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Westminster Hall

Volume 703: debated on Thursday 18 November 2021

Westminster Hall

Thursday 18 November 2021

[Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Backbench Business

Automated External Defibrillators: Public Access

Before we begin, I am required to read out some advice from Mr Speaker. I remind Members that they are expected to wear face coverings when they are not speaking in the debate. That is in line with current Government guidance and that of the House of Commons Commission. I remind Members that they are asked by the House to have a covid lateral flow test twice a week if coming on to the parliamentary estate. That can be done at the testing centre in the House or at home. Please also give each other and members of staff space when seated and when entering and leaving the room.

I beg to move,

That this House has considered public access to Automatic External Defibrillators.

I am pleased to see many hon. Members from all political parties in the Chamber. I will also say, because I mean it, that I am especially pleased to see the Minister in her place and I look forward to her response. She understands the importance of the debate. Each hon. Member who speaks will illustrate the strength of the need for the Government and—dare I say it—civil servants to understand the importance of the debate. If they understand it, and if the Government press the issue, the general public will be glad to see it happening.

It is a pleasure to have this debate before the Second Reading of the Automated External Defibrillators (Public Access) Bill on 10 December. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting my application. The intention is to deliver public access to AEDs across the whole United Kingdom. All MPs will have at least one person in their constituency who has been saved by an AED.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Paul Howell) who co-sponsored the debate and supported me in making it happen. I appreciate his co-operation, partnership and friendship. He made representations to the Committee alongside me and shared his own experience, which he will tell us about shortly. He has referred to the dedicated work of his constituent Councillor David Sutton-Lloyd, who advocates and lobbies with him about the importance of awareness and public availability of these lifesaving devices.

In my constituency, Councillor Mo Razzaq has been championing the cause and has fought hard to improve provision, which has led to a community defibrillator installation outside Strachan Craft Butchers in Blantyre. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that locally elected representatives can be instrumental to the cause?

I appreciate the hon. Lady’s intervention about the importance of councillors, which I will return to, such as the friend of the hon. Member for Sedgefield. Communities lead on such matters.

There are many defibrillators across great parts of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but the Bill legislates so that everyone must have one in place. There is no cost to the Government; the Bill just puts in place the necessity to do it, rather than saying that it must come from community activities or otherwise.

To give an example from my constituency, in Newtownards some of the shop owners got together and spent £1,000 on a defibrillator, which is available on the high street in the middle of town. Every school in Northern Ireland has a defibrillator. As I will say later, I had a meeting with the former Secretary of State for Education about this issue, and he was committed to it in that role.

I am deeply encouraged by and thankful for the amount of support for the Bill on both sides of the House. I thank hon. Members present for contacting me to offer their support and for suggesting that I hold a debate before Second Reading. The purpose of the debate is to raise awareness and to build the campaign outside the House. We are all able to point to many cases. It is a fundamental aspect of our democracy that Members are able to scrutinise and debate proposed legislation. This debate offers Members the chance to do just that. I have worked with the Minister and look forward to continuing that work to bring this important piece of legislation forward—to bring this ideal into reality. If we can do that, and deliver across the United Kingdom, I will be more than pleased.

Since the Bill’s First Reading, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of support. Support has come from across the House—from all sides, from all parties—which is a reflection that it is welcomed across society. I thank all Members who wrote to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care urging him to engage on this issue. I was able to meet the Secretary of State to discuss the Bill and he demonstrated his sincere support, which we appreciate. The members of the public and people in industry who have contacted me—I have held meetings with as many as possible over the past few months—are the driving community spirit behind this Bill. The hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Margaret Ferrier) referred to that community spirit. It drives us as constituency MPs.

I thank the Minister for her invaluable contribution. I thank Tom, Sandra and Daniel from Stryker, Matthew Spencer from Healthcomms Consulting, Greg Quinn from BD, Sarah French from SADS UK, Gabriel Phillips of APCO Worldwide, Iain Lawrence from Aero Healthcare UK, Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK, as well as the Arrhythmia Alliance, the Community Heartbeat Trust and British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland. I suspect most of those bodies have already contacted the Minister, as well as her local community and other community groups.

I have been interviewed by university students about the Bill. This demonstrates the concern and interest of a wide cross-section of society about the need for public access to AEDs. I am very grateful for their interest and for broadening my knowledge. No matter what age I am, I will always learn. Today I learn more, and the next day more again. I have an open and active mind, and I want to respond and to learn things that we can use in this House for the benefit of everyone. They taught me about the consequences of a lack of awareness of and training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which added to my knowledge and understanding of sudden cardiac arrest.

There is momentum growing, not only from The Mirror, which has its own campaign. I turned on the Denmark match at the Euros and did not realise what had happened. I was trying to figure out what was happening on screen, as I had missed the first 30 minutes or so of the match. I thought somebody had got hit on the head by a bottle thrown from the crowd or something. The Danish team were all around Christian Eriksen, and I realised that he had had a heart attack. That day, an AED saved his life, because it was there. The Premier League has donated 2,000 AEDs or thereabouts, aiming for them to filter down to some of the junior clubs. There is definitely a growing momentum out there.

I want the debate today to be marked by hope and commitment, but also by respectful demand. We should all support this issue. I am in no doubt as to the wishes of people in the community with regard to the proposed legislation, its importance and the need to have it in place now.

This is an incredibly important debate. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that AEDs should be put on public buildings? Those buildings are not open 24/7 and the AEDs should be accessible to the public 24 hours a day, so they should be on the outside of the building. Does he also agree that if every child in school had one hour’s training in CPR every year, we would have far fewer deaths? A combination of those two measures would save many more lives.

I do agree, and I think there would be a positive consensus in the House on that. I will give an example later of how an AED in a school saved a life in my constituency. I have two examples to illustrate the point.

I have seen over the past year how we have begun to address the importance of CPR training, to which the hon. Lady referred, and AED availability. I agree with her. The AED in Newtownards is in the street, but it could have been in the shop, which closes at six o’clock, so from 6 pm to 9 the next morning it would not have been available. The hon. Lady is right about what should be done.

The right hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Gavin Williamson) backed the campaign, in his former role as Secretary of State for Education, to see all schools equipped with defibrillators. I believe that has been accomplished. I was encouraged by that, as we are trying to do it back home as well. However, it is not just about primary schools; it is about having AEDs available in streets, shopping centres, Government and local government buildings, and leisure centres. The Bill says that they should be available, but it does not put a cost factor on it. To make this happen is a win-win for the Minister and the Government.

I will explain where the campaign came from. The Minister will remember that we met with Mark King, of the Oliver King Foundation, whose 12-year-old son Oliver died of cardiac arrest during a school swimming lesson in 2011. I was incredibly moved, as I know the Minister was, by Mark’s experience. I was motivated too by his commitment to installing AEDs as far and wide across the community as possible. I know that he will be watching the debate today, and it will be a poignant one for him. Throughout this journey, I have stayed in touch with the foundation. I want to remind Members that this Bill was inspired by a young fella called Oliver King—a 12-year-old—and that we bring this debate to the Chamber in the hope of ensuring that Oliver’s legacy continues.

I am encouraged that in Northern Ireland, the Education (Curriculum) (CPR and AED) Bill has reached its second stage. This is not about politics; it is about the issue. That is the way I see things. I am a political person, of course, but what drives me is asking what is the right way to do things—that is important. One of my colleagues who is not of my party, Colin McGrath MLA, has brought the Bill to the Northern Ireland Assembly. We have worked together; he was keen to know what I was doing and I was keen to assist him back home in the Assembly. He has expressed his best wishes for the Bill, because it is just as important for children to acquire the CPR and AED skills that the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire referred to, as it is for adults. It is good to see a devolved Administration talking, taking this on and encouraging others to follow suit.

I believe in acts and not just words. Very shortly, the hon. Member for High Peak (Robert Largan) and I will be doing an AED instruction session in the House, when we are able to. I am not sure when that will be, but we are hoping to do it this side of Christmas—the idea is to have a date that coincides with the Bill’s Second Reading on 10 December. It will be with David Higginbottom of Driver First Assist. My staff and I back home will also be taking part in a CPR and AED training session in the office in Newtownards led by Mrs Pauline Waring, superintendent of the St John Ambulance Dufferin Cadet Unit in Bangor. She, along with many other volunteer leaders, does incredible work with St John cadets by training them in first aid and lifesaving skills. It is always good to remember that the St John Ambulance is voluntarily staffed and funded by its own efforts; I encourage Members to engage with their local St John Ambulance if they can.

The hon. Member for Sedgefield, in his representation to the Committee for this debate, raised the very important point that many people are afraid of AEDs. They should not be, and that is why the training is important. Right away, people ask, “Will I know what to do?”. They will know what to do, because it is quite simple. I am not being smart by saying that; the instructions are really easy—they are easy for children to use as well, if that is necessary. People will learn that AEDs and CPR cannot do any harm; they can only do good. That is the motivation. I refer again to my message of hope for this debate, because anything that equips and inspires our young—anyone, in fact—to do good for the community carries the spirit of hope.

I want to raise some important facts about AEDs and CPR because they are two of the links in the “chain of survival” referred to in the UK Resuscitation Council’s updated guidelines. The third link is targeted temperature management. I want to touch on TTM here because I have been made aware of how this impacts on the recovery process. While the focus of this debate is on promoting the prevalence and availability of AEDs in public spaces and buildings, it remains essential that we consider the whole “chain of survival” once a person has experienced a cardiac arrest and been resuscitated.

In my constituency of Strangford one Saturday afternoon at a football match, one of the supporters collapsed at the side of the pitch. I spoke about this at the debate on the ten-minute rule Bill in February. What saved that man was the fact that the club had a defibrillator at all its matches. That is characteristic of all football matches in my region. People were able to resuscitate that man and he is alive today because the Portavogie football team and one of its staff members were able to get him back. He is alive today and can still attend football matches.

I want to give another example, but I am conscious of the time and other Members want to speak. A father was outside a school after leaving his children there. Unfortunately, he then had a heart attack. The children were inside and did not know what was happening to their daddy. The school had a defibrillator and, again, access to an AED saved that man’s life—he is alive today. Not only is he alive; he is able to continue taking his children to school.

I have given two examples, and I know that other Members will have lots of their own. It is hard not to get enthused about this issue, because of the clear benefits. I have referred to Christian Eriksen who collapsed at the football match. I acknowledge and praise the hard work and unfailing efforts of the Minister, who brought forward legislation in 2016 and 2019. Her support is needed if we are to get this done.

In May 2021, the Italian Government passed legislation requiring all offices open to the public with more than 15 employees, transport hubs, railway stations, airports, sports centres and educational establishments—schools, universities and all those places—to have public access to AEDs. In France, a Bill was passed in 2018 requiring almost all buildings where people gather to have access to an AED, including restaurants and shopping centres. It went a stage further by including holiday centres, places of worship, covered car parks and even mountain refuges. In Singapore, AEDs are carried in taxis.

In this House, we are at an important stage. We have more AEDs per head than across the whole of the country—that is not a criticism, Mr Hollobone. I am not saying we should not have them, but I would like to see that replicated everywhere else.

Following cardiac arrest, for each minute that passes the chances of survival fall by a massive 20%. Outside urban areas, and certainly in very rural locations, ambulance call-out times are often much longer than a matter than minutes. Does the hon. Member agree that provision needs to be prioritised in rural areas?

I certainly do. Living in a rural area as I do, I know the hon. Lady is absolutely right. I would hope and expect that to be the case. I want to give others the opportunity to speak and will make my closing comments now.

Let us remember why we are here today. We are here because there are currently over 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the United Kingdom each year. Of those people, only one out of 10 will survive. I put it to the Minister, the Government and civil servants that I want—indeed, I think we all want—the other nine to survive as well. How can they survive? They can survive if we have access to AEDs in the places where people are, including in rural places. That is why we must push this forward.

What value do we put on a life? A typical defibrillator for the community can cost £800. The Library notes refer to the cost being between £600 and £2,500. However, across Northern Ireland, with the efforts of all the charities and groups I have mentioned, the defibrillators are already in place. I have also mentioned the efforts of organisations such as the Premier League and the Education Ministers here in Westminster and back home in Northern Ireland, and I suspect the same is true in Scotland and Wales as well. That is why, when the legislation is introduced, it will be to encourage those who have not yet gone to that extra stage to make sure that there are defibrillators. That is why this debate is incredibly important. If the cost is £600 or, as it is in Northern Ireland, £800, that is a small price for the Government and the private sector to pay potentially to save lives.

Is it not right that every leisure centre should have a defibrillator? Is it not right that there should be one in the centre of every town? Is it not right that defibrillators should be available and accessible in restaurants, and outside buildings for times when people are out and about, including to visit pubs and restaurants at night time?

There is a campaign called The Circuit, which registers all community AEDs. The sale of AEDs rose significantly after the Euros incident, and when AEDs are registered on a central database, emergency call handlers can direct callers to the nearest AED. The objective of this Bill is to have an AED within three minutes of everyone. That is what the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West wants to have; indeed, I think it is what we all want to have.

The Bill does not cost the Government anything. I have said it three times now; forgive me for saying it three times, but I want to emphasise it and say why it is important. Here is a Bill that delivers across the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This Bill will save lives, which is why it is important.

I say to my hon. Friends—all the Members here are my hon. Friends; to be truthful, on this issue all Members are probably hon. Friends whether they are in the Chamber or outside it—that this proposed legislation is neither to the left nor the right of politics. It is about what is right and what is wrong. It is about our whole society and equipping it with the means to save lives. Can there be a more civilised or caring thing to do? If words could make the difference—I will use a quotation, but before I do so I will say one other thing.

Today, this House can support the campaign to deliver AEDs, at no cost to the Government. AEDs save lives. That is the purpose of the Bill—it is to save lives. It is about those nine out of 10 who die every year because the AEDs were not available. It is as simple as that. It is about saving lives. For me, that is the crux of it.

I say that life and death are in the hands of the Minister and her Government, and they would seem to be in the hands of civil servants too. So what action will those hands—the hands of Ministers, the Government and civil servants—take in the coming days when the Bill comes back to the House on 10 December?

