HC Deb 19 June 1925 vol 185 cc1005-24

I beg to move, in page 30, line 4, to leave out the words "concert or other entertainment," and to insert instead thereof "orchestral performance."

If this Amendment be carried, three other consequential Amendments will be necessary. Perhaps this is the most controversial item we have to consider. Under the existing law a local authority can provide band concerts and incur expenditure up to a sum not exceeding the produce of a penny rate. This Bill, however, provides that expenditure in this respect may be incurred up to a two-penny rate, and that, in addition to band concerts, they may incur expenses for other entertainments. Then comes a number of paragraphs intended to regulate the conditions of the other entertainment. It was felt by some of the Members of the Committee upstairs that this was going too far, and that ample provision is already made in every town for other entertainments, and therefore it seemed unfair that the providers of other entertainments should be rated in order to provide competition against themselves.

When this matter was discussed before the discussion took place on a day when the attendance at the Committee was not as full as it might otherwise have been, because of the late proceedings in this Chamber, and we were by no means a full Committee, an Amendment of a similar character to this was put to the Vote on the Committee and defeated by 16 votes to 13. In view of that fact, it seemed to be desirable that this question should be raised before the whole House, because it involves a very definite principle. I am inclined to think that the Committee was influenced very considerably by a statement by the Noble Lord (Lord E. Percy) as to what had been done in the other place when he pointed out that some municipalities already possessed these powers, and he said they were possessed by no less than 14 or 15 municipalities. On looking into the matter a little more closely, I find that the powers possessed by those other municipalities are in many cases very limited. The Hastings Corporation, acting for a town which we are told is in the very van of progress, obtained an Act of Parliament only last year to extend their powers, and naturally as a seaside resort they were desirous, and legitimately so, of having greater powers in the way of entertainments than an ordinary borough. In Clause 124 of the Bill they promoted it is true that they obtained certain powers for the provision of entertainments, but Parliament did not take last year the same view with regard to the Hastings Corporation powers that the Noble Lord himself took the other day. Sub-section (5) of the Hastings Corporation Act provides that Nothing in this Section shall enable the Corporation themselves to use any concert hall, pavilion, winter garden or assembly room erected under the powers of this Act for a performance at such places by a professional company of performers, or enable the Corporation to carry on there in the business of a cinema theatre. In view of the fact that the constituency which the Noble Lord represents was not granted last year the powers he is now seeking to confer upon all municipalities—provided the Minister of Health agrees, because this Clause falls in a section of the Bill which can only be applied provided the sanction of the Minister of Health is obtained—nevertheless this provision would confer upon all municipal authorities in this country certain powers which last year Parliament definitely decided should not be conferred upon the Corporation of Hastings. The views of the Members of the last Parliament on matters connected with municipal trading were not quite the same as the views of the Members of the present Parliament, and if a Parliament like the last, which was much more friendly to municipal trading, was unwilling to confer these powers, then I do not think they should be conferred by a side wind in the way which is now proposed. For the reasons I have mentioned, and because it is not fair to the promoters of entertainments, and those employed by them, that they should be prejudiced by this Clause as it stands, I desire to move the Amendment which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Blackpool (Sir W. de Frece).

Colonel APPLIN

My name is not on the Order Paper to-day, but I put down this Amendment in Committee, and I am afraid that the Committee upstairs failed to realise the great importance of it. It affects in a very material manner th6 whole of the theatrical profession, and particularly the provincial actor, the provincial music hall performer, and those artists who earn a precarious living by touring throughout the provinces and visiting our smaller cities and towns.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)

Does the hon. Member second the Amendment?

Colonel APPLIN

Yes, I beg to second the Amendment.

