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Brexit: Creative Industries

Volume 778: debated on Monday 30 January 2017


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that, following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, the creative industries will continue to receive economic benefits from an international workforce.

My Lords, the creative industries contributed more than £87 billion to the UK economy and nearly £20 billion in exports. They account for 5.8% of all UK jobs. As the Prime Minister made clear in her speech earlier this month, it is the Government’s ambition to continue to attract the brightest and the best to work in Britain, but there must be control. The UK’s creative industries produce an extraordinary level of creative talent, and we want to ensure that continues after we leave the EU.

I thank the noble Lord for his response but, as he is no doubt aware, there are currently 17 creative roles on the Government’s shortage occupation list, and there is unease that this will only get worse after Brexit. The industry is already concerned that the EBacc is having a negative impact on the uptake of creative subjects in schools and, consequently, on skills. Exactly a year and a day ago, the Government’s consultation on the EBacc closed. The industry’s response was an urgent call for creative subjects to be given the same emphasis as science in our education system. Will the Minister commit to listening to the creative sector—and to his noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking, a former Secretary of State for Education—and agree that what is needed is STEAM, not STEM? Will he also commit to a government response to the EBacc consultation?

My Lords, the Government are certainly prepared to listen, including to my noble friend Lord Baker. As far as the EBacc is concerned, we accept that arts entry has declined in 2016, but that was one year. Between 2012 and 2015, entries into arts subjects rose. We absolutely accept that the arts have an important role to play in education. We believe that they are complementary to STEM subjects and that a rounded education includes the arts.

My Lords, now that the Supreme Court has decided, is it not wrong for anyone, including the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, to assume that we will withdraw from the European Union until Parliament has decided whether to trigger Article 50 and whether anything that results from the negotiations is acceptable?

I do not want to put words into the noble Baroness’s mouth, but I think she was assuming that Parliament would listen to the will of the British people.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the overriding concern for many artists, musicians and performers is the possible loss of free movement both ways, and that the grass-roots co-operation and cultural exchange that are such major factors in the success of the arts might be much diminished as a result?

It would of course be much diminished if people were not allowed to move in connection with the arts, but I do not think that is what the Government are trying to achieve. We want free movement of all people connected with the arts. We want to make that a priority of the negotiations with the EU.

My Lords, the Minister will know that the creative industries employ hundreds of thousands of EU nationals here in the UK, in everything from basic grades in the hospitality sector to highly specialist choreographers, visual effects designers and so on. All those individuals now face huge uncertainty about their future here, which affects their work, family and relationships. Why will the Government not act now to end that uncertainty and guarantee their right to stay, rather than use them as pawns in some future negotiations over which they have no control and no say?

The fact that the Prime Minister made this one of her 12 negotiating objectives shows that we absolutely take it seriously. All we are asking for is that, when we guarantee rights for EU citizens living in this county, EU countries guarantee rights for UK citizens living abroad.

My Lords, would the noble Lord accept that one of the important ways in which the creative industries grow in this country is through the education establishments that provide skills, through both specialist training and the schools system? At the moment, we face the risk that the very best people from the EU and beyond will no longer want to come and train in this country because it will be too expensive and, frankly, less good. That will not help us or the rest of the world. Perhaps the noble Lord would consider that when the Government come to make their decisions.

I think that is one of the things that will be considered by Sir Peter Bazalgette’s early sector review, which was announced in the industrial strategy Green Paper. We are going to have a specific focus on growing the talent pipeline.

My Lords, I am sure the Minister is aware of the shortage of skills in the creative, media and digital industries. The Government talked about upskilling people in this country. What are they planning to do in the transition period, or do we expect to lose large sectors of this industry to a much more flexible regime in Europe?

We have talked extensively to the creative industries, and that is why it is the subject of one of the first early sector independent reviews, as I just mentioned. Another two round tables will occur shortly with the Secretary of State. We completely understand the point. We are spending more time and money on skills through teaching and education. We absolutely get it and are working hard to make sure that those skills stay in this country.