Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Giles Watling Excerpts
Wednesday 10th March 2021

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris (Easington) (Lab) [V]
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I want to concentrate my remarks on the media industry, which was in crisis well before the pandemic hit. The fallout from covid-19 will only worsen the situation, unless adequate support and funding is secured. As it stands, sector-specific support for journalists and, in particular, freelancers is seriously lacking. The enormous power of the tech giants has destroyed the long-established news business model. In response, the National Union of Journalists has put together a news recovery plan, which consists of a raft of measures and interventions to ensure a pluralistic, diverse and vibrant news ecosystem. It sets out specific proposals for a levy on the tech giants based on the huge profits of these companies, which have increased vastly during the pandemic. That would fund public interest journalism.

I strongly encourage the Minister to engage with the National Union of Journalists on the proposals in its recovery plan, to ensure a sustainable recovery from the pandemic. The failure to tax excess profits of tech giants will directly impact professional journalism and result in the loss of uniquely valuable regional current affairs programmes such as the BBC’s “Inside Out” programme, broadcast in constituencies such as mine. To make matters worse, the poor funding settlement arising from the last royal charter review of the BBC is resulting in a loss of 550 jobs from BBC News. The BBC is the heart of the creative economy, and supports employment in the wider sector. Indeed, every £1 spent by the BBC generates an additional £2 in the wider economy.

In addition, the impact of the Government’s failure to honour their manifesto commitment to protect free TV licences for the over-75s has not only had a direct impact on the lives of tens of thousands of elderly and vulnerable people, but has had serious consequences for BBC budgets. The pandemic has further exposed the precarious nature of freelance work and the relative lack of protection for freelance journalists. Once again, I draw the Minister’s attention to the NUJ’s freelance charter, which sets out 10 specific proposals to secure a fair deal for freelancers. These include trade union collective bargaining to improve terms and conditions for freelance journalists and equalising rights with full-time employees, including sick pay, maternity pay, paternity and parental leave, unemployment benefits, and full access to benefits and social securities.

In conclusion, I urge Ministers to work constructively with the National Union of Journalists to ensure that those who are currently excluded have access to the support they need. I also echo the comments of other right hon. and hon. Members by praising and thanking the Chair of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight), and his colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), who have been extremely helpful in their listening to the concerns of Members, and proffering advice and making representations to Ministers.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con) [V]
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This debate is very important, because the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is going to play a crucial and central role in our recovery from the pandemic.

Historically, the core funding for DCMS is humble compared to that for many other Departments. According to my very rough calculations, for every £1 that DCMS got for core funding in 2020-21, the Department of Health and Social Care received £64, and that is quite right. The same budget for health grows by some £8 billion a year, while DCMS only gets a £100 million annual uplift, and that is also quite right. We are all acutely aware of the importance of a robust and well-funded NHS, especially at a time like this, but we must remember where that money comes from, and DCMS is one of the biggest economic contributors. A well-funded NHS would be an impossibility without those contributions.

Of course, DCMS includes the creative industries, which contributed over £115 billion to the UK’s economy in 2019. That is equivalent to £315 million every day, or over £13.1 million an hour. As my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Julian Knight) told us last week, the UK would have been in recession for each of the last three years if it had not been for the creative industries, so DCMS and all its sectors are vital, and we need to ensure that the Department has all that it needs to help those important industries back on their feet after the pandemic.

A major part of the creative industries is, of course, the performing arts—in all its guises. It is not only cash that this sector brings in; it is also an extraordinarily formidable example of soft power. To put it simply, this country is a world leader in music, theatre, television, film and fashion. We promote the UK across the globe; we promote British values and sell British goods off the back of our cultural offer. We ignore it at our peril.