I will close with very poignant words. I know that the Minister knows that they refer to wee Oliver King. His dad said, and I have never forgotten it:

“Had the swimming pool had an AED, my son, Oliver, would still be here today.”

That is what we are here for.

The debate can last until 3 o’clock. I am obliged to call the Front Benchers no later than 2.27 pm and the guideline limits are: 10 minutes for the Scottish National party; 10 minutes for Her Majesty’s Opposition; 10 minutes for the Minister; and then Jim Shannon will have three minutes at the end to sum up the debate. So, until 2.27 pm, we are in Back-Bench time. Four distinguished Back Benchers are seeking to catch my eye and we will start with Rob Roberts.

Thank you, Mr Hollobone, for calling me to speak and it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) on securing this debate on such an important matter; as he says, it is a matter of life and death. I have no doubt that this issue will draw agreement from all political parties, and such is the nature of the hon. Gentleman that he is one of the few Members who could rightly be called “my hon. Friend” by Members from all parties in the House.

It is vital that there is greater access to defibrillators in local communities across the whole of the UK. To save myself tripping over the word “defibrillators” for the next five minutes, I will shorten it to “defibs” from this point onwards.

Every year in Wales, around 6,000 people suffer from cardiac arrest. About half of those incidents occur outside hospitals, with just one in 20 of the people affected surviving. The National Institute for Health Research has found that survival outcomes for people experiencing out-of-hospital cardiac arrest are greatly improved when bystanders use a defib.

When we consider that, as the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Margaret Ferrier) said in an intervention, someone’s chance of surviving cardiac arrest decreases by at least 10% to 15% with every passing minute, it is vital that everyone in the community not only knows where the nearest defib is located but—most crucially—has the knowledge and confidence to use it.

I understand how important it is to improve the teaching of these lifesaving skills having campaigned with the family and friends of Janene Maguire, a loving mother of three who unexpectedly passed away of a cardiac arrest in February 2000. Sadly, and almost amazingly, nearly two decades later one of Janene’s daughters also suffered from a sudden cardiac arrest. Fortunately, she was with her friend, who saved her life by performing CPR until a paramedic arrived.

The experience of that family in my constituency highlighted to me the importance of improving awareness and knowledge of both CPR and defibs. I am pleased to say that, as a result of our campaigning, the Welsh Government committed to including these lifesaving skills in the school curriculum in Wales, as they are in the curriculum in England. I hope that equipping young people with the knowledge to save lives will ensure that the survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests is greatly improved.

Despite the success of having added to the curriculum in Wales, the campaign to improve lifesaving skills and access to lifesaving equipment is far from over. Access to defibs and the knowledge of how to use them still needs to be greatly improved. As part of my commitment to improving these skills, I will continue to work with the Welsh charity Calon Hearts to organise a number of CPR events in my constituency in the new year. Participants will be able to learn the skills and gain the confidence to apply them, ensuring that people from all backgrounds have that knowledge, so that they too are able to save lives.

Although the Resuscitation Council has provided guidance for adult basic life support, which advises on how CPR and defibrillation should be administered during a sudden cardiac arrest, the vast majority of people still do not have that knowledge and are unable to use it when needed. Currently there are 5,423 public access defibs registered with the Welsh ambulance service, but the British Heart Foundation estimates that there are thousands more defibs that the trust has no record of. With that in mind, there is an obvious but important question to ask: what is the point of increasing the number of public access defibs if people do not know where they are or how to use them?

There seems to be a simple solution to the issue. Why not create a comprehensive, UK-wide database, on an app that can be downloaded to smartphones, including all defibs and their precise locations, and simple, easy-to-follow instructions on how to use them? It seems as though that would be a relatively simple database to establish and maintain. It should not be beyond the wit of man to put something in place along those lines. There are currently a number of different defib databases covering different areas of the UK, so it is certainly a feasible idea. Much of the data is already there, and just needs to be amalgamated in one comprehensive database. If all NHS systems in the UK worked together with organisations such as The Circuit, the national defibrillator network, it could easily be achieved, and would undoubtedly help to save many more lives.

The Welsh Government, to their credit, have recently committed £500,000 to improve community access to defibs. I encourage them to collaborate with the UK Government, and indeed the Scottish and Northern Irish devolved Administrations, to ensure that public access to defibs and the knowledge of how to use them is improved across the UK, and that it is mandatory for all defib providers to register every new device on the database.

When someone goes into cardiac arrest, every second counts. I want to ensure that as many tragic and unnecessary deaths can be avoided as possible, by equipping the general public with as much knowledge and as many skills as possible.

Thank you, Mr Hollobone. I am very honoured to be a replacement for Mr Thomson— I do not know how able, but I will do my best.

I am very grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to this vital debate. I too pay tribute to the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), who has been championing this cause for a considerable time and therefore is an expert on it, as he showed with his opening speech. I confess that, in contrast, I am comparatively new to the issue. Like many others, I had my interest in it sparked by the lifesaving treatment of Christian Eriksen at this summer’s Euros, to which the hon. Member referred, and by subsequent conversations with constituents. I have been able to start some productive local conversations with the two local authorities that serve my constituents and with the British Heart Foundation. I am keen to learn more, and already have learned quite a lot more in the course of the debate.

In launching a small local campaign to help raise awareness of cardiac arrest and how to respond, and to try to increase access to lifesaving CPR training and defibrillators, we opted to call it “Every Second Counts”. That is not remotely original, but it reflects the fact that, as hon. Members have noted, when it comes to surviving a cardiac arrest, every moment really does matter.

The numbers are stark when it comes to survival rates for the 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests that people suffer each year in the UK—just one in 10, as we have heard. However, if we think about that from a different perspective, it means that we have the opportunity here to save hundreds—thousands—of lives if we get the response right. The basic components of a successful strategy seem uncontroversial, as we have already heard. We need to ensure that people can recognise what a cardiac arrest looks like so that they can take appropriate action. We need to ensure that they know to call 999 and can perform CPR. We also need them to use a defibrillator if one is available.

Access to defibrillators is a vital component of the chain of survival. How do we improve accessibility, because currently, as we have heard, only a small percentage of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests receive bystander defibrillation? It is important that there is a greater understanding of when and how to use defibrillators. We must get across the message that they are easy to use so that people do not hesitate for fear of doing it wrong. I look forward to taking part in the training that the hon. Member for Strangford is going to put on for us.

We need to get defibrillators across the country registered on The Circuit so that when we call 999 we can be directed to the nearest accessible defibrillator. We all know that early defibrillation can massively increase someone’s chances of surviving an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, but many defibrillators are never used because the emergency services simply do not know about them. The Circuit, an initiative by the British Heart Foundation, could prove an important step forward, and we all have a role in raising awareness in our constituencies.

A lot of good work is being done across the UK. We have heard about that already today. We all need to learn from each other, but we can also learn from good practice and what works by looking at examples from abroad. Denmark seems to be a model of good practice, which seems appropriate given what happened to Christian Eriksen. A training programme, the placement of 17,000 AEDs in the community and the implementation of a registry of where they are has seen impressive results. Survival rates have tripled largely because the rates of bystander CPR have shot up from 19% to 65%.

The Danes also use a smartphone Heartrunner app to alert responders trained in CPR and the use of defibrillators to any nearby cardiac arrest and the nearest publicly accessible defibrillator. Some 16,000 citizens joined that system in its first two months.

Sweden has seen survival rates double in the last 20 years, partly through mass CPR training—something we have heard about today—and SMS Lifesavers, which seems to be along the same lines as the Danish Heartrunner model.

It is not just about the number of accessible defibrillators, but where they are. It is brilliant to have two installed by voluntary organisations in the same street, but ideally we need to be able to target them where they are most needed, and we need to map that out. Some 80% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur at home, so how do we get as many into areas of concentrated housing as possible? Some public buildings will be ideal for that, with many schools situated in the heart of communities, for example, but other large housing estates might not have such buildings, so how do we deal with that? On the other hand—the hon. Member for Strangford touched on this earlier—our more remote areas have low concentrations of people, but possibly longer to wait for an ambulance, so defibrillators could be all the more vital.

Again looking to Denmark and Sweden as an example, I understand that 200,000 people have access to emergency medical deliveries of defibrillators by drone. Studies in Canada have suggested that that could be a lifesaving option for rural areas. But perhaps we should learn to run before we try to fly. NHS Grampian has had some success in reducing response times to remote areas with teams of trained volunteer responders equipped with AEDs and vehicle locator systems.

On another related issue, I was concerned to read that those in the most deprived areas of the country are almost 20% less likely to receive bystander CPR, so we need to try to understand why that is and how we can address that problem. We need to address these issues to ensure the best response, and we would be wise to look at the type of work that has been undertaken by the resuscitation research group at the University of Edinburgh. I look forward to working with colleagues across the House to make sure that every second counts, and that we do everything we can to save lives.

I thank the hon. Members who supported this debate and express my support for their call to action.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone, and a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald). I congratulate the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) on securing this important debate and on his private Member’s Bill. It may be the case that we do not have time for it on the day it is scheduled for, but I hope the Government will look carefully at the Bill.

The debate is well timed for me, because I am due to visit a school in my constituency tomorrow that installed a defibrillator only last Friday. However, I am afraid the background to that installation is tragic. Ravensmead Primary School in Bignall End in my Newcastle-under-Lyme constituency has had a very sad loss in recent weeks. A teaching assistant suffered a heart attack at school and later passed away. Sam Benson was a much-loved member of the Ravensmead community, a mum of three children, and a teaching assistant who had been involved with the school for 20 years, initially as a volunteer to help children with reading and later as a member of staff. In the words of her headteacher, Melanie Goodall,

“Sam was a fabulous teaching assistant. She was fun and loved life. She was always bright and colourful. She used to work in the school office and was the first face that many parents saw here. She would have Michael Buble on a loop in the office.”

The circumstances of Sam’s death are not only tragic, but illustrate the problems with access to defibrillators. When she collapsed one morning in September, several colleagues raced a hundred yards up the road to a local pub, which thankfully did have a defibrillator, while several other colleagues commenced CPR immediately. However, it took them several minutes to get hold of the equipment as they needed to phone for the access code. Fellow teaching assistant, Heather Evans, was one of the members of staff trying to access the defibrillator at The Swan pub after Sam’s collapse. She told our local paper, the Stoke Sentinel, that,

“Running up the road, it was like running up Everest”.

By the time they got back to the school, the paramedics were already there. Sam was taken to hospital, and sadly died five days later.

I am enormously pleased to hear how quickly the paramedics were able to attend the scene, which is commendable given the pressure that the ambulance service is experiencing. However, as has been raised already, it is widely known that every minute counts when responding to cardiac arrests. The chance of successful defibrillation decreases by 23% for each minute that passes, according to a 2003 study. Therefore, if a defibrillator had been more readily available and used a couple of minutes sooner, who knows what difference it might have made? We will never know, but Sam’s chance of survival may have been higher. She was lucky that CPR was started almost immediately, which would have given her a much better chance than those who collapse alone.

In Sam’s honour, her husband Neville Benson, friends and members of the school community have been raising money for a defibrillator at the school and have raised over £4,000 in Sam’s memory. Tesco Express in Audley has actually donated a device, which has been installed, so that money will be used to help other schools in the area have access to the same device. Neville has also been in touch with me to talk about his desire that these devices be made mandatory in all schools—indeed, I spoke to him this morning. I know that new and refurbished state schools are required to have defibrillators. I saw the answer from my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) to a written question on 10 September that the Government are looking at what more they can do, and she referred to what the previous Secretary of State for Education has done on the issue.

When Neville spoke to me this morning, he also made the sensible point that while it should not be a cost-benefit analysis, there is a financial benefit as well as the health benefit because quicker defibrillation reduces the chances of long-term disability, which could save society an awful lot of money for a relatively low cost in the short term. I would like to briefly mention the amazing work of the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young, which aims to provide heart screening for a minimum of 200 young people per year. I was introduced to the charity by David Hughes, my constituent in the same parish, who raises money for the charity in honour of his son, Daniel Hughes, who died suddenly at the age of 28 in 2015. In memory of Daniel, Dave has been working to raise awareness and reduce the frequency of young sudden cardiac death. He said:

“We will never know if heart screening would have saved our precious son’s life but we never want another family to go through what we went through. There are no words to describe the emptiness and heartache we feel everyday; all we can do is work hard to ensure that Dan’s legacy lives on for years to come and that he continues to make a difference to people’s lives now as he did when he was with us.”

Dave has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds since Dan’s death. I have been out to support him on some of those things. If the Minister could take this message back to the Department, I know Dave would be very grateful.

Defibrillators can mean the difference between life and death, as we know only too well. Of the 30,000 out-of- hospital cardiac arrests across the United Kingdom each year, the overall survival rate is a shocking one in 10. It is estimated that publicly accessible defibrillators are used in fewer than 5% of those incidents. That is a very sad statistic, but a sadder one still is that, according to research conducted by the Resuscitation Council, less than half of bystanders in the UK would intervene when they witness someone collapse. That statistic is substantially lower than figures for other regions and countries that have comparable demographics. The willingness rate is 73% in Norway, 66% in Seattle and 60% in north Holland, and their survival rates are over 20%, so that is something we also need to tackle. Norway has been teaching CPR in schools for many years, and that bystander CPR has got its survival rates as high as 25%, compared with less than 10% in the UK. I am very pleased to see that, from September 2020, we did add CPR to the national curriculum in secondary schools.

Finally—this is another point that people have raised—most of us will remember the Euro 2020 footage this year, when Danish footballer Christian Eriksen collapsed. Of course, his chances of survival were greatly increased from the start because of the urgent medical assistance that arrived immediately. CPR and a defibrillator were applied during those crucial first few minutes. Those scenes were deeply distressing to witness for everyone watching in the stadium or from home, but thankfully he had a good outcome. He is now doing so well that he is working towards returning to playing football. We should be giving that same best chance of survival to everyone.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. It has been an absolute pleasure to support the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) in his endeavours. I thank him for his kind comments, and thank all other colleagues who are supporting the debate.

