Arts and Creative Industries


2.56 pm


Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): I beg to move,

That this House notes the importance to the UK of the arts and creative industries, with art and culture enriching the lives of individuals, reinforcing a sense of local community, and being vital to the economy, generating more than £36 billion a year and employing 1.5 million people; calls on the Government actively to support the arts by developing a strategy for the arts and creative industries; believes that this should include putting creativity at the heart of education, ensuring that creative industries have access to finance and funding, protecting intellectual property, supporting the arts and creative industries, including museums and galleries, in all nations and regions of the country, not just London, and attracting inward investment and providing support for exports; recognises that it is not only right in principle that the arts should be for everyone but that the arts thrive when they draw on the pool of talent of young people from every part of the country and all walks of life; and believes that a strong Department for Culture, Media and Sport with a Secretary of State standing up for the arts is crucial.

This debate is an opportunity for the whole House to express support for our arts and creative industries and to assert their great importance to this country. In this House, we often debate health, education and the economy, and we should recognise that the arts contribute to all of those. It is right too that we talk about the intrinsic value of the arts—how they move us and challenge us, and the great joy that arts and culture bring to our lives. Yes, the arts make money for this country, but they are never just a commodity. From the parents watching a school play to the nation watching the Olympic ceremony, the arts enrich our lives and all our communities. Therefore, we should have no hesitation in standing up for them and declaring their importance to individuals, communities and our economy.

We are a country that produces some of the greatest creativity on the planet, whether it is music, fashion, film, theatre, broadcasting, design, art, our libraries or our museums. Our cultural creativity is admired and envied around the world, and it was that belief that led the Labour party when it was in government to step up support for the arts, including massively strengthening the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, bringing in free entry to museums and galleries, and trebling the budget for the Arts Council. But let us be clear: public support for the arts is repaid over and over. For example, there was a £5,000 public subsidy to support the stage production of “The Woman in Black”. Since then, the production company has paid back more than £12 million in tax to the Treasury.

Public subsidy allows for the willingness of the arts to take risks, like the hugely successful “Matilda”, which the Royal Shakespeare company says would just not have been possible without public seedcorn funding. For some, subsidy has become a dirty word, but there is a false dichotomy between the public and the commercial. They are inextricably linked. Public investment gives the space for commercial success. The Arts Council calculates that for every pound of Government spending invested in the arts, the British economy gets £4 back.