HC Deb 14 June 1993 vol 226 cc619-21
4. Mr. Jessel

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what discussions he has held with the British and international film industry; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Brooke

In February this year, I met the president of the Motion Picture Export Association of America, at his request, to discuss the state of the United Kingdom industry and United States interests here. I am now engaged in a round of 10 meetings with the different sectors of the United Kingdom industry to discuss the state of the industry and possible measures to help it. I will announce my conclusions in due course.

Mr. Jessel

Many British films are brilliant—of outstanding quality—with British talent winning top awards for acting, photography, direction and production. Will my right hon. Friend see what can be done to retain as much British talent as possible in British-made films, and to bring together people who might finance more first-class films?

Mr. Brooke

I wholly agree with my hon. Friend's analysis of the strength of the industry. The aim of the important talks in which we are engaged is to discover whether, by some means or other, we can restore critical mass to the industry, and build on that.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Is the Secretary of State aware that there is no great secret about the matter? The industry is capable of not only attracting large sums to this country, but providing a good deal of employment. Its present parlous state is directly due to Her Majesty's Government's refusal to give it any assistance, either fiscally or in any other way. Will the right hon. Gentleman simply accept that it is his responsibility to do something quickly?

Mr. Brooke

I do not often address one of my constituents in so direct a manner, but that was not the most knowledgeable question that the hon. Lady has ever asked. [HON. MEMBERS: "She will not vote for you now."] The hon. Lady has frequently told me that she does not vote for me.

The Government provide £24 million in support of the industry, by a variety of means. In the talks in which we are engaged, we are analysing possible other ways in which help could be provided.

Mr. Harry Greenway

May another of my right hon. Friend's constituents—who does vote for him—remind him of the excellent work done by the Ealing film studios—

Mr. Cormack

Carry on Harry!

Mr. Greenway

—mostly in producing comedies? Is he aware that there are many more excellent films where those great films came from, and that they can be made if money goes into the industry? Will he do even more than he is already doing?

Mr. Brooke

It is because of the industry's underlying strength—not least in terms of technical resources, as well as creative and acting resources—that we are conducting our conversations. It may be worth recording that the bringing together of various aspects of film in my Department represents the first occasion on which the cultural and commercial considerations have been united in a single place.

Mr. Corbett

We welcome the talks between the Secretary of State and those involved in the film industry. I hope that he will also consult those who are active in film making in the regions; they have a role to play as well.

Films involving British producers, directors and writers have won about a third of the Hollywood Oscars over the past 20 years. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, however, that last year only one major cinema film was made here? Is he aware that American films netted 10 times the £24..4 million earned by British films in the United Kingdom last year? Will he not introduce tax breaks and other incentives to help British film makers build on their success and compete more equally, here and in the international market, at a time of rising cinema attendances?

Mr. Brooke

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support for the talks in which we are engaged. I can give the House a further piece of news about the industry's achievements: of the 36 scripts chosen last week under the EC media programme, seven were British film scripts.

As for the substance of the hon. Gentleman's question, although I may discuss the issue with the Chancellor, tax is essentially a matter for him.

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