HC Deb 26 May 1932 vol 266 cc630-9

As from the first day of July, nineteen hundred and thirty-two, entertainments duty within the meaning of the Finance (New Duties) Act, 1916, shall, in Great Britain, be charged at the rate set out in the Fourth Schedule to this Act.—[Mr. T. Williams.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


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

This Clause has relation to the new Fourth Schedule on page 1068. The Clause and Schedule deal exclusively with the cheaper seats in cinemas and other places of entertainment. The right hon. Gentleman will tell us, I suppose, that the Government were obliged to impose this duty because of the need for revenue, but I suggest that the new duty on seats either in cinemas or other places of entertainment where the net charge, exclusive of tax, is less than 6d., is an imposition that ought not to be resorted to even by a National Government. Since 1916 the Entertainments Duty has been revised from time to time. In 1924 all entertainments where the total charge exclusive of tax was less than 6d. were exempt from the payment of Entertainment Duty, but on the 9th November last, in the Supplementary Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer reimposed the duty upon seats in cinemas costing from 2½d. to 6d. That blow has fallen with tremendous severity upon proprietors in exclusively working-class districts. An examination of the figures in many of those areas where the people are sorely distressed owing to industrial depression would startle the Financial Secretary or anyone else.

What we have in mind in our Amendment is very largely the fall in attendance and receipts in exclusively working-class areas where the seats range in price from 2d., 4d., 5d. to 6d. Those people who have very small incomes and who live in very indifferent homes, where the home life does not lend itself to enjoyment, periodically take a night off at the picture theatres in order to have some rest for a time from their normal workaday lives. One would scarcely imagine that so small an increase in the price of the seats in the picture halls from 4d. to 5d. would have any material effect, but an examination of the figures of cinemas in my own Division, which are typical of all parts of the country, are startling, and one wonders how many of the proprietors are going to continue to keep their doors open unless there is some response from the Financial Secretary. I am not sure what amount the Financial Secretary expects to derive from the tax on seats below 6d., but I should like to quote a few instances of the effect of the tax upon the attendances and upon the proprietors of the picture halls. The imposition of this duty upon the cheapest seats is depriving the poorest of the poor of the only opportunity they ever get of a few hours entertainment.

I have particulars with regard to five picture halls in a northern town, where there is a good deal of industrial depression. Whether is is the employed, the partially employed or the unemployed who periodically visit these picture halls makes no difference. Taking the figures for the six months subsequent to the operation of the new duty and comparing them with the same six months in 1931, the figures work out something like this, that the average decrease in net takings varies from 14 to 26 per cent. while the average increase in the duty varies from 113 to 279 per cent. Here is a report of the result of nine weeks takings on the attendance at a picture palace in an exclusively working-class area, a district with a population of about 6,500, where the only opportunity of entertainment the people have, unless they travel a long distance to another town, is to attend their own picture palace. In the nine weeks ending Saturday, 16th May, 1931, compared with the nine weeks ending 14th May, 1932, the figures show that the attendance fell by 44 per cent. and the takings also by 44 per cent., while the slight profit that was made in the previous year has been turned into a loss. In all probability, unless there is a radical change, that picture palace will have to close its doors. We think that that ought not to be the case.

