(Urgent Question):To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, if he will make a statement on the Government’s support package for our arts, culture and heritage industries.
The UK’s arts and cultural heritage are not just beloved in the UK, but are the envy of the rest of the world. Our theatres, live music venues, museums and galleries are incredibly valuable to our economy, bringing in £32.3 billion in 2018 and employing approximately 680,000 people. However, they are much more than that: they are the lynchpins of their local communities, entertaining, enlightening and educating us, and bringing us together through shared experiences.
The coronavirus pandemic dealt those sectors a body blow, forcing thousands of institutions to close their doors. The Government have already provided substantial financial assistance to see them through the crisis, including loans, business rate holidays and the self-employed and furloughing schemes. Together, those schemes have provided hundreds of millions of pounds of support, saving livelihoods, beloved organisations and institutions. Of course, we have been working extremely closely with the sector and medical experts to try to get things back up and running as soon as it is safe to do so.
Our battle against coronavirus is not over. With social distancing still in place and crowded venues not possible for the foreseeable future, it was clear that the cultural sector desperately needed help to weather the ongoing storm. The Government have provided it this week, with an unprecedented £1.57 billion rescue package for museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues across the country in the form of emergency grants and loans. It is the single largest one-off investment in UK culture and proof of our commitment to protecting the sectors that do so much to enrich all our lives. It has widely been recognised as exceeding expectations and DDCMS Ministers would like to put on record our thanks to the many people who have worked so incredibly hard on this behind the scenes over the weeks.
The funding will support the country’s long-standing and rightly famous cultural institutions such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, the Mary Rose Trust, which I visited yesterday, and the National Theatre, but it will also support lesser known but equally cherished cultural and heritage institutions and organisations in regions up and down the country—places that have been cultural anchors for their communities for years. That will include theatres, live music venues and museums, but it will not just be about cultural spaces, as it will include dance companies, orchestras and touring arts groups that do not have their own venues but that still play a key role in our cultural life and, of course, still need support. By protecting these organisations as well, the funding will help to support those working across the cultural sector.
The package will also see £120 million invested in rebuilding, upgrading and starting new construction work across our cultural infrastructure as part of our wider effort to build, build, build after coronavirus. This will help to revitalise historic buildings across the country, creating jobs and protecting livelihoods all across our regions. Another £100 million will be allocated to arm’s length bodies such as the British Library, the British Museum and the British Film Institute. An extra £188 million will be given to the devolved Administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as the Government support our whole Union; our cultural strength is stronger as a family of four.
The broader package comes on top of the announcement made last week by the Arts Council to reopen its project grants competition and make an additional £39 million of funding available to support creativity—in particular from freelancers, creative practitioners and independent organisations.
We all want to see full audiences back in our venues and institutions, enjoying the very best of British culture as soon as possible. We will keep our foot very firmly on the pedal, and are finalising guidance for a phased return of the performing arts sectors as we speak. This package allows us to protect some of our precious cultural assets during an uncertain time ahead. It will help thousands of organisations to make it through this crisis and out the other side for future generations to enjoy. I ask the House to join the arts sector in welcoming this massive rescue package. It is a lifeline to help the sector weather this storm and bounce back even stronger.
I am grateful for the granting of this urgent question.
We welcome this much-needed injection of cash for the arts and culture sector, but I have to ask: what took the Government so long? We have already seen venues going under and mounting job losses, and warnings from the Opposition and across the sector were ignored for weeks on end. Urgently getting the money to where it is needed now is critical, but according to the Department’s own briefing, funds will not arrive until the autumn. Less than half the £160 million announced in March is with the organisations that need it, and we are now four months on.
It is vital that this money does not just get hoovered up by the biggest venues with the loudest voices. As well as protecting the jewels in the crown, every town and city lucky enough to have a theatre that is a precious part of the local economy must keep it. We were disappointed that yesterday there was yet again no mention of freelancers, who make up 70% of the workforce in theatre alone. These are highly specialist, creative people—musicians, performers and other professionals—who have been excluded from the Treasury schemes since the start of this crisis. I am concerned that the Department does not understand the nature of the work in this sector, which is why we have continually warned against a one-size-fits-all approach.
As has been the case with the Government throughout this crisis, within hours of the announcement yesterday, the package—which was described as “world-leading”—was already starting to unravel.
I have some specific questions for the Secretary of State, therefore, that I hope his Minister can answer.
Is there provision in this package to reverse job cuts, such as those announced at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, and theatre closures, such as the Nuffield Southampton? Yesterday, the Secretary of State refused to confirm that live performance venues would reopen by Christmas. Can the Minister confirm what date the Government are working towards that has allowed them to calculate that this package will secure the future of these industries, as they have said it will do? If venues cannot open for at least six months, has the Secretary of State secured agreement from the Chancellor that the Treasury schemes will be extended for this sector until the Government give the go-ahead for it to reopen?
Will the Minister commit to publishing the health and scientific evidence that says the public can sit in an aeroplane for hours on end but not in a theatre for two hours? Lastly, I want the Government to focus on the people who have made this sector admired around the world and the specialist and highly skilled jobs they do, because once those are lost, they will be almost impossible to recover.
That was a disappointingly churlish if not unexpected response to what is the largest single financial investment in our culture sector and the biggest package of support for heritage, arts and culture—[Interruption.]
Order. I will not have shouting at the Minister.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
It is the biggest package of support and investment for the heritage, arts and culture sector anywhere in the world. I am very clear that our arts, culture and heritage are not the cherry on the cake or even the icing on the cake; they are the cake. It is what makes us British and is integral to our history and our heritage and fundamental to our economy.
The hon. Member talks about this money as if it is the first thing the Department has made available to our sectors, but of course there has already been £215 million of emergency funding for cultural and heritage arm’s length bodies, which since the lockdown started have been working intensively with the sector to understand the scale and pressures and put together this package, which has enabled us to deliver this world-class level of support for our very valued sectors.
The hon. Member talked about the road map. Of course we cannot be 100% clear about when everything will be able to open. I wish it were in my gift to say, but we are dealing with the unknown—with a global pandemic. Even this week, we saw, in Melbourne, Australia, a city of 5 million go back into lockdown. We have, however, set out a road map and said that rehearsals and the videoing of performances behind closed doors can start. In the coming days, we hope to set out stage 3 of that road map, which will be performances that can be done out of doors with social distancing. Shortly, we hope to fill out more information about stage 4, which will be about performances that can happen in indoor venues but with social distancing.
As everyone recognises, the silver bullet for our sectors will be trying to establish when performances can happen without any social distancing indoors. We are doing everything we can to ensure that that happens as soon as possible. We are working closely with Public Health England and have scientific investigations going on within theatres looking at the various threats. We will also be starting pilots to look at the other aspects that affect this. It is incredibly difficult. Theatres are not the same as aircraft. People are necessarily moving around very different buildings and there is the engagement with audiences that there is not on aircraft, but we are doing everything we can. We are entirely aware that this sector and everybody in it, be it the buildings, the venues, the organisations or the freelancers, are fundamental to the British economy and our history, heritage and wellbeing, which is why we are doing everything we can to bring it back as soon as possible, but we have to make sure people can remain safe while engaging with all these sectors.
It would be wrong not to recognise the significance of this package and the work that has gone into putting it together. However, this can only be a first step—a vital first step. Does the Minister agree that the vital cultural sectors need a specific, Treasury-backed recovery plan, with a means found to enable large numbers of people to watch live entertainment in an enclosed space while feeling relatively safe? One-metre social distancing does not work in the theatre sector, which would have to run at 20% capacity, and neither does it work economically for outdoor performances. Will the Secretary of State commit to coming before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee immediately after the summer recess, to discuss how all this can be achieved?
My hon. Friend has set out a range of challenges that we are seeking to overcome. He will know, for example, that some really innovative digital ideas have been put in place over lockdown to allow people to see live performances from their own homes. We know that that is not in any way a substitute for the real thing. We are working hard to get these things up and running again, including museums and galleries, so that people can physically see and touch the exhibitions as quickly as possible. I know that the Secretary of State is keen to engage with my hon. Friend and his Committee at every possible stage and to keep it up to date on how we are progressing with this, because it is fundamental to so many people up and down the country that we do.
We now go to John Nicolson, who has one minute.
All of us are conscious of how tough these months have been for our galleries, museums, cinemas, theatres and live music venues. For too long, the UK Government left our creative communities to languish in uncertainty and accumulating debt. I regret that this help comes too late for organisations that have already gone under. That said, I welcome the announcement of a £1.57 billion lifeline after weeks of campaigning by the creative communities and my SNP colleagues. To date, however, the UK Government have shown no intention of supporting those not eligible for the self-employment income support scheme. If that is not addressed, we risk losing a generation who cannot afford to survive without income. Will the Minister clarify how much, if any, of this funding will go to self-employed workers in the creative industries who have slipped through the net? How will she ensure that these funds urgently reach the organisations that have been desperately pleading for help?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman also meant to welcome the £57 million that will be going to Scotland via the Barnett formula but incidentally forgot to do so. He is right to mention freelancers who are not swept up in the self-employment income support scheme. We have been working tirelessly over recent weeks and months with the sector to understand what enables people to fall through the gap and what more we can do to support them. As a result of these grants and loans, organisations will be able to resume cultural activity, albeit in a socially distanced way, which will increase employment opportunity for freelancers—at the end of the day, that is what they want more than anything: to be able to get back to work. There is also £120 million of funding for capital projects, which will enable projects that have been paused to resume and all the different craftsmen and specialist heritage construction workers to be employed. This package complements the announcement made last week by the Arts Council that it will reopen its project grants competition and make £59 million of funding available to support creativity, in particular from freelancers. We must not forget that, of the £215 million that the Government have already pledged to this through the emergency support package, £160 million was from Arts Council England, of which £20 million has gone to individuals, including freelancers.
While the recovery package provides unprecedented support for locally known jewels like the Hippodrome theatre in Todmorden, the Hebden Bridge Little Theatre, the Rex cinema in Elland and the Brighouse Civic Hall, we all know that no recovery can be complete until audiences are able to enjoy performances once again. Can my hon. Friend confirm that her Department has in place a strategy, if not a date, for easing lockdown restrictions and the eventual return of theatres to full use?
I set out earlier the road map that we are looking at.
We hope to be able to have socially distanced outdoor performances very shortly, and soon after that, during the summer, we hope to be able to confirm when we can have socially distanced indoor performances. We are working at pace, alongside Public Health England, and doing pilots and other scientific studies to see how soon we can fully get all our theatres and public-heritage and cultural spaces up and running and back to full steam. We want desperately to do that, but we have to keep people safe.
I welcome the package, and my party welcomes it as well. What support is there to help churches such as St Margaret’s here in Westminster? Will the Minister consider a stand-alone scheme? As well as providing prayer, worship and communion services, such churches are also tourist attractions because of their wonderful history and beautiful buildings, but find themselves in dire straits financially because of their inability to access any grants and because they have no tourists or visitors because the business aspects of their buildings are closed.
The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. We have amazing churches and other religious venues up and down our country that are places not only of worship but for people to visit. In particular, they are huge visitor attractions for people from around the world. We are looking at the situation for them very closely. The detailed guidance on who will be able to claim from this package of measures is currently being put together and we hope to be able to provide more information in the days ahead.
I warmly welcome the Government’s decision to give assistance to the performing arts, which will allow the industry some breathing space and help them to survive. Does my hon. Friend agree that creative industries play a vital role in our economy and are a growth industry, and that there is a need for venues to be open as soon as it is safe for them to be?
Yes, my right hon. Friend is absolutely right, but the key word is “safe”—we want to keep people safe and do not want to go back into a lockdown scenario, which would be disastrous for our economy, for people up and down our country and for the cultural venues we are talking about. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this issue. Where it is safe for things to restart, they have been and are restarting: film and television production is among the creative industries, and that has already started, and museums and other cultural institutions are able to reopen, albeit that they have to overcome some obstacles before they can do so fully. As things gradually can open, we want them to do so, because it is fundamental for people’s health and wellbeing for them to be able to access our cultural institutions.
Grassroots live music venues—such as Brighton’s Green Door Store, Sticky Mike’s and Latest Music Bar—want to know that a fair share of the Government’s funds will reach organisations such as theirs, so will the Minister ensure that the Arts Council works in partnership with the Music Venue Trust on the development of a grant-application process that is accessible to grassroots venues, and that the process reflects the sector’s unique needs? Will she also have a very urgent word with the Chancellor to make sure that he plugs the gaps in the self-employed support scheme? Many people in the creative sector are dependent on it and they are getting desperate.
The hon. Lady is right to champion the live music venues in Brighton, many of which I have visited myself; they are a real jewel in the crown of Brighton’s entertainment scene. That is why we are keen that Arts Council England works alongside independent experts so that we can make sure that the money is targeted to all the different parts of the sector and the different sectors that need it, where it will make the most difference.
We all welcome this huge package of support for the arts and cultural sector. Last night, I spoke to a constituent who works as a percussion musician at the annual pantomime at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford; thinking of him and all the other performers, electricians, musicians, actors, and especially freelancers, can we please make sure that this funding does get through to support all of them, because they are the real lifeblood of our arts and cultural sector?
My hon. Friend is right to say that our creative people and artists are the lifeblood of our industry—without them we simply would not have it. The key is that the cultural organisations that rely on audiences have been particularly hard hit, and if we can bring them back into use, there will be work for the freelancers he mentions. The key to bringing them back is the key to supporting the supply chains that feed them. Support has been available through the emergency funds, for example, through Arts Council England, but we understand that the best way to support our amazing freelancers up and down the country is to give them more work that they can do and get things back open as soon as possible.
This announcement will be very welcome news for many treasured institutions in Manchester, such as the Royal Exchange Theatre, the HOME cinema and theatre and treasured music venues such as Band on the Wall. Of course, it is a reflection of the Government’s moral obligations to support sectors that are being forced to continue to be closed for sound public health reasons. However, we are talking about a whole ecosystem made up of small production companies, the self-employed, the talent and others. With that in mind, will the Minister go back to the Treasury again and get more support, through an extension of the furlough scheme and support for the self-employed, so that the whole ecosystem can continue through this enforced closure?
