HC Deb 17 June 1936 vol 313 cc1066-75

There shall be added to Sub-section (3) of Section one of the Finance Act, 1935, the words: "a football or cricket match or other athletic or sporting contest or exhibition."—[Mr. Foot.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

6.37 p.m.


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

It will be within the recollection of the Committee that in Section 1 of the Finance Act of last year we abolished the Entertainments Duty altogether on seats up to 6d., and that a reduced rate of duty was allowed on seats of higher prices at certain classes of entertainments, which included theatres, ballets, musical performances, lectures, music halls, variety entertainment and circuses. I am proposing now that this reduced rate of Income Tax should be applicable to football and cricket matches and other sporting contests or exhibitions. Last year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer drew a distinction between one kind of entertainment and another, between the entertainment which employed living players and the entertainment of the screen. I am not saying now whether that distinction was right or wrong or was a logical distinction. It was drawn, and it must be clear to hon. Members that the forms of entertainment to which I refer in the proposed new Clause fall upon one side of that line; they are in the same category as stage plays, in so far as they employ living players. I can speak as a football fan of a good many years standing. For many years I never missed a home match of Plymouth Argyle, and now that I have moved farther North I have spent a good many of my Saturdays watching either Dundee or Dundee United. If I choose to spend Saturday afternoons in watching a League football match, why should a heavier rate of tax be imposed than if I chose to spend it at a matinee performance at a music hall? It seems to me that there is no distinction at all. It cannot be supported by the distinction which the Chancellor of the Exchequer drew last year.

I do not wish to pursue this matter at any great length, and I am going to refer only to League football clubs. It is entirely a mistake to imagine that all League football clubs make considerable profits. I dare say hon. Members are aware that a good many clubs are run at a loss, sometimes year after year. I have the figures here of 82 out of 88 clubs in the English Football League, and in the season 1934 to 1935, only 36 of those clubs showed a profit at the end of the season; and 46 showed a loss. The total profits of the 36 clubs were, in round figures, £105,500, and the losses of those who lost money were £94,900. That is the kind of proportion which exists between the profits and losses. The Entertainments Duty that had to be paid by all those clubs was £261,600. Those figures show that to football clubs, and I have no doubt to other forms of exhibition and contest to which I refer in the Clause, the Entertainments Duty has become an extremely heavy burden. I am not proposing that the whole of it should be remitted, but that the same concession should be given which was given 12 months ago to other forms of entertainment.

6.42 p.m.


Football clubs are not in the same category as cinematograph entertainments. The Financial Secretary may not be aware that the profits made by football clubs are strictly limited by the Football Association. Prosperous clubs are not allowed to distribute more than 7½ per cent. on their share capital, and I should be very surprised if more than half-a-dozen of the clubs in the country distributed that amount. I suggest that that fact should be taken into consideration. There is a certainty that the whole of the benefit from any concession would be passed on to the people who patronise football matches, and would not go to enrich shareholders.

6.43 p.m.


I commend this proposal to the Financial Secretary because the people on whose behalf the new Clause has been proposed are performing a great public service. Where there is depression, a football match particularly, and a cricket match in the summer, are potent instruments in lightening depression for many people who are passing through unfortunate and stringent times. Football and cricket qualify in exactly the same way as do other entertainments for the relief that has already been given. The policy has already been adopted to some extent of encouraging living performers. The mere accident that the performance is given out of doors should not operate against those who are performing in the open air. I am sure that the Financial Secretary feels sympathy with a proposal of this kind, and if encouragement is given, it will have a beneficial effect, not merely on those who are engaged in the sport, but upon large numbers of spectators who look forward during the week to these athletic performances. I think the proposal should be pressed with all the force that the Committee has in its power.

6.44 p.m.


I am quite prepared to give consideration to this matter, and as much sympathy as the hon. Member desires. Every Member of the Committee wishes that we could do something to get more people to take part in these sports for health and pleasure. Whether my sympathy should be allowed to exert itself at the expense of the revenue is a different matter. The new Clause proposed to-day is an example of what has been said so often by my right hon. Friend and myself in the course of the Debates, that one concession leads to another in unvarying continuity.

