[Relevant Documents: e-petition 320711, Offer more support to the arts (particularly Theatres and Music) amidst covid-19, and the Third Report of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Impact of COVID-19 on DCMS sectors: First Report, HC 291.]
Before I ask Julian Knight to move the motion, you will see from the call list that quite a number of hon. Members wish to participate. We can start on five minutes, but I suspect later on, when Dame Eleanor takes over from me, she may wish to look at that again.
I beg to move,
That this House has considered the spending of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on support measures for DCMS sectors during and after the covid-19 pandemic.
I am truly grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for granting time for this important debate, which affects so many of our constituents. I also thank my co-sponsor, the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan).
The past six months have presented us with the challenge of our lifetimes. From the moment the coronavirus pandemic took hold, it has posed an existential threat to the areas of the economy that enrich our lives the most—whether that is the ability to attend sporting events, the theatre, or a gig, to enjoy our world-class museums or galleries or to go on holiday somewhere in the UK, in one fell swoop we could not do any of those things anymore. The DCMS sectors faced a complete shutdown that, despite an easing of restrictions, largely remains.
Our world-leading cultural sectors have been on their knees as a result of covid-19, with their major source of funding cut off. Media and broadcasting organisations have struggled as advertising revenues have fallen off a cliff. The very existence of at least 10 to 15 of our professional football clubs lies in the balance. DCMS sectors also rely on freelancers more than any other sector, more than one third of whom were unable to access a penny of the Government support for the DCMS sector.
More than six months have now passed; many businesses remain unable to open due to Government restrictions, while the Treasury’s vital, job-saving furlough scheme is winding down. The arts and leisure sectors are disproportionately affected by that, as 30% of workers in those industries are still on furlough today. We do not yet know when crowds will be permitted to return to the football or when theatre performances will be able to take place without social distancing, which is the only way those performances can be viable. Many businesses face catastrophe, with recent figures showing that 155,000 jobs in the creative industries have effectively ceased to exist since March.
The Government have rightly taken steps to protect those sectors. The culture recovery fund is the largest ever investment in the arts, and I know how hard the Secretary of State personally worked to secure the £1.57 billion package. The furlough scheme gave those who could not work due to Government restrictions a chance to keep their jobs. There have been measures for charities on the covid frontline, but the money allocated fell £3 billion short of what the sector said that it needed for just a three-month period during lockdown. There has been a bespoke deal to ensure that film makers can access reinsurance and keep producing the films and television shows that we know and love, but that, too, took many months to get over the line and applications opened only last week.
I thank the Government for their efforts to support the sectors, but those measures do not go far enough. There remain large gaps in the Government’s response, and many industry figures are concerned that some within Government have failed to understand either the needs of the sectors or the immense value that they add to both our economy and lives. I, though, absolve individual DCMS Ministers of such a charge, because I know exactly the level of engagement that they have had with all those sectors and the hard work that they have put in.
My Committee conducted an exhaustive inquiry into the impact of covid-19 on the DCMS sectors. We found that no sector has been unaffected by this seismic shift in the way we work and live. We have had hundreds of conversations and received evidence from almost 700 organisations and individuals, including charities, tech companies, broadcasters and some of our most innovative businesses and best known public figures.
The contribution of the DCMS sectors individually is immense; yet charities not on the frontline in the fight against covid, for example, have been largely excluded from Government support, despite their work been indispensable in so many ways. Cancer Research UK, for example, which does vital, life-saving work, has told us that its research budget has been cut to the extent that 1,500 fewer scientists are now working on treatments and cures for cancer: a disease that statistically affects one in two of us.
The theatre industry, which was thriving before the pandemic, struggles to make performances viable if fewer than 70% of tickets are sold. Even at a metre, they are still running at 25% to 30% capacity. Although the UK is exceptional at fostering world-class music talent—9% of global music comes from this island—music venues also rely on selling 70% to 80% of tickets to sustain their businesses. News that the Royal Albert Hall may reopen for Christmas is welcome, but what about the many pantomimes that will not, and cannot, take place in regional theatres, some of which have now closed? That is up to 60% of their annual income.
The leisure sector has taken a hit, too, with gyms shut at precisely the time that more and more people are looking to get fit and reduce their chance of suffering from the effects of covid. Travel restrictions are causing immense pain for the UK tourism industry, as inbound tourism numbers have plummeted to historic lows. UK tourist destinations, which draw millions from all over the world, face absolute ruin, and 7% of seaside businesses went under just during lockdown.
One perception of the DCMS sectors that I especially want to push back on is that these businesses do not hold their own or are not net contributors to the UK economy. They are growth sectors, and prior to the pandemic they were growing at twice the rate of the economy as a whole. In the creative industries, the rate was five times the economy as a whole. If those sectors had not been contributing in the way that they have been, we would have been in recession for three of the last four years.
For every pound spent in a theatre, another six is spent supporting the local night-time economy. The contribution of the DCMS sectors is so often overlooked, even by those in the Treasury. “Why are they giving money to the arts?” some people say. I will tell hon. Members why: because they make money back. The DCMS sectors are diverse and often composed of very small businesses. They are not regulated industries in the way that, for example, financial services are, which perhaps explains why their needs are not as well known to the Government, but they are no less in need of support as a result of a pandemic; in fact, they need it more.
These sectors, while representing a quarter of the economy, comprise only 0.5% of Government spending. Every single time, DCMS Ministers have to go cap in hand to the Treasury for even the smallest amount of governmental loose change. That cannot be right. DCMS needs to be able to punch its weight even more in the Government and to have a higher margin of spending and greater discretion. What can be done? Well, there are a number of steps my hon. Friend could take, starting with sector-specific support to protect jobs. As the furlough scheme winds down, it becomes clear that the job support scheme simply will not meet the needs of thousands of DCMS sector businesses, which remain unable to generate any income whatever. The sectors desperately need support that recognises the restrictions they are under.
Without restrictions, those businesses would be growing. These are not zombie jobs. Sector-specific support would mean that those who currently cannot work, but who have jobs that remain viable in normal times, are supported for longer. No support means those essential creative jobs could disappear, possibly forever, as more and more creative businesses fold as a result of not being able to generate any income.
The theatre tax credit could be repurposed for marketing to show what is on offer and to encourage people to come back once it is safe to do so. Reinsurance schemes would restore business confidence for organisations that are struggling and fearful of the risks of reopening only to be shut down again. We need clear timelines, with “no earlier than” dates to aid in planning for the next few months, as well as rapid and top-notch test and trace. Those are all changes that could make a big difference for businesses that lack certainty about the future. The reality is that we do not know what is around the corner. Whether a vaccine is or is not found, we need to find a safe, smart way for venues to open at or near capacity.
Perhaps the bigger question is the opportunities the pandemic presents to reshape our DCMS sectors. It is a chance to look at competitions, such as the premier league, and decide how we want them to look in the future. We can explore whether the current model of operating is right for the UK and its many millions of football fans, and whether the balance between the top tier and other tiers of football is fair. That is just one example. The pandemic is a real chance to improve standards in areas that have long raised concerns.
There is also a chance to drive more investment and innovation in areas such as tech, spurred on by the Government’s commitment to rolling out gigabit-capable broadband nationwide by 2025. There are new opportunities for tourism and industry, too, which are so often a Cinderella consideration.
Throughout the past six months, I have heard from cultural and creative businesses that even where they are likely to survive, the depletion in their resources means they will not be able to offer the same outreach programmes that directly contribute to the Government’s levelling up agenda and create opportunities for young people and black and minority ethnic communities across the country. Those who will suffer the most from the blow to our cultural sectors are the people who can least afford to do so.
Finally, it bears repeating that the DCMS sectors are one of the UK’s great success stories. Britain truly punches above its weight in all these sectors. The past few decades have cemented that success. Our artistic, cultural, sporting and touristic excellence is a source of great pride to me and, I am sure, to many Members of this House. The people who work in those sectors deserve our support. We simply cannot afford to put so many years of progress at risk.
I was very pleased to join our Select Committee Chair in applying for and securing this debate, which is most timely. I declare my interests as a member of the Musicians’ Union and the Ivors Academy of Music Creators.
At the end of the month, the Chancellor’s job retention scheme will come to a cliff edge and the self-employment income support scheme will offer those freelance musicians, actors, artists, recording engineers and so on—those whom the Chair of the Committee, the hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight) was talking about—who are lucky enough to qualify, just 20% of their average profits. That is despite the delay to the return of audiences that he described, despite nightclubs remaining shut, despite theatres, cinemas and grassroots venues closing down due to the financial pressures of operating under social distancing and despite local lockdowns countrywide.
Earlier this week I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate about the contribution of the arts and cultural sectors. I again stress the value of the arts and culture in and of themselves, leaving aside economic matters, but the Chancellor must also recognise that the fastest-growing sector of the UK economy relies on a talented, entrepreneurial, highly-skilled, creative workforce who now face a deeply uncertain winter with just 20% of their normal expected income—if they are lucky. As the Musicians’ Union has noted, 72% of freelancers in the music industry are not covered by the self-employment income support scheme. I urge DCMS Ministers to go back to the Chancellor and make the case again for our creative workforce.
Earlier this week in his controversial ITV interview, the Chancellor implied that those working in the sector should consider retraining and doing something else; for those who say that he did not, I have the full transcript. It is not surprising, on reading it, that musicians were so annoyed by what he said. The Chancellor can easily prove that that was not what he meant by putting in place the right kind of package to help get the creative workforce through this crisis. Deeds trump words in this case.
I wish to draw the attention of Members to my early-day motion 978, which congratulates “Whispering” Bob Harris on his efforts on behalf of musicians with a charity release later this month. I also congratulate the new CEO of UK Music, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, on his appointment. Yes, he is a former Tory special adviser, but it is an excellent appointment, and I look forward to working with him and the chair of UK Music, Tom Watson, to support our music sector. They have made clear that under social distancing rules and without Government support, some performances are not economically viable. Given that that is a result of their regulation, the Government have a moral responsibility to do more to support those businesses to resume their events in a way that protects public health.
We need from the Government a bridge to the future—a proper support scheme for creative freelancers that, when combined with tax incentives and grant funding for live events, and in compliance with social distancing guidance, would help to generate supported work for freelance performance across the UK. That is not something for nothing; it is a partnership to enhance the wellbeing of the population, and support the national effort to overcome the depressing impact of this virus on our lives. If beating the virus is a kind of war, we must garner all our national resources, including our cultural resources as much as any other, to get us through this.
The report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee published last July called on the Government to introduce enhanced measures for freelancers and small companies, in addition to a sector-specific recovery package. I welcome the culture recovery fund that the Government have announced, but it is yet to pay out, it has been delayed, and it will not be enough without the kind of additional targeted support that the Committee and I suggest.
In their understandable focus on the pandemic, and their addiction to hyperbole about so-called world-beating schemes, the Government are failing to protect something very precious and genuinely world-beating right under their nose: our fantastic creative industries. I say to the Minister, do not take that for granted. This pandemic is like an asteroid crashing into our lives, and we must not allow it to cause a cultural climate emergency by wiping out great creative institutions, and causing an employment- extinction event for those who work in the sector.
The creative and cultural sector in the UK is a flourishing but fragile ecosystem that is already being undermined by a culture war against things such as the BBC. Our creative sector contributes hugely to human happiness and wellbeing, and it is also the fastest growing part of our economy. We must not damage it and its workforce through a lack of creativity and imagination in Government.
It is a pleasure, once again, to follow the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) on this subject, and I congratulate him and my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Julian Knight) on securing this important debate, and on the tremendous work they both do in championing the sector.
I will focus my remarks on the creative industries, and particularly on musicians. Having been a musician, I tried to eke out a living as a composer in a former life, and I had to play the piano in various restaurants and hotels in London, and teach. It was not easy then, even in the best of times, but now with the pandemic biting it must be so much harder.
The Government have provided the £1.5 billion cultural recovery fund, which was hugely welcomed on all sides, but I would like to raise some concerns about that with the Minister. In a Westminster Hall debate earlier this week I mentioned the Cheese and Grain, which is an arts and music venue in my constituency. It has thrived for many years, and although it applied to the fund back in July, it is yet to hear whether it has been successful. What is the procedure for accepting or declining applications, and how can we push things on a little?
