Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Support Measures

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:49 pm on 8th October 2020.

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Photo of Matt Warman Matt Warman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 4:49 pm, 8th October 2020

I congratulate the Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, my hon. Friend Julian Knight, and Kevin Brennan on securing the debate. This is a critical topic that must remain at the forefront of our considerations as we continue to tackle the challenges of the covid-19 pandemic. That is what we have heard from a diverse range of speakers today. I congratulate all of them and apologise for not being able to mention everyone in detail.

Our arts shape us. Our heritage and our history shapes us, and our communities around our sports clubs at every level shape us. That is why this Government have put £1.57 billion into supporting our arts—an unprecedented package. It is why we have put £200 million into supporting our sports, and it is why we will continue to do so to the best of our abilities. This Government are here for culture, here for the arts and here for sport, and we will continue to be so. Whatever ITV might tweet and then have to delete, that is true for the Chancellor as well.

Let us go back to the beginning of this extraordinary pandemic. The Prime Minister rightly instructed us to work at home if we could. That meant millions of people suddenly relying on the internet for endless Zoom calls. It meant millions more people relying on the internet to educate their children, even if they could not work from home, and it meant millions of people relying on the internet for entertainment. Let us not forget that, thanks to the work of our telecommunications networks, the digital lights did not go out. That is hundreds of thousands of men and women working incredibly hard, and I thank them for that. I also thank the BBC, Netflix and other providers that agreed to take some of the load off our networks, so that we could all carry on.

At the outset of this pandemic, we made it clear that we would move to protect our cultural institutions, which are rightly famous around the world. Moreover, they are vital to our economy, to our theatres, to our live music venues and to our museums. They brought in £32.3 billion in 2018, and they employ 680,000 people. It is that income and those jobs that we have moved to shield. It culminated in the £1.57 billion culture recovery fund to tackle the crisis in our most loved arts organisations and heritage sites and help weather the storm of coronavirus. I want to be clear: we are working as hard as we can to get this money out of the door as quickly as possible. That will begin on Monday, and it will continue throughout October and November.