HC Deb 21 March 1923 vol 161 cc2560-1

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the unemployment in the country, he can state the circumstances in which foreign troupes of artistes and foreign bands are allowed into the country?


I have received many communications on this subject. To save time I hope I may be allowed to make a short statement. In view of the severe unemployment in this country, it clearly is not desirable to allow aliens to come here freely, and take up work for which suitable British labour is available; and Section 1 (3) (b) of the Aliens Order imposes a duty on me to see that this does not happen. On the other hand, adequate provision for entertainment is a necessary part of national life. The entertainment industry depends very largely upon the introduction of new and varied talent, whether from this country or from abroad. A successful theatre company or variety troupe assists to provide employment, not only for the artistes, but also for large numbers of supernumerary persons, the great majority of whom are, of course, British. On this account, therefore, I usually grant permits to theatre or music hall managers who desire to bring in a foreign company or troupe of artistes to give a stage performance for a limited period here, in the same manner as British artistes go to foreign countries for the same purpose. In the case of foreign bands, including those who come to play dance music, somewhat different considerations apply, though even here I do not think I should be justified in trying to enforce an absolute embargo.

In order, however, to ensure a reasonable opportunity for British musicians to secure employment I have worked out a scheme with leading restaurant and hotel proprietors in London, such as the Savoy and the Berkeley, whereby alien bands may be admitted on condition that an additional number of British musicians equivalent to the foreign band are taken on usually as an integral part of the band, thereby giving them an opportunity of employment and training if necessary. I also insist, generally speaking, that an alien band already in the country shall leave before another alien band enters. These conditions have been accepted and are being operated by several leading restaurant and hotel proprietors and with the co-operation of the Musicians' Union. I have no reason to think that, given goodwill to make the beat use possible of the available British talent, these conditions interfere unduly with the development of the British entertainments industry.


Will this apply to Scotland in connection with pipe bands?

Captain A. EVANS

In view of the fact that the Minister of Labour tells us that entertainment is a part of our national life, will he represent his views to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, so as to get the Entertainments Duty reduced?


Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that he strikes a disparaging note when he suggests that one of the conditions of alien bands coming here is that they may assimilate a certain number of British musicians, who may use the opportunity as a source of training. Is that not an aspersion on the quality of British musicians?


Has the right hon. Gentleman taken any steps to see that there is complete harmony when the British musicians play with foreign musicians?