HomeResourcesPolicyCultural Policy Readout / 07 September 2020

Select Committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to investigate re-opening venues at capacity

According to DCMS, the purpose of the upcoming oral session is to allow MPs to contemplate how to allow the reopening of venues at capacity without social distancing. Currently, the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has said that it will be November at the earliest before this could occur. One proposal includes audiences having to provide negative COVID-19 results to be admitted to live events of venues, as part of a “health passport” scheme.

In an article by Oliver Dowden in the Daily Mail he said “mass indoor events are now in my sights…we need to start filling seats in much larger numbers – not just for the audiences, not just for the venues and livelihoods who depend on them, but for the entire urban economy too”.

This combined with the select committee inquiry indicates the direction of travel from DCMS that they want to get venues in the creative industries opened as soon as possible and at maximum capacity, if possible, before the November date. This reflects the ongoing struggle of the sector as it still faces masses of redundancies and financial hardship despite the governments £1.57 billion rescue package, the best solution for the industry is to be able to open its doors to the public once again.

Campaigners calling for the climate emergency to be put at the heart of further culture recovery plans

The Culture Declares Emergency movement, comprising more than 1,000 cultural organisations and individuals, wrote a letter claiming the government’s £1.57 billion culture recovery package does not address the myriad of crises facing the sector, including “a decade of austerity, the impact of Brexit and the most urgent crisis of all, the climate crisis”. They argue that the government’s response so far has been “out of step” with science and “out of touch” with citizen-led movements.

The letter calls on ministers and policy makers to prioritize efforts to tackle the climate and ecological emergency in further COVID-19 funding. As COVID-19 emergency responses take centre stage, the letter is a stark reminder to the government to not allow the pandemic to become an excuse for a lack of climate action; action which is still urgently required if we are to halt to worst impacts of climate change.

Culture in the House

Dame Margaret Hodge asked the following written question:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, whether the Government support package for the arts in response to the covid-19 outbreak will provide funding for theatres to put on new productions.”

Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Digital and Culture answered with:

“On 5 July, the Government announced a major £1.57 billion support package for key cultural organisations to help them through the coronavirus pandemic. Guidance has been published by Arts Council England, the British Film Institute, Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund for applicants to the Culture Recovery Grants application rounds, and by Arts Council England for applicants to the £270 million Repayable Finance Scheme.

Further details on costs that can be supported through the package are available in the published guidance with organisations being asked to provide a plan for how funding will enable them to achieve financial viability in the way that is appropriate for their organisation.”

In the week ahead

On Tuesday 8 September, from 9am – 12pm, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee will be hosting an oral evidence session on “Re-opening venues at capacity”. Those giving evidence are as follows: Rebecca Kane Burton, Chief Executive at LW Theatres; Melvin Benn, Managing Director at Festival Republic; Lucy Noble, Artistic and Commercial Director at the Royal Albert Hall; Avi Lasarow, Chief Executive of Europe, Middle East and Africa Prenetics; and Lord Lloyd Webber, Owner of LW Theatres.

Covid Update

The government have confirmed that the current hybrid procedures that facilitate virtual participation in parliament for MPs will be extended until November 3. This extension comes despite Prime Minister Johnson’s determination to get the country back to work. We will still be seeing some MPs contribute in the House of Commons via big screens until November, and Ministers are hoping that they will not have to extend the measures again.

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak’s Eat out to Help Out scheme has had restaurants claim more than 100 million meals, after diners got a state-backed 50 per cent discount on meals and soft drinks up to £10 each on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays during August. This figure is likely to increase further as restaurants have until the end of September to claim – so far there have been 130,000 claims worth £522m. According to data from the booking site OpenTable, restaurant reservations rose by 53 per cent compared with the Monday-to-Wednesday period in August 2019. But given that Johnson has only recently launched a national strategy to tackle obesity the scheme, Eat Out to Help Out has been met with criticism from anti-obesity campaigners saying the scheme “would be a green light to promote junk food”.

Brexit update

According to a leaked document, attempting to prepare the UK’s borders to be ready for trade after Brexit is complete on 1 January is “unmanageable”. The memo warns of “critical gaps” in new IT systems and asks hauliers and other industry groups for help to avoid chaos when the Brexit transition period ends, the Independent reveals. The memo, circulated by the Cabinet Office, lists 13 key risks to be flagged to ministers including a lack of back-up planning and inadequate time to prepare. The impending crisis will happen whether the UK avoids crashing out without a trade deal, because even an agreement will end the current free flow of goods with the EU.

There has also been an escalation towards no-deal Brexit as recent trade talks have failed to surmount key issues around trading standards, fisheries and subsidies. Brussels has stated it will reject a free trade agreement with Britain and trigger a no-deal end to the transition period unless Boris Johnson gives “credible guarantees” on subsidies and standards, Michel Barnier warned. Barnier dismissed Downing Street threats to walk away without a Brexit deal and mocked suggestions that Britain would simply accept a no-deal outcome at the end of the transition period. “Sometimes I hear some in the UK speaking of a no-deal,” he told the Irish Institute of International and European Affairs. “Good luck. Good luck. But, frankly speaking, there is no reason to underestimate the consequences for many people. There will be a huge difference.” Barnier accused the government of taking Irish and other fishing communities in Europe as hostages in talks and of trying to get an unfair competitive advantage over European businesses.

Finally, ministers are planning new legislation that would override key aspects of last year’s EU withdrawal agreement. The plan could alter the nature of the new Northern Ireland customs arrangements which were made to prevent the return of checks at the border with the Irish Republic. Downing Street are pinning the move as a standby move in case trade talks fail. Negotiating in good faith and being able to demonstrate trust is key in the negotiations, and with this week’s talks pinned as critical the move could provoke a strong response from Michel Barnier, the EU’s lead negotiator. If full details of the legislation prove to undermine the withdrawal agreement, it will likely lead to the unravelling of trade talks and push towards no-deal Brexit.

Labour’s Shadow Secretary of Health and Social Care, Jonathan Ashworth, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Boris Johnson told us he had an oven-ready deal. And he fought a general election telling us he had an oven-ready deal. [This] now suggests that he was misleading people in that general election.

And Parliament supported the Withdrawal Agreement earlier on this year. He has made promises and signed a treaty around these arrangements for Northern Ireland, and he now seems to be backing out of that.”

Whitehouse Consultancy

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