We are world leaders in sport. Cricket, football, yachting—all these and many more reach every corner of the world, and they need support. As I said in the recent debate on the cultural and economic sectors, the creative industries are facing total disaster during the pandemic and will need that support. That is the challenge that DCMS now faces. To elucidate this point further, last year Oxford Economics predicted a £77 billion turnover loss over the course of 2020 compared to 2019; that is minus 31%. Moreover, the industries are projecting a drop in employment of 122,000, despite the job retention scheme, and a further 287,000 job losses among self-employed workers compared to 2019 levels. This is potentially catastrophic, not only for the country as a whole, but for each and every one of those individuals losing a job. Although I have no doubt that the Department’s budget has been set in a way that reflects the challenge, I hope that the Ministers and the Chancellor will stand ready to provide further finance if it is needed.

But it is not all about finance; it is about underwriting insurance to give confidence to producers and organisers. That has been spoken about a good deal today, and it is terribly important. It is also about freedom of movement for musicians, actors and all their kit. There are easy wins here, and not necessarily with any financial strings attached. The Government should grasp this opportunity to demonstrate their serious support for the sector.

As chair of the all-party parliamentary group for theatre and vice-chair of the Royal Theatrical Fund, I know how hard this particular part of our cultural offer has been hit and how many are suffering at the moment, so let us support it and put it back where it belongs: leading the world and promoting the UK. Although I am happy to support these estimates, this funding must be a floor, not a ceiling, when it comes to helping the creative industries and the other DCMS sectors to recover, which will help the UK recover.

Steve McCabe Portrait Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab) [V]
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It is time to think about how our sports and creative industries can help our post-pandemic recovery. Like other areas, the west midlands has been hammered by the pandemic. Our theatres, entertainment complexes and hospitality venues are on the verge of collapse. But Birmingham and west midlands residents are resilient people. That is why we are busy preparing for the Commonwealth games, hosting more than 70 teams from all around the Commonwealth, with a potential £1 billion boost to the local economy.

We are also developing the creative content hub at the Bond in Birmingham to enhance our film production facilities and digital games industry. But as many as 70% of the people who work in the creative industries are freelancers—the very people the Chancellor has consistently ignored throughout this crisis. The west midlands’ creative sector is braced for the loss of over 50,000 jobs in the aftermath of covid, so we will need more assistance.

It is not enough to be told that the culture recovery fund has been a success. Of course I welcome it, but there is little point in maintaining buildings if we lose the people who work in them. Ministers have to listen. They have to consider backing an insurance scheme to protect live music events, as others have said. They have to consider urgent action to address the barriers to creative workers travelling to Europe. We need opportunities for young people to break into the sector. How about apprenticeships in the creative industries and Government-supported scholarships for those from disadvantaged backgrounds and those who are leaving care?

I welcome the funding the Arts Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund have allocated to support the wider cultural festival that will accompany the Commonwealth games. Birmingham Council is allocating £2 million to be shared across the city, so that ordinary Brummies can be part of the event. Would it not be a good idea if the Government were to build on such initiatives by establishing a sports legacy fund, to ensure that more young people are able to enjoy healthy sporting activities? With concern rising about mental health and an epidemic of knife crime, there has never been a better time to involve our youth in sport and cultural pursuits, but we are moving in the wrong direction. As the YMCA reports, budgets have suffered a cumulative cut of 60%, and 763 youth centres have closed. What has happened to the Government’s promise of a £500 million youth investment fund?

I hope we will see more support for initiatives such as community radio. Hope Radio, based in my constituency, is a not-for-profit organisation set up to help to reach the vulnerable and isolated. It gives out valuable and useful local information, and tackles some of the vaccine myths. I should point that that one in five people in the west midlands have no access to the internet, so community radio is vital. I hope the Government will continue to support FM licences for the station and perhaps give it a bit of funding.

Covid-19: Cultural and Entertainment Sectors

Giles Watling Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd March 2021

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab) [V]
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I, too, welcome back to the House my dear friend and constituency neighbour, the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens).