The furlough scheme is now over, as my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull mentioned, but the job support scheme is of little use to such venues because they are effectively closed down, which means that there is no employer contribution. I wonder whether DCMS could work with the Treasury to provide some sort of bespoke furlough scheme for businesses in this position, because there are many of them across the country.
I spoke to my mum the other day, and she told me that over the past few weeks she had been to the cinema a couple of times to watch Arthur Miller plays being projected. At one of those performances, there were just three people in the audience, and at the other, just five. I would like to add my voice to those who are calling for some sort of empty-seat subsidy or grant to enable more venues to open and still be economically viable.
I also want to talk about the self-employed, who have been mentioned already, and self-employed musicians in particular, On Tuesday, many Members will have seen the hundreds of freelance musicians performing spectacularly in Parliament Square, knocking out a bit of Holst. Perhaps Members saw it on social media. It was moving stuff, and it absolutely highlighted their plight. The Treasury has worked out that 95% of the self-employed can get access to the self-employed income support scheme, but the music industry is structured in such a way that up to a third of them cannot. A venue without musicians is pretty pointless, and musicians without anywhere to play are facing financial ruin.
I very much support UK Music’s call for the Government to provide an indicative date for stage 5, or full reopening, because without that, and without their cultural funding, venues such as the Cheese and Grain in Frome will have to make nearly all their employees redundant by Christmas, and the redundancy fees alone will push them into insolvency. I know that the Chancellor is facing calls from all sides, and he has quite rightly said that he cannot save every job and every business, but I hope that DCMS can work with him to ensure that we do not lose an entire sector, and such a crucial one at that. The creative arts have sacrificed an enormous amount over the past few months. I am pleased that this debate is taking place, and I hope that it will pave the way for more redress for the sacrifice they have suffered, so that they can get the support they desperately need.
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate and to follow the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton). The creative industries are one of our greatest exports and a symbol of our national identity. They attract millions of people across the globe to visit and to live and work in the UK every year. I am proud that many of my constituents work in the sector as musicians, actors and producers in TV, theatre, art, design and dance. However, as we all know, the pandemic has dealt them a severe blow and looks set to prevent many organisations from reopening anytime soon.
I want to focus my comments today on those who work in the creative industries. This is an extremely talented, diverse and world-leading workforce. Office for National Statistics figures indicate that just over 30% of them are self-employed, with the subsectors most impacted by the pandemic, such as theatre and music, having a self-employed workforce of around 70%. As has been raised countless times in the Chamber, the design of the self-employed income support scheme has excluded at least 3 million self-employed taxpayers from any support. That was avoidable, and countless calls for the scheme to be amended have fallen on deaf ears.
I have received a huge number of emails from constituents who are affected, for example by being excluded from the SEISS and the job retention scheme because less than 50% of their income is from self-employment. This has impacted local musicians in particular, who often rely on a mixture of PAYE work on zero hours contracts alongside self-employed earnings. Constituents whose trading profits are just over the £50,000 threshold for support have been left with nothing because of the cliff edge. Constituents who operate under limited companies receiving remuneration through dividends—including video editors, producers and many more who have had to establish themselves in this way as a contracting requirement—have been excluded through no fault of their own. It is a travesty that these people have been excluded by the Government, and the just thing to do would be to find a solution. Instead, the Government are turning their back on them and, from November, reducing the grant to 20% of an individual’s average monthly trading profits. That is not enough for anyone to survive on. Further, the Chancellor’s comments this week, implying that struggling musicians and other arts workers should retrain and get a new job, are frankly insulting. The exemption measures are why so many creative workers have been put in an impossible situation. It is no fault of their own.
The job support scheme is similarly having dire effects on the creative workforce. In the past week alone, I have received numerous emails from constituents. One wrote telling me:
“I have worked in the theatre industry for over a decade and am now facing redundancy as our theatre simply cannot, by current legislation, open its doors. The latest wage subsidy plan won’t reach far enough in our industry, as we are simply unable to work up to a third of our normal working hours.”
Another constituent wrote saying:
“I am a freelance worker who, recently, was employed full time as a Resident Director in the West End, a job that I had been working towards for almost 2 years. I benefitted from being on furlough but was then taken off and made redundant when the government were being unclear on when theatres will open again. Since March I have spent all of my savings that I worked so hard to get.”
Despite the very obvious challenges facing workers, the Culture Secretary’s voice in all this has been extremely quiet. Why is he not lobbying the Chancellor, fighting the corner of the creative workforce? That is what those in the creatives industries want to see happening. This is one of the most unique and special sectors in the world. The Government need to urgently review how they expect the industry to survive in these conditions and introduce measures that will save creative jobs—and these are viable jobs. That can be done so long as the political will exists among the Government’s culture team. Sadly, at the moment that seems lacking.
This is an important discussion. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Julian Knight) and the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) for bringing it to the Chamber today. It is absolutely vital. For brevity, my comments will focus on two important DCMS sectors: tourism and theatres. I will start with tourism,
Before the outbreak, tourism made a significant contribution to our nation, supporting 3.1 million jobs, while also protecting and displaying our cultural heritage. However, the sector has, like many others, been damaged by the pandemic. DCMS spending now needs to be channelled in a way that restores that contribution, while also enhancing it. For my constituency, that is imperative. Tourism is vital to our local economy, with some 9,000 jobs in Tendring linked directly to the industry. Some 6,500 of those jobs are full time, representing 17.4% of all employment in the area. Economically, tourism in Tendring has an impact worth £392 million. That is simply irreplaceable in the short to medium term. Without a strong local tourism industry, we would return to the slow coastal decline we saw before, rather than the growth and prosperity we all want and need.
The same is true for destinations right across the country, but Government spending on tourism specifically has, beyond the usual schemes to which all businesses are entitled, been insufficient so far. Of course, some tourism businesses will benefit from the culture recovery fund, which is excellent given the overlap between the sectors, but this is simply not enough. I ask the DCMS to seriously consider introducing a tourism recovery fund that would operate and provide grants in the same way that the CRF does.
I also ask the DCMS to divert funding in a way that creates and sustains demand within domestic tourist destinations, as that will help their long-term recovery. We have seen heightened footfall and demand this year, and the strongest recoveries in UK resorts compared to pre-virus norms. That is good news, but we cannot expect that to persist. New travel options, the deteriorating weather as winter comes on, and the rise in cases will all act now to limit demand within domestic destinations, so we need to safely create that demand ourselves, even during the low season. Creating that demand in tourism destinations is key for their recovery after the covid-19 outbreak. I ask the Department to look at ways in which we can intervene with spending to do just that—whether that be a voucher or cheaper food options, as we have seen before—and to attract footfall, as I mentioned in the Westminster Hall debate earlier this week. This would be a bespoke intervention certainly, but one that would deliver real rewards and growth for the industry and communities that depend so heavily on the economic outputs of tourism.
Turning briefly to theatres, I was generally pleased with the culture recovery fund. I thank DCMS Ministers for all they did in that area and, of course, Treasury Ministers for their support, but we need to go beyond that now. We need to extend the culture recovery fund into the next financial year. It is not automatic, which means that unspent funding could be lost, even though coronavirus is likely to run well beyond next April. As theatres will probably be the last industry back into action, we need rapid testing to reduce risks, Government assistance in the provision of insurance for the theatre sector—that was mentioned earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull—and a temporary increase in theatre production tax relief to reduce the costs of staging shows when theatres eventually open.
We need to increase the retail business rates discount for theatres. Currently, this is set temporarily at a 100% discount—zero—but it will revert to a level below that offered to retail businesses, cinemas and live music venues, which is unfair on theatres, and that could be easily changed. These are areas and suggestions that DCMS will be championing and supporting in its own spending. I recognise that further funding may be required, which is why I wrote to the Chancellor last week, supported by 154 parliamentarians, to lobby for the suggestions I have set out.
To conclude, we need DCMS to push for more spending in the creative sector. I believe that by doing so we can create year-round demand for our vital tourist destinations, while also stimulating and sustaining a recovery for our theatre sector. My final words are in support of the freelancers—the actors, the costumiers, the producers—who have fallen through the net of all other spending. These people need supporting now. We are losing talent permanently every day, so please support the freelancers.
I congratulate the hon. Members for Solihull (Julian Knight) and for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) on securing this important debate.
The sectors represented under the remit of DCMS are varied and wide-ranging, and I hope to cover a few issues that are critical in my constituency as well as more widely. Although I welcome the £1.57 billion funding package, with its Barnett consequentials of £97 million for the Scottish Government, it is clear that these, alongside the other support schemes, have not properly recognised two key issues: the seasonality of many DCMS areas and the nature of the workforce in the industry, which often does not fit into the tick-box core employment methods on which the Government have focused their efforts.
I would like to start by highlighting the cross-party letter that my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) has written to the Chancellor. In it, she highlights a simple ask from the exhibitions and events sector, which is that it be allowed to be reopen, when appropriate, in line with Government-approved guidance and that it be provided with support until it is able to do so. The Events Industry Alliance estimates that some 80% of the exhibitions workforce—consisting of events suppliers, organisers and venues—will be made redundant in the coming weeks: over 90,000 people. This is due not only to continued event closures as we see infection rates rise, but to the inability of employers in the industry to access the new job support scheme, as they are not able to trade at all during this time.
In my own constituency of North East Fife, I have a number of businesses in the mobile catering sector that support such events and festivals but have never been able to access support, often because this was, prior to the pandemic, a growing sector, with many entering it as recently self-employed. This meant that they could not access self-employment support grants and that changes made to support other areas of hospitality, for example, had some unintended knock-on consequences.
A key factor that I want to highlight is the seasonality of many DCMS areas, whether in sport—for example, the shinty season runs from February through to the end of September, so there has in effect been no season for this amateur sport—or in relation to cultural and historic visitor attractions, which are so dependent on tourism during the summer months. Events such as the popular Pittenweem arts festival have been cancelled, and the Saint Andrews Voices festival has been rescheduled to later this month, but will be delivered in a virtual format.
As my constituency is the home of golf and I am a trustee of the St Andrews Links Trust, I would point to the impact of golf from a tourism perspective. Yesterday, I met the Scottish Inbound Golf Tour Operators Association, and I would highlight that, although populated by small traders, this sector brings in an estimated £13 million a year to Scotland by welcoming visitors from the US, Canada, China and elsewhere. They are now in a situation where they need support to survive to the spring of 2021. They have rolled over bookings, but there are no guarantees, returning deposits would be challenging and staff have no active employment now. They need the whole Scottish package of attractions—distilleries and other visitor attractions—to present to their clients. Unless Scotland and the UK are ready to welcome visitors back when they are able to, through effective testing and tracing and other mechanisms, other countries, such as Ireland, may beat them to it. They need support now, and what is currently available is not sufficient.
The second issue I wish to highlight is how people work in the sectors under the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport umbrella. This is what my constituent who works as a self-employed rigger, sound technician, engineer and production manager—these people are multi-skilled—told me:
“I am a sole trader working as a freelancer and I am employed on an event by event basis…My skills and services contribute to the creative industries…which were worth £110 billion to the annual economy as evidenced in the Government’s website DCMS figures
I am not eligible for the Self Employment Income Support Scheme as less than 50% of my income came from self-employment in the tax years from 2016 to 2019. Nor am I eligible for the Newly Self-Employed Hardship Grant”—
which the Scottish Government offered—
“as I was registered as self-employed before 6 April 2019…I contacted Fife Council to ask whether allowance could be made…but was told it could not. I have therefore fallen through a crack in the system of support”.
Another, who works in sound and lighting, has said:
“Whilst the arts are getting support from the government, which is brilliant, it does not actually reach many of the people that need to be helped in the sector.
The company I work for currently relies heavily on the furlough scheme, as we have had…no income since…March…It is not as simple for us that when lockdown starts to ease further income will automatically return again…the worry is that the money will not reach suppliers and manufacturers such as us…I am asking for more support for our industry…In Germany, they have extended their furlough scheme for their equivalent of our industry, until March 2021”.
Finally, I have been told:
“I am a musician. Having spent the last 7 years building towards being self employed...My business turned over £65,000 in revenue last year, supporting myself and other musicians…I am sure that cumulatively our impact on tax revenues is hardly something to sneer at.
Mr Sharma’s comments that we should ‘get better jobs’ is deeply insulting and condescending. I don’t need a better job. I’m in it already”.