Their living is one got very hardly in the very best of times and if they are to be subjected to competition from the municipality or local authority who have at their disposal without any rent the public park or other public place, where at the expense of the people they have railed off a portion or possibly built a bandstand or a stage for the purposes of public performances, a part of the expense of which they are able to pay out of the rate which they are permitted to levy, the chances of the provincial actor, the pierrot company, or the music hall performer of getting an engagement in that town will be very small indeed. This strikes at the very roots of our touring theatrical profession. It might very easily close down small theatres and music halls in our provincial towns. I have here a letter which I received this morning and which will confirm what I am saying. It is from the Theatrical Managers' Association, and they say:— The theatrical interests have already protested to the Prime Minister in writing; they do not accept the suggestion of the Ministry that 15 boroughs possess these powers under the Bill. They contend that where they do there is in nearly every case serious friction if the municipality tries to exercise these powers, and they assert, finally, that, if you extend these powers unsolicited to the hundreds of local authorities all over the country, you will be sowing very serious seeds of friction, and will undoubtedly be leading to unemployment among the staffs of the many houses of entertainment which even now can hardly carry on. That is sent by the Parliamentary representative of the Theatrical Managers Association. I would appeal to the House and to the Noble Lord opposite to consider this matter very seriously. There is no doubt that this will give power to a municipality to compete, not on fair but on unfair terms by reason of the subsidy out of the rate, with ordinary providers of amusements in our towns throughout the country, and for this reason I do beg the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, before this is done, to give the matter his very earnest consideration, and, if possible, to cancel this particular Clause.


I oppose this Amendment. I agree that the question had very careful consideration in Committee, and, while there was not a good attendance there, all the parties were fairly represented and took part in the discussion It was a reasonably long discussion considering the business that was before the Committee. The Mover of the Amendment says that the Bill goes too far. Let us see how far it really goes. It is surprising that hon. Members should get up and talk so long and say so much about small points of this description and make it appear that a tremendous number of people are going to be injured The Clause gives a local authority power to provide or contribute towards providing any concert or other entertainment given in the park or pleasure ground. Surely the time has gone for this kind of talk about this going too far. For a considerable number of years now local authorities have had the power by Act of Parliament to provide band performances. The same arguments used to be stated against municipalities providing band performances in the park, but will anyone get up now and say that these performances should not be provided? The opponents of this Clause themselves say that they will be pleased for the municipalities to continue to provide the class of performance that they have been providing. At the outset, it was objected that it was going to compete with musicians and would impede the progress of private enterprise. Why have hon. Members changed their opinions? It is because the local authorities have provided this class of entertainment and the people have rallied round and supported them in doing so. The ratepayers in the district are in favour of the Clause contained in the Bill, and they entirely agree that local authorities should have the power to provide these entertainments.

This is an agreed Bill and this particular Clause had the careful consideration of all the people interested before it was brought before the House. All parties are agreed that the experiment of providing entertainments and band performances has proved successful and that there is a need to extend it. The inhabitants and the ratepayers of the district are supporting the local authorities, and therefore it has been agreed by all parties that this should be brought before the House. The last speaker said something with regard to competition. These entertainments are given in the open air at a time when there is not very much employment for people who are usually engaged in providing entertainments in stuffy rooms. This Clause would allow the local authorities to engage those people who are thrown out of employment because of people refusing to go into stuffy rooms during the weather we have been having, and, therefore, it will relieve the unemployed musician, and. I think that that ought to be one of the main reasons why this House should refuse this Amendment. Is this House afraid to leave it to the local authorities to decide what kind of entertainments they will arrange? It is certain that no local authority will ever attempt to arrange any kind of entertainment that will compete with any of the people about whom the last speaker has been talking. The people in the different districts want this to be done, and they have put their case before those responsible for this Bill. It has been agreed by all parties that this power ought to be granted to local authorities, and I hope that on these grounds the House will turn this Amendment down.


I regret—or rather I should say I am pleased—that I cannot accept this Amendment. We tried in Committee to meet the opposition in every way possible, and we did agree that instead of a 2d. rate being allowed, it should be 1d. I suggest to the House that no corporation will be able to provide very much competition with the legitimate theatrical and music hall proprietors on a 1d. rate, but I am prepared even now to meet them a little, because none of us desire that corporations should produce stage plays or be proprietors of cinemas. If the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) will accept my suggestion that he should leave in the word "concert" and leave out the words "or other entertainment," I think I might, on behalf of the promoters of the Bill, be prepared to accept the Amendment.

I should like to point out that the opposition to this particular Clause has certainly, as has been already stated, been engineered by the theatrical managers. They are very fearful as to the future of their industry. They fear the competition of corporations, who have a 1d. rate with which to do it. I suggest that the real trouble of that industry is that there is too much competition amongst themselves. There has been overbuilding of these places, and any competition from the corporations has not very much bearing on the case. I have friends in that business, and am very sympathetic towards their point of view, but I think they need not worry too much about this question of competition from corporations. I heard one of them grumble about the considerable competition he received from the last General Election, when people, instead of going into his cinemas, were going to political meetings; and I have heard them grumble considerably at the competition from the sunshine, and pray and hope for wet weather so that they may get a lot of people in. I do not think, therefore, that we ought to take too much notice of that opposition.

