Harriet Harman

Labour Member of Parliament for Camberwell & Peckham

Nations & Regions Conference Speech at the University of Salford

Speech by Harriet Harman MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to the Nations and Regions Media Conference, hosted the University of Salford


November 18, 2014


For immediate use.


--- Check against delivery ---



It’s great to be here in Salford at the heart of the mighty North West Region, in a place which has always been in the past, and is very much for the future, synonymous with culture, creativity and media.

This conference comes at a very important time:

 •       Important for the media;

•       Important for politics as we run up to the General Election; and

•       An important time to be considering political, economic and creative devolution.

 I want to discuss with you our key priorities for the media and the creative industries and to intensify that dialogue with you in the coming months.




Creative industries are important - because creativity is important to us as individuals, communities and as a nation. And because of their economic impact.

Two and a half million people work in or for the creative industries. The sector contributes more than £70 billion to our economy every year – and it's the sector growing faster than any other.

And you can see it here in Media City UK.  Salford’s ecology of creative workspaces, micro-companies and independent production companies, freelance creatives and not-for-profit cultural organisations, as well as larger organisations like the BBC and ITV, enable talent to develop and businesses to flourish.

Here in Greater Manchester, it is predicted that, over the next 10 years, creative and digital industries will grow by more than 70 per cent - with employment growing by 16 per cent.

And this is rooted in vibrant, arts and cultural places – The Lowry, Home, Manchester International Festival, the Hallé, the Whitworth, The Peoples' History Museum, The Manchester Art Gallery – organisations which work together, understanding the value of creative cooperation.  And I'm afraid, the highlight of our Labour Party conference this year was not my speech - but the visit to the set of Coronation Street.  People were squashed in the rush of Shadow Cabinet Members queuing to be photographed to pulling a pint in the Rovers Return. There must bean election.

 And it's not only Manchester and Salford, there's Liverpool’s growth as a cultural and creative hub and all across the North West region.




We are in no doubt about the importance of this sector and, in the run up to 1997, we took a lot of flack for our commitment to the arts, culture and creativity with our efforts being derided as "Luvvies for Labour".  But, undeterred we determined to use our time in government to underpin arts and culture with public policy support.


  • We introduced the 2003 Communications Act, which supported industry and opened up the sector allowing independent and regional production companies to flourish and produce some of the best content in the world.

  • We incentivised film back to the UK through Film Tax Relief. 

  • We regulated to protected copyright and support intellectual property in the new internet age.

  • We set up Regional Development Agencies to provide the opportunity for a regional focus on the creative industries 

  • We set up the Future Job Fund which opened up thousands of jobs in the cultural sector for long-term unemployed young people

  • We established creative partnerships and through that one million children across 5000 schools learned from links made with creative professionals, such as artists, architects, scientists and multimedia developers

  • We brought in free entry to museums and galleries and invested in regional museums and regional theatres.

  • We established the UK City of Culture following Liverpool’s success as European Capital of Culture in 2008.

  • We've consistently backed the BBC - on the license fee and its move up here in Salford.




We're really proud of what we achieved in government and our forward-looking approach to regulation has given this country the best of both worlds - a thriving commercial sector which creates wonderful content alongside a strongly asserted public interest. Our regulatory regime is admired around the world. 

The current government has built on what we did – like the tax relief for video games and high-end TV and now regional theatre. If we get re-elected we'll continue with these.

We believe public policy should be neither an ideological drive to deregulation nor a heavy handed state - but working with the sector to support the commercial interests of the industry alongside maintaining a great tradition of public service broadcasting.  




Our intent is for public policy to continue to support this successful mixed ecology.

But there are three particular areas where further progress needs to be made: 


1.     The importance of the regions;

2.     The issue of jobs for young people in the industry; and

3.     Greater diversity.


After the Scottish referendum, no one’s in any doubt about the demand for political and economic devolution to the nations and regions of the UK.

And there's an imbalance - a disproportionate focus on London - in the cultural sector and creative industries too as the DCMS select committee underlined in their report earlier this month.

  •  No-one in their right mind thinks that talent is only to be found in London.
  •  No-one should think that business innovation and creativity is only to be found within the M25.
  •  And people are mad if they think that customers and audiences are only to be found in London.

And there's a fairness issue too - people living outside London should get a fair crack of the whip and that means public policy supporting creativity in all parts of the country.

Alongside political and economic devolution we need creative devolution.

After the global financial crisis as well as the rebalancing of the economy away from a disproportionate dependence on financial services - and building the creative industries is an important way to create a more diversified economy - as well as that we need rebalancing to address the disproportionate concentration in London and the South East. 

We want to have creativity powerful in all the regions, in Scotland and in Wales. There has to be more than just talk about devolution to the regions - there must be practical policies which make it happen. 

We've said if we get into government in May next year, we'll devolve significant economic powers and funding to city and county region authorities, which will be co-terminus with LEPs: we have five Combined Authorities at the moment, Manchester, Liverpool, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and the North-East and we want to see many more created across the whole country.

We will pass down to those combined authorities powers over skills, employment and business support.  The creative industries are a key sector and as well as supporting them nationally, these plans to devolve powers on skills, employment and business support will mean that, in the regions, the creative industries should be well placed to access skills support and be better equipped to generate jobs and growth. 


  • Passing down the budgets for skills and education for people aged 19 and over to focus investment where it is required will give employers greater ownership of skills standards and funding in return for them providing more high quality apprenticeships in their sectors and supply chains. This builds on the good practice the creative industry is already doing, where big commissioning bodies like the BBC and ITV have led the formation of regional creative supply chains and hubs for creative skills and quality jobs.
  • We will give city and county regions powers to co-commission the replacement for the Work Programme – enabling a more strategic local look for where the quality jobs for the region will come from.
  • And we will devolve 100 per cent of Business Rate growth, so that where city and county regions boost business they will be able to retain the uplift achieved to reinvest in the local economy and do more good.

In all, what we are offering in this new English Settlement is three times greater in money than that currently being devolved by the Tories. £30 billion over five years.

Small businesses and entrepreneurs are struggling to get access to the finance they need to innovate and grow.  This is a particular problem in the creative industries, where cutting edge ideas are not matched by opportunities for cutting edge finance.

Labour would put in place a British Investment Bank backed up by a network of regional banks to help small firms, including in the creative industries, get access to finance.





Further and higher education institutions are an important part of the regional creative skills ecology.  Whether fine art or technical skills, we need to work together to make sure employers get the skills they need and creative talent can flourish.

As part of creative devolution we need a much greater focus on the work of local councils who - as Manchester exemplifies - can play a massively important role in developing and supporting cultural and creative activity in their areas - not least financially.  




That's why it is so worrying that there have been such massive cuts to local councils.  Local government has received bigger cuts than central government and councils in deprived areas have been hit harder than those in better off areas.  The unfairness is stark. 

They’re cutting spending power for every household in the ten most deprived areas in England by 16 times as much as the ten least deprived. 16 times.

They've actually given increases to Elbridge, Surrey Heath and Wokingham and they've targeted Liverpool, Manchester, Hackney and Birmingham for huge cuts.

This will inevitably undermine their effort to support arts and culture in their communities.  One of our big concerns, and future threats to the creative industries, is the narrowing of access to the arts, because it is very hard to protect local arts in deprived areas when these areas are being hardest hit by cuts.

So one of our big pledges for the next Labour Government is to put fairness at the heart of our approach to local government finance.

But even with the financial pressure they are under, councils remain pivotal for the development of creative industries in the regions.

So it really is just not good enough that DCMS ministers fail to engage at all with local councils and councillors.  The DCMS Select Committee Report - which I mentioned earlier says it is "staggering" to learn that the DCMS Ministers were having no conversations with local councillors.   This is especially the case when you think of the pivotal role of the leaders of the Core Cities - including Bristol, Sheffield, Newcastle, Birmingham as well as Manchester.

One of the things I've done since I became Shadow Culture Secretary is to set up the Creative Councillors Network- which brings together Labour councillors who are the lead in their council on culture, leisure, art and tourism. As well as supporting them, it is also important to hear what they are doing. The reality is that an enthusiastic, innovative local council can make all the difference to creativity and opportunity in their area.  

We think that every council should have a leading role in developing culture and creative businesses in their area bringing together and promoting the sector.  If we get into government, we'll give every council a legal duty to be the strategic lead for culture and creativity in their area.  Many of you already work with your councils and I hope that all of you will be part of building a strong relationship between the creative industries and local councils.




We welcome the establishment of the Creative Industries Council, set up to be a voice for creative industries to look at barriers to growth facing the sector, such as access to finance, skills, export markets, regulation, intellectual property and infrastructure.

