Valedictory Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:19 pm on 5 November 2019.

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Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Independent, Wantage 3:19, 5 November 2019

The final issue I want to raise in my speech is that, despite the then Chief Whip’s concerns, I was lucky enough to serve for six years as Minister with responsibility for the arts, telecommunications and technology. The telecoms part of the brief was a complete accident. It came to us when we were in opposition, because the then telecoms spokesman was my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke. When it was pointed out that he did not even own a mobile phone, my right hon. Friend Mr Hunt rather deftly stole the policy and took it over to DCMS. When I got that Department, the then Prime Minister had such faith in me that he tried to take the telecoms brief away from me and give it to my hon. Friend John Penrose. Thankfully, he was married to a woman who was the chief executive of a telecoms company at the time, so I held on to that fantastic brief, as well as that of the creative industries of film, television, advertising and video games. I just want to say two things about those two areas.

First, the arts are tremendously important. We have the most incredible arts ecology. That is a terrible word to use for such a beautiful subject, but we have the most incredible museums and arts institutions in this country. I think it really is only in this place that they are not appreciated. When I go abroad, people marvel at our museums and how we support the arts in this country. If only we could have a system similar to the system we have for international development, where the arts have a guaranteed budget—not 0.7%, but bigger than it is at the moment—we would get so much more from them. We already get such a tremendous amount.

On the creative industries, we perhaps like to mock luvvies but that is completely wrong. One of the reasons we have not dipped into recession in the past couple of quarters is the contribution made by the British film industry. I told the then Prime Minister that he had as much right to appear on the set of James Bond as at a widget factory, because it was making a massive economic contribution to our country.

On technology, we are the leaders of Europe in technology investment, start-ups and technology companies. As we move towards delivering Brexit, I urge all policy makers in this House, when Parliament returns, to look at technology as one of the key areas that will drive the 21st century post-European Union British economy.