Comment: Saving the British film industry

Richard Harrington is the Conservative MP for Watford
Richard Harrington is the Conservative MP for Watford

Britain's film industry is one of the strongest in the world, but there is a desperate need to encourage home-grown productions.

By Richard Harrington MP

Whilst Britain's talented actors, directors and movie blockbusters are always popular topics of conversation, there has been precious little discussion of late on the ways in which we are investing in the future of the UK film industry.

The British film trade has defied the recession with stunning success, emerging strong and healthy. In 2009 the industry contributed over £4.5 billion to our economy, employing over 36,000 people directly.


Britain continues to be favoured as one of the most attractive locations for overseas producers and investors. This owes much to the Film Tax Relief system, a financial incentive allowing films with a British thread to receive accelerated tax benefits. It is held up as an example to other countries as one the best systems of its kind, and is the primary reason that features with inward investment totalled £753 million in 2009.

I have particular reason to celebrate this system. The Leavesden studios - in my constituency of Watford - have been home to the Harry Potter series for the past ten years; one of the greatest British exports of this generation and produced in the UK largely due to the Film Tax Relief.

Leavesden is set to become the biggest and best equipped studio space in Europe over the next few years as its recently announced £100 million redevelopment takes shape, and I could not be prouder.

Yet despite the successes that inward investment has brought to the economy, our domestic films - often funded by independent producers - are suffering. There has been a year-on-year decline since 2008 in both the number and value of these features, which are made with British investment, often on shoestring budgets.

We desperately need to encourage and help British producers to make films.

Whilst encouraging foreign companies to make their films in the UK means employment and jobs, the huge profits reaped from world audiences return to the country investing. The UK is currently a hub of production, but we are not using our prolific creative talents to come up with the product in the first place: we get paid for making the goods. Whilst inward investment must be protected and valued, we do a disservice to the future of our industry if we do not acknowledge this truth.

Above all else, this means making it easier for our producers to get finance. It is in this country's interest to achieve a situation in which British people can invest more easily in British films, creating a stronger film industry in this country, with a greater share of profits remaining here.

We have a film industry to be proud of in Britain, but so much more can be done to ensure its survival for years to come. We must take the opportunity to ensure that far from simply being a hub for foreign investment, we are the epicentre of world film.

Richard Harrington is the Conservative MP for Watford.

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