So if we are elected next May, we will keep the Creative Industries Council but broaden its work by opening it up to more creative industries from our regions. 

We'd also continue with Creative England, most of whose investment goes to support businesses in the regions. They, like us, want to be sure that the DCMS works with LEPs to ensure that they are active in their support for creative industries.

 All of this can make a big difference even at a time when the public finances are really squeezed.

And it's crucial to build this work on the basis of a clear picture of the creative business map of Britain. We need to have a proper evidence base of what's happening in the regions, jobs, growth, start-ups.   The Government can't make intelligent effective decisions if it doesn't know what's going on or its information is out of date in a fast developing sector.




Next I want to turn to opportunities for young people in the creative industries.  Jobs in your sector are hugely sought after by young people and the industry needs the best talent.  So we must ensure that opportunities are opened up for all young people from every region, from every class and ethnic background. 

 And so it's important too that every child in every part of the country gets a creative education with a good emphasis on arts and culture.

 The Arts are fundamental to what it is to be human.  For how each individual develops and understands and sees themselves and the world around them.  For how we understand and interpret time and place.  




And that is why Labour’s public policy priority will be to ensure that every child will experience artistic excellence and participate in cultural activity.

So we are consulting on a range of policies to determine:


  • What might be included in a guarantee to every child in all communities throughout the country to participate in arts activity and experience culture at its best?
  • What role Ofsted should play in ensuring that high standards in creative learning in every school?
  • How to embed the arts into the after-school clubs that Labour will be setting up?
  • Whether it should be a clear condition for organisations to only get Arts Council funding if they demonstrate how they will extend opportunities to young people and commit to publishing progress on this objective year on year?

Arts and culture help children to be creative as well as analytical giving them a broader and better education.  That's important for every child and it’s important for the future talent pool of your industry.




This country excels in the arts and culture in all their forms.  We produce some of the greatest creativity on the planet – whether it’s music, fashion, film, theatre, broadcast, games, design, art, our libraries and our museums.  Our cultural creativity is admired and envied – and consumed – around the world.

The UK is a world leader in creativity, and no sector more so than in the creation of TV content. The international sale of UK TV programmes and associated activities grew by five per cent in just one year between 2012 and 2013 – generating revenues overall of £1.28 billion.

The USA is the UK’s biggest TV export market, but others are growing at a staggering rate. Sales of UK TV programmes to China grew by 40 per cent year on year, and shows such as Sherlock, which is produced in Wales by UK indie Hartswood films, proving to be huge hits with international audiences.

The UKTI - which we set up - is a strong supporter of the creative industries and it has helped many companies reach opportunities in international markets which would not otherwise have been possible.

 UKTI support for SMEs in the creative industries generates a particularly high return on investment for the Exchequer. For example in the UK TV production sector, for every pound of public money spent to help British companies get to market last year, it generated a return of £13,000.

It's important that when a British Prime minister goes on a high level trade mission abroad, as well as taking our traditional industries such as the automotive and pharmaceuticals, they take high level representation from the creative industries too.  You export around the world and should be taken seriously.

 And there should be more joined up working between UKTI, BIS, The FCO and The British Council to promote Britain's culture and creative industries.




We must have proper protection for the valuable content created by British creative industries. 

I've had extensive discussions with you and fully agree that this is more than just a private property issue between the rights owner and those who seek to use it.  It’s a public policy imperative.  The intellectual property regime is the foundation for future investment. 

 So we must have an IPO which is a bold champion of IP.  And a tough Intellectual Property Regime which is rigorously and unambiguously enforced. 


And while I know you feel that progress is being made here at home - there are concerns that this shouldn't be undermined by anything that happens in Europe and you expect your government to play an active role in Europe standing up for your rights.




We must take advantage of the massive opportunities that the new digital economy brings – and we also need to ensure that all citizens can benefit from these opportunities.

 The Labour Party has commissioned an independent review led by John Woodward working with an advisory board of practitioners from the creative industries, to explore policy options for the UK creative industries, looking at the opportunities and change brought about by the internet and the rise of the digital economy.

 It will make policy recommendations that both encourage the development of the creative industries in the digital age and effectively protect citizens. And we're hoping it will report in the New Year.




No discussion about the creative industries in this country really makes sense if you don't talk about the BBC.  The BBC is an important part of everyone's lives, gives pleasure to people of all ages and is one of the most iconic and admired broadcasters across the world.

