Queen's Speech — Debate (5th Day) (continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:59 pm on 3rd June 2010.

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Photo of Lord Macdonald of Tradeston Lord Macdonald of Tradeston Labour 5:59 pm, 3rd June 2010

My Lords, as the financial crisis grinds on, noble Lords on all sides of the House now accept that public spending must be reduced, but today many of us plead for our favoured causes. Following on from the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, I will also argue that public spending in support of Britain's cultural sector is a sound economic investment.

Over the past two decades, the rapid growth of our creative industries has been one of the UK's proudest achievements. The creative sector is driven by imagination and flair-from architecture to advertising, across the media, from fashion to computer games-and Britain has undoubtedly got talent. Most of that talent works through small companies, and their artistry is often combined with an unabashed entrepreneurial zeal. An outstanding example of this is in television where government policy in the 1980s helped to create hundreds of independent production companies. I trust that the Minister can assure us that the public service output of our television channels, which is so widely admired abroad and enjoyed at home, will be protected by the coalition Government, particularly in areas such as regional news and current affairs in England and, most crucially, in the devolved nations of the United Kingdom.

Over the past decade, our creative industries have grown almost twice as fast as the rest of the UK economy. The sector employs about 2 million people, and the UK's creative exports total £16 billion a year. The contribution made by our creative industries to the UK national economy is now greater by proportion than that in any other country. We are world leaders when it comes to creativity. London, in particular, benefits from being an entertaining, edgy cultural capital. Its creative industries employ about 800,000 Londoners, and Mayor Johnson asserts, with regard to tourism and job creation more broadly, that:

"London's cultural environment has become a significant factor in its competitive advantage".

Cities outside London have also flourished in our cultural renaissance. In Brighton, where I now live, May is a month-long festival and music, theatre, arts and media, along with a lively club scene, attract the tourists and keep Brighton buzzing throughout the year. Since the incomparable Edinburgh Festival was founded some 60 years ago, the growth of festivals in small towns and every large city has been quite remarkable. Today, the largest creative cluster outside London is in Manchester. Back in the 1980s, Granada Television set about transforming the derelict warehouses around its television station by the River Irwell. The wonderfully anarchic Madchester phenomenon transformed the local music scene. The Commonwealth Games regenerated another run-down area and left Manchester City a world-class stadium in which to compete with Manchester United. In addition, we now have an excellent Manchester International Festival, as the noble Lord, Lord Hall, highlighted in his splendid maiden speech. There is also the Lowry arts centre. Mostly importantly, MediaCityUK in Salford is now nearing completion. It will become the BBC's new production centre in the north, with 2,500 staff jobs being transferred from London.

As the metrocentric BBC strives to make itself more British, Glasgow too is benefiting from the transfer of BBC production to Scotland. Scotland at last gets a fairer share of UK programme-making to match its licence fee contributions. I hope that the Minister will confirm the Government's support for the BBC's policy of creative devolution. Noble Lords may recall that in 1990 Glasgow was the least likely candidate for the role of European city of culture. Like most Glaswegians, I was pretty sceptical. However, in the 20 years since, cultural activity has been a key element in a remarkable regeneration. Glasgow still has its legacy of industrial and social problems, but they are eased by its 3 million tourists spending £700 million a year. That success was repeated in Liverpool in 2008 when, as European capital of culture, it attracted 10 million visitors and had a reported income of £750 million, which was a very welcome boost in these hard times.

Three years into the current financial crisis, cultural budgets are obviously under increasing pressure. Private sponsorship has held up better than expected, but it fell about 5 per cent in 2008 and is likely to have dropped again last year. The budget of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is now also under pressure. When the Chancellor announced his £6 billion of public spending cuts, £88 million was lopped off the DCMS budget. It was just 4 per cent, but it might be only the start. The Arts Council of England's budget is a central concern for that most important funding engine, encouraging creativity up and down the country. It is a respected and well-run organisation that has sensibly trimmed its own administration costs in recent times. The Arts Council, like other bodies, suffered when the income from the National Lottery was diverted to fund the Olympic Games, and I would welcome the Minister's confirmation that the lost shares of lottery funding will be restored to the arts, to heritage and to sports sectors post-2012.

Many in the creative industries were encouraged by the enthusiasm for the arts which Jeremy Hunt, the new Secretary of State at the DCMS, and his junior Minister Ed Vaizey expressed in opposition. Will the Minister therefore assure us that the new team at the DCMS will do its utmost to protect our highly successful but inherently fragile creative industries from further damaging cuts in public support?