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20 Mar 2008 : Column 318WH—continued

There is a fortune to be made in the music industry, and we all know about rich pop stars. I was listening to the Paul McCartney divorce trial—was he worth £200 million or £800 million? It does not really matter to me; all I can say is that it is a hell of a lot of money. In the 15 years that I spent in the music industry, I met many more poor musicians than rich, and the Musicians Union reckons that the majority of musicians live on less than £15,000 a year. There is no such thing as a minimum wage for a jobbing and aspiring musician; it is tough out there and these are really tough times for musicians. When they get that break—that one hit single, which is played throughout the years and the decades—it must be right to ensure that they are properly
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rewarded for that contribution and do not have it taken away in their old age. It is absurd and silly that musicians and performers alone, among all artists, creators and performers, are subject to that unique discrimination. Why should authors, writers and all those other people who make such creative pieces of work be rewarded with lifetime plus 70 years, but musicians lose that reward after 50 years?

The situation is becoming critical. The late ’50s and early ’60s saw the first explosion of British music, when Cliff arrived, the Beatles were at the vanguard and Merseybeat dominated music, but their work is reaching the 50 years copyright cut off. At the launch of my private Member’s Bill, I met Lonnie Donegan’s widow, and she could not believe that American artists were protected and the copyright passed to their descendants, the next generation. She is subject to that cut off and does not receive a penny from her husband’s estate.

Dr. Gibson: Is the hon. Gentleman familiar with the case in the United States whereby Cliff Richard increased the rights to his music to 95 years? Ninety-five years for Cliff Richard? It is unbelievable.

Pete Wishart: I can understand the hon. Gentleman’s frustration, given Cliff Richard’s great wealth, but the issue is not really about him, and sometimes it frustrates me when the argument becomes about the rich pop stars and artists whom we all like. They are mentioned, but it is not about them; it is about the guy who played bass guitar on “Move It”, and the guy who played the drums on Cliff’s first and second album. They will be receiving some royalties for their performance on the record, but in the next couple of years they will not receive any money for it.

Dr. Gibson: Will the hon. Gentleman add to that list the artists who, if they sell a picture, sculpture or whatever, receive only a small percentage? The agent takes most of it. It is like the situation on the football field.

Pete Wishart: I am not saying that some artists, creators or whoever should not be similarly rewarded. There is a very good point to be made on that, but I am talking about the music industry. I shall give the hon. Gentleman an example and refer to a single from that period again—the early 1950s. The writers, producer and the guy who designed the sleeve of that single will all get lifetime plus 70 years; the only people who will have the copyright cut off in their old age are the people who made the recording themselves—the musicians. That is clearly absurd and unfair, and I have never heard a reason why it could possibly be right. We heard from Andrew Gowers that it was all about the impact on the economy, and we have heard that that has been disputed. Charlie McCreevy, when he examined the issue in the European Union, disputed the idea that it would have an impact on the economy; in fact, he suggested that it would have a positive impact, because through the record companies, it would reward investment and artists. It would reward the companies for sticking with artists and ensuring that their work continued to be available.

I see no reason why musicians should not be properly rewarded for what they do, so I was immensely encouraged by Commissioner McCreevy’s announcement a few weeks
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ago. It took us all by surprise, but he has clearly considered the issue and the best interests of the artists and the industry, and concluded that the best thing to do would be to increase copyright term for musicians and performers from 50 to 95 years. I do not want the Minister just to welcome and accept that conclusion; I want her to accept it enthusiastically, if that is not asking too much. I want her to get up and say, “This is the right thing by our industry and our artists, and we will do this.” There is no good reason why the Government cannot pursue it, and with all due respect to her, she will probably have to do so anyway. It is not a red-line issue for the UK, so the Government will have to get behind it, and it would be best to get behind it now and say something positive to the music industry. We are looking for any acceptance of that conclusion by the Government, and she would earn great credit if she did so. She will not be able to do so this afternoon, but she should do so soon, because she will find herself being hailed as a great friend of the UK music industry.

We are, however, a million miles from the dark days of the Gowers review, and I do not want to spend too much time looking at what he said. I accept that there were a few good suggestions, but I have mentioned that it was Treasury-driven, and unfortunately he surrounded himself with economists and barely spoke to the artists and creators. Some of the consultations and submissions to his report were fine, excellent and first class, and his failure to acknowledge them in his recommendations was disappointing. He saw copyright as belonging not to the artists and the creator, but, almost perversely, to society and the consumer, and that it should be returned to the creator and artists only as a grudging concession and a pat on the back. It was an absurd way to start, but the review was full of it, and the section on term extension very much suggested and put across that viewpoint.

Gowers got it totally wrong. The music industry thinks he got it totally wrong, most hon. Members think he got it entirely wrong, and 36,000 musicians, from the high and mighty to the most humble who signed the petition, thought he got it wrong. It is time that we put it right, and we have the opportunity to do so with Commissioner McCreevy’s appointment. I hope that we can do the right thing, put that historic wrong perpetuated against musicians right, and end the discrimination against performers and artists.

I like these debates because they always tend to be consensual and we do not fall out with each other. We are all veterans of these discussions.

Mr. Don Foster: I have the benefit of being able to see the hon. Gentleman’s notes, to which he has hardly referred, and I see that he is coming to the end of them. Since he probably knows more than anyone else in this room about music and the music industry, may I urge him before he concludes to say a word or two about live music? He has concentrated heavily on recorded music, but I know that he knows a lot about live music, too.

Pete Wishart: I am grateful for that compliment. Live music is close to my heart, and in the creative industry strategy, there is, unfortunately, little mention of live music or its value. The big issue for me in live music is ticket touting and the secondary market of the internet. “T in the Park” takes place just outside my constituency.
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It is the most successful European live festival and sells out in a matter of hours. However, most of it sells out to the secondary market on the internet, which, with live music, is what we should really be tackling. That is the real issue for live music, and I hope that the Government address it to ensure that music fans do not continue being ripped off.

I was about to conclude my remarks, as the hon. Gentleman noted, and I merely say that we are starting to get things right and I share the Government’s ambition to make the UK a hub. Much of the strategy does not apply to Scotland, and Creative Scotland is being established in the next few months. We have our new culture Bill in Scotland, and we are doing very exciting and innovative work. However, we are interested in what is happening down here and particularly the idea of creative education. I would like to find out a bit more about that before I suggest to colleagues back in Scotland that we should be following that model. If creative education is just about taking kids to operas or museums without providing any real educational context, I do not think that there would be any great value in any of it. We must ensure that, when we are giving these experiences to children, it is set in a wider context so that real learning can be achieved.

These are good debates in Westminster Hall. We all tend to agree that this is the right thing to do and I think that we all support the creative industries. I very much hope that we can continue to develop them and I share the Minister’s ambition that the UK becomes the world’s hub for the creative industries.

4.10 pm

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to take part in this debate, particularly under your chairmanship, Mr. Weir, because I found out today what it is like to be sitting in the Chair with the referee’s outfit on. I must say, echoing the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), that this is clearly an immensely entertaining debate, and I have looked forward to it.

When we consider the creative industries, we hear a lot about music and entertainment. I represent Stoke-on-Trent, North, which includes the home town of Robbie Williams, and there are obviously huge issues about how we ensure that all our creative artists, whether they are recording music or performing live, are looked after, nurtured and encouraged, and how, in turn, they become the mentors for a new generation of people.

We have heard a lot from my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) about the creative writing group in the House of Commons. I must say, as an officer of the all-party group on jazz appreciation, that the issues that relate to music are really important. I hope that the copyright cut-off, which has largely been the subject of our discussion this afternoon, will be examined very closely by the Minister and that we will not have to wait and can go forward all guns blazing and emerge with a policy that does the right thing.

Given that this is a debate on the creative industries, I wanted to refer briefly to the “Creative Britain - New Talents for the New Economy” document and to flag up an issue that we have heard about, which is giving
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more children a creative education, including the “Find Your Talent” programme. I was interested to hear my right hon. Friend the Minister’s comments about that programme. Having looked very briefly at the website and the criteria for the pilot projects that will be funded from the new money—I think that there will be 21 pilots in all—I should like to relay a message to my colleagues in Stoke-on-Trent, north Staffordshire, to urge them to put in a bid for some of that money.