The importance of access to AEDs in a life-threatening medical emergency cannot be disputed. In addition to the high-profile and extremely upsetting events at Euro 2020 when Christian Erikson suffered his cardiac arrest, there was a similar event in Newcastle’s football ground on TV the other week, when an 80-year-old gentleman collapsed. Fortunately, there was an AED to help that situation too.

Is the Minister aware that in the UK, nearly 300 school children die of sudden cardiac arrest every year? The emotional statements of colleagues on the specifics mentioned only further endorse the need for something to happen on these proposals. An obvious start for this is our public buildings, such as schools, libraries, and local government buildings, to have access to AEDs.

Unfortunately, without on-site and urgent access to defibrillation, the vast majority of cardiac arrests will be fatal. At present, there are just not enough AEDs accessible to people. As has already been said, for each minute that passes following a cardiac arrest without CPR, the survival rate drops by 20%.

Given that the average response time for emergency services to a cardiac arrest is just under seven minutes, we cannot rely purely on our emergency services—however good they are—to fill the gap. If we want to save as many lives as possible, we need as many defibrillators in the community as possible. That is particularly true in rural areas, like most of my Sedgefield constituency, where call-out times are naturally longer, simply because of the distances the emergency services will have to travel. Prompt, community access to defibrillators can dramatically help improve the chances of survival. Indeed, it would help to level up between urban and rural communities.

The AED Bill would make an important legislative change, helping to build a better, safer environment for people in the community and increasing the cardiac arrest survival rate. As a nation, we have the opportunity to be world leaders in ensuring that we all have access to defibrillation. We should we pass this legislation into law and be the first country to mandate that new public buildings provide access to a defibrillator.

I am aware that the Department for Education offers reduced-cost defibrillators through NHS Supply Chain’s Defibs4Schools programme, which in itself shows that it values the provision. Could the Minister encourage it to go further, particularly with new school builds, and also push other Departments to follow suit? It is clear that it would be challenging to ensure that all current public buildings have AEDs, but it is something the Minister should look at trying to mandate. I strongly encourage her to push her Department—and indeed other ministerial colleagues—to look for cross-departmental engagement to introduce that compulsion for new public buildings, whether they are for local government, health, education, or other purposes.

As has been mentioned, mandated AEDs on public buildings will work best if they are comprehensively mapped so members of the public could be directed to their nearest location. On that, I do like the earlier proposal for an app-driven solution. The proposed Bill would take an important step towards ensuring that AEDs can be readily located wherever they are needed. In addition to ensuring that AEDs are mapped, we need to ensure that we have a system in which people are clear about whose responsibility it is to maintain them, particularly if they are in the public domain.

We all know—we have heard many representations today—that excellent work has done up and down the country by volunteers who understand the importance of AED access to their communities. As already mentioned, in Newton Aycliffe, for example, David Sutton-Lloyd has worked tirelessly to ensure that 32 AEDs are now available to residents. However, I believe that we, as the legislature and elected representatives, have a duty to ensure that all new buildings are fitted with AEDs, and that the work of volunteers is to complement that, rather than provide the initial provision.

Again, this was mentioned earlier, but I have been educated on the use of defibrillators. Mr Sutton-Lloyd is incredibly active in running training courses. I am not sure “training” is the right word. It is not training, it is education. Unless we know about these pieces of kit, we could get concerned that the electricity could cause problems. As has been mentioned, it cannot do that; the machines are good. The machine makes the decision and it is not possible to use a defibrillator on somebody if it is not the right thing to do. I encourage the Minister to promote campaigns to educate the public around this, so that when defibrillators are necessary people are confident and not worried about using them.

To summarise, the provision of AEDs, in and around our communities, is a real aid to saving lives at minimal cost. The opportunity to make them compulsory in public buildings, at least initially in new-build public buildings, is surely a no-brainer. How could the Minister consider otherwise?

We now come to the Front-Bench speeches. Apologies to the Scottish National party spokesman for being so keen to get him in earlier, but his moment has now come.

It is still a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I hope I am not being flippant or not paying due respect to the seriousness of the subject when I say that I almost needed an AED when I heard my name being called early.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) not only on securing the debate, but on his long and distinguished involvement in many measures in this House to advance the cause of expanding the provision of public defibrillators. He is involved with a private Member’s Bill that had run into the procedural buffers, for which he has picked up the baton. I know he has had positive dialogue with the Government, and I very much hope to see that Bill hit the statute book, by whatever means. It could bring real and tangible benefits to so many individuals and families, all across these islands.

Globally, cardiac arrests claim more lives than colorectal cancer, influenza, pneumonia, car accidents, HIV, firearms deaths and house fires combined. In the UK, that translates to around 30,000 people each year losing their lives through experiencing cardiac arrest. Sadly, fewer than one in 10 of those who experience cardiac arrest survive. It is something that can happen to anyone, in any place, at any age, at any time, with little, if any, warning.

All the hon. Members who have spoken, whether through a substantive contribution or a knowledgeable intervention, have made this an excellent debate. We have heard many examples of how early, rapid intervention has either happily saved lives or tragically could have saved a life.

A range of actors help to achieve the best outcomes here that they possibly can. We have heard about the examples of first responders, and we are familiar with the role that our paramedics play. I am pleased to have heard so many Members talk about CPR knowledge. I encourage everyone watching this debate, either live or afterwards, or reading about it in Hansard or in the newspapers, to make time to learn how to perform CPR, if they have not already done so. It could really save a life.

We have heard about, and some of us saw, the tragic events that afflicted Christian Eriksen during the European championships. I was watching with my children, and it was awful having to explain what was very likely happening and not being able to give them, at that time, the happy ending that they wanted. I remember the relief at being able to tell them that he was alive and in hospital. The quick action of his team mates and the medical professionals at the stadium saved him.

I would like to give an example of a case a little bit closer to home, at my former place of study, the University of Stirling. In February 2016, 20-year-old student Finlay Richardson, a third year student, collapsed during lacrosse practice on the university’s training fields. Sports centre staff reacted quickly, realised what was happening and ran and got the sport centre’s defibrillator. They were able to apply it to him. He was taken to the Forth Valley Royal Hospital where I am pleased to say he made a full recovery. In fact, he went on to secure a first class honours degree from the university in environmental science. In both cases, what made the difference, on top of the fast response, was the rapid use and application of automated defibrillators.

Those are two good outcomes, but sadly most outcomes are not positive. The single most effective measure that we could take to improve the survival rate is to increase the coverage of automated defibrillators around the country combined with increasing people’s knowledge about how to perform CPR. In Scotland, over the last five years, the Save a Life Scotland partnership has equipped more than 640,000 people, about 11% of the Scottish population, with CPR skills. At the launch of Scotland’s inaugural out of hospital cardiac arrest strategy in 2015, only about one in 20 people in Scotland who experienced an out of hospital cardiac arrest survived. By 2020, that had risen to one in 10.

The updated strategy for 2021 to 2026 aims to double the number of people equipped with lifesaving CPR skills and make sure that more than 1 million people have them, and to give all school-aged children the opportunity to be equipped with CPR skills. Those measures contribute to the aim of increasing bystander CPR rates to 85% so that a defibrillator can be applied before the ambulance arrives in 20% of cardiac arrests, and it is hoped that they will increase survival rates from out of hospital cardiac arrests from 10% to 15%.

Importantly, some 80% of cardiac arrests occur in the home, but sadly public defibrillators are used in only about 8% of cases. That might be, as hon. Members have said, due to a lack of confidence in how to use them, a lack of understanding, or a lack of knowledge of the location on the part of the individuals or the emergency services. The British Heart Foundation’s The Circuit campaign will be vital in drawing together the information about that lifesaving equipment. We need to increase that rate by ensuring that the locations of automated defibrillators are known and by increasing the public’s knowledge of how to use them.

I am pleased to say that there was a big community effort in the village where I stay in 2019—it is a small community but close knit. The school held fundraising events to buy a defibrillator for the village; we actually now have two. In April 2019—I think, if Facebook has not let me down—we held a training event in the village hall to learn how to use it. We learned about the appropriate pace of heart massage and were told to perform it while imagining that the Bee Gees were singing “Stayin’ Alive” in our head to get the rhythm right—that seems a bit incongruous, but I will not argue with medical experts.

We also learned how to give artificial respiration. The training was a great success in bringing the community together and in ensuring that, if the worst happened in our community, whether to someone who stays, is visiting or is passing through, there is a cohort of people who should be able to make a positive intervention and increase the chance of survival of anyone unfortunate enough to be in that situation.

I welcome the consensus in the Chamber and the Bill of the hon. Member for Strangford. The private sector has been incredibly accommodating and willing to host defibrillators and ensure that they are maintained, but some of our buildings with the highest footfall, particularly in rural areas, are the public ones. It is important to increase that coverage and do all that we reasonably can, through persuasion or by mandating, to ensure that those lifesaving pieces of tech are in place in our public spaces. I am keen to leave as much time as I can for the hon. Gentleman to sum up, so I will conclude by saying that this has been an excellent debate and I look forward to seeing how the House can come together to advance our shared objectives in future.

It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Mr Hollobone. I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) on securing the debate, and the Backbench Business Committee on granting it. He made a typically thoughtful case, as he did earlier in the week when we spoke about smoking cessation in this Chamber. I plan to borrow liberally from him today, as I did then, because I know he does not mind.

The hon. Member spoke about the wide cross-section of support for action in this area. Clearly, we are a very visible demonstration of that politically, in terms of the number of people who have been able to attend on a Thursday afternoon and the parties that we represent, because the debate is so important. He also detailed a long list of organisations in civil society that have come together for action. I know that they will be watching. I hope that they get a sense from the debate of how seriously Parliament takes the issue, and how clear the commitment is for action.

The hon. Member and other colleagues raised the case of Christian Eriksen, which was a very visible demonstration of cardiac arrest, and how it can affect individuals with very little notice. It was a dreadful thing. Like the hon. Member for Gordon (Richard Thomson), I watched it with incredible sadness and fear. It was an awful thing to happen to anybody, but it happened in the best place possible—a place that had lots of kit and medical expertise. I think back to all the football that we played this Saturday and Sunday up and down the country in rural communities that do not have the same infrastructure as a major football stadium. We are here today with that risk in mind.

Other colleagues made excellent contributions. The hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) made a point on schools. We talk a lot about personal and social education in this place. CPR, water safety and railway safety should be core parts of the curriculum, because some of our young people will need those skills, and they could save a life. That would be a valuable part of their education. The hon. Member for Delyn (Rob Roberts) made a point on having great kit out there but not knowing where it is. I will expand on that shortly. The hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald) made points about inequalities—something that is close to my heart. I am conscious that as challenging as some of the outcomes that we have heard about are, they are worse in poorer communities such as mine. That calls us to act.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell) raised the terrible case of Sam Benson, which I was not aware of. It was exceptionally saddening to hear about. I associate myself with all the remarks that he made. Sam’s colleagues clearly made incredible efforts. Sadly, they were in vain, but her colleagues will at least take comfort that they behaved wonderfully in that situation. Perhaps we need to do more to ensure that others in similar situations will have access to the right kit as soon as possible. As he said, time can have a really significant impact on outcomes.

I know that the debate is a joint enterprise between the hon. Member for Strangford and the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Paul Howell), who made a point about St James’s Park. I married into a family of Newcastle season ticket holders, and that case was very visible. Again, it was perhaps the right place for such a thing to happen because of those who were around, although we would never wish for it to happen to anybody. The point that the hon. Member for Sedgefield made about the 300 school children was sobering. Again, that shows why public buildings such as schools would be very good for this sort of thing.

Heart and circulatory diseases account for one death every three minutes in the UK. We know that many cardiac arrests take place in hospital settings, but more than 30,000 take place outside of them and the survival rate for those is less than one in 10. In parts of the country, including the east midlands, the rate is lower. It has a range of causes, but whatever happens there is disruption to electrical activity in the heart, meaning that it is not pumping blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. That can lead to unconsciousness and, if left untreated, death, but advances in medical technology have given us the crucial tool of automated external defibrillators.

AEDs offer a lifeline to those suffering cardiac arrest because they provide an electric shock to the heart to restore normal rhythm. As colleagues said—I do not think that we can say this enough, because we need it to be understood more widely—they are very safe to use. They are portable and easy, they have clear instructions, and they cannot allow the user to give an accidental shock and hurt somebody, which I thought the hon. Member for Sedgefield made very clear. We cannot say that enough—I hope the people watching will get that picture. The statistics bear out how effective they are. If a defibrillator is attached to a patient by a non-medical first responder, the average survival rate is 40%. Other research puts the figure even higher. Every day, people doing extraordinary actions can be very effective indeed.

At the moment, only one in 10 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests involves a public access defibrillator. The British Heart Foundation say that our nation’s low cardiac arrest survival rate is likely to be partly attributable to that lack of access. For this lifesaving technology to work, people must be able to access it. There are two elements to that. First, AEDs have to be there. The Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Strangford is a really good way to do that. Secondly and no less crucially, we need to know where the AEDs are, whether that is us as bystanders or the emergency services. It is estimated that there are 100,000 AEDs in the UK, but only 30,000 are known to ambulance services. That is a big gap in our response. As hon. Members have said, when a person suffers cardiac arrest, it is a race against the clock. A person’s chance of survival decreases around 10% with every minute that passes.

Progress has been made, which we should say with some pride and with optimism for the future. I pay tribute to the British Heart Foundation, SADS UK, the Oliver King Foundation and others who campaign and have campaigned tirelessly over the years to improve the provision of AEDs and to provide training on how to use them. I also pay tribute to all those businesses and engaged citizens across the country who have done sponsored runs or bake sales, or put some of their business’s own money into making AEDs available. It very much shows the best of Britain and a community response—a truly selfless act. With them having done all that, we can meet that ambition in this place to push things a little bit further.

We know it can work. Colleagues have used various different international examples—I will use one of my own. Across the North sea, in the Netherlands, they created a national network of available AEDs and a system to alert trained citizens to cardiac arrests. When it comes to out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, the Netherlands has the highest survival rate in Europe, which points us in the right direction. The hon. Member for Strangford has himself pointed us in the right direction with his Bill.

