Creative Industries — Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:13 pm on 3rd November 2011.

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Photo of Lord Bilimoria Lord Bilimoria Crossbench 12:13 pm, 3rd November 2011

My Lords, if I were to list the areas in which we are the best of the best in the world, it is actually quite a long list for this tiny country of 60 million people compared with, say, the United States with 300 million. I could go for higher education, advanced engineering and the creative industries, where we are right up there among the best of the best in the world. I thank and congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, on initiating this debate. It is crucial. Whichever area of the creative industries you look at, we are world class-whether it is film, theatre, art, design or advertising. The list goes on.

It struck me when I was taken on a private tour of the Reichstag in Berlin that it was redesigned by none other than our very own British architect, the noble Lord, Lord Foster. When in 2004, the Royal Society of Arts' 250th anniversary year, I was privileged to receive its Albert medal, which was presented by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. The other medal winner was Jonathan Ive, the Apple designer, who won the Benjamin Franklin medal. The noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, spoke about him. He was Steve Jobs's right-hand person.

Why are we so brilliant in creative arenas and how can we continue to remain the best? The question I ask the Minister is: are the creative industries really a top priority for this Government? The creative industries make up 5.6 per cent of the gross value added to our economy, they contribute £17 billion of exports and services and almost 9 per cent of companies in this country in some way or another fall under the creative industries umbrella. They make such a substantial contribution. Are the Government doing enough to support them? On the other hand, the huge Department for Work and Pensions has £200 billion of spending. Surely the Government should prioritise creative industries to help them to grow and to receive even a fraction of that £200 billion of funding.

We all agree that the cuts the Government are making need to be made, but I just do not understand slashing higher education funding by 80 per cent when there is a shortage of skilled and trained people in the creative industries. Will the Government wake up to this? This is our core competence. We need the brightest and the best academics and students from around the world to come to our universities. Ten per cent of academics in our universities are foreign; at Oxford and Cambridge it is 30 per cent. Foreign students bring in £8 billion to the UK and yet we have this crude immigration cap dissuading the brightest and the best from coming to our country. I know that from India applications have plummeted. As we rely on brain power in the creative industries, we are being affected by these nonsensical policies. Will the Minister tell us whether the Government are going to wake up to this?

The creative industries are open; they are flexible. They are tiny microbusinesses on the one hand and giants like WPP on the other hand. With today's technology and communications, this industry is full of companies that are really mobile. Britain is one of the least competitive countries in the world when it comes to taxation, with our top rate of 50 per cent. In 1997, we were the fifth most competitive country in the world in terms of taxation; now we are 94th. Not only is this a disincentive for our home-grown creative talent, it is also a disincentive to the brightest from around the world to come and work in our creative industries.

I was taught at a very young age that I was not creative because I was useless at art and drawing. I still am, but I have realised that in building a business, being an entrepreneur, one of the greatest strengths you need is creativity. What are the Government doing to encourage creativity in our schools to give children the confidence that we all have the latent, untapped potential to be creative? Britain is so good in this area is because we are an open economy, we have open minds and we are always willing to question, to challenge, to push the boundaries. I was proud to write the foreword for Big Ideas for the Future, a report published by Universities UK and Research Councils UK, which has 200 world-changing ideas coming out of our universities. Many of those are in the creative industries. The noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, spoke about the link between universities and business.

In building a business you need the four Ps of marketing: promotion, price, place and product. I have three more Ps: people, passion and "phinance". Without the money you cannot do anything. What are the Government doing to help supply finance for the creative industries? Unlike manufacturing, where you can provide bricks and mortar as collateral, creative industries can only provide brain power as collateral. What are the Government doing to help finance things like the small firms loan guarantee scheme, which helped my company, Cobra Beer, in its early days? Two of those loans helped us get off the ground. Why are the Government not doing more to greatly enhance this scheme, which would be particularly useful for the creative industries?

I conclude by saying that today we are among the best in the world in the creative industries, but unless we address these issues of uncompetitive taxation, short-sighted cutting of funding for higher education, the introduction of a crude, self-destructing and self-defeating immigration cap and not doing enough to provide access to finance, how will our creative industries be able to add value and stay ahead, with the emerging giants of China and India galloping ahead? We need to be partners with these giants in the decades ahead with our creative brilliance but we can do this only if we have the support. For centuries we have provided many of the world's greatest, most innovative and most creative minds, and I am very proud of that.