I wish to make four quick points. First, others have mentioned the plight of freelance musicians and artists, who have been excluded from support because they do not fit the Chancellor’s criteria for support. The criteria were drawn up hastily, and there was an excuse for that, but they were not amended when it was clear that they had arbitrary and negative consequences—for which there is no excuse—for many artists, musicians and others. Tomorrow, the Chancellor has another chance to put that right. In Wales, funds were set aside to help freelancers, but what is really needed is action from the Chancellor to support those who have been excluded, as called for by the Musicians’ Union and others.

Secondly, we have missed the live music sector and could all do with a summer of live music events and festivals. The issue of insurance has already been mentioned in the debate. Last week, I received a written answer from the Minister for Digital and Culture that said:

“As such, HM Treasury does not believe that now is the right time for an insurance intervention.”

Well, if this is not the right time for an insurance intervention, there never will be an insurance intervention from the Treasury. This is typical Treasury orthodox thinking. Now is the time for an insurance intervention to make sure that we can have live music back this summer. It would be the best boost not only for the industry but for morale and the economy.

Thirdly, covid has been hard enough for the music industry in itself but, combined with the negligent no-deal Brexit for musicians and touring artists, it is a double dose of disaster. Covid was unavoidable; the consequences of a failure to do a deal on touring were not only avoidable and predictable but predicted. A small window now remains to fix that before many successful British businesses are ruined by this negligence. That should be a priority for the Government.

Finally, let me look to the future. Covid has killed live music, but it can be revived. As we have heard, covid has also shone a light on the inequities of the new economics of music streaming and how it is failing to deliver for music songwriters and composers. The House may know that the DCMS Committee is conducting an inquiry into the matter. Some change is happening already—at 2 pm today, SoundCloud announced that it is going over to fan-powered royalties and a user-centric system, which is a step forward by the industry—but as well as the industry the Government should be prepared, if necessary, to reform the law in favour of creators and away from wealthy corporate market powers. They have been enjoying a gold rush from streaming; after the gold rush, let’s have a “new home in the sun” for our brilliant musicians and songwriters.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con) [V]
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I suppose I should declare a general interest in this debate. It is good to see my friend the hon. Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens) back in her place—welcome back, Jo.

Three minutes is not enough time to say everything, and this should not need saying again, but I will say it anyway in case anyone has missed it: our cultural and creative sector has hitherto been world beating. It is the gold standard that the rest of the world looks to. From the tiniest repertory company in places such as Frinton-on-Sea to the greatest film and sound stages of places like Pinewood, producing films such as James Bond, Superman, Star Wars and many others, this is UK soft power at its very best. For generations, we have exported British values and British goods on the back of our national creative endeavour.

In terms of hard cash, the creative sector, as we have heard, contributed nearly £116 billion to the economy in 2019—a 43% increase since 2010. That was the fastest expansion in the UK economy, and the cultural and entertainment sectors are very much part of it. Even more importantly, more than 2 million people were working in the creative industries and that was growing—up by more than a third since 2011. Thanks to the pandemic, however, all that has changed, especially in this sector.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the industry saw a reduction of 44.5% in gross value in the three months up to June 2020—disastrous. For those employed in this sector, the future is precarious. As we have heard, many have already pre-emptively left the business, moving into more secure jobs in other sectors, and who can blame them? They are unlikely to return and deliver on their talents. The country is bleeding world-class talent.

Freelancers continue to struggle, with thousands unable to access Government support packages. We need to address that, which we can do by extending in terms of timescale and eligibility the self-employment income support scheme and the coronavirus job retention scheme. The schemes have been expensive, yes, but they also continue to be necessary, and should continue in the sectors where they are still needed.

The Government have a positive track record of supporting the culture and entertainment sectors through this pandemic with the £1.57 billion rescue package, which has done a lot of good, but it will not replace the losses. In England, for example, £123 million of grants has been awarded, but the loss in ticket revenue was over £1 billion. For such sectors, nothing can replace opening without restrictions, and I hope that we are able to hold to the dates on the road map.