We know about the vagaries of trying to get business proceeded with on Fridays—we may well see that again tomorrow. Whether or not the Bill can progress, we have the Health and Care Bill in the House at the moment, with its Commons remaining stages on Monday and Tuesday next week, I believe, and with Lords stages to come too. If the Government were minded to pick up the sentiment and theme of what the hon. Gentleman has set out, although I cannot speak for him I suggest he would be quite enthusiastic about that, and the Opposition would certainly be very supportive of it. I believe there would be widespread support across the House. There is clearly cross-party support for the common goal of an active network of AEDs, with citizens knowledgeable about their location and able to use them. We will support the Government in any measure they bring forward to make that a reality.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I thank the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) for securing this debate, and also for his passion and dedication in championing this cause. He will know of my interest in the subject before I became a Minister. If anyone can get these changes through, it will be him. I thank him for that. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Paul Howell), who is the No. 2 in these proceedings.

This is such an important issue. Twelve young people a week in this country die from sudden cardiac arrest. As we have heard, there are 30,000 cardiac arrests a year. This is not an insignificant issue. Behind every single one of those people is a family and a community. As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell) when he spoke of the tragic news of Sam Benson, the impact will last forever.

I reassure hon. Members that the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease and access to defibrillators is a priority for the Government. There has been some significant progress in the last two years. We know that about 90% of sudden cardiac arrests are fatal, but if a defibrillator is used in the first three to five minutes, survival can be around 50% to 70%. Again, it makes a significant difference if someone has a sudden cardiac arrest out of hospital.

The Government are supporting a number of measures and working with key stakeholders. I want to highlight some of the work being done to ensure the best possible access to defibrillators and that people feel confident to use them. Hon. Members may be aware that “The NHS Long Term Plan”, published in January 2019, includes a section on cardiovascular disease and defibrillators. The NHS has committed to developing a national network of first responders and access to automated external defibrillators, which will save roughly 4,000 lives a year by 2028. It is high on our agenda, but it is important that we deliver on it now. I think that is the key message from the hon. Member for Strangford, because the chance of survival from a cardiac arrest occurring out of hospital doubles if someone received CPR or defibrillation, so it makes a difference.

I will highlight some of the work that has been done, notably with the British Heart Foundation, which a number of Members have mentioned today. We have worked with the British Heart Foundation to put in place The Circuit, a national network providing evidence of where defibs are in all our communities. If someone calls 999 or contacts the emergency services, ambulance services can identify for them where their nearest defibrillator is.

The Circuit is now live and covers 10 ambulance services, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is working with the two remaining ambulance services, London and South East Coast ambulance services, to get them on to the system. We expect that to happen in the first half of next year. That means all our ambulance services will be able to direct people to the nearest defibrillator ahead of the ambulance attending to the person in need. Currently, 33,237 defibrillators are registered with the eight live ambulance services in England, so we now have a network that we can direct people to.

Although defibrillators do not yet need to be legally registered with the British Heart Foundation, we are working with manufacturers, stakeholders and partners to promote the registration of all defibrillators. My ask of colleagues here this afternoon and anyone who is watching is please to register a defibrillator with the British Heart Foundation. Please do check it is on the register, because it is crucial that the ambulance service can give directions to the nearest defibrillator if someone has a cardiac arrest. We can also ensure that existing defibrillators are managed and looked after and that the register is a live register. We all know that things happen in our communities—defibrillators can be vandalised, or a building can be taken out of use and the defibrillator goes with it. It is important that this is a live piece of work.

The NHS is also working with St John Ambulance. Again, a number of Members have mentioned its excellent work to increase the importance of CPR. It is true that although people do not need training in order to use a defibrillator—my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield put it well—it is about educating them so that they are confident in using them. I want to reinforce the message that no harm can be done with a defibrillator; simply stick the stickers to someone’s chest, turn the machine on, and it will tell us exactly what to do. In some cases, it will not be appropriate, in which case it will say exactly what will happen. It is a valuable piece of kit; almost idiot-proof, in that you cannot get it wrong. We want to give the public the absolute confidence that if they come across a defibrillator, they should feel free to use it, but that overall CPR training is also vital.

Just to clarify the point about a defibrillator telling someone if it will not work, it actually will not work as a machine if it is used in the wrong way.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That gives people added reassurance that they can do no harm, because the machine is totally in control.

We are also using technology, and there are some exciting apps—the hon. Member for Delyn (Rob Roberts) talked about having apps. Some mobile technology works with the NHS to help people play a role in becoming first responders. If people know how to do CPR—the hon. Member for Gordon (Richard Thomson) seems to be trained up in that—I encourage them to use the GoodSAM app, which allows members of the public who can do CPR and feel confident about using a defibrillator to receive alerts. If someone collapses in the local area, they will get an alert on their phone, which will tell them where the nearest defibrillator and the person who needs help are. It integrates with ambulance dispatch systems and has a crowd-sourced map of defibrillators, including those in vehicles. The platform now has more than 19,000 volunteers and partnerships with 80 organisations, including the NHS and ambulance trusts.

We are also reassured that the British Heart Foundation is developing an app. It will link to The Circuit and show people where their nearest defibrillator is. Technology is being used to help communities to help themselves.

On a different but related subject, in this place and in the main Chamber, the Pensions Minister, our hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman), has talked about how he is working with the BBC and other broadcasters to do some kind of nationwide campaign to raise awareness of pension credit. Is that something the Department of Health and Social Care could work on for this subject?

The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. Some of the developments have been over the past two years and, during covid, they have not necessarily had the publicity they deserve. We all have a role in promoting initiatives. There is work to be done so that people are aware of the apps and initiatives.

In our communities, defibrillators are available at airports, shopping centres, train stations and community centres. School-age children are at low risk, but it can still happen, as I said earlier. As a result, and thanks to the work of the Oliver King Foundation, huge pressure was placed on the Department for Education, so defibs are now available for schools and other education providers across the UK to purchase through the NHS supply chain. They can get those important pieces of equipment at reduced cost. As of January this year, more than 5,000 defibs had been purchased through the defibrillators for schools programme, so we are getting defibs out into our schools.

Since May 2019, the Government have required all new and refurbished schools in Department for Education school building programmes to have at least one defib in their buildings. We are pushing that out for new and refurbished schools, but that does not cover all schools in the network.

To get defibrillators into the community, I established the Community Access Defibrillators for East Yorkshire campaign. I formed a committee and worked with the highly estimable Warren Bostock of the Yorkshire ambulance service, challenging him with the question: “What would a complete network look like?” His initial response was, “How long is a piece of string?”, but he came up with rules and a map showing all the communities that did and did not have defibrillators—60-plus did not—and over the past two or three years we have been working on that. We now have that figure down to fewer than 20 and hope that in the next 12 months we will have it down to zero. Colleagues might be interested to hear the history of that, to get a template that can be applied elsewhere. If we have clarity about where we ought to have defibrillators, we can ensure that we have them there. In parallel, if we work on awareness and confidence, as discussed, we could save even more than the 4,000 lives that the Minister so rightly highlighted earlier.

I thank my hon. Friend for his hard work in his community. There are some excellent examples of where defibrillators have been rolled out. Many communities now have them, but if we have them mandated in public buildings, we can address the gaps outside them with excellent work such as my hon. Friend’s. That is the point that the hon. Member for Strangford is making with his forthcoming private Member’s Bill.

We are also providing training, and CPR training is so important. From September of last year, all state-funded schools have been required to teach first aid as part of the new subject of health education, which was introduced alongside relationship education. Primary school children are taught basic first aid now, and pupils in secondary schools are taught further aid, such as administering CPR and the purpose of defibrillators, so hopefully the next generation will be far more confident than perhaps we are in performing CPR and using defibrillators.

Separately, Sport England has announced that it is working with the Football Foundation in support of the Premier League initiative to put £3 million into providing defibs for grassroots football clubs. A number of people mentioned Christian Eriksen. We also had the case of Fabrice Muamba in 2012. Very often in sports facilities, these are crucial pieces of kit that can save lives. We heard about the supporter at Newcastle who also benefited.

This is an incredibly important issue. I want to reassure the hon. Member for Strangford and all hon. Members here today that we absolutely take it seriously. It is an absolute priority to improve the lives and healthcare outcomes of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside a hospital. I hope that the work in the last two years, although perhaps it is not as well known, as the hon. Member for Delyn points out, shows that we are making key progress in some of the really important areas. But there are gaps in provision. We have heard that what matters is not just where defibs go but that they are outside, with 24-hour access. There are tricky issues such as whether to have a code on a defib. All these things need to be nailed down. I am happy to work with colleagues. This work does not involve just the Department of Health and Social Care; some of it needs the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Department for Education, or the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It is a cross-Government approach, and I am happy to work with Members to bridge any gaps that still exist.

First, I thank all hon. Members who have spoken for their contributions. A consistent theme is coming through about having all the data in place; and The Circuit network is going a long way towards that.

I am very keen to be aware of the Welsh perspective and what is happening in Wales. There might be lessons there for us all to learn about how to do what is needed. I thank the hon. Member for Delyn (Rob Roberts) for giving us that perspective.

The hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald) referred to access to AEDs and training. Again, that is a central theme that consistently comes up, with each and every person. He gave the example of Denmark. He also referred to the fact that in some cases AEDs can be delivered to rural areas by drone. I am not quite sure about the science of how that is done, but the point is that it is happening somewhere, and if it is happening somewhere and is successful, it might be the way to address this issue in some rural areas.

I was so sorry to hear about the lady whose case was raised by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell). The necessary timescale very clearly was not there. As a result, there will now be an AED in place. It was not there when the lady needed it, and all of us, including the Minister, have said that we wish to convey our sincere sympathies to the family.

May I thank the hon. Member and all other hon. Members who have expressed their sympathy? When I see Mr Benson, I will ensure that they are passed on to him, and when I speak to the headteacher tomorrow, I will ensure that they are passed on to the school as well.

There is a united consensus of sympathy in relation to that case.

I thank the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Paul Howell) for his support for this cause. He gave us a salient reminder of the 300 children who die each year from cardiac arrest. Sometimes, when we hear the figure of 30,000 for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, we do not focus on all the people that includes.

I think we are all really interested in what the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) has done in his constituency. We would be very keen to find out more about how that has happened, because there is obviously something that we could learn from there.

I am very impressed by the fact that the hon. Member for Gordon (Richard Thomson) is so learned in this sector. I know him as a friend, so I am not surprised at his knowledge on this subject matter. I know that he is also a very athletic person. He gave the example of the sixth-form student who is alive today and pursuing a career because of an AED that was in the right place, at the right time. The hon. Gentleman and I feature in many debates together; indeed, I cannot think of any debate on a health issue that we have missed. I thank him. I am certainly keen to look at that, and will discuss how to bring it forward in a positive way with the Minister and the hon. Member for Sedgefield, if that is possible.

I want to sincerely thank the Minister. She referred to the fact that some 12 young people die from cardiac arrest every week. It is shocking that we can lose so much young life—people who could have done so much and had their futures ahead of them. The hon. Lady will know of young Oliver King. He comes to my mind on many occasions. I never knew the young boy, but I knew his daddy—that is very real.

The Minister referred to discussions with stakeholders, the NHS and first responders, who do excellent work in my constituency. She also referred to teaching and training in schools. That is all part of the joint approach that we need, alongside St John Ambulance and CPR training. The Minister also referred to Bills that will require an AED to be in place in all those buildings and that AEDs will be mandated in any new build. I am very grateful for that positive response from the Minister.

However, my private Member’s Bill aims to do one thing, if I can achieve it: it would mandate that all buildings, not just new buildings, must have AEDs. I know that the Minister agrees with that. We need a consensus across all Departments that have responsibility in this area. AEDs are available in lots of buildings already—in schools, Government buildings, many leisure centres, football clubs and so on. However, the Bill aims to achieve one thing: that AEDs are mandated in all buildings, and that those who are responsible for them will know that. The signage, training and all of the other things to which the Minister and others have referred are great points and are very important, but they illustrate that the Bill is so important. I hope that on Second Reading, on 10 December, the Government will see that the Bill is a win-win; there is no cost, but everyone gains. Those nine out of 10 victims of sudden cardiac arrest who are lost every year can be saved. The Bill is a lifesaver. I encourage the Government and all those involved to support it.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered public access to Automatic External Defibrillators.

Sitting suspended.

Touring Musicians: EU Visas and Permits

[Dr Rupa Huq in the Chair]

[Relevant documents: e-petition 563294, Seek Europe-wide Visa-free work permit for Touring professionals and Artists; Oral evidence taken before the Petitions Committee on 4 February and 8 February 2021, on Arrangements for touring professionals and artists in the EU, HC 1116; Correspondence with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Minister of State for Digital and Culture, relating to Arrangements for touring professionals and artists in the EU, reported to the House on 20 January and 9 March 2021, HC 1116; Summary of public engagement by the Petitions Committee on Arrangements for touring professionals and artists in the EU, reported to the House on 3 February 2021, HC 1116.]

Before we begin, I remind Members that they are expected to wear face coverings when they are not speaking in the debate, in line with current Government guidance and that of the House of Commons Commission. I also remind Members that they are asked by the House to have a covid lateral flow test twice a week if they are coming on to the parliamentary estate. This can be done either at the testing centre downstairs or at home. Finally, please give each other, and members of staff, space when you are seated and when entering or leaving the Chamber.

I beg to move,

That this House has considered enabling visa- and permit-free working for musicians in the EU.

It is a great pleasure, Dr Huq, to see you in the Chair for this debate, and I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for agreeing to the application for this debate from myself and the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton), who is chair of the all-party parliamentary group on music. That application had the backing of the Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, the hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight), and numerous MPs from all parties, from Scotland, Wales and every region in England. The concern is cross-party; the demand for Government action is UK-wide.