As part of the regeneration exercise that we have under way in north Staffordshire, we are staging the second year of the Axis festival, which will encourage people across Stoke-on-Trent to take part in all kinds of music entertainment. At this point, I should declare an interest: my husband will be performing live in one of the festival’s fringe events. I really believe that we should do everything that we can, particularly in deprived areas with a huge regeneration agenda, to encourage creative industries as part of a regeneration programme. I, for one, hope that I will have the opportunity to write letters in support of a bid that comes forward from my own constituency.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the main reason for my wanting to stay for this debate at the risk of not getting on one of the last Virgin trains before the work starts on the west coast main line—so entertaining is the debate that I am taking that risk—is to flag up the message that I have for my right hon. Friends the Minister and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport that, when we talk about this issue, as well as talking about music and art, we must talk about ceramics as a creative industry. If I am able to get that message across today and as a result engage with my right hon. Friend the Minister and with the Minister for the West Midlands in a programme of pledges and follow-up activities that relate to all the details of the commitments in the White Paper, I shall be very pleased indeed. I must say, happily, that I have already met with officials and with the British Design Council, along with colleagues from north Staffordshire.

Mr. Vaizey: I wonder whether the hon. Lady, given her interest in ceramics and craft, would support our proposal to take the Crafts Council back out of the Arts Council, which would give the crafts and ceramic design a much higher profile as a result?

Joan Walley: As someone who has not served on the Select Committee and who has not followed all the detailed developments that have clearly taken place in relation to where the Crafts Council should be in future, I am very hesitant to give my view on what is clearly a contentious issue. However, such is my confidence in my right hon. Friend the Minister that, whatever decision is made about where those different bodies should sit, I am sure that they will be placed in a position where they can make the best possible contribution to the creative industries.

I should like to go back to a document that has been referred to, “Transforming North Staffordshire”, which is by the Work Foundation and Mr. Will Hutton. It is important that this debate reflects the fact that not only did Mr. Hutton contribute to one of the earlier stages of thinking on the current strategy, but he was commissioned by the North Staffordshire Partnership to produce this regeneration document and to contribute towards the
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strategy for regenerating north Staffordshire. Obviously, creative industries featured in that document, and it is vital that we look at the synergies that exist. I have a very real sense that, unless we consistently put that message on the agenda, there will be a rash of activity that will relate to music or art, but ceramics will not be included in that activity.

I attended a festival where ceramics manufacturers were very much on the same side of the fence as those who are involved with the music industry and the record industry, and they have exactly the same issues about copyright. I say to my right hon. Friend the Minister that copyright is an idea that we must develop as part of the strategy.

I think that it would be worth while if I briefly gave some of the history of the ceramics industry, because there is a flawed argument that ceramics is all about heavy industrial pottery manufacturing. I just want to set out my concerns about the ceramics industry. As we face up to the challenges of a global economy, it is vital that we understand the industry and how it has developed from what was originally an arts and crafts movement to a heavy manufacturing industry, whereby drains and sanitary, refectory and hotel wares were its main means of going forward.

Today, the ceramics industry is about both heavy industry and the small and medium-sized enterprises, the design artists and craft-led artists. Very much in the tradition of people such as William Morris, Ruskin and so on, we now have a renaissance of artists, who perhaps have come through Staffordshire university and its wonderful departments. We have a large number of individuals who are now starting to generate a whole new economy; it is as though the whole ceramics industry has gone full circle.

It is, of course, important that we support the heavy industrial manufacturers and those in that sector who still have a huge contribution to make in terms of innovation, but it is just as important that we consider the smaller companies and the individual craftsmen and craftswomen who need the support of the creative industry strategy.

We have already had a commitment from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport that he will visit north Staffordshire, and we have already had the opportunity to discuss the possibility of having a design-led exhibition. However, we really need to consider how we can take forward the strategy document from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and understand the detailed aspects of the ceramics industry, including its link to tourism, whereby a large number of people come to Stoke-on-Trent because of what they can buy or see there. We must use that as a basis for developing economic policy across the west midlands. I very much hope that the debate will mean that we can go full steam ahead and ensure that the ceramics industry is fully a part of the debate about creative industries.