If the Financial Secretary by any means can relieve the consequences of this latest burden, he ought to leave no stone unturned to secure the necessary money elsewhere, so that such relief as can be given will be given in this particular case. Let me give the figures for a period of three months subsequent to the operation of the new duty with regard to seats up to 6d. compared with the corresponding figure for 1930–31. The attendance at this particular picture palace before the operation of the increased duty was 44,204, while in the period subsequent to the operation of the tax the attendance had fallen to 28,742, or a total reduction of 35.2 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman will readily see that, in the first place, the local people resent this duty on the cheaper seats and that, coupled with the distress in the area, the result is serious for these places of entertain- ment, The secretary of one, who is one of the best social reformers in that part of the South Yorkshire, says: I estimate that we may lose £132 18s. 3d. for the first 12 weeks following the increase of the tax, compared with a profit of £140 in the corresponding 12 weeks of the previous year, a difference of not less than £273 15s. 3d. in what is the very best part of the year. Unless substantial profits are made between November and the end of January to cancel out the losses in the summer period, many of such picture palaces as this one will have to close. I could quote from half a dozen other picture halls in the Don Valley Division, which is made up of a series of small districts of from 6,000 to 10,000 people. They all have their own picture halls and this particular tax falls with undue severity on districts of that description. People may be working three days a week and if they want a change perhaps on one day of the week and wish to attend a picture palace, they may conceivably scrape a few coppers together. The extra 1d. may seem very little to Members of this House but it is a substantial sum to them and very often makes the difference between attendance or non-attendance at a place of entertainment. I will quote further particulars of another picture palace in the same area, where the net income for two periods, subsequent to the new duty and prior to the operation of the new duty, has fallen by £494, and a small profit has been transformed into a loss. I need hardly continue to quote figures.

The essential fact is that the Government have imposed duties upon tea and upon beer. They have insisted on cutting unemployment benefit and have left very little for the poor people in the distressed areas to exist upon. This last imposition is the last straw on the camel's back. If picture halls were vile things which ought to be destroyed, then I think the right hon. Gentleman would be doing the right thing in imposing this heavier duty and in closing picture halls in working class areas, but if he regards cinema exhibitions as a healthy entertainment and pastime and one that ought to be encouraged he ought to remove the duty, otherwise tens of thousands of the poorest people will be denied a single attendance at a picture palace even once a week. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, despite the fact that he has already committed him- self to the national body representing the cinema exhibitors, to see whether he cannot between now and the Report stage, in view of the figures that I have quoted and the figures that he knows exists, consider whether he will receive the revenue he expects from the tax, because of the reduced attendance not only in seats below 6d. but in seats in excess of 6d., owing to the resentment that has been manifested by the people during the past few months.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see the fairness of relieving these picture palaces and their proprietors from their present unfortunate position. These cinema proprietors are in their way real social reformers who have a general desire to help the local population to tide over this very trying period, and I hope that instead of turning them out of business and destroying the results of many years of useful effort the right hon. Gentleman will give them a word of encouragement and a word of hope. If he cannot say definitely now that he will accept the Amendment and the suggested Fourth Schedule, I hope that he will give us some reason to believe that between now and the Report stage the cinema exhibitors in working class areas will be considered with the possibility that this duty on the cheaper seats will be removed.

7.30 p.m.


I regret that I have to give the reply which the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself gave to a question on the 12th May when he said that he had come to the conclusion that it was. impossible for him to reconsider the scale of taxes which were adopted in the special Budget of last autumn, and which came into force on the 9th November last. If the proposal of hon. Members was adopted the estimated loss to the revenue this year would be £1,500,000, and in a full year £2,000,000. That alone would upset the estimated balance of the Budget, and for that reason it is quite impossible to accept it this year. I quite agree that any increase of these taxes is bound to have an effect on the entertainment industry and on those who go to it. That is not denied; but clearly the Government are not in a position to forgo this money until times are better. The history of this matter is that these cheap seats were taxed from 1916 to 1924, when the tax was taken off, and remained off until last September, when it was restored. Lord Snowden took it off, 'and Lord Snowden put it on again. I regret that in the present financial circumstances the Government cannot meet the wishes of hon. Members in this matter.


The right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works has made a mistake which I want to correct. He has said that Lord Snowden removed the tax and Lord Snowden imposed it. He is wrong. It was Mr. Philip Snowden who removed the tax, and Lord Snowden who imposed it.


The British Constitution has not been so far altered as to enable a Noble Lord to impose taxation in the House of Commons.