The music sector is important to the UK, both culturally and economically. It accounts for nearly 200,000 jobs and, at least before covid, it was worth £5.8 billion, £2.9 billion of which was generated in export revenue, with the EU being by far the biggest market. The finances of the sector—both of individuals and organisations—depend for a significant section of income on touring in the EU, with a survey conducted just before covid showing that 44% of musicians received up to half their earnings in the EU. Our music sector financially depends on touring in the EU.

Of course, we do not just look at this issue in economic terms. We have to recognise the role that music plays in the very quality of our lives, in the definition of our communities, and in our ability to engage with our emotions, and to understand ourselves and each other. Our music is precious and our musicians should be celebrated, protected and supported in their art. However, they face a great problem that is not of their making, which is the post-Brexit obstacle to touring in the EU.

A tour of Europe often needs to involve more than one country to be viable and sometimes many countries. The problem is that for British musicians to tour in Europe now there are 27 different work permit regimes, 27 different visa regimes and 27 different requirements for proof of the work that is going to be undertaken. That means hours spent on forms and certificates, downloading bank statements and acquiring certification and statements about the nature of the work; days spent travelling to and sitting in consulates; weeks spent waiting for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to process A1 forms to provide to employers in Europe; fees for applications; and further expense and time to obtain musical instrument certificates with expert verification that the instrument does not consist of endangered wood or ivory, with the risk of the instrument being confiscated if the paperwork is not in order.

Does the right hon. and learned Lady believe that specialised visa renewals for touring groups, which would streamline the time and the cost for visa applications for working musicians, would be a step in the right direction, and if so would the Minister consider that suggestion?

We need to take all the steps in the right direction that we can, and we look forward to hearing from the Minister. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution to the debate today.

There is time and cost involved. I recommend to the Minister that she download and look at some of the forms that are required. I have only four of them here, but they are of mind-boggling complexity, and they are all different—that is the point. People cannot just get the hang of doing one of them and then do it again; they have to be done differently for every country, every time. That means plans being curtailed and opportunities being lost, and that is without even mentioning the dreaded cabotage rules that prevent a lorry needed to carry instruments or equipment from making more than three stops before returning back to the UK. That does not fit with how touring bands or orchestras work in just one country, let alone if they are touring a number of countries.

Some 85% of the European concert trucking industry is based here in the UK. Those firms will be put out of business or have to relocate to Europe unless this matter is sorted.

The industry was based in the UK, but, according to the information that I have, a lot of it has already gone to Holland. Although touring is not taking place at scale, the planning that goes into touring is taking place right now. It is necessary to get the rules changed now, and not when we discover we do not have an industry left.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Time is not on our side. We all recognise this is an immensely skilled and professional industry that we should protect, and it should not have to move. Our musicians and those who work to support them are highly committed, resourceful and skilled. They say there is a problem that they cannot solve and they need Government action. The Government must reach agreements with all EU countries for consistent regimes so that our musicians can once again tour freely in the EU. As the hon. Gentleman said, they should do it quickly. Plans are being made in the EU that leave out our sector.

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Lady for securing this debate. I declare my interest as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on opera. She has referred to touring bands and orchestras, but there is also a real issue for singers and freelancers. For an individual singer, especially a young singer, trying to negotiate the forms is nigh on impossible. A production of “Peter Grimes”, the great Benjamin Britten opera, which requires an English-speaking cast at the Teatro Real in Madrid, was in jeopardy for months before eventually a workaround was achieved. Even though the situation in Spain has improved, in many places it is very difficult for British singers, and they are not getting the bookings. Bookings for opera companies are made years in advance, which is why we need certainty now.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about that. Plans are being made, and if the Government do not move quickly some organisations will become unviable. Some musicians at the top of their career will feel their best option is to relocate to Europe, and we do not want them to have to do that. Many of the next generation of musicians will never have the opportunity to get into the profession, and to develop their careers, without the financial and artistically important benefits of working in Europe. Whether it is established artists or those just starting out, big organisations or freelancers, our music sector needs the cultural creativity that they get from working in Europe. We do not want to become a musical Galápagos with our musicians locked out of the cultural partnership that is so important for creative development.

I hope the Minister will recognise the weight of opinion, which includes Sir Elton John, Sir Simon Rattle, Howard Goodall, Sting, Judith Weir, Nicola Benedetti, Ed Sheeran, the Sex Pistols, Roger Daltrey, Bob Geldof, Brian May and many more. I pay tribute to the work done by the organisations demanding Government action: the Musicians’ Union, UK Music, the Association of British Orchestras, BECTU, the Incorporated Society of Musicians and Carry on Touring, to name just a few. They all call for a concerted response from the Government to support the sector while matters are being sorted out.

The Prime Minister has said that there is a problem and he promised to fix it. I have talked to the new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. She knows about this and I know she wants to sort it. We are genuinely not looking for a political row. We only want a solution, but we need absolute clarity and honesty from the Government. There is no point in telling the sector that the problem is solved if it clearly is not. There is no point in the Government just issuing more guidance. Those involved in the music sector do not need to be told what the problem is. They know only too well and they need the Government to sort it.

Like others, I congratulate the right hon. and learned Lady on securing this debate. I agree with everything that she has said, but there is an aspect that she has not touched on—the festivals around the country. In Orkney we have the world-famous St Magnus festival in June, which was founded by the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. In Shetland, we have the Shetland folk festival. Those are community-enterprises, albeit highly professional ones. The administrative burden for them from having to deal with visas of the sort that the right hon. and learned Lady has already pointed out will be phenomenal. That cultural growth would be an enormous loss for our communities.

I completely agree with the right hon. Gentleman’s point. We have to think of the impact of those coming into this country: we need them to be part of our music sector here.

I welcome the Minister to her place and I wish her well in her work. If she wants any help to get this sorted, we are all here to help and do whatever we can to back her up on this. I look forward to hearing from her this afternoon that she acknowledges the scale and nature of the problem, and that she will deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise. I know she will have to work with many other Departments. No pressure, but we are looking to her to deliver. We want to hear from her what progress she has already made, and what further progress she anticipates the Government will make in respect of which countries and by when.

This is a very popular debate. In fact, my name is on the original list of people speaking in it. To allow the Mother of the House, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), time to wind up, the first Front-Bench spokesperson will start at 3.58 pm. If everyone can keep within a five-minute time limit, everyone will get in.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Dr Huq, and it is a pleasure to follow the Mother of the House, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman). I congratulate her on her words, on her continuing efforts in this area and on securing this important debate.

We should not be having this debate. It is endlessly amazing to me that the public consciousness, the media and the press can, day after day, follow the intricacies of fisheries and the arguments over the European Union and fishing rights, for example, but the music industry, which employs more people than the fishing and steel industries combined, hardly gets a look in.

We ought not to be having this debate because this should have been wrapped up long ago, but, on leaving the EU, the trade and co-operation agreement very much focused itself on goods rather than services, so cultural touring was left a little behind. I know the Prime Minister has openly committed to working flat out to solve the problem, and progress has been made, particularly this week with Spain, but we have a long way to go. The problem is not only the practicalities of UK musicians, artists, crew and creatives from other sectors touring the EU, but the perception that this is a niche, side issue and not one that we need to firmly address.

Looking at the facts, employment in the music sector has dropped by 35%, with revenues almost halving in the last year. We were riding high before the pandemic. The sector grew by 11% in 2019, far beyond the rest of the economy, not only dragging the rest of the economy behind it, but flying the flag as well, by demonstrating the creative skill of the UK.

The EU is our most vital market. The European Commission itself said that UK acts “dominated the European panorama”, and that must continue. In order for it to continue, the uncertainties around cabotage, carnets, visas and work permits need to be resolved, not only in a purely logistical sense but because without the certainty, as we have heard, that comes from knowing that artists, orchestras, musicians and all their retinue can travel freely and work, it is impossible for them to book ahead and have the confidence to look forward.

Any work in any EU member state is still restricted. Although we have had good news and there may be only six EU member states with which we now need to organise work permits, we are still restricted to 90 in 180 days over all member states. For example, Austria allows only four weeks of permit-free working and Poland allows only 30 days for every 12 months. There are other restrictions. Any musician playing in France must be employed by a registered venue, and might be required to register in the host state.

The costs are also prohibitive. The cost of a Greek visa is £68 per person, and then there is the £300 cost of a carnet for an unaccompanied instrument. We are talking about hundreds or even thousands of pounds once there are a significant number of musicians to get on the road.

Then there is the cabotage. UK trucks are allowed to make only three stops, which is logically impossible and ridiculous. As we have heard, we are losing jobs as hauliers move from the UK to the EU. We have no carnet waiver agreement with the EU—which we need. Musicians need to source carnets well in advance of travel and get them physically signed off by border officials. EU musicians do not have to face that on entering the UK. That means that, while established artists or large orchestras can probably manage the mountain of paperwork, tick all the boxes and get on the road, artists who are starting out, new or breaking new ground really do not stand a chance. That means that we will see a further decline in the future dominance of UK culture; our future will not be as successful as our past.

I am chair of the all-party parliamentary group on music, and next week we are beginning an inquiry into these very issues, taking evidence from every part of the industry and, I hope, getting some pretty major stars as well—to sparkle the thing up. I know that conversations have been had and I understand the difficulties of negotiating with 27 member states, but we have to have clarity, fairness and equity for cabotage, cultural waivers and visas. If we do not solve the issues that the industry is experiencing, we will not only harm ourselves and the industry through even more unnecessary stress and job losses to the EU, but we will lose talent, lose our influence, lose our upper hand and—importantly—lose our leadership on the international stage.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Dr Huq, particularly on a topic that quite clearly means so much to Members and their constituents across the country. I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) and the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton) on securing this very important debate. I have said it a number of times—colleagues across the border may refute my claims—but music really is such a unique part of Welsh culture and identity. We have obviously seen some fantastic musicians from across Wales have great success across Europe and the world over the years, too. Indeed, it is about time that we recognise both the cultural and economic benefits that musicians and their craft bring to our nation. While I am hesitant to make reference to the undisputed king of Wales, Sir Tom Jones, this early on in a debate—it’s not unusual—it would be remiss of me to ignore the incredible influence he has had on so many artists, big and small, in Wales and beyond.

When we speak about musicians touring in the EU, we must also be clear to establish that there are also artists at the very start of their careers hoping to catch a big break overseas. As we have heard, there are the further complications when considering the needs of orchestras, or brass bands, such as the incredible Cory Band based in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), who travel with large instruments or require advanced technical support. The vast majority of brass bands are led by volunteers who have day jobs; they are unable to navigate and circumvent the necessary paperwork and arbitrary requirements needed to travel to all these countries.

The success of our music industry has been well documented in this place, but it really is remarkable that the UK—as small as we physically are—is currently the second biggest exporter of music in the world. It comes as no surprise to learn that Europe is our industry’s closest and most important international market. Put simply, it is not a market we should be seeking to cut off. We all know that European touring has become more expensive, more complicated and more difficult to execute. What is even more frustrating is that the confusion, lack of clarity and co-ordination over the requirements of the 27 EU member states for touring musicians was clearly an oversight by the UK Government during the negotiation period. The UK’s live music industry is completely reliant on low-friction barriers to entry and movement, allowing tours to move through countries seamlessly and quickly. However, as the world slowly begins to unlock from the restrictions that coronavirus has placed on us all, I fear that our creative sector will continue to pay the price for this ignorance and inaction.

As it stands, UK musicians and their teams are not able to tour around a fifth of Europe—six out of 27 member states—without obtaining certain visas and work permits far in advance. In an industry where last minute changes to tour itineraries are particularly frequent, how on earth can we expect that to be viable, particularly for smaller artists and groups whose income is solely reliant on revenue generated from their live music performances? Once again, the Government are widely missing the mark, especially given their recent celebration of the fact that 21 EU member states do not require visas or work permits.

The industry has known about these restrictions for some time now and have been leading on the campaign to increase visa free access across the EU. I must take the opportunity to congratulate the sector, and in particular the Association of British Orchestras and LIVE on their recent success in Spain. Instead of seeing meaningful policy developments from the UK Government to help the industry back on its feet, we see them disingenuously taking credit for the actions of the sector. Touring in the EU is a critical way for new and emerging artists of all genres to gain valuable experience, build their fan base and secure an income, but the artists are now being blocked due to financial barriers and a lack of information and support to navigate the process.

To conclude, sadly the points raised today are not particularly new—many of them have been repeatedly raised by colleagues across the House time and again. Musicians really want to get back out there, and I know, from the popularity of today's debate, that most colleagues across the political divide want to support the industry. Now really is the time for the Minister’s Department to act, particularly as the Government have dragged their heels on this issue for too long. I sincerely hope the Minister will take our pleas seriously, and I look forward to hearing her plans to tackle this worrying problem, which is impacting musicians up and down the country.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dr Huq. I congratulate the Mother of the House—the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman)—and the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton) on securing the debate, although it is regrettable that we are here at all.

Years ago, in 2016, just after the Brexit referendum, I used to joke that this place should be renamed Brexit Minister Hall, because we spent so much time debating the ins and outs of the Brexit negotiating process, and here we are again. Despite all the assurances that we received in those days, it is plain that if Brexit had not happened, we simply would not be having this debate.

The difficulties that our musicians and performing artists are experiencing, the damage it is doing to their careers, the talent that is being wasted and the economic opportunities that are being missed are all because of Brexit—particularly the desperately hard Brexit driven through by this Government with a flagrant disregard for anyone who might be harmed by it or disagree with that approach. The problems that everyone has spoken about, and that we will continue to hear about, simply did not exist before the end of January 2020. I am sorry to drift slightly from the consensual tone with which the Mother of the House opened this debate, but I think that has to be said. This mess is entirely of the Government’s making, so the responsibility for resolving it lies entirely with them.

We have heard about the industry’s value to the country as a whole; it employs more people than the steel and fisheries industries combined but, perhaps because it is not as concentrated—or not as concentrated in Conservative marginal seats—we are not hearing quite so much interest or action. Where is the summoning of the ambassadors, which we have seen recently to resolve certain disputes in the fishing industry?

I have a huge concentration—a massive wealth—of talent, and indeed of economic wealth, for at least some of the music industry, in Glasgow North. It is home to some of the finest venues and most famous artists in Scotland, but also to some of the smaller venues—an incubator for real future talents. The European tour is a hugely important part of the nurturing of that future talent and, as we have heard, the opportunities are simply drying up.

