HC Deb 29 June 1981 vol 7 cc563-4
9. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is satisfied with the working of the Films Act 1980; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Dormand

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the film industry is extremely concerned about the present situation? Does she agree that we have some of the best film-makers in the world and that they are having to go abroad to use their talents? Would it not help if the Government insisted on the quota being taken up by British cinemas? Is she aware that in 1980 24 per cent. did not do so?

Mrs. Oppenheim

I agree wholeheartedly with the hon. Gentleman. I should stress that not only do we have some of the best film-makers in the world but some of the highest skills and greatest technical ability are to be found in our studios, of which other countries avail themselves. The Government recognise the value of a healthy British film industry and their policy is one of general encouragement. I hope to be making an announcement on quotas before long.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

Even though we have an excellent capacity of making films, does my right hon. Friend agree that the main problem for the industry is that the public have stopped going to the cinema?

Mrs. Oppenheim

It cannot be denied that fewer people are going to the cinema. There are a number of reasons, but time does not permit me to go into them. The structure of the film industry is in the process of change. There are great advantages to be gained from the changes for the British industry. I refer to video tapes and developments of that nature. I hope that the industry will be in a position to take full advantage of the changes.

Mr. Cryer

Does the Minister accept that, despite the decline in cinema attendances, there is still an important basic requirement for an indigenous film industry to provide, among other things, films for television? Is she taking any steps to ensure that the television industry makes greater provision for the National Film School? Will she assure the House, anticipating her statement, that she will not in any way erode the provision of the quota which the industry sees as an important fall-back position?

Mrs. Oppenheim

The question of any contribution by the television industry is one for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I have already told the House that I expect to make an announcement about the quota shortly.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Are the Government proposing to do anything about the iniquitous barring system, which is a disincentive to the British film industry?

Mrs. Oppenheim

If the hon. Gentleman will give me notice of that question, I shall be pleased to answer it.