July 3, 2002
The Paymaster General says that the vast majority of projects will be saved by new clause 21. Can she quantify the precise proportion of projects that will be thus saved, given the representations that she has received and the statistical analysis on which she is no doubt relying in making that statement?
Dawn Primarolo: Yes, approximately 50 production companies would have experienced severe difficulties. We settled on Â£500,000 as the break point because I was keen to ensure that the game shows, soaps and other productions that were clearly not even drama did not fall within the scope of the transitional relief. Perhaps hon. Members believe that I have been rather stubborn, but including a transitional relief to protect soaps, however enjoyable they may be, was not the intention.
Mr. Field: I was not trying to claim exclusivity for my constituency, and as we speak, new film businesses are doubtless springing up in every last suburb of Dundee.
As I said, the Government have more or less got the matter right, and the film industry’s great worry was that, if widespread abuse were perceived, the relief would be scrapped entirely. I am glad that the Government took on board several of the issues concerning transitional relief that Opposition Members raised in Committee, and I am encouraged by the Paymaster General’s comment that roughly 80 per cent. of film projects will be saved under her proposals. I take on board the comments of the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, who knows a great deal about this subject. It is clear that the matter will have to be re-examined, and if evidence were to come to light that we were losing significant business, the Government would doubtless want to do so during the course of a future Finance Bill. The original intention was to ring-fence tax benefits for the film industry, and although one might argue that the film industry is part of a global communications world that includes television and the like, that intention has clearly been open to abuse.
I hope that the Paymaster General is comfortable with the amendments. We will have to see how things pan out in future, and I shall continue to look towards the interests of a film industry that, hopefully, will remain strong in the years to come.