The hon. Lady is right to talk about the ecosystem, because it is what fuels our whole sector. We have been clear that when we produce the guidance on how this money will be allocated, having a mind to the ecosystem it supports will be one of the criteria that we look most favourably upon. I do not think that the Treasury will take kindly to my going back and asking for money after it has just given us £1.5 billion, but it is aware of some of the individuals who have been under extreme pressure in recent weeks and months and will be doing all it can to make sure it fills those gaps.
This very welcome announcement has the potential to be a lifesaver for theatres such as the Churchill, in Bromley, in my constituency, but smaller organisations such as the Bromley Little theatre need urgent clarity about to their eligibility, sooner rather than later. I refer to my interest as chairman of the all-party group on opera. If the Minister has not already done so, will she listen to the “Music Matters” programme that was on Radio 3 on Saturday, which highlighted the sector’s particular problems with the guidance relating to the transmission of coronavirus through song? Opera houses in Europe, with which we are in direct competition, are starting to plan to reopen at the end of the year, with safe mitigation. Our science appears to lag behind that. Will she make sure that the scientific reviews that are being undertaken address that issue as a matter of real urgency?
Before the Minister answers that, I must appeal for much shorter questions, and then she will also be able to give shorter answers. If Members do not ask shorter questions, the people at the end of the list will not have a chance to speak, and that would not be fair.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Yes, we are very aware of the scientific aspect of this. I have been meeting people from orchestras and choral groups frequently during this lockdown period to try to get the evidence and data we need, and actual scientific experiments are taking place, in partnership with Public Health England and others, to try to build the evidence we need on the risks presented by this terrible disease. The Secretary of State is keen to do what we can to get up and running, and he went with Andrew Lloyd Webber the other day to the Palladium to look at some of the mitigation measures it is putting in place. So we are leaving no stone unturned in trying to address this.
I welcome the support that has been announced, but does the Minister accept that this package does not address the plight of technical production companies, such as Adlib, based in my constituency, which provides lighting and sound engineering for live performances in theatre, at music events and at festivals, but is not allowed to operate at the moment because of the law and regulations? What help can she offer to this part of the sector so that it can remain in business? It is currently reliant on the furlough scheme, but when that ends, it faces oblivion. What help can she provide it with until there can be a proper reopening of venues, without social distancing?
We have had an unprecedented package of business support since the beginning of the lockdown, but this is also about getting those venues and organisations that put on events that might require the lighting provided by the hon. Lady’s constituents up and running. That is what we mean by the road map. This is about getting places open as quickly as we can, so that people can start working with those parts of the supply chain that rely so much on a vibrant and functioning arts and culture industry.
The funding has been greatly welcomed by colliery bands, by the Empire theatre in Consett in my constituency, and by Jack Drum Arts, which was recently visited by a Minister from the other place. A lot of building projects for the arts sector have been cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Will the Minister enlighten us and say what will be done to help them?
More than £100 million is available for capital projects, to try to kick-start some of the building projects that have been stalled by the onset of covid and to help get people who are working on those important projects back to the workplace.
Yesterday morning, the Secretary of State told the BBC that the minimum grant or loan amount is £1 million. Will the Minister explain how that will help many smaller venues, including Stockport Plaza in my constituency? What is the regional breakdown for that money, and how much will venues in Greater Manchester receive?
The hon. Gentleman is right to champion organisations across his constituency, and I am sure that all hon. Members will do the same. I cannot set out what the breakdown will be just yet, because guidance on how the scheme will be implemented will come forward in the days ahead. One criteria that we are considering most acutely for the allocation of this money regards how we can support communities and places up and down the country, not just in the big metropolitan centres.
Theatr Clwyd in my constituency has welcomed more than half a million viewers to the 2,500 events and community shows a year that it puts on. Recently, the First Minister of Wales said that we do not have the firepower to support this sector in Wales. Given the £59 million in Barnett consequentials that will come from this announcement, and the £2.3 billion that the Westminster Government have sent to Wales so far as part of the covid battle, does my hon. Friend agree that it is time for Labour’s First Minister in Wales to stop the excuses and finally to support that important sector?
My hon. Friend is right to champion Theatr Clwyd in Mold and to say that this is a significant sum of money for Wales. I spoke to the Welsh Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism at the weekend, and he was delighted with this sum of money. Because of the way that the Barnett formula works, we cannot guarantee that the money will be spent on arts and culture, but he is keen to ensure that when the Welsh Government get hold of it, it goes to the right places.
