I do, and I will come to that in my closing remarks.
I could say much more about music in my constituency—I am keen to talk about it to anyone who wants to listen to me—but I want to let other colleagues in, so I will move on, but, before I do so, I want to mention our strong brass band tradition. I am proud to be the vice-president of Haydock Brass Band. We have Rainford Band and Valley Brass. We also have the fantastic St Helens Youth Band, which is nurturing the next generation of talent, and the amazing all-female Trinity Girls Brass Band. They are all national award winners. We also have a fantastic male voice choir in Haydock, which has recently won a national competition.
The St Helens music education hub, led by the local council and supported by the Arts Council, is supporting opportunities for schoolchildren to be introduced to music, but it needs more funding and support.
It is clear that music makes a huge contribution, both economically and socially, in our local communities. What do we need to do to ensure that it continues to flourish in the challenging years ahead? I will briefly highlight some areas that the Government need to focus on during this Parliament as part of an integrated strategy for music.
First, grassroots music venues remain vital to both artists and audiences, but they are still, as has been mentioned, closing at an alarming rate. We must continue to monitor that and respond accordingly. My right hon. Friend John Spellar, working in collaboration with the Government, did a tremendous job to ensure that planning laws were amended to integrate the agent of change principle to protect music venues from closure.
[Siobhain McDonagh in the Chair]
Challenges still exist on business rates. I welcome the commitment in the Queen’s Speech to ensuring that music venues benefit from rate relief, but when precisely will that come into effect? Will the Government commit to more frequent business rate revaluations to guarantee that huge hikes in rates do not occur again?
Secondly, copyright provides the framework of growth for music. New protections for creators are coming in the form of a copyright directive that will enable fairer payment to musicians from services such as Google’s YouTube, but our expected departure from the EU may mean we cannot implement the directive after all. Will the Government outline their plans to implement the spirit of the copyright directive and other legislation? The deputy chief executive of UK Music, Tom Kiehl, recently wrote to the Prime Minister. Will the Minister let us know when he can expect a reply?
Thirdly, despite music’s success, there remain significant challenges to our talent pipeline. It is fair to say that we face a crisis in music education, which underlines the threat to our ability to develop future talent. Arts funding in St Helens, which includes music, is down by a quarter since 2013. One of the most working-class areas in the country, which has a proud tradition of music, has seen its funding diminish. Over the past five years, the number of people studying A-level music has declined by 30%. We know that social divides are leading to inequality of opportunity, so will the Government work with schemes such as UK Music’s rehearsal spaces network to increase the provision of music in areas like St Helens? The Government’s commitment to an arts premium might present benefits, but when does the Minister expect to come to the House to provide more detail on what that will entail? Can we see progress on the new national plan for music education?
Fourthly, we know about the importance of music exports: the Government currently support the music export growth scheme, and the international showcase fund contributes to that. What plans are there to ensure that funding remains for those vital schemes?
Fifthly, the music industry relies on workforce that is heavily self-employed—about 72%. What plans do the Government have to make it easier for self-employed people to participate in shared parental leave, given their current disqualification and the benefits to overall diversity in allowing them to participate? I pay particular tribute to my friend Olga FitzRoy for her work on that.
Fiscal incentives such as tax credits have produced huge benefits for other creative sectors, but currently music does not benefit from the same mechanism as film, TV and video games. Will the Minister commit to working with the Treasury to see whether similar support can be made available?
Finally, Brexit and the loss of freedom of movement, in both people and goods, could have a profoundly negative impact on the live music touring experience. Will the Government work towards a passporting arrangement, so that there is a reciprocal system and musicians can continue to perform with minimum disruption post-Brexit? Will they work with EU member states to ensure that the imposition of a carnet system on music equipment does not cause delays to gigs?
In closing, I pay tribute to UK Music, the umbrella body for the commercial music industry. Its chief executive, Michael Dugher, formerly of this parish, will soon be moving on to new pastures. On behalf of everyone in this place who takes an interest in music, I pay great tribute to the tremendous work he has done and the way in which he has led his organisation to aid our understanding.
I applaud the work of UK Music’s chairman, Andy Heath. Andy has been at the helm of UK Music since its inception and has held together the interests of its members. When I look at the unity of purpose within UK Music, in a very diverse sector, and then look at other sectors that do not have that, I see how his formidable leadership has brought people together.
PRS for Music is led by the excellent, recently-appointed Andrea Martin, alongside long-standing chairman, Nigel Elderton. I have a special award for John Mottram who does a lot liaising with Members of this House to promote music.
PPL is led by the superb chief executive Peter Leathem, who, like me, is of good Armagh stock. I applaud the other UK Music members—the Association of Independent Music, the British Phonographic Industry, the Featured Artists Coalition, the Ivors Academy, the Music Managers Forum, the Music Publishers Association, the Music Producers Guild and the UK Live Music Group. They have worked together with great tact and diplomacy, and influenced this House. I especially thank Horace Trubridge and the Musicians’ Union. He is held in high esteem in the trade union movement and the music industry, delivers much for the union’s members and plays a hugely constructive role.
The day before the Prime Minister took office in July, the outgoing Administration produced a disappointing response to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s excellent report into live music. The response failed to grasp the true ambition and potential of our music industry, or to adopt some reasonable and sensible recommendations made by the Committee. This debate presents an opportunity for the new Government. I welcome the Minister, who is returning to his place; I know how much he is personally invested in the subject and pay tribute to him for it.
The new Government can start afresh and set out a new and exciting strategy for how they see the music industry contributing to our lives. I look forward to hearing the rest of the debate, and I welcome the support of other Members in this aim.