Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Economy and Society: Contribution of Music

Part of High Speed 1: Rolling Stock – in Westminster Hall at 3:37 pm on 21st January 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts and Heritage) 3:37 pm, 21st January 2020

I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, including my membership of, and support for, the Musicians’ Union and PRS for Music.

I open by sending a message to Michael, as the song says, and pay tribute to the outgoing chief executive of UK Music, Michael Dugher, for the tremendous job he has done during his tenure, not only because of the way in which he communicates with Parliament but because of his personal passion for music—not just for Paul McCartney, incidentally, but all kinds of music—which shines through in everything he does and in the representations he makes on behalf of the music industry. I wish him well. I also pay tribute to Andy Heath, the outgoing chair, who has done a fantastic job with that organisation.

I went out to lunch many years ago with the former chief executive, Feargal Sharkey, when he announced the setting up of UK Music in the first place. It seems to me that, over the course of that decade, the way that the music industry has got its act together and effectively communicated its message is due in no small part to the efforts of people such as Michael, Feargal and Jo Dipple, who have led the UK Music with such distinction over that period of time.

I also pay tribute to everyone who contributed to the debate, particularly my very good friend, my hon. Friend Conor McGinn, who quite rightly mentioned—as well as lots of other issues that are so important to the debate—the impact of organisations such as Nordoff Robbins and of music therapy. Having myself volunteered for Nordoff Robbins in a care home on one occasion when I was the Minister responsible for charities in the last Labour Government, I can testify to the tremendous work that it does and the impact that its work has. My hon. Friend rightly raised all the significant issues for the debate, and I shall rehearse them a little bit during my remarks and perhaps add one other issue as I go along.

We had a speech from David Warburton, who chairs with great distinction the all-party parliamentary group on music. I welcome very much what he said about music education. I hope that he presses the Ministers in his own party and Government very hard to deliver much more effectively on music education, after seeing personally the transformational effects of music, in his own life, as a music teacher and rightly highlighted during his speech.

I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend Kate Green, whose remarks featured the very important contribution made by our orchestras in particular. I praise the Association of British Orchestras for the work that it does to promote orchestras. My hon. Friend rightly emphasised the importance of formal training and the impact that that has beyond the classical repertoire, in our film and television industries and so on.

I have seen the son of John Howell perform, and he is a very fine jazz musician; and I congratulate the hon. Gentleman—it is obviously in the genes—on his own record as a church organist. He is right about the power of music therapy and the impact on people with, for example, autism.

I would also like to mention my hon. Friend Jo Stevens, my immediate constituency neighbour, and pay tribute to the incredible work that she did, along with other colleagues, on the live music and protecting live music in our city of Cardiff. That was done along with my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty, who told us that he had once performed for President Clinton. I think that that is probably a unique distinction, as is the distinction that we heard about from my hon. Friend Jeff Smith, who told us that he is the only former nightclub DJ who is a Member of Parliament—I have not heard anyone else try to claim that distinction in the course of the debate.

I thank Alison Thewliss for her contribution. As well as highlighting the incredible amount of music going on in her constituency in this sector, she rightly highlighted the problems for musicians with the Home Office. She was absolutely right to draw attention to that.

We have therefore had a great debate. It was also added to by my hon. Friend Louise Haigh, who mentioned Longpigs. She will know that of course the chair of the Ivors Academy of Music Creators, Crispin Hunt, is a former member of Longpigs. With the Ivors Academy, he is doing great work in promoting the importance of songwriting and the interests of composers.

My new hon. Friend Alex Davies-Jones reminded us why Wales is so well renowned for its contribution to music. I thought that she sounded like the Rev. Eli Jenkins in “Under Milk Wood”, who said, “Thank God we are a musical nation.” My hon. Friend was almost musical in her contribution today.

The main issues that we need to address have been mentioned in the course of the debate. Grassroots music venues were mentioned quite frequently. I welcome what the Government have done about rate relief. Last year, I went with the outgoing chief executive of UK Music to meet the former Chancellor of the Exchequer to urge him to do the very thing that the Government are now pledged to do, so I hope that the Minister will give us a bit of an idea of the timetable for that and how it will be implemented.

Music venues are the R&D of the music industry, and when they are closing down, that is the canary in the mine—to mix metaphors a bit—for the industry. If music venues are closing down, there is trouble ahead for our music industry, so the Government do need to work with the sector, including UK Music, to develop a thorough strategy for the future of our music venues, and I hope that they will do that urgently.

We also heard about freelance employment and the nature of employment in the industry and the campaign of Olga FitzRoy and others in relation to shared parental leave for the self-employed and freelancers. That is a particular issue in the music industry.