I have been wearing the mask of the Kinnaris Quintet, some of whom are based in my constituency—five of the finest young Scotswomen traditional music performers in the country—and their experiences are sadly being replicated all over the country. Jenn Butterworth, one of my constituents, said,

“as a musician I feel pretty let down by the government as I heard there was a possibility we could have been allowed visa free travel and it was denied by our own govt in the negotiations”.

Another said,

“we’re totally in limbo with lots of things in the diary... we’re losing any prospect of reaching audiences in Europe.... One production was a main source of income and now the costs, hurdles to climb, uncertainties were just too much of a headache for the French promoters, so they decided to sack all the participants who didn’t hold European passports.”

I heard of their desperate search for Irish ancestry, or some other European connection, because there is now a distinct advantage to having dual citizenship for people in this country. Musicians without that are increasingly finding it difficult, with stories of agents simply passing by artists who do not have straightforward visa access to Europe.

On fees and taxes, one of the bands that I spoke to said that if they want to go to Germany, they have to pay a 19% tax on any goods brought into the country. That means all their merchandise—they do not know whether they will sell it or not, but they have to pay that tax upfront. Those sales would have covered some of their living costs, accommodation and food while they were on the road, and all of that is thrown into complete uncertainty.

We have already heard about the challenge of acquiring carnets, and all the costs that go with that. It is a particular problem—again, as we have heard—for orchestras or other large bands or ensembles. Previous models, based on freedom of movement, are simply unviable now.

There are solutions if the Government are willing to work for them, such as the 10-point plan circulated by the office of the Mother of the House, which I fully endorse. The Government should meet industry bodies, such as the Association of British Orchestras, UK Music, the Musicians’ Union, LIVE, the Incorporated Society of Musicians and the Scots music forums, get them all round the table and hear from them first hand.

A benefit of Brexit was supposed to be global opportunities, but I do not see easyJet flights to Australia appearing anytime soon. I am not sure how anyone is supposed to go on the road to the end of the Earth to promote their talent, so that argument falls flat on its face. It is not immediately impossible to undo Brexit, but there is a reason why support for independence is growing in Scotland, not least among our cultural and music sectors. It is our route back in—our lifeboat, literally and metaphorically—to get back across the channel and thrive in the way that we ought to be able to.

The good news is that with drop-outs, including myself, we have stretched the time limit to seven minutes. I call the Chair of the Select Committee, Julian Knight.

I will luxuriate in my seven minutes. It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dr Huq. It does not seem long ago that we came into this place and swore oaths next to each other. Here we are, only a few years later, two old lags—if I may be so bold.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton) and the Mother of the House, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), for securing the debate. I concur entirely with her speech, which was conciliatory and thoughtful. I hope that the Minister takes that tone away from the debate: it is not a party political matter, but a matter of looking after our constituents, our wider cultural impact and, frankly, global Britain. Without these industries, we are not global Britain anymore.

I will make some brief observations. We have heard about the enormous flurry of paperwork and the unworkable and patchwork system that is in place. The Select Committee has been aware of the issue for a long time. We invited Lord Frost to appear before us at the start of the year, but he refused. It was only after pinning the Prime Minister down in the Liaison Committee on 24 March that he said Lord Frost will appear and we will get this sorted. Lord Frost eventually appeared in June or July after avoiding the Committee for a long time, but in that whole time, there have been only four official bilateral meetings, one of which was on the morning of his appearance by some strange coincidence—that is one every two months.

I know that conversations have taken place, however, and that the Minister’s predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Caroline Dinenage), was, after initially trying to get her head around the issue, committed to it. She told us some good stories about how she would track people down at conference and try to have conversations, but there was always a feeling that there was a road block in the shape of Lord Frost.

It seemed that the issue was being drawn into the general feeling of antagonism between us and the EU, which was unnecessary. This is not a confected row to bring about a Jim Hacker sausage moment in politics in terms of the Northern Ireland protocol. That should have nothing to do with this issue, which is about people’s livelihoods and our place in the world.

It is utterly farcical that we are 20 miles away from Europe and yet, in the case of at least six nations, we have the same rights of travel and access for brilliant creatives—not just musicians but whole swathes of people across industries—as people coming from the Cook Islands on the other side of the world. That is a ridiculous situation.

I say to the Minister that she is pushing at an open door. Provided that we keep the issue out of the mess that is going on with Northern Ireland, which I believe we can, there is an enormous willingness across the EU to talk to us bilaterally, because they also want our talent there—they miss it. We have such a fantastic reservoir of talent. They want people to be there and to enjoy that cultural exchange. My hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) spoke about opera. I was talking to a lady who is one of the world’s leading lights at the Vienna opera house. She is struggling to get work there. This is a person of such huge, global talent that she is called upon everywhere.

My hon. Friend makes such an important point. We forget just how significant the status of British artists is in the opera field—not only the leading stars, such as he refers to, but the young singers who cut their teeth in the repertoire houses in Germany and the festivals in Europe. They are losing out because of an inflexibility and a lack of joined-up Government between the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Cabinet Office, and that has to change.

My hon. Friend is singing from the same song sheet as I am. There is perhaps a misperception—we often talk about this on the Select Committee—of the importance of DCMS to our economy. My hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome referenced it, but to put it into real figures the DCMS sector is worth 23% of the economy. The Government are around 40% to 45% of the economy—it depends on where one is in the United Kingdom. DCMS is 0.5% of Government spending. When it has a few million quid, it has to go the Treasury—it is in the same building—and say, “Please can we do this?”

There is an idea within Government, and has been, I would say, for many years, that these industries are mendicants, always asking for hand-outs. That may be true of the Royal Opera House, but our creative sectors are the model of leanness and competitiveness. They have learned to survive without hand-outs over a long period. My view—this may be where I depart from Opposition Members—is that that has been of enormous benefit to their long-term health and robustness, but they cannot deal with the red tape and the lack of access and ability to work. I am a free-marketarian. This is not a free market because of circumstance and perhaps a lack of focus and will in certain parts of Government, though not within DCMS.

We have allowed a situation to occur where we are helping to damage industries in which we have a competitive advantage. There is an economic law of competitive cost advantage. The reason why we are really good is because we have the English language and a great history of creativity. We should invest in areas where we have a competitive cost advantage. We no longer have one in many industries, but we do in this one. Without the music industry and film production, the UK economy, pre pandemic, would have been in recession for four of the previous six years. That is why it is vital that we get this moving, because we will discover the damage that has been done only when it is too late.

There also may be a bit of sniffiness about the industry. We all remember during the pandemic the quickly withdrawn advert showing a ballerina whose next job was as an IT consultant. I am not dissing IT consultants, but being a ballerina is fantastic, top of the tree, and something that we should be proud of in this country. There are Members in the Chamber who really want to work with the Minister and see this happen, because we care about our constituents and our country, and we know that these are areas in which we can have genuine advantage and push ourselves forward. We have effectively given them a no-deal Brexit. We now need to mend that by dealing with the cabotage through the EU and having bilaterals to get this sorted.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Dr Huq, although it is a shame that you are not contributing to the debate because I know what a music fan you are. I do not think that I have to declare my membership of the Musicians’ Union but I will, although, as I always say on such occasions, I have no musical talent whatsoever, unlike some of my colleagues who are speaking in the debate.

The fact that we are here in November 2021—well over five years since the UK voted to leave the European Union—is a damning indictment of the Government’s failure to prepare for the consequences of Brexit. I think that is, in part, political. The Government just did not want to concede that there could be negative consequences to no longer having freedom of movement and to leaving the market. I have seen that in other sectors, too—the labour shortages in food and farming, for example—and the ostrich approach of burying our head in the sand has had real consequences for the people who are affected.

That approach has included ignoring the warnings from the industry. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) said, so many people from across the industry—not just performers, but road crew, lighting engineers, truck drivers and so on—have come forward to try to tell the Government that action is needed, but there has been a refusal to host anything by way of meaningful discussions. An EU official told The Guardian in January that when the EU proposed a standard range of travel exemptions,

“the UK refused to engage in our discussions at all”.

I know there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing and trying to blame one another for that, but according the EU sources, by June, the UK had still made no approach to remove travel barriers for creative workers.

As well as being political, I think there is an element of incompetence to the Government’s approach. Quite frankly, that is a hallmark of this Government. It is also another sign of the Government’s failure to acknowledge the importance of our creative industries. We have heard about the statistics and the pound signs attached to those industries: we are the world’s second-biggest exporter of music, with an export revenue of £2.9 billion. The value of music, as others have said, is far greater than that. We not only have some of the biggest-selling music artists in the world, but some of the best—those are not necessarily the same thing.

I remember, when I was a student in what was then Leningrad, in the summer of 1984, being besieged by young Russians who were just absolutely desperate to find out more about UK music, which was a lifeline to them and their connection to the west. I remember being asked, on the beach on the bank of the Neva river, how many children Paul McCartney had. I must admit, I did not know, and it was before the internet, but that just shows the soft power connected to our worldwide reputation for music.

We also know that the sector has been incredibly hard hit by covid, which is all the more reason why the Government should pull out all the stops to get it back on its feet. To an extent, the Government have been saved by covid, because people being unable to tour has masked the impact of Brexit on the live music sector. Now that we have, I hope, emerged from the worst of the pandemic, it is absolutely vital that the Government step up the pace on progress.

I am pleased that we have made some progress on visas, although I think it is a bit audacious for the Secretary of State to try to claim credit for that. We need agreements with the remaining six member states, and we also need bilateral discussions, because at the moment, any work is still restricted over all member states to a total of up to 90 days in any 180 days. As we have heard, there is still so much bureaucracy around that.

I will mention carnets and merchandise briefly. We have heard about the costs of taking unaccompanied instruments across borders—those costs are just for the paperwork. We know that smaller and up-and-coming bands in particular do not have lawyers, agents and managers to do all that for them; they have to deal with it themselves, and it is a real deterrent. Tim Burgess from the Charlatans tweeted earlier this week that the band was unable to sell any merchandise during its recent Dublin gig. We know that so many bands rely on merchandise to make a living because of streaming and everything else.

I will finish by talking about cabotage, as I know that that is what is expected of me as a member of the shadow Transport team. UK tour trucks made up close to 80% of the EU market prior to 2016 and Brexit. The three-stop rule for UK trucks forces them to re-route back to the UK, which is incredibly costly and time-consuming if they bother to do so, but most do not, making UK-led tours impossible. The band Public Service Broadcasting recently had to book a German bus for their European tour—something that they described as maddeningly stupid and self-harming. Big US acts have traditionally started their EU tours in the UK, so they fly into Heathrow, pick up the trucks, road crew, sound, lighting, caterers—everything—here. Why would they do that now? They are just going to go to Germany or somewhere else.

We have seen limited progress. The small splitter trucks have been ruled exempt from cabotage rules, and cabotage easement has seen inbound rules suspended on EU-flagged trucks to help the HGV crisis here, but that makes things even worse for UK music hauliers, as it is not reciprocal. UK hauliers have had no Government support to relocate to the EU either—I do not want them to relocate to the EU, but that proposal was put forward by the Government as an answer to the problems back in the earliest stage of the negotiations—so they cannot get around the restrictions that way. The music industry is part of what makes this country great. Why would we want to throw out an integral part of that, and tell it to go and set up shop in France, Germany or Portugal?

UK Music is calling for a derogation from cabotage for all trucks used for cultural events, so I conclude by asking the Minister whether there are active discussions in her Department and the Department for Transport about this issue. When I have tried to talk to the DFT, it has told me that it is a matter for her Department, but when I have tried to talk to her Department, it has told me that it is a matter for the DFT. I rather feel that that has left a big, gaping void in which there are no discussions at all.

That is very kind, Dr Huq. I have yet to receive an invitation to tour Europe with the album, but who knows after today? Given that I am entitled to an Irish passport because of my father’s birthplace, perhaps I will be able to do so eventually. I declare my membership of the Musicians’ Union and the financial support that it gave me at the last election. I am also a member of the Ivors Academy, and have some small earnings from MP4, the world’s only parliamentary rock group—as you know, Dr Huq.

I congratulate the Mother of the House, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), on her tenacity in pushing forward this issue over the last year or so, for not letting it go and for not letting the Government off the hook. The fact that she brings her immense experience and powerful advocacy to the issue is important to musicians across the country, who are all immensely grateful to her for her campaigning.

Everyone is right: a tremendous variety of artists from the UK of different musical styles and genres tour Europe, from major orchestras, to the up-and-coming opera singer mentioned by the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), to the young singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar and an easyJet ticket, with no support, but perhaps a few T-shirts and CDs inside their pull suitcase. It is an incredibly varied landscape, and the Government do not seem to have grasped the importance of that from the outset. And yet, it could have been so different.

I remember being in this very Chamber in January 2020 with the former Minister, the right hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams), who was the predecessor of the Minister here with us today. I welcome the new Minister to her place; I do not think we have had the opportunity to have a debate before, but I look forward to our exchanges over the coming months and years. The former Minister said:

“Touring is the lifeblood of the industry… It is essential that free movement is protected for artists post 2020.”—[Official Report, 21 January 2020; Vol. 670, c. 56WH.]

It was official Government policy in January 2020, just after we had left the European Union, that there was free movement for artists across the European Union. What went wrong? Why did that not get translated?

The hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight), the Chair of the Select Committee, put it well. Our experiences of dealing with Lord Frost to try to untie this issue and get some movement on it were immensely frustrating. Not only were there delays, to which the Chair of the Select Committee referred, but when Lord Frost appeared before the Select Committee, he said, in contrast to what the Minister’s predecessor said in this Chamber on the record in Hansard:

“We do not agree with permanent visa waivers because they deprive us of control over our immigration system.”

That is the root of this. The issue is not about immigration, but about our creative industries, cultural exchanges and the touring of artists across Europe and across the United Kingdom. That is being conflated with an argument about freedom of movement and immigration, which has nothing to do with it.