The BBC is important as a national and global institution - not just for what it produces itself but what it commissions from independent production companies.  On this - Auntie is the mother-ship. And this is locally as well as nationally.  With centres in Scotland, Wales and the North West as well as in London - and roots in every region. 

Because it's so large and so important, and is an icon of public service, there's always a lot of political debate about the BBC.  And with rapid technological advance and people accessing broadcast content in so many different ways there will be a very different context for the forthcoming Charter Review.

The BBC is not perfect.  It gets a lot of the public's money so it's right that it gets a high level of public scrutiny and accountability and lives up to the highest standards.  No-one should feel that the BBC is above criticism.  I put that into practice myself including protesting about managerial high pay and the lack of diversity on and off screen. 

Of course there has to be a review of the licence fee every 10 years.  And as well as that, we've been prepared to support a review of the question of decriminalisation of non-payment of the licence fee.  But when it comes to the principle of the licence fee we back it because for all its imperfections and anomalies no-one's shown a better way of funding the BBC.

But we have to distinguish between sensible reviews and genuine criticism from those who want the BBC to be better - and those who criticise it because they are ideologically opposed to us having a public service broadcaster in such a key position and so seek to undermine it. 

Many of you will have seen reports this weekend about the letter that's gone to Sajid Javid from Tory MPs opposing the BBC licence fee.  It’s couched in terms of "a review" but it’s clear they want to kill off the licence fee to fatally wound the BBC.   There are many Tory MPs who oppose the whole idea of public service broadcasting and would love to please the BBC’s detractors by dismembering it.  And the worry is that clearly they think they've got a real ally in the Secretary of State.  He's already made sympathetic noises about getting rid of, or slashing, the licence fee.

I think it’s important for everyone to be able to see where the parties stand on the BBC.  And we are clear.  Labour strongly supports the BBC.  But the Culture Secretary must make it clear that he too supports the BBC.  At a time when the opponents of the BBC are circling, it’s imperative for the Culture Secretary to defend it.  You're either backing it or you're attacking it.

But he's not backing it and if the Tories were to get in again, the BBC would be in peril.  The BBC is not safe in the Tories' hands. 




Of course the BBC is not the only public service broadcaster which is important to the creative industries and investing in content, so are ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

It became anomalous that the BBC and other public service broadcasters were paying Sky for access to its platform.  While the BBC and ITV have come to an arrangement with Sky where they no longer pay this charge, this is not the case for all the PSBs and in addition there is a proliferation of online services streaming PSBs and using the law on retransmission fees as an exemption to copyright infringement.

The regulation in this area is complex.  Helen Goodman MP, Shadow Minister has consulted with stakeholders and we want to back creators with a proper regime for reward for investment in content creation. We should allow PSBs to negotiate for the value of their content - this content brings huge value to the pay platforms that carry them – and to their customers.

We also want to make sure that PSB services remain available and accessible throughout the UK.  That is why I reconfirm my commitment to ensuring public service broadcasters have prominence on cable and satellite platforms.

Ofcom should play a regulatory and adjudicating role if it is thought that the PSBs are abusing their power.




The whole point about creativity is that it must not be owned by one narrow group. Creative talent is not restricted to one particular gender, class or ethnicity.  And the creative industries must not discriminate on the grounds of age or disability.  And as much as we applaud the immense achievements of the British creative industries, there is still much further to go on improving the diversity of the workforce when it comes to talent and production. 

It’s an uncomfortable truth that when it comes to diversity, our creative industries are not good enough.

Improving diversity is not just the right thing to do in principle, it also makes business sense.

For our creative industries to stay ground-breaking and at the top of their game, it’s absolutely essential that they draw on the widest pool of talent and creativity which should be reflected in a more diverse workforce.

Access into the industry mustn't be limited to those whose parents are well-off or well-connected.

We mustn't have women who break into the industry and do well, pensioned off just when we should be benefitting from their experience.  As Gaby Logan said recently, "equality in Television will have reached a nadir when it’s hosted by a woman in her 70s and a man in his 30s".

And, as Lenny Henry has pointed out, it’s not OK that there are, in 21st century multiracial Britain, so few non-white executives and so few non-white faces on our screens.

I know that the industry is making progress in addressing this and good work is being done.

