HC Deb 11 April 1932 vol 264 cc566-70

I beg to move, in page 5, line 37, after the word "amusements," to insert the words: promoted or organised for presentation specifically at such camp, station, or naval establishment. This is an entirely friendly Amendment designed to obtain from the hon. Member some indication of what is to be the practice of the Services with regard to entertainments contemplated under this new Clause. The proposal is to add cinematographic entertainments to the list of public entertainments. This is the position. Entertainments promoted by the Services are lifted from the operation of the Statutes regulating entertainments, and the entertainment industry, which seems to be entering upon very dubious days, is rather concerned at the exten- sion contemplated by the amendment of this Clause. The position is that under the operation of this Clause any service entertainments can be promoted without having to comply with the statutory regulations, whereas professional entertainers contemplating the same kind of entertainments are subject to restrictions and regulations. On the face of it that seems rather unfair, and those connected with the entertainment industry are concerned at the prospect of their activities being further curtailed under the operation of this proposed change in the Act.

No one in this Committee desires to restrict the entertainments which are provided for men of the Services and their friends, and this matter is raised simply for the purpose of ascertaining how the Services propose to carry out this increased power, having in view the safeguarding, as far as possible, of the legitimate interests of professional entertainers. The Amendment is designed to restrict the entertainments specifically to the particular station or establishment at which it is taking place, that is to say, for the benefit and the amusement of the men in the Services and their friends. I do not propose to press the Amendment unless the Financial Secretary to the War Office is unable to give me some sort of generous undertaking that in operating this enlarged power the Services will pay some attention to the interests of the entertainment industry. There is no necessary conflict between professional entertainers and the Services. They enlist each other's assistance on these occasions. But in the interests of a hardly pressed class, the professional entertaining class, I ask the Financial Secretary to indicate some sympathetic attitude, so that the Committee can be satisfied that the reasonable opportunities of professional entertainers earning a livelihood will be safeguarded.

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Sir Philip Sassoon)

I would thank the hon. and learned Member for the very friendly way in which he has moved this Amendment, and I hope that my short reply will satisfy his mind on the point that he has raised. I wish particularly to emphasise the fact that the alteration which is proposed of the Act, and which chiefly concerns the Royal Air Force, does not entail any alteration at all of the existing practice. The sole purpose of Clause 7 is to remove doubts, to make it, perfectly clear that the practice habitually followed under Section 174A of the Air Force Act, is within the letter, as it is undoubtedly within the spirit and intention, of the law. In particular we desire to make it clear that the Service entertainments, to which Section 174A applies, are not affected by the Sunday Observance Act or the formal procedure of the Act relating to cinemas. The main purpose is to further the welfare of the men in the Services. They are often stationed in out of the way places, where no form of recreation or amusement exists, and in such cases it is found essential to provide proper entertainment, on Sundays as well as weekdays. Obviously the rules that govern these entertainments should be the same throughout the Services, and not vary between one district and another.

There are very few Service cinemas, only six or seven in the Air Force and none in the Army, which are under the immediate control of the Services. Of these only four are open on Sundays, and the entertainments are given within the barrack premises. The quality of the entertainment given and the precautions taken for safety are certainly no lower than those provided in the civil community. I would go further and say that the standard is very much higher than in many cases of civil entertainments. It is only natural that that should be so. Take the case of the cinema at Halton. There the authorities have to provide for the entertainment and safety of 2,000 young lads. There is no unfair competition with civil entertainments in any way. These Service entertainments are open primarily to the personnel of the units. Hon. Members would be the first to realise that it is only natural that the troops should be allowed to bring their friends with them. I hope that the Amendment will not be pressed. There is nothing new in this Clause except that it is designed to remove any doubts that remain at the moment. The practice followed in this matter is dictated solely by the welfare of the forces. No change of practice is contemplated.


Does the Clause deal only with cinemas, or does it include other entertainments, such as band performances?


If the hon. Member will look at Sub-section (2) of the Clause, he will see a definition of the expression "public entertainment or amusement.'


I thank the hon. and gallant Gentleman for his assurances, and, in the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move, in page 5, line 39, at the end, to insert the words: Provided such building conforms to any by-laws of the local authority with respect to the provision of exits and other safeguards applicable to places of entertainment. 4.0 p.m.

In regard to places of entertainment in the Army one can see that certain regulations which in civil life are introduced, cannot possibly come into operation in the Services, and that a certain latitude must be allowed. None the less I think it is necessary that this Amendment should be inserted in the Bill. Such a proviso ought to be inserted from the point of view of safety. One understands that in regard to ships it is not possible to provide exits, but wherever it is possible, safeguards ought to be provided.


I have already, in part, covered this Amendment by what I said in reply to the previous Amendment. In such a matter it is not feasible that the Crown should be made subject to the varying regulations and the control and inspection of local authorities, which vary from one district to another. As I said on the previous Amendment, it is very important that the same rules governing and applying to a particular case should apply all through the service similarly. At the same time, I would like to give the assurance that in these service cinemas and entertainment rooms strict fire precautions are taken everywhere and ample provision is made for exits. In many of these units where there is a permanent fire picket the precautions against fire are probably more efficient than in the case of many civil cinemas where the fire station or fire brigade is a long distance removed.

The service standards in these matters are, therefore, definitely higher than in the case of civil life, and as regards other safeguards and equipment the safety arrangements required by the Home Office in civil cinemas are most strictly complied with. I may add without challenge that there has been so far not a single case of fire, not even the smallest, in any of these Royal Air Force cinemas. The station commander is responsible for the conduct of the Air Force cinema a lid for taking all precautions, and there is a special officer appointed by the station commander or station headquarters for this purpose. I can assure the hon. Member that every possible precaution is taken against fire and for the provision of exits and all the other necessities for safety.


After the very full explanation, we do not intend to press the Amendment, which I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.