In all my 20 years in Parliament, I have never heard anyone on the doorstep say, “What are you going to do about all these Polish violinists coming over here and entertaining our people? It’s an absolute disgrace. When are you going to do something about it?”. It is nonsense, yet we have changed from the position of the former Minister, on the essentiality of freedom of movement for artists to be able to work, to a position where the Government are saying, “We don’t believe in this because it undermines our immigration system.” What a load of nonsense and what a way to treat this hugely important part of our economy.

The creative industry is the fastest growing part of our economy and, as the hon. Member for Solihull rightly said, it is an important export earner for this country. It is an industry in which we have a comparative advantage and of which we can be proud. The industry brings immense prestige to this country in the soft power it exerts, as well as in the hard-line economic benefits we get from it.

Frankly, that has been the problem. The Prime Minister said at the Liaison Committee that he will “strain every sinew”, and he promised to fix it, yet a couple of months later this issue, which he said is so important that he will put his full weight behind it, was not even on the agenda of the first meeting of the Partnership Council in relation to Brexit. The Government, as an afterthought, included it as any other business, as Lord Frost had to explain when he came before the Select Committee.

I know that this is not within the Minister’s power, but perhaps she can pass it on to her colleagues. Will the Government take this issue off Lord Frost? Let us get him a million miles away from this issue as quickly as possible. Give it to a senior Minister, or even an up-and-coming, able and talented junior Minister, which I am sure the Minister is. Give it to somebody with a cross-Government remit to sort out all the issues between Departments. We have heard about the Government not acting in concert or in harmony on this issue. Give it to somebody who can sort it out, not Lord Frost. I am not a believer in nominative determinism but, let us face it, Lord Frost has had a chilling effect on this issue. It is fixable, so let us fix it.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Dr Huq. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman).

Like Camberwell and Peckham, Vauxhall is home to a thriving music scene and there are reminders of our musical past and present throughout my constituency. I am sure many hon. Members have visited the O2 Academy to see the wide range of musicians from around the world who have performed there.

Perhaps the most famous tribute in my constituency is the mural of David Bowie just outside Brixton station. David is one of Brixton’s most famous sons, having grown up on the boundary between Brixton and Stockwell. He attended Stockwell Primary School until the age of six, and he went on to be a worldwide cultural icon. Like many musicians of his time, he travelled up and down the country to play his music and draw inspiration.

Famously, David lived in Berlin for three years. During that time, as some hon. Members will remember, he recorded “Heroes”, a song telling the tale of lovers on either side of the Berlin wall at a time when people as young as 18 were shot for simply trying to cross the border. A decade later, David gave an emotional performance of “Heroes” close enough to the wall for thousands of young people on either side to listen and sing along. When he died in 2016, the German Foreign Office paid tribute to him by linking to his performance and praising him for his work in bringing down the wall.

That shows the valuable contribution of our music. Music is perhaps one of our most crucial and valuable exports, and it has a profound political impact across the world. However, that only happens when our musicians can travel freely across Europe and across the world. It is not just the big bands that create such cultural capital, but the many smaller touring bands, orchestras and freelancers. They all give British music a unique standing in the world.

I cannot claim to have a record like my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), but I can claim to have played the melodica at primary school—and to have played it very badly. However, I want to pay tribute to the cultural hub that is the South Bank Centre, home of the Royal Festival Hall, in my constituency. It supports so many young people from right across my constituency, from that of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham, and from many other constituencies. Before covid, it hosted an annual music festival put on by the Lambeth Music Service, which saw over 3,000 young people coming together, performing and playing a range of instruments. That is how we support our young people to get active in music, so that they can fulfil their ambitions and professions. That will not happen if these barriers stay in place.

Not allowing our musicians to travel not only weakens our position internationally but severely impacts the income streams of many performers. After such a desperate few years, our musicians are crying out to perform. They want to do what they know best: they want to play to the crowds; they want to support local businesses; they want to support local residents; they want to be able to employ people to start their careers. That will happen only if we support them from the outset.

It is not right that our musicians are missing out on vital touring opportunities. The Government have to listen. I ask the Minister to listen to all of us—this issue has cross-party support—and to the Musicians’ Union and others, and to reach an agreement so that our musicians can travel freely.

I thank the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) and the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton) for securing the debate. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Dr Huq. I always say that; I do not always mean it. In this case, I wholeheartedly do.

Oh, my goodness—here we are again! The needle is stuck. The arguments go round and round. I realise that I have spoken about this issue in the House six times over the past 12 months; let us hope that this is our farewell tour. We have today heard some very familiar lyrics, and as plaintive as ever. We know that swathes of the creative industry are suffering directly as a result of Brexit, with endless bureaucracy.

Lord Frost, that living rebuke to the unelected Brussels bureaucrat, fessed up at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and told us that the sector had been thrown under the Brexit tour bus mid-negotiation. Even Brexiteers booed metaphorically. As we have heard, only the richest artists can navigate the endless red tape and visa costs. But they are not all Elton. DCMS Ministers were not even a support act in those negotiations.

How did we get to this place? The much-trailed bespoke deal that the UK proposed had no precedent, as Ministers told us at the time. The Incorporated Society of Musicians warned that the EU would not sign up to it. Instead, the EU offered a standard visa waiver, the UK said no, and we found ourselves in this mess—artists abandoned for Brexit zealotry.

As the disastrous consequences of the hard Brexit that the UK Government were imposing on the sector dawned, the then Culture Secretary, the right hon. Member for Hertsmere (Oliver Dowden), sprang into action, setting up the creative and cultural touring project, with the aim of striking 27 separate touring visa deals with EU countries. The group met a grand total of once, in January. When the hon. Member for Gosport (Caroline Dinenage), then a Minister, appeared before the DCMS Committee on 16 February, she confirmed, shockingly, that no negotiations with EU member states had begun—lethargy, torpor, lazy chaos. Even today, six EU countries have no visa waiver arrangements with the UK. Carnets and other customs controls are delaying artists and their crews. Contingency days need to be scheduled into tours—needless Brexit bureaucracy, needless Brexit bills.

For wealthy artists, this is manageable, but for our new talent it is not. Music is perhaps these islands’ greatest export, but if we lock young artists out of much of Europe, they will miss a vital market. Orchestras, which by their very nature have to transport at times hundreds of instruments, cannot afford to tour. As the Association of British Orchestras says,

“These added costs, delays and administrative burdens result in damage to our international reputation, to cultural exchange, and damage UK orchestras’ already fragile business model.”

The road haulage sector can be added to the long list of businesses suffering because of Brexit and the UK’s disastrous failure to negotiate a decent deal with the EU. As Members will know, without multiple truck stops, there can be no European tours using UK hauliers. Currently, UK vehicles that weigh more than 3.5 tonnes are banned from making two stops before returning home. That is having a crushing effect on UK haulage. The larger players will be forced to relocate much of their business, as we have heard, away from the UK to EU countries, but smaller players will be forced out of the market altogether. I do not remember seeing huge new visa costs, reams of new red tape and creative sector jobs lost on the side of that Brexit tour bus.

The UK Government are failing to engage with the industry in a constructive way. They continue to pursue headlines. That is what the House of Lords European Affairs Committee concluded last week, expressing the industry’s despair in a letter to the world’s worst negotiator, Lord Frost. I think we all think it is time for him to step aside and for the UK Government to stop pretending this problem is solved. The Pollyanna Brexit fantasy does not wash with musicians and road hauliers facing real hardship. Listen to the industry, Minister, and let us get this issue properly sorted once and for all.

It is particularly apt that you are chairing today’s debate, as a published author on music, Dr Huq. I thank my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) not just for securing the debate, but for all the work she has done. We have seen a breadth of support on this issue, much of which she has corralled—and perhaps carolled—into being.

The creative industry is the fastest growing sector in the UK. There are 2,000 employed musicians, 10,000 freelancers and 2,000 administrative and technical workers. Millions of children and adults are currently undertaking music as an educational pursuit in schools, community settings and elsewhere. This country needs its musicians. We will be able to retain them only when we recognise the problems in the industry and work with them to resolve them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi) made a very good point about her former constituent David Bowie, who I saw at Glastonbury. Will we see more artists like him if we do not resolve this issue? I have to say the Brixton Academy is one of the best venues in the country and I have been there many times.

This has been the most difficult time for the music industry in generations. Covid-19 has devastated live performance and meant restrictions on travel as well as performance and teaching work—a point well made by my hon. Friend and gig companion, the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy). I look forward to many future concerts with her—perhaps one or two in the EU if we resolve this issue. The live events sector was the last to reopen after lockdown. Musicians across the country were forced to rely on the complex self-employment income support scheme, their savings or, in some cases, universal credit for income. Many have fallen out of the industry altogether.

We have emerged from lockdown into post-Brexit Britain, which has had a substantial impact on any musician or arts organisation that depends on touring in the EU. In 2019, UK artists played almost four times as many shows across the EU as they did in North America, sustaining an estimated 33,000 British jobs. As a result of the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement, in which the EU and UK failed to reach agreement on a visa waiver for performers, EU countries now treat UK performers and crew as visa nationals when entering the EU to do paid work. As a result, as we have heard, UK musicians must now navigate 27 different sets of rules for 27 different countries. Add to that the complexity of navigating the various covid restrictions in each country and we have a significant problem.

The Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, the hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight), rightly made prescient points about the lack of meetings and the lack of progress by Lord Frost. I do not blame the Minister, who is new in post, but I certainly blame Lord Frost.

I am pleased to note that in the past few days there has been a waiver for British musicians in Spain. Spain was a particularly challenging place for musicians to obtain the right to work without a visa; many musicians described the process as incredibly stressful and the amount of financial information required as extremely invasive. Although the issue has now been resolved, it is important to note that its resolution was within the gift of the Spanish Government, after extensive discussions with our music industry leaders. The problems encountered with Spain still exist in other EU countries.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), who is an accomplished musician and hopefully a future EU touring musician, was right to say that the issue had been made one of immigration. It should never have been about immigration. I am not the shadow immigration Minister; the Minister is not the immigration Minister. This is a matter for the creative and cultural sector.

Even getting across the border is a huge challenge. Carnets, cabotage and post-Brexit customs controls have meant increased time crossing the border, often costing days of touring time. Eurostar is not a designated port, despite the sector’s repeated calls for it to be since the EU referendum, so musicians have no option but to fly to Europe rather than take the train. Touring musicians care deeply about the climate. Post COP, why are the Government pushing aviation emissions when it is quicker and easier to go to Europe by train?

Those who travel by road—particularly larger ensembles such as orchestras, which travel with special equipment—face big problems at the border. The Association of British Orchestras says:

“A specific concern for UK orchestras is that so many of the ABO’s members operate their own trucks—these are adapted at sizeable expense to accommodate fragile and high value musical instruments—for example humidity and temperature controls, air conditioned, special suspension, special brackets inside to support the instruments.”

It points out that drivers also have specialist knowledge.

In preparation for this debate, I spoke to many musicians and artists who are struggling post Brexit. While I was at COP in Glasgow last week, I met Stuart Murdoch. I am really pleased that his Member of Parliament, the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady), is present; we were both with Stuart at a Belle and Sebastian event last week.

Belle and Sebastian are touring nine European countries in the spring. Stuart told me:

“The new rules cause a significant difficulty for us, our crew and the whole industry. Financially, the additional costs incurred for touring clubs and small venues between 200 and 500 people make it impossible to organise a European Tour without third party support. We tour venues between 1200 and 2000 capacity and we can just about make that work. Increased costs of visas, carnets and testing bring a double whammy of Brexit and Coronavirus. The big issue for crew is the 90 days of 180 which could push them out of the industry”—

a point made by the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on music, the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton), whose leadership on this matter I absolutely rate; I thank him for all his work and look forward to the inquiry that the APPG is launching next week. Stuart also said:

“Passports are retained by Embassies when they are needed to cross borders—even with 2 passports it’s proving near impossible to operate.”

Simon Rix, the bassist in West Yorkshire’s most successful ever band, the Kaiser Chiefs, told me:

“The current legislation post Brexit will make it impossible for the next Adele, Ed Sheeran, Kaiser Chiefs to learn their craft and reach the necessary wider audience that Europe provides. On a personal level it will mean us travelling there less for a number of reasons. Carnet rates at 40% and import duty on merchandise making it harder to make any profit. The merchandise alone would pay for fuel/accommodation for smaller bands and these rules make it financially unsustainable for all but the biggest acts. All this also means less tax income for the country. It would also lead to us outsourcing for crew, lights, PA and trucking meaning less UK jobs and companies moving their business to EU countries.”

Nathan Clark, who runs the best venue in the UK —Brudenell Social Club in my constituency, where I recently saw Sir Tom Jones, whom my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones) mentioned in her excellent speech—told me:

“The impact has been twofold. Both in some cancellations of venue bookings due to an artist’s tour not being viable enough across the whole tour, therefore economic cost to us. But the impact of local artists who are now skipping a tour in Europe due to both financial cost, but also mental stress of navigating a tour production, unlike ever before for new aspiring artists exporting their talent.”

There is a risk that when we talk about UK music output, we talk only of major recording and touring artists or highly esteemed orchestras. We can fall into the trap of talking about the industry only as an economic equation, as I did earlier in my speech, but the truth is that much of our cultural offering to the world comes from grassroots artists and freelancers, who are bringing art and culture from every community in the UK.

Matt Holborn is a UK-based violinist, band leader and touring artist. He articulated to me the real threat both to freelance musicians and to music itself, saying:

“as someone who has organised tours and one-off gigs across Europe, Brexit has certainly put a stop to all of it, for the time being. People who are signed to minor record labels…are having to cancel European tours that have been in the planning for years due to the complexity, uncertainty and potential costs…As a freelancer, I have basically written it off now, I haven’t organised with my contacts abroad and haven’t booked in the gigs that I did pre-Brexit and pre Covid. Covid has provided a double whammy, just as you get your head around the visa rules for each country you also have to consider the Covid rules as well.”

