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20 Mar 2008 : Column 338WH—continued

5.15 pm

Margaret Hodge: I should have said this in my opening remarks, but I join other hon. Members in recognising the enormous contribution made by Anthony Minghella, and not just to the film industry, although I genuinely think that had it not been for him, we would not now be planning a new film centre on the south bank with £50 million in funding. He played an enormous role in persuading Government to introduce the film tax relief, which has hugely benefited film. In his work outside film, I recently saw his production of “Madam Butterfly” at the English National Opera—the direction was stunning—and he also helped the Labour party with an excellent party political broadcast.

Dr. Gibson: Sensible man.

Margaret Hodge: Absolutely. Nothing could be better than having the Minghella centre on the south bank. I think that that would be a huge tribute to his contribution.

This has been a great debate. I think that it was a little spoilt by the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey), who showed the usual cynicism and negative approach.

Mr. Vaizey: Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Margaret Hodge: No, not at this point. The hon. Gentleman showed the usual negative approach and cynicism, facing both ways without showing any joined-up thinking.

Mr. Don Foster: Does the Minister suspect that the rather cynical view of the hon. Member for Wantage is a reflection of the fact that I have now apparently been dropped as his mentor? As a result, his tone has changed.

Margaret Hodge: I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) is absolutely exhilarated by the thought of becoming the mentor of the hon. Member for Wantage—he showed that by various gesticulations during the debate.

I shall respond as quickly as I can to the points made in the debate. I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, that all the creative industries need to develop new business models. Everything that we have said about copyright protection will work only in part. The real way forward for all the creative sectors is to develop new business models. The music industry, although it came to the table late because it was hit first, is doing more work on new business models than others. I was at an interesting session with representatives of the BPI just before Christmas, at which they demonstrated to me not just the model that the hon. Gentleman talked about, but the way in which mobile phone technology will now be used. We can think of Radiohead and the way in which they have used technology.

The hon. Gentleman talked about live concerts. That is almost a new business model in its own right. The film industry has to do some catching up to the point that the music industry has reached. That is an important point.

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I want to pick up on the hon. Gentleman’s point about camcording in cinemas. In relation to his discussions with the film industry, I say to him that we need better evidence that a new offence would have the impact that it thinks it would have. As far as I can see from the evidence so far where that offence has been introduced, it has not made an enormous difference, so we have asked the industry for more evidence.

A number of hon. Members referred to copyright extension. I repeat what I have said in the main Chamber: we have an open mind. However, I hope that hon. Members will look at the evidence, because it was not an unthinking decision on the part of Gowers; he based it on the best evidence that he had. It was echoed—I have now found the reference—by the Hugenholtz report to the European Commission. Although Commissioner McCreevy seems to have had a change of heart, we certainly look forward to discussions with him. We need to get good research evidence, and the hon. Gentleman will know that the research that his Committee considered was questioned by some of those involved in the earlier research. Let us look at that research again in that context.

Mr. Whittingdale: Is the Minister saying that she will consider that question only on the basis of the economic impact, because in our view the argument goes way beyond the economic effect it will have?

Margaret Hodge: The impact that copyright extension would have on those who might benefit from it is enormously important. One of the points that Gowers made is that the contracts under which many of the musicians and performers exercise their copyright are such that they would not benefit from an extension. Considering the broad interpretation of economic impact, it is important that we consider that matter. I understood and heard the passion of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) on those issues, but we need to ask who the beneficiary would be—Disney or the individual performer? We must investigate that.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North on being involved with such a range of organisations, particularly the all-party writers group. I have noted his comments on the Copyright Tribunal. I would like to take away my notes and puruse them. The issue is not at the top of my agenda, but he made some interesting comments. I take the point that although we measure success by patents, we do not do so with copyrights. That is because they have no legal status, and therefore it is difficult to measure them. However, an important and fundamental point has been made, and we need to address that across the Government. I hope that the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills will be able to consider that as part of its innovation review. I applaud the work of the creative writers group, founded by Malcolm Bradbury, which has been incredibly successful as part of the university of East Anglia.

The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire talked about the huge UK success story. I completely and utterly endorse what he said. Our music industry is also successful. I accept the fragility not just of that industry, but of many of our industries. Many hon. Members mentioned the games industry, which is successful but quite promiscuous. The Canadians have introduced a tax relief that is having an impact here. Clearly, we do
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not want to have a ping-pong situation in relation to competitive tax relief because that will not lead to long-term stability and growth. Nevertheless, it is worrying that some Governments at federal or regional level feel that they can pursue such a strategy. We are taking that problem up with the World Trade Organisation. It reflects the fragility of another industry.

If the hon. Gentleman looks at the document, “Creative Britain—New Talents for the New Economy”, there are two big references to rehearsal spaces. He will know that we have given Fergal Sharkey the task of spending £500,000 to set up some good music rehearsal spaces in various localities. I accept that we must have the respect of the artists and the performers. In the work that I have been doing on the creative economy programme, artists and performers are at the heart of our thinking and our consultation, and they very much inform what we do.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Joan Walley) managed to get me to visit her constituency and she has now got the Secretary of State to visit it. I congratulate her on her determination to represent her constituents in Parliament. The only thing I would say—I think I have said this to her before—is that in trying to secure the future of the ceramics industry for her constituents, it is important that she engages with the regional development agency, as it should take on board the potential and future of that industry.

Joan Walley: Indeed, we are engaging with the regional development agency, but the ceramics industry is relevant to this debate because small art potteries continue to be driven by design, use of colour and finely tuned hand skills. Their principal defences against counterfeiting are copyright and trademark. As well as having a bigger debate about industrialised production and manufacturing, it is essential that we look at the issue from the art point of view; hence my concern and interest in the debate.

Margaret Hodge: I accept my hon. Friend’s point, but the RDAs also have to capture the importance of those factors because they relate to the added value that the creative industries often bring.

The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) made two important points. One was the importance of vocational courses. I endorse his remarks on that. I referred to the fact that we must work to ensure that the competences offered in courses and the content of courses reflect the needs of people in the industry. The individuals who take those courses, and now often pay for them, could then move straight into the world of work. We have not dropped the piece of work relating to that, as the hon. Member for Wantage suggested. The university of Brighton is taking forward a piece of work precisely to look at course content across the university sector and the conservatoires. That will ensure the relevance of that work. I was pleased to hear him endorse the importance of vocational courses, but they must be of the right quality.

Small and medium-sized enterprises were also mentioned. It would be wrong to have a Minister for the creative industries because businesses in that sector share many of the characteristics and problems generally experienced by industry. The fact that there is a concentration of SMEs means that we must get the whole framework right to support them across all sectors. When I did
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business support simplification in my previous job, we tried to drive out many of the specific funding programmes that we had for individual industries so that we could view them in a more general way. If something is simple, businesses will take advantage of it; if it is complex, they will not find their way through the maze.

It is right to have cross-Government working. I work incredibly closely with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. I also work closely with colleagues in the Treasury, in local government and elsewhere. The way in which we are dealing with the issue is right. On the whole, our work on deregulation supports the SME sector. The additional capital allowances that businesses have for investment after the Budget are important. We want businesses not simply to start up, but to grow. The incentivisation is now taken away from the capital gains tax relief and put into capital investment, which is important.

The hon. Members for Bath (Mr. Foster) and for Wantage mentioned statistics not being precise enough. We are trying to address the problem with information. When we put together the Will Hutton report, there was a lot of discussion about the basis on which he made his observations. The data are not comparable. There is an issue with information; it is always an investment, and we are considering that matter.

I agree about video games. Far too often, they are attacked, but they account for more than 50 per cent. of gross value added in the creative industries. Video games
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are hugely important to us and are increasingly enjoyed by a wide range of people. For example, more women now play them and the average age of those who play is 28, which is much higher than I thought. It is not only Whittingdale Junior, but many adults—men and increasingly women—who are enjoying such games.

I take on board the points made by the hon. Member for Bath about extending intellectual property and “use it or lose it.” I agree that there are some simple, basic realities, which is why we turned the document from a Green or White Paper into a strategy document. The document is full of real action. It can be attacked by saying that some of the action has been trailed before, but this is real action that will make a difference to the industry. We could have had another strategy document, but I think that Will Hutton did his job pretty well. It is now down to us to take his work forward and to ask what the Government will do to ensure that we provide the economic conditions to enable the industries to prosper. That is what we have done in the document. I am proud of it, but I consider it a stage in the journey.

The creative industries sector is fragile and operates in fast-changing circumstances—whether that involves the introduction of broadband, the convergence of technology or the competition from globalisation. We have to respond quickly and we can do so only in partnership. The partnership we have established is broadly welcomed by most people with whom I converse and we want to preserve it for the future by working across the Government in the interests of the creative sector.

It being half-past Five o’clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the sitting lapsed, without Question put.

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