HC Deb 03 July 1928 vol 219 cc1191-200

As from the fifth day of July, nineteen hundred and twenty-eight, entertainments duty within the meaning of the Finance (New Duties) Act, 1926, shall he charged at the rate set out in the Fourth Schedule to this Act.—[Mr. Day.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


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

I am afraid that, while we shall have the sympathy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in regard to this proposed new Clause, we shall not have his support. [Interruption.] I understand from my hon. Friends on this side that the right hon. Gentleman is in a very generous mood and may go so far as to accept the new Schedule that we suggest. I know that in the past he has said that he is in favour of the abolition of this tax, which is an unjust tax principally because it is a tax on turnover. Had it not been for the remission which was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, I have no doubt that many music halls and theatres would have had to close long since. This tax is a tax on the purse and pockets of the public, and is paid, not only by the public, but by the proprietors and managers of theatres and cinemas in this country. I see by the approval that is expressed by the hon. Member for Kingston-on-Thames (Mr. Penny) that, although he may not support us in the Lobby, he at least agrees with us in principle. I know that many hon. Gentlemen on the Government benches agree that the tax should be entirely abolished, because on several occasions in the Committee rooms upstairs—[Interruption]—I should think that well over 50 per cent. of the hon. Gentlemen who support the Chancellor of the Exchequer have already stated, not only to their constituents but in the Committee rooms upstairs when meetings have been held in previous years, that they were in favour of the abolition of this tax.

The duty has operated extremely harshly on owners and managers in the entertainment industry in this country. Their expenses all round have been more than doubled, while they have not been able to increase the prices charged for admission. They have had to contend with enormous opposition, and the anomalies which have worked against them have been such that I think the time has come when the entertainment industry should at least have fair treatment. We can see in the West End of London at the present time many cabarets where first-class music hall and theatrical artists appear, and where no Entertainments Duty is charged, but, when those same artists appear in a music hall or theatre, the public have to pay Entertainments Duty on the price of admission. That is an anomaly which should be removed, and the only possible way to remove it is to do away with the Entertainments Duty altogether. We are not going quite so far as that to-day, but we ask the Chancellor to accept the Schedule that we propose. This duty, when it was introduced, was introduced solely as a Wartime measure, and it was announced by the right hon. Gentleman who introduced it that, as soon as the War was over, the tax would be remitted or abolished. I suggest that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, I am sorry to say, has left his place, should support the Schedule that we are proposing. I see that the hon. Member for Forth Portsmouth (Sir B. Folle) is laughing. I wonder whether he will go back to his constituency and laugh at the working men and women who have to pay the tax.


I was laugh ing at the hon. Member's idea of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


I do not know why the hon. and gallant Gentleman should laugh at my idea, of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, in his speeches before he occupied his present position, stated that he was not in favour of the tax, and that at the earliest opportunity he would do his best to see that it was abolished. That was the pledge that he gave, and it is a pledge that has been given also by many hundreds of Members of the House of Commons, who, however, have not the pluck or the moral courage to go into the Lobby and support it. I sincerely hope that some of the hon. Gentlemen who have given this pledge will now, many years after the introduction of the tax, have the courage to support the speeches that they have made in their constituencies.


I think that the hon. Gentleman who has moved this Clause also moved it in 1926 and 1927, and, therefore, he knows the arguments which wore used against it then. I am afraid that we must advance the same arguments against it to-day. As I read the Schedule that is proposed in conjunction with this Clause, it seems that the hon. Member desires to reduce the Entertainments Duty on admission payments up to 5s. 6d. This would cost the Exchequer not less than £1,000,000 in the year 1928–29, and probably £1,350,000 in a full year. Of that amount, £800,000 would represent relief in respect of admission payments up to 1s. 3d., and these small admission charges have already benefited to the extent of £4,000,000 yearly by the remissions made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) in 1924. I also find a statement made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in resisting the same proposal in 1926–27. To paraphrase what he said, he expressed dislike of the duty in principle, and indicated that any relief that he would propose if and when the money was available would be in the direction of extending the remissions made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley in 1924 to all charges for admission, in order to cover the more highly priced seats in theatres. I may also draw the hon. Member's attention to the Minority Report of the Colwyn Committee, which is the best answer I can give him. This is what they say: We recommend, therefore, that subject to the needs of fresh expenditure, any future surplus of revenue should be devoted to the abolition primarily of the food duties, and thereafter of the duties upon entertainments and upon artificial silk. I regret that I am unable to accept the Clause.


