HC Deb 03 May 1916 vol 82 cc20-2

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if it is intended to exempt from Entertainments Duty the football and hurling matches held under the auspices of the Gaelic Athletic Association of Ireland; if the meetings of this association are mainly held on Sundays and that at one of its matches last year nearly 100,000 people attended and paid for admission; that the association bars from its membership, or from attendance at its meetings, any man who wears or has worn the King's uniform; that it is largely supported by Sinn Fein, the notoriously disloyal section of the Irish people, and has been consistently hostile to recruiting; and, if the meetings of this association are to be exempt from the Entertainments Duty, will he state the grounds on which special treatment is to foe given to it as compared with other football and athletic associations in the United Kingdom?


The exemption in question refers to entertainments provided by any society or institution founded with the object of reviving national pastimes, and, as I pointed out in the reply that I gave yesterday to the hon. Member for the Devizes Division, the concession is general in its application and does not relate to any particular society. If, as implied by the hon. Baronet, the objects of the Gaelic Athletic-Association are other than those contemplated in the Act, it will not come within the scope of the exemption. The question whether the organisation does or does not fulfil the conditions of the Act is not for me to determine, but for the Commissioners of Customs and Excise.


Will the right hon. Gentleman state whether representations were made to him by deputation or otherwise in favour of exempting the Gaelic Athletic Association from the tax, and by whom those representations were made?


Representations were made to me publicly in debate in this House by the hon. Member for Kildare (Mr. J. O'Connor). The hon. Member for Kildare also at a later date saw me on the same subject. The Amendment which was introduced into the Bill is quite general and applies not to this society in particular, but to all societies, and upon a certain assumption of fact the Amendment would apply to this society; but if, as the hon. Baronet alleges, that assumption of fact is inaccurate, it will not apply to this society.


Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman received a deputation in favour of exempting the Gaelic Athletic Association from the tax—yes or no?


Yes, I have stated that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kildare came to see me at the Treasury on the subject.


I asked the question yesterday, and I now repeat it: Was it not intended at the time this Clause was put in the Finance Bill that it should apply to the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ireland?


Only upon a certain assumption of fact—that the Gaelic Athletic Association, of which I had not previously heard, was existing for certain purposes only—was it intended to include that association with other similar societies. If that assumption of fact, as I now learn from the hon. Baronet, is not accurate, and this society was constituted for other purposes, then the exemption will not apply to this society.


Could the right hon. Gentleman say what other societies there are?


A great many. I had letters and correspondence concerning them—societies for the promotion of Morris dances and others. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I do not know why hon. Gentlemen say "Oh." It would be ridiculous to tax these societies.


If a society is founded for any object such as the right hon. Gentleman has stated, however laudable, and if it turns out that in its administration it is grossly disloyal, will it get the benefit of this section as in the case of the Gaelic Athletic Association, at whose meetings no man in the King's uniform is allowed to attend or compete?


I must not be assumed to judge the facts of a case of which I am not aware and of which I should not be the judge; but assuming the facts are as stated by the hon. Member the association would not get the exemption, because it would be held that the avowed object was not the true object, but was a coverable pretence only.


Did not a great many of us on this side of the House also approach him to put in this Amendment in order to deal with charitable competitions such as the Rosebery Cup competition and other football competitions, and if this Clause were knocked out would not they be subject to the tax?


Yes, in the Debate several cases of the kind mentioned were raised and the exemption was put in in order to cover them all. Of course, the exemption will only cover bonâ-fide societies whose declared object is consistent with, the true object.