The Clause asks that a concession made in the Finance Act, 1935, should be extended to cricket and football matches and other forms of sporting entertainment. I would point out, however, that the concession made in 1935 was a concession made to living theatrical, variety, and musical entertainments, and, in considering whether that concession should be extended to cricket and football matches, I would ask the Committee to remember what it was that caused my right hon. Friend in that year to make the concession. It was undoubtedly the fact that a new and powerful competitor with living dramatic entertainments had entered the field in the form of the cinema—the talking pictures. I do not think it can be said, however, that the ground on which my right hon. Friend made that concession last year applies to cricket or football. It cannot be said that the rival attraction of film stars will draw men away from observing the activity of Tottenham Hotspur or any other club of that kind. The two things are on different planes, and the fact that a concession is given to one particular form of entertainment, which is threatened by a danger, is not a reason for extending it to an entertainment which is not so threatened. The Clause affords an example of the way in which one concession is used as a crowbar to lever open the coffers of the State on another occasion.

There is a further point to be borne in mind. When my right hon. Friend made that concession last year, it was done, not because the people who went to see those entertainments were penalised, but because that kind of entertainment had become commercially unprofitable owing to the competition of the cinema, and, as a result, unemployment among living artists was on the increase, and distress was represented to be existing in the industry because of the cinema competition. The hon. Member who moved the Clause gave some figures about the relative state of prosperity of certain clubs, showing that some of them are prosperous and others are not. I think, however, that that is true of practically any form of entertainment in the country. It is true of the cinema and of other forms of entertainment. But that is no reason for extending to this particular form of entertainment a concession which, does not apply to it. For these reasons I am bound to say that the Clause does not appear to be properly founded upon the concession of last year. Moreover, I may tell the Committee that it is extremely difficult to estimate what would be the cost of this extension of the concession. If it were extended to cricket and football matches, athletic meetings, and also to sporting contests of any kind—which I presume would include dog races, horse races, and all that sort of thing—the cost could not be less than £250,000 a year. I do not think the hon. Member has shown that there is the same case for excluding cricket and football matches and other forms of sporting entertainment as there was for making the concession last year in the case of entertainments provided by living performers.

6.50 p.m.


I do not think that the excuses which have been offered by the Financial Secretary are valid. I am afraid I cannot speak as a football "fan"; I have always considered that those people who are heroic enough to spend a winter afternoon sitting still in the open ought to be rewarded for it rather than charged for it. But I still regard this sport as one of the great methods for the mass enjoyment of the people of Great Britain, and there is no doubt that it provides, as the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) has said, a very valuable outlet in times of depression and in times when there is very little else that people in areas like Durham and South Wales can find to relieve their anxieties. The Financial Secretary spoke about trying to lever open the coffers of the State—a very picturesque phrase, but one with no reality at all. The question is, how far the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be allowed to lever open the coffers of the football clubs, and the fact that he has done it too extensively in the past is no precedent for his being allowed to continue to do it. The real problem here is not that of taking something from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but whether this Committee is going to allow him to continue to take away money from the spectators of football and other matches.

The Financial Secretary said that in this case there was no competition from the films, but of course there is competition from the news reel. Many people go to watch football matches on the screen in the afternoon or evening of the day on which they are played, and there is a very direct competition between that type of exhibition of sporting entertainments and the direct and self-sacrificing task of going into the open on a cold day to watch them. There is quite as much competition in these cases as there is between the theatre and the picture-house. [HON. MEMBERS"No!"] I think there is. I know many people who see all the football that they ever see by seeing it in the cinema, and many of them go there to see the news reel in order to see the sporting events. There is to-day a number of these smaller cinematograph houses where current

topics are shown continuously, and where people go for the specific purpose of seeing the Boat Race or other sporting events of a similar character. There is no doubt that there is considerable competition in that way. Obviously, it is a more healthy occupation, for those who can stand it, to see these sporting events in the open air and to form part of the direct audience rather than of a vicarious audience sitting in a stuffy entertainment house.

