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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, there are two reasons why my noble friend's analysis is correct. First, as he pointed out, in the United States there is vertical integration in production, distribution and indeed in exhibition. That means that it is possible for the largely American producers to exert greater influence on exhibitors than is possible for British producers. Secondly, an enormous amount of money is spent by the American film industry on pre-launch publicity. That gives people the idea that it is desirable to see those films on which a great deal of promotion money has been spent. That is simply not available to many British film producers and distributors.
Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the system of distribution of films in this country is little short of a scandal as, indeed, is recognised by the Government's Film Policy Review Group? Why have the Government not implemented their key proposal for an all-industry fund to support British film distribution? If I understood my noble friend correctly, he said that that is included in what might be described as "the package" he has reported today. Can he confirm that only 30 per cent of British films are shown nation-wide? We pride ourselves on making some of the best films in the world and do not give people an opportunity to see them.
Viscount Mersey: My Lords, can the Minister tell us exactly what is a "British film"? Is it a film made in Britain, a film financed with British finance, a film made using British crew or actors, or a combination of all of those?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, had the noble Viscount been present in the House last Friday, he would have heard a detailed explanation of the definition of "British film" in an order which I moved, which was agreed with unanimous support from all political parties. To simplify greatly, under the new definition a "British film" will be one in which 70 per cent of the production budget has been spent in this country.
Baroness Anelay of St. Johns: My Lords, perhaps I may be permitted to pursue the point raised by my noble friend. I believe he asked a proper question with regard to a wide definition of the phrase "British film". Overall, the Minister is correct to say that last Friday the House debated a statutory instrument, to which I gave my support, which defined "British film" for tax relief purposes. Can the Minister answer the wider aspect of my noble friend's question: what is a culturally British film? The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, asked the Government for such a definition and has not yet received one.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government are in the business of administration rather than that of imposing cultural standards or criteria. I am tempted to say that if we could get away with it, good films containing any British element should be classed as "British films". However, it is not for the Government to make cultural judgments of that kind.
The Earl of Drogheda: My Lords, is there some way in which the Government could do more to encourage independent cinemas, in London, for example? Is the Minister aware that although there are about 200 screens in London, only 40 films are shown on those screens at any one time, of which 90 screens are filled by a mere six films?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as a filmgoer, I share the frustration expressed by the noble Earl. There are some marvellous independent cinemas, especially in London and some of our larger cities. It is true that they have a very hard time. It is difficult to see how we could provide direct subsidy to them. However,
Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, as my noble friend said, the Films (Modification of the Definition of "British Film") Order 1999 was debated last week. I am a little confused as to whether its provisions will help or hinder distribution. Can my noble friend comment on that?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, those most concerned with making British films are convinced that the new order is a significant advance. The previous definition contained a number of anomalies; for example, the film, "Little Voice", which was made in Scarborough with British actors such as Jane Horrocks and Michael Caine, did not count as a British film under the old definition; it would now.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the Government will publish a response shortly. However, I can indicate that the Government agree with the Select Committee that there is a need for widespread consultation before a final decision is reached on the most appropriate option for the management of radioactive waste. We shall want to study the results of a consultation exercise, which we intend to launch early next year, before coming to a final view.
Lord Tombs: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. The response has been imminent for about three months, so any movement is welcome. Perhaps I may remind the Minister that the report deals not only with consultation but with what is described as a fragmented nuclear waste disposal policy, and contains a number of substantial recommendations other than those for public consultation, important though they are. Among them are the classification of particular wastes, including plutonium, and the increased involvement of the Environment Agency. Can the Minister use his influence to ensure that the response, when it finally arrives, is as purposeful and constructive as the importance of the topic requires?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I fully concur that this is an important subject. It is for that reason that we wish to discuss widely with users and operators in the nuclear industry the conclusions of the Select Committee. I assure the noble Lord that the views of his committee
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that our policy on the management of all nuclear waste should be one that is acceptable to the public? We must not again waste £450 million, as was the case with Nirex, without finding the right solution. Would he also consider not closing all our options concerning plutonium? One tonne of plutonium is the energy equivalent of 2 million tonnes of coal.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, as regards the first point raised by my noble friend, it is clear that a substantial amount of time and resources were expended by Nirex on looking at locations. Nirex is continuing with generic research concerned with deep disposal of radioactive waste. However, it is not currently engaged on site selection activities. If geological disposal is the chosen management option, the process of site selection should, from there on, be as open as possible. As pointed out by my noble friend, the significance of plutonium as an energy source is important. However, whatever the decisions on the future of nuclear energy, some plutonium will be waste and therefore has to be covered in the waste management regime.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, does the noble Lord the Minister agree that the goodwill and support of the West Cumbrian community is based on the continued activities at Sellafield and in particular the continuation of the reprocessing business, which is so important to local earnings and to BNFL's prosperity?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister recently made clear our continuous support to the operation of THORP which brings in £12 billion and the operation in West Cumbria, which employs 6,000 or 7,000 skilled workers. It is therefore important economically, as well as technically, that that technology is maintained.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the problems the nuclear industry faces is the management of nuclear waste, and that therefore it is vital that the question be properly addressed? Does he further agree that if we do not continue with power generated by nuclear means and revert to using fossil fuels, the Government will have absolutely no chance of meeting their Kyoto targets on fossil fuel gases?
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