Tax relief is crucial to make films like Billy Elliot, the peer says
The British film industry will be "wrecked" by government tax plans, actor and director Lord Attenborough said.
The Oscar winner said plans to scrap tax relief for film production would mean an end to hits like Billy Elliot and Notting Hill.
Lord Attenborough urged the government to reconsider introducing the tax changes in 2005.
"We should try to persuade government that this 'end it in 2005' is very
sad. It will wreck the situation because it has been very successful," he said.
The Labour peer told MPs on the culture, media and
sport select committee that the tax relief had visibly boosted
the home-grown industry, producing international hits.
"There is no question whatsoever that the industry cannot succeed without
some form of assistance," he said.
"There isn't a country in the world, including the United States, India -
they have all in some way or another have major fiscal assistance in terms of
operating their industry.
"The one thing I am certain of is that until we accept that a form of
subsidy, some form or another, whether a tax concession is accepted as a
prerequisite for the British film industry, the British film industry will
continue to jump and flop and climb up again and flop again."
The tax relief is guaranteed currently by section 48 of the Finance Act 1997.
It allows expenditure on the production
or acquisition of British qualifying films with budgets of £15 million or less
to be written off fully on completion.
The fact that it is due to end was "very sad, not only
in itself but in the message that it sends out to investors and people around
the world", Lord Attenborough said.
"It has to have a long-term basis. It cannot jump-stop, start, stop and
He added that the tax relief should be extended to distributors and
He also sent a message to the UK film industry to stick to
making characteristically British films like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Billy
Elliot and Bridget Jones's Diary and not try to compete with the US.
"I don't think that we can ever do that quite in superficial terms, simply
because the scale of the whole American operation is so enormous and it has such
control, grip, all around the world of the principal infrastructure which makes
it possible not only to make movies but indeed to distribute them."
He continued: "If we make movies which are essentially English, or essentially British,
then we will break the American market. That is what will attract America, not a
pale imitation of something which America does better."