To conclude, DCMS sector spending has been welcomed, but it has not truly recognised either the seasonal way in which many areas operate or the different ways in which many work within in it. Both the UK and Scottish Governments—I note that to date the Scottish Government have committed only £59 million of their allocation to support packages—need to do more. We will all be the poorer otherwise.
I wish to centre my remarks on two areas. First, our Government deserve great credit for the unprecedented support they have given companies, charities, workers and individuals in this sector during the pandemic. It would also be awesome if we could not continually misquote the Chancellor. Any of us who has served in government knows how slow the Whitehall machine can be, so we should marvel at the furlough scheme, the SEISS, the grants we have put out there through local authorities in England, and the Government-backed loan scheme. There is no doubt that they have saved millions of livelihoods and businesses, so credit should go to Ministers for making them happen, while we recognise, as we must, that every single penny is the British public’s—I always say that in this Chamber—and one way or another every single penny will have to be paid back. These support measures have absolutely helped the DCMS sector, albeit with notable exceptions, which I wish to focus on.
The first of those exceptions is the UK events sector, which has been brought to its knees by covid, as the hon. Member for North East Fife (Wendy Chamberlain) mentioned. It is so sad, because the exhibition and events industry was a vibrant, growing sector before covid hit, contributing some £70 billion of economic impact to the nation. At a stroke, the industry became unviable, because Government restrictions mean that, basically, no UK events are permitted to take place—I should imagine this will last until March at the earliest. The Meetings Industry Association estimates that some 700,000 people are employed in this industry and there have been just north of 120,000 job losses so far. We are talking about catering and front of house staff; event and account managers; the technical staff; the many freelancers who build the events; the sound engineers; the people who hire out the stands and the furniture; and, of course, the audiovisual guys and girls.
I do welcome the Chancellor’s new job support scheme, but a salary subsidy for companies that are not able to trade is not the stuff of dreams. I totally get the honesty in government talking about “viable jobs” in the changed post-covid economy, but we have to be honest and say that there is a difference between an unviable business and one that is not allowed to be viable, as is the case with the UK events sector.
Furthermore—this goes back to the much wider point about the events world, although it involves many who work within it—the self-employed support scheme has troubled me from the off, and I have said that many times in this House. The intention to achieve parity between self-employed workers and those on PAYE was absolutely the right thing to do but, as paragraph 12 of the conclusions in the Committee’s report on the “Impact of COVID-19 on DCMS sectors” states, the fact that
“too many self-employed people have missed out on support to date, means the future of our creative workforce remains at significant risk.”
“From October 2020 at the latest”—
“the Government should introduce flexible, sector specific versions of the… SEISS guaranteed for the creative industries until their work and income returns to sustainable levels.”
The Treasury Committee’s report on the “Economic impact of coronavirus” proposed some practical solutions as to how that might be achieved, and we endorse it.
To return to the UK events sector specifically, I understand that DCMS proposes a targeted economic support package for the business visitor economy, which will be a crucial and welcome move. If the Minister can say anything about that, we will be all ears.
Last year, the UK festival and live music sector contributed £4.5 billion to the UK economy, supporting over 200,000 jobs. Festivals themselves—I declare an interest—generate £1.75 billion and support some 85,000 jobs. The catastrophic impact of covid on the sector cannot be underestimated. According to the most recent survey by the Association of Independent Festivals, at least 50% of the workforce faces redundancy. The festival season, which is obviously between April and September, was of course totally abandoned this year, and the sector is working towards, but not hopeful of, returning next year.
Part of that hopeful return involves the DCMS festivals working group, for which I thank the Department. It has now had three meetings, and several drafts of the covid operational festival planning guidance have been produced. I understand that a working draft will be produced next week and hosted on The Purple Guide website, which is a “good to go” industry standard for health, safety and welfare at music and other events. It is imperative that we take that seriously.
In closing, the £1.57 billion culture recovery fund is excellent. Heaven only knows why it has taken so long to get the money out, but I understand that it starts tomorrow and then again on Monday. Above all, when the funds do get to the arts sector next week, I hope that that the wonderful Theatre Royal in Winchester, which has done so much to help itself, will have some help from Government to continue its great work. That will be a nice October surprise.
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Steve Brine). Without the Government’s support for tourism and hospitality, the economies of constituencies such as mine would have been hit harder than we ever imagined. The temporary 5% VAT rate supporting tourism and hospitality and leisure helped to keep staff on the payroll, beer, wine and, of course, cider flowing, and delicious meals sizzling and, crucially, gave the country a welcome dose of normality as they ventured out for the first time in months.
I recently spoke in a debate about tourism secured by my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby). Members from across the House called for the VAT cut to stay in place to support the industry through the tough winter months, and the Secretary of State heard our call. The tourism Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston), responded to the debate and made it clear that he understood the need for the measure to continue. A few weeks later, the Chancellor announced that the measure would stay in place until the end of March. This is a welcome move from a listening Government.
It is not just the businesses that we can see that have struggled through the pandemic. Local radio played a crucial role throughout the lockdown, keeping people company and letting listeners know about community support schemes and local services. DCMS responded with support for the community radio sector, providing financial help to help ensure the on-air lights stayed bright. Sadly, the loss of advertising revenue hit some smaller commercial radio stations harder than most, and Devon will lose one of its two independent local radio stations by the end of the year.
One of the major fixtures of any proper local radio station is hearing the results of sporting fixtures across the area. I recently visited Exmouth Town football club to meet the volunteers who put their heart and soul into their local club. They have worked tirelessly to ensure the club is safe for supporters and players, and I am pleased that the Premier League gave the club £4,000 to support those efforts. Sidmouth Town will also receive £2,000 to help the Vikings continue their battle on their pitch and across the south-west. However, local rugby is also in need. Sport England’s community emergency fund gave Topsham rugby club £9,000—a big boost for a club that punches well above its weight. However, further support is needed to secure a future for Devon sport—and sooner rather than later.
I am proud to have the mighty, and previously profitable, Exeter Chiefs based in my constituency. Sadly, the Chiefs are currently losing around £1 million a month because games are being played behind closed doors. They employ 200 staff and bring joy to thousands across the city and the south-west, and much further afield. The losses are hitting the club hard and they will need a helping hand over the coming months. I urge DCMS and the Treasury to draw up packages of support to help the Chiefs and many professional rugby union clubs survive the winter.
If we really want to achieve our goal of improving the health of our nation, what sort of message would the closure of sports clubs across the country send fans, supporters and future sporting stars? We must act now or it is game over.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for East Devon (Simon Jupp). I offer my congratulations to the hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) on securing this debate and my thanks to the Backbench Business Committee for granting it. I record my thanks to the hon. Member for Clacton (Giles Watling) for organising the cross-party effort voicing concern about the self-employed working in the sector.
It is a huge and diverse sector, but in the limited time available I shall focus on the pandemic’s impact on UK journalism and our cultural institutions. The “Press Gazette” estimates that we have lost over 2,000 jobs in newsrooms across the country, with many more journalists taking pay cuts to save their jobs. Despite that, the Welsh culture committee has warned of an impending avalanche of redundancies and closures in the regional media when the furlough period ends—very shortly.
Regional media were already under threat even before covid. In recent weeks, I and other hon. Members have voiced concerns about the BBC’s plans to cut local and regional programming, with the threat to award-winning current affairs programmes such as “Inside Out”. In an era of fake news and social media conspiracy theories, trusted, reliable and accurate local journalism and regional media have never been more important. The sector is quite right to ask why it has been sidelined and excluded from support for culture and the arts.
The National Union of Journalists’ news recovery plan has presented Ministers with detailed proposals to safeguard the industry. Unlike many recovery plans, the NUJ has identified a within-sector means of funding the package—a windfall tax on the tech giants who have seen their profits soar during the pandemic. The comprehensive programme to safeguard and strengthen UK journalism is too extensive for me to do it justice today, but I would respectfully ask the Minister to meet me and the NUJ to consider the merits of implementing such a plan.
I acknowledge that the Government have provided some support to newspapers by putting money into public health advertising. However, I ask the Minister that any future advertising take a bottom-up approach, with the advertising spend going to independents in hyper-local news titles like East Durham Life in the first instance, before moving up the newspaper title hierarchy.
We need to ensure that any taxpayers’ support to industry comes with duties and responsibilities. I hope the Minister will commit from the Dispatch Box that no public money will be made available to firms making redundancies, cutting pay, curtailing frontline journalistic roles, taking excessive executive bonuses or blocking trade union organisations, and I do not believe it is unreasonable to make specific demands of businesses and sectors that require public support as part of their covid recovery plans. I praise the work of the Public and Commercial Services Union cafeteria and retail workers at the Tate galleries, who took strike action in an attempt to avoid compulsory redundancies and won significant concessions. We have heard about the culture recovery fund, but it is yet to save a single job in seven specific areas where the PCS is in discussions, including the V&A, Historic Royal Palaces, the Royal Collection Trust, the National Gallery, the National Museums Liverpool and the Southbank Centre.
It is always a great pleasure to follow my good friend, the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame Morris).
We have all become accustomed to using the word “unprecedented” at an unprecedented rate. There has been an unprecedented Government response to genuinely unprecedented issues, but in these sectors, as well as the general case that needs to be made for our economy and society, there is a further case. Many of these organisations and activities have not just been impacted by coronavirus; they have been expressly forbidden from operating. For others, the fixed capacity nature of what they do means that they are neither able to continue, nor to remodel their business to operate with social distancing.
As a number of colleagues have said, we recognise that the value of these activities, arts and sports goes far beyond the economic. They are part of the joy of being alive—part of what makes our civilisation and gives us shared experiences. For many of them, if they go, they are gone forever; these are not sectors where some organisations may go, only to be replaced by others.
I welcome the Government’s support, including the sector-specific support such as “eat out to help out”, the temporary VAT reductions and the culture recovery fund. I also want to mention what local councils have been doing. In my council area, support has been given to the likes of Grayshott Concerts, the Phoenix theatre and Petersfield rugby club, but more is needed. I commend to Ministers the recent report of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which I know they have just responded to—but having responded to it does not preclude them from further referring to it for inspiration.
In the very brief time I have left, I want to talk about hospitality and tourism, which, as it happens, was my career before coming to this House. The sector is important to my constituency because of attractions such as Jane Austen’s house, Gilbert White’s house and the Watercress line heritage railway, as well as being at the gateway to the South Downs. The sector is also important to the country. It may surprise many people to hear that travel and tourism last year contributed more to UK GDP than it did to French GDP or Spanish GDP, and that this was the only European country in the top 10 for employment growth in travel and tourism in the five years coming up to this crisis, which has now hammered that growth. Although focus is rightly on the current crisis, we need to carry on focusing and building for the future, including by pressing on with the sector deal, focusing on skills and ensuring that the T-levels development carries on at pace.
I welcome the formation of UKHospitality as a strong voice for the sector. We now have to get the destination management and marketing organisations right; they are going to need a sustainable method of operating and being financed, which should start with central Government funding, but will have to move to a self-sustaining mechanism thereafter. We are also going to need national level marketing for our inbound tourism to give investors confidence. I welcome the drive for more hotel rooms, which I hope the Government will reaffirm. I also welcome the fact that there is a focus outside London, but we need to recognise that London is key to UK tourism. If it turns out that office accommodation is less in demand in the future, I would love it to be made as easy as possible to convert office space into hotel rooms.
Finally—I have totally run out of time—if there was one year to test out the staggering of school holidays to extend the season, it is 2021. It could be done for a single year on a pilot basis to see whether the practical difficulties and objections can be overcome.
The covid-19 pandemic has impacted industries across the UK, threatening countless people’s livelihoods. Many families now face serious financial hardship. The arts and culture sector has experienced untold difficulties, with live performances unable to go ahead, venues unsure when they will reopen and many performers uncertain about their future.
The industry contributes so much to our lives, from the films we watch and the books we read to the music we listen to. It enriches and expands our world view. The creative industries in Scotland account for 70,000 workers and 15,000 businesses. They are estimated to support around £9 billion of activity in the Scottish economy, contributing £5.5 billion to Scotland’s GDP.