No one on this side of the Committee would seek to dispute the spirit of that passage from the Colwyn Committee's Report which the hon. Gentleman has quoted, because, quite clearly, if remissions of taxation were to be given, they should be given first of all on foodstuffs and kindred commodities, and then on other articles which might be ranked either among the necessaries or the conventional necessaries of life. The object of this Clause is to draw attention to a certain feature of the Entertainments Duty, and also to plead that, even in existing conditions at the Exchequer, there is a case for further remission of the duty charged on the cheaper classes of seats. In the midst of this industrial and social stress a certain amount of entertainment is necessary and desirable, and there cannot be the least doubt that this charge falls very unequally, and even heavily, upon very poor sections of the community. I do not press it beyond that point to-day, but I pass immediately to another, and I think an even more important consideration. This is a tax on turnover, and if we are to embark upon turnover taxes, more particularly in the realm of entertainment, we should try to see that they bear some relationship to one another. I will take for a moment, if it is not irrelevant and an indiscretion, the Betting Duty by way of comparison. I suppose many Members would describe that as a tax upon a form of entertainment, though many others would not so regard it. That duty is between 2½ per cent. and 3 per cent. on the turnover, but when we pass to this other form of entertainment, the duty is between 17 per cent. and 20 per cent. If the Entertainments Duty is to settle down to a more or less permanent proposition, it is plain that an inequality and an unfairness of that kind must be remitted at the earliest possible moment and, accordingly, though the Government will no doubt reject this Clause, I hope they will say whether they propose to make an inquiry into that very great difference in the incidence of what is a turnover tax applied to different classes of entertainment.


I fancy the Financial Secretary must be hard put to it for an argument against the remission of this duty when he bases his refusal to accept the Clause on the Report of the Colwyn Committee. Will he explain why he shelters himself behind such a Report when he has given remission of taxation to the agricultural interest amounting to roughly £5,000,000, or £1,500,000 more than it would require to adopt this Clause? That, surely, is something he did not take into consideration when he framed the argument he has placed before us. I should imagine it would be more to the interest of the people, particularly in large cities, to have a remission of this tax. The hon. Gentleman also said the Chancellor of the Exchequer was opposed to the tax on principle. I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman is not here, because last year, speaking against a similar proposal, he said he disliked the duty and shared the prejudices of hon. Members against it. He could not then see his way to accept the Amendment, which would have cost him £3,500,000. That was a year ago. This year the Chancellor had a surplus to dispose of. He has disposed of it, and he has also brought in proposals for levying fresh duties upon the community in order to provide some £28,000,000 or £30,000,000 for specific purposes. Those purposes include subsidising industries that are in a particularly good way. If he is doing that, surely he can afford to accept this Clause. I have an Amendment later on. I am not quite certain whether you, Sir, will regard this discussion as including the whole of the arguments for and against a remission of the duty.


I do not think time will permit of two discussions on the question of the Entertain ments Duty. The hon. Member had better say now what he has to say.


I was under that impression and I was taking time by the forelock. The Financial Secretary has simply repeated what the Chancellor himself said last year. No fresh reasons have been adduced why this remission cannot be given. The people are crying out for it. The people who own picture houses are calling out for it. The only party, I should imagine, that is not really insisting upon it is the section representing the West-end theatres of London, where the prices of seats are beyond those that this Clause proposes to touch. They are keen enough on the abolition of the tax, but they are not so keen on this Clause, because it conveys nothing to them in the way of remission of duty. If the Chan-

cellor of the Exchequer has so much money this year that he can throw it about for the benefit of firms that are making very large profits and dispensing bonus shares, surely he could have gone into the matter a little more scientifically and used part of the money at his disposal to abolish this duty. I hope the hon. Gentleman will convey our views to his Chief, and acquaint him that the opposition to the tax is as virile and persistent as it was 12 months ago and if he is not prepared to accept this Clause I hope he will himself bring forward a proposal on Report, to give some remission of duty to the entertainments industry.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 138; Noes, 227.

