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Culture Recovery Fund

Volume 688: debated on Thursday 4 February 2021

What progress his Department has made on delivering support for the culture and heritage sector through the culture recovery fund. (911814)

What progress his Department has made on delivering support for the culture and heritage sector through the culture recovery fund. (911816)

What progress his Department has made on delivering support for the culture and heritage sector through the culture recovery fund. (911820)

What progress his Department has made on delivering support for the culture and heritage sector through the culture recovery fund. (911823)

Over £1 billion-worth of funding from the culture recovery fund has already been allocated across all four nations of the UK. The funding is supporting over 3,000 arts and heritage organisations in England alone and more than 75,000 jobs.

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. It is great that the Government are taking the theatre sector seriously, as demonstrated by this fund, but there is so much more that we can do to help our cultural offer that is not just cash injection. I implore him to push the Government to re-engage with the European Union on visa and carnet-free travel for performers, their kit and their support teams. I know that the EU walked away from our offer, but it must be brought back to the table. Touring performers will be left with a double whammy of an industry devastated by covid and the loss of an entire continent as a venue. Will he please bang the table and get the EU back to talk on this?

First, I thank my hon. Friend for banging the table so well for the culture sector over so many years. As my hon. Friend the Minister for Digital and Culture has previously said, the door always remains open should our European friends wish to reconsider our mutually beneficial proposals, which would have allowed UK touring professionals to tour more easily, but they rejected them. In the meantime, where visas apply, our agreement with the EU contains measures designed to make the necessary processes as smooth as possible. A working group has been set up by the Secretary of State to look at any obstacles that might face British performers seeking to tour. We will continue to seek to co-operate with our European friends on this important issue.

The £1.5 billion culture recovery fund has provided a lifeline to the culture and heritage sector during the pandemic. Does the Minister agree, though, that public money should not be spent on ideologically motivated projects by people who hate our history and seek to rewrite it, and will he review funding allocations accordingly?

I thank my hon. Friend for his deep interest in the heritage and cultural sector, which we have talked about on many occasions. He is absolutely right that the culture recovery fund has been a lifeline for heritage and cultural organisations. These grants are intended to help organisations with essential costs associated with operating, reopening, mothballing and recovery. I can assure him that the culture recovery fund money is awarded by our arm’s length bodies according to a strict set of criteria, and the funding goes to organisations in need of serious financial support, not for ideological projects. In addition, any grant award above £1 million is reviewed by the independent Culture Recovery Board to add additional assurance that funding is going where it is most needed.

Because of the nature of the industry, many performers organise their business in such a way that they sometimes fall through the cracks of Government support. What support is the Minister making available to performers who are not in an eligible organisation for the purposes of the culture recovery fund, such as ballet dancers, actors, musicians and many more?

May I first take the opportunity to wish my hon. Friend a very happy birthday?

The Government have supported self-employed persons in the performing arts sector through a number of pan-economic schemes, including the self-employment income support scheme. According to the latest statistics, over two thirds of self-employed people have been eligible for this scheme. Tens of thousands have been eligible within the culture sector, and they have claimed during its first, second and third phases. In addition, Arts Council England has given over £47 million in awards to individuals through non-CRF funds in this financial year alone, and that is on top of the 75,000 jobs being sustained through the CRF directly.

Aerospace Bristol in my constituency is very grateful to the Government for the support it received from its successful bid during the first round of the culture recovery fund, which was in excess of £500,000. Like many other museums, it will continue to need revenue support until it can reopen. Can my hon. Friend assure me that the current bid by Aerospace Bristol under round 2 of the fund will be given a sympathetic hearing?

I was very pleased that the excellent aerospace museum in my hon. Friend’s constituency received money from the culture recovery fund in the first round. It is a wonderful showcase of world-class British engineering, and I can confirm that organisations in receipt of grant funding from the first round of the CRF were eligible to apply to the second round. I am sure that the Aerospace Bristol museum will get a fair hearing as he requests, but it is important to say that all decisions on CRF grants are made by our independent arm’s length bodies, which are committed to a transparent and robust decision-making process.

Further to the question asked by the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) just now—happy birthday to her—I think I heard the Minister say that a third of self-employed people in the creative sector were not able to access the self-employment scheme, minus those supported by extra schemes made available by Arts Council England, which I think he said was about £47 million of support. Can he calculate for us how many people in the creative sector have been forgotten by the support schemes so far? Will he say what representations he has made to the Treasury to aid that remaining number of people?

I thank the hon. Lady. To clarify, I said that over two thirds of people who are self-employed in the country have been eligible for self-employment income support. Within the arts, entertainment and recreation sector, more than 60,000 people applied for and have received SEIS funding in phase 3. Some 76,000 did so in phase 1, and 72,000 did so in phase 2. As I said, Arts Council England has given additional support to the tune of £47 million of awards to individuals through non-CRF funds already.

The culture recovery fund was a great advent, but it will only go so far. It was never intended to cover three lockdowns and potentially 18 months of disruption. The news that the Lowry in Manchester has relaunched its emergency public appeal is a warning beacon blazing in our cultural landscape. Does the Minister recognise that more targeted help will be needed for our world-leading arts and cultural sectors? What plans are in train to deliver that help? Is a culture recovery fund 2 necessary?

I understand my hon. Friend’s concern, and I take the opportunity to recognise what a champion he is for our country’s cultural and creative industries. Some £400 million of CRF funding was held back from the first round of funding as a contingency to support cultural organisations later on in the pandemic. That now forms the basis of the second round of grant funding, which is currently being processed. I can assure him that we will continue to work with organisations to support flexibility in their plans, should the wider context change following awards being made. We have already extended the time period over which some of the original funds can be spent, and we are always in conversations with the Chancellor and the Treasury.