Therefore, I suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this, not extension of the principle, but this granting to the football and cricket clubs of a right which has been already granted to the music-hall and the theatre, is clearly justified by the interests of the people and of the State itself. I am not interested in the sporting contests part of the Clause, and I am sure that, if that were the only objection, the Mover of the Clause would be prepared to delete it if it covered dog racing and things of that sort; but, as I understand it, the main object of the Clause is to give a remission in regard to the tax on seats between 6d. and 1s. 9d., or whatever the figure is, in the case of football, cricket and athletic clubs. I should have thought that that would not have been a very expensive thing for the Chancellor to do. The sum entailed cannot be very large, and the benefit that would flow from it in the matter of the entertainment of the people of this country would in my opinion be a very real one.

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

The Committee divided: Ayes, 124; Noes, 217.

Division No. 242.] AYES [6.55 p.m.
Adams, D. (Consett) Cocks, F.S. Groves, T. E.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Compton, J. Hall, G. H.(Aberdare)
Adamson, W. M. Cove, W. G. Hall, J. H.(Whitechapel)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V(H'lsbr.) Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Hardie, G. D.
Anderson, F.(Whitehaven) Daggar, G. Harris, Sir P. A.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C.R. Dalton, H. Henderson, J. (Ardwlck)
Banfield, J. W. Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd) Henderson, T. (Tradeston)
Barnes, A. J. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Hills, A. (Pontefract)
Barr, J. Day, H. Holdsworth, H.
Bellenger. F. Dobbie, w. Holland, A.
Benson, G. Ede, J. C. Jagger, J.
Bevan, A. Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)
Broad, F. A. Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)
Bromfield, W. Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales) Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.
Brooke, W. Frankel, D. Jones, A. C. (Shipley)
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Gardner, B. W. Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)
Buchanan, G. George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Kelly, W. T.
Burke, W. A. George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.
Cape, T. Gibblns, J. Kirkwood, D.
Cassells, T. Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Lathan, G.
Charleton, H. C, Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Leach. W.
Crater, D. Grenfell, D. R. Lee, F.
Cluse, W.S. Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Leonard, W.
Leslie, J. R. Parker, J. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Logan, D. G. Parkinson, J. A. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Lunn, W. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Thurtle, E.
Macdonald, G. (Ince) Potts, J. Tinker, J. J.
McEntee, V. La T. Price, M. P. Vlant, S. P.
McGhee, H. G. Richards, R.(Wrexham) Walkden, A.G.
Maclean, N. Ritson, J. Watkins, F. C.
MacNeill, Weir, L. Roberts, Rt, Hon. F. O, (W. Brom.) Watson, W. McL,
Marklew, E. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.) Westwood, J.
Mathers, G. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens) White, H. Graham
Maxton, J. Salter, Dr. A. Whiteley, W.
Messer, F. Seely, Sir H.M. Wilkinson, Ellen
Montague, F. Sexton, T. M. Williams, E.J. (Ogmore)
Morrison, Rt. Hn. H.(Ha'kn'y, S.) Short, A. Williams, T.(Don Valley)
Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's) Young, Sir R.(Newton)
Muff, G. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Naylor, T. E. Smith, E. (Stoke) TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Oliver, G. H. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly) Mr. Dingle Foot and Mr. Kingsley
Owen, Major G. Smith, T. (Normanton) Griffith.
Paling, W. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Dawson, Sir P. Lumley, Capt. L. R.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. De chair, S. S. MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Scot. U.)
Albery, I. J. Denman, Hon. R. D. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M.(Ross)
Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S. Denville, Alfred Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Dorman-Smith, Major R. H. McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) McKie, J. H.
Aske, Sir R. W. Duggan, H. J. Macmillan, H. (Stockton on-Tees)
Atholl, Duchess of Duncan, J. A. L, Magnay, T.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Eastwood, J. F. Maitland, A.
Bainlel, Lord Edmondson, Major Sir J. Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Baxter, A. Beverley Erskine Hill, A. G. Markham, S. F.
Belt, Sir A. L. Everard, W. L. Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M
Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N. Findlay, Sir E. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.
Bernays, R.H. Fremantle, Sir F. E. Mellor, Sir J. S. P.(Tamworth)
Birchall, Sir J. D. Ganzonl, Sir J. Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)
Blaker, Sir R. Gibson, C. G. Mills, Major J D. (New Forest)
Blindell, Sir J. Gilmour. Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Bossom, A. C. Gluckstein, L. H. Moreing, A. C.
Boulton, W. W. Graham Captain A.C.(Wirral) Morgan, R. H.
Bower, Comdr. R.T. Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)
Boyce, H. Leslie Gritten, W. G. Howard Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester)
Braithwalte, Major A. N. Guest, Maj. Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll, N.W.) Munro, P.
Brass, Sir W. Guinness, T. L. E. B. Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Gunston, Capt. D. W. Nicolson, Hon. H. G.
Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham) Guy, J. C. M. O'Connor, Sir Terence J.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E.(Leith) Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H. O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Bull, B. B. Hanbury, Sir C. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Bullock, Capt. M. Hannah, I. C. Palmer, G. E. H.
Butler, R. A. Hannon, Sir P.J. H. Patrick, C. M.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Harbord, A. Peake, O.
Carver. Major W. H. Hartington, Marquess of Peat, C. U.
Cautley, Sir H. S. Haslam, Sir J.(Bolton) Penny, Sir G.
Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester) Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan- Perkins, W. R. D.
Cazalet, Thelma (lslington, E.) Herbert, Major J. A.(Monmouth) Petherick, M.
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon) Picktnorn, K. W. M.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Holmes, J. S. Ponsonby, Col. C.E.
Channon, H. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Pownall, Sir Asaheton
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Hopkinson, A. Radford, E. A.
Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.) Horsbrugh, Florence Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Choriton, A. E. L. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Christie, J. A. Hume, Sir G. H. Rayner, Major R. H.
Clarry, Sir Reginald Hunter, T. Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Colfox, Major W. P Jackson, Sir H. Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)
Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J. James, Wing-commander A. W. Remer, J. R.
Cooke, J. D.(Hammersmith, S.) Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n) Rickards, G. W.(Skipton)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff(W'st'r S.G'gs) Jones, L. (Swansea, W.) Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M.(E'burgh, W.) Keeling, E. H. Ruggles-Brise. Colonel Sir E. A.
Courthope, Col. Sir G. L. Kerr, H. W. (Oldham) Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)
Craddock, Sir R. H. Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Critchley, A. Kirkpatrick, W. M. Salmon, Sir I.
Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Lamb, Sir J. Q. Salt, E. W.
Crooke, J. S. Law, Sir A. J.(High Peak) Samuel, Sir A. M.(Farnham)
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Leech, Dr. J. W. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Lees-Jones, J. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Cross, R. H. Lewis, O. Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.
Crowder, J. F. E. Lindsay, K. M. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Cruddas, Col. B. Little, Sir E. Graham- Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Culverwell, C. T. Lloyd, G. W. Somervell, Sir D.B.(Crewe)
Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C. Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil) Loftus, P. C Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, E.)
Davison, Sir W. H. Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.
Spears, Brig. Gen. E. L. Touche, G. C. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Spens, W. P. Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver(W'm'I'd) Tufnell, Lleut.-Com. R. L. Wise, A. R.
Stourton, Major Hon. J. J. Wakefield, W. W. Withers, Sir J. J.
Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.) Wallace, Captain Euan Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Strauss, H. G. (Norwich) Ward, Lleul.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull) Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Strickland, Captain W. F. Ward, Irene(Wallsend) Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nalrn) Waterhouse, Captain C.
Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F. Wedderburn, H. J. S. TELLERSFOR THE NOES.—
Tasker, Sir R. I. Wells, S. R. Dr. Morris-Jones and Lieut.-Colonel
Tate, Mavis C. Williams, C. (Torquay) Llewellin.
Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (padd., S.) Williams. H. G. (Croydon. S.)

Question put, and agreed to.