HC Deb 21 July 1997 vol 298 cc677-8
6. Mr. Jim Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will make a statement on the progress made by the film review group. [7502]

The Minister for Film and Tourism (Mr. Tom Clarke)

Following the film review group's first meeting on 3 July, co-chaired by Stewart Till of Polygram and myself, the six specialist sub-groups have been established and are drawing up detailed work plans for their specific areas.

Mr. Cunningham

What effect will the Budget have on the deliberations of the film review group, especially on the future of the film industry?

Mr. Clarke

The film tax concessions in the Budget were warmly received by the whole industry. Both the industry and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor accept that the concessions will provide the opportunity to improve the capacity of the UK film industry, increase the number of skilled workers in film and production and ensure that we have strategies to build on those skills and talents. That is how the industry will respond, thus justifying my right hon. Friend's confidence in it and its in him.

Mr. Nicholls

First, I welcome the fact that the Minister has shown more enthusiasm today for his brief than when he recently spoke to the all-party film group, when he made it clear that his indignation at not being in the Cabinet was not greatly reduced by his films portfolio. Will the Minister take this opportunity to say that he would reject any suggestion by the film review group for the Government to join the Eurimages project, which has so far failed to secure the widespread distribution of European films and has instead used substantial sums of public money to pile up a European film mountain of films that are unwatched and may prove unwatchable?

Mr. Clarke

I had planned to welcome the hon. Gentleman back to the Dispatch Box, but I trust that he will have a higher regard for fact and veracity on future occasions. I am delighted with my job and I regret that he will never be able to say that. Given the excitement in the industry and the splendid work that the film review group is doing, he might have been more constructive. He might have paid tribute, for example, to Colin Leventhal, Channel 4's director of acquisition, who heads the subgroup on finance, or to the sub-group considering skills and new jobs. The hon. Gentleman has come naked of ideas to the Opposition Dispatch Box, and that is why he will never enjoy himself as much as I do at the Government Dispatch Box.

Mrs. Betty Williams

Surely the financial aspect of film production and distribution should be the main area of concern. Will the members of the film review group be able to address that matter?

Mr. Clarke

The groups, including the main group, have been working extremely hard and have considered that issue. I wish to make it clear, however, that, despite the excellence and the comprehensive nature of the main group and the sub-groups, those who are not in membership are very welcome to make a contribution in evidence, either in writing or in person. I include in that an invitation to my hon. Friend.