HC Deb 16 February 1998 vol 306 cc752-3
16. Mr. Forth

If he will make a statement on prospects for the British film industry. [27600]

Mr. Tom Clarke

The British film industry is undergoing a huge renaissance and the prospects for the future are better now than they have been for many years.

Mr. Forth

I thank the Minister for that response with which I am completely satisfied.

Mr. Clarke

I am grateful that the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied and I hope, therefore, that he will rejoice with me about the number of nominations for the Oscars. We wish all of them well. I hope, too, that he will join me in looking forward to the publication at the end of March of the review that I am co-chairing with Mr. Stewart Till of Polygram.

Mr. Pike

While recognising that the British film industry has recently made many good films, can my right hon. Friend assure me that he is satisfied that the film distribution system ensures that good British films are shown everywhere in the world?

Mr. Clarke

My hon. Friend raises a significant question. I am not satisfied with distribution outwith Great Britain or even in the domestic market. Therefore, I am extremely pleased that the sub-group that has been dealing with that important issue, realising that a number of extremely good British films are not even being seen in British cinemas, is tackling the issue with the assiduousness that my hon. Friend would expect.

Mr. Ian Taylor

Does the Minister agree that one way in which to promote British films is to encourage the transition to digital television? Can he explain why the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has been so flabby in terms of giving up the guidelines that the Department of Trade and Industry set when I was a Minister? The aim was that we should switch after five years or when there was 50 per cent. coverage. The move to digital and encouraging films are the ways in which to stimulate the British industry and his Department has completely flunked it.

Mr. Clarke

I find it astonishing that the hon. Gentleman should argue that we should take television from 50 per cent. of the people and that that would improve either television or film. People in the film industry, including consumers, have a far better approach and are a great deal better informed about those matters than the hon. Gentleman. When he reads our report in March, he will be able to put an informed question to the House.

17. Mr. Gareth R. Thomas

What progress he is making in increasing the figures for British cinema audiences watching British films. [27601]

Mr. Tom Clarke

Increasing numbers of British cinemagoers are enjoying our top British films, which have started to make a significant mark on the UK box office. In 1997, British films almost doubled their share of UK box office takings, accounting for 23 per cent. of total box office revenues.

Mr. Thomas

I welcome my right hon. Friend's reply and the number of measures that the Government are taking to boost the British film industry. Is he aware that some 50 per cent. of British films fail to get a release in this country? Will he assure the House that he will continue to monitor that situation with exhibitors and distributors, and consider the need for other measures further to boost the British film industry?

Mr. Clarke

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who will have noticed that the objective that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set in Cannes of doubling the audience was achieved in eight months. Those of us who are concerned about the British film industry want the improved distribution that my hon. Friend mentioned. We have an excellent record. Films such as "The Full Monty", "Bean", "Regeneration", "Mrs. Brown" and others are a credit to Britain. That is all the more reason to want more audiences to see such good films.

Mr. Bercow

When did the Minister last go to the cinema, which film did he see and what was its certificate?

Mr. Clarke

I thought that I should see "Brassed Off' again, so I saw it a second time last week. It has a 15 certificate, but some of its intellectual aspects may be above the hon. Gentleman's head.

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