Whilst Britain’s great number of talented actors, directors and movie blockbusters are always popular topics of conversation, there has been precious little discussion of late on our approach to investing in the future of the UK film industry.
The British film trade has defied the recession with stunning success, emerging strong and healthy. In 2009 the industry contributed over £4.5 billion to our economy, employing over 36,000 people directly. We should take great pride in this; few other industries have managed to weather the difficult financial climate with such aplomb.
A central reason for this success can be explained by Britain’s sustained favour as one of the most attractive locations for overseas producers and investors. This owes much to the Film Tax Relief system, a financial incentive allowing films with a British thread to receive accelerated tax benefits. Globally, it is accepted as one the best systems of its kind, and is the primary reason that features made in this country but funded by inward investment totalled £753 million in 2009.
I have particular reason to celebrate this system. The Leavesden studios – in my constituency of Watford – have been home to the Harry Potter series for the past ten years. The series is one of the greatest British exports of this generation and produced in the UK largely due to the Film Tax Relief.
Yet despite the successes that inward investment has brought to the economy, our domestic films – often funded by independent producers – are suffering. There has been a year-on-year decline since 2008 in both the number and value of these features, which are made with British investment, often on shoestring budgets.
We desperately need to encourage and help British producers to make films.
Whilst encouraging foreign companies to make their films in the UK means employment and jobs, the huge profits reaped from world audiences return to the country investing. The UK is currently a hub of production, but we are not using our prolific creative talents to come up with the product in the first place; we get paid for making the goods. Whilst inward investment must be protected and valued, we do a disservice to the future of our industry if we do not acknowledge this truth.
Above all else, this means making it easier for our producers to get finance. It is in this country’s interest to achieve a situation in which British people can invest more easily in British films, creating a stronger film industry in this country, with a greater share of profits remaining here.
I am committed to finding a viable way to do this. Following on from my recent Westminster Hall debate on this subject, Ed Vaizey, who is the Minister for the Creative Industries, agreed to consider my proposal to set up a working group to find a simple tax initiative to encourage large- scale investment.
We have a film industry to be proud of in Britain, but so much more can be done to ensure its survival for years to come. We must take the opportunity to ensure that far from simply being a hub for foreign investment, we are the epicentre of world film.