Stage Lighting: Efficiency Regulations

Part of Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:47 pm on 15th June 2018.

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Photo of Sam Gyimah Sam Gyimah Minister of State (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Higher Education), Minister of State (Education) 2:47 pm, 15th June 2018

I congratulate my hon. Friend Will Quince on securing a debate on this important subject. I am very much aware of this issue, which has already been raised by many in the sector, and I understand the potential impact of the draft legislation on theatres and other live entertainment venues up and down the country. By way of reassurance, let me say that the Government take this issue very seriously. Indeed, the Arts Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend Michael Ellis, is sitting next to me. We need to look at this issue on a cross-departmental basis.

We all recognise that the theatre is a hugely important part of the creative industries and of our country’s cultural history. British theatre is respected across the world for its high-quality productions and its skilled professionals both on and off the stage. I am sure that the Mercury theatre in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester—I gather that it has raised concerns about this issue—is a shining example of that quality and professionalism. Let me make it clear that the Government recognise the value of theatre. We already support it in a number of ways, including through Arts Council funding, our theatre tax relief and a number of capital investments in recent years, such as the £78 million provided towards the creation of the Factory in Manchester.

Before I talk specifically about the draft EU lighting proposal, I will highlight for hon. Members the purpose of the policy and why it benefits both UK consumers and businesses. EU eco-design and energy labelling measures are about minimising the costs and environmental impact of products used in both homes and businesses by setting minimum performance requirements and empowering consumers to make informed purchasing decisions through the use of energy labels.

The EU measures have been around for several years, and we estimate that those agreed to date will be saving household consumers about £100 on their annual energy bills in 2020, and will be leading to greenhouse gas emissions savings of 8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Minimum standards for lighting alone are estimated to contribute more than 1 million tonnes of CO2 savings. This policy therefore constitutes one of the most cost-effective ways to meet our carbon budgets and reduce energy consumption.

As well as bolstering our commitment to reduce carbon emissions, the policy also serves a purpose for industry. Setting minimum performance standards and promoting better environmental performance of products through labelling can help to drive innovation and increase the competitiveness of businesses, in line with our industrial strategy. Minimum performance standards and labelling schemes exist in various forms throughout the world, including in America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It can therefore be a challenge for businesses placing products in those markets to meet the various requirements.

Setting the standards at EU level means that manufacturers have to meet only one standard before placing their products on the market, without the burden of navigating multiple national regulations. However, when standards are set for the entire single market, it is important that they are proportionate and achieve what they are supposed to achieve, without unintended consequences. That is why the European Commission consults member states and relevant stakeholders when developing a policy proposal. At the same time, we engage extensively with UK stakeholders and listen to the concerns raised before we come to a position and vote on legislation.

That brings me to the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, which is the potential impact of an EU draft lighting regulation on theatres in the UK. The Commission held a consultation forum in December to discuss the first draft of the proposal—here I wish to stress the importance of the word “draft”. Following that forum, stakeholders were able to submit comments in writing to the Commission, which were considered as part of the review process of the draft regulation. It is therefore still a proposal at this stage and remains open for discussion. I understand that a final decision will not be made on the proposed legislation until later in the year, so my hon. Friend is right to bring the matter before the House at this point. Until then, my officials will continue to listen to the concerns and views of all interested parties—indeed, the issue has already been brought to the Department’s attention by many in the sector, and as I said, the Arts Minister also takes a keen interest in the matter.

To put it in context, the draft proposal is a revision of the current lighting regulation that came into force in 2012. The purpose of that regulation was gradually to improve the performance of lighting products and push the market towards more energy-efficient and longer-lasting technologies such as ultra-efficient LED lighting. However, due to the special purpose of certain lighting, the existing regulation contains an exemption for various types of lighting equipment, such as that used in theatres and other live entertainment venues.

The intention, as stated in the regulation, was to look again at special purpose lamps when the measure came to be reviewed. It is therefore important that hon. Members are aware that the draft regulation builds on previous experience of the issue. Theatre and stage lighting has had an exemption for six years and, although I understand that tungsten is still commonly used in theatres, in that time some venues have begun to adopt LED alternatives. I believe that most large-scale theatres make at least partial use of LEDs, and have done so for years. LED lighting may, however, not always be a suitable option, and it may not be cost-effective for some venues, particularly smaller venues, to transition to newer, more efficient technologies. I also understand that even some LED lights may struggle to meet the proposed performance requirements in 2020.

I reassure hon. Members that my Department’s officials have already met with representatives of the Association of Lighting Designers and the National Theatre and are aware of the impact that the proposal could have on the availability of theatre lighting equipment. Following that meeting, my officials made representations to the European Commission in writing and in person to discuss this issue and potential solutions. I gather that since meeting Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy officials, the Association of Lighting Designers, as well as other sector representatives, have had a productive meeting with the Commission and have now submitted an alternative proposal for its consideration.

As I mentioned, this is still a draft regulation and member states will not vote on it until the Commission calls a regulatory committee, which we expect to take place at the end of this year. Until then, officials and, of course, the Arts Minister will continue to consult on further iterations of the regulation and consider concerns raised by interested parties. As we have seen only an early draft of the regulation, we will not be carrying out a cost-benefit analysis at this stage. Once we see the final draft version of the regulation prior to the regulatory committee, we will carry out a cost-benefit analysis of the lighting proposal for the whole UK. Both we and the European Commission have listened to the sector and are aware of the potential impacts on the theatre and the live entertainment industry, and support finding a solution that works for everyone.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.