I beg to move,
That this House has considered covid-19 and the cultural and entertainment sectors.
May I, too, extend a very warm welcome back to the hon. Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens)? It is so lovely to see her back in her place looking so well.
I am so grateful for this opportunity to highlight the Government’s support for our world-class culture and entertainment sectors during what has been an extremely challenging year. The UK has one of the strongest cultural sectors in the world and a really proud tradition of supporting the artists, entertainers and creatives who do so much to enrich our lives.
Experiencing culture, whether it is through visiting a museum, wandering through the gardens of a heritage site or attending the theatre, can do so much for our mental and physical health, and I know that so many of us have leaned on films, TV, virtual exhibitions and all other types of art and entertainment to get us through the last year. Covid-19 has placed unprecedented pressures on organisations and individuals across the economy, but entertainment and culture have been particularly hard hit, relying as they so often do on social interaction and close contact.
I spoke to the Minister beforehand. As she said, this pandemic has been greatly disheartening for the culture sectors. For example, Scottish dancing and Scottish piping are very important in my constituency, but the problem is that they do not have their own properties and they are not eligible for grants. It is essential that they have a restart grant to allow them to start again, and to allow our children to be active in such a wonderful way. What can the Minister do to make that happen?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to champion those small, local cultural establishments in our communities up and down the country that do so much to entertain us, but also to boost our wellbeing and our general sense of health. That is why, as part of the £1.57 billion culture recovery fund, the Barnett formula extended that funding to all the corners of our great nation. Indeed, the Northern Ireland Assembly saw £33 million, which of course it can choose to use how it wants to support all those wonderful cultural establishments that do so much for us.
Last week, the Prime Minister announced a very cautious but irreversible route out of lockdown, while also acknowledging that the threat from covid remains substantial. I recognise that, although this represents a turning point in the nation’s battle against coronavirus, many of our sectors will be impacted by continued restrictions and, of course, will be understandably frustrated at being unable to fully reopen just yet.
However, there is hope on the horizon through the events research programme announced in the road map, which will explore how larger events across the cultural and entertainment sectors can begin to reopen safely. I recognise, of course, that businesses are so keen to reopen as soon as possible, but, as the Prime Minister said, it is vital to take a measured and careful approach so that it is truly a one-way road out of this pandemic.
The success of the vaccination programme has offered us the protection to very tentatively start removing the restrictions. There will be five-week intervals between each of the four steps, to enable the scientific data to be evaluated and to ensure that the next step is truly safe before we take it.
Under the road map, outdoor sport and leisure facilities will be able to reopen at the second part of step 1, no earlier than 29 March. At step 2, no earlier than 12 April, indoor leisure facilities such as gyms can reopen for use by people on their own or in household groups, as can most outdoor attractions and settings, including hospitality venues that are outdoors, zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas.
Step 3, no earlier than 17 May, will see indoor entertainment venues such as museums and cinemas reopening. The Government will also allow some larger performing and sporting events, in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full, whichever is the lower number, and in outdoor venues with a capacity of 4,000 people or half-full, again whichever is the lower. In the largest outdoor seated venues, where crowds can spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend, or a quarter full, whichever is the lower.
The Minister will be aware that many entertainers and venues across my constituency and every constituency have been absolutely decimated; their livelihoods have been taken off them. Does she agree that one way to deal with that is to have a creative approach to taxing creatives, as they do in the Republic of Ireland, where there is the artists’ tax relief? The reduction in the VAT rate for ticket sales could be extended to help venues get through this very difficult period.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that the VAT reduction on hospitality and entertainment over the past year has been a great benefit for a lot of our venues. Of course, any announcements about that will be set out tomorrow by the Chancellor in his Budget, but it is an excellent point.
In step 4, no earlier than 21 June, our ambition is to reopen remaining premises. I am sure, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you will be delighted to know that that includes nightclubs. That will ease the restrictions on large events and performances that apply in step 3, subject to appropriate mitigations. However, it is important to stress, as the Prime Minister said, that the decision on each stage will be based on data and not dates. The Government will move cautiously to keep infection rates under control.
However, I know that for so many in the arts and entertainment sector, this proposal represents further months of financial uncertainty, so the Prime Minister provided assurance in his announcement last week that for the duration of the pandemic, the Government will continue to do whatever it takes to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK. We have been working very closely with the Treasury on this issue to determine the appropriate and most effective response for the sector within the public health context.
In the Budget tomorrow, the Chancellor will set out the next phase in our economic support package. It will reflect the steps set out in the Prime Minister’s approach to easing the restrictions through the road maps. We now know that there will be good news for our sectors tomorrow. There will be a generous package of funding that is about not just survival but planning, preparing and paving the way to the reopening of our sectors. I look forward to hearing more detail from the Chancellor tomorrow, and I am sure hon. Ladies and Gentlemen across the House do too.
Our commitment to supporting individuals and businesses has been steadfast through this challenging period. The Government have supported individuals across the economy through financial packages such as the job retention scheme and the self-employed income support scheme. In particular, the £1.57 billion culture recovery fund—the single largest-ever support package for the arts—has helped to safeguard not only the future of some of the best-loved cultural and creative venues, but many of the jobs and livelihoods of the incredibly skilled people who depend on them. It has also assisted the supply chain organisations, which are recognised as a crucial part of the sector.
We have recognised the significant pressures faced by businesses in our sectors. The Chancellor announced one-off top-up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, worth up to £9,000 per property, to help businesses through the spring, and £594 million of discretionary funds was made available to support other impacted businesses, in addition to £1.1 billion of further discretionary grant funding for local authorities, local restriction support grants worth up to £3,000 a month and the extension of the furloughing scheme. Business rates relief and numerous loan schemes have provided certainty for businesses and have enabled planning, recruitment and job retention.
We are absolutely determined to make sure our cherished culture and heritage makes it through this crisis. That is why we have also provided sector-specific funding and support. We have worked closely with all our sectors to draft guidance to ensure that businesses are as covid-secure as possible and to protect workers and visitors. To date, £1 billion of the culture recovery fund has been allocated across all four nations of the UK, providing direct support to organisations, both large and small. As I have mentioned, the devolved Administrations have received £188 million through the Barnett formula. Of that £1 billion, £800 million has been awarded to more than 3,500 arts, culture and heritage organisations across England, which has helped to support at least 75,000 jobs.
With your indulgence, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to dig a bit deeper into those figures so that hon. Members get a real sense of where the funding has been directed and the kind of organisations that it has supported through an incredibly difficult year. Some 462 awards have been made to applicants whose main art form is theatre, with a value of £183 million. The sector will be further supported through the second round of funding. Some £79 million is being distributed between 514 heritage organisations, 96 grants of which—totalling £17.5 million—are to listed places of worship, and over 15% of funding is to listed historic housing and gardens. We have supported museums, with £49 million being distributed to 156 organisations through Arts Council England alo-ne.
As a result of Government support and guidance—in particular, the film and TV restart scheme—the screen industry has bounced back and recorded the second highest production spend for any quarter on record. The combined total UK spend on film and high-end production was more than £2.8 billion—a drop of only 21% from the 2019 record. The £500 million film and TV production restart scheme has filled the insurance gap, giving productions the confidence to keep shooting and ensuring that family favourites such as “Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway” and “Midsomer Murders” continue to entertain us and lift our spirits—although perhaps the murders not so much. Such programmes have also created much needed employment opportunities.
Falling infection rates, the vaccination of more than 18 million people and scientific data about the efficacy of our hugely successful roll-out continue to give this country real grounds for optimism. The road map sets out a clear and cautious route to return to normality. Throughout the pandemic, though, protecting the public has been our top priority, and we will continue to work closely with our sectors to support them to reopen as soon as it is safe and sustainable to do so.
Madam Deputy Speaker, may I thank the other Madam Deputy Speaker and the Minister for their kind words? I also thank the very many Members and staff across the House who wished me well during my hospitalisation and recovery, and the wonderful NHS staff in Wales.
Let me turn to the business of the debate. It is the eve of the Budget, and it is right that we debate the severe problems facing one of the UK’s most important economic sectors. Our cultural and entertainment sector is globally renowned and economically critical. It showcases innovation and creativity; develops specialist knowledge, skills and jobs; drives opportunity, significant inbound tourism and economic regeneration; and, as we know, improves our health and wellbeing. The Opposition believe that our cultural sector is integral to our national recovery from this crisis, and that it also has a key role to play in shaping the kind of society that we want to see in the future. But to do that, the jobs, skills and talent need to survive and be supported.
In the most recent Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport annual report, the Secretary of State talks about preserving our cultural heritage, but our culture is not something to be preserved in aspic. Instead, it is a sector that is built on people and their dynamic connections with one another. It is this misunderstanding that lies behind the lack of appropriate provision to support the brilliant professionals in the sector, hundreds of thousands of whom have fallen through the gaps because of the Chancellor’s rigid criteria for support and his complete refusal, despite numerous requests, to provide financial help to those he has excluded and who have become known as “the excluded”. There are more than 3 million such people, and many of them are in the cultural sector.
During this fast-moving pandemic, there has been a great deal of sympathy for the Government having to react quickly to events, but we are almost a year on from the first lockdown and the refusal to help people in the cultural sector can only be seen as a choice—a choice to ignore them for an entire year. We know from the decisions taken in Wales that it did not have to be that way. The Welsh Labour Government’s freelancer fund has already supported thousands of freelancers in three phases of support.
The Opposition believe in fairness and equitable access to support during the pandemic and that no one should be excluded because they are engaged to work outside of permanent employment contracts. The rich patchwork of creative talent in this country is built on freelancers—people who work across different projects or genres, and it is that cross-pollination of ideas that makes it so rich. But because they do not fit the Chancellor’s model, this Government have excluded them from support, even speaking about those in the cultural and creative sectors as if they were people exercising their hobbies rather than world-class skills.
Tomorrow, nearly a year after the start of the first lockdown, the Chancellor has another opportunity to right that wrong and level the playing field. We have heard today about the topping up of the pot for theatres, but people who work in theatres still do not know how long they can be furloughed for. Self-employed people have no idea what level their next grant will be. Freelancers have still been left out of support altogether, as I have described. The industry faces a VAT cliff edge at the end of the month, and none of that needed to wait until tomorrow’s Budget: it should have been clarified by the Government weeks ago.
At least 55,000 culture jobs have already gone—nearly a third of the arts element of the workforce—and two thirds of people who have lost their jobs in this sector have already decided that they cannot risk returning to it, meaning that those skills and talents are lost to our economy. The Government should be going out of their way to save those jobs, but we have heard virtually nothing about those jobs from either DCMS or the Government as a whole. Is that indifference or incompetence? I know what the cultural sector’s verdict is.
Last July, we welcomed the announcement of the culture recovery fund but, as I said at the time, it came too late for some people and organisations. The distribution of the fund was delayed, characterised by slowness when the need was immediate, and it has still not reached some of the places where it is required. The criteria are rigid, and its hallmark is to protect institutions rather than jobs. It could have been designed in a much better way, to provide protection for people’s livelihoods, had there been a proper understanding by Government of the ecology of how employment works in this sector. The top-up announced in the press release last night still does not address those problems and it does not say when the money will be distributed.
I also hope that the Chancellor will tomorrow heed Labour’s call to continue the VAT rate of 5% on tickets. That scheme could not be used by many in the cultural sector because the restrictions meant closure and, in the short periods outside lockdown, there simply was not enough time while open to be able to sell any tickets. We need to see an extension of the reduced rate, so that venues and festivals can start to benefit from the scheme and the public can be incentivised to buy tickets.
The VAT issue is another example of the Government’s lack of understanding of the day-to-day realities of the pandemic for our cultural venues. That was never more apparent than in the run-up to last Christmas, when the Secretary of State was busy encouraging theatres to put on pantomimes, while at the same time knowing that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies advice and data suggested that cases were rising to such an extent that theatres would inevitably have to close. Even the retired Conservative peer Lord Lloyd Webber spoke of his frustration with the incompetent handling of reopening dates.
The sector has been hugely sympathetic to the difficulties facing the Government, but that sympathy is now wearing thin. We see Ministers spending their time feigning concern for statues, rather than figuring out how this resilient and dynamic sector can be best supported through this crisis. The thinly veiled threats to museums and galleries and the attempts to bully independent cultural organisations packed with national expertise that rely on Government funding show where the Government’s priorities for our cultural sector really lie. No matter that the sector was the fastest growing ahead of the pandemic, no matter that the role of arts and culture in social prescribing and education delivers huge returns on investment and no matter the potential for brand GB from our biggest exports—this Government’s priority is stoking a culture war, rather than championing our world-class cultural sector. There are other problems of the Government’s own making that the pandemic has masked. The broken promise on post-Brexit touring by performers has already been laid bare for its failures.
Labour strongly believes in the artistic and creative life of this country not only as a powerful driver of economic growth but as a part of who we are as a nation. There is a reason why so many people still talk about the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony as a great national moment. Not only did it display some of our finest talent; it allowed us to celebrate our history in all its complexities and contradictions, and to do so with a good dose of self-deprecation and some laughs at our own expense. But this Government do not get that. They do not get what it is to be British in the 21st century. They see the world in black and white and we know that this is not how many of us live. The fact is that our arts and culture allow us to examine that—to ask questions, to respectfully disagree, to challenge each other and to find common ground.
There is no doubt that the last year has been one of the hardest in living memory. The work of nurses, doctors, carers, scientists and many more people is rightly at the forefront of our minds when we think about recovery, but to me national recovery—our national recovery—is something greater and wider. This national trauma has caused a huge rupture in the fabric of everybody’s lives. We have lost family, friends, colleagues. We have lost opportunities and missed out on key milestones of our lives. We have had to Zoom watch funerals, unable to properly say goodbye. We have had to send cards for weddings we would rather have travelled across the world to be at. We have all put things on hold. When we are safe and when we still need to grieve collectively, we will do that and move on together.
The cultural sector is not one that typically asks for Government support. Instead, a series of Conservative Governments have reduced public funding and made many theatres and arts organisations radically change so that they rely solely on ticket sales and outside sponsorship. Therefore, when the pandemic hit, this left them utterly vulnerable. Tomorrow, the Chancellor needs to give our world-leading creatives the support they need to get on and create. Can I say this to him? That does not simply mean employing them to make his own promotional videos. It means addressing all those problems with the culture recovery fund and, specifically, a whole year on from when it should have been done, providing support for those whom the Government have deliberately excluded. Our cultural sector is not just a huge and vital part of our economy. For many people, it is what makes life worth living.
It is sad but true that one of the hardest-hit parts of the economy has been the cultural and entertainment sectors. The creative industries contributed over £115 billion to the UK in 2019, equivalent to £315 million every day. The UK would have been in recession for each of the last three years without the creative industries’ sectors. Until covid-19 hit, this was the fastest expanding part of the UK economy and it should be protected.
In my position as Chair of the Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, I have seen the damage that has been done to this industry by covid-19. As part of our current inquiry into the future of UK music festivals and live events, we have been examining not just how the industry can survive the current crisis, but how festivals and other live events can continue to grow and thrive sustainably as a key part of the UK’s cultural offering in the years to come. I know that these concerns apply across the board to the cultural and entertainment sectors. For example, pre-covid the night-time economy contributed £66 billion per year to the UK and provided 1.3 million jobs.
At last, the end does now seem in sight. The Prime Minister’s road map has set out dates that can now be a target for entertainers, producers and technical staff. However, even with this exciting news and the road map set out, the industry still needs more than ever a Government-backed insurance scheme. Despite how unpredictable the virus is, given the amazing vaccine roll-out, we have confidence that people will be able to gather in numbers, as we did once before. But we know that covid-19 will not go away easily. While there does remain a risk, however small, that dates could change and events, especially those of a larger scale, could again face cancellation, it is necessary that the industry has a support mechanism in place.
The cultural and entertainment sectors and all those who rely on them for work cannot risk losing a summer season for a second year in a row. They need the chance to be able to safely plan for the return of audiences. Germany has set in train a €2.5 billion guarantee fund, and Germany is nowhere near along the same road as we are with vaccinations. Last summer, my Committee recommended that the Government extend the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales until 2022. To benefit from the reduced rate, people must be able to sell tickets. Up to this point, events have not been happening to do that; it has been impossible. The industry, which has had to shut down for most of the past 12 months, needs the time and support to be able to bounce back to the world-leading position it occupied before the pandemic. With light at the end of the tunnel and with the likely increase in staycations, the summer of 2021 looks as though it might be brighter than we hoped only a few months before, but we know we cannot let ourselves slip at this final hurdle. We have to support the industries in the Budget and beyond.
I also welcome the hon. Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens) back to her place. It is very good to see her.
One year ago, the pandemic changed our world. Lockdown came and, as we found ourselves forced inside and away from our friends and families, many found comfort in the arts and culture. In the past year, every hon. and right hon. Member of this House will have, I am sure, searched for escape in a book, lifted their spirits with music, or distracted themselves with film. A world without literature, music or cinema would be intolerable and a lockdown without the arts would have been even grimmer than it has been.
As we continue to weather the crisis, culture still plays a significant role in getting us through the day. The artist has in many ways been an essential worker and one too often overlooked by the UK Government. One of the groups struggling with the impact of covid-19 is the freelance sector. A survey of Equity members found that 40% have not received help from the self-employed income support scheme. Various loopholes have left many out in the cold, unable, due to technicalities, to qualify for UK Government schemes.
That injustice has meant that many creative professionals have had to apply for universal credit, with many more considering leaving the culture sector altogether. In pre-covid times, the cultural and entertainment sector not only brought huge benefits to the economy, but gave the countries of the UK international acclaim. It is vital that we ensure that every one of those workers comes back into the industry, so that whenever the pandemic is over the sector thrives again. In the Budget tomorrow, the Chancellor must protect these essential workers and ensure that they no longer fall through the cracks. He must go further by guaranteeing them the backdated support they deserve.
Let us look at musicians as one key group. They are facing long-term worries about the viability of their industry. They are fighting on three fronts. In the last five years, the market for recorded music has shifted towards streaming. Opaque deals cut by the big record labels and the streaming model mean that most no longer have a viable stream of income from recording. The result is that they are almost completely reliant on live performance. Live performances in the Brexit age, a world of limitless opportunity—well, hardly, because the UK Government rejected the EU’s proposed artists’ deal. Musicians have now been landed with the very hardest of Brexits.
The Minister, appearing before the Select Committee, recently looked surprised to discover that a single one-night visa for a UK performer in Spain now costs €600. It is €500 in Italy. When covid lockdown ends, none but the wealthiest musicians will be able to perform across much of Europe. That means the end of orchestral tours. The Minister confirmed to us that no talks are ongoing to resolve this looming Brexit reality. Once again, jobs are being wilfully sacrificed for anti-free movement zealotry. The chaos visited on musicians impacts not just them but their support crews, technicians and haulage companies, all of whom will lose out on work to cheaper European alternatives. Put yourself in the shoes of one of these musicians, with no money coming in from record sales or European tours, the only saving grace being the upcoming domestic festival season—a season once again cancelled. The UK Government had the opportunity to underwrite insurance for festivals but decided not to. Glastonbury was one of the first to cancel. Musicians and their support staff did not get into this business for money but for a love of their craft. They have never asked for much from their Government, but they surely have the right to expect that their Government do not actively work against them.
Musicians, rightly, have received much publicity, but another sector that has been forgotten by the Government is advertising-funded media and entertainment. Local commercial radio stations have provided trustworthy news and a friendly voice for those living alone, but they have seen their revenues plummet. The drop in advertising revenue has also been a major problem for local papers. Some have had to shut their doors after decades of dedicated service to their community. That is why we on the SNP Benches backed a tax credit for the advertising-funded media sector, and I call again on the UK Government and the Chancellor, in particular, to listen and act.
In the time available, I cannot name-check every cultural and entertainment sector damaged by this pandemic and threatened by Brexit, crying out for help, but all are asking that this House hears one overriding message that is vital for their long-term recovery. Just because an industry limps on, it does not mean that the wounds dealt by the pandemic have healed. The Government must offer and maintain their support in the years to come.
The arts and culture communities the length and breadth of these islands eagerly await the Chancellor’s Budget tomorrow. Artists deserve more from the UK Government and I hope that he has been listening and will deliver, but I am not holding my breath. Westminster seems very distant, remote and unresponsive to the sector’s concerns.
The Canongate wall of the Scottish Parliament is covered with quotations from writers from across Scotland and from the length of its history. I will close with one of those quotes by Sir Walter Scott:
“When we had a king, and a chancellor, and parliament-men o’ our ain, we could aye peeble them wi’ stanes when they werena gude bairns—But naebody’s nails can reach the length o’ Lunnon.”
Let us hope I am wrong.
It is a great pleasure to see the hon. Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens) back in her place. There is no denying that the entertainment and culture sector has been one of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic and it has been felt by businesses and individuals alike. Some people take the view that those who work in the media, film and TV earn huge salaries and are not in need of Government support, but that is very far from the truth. There is a huge number of people both on and off the screen who, before the pandemic, were earning very modest salaries with very little job security. I know that many have sought jobs in other sectors, which is the right thing to do, but with the hospitality industry almost completely closed, along with non-essential shops, there are few opportunities available to them.
While the Government’s financial response to the pandemic has been very ambitious and far-reaching, on a global scale, there regretfully remains a very significant number of people who have been unable to make use of the support schemes. A large number of those are in the culture and entertainment sector and, in some cases, this is because they work via a limited company and cannot access self-employment grants, or, indeed, because they are employed on fixed-term pay-as-you-earn contracts. Many of my constituents who find themselves in this position have pointed out the disparity in Government support, given what someone who has been made redundant and someone who is on furlough will receive, especially when the worker who has been made redundant is not eligible for universal credit because of savings or home ownership, yet that will have no impact on his or her ability to be furloughed.
The aim of the Government has been to save as many jobs as possible with a finite supply of taxpayer funds. However, inevitably, everyone will have to play a part in paying off the debt, including those who did not receive any support. I know that the culture sector is anxious to know when it can reopen and I welcome the Prime Minister’s road map, which sets out a gradual return to normality.
I am proud to declare an interest—not a financial one, but a passionate one. I chair Theatre Royal Stratford East, the erstwhile home of Joan Littlewood renowned for “Oh, What a Lovely War!”, “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” and “A Taste of Honey”. I am immensely proud of our success in regaining our historic reputation for excellence and radicalism under the leadership of Nadia Fall, a hugely talented artistic director of Asian heritage, and her team of mainly women theatre makers.
We were on a roll, culminating in receiving an Olivier award for staging Britain’s “Noye’s Fludde”, which involved east end children performing alongside ENO singers. Our mission to create excellent shows and reflect the diversity of our community in everything that we do makes our contribution unique. Then covid erupted and the curtain fell.
Theatres have proved resilient and innovative. We produced an outdoor show called “846”, our response to George Floyd’s death. National Theatre Live has been enjoyed by vast audiences at home. The Kiln’s food programme provides fresh hot meals for hundreds. Battersea Arts Centre delivered digital activity and encouraged young people to keep writing.
Government support has focused too much on buildings, not on people. Life for freelancers, the lifeblood of our theatre, has been grim. We used to employ nearly 200 freelancers annually. This year, it is 75, and mostly on very small projects. With no Government support, freelance actors, directors and designers are walking away, retraining to ensure a secure living. We are haemorrhaging creative talent, most of whom started in the subsidised theatre. Public investment in people led to creative wealth for the nation. Think of Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards: Daniel Kaluuya, who first performed at the Royal Court; John Boyega, who began at Theatre Peckham. Think of Phoebe Waller-Bridge who started at the Soho; James Graham, playwright at Finborough Theatre; Michaela Coel who went from The Yard to critical acclaim on Channel Four. All are big commercial successes today. All are contributing to our vital creative economy, the vibrancy of our city centres and lifting our spirits. They are part of a massively successful ecosystem. Public investment in them drives both commercial success and the quest for diversity and equality. Yet young black and Asian creatives, women and those with disabilities are leaving theatre in droves. Nobody wants theatre to return to being a club for the elite and the well-connected. Investment in people, in the talent of tomorrow, must be our key ask today and only then will the arts bounce back strongly.
May I begin by congratulating the Government on the truly remarkable success of the vaccination roll-out and the extraordinary progress made so far? More than 20 million vaccines have now been delivered, with 27,000 of my constituents receiving their first jab. It is, of course, imperative that we maintain this progress and continue to drive down infection rates so that we can meet the key tests set out in the Prime Minister’s road map.
The road map is rightly cautious and led by data rather than dates. We are leading the world by providing a pathway out of restrictions. For businesses in my constituency, this provides an opportunity to look towards operating close to normal this summer. Until businesses in Blackpool can reopen, the financial support provided so far simply must continue. As a Government, we have stood by businesses throughout this pandemic, and it is vital that businesses are provided with the right conditions to prosper when they can reopen. I have been told by so many businesses how crucial the VAT reduction has been. By extending it for a further 12 months, we will give them the breathing space to drive forward the economy and protect livelihoods long after the furlough scheme has ended. The same can also be said for extending the current business rates freeze.
The overall package of support for businesses from the Treasury has been truly remarkable. In particular, the £1.6 billion investment in UK culture through the culture recovery fund has gone a long way towards securing the future of significant venues in Blackpool, such as the Tower Circus and the Grand Theatre, which will of course be delighted to hear that significant additional support for the arts and culture sectors will be included in tomorrow’s Budget.
Not only do Blackpool’s historic visitor attractions employ hundreds of local people directly, but they entice holidaymakers to Blackpool, to the benefit of all businesses. For example, the winter gardens, a beneficiary of the culture recovery fund, attracts 1.1 million unique visitors per year, who spend money throughout Blackpool, thereby supporting other outlets.
It is fantastic that a second round of culture recovery grants are currently being administered; hopefully, this will include other local venues, such as the world-famous cabaret bar Funny Girls. Blackpool is of course renowned for its LGBT entertainment venues, and in that regard it would be remiss of me not to mention Basil Newby, who opened some of Blackpool’s first gay venues 40 years ago and whose bars and clubs have been a mainstay of the LGBT community ever since. At the end of LGBT History Month, his contribution to the community deserves particular recognition, and I look forward to joining him in May when Funny Girls reopens.
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.
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.
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.
I begin by paying tribute to the arts and culture sector, which has been so deeply affected by the fall-out from the pandemic but has never given up. I also pay tribute to those in my own constituency, the home of the west end and theatreland—renowned museums, art galleries, music venues, individuals such as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Nica Burns, the Society of London Theatre, and so many more who have never accepted defeat and have carried on seeking solutions so that they can open safely.
The arts provide huge benefits to the UK’s economy, providing billions of pounds to the Exchequer. I pay tribute to Ministers at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who have appreciated how strongly the arts contribute to the economy. They have had unwavering support for the arts, lobbying the Treasury for financial support, as we saw in the £1.57 billion culture recovery fund and now, today, the £408 million in grants announced to help with reopening.
It is now about how we reopen. We now have dates in the road map, which is great, but we do need to address the issues regarding social distancing outlined in paragraph 145 of the road map. LW Theatres is moving ahead with its own research and development on making its venues covid-secure but is finding roadblocks. Currently, Health and Safety Executive policy does not allow for any spraying or misting with disinfectant or cleaning products, which is an excellent solution for indoor venues that can be used across the country. I would like the Government to put pressure on the HSE and persuade it to update its policies so that we can allow that to happen.
Many in the arts are waiting to hear from the Chancellor when he unveils his Budget tomorrow. They are hoping for good news on ongoing support for business rates and VAT on tickets, theatre tax relief being extended to digital performances without a physical audience, and an ongoing review of the self-employed support that is so needed for freelancers within the creative industries. I know how badly affected the excluded have been, and we need to address their ongoing concerns.
There is a light at the end of what has been a very dark tunnel. Now is the time to work together on how we can reopen safely. I urge the Government to undertake a major marketing campaign to promote confidence in people to return and enjoy everything our wonderful arts have to offer.
In December 2017, it was declared that Coventry would be the UK city of culture in 2021. Fast-forward four years and, owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the landscape for our city’s host year could not be any more difficult or challenging. Our city, our region and our arts industry have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. At a time when the culture and entertainment sectors should have been centre stage in Coventry, activities from theatre productions and live performances to exhibitions and galleries have closed their doors. Staff have been furloughed and revenues have plummeted, and the pandemic has seen the start of Coventry’s year as city of culture put back to May 2021.
For many other cities, this would be an unmitigated disaster, but Coventry is a remarkable city. It is a city that has been shaped by its extraordinary history, culture and heritage. It is a city that has adapted, reinvented and reimagined itself time and again. It is a city that has a background of overcoming adversity, of coming together with strength and pride, and of succeeding against considerable odds. That is why I know that, in spite of covid-19, Coventry will make the most of the opportunities that its city of culture status offers and produce something utterly spectacular.
We will show the country and the world who we are and what we can do, even in this most difficult of climates, but to do this and to ensure that Coventry reaps the full benefit of city of culture status by ensuring that the arts, creativity and culture kick-start the much needed regeneration of our city and play a central role in the economic and social success of our communities, we need Government support. I hope the Minister, wherever she is—I hope she is listening—will commit today to ensuring that Coventry’s culture, arts and entertainment sectors receive the investment and support they need in order to make Coventry UK city of culture 2021 a complete success and to ensure that the event is a catalyst to developing a lasting social and economic legacy for current and future generations. With the right support, along with the new programme of events just launched today, Coventry city of culture 2021 will demonstrate the transformative powers of the arts on the lives of individuals, communities and the wider society, and lead our city’s and country’s cultural and entertainment sectors out of the pandemic in the most spectacular way.
A little over a year ago, the streets of Sheffield were lined with open doors leading to theatres, cinemas and museums, which form the cultural heart of our city. Because of covid, those doors are now firmly closed. While the road map out of lockdown has given those in the sector some hope as to when they can return, I am deeply concerned that a year of uncertainty and limited support may mean that some could collapse before then.
A highlight of our cultural calendar is the Tramlines Festival, which is held each year in my constituency. However, after having to cancel last year, it has now had to contend with large uncertainties when determining whether it can go ahead this year. Simple common-sense steps, such as extending the 5% rate of VAT for the culture sector, would go a long way towards protecting events such as these, as would ensuring that the workers were receiving the vital financial support that should be due to them.
Doc/Fest is another shining example of Sheffield’s proud entertainment sector. Each year, it attracts thousands of visitors, including big names such as David Attenborough, Joanna Lumley, Louis Theroux and Michael Moore. It delivers millions of pounds to the area, and this has a strong knock-on effect for small businesses. It is vital that we protect our culture industry so that events such as Doc/Fest are sustainable in the long term.
Sheffield City Council estimates that the snooker tournament normally benefits the local economy to the tune of £3 million each year. We will not reach step 3 of the road map in time for this, but event pilots are planned for step 2 of the road map. I hope that the Government will carefully consider the world snooker championships as a suitable pilot, to offer a much needed boost to the area.
Away from these big headline events, the day-to-day culture industry in Sheffield is the bedrock of our local economy. Our theatres, cinemas and museums are a great source of local pride for us all, as are the many dedicated music venues. Live music is also intertwined with many of our pubs and bars. There must therefore be greater guidance on when live music can return in those settings, to provide peace of mind for the industry.
Tomorrow, the Chancellor will unveil his Budget. This will be the last chance to prevent our culture sector from falling off a cliff edge when the existing support packages expire in the coming months. I urge him to deliver on his promise to do “whatever it takes” throughout the covid crisis. That would not only save thousands of jobs and businesses but protect the cultural sector that we all want to see thrive once more.
This is an important and timely debate, particularly given the Chancellor’s announcement of an extra £400 million to support the arts, which will help the sector to prepare for reopening and to bounce back from the crisis. That welcome news builds on the £1.5 billion package of support that has already been delivered for arts and culture in High Peak and across the country. In places such as the Peak district, arts, culture and entertainment are at the very heart of our local economy. Their economic value is immense. They draw in visitors to our town centres, not just to see a show but to go out for a meal, spend money on the high street and have a drink in one of our brilliant local pubs—all things we have badly missed doing during the pandemic.
It is not just the economic value that is important. Arts and culture have social value that is impossible to measure properly. It is where we go for family outings, for date nights, for an excuse to catch up with friends we have not seen in a while. It is somewhere to go for a bit of escapism and inspiration after a long week. In short, arts and culture are good for business and good for the soul.
In the High Peak, we are very lucky to have some amazing, much-loved institutions. In Buxton, which we all know is Britain’s best spa town, we have the wonderful Buxton Opera House—one of the finest Matcham theatres anywhere in the country. It is architecturally gorgeous and creatively led by the talented Paul Kerryson. I strongly encourage hon. Members to come and visit as soon as it is safe to do so. There are lots of fantastic places for them to stay when they visit, such as Buxton Crescent, which reopened last year after a £17 million restoration. For those unfamiliar with it, it is similar to the Royal Crescent in Bath, only far more impressive.
Buxton also plays host to the renowned Buxton International Festival. Of course, the festival was forced to cancel the event last summer, and the opera house has been forced to close for 12 months now. Grants and the furlough scheme have certainly helped to soften the blow. I was delighted that the opera house and the international festival secured more than £600,000 from the Government’s culture recovery fund, which has helped them to keep going through the crisis. The first payment of that grant has helped the opera house introduce covid safety measures so that it can deliver a safe environment for audiences, staff and artists when it reopens with a co-production of “A Little Night Music”, in partnership with the festival of Stephen Sondheim. Just yesterday, it was announced that the Buxton International Festival will be going ahead this July. Both are sure to lift our spirits after these long and difficult months. I pay tribute to the opera house and the festival organisers for their dedication and hard work. Planning a major international festival during a pandemic is no easy task. Michael Williams, chief executive of the Buxton International Festival, says that it is “like writing on water”.
The culture recovery grants are producing positive results and making a big difference, but it is vital that they are given not just to big venues and events but to smaller local institutions, such as Partington Players Theatre in Glossop. Ultimately, the key to recovery is ensuring that we roll out the vaccine and get the virus under control so that people can safely enjoy our institutions. Government support, although great at the moment, needs to be sustained; otherwise, we risk undoing the work of the past year to protect our culture and entertainment sectors. We all look forward to reopening this summer and starting to live life to the full once again.
In the short time available to me, I would like to focus exclusively on the plight of our musicians and those involved in our music industry. This has been an absolutely miserable time for our artists and musicians. Never before have conditions been so tough. Music is a sociable endeavour, and performance is all about people coming together. It is about communion, joy, comfort, solace and release. Quite simply, music is the discourse of the soul. Of all the industries and endeavours impacted by the prohibiting of human beings coming together, live music was always going to be the most heavily affected. A whole sector has effectively been closed down.
This is not just about musicians, miserable though it is for them; it is about the venues, the technical crews, the ancillary staff, the haulage, the band crews—thousands and thousands of people. Music was already just about the most precarious of professions. It used to be a field of dreams, but it is now mainly about ploughing some lonely furrow, hoping to make a few beans. Yes, it could yield great riches for the very few who reach the pinnacle of success, but most musicians will be more acquainted with poverty than plenty. Most musicians earn less than the minimum wage for their art, and traditional career routes have been turned on their heads. Next to no money is now earned from recorded works. That is unbelievable. Streaming and digital services have decimated band incomes, and musicians are subject to one of the most extensive and widest value gaps of any sector. Music is being listened to more than ever and is widely available, and people are indeed getting rich, but it is not the musicians; it is the platforms, the gatekeepers of music and the big tech companies that are earning a grotesque fortune from the wonderful works of others.
I was lucky, Madam Deputy Speaker. I plied my trade in music in the ’80s and ’90s—the good times. That was the peak of record sales, when profitability and touring were just about at their maximum. Sustainable careers were possible, and bands such as Runrig could make a good living. No more. So what do we do? Well, this Government will see what they can do to make a dire situation worse. Just when music is at its wits’ end, the Government want to close down a continent to live musicians, with the ridiculous arrangements they have managed to negotiate for bands in Europe.
What do we do to get out of this? It has to start with the Budget. Extending the self-employed support scheme and furlough beyond April has to happen, and we must ensure that insurance is in place for live performances. We need to ensure that a subsidy is available for venues to accommodate social distancing. My heart goes out to this generation of musicians who are having to confront so much, just to bring pleasure to us all. The Government have the tools. I ask them, “Please now use them. Help this sector out.”
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), who speaks so powerfully on behalf of the music sector. In debates, I often focus on topics such as the high-tech manufacturing UK steel industry, and the nascent nuclear fusion research effort, but this debate gives us the opportunity to focus on a sector that gives so much joy, delight, and so often inspiration. Industry, manufacturing or, more broadly, wealth creation are important and have their place, but they ought not to be the end in themselves. Culture, from poetry and music to the theatre, is immensely uplifting, and ought to be part of everyone’s lives.
Following the covid pandemic and a series of lockdowns, we need the arts to spring back to life after their hibernation. The culture recovery fund has made a significant difference, but many organisations will need to return to normal performances to ensure their survival. That fund has contributed to a wide range of organisations, from The Snug in Atherton, to Bolton’s Octagon theatre.
In the brief time available, I wish to highlight the breadth of talent to be found in and around my constituency. The Blackrod and Westhoughton arts groups regularly put on exhibitions. Horwich has its music festival, a fabulous series of chamber concerts are performed at the church of St James the Great at Daisy Hill, and Wingates has the world’s best brass band. We have the Ladybridge Singers and the superb Bolton symphony orchestra. I am looking forward to a return to normality so that I, and many others, can enjoy our rich culture.
I pay special tribute to the Bolton Music Service, which is working with, training, and nurturing the next generation of musicians. That is of immense value to many individuals, families and other organisations. As Matthew Arnold wrote, culture is
“the best that has been thought and said”
and we ought to add that culture must also be performed. I therefore ask my right hon. Friend to do all he can to support the arts and culture at every level, and in every part of the country.
I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens) back to her place.
The importance of this sector cannot be underestimated. In 2019, the entertainment and cultural sectors contributed £10.5 billion and more than 200,000 jobs to the economy. These are often highly-skilled jobs, from musicians and actors to those in production and sound tech, including engineers, electricians and many skilled professionals. That is only the economic benefit; never mind the happiness and joy that this sector gives to so many of us. The sector has been very hard hit by the pandemic, with the trade body for live music reporting revenue of almost zero since its start. Although there have been livestream shows, they do not replace the feeling of everyone getting together for live events. I am a member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and we have heard evidence about the precariousness of the economics of festivals and the inability of streaming to replace the income that artists would have received from events that have had to be cancelled.
There are some great examples of businesses in the sector adapting, not least Generator, an industry support agency in the north-east run by CEO Hannah Matterson. Generator has worked with more than 190 artists, providing over 1,000 hours of support online since the start of the pandemic, from meet-ups to online masterclasses on production and marketing, helping musicians to develop their careers. It has done a remarkable job, and I am sure that the shocking figures published by the Musicians’ Union, showing that 34% of musicians are considering abandoning their career and that another 37% are unsure of their future, would be much higher if it were not for organisations such as Generator.
This is an industry that Britain is famous for and that we export around the world, and the Government must be more proactive in supporting it. The support package was welcome, but many thousands are missing out and are still not supported properly by Government. On top of that, there is the immense issue that future tours will face, thanks to the Government’s failure to negotiate an adequate visa situation for artists to tour around Europe. A music or cultural export office is a great idea that will help big productions but not small artists who are starting out. The Government need to act. They have published a road map, but we have waited a week for the funding package. We hope to hear—and we must hear—in the Budget tomorrow what support the Government are going to give to this hugely important industry.
Identity is everything. It enables the introspection necessary to understand oneself, the rooted foundation required to invest in community and the illuminating lens through which we relate to one another. Identity, however, can be divided into two parts: our objective identity—ethnicity, religion, family or nationality—and our subjective identity, freely chosen by each individual. It is in our communal culture and shared heritage that we find subjective identity.
Culture, in essence, defines a people. The depth of literary canon, poetic prowess, orchestral brilliance and artistic wonder elevates and embodies the sentiments of our nation, our people and, indeed, our civilisation itself. For culture and, in turn, identity to retain meaning, it must liberate itself from the monopolising clutches of a small-minded liberal bourgeoisie. As the late Roger Scruton, drawing on Hegel, said, it is a magnifying force
“manifest in all the customs, beliefs and practices of a people.”
It is reasonable to distinguish between high culture and common culture, but the first of those should not be accessible only to a few. Indeed, the working-class Britons in South Holland and The Deepings and across our nation have just as much right to access high culture as those in South Kensington.
Perhaps the framing truth in our political discourse should be a recognition that cultural identity can only survive when it is concentrated, particular and local, immune to dilution and decay. In 1984, the then Arts Council of Great Britain published a 10-year strategy titled “The Glory of the Garden”, its premise being the critical imbalance of arts provision between London and the regions. Twenty-six years later, I am not sure that that has changed much. We really do need cultural reach that stretches into every town, village and community across our nation.
However, recent research suggests that the problem has worsened. While London is home to 13% of the UK’s population, it receives 33% of Arts Council funding. Now, I like a trip to the National Gallery, as you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I like an evening at the Royal Opera House, but we need culture to reach out beyond there, particularly in the post-covid world—to enliven and enthral; to captivate people who have been dispirited, understandably, by all the restrictions of the past year. It is on that mission—that request to the Government—that I make this brief contribution. Let culture be seeded across our nation and let a thousand flowers bloom.
If we were to ask people what they were looking forward to when lockdown restrictions are eased, beyond seeing their family and luxuriating in the freedom to go wherever they like, many would talk about how much they have missed cultural experiences. Going to the theatre, listening to live music or comedy, watching a film at the cinema, browsing in a library or bookshop—those are the things that we have missed the most.
Many of us define ourselves in part by our responses to culture—even the Chancellor is keen to emphasise that he is a “Star Wars” fan—so being denied access to culture has denied us the opportunity to be our full selves: to think, to discover, to see the world differently. But the Chancellor is not a “Star Wars” fan just because of the special effects; he is also a fan of the vast amount of money that the franchise still generates, and that is also true of the economy as a whole.
It has been estimated that the arts and culture sector generated £10.47 billion for the UK economy in 2019. If we add on other creative sectors, such as fashion design, events and exhibitions, and video gaming, they not only add billions more to our economy but massively enhance our ability to reach out to the world to tell our story in many different formats and mediums. All that has been put at risk because of the lockdown.
There is little doubt that the lockdown was necessary and that the closure of theatres and other venues was essential for reducing contact. After all, contact is what the performing arts are all about—creating a dialogue between the performer and the audience. I commend the Government for their culture recovery fund. In my constituency of Richmond Park, the grants awarded to the Orange Tree theatre and the OSO Arts Centre have enabled those organisations to keep going throughout the closure.
However, the various funding schemes announced by the Government have not been enough to keep our cultural sector afloat as we progress towards a time when we can reopen. While the funding has been effective at keeping institutions going, it has ignored individuals. There is no point reopening our theatres and concert halls to find that there are no actors, playwrights or musicians to use them.
Many of the difficulties experienced by the cultural sector stem from the Chancellor’s baffling decision not to provide support to contractors. The cultural sector is built on short-term contracts. Many workers in these industries found themselves unable to be furloughed and did not qualify for the self-employment income support scheme. I heard from Amy Grudniewicz, who trained for five years to become a stage manager only to find that her first show closed after a few months because of lockdown. She qualified for only £18 a week in universal credit, which has not been enough.
There has been immense frustration, too, at the lack of recognition of the supply chain to our cultural sector. Many technicians and technical supplies companies have been left out of plans for help. Without grants, recovery fund, furlough or SEISS, many workers in the cultural sector have had absolutely no support.
I welcome the Government’s recent road map out of lockdown, and I support their cautious approach. What we need is clear guidance for all organisations and the general public. Above all, the Government need to underwrite the insurance so that live events can take place this summer; I am sure that the public will embrace them in their thousands after the months stuck inside looking at laptops.
We are all aware that the cultural and entertainment sector has been hit hard during the pandemic due to the prolonged time that the sector has been restricted. Indeed, over the last few months, I have received many representations from theatres, nightclubs, bingo halls, casinos, heritage rail and many more businesses and individuals in my constituency that are very concerned about their ability to survive the pandemic.
While of course I understand the inherent risks that large gatherings bring, given that we are now seeing a fall in the number of people in hospital with covid-19, thanks in huge part to the fantastic work of the Government and the NHS in delivering over 20 million vaccinations across the UK, as well as one of the biggest testing systems in the world, we now need to begin opening up again.
I therefore welcome the announcement of the road map out of lockdown last week, which will give businesses the reassurances needed to begin planning their reopening. However, if we are to support them in that, we need to help build public confidence in the road map so that people will actually start booking tickets for events and visits. I would be interested to hear from the Minister how the Government plan to do that over the next few months. In my view, one such way would be by setting out as soon as possible what enhanced testing regimes and other safety measures will be introduced for events with large crowds. To this end, I would also be interested to hear from the Minister the Government’s expected timeframe for the events research programme, and specifically when it expects to report on its findings.
Finally, I would like to mention the tourism and heritage sectors. In the Loughborough constituency, we have a wealth of tourist and heritage sites, including Great Central Railway, the Carillon tower museum, Charnwood Museum, the Old Rectory Museum, the only operational bell foundry in the UK, the Peter Le Marchant Trust and the ancient Outwoods woodland, to name a few. They are all fantastic places to visit.
As restrictions are lifted, we must seize the opportunity to promote domestic tourism to boost our local economies, support businesses and create much-needed jobs. This is an area in which I am very keen to do more work on over the coming months, particularly in the run-up to English Tourism Week. I would be interested to hear what plans the Government have to support domestic tourism. The Government have, of course, already provided a large package of support to heritage sites in Loughborough, and I thank them very much for that help. We now need to work to ensure that those organisations are able to start up again and thrive—employing people, contributing to our local communities and, ultimately, paying their taxes. They need a hand up, not a handout, and we need confidence in the sector.
It is great to see my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens) back in her place.
In the brief time that I have, I want to focus on the night-time economy and on what we need to do so to support night-time venues; most have not been able to operate at all for almost a year, and I would argue that they have gone under the Government’s radar. As welcome as the culture recovery fund was, it has had a limited impact, particularly on nightclubs. Nightlife and music venues are the beating heart of our town and city centres, and support so many other businesses in their ecosystems and supply chains. I worked in the music business, and nightclubs in particular, for more than 20 years. I also worked at festivals, and add my voice to the festival industry’s plea for an insurance safety net scheme for large events. If there is one single measure that can help to allow a summer of culture and creativity, it is that one.
I have seen close up the joy and sense of community that nightclubs and music venues bring. I have also seen the massive £66 billion contribution of the night-time industry to our economy. I am chair of the all-party parliamentary group for the night time economy, and just before Christmas we launched an inquiry to look at the effects of the pandemic on night-time industries. Remarkably, we received over 20,000 responses from businesses, employees, freelance workers, customers, industry organisations and local authorities. We found that, without urgent Government support, night-life businesses could well be lost.
We are at a critical point. Lots of venues have just about survived, but they are racking up debts on costs like rent and utilities, and just need some help to get them through until they can fully reopen. I fervently hope that tomorrow we will see an extension of business support, including business rates relief and VAT reduction. We need some sector-specific grants until businesses can fully reopen. We also need a solution for the amassed commercial debt, whether that is a shared burden approach to debt, as we have seen in other countries, or a long-term restructuring so that debt does not need to be paid off until businesses are able to do so in the long term. Of course, we also need furlough extension and help for those excluded individuals.
The Government have set out the road map to reopening, which the night-time venues have cautiously welcomed. But it is one thing to be able to open and another to be able to do so at a capacity that makes it viable, so it is really important that the Government consult and engage quickly with the sector on testing, capacity restrictions and whatever other mitigations can allow venues to reopen. The events research programme also has to be carried out in close partnership with the brilliant, creative people in the industry.
It feels like the end is in sight, but this is a really important moment. We have a crucial job just to get our businesses through the next few months until they are able to reopen. We cannot let these vital businesses and venues fold; we cannot jeopardise our wider economic recovery that they are so important to; and we cannot have our towns and city centres becoming ghost towns.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate. Dover and Deal is an area steeped in culture and brimming with entertainment; whether for a day, week or month, or throughout the course of a year, there is so much to see and enjoy in our white cliffs country. Our role as guardian of the nation means that we have been involved in some of the world’s defining events, from the rise of the Roman empire to Nelson’s Deal, key battles in world war two and, more recently, being on the frontline of the exit from the European Union.
As such, our two most iconic pieces of history are Dover castle and the world-famous white cliffs. Dover castle is rightly one of the top attractions in the country, and a few miles on we have Deal castle, Walmer castle, with its eight acres of award-winning gardens, as well as Crabble corn mill, the most complete working example of a Georgian water mill in Europe. The mill is one of the many local ventures to have received financial support from the Government’s cultural recovery fund, a fund that has paid out more than £300,000 in my constituency and has been a lifeline for some of our most loved cultural organisations and heritage sites.
However, Dover and Deal is so much more than its cultural heritage, enviable though that unquestionably is. We are ambitious to make our cultural heritage the foundation stone from which we build our culture and entertainment future, for Dover and Deal are also home to leading galleries, artists, potters and live music venues. It is an area rich in the performing arts, with the Astor theatre, the Dover film festival, the Deal music and arts festival, the showcase annual Deal Marines remembrance concert, the Lighthouse music and arts pub and so much more besides. We are planning for the future, through Dover’s bid for the future high streets fund. This further investment would allow us to bring together varied cultural and creative offerings in Dover with a brand new arts and creative centre.
That brings me to my call for a permanent recognition for Dame Vera Lynn. There may be no bluebirds in Dover, but there will always be Vera Lynn in Dover’s heart and its musical soul. She truly encapsulates the enduring importance of entertainment and the cultural arts. It is only right that her contribution to the arts and the nation is given the recognition it deserves, and I am supporting the important campaign for this lasting legacy to her in the white cliffs country.
Tomorrow’s Budget is eagerly anticipated by many of my constituents who work in the culture and entertainment sectors in Vauxhall. Those sectors rely hugely on high-density indoor venues to turn a profit, and as they will not be able to return to business as normal in time for summer, they have suffered and will continue to suffer one of the longest sector lockdowns of this pandemic. We must all fight to ensure their survival.
When we talk about saving the cultural and entertainment sectors, we may think of some of the amazing buildings where we have seen an exhibition or a play, the shows we watch on TV or the music that we have live-streamed, but behind these venues and productions are millions of freelancers—self-employed support workers, so many of whom have fallen through the gaps in Government support. Polling data from the Musicians’ Union, based in my constituency, which I recently met, shows that 38% of musicians have missed out on Government support and 34% are leaving the industry altogether. Tomorrow’s Budget must recognise that and provide a sector-specific support package to ensure that there are no more closures and no more redundancies as we reach the final hurdle in the fight against covid-19.
The cultural and entertainment sectors are crucial for not only our economy but our wellbeing and happiness. As so many have said in this debate, live music, events, festivals and county shows are occasions that mean a huge amount to millions of people. They are landmark occasions in the lives of so many of our constituents. The big headline events have huge soft power reach around the world and the smaller local ones can make a hugely positively local impact, bringing communities together and supporting our town centres. I mention in particular the East Barnet festival, the Barnet medieval festival and the Cherry Lodge Summer Soulstice festival in my constituency, which were all cancelled last year and were all greatly missed. Despite the Government’s huge £1.57 billion culture recovery fund—the biggest ever investment in culture in our nation’s history—we lost so many festivals and big events in 2020 and we are now in danger of losing them for another whole year. I therefore repeat the call made recently by UK Music to “Save Our Summer” and set out three steps to achieve that.
First, targeted support through furlough and business rate relief should continue for events and cultural venues until the sector is allowed to open up properly again. More needs to be done to help freelancers, who have so far missed out on any covid financial support. Secondly, we need greater certainty on the timetable for reopening, and especially for the plan to resume big events on 21 June. It is welcome that we now have a road map and indicative dates, but getting an event on this summer requires planning and spending now. The pilots to establish whether it will be safe to start big events on time need to go ahead by the beginning of April at the latest—jobs and business survival depend on that. If the Government believe that proof of vaccination or testing should play a part in the return of large festivals and events, they need to set out how that will operate. That should focus on risk-based solutions dependent on the type of venue, the audience numbers and the type of event. Any requirement for testing or vaccination must be proportionate, operationally feasible, affordable and consistent with privacy.
Thirdly, and lastly, we need a Government-backed scheme for pandemic insurance. Those are three steps to prevent another summer of cancellations; three steps to save our summer. I urge Ministers to put them into action.
May I also welcome back my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens)? I also put on record my immense gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin) and my parliamentary neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern), for their tireless campaigning on this issue over many years.
For 10 long years, the Conservative party have taken a wrecking ball to the very foundations of our cultural industries. Ten years of cuts to arts funding and school budgets have decimated the sector. The prestige venues that only the rich can afford may have been preserved, but, thanks to the remorseless advance of property developers, countless grassroots music venues have had to shut up shop. Future generations of talent have nowhere to flourish. Now, the Government’s failure to give the cultural industries the support they need risks condemning huge swathes of the sector to oblivion.
Although the £1.5 billion culture recovery fund was welcome, it has rescued buildings, not livelihoods. Fifty-five thousand jobs have already been lost, and too many creative freelancers—including over a third of all musicians—have been allowed to fall through the gaps of the Government’s financial support schemes, with many leaving the industry for good. The Government’s failure to guarantee creative workers visa-free access to Europe risks depriving thousands of people of a vital part of their income when the pandemic is over.
The failure by the Government to step up and meet this challenge has had a devastating impact on my constituency. The hard work and determination of council leader Janette Williamson and Labour councillors saved the historic Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, but countless other venues have been forced to close their doors forever, and many others remain at risk.
I thank the all-party parliamentary group for the night time economy for giving me access to the response of my constituents to its important inquiry on the impact of covid-19, which testified to a deep-rooted anger at the Government’s chaotic handling of the pandemic and a widespread sense of fear that many venues in my constituency will not survive the next few months. The proprietors of Gallaghers Traditional Pub, which regularly hosts live music, are right to feel “angry and let down”.
There needs to be change when the Chancellor unveils the Budget tomorrow. It is a final chance to save a vital part of our country’s cultural fabric and, with that, a major sector of our economy. Instead of half measures, we need a bold and ambitious strategy that gives the sector confidence in its future and its ability to thrive when we win the war on covid. An extension to the furlough scheme, the cut in VAT and business rates relief will be essential to safeguarding jobs in the sector, but I also call on the Chancellor to recognise the specific challenges facing our country’s cultural industries and at long last introduce bespoke support for a sector that provides not just jobs but enjoyment for millions of people.
I think I speak for all of us when I say that the past year, despite some individual stories of good news, has been absolutely rotten; 2020 is not a year that any of us would wish to repeat. This is especially true for businesses in our economy, but the financial burden is not being shared across all sectors of the economy evenly, and those sectors that rely on people seeing each other face to face or being close to others—such as hospitality and, pertinently for this debate, culture and entertainment—have been particularly badly hit by measures introduced to break the chain of transmission.
As a result of the measures to protect the NHS, museums have closed their doors, live music venues have fallen quiet and sports arenas have stayed unnaturally empty. The cultural and entertainment sector is a massive asset to the UK both economically—it is an industry worth more than £10 billion—and as a major soft power attribute. More than that, these businesses and venues bring people joy and make life worth living. Recognising that, the Government have been great in introducing support packages, such as the culture recovery fund, which have benefited and been a lifeline to businesses and venues across the country and in my Stockton South constituency.
The Government have now set out their road map for easing restrictions for the entire economy. This will provide clarity to these businesses, allow them to plan for the months ahead and, hopefully, put them on a more sustainable footing. While I would be delighted if these opening dates were moved forwards, I know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and his ministerial colleagues have been guided by the science and will open up as soon as it is safe to do so.
As we move forward and look towards reopening these businesses, there are two fundamental things we must remember. First, we need to remember more than just those businesses that are in London. A lot of the conversations focus on big venues in London and in the south, which is somewhat understandable given how much of the industry is concentrated in the capital, but not all of them are in London, and we need to remember the businesses in Stockton and the north-east as well.
I agree that we cannot be closing these venues again, but do you know what, with the fantastic vaccination programme, I have every ambition that these doors will be open, these venues and these jobs will survive—and we will restore a bit of joy to people’s lives.
These venues are incredibly important. They enrich our lives and they nurture local talent. I have many fond, and perhaps hazy, memories of Ku Stockton, where I have listened to live music, and of the ARC, and I recommend its comedy club to anybody. Both have been battered by the pandemic, both have benefited from Government support and both cannot wait to reopen. The Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway have done tremendous work on preserving our heritage, and nothing will prevent them from celebrating 2025, the bicentenary of that very first passenger railway journey. They, too, have benefited from Government support and they cannot wait to get rolling. We need to make sure that when we are talking about supporting culture and the arts, we are talking about the little guys and we are talking about all four corners of our nation.
Secondly, we need to have a frank discussion about coronavirus, because it may be unlikely that we will ever be in a situation where the risk is zero. We need to have a discussion about how much risk we are collectively willing to take to get our lives back to normal. We need to have this conversation for our culture and entertainment sector, which cannot go on like this in perpetuity, but also for ourselves and our constituents. We need to have this debate not only to support this industry, but to bring some joy back into our lives as well.
Many of my constituents in Liverpool, West Derby are part of the cultural and entertainment sector, and they have been hit so hard by the events of the last year. Liverpool has one of the biggest and most vibrant arts and culture sectors in the UK, and it is estimated to contribute 10% to our city region’s economy. The recent renaissance of my great city has been built on the talent within our area and our cultural offering, along with the warmest of welcomes from a city renowned for its hospitality. During the pandemic, many in the arts have been keeping our communities going, helping those who are struggling and socially isolated, and dropping off food parcels.
When the pandemic hit, the Government should have been there to help workers in the cultural sector. Instead, their support has been inadequate and, in many cases, non-existent. The majority of these workers are self-employed and they have been hit hard because of gaps in Government support. Data from the Musicians’ Union suggests that 38% of musicians, as well as the road crews that underpin the industry, have fallen through the gaps. I have spoken to some of our incredible musicians in the city about the issues they have been facing over the last couple of months. One said, “Throughout the pandemic I have seen many people lose their jobs, homes and lives. I have always tried my hardest to keep my head up and stay positive at such a tough time. I have seen myself become dormant, with jobs as a musician disappearing, and not being able to see my friends and family has been upsetting and difficult.” Another said, “There are musicians suffering who make their living playing covers in the clubs and bars around the city. It has been extremely tough for them, as you can’t really transfer to playing online as part of somebody’s night out. That cannot be replicated.” Another said to me, “Many road crews like ours are limited companies and we have only been able to access loans. We have no financial support and most groups rely on live income which has completely disappeared since March 2020.”
Tomorrow, the Chancellor’s Budget must deliver real support for workers themselves, fill gaps in support and meet the asks of the trade unions. The cultural recovery fund announced in July was welcome, but workers were not placed at the heart of it and have continued to be left without any help ever since. The talent in this country in both the cultural and entertainment sectors can be a driving force behind the recovery of both my city and the entire nation. Let us give them all the support to flourish, not choke them into extinction.
I want to start by thanking the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport team for their engagement and accessibility during the pandemic.
Heywood and Middleton is not a part of the world necessarily known for its arts scene, but the cultural sector plays as important a role in my constituency as it does in, for example, the west end or central Manchester. Rochdale borough, where my seat is located, has one of the lowest levels of cultural engagement in the north-west. In fact, it is in the bottom 1% of areas for culture accessibility. That is why the ability for what we do have to rebound is so essential.
When I say to my right hon. Friend the Minister that the money received to support Rochdale Boroughwide Cultural Trust’s Link4Life was a genuine lifeline, I mean it. The generous injection of funds to our borough was the difference between it being able to carry on or not. I want to pay particular tribute to Jan Hind and Darren Grice at Link4Life for their passion and enthusiasm for our communities and for the work they have done to make Rochdale’s cultural sector not just viable but an integral part of our plans to level up an area of extremely high deprivation. By integrating their offering into the borough’s plans for education, employment and regeneration, they have not only created a vibrant cultural scene but a sustainable commercial one, ensuring that a wider range of options can be offered and maintained, while bringing existing assets up to date and integrating them into each township in the borough in a way that recognises the character and history of each community yet opens those communities to new experiences at the same time.
The hard work of Jan, Darren and the Link4Life team has seen Dippy the Dinosaur visit Rochdale from the Natural History Museum, a west end production supported by Selladoor put on at the Middleton Arena, and overall engagement with cultural activities in the borough increased by a factor of seven. To have lost that during the pandemic when it was just ramping up would have been an absolute tragedy. It would have robbed some of the most deprived communities in the country of a programme of events, assets and engagement that we simply would not be able to access elsewhere. I also thank them for the work they have done to engage both me and the hon. Member for Rochdale (Tony Lloyd) at every step, so that we are not just aware of where they are at the moment, but what their longer-term aspirations are for Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale. That is why I also back their application for the leisure recovery fund, which will see much-needed assets returned to use, improving health and wellbeing, both physical and mental, as we return life to normal.
Sociologist Charles Cooley once opined:
“An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one.”
I am not sure that someone could say that about politicians, but I would like to put on record my sincere thanks to my right hon. Friend and the Department for his success here. By taking the action that he has taken, he has done so much more than safeguard a few assets, buildings or a business plan; he has ensured the recovery of our dreams, our hopes and our ambitions. That is not a bad thing at all.
I pay tribute to Equity, the Public and Commercial Services Union, the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union and all those trade unions that have worked so hard throughout the pandemic to ensure that their members are properly represented and that the plight of the workers in the cultural sector has been exposed.
The majority of Equity’s members have had all or most of their work cancelled as a result of covid. Large numbers are now in debt and struggling. Although the vast majority of Equity members are self-employed and freelancers, over 40% have been unable to claim under the self-employed income support scheme. Many have had to fall back on universal credit. Because 40% have also not worked at all since March last year and many do not work for qualifying organisations, they have not benefited from the culture recovery fund. The overall consequence is that many are leaving the profession. Recent research has highlighted the large number of black, Asian and minority ethnic female workers and women who are parents or carers forced out of the sector. This is an immense loss of talent.
Equity has four simple asks: first, widen the support available via the self-employed support scheme grant to include new entrants with a 2019-20 tax return, those operating through personal service companies and the other excluded groups; secondly, when the fourth self-employed grant details are published tomorrow, continue to allow a grant based on at least 80% of average profits; thirdly, continue the suspension of the minimum income floor for universal credit beyond the end of April 2021; and fourthly, continue the £20 uplift in universal credit standard allowances beyond April 2021 as well.
In the longer term, Equity is looking at how to create jobs and, specifically, opportunities for marginalised groups in our society to enter into the cultural professions. It is calling for the introduction of a minimum income guarantee for creative workers as a long-term way to remedy low and often no pay and all those barriers to access for creative professionals. All the unions are now saying that the Government must pursue a strategy that ensures employment and job creation across the UK for a broad range of creative workers who do so much to enhance the quality of our lives.
It is a pleasure to follow my fellow London MP, the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), and to welcome the hon. Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens) back to her place.
At the outset of these remarks, I want to say how much I welcome and commend the Government’s support for entertainment. Throughout this pandemic, I have used these debates and questions to raise issues on behalf of the hospitality, events and entertainment industry in Wimbledon. As many know, we have the best theatre outside the west end, the New Wimbledon Theatre. We have the internationally renowned children’s theatre, the Polka, a huge entertainment industry featuring the book fest and the music fest, and a large number of events and exhibition companies. I want to concentrate my short contribution on the three issues that will help them to survive and thrive.
While there has been extensive support, many of the people who work in entertainment, events, hospitality and supply chains in Wimbledon are self-employed freelancers. These are the people who will ensure that the creative industries can reopen and thrive, but most of them have not qualified for either furlough or business grant support. Many who became self-employed in 2019 do not qualify for the self-employed income support scheme. So with covid restrictions remaining in place for longer than we all would have liked and a recognition that it will take some time after 21 June for the events industry to fully recover, can I say that, a year into the pandemic, the only just and fair policy would be to forward the qualifying date for the self-employed income scheme by a year? I hope that we will hear that from the Minister or the Chancellor in the next couple of days.
The Minister for Digital and Culture was right to say in her opening remarks at the Dispatch Box that there is a cautious approach to relaxation based on data, not dates, but a number of issues still remain for the exhibition and events industry. Last year, pilots were conducted on how these events and exhibitions could be conducted in a covid-safe way. We have not yet heard whether those pilots will feed into the road map. Can my hon. Friend assure us about that? Post 12 April, theatres can have audiences above the 30 limit through steps 4 and 5, but there is nothing yet for meetings and exhibitions. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) on the insurance guarantee scheme. Finally, large events will recover only if there is some certainty over the unlocking of global travel. That remains uncertain and the Government need to give some clarity as to when or if quarantine measures will be reviewed.
This pandemic has been hugely difficult for the arts throughout the UK. In Wales, musicians, performers and others, such as freelance writers and technicians, often working in small companies and in very precarious circumstances, have been hit really hard. There is a particular issue in Wales in that so many aspects of the arts operate in two languages, exemplifying, I think, the force of the argument that the arts are not just traditional, just to be preserved as nice to have, but a vibrant part of our lives with a huge contribution to make to our wellbeing and to framing our ways of seeing the world. For example, the arts and entertainments sectors are essential in the efforts to reach a total of 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050 and that is set out explicitly in the policy document on this matter.
Equally, the arts are integral to our sense of ourselves and our wellbeing in Wales, from huge participative productions such as Michael Sheen’s extraordinary “Port Talbot Passion” with National Theatre Wales and WildWorks, to bringing solo harp music into a residential establishment for dementia sufferers here in Caernarfon. We have other large-scale events such as the Hay Festival and our National Eisteddfod, the largest peripatetic arts festival in Europe. That has been postponed again this year, but has risen magnificently to the challenge of going online, with spectacular results.
I should note also my interest as a member of Gorsedd Cymru, the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards, but this is not just about our domestic events. The International Eisteddfod at Llangollen, established at the end of the second world war as a means of international reconciliation, is also adapting its format beyond the live events. I hope that the international arts festival to be held here in Caernarfon next year will not be impacted. Without trying to cover absolutely everything, our television and film industry, our popular music and the visual arts must also be supported through this hardest of hard times.
In conclusion, many contributors to this debate have highlighted the economic value of the arts, particularly in terms of exports and of promoting world renown. I want to say that the arts are a good in and of themselves, for life is a matter not just of the stomach, but of the heart, the mind and the human spirit. That is why the arts are so important at this desperate time, inspiring us not to yield, never to despair.
I wanted to take part in this debate because I know how difficult things have been for the events and entertainment sector in my constituency. It is not possible in the time that I have to cover every single business and venue that has been affected. Needless to say I know that there are many, so I will focus my remarks on a few examples.
First, I have two nightclubs in my constituency, Nakatcha and The Studio. Nightclubs are not always the most popular venues with everybody in small towns but, as many of us have come to recognise, building the best possible future for our towns means that they have to be places in which young people want to live. Having a night-time offer that appeals to them is important and nightclubs are a big part of that. They also tend to employ a younger workforce, which we know is most at risk as we come out of the pandemic.
I thank the owners of those two venues for the responsible way in which they behaved during the first lockdown. They took the decision not to open before being told to close: there surely cannot be a better example of business leaders acting responsibly and thinking about their communities. I will never forget that, and I want everyone else in Crewe and Nantwich to know about it. They have not been able to operate as nightclubs since. The whole way through lockdown they have done a great job of lifting people’s spirits on social media, operating as first-rate meme factories on Facebook. They are looking forward to reopening in June if everything goes to plan. Will the Minister confirm that nightclubs will have access to the £5 billion reopening fund so that they can successfully roar back into action?
The other key venue that has been impacted is the Crewe Lyceum Theatre. It was supported by the £1.75 billion culture fund, which has been a lifeline for those at the theatre and I know how grateful they are. I thank the Government for their help, but we must ensure that the theatre can straddle the transition to reopening when it comes to the unwinding of furlough and the reintroduction of business rates.
My constituency is also lucky to have big cultural events such as the Nantwich Food Festival and the jazz festival, but both have already had to take the incredibly difficult decision to cancel their 2021 editions. These hugely successful events bring visitors and money to the town and they are part of our community. It was fantastic to see the team of food festival volunteers running community lockdown awards, kindly sponsored by Applewood Independent. The festivals are good examples of events that may need help in terms of insurance as we tackle ongoing uncertainty when events need to plan far in advance to be delivered successfully.
All that highlights how important the events research programme will be to so many people, jobs and businesses. It is vital that the Government are relentless in ensuring that the programme is robust, is delivered to time and looks at the sector fairly in terms of the risk. Vaccines have provided a light at the end of the tunnel, which has been particularly long and dark for this sector. I hope that we can do everything we can to get it out the other side.
As Members will be aware, Salford is a proud cultural and creative destination. Staring out across the Salford docks in 1983 at an industrial wasteland that had been ravaged by deindustrialisation, a group of councillors were proud of their city and they had a dream. They took a gamble and that dream became MediaCity. However, the precarity of the sectors that rebuilt our city could now break our city, as the livelihoods of thousands hang in the balance.
Many workers in Salford are insecure or freelance. For example, a third of people working in media alone are freelancers. However, even before the pandemic hit, too often so-called off-payroll working effectively made people in this sector zero-rights employees, with none of the rights of being an employee or the tax advantages of being self-employed. I draw Members’ attention to the National Union of Journalists’ freelance rights charter, which sets out a series of ways in which we could give greater protections and security to such workers.
The pandemic makes interventions to resolve insecurity more vital than ever. Millions have been excluded from any of the Government’s financial support packages. The Chancellor has repeatedly ignored their cries for help and they are desperate. If that was not enough, freelance media workers in England are also set to lose out on further training and reskilling opportunities as the Government plan to axe the union learning fund, directly threatening the Federation of Entertainment Unions’ training project—one of the few places media and creative freelancers can access free skills training.
Will the Minister assure me today that she will ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to include in his Budget statement tomorrow, first, an immediate emergency grant for those affected, secondly, new monthly arrangements while restrictions remain in place—in complete parity with the extension of the coronavirus job retention scheme and self-employment income support scheme—thirdly, retrospective payments for full and final settlements to deliver parity and fairness for those excluded from meaningful support and, finally, furlough extension for as long as it is needed? The failure to do any of those things not only means the deliberate engineering of social injustice into the fabric of our workforce, but will undermine Salford’s future as a media and cultural powerhouse.
It is a real treat to join this debate. I like what the American journalist Walter Lippmann said about culture:
“Culture is the name for what people are interested in”.
What are we most interested in? Of course, it will vary by generation, background, geography and many other things, but there is much that we all share, from our cinemas, trees, parks, hills and all of nature to our sports clubs, pubs, nightlife, churches, mosques, heritage and traditions. All are part of what we are interested in, and there is much more, of course, besides.
Not all those things fall under DCMS, but a lot of them do. When many such things have been out of reach for much if not all of the past year, and businesses responsible for the entertainment part of this debate—I think particularly of those involved in leisure, weddings and events—have not been able to open, we have to be grateful that the taxpayer has stepped in, via DCMS, to support so much of what should come back as quickly as possible.
I thank the Department for its work through the culture recovery fund, which has in my constituency of Gloucester provided resources to the Sherborne cinema, which is a great independent cinema; the Guildhall arts centre; the Music Works, which is part of the revival of musical culture in our city; the Three Choirs festival, which represents a great and long tradition of cathedral music; the city council itself; our cathedral, which is at the heart of so much of what happens in any cathedral city; the history festival, in respect of which I declare an interest as the founder and chairman; and St Mary de Crypt, where I am a patron. For all those things, I thank the Department.
I also thank the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which has played such a huge part in our city’s regeneration over the past decade, as has English Heritage through the heritage action zone project, which came into being before the pandemic but is being implemented now and is incredibly important. All these things matter collectively. I include things such as the green recovery fund, which comes from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs rather than DCMS and has supported the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, which is headquartered on Robinswood Hill, right in the middle of our city, and is an incredible feature.
I not only thank all those organisations but pay tribute to people such as my friend Justin who runs Butlers, the best nightclub in Gloucester, for all the work that he did on volunteering with food during the pandemic, and Mecca, which helped on that—lots of organisations have been pulling together. If culture is what we are interested in—
I am glad to have the opportunity to contribute to this debate and to advocate on behalf of the arts and entertainment sector in Northern Ireland which, in common with those elsewhere, has been profoundly disrupted by covid and has a long path back to normality and recovery. Typically, a venue needs to fit in 50% to 70% of capacity for a show to be viable, and that is unlikely to be safe for some time to come, so the sector is not going to be able to throw open the doors and bounce back to normal any time soon.
I welcome the additional funding throughout the year, but that and future funding will have to be underpinned by timely decisions and flexibility by the Northern Ireland Executive. The current emergency funding is being undermined by the structures of accounting periods, with groups getting very welcome cash injections but windows of just a couple of months in which to spend them. This means we require flexibility around existing and future funding and, going forward, a multi-annual framework that will address the chronic underfunding of arts in Northern Ireland which, at just £5.31 per head, compares unfavourably with Wales, at £10.03, or the equivalent of £12.79 in the Republic of Ireland.
We need a recovery strategy that acknowledges the value of the arts to the economy and its full ecosystem, as well as the intrinsic value of the arts, and that understands that future sector-wide reconstruction and redeployment would be far costlier than a rescue package and managed recovery right now. People who are being forced out of work in the arts because of these challenging years have skills that it will not be easy to replace.
I have spoken before about the gaps in the support for the self-employed and about how the sector is based on collaboration and short-term projects so is almost casualised by definition. I welcome hints that furlough will be extended in the Budget tomorrow, but I urge the Chancellor to ensure that the self-employed in the sector—including part-timers, PAYE freelancers and others—for whom solutions have been identified are addressed.
I welcome the calls from other Members about theatre tax relief, which is a tool to help people who are producing this year. I hope it is extended to digital—the safe platform that many are able to access this year. I support calls for mobility for artists around Europe. The devastating consequences of that issue are being masked by covid.
Seo Seachtáin na Gaeilge in Éireann, ó thuaidh agus ó theas. Seo seans againn ár dteanga agus ár gcultúir agus ár n-ealaoín a cheilúradh agus thig le gach duine sult a bhaint as—finally, it is Irish Language Week in Ireland, north and south, which is an opportunity to celebrate the value of language to culture and the arts in a way that can be enjoyed by everybody. Go raibh maith agat.
In Greater Manchester, the importance to our area of the cultural sector cannot be overstated. The visitor economy in GM is worth £2.6 billion per annum and supports 105,000 jobs. The digital and creative industries are worth £4.4 billion gross value added each year and support 78,500 jobs. Music alone contributes £169 million to the regional economy every year. However, we must not see culture and the arts as the preserve of cities and established cultural centres. In Bury, The Met theatre is a creative hub, hosting everything from Shakespeare to live comedy and its fantastic annual beer festival. Just as importantly, the pandemic has shone a light on the incredible work it does in the wider community, working with children from all backgrounds. I am delighted that it received Government support during lockdown.
In my constituency, the East Lancashire Railway is an iconic heritage asset. It is crucial to the visitor economy and supports jobs and skills, and is a direct working link to our past. Steam engines, as I am sure everyone will agree, are things of beauty. Culture takes many different forms throughout the country. ELR has received Government funding during lockdown, which has ensured its survival.
The Fusilier Museum is central to my town’s sense of identity as the proud home of the Lancashire Fusiliers. Again, I am thankful for the Government funding it received to continue its important cultural and heritage role within Bury, Ramsbottom and Tottington.
Culture, however, means different things to different people. I would argue strongly that Gigg Lane, the historical home of Bury FC, is both a cultural and heritage asset. It is central to the identity of thousands of my constituents. Away from sport, Bury currently has no relatively large-scale outdoor stadium venue where concerts and other live events can be held. Sport, community, history and culture are intimately entwined.
The opportunities to use culture as a means of increasing opportunity and life chances, and supporting the local economy, must be supported nationally and locally. The Co-op theatre in Ramsbottom is a rare surviving example of a music hall from the 1870s. It is of national significance because of the original interior features still in situ. Most of the building has not been used for years, but its rebirth will be transformational for everyone who lives and works in the town. The building inspires and is loved by locals. If the community, together with the public and private sector, can work in partnership to deliver a unique cultural asset for everyone to enjoy, the residents of Bury North will see the power of culture to transform lives on their very doorstep.
May I take this moment to welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens) back to her rightful place on the Front Bench?
It is good news, if it is true, that there will be £400 million more for the creative industries in the Budget. Most of the funding, of course, will be going to the culture recovery fund, which is overdue, as the period that the fund was supposed to help organisations has stretched considerably. However, I particularly welcome new funding for community cultural projects, as local creative groups are often incubators of talent that go on to be world-beating creators of content, but of course the devil is in the detail.
After speaking to friends in the sector, there are a couple of points I would like to raise for the Minister to answer. Will this extra money mean that there will be a hike in VAT before the sector can get back on its feet? Will this money be recouped from local authorities, which have already had their budgets cruelly cut? They are some of the biggest providers of culture in our communities. Also, insurance is particularly important for our festivals and touring shows. Glastonbury has already said that it is unable to take the risk, and Download will not be back until 2022 because of the pandemic. Now that there is a “not before” date in place for festivals, insurance is the last stumbling block for organisers.
Dance, drama and music students have had their training cruelly interrupted. They have no chance to work together in ensembles or to put on a play. These students, the new talent, have been poorly served, with some drama schools shrugging their shoulders and saying there is nothing more they can do, but with the students still being forced to pay the eye-watering cost of their training. Can the Minister tell us whether any work is under way with colleagues in the Department for Education to support bringing this future generation through? This is being particularly keenly felt by working-class students, who could fall by the wayside without the high-quality and thorough training offered by our country’s exceptional conservatoires. The playwright James Graham commented after the Golden Globes:
“Daniel Kaluuya wrote a play aged 9, breakout role @royalcourt. John Boyega at @TheatrePeckham. @JoshOConnor15 at @BristolOldVic, Emma Corrin in student theatre.”
Talent does not just arrive; it has to be grown. The ecosystem of the arts must nurture diverse voices, and if the Government want to level up the country, I would like to know where the plan is to ensure that those traditionally further from opportunity get support and training. We have also heard about the workforce, and I will not go into that again, but if the speculation is true that a rise in national insurance for the self-employed is imminent when so many have not had a penny of support, that is a step that will feel particularly cruel. Finally, can the Minister give us an update on the creative passport arrangements that will support our tourism sector so that it goes on to flourish?
It is a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin).
Darlington is the birthplace of the railways, and, as I have highlighted to the House on many occasions, we are the historic home of Locomotion No. 1 and the location of the world heritage site at Skerne Bridge, the oldest surviving railway bridge in the world, both of which have featured on our nation’s £5 notes. The Friends of the Stockton and Darlington Railway have received £35,000 of culture recovery funds and the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, which builds new steam trains, has received over £150,000.
Darlington is not just about trains, however. Our heritage goes beyond the steel in our railways and the bricks in our stunning Victorian town centre. Today, Darlington is home to a vibrant community of artistic excellence at sites such as the Forum Music Centre and the Hippodrome, which received £106,000 and £1 million respectively from the culture recovery fund, and the town has recently been awarded its second purple flag for 2021. Sadly, these sites have been among the worst affected over the past year, with extended periods of closure since last March.
I am proud of the decision taken by the Government to protect Darlington’s cultural sector and the jobs that it provides to my constituents. Through the coronavirus job retention stream, the kickstart scheme and the self-employment income support scheme, thousands of jobs and livelihoods have been protected, and Government-guaranteed business loans, lockdown grants and discretionary grants have supported many businesses in the entertainment sector. Right across the country, the Government’s exceptional £1.57 billion culture recovery fund has supported our much loved cultural sector. More than 3,000 organisations across the country have benefited from access to the fund, supporting more than 70,000 jobs nationwide, with many more freelancers and jobs in the supply chain industries also benefiting.
Last week, our culture sector listened intently as the Prime Minister announced our road map out of lockdown. I welcome the provisions in the road map that will unlock our culture and entertainment sector, and I look forward to seeing our cinemas, museums and theatres opening right across Darlington from 17 May. I look forward to visiting the Head of Steam Museum, attending events at the Hippodrome or taking in some live music. It is thanks to the hard work of those in the culture sector and the work of the DCMS team to support them that we can look forward in this way.
In the past year, we have seen many hundreds of thousands of people out of work, with many of them no longer having jobs to return to. We have seen 123,000 people tragically die due to covid-19. While today we are debating the economic impacts of the virus, we cannot forget that lockdowns and social distancing were the correct thing to do to prevent this tragic death toll from being even higher. Over the coming months, we need to continue to protect lives, but it is not a zero-sum game where we need to abandon public health precautions in order to reopen the economy. We need an approach that protects livelihoods while also saving lives.
The need for support to protect livelihoods is particularly acute in the cultural and entertainment industries, which have had to close their doors for much of the past year. Even the most optimistic plans for reopening mean that they will not be back at full capacity until towards the end of this year or later. In the absence of support, many organisations have turned to the internet to keep working. Livestream performances, ranging from classical music to opera and plays, have been an invaluable lifeline not only to performers but to people staying at home during lockdown.
Bizarrely, orchestras putting on livestream performances are not eligible for the tax relief they would receive if they had attendees in person. The Government’s guidance on orchestra tax relief says that it can only be claimed if there are some attendees in person, but that is clearly impossible at a time when audiences cannot attend. Can the Minister confirm that the Government will address that in the Budget, to ensure that orchestras get the financial support they need when they livestream without an audience present in person? While I am talking about live music, we cannot let the hon. Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) get away with claiming the best brass band in the world, when we have the award-winning Eccles Borough Band and the Cadishead Public Band.
In the Budget tomorrow, we need support for the people who work in the cultural industries. I have heard from many of my constituents who work in MediaCity in Salford and have found themselves excluded from the Government’s financial support so far. The nature of their work means that many of them are on a mix of self-employed work and short-term pay-as-you-earn contracts, and they do not get support through the self-employment income support scheme. Unless they were under contract at the end of March last year, they did not get furlough support. A year into this crisis, they still have not had any support, and it is worse for people at the start of their careers, when they have not had time to build up any reserves.
Can the Minister tell us whether the Budget tomorrow will finally contain support for those people who have been excluded so far, so that they can get through the remaining months of this pandemic without facing further financial hardship? The Minister may say that he cannot reveal measures ahead of the Budget, but that rule seems to have been comprehensively abandoned.
If we are talking about live music in Lancashire, I am sure that my hon. Friends the Members for Bury South (Christian Wakeford) and for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe) would never forgive me if I did not take this opportunity to mention the Lancashire Hotpots, but it is Milton Keynes that concerns me most and, of course, Britain in general.
Britain is home to world-class cultural, arts and heritage organisations—in fact, world-leading ones; we do not say that enough—and Milton Keynes is no exception. With live music venues The Stables and Unit Nine, visitor experience attractions MK City Discovery Centre and Gulliver’s Land, and arts venues such as MK Theatre and MK Gallery, there is no shortage of fantastic venues that support incredible talent. I could spend the rest of the debate talking about their huge impact locally and further afield.
Venues in Milton Keynes cannot wait to throw open their doors again, and I am pleased that the road map has given much-needed clarity to all of us about when we will get there, but I know from the businesses that contact me that, despite that clear end in sight, many in the sector are worried that they just will not make it until the end of spring. I stood in this place only last week to call for councils to do more to release the Government funds that they have to support local businesses, and still, this afternoon, emails were coming into my office from businesses that have asked and asked about how they access these funds from the council and have been told to wait or to look elsewhere.
There is an end in sight. We all know that when those doors open again and the cultural and entertainment venues are back in business and part of the vibe that we have in Milton Keynes and in Britain, that will be the downhill journey on this great mountain of covid. The Government have released billions in funding through the culture recovery fund and billions more in the additional restrictions grant. The sector should now be given the confidence it needs, with councils releasing the funds that are desperately required for venues to reopen safely later in the spring. With the right financial support in place, with a concise and clear road map guided by the data, and with everyone doing their bit in keeping cases down, we can be confident that the cultural and entertainment sectors can bounce back stronger than ever.
It is a privilege to be called to speak in this debate, and it is fantastic to see my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens) back in her rightful place. I will keep my comments brief, but in doing so I hope to catch up on a number of key issues that are close to my heart and the hearts of many in Pontypridd and beyond.
Colleagues may be aware—given my determined and committed approach to raising issues around wrestling, they certainly should be—that I am co-chair, along with my good friend the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mark Fletcher), of the all-party parliamentary group on wrestling. It has rapidly become clear to me that the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on sectors such as wrestling that fall between governance gaps. Wrestling is unique in that it is classified by some as a sport and by others as a performative entertainment. The situation is complicated further given that the industry currently has no formal regulatory or governing body. I appreciate that the Government are taking small steps towards engagement—indeed, I was pleased to meet the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston), today to discuss these issues—but I sincerely hope that specific consideration will be given to industries such as wrestling that have fallen through the gaps in both financial support and coronavirus regulations guidance.
I am afraid that those in the wrestling industry are not the only ones who have been losing out. The situation across the UK’s culture and entertainment sector as a whole is currently pretty dire. We have all heard time and again about the millions of people who have been excluded from the Government’s financial support packages, and freelance workers in our creative sectors have been particularly badly hit. People who have dedicated their lives to their craft have had to cope with the devastating blow of being forgotten, belittled and ignored. I sincerely hope that the Chancellor takes the opportunity in his Budget to make amends and put things right.
The Minister knows and, I believe, shares my concerns about the viability of creatives being able to tour and travel across Europe for work purposes. My hon. Friend the Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) mentioned her brass band, and the hon. Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) claimed that he had the world’s best brass band, but I am going to blow my own trumpet and declare that in fact I have the best brass band in my patch: the Cory Band from Rhondda Cynon Taff currently holds the official title. Without any ability to avoid costly administrative fees, bands such as the Cory Band will be limited in their ability to thrive and spread the word of the UK’s proud musical heritage to our friends on the continent. That said, I thank the Minister for his engagement on this topic and sincerely hope that the work of the Department will see a viable solution put in place to support those who have been impacted.
The situation could be different. In Wales, the Welsh Labour Government’s £63 million culture recovery fund has been a lifeline for those facing a tough time, and I sincerely hope that the UK Government will follow their lead in prioritising support for the cultural and entertainment sectors. Need I remind the Minister that this sector, which is so central both to the recovery of our country’s economy and to individual people’s wellbeing, deserves our utmost attention and support? We all know that actions speak louder than words, and the cultural and entertainment sectors and those working in them desperately need to see positive change before it is too late.
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones). I want to cover three areas in this important debate on the eve of the Budget: the BBC; protecting the jobs of journalists, on behalf of the National Union of Journalists; and the charitable sector in my own constituency.
Those employed in the cultural and entertainment sector account for a large proportion of the 3 million still excluded from Government support. These sectors provide essential services. They include the charities distributing hot meals to those self-isolating. They also include investigative journalists uncovering the truth, which we really need to know, behind many of the stories about covid. Freelance journalists have been particularly badly impacted during the pandemic. In a time of national crisis, the value of the BBC has never been more important. It has been an outstanding and authoritative news source, providing information as well as educational programming to give parents home-schooling support. Indeed, the BBC is the heart of the UK’s creative economy, but what is not widely appreciated is that it generates £2 for the wider economy for every £1 spent, which sustains thousands of independent production companies and suppliers up and down the country.
Sadly, the Government failed to honour their manifesto promise to keep the free TV licence for the over-75s. Their decision instead to transfer responsibility to the BBC was, in my view, outrageous. Not only has that resulted in a direct attack on the entitlements of elderly people, but the £500 million annual hit to the BBC budget is resulting in programming cuts and more than 500 jobs being lost from BBC news production.
The National Union of Journalists has highlighted the damaging impact of axing investigative reporting such as the award-winning “Inside Out” programme. Will the Minister ensure that, in the next round of charter renewal negotiations, we have a transparent negotiation that ensures that the BBC has the resources it needs to invest in improving news and political coverage?
I also want to mention the charitable sector, and the excellent East Durham Trust in my constituency. Ministers still have not confirmed whether they will extend the deadline to give charities more time to use this much-needed funding. I am grateful for the support of the Chair of the Select Committee, but I would like the Minister to respond in a timely way to allow the charitable sector to plan accordingly. These things—
My constituents and I are very lucky to have many rich cultural institutions on our doorstep: the Black Country Living Museum; Dudley zoo and castle; Wren’s Nest site of special scientific interest; the Canal and River Trust; nature reserves; our microbreweries and pubs; our bowling greens and parks—the list really does go on. The past year has undoubtedly had a huge impact in many ways on this sector, but with its resilience and Government support, such as the culture recovery fund and the zoo animals fund, our museums, zoos and entertainment venues will once again see us all flocking back to them.
I am proud of the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley for playing such a pivotal role in our recovery from the pandemic by playing host to a major vaccination hub in our area. I have been volunteering there weekly, and I have seen at first hand the work and support of museum and NHS staff and volunteers. The museum is due to begin major works on its capital development, with a £30 million investment in the local community made possible by support from funders including the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s culture capital kickstart fund via the culture recovery fund, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and the Black Country local enterprise partnership.
Dudley zoo is another fantastic organisation in the constituency that has benefited from financial support to help sustain it throughout the period of closure. I have been in contact with its director, Derek Grove, who has led a fantastic team to ensure that, despite the closure, the zoo’s animals have been looked after, with vital conservation work continued. But despite the Government’s generous support, finances, particularly for zoos such as Dudley’s, have been left far too tight for comfort.
The Budget tomorrow is a crucial chance for the Government to continue their historic and world-leading investment in our cultural and entertainment sectors. Our cultural and heritage venues are much more than just places for us to visit with families and friends on a day out; they are places of work and vital contributors to our local economies, conservation and biodiversity, and they will all play a big part in our recovery from the pandemic.
I hope and look forward to hearing how the Chancellor and our Government will further support our cultural and entertainment organisations throughout the rest of the pandemic and beyond, to ensure not just a sharp bounce back but their longevity into a successful future.
This is a super opportunity to represent the people of Bracknell as we recover from covid. Some headlines, if I may: the £500 million film and TV production restart scheme; one year of business rates holiday worth over £10 billion plus temporary reduction of VAT; 200 independent cinemas across England being supported with £16 million of grants; Sport England announces £220 million of emergency funding for grassroots clubs. The list goes on. But we can, of course, do better. I really welcome the news from the Prime Minister that the road map will allow outdoor sports to resume from 29 March; the light at the end of the tunnel is almost with us, and that is very welcome, but I urge the Government to consider pushing this date to the left wherever possible.
Bracknell is blessed with some stunning golf courses of the highest quality, and it has been a real source of frustration to my constituents to see their sport lumped in with others. It is an outdoor sport and we can separate very easily, so let us get the courses open quickly, please. The same applies to grassroots sports, to tennis and to gymnasiums. Let us get our leisure activities up and running.
Elite football has kept many of us sane for the last few months, myself included. However, those not in the upper echelons of the elite have struggled immensely and are on their last legs. Without big-money television deals, non-league football relies on ticket sales to be viable. A year down the line, clubs have are still being asked to wait until 17 May before getting the fans back into their stadiums. That is just too late. These clubs also need grants, not loans. It is essential that these lifeblood clubs are properly supported right across the community.
As for entertainment in the round, it is imperative that our pubs and restaurants are opened quickly, as well as cinemas, theatres and the wedding industry. The live music sector contributed £4.5 billion to the economy in 2019, supporting 210,000 jobs and providing £1.6 billion in VAT receipts. The sector is too valuable to stay closed. Let us please get it open. Why not an extension of the 5% VAT rate for ticket sales? Why not a Government-backed insurance scheme, giving the industry the confidence to book shows? Why not an extension of business rates relief beyond April 2021?
The UK has a really proud motorsports industry that is essential for jobs and livelihoods, and is one of our best exports. Aside from the flagship Formula 1 series, it is imperative that the UK gets its round of the world rally championship back to our shores. May I please commend having a round of the rally in Northern Ireland in 2022? The infrastructure in place. The political benefits are absolute: the Union; protocols; Stormont; reconciliation; legacy. Let us please get it done. DCMS, please find some money.
I want to refocus the debate slightly—on to the public, and the fundamental fact that the public want to get out and have fun. They have been cooped up for the best part of a year, even though many have still been going to work. Now, as spring approaches, they want to get out and enjoy themselves, and good luck to them, I say. They want to get out, let their hair down a bit and enjoy themselves. I would say that they want to get back to merrie England, if I could get that past the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady); I hope he understands that I encompass the good folk of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in that. This applies across all age groups.
We have to reset the balance of the debate. Of course, health concerns are crucial, but so are jobs, businesses and the economy. Like many of their customers, a large part of the workforce are young, and the closure of the industry is one of the drivers of the huge spike in youth unemployment. Unemployment leads not only to deprivation, but to sickness and premature death. Jobs, jobs, jobs really matter. The balance has to shift from whether we open up the sector and the related sectors of hospitality, sport and exercise to how we open them up. I shall coin a phrase, if I may: be driven by the data and not by dates.
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about jobs, but of course this is also important for socialisation and community—for people getting together. People are social animals, and he is right that socialisation is critical to individual wellbeing and communal health.
The right hon. Gentleman is right about that. If the vaccine certificate will assist, the Government should get a move on, rather than using the languid approach they are taking at the moment.
The danger has been that the debate can be posed in binary terms, pitching hospitals against hospitality, one a matter of life and death, with the other able to be painted as more discretionary and even frivolous. But that is a balance that has to be struck; that is what government is about—that is its function. Currently, millions of people are unemployed, furloughed or laid off. Many of them are freelance workers who are slipping through the gaps and desperate for support. Hundreds of thousands of family businesses, their hopes, dreams, and life’s work and savings sunk into them, are at risk every month of going under and are just hanging on, and that is quite apart from the vast ecosystem that supports them and depends on them.
The loss of this sector would also leave a huge gap in our national life. The cultural and entertainment sector is one in which our nation excels. It is part of what makes living worth while and Britain special. We do not live by bread alone, but give us roses too. Our quality of life would be seriously weakened if we had the withering away of the sector—not just the cultural sector with the international and national centres, but many local theatres, music centres, clubs and pubs. Apart from being good in themselves, they are the crucial supply chain for the sector; no one started in the music industry by playing the O2. This is about keeping our communities thriving. We talk about town centres and the high streets, which have taken a bit hit with the decline of physical retail, but take out culture, entertainment and hospitality and they will wither and die. This sector is a huge draw not just for tourists but for inward investors and the skilled mobile international workforce. Let’s get this industry back to work.
My city is fortunate to have not one or even two theatres, but three. Live performance was an integral part of life in Peterborough before the virus struck and, thanks to the support available from the Government, it will be again. Our theatres were really struggling last summer—I do not pretend that times are rosy now, but thinks did look bleak—and I wrote to the Secretary of State setting out the problems the arts faced in Peterborough.
For the New theatre, in particular, which relied entirely on its own box office receipts, those problems were closing in. Given the troubled history of that venue, it would have been a tragedy to have lost the New theatre just after it was revitalised and was enjoying success. I congratulate the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones) on her support for the wrestling industry. As the vice-chair of her all-party group, she might be aware that the New theatre was the venue for my pro wrestling debut last year, before lockdown. On the other side of our city is the Key theatre, which is, as its name suggests, absolutely key to Peterborough’s identity. It was an important part of my childhood and I want it to be an important part of the childhoods of both my daughters and of countless other young people in Peterborough. A short trip outside the centre takes us to Bretton, where we have The Cresset, which is the perfect example of a successful multi-purpose venue.
To have three theatres in a small working city such as Peterborough is a cultural achievement. We are proud to have them and they are crucial to our plans for future growth and regeneration. All three theatres were under severe financial pressure last year. The Key theatre is owned by the council, which provided support, but that left the other two, so I was thrilled that the New theatre and The Cresset received nearly £900,000 from this Government’s cultural recovery fund. Overall, Peterborough got £1.1 million, helping not just our theatres, but wonderful organisations such as Peterborough Sings!, a musical education charity that runs four choirs and lots of outreach work.
I am incredibly grateful for this action to save our cultural life, but, as with any financial support, while covid restrictions continue the money will last only for a finite period. That is why I am so pleased to hear that there may be £400 million available for the sector. I know that the Minister will hear pleas from across the country, but I assure him that there is no more deserving place than Peterborough. I also hope that Ministers will do what they can to facilitate a speedy return to normality. Our theatres do not want bail-outs; they want to perform.
I will just say to the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar) that art knows no boundaries or borders.
The creative sector is the life and soul of Glasgow North, and it has been a huge privilege to represent its talent of all kinds—established an up-and-coming artists of every genre and generation imaginable—and venues to suit them all, from the small Hug and Pint on Great Western Road to the famous Stand comedy club, Òran Mór and Cottiers, and across the city there are even more world-class venues. But they were some of the first to close, and they will be the last to reopen.
Artists have been some of the hardest hit by the restrictions of the pandemic. To be a performing artist or work in the creative industry is not a hobby; it is a way of life and a way of making a living. We have heard that throughout the debate, and I have heard it from so many of my constituents. Its contribution is not just economic; the cultural and social value cannot be measured. Art helps us to understand the world around us, and that will be only even more important post pandemic.
I reflected recently that live performances are definitely one part of the old normal that I have missed the most. I am looking forward to them coming back in the months to come. But that return will not be by magic. Performers do not just get up on stage and perform for the first time. As the right hon. Member for Warley said, no one began their career playing the O2; they need to rehearse and prepare, and they need physical space and support to do that. They need a supply chain behind them of sound and lighting, supplies and materials, but again many of my constituents in those sectors have been hit hard. Some of that is to do with the models of employment and contracts that have been part of the industry to allow flexibility and creativity, but that means they are some of the people who have been most likely to find themselves excluded from the Government’s support packages. If they end up on universal credit, the uncertainty about what even that paltry income might look like only exacerbates the situation. Compare that to what a universal basic income might have looked like, or even the certainty that the German furlough has provided.
Throughout the pandemic, there have been—even in difficult circumstances—real achievements. I pay tribute to the incredible virtual Celtic Connections festival that took place, and I know from friends and constituents that online tutoring and performance will undoubtedly be part of the new normal. There have been collaborations of different kinds of creativity, too: I think of House of McCallum whiskies, based in Glasgow North, whose McPink blended Scotch features a design by artist Ashley Cook on the packaging. Our craft and boutique spirit distillers and producers lend their own creativity to the arts sector and need support, too.
We welcome what support the Government in the UK and in Scotland have been able to provide, but they need to live up to the rhetoric we are hearing from Ministers today with support going forward. Certainty is what is needed to help get our artists back on their feet and back on the road—and that is crucial for artists and audiences alike.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady). I want to use the short time I have, first, to recognise the resilience, innovation and ingenuity that exists in the culture and entertainment sector. The sector has a key part to play in shaping society post pandemic. It is this sector that makes us feel good. It is a fast-growing sector and a key export driver. This is the sector where we find memorable experiences in our town centres and on our high streets.
I have heard from many who work in the arts in Warrington South—musicians, producers and camera operators—who have welcomed the Prime Minister’s road map to returning our world to some form of normality, but there is no denying that people who worked in the sector have been particularly badly hit. Some have been unable to access support schemes because they were freelance. So I acknowledge the efforts that the Government have gone to in order to get people back into work in the film and TV sector with the unique restart scheme. It has allowed TV production to begin again, including on British dramas such as “Peaky Blinders”, which is being filmed just down the road from me here.
The Government have also stepped in to support commercial radio and local newspapers with enhanced advertising campaigns. That sector saw massive drops in ad spending, so we must be cautious about the impact of the legislation on products high in fat, salt, and/or sugar and the pace at which that is implemented. I also ask the Minister to look at how the Government can support smaller independent media companies such as Warrington Worldwide and The Cheshire Times. Because they are not part of large media organisations, they have not seen the level of ad spend that others have benefited from.
As the chair of the all-party parliamentary media group, I have supported calls from across the sector for an advertising tax credit. Local communities benefit from a vibrant local media, and a vibrant local media can do wonders for a local economy. The culture recovery fund has made a huge difference to many organisations, including the Parr Hall and Pyramid Arts Centre in Warrington. This is a tough, challenging time, though, for the supply chain in that sector.
To conclude, for many young people—and I include you in this, Mr Deputy Speaker—the August bank holiday heralds Creamfields, one of the most important dance music festivals. We have welcomed thousands from across the UK to Warrington South in previous years. Creamfields benefits the hotels, the bars and the taxi businesses in my community, and I am glad to see that it is already a provisional sell-out.
I want, finally, to highlight to the Minister some of the smaller organisations and voluntary groups, such as the Lymm festival and St Margaret’s community foundation in Latchford, which have received £15,000 in funding to keep their doors open, and we have a range of assets being supported by the communities fund. The Budget is a crucial chance for the Government to continue their historic and world-leading investment in our culture and entertainment sector, and I am sure the Minister will join me in urging the Chancellor to do everything he can to continue to support this vital sector.
In 2017, Hull was the city of culture, and that legacy and love of culture lives on. I have sorely missed the magic of a live music event, with the buzz from being in a crowded room and listening to a band I love. Surely, we all just love a good night out, and culture brings that colour to our lives. As the revolutionary change to the way we work takes hold and more businesses realise that remote working means they are not tied to any geographical area, Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle will have a bright and bold future. Many people will learn what I already know, which is that not only is the cost of living low, with really friendly people and full-fibre broadband, but the city is culturally rich and vibrant. Living here really does mean you can have your cake and eat it.
Hull is home to the Adelphi, which is an iconic music venue that supports new and upcoming talent, often having offered huge names their first chance to perform. In Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, there is the Polar Bear, which has been saved, thanks to a crowdfunding campaign, and the Welly and O’Rileys, which have hosted bands such as Oasis, Pulp and U2. The constituency also contains the recently opened 3,500-seat Bonus arena and conference centre. We really are one of the country’s best kept secrets.
While the £1.57 billion support package for the arts was welcome, it seemed to focus too much on saving buildings and not enough on saving jobs. We need a plan to support live music. Locally, fundraisers are already happening, and I would urge Members to go and look at the iconic limited edition print that the charity Adelphi is offering right now.
We do not just have live music here. A few weeks ago, I introduced Parliament to the two loggerhead rescue turtles, Sensa and Mabouche, which have found their forever home at The Deep. I did this to highlight the problems that The Deep is having in accessing the zoo recovery fund. We want this fund to require organisations to demonstrate the financial impact of covid on their incomes, rather than, as at the moment, having to be on the verge of running out of reserves before they can get access to it. Sadly, The Deep will be one of the last things to reopen, but, as we found out, the daily animal care costs £5,500. I hope the Chancellor will offer something to important zoos and aquariums such as The Deep.
I cannot talk about culture without very quickly talking about pubs because, let us be honest, on a night out they are often where we start and often where we end up as well, and they are a quintessential part of British culture. Landlords have spent a fortune making their pubs covid-secure and they have done everything they have been asked to do, and now they need something back. They need the VAT cut, business rate holiday and furlough to continue. In my last few seconds, let me make my most important point: when this lockdown ends, please get it right and do not put us back into another lockdown again.
At the start of the pandemic, I of course knew what a wonderful cultural background we had in Blaydon constituency, but I had no idea just how many people there were and how rich a cultural landscape there was. There are so many people engaged across music, events production, the arts and cultural activities in my constituency, and it has been wonderful to meet them and to learn about their respective industries and the issues they face. Of course, the creative industries in our region, like elsewhere, are interwoven. From freelancers to small businesses, they all form a complex web, relying on the health of the collective to flourish and function as an industry. So the pandemic, once it hit, hit people in this sector hard. The events industry shut down overnight, galleries closed and music venues shut. Sadly, none of them has opened up since.
Things have moved on since my initial conversations with them, but some of the people and businesses in my constituency have been badly affected. Mandylights, a lighting and creative design business for large-scale events, tells me that the industry still requires continued support. The RNB Group, which runs corporate events, told me that it has lost more than £1.5 million in revenue. Claire Malcolm, chief executive of New Writing North, a well-respected development agency for writing and reading in the north, highlighted the cultural recovery funding. She applauds that funding from DCMS, but notes that it is focused on supporting buildings, performance, and gallery-based activities. There are hidden issues about smaller and non-building based organisations not getting access to that recovery support. The work that those smaller organisations do often directly supports freelance artists, other creative practitioners, and technical support companies. Last year, New Writing North provided work for 190 freelancers.
The north-east has a proud history of cultural investment: the Angel of the North, Baltic, the Sage—there are so many to mention. I am pleased that work is going on in the north-east culture partnership, bringing together all 12 local authorities in the north-east, and I urge the Minister to look at that. The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women, and the future looks bleak for many dance teachers and freelancers who are women. On top of that, the visa issue for those who work or hope to work in the EU is a problem. The Government need to support freelancers. Getting the creative industries back to pre-pandemic growth is essential.
With the road map to releasing us from lockdown now published, there cannot be many sectors that are breathing a bigger sigh of relief than the cultural sector. For cultural and entertainment businesses, lockdowns and restrictions have put limits on exactly the thing they thrive off. For example, the Exchange arts centre in Keighley is one of many fantastic entertainment venues in my constituency that give local musicians a chance to showcase their talents in front of enthusiastic crowds. Inevitably, limits on social contact have had a detrimental impact, with the pandemic forcing venues to cancel events and close their doors. Financial support has, of course, been welcome, but for businesses such as the Exchange, nothing can truly compare to a busy bar and a live performance on stage.
Lockdown has opened up many new opportunities and ways of doing things. For example, a band called Deco is trending on social media at the moment. They have released some awesome mash-ups of contemporary music and 80s pop, with their recordings taking place on Zoom. I urge the Minister to take a listen to their “Wonderwall” and “Smalltown Boy” mash-up.
Everyone in the music industry is desperate for us to get back to normal, and the same can be said for many businesses in the tourism industry, of which there are many in my constituency. People come from near and far to enjoy the Brontë country, or to take a ride on the Keighley and Worth valley railway. The pandemic has hit the tourism sector hard. When tourist attractions such as the Keighley and Worth valley railway or the Ilkley toy museum are thriving, that has a positive impact on many businesses across Keighley and Ilkley. If people visit those attractions, they also go to the pubs, restaurants and cafes. If pubs and restaurants get more demand, so will local breweries such as Timothy Taylor’s, Wishbone brewery, or Ilkley brewery in my constituency. Accommodation venues such as Upwood holiday park in the Worth valley can then accommodate those visitors. I cannot exaggerate the importance of cultural and tourism attractions to our local economy. When those venues lose revenue, so do many other businesses. That is why Government support for these industries has been so welcome over the past year, but I must continue to urge the Government to ensure that, as we reopen our cultural and entertainment economy, support continues until restrictions are removed in their entirety, as these industries rely on ticket sales, seats being filled and bars being full. Until these venues are given the full green light to open, running profitably or even at a break-even level will continue to be a challenge for many.
The arts and culture sector has been devastated by covid and, throughout the pandemic, it has been an afterthought, yet it is crucial to the UK’s recovery not just for its economic contribution, but for its importance to all our mental health. In my Bath constituency, arts and culture are an integral part of our local economy, contributing to the huge attraction that the city offers to visitors from around the world.
Of course, I recognise that the Government have done something. The culture recovery fund was a source of relief and I am very pleased for the Roman baths, Bath Abbey and Cleveland pools, which got welcome funding, some of which will go towards meeting the loss of revenue. However, the reality for many other venues and organisations is that this fund came too late and was spread too thinly. The Government certainly do not understand the need of the creative workforce, many of whom are freelancers. They have not been eligible for the self-employed income support scheme and feel abandoned. In tomorrow’s Budget, the Chancellor must look at adopting general support packages to give targeted support to those working in the creative sectors.
Live music has been particularly hard hit. Venues have not been able to open for any meaningful length of time throughout last year and the beginning of this year and could now be months behind the rest of the country. Venues such as The Bell in Bath are looking for innovative ways to maintain social distancing and will be live-streaming gigs online and to other parts of the building, and I congratulate it on its efforts. The music industry will need support from Government to see it through until 21 June and I urge Ministers to support a Government-backed insurance scheme that will provide much needed confidence for the sector.
Museums and galleries will have to wait until May before they can open again. Public Health England states that there is no evidence that they are sites of transmission. Art galleries such as the Holburne Museum in Bath have shown that it would be possible to open safely, and it makes no sense that they are not treated the same as the retail sector, which will be able to open five weeks earlier. At a time when museums are suffering from months without visitors, reduced staff and budgets, the Government’s road map is leaving them very vulnerable and reinforces the sense that other industries are being treated differently. I ask the Government to look again at their plans to allow museums and galleries to reopen as part of step 2.
The arts and culture is vital not only for our economy, but for our wellbeing. Its damage is damage to all of us.
As many Members across the House have said, fewer sectors have been harder hit by the coronavirus pandemic than our cultural and entertainment sector, which is an absolutely vital driver for our incredibly important hospitality sector in North West Durham.
First, I thank the Minister for the culture recovery fund and heritage emergency fund money that has come the way of North West Durham. We have seen over £500,000 for Durham and Darlington music education hub. Ushaw College has had over £500,000 in total. Durham Wildlife Trust has had £45,000. The Weardale Museum, a really important new local venture, has had £45,000 as well, but the largest support for the sector has come through the furlough scheme and the grants for local pubs and clubs that have really made a difference to so many businesses and cultural venues in North West Durham.
At the moment, we are seeing a huge investment in Durham from Durham County Council, but very little of that is coming to my constituency. In fact, in a recent survey I did, 91% of my constituents said that they are very unhappy with the fact that Durham County Council is spending £63 million on leisure services across the county, but there is hardly anything for my constituents.
That is in sharp contrast with local people themselves, who are putting their shoulders to the wheel. I think particularly of David, who runs The Roxy in Leadgate, a really important former cinema and then bingo hall that he is trying to rejuvenate. I urge the Minister to ask his colleagues whether it would be possible to visit David, because it is a fantastic project. We have some superb local bands, including the Bearpark and Esh Colliery Band, and some superb local institutions, such as the Weardale Adventure Centre, which has missed out on the culture recovery fund. I urge the Minister to have a word with the Chancellor ahead of the Budget tomorrow, because those rural outdoor education settings are so important.
Me and my hon. Friends the Members for Darlington (Peter Gibson), for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison) and for Sedgefield (Paul Howell) have a bid to get the Weardale railway going again. It is a really important heritage site, connecting so many of our cultural and entertainment sectors. I hope that the Minister will use his good offices to help us lobby the Department for Transport to get that over the line. Finally, I would like to commend the many people in my local area who work in this sector. It is vital now and for our recovery, and I hope that the Minister will have some positive words with the Chancellor to help the sector recover and grow.
Beginner’s luck refers to the supposed phenomenon of novices experiencing disproportionate success. You can therefore imagine my delight, Mr Deputy Speaker, when my first lobbying letter signed by Norfolk and Suffolk MPs asking for money for the arts and culture sector resulted in £1.57 billion coming forward. I have consoled myself that that was rather a good bit of timing, but there is a serious message here. In Norfolk, arts and culture are embedded in our communities, with a thriving network of venues, from small community art spaces to large world-renowned venues. The closures due to covid-19 have had a devastating impact on those cultural venues, and while social distancing remains in place, their inability to reopen properly will continue to stunt their recovery. We know this, and that is why the Government’s vaccination programme, recovery road map and sector support have been so welcome.
I only have to look at my constituency, North Norfolk, to see how the culture recovery fund has been a lifeline and supported many of my flagship attractions. Hundreds of thousands of people visit one of the finest heritage railways in the country and I am proud to have the much-loved North Norfolk railway running its steam trains between Sheringham and Holt. It benefited from £360,000, as did the equally culturally rich attractions of Wells Maltings, the Sheringham Little Theatre and our wonderful independent Regal Movieplex cinema in Cromer. I need do no more, Mr Deputy Speaker, than merely suggest that, when you come to North Norfolk for your summer hols—and you are most welcome—you take a trip on the North Norfolk steam railway, and as you return to Sheringham, do enjoy our Little Theatre. But don’t forget that you are spoilt for choice, with the productions in Wells and the movies in Cromer. I may even join you.
My picture postcard of North Norfolk has to end here, because where there are winners, there are always those who have painfully missed out. We read that the Chancellor has reserved another £400 million for the arts, and I urge him to earmark some of that to the undeniably important and culturally rich sector that provides so much invaluable learning for our children: the outdoor education sector, which is on its knees. There are many outdoor learning centres in my constituency, and no one can deny that they contribute to culturally enriching children in outdoor learning. Whether it be teaching about local geography or history, they should be eligible as mainstream attractions. For a year now, they have been unable to take bookings: not legally closed, but their customer base forced to not come. The simple inclusion of all outdoor learning centres in the culture recovery fund would start to give them what they desperately need.
There are many reasons why Southend should become a city, and I very much look forward to the announcement of the city status competition—bring it on. I have mentioned the great Dame Vera Lynn on a number of occasions in this House. On 26 March, I will be launching a campaign on behalf of her family for a permanent memorial, which will be a fitting tribute to her.
Southend is home to lots of people working in west end theatres, both as actors and behind the scenes. They have been struggling as the majority of theatres have been closed for almost a year. I would welcome support to ensure that theatres can reopen safely and viably.
I am pleased that four businesses in my constituency have benefited from the culture recovery fund: Veritas Entertainment, In the Park Concert, Metal Culture and Old Empire. Two of my constituents in the events industry, one a freelancer and another a director of an events and consultancy business, have received no financial support since the pandemic began in this country a year ago, so I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister: what is being done to help the many individuals such as those? I have also signed a cross-party letter to the Chancellor asking him to include Government-backed insurance for live events in his Budget tomorrow. I hope that he takes note of that letter and acts appropriately.
The Music Man Project is an inspirational local charity for people with learning difficulties. They have performed at the Royal Albert Hall and the London Palladium and fronted the National Lottery advertising campaign. They will be going to Broadway. The charity would welcome clarity on when it will be allowed to operate in full again.
Southend has a number of excellent festivals and events, including the Leigh Folk Festival, Chalkwell Fair, the Carnival and, at Christmas, the Leigh Lights. Sadly, these all had to be cancelled or moved online last year, which had a knock-on impact on many local businesses. I welcome the announcement that large events will be allowed to take place again this year. The Leigh Regatta, an annual community and charity event organised by the Sea Scouts and the Leigh Lions, raises money for local charities. It was very sad that it was cancelled last year, with a huge loss of income to the charities. More help is needed.
In my constituency there are many wonderful choirs that have struggled to keep going during lockdown. They have used many ingenious methods to keep rehearsing, but they have lost more than a year’s revenue from concerts. Again, help is needed.
Finally, many showmen have suffered a catastrophic loss of earnings during the last year, and now stand to lose out over Easter and the spring Bank Holiday. Many showpeople have not been able to apply for grants or funding as they do not have a business address. They have found local councils apparently difficult to deal with because of what they claim is the vague nature of the Government guidelines on funding. So I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister, a fellow Essex Member, to do all he possibly can to support this wonderful sector.
The pandemic has had a devastating effect on the cultural sectors. Thousands of people’s livelihoods and work have been put on hold and, in some cases, ended. Those most affected are from the black and ethnic minority communities and from working-class backgrounds, thus reversing the incredible work of the last 20 years in increasing diversity across these sectors.
The arts and creative sector is not just “The Last Night of the Proms”, Glastonbury, the west end theatres, or the pioneering and world-leading TV and film industry, employing world-famous actors and armies of skilled production staff; it is also constituents I know making music with toddlers, puppeteers working in museum education, staff of the now silent community arts centres, dancers and photographers working with disaffected young people, pub bands, club comedians and many, many more. Our world-famous culture stands on the shoulders of people such as these.
Also, our international reputation for skills takes decades of hard work, and if they are not supported, we risk losing them almost overnight. For instance, a constituent who works in the costume department at the Royal Opera House described to me the lifelong training, learning and skills development needed for that role.
It is unfair and unjust that so many have been excluded from any Government covid support. They include people such as my constituent who is a TV director, who became self-employed only in April 2019, but thus missed the arbitrary deadline for the SEISS payments and could not get furloughed. They had to move out of their home and rely on universal credit, and they asked me, “Why am I discriminated against as a taxpaying citizen? It is not my fault that, in my line of work, it makes sense to be self-employed.” Why indeed?
In the middle of the pandemic, there was yet another blow—the loss of visa-free travel. It was a body blow for so many performers. A constituent said, “It confirms that Brexit has essentially transformed a tough enough profession into something even more difficult.” The Minister for Digital and Culture replied to me on this by saying that the situation was “regrettable”. I hope that she can do more than merely express regret.
This debate has shown the enormous role that the arts and creative sectors play in our national life and national economy, so those who work in the arts need to be at the centre of our coronavirus recovery. The Government must do far more to support them as we build back from the impact of the pandemic.
The performing arts and live music enrich lives, challenge, entertain, inform and stretch horizons, and all genres are important to us. I declare a particular interest as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on opera, which brings many of those genres together. Britain’s opera scene is thriving, with a massive international reputation at every level, from our great international houses such as Covent Garden right the way down to grassroots opera. I could take up the whole of my speech and beyond by just listing the names of the many small-scale opera companies that bring the genre to people right across the country—giving the lie to the idea that opera is elitist—performing in pubs, clubs and sometimes in prisons, and taking opera into schools, hospitals and care homes.
However, all those companies are struggling. Like in the theatre world, opera artists are overwhelmingly freelancers—71% or so—and they have not all benefited from the subsidies that I am delighted the Government have put in place. The Government have done great work with the culture recovery fund, but it has tended to be skewed towards institutions. We need to support the performers as well, and that goes from the most distinguished soloist right down to the technicians behind the scenes.
I am particularly worried for the young singers, musicians and actors who are trying to make their way at the beginning of their careers, and for the venues that struggle to find insurance, so some Government-backed scheme would be important as theatres reopen. As for medium-sized venues, the Churchill Theatre in Bromley has been supported well by the culture recovery fund, and we are grateful for that. However, support is also required through the tax arrangements for theatre tickets.
Above all, we need to get live music and song performing once again. I hope the Government and Public Health England will look imaginatively at Lord Lloyd Webber’s suggestions to get performing arts going again in the west end. The same will apply to our opera companies. A great deal of imagination has been shown—English National Opera performing in the car park at Alexandra Palace and the great community work of Opera Holland Park are just two examples—but if this sector is to survive, flourish and punch at a world-class level, it needs support, and the particular challenges that a complicated art form brings to the table need to be recognised. I hope that the Government will recognise them and that my right hon. Friend the Minister will feed that back not only to the Secretary of State, but to the Chancellor both before the Budget and beyond.
On St Patrick’s Day 2020, the Chancellor stood at the Dispatch Box and made it clear that events companies with rateable properties would not have to pay business rates. However, the decision was discretionary, and by the time it reached local authorities many said that such companies were not eligible. How can a company be required to pay business rates if it is prevented from doing business, and can I ask the Minister: why is this support a lottery by borough?
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh), who said a great deal in such a short time. I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
If there is one person who truly appreciates the creative industries in this country, it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I know that he has not created employment support schemes that are remotely suitable for the creative industries, and I know that the Tory post-Brexit agreement really screws creative professionals and their ability to get work, but he does love his videographer, and his Instagram account is testament to his adoration of professional photographers. His Twitter feed tells the world how much he appreciates his stylist, and I heard that his Pinterest is extensive. Good luck to him, I say. Some people want substance from their policies, but it is absolutely clear that the Tory party would prefer a shiny veneer.
This debate comes the day before the Budget, which will be a fiscal event that should announce a much-needed, overdue continuation of business support and help for families through this unprecedented time. That should be a given; it should have been done by now. Today’s Budget trail, which coincidentally came out the same day as this cross-party general debate, tells us that the Government have found some more cash for the culture recovery fund. Support is welcome, but as Member after Member has said, that funding saves buildings, not jobs. It is a year since many freelancers have had any income at all. As Members have said, freelancers have been able to apply for some of the funding in Wales and Scotland. Can the Minister say what consideration he has given to a similar approach in England?
What is really lacking is a plan for how our country will earn a living after all we have been through. We need businesses that are fast-growing and offer good-quality jobs, and for that we need the creative and cultural sectors, because they are big and growing. As a whole, DCMS businesses, excluding tourism, contributed £224 billion to the UK in 2018—12% of the economy. Creative businesses exported £36 billion-worth worldwide, and in gross were up 7.5% on the previous year, meaning that growth in the sector is five times that of the British economy as a whole. Important as they are, manufacturing flatlined, and financial services actually fell. Creative businesses are a growing part of our economy.
Tomorrow should be about the future and how we will create the framework to make sure the UK can start growing again. That is why the economic story of creative industries is so important. We have heard from colleagues from right across the country—from Cardiff, Belfast, Barking, Clacton, Coventry, Sheffield, Hull, Batley, Blaydon, Sunderland, Warley, Manchester, Salford, Pontypridd and many more. It is clear from all those contributions that the role of the creative industries and their ability to make life good is not a phenomenon unique to London and the south-east, as the cultural and economic dominance of those areas suggests. We want a plan for the growth of creativity that serves the whole of the UK.
Recent bids to the Government ahead of the spending review showed that West Yorkshire, the west midlands, Liverpool city region and Manchester city region all have cultural plans for their economies, but they are being ignored by the Government, and it is hard to see why. It is not that we want to move cultural and creative economies from London to elsewhere; rather, we want to enable growth where local leaders are clearly crying out for it. The potential is there; we just need to make the most of it.
The glaringly obvious plan that would serve our country so well has been ignored. Too often, the pandemic response has been made up of piecemeal, last-minute decisions. This week is a case in point. People still do not know how long they will be furloughed for and for how long they can be. The industry faces a VAT cliff edge, and freelancers are still uncertain about whether the Budget will finally offer them some much-needed support after a year of hardship.
The truth is that, from listening to the Secretary of State, it was clear from the very beginning that there was no plan to rebalance our economy in the way that city region leaders would like. The Secretary of State gave the game away. All their hotch-potch announcements were aimed at one thing: saving the Crown jewels, as the Secretary of State himself said. It does not matter if someone runs a creative business in Newcastle or Bristol. Unless they run a well-endowed cultural institution that happens to be a short walk from this building, they are nobody’s priority, and it shows. The Government have had a year to finesse their policy responses. Membership organisations and trade unions such as the Musicians’ Union, Equity and the Writers’ Guild all stand ready to help, but too often are ignored.
We heard from Members across the House that every opportunity for creative workers is essential, but the Government actively took away opportunities and made matters worse when they failed on their promises to ensure that creative workers would not face unnecessary bureaucracy and barriers to touring in Europe. We heard throughout the debate that that is an essential step. The Government say they want to fix the post-Brexit situation. They simply must make it happen and we have seen too little progress.
That leads me to my final question for Ministers on the gap between reality and what they say. The question I really want to ask the Secretary of State and the Minister here today is this: what do they think their Department is for anymore? When it comes to financial support for creatives, their only job is passing on messages from the Treasury. When it comes to touring after Brexit, the Minister’s job is to pass messages on from the Home Office. When it comes to covid, they just pass messages on from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, or maybe it is now the recently ennobled Brexit negotiator—who really knows? The fact is that the DCMS has been reduced to the Government’s equivalent of a voicemail service—they just pass on the message. Let us be honest: too often DCMS Ministers are just not in charge of anything.
There is one final point I really want to make. The Government’s road map for unlocking our freedoms gives a series of “not before” dates that help us to plan for the best-case scenario. We all want to be back in theatres, to be part of a crowd again. Many of us long for the day when we can walk down the road to a football stadium and feel the electricity of that first tackle flying in. We long for the chance to hear a singer lift up their microphone and pierce the atmosphere with a ringing sound. Before the pandemic, I thought I was getting old. Now, if somebody, for example my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Jeff Smith), offered me the chance to go for an evening out, you would never get me off the dancefloor. The pandemic has robbed us of not just a fast-growing industry but, as I have said, everything that makes life good. All the things that make life enjoyable are gone, so when we get them back—when we get galleries, festivals, music and art back—I truly hope that the country we choose to build from this point can include everyone in the happiness of creativity, and can give everyone that sense of something beyond the daily grind. I hope the lives we have lived during this covid pandemic make us all the more joyful at having culture back in our life.
It is a pleasure to respond to this important debate on behalf of the Government. As the Minister for Digital and Culture, my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Caroline Dinenage) said at the beginning, this has been a hugely challenging year for the entertainment and cultural sectors. Although the vast number of businesses in this country have suffered from the restrictions of lockdown, it is perhaps, as my hon. Friends the Members for Stockton South (Matt Vickers) and for North West Durham (Mr Holden) said, the entertainment and cultural sectors that have been hit among the hardest in the economy.
I would like to thank all those who have participated in the debate. We have had 55 Back-Bench speeches during the course of the debate, and I know, as you indicated, Mr Deputy Speaker, that more wanted to speak but were unable to do so. The passion shown today is a demonstration of how important culture and entertainment are not just to our economy and our heritage, but to our wellbeing as a nation. A number of speakers emphasised that by pointing out the economic contribution that the creative industries make, in particular my hon. Friends the Members for Clacton (Giles Watling), for High Peak (Robert Largan), for Bury North (James Daly) and for Bolton West (Chris Green), and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers). They all pointed to the vast contribution—£116 billion—that the creative industries make, supporting 2.1 million jobs. However, they also went on to point out that the contribution is not just economic.
The cultural industries and entertainment sector are critical to the wellbeing of the nation. They bring joy to us. Although many have been unable to operate over the past year, I pay tribute to those who have sought to fill the gap, in particular the broadcasters who have done a fantastic job in keeping us entertained and keeping up the morale of the nation. However, it is not the same as being able to enjoy at first hand the cultural interactions that bring so much value to our lives. I think we all yearn to be able to walk through a museum again, to sit and watch a play or, in my case particularly, to go to the cinema and to enjoy live music. As the hon. Members for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) and for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) said, live music brings an enjoyment that all of us feel is absent from our lives. I have taken particular note of the recommendation from my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Robbie Moore) to look up Deco and their mash-ups as soon as I am able to do so again.
A number of Members have spoken with great power about the cultural institutions in their own constituencies. We are, of course, familiar with west end theatre, which is famous throughout the world, but there are other theatres in London, including the Theatre Royal at Stratford, mentioned by the right hon. Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge), and the New Wimbledon Theatre, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond). However, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) said, it is not just about London. We should recognise that the cultural institutions of our country are strong right across all our nations. One of my regrets is that I was appointed to this job just three weeks before lockdown started, and I wish for the day when I can go out and visit some of the places that have been mentioned, including the opera house in Buxton, the railways of Darlington, the zoo in Dudley, the castle in Dover and even Funny Girls in Blackpool.
The best support that we can give to all these cultural institutions is an assurance that the time when they can reopen is coming. That is why the road map is so critical, as my hon. Friends the Members for Gravesham (Adam Holloway) and for Bracknell (James Sunderland) pointed out. We now have a clear plan, which is irreversible. We have a certainty that we can give as to when these institutions can start to operate again. Of course I understand that people would rather this happened sooner, but I can say to my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell that grass-roots sport, including golf, will be able to resume from 29 March. The reason that we have been able to offer that assurance has been the success of the vaccination programme, as my hon. Friends the Members for Blackpool South (Scott Benton) and for Dudley North (Marco Longhi) pointed out, and I pay tribute to all those who have worked so hard to roll it out and continue to do so—including, indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North, who told us that he was a volunteer in his local vaccination centre.
The worst thing that could happen to our cultural institutions would be to give them a date on which they could reopen and then have to reverse it again. We all know the huge disappointment and, indeed, cost to many who had planned to reopen. An example was Bill Kenwright’s “Love Letters”, which was due to reopen at the beginning of December but, just a few days later, London was put back into tier 3 status and it was unable to go ahead. So we need to be relatively confident about those dates.
Several hon. Members mentioned the work that the Department is doing, particularly to explore how large events can return, preferably without social distancing and restrictive capacity caps. I want to assure my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Jane Hunt), my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet and my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon that we have established the events research programme to look at how those large events can resume. In doing so, we are looking at the pilots that were conducted last year to consider the effectiveness of various measures to reduce the transmission risk in larger venues, including testing. Officials from my Department and from the Department of Health and Social Care are working closely to combine the existing workstreams into one overall research programme, and that programme will start with events such as Project Encore, which will hopefully set out the road map for when those larger events, which are perhaps the most challenging, can start again.
A number of my hon. Friends have recognised the huge commitment that the Government have made to the cultural sector through the £1.57 billion cultural recovery fund. I would like to thank my hon. Friends the Members for Heywood and Middleton (Chris Clarkson), for Gloucester (Richard Graham) and for North Norfolk (Duncan Baker) for recognising the strength of that commitment, and, indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (Andy Carter), who pointed out that, on top of the £1.57 billion, we have the £500 million film and TV production restart scheme. And of course the Government recognise the need to continue that support until these institutions can reopen once again. I cannot give details of what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor the Exchequer will announce tomorrow, although there have already been some indications that he will be giving further support to the cultural sector. As I have said, the sector has benefited and should continue to do so, and I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Dr Mullan) that that includes nightclubs and music venues, which have been eligible for support.
As many Members have recognised, our cultural and entertainment sectors are world-leading. They are a major contributor not just to the economic growth of this country but to our standing around the world. I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North (Ben Everitt): I am confident that when we resume, those sectors will come back even stronger.
Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9(3)).