|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, that is a good reply, but I do not like it. The problem still remains. If people are in any way involved in the projects, they should not be in any way involved in the decisions. They must resign totally from these issues. That is my view. I see that the noble Earl shakes his head. His view about people may be different from mine. I have only a minute left, but perhaps I may take an extra one from the noble Earl's intervention.
Projects may be necessary, but do we need a ferris wheel on the South Bank? Great exhibitions are sometimes marked by projects which are not necessary; for example, the Eiffel Tower. It was not necessary but it was at the forefront of the technology of the day. It was a statement of fresh technological fortitude and adventure. A ferris wheel is a nostalgic reference to the Vienna of Johann Strauss. I agree with my noble friend Lord Cledwyn that Cardiff should get its opera house, but I am not sure that it should be the one suggested. However, it should get an opera house of some kind. I am glad that Cardiff has its rugby stadium. Finally, are we sure that we should give the great sporting organisations public funds while they do deals with Sky television and Rupert Murdoch for large sums of money?
I hope that my thoughts will be taken into account. I apologise to the noble Earl for the fact that I am unlikely to be able to hear his reply, although I shall read it in the Official Report. The reason is that I have to chair a meeting in the Moses Room. But if I can neglect my duties there and rush into the Chamber, I shall do so.
The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, I wish to devote the short time available to me to funding from the lottery for the film industry. It is welcome news to film activity in this country, and I thank the noble Earl for the chance to speak on it. The exact amount which has been earmarked for film production is not known, but let us say that it is £15 million a year. That is generally understood by people in the film community here to be correct. It is perhaps the most important thing to happen in this country in cinema since the introduction of the multiplex cinema. It has completely changed the ethos and enthusiasm of the industry, which has been given a great lift. Not only that, but in a short time, to use a film industry expression, 11 films are on the slate which have been funded out of lottery funds. I wish to examine how that is happening and how it is likely to continue.
Over the past 12 years, the situation in the country has been dismal, to say the least. Twelve years ago we had the Film Bill which became the Film Act--the first piece of legislation on which I had the opportunity to speak during its passage through your Lordships' House. At that time, cinema audiences were down to about 18 million admissions a year. They have now increased to 130 million--that is a huge turnround. For it, we must thank the introduction of better exhibition. I must claim some credit there because I foretold that if there were to be an improvement, it would come first through better cinemas. Other things would fall into place.
The multiplex cinemas were introduced by American and Canadian companies; then others followed. They changed the pattern of cinema going in this country to the extent that the foretold extinction of cinema screens, to be replaced by video, has not happened.
Most of the people who go to the cinema are young; 70 per cent. are under 26. The reason that people go to the cinema is that many are single, they go out and it is a social occasion. However, audiences are fickle. It is impossible for film makers to forecast what will happen, otherwise they would be rich and there would be just a few of them because they would have more successes than they do. The decision on what subject one takes through the laborious process of making a feature motion picture is subjective. The failure rate is high and there is no formula. One can say that in the United States the problem is overcome by having a massive machine, with economies of scale and with a long tradition of making films from the Hollywood period when a great deal was put into the development and marketing of films for the screen. That continues to this day.
If films in the United States break even, make a small profit or even a small loss, they are likely greatly to improve the position when they move into the rest of the world. In this country over 90 per cent. of all films seen by the cinema-going audiences are of American origin. There is nothing wrong with that; people must enjoy what they enjoy. That is where I somewhat disagree with those who in the first flush of enthusiasm over lottery funding have been stating what cinema is all about. That includes the Minister's right honourable friend in the other place who said that film is all about heritage. I am afraid that it is not, any more than it is about art. It is about people paying at the box office, putting their behinds on seats, coming out and saying they enjoyed what they had seen over one-and-a-half or two hours. It may have something to do with heritage or art, but basically film is about giving people what they want to see.
Over the past 12 years, we have not been good at that, but various people bravely and enthusiastically went ahead with producing intermittent independent productions. Some were moderately successful; some lost a great deal of money. For what we have, we must
Perhaps I may concentrate on the lottery money. What worries me is that it is being administered by the Arts Council, for which I have nothing but praise. It has been given a difficult job in a short time. It has got together with various panels of film makers, and so on, and it has a slate of 11 films, if I may use that term. That is an achievement. However, there is uncertainty as to whether the criteria taken into account are right. We will only be able to tell that when we see the films which have been funded, but there will be failures and successes. I hope that the ratio is favourable.
I am concerned that the people who, over the past 12 years, have said to the Government: "We need funding in order to compete with the United States", went quiet purely out of exhaustion because the Government would not listen. I do not blame them for that. However, such people are now coming out of the woodwork saying: "We must now have a British Hollywood". I believe that a report is being published which will show how the seeds for it will be sown. I am sceptical about it and I share the views of Mr. David Aukin, who wrote an interesting article the other day in the Evening Standard. He is the head of drama of Channel 4. If I remember correctly, he said that Channel 4 and the BBC had funded a number of films which had been seen as suitable for both the cinema and the television screen. They created a hybrid. At first, I did not like the concept, but we have developed a great deal of expertise in the area. All the films which have been successful recently in Britain have fallen into that category. For example, "Trainspotting"; "Shallow Grave"; and "Four Weddings and a Funeral". The films were made on modest budgets. Our expertise--that of scriptwriters, actors and technicians--is falling well into the pattern. We now have a success on which we can build.
If the noble Lord has time, I should like him to answer my question. Surely we have now built up if not enough profit out of those activities, enough international regard to continue along those lines before we jump into grandiose ideas, thinking too big and trying to take on the Americans at their own game. That would be extremely unwise. It was tried before by one or two companies, and they are no longer with us. It is not without resonance that the Rank Organisation came out of production a long time ago, and is one of the few major companies that has its money in place. It is much criticised for not backing films, but there it is. I hope that we can build on success. I congratulate the Arts Council and the lottery board for making a brave decision. I hope that they will not be put off by the inevitable passions and the criticisms they receive from a very volatile industry.
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, for initiating this debate. It gives us a chance to look at the massive new feature at the centre of our life. I also look forward to the
There is no question but that I want to join in the celebration. I am no tight-lipped puritan. I want to accentuate the positive and, so far as possible, eliminate the negative--although I cannot do that entirely. I thank the Arts Council for sending me a splendid list of all those applicants in the diocese of Worcester that have received grants. I am delighted that Bretforton village band has received a grant--as has the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; a primary school in Dudley; the Elgar School of Music in Worcester; and Huntingdon Hall, home of the English String Orchestra. I could go on: £425 million has gone to 701 projects.
However, the noble Earl said that as well as being positive one must avoid being bland. It is equally misguided totally to affirm the lottery and think it wonderful as it is totally wrong to describe it as evil, as some do. We have to live in the real world. Many churches and cathedrals will undoubtedly benefit. It is my own view that in so far as the Government of the day have decided to raise funds in this way, the money raised becomes public money, and I for one will apply for a grant for anything in the diocese of Worcester that is worthy of one. I have no qualms about that.
This is a serious debate. We are not yet clear as to the effect on charitable giving in this country. The Charities Aid Foundation says that there is no problem; but the National Council for Voluntary Organisations is less sure; and the Directory of Social Change is less sure. We have to realise that in this country we have built up a very fine tradition of voluntary giving for charitable and voluntary organisations, choosing those that we want to support rather than having them chosen by a government body. So let us examine that point very carefully. Great work is being done. If people think that millions of pounds in funds are sloshing through the system, they may be less ready to put their hands in their pocket. Furthermore, they may find that there is not much in the pocket if they are busy playing the lottery every week.
There have been more charities applying for grants than good causes under the other four headings. If that is so, will the noble Lord, in winding up, give some reassurance that that aspect will be examined? There were 15,000 applications from charities in the first year--far more than under any of the other headings.
Then there is the question of whether the lottery is taking money from the poor to aid the predilections of the rich. I am told that poorer people spend 30 per cent. of their spending money on lottery tickets or scratch cards, as opposed to 4 per cent. by those who are better off. Are we pursuing those who live on the edge of desperation? That is a serious question.
Scratch cards, which come into the category of instant games, are available to the young, even when we know that fruit machines have become an addiction for young people as much as drugs. Are we going to let scratch cards fall into that category? In the past youngsters have actually committed robbery with violence in order to gain
In addition, can we possibly be content with the present size of the jackpot and roll-over prizes? I have no desire to say anything in this House which would identify persons. However, I could tell noble Lords of one family I know that has been totally destroyed by suddenly receiving a massive prize. It has ruined both the marriage and their family life.
More prizes could benefit so many more people: £1 million could lift an ailing family business; get a family farm back into business for instance. There is also the matter of the diminution of our municipal culture. Local authorities have found themselves with fewer funds; therefore they point their applicants to the lottery boards, and municipal culture is diminished. We need to discuss the ways in which public amenities are provided. It is no use encouraging a kind of adolescent or childish view that all good causes can be supplied with resources from the lottery. They cannot. It is a matter of partnership between local authorities, the Government, and perhaps with the lottery. Can we not discuss that in an adult way? I believe that core funding for our public amenities should be provided by taxation, thereby indicating a corporate responsibility, and thereby helping to safeguard the coherence of our nation.
Finally, is it good for government to lead the market in state-sponsored gambling? The 1978 Royal Commission on gambling laid down that gambling should not be artificially stimulated. Yet at the moment we see a massive promotional campaign on the part of Camelot. It is one of the biggest advertising exercises of all time. What is more, regulations on other forms of gambling are being relaxed, after much effort has been made during this century to establish an agreed and acceptable discipline in that field.
I want to rejoice with those that rejoice. Yet I want to see independent, rigorous and authoritative research into the overall effect of the lottery. There is much to celebrate. Yet we should also ask in this House whether state power should be used to promote a form of gambling, escapism and greed. In participating in the lottery, there is a lack of realism and a gullibility which we as a nation cannot afford to feed and fuel. As I said, we must live in the real world. The real world is a place where you cannot get rich quick. It is probably part of the superstition of our time. Since a society that believes nothing is very close to one that will believe anything, we should take heed.