HC Deb 28 June 1916 vol 83 cc958-60

Entertainments Duty shall not be charged on payments for admission to any band enclosure in a public park where the payment does not exceed one penny.—[Mr. Lough.]

Clause brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

I have a small point here, but an excellent point, to submit to my right hon. Friend, and I hope he will try to meet me on it. The Clause refers to exemption from the Entertainments Duty, and it is confined to band enclosures in public parks. I do not think the House or anybody could have thought that in the public parks in London, for example, philanthropic societies, such as the National Sunday League, where they try to provide a band costing hundreds of pounds a year, but who alleviate that cost by making a charge of a penny for the enclosure, would have to pay this tax. But, to their astonishment, the Customs Regulations lay a charge in this case. If there were no enclosures there would be no charge, but if there is an enclosure, and that is the only means by which chairs can be protected or business carried on, then the Entertainments Duty is charged. That is to say, out of a penny charge towards the cost of the band, a halfpenny is taken away by the State. That makes bands in London parks totally unprofitable, and the result will be that they cannot be carried on in these bad times, because, as it is, a good deal of money is being lost, and it depends whether the Entertainments Duty is inflicted or not as to whether this slight pleasure to the working classes in the public parks in London and other places can be maintained or not. To show the anomaly, I may say that if a band plays on a pier, although there is a charge of 2d. to the pier, and a pier is an enclosed place, that is not subject to the Entertainments Duty. I can hardly believe that the Government intend that the Customs Regulations should have this effect, although I do not want to find any fault with the Customs. They have carried out duties in this most troublesome matter in a way which seems to have given great satisfaction, and, therefore, I do not want to make any attack upon them, but I do hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by accepting this little Clause, which is confined to the 1d., which is confined to public parks, which deals with a tax that amounts to no less than 50 per cent, of the charge, and which will banish the bands out of many public parks, will accept the Clause. If he cannot do that now, but will tell me that he will consider it between this and the Report stage, I will not take up further time.


I endeavoured to give more favourable attention to this proposal, but I found it was quite impossible to distinguish in this matter between one form of entertainment and another. If we make this concession to bands, we cannot refuse it to other entertainments where 1d. is charged. There are cinemas that charge 1d. Some people like to pay 1d. to hear a band to the delight of the ear; others prefer to pay 1d. at a cinema for the delight of the eye, and we cannot make any difference between the two. If I accepted this proposal, I should subject myself to attack for not giving relief to other forms of entertainment, and I am afraid we must adhere to the tax. I know that hardship is inevitable in regard to all taxation, but if we are to get the money we must adhere to these proposals.


I think I can show my right hon. Friend how easy it is to differentiate in this matter. I think the case of a band in a public park not provided by a public authority but by a private society might be allowed. I hardly think that cinemas can be brought on the same line. What I propose is really very different from all the other cases, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell me that this matter will be considered on the Report stage. I do not like to press the matter now because I know the situation is rather acute when dealing with all these points, but I assure my right hon. Friend that there is no money in his proposal, and, at any rate, it will not be a matter of more than £1,000 or £2,000.

Question put, and negatived.