HC Deb 29 March 1976 vol 908 cc332-4W
Mr. Cohen

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the Report of the Working Party on the Future of the British Film Industry.

The Prime Minister

The Report of the Working Party, chaired by Mr. John Terry, was published as Cmnd. 6372 in mid-January. Since then we have given careful consideration to its analysis of the position of the film industry in this country and to its proposals. The Government accept the value of a strong British film industry, able to take its place in a competitive international market and providing audiences, here and abroad, with an up-to-date image of our society and of the quality and power of our creative artists.

We have been particularly impressed by the two principal recommendations in the Terry Report, namely the need to strengthen the industry's financial position and the need for a single new body charged with overall responsibility for all aspects of the industry's activities.

In a highly competitive situation it is clear that the industry needs to strengthen its financial base if it is to market its output either internationally or among competing entertainment attractions at home. This means generating a much higher level of new finance than any figure which could be contemplated from public funds. I was therefore very glad to note the Working Party's confidence that the suggested public moneys would, if wisely handled, generate at least twice as much investment from the private sector. The Government accept that an input of some public money is needed, but this will be on the basis of providing the industry with the nucleus of a working fund to enable it to set about the wider task of securing adequate resources from the private sector. They note that at this critical juncture the industry itself is prepared to divert into such a fund up to £1 million a year from the so-called Eady moneys which would otherwise be paid out to the industry's more successful producers.

Long-term financial assistance will require new legislation. Suitable proposals will be introduced as soon as possible. The Government consider that a basic fund providing working capital of up to £5 million would be appropriate. Provision would be made for an initial advance, which would men be supplemented in subsequent years taking into account both the extent to which the available working capital had been committed and also the amount of investment funds which had been generated from the private sector. An immediate advance can be made to the industry through the NFFC under existing legislation, and me Government accordingly intend to release a sum of £2.37 million still available under those powers. The provision of all further financial assistance will be subject to an overall ceiling.

The second main recommendation in the Terry Report was for the establishment of a British Film Authority to act as a sponsor for the industry and to carry out a number of specific functions. The Government accept that such an authority could play a valuable ròle; they will be considering further the Report's recommendations on ministerial responsibility. Legislation will be required to create the new authority. In the meantime, the Government are anxious not to lose the new momentum engendered by the Report. It is therefore their intention to set up a preparatory committee to maintain progress and provide an easy transition when legislation is possible. We would propose that the Committee should include representatives of the Cinematograph Films Council, the National Film Finance Corporation and of the Working Party itself. The Government will consult with the National Film School and the British Film Institute on their future and how the continuation of their functions can best be safeguarded.