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Creative and Leisure Industries

Volume 524: debated on Thursday 3 March 2011

1. What steps his Department is taking to promote jobs and growth in the creative and leisure industries. (43630)

The creative and leisure industries are vital to our economic growth. For the creative industries we have announced plans to give Britain the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015, and for the leisure industry we have announced a plan to attract 2 million more tourists to the United Kingdom over the coming years.

This week we have seen the benefits of investment in the UK film industry, and the presentation of the Oscar awards. I am sure that we all wish to congratulate the winners. We have also observed this week that many people are concerned about the future of the British television industry following decisions about the future of monopolies in the industry. Will Ministers learn from the experience of the film industry, and consider what could be done through tax breaks to encourage television production in this country?

I echo the hon. Lady’s comments about the Oscars. I know that the whole House will wish to send warm congratulations to Colin Firth, Tom Hooper and all those involved in “The King’s Speech” on their four Oscars, to the visual effects team who worked on “Inception”, and to Christian Bale on his role in “The Fighter”.

I agree with the hon. Lady that the British film industry is a great success story, but the British independent television sector is a huge success story in its own right without the aid of tax breaks. It is the biggest independent television sector in Europe and north America, and possibly in the world. I think that it is doing really well. There are always ways in which we can do better, but this is the first time that I have heard anyone say that such a successful industry needs additional tax breaks.

Local television offers an exciting opportunity to all parts of the United Kingdom, both socially and economically. What action is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that that becomes a reality, especially given that the interleaved licence has already been sold off in Manchester and in Wales?

I thank my hon. Friend not just for his question, but for his sustained interest in the importance of local television, particularly in Wales. I was especially pleased to learn that Tinopolis, a Welsh independent production company, had expressed interest in running a new local television network channel.

The answer to my hon. Friend’s question is that we must look at the spectrum that is available, and see whether we can find a way of attracting bids for it from a new generation of local television companies. I believe that the local television industry could become a brand-new successful, profitable, dynamic creative industry, creating thousands of jobs for this country.

I think that the Secretary of State is aware that “The King’s Speech” was funded by the Film Council, which he has just abolished.

As the Secretary of State has said, the creative industries are a great British success story: apart from financial services, they are the biggest driver of United Kingdom jobs and growth. He was bullish in serving up cuts to the Treasury. What leadership will he provide to produce a jobs and growth strategy for our creative industries?

First, let me correct something that the hon. Gentleman said. “The King’s Speech” was funded with lottery money. Thanks to the coalition Government’s lottery reforms, lottery money for the film industry will increase by 60% over the period of this Parliament. What we are questioning is whether that money should be distributed by a quango which pays eight people more than £100,000 and three people more than the Prime Minister.

Let me tell the hon. Gentleman about a few things that we have done. We have secured an additional £530 million to give Britain the best superfast broadband network in Europe. We have announced plans to make the Olympic park into a new east London tech hub. We have reduced corporation tax, and we have got rid of Labour’s jobs tax. All those things are vital to the creative and digital industries, many of which are small companies.

The Government have increased VAT, which is destroying our tourist industry. The Secretary of State is clearly living on a different planet. Broadband roll-out has been delayed. There has been no progress on the Digital Economy Act 2010. We have a broken promise on tax breaks for the video games industry. BBC cuts will have an impact on original content. All that is happening at a time when other countries are increasing their support for creative industries.

Will the Secretary of State show some leadership in two specific ways? We are willing to work with him if he will bring forward the new communications Act from 2015 to 2012 or 2013 at the latest; and will he establish a cross-Government taskforce, chaired at Cabinet level, to produce a jobs and growth plan in partnership with creative industries over the next 12 months?

Let me tell the hon. Gentleman the leadership I have been showing. His Government safeguarded £200 million for superfast broadband; we have increased that to £830 million. His Government had no strategy for the tourism industry; we persuaded the industry to contribute £50 million of match funding to draw an additional 2 million visitors to the UK. We are also working hard to implement the Digital Economy Act, as we think the principles behind it are important, but it is very difficult to implement because many of its measures did not get proper parliamentary scrutiny as the hon. Gentleman’s discredited Labour Government rushed it through Parliament in their final dying days.