However, since March, countless east end constituents have contacted me about how their lives have been affected by the pandemic and how inadequate the support for the arts and culture sector has been, with many self-employed and freelance artists and performers excluded from the original Government financial support packages. In Glasgow East, the showpeople community is a vital part of my constituency. They put on seasonal fairs, from summer fêtes to Christmas markets. Currently there are 340 members of the Scottish Showmen’s Guild. Each is a small business owner and all of them have families, numbering 5,000 across Scotland.
More than that, showpeople have been a rich part of Scotland’s tapestry for hundreds of years and have a proud history and heritage extending back many years in my constituency. I am deeply concerned that most major fairs have been cancelled this year due to covid-19, greatly putting at risk showpeople’s livelihoods. At the heart of the issue is the fact that the financial support offered to the tourism industry during the pandemic continually excluded showpeople. Due to the manner in which show- people operate, for example, not having a static business or a shop front, they have often been left out of Government financial support packages. The community provides so much, not only to my constituency and to Scotland, but across the British isles. They deserve financial support and guidance as we head into the winter months and the second wave of coronavirus, which we find ourselves in now.
The Showmen’s Guild has been excluded from the recreation and leisure taskforce and has been asked to be represented by the Association of Circus Proprietors. That is akin to asking the Brownies to represent the Scouts. It is unacceptable. I encourage the Government to look again at including the Showmen’s Guild in their recreation and leisure taskforce, which will almost certainly have to be reconvened as a result of the second wave.
We should also focus on the steps that other European countries have taken in providing financial support, specifically to showpeople. In Belgium, the Government have put in place several support measures including the delay, the reduction or the exemption of the social contributions to be paid in 2021, and a bonus of €4,000, and, after 21 days of non-activity, €160 per day.
I would also like to use today’s debate to call on Scotland’s 32 councils to exercise the maximum flexibility on licensing for showpeople. We can acknowledge how difficult it has been for showpeople, but actions speak louder than words and it is time local authorities in Scotland started treating showpeople a lot more fairly when it comes to the licensing regime.
Along with other members of the all-party group on fairs and showgrounds, I have been working closely with the Showmen’s Guild on these issues and I will continue to urge the Government to put in place serious provisions to help showmen, who are a significant part of this island’s culture.
I ask you to keep this to yourself, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have always had—do not tell Andrew Lloyd Webber—a burning ambition to sing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” from “Evita” on the London Palladium stage. That is because I have always had a love of the arts and the theatre. It is embedded in me. One of my earliest memories is of going to see a pantomime at the New Theatre in Cardiff with my nan. It is a shame that the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) is no longer here—I am glad that he brought the debate to the Chamber with my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Julian Knight)—because he will no doubt remember my outstanding stage management of Radyr Comprehensive’s production of “The King and I”. I am therefore so proud of the west end in my constituency of the Cities of London and Westminster. It is the heart of arts and culture in this nation.
I was very proud to lead my first ever Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday, in which a number of Members spoke about the importance of theatre, live music and cultural venues for local economies. Members from Glasgow, Cardiff, Liverpool, London, Clacton, Northamptonshire and the west country spoke passionately about the arts and culture sectors in their constituencies and their place at the heart of local economies. I have learned, particularly during this dreadful crisis, that theatre and culture play an intrinsic part in the ecosystem of the west end. With the theatres and our marvellous cultural venues closed, such as the Royal Albert Hall, the Coliseum and the Royal Opera House, the heart of the west end has died at the moment. We must get these theatres back.
I pay tribute to the DCMS ministerial team, who have been outstanding during this crisis and led the way. There has been a £1.5 billion support package, which I welcome, and other brilliant support schemes such as the furlough and the VAT cut. I ask Ministers to consider continuing some of those schemes, particularly the VAT cut, and to look at business rates. We need reform in this country. I ask Ministers to extend the rates holiday and—particularly in my constituency, where rateable values are so high—to look at extending the threshold from £51,000 to £150,000. It is a lot of money, but that would make a huge difference to not only the arts and cultural sectors but retail and many other businesses across central London.
We know that this virus is not going away, and I understand that theatres and other venues must stay closed for safety reasons, but the industry needs a date for stage 5, when they can open. I ask the Minister to work with the industry to ensure that we can allow these venues to open as soon as possible. We all know about the importance to local economies, but more importantly, theatre, arts and culture are the soul of our nation, and they are so important for our mental health and wellbeing.
If there are other Members on the call list who are in their offices but intend to speak in the debate and have not withdrawn officially, it would be useful if they appeared around the Chamber in the next 10 minutes or so, in order that we can help with timings. I call Bambos Charalambous.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken). I share her love of musicals—I just wish we could all dream a dream of a better future for the industry.
I declare an interest, as a member of the APPG on music, and my speech will be about support for the music industry. At midday on Tuesday, I was in Parliament Square, and I listened to 400 highly trained freelance classical musicians perform 20% of the great masterpiece “Mars” from Gustav Holst’s “The Planets”. I congratulate Let Music Live and #WeMakeEvents on organising such an amazing event. The event was visually and musically stunning. The silence after just two minutes was poignant and demonstrated how quickly after music there is silence. It was a metaphor, if one was needed, of the plight of many musicians since covid-19 restrictions were introduced in March, who have seen their livelihoods dwindle to nothing overnight.
A number of freelancers have contacted me, and I want to read a few lines from one of the emails I received from a freelancer who wants to remain anonymous. They said:
“I have applied for various jobs…I have got rejections for all of them. The vast experience I have playing the violin, whilst extremely highly skilled, means nothing when applying for anything non music-related. Ultimately I have lost my home, my work and the only way of life I have ever known.”
That is true for many musicians who are struggling at this time.
There is no doubting the estimated £10.8 billion a year contribution of the arts scene to the UK economy by those in the creative industries, but unlike other sectors, the cultural sector has had nowhere near the support it needs to survive. Little thought has been given to this sector. It was not until July that the Government announced the culture recovery fund, and despite calls from many organisations such as Chickenshed Theatre in my constituency, the vast majority have not received anything from that fund. With nearly all venues closed, some of which will never reopen, there is little opportunity for musicians to play. While DCMS funding for venues and arts organisations may be welcome, it does nothing for the vast majority of workers in the arts, as most freelancers do not qualify either for the JRS or the SEISS and therefore make up part of the 3 million workers who have been excluded from help during the pandemic. According to Musicians’ Union research, 70% of musicians are unable to undertake more than a quarter of their usual work; 65% are facing financial hardship now; 36% do not have any work at all; and 34% are considering abandoning their career in music while 37% are not sure. The truth is that while this was once a viable industry, it is now met with empty diaries and no plans for the majority of musicians.
There are two things that the Government could do to resolve this: have a similar scheme to eat out to help out for venues so that tickets can be subsidised, and help those freelancers who are in desperate need. A few weeks ago, there was a big campaign to get “Land of Hope and Glory” played at the last night of the Proms. That is taken from the Elgar piece, “Pomp and Circumstance”, but now we need to overcome the covid circumstance, and we must ensure that we let music live.
It is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous), who I serve with on the Procedure Committee. I, too, have had emails from freelance musicians who are struggling enormously. He set out the issues so well and it is an honour to follow him. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Julian Knight) and the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) for securing this important debate.
I was once the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, so I know these sectors pretty darn well. The Minister worked there closely with me, so he will know some of the things that I am about to say. I know that there is nobody on the Government side of the House who does anything but recognise the contribution that the sectors DCMS represents make to this country, including—absolutely—economically. When I became Secretary of State in July 2016, the sectors that DCMS represented contributed 13% of the UK economy. By the time I moved to Northern Ireland in January 2018, it was over 16%, demonstrating just how those sectors grow much faster than the economy at large and really contribute so much.
However, they also give us so much more. They are the soul of our nation, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) said. They give us joy. They have a role to play in so many parts of our lives, including in education. These are areas that might grasp that child who really does not know what they want to do with the rest of their life, taking them away from crime or gang culture and giving them a focus and a purpose.
If global Britain is anything, it is our creative industries. Goodness me, if we want to punch above our weight, have a look at what our creative industries, sporting institutions, arts and museums do. They are so well known around the world and they open doors for us in a way that nothing else can. When I was a Minister in the Home Office visiting Pakistan, if I wanted to have a conversation with any senior Minister, it was much easier to open the conversation by talking about cricket than it was security, representation and how we might possibly help each other with our security exports.
There is also the economic impact of inward investment. We want companies to invest in Britain. We want companies here in the United Kingdom to put their money in and create jobs. They are not going to put employees in places where there is nothing for them to do when they get home in the evening. They want a strong cultural sector. They want sporting events. They want to be able to take part in charities. They want to be part of more of society than just going to work every day. That is why it is so important that so far, the Government support for DCMS sectors has been there, but we need to make sure that the sectors continue to be supported.
I want to raise a few local issues. I have the privilege of being the Member of Parliament for Alton Towers—I suspect many Members have visited Oblivion and Nemesis and have enjoyed their trips to Alton Towers. Alton Towers has been open this year. It has been fantastic. I have been a couple of times with my family and we have been able to really enjoy the rollercoasters and the feeling of being in this great place of fun. It is so grateful for the VAT cut and the fact that it has been extended, but it really wants to see that continue. It wants to see support for businesses like Alton Towers so that it can continue. It wants to see support for businesses like Alton Towers so that it can continue. Having lost out on the school trip season and so many other parts of the season, it wants to make sure that it can extend its season and get support where it needs it.
On sporting events, we must get fans back. That is absolutely something I miss so much. Not being able to go to the Etihad and watch my beloved Manchester City score goals is a great trauma for me, so please can we get them back? We must also get support for freelancers and sole traders—that is absolutely vital.
Like other Members, I too spoke in Tuesday’s Westminster Hall debate on the contribution of the culture sector to local economies. While I do not intend to repeat what I said then, I want to re-emphasise just how vital culture, media and sport organisations are to my constituency, not just culturally in terms of promoting diversity and their success in the way that they represent this country, but economically. In constituencies like mine they are as important as manufacturing or finance are to other constituencies.
We have live music and entertainment venues such as the Eventim Apollo, which is a beautiful art deco building that has been fully restored by its new owners, the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Bush Hall, and the Riverside Studios, Lyric and Bush theatres, all of them in new or expanded premises, and all of them thriving before covid. In a small borough, we have two premiership clubs and one championship football club—Chelsea, Fulham and QPR—again, all doing really well, whether in building new stands, looking for new grounds or rebuilding their existing grounds. Last but not least, in terms of exhibitions and events, we have lost Earls Court but we still have Olympia, which is being refurbished and restored to its Victorian splendour by its new owners.
These are great successes, but that is not mirrored by the support that they have been getting from Government over this time. I urge Members to sign the letter that the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) is writing on the events industry, because the neglect of the events industry has been one of the great scandals throughout covid. What all these enterprises have in common is that they are the worst affected. They cannot operate but they are getting the least help. Government schemes do not work for them. They do not work for their staff and they particularly do not work for the freelancers on whom many of them depend. I will make just two points. First, these are successful organisations that help themselves. Secondly, the Government schemes are not working for them.
I also have the privilege of having had 75 years of the BBC in my constituency. However, we are losing TV Centre because of the cuts in support for the BBC made by the Cameron Government in not supporting the licence fee, and now the BBC is being further undermined in so many ways. The BBC supports the cultural sector with £1.2 billion, the largest single such investment, going into its content. That is three times what Netflix does, which is half of what public service broadcasting does. Yet that is also being undermined by the further cuts that are going through at the BBC.
Finally, let me quote from something I saw when I was waiting for this debate to start—an email that I got from a very successful hospitality business called Beds and Bars based in my constituency. It also operates in Europe. One can feel the anger when the managing director, Murray Roberts, points out that the UK faces mass redundancies in these sectors while jobs in mainland Europe will be saved. He says:
“What we see in the rest of the Europe is that those governments want to help the hospitality sector but the Job Support Scheme in the UK is not going to help anyone. I haven’t heard of a single operator who has said the Job Support Scheme is any good or is even something they can work with.”
He says that whereas the Europeans say that
“there’s no question of making mass redundancies…Sunak’s Job Support Scheme is all smoke and mirrors. It’s time we started shaming the actions of the government. The support we will be getting is appalling and we will face huge redundancies.”
That is the truth and the challenge that the Government are not meeting at present.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Julian Knight) and the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) for securing this important debate today. It is good to see so many Members here to talk about this subject. I will be brief and concentrate my remarks on two areas: first, the creative industries; and, secondly, broadband, which seems to have been forgotten in this debate until now.
