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18 Nov 2002 : Column 354continued
The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Dr. Kim Howells): On 5 November, Sir Alan Parker, chair of the Film Council, set out his vision for the future of the UK film industry, and called for a debate about where the industry goes from here. I very much welcome this. I agree with Sir Alan that the key areas to be addressed are education and skills, the distribution of filmsas well as their productionand the role of the UK industry on the international stage through sales or in the making of films.
James Purnell : Does my hon. Friend support the Film Council's suggestion of a tax incentive for the distribution of films? Will he make sure that, in any proposals, the role and funding of cultural films and of young film makers will be enhanced?
Dr. Howells: One of the Film Council's chief objectives is to support cultural films. It is for the Film Council itself to work out the detail of how best to deliver that objective. I agree with the council in the work that it is undertaking as part of its specialised exhibition and distribution strategy to channel a considerable amount of money into a cinema fund to increase access and broaden audiences for specialised films, and for cultural films especially. There is no point in funding those filmswhether they are cultural or any other kindunless somebody goes along to see them, so the films have to be made available.
On tax, the last estimate is that tax relief has provided more than #100 million of direct benefit to film production in this country over the last three years. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has extended this relief to 2005.
Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): Will the hon. Gentleman join me in congratulating films such as XGosford Park" and XBend it like Beckham", which are a great tribute to the UK film industry? Will he see fit to do all he possibly can for private cinema exhibitors, who are under increasing pressure in trying to compete with the big exhibitors?
Dr. Howells: That is a real problem. As the hon. Lady knows, I am a great believer in the market. The growth of multiplex cinemas is a boon but we must look after the film makers whom my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (James Purnell) mentioned earlier. I am glad that UGC, one of the big owners of multiplexes, has decided to set aside a screen for the showing of films that are not blockbusters or mainstream, which is important.
We must also look after those cinemas that are still in our high streets or rural areas. Through its digital fund, the Film Council is looking at how it can help regional cinemas, for example, to take advantage of technological advances. That must be a good thing for the distribution of non-mainstream films and for their exhibition throughout the country.
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield): I know that my hon. Friend is probably exhausted from travelling around the seaside resorts in the UK, but when he has more energy will he talk to his opposite number in the Department for Education and Skills, because often at the heart of the problem of the British film industry is a mismatch of skills and the industry's production needs? Will he urgently take that part of the report and talk to the Department? We produce many skilled people but there are big deficiencies. When he sits down and has a bit of time, let us get something going.
Dr. Howells: Sir Alan Parker and John Woodward, chief executive of the Film Council, are keen that we work with the Department for Education and Skills to ensure that the skills are there. I am especially interested in script development; a good script is at the heart of every good film. All too often, we do not learn lessons from the Americans, which have been there for a long time, on team writing and on working at scripts in such a way that not just the originator of the script but the person who does the seventh rewrite and turns it into a great film is given the status. Until we learn the importance of those skills, of being able to pay for them and of using them in the most effective way possible, we will always struggle when it comes to international competition in films.
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): Of course many of the Los Angeles script writers were born in Britain. I am pleased that the Minister acknowledges that distribution is important. May I urge him not to go down the route adopted by France, where there is a
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): Through the first stage of our school sport partnerships, we estimate that about 25 per cent. of five to 16-year-olds are taking part in PE and sport for at least two hours a week. It is our intention that that figure should increase to 75 per cent. by 2006.
Mr. Hendry: I am grateful for that answer. I think that the Secretary of State will understand why many of us are disappointed that that figure is so low. Many of us believe that all children who are able to should be taking part in a reasonable amount of sport in school every week. Is she aware that the Government spend 800 times as much on health as they do on sport? They spend #1,135 per head on health, thereby essentially countering ill health, but only #1.38 per head on sport, or promoting good health. Should not that shocking disparity be reduced? Would not more sport in schools be a good place to start?
Tessa Jowell: As the hon. Gentleman says, a school sport policy is also good for children's health. Few things that my Department is engaged in are more important than reintroducing sport as part of every child's life. It is an area where perhaps one of the greatest educational inequalities has opened upparticularly in the years when his party was in power. We are committed to ensuring that every child, within the time scales that I have indicated, spends at least two hours a week playing high-quality sport or physical education. That has been matched not just by nearly #0.5 billion to fund the programme but by investment of over #1 billion in facilities throughout the countrynew playing fields, new running tracks, new pavilionsand investment in coaches. We cannot simply will that more children should play more sport; we have to address the complexity and the detail of putting every bit of the policy in place. That is what we are going to do for all the children in our country.
Mr. Gareth Thomas (Harrow, West): Does my right hon. Friend share my view that the increased enthusiasm of children aged five to 16 for participating in sport would be one small part of the legacy of a successful Olympic games bidperhaps by London?
Tessa Jowell: I have promised the House a debate on the question of Government support for a London bid for the 2012 Olympics, which will provide a very good opportunity to air those issues. However, as I made clear in the debate on Friday, the Government will assess a
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell): Does the Secretary of State not see that many of us will consider her response to my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Mr. Hendry) as both unambitious and very complacent? May I point out to her that it is essential that competitive sportI stress Xcompetitive" sportbe made available in all schools for all children in this age group as soon as possible?
Tessa Jowell: We try to conduct a lot of debates in this area in a spirit of reasonable cross-party agreement, where such agreement is possible, but a contribution such as the right hon. Gentleman's does him no justice whatsoever. It was his Government who presided over the sale of more than 5,000 playing fields, and who effectively removed competitive sport from the curriculum of children in state schools. That is what we intend to change for the benefit of all the children in our country.
Tony Cunningham (Workington): It is of course vital that our young people take part in such activities in school, but given the apparently huge drop-out rate post 16, does my right hon. Friend not agree that much tighter links between schools and clubs are needed?
Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and that is why we have announced money to invest in school-club links to deal with, among other things, the point raised by the hon. Gentleman who represents the liberal tendency in his party
Tessa Jowell: Indeed. The hon. Member for Buckingham made a very fair point about the lotterythe random chancethat so many talented children face in terms of realising their talent. One way in which we address that is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Tony Cunningham) says, by improving and strengthening school-club links.