I notice that this Amendment was really down in the name of the hon. Member for Blackpool (Sir W. de Frece), and I might point out that Ashton-under-Lyne, in which division the hon. Member had some interest at one time, has these powers, and Lytham St. Anne's also has this power. I would suggest, therefore, that, if my hon. Friend went to his own constituency and suggested that they should not have the same powers as Lytham St. Anne's, which is a neighbouring town, they would not like it very much. Bearing in mind the fact that this Bill altogether is a consolidating Bill, to give to all local authorities general powers that are now enjoyed by some, I think this Clause should stand. If the hon. Member for Reading is prepared to accept my suggestion, I think we might settle the matter in a way that would be satisfactory to all parties.


I do not think my hon. Friend's suggestion is satisfactory. The word "concert" is such a wide one, judging by all the concerts I have attended at one time and another, that I think every kind of entertainment might be brought under the heading of a concert.


The definition of the word "concert" in the dictionary is A musical entertainment in which several voices or instruments take part. I do not think, therefore, that my hon. Friend need worry about that.


The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) rightly said, when he moved this Amendment, that the subject was a controversial one. I can assure him that it is a very controversial subject, as I shall endeavour to show. We on these benches are very keen to see that the Bill as it stands now shall go through in so far as it covers this point. I should like to ask the hon. Member for Reading a question. He never explained to us where the hon. Member for Blackpool (Sir W. de Frece) is to-day—


May I explain that my hon. Friend's wife is rather seriously unwell, and that is the cause of his absence?


I am sure we are all very sorry to hear that. I want to bring this subject down to a concrete basis. I happen to live in Manchester, and the Corporation of that city is a very progressive one. It provides the citizens of Manchester with music, and, moreover, what is important, music that is other than orchestral music. It not only pro- vides bands in the parks—the best bands in the country, and the best bands in the country, by the way, happen to come from my own Division—but it provides choirs, male, female and mixed, and also children's choirs. I would ask, since when has it come about that this House should have more regard for profit-making shareholders in the entertainment business than for the welfare of the whole community? The hon. Member for Reading said we ought to accept his Amendment because some ratepayers would be providing entertainment against themselves. I do not know who owns the many entertainment places in my city, but I dare venture to say that a number of the owners do not reside in Manchester at all. Their whole concern with entertainment places is not so much to provide entertainment for the citizens of Manchester, but to invest their money in these concerns in order that they may make a profit out of the people. The same applies, I suppose, to all cities and towns in the country.

I would go further, taking Manchester again as an example. If this Amendment were carried, the Noble Lord the President of the Board of Education may find his Department in a difficulty. Every secondary school provides an entertainment occasionally, which is very often orchestral, but there are other schools whose pupils provide other kinds of entertainments. They provide, for instance, entertainments by playing pieces from Shakespeare and other authors. If we allow this Amendment to be carried, I foresee that every education authority in the land will be in a difficulty, unless, of course, the 1d. rate mentioned in the Bill would cover the cost of the entertainment, or a collection or admission charge was taken in connection with these entertainments. The Noble Lord shakes his head, but I happen to have been a member of a city council for 10 years, and I know full well that it does not matter very much what interpretation is placed upon a piece of law in this House; it is the interpretation placed upon it by the majority of the local council that matters very often. Let me pass on to another phase of the question. I should like to ask the Mover of the Amendment what he means by orchestral music? I have looked up the dictionaries in the House—and they are many—as to the meaning of the term "orchestra." I do not know whether he knows more about music than I do. He is a fellow Welshman, and we are supposed to know a lot. I find that the meaning of orchestra is: a space in which the chorus dances. I take it that if we took the meaning of orchestra from a dictionary, this Amendment would have no avail at all in law because, when the Judges came to decide what was orchestral music, they would find themselves in a quandary unless they were musically inclined, and I have never heard of a Judge who was musically inclined.