From Edinburgh to Aldeburgh, the UK’s thriving festival sector reaches almost 5 million people a year. Will the Minister clarify whether festivals will be eligible to get some of the money from this rescue package? If not, does she agree with me and with the British Arts Festivals Association, which is calling for the £120 million that has been allocated for a festival of Britain in 2022 to be reallocated to all the festivals of Britain that need help this year?
At the moment, festivals often attract funding through some of the Arts Council funds. It is possible that live events will attract such funding, but that will be set out in the guidance when we release it. Our performing arts and cultural sectors want more than anything to get back up to speed, and get up and running, and Festival 2022 presents a remarkable opportunity for all four nations of the United Kingdom to commission work and get people out there doing what they do—performing, creating and entertaining our country.
We have to go an awful lot faster.
This announcement is welcome news to many of across Hyndburn and Haslingden, particularly the civic arts centre and theatre in Oswaldtwistle, but can the Minister assure me that the package will reach smaller venues, including those in my constituency, which are a valuable asset to our communities?
My hon. Friend has hit the nail on the head. One of the key criteria for allocating the money will be about supporting small cultural organisations that may be the only theatre or museum in their town, that are vital to the arts and culture ecosystem in their area and to other businesses in the supply chain and that are the key focal point of culture and arts in their area. That will be one of the key aspects we look at when allocating this cash.
The £97 million for Scotland, while welcome, is not a proportionate share of £1.57 billion, so I presume that a fair chunk of the package is either not new, or capital spending. Given that, will the Government either revise the consequentials to allow a proportionate share of capital spending in Scotland, or relax the capital controls on the Scottish Government to allow them to provide the same support for the arts in Scotland as exists elsewhere in the UK?
All this is new money, and £100 million of it is targeted at support for national cultural institutions in England and organisations such as the English Heritage Trust, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Library. Some £120 million of it is capital investment to restart construction on cultural infrastructure projects in England, and £188 million, through the Barnett formula, will go to enable the devolved Administrations to support their cultural sectors.
Our capital city is home to some of our most venerable cultural institutions, but Dudley, as the capital of the Black Country, is also home to some great cultural institutions. Can my hon. Friend assure me that places such as the Black Country Living Museum will directly benefit from the great package that the Government have announced, to tide them through the difficult winter months ahead?
My hon. Friend is a great advocate for Dudley and all the cultural treasures that it has to offer. As I have said, we very much see this money as supporting the levelling-up agenda and targeting areas up and down the country that really need these vital cultural establishments to be protected.
Hornsey and Wood Green is home to so many in the creative sector, and I have had hundreds of emails pleading with me and asking what is being done. Can the Minister assure me that not too much of the money will be capital spend, but that it will go to the people who make the arts? With their expertise and their love of the arts, it is the people who inspire us.
The hon. Lady is right to raise that. Of the £1.57 billion, £120 million is capital spend. The rest of it will go directly to organisations and institutions up and down the country.
I am blessed in Stoke-on-Trent, Kidsgrove and Talke to have the stunning Wedgwood Institute in Burslem, the journey from the pits at Chatterley Whitfield Colliery and the pots of Middleport Pottery. The £100 million for capital projects will help to build, build, build shovel-ready projects such as the Harper Street renovation project in Middleport. Will my hon. Friend meet me to discuss how such projects can apply to access the new funding?
How could I refuse? My hon. Friend is the strongest possible advocate for all Stoke-on-Trent’s cultural offers. I do not think I have ever known so much about pottery as I do since I met him. Of course, we will do everything we can to support them.
I welcome the announcement, which is terrific for organisations such as the RSC. A lot of its members and employees live in my constituency. Can the Minister explain how fantastic organisations such as Playbox Theatre and Motionhouse dance theatre, which has a world-class reputation, can be assured of benefiting from this money?
This is about supporting our big, key world-class venues, but it is also about supporting the smaller grass-roots organisations that are a key part of the infrastructure—not just organisations that have venues, but organisations that may be dance groups, other theatrical groups, or what have you, that are not place based—and are really focusing on the communities that they support.
How can the Government help to get more people, particularly young people, involved in culture and sport of all kinds?
Again, this is all about the ecosystem that our arts and our culture encourage and about getting young people involved with their local museums and galleries, their local arts and performing arts, and dance and theatre groups. With all those things, if we can capture the imagination of young people very early on, we can open their eyes to a world of culture and arts that will entertain them for the rest of their lives.
In response to an earlier question from my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) about Adlib in Knowsley, which provides technical support to live events, the Minister effectively said that it will not get any support until the industry gets back up and running and it can then provide its services. Does she accept that, if it is going to take as long as seems to be the case, many companies that provide technical support will have gone out of business by then? Will she reconsider that response, and look at including organisations such as Adlib?
