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Films (Appreciation)

Volume 22: debated on Monday 19 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps he is taking to encourage the appreciation of films.


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will take further steps to encourage the appreciation of films.

My responsibilities are limited to film as an art form and the preservation of historical material. I have increased the grant to the British Film Institute to assist with its production and archive activities, and its support for regional film appreciation.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that he takes too narrow a view of his responsibilities for films? In view of the current success of British films, will he take the initiative with his ministerial colleagues in urging the establishment of a British film laboratory, as was strongly recommended recently by the Wilson committee? Would that not assist in maintaining standards, and is that not what a Minister responsible for the arts is supposed to do?

I think that the hon. Gentleman's question is based on a misapprehension. I am not responsible for that matter, which is entirely the responsibility of my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, a former Secretary of State for Trade, confirms my view. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman addresses his question to the Department of Trade.

As hardly any hon. Members remember the Roman conquest, will the Minister use his best efforts to persuade film makers to put the dates of films in proper numerals instead of in Latin lettering?

I shall certainly consider that point, but I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would be well able to read the dates of films and I am sure that all other hon. Members, apart from those educated at Eton, are able to do likewise.

I am sure that the Minister will be able to read the voluminous reports that have been produced from many quarters showing that the British film industry is probably now in a better position to advance than at any time since the 'forties? Will the Minister and his Department give the fullest and strongest commitment to do whatever is possible to improve and preserve the British film industry?

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman, but he should address his question to the Secretary of State for Trade, who is responsible for the commercial film industry.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Select Committee recently made an excellent report on the preservation of the film archives? When can we expect the Government's response?

Is the Minister happy with the present situation in the Government, whereby he is responsible for "arty" films and the Department of Trade is responsible for all other films? What is he doing in all those Cabinet Committees to achieve a situation whereby one Minister is in charge of the whole industry?

Fortunately, it is not for me to decide on the allocation of ministerial duties. That is the position, and it has been so for a considerable time, and not only under this Government. It would help if the film industry had united views about the Department to which it would like to be responsible.

Has not the Minister the sensitivity to feel that there is growing concern in the House that matters concerning the film industry in this country are extremely badly ordered? Does he agree—a simple assertion of agreement would do a power of good—that every aspect of films and film making would fare much better in Britain if the responsibility for films were taken away from his colleague in the Department of Trade and put under his cultural concern, where they should more properly be?

I am grateful that hon. Members wish to thrust these important responsibilities on me, but I should be grateful if they would take up this matter with the Prime Minister, who is responsible for the allocation of duties, not I.