Division No. 229.] AYES. [4.43 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Hardie, George D. Runciman, Hilda (Cornwall, St. Ives)
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Hayday, Arthur Runciman, Rt. Han. Walter
Amman, Charles George Hayes, John Henry Saklatvala, Shapurji
Attlee, Clement Richard Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bllston) Hirst, G. H. Scrymgeour, E.
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Scurr, John
Barnes, A. Hollins, A. Sexton, James
Batey, Joseph Hore-Belisha, Leslie Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Bondfield, Margaret Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Briant, Frank Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Shinwell, E.
Broad, F. A. John, William (Rhondda, West) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Bromfield, William Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Calthness)
Bromley, J. Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Sitch, Charles H.
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Buchanan, G. Junes, Morgan (Caerphilly) Smillie, Robert
Cape, Thomas Jones, T. I. Hardy (Pontypridd) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhiths)
Charleton, H. C. Jones, W. N. (Carmarthen) Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Cluse, W. S. Kelly, W. T. Snell, Harry
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Kennedy, T. Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Connolly, M. Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Stamford, T. W.
Cove, W. G. Lawrence, Susan Stephen, Campbell
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Lindley, F. W. Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Dalton, Hugh Livingstone, A. M. Strauss, E. A.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lowth, T. Sutton, J. E.
Day, Harry Lunn, William Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)
Dennison, R. Mac Donald, Rt. Hon, J. R. (Aberavon) Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Duckworth, John MacLaren, Andrew Thurtle, Ernest
Dunnlco, H. Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Tinker, John Joseph
Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington) Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I. Tomlinson, R. P.
Fenby, T. D. Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton) Varley, Frank B.
Forrest, W. March, S. Viant, S. P.
Gardner, J. P. Maxton, James Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Gibbins, Joseph Montague, Frederick Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Gillett, George M. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Gosling, Harry Mosley, Oswald Whiteley, W.
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Murnin, H. Wiggins, William Martin
Greenall, T. Naylor, T. E. Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Oliver, George Harold Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Palin, John Henry Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Griffith, F. Kingsley Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Windsor, Walter
Groves, T. Potts, John S. Wright, W.
Grundy, T. W. Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton Riley, Ben
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Ritson, J. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland) Mr. Paling and Mr. Charles Edwards.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Ganzoni, Sir John Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)
Albery, Irving James Gates, Percy Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Grant, Sir J. A. Nuttall, Ellis
Apsley, Lord Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Pennefather, Sir John
Aitbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W. Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Penny, Frederick George
Astor, Maj. Hn, John J. (Kent, Dover) Grotrian, H. Brent Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Hacking, Douglas H. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Hail, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) Pilcher, G.
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon Hammersley, S. S. Pilditch, Sir Philip
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Hanbury, C. Power, Sir John Cecil
Bennett, A. J. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Pownall, Sir Assheton
Bethel, A. Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent) Preston, William
Betterton, Henry B. Harrison, G. J. C. Price, Major C. W. M.
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton) Hartington, Marquess of Radford, E. A.
Blundell, F. N. Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Ramsden, E.
Boothby, R. J. G. Haslam, Henry C. Remer, J. R.
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.
Brass, Captain W. Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)
Brassey, Sir Leonard Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell
Briggs, J. Harold Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Ropner, Major L.
Briscoe, Richard George Henn, Sir Sydney H. Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.
Brittain, Sir Harry Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Salmon, Major I.
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Holt, Captain H. P. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Sandeman, N. Stewart
Buchan, John Hopkins, J. W. W. Sandon, Lord
Buckingham, Sir H. Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities) Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Bullock, Captain M. Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S. Savery, S. S.
Burman, J. B. Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K. Shepperson, E. W.
Burton, Colonel H. W. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Skelton, A. N.
Butler, Sir Geoffrey Hume, Sir G. H. Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine. C.)
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Hurd, Percy A. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Campbell, E. T. Iliffe. Sir Edward M. Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Iveagh, Countess of Sprot, Sir Alexander
Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.
Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.) James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon Cuthbert Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Chapman, Sir S. Jephcott, A. R. Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Kennedy, A. R. (Preston). Streatfeild, Captain S. R.
Christie, J. A. King, Commodore Henry Douglas Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Clarry, Reginald George Knox, Sir Alfred Templeton, W. P.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Lamb, J. O. Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R. Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell
Cohen, Major J. Brunel Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey Tinne, J. A.
Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Loder, J. de V. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Cooper, A. Duff Long, Major Eric Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Couper, J. B. Looker, Herbert William Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Lougher, Lewis Waddington, R.
Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.) Lowe, Mr Francis William Wallace, Captain D. E.
Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend) Lumley, L. R. Warrender, Sir Victor
Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro) Lynn, Sir R. J. Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)
Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West) Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart) Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Curzon, Captain Viscount McLean, Major A. Watts, Sir Thomas
Dalkeith, Earl of Macmillan, Captain H. Wayland, Sir William A.
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm Wells, S. R.
Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) MacRobert, Alexander M. White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Dawson, Sir Philip Makins, Brigadier-General E. Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Dean, Arthur Wellesley Malone, Major P. B. Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Drewe, C. Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn Winby, Colonel L. P.
Eden, Captain Anthony Margesson, Captain D. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Elliot, Major Walter E. Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Withers, John James
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.) Meyer, Sir Frank Womersley, W. J.
Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South) Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden) Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Moles, Rt. Hon. Thomas Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kigsley
Faile, Sir Bertram G. Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Fanshawe, Captain G. D. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Wragg, Herbert
Fielden, E. B. Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)
Finburgh, S. Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Fraser, Captain Ian Nelson, Sir Frank Major Sir William Cope and Captain
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Bowyer.