It is just simply not correct to say that these organisations or these companies have had no support. Our furloughing scheme has supported over 350,000 people in the creative arts and leisure sectors to retain their jobs. We have had huge investment through the various loan schemes that have supported businesses to stay afloat. The Government have poured millions upon millions of pounds into supporting businesses through this pandemic.
With cases well below their peak and falling, and with transmission pathways increasingly and more rapidly under control, the Government should now be announcing specific dates for reopening those sectors that regulations required to be closed. That will unleash the investment that can support the whole ecosystem of the arts. Will the Minister consider announcing a specific date on which our arts centres can open?
We understand that certainty is one of the biggest issues facing our sectors at the moment, and we are doing everything we can to tackle that. In the days ahead, we are hoping to set out a much more fully defined road map, which will help address some of these date issues.
The Secretary of State said that this important package will not save every job. Our culture sector is the envy of the world, but it is the people and their talent that make it world leading. We know the show will not go on for many, including many of my constituents in Cardiff North, without direct job support. Why will the Secretary of State not support the thousands of workers in this sector who have been abandoned and excluded from support schemes throughout this crisis? Also, will the Minister tell me when the Welsh Government will be getting this funding—
Order. From now on, each person can ask one question, not two or three questions—no speeches; just questions, please. Let us have a bit of discipline.
With the best will in the world, we cannot insulate every single organisation against the pressures and challenges they face in this pandemic, but we are doing everything we can. This is a life-changing and a lifeline sum of cash that we have managed to secure for this sector. The hon. Member says we have done nothing to support individuals, but £20 million of the £160 million Arts Council England fund has gone to individuals to support them through this terrible crisis.
I am delighted by this announcement, and I would be keen to know what steps the Minister is taking to ensure that a fair share of the £1.57 billion investment reaches local theatres, such as the Wolverhampton Grand theatre in my constituency.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to champion the theatre in Wolverhampton. I am sure that it will be absolutely delighted to know that he is fighting its corner. In the days ahead, we will be setting out exactly how this guidance will work and exactly how the money will be allocated, but the focus is on getting it to cultural organisations up and down the country.
Newport West is home to a vibrant and growing cultural scene. I have been contacted by many constituents, such as Sam Dabb who manages the music venue Le Pub, and actors Daniel Williams and Chris Rankin who, like others, have shared their experiences of being freelancers in today’s harsh economic climate. Although today’s announcement is welcome for some, it has come too late for others, such as the 23 who are losing their jobs at Newsquest—
Order. This is a speech. Will the hon. Lady please ask a question?
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
What specific support will the Government give to those who have fallen through the gaps of the financial safety net?
As I have said, the best thing we can do to support those freelancers who have not been scooped up by the self-employment income support scheme—very many thousands have been—is to get the organisations back up and running so that these individuals can start earning money again.
I welcome this incredibly important package of support for the arts, but it is important that it does not become one that principally benefits venues and not the production companies and producers who put on the shows. Has the Minister considered the idea, put forward by Sam Mendes, that the Government could take a financial stake in new productions to ensure that venues are full, both of creativity and of people?
We have taken soundings from a range of people up and down the sector who have been phenomenal at providing us with all sorts of information and ideas, which has helped us to construct the package. We will set out more clearly how it will work in the days ahead.
Many showmen in my constituency and across Scotland face losing their livelihoods as a result of the pandemic, putting the fun of the fair at risk for future generations. They do not qualify for the new funding for cultural organisations that DCMS announced on Sunday, and the Showmen’s Guild is not represented on the covid-19 recovery group for recreation and leisure. Will the Culture Secretary bring forward a similar bail-out package to support travelling funfairs, given that they will face similar delays in reopening?
That is a very interesting point. I will take it away and write to the hon. Lady.
The £1.5 billion is a massive sum of money and incredibly welcome. However, further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins), it is the men and women who work in the theatres, not the theatres themselves, who really need the support. My hon. Friend the Minister referred to enhanced opportunities for freelancers. Could she put a little flesh on that bone and tell us how that is likely to work?
My right hon. Friend is one of our Equity card-carrying Members of Parliament, so I always listen carefully when he talks about this issue. There are a number of ways we can help. First, getting everything back up to speed will of course support our freelancers and the workforce up and down the sector. Arts Council England has reinstated the fund that people can bid into for projects, so a number of other schemes—worth £59 million—are available to offer support.
Last week the live music industry hosted a webinar with musician and artist Beverley Knight as part of the “Let the Music Play” campaign. It was clear from her and others that there is deep distress in the live music industry. They talked about the impact on associated jobs that are tied up with the industry but have fallen through the cracks of this Government’s furlough scheme. Can the Minister tell us how those freelance musicians, technicians, producers and associated professionals will get support, as they appear to have been completely forgotten by her Government?
