Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in a week in which George Osborne presented the first fully Conservative budget since Ken Clarke in 1996. He told the House that this would be “a big budget for a country with big ambitions” and what followed was a Budget containing a number of crowd, and party, pleasing policies: increase in personal tax allowance, increase in 40% income tax threshold, fuel duty to remain frozen. Austerity-busting measures, particularly in social security, also remain in place but the Chancellor’s ‘bunny out of the hat’ moment came with the surprise announcement at the end of the introduction of a National Living Wage – an announcement which slightly wrong-footed interim Labour Leader Harriet Harman. Labour did recover, with Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie commenting subsequently that he was “delighted if the Government wished to steal parts of the Labour manifesto” but warned that the Government had got the sequence the wrong way round “so the cuts to tax credits precede the pay rise”.
Reda Report – final update (fingers-crossed)
The saga that has been the Reda Report finally came to an end yesterday when the report was voted on by the whole of the European Parliament. Despite some last minute concerns that the positive amendments and balance achieved in the legal affairs committee (JURI) would be lost, the report came out the other end pretty much as it left JURI. It was adopted by the Parliament by 445 votes in favour, 65 against and 32 abstentions. As we have noted before (and was acknowledged by many MEPs in the debate) it is only an own-initiative report but important in that it paves the way for the discussions on the Commission’s legislative proposals coming down the road next year. The Parliament’s release can be read here.
Budget and higher education funding
Higher education funding featured heavily in the Chancellor’s budget; announcements included the scrapping of student maintenance grants and plans to make graduates pay more for loans through repayment threshold freeze. Osborne also announced that Universities with ‘high quality teaching’ will be allowed to raise tuition fees in line with inflation from 2017-18 and that a Teaching Excellence Framework will be introduced to sharpen incentive for institutions to provide excellent teaching, as currently exist for research. The idea is that this will improve the value for money and return on investment for both students and the government, and will contribute to aligning graduate skills and expectations with the needs of employers. The government will consult later this year on how a Teaching Excellence Framework can be developed, including outcome-focussed criteria and metrics. The PA will look to use this opportunity to stress the role quality educational resources play in delivering quality teaching.
Creative Industries Council
The Creative Industries Council met for the first time since the general election. The Government co-Chairs (the Secretaries of State for Business, innovation and Skills and Culture, Media and Sport) confirmed their commitment to the Council and provided an indication of their priorities for the next five years. The Culture Secretary John Whittingdale MP, new to post but a familiar face to many round the table given his past chairmanship of the Culture Select Committee, pointed to a desire to expand the programme of tax credits into further creative industry sectors and acknowledged that issues around BBC Charter Renewal will feature heavily in his Red Box . However, he also spoke strongly of the need to ensure a robust IP framework which sees creators and IP businesses receive proper remuneration and, in reference to the copyright reform being mooted in Brussels, commented that European reforms should not be done at the expense of UK creative industries. For Business Secretary Sajid Javid MP, returning to the CIC but in a new post, the areas he will be focusing on included boosting productivity, increasing trade and export and maintaining and growing levels of foreign direct investment.
Both commented on digital single market, as concern over the direction some of this is going was raised by many round the table, and stressed that everything must be based on evidence. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey expressed a willingness to meet regularly on this which is an offer The PA will be following up. John in particular stressed that his views have not changed, commenting that while the DSM strategy contained certain things the UK think would be good, such as portability, this shouldn’t be confused with territoriality. The mantra that the Government won’t agree with anything which will damage the UK creative industries was repeated.
The Council itself, reaffirmed its remit and, as work is complete in some areas, started to consider other issues for focus such as diversity and exports – two areas where The PA has strong contributions to make.
The IP sub group of the CIC also met this week ahead of a meeting with Ministers next week to discuss the Digital Single Market.
APPG Writers Group
The All Party Writers Group held its annual summer reception on the House of Commons terrace this week. Both the Group’s new chair, Pete Wishart MP and the new Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale MP (and former chair of the APPG) used their speeches to promote the value of the creative industries to the UK, their economic and social contributions, and the important role copyright plays in ensuring creators and the businesses which invest in them can be rewarded. (As Nicola Solomon of the Society of Authors raised the issue of author / publisher contracts we feel duty-bound to highlight the work undertaken by The PA in this area and the joint guidelines we issued with the Association of Authors’ Agents back in April).
The PA joined a panel at ISPA (the ISPs’ trade body) with the Open Rights Group, Google and Kemp Little LLP to discuss the issue of the proposed “intermediaries duty of care” in the EU’s Digital Single Market communication. As usual the ORG tried to claim that efforts to tackle online copyright infringement were an affront to freedom of speech; Google said that they always “play nice” but only if told to by a Court Order. The PA noted that a duty of care is a nebulous concept and that making statute around it could be fraught with difficulty; however, search engines should join their intermediary brethren ISPS, payment providers and online advertisers to do more to tackle copyright infringement. Notice and takedown and site-blocking actions are useful tools but can only go so far. A fun debate, but no needles were moved.
In the Guardian this week, Fiona Miller quizzed the Labour leadership candidates for their views on education. Yvette Cooper says that the major challenges ‘are about cracking inequality and a curriculum to educate young people for the future’. She also believes that the wellbeing and happiness of children is important, as is the option for teachers ‘to do sabbaticals and master's degrees and to progress personally and professionally without having to go into a management job.’ Andy Burnham argues that Michael Gove’s reforms have been ‘wasteful, damaging and an unjustifiable experiment with kids' education.’ He says he doesn’t believe in selection at all, and is open-minded about a national baccalaureate qualification. He would also like to see a Ucas-style application system for apprenticeships with support similar to that received by university-goers. Most of all he wants a truly comprehensive education system. Jeremy Corbyn is opposed to free schools and academies and would bring them all back into local authority control. He would also convert all grammars to comprehensives and abandon school league tables. Liz Kendall’s priority would be early years' education and investing more heavily in teachers.
This week we have:
Attended the Creative Industries Council and met with the CIC IP Sub Group; met with UKTI’s Creative Industries Strategic Advisory Group; caught up with parliamentarians at the All Party Writers Group Summer reception; taken on the views of the Open Rights Group at an ISPA seminar.
Next week we will be:
Attending the Alliance for IP’s AGM and Summer Parliamentary Reception – along with numerous MPs and Peers; meeting with Tech City UK; meeting with the Secretaries of State for Business (Sajid Javid) Culture (John Whittingdale) and IP Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe.