It is a privilege to be called to speak in this debate, and it is fantastic to see my hon. Friend Jo Stevens back in her rightful place. I will keep my comments brief, but in doing so I hope to catch up on a number of key issues that are close to my heart and the hearts of many in Pontypridd and beyond.
Colleagues may be aware—given my determined and committed approach to raising issues around wrestling, they certainly should be—that I am co-chair, along with my good friend Mark Fletcher, of the all-party parliamentary group on wrestling. It has rapidly become clear to me that the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on sectors such as wrestling that fall between governance gaps. Wrestling is unique in that it is classified by some as a sport and by others as a performative entertainment. The situation is complicated further given that the industry currently has no formal regulatory or governing body. I appreciate that the Government are taking small steps towards engagement—indeed, I was pleased to meet the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nigel Huddleston, today to discuss these issues—but I sincerely hope that specific consideration will be given to industries such as wrestling that have fallen through the gaps in both financial support and coronavirus regulations guidance.
I am afraid that those in the wrestling industry are not the only ones who have been losing out. The situation across the UK’s culture and entertainment sector as a whole is currently pretty dire. We have all heard time and again about the millions of people who have been excluded from the Government’s financial support packages, and freelance workers in our creative sectors have been particularly badly hit. People who have dedicated their lives to their craft have had to cope with the devastating blow of being forgotten, belittled and ignored. I sincerely hope that the Chancellor takes the opportunity in his Budget to make amends and put things right.
The Minister knows and, I believe, shares my concerns about the viability of creatives being able to tour and travel across Europe for work purposes. My hon. Friend Barbara Keeley mentioned her brass band, and Chris Green claimed that he had the world’s best brass band, but I am going to blow my own trumpet and declare that in fact I have the best brass band in my patch: the Cory Band from Rhondda Cynon Taff currently holds the official title. Without any ability to avoid costly administrative fees, bands such as the Cory Band will be limited in their ability to thrive and spread the word of the UK’s proud musical heritage to our friends on the continent. That said, I thank the Minister for his engagement on this topic and sincerely hope that the work of the Department will see a viable solution put in place to support those who have been impacted.
The situation could be different. In Wales, the Welsh Labour Government’s £63 million culture recovery fund has been a lifeline for those facing a tough time, and I sincerely hope that the UK Government will follow their lead in prioritising support for the cultural and entertainment sectors. Need I remind the Minister that this sector, which is so central both to the recovery of our country’s economy and to individual people’s wellbeing, deserves our utmost attention and support? We all know that actions speak louder than words, and the cultural and entertainment sectors and those working in them desperately need to see positive change before it is too late.