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Brexit: Movement of People in the Cultural Sector (European Union Committee Report) - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:26 pm on 15th May 2019.

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Photo of The Earl of Kinnoull The Earl of Kinnoull Crossbench 4:26 pm, 15th May 2019

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, and his very thought-provoking remarks. I was particularly taken by his thoughts on CITES. That convention was not going to form part of my submissions but I very much associate myself with his analysis. I also warmly congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Jay, and his committee on an extremely incisive, focused and compelling report. It is very difficult to write a short essay and this was a short essay with plenty of punch. I declare my interests as set out in the register, and particularly that I am on the board of a performing arts trust and chairman of a visual arts trust, both in Perth and Kinross, that employ several hundred people between them, and that I am on two museum boards. I should also declare, for reasons that will become obvious, my farming interests as set out in the register.

The gross value added to the UK economy by the cultural sector in 2015 was £27 billion—I am sorry for choosing an old number, but the reason will become obvious. For the agricultural sector it was £8.5 billion, so the cultural sector is three times bigger. Both sectors, of course, depend on EU workers for key elements. In the farming sector, particularly for vegetables and soft fruit, these are actually rather skilled jobs which rely on people coming in to do them. Paragraph 21 of the report reflects on that and on what it terms “massive variations” within the sub-sectors as to what is involved. There is a very good example in paragraph 21 of the visual effects sub-sector, where one-third of all the staff come from the EU. Later on it says that for the dance sector it is 20% and for my own beloved museum sector it is 15%. If I think of who those 15% are in Perth and Kinross, they are often in utterly critical and very highly skilled jobs, but I can assure noble Lords that none is paid £30,000 a year.

I worry about the interconnectivity of the whole cultural sector and the collateral damage when you damage one sector. That becomes very obvious when one thinks of the visual effects sector, as I have mentioned, which services other bits of the cultural industry, notably the film industry. The museum industry is also interested in it. If it is taken elsewhere, that will necessarily produce a pressure for other bits of the cultural sector to move elsewhere as well. That cannot be a good idea.

Others have mentioned how much the whole sector depends on mobility. Paragraph 44 of the report notes that plenty of musicians come from outside the UK and do 50 performances a year. Certainly, as you go through what is coming up over the next year at the concert hall in Perth, as I did over the weekend, you can see that a tremendous number of people are due to come into Perth from the EU and outside the UK.

Quite apart from mobility is the necessity for speed. The quotes on this from paragraph 38 of the report are very good. Early on, it says:

“The Creative Industries Federation told us that industries relied on a ‘rapid turnaround’ to access talent, often on a ‘same-day’ basis”.

Later, the same paragraph says that,

“it was essential to be able to bring in talent at short notice, particularly in the event of emergencies such as a lead singer or dancer falling ill or sustaining an injury”.

The visa system in place at the moment for third countries is interesting to analyse. Tier 2 visas are for specified jobs; there is a cap on the total number for general ones, and the £30,000 minimum hurdle. The trouble is that DCMS’s own figures say that 47.6%—a remarkably precise percentage—of the more than 650,000 people in the sector are self-employed, so tier 2 visas could not apply to them. The same goes for tier 5 visas because, once again, you have to have a specified job for them, which you would not have on a self-employed basis.

The Government’s White Paper on immigration from December last year said in paragraph 32:

“In accordance with the MAC’s advice, we do not intend to open sectoral labour schemes, except potentially for seasonal agricultural work”.

Accordingly, I thought it would be interesting to see what that advice had actually been. It was referencing the report of the Migration Advisory Committee from September 2018 entitled EEA Migration in the UK. In paragraph 36 of that report, above which is the title “Low-skilled workers”, its recommendation is:

“We do not recommend an explicit work migration route for low-skilled workers with the possible exception of a seasonal agricultural workers schemes”.

The MAC seems aware that many of the workers we are talking about might be low-paid but are most certainly not low-skilled. It is therefore a bit naughty in logic to use that recommendation in the way the White Paper has used it all round.

On the agricultural sector, I have nothing but praise for Defra. It has drafted a fantastically helpful four-page document called Employing EU Seasonal Workers After the UK Leaves the EU. This document is very clear and helpful. It also appears in Bulgarian, Romanian and what are called accessible formats. There is also an email helpline, which farmers whom I know and chatted to over the weekend said was incredibly helpful for setting out a future and meant that, at least for a couple of years—they can only go out so far—they know the exact position. You can plan as a business; you can talk to the people you will bring into your farming business; you can plan ahead. Remember of course that the agricultural sector is one-third of the size of the cultural sector, and it is not growing, because we cannot grow the amount of land in the UK. If there are special arrangements for that, and given that I believe the interpretation of the MAC’s advice is wrong and that its advice is therefore not inconsistent with having a similar approach for the cultural sector, there should be special arrangements for the cultural sector. I have no doubt that they will be very similar to the ones recommended by the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Jay. I have only one question: does the Minister agree with that analysis?