I was pleased to see that Sky and ITV will be using their commissioning strength to encourage greater diversity among programme suppliers both on screen and off screen.

Tony Hall, this summer, committed to raise the bar at the BBC on diversity in apprenticeships and leadership.

Channel 4 has a long history championing diversity most recently bringing us the Paralympics which showed beyond doubt how powerful television can be in including groups who've previously been pushed to the margins.

And Film 4 played a crucial role in Steve McQueen developing into a British Oscar Winner.  

That's why organisations like Creative Access - which provides internships in the media for young people from BAME backgrounds are so important. 

Media independents, too, are playing a part in supporting diversity of opportunity in the sector, by investing in training and skills development and supporting diversity monitoring for the whole TV industry.

Change is happening, but it needs to go further and faster.

It’s not just who gets in to the industry.  It’s who gets to the top in the industry and who gets to stay in the industry.

There is clearly much more to be done to create a sector that is both representative of, and reflects, the society it serves.

All our public institutions - particularly those that provide funding or commission work from creative organisations - including the Arts Council and the BBC - should be asking questions about what their suppliers are doing to improve the diversity of their workforce and the diversity of their output.

The BFI had announced plans to do that through the Film Fund and we look forward to it being extended across all its programmes.

Diversity is one of the areas I hope will be under the spotlight in the discussion about the BBC’s Charter renewal.

Efforts are being made in individual companies.  But despite the work of the Creative Diversity Network there still needs to be a serious job of gathering data about diversity across the board including paid internships and this needs to be published year on year to benchmark progress.  Transparency is vital.  If you can't see the situation you can't make progress.

I'd like to work with the creative industries to make this happen. One idea which has been suggested is that the Creative Industries Council could take this work forward.

The best solution is for the industry to make swift progress on this on a voluntary basis.  But no progress is not an option and if we felt there was no progress we'd want to look at other options.




Technological change is a major driver for economic development and the internet has the potential to enable every citizen to get involved in every aspect of life – including watching great, quality content, whether through a broadband connection in the home, or on the go, via a mobile connection. 

In fact the internet is not just a nice to have… both for the economy and the individual – it’s a necessity.  But this means that people have to have both the physical connection and the ability to use it.

I don’t feel that this Government has got the right level of ambition in relation to their role and the contribution government needs to make in driving forward connectivity.  They have presided over failed programmes and missed targets – whether on broadband or mobile.  We estimate them missing their own target has lost the UK economy £7 billion of foregone GCP.  And it’s particularly a problem in rural areas.

The point is that Government ought to be not just alongside but ahead of people, not dragging behind them.  And there are massive complaints about this, including to MPs.  At every oral questions to the DCMS Secretary of State there’s a huge row about it.  And the frustration is shared from all sides of the House.

Last DCMS Oral Question-time the Government had complaints from MPs from Scotland to the Isle of Wight – from Wales to East Anglia.

But the Minister just sweeps these complaints aside and tells everyone they’re wrong and it’s all marvellous.  

At the same time as extending coverage, we need to reduce the number of people who are locked out of all of this because they don’t know how to use the internet.  In Government, we were investing £300 million in digital inclusion – under this Government that is now just £18 million of which £15 million is lottery money.

As we move towards online information, online bills, banking, shopping, chat and films, TV and radio podcasts, digital inclusion is essential.

So alongside extending access, if Labour were in government now, we would switch £75 million from the un-used SuperConnected Cities programme to spend on digital inclusion.




We want to work closely with you - the creative industries need to command the same access and prominence within government that industries such as automotive and pharmaceuticals do. 

If we come into government, I'm determined that the DCMS will be a strong champion for your sector and I'll be a strong voice at the Cabinet table.  We're also determined to ensure better working across government because your concerns span not just DCMS but other departments including Treasury, BIS, Education and CLG.

In changing times people ask what this country stands for.

People ask how we can pay our way in the world?

What jobs are our young people going to work in the future?

The answer to each of those questions is, to a very great extent what you do.

What you do brings great joy to people's lives, puts this country on the map, and provides money for the Treasury and jobs for the future.  I look forward to working closely with you as we prepare our manifesto and hopefully, when we're in government.



The Labour Party will place cookies on your computer to help us make this website better.

Please read this to review the updates about which cookies we use and what information we collect on our site.

To find out more about these cookies, see our privacy notice. Use of this site confirms your acceptance of these cookies.