We know that the music industry has been particularly badly hit, which is why it will definitely be one of the industries that will seek to benefit from this £1.5 billion scheme.
Like others, I welcome this announcement and hope that it will benefit Revelation St Mary’s in Ashford, one of those churches that is also a cultural centre, which the Minister has already referred to. Can she give us a little more detail about the support for freelancers? In particular, when does she think some of the money will actually get into their pockets and bank accounts? I know from my constituency that some of them are already looking for jobs outside the sector because they are so worried about their future inside it.
There are two things to say. We want to get this particular tranche of money—this £1.5 billion—out into the sector as soon as possible, because we know that there are organisations that are really desperate. In terms of individuals, there are a number of packages of support. Many of them have been able to claim from the self-employed income support scheme. We know that some have slipped through the gaps, and, of course, as soon as we can get our sector back up and running again, we will be able to employ more of the amazing workforce who make it so special.
Brentford’s Watermans arts centre, like many arts centres across London, brings arts to all types of communities that do not access the west end. Watermans’ director is grateful for the £87,000 emergency funding, but it is less than a third of what she applied for, so that will only keep it going until September. How will the Government support venues beyond September to survive when they have less than a third of their capacity on their seats and costs are greater than normal?
The hon. Lady will note that we have just announced a £1.5 billion pound funding package, and her organisation should be able to apply for that. We will announce more details of how it will work in the next couple of days.
I thank my hon. Friend for the unprecedented package of support that was announced. As she gets into the design of individual components, may I ask her to seek a higher number of individual smaller grants, so that local museums, such as the Amberley Museum, the Arundel Museum and the Steyning Museum in my constituency, get a look in?
It has been like a whistle-stop tour of cultural and arts venues up and down the country today—in fact, I remember visiting the Amberley Museum as a schoolgirl, so it is also a trip down memory lane for me. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need to make sure that we can get that money to as many grassroots organisations up and down the country as possible to save them from an unpleasant fate.
The £57 million in Barnett consequentials will be very welcome north of the border in Scotland. They will be a lifeline to many people who are absolutely desperate. When the Minister hands the cheque over to the Scottish Government, will she consider discussing with them how some of our great national institutions south of the border, such as the Royal Shakespeare Company and the London Symphony Orchestra, might be encouraged to come to perform in Scotland and, particularly, perhaps the far north of Scotland?
I think the hon. Gentleman is making a plug for a bit of entertainment in his local area. I am sure that many of our cultural institutions up and down the country will be very keen to get out there plying their trade and travelling around as much as they can, as soon as the covid situation allows them to do that.
This is wonderful news. Funding is fantastic, but can my hon. Friend tell me when venues such as the Sheringham little theatre and Wells Maltings in North Norfolk can have a route map and a plan so that they can suddenly throw open their doors again?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise his local organisations and venues that really want to get back up to speed. We hope to set out the road map of how that will happen, certainly in a socially distanced way, over the next few days.
Despite this announcement, there is still a lot of uncertainty in the arts industry, most notably among freelancers. Even when productions can resume during the pandemic, this will not go away. Will the Minister tell me whether the Government will create a plan that ensures that companies and their artists are protected financially if their show is cancelled due to a localised lockdown or if a member of the company tests positive for covid-19?
We are looking at a range of these issues and the hon. Lady is right to raise them. We are very mindful of the fact that there are a huge range of challenges ahead and that this is not going to be plain sailing in any way, shape or form. Rather than mandating specific routes for organisations, we are asking them to have a plan we can support that will offer good value for money and the best possible resilience for the future.
I am making one more appeal for short questions and short answers. Otherwise, the people at the end of the list just do not get a chance, which, as I said before, is not fair.
One of my constituents owns a company that supplies video, lighting, sound systems and technicians to performance venues on a rental basis, but his business will not benefit from the Government’s announcement. He is really worried that he and many other providers of services to performance venues will have to make many staff redundant within the month. So what will the Minister do as a matter of urgency to support those incredibly important technical staff working in this industry?
A range of business support measures is available. The bounce back loans have been incredibly successful among so many of the businesses in these sectors. We know that the supply chain is very badly affected by this, but some supply chain organisations have been able to access some of the emergency funding that has been made available by bodies such as the Arts Council.
I welcome this package, but may I ask the Minister for reassurance in respect of the plans for the 200th anniversary of the railways, and will she provide every reassurance that Locomotion No. 1 will stay in Darlington?
Yes, as far as I understand it, the 200th anniversary of the railways is still going ahead. I know that Locomotion No. 1 is the property of the Science Museum and Dame Mary Archer, the chair of the Science Museum, has agreed to meet my hon. Friend.
