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Entertainment Industry (Low-paid/Unpaid Jobs)

Volume 564: debated on Thursday 20 June 2013

2. What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills on trends in the number of low- paid and unpaid jobs in the entertainment industry. (160604)

The national minimum wage underpins wage levels for those at work and applies equally in the creative sector as elsewhere. The Government support industry in its efforts to provide employment opportunities for young people in the entertainment industry through initiatives such as the creative employment programme, the charity Creative Access, and the forthcoming launch of UK Music’s skills academy.

I thank the Minister for that response, and I particularly welcome what he said yesterday about paid internships in the creative industries. It is still the case, however, that many professional freelancers are expected to work for nothing or for very low pay. Sometimes, everyone involved in a production is being paid except for the musicians and actors who are fronting it up. What will the Minister do about that?

The exploitation of interns is unacceptable, and as I said, the music industry is working hard. In particular, UK Music takes a strong lead on the issue and is setting up the UK music skills academy. The charity Creative Access, with the BPI, will give work experience to 300 individuals who will be paid. I pay tribute to the hon. Lady who continues to campaign on this matter and many other issues in the music industry.

Does my hon. Friend consider that the question seriously underestimates the value of extras and walk-on parts in the theatre and the palace of varieties? One needs walk-on parts to swell a progress, start a scene or two—to be deferential, or glad to be of use. Is not one of the problems with too many theatre troupes that everyone wants to play the role of Hamlet, which is just not possible?

Does the Minister realise that there is such a pool of talent out there, including people with high, graduate qualifications? Surely we could use those people as a resource in our schools, for example, or leading community groups and so on. We must think of new ways and channels to use these young people to give them a start and an income.

The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point, so I hope that he will support the Government, who want to allow people to teach in schools if they have the ability to inspire our young people, rather than shut them out artificially by forcing them to take a teaching degree.

Surely it cannot be right that musicians and entertainers are about the only group of industrial workers still expected to work for nothing in the 21st century. Will the Minister guarantee that no Government or Government-sponsored event will now ever allow musicians to go unpaid?

If the hon. Gentleman wants to give me some examples, I will certainly look into them, but I would not expect the Government to start from that point of view.