We are to-day faced with the old problem as to whether the community shall prevail against the interests of individuals within the community. This question has been fought over and over again. The arguments used to-day against the extension of the powers of local authorities in this connection were used a quarter of a century ago when the local authorities wanted to undertake the task of providing gas, electricity, water, roads, education and all manner of things for the community. I venture to prophesy that it matters very little what this or the next Government thinks about the issue, the municipalities of this land will continue to extend their operations even to provide for the people entertainment and enjoyment irrespective of the opposition of those who desire to make profits for themselves.

A local authority can, after all, secure better performers than a private company. How many private firms running entertainments have become bankrupt and left their playing companies without anything to meet even their train fare home? Every company, every band and every choir engaged by a municipality is paid for its services, and hon. Members in this House to-day will live long enough to see that municipalities will undertake a still greater part of this work than they have done in the past.

I was very sorry the hon. Member in charge of the Bill gave way at all in this connection. I will return again to the case of the Manchester Corporation. It has recently bought the Free Trade Hall at a cost, I think, of about £70,000, and it provides entertainments of the best quality at about half the cost of that provided by private companies. Let me give an example, because we have to speak from experience of the problem. I telephoned last Christmas for seats for a performance of Handel's "Messiah," and the cheapest seat I could get was 7s. I retorted rather angrily that if the "Messiah" knew that such a charge would in 1924 be placed upon a musical performance of His life, He would never have come to the earth at all.

We are determined on these benches to secure for municipalities the same power to provide entertainments for the people as private capitalists. I feel sure, though I speak for myself, that I can carry every Member on this side of the House with me; and if the Government will not allow the Clause to stand as it is now worded and accept the Amendment we shall go to a division.

I fail to understand the philosophy, the idea, the notion, that has grown on some people that in providing entertainments of any kind all you must have regard for is whether those who provide them will suffer a loss or not. Let me ask what consideration do those people give to the community? I live in a district in my city where the theatre is a good distance away. If I want to hear music I must go to a public park, and I prefer going to the public park. The corporation provides music and calls for a payment for admission, and so far as I know the whole cost is met that way. But I want to lay it down as a principle in municipal affairs that where a corporation decides to do anything for its citizens it shall be entitled to do it by subsidy out of the rates if it so desires. We had a Debate when this Bill was before the House on a previous occasion, on Second Reading, on the question of the title of a municipality to allow free admission to public baths. What is there wrong in a municipality providing public baths free of charge to its citizens? It does so now for school children, and rightly so, because not only is it a question of cleanliness, it is also a question of education, to teach boys and girls how to swim and to behave and discipline themselves. This matter has been fought over and over again. I have seen Resolutions carried in the House against municipalisation, and against nationalisation, but in spite of all the protests and of all that has been written against the idea, municipalisation grows, and in regard to the provision of public enter- tainments by municipal authorities I am prepared to see the day coming when the municipality arranges all manner and types of entertainment, if it so desires, on behalf of its citizens, and I object to the Amendment.


The speech we have just heard may be a very fine statement of principle and faith, but I do not know that it particularly contributes towards the task of getting a very complicated and a very important public health Measure like this through the House of Commons. After all, you cannot get a Measure of this size through the House of Commons unless it is an agreed Measure. This has been an agreed Measure, and I hope hon. Members opposite will not use it as an opportunity for giving us lectures about municipalisation, an issue which is really not raised by the Clause or necessarily by the Amendment. Really, the issue involved is not as to whether municipalities should go in for these entertainments. It is whether you should allow a municipality a reasonable latitude to entertain people in their parks, and only in their parks, with some other form of entertainment than a band. The promoters of the Bill and the Ministry have had to deal with numbers of these points where different interests have to be considered, and we have done it with perfect success and we have produced a very useful Bill. Unfortunately the representatives of the theatrical managers and entertainers never took any interest in it till the last moment, and we have had no opportunity of discussing this thing with them. The difficulty is that I really do not think the theatrical industry understands the purpose or effect of the Clause. What they are trying to do by this Amendment is to rule out what they call orchestral music, whatever that may mean. That does not merely prevent a local authority from providing an entertainment of another kind. It prevents them from contributing towards such an entertainment. It prevents them from letting the park or ground to any person for the purpose of providing the same. It prevents them from letting their park or even giving their park for the purpose of charges to be made for a company which is to give an open-air play.