4.20 pm

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): The City of London is famously home to the UK’s financial services industry. The hon. Members for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) and for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) have somewhat gleefully pointed out that its pre-eminence in the UK economy might not
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be quite so pronounced in the years ahead, but they are right to focus on the creative industries. In addition to financial services, central London has every reason to be very proud, as it is at the forefront of creative industry. I hope that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Joan Walley) will forgive me if I do not talk too much about ceramics, as I shall focus on areas that the public tend to associate with the creative industries, such as film and TV. That is not to downplay any of her comments, however, and I hope that the Minister takes on board the concerns that she voiced in this interesting debate.

English is now the universal language of business and the creative culture in London and the UK assists in reinforcing the global competitive advantage that we have with our creative industries. In my constituency, particularly in Soho and the west end, lies the heart of the British media, TV and film industry. We also have great success in design. Good design is ever more at the forefront of consumers’ minds. That is a strong sign of a democratic—that word has been used by several hon. Members today—active society that values choice and consumerism. It also leads the whole debate on design, which requires active input from the public at large—from the old and young alike. We must consider not only what is esoteric, but what is significant, in relation to design issues. With those elements, the UK creative industry is at the forefront of many international developments.

We have great expertise in elements of information technology and much originality in the computer games industry. With Japan, we are world leaders in that area. I had the opportunity to visit such a company in Soho only a few months ago. Its offices, in a Soho back street, seem very unassuming from the outside, but inside it is enormously energetic. The offices are open plan, which is how those young, energetic businesses run themselves. They are not exclusively young, but given all the state-of-the-art technology, the people working there are generally in their 20s. There is a sense of energy in the midst of the roads that are made up of cafés, restaurants and seemingly faceless offices. It is amazing to think that those enormous, energetic, world-beating industries are just 2 or 3 miles from where we stand. When I met the people who work there and who run those businesses, I was struck by their passion and commitment to reaching the highest level of technical skill. They have a real determination to ensure that nothing is left to chance and that excellence is maintained. Without that excellence, our creative industries would suffer.

It is both positive and negative that many young people who are not UK citizens work in those industries. Clearly, we are a beacon for young computer programmers from the Indian sub-continent, in particular, and from eastern Europe, but the downside is that too many among our indigenous population have insufficient skills. I shall focus some of my comments on that issue, and I hope that the Minister will take them on board.

There is little doubt that the creative industries as a whole rank as the next most important economic driving force after our financial services industry. It would be wrong to exaggerate some of the problems that the financial services are suffering at the moment, but there is no doubt that in a world in which leisure will become ever more important, we have enormous potential. The middle classes in India and China are increasing enormously,
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by 20 million or 30 million people a year, and those people will be global consumers in the years ahead. That is not to say that Bollywood will not remain important—it will be an increasingly important film business in the decades ahead—but our advantages in areas such as computer gaming and many creative industries will ensure that we can export tremendous skills and passion to many overseas shores.

In the worlds of broadcast and new media, the tremendous combination of British flair and innovation plays a leading role in creating new products and exporting expertise to the developing world as a whole. We must ensure that the vibrancy in the creative industries is fully recognised at home and promoted to an outside world that is ever more hungry for developments in that field. To do that, we need to ensure that we have a rigorous education system in the creative arts and its allied subjects. A depressing element of life in the summer is the predicable reaction to the announcement of A-level and university results. Commentators who really should know better—some Conservative and some Labour—bemoan the emergence of media studies and film and TV courses at the expense of traditional, academic, higher education subjects.

It is important to encourage the uptake of demanding courses at our universities, but that should not be the whole story. We must also promote the best vocational courses. The flurry of disapproval of those who do media studies or other so-called soft courses is very disheartening, especially as that is where many of the employment opportunities and openings of the future will lie. Indeed, graduate employment statistics bear that out: unemployed media studies graduates are rather less in evidence than unemployed graduates of many more traditional degree subjects. The real issue is not the number of A-level or degree students doing media studies but ensuring that the courses on offer are rigorous enough. Far more needs to be done to involve companies and people who work in the creative industries to ensure that the courses being studied are practical and effective. As several hon. Members have commented, this is a fast-changing world, and such courses must change accordingly.

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