Covid-19: Cultural and Entertainment Sectors

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:29 pm on 2nd March 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister of State 3:29 pm, 2nd March 2021

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that the VAT reduction on hospitality and entertainment over the past year has been a great benefit for a lot of our venues. Of course, any announcements about that will be set out tomorrow by the Chancellor in his Budget, but it is an excellent point.

In step 4, no earlier than 21 June, our ambition is to reopen remaining premises. I am sure, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you will be delighted to know that that includes nightclubs. That will ease the restrictions on large events and performances that apply in step 3, subject to appropriate mitigations. However, it is important to stress, as the Prime Minister said, that the decision on each stage will be based on data and not dates. The Government will move cautiously to keep infection rates under control.

However, I know that for so many in the arts and entertainment sector, this proposal represents further months of financial uncertainty, so the Prime Minister provided assurance in his announcement last week that for the duration of the pandemic, the Government will continue to do whatever it takes to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK. We have been working very closely with the Treasury on this issue to determine the appropriate and most effective response for the sector within the public health context.

In the Budget tomorrow, the Chancellor will set out the next phase in our economic support package. It will reflect the steps set out in the Prime Minister’s approach to easing the restrictions through the road maps. We now know that there will be good news for our sectors tomorrow. There will be a generous package of funding that is about not just survival but planning, preparing and paving the way to the reopening of our sectors. I look forward to hearing more detail from the Chancellor tomorrow, and I am sure hon. Ladies and Gentlemen across the House do too.

Our commitment to supporting individuals and businesses has been steadfast through this challenging period. The Government have supported individuals across the economy through financial packages such as the job retention scheme and the self-employed income support scheme. In particular, the £1.57 billion culture recovery fund—the single largest-ever support package for the arts—has helped to safeguard not only the future of some of the best-loved cultural and creative venues, but many of the jobs and livelihoods of the incredibly skilled people who depend on them. It has also assisted the supply chain organisations, which are recognised as a crucial part of the sector.

We have recognised the significant pressures faced by businesses in our sectors. The Chancellor announced one-off top-up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, worth up to £9,000 per property, to help businesses through the spring, and £594 million of discretionary funds was made available to support other impacted businesses, in addition to £1.1 billion of further discretionary grant funding for local authorities, local restriction support grants worth up to £3,000 a month and the extension of the furloughing scheme. Business rates relief and numerous loan schemes have provided certainty for businesses and have enabled planning, recruitment and job retention.

We are absolutely determined to make sure our cherished culture and heritage makes it through this crisis. That is why we have also provided sector-specific funding and support. We have worked closely with all our sectors to draft guidance to ensure that businesses are as covid-secure as possible and to protect workers and visitors. To date, £1 billion of the culture recovery fund has been allocated across all four nations of the UK, providing direct support to organisations, both large and small. As I have mentioned, the devolved Administrations have received £188 million through the Barnett formula. Of that £1 billion, £800 million has been awarded to more than 3,500 arts, culture and heritage organisations across England, which has helped to support at least 75,000 jobs.

With your indulgence, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to dig a bit deeper into those figures so that hon. Members get a real sense of where the funding has been directed and the kind of organisations that it has supported through an incredibly difficult year. Some 462 awards have been made to applicants whose main art form is theatre, with a value of £183 million. The sector will be further supported through the second round of funding. Some £79 million is being distributed between 514 heritage organisations, 96 grants of which—totalling £17.5 million—are to listed places of worship, and over 15% of funding is to listed historic housing and gardens. We have supported museums, with £49 million being distributed to 156 organisations through Arts Council England alo-ne.

As a result of Government support and guidance—in particular, the film and TV restart scheme—the screen industry has bounced back and recorded the second highest production spend for any quarter on record. The combined total UK spend on film and high-end production was more than £2.8 billion—a drop of only 21% from the 2019 record. The £500 million film and TV production restart scheme has filled the insurance gap, giving productions the confidence to keep shooting and ensuring that family favourites such as “Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway” and “Midsomer Murders” continue to entertain us and lift our spirits—although perhaps the murders not so much. Such programmes have also created much needed employment opportunities.

Falling infection rates, the vaccination of more than 18 million people and scientific data about the efficacy of our hugely successful roll-out continue to give this country real grounds for optimism. The road map sets out a clear and cautious route to return to normality. Throughout the pandemic, though, protecting the public has been our top priority, and we will continue to work closely with our sectors to support them to reopen as soon as it is safe and sustainable to do so.