If you give a local authority some latitude for allowing the use of public places for the purpose of entertainment, you will make the lot of the entertainment profession rather easier. I rather doubt from some of the speeches that I have heard and some of the Amendments which have been put down, whether the people who are opposing this Clause are the actors and the actresses and the managers concerned; whether it is in their interest that the Amendment has been put down, or whether it is in the interests of the people who have halls or theatres which they wish to let. That is a very different proposition. It seems to me that an Amendment of this kind should have some logical basis. It is logical to say you may have no form of entertainment, but it is not logical to say. "You may provide a band and we will make the band sound nicer by calling it an orchestra. You may provide brass instruments or string instruments for the amusement of the people, but you may not provide a park for the purpose. You may not give an opportunity for the various local choirs in the West Riding of Yorkshire, for instance, to come together in one of the parks and give an entertainment."

Is it not rather absurd that where there are associations of professional actors and actresses, such as the association for which Miss Lena Ashwell has done so much in providing Shakespearean plays in the poorer parts of London, that you should not allow these people to give an open-air entertainment in one of the parks, although you may facilitate their taking a hall or a theatre. We wish to facilitate that kind of entertainment. Nobody proposes, as a matter of practical politics, that local authorities should go into the business of cinema or entertainment providers in the parks. The bark of the hon. Member for West Houghton (Mr. Rhys Davies) is a good deal worse than his bite. He talks about municipalisation, but he does not want to be a cinema proprietor himself.

Colonel DAY

Does the Noble Lord deal in this Clause with circuses that are sometimes provided in these public places?

2.0 P.M.


Yes, there is the question of circuses. I do not think any local authority wants to provide them. We have had no opportunity of consultation with the Opposition on this Clause, as we have had on other Clauses. I agree with the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) that there is a good deal to be said for the Amendment which was put into the Hastings Corporation Bill. That had escaped my attention in Committee the other day. That is the only case where any such restriction has been put in.


It is the most recent.


Does the hon. Member suggest that that restriction has anything to do with this Clause? It prevents the Hastings Corporation from using concert halls, pavilions, conservatories, winter gardens and assembly rooms. This Clause deals with parks. I suggest that the hon. Member should withdraw this Amendment now, and consult with the promoters of the Bill and the Ministry of Health between now and the time when this Bill goes to another place. We should be perfectly prepared to work out with them a proviso, the principle of which I would suggest on the lines of the latter part of the Hastings Clause, namely, that this Bill should not authorise any local authorities themselves to carry on the business of a cinema or the business of a theatre. I do not think that we ought in an agreed Bill like this to launch out into giving powers to local authorities to become the regular owners and managers of theatres. That is a thing that a local authority might ask for itself under a local Act, but it is not the sort of thing that we should put into a Bill like this. I appeal to my hon. Friend to consult with me and the promoters of the Bill with a view to the insertion in another place of a proviso of the kind I have suggested. We can work out an agreed proviso, and the Government will be prepared to put an Amendment down. If we fail to agree, my hon. Friend could perhaps get it moved in another place. I feel certain that we shall be able to get an agreed Clause.


I cannot say that I am altogether satisfied as a Member of this House who was not a Member of the Committee with the proposal that the Noble Lord has just put before the House, and for the reasons which he has given. He spoke of a special reservation in the recent Act of the Hastings Corporation. What we have to consider in this House is the legislation which this particular Bill proposes to consolidate. This particular Clause refers to the Public Health Acts. Amendment Act, 1907, and I find there that in Section 76, paragraph (d), the powers given by Parliament are quite definite. They are: To provide or contribute towards the expenses of any band of music to perform in the park or grounds. The Noble Lord said that this Amendment proposed an orchestra, whatever that might be. A band of music means something quite clear and which we understand. Any other form of music or entertainment is not authorised under the Public Health Act Amendment Act, 1907. I ask the House to go a step further in this same Section. The next paragraph says that the public authority is authorised to enclose any part of the park or ground not exceeding an acre for the convenience of persons listening to the band music and charge admission thereto. That means an open-air concert for a band of music, but in paragraph (g) it is stated that they may provide or maintain a reading room pavilion or other building and conveniences and charge for admission thereto subject in the case of a reading room to certain limitations. There are no limitations in regard to the buildings for other purposes. Therefore it is clear that without this Amendment any public authority would be empowered not only to enclose part of the public park but to erect a building and hold in it any form of entertainment.


May I point out that this Clause deals with Sub-section (1) of Section 76 of the Act of 1907?


