Dorrell `failing movie industry'

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The Cabinet minister responsible for the film industry was accused by a fellow Tory MP yesterday of being puritanical and lacking commitment to British movies, writes David Lister. National Heritage Select Committee members rounded on Stephen Dorrell, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, pointing to his Irish opposite number, who had given tax breaks to foreign production companies, told producers to telephone if they had problems, and increased film investment from £1m to £100m in a year.

Asked about British tax incentives for film producers, Mr Dorrell said that when he was a Treasury minister every lobby said it would increase employment. "It's obviously true that if taxes were reduced on film-making you would probably get more of it. But it's not an argument that as a Treasury minister you find attractive."

Sir John Gorst, a Tory MP on the committee, said: "There's a feeling you're a gamekeeper from the Treasury who has remained a gamekeeper. There are doubts about your commitment and enthusiasm . . . Rather than go into the division lobby every night you should say, `I'm sorry, I'm at a first night, at the business end of my portfolio.'

"The film industry is crying out for a passionate commitment, not the dry-as-dust puritanical assessment of what you can and can't say to your Treasury colleagues."

Mr Dorrell retorted: "It's a choice between histrionics and a commitment to deliver . . . If you call me a puritan then I have that in common with my hero, Oliver Cromwell."

The chairman, Gerald Kaufman, interjected: "What? He smashed works of art."

Mr Dorrell said he did not think the boom in films made in Ireland had delivered a growing awareness of Irishness. Mr Kaufman said The Crying Game, My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father had done just that.

Before the meeting, Mr Dorrell confessed he could not recall the last film he had seen.