also announced that the business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England has been extended by an additional three months, and the Government have extended the temporary 5% reduced rate of VAT on hospitality and tourism. This VAT cut alone is forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility to be worth about £4.7 billion for hospitality, tourism and visitor attractions.
Many Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess), my right hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds), the hon. Members for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone), for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) and for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard), and many others, have mentioned tourism. The tourism sector has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. It has therefore, quite rightly, particularly benefited from the pan-economy measures such as the furlough scheme and loan scheme, as well as being targeted for grant support, business rates relief, VAT reduction and so on—and justifiably so, as tourism is a major UK industry.
Inbound tourism is one of our biggest export earners, contributing over £75 billion in GVA to the economy and sustaining millions of jobs. Over the last year, we estimate that over £25 billion has been spent on supporting tourism, hospitality and leisure through a combination of grants, loans and tax breaks. This level of investment demonstrates the huge value that these sectors provide—not only to our economy, but to our quality of life.
As Tourism Minister, I am keenly aware just how much people are looking forward to taking a holiday and visiting some of our world-class and world-famous visitor attractions—including myself. By “including myself”, I mean that I look forward to visiting the attractions, rather than that I am a world-class visitor attraction, as much as I would appreciate that! In the spring, we will go further by publishing a tourism recovery plan that sets out our ambitious vision for the sector. I look forward to working with my right hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire, and we will work with colleagues across the House.
In have spoken about the £65 billion of measures announced on top of the £353 billion announced last week. Let me now focus on some sector-specific measures. Many hon. Members have mentioned the culture recovery fund, and I appreciate that many Opposition Members have welcomed that. Over £1 billion of culture recovery fund money has already been allocated to over 3,800 arts, heritage and cultural organisations up and down the country, helping to support 75,000 jobs. That is important.
We have heard a little bit of a tone today that it is all about protecting buildings; far from it. The money is being spent to sustain jobs and to help, in many areas, quite niche skills that are otherwise in danger of disappearing. My hon. Friends the Members for Clacton, for Darlington (Peter Gibson), for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon) and for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore) and others have highlighted this. For example, £170 million has been awarded to over 690 music organisations. As my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South mentioned, more than 200 independent cinemas have received money, from Penrith to Penzance. Many museums have also received money.
Although the exact scope for the CRF extension is yet to be announced, as with the original fund, the money will go to heritage and cultural organisations that require support to transition back to operating fully. It is absolutely the intention that entities that perhaps have not received money so far should and could be eligible for further CRF money.
Many hon. Members have mentioned film and TV. As a result of Government support—most notably, the £500 million film and tv restart scheme—this sector has bounced back, with a production spend this quarter of £2.8 billion, which is the second highest on record. The Chancellor announced an extension of this scheme to 31 December 2021.
Many hon. Members also mentioned visiting a museum, watching a play, listening to live music and, indeed, going to a live event, which we are all looking forward to doing again. With regard to the events industry, including the music events industry, we are in regular dialogue with the sector and all stakeholders. We are looking to resume these events as part of step 4 of the road map. As set out in the road map, the events research programme will explore when and how music festivals and other events can return without social distancing and restrictive capacity capped. Subject to the outcome of that work, and other reviews, we hope to set out how festivals and other large events can safely go ahead with appropriate mitigations in place. I know that this is a particular passion of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Steve Brine) and many others.
A related issue was then raised by many hon. Members about insurance. We are very aware of the concerns that have been raised about the challenges of securing indemnity cover for live events, and my officials have been working closely with the affected sectors to understand all barriers to reopening, including, of course, challenges around indemnity cover and insurance. The bar for considering Government intervention is extremely high, especially in the light of other support measures, including the extension of the furlough scheme and other business support. None the less, I certainly hear what hon. Members are saying today and so do others.
Sport was mentioned by many hon. Members, including, as always, my hon. Friends the Members for Bury North (James Daly), for Eddisbury (Edward Timpson) and for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins). We know that sport and physical activity are crucial to our mental and physical health. That is why we have continued to make sure that people can exercise throughout the national restrictions and that grassroots and children’s sport are absolutely at the front of the queue when easing begins later this month. As well as ensuring that restrictions allow for people to take regular exercise, central to our efforts to help sport has been the £300 million sports winter survival package, which was extended in an additional announcement just last week. That is on top of £220 million funding provided by Sport England, which, again, has been widely distributed.
Hon. Members mentioned many more topics today, but I am afraid that time does not permit me to answer all of them, much as I would love to. None the less, I really appreciate the volume and variety of comments today. Broadband was mentioned by my hon. Friends the Members for West Dorset (Chris Loder), for Eddisbury and others. I can assure Members of this House that they are, indeed, doughty campaigners for their constituents who constantly lobby not only the knight in shining armour, as I think the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Matt Warman) was called, but many others. The Government want to become a world leader in connectivity and increase the UK’s productivity and competitiveness by doing so. We have set ambitious targets for gigabit-capable broadband, and, of course, we will continue with other measures.
Superfast broadband coverage has already reached 97%—one of the highest numbers in Europe. By the end of 2021, we expect that more than half the country will be connected to gigabit-capable networks. By 2025, the Government are targeting a minimum of 85% gigabit-capable coverage, but will seek to accelerate that further and get as close to 100% as possible.
Touring was mentioned by many colleagues. It is important to say that British artists can still tour and perform in the EU, but we pushed for more ambitious arrangements for artists to be able to work across Europe. Our proposals would have allowed artists to travel and perform in the UK and the EU more easily without needing work permits, but these were developed in consultation with the UK’s creative industries and were rejected by the EU. We are now working urgently across Government and in collaboration with the creative industries, including through a new working group, to help address these issues so that touring in Europe can resume as soon as possible.
In conclusion, I know that I speak for the whole House when I say that I cannot wait to have our theatres, our sports, our events, our festivals—quite frankly, life as we knew it—back; as soon as possible. As the Chancellor told the House last week, the Government stand ready to do whatever it takes to help the country and our economy to recover from the disruption of coronavirus.
The Select Committee’s report was a welcome and constructive contribution to that debate. Indeed, this debate has also been extremely constructive. We will continue to use the data and information provided by stakeholders and many of us to shape our approach to providing assistance to the hugely important DCMS sectors and to help them plan for reopening as soon as it is safe to do so, which, thankfully, will be very soon.