HC Deb 23 February 1938 vol 332 cc423-54

6.15 p.m.

Captain Wallace

I beg to move, in page 2, line 6, to leave out "for that year."

This Amendment and the next three Amendments are consequential on an Amendment to the definition of "renters' quota period" in Clause 42, the definition Clause. Under the Bill as drafted the renters' quota had to be met in periods of one year, but during the discussions upstairs it was decided to reduce the period to six months. It was represented to the Government that during the first year the dislocation, the inevitable consequence of being unable to get the Bill through all its stages until shortly before the beginning of the quota year, might impose on renters a temporary and unjustifiable hardship. Some difficulty might arise in meeting the quota for the period April to September, 1938.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 2, line 8, after "Act," insert: for that period or, as the case may be, for the year beginning with the first day of April in which that period falls.

In line 19, leave out "for that year."

In line 20, after "Schedule," insert: for that period or, as the case may be, for the year beginning with the first day of April in which that period falls."—[Captain Wallace.]

6.18 p.m.

Captain Wallace

I beg to move, in page 2, line 32, after "doubled," to insert "or trebled."

I now come to the first of three Amendments which I shall ask the House to consider together. The object of these Amendments is to enable the more expensive type of films, which cost at least £30,000 in respect of labour, to count at treble their length for the purpose of the renters' quota. The detailed provisions with regard to a film counting at treble its length are contained in Subsection (5) of Clause 26. Sub-section (2) of Clause 1 which we are now discussing already provides that a film may count as doubled for the purpose of the renters' quota under conditions which are given in Sub-section (5) of Clause 26, and the Amendment is merely designed to give greater choice to renters of foreign films as to the method in which they satisfy the quota. Although the minimum cost of films counting as trebled for renters' quota would be four times the minimum labour costs for single renters' quota, it is proposed that such expensive films shall count three times for the purposes of the quota.

The object of this provision is to assist the production of what may be termed quality films. It has never been maintained by any hon. Member that the expenditure on a film is, of necessity, any criterion of its quality. We are all agreed about that. It is possible to spend vast sums of money and have a poor product at the end. We also make provision in the Bill for a contingency equally possible, that in certain cases talent, art and ingenuity may take the place of money, and a film of special entertainment value, indeed, of supreme excellence, may be produced for a comparatively small sum. All the same, I do not think hon. Members will deny that, speaking generally, the amount of money which producers have available to spend on the production of a film bears some relation to the probable quality of the film. It was maintained by hon. Members in all quarters of the House, and it has been maintained by the Press, that one of the principal objects at which this House should aim in revising the Cinematograph Films Act, 1927, should be not only to encourage the production of British films in reasonable and increasing numbers under the shelter of a quota, but more particularly to raise the standard and quality of these films. It is also a matter of common agreement among those who have studied this question that a major factor, almost an essential factor, in the financial success of any film upon which a lot of money has been spent is that it should not be restricted to exhibition in the comparatively limited market of this country, but should make its way into the wider and potentially profitable foreign market, principally the United States of America.

Therefore, the object of allowing this treble credit for a film into which the producers have put a good deal of money is to encourage, as far as we can, the production in this country of quality films which will have a market in America as well as in this country, and which we hope will be a credit and an advertisement to the British film industry. I think it can be argued that this proposal will help to meet a complaint about which we heard a good deal upstairs—the complaint that the British producer is always undersold by the American. If, as it has been suggested, the American renters should decide to go in for the expensive £60,000 film to satisfy their quota—I think it is doubtful whether they all will —it is obvious that the downward pressure which it is said the American renter organisations at present exercise on the prices of ordinary British programme films will be to that extent relieved.

I imagine that the renters will wholeheartedly support the proposal, but I have been informed that the exhibitors take the strongest objection to it. They profess to regard it as a heavy blow to the exhibiting side of the industry, and they say that their objections are not based primarily on the quota, but on the fact that the proposals will reduce the total supplies of films available to them. They argue, first, that all renters will go in for this scheme and that the number of quota films will be thereby reduced, and, secondly, that no British films surplus to renters' quota will be available. These arguments, I think, omit one or two important factors. To start with, it is a rather tall assumption to say that American organisations, which have in the past contented themselves with spending the minimum sum upon pictures to satisfy their quota, will all suddenly switch over and go in for these expensive films, at a cost not of three times as much as single quota films, but four times as much. Therefore, in order to obtain the same amount of quota credit these organisations would have to spend 33.3 per cent. more. The point should also be remembered that the American renters are only responsible for three-fifths of the imported films, and I cannot see that American renters will completely change their policy.

We have heard of the difficulty of securing finance at the present moment for the making of British films, and if it is difficult to secure finance for the production of ordinary programme picture films costing a sum of £15,000, I think it is much more difficult to get finance for these more expensive films. For one thing, it is obvious that very much more preparation is required for the production of a film of this kind than for the preparation of a film on a small scale. The estimate made by the Board of Trade, which I think the House will accept, is that the numbers might be reduced to between 50 and 60 for quota films, and that for films produced outside the quota there should be something like 50 more available, that is, about 100 films in all. It is admitted that last year 225 British films were produced; but on the cinematograph exhibitors' own admission, about 100 of those films were not, in their view, bookable propositions.

