Leaving the EU: Tourism and the Creative Industries — [Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:47 pm on 17th April 2018.

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Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 3:47 pm, 17th April 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. We probably have about four or five minutes before the Division bell goes.

I thank Christine Jardine and congratulate her on calling this important debate. I do not think I can do as well as the shadow Minister in name-dropping various pop groups and organisations that Pete Wishart might have been a member of in his earlier and current days, but I can certainly say that Brexit is happening. The people have spoken in the referendum.

I am much more optimistic than the hon. Member for Edinburgh West and many in the Chamber at the moment. We have heard a good deal of negativity and pessimism this afternoon, but I much prefer the view taken by my right hon. Friend Nigel Dodds, who is no longer in his place, who spoke about the opportunities and the optimism. It is always helpful to see glasses as half full rather than half empty.

I welcome the contributions from right hon. and hon. Members, and thank them for stimulating a lively debate in which the crucial role of the UK’s creative and tourism sectors has been recognised—I think that on that subject we are all in agreement. My right hon. Friend Mr Vaizey made his address to the Chamber—with his usual charm, if I may say so. He is certainly missed in the sector, contrary to his self-deprecating remarks. He was Minister for some six years, and I think I am right in saying that the industry wrote a group letter to a national newspaper saying just how very much he would be missed. Frankly, his departure provoked an extraordinary letter of appreciation.

My right hon. Friend and others mentioned supporting arts in the regions. In this coming financial year, 75% of Arts Council England’s funding will be going outside of the London area. The Department is supporting the cultural development fund and the northern cultural regeneration fund. A lot of money—rightly so—is going out of London and into the regions.

As the Minister for the arts, heritage and tourism, I am responding to this debate on the effects of the UK leaving the EU on the tourism and creative industry sectors. We have created the best in this country, as many Members from all parts of the House have mentioned. In my view, we had the best before 1973, and we will have the best after we leave. I am also happy to say that my Department already works across Government, including with civil servants at the Department for Exiting the European Union, and there is no reason to think that we will not continue to do so. In fact, we always look to work together.

I will make some overall points about the sectors and the challenges of EU exit, and I will then respond in turn to some of the key issues raised by colleagues. I recognise that there is particular interest in the devolved arrangements for both sectors following EU exit. I am keen that the future arrangement works for all sides. I am particularly looking forward to meeting colleagues from the devolved Administrations this Thursday in Edinburgh to discuss their particular concerns about tourism in more detail. I want it to be an ongoing discussion. If I do not have time to talk about that ongoing discussion in the limited time available this afternoon, I will be pleased to follow up in writing.

Members will be aware that the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee recently published its report, “The potential impact of Brexit on the creative industries, tourism and the digital single market”. Some of the points raised in this debate echo the conclusions of that report. I have noted those conclusions, and the Government will be submitting our response in due course in the normal way.

To set the scene, Members will be aware that the sectors that DCMS represents are an absolutely huge success story for the UK—there is no doubt about that—and tourism and the creative industries are no exception. To a large degree, their success has gone hand in hand: tourism helps the creative industries thrive, as the shadow Minister mentioned, and vice versa. As an example of the close relationship, UK Music’s “Wish you were here” report for 2017 stated that there were 12.5 million music tourists in 2016—that is music tourists alone—and nearly 50,000 full-time jobs were sustained by music tourism. It is huge. In 2016, tourism was worth more than £65 billion to the economy, and it is still growing every year. In fact, it is growing exponentially. Provisional figures suggest that 2017—we have most of the figures—was a record-breaking year, with just under 39 million overseas visitors to the UK. That was an increase of 3% on 2016, which was itself a record year. The situation is extremely promising. The creative industries are also a major cultural and economic success for the UK. It is a high-value, high-growth sector that was worth nearly £92 billion to the economy in 2016.

These sectors play an important role in showing the world the very best of Britain and in strengthening global relationships. We are No. 1 in the world for soft power. There are many reasons for that, but one of the main ones is the strength of the sector. The sectors also play a role in demonstrating that we are open for business.