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Queen’s Speech - Debate (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:05 pm on 9th January 2020.

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Photo of The Earl of Clancarty The Earl of Clancarty Crossbench 2:05 pm, 9th January 2020

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, on her excellent speech. We absolutely need her expertise in education.

My topics are, unashamedly, Brexit and culture, both of which appear to be banned words. I hope that the omission of the category “culture” on the Order Paper is not an omen for the future of the department. If we cannot properly hold the Government to account regarding policies in relation to the arts and media, we will be in trouble. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, I am also concerned that the Minister’s opening speech omitted the creative industries, which are so hugely important to us economically and culturally.

The election has not changed my mind about Brexit being a truly terrible idea. In the Answer given to my Oral Question on British workers on Tuesday, what I found particularly disturbing was the lack of any note of regret from the Government about the loss not of hundreds but of thousands of jobs as reported in the recent survey of the seasonal tourism sector. That is just one sector, and it is before the transition period has even begun. Many of those jobs were opportunities for young British people from all walks of life who one fears will not now have the opportunities that they wanted to work in Europe.

Leaving the single market will also affect many working in the creative industries, many of whom will be young people with great talents not earning anything like £30,000, if that is to be a reciprocated cut-off point. It is young people who will suffer from a hard Brexit more than anyone. The Government should acknowledge this, and they need to consult more closely representatives of the British freelancing communities, including workers in the creative industries, about what can be done to protect the work on which many of their current livelihoods depend.

In a recent letter to the Guardian, a correspondent made the point that if Mr Johnson had offered membership of the single market as a compromise, remainers would grudgingly have accepted that. If Mr Johnson wishes to

“urge ... closure and ... let the healing begin”,

he is going about it in a strange way. There will be no healing from a hard Brexit. Remainers have not gone away even if the political power lies now with Brexiteers.

I turn specifically to culture. It is often said that money is not everything, but in so many areas that are currently suffering from chronic underinvestment, it is, at this moment in time, mostly everything. For a while, the most pressing issue for arts and cultural organisations has been underfunding as a direct result of local authority cuts. Local museums are struggling and almost 800 libraries have closed since 2010. Without these cuts, Hertfordshire County Council would not have made the unforgivable decision last year to sell its schools art loan collection. It will be a litmus test of whether austerity is really over whether these cuts are reversed, but I am not holding my breath. In all the other areas that local councils support, such as social care, a significant reversal of these cuts is clearly necessary.

I welcome Nicholas Serota’s focus on individual creators in the interview he recently gave to the Guardian prior to next month’s 10-year strategy for the Arts Council. When money is scarce, it is primarily the creators alongside the institutions that we need to protect and nurture.

It is inevitable that all our national museums will eventually drop funding from the fossil fuel industries, so the problem may well arise that there is a diminishing pool of possible sponsors that will be acceptable to the public. That is something the Government need to be thinking about. Our national museums are wonderful institutions that need our support. I hope also that free admission, which is so popular with the public, will continue.

Concerning education, will the Government respond to the Durham commission on creativity and education and its recommendations? I welcome the continued funding of music hubs but, in the end, hubs are not the solution when what is required is universal access to the arts in schools. I, and I am sure others in this House, will continue to fight for the rounded education that the EBacc denies and which students deserve.

I have one further question, further to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Bull. Can companies working in the arts and creative industries claim current R&D credits if what they are doing involves, for example, testing out new technology? The more acceptable ways we can find to maximise the funding of arts organisations, the better.