I must make it clear to hon. Members what is the claim of the exhibitors in regard to the number of films with which they have to be supplied. They claim to need 150 British films, in addition to foreign imports, or 700 films in all. That is based on what I think hon. Members will regard as a very extreme case. It is true that this number of films has been available during the last two years, but it was not available in the year preceeding; and in fact, the number of films, both British and foreign, available to exhibitors has varied very considerably, as can be shown by the figures. For instance, there was a total of 618 in 1932, which rose to 643 in 1933 and 679 in 1934, and then went down to 667 in 1935, before rising to above 700 during the last two years. The margin in the total number available is greater than any difference in the renters' quota that could happen under the treble quota scheme.

The records of the Board of Trade as to the cost of films are necessarily incomplete, since we have no power to find out how much is paid to excluded aliens, but our records show that very few films are made with a labour cost of between £22,500 and £30,000; in other words, the tendency appears to be that once a producer goes beyond the programme type of pictures, he immediately gets into the top class. Therefore, it seems that if the foreign film renter-producer does take advantage of getting the treble quota film made, he will probably not take advantage of the double. The main justification for this change, which I admit was made at a late hour, is that it gives some additional encouragement to the British producer to go in for a class of film which we believe is the only method of getting a footing for genuine British films in the American market. We consider that to be the only way of giving to the British film that réclame and advertisement upon which the prosperity of the film industry can be built.

Mr. R. C. Morrison

Did the British producers ask for it?

Captain Wallace

The British producers turned down the scheme of my right hon. Friend for double exhibitors' quota. It seems to us that this is an occasion when, not having been able to help the producers by giving them the particular kind of protection they want, we might very well do something which, in the opinion of the Government, will be definitely to the advantage of the British producer. I think any one who has followed the discussion on this Measure will realise that the genesis of the present Bill was the inability of the industry to make a Bill of their own agreement and the necessity with which the Government was faced of coming in and doing the work for them, perhaps in some respects against their will. I am certain that the British film industry will never reach that position which we should like to see it occupy if it is built up only on the basis of medium-priced programme pictures. It is because we believe that we cannot make progress on a scheme of a small protected enclave for the British industry, which would be excellent for those inside it but would not give a possibility of expansion outside the borders of our home market, that, in rejecting some of the proposals put forward for this protected enclave, we felt that we were acting in the best interests of the film industry by bringing forward—I admit at a comparatively late hour, but after all, a good many things were submitted to us at a late hour—a scheme which my right hon. Friend firmly and earnestly believes will be in the interests of the industry. I commend the proposal to the House.

6.37 p.m.

Mr. T. Williams

This is one of those last-minute fundamental changes of which there were so many in the course of the Committee stage in connection with this Measure. This last-minute proposal is the last word in last-minute proposals, considering what happened in Committee. We have had single quotas, separate quotas and double quotas, and now we have a treble quota which nobody wants. The Ministry have been told in fairly plain language, as I shall show in a minute or two, that neither the producers nor the exhibitors want this proposal which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has commended to the House. I agree that any attempt to create better films is very laudable, and I imagine that hon. Members in all parts of the House will be in general agreement on that. All of us want a successful industry and good films. We feel that we have a good deal of talent in this country to produce such films.

But apparently the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and the President of the Board of Trade, who, we regret, is not here to-day, have not considered for a moment the possible reactions to this new proposal. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that an odd telegram had been received here and there, but I understand that about 3,500 telegrams have been distributed among hon. Members. One thing that can be said is that whenever the Government are short of money, there is a very easy means of providing revenue for the Treasury. All they need to do is to place on the Order Paper an unconsidered and outrageous Amendment that will be bound to cause a large number of people in the country to go to the post offices and spend money on telegrams to hon. Members, thus causing the Post Office revenue to go up and the Government to become solvent again. It seems to me that for a long time there has not been such a spontaneous outburst of fear and anger as has followed the appearance of this Amendment on the Order Paper.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman be good enough to tell us why, after the President of the Board of Trade made a statement in Committee that this matter had been definitely and finally dropped, this Amendment should have been brought forward without consulting those who were likely to be most adversely affected by it? I think I shall be able to show that their fears are in no way exaggerated. I shall bring in as my chief witness the President of the Board of Trade. I will quote from a statement which the right hon. Gentleman made in the Standing Committee on Tuesday, 8th February. The Minister explained to the Committee a set of proposals which he had submitted to what are called the Federation of British Industries producers. Those proposals related to reciprocity, the double quota, the treble quota and so on. In the course of his explanations to the Committee, the right hon. Gentleman said: In the light of all this, I put before the producers—the producers' section of the Federation of British Industries—a definite scheme, detailed in all its parts, and which as far as I was concerned was not capable of alteration in any detail which would throw it out of balance. A little later, he said: Those were the proposals that I put forward, and I think the Committee will agree that they were put forward in fairly definite form. They were put before the producers' section, and I told them that they had been worked out in relation to the central idea and that the scheme must stand or fall as a whole. The right hon. Gentleman then told the Committee of a letter which he had received, but which I need not quote, and he concluded his speech with the following observation: I take that letter to be a rather roundabout way of rejecting this proposal, and that being so, I have no intention of making any further move in the matter. Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman be good enough to tell us why the President of the Board of Trade has not only made a further move in the matter, but has made such a move as will completely upset the balance of the scheme which he submitted to the producers? