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Creative Arts (Thurrock)

Volume 496: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009

6. What progress has been made in funding the proposed co-location of the National Academy for Creative and Cultural Skills and the Royal Opera House production campus in Thurrock. (287054)

I have asked the Learning and Skills Council to review all national skills academy funding proposals in the light of the funding that is available. The Learning and Skills Council expects to be able to make an announcement soon.

“Soon” is ambiguous. Does the Minister mean in the next few days? In that case, I would tick the box marked “joined-up government”. However, if he does not provide funding—approximately £650,000—immediately, this side of the recess, the project will be put in jeopardy. It is a flagship project—culturally, through its co-location with the Royal Opera House project, and in its relation to the Thames Gateway project and the projects for the Olympic games. I want to know whether we will get our money so that the design and the work can commence soon. I need to know that before we go into recess. Answer now.

My hon. Friend has made his point with his characteristic command of the colloquial and plain-speaking, so perhaps I can put it this way: I’m on it.

Perhaps the Minister’s honesty will continue in his answer to my question. He will know that creative and cultural skills are vital for our economy. The UK has the largest cultural sector in the world in terms of proportion of GDP, employing 1 million people. However, a recent report by Tom Bewick, the director general of the sector skills council, says that there are more than a

“hundred employers queuing up to take part”

in new creative and cultural apprenticeships,

“but they cannot currently do so because government is failing to actively engage”.

In revealing precisely how few businesses in the sector receive funding, will the Minister scotch the rumour that the Government intend to transfer powers from sectors to regions?

Well, yes. Obviously, the creative sector is an extremely important and growing part of the economy. We recognise its critical importance, and I recognise the importance of the capital bid that my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) featured in his question. We are committed to the sector and to providing support to national skills academies.