MPs defend cost of Hollywood trip: Help for industry 'well worth pounds 23,000'

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The Independent Online
MEMBERS of the Commons national heritage committee are to visit Hollywood in October in their second fact- finding trip to the United States in 18 months.

The pounds 23,000 five-day visit is intended to help the committee in its investigations into the British film industry. The committee's 10 MPs, five Tory, five Labour, will talk to producers, directors and film industry executives.

Dismissing criticism that the trip was a jaunt, Dr John Blackburn, committee member and Tory MP for Dudley West, said the cost 'will be one of the most wonderful pounds 23,000 ever spent out of public funds' and would help find ways of revitalising Britain's film industry.

The delegation to Hollywood will be led by Gerald Kaufman, who was also in charge of a committee visit in 1993 to Washington and New York - cost pounds 36,140 - to assemble evidence on the price of compact discs.

No details of the hotel arrangements were available but the MPs were reported to be planning to fly to Los Angeles economy class and returning club class.

The committee has also seen the need for a day trip to Brussels ( pounds 4,109) during investigations into the BBC.

Some British film industry executives were sceptical of the need to go to Hollywood. 'There is always the suggestion that they will have a bit of a jaunt,' one said. 'We need all the support we can get in Parliament but I don't believe that the committee is all that influential, frankly.'

However, John Woodward, chief executive of the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television, an industry pressure group, defended the MPs. 'The quickest way to understand the British film industry is to see how Hollywood works, as 90 per cent of production is controlled from there,' he said.