Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Support Measures

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 8th October 2020.

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Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith 3:45 pm, 8th October 2020

Like other Members, I too spoke in Tuesday’s Westminster Hall debate on the contribution of the culture sector to local economies. While I do not intend to repeat what I said then, I want to re-emphasise just how vital culture, media and sport organisations are to my constituency, not just culturally in terms of promoting diversity and their success in the way that they represent this country, but economically. In constituencies like mine they are as important as manufacturing or finance are to other constituencies.

We have live music and entertainment venues such as the Eventim Apollo, which is a beautiful art deco building that has been fully restored by its new owners, the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Bush Hall, and the Riverside Studios, Lyric and Bush theatres, all of them in new or expanded premises, and all of them thriving before covid. In a small borough, we have two premiership clubs and one championship football club—Chelsea, Fulham and QPR—again, all doing really well, whether in building new stands, looking for new grounds or rebuilding their existing grounds. Last but not least, in terms of exhibitions and events, we have lost Earls Court but we still have Olympia, which is being refurbished and restored to its Victorian splendour by its new owners.

These are great successes, but that is not mirrored by the support that they have been getting from Government over this time. I urge Members to sign the letter that Sarah Olney is writing on the events industry, because the neglect of the events industry has been one of the great scandals throughout covid. What all these enterprises have in common is that they are the worst affected. They cannot operate but they are getting the least help. Government schemes do not work for them. They do not work for their staff and they particularly do not work for the freelancers on whom many of them depend. I will make just two points. First, these are successful organisations that help themselves. Secondly, the Government schemes are not working for them.

I also have the privilege of having had 75 years of the BBC in my constituency. However, we are losing TV Centre because of the cuts in support for the BBC made by the Cameron Government in not supporting the licence fee, and now the BBC is being further undermined in so many ways. The BBC supports the cultural sector with £1.2 billion, the largest single such investment, going into its content. That is three times what Netflix does, which is half of what public service broadcasting does. Yet that is also being undermined by the further cuts that are going through at the BBC.

Finally, let me quote from something I saw when I was waiting for this debate to start—an email that I got from a very successful hospitality business called Beds and Bars based in my constituency. It also operates in Europe. One can feel the anger when the managing director, Murray Roberts, points out that the UK faces mass redundancies in these sectors while jobs in mainland Europe will be saved. He says:

“What we see in the rest of the Europe is that those governments want to help the hospitality sector but the Job Support Scheme in the UK is not going to help anyone. I haven’t heard of a single operator who has said the Job Support Scheme is any good or is even something they can work with.”

He says that whereas the Europeans say that

“there’s no question of making mass redundancies…Sunak’s Job Support Scheme is all smoke and mirrors. It’s time we started shaming the actions of the government. The support we will be getting is appalling and we will face huge redundancies.”

That is the truth and the challenge that the Government are not meeting at present.