James Sunderland speaks in debate on covid-19 and the cultural and entertainment sectors

James Sunderland welcomes Government support for covid recovery and suggests further measures to benefit the entertainment sector. He also calls on the Government to speed up the return of outdoor sport.

James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)

This is a super opportunity to represent the people of Bracknell as we recover from covid. Some headlines, if I may: the £500 million film and TV production restart scheme; one year of business rates holiday worth over £10 billion plus temporary reduction of VAT; 200 independent cinemas across England being supported with £16 million of grants; Sport England announces £220 million of emergency funding for grassroots clubs. The list goes on. But we can, of course, do better. I really welcome the news from the Prime Minister that the road map will allow outdoor sports to resume from 29 March; the light at the end of the tunnel is almost with us, and that is very welcome, but I urge the Government to consider pushing this date to the left wherever possible.

Bracknell is blessed with some stunning golf courses of the highest quality, and it has been a real source of frustration to my constituents to see their sport lumped in with others. It is an outdoor sport and we can separate very easily, so let us get the courses open quickly, please. The same applies to grassroots sports, to tennis and to gymnasiums. Let us get our leisure activities up and running.

Elite football has kept many of us sane for the last few months, myself included. However, those not in the upper echelons of the elite have struggled immensely and are on their last legs. Without big-money television deals, non-league football relies on ticket sales to be viable. A year down the line, clubs have are still being asked to wait until 17 May before getting the fans back into their stadiums. That is just too late. These clubs also need grants, not loans. It is essential that these lifeblood clubs are properly supported right across the community.

As for entertainment in the round, it is imperative that our pubs and restaurants are opened quickly, as well as cinemas, theatres and the wedding industry. The live music sector contributed £4.5 billion to the economy in 2019, supporting 210,000 jobs and providing £1.6 billion in VAT receipts. The sector is too valuable to stay closed. Let us please get it open. Why not an extension of the 5% VAT rate for ticket sales? Why not a Government-backed insurance scheme, giving the industry the confidence to book shows? Why not an extension of business rates relief beyond April 2021?

The UK has a really proud motorsports industry that is essential for jobs and livelihoods, and is one of our best exports. Aside from the flagship Formula 1 series, it is imperative that the UK gets its round of the world rally championship back to our shores. May I please commend having a round of the rally in Northern Ireland in 2022? The infrastructure in place. The political benefits are absolute: the Union; protocols; Stormont; reconciliation; legacy. Let us please get it done. DCMS, please find some money.