All Safe and Sound and Handheld Audio Ltd are just two of the companies in my constituency working in the arts and creative sector that have lost 98% of their incomes since the March lockdown and will fall off the cliff when the furlough has ended. Will the Minister tell me what support is available from this rescue package for the ecosystem of such companies and businesses that support our creative and arts sector?
There is an unprecedented package of business support. The furloughing scheme, the business loan scheme and the bounce back loan scheme have poured millions and millions of pounds into supporting businesses up and down the country.
The Princes Theatre, the West Cliff Theatre and the Frinton Summer Theatre, which I used to run, are all in dire need. The Frinton Summer Theatre is not having a season this year. Could my hon. Friend say a bit more about how these funds will be distributed, particularly to the regions? Theatres are closing. Rome is burning. This funding is needed and it is needed urgently.
My hon. Friend is another of our Equity card carrying Members and one of the greatest champions of the theatre and arts. He has been on so many of the calls that I have been on over recent weeks and months, and I thank him for all that he has done to champion this. We want to make an announcement on how this will work as soon as possible in the days and weeks ahead, and we want to get the money out as soon as possible, because we know that there are some organisations that are literally about to tip over the edge.
Live music is of huge cultural importance to Midlothian, and the venues at grassroots level are a massive factor in that, but without the performers, these venues can do nothing. What support can the Minister provide to assure our performers, especially freelance performers, that their livelihoods can continue?
As I have already said, a very large number of performers have been protected by the self-employed income support scheme. We know that it is not everybody. We have been working really hard to try to ascertain who is falling through the gaps and what more can be done to support them. But there have been a number of packages in place, such as the Arts Council England £20 million fund that has gone to individuals.
This package is very much to be commended but, in distributing these desperately needed funds, will my hon. Friend the Minister get the money out as quickly as possible, as many venues are on the brink? And don’t forget those companies in the supply chain.
We know that time is not on our side. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to articulate that and we do want to get the money out as quickly as we possibly can.
My constituency is famous for its theatres and culture and I think I am the only MP whose predecessor won two Oscars, but many of my constituents employed in these sectors are extremely worried, having fallen through the cracks of the Government’s support schemes and now facing the prospect of their workplaces closing. The news of new funding will be welcomed by venues such as the Kiln Theatre in Kilburn and Hampstead Theatre, but how will the Minister ensure that smaller institutions can access it if they are forced to apply for at least £1 million?
As I say, we will be setting out in the next few days and weeks exactly how the package will work, how people can apply for the money and what the restrictions will be on the amount that can be applied for.
Has the Minister listened to “The Archers” recently? It is suicidal. Will she reflect on the fact that the majority of us are more likely to die by our own hand than we are from the virus?
I will reflect very hard on that. I am a great fan of “The Archers”, obviously.
I felt that the Minister was unusually disrespectful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens), who asked a very important question about freelancers and how the package is not helping, which has been echoed across the House. There is clearly a lot of support for creative freelancers, who are not supported by the job retention scheme and cannot currently access the other schemes. In Bristol South, they are critical to supporting Bristol’s wider creative and music offer. Will the Minister please consider going back to the Treasury to find a way to help that group of people?
I did not mean to appear disrespectful; I apologise if that is how it came across. I am well aware that a number of people up and down the country have fallen through the gaps and are not being protected in the way we envisaged when we started the self-employed income support scheme. The hon. Lady may be interested to know that, alongside the Government’s significant investment, Netflix, working with UK Theatre, the Society of London Theatre and Sam Mendes, has donated £500,000 to set up a theatre artists fund, which is supporting individuals in the theatre industry who are in dire straits at the moment.
Agricultural shows are the cultural backbone of our rural communities across the United Kingdom. Will the Minister outline what support there is for such shows? While she is passing the £59 million over to the Welsh Government, will she give a little nudge for the Royal Welsh show?
I love an agricultural show. Sadly, they fall under the remit of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, but in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport we are doing everything we can to support rural cultural establishments.
I want to raise the survival of orchestras. The support package for organisations is welcome, but as we keep hearing it will not help thousands of freelancers—the musicians who are not eligible for Government support schemes. Other vital measures are reforms to orchestra tax relief and gift aid. To help orchestras survive and rebuild, will the Government look again at support for freelance musicians, and at the vital reforms to orchestra tax relief and gift aid?
I have met with orchestras almost weekly over the past few weeks as we try to navigate our way through some of the particular challenges that they are experiencing. We will certainly look at some of the hon. Lady’s suggestions.
What impact does the Minister think the £120 million of capital investment will have on arts bodies continuing with projects that they had paused?
We know that many projects were stalled because of covid, and that the workforce—the creative experts and craftsmen—have been sidelined while that work could not take place. We hope that the capital investment will kick-start some of that work so that people are employed in the here and now and these incredible cultural and creative venues are protected for future generations.
Virtual participation in proceedings concluded (Order, 4 June).