We are where we are, and at this time we do not want to start rehashing the debates around Brexit or covid, which might get us nowhere in the short term. In this debate, it is important that we on the Opposition Benches offer practical solutions to this problem, so here are some, and I hope that the Government will take them on board and offer the creative industry some assurance that this situation will get better. I hope that the Minister will respond to these points.

First, let us look at reciprocity. We need to deal with the fact that there are 27 different sets of rules for musicians and music workers to navigate, as compared with the UK’s relatively liberal rules for international musicians to come here through permitted paid engagement and tier 5 visas. We must redress that imbalance and seek reciprocal visa and work permit arrangements for our UK touring artists with the EU. Better yet, the Government should engage with the EU and seek an agreement on a visa waiver for performers, as exists between the EU and other third countries, as well as a waiver on carnets and cabotage. The industry must also have a transparent view of these negotiations through the Government reporting to it and to this House any progress that is being made, particularly in relation to countries that do not offer a cultural exception such as Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Bulgaria, Romania, Malta and Cyprus.

Other practical steps would include making Eurostar a designated entry and exit point for carnets and cabotage, as well as agreeing a reciprocal arrangement with the EU for the movement of goods for cultural purposes or, at the very least, an exemption for operating on one’s own account. We need an agreement on truck stops, which may look like an EU-wide cultural exemption; on the movement of specialist vehicles; and on transporting concert equipment and personnel. During the negotiation period, the industry needs interim support to mitigate the large-scale disruption caused by Brexit. As we know, negotiations of this sort can take years, so we need something in place now to ease the concerns of the industry. DCMS must produce clear and accessible guidance for musicians at every level as to what they need, and for where. We need to support our musicians, not bury them in a sea of complex administration that is easy to get wrong. I know that thus far, DCMS has been reluctant to provide guidance, or to support any guidance produced by the sector. That needs to change, and greater partnership work in this area is essential.

In the long term, we need a viable plan for UK artists and crew to continue working in all EU27 countries without costly permits or bureaucracy. We have to look at ways to ease the burdens on European tours through some of the measures I have just outlined, and we also need to discuss and focus on what we can do domestically to provide a thriving cultural arena for musicians and artists. I hope that the Minister can address all those points.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dr Huq, and I am really glad to be here to discuss the important issue of touring. I am particularly grateful to the Mother of the House for engaging on this issue and setting out some of the economic, cultural and quality-of-life reasons why music is so important to us all. I certainly agree with her; I do not want the UK to become a cultural Galápagos, and I am confident that it will not. I am very glad that she has also spoken directly to the Secretary of State, and has acknowledged our mutual desire to get movement on this issue. I am also very grateful to her for offering to work in close partnership on this issue, and I shall take her up on that offer.

I appreciate the contribution made by my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton). He is an accomplished musician and a great champion for the industry, and I look forward to working with him. He also makes a very important point about the importance of services as well as goods, an issue that I agree is too often overlooked. I also emphasise that the cultural industries are not niche industries but real economic drivers of growth. I also thank right hon. and hon. Members for the quality of the contributions we have heard today, especially from members of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. I feel compelled to insert a Tom Jones pun, but the less we talk about sex bombs in this place, the better. [Laughter.]

I am also very grateful to the chairman of the DCMS Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Julian Knight), who has made a similar point about how important DCMS is as a Department. This is not some Ministry of Fun: it too often suffers from that perception, but it is a serious economic Department and it needs to have that place within Government—I would say that now that I have moved, wouldn’t I? On the cross-departmental working issue, I reassure Members that I had a former role in the Cabinet Office, so I have contacts there. I understand how some of the European issues work—the committee structures and so on—and I am very keen in this new role to champion DCMS within those committee structures, and make the point that this is an incredibly important issue. I appreciate the comments that have been made about Lord Frost; I have no desire to promote myself to his position, nor would I have the power to, but he is doing some very difficult and complex work, and we appreciate the work that he does for the Government.

As we all know, the UK has left the EU, and it was inevitable following this that there would be changes in how creative professionals toured. I appreciate that the situation has been exacerbated by the pandemic, which has led to uncertainty in the sector, which we are seeking to resolve.

Hon. Members talked about the difference between some of the larger groups, with more money behind them, and the complexity for a smaller band or individual that is touring, and how it can be very difficult to navigate the bureaucratic issues around touring. I very much hear that issue, so throughout this year my Department has been working very hard to support the touring sector by clarifying arrangements, helping the sector to adapt and, where possible, looking at what we can do unilaterally and with EU member states to make things much easier.

Indeed, I had a very good meeting yesterday with representatives of the touring sector; in fact, I think it was the seventh meeting of the touring working group. It was a really productive meeting. I took down a lot of notes myself about some of the issues that I need to raise with ministerial colleagues.

However, this week was also a positive week. We have made good progress with Spain in relation to short-term visas for touring artists, and I will meet the Spanish ambassador next week, when I hope to ensure that we have worked through all the different issues, so that there is not just a headline but we actually have the details in place. I also hope to use this moment of engagement with Spain to encourage the final six countries to follow suit and provide clarity for people on the issue.

It is clear that although some significant issues remain—I am not a Minister to try to gloss over any issues; I want to work through them—I also wish to emphasise that I think the arrangements are more workable than has at times been portrayed. It is important for all of us to try to build confidence in the sector and to say what can be done, as well as highlight some of the issues that remain.

Touring generally involves the movement of people, goods and vehicles. I will initially focus on visas and permits, but I will address some of the other issues in turn, to highlight what my Department has done and is doing to progress these issues, notwithstanding the fact that some issues are within the remit of other Departments.

In the negotiations for the trade and co-operation agreement with the EU, we sought to ensure that touring artists and their support staff did not need work permits to perform in the EU. However, those proposals were rejected. Our recent trade deal with three European Free Trade Association countries, which include those provisions, was based on the same offer, which shows that it is workable.

I am aware that there have been calls for the Government to negotiate a visa waiver; that issue was raised by a number of hon. Members here in Westminster Hall today. We have engaged extensively with the industry on this proposal, but unfortunately we do not think it is viable. It is not Government policy to agree visa waivers, and the EU did not offer a visa waiver for paid activities during the TCA negotiations. What it did offer was a reciprocal visa waiver agreement covering all current member states and any future member states for short stays, for example as a tourist. However, nothing in this proposal would have compelled member states to change their visa regimes for paid engagement, and we think that remains incompatible with our manifesto commitment to take control of our borders. In addition, we do not think that it would meet the sector’s needs. We enable visa-free visits by EU citizens, but we wish to retain control of how we apply this policy, and it is important to stress that no major G7 economy has agreed to lock in its visa systems with the EU in this way.

Lord Frost has used the TCA’s committee structures to note the importance of this issue to the Government and we have also raised touring during the most recent meeting of the EU-UK’s Trade Specialised Committee on Services, Investment and Digital. However, our focus is now on working directly with EU member states and, as we have seen with the good progress this week, it is they who are principally responsible for deciding the rules governing what work UK visitors can undertake in their country.

We first want to address the uncertainty that is felt by some in the sector. It has been apparent that the information available online from member states regarding visa and permit requirements for touring musicians is at times lacking in detail and difficult to follow. As I have said, Spain has been a particular focus, and touring was raised with the Spanish Government by Ministers from across the Government, including by Ministers from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, from the Department for International Trade and from the Cabinet Office, as well as by our ambassador in Madrid. Following that, as I have said, I am very pleased that there has been movement on this issue this week.

I am not sure that the point about the G7 and visa waivers is a particularly strong one. After all, three of the G7 countries are France, Germany and Italy, so they are members of the European Union. The others are Canada, Japan and the United States, which are all many thousands of miles away from the European Union. We are the only G7 country that—as the Chair of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight), said—is 20 miles away from the European Union and in the case of Northern Ireland no miles away. So I would not rely on that point as a very strong argument against locking in our system to a visa waiver agreement in relation to the creative industries.

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s intervention and I also appreciate the point he made earlier about wanting to disentangle this issue, so that it is not an immigration issue; this is about the importance of our creative industries and their economic power. I am happy to explore this issue further in response to some of the points that have been made here this afternoon.

Spain is a major market for UK touring artists, and it is one of the big ones that we wanted to solve. The sector has done tremendous work in advance of the announcement. It was a good example of where we can all work together to dismantle remaining barriers.

Twenty-one EU states have now confirmed that they offer visa and work permit-free routes for musicians and creative performers. I recognise that the visa and permit situation for touring has changed since EU exit, and it requires adaptation, but it is important to recognise that those routes exist. We try to provide clarity on, so that people understand the arrangements before they have to leave.

At present, six EU member states do not offer visa or work permit-free touring. We have lobbied and will continue to lobby those countries to allow creative professionals to tour easily. As I say, I want to use the Spain breakthrough as a moment to re-engage with those member states. Those countries would benefit from the cultural exchange and the positive financial spill-overs that touring inevitably brings. UK Music, as others have said, has found that in the UK, for every £10 spent on a ticket, £17 goes back into a local economy. Therefore, if those EU member states change their position, we believe that they will find a similar benefit. We have emphasised that point in our engagement.

Ultimately, those are decisions for those six member states, but we are using the diplomatic tools at our disposal to get a good outcome for our industry. It is important for the Government and the sector to work together in that effort. As I said, yesterday I spoke to the sector and to the touring working group, and the Secretary of State engaged earlier this week with Sir Elton John in a productive and positive meeting. As singers and performers know, combining our voices will make the greatest impact. I appreciate the help of everyone in the Chamber in making the case.

To turn to the concerns about the movement of goods and vehicles, there are new requirements, with potential costs and paperwork to do with the ATA carnet documentation, and the movement of merchandise or of instruments made from protected materials. Some of those were raised in the meeting yesterday. The new cabotage rules can limit the movement of vehicles to a maximum of three stops. As I mentioned at the start of my speech, those changes could be particularly concerning for emerging artists. We have worked across Government to provide clarity on the issues. In many cases, the arrangements are much more workable than is at times reported—that is not to diminish the concerns expressed.

For example, a UK band can pack a van with their instruments, equipment and up to nine people and travel around the EU without being subject to the TCA cabotage restrictions. They may also take their portable instruments and equipment without the need for carnets, and EU rules state that each individual is able to take up to €1,000 of merchandise into the EU to sell on tour without paying customs duties.

In cases when a carnet is required, that is a single document that can be used for multiple items as many times as required in approximately 80 countries around the world for a 12-month period. Carnets have long been a familiar feature of touring. They were needed whenever touring was taking place beyond the EU, including for example to Switzerland, so this is a case of adaptation.

Will the Minister clarify? When she says that there is one carnet, but everything has to be listed, my understanding is that with a drum kit, someone cannot just say, “Drum kit”, but must specify every different cymbal and drum. Is that the case? Even though it is all on one piece of paper, that could still amount to a huge amount of bureaucracy.

I appreciate the hon. Lady’s point and I am happy to take it away. I am fairly new to this area, so with some DFT issues I will not be able to give clarity on all the details. I am happy to write to her.

I have also been listening to the music sector’s concerns about the possible designation of St Pancras as a port designated under CITES—the convention on international trade in endangered species—for artists carrying instruments made of protected materials. The number of CITES ports in the UK has already increased from 24 to 36 over the past year, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Border Force are working together to look at the possibility of St Pancras being added to that list. I am keen to accelerate that.

The Government have engaged with the sector’s concerns about the restrictions to do with cabotage and cross-trade that apply to single-use trucks, issuing a call for evidence on options in the summer. It is worth reiterating that during negotiations for the TCA, we proposed specific market access rights for specialist hauliers carrying out tours for cultural events, but the EU did not agree. To help artists navigate such issues, we have developed creative sector-specific landing pages on to signpost relevant guidance. We continue to work across the board to encourage updates to guidance and to ensure that rules are clear and accessible.

The UK’s cultural and creative industries are an integral part of our economy across the UK, and they play a huge role in a truly global Britain. That point was made by a number of hon. Members today. We continue to support our creative industries through a range of export support programmes, including the music export growth scheme. We also recently launched the export support service, where UK businesses can get answers to practical questions about exporting to Europe. In our meeting yesterday, a Department for International Trade official highlighted some of the new services available to musicians. These are all with a view to strengthening the international reach and reputation of our creatives, and the benefits they bring to our economy, culture and society. I will continue to work with Departments, the creative industries trade and investment board, and sector representatives, such as UK Music, to see what more can be done to help the industries adapt to these new arrangements with the EU.

To conclude, leaving the EU has led to a number of changes. We recognise the uncertainty and concerns felt by our musicians and the creative sectors, and my Department and the Government as a whole have worked very hard to support them. Across issues relating to the movement of people, goods and vehicles, we have engaged extensively with the sector to understand and grip those concerns and help people adapt. Like hon. Members, I want to see UK creatives tour and perform in the EU not just for our musicians but because they have so much to offer people in member states, and I hope we can make sure that can happen.

We have heard incredibly compelling speeches. The Minister will have heard the real sense of frustration and that patience is running out, and I am sure she will take that to heart. Some problems are intractable for Government—this is not one of them. It can be solved, so the Minister should bear that in mind. Some actions that Government take cause a backlash. There will be no backlash when this problem is solved, and she should bear that in mind as well.

I would like to give the Minister a couple of sisterly suggestions, which are very genuinely felt. I suggest that she goes on a European tour, literally going to different European capitals, starting with Brussels, taking her officials with her and talking to her counterparts there. Before she goes, she should download the forms, see what she makes of them and try to fill them in herself. She should engage, as it were, as a musician and then go, as a Minister, to those European capitals, and she will find people willing to help and she will learn more. It will empower her when it comes to dealing with Lord Frost, of whom mention has been made today.

On behalf of Members, the sector, and the Government keeping their promises, she must be quite clear with Lord Frost that he must be part of the solution and not an obstacle to it. The Prime Minister is having enough rows with enough people right now. This issue does not need to be a row if Lord Frost becomes a facilitator rather than an obstruction. It is not always that a junior Minister can do something really meaningful, that will really make a difference, that gives real job satisfaction, and which people will be grateful for. She has that opportunity; I hope she will act very quickly because time is running out.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered enabling visa- and permit-free working for musicians in the EU.

Sitting adjourned.