We were both wrong— and we will call it quits. I am sure that a great many people will be very disappointed that the Government are not able to accept this Amendment. I want to disabuse the minds of hon. Members opposite that this is a problem which affects the big London shows. It is a problem which is not the same in all districts. The issue with which we are confronted in the poorer districts differs fundamentally from that in the large towns. We want to abolish all taxes on seats up to 6d., and one would have thought that with a National Government made up of all parties, including some members of the so-called Socialist party, we should get some concession in a matter like this. We are making a plea which would affect in the main places where the seats are hardly ever over 6d. There are small theatres and music halls and entertainment places where the charge for a seat is never more than 6d. I have one or two such places in my own Division, where the price of seats is very low indeed, and I have been supplied with information which proves that quite apart from the depression from which the country is as a whole suffering, that this taxation has had an adverse effect on the takings of these small shows.

The point has been put to me that whilst the gross receipts of these places have been going down the amount of the tax has increased. That is an extraordinary position in relation to taxation of any kind. It must be borne in mind that not all of these places of amusement are run for profit. There are places in the South Wales mining district where places of entertainment are owned by the local community, by the trade unions, and in other districts by co-operative societies. We must get rid of the idea that every one of these places of amusement is run for profit. I want of course to keep within the schedule of time allotted to us. Hon. Members opposite have been more guilty of breaking the arrangement entered into than we on this side. I will conclude therefore by appealing to the Government to accept the Amendment. On an issue like this I think that Members of the Cabinet should be present to listen to the Debate. After all, we are starting with a tax on 2½d.— this is a twopenny halfpenny Government —and we are taxing that sum by another halfpenny. That is really a monstrous thing to do. We are told that the country is in such a terrible predicament that the Government is compelled to take one-halfpenny from every child who goes to a cinema in this country and pays 2½d. for a seat. That is the state of affairs at the moment. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will convey the purport of our appeal to those in authority in the Cabinet. After all, the Cabinet might be united on an issue of this kind. If they have come to the decision to tax children who pay 2½d. for a seat another halfpenny, we might expect to have unanimity in the Cabinet. On the understanding that our plea will go right to the fountain head, to the Lord President of the Council and to the Lord Privy Seal, I hope we shall get some better result from our Amendment.

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

The Committee divided: Ayes, 42; Noes, 304.

