Film Industry

Oral Answers to Questions — National Heritage – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd June 1997.

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Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross Labour, Dundee West 12:00 am, 23rd June 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will make a statement on the membership and objectives of the body that he has set up to investigate the future of the British film industry. [3088]

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Minister of State (Department of National Heritage/Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

The film policy review group—which my right hon. Friend and I have already mentioned—consisting of leading players in the British film community, will be co-chaired by myself and Stewart Till of Polygram Filmed Entertainment. The group's objective is to encourage the British film industry as a whole to achieve lasting success and to be competitive in the world marketplace.

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross Labour, Dundee West

I thank my right hon. Friend for that response and I welcome him to his responsibility for film, which acknowledges his long commitment to the British film industry. Is he aware of the on-going project in Dundee and Tayside to produce a film for the Indian film industry, and does he agree that the British film industry has the potential for job growth? Can he tell the House on which policy areas the review group will focus?

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Minister of State (Department of National Heritage/Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

The United Kingdom is attractive to film makers for important locations, such as Dundee, and for the talent and even creative genius of British film production. The film policy review group will consider how to make the most of the UK's assets by boosting the audience for British films and by attracting from overseas investment in our talent and facilities. The group will focus on six key areas: the broadening of the audience and the impact of improving access; increasing the market share of British films; developing skills and talents; improving the financial and fiscal framework; promoting exports; and attracting inward investment.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

May I ask the Minister and the review group not to emulate the system in France, an approach that was mentioned a few moments ago? Is he aware that the reason why there are more screens in France is because French television is so appalling and that French films are allocated time on French screens? If one visits a French cinema, one finds it emptier than the Chamber today.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Minister of State (Department of National Heritage/Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for suggesting that today we are concentrating on the exciting future of the British film industry. If we have not persuaded Opposition Members of the importance of the review group—which has excellent members whose objectives we will fulfil—I refer them, in all modesty, to the views of the Financial Times, which said, the day after I made the announcement: This is the most ambitious Government review on film since the introduction of the Eady Levy in 1950. I welcome that opinion.

Photo of Claire Ward Claire Ward Labour, Watford

I welcome my right hon. Friend's comments on the British film industry. Leavesden Studios, the largest and fastest growing studio in the United Kingdom, is in my constituency of Watford. The most recent James Bond film was made there and it is now home to the Star Wars films. Does my right hon. Friend have any plans to visit Leavesden Studios and witness for himself this exciting new development?

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Minister of State (Department of National Heritage/Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

I believe that my hon. Friend will find confirmation in her mail today that I intend to visit her constituency this week and I look forward to meeting her there. I welcome her positive endorsement of a proper strategy for the future of the British film industry. I am sure that she joins me in rejoicing that, despite the Conservative party's neglect of training, the contribution of the National Film and Television school has meant that Nick Park, concentrating on animation, received three Oscars this year. That shows British genius and skills, and we are determined to build on that foundation.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Conservative, South Cambridgeshire

Is the Minister aware that the issues of finance for the film industry and the distribution of British films were covered by the Middleton committee? Will the Minister make a decision on the recommendations made as a result of that review before subjecting the film industry to another lengthy and wide-ranging review?

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Minister of State (Department of National Heritage/Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

I did refer earlier to the fact that the Middleton committee report, to which the previous Government paid not one whit of attention, will be considered with other recent reports by the review group. I am not prepared to invite a well-informed group, which will consider what is going in the British film industry, to reach a conclusion even before it has met.

I can promise the hon. Member that the Government will not delay; we are not reticent in our commitment to the future of the British film industry, culture and appreciation. I know that we have the overwhelming support of the British and European film industries.