First, on the creative industries, I wish to talk about the supply chains, but, before I do so, I will just mention Theatr Hafren. What I say is: never mind the west end, because in mid Wales, Theatr Hafren is where it’s at. This fantastic theatre is linked to Newtown College, which is causing it problems in accessing funding through the Arts Council of Wales, the Welsh Government and other Government agencies, because they are saying that it could lean on the college. Well, our colleges are also under financial strain and, of course, they should focus on their core mission of education. I ask the Minister to work with the Welsh Government and find out whether there are any vehicles or avenues to support the theatres that are linked to colleges, or, indeed, to schools. These are the least subsidised theatres in Wales, and they are the ones that have been delivering during these tough financial times and the ones that I would argue need the most support.
Let me turn now to the supply chains in the creative industry. Mid Wales Music Centre, which is the largest music retailer in Wales, is run by Phil and Bobby Barnwell. It is a brilliant shop, with a huge reach. It has been operating for 33 years, but it is now restructuring to try to get the family business to survive. It has stepped up and provided equipment to music tutors to help them through tough times. It is incumbent on the UK Government, the Welsh Government and other agencies now to support it.
Given that I have just one minute left, I will touch very briefly on broadband. If there is one thing that this crisis has brought out, it is the need for a decent broadband connection. Representing a constituency that covers 840 square miles, I can say that broadband is incredibly important to many of the businesses and residents. I welcome the universal service obligation and I welcome what the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the UK Government and other partners are doing in this regard, but as we come out of covid, we must not forget the lesson that we have learned about how much we need those internet connections. Some 12.5% of my constituency qualifies for USO, which means that 12.5% of my constituency currently get less than 10 megabits. That is not a stable connection and my constituents, like others, have struggled.
In conclusion, we must support the rural economy. Our creative talent and supply chains mean as much there as they do in the west end. Can we carry on rolling out that USO and get some decent broadband?
My constituency of Vauxhall lies a short distance from this House. Members need only look across Westminster Bridge to see its enormous positive impact. Our world-leading cultural organisations lend huge respect to our national identity and international reputation. We can see iconic landmarks such as the London Eye, the National Theatre, the British Film Institute and the South Bank Centre, the origins of which date back to the Festival of Britain, and which houses the Hayward Gallery and the Royal Festival Hall, home of the world famous London Philharmonic Orchestra. Every Member in this House will be able to understand why so many of my constituents—more than 800 of them—signed a petition urging the Government to do a lot more in terms of support for the arts.
These cultural icons are not just buildings; they attract so many tourists and visitors from outside and around the UK. They contribute millions of pounds to the Exchequer, not to mention the economic and social contribution they make to so many businesses such as cafés, restaurants and hotels, which provide employment for local residents in Vauxhall and make our city a pleasure to visit and to live in.
Let me reference some of the smaller independent community theatres, such as the Waterloo East Theatre and the Clapham Omnibus Theatre, which I took my two children to last year on Boxing Day, when most Members here were probably still resting, to see “The Little Prince”—when you have a four-year-old and a two-year-old, you do not get to sleep on Boxing Day. Now these theatres desperately need our help. The Chancellor’s winter economic plan does not do anything to help some of those in the creative and night-time industries who cannot work because of covid-19. These restrictions, whether it is in music, the comedy clubs or the theatres, are having a big impact.
The Government’s £1.57 billion cultural recovery fund was welcome, but that was announced in July, and to date less than 3% of that money has been allocated to live music venues and independent cinemas, all of which are hanging by a thread. Just yesterday, a small independent picture house in Clapham in my constituency announced it will be closing tomorrow. So many jobs are going to be lost. Like many other people, a few years that is where I went to see “Black Panther”. The local people will not have that local cinema now. The tourism sector has lost this summer, and now Christmas is coming and it will lose that period too.
Lastly, I want to put on record my criticism of the Government for not acting quickly enough to help our freelancers who have fallen through the gaps. These are highly skilled people, many of whom who have invested many years in specialist training, and they cannot just retrain. Without them, our cultural organisations would not survive. Can the Minister confirm when our theatres will finally see the money, and will he lobby the Chancellor to ensure that our amazing cultural sector gets the targeted support it needs?
The arts and culture sector is at the beating heart of my city, and we are so proud of what is on offer in Bath. I am happy to add my support to the #WeAreViable campaign. Many of my constituents are writing to me, worried about the future of local institutions such as Komedia or The Bell. The Little Theatre Cinema, very similar to the one the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi) mentioned, which opened its doors in 1935, will now once again temporarily close them.
However, there are also some uplifting success stories. Bath’s Theatre Royal has opened its doors with three plays and a Christmas show, the Assembly Rooms are hosting the Mozartfest in November, Moles is welcoming live music lovers again, and a fabulous Grayson Perry show can be enjoyed at the Holburne Museum. Please, all come to Bath.
Clearly, some venues find it more difficult than others to adapt, and even those that are open again cannot operate at full capacity. The culture recovery fund is welcome, but it is not yet reaching all those who need it. The Arts Council England decision has been delayed until next week, adding to the uncertainty and anxiety already felt by those who see the fund as a final lifeline.
Live music events have been hit particularly hard; we have already heard a lot about that today. According to the Production Services Association, not one of its members has received anything from the Arts Council England funding for freelancers, and 20% of its self-employed members have had no access to furlough or the self-employed income support scheme. I commend the Stagehand Crew Relief Fund, which has been set up for crew workers in the live music sector. Some £100,000 has already been given to start off the fundraising, but much more will be needed. Highly skilled freelancers urgently need our support, and we must always remember that we need those skilled workers behind the musicians and actors.
Much Government support will end just as it becomes viable to consider reopening again. An extension of the furlough scheme is needed, but there is also room for creativity. Edenred is calling for a tax-based hospitality voucher scheme that employers could make available to employees, who could spend them on tourism, hospitality and the leisure sector. Countries across Europe have already tried similar schemes, with positive effects.
We cannot afford to lose our vital culture sector. Arts and culture bring together communities, provide solace to those struggling with mental health and entertain us all. We need more of them, not less.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse). Bath is not the only spa town in which the arts and culture are absolutely foundational to our way of life. A defining characteristic of much of the sector is that it is social. It consists of bringing people together as audiences, as spectators and as teams, so music venues, theatres and sports grounds have been particularly hard hit by the social distancing requirements. Those have been carried out on behalf of us all, but those places have borne the brunt of them, and so it is right that they have been singled out for special treatment.
I called for and welcomed the culture recovery fund announced in July, but it is a long time since it was announced, and organisations across the country need to have the allocations from the forum. I think of The Forum in Tunbridge Wells, a small, independent music venue that has been a hotbed for musical talent since 1993. Just a few weeks ago it was declared Music Week’s grassroots venue of the year for the whole of the UK. However, it is too small to open with the audiences that are necessary for it to be financially successful, so it absolutely depends on the funding, which I hope will come through.
I hope, too, that the Government will be creative in looking at ways that more venues can reopen and at how other countries are able to bring venues back into use. Some are coming back—the Assembly Hall theatre in my constituency is staging shows again—but an accomplished musician in my constituency told me that across Germany, many more venues are coming back into use. Let us look at what they are doing. If we can safely copy their practice—perhaps including the availability of rapid testing in other countries—we should apply that.
For all the size of the fund available, I am worried that not all of it will reach through the institutions to the people who are employed in the sector, especially those who operate on a freelance basis, whether they are actors or singers on the stage, performers in orchestras, or people such as directors, designers, choreographers and technicians. Many people in this sector work as freelancers, and it is vital that they are supported alongside the institutions. Being an orchestral musician is not a job that can be picked up and put down; it is a lifetime’s dedication—it is a vocation—and that needs to be recognised in the support that is available.
I hope that the constraints and specific circumstances that are particular to this sector will be recognised, as my hon. Friend the Member for Clacton (Giles Watling) said. It is a sector that injects life and vitality into all our communities and the whole country.
At the latest count, about 500 people in my constituency had signed the parliamentary petition asking for support for the arts sector. People are deeply concerned about what is happening.
Before coronavirus, the UK’s creative sector was growing at five times the rate of the wider economy, employing more than 2 million people directly and contributing £111.7 billion to our economy, but the west midlands creative sector is now braced for the loss of 51,000 jobs in what the Creative Industries Federation has warned is a “cultural catastrophe”. The Musicians Union says that 65% of musicians are facing financial hardship and 34% are considering leaving the profession altogether. Maybe that is music to the Chancellor’s ears.
The winter economic plan does nothing to help those in the creative and night-time industries. There are 660 shuttered nightclubs and live entertainment venues across the west midlands. They are not receiving any help; as we have heard, most of the Government’s much-vaunted £1.57 billion culture recovery fund has yet to reach theatres, live venues and other organisations. I understand that the first tranche was due to be allocated on Monday, but it has now been delayed until 12 October. Many organisations are still waiting to hear whether their applications have been successful. They will be gone if they do not hear some good news soon.
In Birmingham, our 107-year-old Rep theatre began consulting on redundancies in July; 50% of the Hippodrome’s staff are facing redundancy; the Midlands Arts Centre theatre is closed and letting most of its staff go; Symphony Hall and the Town Hall are consulting on redundancies for half their staff; the Electric Cinema, the UK’s oldest working cinema, has had to get rid of all its staff and remains closed; and the NEC Group, which had revenues of £160 million before the pandemic, has seen them fall to zero and is consulting its 2,300 staff on job cuts.
I recognise a number of the points made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe). A number of speakers have referred to the need for help for musicians, freelancers and, indeed, theatres. I have the Roses theatre in my area, and I know that help is certainly needed. It is needed also in the pubs and restaurants sector. I know that goes a little wider than the Minister’s responsibility, but very many people are concerned about the 10 pm curfew and the effect that it is having on many businesses without any discernible good coming from it. I hope that it will be reviewed.
I will speak in the two minutes that I have remaining on behalf of horse racing. I have the pleasure of being the co-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on racing and bloodstock, and I have Cheltenham racecourse, one of the greatest racecourses in the world, in my constituency. I have to stress that it is not a wealthy sport in the best of times. At the moment, it is suffering very acutely. Almost 50% of the revenue of racecourses comes from paying customers. Spectators go every day—it is a seven-day-a-week sport—and at the moment they have lost that revenue entirely.
There have been a couple of trials and pilots, which seemed to go very well, so it is really rather disappointing that the Government have stopped any further pilots or trials, especially given that racecourses are, of course, vast areas where social distancing would be very easy. There are also question marks about why hospitality suites cannot be open, when we can all go to a restaurant where there might be 50 or 100 people—again, suitably socially distanced. Why can that not be replicated at a sporting arena?
Other sports as well, not just horse racing, are having problems. Everybody understands why there are restrictions, but we have to look at the wider health implications of them. Sport is a very valuable asset to many people’s lives, both physically and mentally, and we really have to be careful that in containing the coronavirus disease, which we all want to do, we do not inadvertently cause other health problems. I make a plea to the Minister to think very carefully about reopening sporting venues, allowing, in a controlled way, crowds of a limited size to start attending again.
The cultural and creative industries are central to our economy and communities in Dulwich and West Norwood. I am proud of our local institutions, including the South London Theatre; the Dulwich Picture Gallery; the Black Cultural Archives; Brixton House theatre, which we are proud to have poached from my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi) and which is due to open shortly in beautiful new premises; three Picturehouse cinemas, including the iconic Ritzy cinema; and a wealth of grassroots music venues.
Many of my constituents work in big cultural institutions in central London as musicians, actors, dancers, set designers, costume makers, lighting or sound technicians, graphic designers and many other roles. Six months on from the start of lockdown, many cultural venues are still unable to reopen on a basis that is safe and economically viable, and those that have reopened are operating with a devastating loss of income, to maintain social distancing on their premises. The Government must provide support to recognise the additional challenges with which our precious cultural sector is confronted. The support provided to date is not adequate to the task.
Workers in the cultural sector are highly skilled. Many have trained for years to perfect their craft, but that capacity will be lost without more support. We have already seen millions of freelance workers cut adrift by the Government. Many have been enormously creative. Musicians have been teaching via Zoom. Performances have gone online. Costume designers have been making masks and scrubs. Those efforts, however, cannot possibly provide an income to sustain people for the long term.