Sub-section (1) is the only-one which I have quoted. These are the the provisos in Sub-section (1). The contention which I have made is as to the effect of this new Bill if unamended. We have been told again and again that this is simply a Bill for consolidation, an agreed Bill and so on. Then what is the justification for introducing here an Amendment to the existing law which would undoubtedly do what the hon. Member for West Houghton (Mr. Rhys Davies) candidly told the House it was the intention to do, namely, to enable the local authorities to provide in the public park any kind of entertainment which was given by any private enterprise at the present time. The hon. Member for Southwark mentioned circuses, an ominous reminder of the classic example of another Empire that went in the same direction. It is another instance of panem et circenses. A very large proportion of our population, through no fault of their own, are provided with bread, that they are given no opportunity under our existing industrial system of earning at the present time. This is a Bill which is said to be a mere consolidation Bill, but which is to provide the circuses at the public expense and every other kind of entertainment as well. The more things change the more it is the same thing. That is the translation of a very trite old French motto. It is very true. What is true of one Empire going down the hill will inevitably be true of another Empire nearly 2,000 years afterwards.

I do not agree with any compromise whatever on this question. This is a simple consolidation Bill, and the only justification for some 70 or 80 Clauses being put through this House on Report stage on Friday afternoon is that it does not propose any great change in the law. This particular proposal does provide a great change in the law. Stuffy rooms have been referred to just now. Why should we assume that these entertainments will be in the open park? I have just shown that there is nothing to prevent a local authority providing the appropriate stuffy rooms in the public park for every conceivable kind of entertainment which they may wish to give at the expense of the ratepayers. We are told by the hon. Member for Westhoughton that some of these providers of public entertainment are not resident in Manchester, but earn their profits in Manchester. If they earn their profits in Manchester they pay rates in Manchester, and it is unjust that the public authorities should use their rates in order to cut their throats. It is a new principle, and one to which I am not prepared to agree. Summer time and bands go well together, but to provide summer time cinemas and circuses in the buildings erected at the ratepayers' expense—

Colonel DAY

For the health and recreation of the public.


To keep them away from cricket and other outdoor games, and give them fresh incentives to youthful crime at the public expense, is a principle to which I will not subscribe. I hope that the mover of this Amendment will stand on his Amendment. I do not care about the substitution of the word "orchestra." The plain English word "band" is enough. Most people know what a band means as in the Act of 1907. I think it a pity that we do not stick to that simple word. There has been a, precedent for it for 18 years, but if "orchestra" is considered preferable, then stick to "orchestra" and cut out all other kinds of entertainment, and let those public authorities who want to give these other kinds of entertainments come to this House to get the specific power which I understand 17 authorities have already got. If I am here when other authorities come for similar powers to give all kinds of entertainments at the public expense without cost to those who are entertained, perhaps I may be able to do something to prevent the spread of the number of 17 to a vastly greater number, but here you are asked, in what purports to be a Consolidating Bill, to give power to every public authority throughout the country, without having to come to this House for power, to provide any kind of entertainment which it chooses in the open air or in buildings erected for the purpose in public parks provided with public money without the slightest consideration to those who have to earn their own living by the entertainment of the public.


We are after all discussing this Amendment, and I want to point out to the Minister of Education the great danger of accepting an Amendment so limited as this. I doubt very much whether it would be held by any Judge that a band composed solely of brass instruments is an orchestra. I come from a county where the brass band is not only an institution but a credit to the country and I have never heard a brass band described as an orchestra, so that our municipalities would be in the position, if this Amendment were carried, of having power to give orchestral concerts in the parks but not to have bands like the Black Dyke and the Besses o' th' Barn which have a reputation which is not only national but international. What a state of affairs it would be if, through the action of some private individual interest, a municipality were prevented from having these great bands in its parks.

In Lancashire there are many male voice choral societies composed of working men, nearly always singing music of the highest type. I may give an example. There are two towns in Lancashire, one with roughly 45,000 inhabitants and the other with roughly 25,000 inhabitants. In one of these towns, that with 45,000 inhabitants, a few years ago the working men's choral society went to a competition in Wales and beat the whole of the crack Welsh choirs, with Welsh judges, which made it all the more extraordinary. That choir returned home and was itself beaten by the smaller town with 25,000 population, so that the conquerors of the Welsh choirs were not even the best choir in their own county. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. A. Greenwood) represents both the towns. It was Nelson that beat the Welsh choirs and Colne that beat the Nelson choir. What a comedy it would be to find that the Colne Corporation or the Nelson Corporation was prevented—


May I point out that Clause 55 adds to the powers contained in Section 76 of the Public Health Amendment Act, 1907, which gives the power for these bands to play, and in future orchestral performances could be given in addition.


