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WESTMINSTER DIARY: Artists’ EU touring visas and support for armed forces personnel

This week in Parliament I raised the plight of Leamington performing arts company Motionhouse along with other groups and artists faced with rising costs and restrictions caused by Brexit. The damage of Brexit is already clear to see for many other business sectors for which Europe is their primary market. But the failure to secure EU touring visas for our performing artists and arts companies is a particularly glaring failure.

A petition has been launched demanding the Government urgently returns to the negotiating table with the EU to secure Europe-wide visa-free work permits to prevent touring artists being hit with a vast increase in costs as they market themselves on the continent. The petition now has nearly 300,000 signatures and includes more than 500 from residents in Warwick and Leamington.

The UK’s creative sector accounts for a staggering 11.7% of GDP and we need immediate action to save many under-threat companies that depend on the revenue generated from unfettered access to EU audiences. For example, Motionhouse secures more than half its revenue from touring in the EU. The company itself is not just a great export, it enriches our region and is a retreat for many local creatives. Yet it fears increasingly severe problems associated with work permit costs, movements of kit and foreign entertainment taxation. Along with the UK’s world-renowned performing arts sector, Motionhouse cannot be left to suffer as a result of yet more Government incompetence.

Elsewhere, it is clear our veterans have been failed by successive governments. The Armed Forces Covenant, while welcome, needs to go much further in addressing substandard housing, serious mental health problems and underfunded social care. These are problems experienced by a vast proportion of the UK’s population but perhaps by none more acutely than our veterans.

The National Audit Office just last week released a report concluding that thousands of armed forces personnel are living in substandard accommodation – with 80,000 veterans occupying poor quality single living flats. To reinforce this, up to 6% of the UK’s homeless population are former soldiers according to the Royal British Legion. King’s College London research shows that veterans are at greater risk of suffering serious mental health problems such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and alcohol misuse. Yet 0.07% of the NHS budget is spent on mental health support specifically for veterans.

The Government needs to serve those that serve us. Our soldiers, sailors and airmen will have served our country courageously during their time in the forces and it’s now time they are better supported in society.