The Chancellor has denied that he told musicians that they should retrain, but that was exactly the implication that could be drawn from his remarks because he did not have anything else to offer them. I want to raise my concerns about the lack of support for grassroots music venues, such as Off The Cuff, Hootananny and Effra Social in my constituency. The music industry, like football, is a pyramid. Superstars do not emerge from nowhere, fully formed, at Wembley Arena or the O2. Emerging acts need venues in which to develop and grow. Grassroots music venues make that opportunity available to a wide range of performers. Without them, the sector as a whole will be poorer. Yet, despite extensive representations to the Secretary of State, only 135 venues have benefited from any support so far, and 400 are at imminent risk of permanent closure.
I will highlight very briefly the devastating impact that the imminent closure tomorrow of three Picturehouse cinemas in my constituency will have, and 100 jobs are at risk as a consequence. Will the Minister intervene with Cineworld, which is not the most scrupulous employer in the country and ask that it work harder to keep its arthouse cinemas open, which have much more flexibility and are not dependent on Bond? Those jobs can be saved if the Government show more leadership.
Our cultural sector is vital to the UK economy, but more than that, it is how we express who we are, articulate our values, process traumatic experiences and celebrate life in our communities in all our diversity. If the Government allow that sector to perish, we will all be poorer.
It is a pleasure to speak in the debate. The Government’s £1.57 billion cultural recovery fund is so important to my constituency, which proudly boasts of its cultural heritage. I am grateful for the grants that Watts Gallery and Sime Gallery have received thus far. Watts Gallery has another bid in with the Department, and I remain hopeful of good news about that. All the support given to our magnificent Yvonne Arnaud Theatre and the funding that Guildford City football club and Alford football club received to make them covid-secure venues for players and spectators alike has been incredibly welcome, along with the generous job-saving measures introduced by the Treasury.
In the short time available, I wish to focus my contribution on the performing arts. Before words were ever written down, story telling and music were the ways that communities were able to pass on history, identity and culture—who were are, what we believe and universal truths about the human condition. Even though the theatres went dark and auditoriums fell silent, theatres—both professional and amateur—found ingenious ways to put productions online and gain audiences that extend beyond our towns and villages. I commend the Guildford Shakespeare Company for its innovation in order to survive, but we all know that Zoom can never compete with being in the room.
The performing arts have a way of transcending the mundane, and we have never needed that more than now in this difficult time of covid. That is true not just for adults, but for children, and especially for those who learn differently and who find inspiration, meaning and heroes who they seek to emulate when seeing live performance and sport. I will never forget the first live performance that I saw aged 15. It was Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto No.2 in C minor, and I was utterly transfixed. I also know the huge privilege of performing for an audience and working behind the scenes to make the magic happen together with others who are equally passionate. I would like measures to be introduced so that our performing arts can continue.
This pandemic will no doubt be the source of creative inspiration, and it will form part of our story telling for the future. However, we are in a world that is currently dominated by a media pantomime that does not fill our hearts with joy, and neither does it let us momentarily leave our cares behind for an hour or two. It does not bring our communities together in the way that our local sports teams or amateur dramatics do, and neither does it give volunteers involved in grassroots activities the satisfaction they receive from giving their time for the benefit of others. We must ensure that all those fantastic institutions endure.
In conclusion, to slightly reword Orsino’s opening lines in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”—I hope the great Bard will forgive me—“If sport, dance, pantomime, theatre and music be the food of love, they must play on.”
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Angela Richardson), and as chair of the all-party group for sport, I will focus my remarks on sport and physical activity and touch on some of the concerns about the impact of covid on that sector. Sport permeates our wider society and public health, and the sector has been hit particularly hard. Sport brings people together, and now more than ever, we need to invest in community sport and activity.
Inactivity is responsible for one in six of all UK deaths, and we know that activity is a key part of fighting coronavirus and keeping us as healthy as possible. The Prime Minister had a nasty experience with the disease, owing to the fact that he was, in his own words, “too fat”, which is widely recognised as being a huge problem. Unfortunately, the stats on inactivity in my constituency are pretty woeful, and there is a real problem with significant health inequalities that will only be made worse by losing sports clubs and venues.
The Government have introduced unprecedented support for many sectors, but the sport and physical activity sector is yet to see a huge amount of that. It will need further support if it is to continue to provide invaluable help to our communities. I urge the Government to introduce a sports recovery fund and to invest in the community sports and physical activity that we all enjoy. I also call on them to extend the reduction in VAT that has been applied to the culture and hospitality sectors to the sport and physical activities sectors as well.
Sport England’s research found that 53% of adults had been encouraged to exercise by Government guidance during lockdown. That includes me—I am a stone and a half down compared with March, following in the PM’s footsteps. Those on lower incomes or with disabilities have found it harder than ever to be active during this crisis. Initial social distancing measures meant that access to sport and activity had to be put on hold, but I ask the Minister to ensure that should future lockdowns take place, our access to those venues and opportunities is protected as that is important for our mental health as a nation.
In September, data provided by more than 1,500 community sport and leisure facilities showed just 78 confirmed cases of coronavirus among customers, at a rate of just 0.34 cases per 100,000 visits. That shows that facilities are following the guidelines and are a safe place to be active. I thank all those in grassroots sports—they are mainly volunteers—who are working to keep things ticking over.
Our professional clubs are also at risk, and I know Ministers have had conversations about the football league. I have raised Mansfield Town with the Prime Minister in the Chamber. I am grateful for the attention on that, but countless other sports rely on ticket sales for their income and to remain viable. Almost 175,000 people have signed a petition to get fans back into stadiums, and that is a hugely important thing. These clubs are not just about sport; they are pillars of our community, and through outreach programmes such as “Football in the Community”-type schemes they pervade education as well as tackling isolation and other vital challenges.
I will end by emphasising the importance of the sector. As well as improving the physical health of communities such as mine, it is invaluable for our mental wellbeing, and I hope the Government will step in and protect these vital community and grassroots sports facilities.
I start by thanking the Minister and the Department for the engagement and careful consideration they have shown to a number of industries in my constituency. I start with the racing industry in Lambourn, which is not just a major employer —although it does employ more than 1,000 people—and a major source of revenue for our local economy, but something of which we are very proud. It is a core part of our identity. When the lockdown hit, it had very serious consequences, because the horses cannot just be dumped in a field. They are essentially equine athletes who need to be trained and cared for, and that involves high costs and staff retention.
The package of financial support was a lifeline, and so was the support given to get racing going behind closed doors in July, and the industry is grateful for that, but the situation is dire. My remarks that follow are not intended to be a criticism, but a fair reflection of the challenges that face not only racing, but some of the arts venues in my constituency, including the Watermill Theatre in Newbury and the Corn Exchange.
The first great challenge such organisations face is reopening. I will focus on racing for a moment. The industry believes that it could make racecourses secure by limiting numbers, conducting the entire exercise outside and constructing barriers. It could get racing going safely, if only it was permitted to do so. That is not just a top-line concern but one that reverberates around the entire ecosystem of photographers, hospitality and bookmakers.
In that sense of talking about an ecosystem, I would also like to address the challenges of the live events sector. I had a very constructive roundtable with some in my constituency today who provide services to music and arts events, and they make the point that they are viable, in that they would have demand if they could open the doors. They believe that they could do so in a secure way, and they underscore the need for planning. They genuinely do not know what the Government anticipate, what happens next year with a vaccine or without a vaccine, or what happens in a best-case scenario or a worst-case scenario. When they reopen, they will get orders, but it will be two to three months before they actually deliver the service, and they ask for consideration of that.
On the issue of collateral damage, my constituency’s much-loved local newspaper, the Newbury Weekly News, has been more important than ever in providing a service to people during the crisis, yet its revenues have taken an unprecedented hit because of the loss of advertising. Without direct financial support from the Department, I am genuinely concerned about its survival.
I begin by thanking the ministerial team and the Treasury, who are trying to strike a very fine balance between the use of public money and asking the private sector to play a role, too. Everything is being done under the constant need to ensure that the sector plays a role in reducing the spread of coronavirus.
It is welcome that the Government have prioritised allowing local sports to continue. Dozens of groups across Crewe and Nantwich are helping to keep people fit and active, and that is so important for our physical and mental health. I recently visited Cheshire Blades FC and saw how happy all the players were to be back on the field. When visiting LS Gymnastics Crewe Academy, I heard at first hand just what a lifeline gymnastics is to the young members of that club. I welcome the sports recovery package announced at the end of September. The Government have worked with Sports England to provide £195 million-worth of support for community projects. The £9.5 million pitch preparation fund is also a huge boost for smaller local clubs, helping them to prepare for when they might get back to playing matches.
To illustrate some of the challenges still facing the sector, I want to provide two local examples, which are, of course, by no means the only ones. Crewe Lyceum Theatre is a tremendous asset to Crewe. It is a genuine cultural draw from across the region. It has been putting on plays and performances in my constituency for more than 130 years, and plays a crucial role in bringing the community together and supporting the local economy in the town. I can think of only one other time when the Lyceum Theatre was so threatened—when it was almost entirely consumed by a fire in 1910. The culture and arts sectors were relieved by the announcement of the £1.57 billion support package, but the challenge is getting it to those who need it the most. I was pleased to hear that £3.46 million is being given to 135 grassroots music venues, but the majority of the package is yet to be allocated. We need to make sure we get that money out as soon as possible.
My constituency is also home to Crewe Alexandra FC, which is at the heart of our local community, where people of all ages and background come together to support their local club. Though not technically in my constituency, I should probably also mention Nantwich Town FC, which is facing similar challenges. Crewe Alex’s leadership put an enormous amount of effort into getting its venue covid-secure. They were very disappointed with the decision to put back the return of spectators into venues. If fans can accept not being able to be back watching the sport right now, they need to be confident that it will make it through to the other side of the pandemic. The gate money it receives is absolutely vital for its financial future. As I said, it is about striking a balance—asking some of the bigger players in the family to help provide financial support. I appreciate those negotiations will be challenging, but we needed a decision yesterday really. I press Ministers as hard as possible to try to come to some conclusions, so that football fans know that on the other side of the pandemic there will still be a sport for them to go and watch locally.
It is important to state at the outset that throughout the pandemic the DCMS ministerial team has been approachable, has listened and has responded with bespoke measures to address the concerns of the many businesses, charities and other organisations whose governance falls within its remit. However, notwithstanding that welcome support, many people are facing an uncertain and worrying next few months, with the prospect of further restrictions and local lockdowns stopping a fledgling and fragile recovery in its tracks. Those businesses and other groups employ large numbers of people. Quite often, they have been run by the same families for generations. They are deeply embedded in the culture and wellbeing of their local communities.
The home tourism industry worked its socks off in the summer to catch up on what it had lost in the lockdown. However, research carried out by the British Holiday & Home Parks Association shows that it was not able to do so. With the closures now in place in Wales, the opportunity to make up more lost ground in the coming months may well have been taken away.
Coach companies have fallen through the cracks of the support that has been provided. Belle Coaches, based in Lowestoft and Leiston in Suffolk, is a family-run business that has been trading for 96 years and employs 50 people. The coach sector should be treated as part of the leisure sector and finance holidays should be extended to ensure that no coaches are repossessed this winter.
Indoor leisure and sports centres, such as those run by Sentinel Leisure, are struggling as social distancing measures, customer confidence and limited capacity mean that it is difficult, if not impossible, to be financially viable. The terms of any loans for which such businesses may apply need to take account of their ability to repay being affected by the inevitable slow recovery.
Turning to local football, Lowestoft Town, who play at step 3, and Kirkley & Pakefield, for whom I have the honour of being president and who play at step 5, both welcome the support that has been provided. However, the season will be tough for both of them. There is a worry that some small community clubs, at step 7 and below, will struggle to survive, and I urge the Minister to consider targeted support for them.
It will be a long, bleak winter. DCMS has done a lot of good work since March, and I urge it to go that extra mile in the next few weeks and months.
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) in this important debate. It has been an interesting debate to listen to. I want to focus my contributions on the area that has the most direct impact for my communities, and that is community football. We have already talked about this today, but as a Black Country MP, and with the Black Country being at the heart of English football, I could not make a speech without talking about the football sector. I will highlight two of the clubs that I represent: Tipton Town football club and Tividale football club.
On the wider support that the Department has offered to the sector, we have seen an array of packages in conjunction with Sport England and the National Lottery. These have been well received, and the feedback on the whole has been positive. The £150 million funding roll-over and the £55 million sector stimulus are absolutely vital funds, but as we go forward we need to be flexible, as many hon. and right hon. Members have highlighted. I want to reiterate the thanks that many hon. Members have put on record to the Department and to my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench for their flexibility and openness to having these discussions about vital community assets in our constituencies. It is that flexibility, which we have had to have during these unprecedented times, that has enabled our society to remain open.
I want to focus on why this is important, and I want to talk in particular about those specific clubs that I represent. These are not clubs run by professionals. The people who run them are not paid to do what they do; they are volunteers. For example, Tipton Town football club is run by Anne and Ian. Ian will do a 30-hour shift at a well-known distribution company down the road. He will then come in and set up the matches. He will make sure that the players are there and the kits are ready. He will make sure that the other side know where they need to go. After the game, he will pack up and go away, after ensuring that everyone is sorted. At Tividale, Leon runs the club. Again, he makes sure that the players are ready, and again, he is a volunteer. That is what this is about. These are people who are giving back to our communities, particularly in a community such as mine. In Tipton, up the road from the station, there is an estate known as the Lost City, where kids’ chances of progressing are 20% lower than anywhere else in the region. It is those kids who rely on that club. Many of the junior team at Tipton Town come from Tipton and see that as their way out, and their way to achieve something. I say thank you to my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench for being open and for listening, but we still have more to do. I know that they will be up to the challenge of delivering it for those people in Tipton and Tividale.
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West (Shaun Bailey). As always, he made some incredibly powerful points. Like him, I would like to start by welcoming the record £1.57 billion funding promised by the Secretary of State to the cultural and arts sector, which is now being delivered. I spoke earlier in the week in the Westminster Hall debate on the importance of providing support to the supply chain companies and the technicians and freelancers who work in the creative sectors, and I know this is something that Ministers recognise.
As the chair of the all-party parliamentary media group, I want to highlight a sector that is in need of urgent help—namely, local media, comprising local newspapers, local commercial radio and local magazines, particularly those that are small and independently owned. Examples are the Warrington Worldwide and Village Life magazines in my constituency. These are publications to which we turn to keep us updated. The owner and editor, Gary Skentelbery, has invested and built a great business, and he goes above and beyond to provide up-to-the-minute news and information. However, because he is not part of a large media group, he does not get the agency ad funding that comes from the Central Office of Information—the Government ad revenue—although it does send him press releases to run in his news pages. That is simply not right.
I echo the comments made by Opposition Members earlier that when we come to look at how we support local media, we should approach it with a bottom-up mentality. The ad revenues of local radio such as the Dee Radio stations in Cheshire, and newspapers such as the South Warrington News are forecast to fall by more than 30% this year, and I have to say I think that is a bit optimistic, because I suspect that, in the early part of the lockdown, many saw a fall in revenues in excess of 80%. It is businesses that are normally advertising at this time of year—the entertainment, events and hospitality sectors—that are under further restrictions and simply cannot spend at the moment. We are likely to see a forecast £4 billion reduction in ad spend over the next year, which is a significant cut in the amount of money that will be available to allow commercial media to produce content.
Local content is vital for local media and local reporting. Indeed, we have entered local lockdown in Warrington, and we rely on local media channels to feed the community with news and specific information about the restrictions. Unfortunately, however, journalists are being laid off. I appreciate the work undertaken by the Minister for Media and Data, my right hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale). His support for covering commercial radio broadcasters’ transmission costs has been incredibly helpful but, sadly, many of the smallest ones missed out, so will he look again and see what help can give to independent media in our local communities?
My right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench will be delighted to see my mug before them once again, because they regularly hear from me on sports, culture, Chatterley Whitfield and “silicon Stoke”. I start by praising the Government’s £1.57 billion investment into our culture and arts sector, which is unprecedented in these unprecedented times. They deserve full credit for how they have engaged with Members on a regular basis. I thank them on behalf of Middleport Pottery and Ford Green Hall, which received money from the Heritage Lottery Fund to ensure that those vital community tourist destinations will continue and have some help in the dark winter months. As we enter spring and see a bright future ahead, the funds will go a long way.
I add my name to the long list of moaners when it comes to the fact that we cannot get people into football stadiums. Port Vale FC is a fine football club—I am proud to be a season ticket holder—and it had a plan in place to allow 4,000 fans to sit in its 22,000-seat stadium in a safe and secure way but, sadly, we have been unable to have that access. It is a football club in League Two that relies on extensive matchday revenue, and the sports Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston), has spoken with me about this issue at length. He has received a letter from me and the fantastic chair and co-owner Carol Shanahan, and I know that, privately, he would like to see fans back in the stadiums as soon as possible so that he does not have to hear us lot moaning about it from the Back Benches any further.
Turning to the future, because the motion refers to “after” covid, I want to talk about “silicon Stoke”, of which the Minister is all too aware. We received £9.2 million of DCMS funding to install 104 km of full-fibre gigabit-capable equipment. When I say “gigabit” I do not mean 100 megabits; I am talking about 1,000 megabits into and out of the home. That will revolutionise Stoke-on-Trent and put it at the heart of the tech revolution.
We want to build a full-fibre academy that will become Stoke-on-Trent’s digital version of the BRIT School and ensure we have a bright future. We want to build a health and social care service that can be delivered through a full-fibre network and to trial and pilot some of the really exciting technologies coming into the health sector. We want a digital enterprise zone, which will enable us to create a digital innovation hub. We want to be the heart of the video game industry, because Staffordshire University is the UK’s leader in digital and video game creation. The industry, which is worth more than £1 billion, is based in Dundee and Leamington Spa at the moment, but I want a big chunk of that business in Stoke-on-Trent for the future. I look forward to hearing the Minister support us in trying to become a full gigabit city.
As Christmas approaches, the prospects for the sectors supported by DCMS are bleak. That I may not get to go to see Motherwell FC in the new year’s Lanarkshire derby, to go to see the “Sleeping Beauty” panto in Derby with my mother-in-law and my kids, or to go with my family to see Scottish Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow is incredibly sad, but it is much more than sad for those whose livelihoods are within these sectors—so much more for the performers without an audience, the musicians who will not be heard, the box office staff, the crew, the lighting and sound engineers, the people running funfairs, local journalists, cleaners, ground staff and those who serve the drinks, the ice cream and the half-time pies. For them, it is devastating, and they deserve the support of this UK Government—support not just for the bricks and mortar of venues, as important as that is, but for those who work in them—and wholeheartedly, not the weasel words of the Chancellor and some of the other Ministers.
Many freelancers and contractors have had absolutely nothing at all from this UK Government, having been left out of the job retention furlough scheme and excluded from the self-employment support scheme. They deserve better. Their contribution is significant: their jobs—their lifelong vocations—are viable and as worthy as those in any of the other sectors that are still struggling. They support a whole other ecosystem in hospitality and tourism, and in the supply chain. Ending the furlough scheme must be rethought because, as the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton) pointed out, the job support scheme is of very little use to venues that remain closed because of the public health restrictions, which are necessary to protect us all. We know that stopping the furlough scheme at the end of this month has already put millions of jobs on the line, and as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) laid out, there is a significant impact in constituencies such as his, and in every constituency up and down these islands. It is a choice of this Government, knowing what we know about this virus now, to throw people out of viable jobs and careers into unemployment, because we also know that there will not be enough jobs to go around for people who lose their jobs now.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) laid out how the show people who have worked incredibly hard to entertain us over many generations and those who provide food vans and various other support to events will not be able to go back to normal. It is with great sadness that I see that the carnival at the Scottish Event Campus will not be going ahead this Christmas. As well as that, other events and conferences that support the Scottish Event Campus cannot go ahead either.
The Scottish Government have worked incredibly hard to spread funds around through various schemes, such as the pivotal enterprise resilience fund of £122 million; £23 million through the creative, tourism and hospitality enterprises hardship fund; the performing arts venues relief fund, which is a targeted fund of £12.5 million to support performing arts venues; the grassroots music venues stabilisation fund of £2.2 million to small music venues that cannot open; and the independent cinema recovery and resilience fund of £3.5 million to help small cinemas. I think it would be useful if the UK Government did something for the bigger cinemas, because then people in my constituency would not be losing their jobs from Cineworld closing its doors, along with 5,500 employees across the rest of the UK.
There is also the £15 million cultural organisations and venues recovery fund; the £5 million hardship funds for creative freelancers, recognising the importance of freelancers in that sector and supporting them financially; the £5 million sustaining creative practice fund for young artists to continue developing creative work during covid-19 and promoting us into the recovery thereafter; the £3 million youth arts fund; and the £3.8 million to the National Trust for Scotland and the £21.3 million to Historic Environment Scotland to protect our cultural and heritage venues.
Museums have also been supported through the £4 million recovery and resilience fund managed by Museums Galleries Scotland. As of last week only 160 of Scotland’s 423 museums were currently open. According to the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions, of those attractions that are open, only 28% are operating at an economically sustainable level. Museums have also benefited significantly from furlough, and their skilled employees face an uncertain future as we head into a covid winter.
The tourism sector is facing problems as well, because people are not coming from around the world to visit all of these wonderful venues in our constituencies. As the hon. Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) pointed out, the coach sector has been left out completely. The VAT cut has been welcomed, but it needs to be permanent because we will not be out of this any time soon.
As the hon. Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley) set out, many of our local community sports clubs also play an absolutely pivotal role in their community in tackling health inequalities as well as the other work they do, but many of them are under threat due to the pandemic. Sports such as rugby, hockey, shinty, netball and basketball are really struggling, and they need additional support for the future. Venues have not reopened, and there needs to be more clarity in what consequential funding will be made available through culture and leisure trusts. I note this afternoon that COSLA and the Scottish Government have agreed £139 million of a lost income scheme because the scale of losses within the sector is absolutely significant. That will go some way to addressing it, but we are not out of this crisis yet.
Many clubs, particularly in lower non-league football, as we have heard from many Members this afternoon, rely heavily on matchday income to survive, not least because considerably more people per capita in Scotland go to football matches than in any other country in Europe. The Scottish Government are fully aware that it has been an enormously challenging time for the sporting sector and that the pandemic has put a real financial strain on many sporting organisations, but it is important that we get more clarity in the funding that is coming from the UK Government to Scotland, so that we can get money out the door to sporting organisations in Scotland.
Covid has had a massive impact on the charitable and voluntary sector—the hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight), the Chair of the Select Committee talked about that in the context of Cancer Research UK. Many organisations and volunteers have stepped up to do more with less money. It would be helpful, on Gift Aid Awareness Day, if the committed to studying the gift aid emergency relief package proposed by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Institute of Fundraising Scotland, the Charities Aid Foundation and a coalition of about 500 voluntary organisations, which would provide a much-needed funding boost and support.
We have heard from colleagues across the House about the impact of covid-19 in the sectors covered by DCMS. We thank the Government—make no mistake about that—for the support that has come from a UK Government who do have the ability to borrow and the full range of fiscal levers at their disposal, but there is a real sense of frustration, as the Minister will have heard, from across the House. As the Chair of the Select Committee pointed out, the measures do not go far enough. The measures seem to assume that we will all be out of this sometime soon. The recovery will be hampered if the culture, media and sport sectors are allowed to go to the wall by the UK Government, and the UK Government must urgently think again and recognise the reality of the situation that we face in the months ahead. If they do not, we will face a desolate future without these sectors, which are economically significant and bring us the joy that makes our lives worth living.
I thank Members from across the Chamber for a really strong and powerful debate about all the sectors covered by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport—sectors that touch every aspect of our lives, every day of the week. As we have heard, they have been hit horribly hard by covid. I thank all the trade unions in the sector who are fighting so hard for their members and their livelihoods, along with the ExcludedUK campaign and the trade bodies and associations and advocacy groups. Their tireless work and expertise have also informed a lot of today’s debate so powerfully. Finally, I thank the Backbench Business Committee for agreeing to the debate; the Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, the hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight); and my neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), for securing the debate.
We have heard a lot of consensus during today’s debate. I think upwards of 35 Members have spoken—too many to refer to individually. I would particularly like to thank colleagues on the Opposition Benches for their contributions.
We have heard that the majority of the DCMS sector is in complete despair. The impact of covid has been exceptionally hard on culture, sport, tourism and the charitable sector. It has hit advertising, which supports much of our broadcast and print media, and we have heard about funding cuts to the BBC, which have meant the loss of 450 jobs in local news. While digital has boomed, especially for those big global tech companies, those across the country with slow broadband, or who have not had access to skills to benefit from digital, are excluded further; and as in so many areas, the pandemic is exposing all too clearly the deep-bedded fault lines in our society.
We appreciate that the Government have tried to help the sector but, as we have consistently said, that help has been limited in DCMS, the bulk of it being too slow. The following hard truth for the Government also needs to be said: if we had a properly functioning test, trace and isolate system, much of the sector would be flourishing right now. We know that, because that is what is happening in other countries—just look at Germany, with its creative industries back on track, and Denmark’s sporting sectors. So that is what is holding us back.
In arts and culture, experienced, skilled and talented live performers, and the people who create, produce and make those economically successful events happen, are being treated by the Treasury as though their jobs were mere hobbies. As we have heard today from across the House, many have had no support since the pandemic hit. People and businesses across the sector constantly tell me that they do not believe the Government understand how the ecology of the sector fits together.
We have had the terrible news this week of the 5,500 job losses at Cineworld, and earlier today, 1,300 job losses at the National Trust were announced. It did not take a crystal ball to work out, at the beginning of this pandemic, that much of the sector would be the first to close and the last to reopen. We had hoped that the Chancellor’s winter economic plan would correct some of these failures, but instead we were left disappointed because, as I am sure the Minister understands, you cannot work a third of your hours if your workplace is shut. I know that the Minister will cite the £1.57 billion cultural recovery package, which is obviously welcome, but 97% of that figure has not even reached anybody yet, nearly 100 days on from when it was announced. The focus of the fund is buildings and institutions, not people. Of course buildings are important, but the people who create what is inside those buildings need urgent help—and it is really urgent, as ONS figures suggest that a quarter of a million people in the creative arts sector will lose their jobs within weeks.
The creative industries and sport will be vital to our national recovery, to the public’s health and wellbeing and to our economic recovery. These are not things that are nice to have if we have spare money; as we have heard, they have been and can be economically successful, and powerful drivers of future jobs growth and regeneration.
We have heard lots of contributions about sport. Just like the creative industries, I am hearing from sports stakeholders that they feel the Government do not understand how their sector works. I have been contacted overnight by various clubs, talking about what they feel is the illogical nature of today’s announcement about a socially distanced event at the O2. It is great to hear about an indoor event, but sports clubs cannot understand why we cannot have some fans back in stadiums, given that stadiums are outdoors. They need clarity and clear communication from the Government on this issue.
Let me turn to tourism. We have heard about the challenges facing our town centres and seaside towns. These are not new, but the pandemic—added to 10 years of a lack of investment—has accelerated the problems and inequalities faced by these areas. The tourism industry projects a drop in income of almost £70 billion this year, and fears there will be a loss of almost 1 million jobs. The unemployment crisis facing this and other sectors is set to wreak devastation throughout the country, but especially in areas where tourism and the interlinked hospitality sector are the main employers.
At the very moment when our society is crying out for help, those who provide it in the charitable sector are also struggling. Some £12.4 billion has been lost from the sector and 60,000 jobs hang in the balance. The #NeverMoreNeeded campaign has highlighted this exact issue—that charities have supported us, but now feel abandoned.
The message to the Government from across the House in this debate is very clear. Much of the sector risks decimation. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West described a cultural climate emergency and employment extinction. We cannot just help the Crown jewels—as the Government like to call them—because there will not be any jewels if we cut the pipeline of talent that creates them. We cannot simply support buildings and not support those who work in them.
We have a Chancellor who, on 24 September, dismissed these skilled specialist jobs—which have created so much value and wealth for the country, and are the envy of the world—as unviable.
He did. How economically illiterate and fiscally irresponsible is that? In other countries, Governments value their cultural heritage, supporting them through this time, ready for when we can emerge from this crisis.
We stand at a crossroads. We can either allow the serious wounds inflicted on the digital, culture, media and sport sector to become fatal, and embrace the Chancellor’s viability distinction; or we can, as the Labour party does, soundly reject that idea. This sector was viable before. It was growing and successful. It needs help now, and it needs Test and Trace to work to provide that help so that it can grow again. We have heard plenty of ideas today about how the Government could help that to happen. I hope that they will look at all those ideas, because this is urgent.
I conclude by paraphrasing—and cleaning up—a recent tweet from the musician Liam Gallagher, who said that this country would be nothing without its sport, its music, its TV and its art. I agree with Liam; it’s the good stuff in life, and that is what the Opposition will fight for. I hope that the Government will too.
I congratulate the Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Julian Knight), and the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) on securing the debate. This is a critical topic that must remain at the forefront of our considerations as we continue to tackle the challenges of the covid-19 pandemic. That is what we have heard from a diverse range of speakers today. I congratulate all of them and apologise for not being able to mention everyone in detail.
Our arts shape us. Our heritage and our history shapes us, and our communities around our sports clubs at every level shape us. That is why this Government have put £1.57 billion into supporting our arts—an unprecedented package. It is why we have put £200 million into supporting our sports, and it is why we will continue to do so to the best of our abilities. This Government are here for culture, here for the arts and here for sport, and we will continue to be so. Whatever ITV might tweet and then have to delete, that is true for the Chancellor as well.
Let us go back to the beginning of this extraordinary pandemic. The Prime Minister rightly instructed us to work at home if we could. That meant millions of people suddenly relying on the internet for endless Zoom calls. It meant millions more people relying on the internet to educate their children, even if they could not work from home, and it meant millions of people relying on the internet for entertainment. Let us not forget that, thanks to the work of our telecommunications networks, the digital lights did not go out. That is hundreds of thousands of men and women working incredibly hard, and I thank them for that. I also thank the BBC, Netflix and other providers that agreed to take some of the load off our networks, so that we could all carry on.
At the outset of this pandemic, we made it clear that we would move to protect our cultural institutions, which are rightly famous around the world. Moreover, they are vital to our economy, to our theatres, to our live music venues and to our museums. They brought in £32.3 billion in 2018, and they employ 680,000 people. It is that income and those jobs that we have moved to shield. It culminated in the £1.57 billion culture recovery fund to tackle the crisis in our most loved arts organisations and heritage sites and help weather the storm of coronavirus. I want to be clear: we are working as hard as we can to get this money out of the door as quickly as possible. That will begin on Monday, and it will continue throughout October and November.
I understand my hon. Friend’s enthusiasm. Perhaps it would help if I unpack some of the culture recovery fund, because I, too, do not want to see any money left unclaimed. There is £88 million for heritage institutions, which will provide grants of £10,000 to £3 million; £622 million in recovery grants, and a further £270 million in repayable finance on very generous terms; £120 million to invest in rebuilding and upgrading our cultural infrastructure, as part of a wider effort to bounce back stronger; £100 million for arm’s-length bodies such as the British Library, the British Museum and the BFI; and £188 million for the devolved Administrations.
This is not just about big names in London. It is about all our small venues and our communities up and down the country. It is important to ensure that they are not forgotten, and with this fund, they are not. This is about protecting our cultural assets. That is why we have already provided £3.36 million in emergency funding, which has gone to grassroots venues up and down the country, and 42 cinemas across England have already been supported in the first wave of BFI funding. I know how important cinemas are, and the independent sector is a crucial part. The Department has also worked closely with our arm’s-length bodies to deliver tailored support packages at speed, including £200 million in emergency public funding to stabilise organisations and protect jobs. We have engaged extensively with the breadth of the sector since the pandemic began, and that is how we will ensure we get the culture recovery fund distributed as quickly as possible.
We continue to work at speed with sports clubs across the country to understand the best way of providing as much support as we can. Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport officials are working with their Treasury counterparts to ensure that as many sports clubs as possible are not adversely affected. The Government’s first duty is to public health, but we must ensure that there are clubs for fans to go back to.
In addition to sector-specific interventions, DCMS sectors have of course benefited from a year’s business rates holiday for leisure businesses, bounce back loans and the reduction in VAT from 20% to 5%.
Thanks to our arm’s-length body, Sport England, grassroots sport is in the process of receiving a £195 million package of support to help community sports clubs, which are so important at this time. We have recently boosted the community emergency fund by a further £15 million, taking the total to £210 million.
We have supported the return of elite sport to behind-closed-doors competition, which has also enabled vital broadcast revenue to flow into elite sport. The Government ensured that Project Restart was shared with everyone by getting Premier League football on the BBC for the first time ever.
There has also been important support for rugby league and, following the postponement of fans’ return to stadiums in general, the Government will come forward with a package to support the most affected sports. That includes help with the immediate needs of the National League football teams that are at the heart of many communities.
Work continues apace to explore new ways of getting fans into stadiums as soon as we can. We have hosted several successful pilots and we have launched the sports technology and innovation group. Its work and our learning from our successful pilot sports events with crowds will ensure that we are best prepared to get fans back into stadiums as soon as it is possible to do so.
I recognise that the business events industry, which is often related to stadiums, is also affected. That is why the Government have put in place the unprecedented package of general support. We will also work with the industry specifically to restart. Pilots undertaken in September have demonstrated that that can be done in a covid-secure way. We will continue to do that as much as we possibly can.
Tourism was one of the first industries to be hit, but the Government acted quickly to help businesses. On top of the wider economic support package, we have provided business rates relief and one-off grants and introduced the hugely significant cut in VAT for tourism. We recognise that the times remain extremely difficult for the sector. We are acutely aware of the seasonal nature of many businesses’ trade and we continue to engage with stakeholders to assess how we can most effectively support tourism’s recovery across the UK. I point my hon. Friends to the work with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and VisitBritain on the aim to extend the season in coastal communities where that can safely be done.
We have announced the £500 million film and TV production restart scheme to assist our creative economy. The scheme will be able to compensate film and TV productions after they have restarted. It is a temporary measure that supports productions that commence filming before the end of the calendar year and compensates for coronavirus losses until the end of June 2021.
We will work as quickly as we can to reopen theatres. We will continue to work with the sector to develop the pilot that we need to get theatres open. That is a vital part of getting support to freelancers. Our world-beating creative industries are nothing without the work of freelancers and we are working hard to help provide financial support for them in those sectors.
We should not forget the charitable and voluntary sector. It has done great work in these extraordinary times.
I am aware that I have not been able to cover every single aspect of the work of DCMS. We will continue to work with colleagues across the House to ensure that we can answer questions, provide the clarity the sector needs and support that most important of sectors in our country.
I thank all Members who have taken part in the debate. There have been lots of good ideas and a huge amount of passion, showing exactly how our sporting and cultural institutions are woven into our identity. They are also a crucial part of our economy and our lives. We will miss them beyond words if they are gone. I fear that we are standing on the edge of a cultural, sporting and arts abyss. If we fall in, I can envisage structural unemployment such as we have never seen in this country. We are in serious danger of seeing what makes this country a joy and a great country go under. I hope that Ministers are listening today.
I thank the Minister for his comments. I would make one observation: this was very much about what we have done—that is always the way these things go—but what about the next act in this drama? This will not stop any time soon. Frankly, if our idea is to wait for a vaccine, that is not good enough. We have to get people back in place, we have to get the right testing and tracing, and we have to support these sectors. Without them, words fail me for what will happen to our country.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered the spending of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on support measures for DCMS sectors during and after the covid-19 pandemic.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Earlier today, in the planning debate, the hon. Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin) made the point, to put it on the record, that there was no Liberal Democrat in the Chamber at the time she was speaking. I therefore want to take the opportunity also to put it on the record that a Liberal Democrat did contribute to the debate. It was my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney), and indeed the hon. Member for West Worcestershire was in the Chamber when she did so.
I understand the point that the hon. Lady makes, but I have to say that it is not a point of order for the Chair. I understand why she wants to correct the record, but I will not encourage Members to make such points; if everybody did that every time an incident like that happened, we would have these points of who was and was not here at the end of every day. I also point out that we are not operating under normal rules at present. Normally, the occupant of the Chair would require everyone who was going to take part in a debate to be there at the beginning, in the middle and at the end, but we are not operating like that now, so the criticism sounds to me to have been invalid too.