Division No. 201.] AYES. [7.40 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Cove, William G. Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)
Attlee, Clement Richard Cripps, Sir Stafford Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Daggar, George Grundy, Thomas W.
Brawn, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)
Buchanan, George Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross) Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)
Cape, Thomas Edwards, Charles Hirst, George Henry
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Jenkins, Sir William
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Millar, Sir James Duncan Wallhead, Richard C.
Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Milner, Major James Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Lawson, John James Nathan, Major H. L. Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Lunn, William Parkinson, John Allen Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Price, Gabriel Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
McEntee, Valentine L. Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)
Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Salter, Dr. Alfred TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Maxton, James Tinker, John Joseph Mr. Groves and Mr. Duncan
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Dlxey, Arthur C. N. Jamieson, Douglas
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Donner, P. W. Janner, Barnett
Albery, Irving James Doran, Edward Jesson, Major Thomas E.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.) Drewe, Cedric Joel, Dudley J. Barnato
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Duckworth, George A. V. Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)
Apsley, Lord Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)
Aske, Sir Robert William Duggan, Hubert John Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Kerr, Hamilton W.
Atholl, Duchess of Dunglass, Lord Kirkpatrick, William M.
Atkinson, Cyril Eastwood, John Francis Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.
Balley, Eric Alfred George Edmondson, Major A. J. Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E. Law, Sir Alfred
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Elliston, Captain George Sampson Leech, Dr. J. W.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Elmiey, Viscount Lees-Jones, John
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Lennox-Boyd, A. T.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Levy, Thomas
Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Lewis, Oswald
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.) Liddall, Walter S.
Beaumont, Hn. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Everard, W. Lindsay Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-
Belt, Sir Alfred L. Falle, Sir Bertram G. Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest
Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Llewellin, Major John J.
Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton) Fleming, Edward Lascelles Lleweliyn-Jones, Frederick
Blaker, Sir Reginald Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Lloyd, Geoffrey
Blindell, James Fox, Sir Gifford Lock wood, John C. (Hackney, C.)
Boothby, Robert John Graham Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander
Borodale, Viscount Fuller, Captain A. G. Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.
Bossom, A. C. Ganzoni, Sir John Lymington, Viscount
Boulton, W. W. Gibson, Charles Granville Lyons, Abraham Montagu
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Gillett, Sir George Masterman Mabane, William
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John McEwen, Captain J. H. F.
Briant, Frank Goff, Sir Park McKie, John Hamilton
Briscoe, Capt- Richard George Gower, Sir Robert Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas McLean, Major Alan
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks., Newb'y) Greene, William P. C. Macmillan, Maurice Harold
Burghley, Lord Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Macquisten, Frederick Alexander
Butt, Sir Alfred Grimston, R. V. Magnay, Thomas
Cadogan, Hon. Edward Gritten, W. G. Howard Maitland, Adam
Caine, G. R. Hall- Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Gunston, Captain D. W. Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.
Campbell, Rear-Admiral G. (Burnley) Guy, J. C. Morrison Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Martin, Thomas B.
Cassels, James Dale Hales, Harold K. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd) Merriman, Sr F. Boyd
Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City) Hammersley, Samuel S. Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.) Hanley, Dennis A. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Milne, Charles
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Harbord, Arthur Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)
Chalmers, John Rutherford Harris, Sir Percy Moreing, Adrian C.
Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring) Hartland, George A. Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Morrison, William Shepherd
Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Muirhead, Major A. J.
Christie, James Archibald Headiam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Munro. Patrick
Clarry, Reginald George Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Nail, Sir Joseph
Clayton, Dr. George C. Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford) Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. North, Captain Edward T.
Colville, John Hepworth, Joseph O'Donovan, Dr. William James
Conant, R. J. E. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Cook, Thomas A. Holdsworth, Herbert O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Cooke, Douglas Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.
Cranborne, Viscount Hope, Sydney (Chester, Staiybridge) Palmer, Francis Noel
Crooke, J. Smedley Hore-Belisha, Leslie Pearson, William G.
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Hornby, Frank Penny, Sir George
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Horobin, Ian M. Peters, Dr. Sidney John
Crossley, A. C. Horsbrugh, Florence Petherick, M.
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Howard, Tom Forrest Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Culverwell, Cyril Tom Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.) Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Hume, Sir George Hopwood Pickering, Ernest H.
Davison, Sir William Henry Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Hunter. Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Pybus, Percy John
Denville, Alfred Hurd, Percy A. Raikes, Henry V. A. M.
Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F. Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)
Dickie, John P. Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Ramsden, E. Simmonds, Oliver Edwin Thorp, Linton Theodora
Rawson, Sir Cooper Slater, John Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Ray, Sir William Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Unv., Belfast) Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Rea, Walter Russell Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D. Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.) Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Reid, David D. (County Down) Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam) Train, John
Reid, William Allan (Derby) Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.) Turton, Robert Hugh
Rentoul Sir Gervais S. Smith-Carington, Neville W. Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor) Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall) Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East) Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Robinson, John Roland Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Ropner, Colonel L. Spencer, Captain Richard A. Watt, Captain George Steven H.
Rosbotham, S. T. Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H. Wayland, Sir William A.
Runge, Norah Cecil Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde) Wells, Sydney Richard
Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland) Weymouth, Viscount
Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Stevenson, James Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside) Stones, James Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury) Storey, Samuel Wills, Wilfrid D.
Rutherford, Sir John Hugo Stourton, Hon. John J. Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Salmon, Major Isldore Strauss, Edward A. Windsor Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Salt, Edward W. Strickland, Captain W. F. Wise, Alfred R.
Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham) Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart Withers, Sir John James
Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney) Sutcliffe, Harold Worthington, Dr. John V.
Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Tate, Mavis Constance Wragg, Herbert
Savery, Samuel Servington Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'dd'gt'n, S.) Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Scone, Lord Templeton, William P.
Selley, Harry R. Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford) TELLERS FOR THE NOES —
Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell) Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton) Commander Southby and Mr.
Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar) Thompson, Luke Shakespeare.
Shepperson, Sir Ernest W. Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles