To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact that the United Kingdom’s visa and immigration policies have on the UK creative and cultural industries.
My Lords, the United Kingdom is, and will continue to be, an attractive destination for top international talent in these fields. Our visa and immigration system has been designed to support, and is supporting, all areas of the United Kingdom’s thriving and expanding creative and cultural industries. It is a very generous, adaptive and flexible proposition from the department.
I thank the Minister for his response. As I think he was trying to say, and as the Chancellor recently said, the creative industries are one of the UK’s five high-growth priority sectors. Skills and talent from a global pool are essential to its success, but it is experiencing widespread workforce shortages from both here and abroad—exacerbated, of course, by Brexit. Does the Minister accept the concerns of the chief executive of Creative UK that the Migration Advisory Committee’s shortage occupation list, as a mechanism for addressing this problem, is not fit for its core purpose? Some occupations from the creative sectors already appear to have been deemed out of scope. Why? The recently published Creative Industries Sector Vision says:
“the Home Office, DCMS and industry will work together to maximise the effectiveness of existing immigration routes for the creative industries workforce”.
How is the Minister’s department planning to do this while at the same time limiting such an essential route?
I am afraid that I do not accept the noble Baroness’s proposition that we are, in some way, limiting access to the United Kingdom for creative workers. As I alluded to in my Answer, our domestic law allows musicians, entertainers, artists and their technical staff from non-visa national countries, such as EU member states, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, to perform in the UK without requiring a visa. A non-visa national can stay one month without a visa if they are invited to the UK by a UK-based client or organisation and paid by a UK source, under the permitted paid engagement visitor rules. A non-visa national can stay three months without a visa if they have been assigned a certificate of sponsorship by a licensed sponsor, which is usually a UK company. A non-visa national can stay six months without a visa if performing at a permit-free festival; they are listed in the Immigration Rules and run from Glastonbury to Glyndebourne. All nationalities can apply for a 12-month stay, on a temporary work creative worker route visa, if they obtain a visa and have a certificate of sponsorship.
My Lords, the recently announced increase of at least 20% in the visa charge for people on the 10-year route to settlement and their families will mean a rise of at least £18,265 for an adult and much more for a family. What assessment has been made of the impact on long-term residents, many of whom are on lower incomes and already struggle to meet visa fees?
I regret that I did not hear the beginning of the noble Baroness’s question. How is that connected to the creative visa schemes?
My question is connected to visas, and visas were in the original Question. I asked about the recently announced increase of at least 20% in the charge for people and their families on the 10-year settlement route, which will mean a rise of at least £18,265 for an adult and more for a family.
I am afraid that I still do not follow the noble Baroness’s question, but I reassure her that we will bring forward a further fees order in the autumn. No doubt she will ask further questions then, but I reassure her that visa fees are carefully studied by the department. It is vital that they appropriately reflect the cost of running the visa scheme.
My Lords, looking at this in the opposite direction to the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, is the Minister aware of the real concern of losing British creative skills permanently to Europe, including our music touring technicians such as sound engineers and lighting crews, because of the obstacles the current agreement with the EU now poses to their work if they remain in this country?
As I have already said, we are proud of the fact that we have a very generous offer to those coming into the UK for creative purposes. We hope that other countries will reciprocate. I reassure the noble Earl that we have spoken to every EU member state about the issues facing our creative and cultural industries. From these discussions, 20 member states of the EU have confirmed that they offer visa and work permit-free routes for UK musicians and performers.
My Lords, I find myself meeting nothing but young homegrown Brits who want jobs in the creative industries. What are we doing to develop our own national talent in this area?
DCMS recently published its Creative Industries Sector Vision, which was published in June and has been developed in partnership between the Government and industry. It is a vision for creative industries to become an even greater growth engine, where creative talent from all backgrounds and creative businesses from all areas of the United Kingdom can thrive.
My Lords, there have been recent welcome discussions between the UK and some European countries about a bilateral reciprocal youth mobility visa to address the needs of specific sectors. This would not be the complete answer, but it would help those people most impacted by the current situation, which is young and emerging still-to-be-established talent. Will the Minister ensure that, if such a youth mobility scheme is introduced, it includes roles and paid work in the cultural and creative sector?
I agree with virtually everything the noble Baroness said. I reassure her that we remain committed to expanding our YMSs—youth mobility schemes—to more nations, including, but not limited to, those within the EU. Those youth mobility schemes provide cultural exchange programmes, to allow a person aged between 18 and 30 from participating countries and territories to experience life in the United Kingdom for up to two years. As the noble Baroness says, it is subject to bilateral reciprocal agreements which benefit British citizens equally.
My Lords, can the Minister explain why so many people in the creative industries are complaining about the length of time it takes to get a visa and why they often cannot get their equipment here? From listening to what the Minister outlined, there does not seem to be any problem, but that is not the view of the creative industries, so what will he do to sort it out?
I reassure the noble Lord that the visa system is operating within the service standard in every sector, so there is no delay in creative visas being awarded to those who apply. The system works well. I simply do not recognise the account that he gives; if he has any particular cases, I would be grateful if he would write to me, and I can look into them.
I think the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, has hit on something, because we all know, if only anecdotally, that the system is not working as well as it should. Will my noble friend the Minister commit to going back to his department and having a discussion with DCMS as to how this regime can be better applied? There is no threat of people overstaying, particularly in the performing arts—it is unlikely, other than the national state orchestra of North Korea, who would probably want to stay here, but otherwise they just want to come here and perform and then go away. We are shooting ourselves in the foot by making it rather difficult for some of these performing artists to go about their business.
I am afraid, timid as I am to disagree with my noble friend, that is just wrong. There are no issues here. In 2022, we issued 6,498 creative worker visas, of which 180 were issued to EEA nationals. Over the last decade, the number of creative visas issued has remained consistently high compared to other temporary work routes, such as the charity and religious worker visa routes. While the volumes fell during the pandemic, as one might expect, they have returned to high volumes. I suggest that the high volumes and low barriers to entry are a symbol of the excellence of our own success in the areas of work to which these visas relate.
My Lords, I am sorry not to give way to the noble Lord.
The Minister’s assurances roll over the Dispatch Box like treacle. Is he not aware that organisations as diverse as BECTU, the technicians’ trade union, and Barbican, the arts centre, are making exactly the same complaints as his noble friend just made? Is not the root cause of this that Brexit, far from being oven-ready, is half-baked and has left our creative industries in particular bereft of support?