Covid-19: Cultural and Entertainment Sectors

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:52 pm on 2nd March 2021.

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Photo of Julian Knight Julian Knight Chair, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Chair, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Chair, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation, Chair, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation 3:52 pm, 2nd March 2021

It is sad but true that one of the hardest-hit parts of the economy has been the cultural and entertainment sectors. The creative industries contributed over £115 billion to the UK in 2019, equivalent to £315 million every day. The UK would have been in recession for each of the last three years without the creative industries’ sectors. Until covid-19 hit, this was the fastest expanding part of the UK economy and it should be protected.

In my position as Chair of the Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, I have seen the damage that has been done to this industry by covid-19. As part of our current inquiry into the future of UK music festivals and live events, we have been examining not just how the industry can survive the current crisis, but how festivals and other live events can continue to grow and thrive sustainably as a key part of the UK’s cultural offering in the years to come. I know that these concerns apply across the board to the cultural and entertainment sectors. For example, pre-covid the night-time economy contributed £66 billion per year to the UK and provided 1.3 million jobs.

At last, the end does now seem in sight. The Prime Minister’s road map has set out dates that can now be a target for entertainers, producers and technical staff. However, even with this exciting news and the road map set out, the industry still needs more than ever a Government-backed insurance scheme. Despite how unpredictable the virus is, given the amazing vaccine roll-out, we have confidence that people will be able to gather in numbers, as we did once before. But we know that covid-19 will not go away easily. While there does remain a risk, however small, that dates could change and events, especially those of a larger scale, could again face cancellation, it is necessary that the industry has a support mechanism in place.

The cultural and entertainment sectors and all those who rely on them for work cannot risk losing a summer season for a second year in a row. They need the chance to be able to safely plan for the return of audiences. Germany has set in train a €2.5 billion guarantee fund, and Germany is nowhere near along the same road as we are with vaccinations. Last summer, my Committee recommended that the Government extend the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales until 2022. To benefit from the reduced rate, people must be able to sell tickets. Up to this point, events have not been happening to do that; it has been impossible. The industry, which has had to shut down for most of the past 12 months, needs the time and support to be able to bounce back to the world-leading position it occupied before the pandemic. With light at the end of the tunnel and with the likely increase in staycations, the summer of 2021 looks as though it might be brighter than we hoped only a few months before, but we know we cannot let ourselves slip at this final hurdle. We have to support the industries in the Budget and beyond.