HC Deb 02 July 1923 vol 166 cc204-6

Section twelve of the Finance Act, 1922, which reduces the duties to be charged on certain negative cinematograph films, shall have effect as though for the condition requiring all the principal actors and artists employed for the production of a film to be British subjects and domiciled in Great. Britain or Northern Ireland there were substituted a condition requiring all such principal actors and artists, except five, or if the total number of the principal actors and artists is less than twenty not less than three-quarters of the principal actors and artists to be British subjects and domiciled as aforesaid, and for the purposes of the said Section twelve, as amended by this Section, the expression "artists" shall include the person working the photographic camera by means of which the pictures composing the film are taken.—[Mr. Gates.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


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

I put down this Clause at the instance of the British National Film League, the Chairman of which is an influential constituent of mine. The House may remember that by the Finance Act, 1919, a duty of 5d. a foot was placed on imported negative cinematograph films and one-third of a penny on blank films. The duty of 5d. a foot was found to be an oppressive tax, and Section 12 of the Finance Act, 1922, pro- vided that imported negative cinematograph films were to be admitted for the purpose of import duty as blank films at one-third of a penny a foot instead of 5d. a foot, provided that the producers and actors employed in the production were British subjects domiciled in the United Kingdom. This Amendment was intended to be of benefit to the British film industry, and they were informed that the construction of the Statute would be a beneficial one to them. Unfortunately, that has not proved to be the case, and the construction passed upon the Statute by the Customs and Excise has been somewhat of a restrictive nature.

I will give the House a case which happened the other day. A British film company, with British directors and shareholders, sent out a company of 12 persons to Venice in order to produce the exterior scenes of a film there. Every member of the company, from the producers downwards, was British After a week in Venice, one of the company, owing to circumstances beyond the control of the company, returned to England, and it became necessary to employ an Italian to complete the caste. On the arrival of the film in England, objection was taken at once by the Customs and Excise because one of the characters had been played by a foreigner, and the company were asked to pay duty at the rate of 5d. a foot, amounting to about £600. Objection was at once taken by the company, and the matter was referred to the Board of Customs and Excise. Sir Horace Hamilton wrote that it was clear that the employment of any foreigner as a principal actor to assist in the production of a film must debar any claim for relief under Section 12 of the Act of 1922. It was felt that that interpretation was very bad upon the British film companies, and that they were placed under a serious handicap, for, as the House knows, there is immense competition with the American film industry. In America only one per cent. of British films are released, a very different state of things from that obtaining in this country, where the percentage of American films released is very considerable. The object of a British film company in sending a company abroad is to get local colour and scenery and some local inhabitants.


I am quite sure the hon. Member does not wish to take up the time of the House, and I shall be prepared to accept the Amendment if he will unreel himself now.


I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend, and I would like to extend to him the thanks of the British National Film League and of myself for his courtesy.

Major M. WOOD

I beg to second the Motion.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.