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Film Review Group Report: A Bigger Picture

2.57 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, work is well under way towards the implementation of the action plan set out in the report A Bigger Picture. The proposed training strategy, which will include a major new skills investment fund, is being developed for launch later this year. Considerable progress has been made towards designing the new all-industry fund which is due to begin operating in mid-1999. A detailed work plan for the Film Education Group is being worked up for its first full meeting in September. Progress is also being made on the other recommendations in the report and we are on target to have a new strategy for the film industry in place by April 2000.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that while this report is to be warmly welcomed there is a long way for the British film industry to go before it catches up with the major Hollywood companies? Therefore, implementation of the report is a necessary first step. Is my noble friend entirely persuaded that a voluntary all-industry fund--he mentioned the fund but he did not say whether it was voluntary--is the best way forward? Of the many valuable recommendations which are made, will he say whether the Government can indicate their priorities in taking action?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend is, of course, right. Despite the recent successes of the British film industry we are still structurally very much at a disadvantage compared with the United States film industry. To that extent the boom and bust--if I may use the Chancellor's term--which the British film industry has suffered in recent years is still likely to recur. As regards the all-industry fund, my noble friend queries whether it should be voluntary. The British film industry is not mendicant; £3 billion is spent by the British public on attendance at British films and on television performances of British films. It would not be right for the Government to throw money at the British film industry. What we can do is attempt to deal with the market failures that the industry has recognised.

If my noble friend is asking whether the all-industry fund is going to work, I draw his attention to the membership of the action group. It is very powerful indeed. Broadcasters, including Channel 5, Granada, BSkyB and the BBC, are included; the major American players such as Goldwyn, Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox are included; the major studios;

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British Screen Finance; the British Film Commission; the Arts Council; and the BFI are all included. That is good evidence that the voluntary fund will work.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, will the noble Lord explain how the removal of tax relief on the travelling and subsistence expenses of film crews on short-term contracts on British locations helps to achieve the objectives of A Bigger Picture?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it will hardly make a significant difference in either direction. However, it is in accordance with normal tax procedures. We ought not to be making special interest exceptions of that kind.

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, following the supplementary question by the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, and the important point about the establishment of an all-industry film fund, is the noble Lord aware that many of those who will be asked to subscribe are not at all happy to subscribe to a fund, rather than doing as they presently do and will continue to do--namely, individually supporting the industry in ways that are fitting for commercial reasons? In the cost-benefit analysis now being undertaken as to whether this is the way to proceed, will the Government be reasonably impartial? Will they examine that concern, rather than trying to support the proposals contained in the document, A Bigger Picture?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I can certainly confirm that the cost-benefit analysis will be impartial. Regarding the noble Viscount's major question, he should see the all-industry fund as sitting alongside other public sector activities. After all, we are seeking only 0.5 per cent. of film-based turnover. Although there is presently no evidence, my conviction is that the powerful membership of the action group to which I have referred will secure that. It will bring £15 million to £25 million to add to the funds already available from the Arts Council, lottery financing and the production fund.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that one of the biggest difficulties facing the British film industry lies in the distribution of its films? Do the Government have any specific proposals in relation to that problem?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords. My noble friend is right. We have a number of major players in film production. However, our exhibitors are very much in the hands of the major American players. The result is that, instead of the vertical integration that exists in the United States' film industry, our distribution facilities are very fragmented and under-financed. A substantial part of the effort described in A Bigger Picture is the provision of research, marketing and other support for that weak link in the film production, distribution and exhibition chain.

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Pesticides Bill

3.3 p.m.

Read a third time.

Lord Stone of Blackheath: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. In moving the Motion, I wish to thank those from all sides of the House who have contributed to the discussion. It has been an interesting initiation into the workings of the House, and certainly not as straightforward as I had imagined.

The noble Lord, Lord Kimball, taught me much about the interplay between business in this House and in another place. I shall know another time to look both ways, even when crossing what appears to be the quietest of country roads!

The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has not only given us the benefits of her magisterial experience but also called on the juridical experience of close friends and helped me understand more about the processes of this House. I believe the Bill will now significantly improve the legal framework for the regulation of pesticides in the UK. I commend it to the House.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(Lord Stone of Blackheath).

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with an amendment.

School Standards and Framework Bill

3.5 p.m.

Report received.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford moved Amendment No. 1:

Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause--

("Chapter AI
Key stage 1: annual performance tables
Key stage 1: publication of annual performance tables

.--(1) The Secretary of State shall publish annual performance tables for the results of National Curriculum assessments at the end of key stage 1 for all relevant schools.
(2) The performance tables defined in subsection (1) shall include the average class size.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is the first of various amendments that we shall propose from this side of the House which in essence put forward the policy of using existing facts--I repeat, existing facts: facts that are ascertainable and about which we can find out--as a means of judging whether the proposals in the Bill actually improve standards. One of the problems regarding educational reform over the past 20 years has been that rhetoric has often replaced facts. Whereas we all agree that we are in the business of improving standards, we can often hide reality behind a cloud of words.

I and my noble friends accept the view put forward decisively by the Government that smaller classes are in essence better than larger ones. As a former independent

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school headmaster, I accept that independent schools have always valued smaller classes. However, I think we can enter into agreement in saying that reduction in class sizes is not of itself a universal panacea. On its own it may not be the total answer to the improvement of educational standards.

Perhaps I may mention a few other factors that we ought to consider: first, styles of teaching. There is sometimes a view that whole class teaching is better than dividing a class and in that case, some educationists argue, classes can be somewhat larger.

Another factor is care over correction of work. In this case, smaller classes are better than larger ones in that schoolteachers can devote more time to the class with which they are dealing. They can also give individual attention to pupils who have problems. Here again, smaller class size is of good value.

We can all agree on that. However, it is worth saying that problems exist. That brings me to the point of my amendment. It is concerned with those awful things, facts. It is concerned not merely with the improvement of standards, but with how they are improved and how they are judged. Our amendment proposes that a detailed analysis is made of the effect that reduced class sizes would have on school performance. We are offering the Government a means of knowledge. As Plato, Aristotle and many others said, knowledge is a means to truth--therefore, as I am sure the noble Baroness will agree, the more knowledge, the better. Knowledge is one of the most potent weapons in improving standards in education.

The amendment is very simple and direct. I suggest that it is well within the spirit of what the Government are trying to achieve in the Bill. The amendment would do two things. It would make available to all of us the overall performance of schools in relation to class size. That information would be of value to educationists. It would also enable us to judge the future. In my opinion and that of my noble friends, that could do nothing but good. It is on that note that I commend the amendment to the House.

I shall be interested to see how the noble Baroness can oppose the amendment because what I suggest is a study of facts. Her ingenuity in opposing my excellent amendments always amazes me, but in this case I am sure that she will say, "Well, I think I'd like these facts as well". I cannot see why she should not want them, but if she does say that, then I shall mistrust her motives, albeit somewhat slightly. I beg to move Amendment No. 1.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, the noble Lord properly spent time speaking about the other factors which contribute towards a proper and full education. As he said, he has had great experience himself as a former headmaster of an independent school in the independent sector. What concerns me is that the party opposite should say these things and simply diminish the importance of small classes. One thing that private schools have in common is their small

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classes. That applies to all the independent schools. I suggest that demonstrates it to be the most important factor in all of them.

We could go further. Brilliant teachers make a very big difference, as we know. I am glad that the noble Lord approves of that. However, he weakens his case considerably by saying that the number in a class is not all that important. It seems to me, and to those on this side of the House, that it is vitally important. That is why the Labour Party, and now the Labour Government, properly place such importance on it.

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