This Amendment is evidently intended to prevent anything except an orchestral performance.


My hon. Friend is right in stating that the effect of this Amendment would be that the only additional power, beyond having a band, that the local authority would have would be to provide an orchestra. It would not take away their power to provide a band.


Would this, or would it not, prevent a choral performance and a concert in a public park?


It would certainly prevent a choral performance, but not a band.


Then I am opposed to it absolutely and irrevocably. I am opposed to anything that will limit the power of a municipality to give a high-class concert of any kind in its public parks. Rather do I think the municipalities ought to be encouraged, particularly on fine Sunday afternoons, to give concerts to those who unfortunately are not able to indulge in the games that their wealthier friends are accustomed to play. There can surely be nothing better in this country than to encourage the taste for high-class music, which does not exist in any one class, but which is inborn in the Lancashire people, as it is in the Welsh. Surely it is the one thing we ought to help the municipalities to do above all other things. I would prefer the pressure to be the other way, and that the municipalities should be pressed to provide good music in the public parks on a Sunday afternoon. Those who know well the working people's life in Lancashire know that an average young man or young woman will inevitably find some means of amusement, particularly in the summer time. It is not only good for the health of the people, but in another way altogether, that the entertainment provided should be of the highest possible type, and unquestionably this Amendment is intended to limit the capacity of the municipalities to do what is being done in almost every town in Lancashire now, and that is to give really high-class musical entertainments, or concerts of a mixed character, which are good for the people, good for the town, good for health, and good for morals. Therefore, if the Amendment is pressed, I shall have the pleasure of going into the Lobby against it.

Commander C. WILLIAMS

I find myself in a difficult position. I have listened to almost the whole of the Debate, and after explanations and counter-explanations from both sides, am no nearer a solution. I certainly think the Amendment goes very much too far. I want to see a reasonable amount of encouragement in these matters. Again, unless I have very clear and definite advice from the legal advisers of the Government to the contrary, I think the words as they stand in the Clause are equally going too far in the other direction. I would like to see choral performances and local things of a standing character, like the old folk dances, as well as ordinary musical performances, encouraged, and that is why I am against the Amendment. I would like to see these things encouraged in every possible way, but, as I say, the Clause as it stands goes too far in the other direction. We know what some of the local authorities are. Some are fairly good and some are fairly bad, like the rest of the world; but I would like to see their powers limited in this respect. There is a form of infliction, which comes from somewhere north of England, which is called the bagpipes. Are they to be allowed to play all over the country? They are certainly not an entertainment or a concert, and I believe they are a bad form of joke which the Scotsmen have never discovered to be a joke.

Colonel DAY

It is a matter of opinion.

Commander WILLIAMS

The hon. and gallant Member says it is a matter of opinion, but it cannot be. I do not think any Englishman can seriously consider that it is musical, and that it is a concert or an entertainment of any sort. [An HON. MEMBER: "They play for the Guards."] They are extremely fine, but that suits its particular conditions. I disagree entirely with those who say that the Welsh people are really a very highly musical race. I do not think they are. I think that English people are very much more musical in every way. They copy us to a certain extent, and they come down here and talk rather more loudly, and have not got the nice, retiring disposition of the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw), who has just sat down, and I do not think they ought to take that line at all. I say clearly that before we come to a decision on this Amendment we ought to have it defined much more clearly than it is at the present time.


In view of the statement of the Noble Lord, I think it would be desirable that I should withdraw my Amendment, in order that the matter may be thoroughly thrashed out in conference, to see if some form of words cannot be arrived at which will be mutually agreeable. My difficulty is that I have not been acting specifically on behalf of anyone. In Committee, on my own initiative, I put down an Amendment to omit Clause 55, and after that I received communications from various interested parties; but I am not acting for anybody, and in view of the noble Lord's statement, I think an appropriate Amendment can be moved in another place, and I will ask leave to withdraw mine now.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


The next Amendment on the paper, in page 30, line 28, to leave out the words "one penny" and to insert instead thereof the words "twopence," is out of Order, because it would involve an increased charge on the rates.