Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA, a week in which the Prime Minister visited Stonehenge in order to highlight the significant growth in the economy since the late Neolithic era; and North Korea was accused of being responsible for one of the single biggest acts of copyright infringement - probably since the same period.
All eyes in Westminster were on the Chancellor of the Exchequer this week for his last Parliamentary statement on the nation’s finances before the next General Election. Although the headline writers have naturally focused on the centre-piece changes to Stamp Duty on home buying and infrastructure, there were a few nuggets of interest to our sector:
· A new Diverted Profits Tax to counter the use of aggressive tax planning to avoid paying. This has immediately been dubbed “the Google tax”, which seems fair;
· A £5.9 bn investment in the UK’s research infrastructure between 2015-21, including £95m towards an EU mission to Mars (thus completing the Digital Single Martian?);
· A new system of income contingent loans to boost take up of post-graduate Masters studies;
· A consultation on a new tax relief for children’s television programmes (and orchestras);
· Funding aimed at doubling the number of SMEs attending international trade shows (ironically at odds with the UKTI’s recent cutting of this funding);
· There was nothing explicitly said with regards to education.
As ever, the real importance of this statement lies not so much in the impact on national finances but the political messages it sends out. Labour’s “mansion tax” fox has been shot with the stamp duty ploy, and the “zero-zero economy” tagline which Labour has been trailing has been addressed through the “Google tax” plan. However, Osborne has had to admit that the deficit reduction targets are going to be handily missed and that there are clearly going to be further spending cuts to come in the next Parliament. Whilst growth is forecast to be 3% this year, it is still only likely to be 2.3% in 5 years’ time, albeit with employment and inflation remaining low. The UK economy can perhaps see the edge of the woods, but on the basis of this Statement, it is far from out of them.
The whole package can be accessed here .
News from Europe
Vice-President Anders Ansip, the former Estonian Prime Minister now in charge of the EU Digital Single Market brief, spoke last week at the European Parliament. He focused mainly on telecoms, saying that regulations still meant that there were differences across member states. His utopian view is of an EU where all consumers can enjoy digital content and services using seamless online channels (most people would settle for a decent 3G signal outside London). As ever, he was strongly against “geo-blocking” by which consumers cannot use services bought in one member state in another. In the speech he confirmed that Competition Commissioner Vestage will decide shortly how to proceed with the on-going investigation into Google’s business practices. Fans of Mr Ansip can add to their file of collected works here.
Study on Creative Industries
International accountancy firm Ernst & Young has published a study which shows that Europe’s creative and cultural businesses are worth a total of €536bn and support 7 million jobs – 30% of which were in the under 30s. . Book publishing is the EU’s fifth biggest creative sector with €36bn revenues, half of that of newspapers and magazines in fourth place, and some way behind advertising in first spot with €127bn. Egmont were singled out for praise as an example of European creative industry success. This excellent report, which should be thrust under the fingernails of anyone who forgets the role which the creative sector is playing in driving growth can be read here .
The government has published the final science key stage 4 programme of study, which can be read about at this link.
The Great IP Debate
The Alliance for Intellectual Property hosted “The Great IP Debate”, bringing together each of the main parties’ IP spokespeople to discuss the challenges ahead for IP. Philip Collins, the chief Leader Writer of The Times, chaired the panel which included Mike Weatherley MP (the former IP Adviser to the PM), Iain Wright MP of Labour, and Lord Tim-Clement Jones for the Lib Dems. Andrew Orlowski of The Register and Prof Lionel Bently of Cambridge University provided yet further intellectual ballast. The general consensus from all of the politicians was that IP is vital to the economy, it is necessary for government to support its enforcement; and that more has to be done to help consumers and individuals understand and support copyright.
Yesterday it was announced that Chris Bryant MP has replaced Helen Goodman as Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Minister with responsibility for the arts, with Helen Goodman MP taking Bryant’s previous role as Shadow Minister with responsibility for welfare reform. Bryant has been MP for Rhondda since 2001. From 2001 – 2005 he was a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. Between 2008 – 2010 Bryant held several roles in Government including Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Europe. Since the 2010 election, Bryant has served in across several departments in Shadow Ministerial roles. Bryant is also an author of several books on UK political figures and Parliament, his latest Parliament: The Biography in two volumes published this year. We will be renewing acquaintance with Mr Bryant early in the new year.
The European Digital Media Alliance, EDiMA has issued this press release calling on the EU Finance Ministers – who meet next Tuesday – to align VAT rates for ebooks with those of printed books. EDiMA President Stephen Collins said “ “Reading and literacy are vital to our economy and our cultural life. To promote reading and culture, policy-makers have understandably supported printed books by applying lower VAT. Yet digital reading inexplicably incurs higher rates of VAT. We should encourage reading in all formats equally. A book is a book, irrespective of how it is enjoyed. To choose not to align VAT would abandon a historic commitment to reading and culture.” According to research by Deloitte, a cumulative price increase or decrease of 15% could lead to an impact on economic value of as much as €1.8 billion (€1 billion in consumer welfare. This intervention comes in the week in which our Italian colleagues have launched a campaign to support VAT harmonisation “un libro è un libro
This Week We Have…
Met with Lord Wood of Anfield, Chief of Staff to Ed Miliband, Nick King, special adviser to the Culture Secretary, and the DFE to discuss assessment; attended the second meeting of the IPO’s Copyright Advisory Panel and the fourth meeting of the RCUK Review Group on OA; attended the All Party Writers’ Group winter reception in Parliament and attended the Alliance’s IP debate.
…Next Week We Will Be…
Meeting with the Copyright Unit in the European Commission to discuss education policy; attending The PA’s International Conference (on Thursday 11th) Speaking at the International Copyright & Law conference in London; meeting with Creative Content UK.