The Government must stand ready to support all organisations within the culture and entertainment sectors until they are ready to return at full capacity. We cannot allow this sector to be cut off once more, and we must get that insurance scheme. Give the producers confidence.

Steven Bonnar Portrait Steven Bonnar (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (SNP)
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It has been estimated that as much as 60% of some towns’ economic output comes directly from the night-time industry. The findings from a recent inquiry by the all-party parliamentary group for the night time economy highlight just how devastating an impact the pandemic has had in this sector. In some cases, businesses are trading at a mere 10% of their pre-covid turnovers and have been forced to make almost a third of their workforce redundant. Without urgent and tailored financial support, it is no exaggeration to say that this interwoven economic system faces the very real risk of irreparable damage and collapse.

Businesses in the sector not only help to drive the local economy, but act as meeting places and hubs of local social activity. They are a huge part of the fabric and culture of daily life on my constituency of Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill. Many respondents to the APPG’s inquiry from the constituency viewed venues in the night-time industry locally as “safe locations” and

“places which promote good mental health and well-being”

Despite that, many have now been closed for an entire year, resulting in many employees and businesses facing real financial hardship, yet Government support for this sector continues to be drip fed disproportionately by comparison with that afforded to other industries.

The UK music sector has been hit especially hard by the effects of the pandemic. Ongoing restrictions and concerns over crowd numbers have removed live performance income completely. The Musicians Union reported that at the time of the first lockdown, cancellations of live performances had resulted in a £14 million loss for its members—a figure that has only grown the longer the pandemic has worn on. Further cancellations of live performances, coupled with increasing uncertainty about any potential return to performing, led to 34% of MU members telling a recent survey that they were considering quitting the UK music sector entirely. This includes many of my own very talented constituents who have contacted me with their concerns. A similar percentage told the same survey that they had not been eligible for any form of governmental relief or support package since lockdown began.

Pre-pandemic figures show that the music industry contributed over £5 billion to the economy and export revenue was almost £3 billion. Clearly this was not a failing industry, yet it has been left decimated because it has not been operating for the duration of the pandemic. I therefore call on the Government to provide clear guidance and timescales for a return to operations, given that this sector depends on long-term planning and scheduling. The imminent Budget is the perfect chance to do this.

Oral Answers to Questions

Giles Watling Excerpts
Thursday 4th February 2021

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con)
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What progress his Department has made on delivering support for the culture and heritage sector through the culture recovery fund. (911814)

Marco Longhi Portrait Marco Longhi (Dudley North) (Con)
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What progress his Department has made on delivering support for the culture and heritage sector through the culture recovery fund. (911816)

--- Later in debate ---
Nigel Huddleston Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Nigel Huddleston)
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Over £1 billion-worth of funding from the culture recovery fund has already been allocated across all four nations of the UK. The funding is supporting over 3,000 arts and heritage organisations in England alone and more than 75,000 jobs.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling [V]
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I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. It is great that the Government are taking the theatre sector seriously, as demonstrated by this fund, but there is so much more that we can do to help our cultural offer that is not just cash injection. I implore him to push the Government to re-engage with the European Union on visa and carnet-free travel for performers, their kit and their support teams. I know that the EU walked away from our offer, but it must be brought back to the table. Touring performers will be left with a double whammy of an industry devastated by covid and the loss of an entire continent as a venue. Will he please bang the table and get the EU back to talk on this?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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First, I thank my hon. Friend for banging the table so well for the culture sector over so many years. As my hon. Friend the Minister for Digital and Culture has previously said, the door always remains open should our European friends wish to reconsider our mutually beneficial proposals, which would have allowed UK touring professionals to tour more easily, but they rejected them. In the meantime, where visas apply, our agreement with the EU contains measures designed to make the necessary processes as smooth as possible. A working group has been set up by the Secretary of State to look at any obstacles that might face British performers seeking to tour. We will continue to seek to co-operate with our European friends on this important issue.

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Support Measures

Giles Watling Excerpts
Ellie Reeves Portrait Ellie Reeves (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab)
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8 Oct 2020, 2:57 p.m.

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.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con)
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8 Oct 2020, 3:01 p.m.

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.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Order. After the next two speakers, we will go to a time limit of four minutes.

Cultural Attractions: Contribution to Local Economy

Giles Watling Excerpts
Charles Walker Portrait Sir Charles Walker (in the Chair)
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Order. There will be a time limit of three minutes.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con)
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As always, it is an honour to appear under your chairmanship, Sir Charles. This is an important discussion and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) for securing the debate. Theatres, live music and cultural venues are an essential part of what we are as an island nation. It is what sells Britain plc to the rest of the world and I have been heavily involved in it for years.

According to the Creative Industries Council, our industry is estimated to generate £48 billion in turnover and to support nearly 400,000 jobs. The building blocks of this national contribution are, of course, individual local economies. In Clacton, our local economy is hugely dependent on tourism; it represents some 17.4% of all employment in the area. We have wonderful venues, such as the Prince’s theatre, the West Cliff theatre and my own Frinton summer theatre, which I used to run years ago. We also have 19th-century Martello towers, our two famous piers, the beautiful Walton backwaters, the sunshine coast and amazing beaches, all of which bring many people to our wonderful coastal area. Those people take advantage of our tourism offer and they come to our cultural centres.

Tourism in Tendring is worth some £392 million, and for a district such as Clacton that is vital. Without strong tourism in Clacton, we would be in real trouble, but that is what we could face if we lose the venues and attractions that bring people to our area. Yes, we have the culture recovery fund to keep these establishments open, but we now need to create domestic demand. We need to get people from the UK to come to UK resorts and keep us going.

We need to find a way to bring people safely back to the theatre. My hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster mentioned Andrew Lloyd Webber. What a wonderful example—he fogs the Palladium, fills it with an alcohol gas and cleans everything up. The Palladium has self-cleaning handles. We must be creative; we are the creative industries, after all.

We need to get people back into theatres, but as my hon. Friend mentioned, that is also about the restaurants, the bars, the taxis and all the surrounding ecosystem. Those have to be supported too. Like the eat out to help out scheme, I envisage a voucher scheme that would help people to get back into the theatres, and I put that proposal to the Minister now. There must be some means whereby theatres, which would have to operate on a lower percentage in order to keep people safely spaced, could be helped to open with a voucher scheme. I am sure that it is not beyond the wit of man to come up with that. There could also be something to help with the food offer in our local restaurants around the theatres.

We need to begin to focus on returning people to these establishments in a safe way, because if we do not do that, when Government support for theatres ends we will be in real trouble. We have a global gold standard in our theatres and we must protect them. Finally, I have to say something about freelancers, such as actors and musicians. We must ensure that they are protected, so I say to the Minister, “Look after the freelancers too”.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab)
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I congratulate the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) on securing this debate, and I will also say how proud I am to see her leading the debate today. Not all hon. Members will know that I used to teach her at Radyr Comprehensive School in Cardiff. It is wonderful to see her leading our debate today and it is a privilege for me to participate in the debate with her. I am sorry that she ended up the way she did, Mr Walker. [Laughter.] It was despite my best efforts, but there we are.

I also congratulate the hon. Member for Clacton (Giles Watling) who, like me, is a member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, on his speech. As ever, he made his constituency sound like a wonderful place, although he was unable to establish, as the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster did with her constituency, that we can literally find heaven within it.

I always like to stress the importance of the value of the arts and culture in and of themselves, as well as their economic benefits. In and of themselves, they are valuable and we should encourage them. Nevertheless, it is important to note that places such as the Sherman theatre in Cardiff, which is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens), make a wonderful contribution—and an important economic contribution too. Cultural and creative industries contribute £10.8 billion a year to the UK economy and £2.8 billion in taxation, and they support over 360,000 jobs. This was also the fastest growing sector of the economy; we should not forget that.

In Cardiff, we have wonderful cultural facilities too. Recently, the Womanby Street campaign tried to protect our music venues—my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) was very much involved in that. We have the wonderful Millennium centre in Cardiff, which is also in my hon. Friend’s constituency, and the Chapter arts centre, a world-leading contemporary arts centre in my own constituency. All of these places are wonderful, but they have all been very badly affected by coronavirus and the lockdown.

Oral Answers to Questions

Giles Watling Excerpts
Thursday 9th July 2020

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Cherilyn Mackrory Portrait Cherilyn Mackrory (Truro and Falmouth) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to help the cultural sector reopen as covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased. [904448]

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to help the cultural sector reopen as covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased. [904452]

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Oliver Dowden)
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Arts and culture define our nation and form a vital part of the ecosystem that makes us a creative-industry superpower. At a time when the nation is crying out for comfort, they enrich our soul, which is why I was delighted this week to announce an unprecedented £1.57 billion package to help theatres, museums, live music venues and galleries to weather the ongoing storm. I want to see these institutions open their doors as soon as it is safe for them to do so. I am working extensively with the sector on how to achieve this and will be publishing further roadmap timings for further steps imminently.

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Oliver Dowden Portrait Oliver Dowden
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I thank my hon. Friend for her question. I have been very clear right from the start in designing this package that it is intended to achieve two principal outcomes: first, to protect the crown jewels, our nationally and internationally significant institutions; and secondly, equally vitally, to help cultural institutions up and down the country where their loss would deprive communities of essential cultural experiences. We will be publishing the full criteria and processes shortly, and of course that will include, for example, demonstrating that they have exhausted all available funds. I know that my hon. Friend will be tirelessly making the case for Cornwall and, indeed, I hope the Minack theatre will soon be able to open as well.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling
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First, I thank my right hon. Friend for all the hard work, including putting up with me bothering him relentlessly, to achieve the remarkable result of the £1.57 billion for the arts and culture sector. Will he now agree to meet me and the all-party parliamentary group on theatre to discuss some policy changes, including the possible reduction in business rates, to help the theatre sector truly flourish as it begins to reopen?

Oliver Dowden Portrait Oliver Dowden
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My hon. Friend is too modest to admit it on the Floor of the House, but I thank him too for his vital work in helping to shape this important package and to support this vital sector. I would of course be delighted to meet the APPG. In fact, the only thing that would give me more pleasure would be to go on a visit with the APPG to a theatre that was performing, which I hope will happen soon.

Arts, Culture and Heritage: Support Package

Giles Watling Excerpts
Tuesday 7th July 2020

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Caroline Dinenage Portrait Caroline Dinenage
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There is an unprecedented package of business support. The furloughing scheme, the business loan scheme and the bounce back loan scheme have poured millions and millions of pounds into supporting businesses up and down the country.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con)
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The Princes Theatre, the West Cliff Theatre and the Frinton Summer Theatre, which I used to run, are all in dire need. The Frinton Summer Theatre is not having a season this year. Could my hon. Friend say a bit more about how these funds will be distributed, particularly to the regions? Theatres are closing. Rome is burning. This funding is needed and it is needed urgently.

Caroline Dinenage Portrait Caroline Dinenage
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My hon. Friend is another of our Equity card carrying Members and one of the greatest champions of the theatre and arts. He has been on so many of the calls that I have been on over recent weeks and months, and I thank him for all that he has done to champion this. We want to make an announcement on how this will work as soon as possible in the days and weeks ahead, and we want to get the money out as soon as possible, because we know that there are some organisations that are literally about to tip over the edge.