Previous Section Index Home Page

20 Mar 2008 : Column 331WH—continued

20 Mar 2008 : Column 332WH

The hon. Member for Wantage is desperate to make a long speech—he has indicated that to me twice. I hope that I have shown that my party and I feel passionately about the matter. We support the direction in which the Government are moving. There is much more work still to be done, but I am genuinely delighted that progress is being made and that the creative industries are beginning to be given the prominence that they deserve. I know that he is about to develop that point still further, and that he shares my views on it.

4.53 pm

Mr. Edward Vaizey (Wantage) (Con): It is a delight to appear in this important debate under your chairmanship, Mr. Weir. I did not mean to cut off the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) in his prime. He is my parliamentary mentor; he has guided me for the past three years in this place and, indeed, for many years before. He is a man of passion and commitment, but I simply wished to indicate to him that he was approaching his allotted time and might wish to start to apply the brakes. I did not mean him to come to a juddering halt. I apologise if that was the result of my gesticulation. One problem that I have is that much of what the hon. Gentleman said was what I was going to say.

Dr. Gibson: Oh, good.

Mr. Vaizey: I am deeply offended by the hon. Gentleman. He has just taken over the role as my mentor, as he is now my boss as the chairman of the all-party writers group, of which I am the secretary. There we are—a slap in the face from my new mentor.

As the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) pointed out, this is the first time that we have debated the creative industries for many years. We are doing so in a poignant week, the day after the death of the extremely well known, Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella. It is only right that we pay tribute to him for his achievements. In many ways, he personified the success that the creative industries in this country are capable of achieving: a domestic product with a global audience and global success.

We have kicked around the statistics about the creative industries. I do not propose to repeat them, but I share the wry amusement of the hon. Member for Bath that we have the absurdly accurate figure that the creative industries account for 7.3 per cent. of our national outputs. We know that the figure is large: as the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire pointed out, the OECD puts the contribution of our creative industries above those of many countries where we might think it would be higher, such as the United States, Canada and France. Those industries are incredibly important, and I join the Minister in paying tribute to Lord Smith of Finsbury, the former Secretary of State. He deserves credit for creating the creative industries mapping document and putting those industries firmly on the map.

I agree with the hon. Member for Bath that the video games sector is often the Cinderella of the creative industries, despite its enormous importance. It is responsible for 30 per cent. of our media exports and is the fourth largest video games sector in the world. The British film industry is also the fourth largest in the world. [Interruption.] It is the third largest in the world, with a global share of 8 per cent.

20 Mar 2008 : Column 333WH

Our advertising industry contributes £5 billion a year, and our television programmes sell worldwide. No one has mentioned the huge success of Sky and ITV, as well as that of our much loved BBC. We have our contemporary arts and fine art trade, with the Frieze art fair alone contributing £100 million in sales. Ceramics have had a huge outing during this debate, and of course music contributes some £5 billion to the economy.

We are here, however, to debate the Minister’s important strategy paper. I am afraid that I do not agree with the golden review that she gave it, along with the people who were strong-armed and half-Nelsoned into saying that it is the best thing since sliced bread. People who are not in the pay of the Government have given a slightly more realistic view of where the paper sits in the debate on the creative economies.

A creative consultancy called BOP Consulting, which was responsible for the recent cultural audit of London on behalf of the Mayor, makes the point that

It states that 16 developed and emerging economies

I think that that is how it has generally been received—as a lot of small, bitty announcements rather than a wider narrative.

Something that has perhaps not emerged in the debate is the fact that there is no room for complacency about the success of our creative industries. My hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field), in particular, touched upon the threats and opportunities provided by globalisation, particularly from China and India. BOP Consulting points out that job numbers in the creative industry

We talk about the creative industries growing faster than the real economy, but a lot of that growth took place during the dotcom boom.

We have waited a long time for the strategy paper. It was first mooted some three years ago, since when we have had the creative industries discussion forum, the creative economy programme, the Work Foundation’s “Staying Ahead” document and, finally, what was meant to be a Green Paper but was finally downgraded to a strategy paper. Its 80-odd pages contain six reannouncements, four reviews, five consultations and 12 uncosted promises. Most of it reads like a Stalinist five-year plan, with numerous micro-initiatives and additional bureaucracy where it is not needed or wanted. With the paper, the Government show that they fail to realise that the real way to help the creative economy is by breaking down the barriers created by over-regulation, excessive tax, poor infrastructure and low educational performance, rather than with unfunded, reannounced gimmicks.

Nevertheless, as the hon. Member for Bath indicated, the Government have not been shy about promoting the document. No less than two Under-Secretaries of State,
20 Mar 2008 : Column 334WH
one Minister of State, three Secretaries of State and the Prime Minister himself have their mugshots on it. My favourite part of the document is the Prime Minister’s introduction, which was written by a ghost author with a gift for subtle satire. He starts:

That conjures up the surreal sight of the Prime Minister in his garret at No. 10 Downing street playing a political version of Manhunt 1 or 2 with Tony Blair or Peter Mandelson as the quarry. Such hyperbole continues. The Prime Minister—perhaps I should refer to him as the great leader—wants to

Perhaps that is why he is filling Downing street with PR executives. He goes on to say that he is

The coup de grace is the video that can be downloaded from the Downing street website on which the Prime Minister is interviewed by Blur’s drummer on the importance of the creative industries strategy paper. We have gone from Oasis under Tony Blair to Blur under the Prime Minister. Who said that “Cool Britannia” was dead, or that new Labour would turn away from celebrity endorsement?

The main announcement in the creative industries strategy paper is the “Find Your Talent” programme, which is otherwise known as the so-called cultural offer, but sounds a bit like a game show. It is a pilot programme of five hours’ culture a week for every child in the country. The flagship announcement had already been announced twice: by the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and by the Minister. It is a £25 million pilot programme over three years in 10 areas, but we do not know where it will go after that.

Other people have had similar ideas. The Association of British Orchestras has already announced that it would like every child in the country to go to a classical music concert. Our own arts taskforce—it cost absolutely nothing, as opposed to the huge expense behind the strategy paper—last year proposed a cultural offer and clear policy proposals, thus indicating joined-up thinking, including improved teacher training, a schools mark for organisations that participate in the cultural offer and pathways to sustainable training for young people.

The Minister asks us to have faith that the Government’s cultural offer will work and take off, and she mentioned the huge success of the Government’s sports programme, yet 1 million children a year are still denied two hours’ sport a week. The Government’s cultural offer was announced in the same week as the Arts Council, which the Minister applauded in her opening comments, cut £150,000 from the National Youth Theatre, thus demonstrating yet again their inability to follow-through on joined-up thinking.

The document refers to creative apprenticeships, which may be a good idea, but it was announced in the 2005 Labour party manifesto and last year. It is just another reheated announcement. The draft strategy paper referred to 1,000 apprenticeships, but now there are to be 5,000. The figures seem to be worked out on the back of an envelope.

20 Mar 2008 : Column 335WH

NESTA’s creative innovators growth programme was put in the strategy document, but is perhaps a rehash of its highly successful Creative Pioneer Academy. That Labour party manifesto commitment was wound up last year after only 80 people attended the academy. There was also a pledge to explore the benefits of a 14-to-25 academy for the creative industries, but that is an idea from the university of the Arts, not from the Government.

There was a commitment to champion London’s festivals, but the ink was barely dry on that commitment when the Minister was putting it into practice by celebrating the success of the Proms and giving them two days of fantastic coverage. The reannouncement to protect live music venues was made in the same week that Ken Livingstone announced that the Astoria will be knocked down to make way for Crossrail. Finally demonstrating the arm’s length principle for the Arts Council, it was announced that it would be used to take forward the Government’s creative industries strategy.

Other ideas have fallen by the wayside. Earlier drafts referred to a major inquiry, chaired by a vice-chancellor, into putting art and design colleges and conservatoires centre stage. Presumably, no vice-chancellor knew what that meant, so none has been found to chair the inquiry. I am sad that the wonderful proposal to support a study to produce greater coherence within the British fashion industry did not make it into the final strategy paper. The jokes would have been just too easy. Seventy million pounds may be a lot to money for hon. Members, but it is not a great deal in terms of the investment that might be needed to support the creative industries and to make a difference.

The hon. Member for Bath hit the nail on the head, as indeed did the speeches from other hon. Members, when discussing what links the creative industries. We are talking about the big ideas on piracy, intellectual property enforcement, copyright and the infrastructure for technology. In the document, the Government again gave a commitment to consult on enforcement against internet service providers, to promote better understanding of intellectual property law and to increase some of the penalties for infringement. The threat against ISPs has been around for more than a year, and the Government’s first proposal was in the Gowers report, but there has been no action since.

It is frankly depressing that the second most important announcement in a creative industries strategy paper is effectively more than 14 months old. My prediction is that the Government will not legislate. It is much easier for them to say that they will legislate than to do so. Most people believe that they are looking at what the French are doing, but the French are finding it extremely difficult to draft appropriate legislation that would be effective. The Movie Producers and Distributors Association and other organisations are in talks with ISPs, and they will probably announce a voluntary code within the next few weeks or months. The Government, of course, are welcome to take credit for that, but there is unlikely to be serious legislation, although the intention to legislate will no doubt be reannounced in a creative industries document in the next two years or so.

I concur with hon. Members, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale), that when we talk about piracy and theft, the gulf between what we commonly understand
20 Mar 2008 : Column 336WH
as theft in terms of taking an object that we can see and theft in terms of taking a piece of intellectual property is huge. The real solutions will probably be driven by technology and new business models. Two or three hon. Members mentioned the idea that Apple is working to introduce a voluntary £50 charge to people who buy an iPod and want unlimited downloads from iTunes. It is pretty obvious that the vast majority of people want to buy films and music on the internet legitimately for what they perceive to be a reasonable cost. The more the industry can provide them with safe, secure and straightforward ways of doing that, the more it will be able to monetise the digital environment.

As hon. Members have discussed, we need an urgent review of our copyright laws. The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire made an overwhelming case, which has been endorsed by the leader of the Conservative party, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), who announced last year that the next Conservative Government will extend copyright for performers to 70 years, but it is obvious in the light of Commissioner McCreevy’s announcement that the period must be carefully considered. I have told the hon. Gentleman that the Conservative party will consider the matter, but we have moved beyond Gowers and intend to extend copyright, although there will obviously be a debate about the specific period.

Broadband is another huge issue, and again the Government are considering a review on removing the barriers to next generation broadband. That is welcome, but the creative industries that depend on that important element of infrastructure would be forgiven for saying, “What will another review do? Let’s have some real muscle behind getting next generation broadband, so that we can start to compete with city states such as Singapore and other countries that are putting in the infrastructure for very fast broadband very quickly.”

The Minister has made it clear that the creative industries share characteristics with a range of other businesses. My hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster made the point that the creative industries, like any other industries in our country, depend on a stable economy, although it has to be said that creative businesses are predominantly small businesses and sole traders. Those are extremely important factors.

However, last week’s Budget was not a Budget for the creative industries or for business. Capital gains tax for entrepreneurs increased by 80 per cent., and the 10p starting rate of income tax was abolished. As the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire pointed out, there may be rich rock stars, but there are also very poor musicians who are being hit by that tax. At the other end of the scale, the sustained assault by the Government on the venture capital industry and non-doms has resulted only today in Terra Firma announcing that it might well up sticks and move abroad. That might be the start of the flight of many venture capital companies that are involved in pump-priming and investing in early-stage companies in the creative sectors.

There is also huge concern about the extension of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations. Perhaps the Minister will address that specific point. I understand that the changes mean that the provisions will be extended to certain professional sectors such as advertising and other creative industries. That is causing huge concern in those industries.

20 Mar 2008 : Column 337WH

The enormously important issue of education was ably covered by the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson), my current mentor. I hope that he does not take it amiss that I regard him as my mentor. He said that there is too much of a focus on Oxford and Cambridge. It is true that only two of the top 20 universities in the world are British. America is home to 17 of the others, and California alone has three of the top 10. Obviously, there will be a huge issue about upskilling and upgrading our universities.

I cannot remember who talked about the fact that there are so many media studies courses in universities at the moment and so many courses whose titles include the word “film”. I think that it was my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford —[Interruption.] I have been corrected: it was my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster. He made a fair point, because people working in the video games industry employ graduates with maths qualifications and computer science qualifications, and the video games industry is one of the industries that points out that the number of graduates in those subjects has fallen by one quarter in just the past four years.

The hon. Member for Norwich, North has, with me, been engaged in lobbying the Government on the dramatic cuts in the Science and Technology Facilities Council. Again, that is putting people off going into careers in science. Science degrees and the creative industries might appear to be an odd combination to talk about, but the fact remains that a great many science graduates go on to work in what we regard as creative industries, so that is incredibly important.

Joined-up government—a subject not really touched on in the strategy paper—is vital in this field. The Minister’s predecessor, who is now the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, proposed in an early draft of the document a creative industries ministry. That was a bold idea, which I am not sure I support, but I certainly think that there should be hard thinking about where responsibility lies for copyright and patent law and whether Departments should start to swap responsibilities so that, as the hon. Member for Bath said, people who work in the creative industries know where to go for a range of advice and the policy can be joined up. That said, the creative industries are so vast and so eclectic that we will never achieve a perfect solution.

One small point might be worth illustrating. Some artists in London have expressed anger against Ken Livingstone because of what they perceive as his bias in favour of developers. They make the point that many small spaces in London for artists are disappearing. The author of a book called “The Warhol Economy” makes the point about the New York economy depending on creativity and so many people in New York now being forced out into the suburbs. Here, joined-up thinking in planning is perhaps necessary. The Minister has a strategy for rehearsal spaces for live music, but the Visual Arts and Galleries Association wants a strategy for studio spaces for artists, too. There are always tiny issues—well, they are not tiny for the people involved. Perhaps I should say that there are always niche issues that cut across a range of Departments, but I certainly think that after the Minister has finished reviewing the role of the Arts Council, she should consider how we can get a
20 Mar 2008 : Column 338WH
proper organisational structure in place to deliver the most effective Government support for the creative industries.

Next Section Index Home Page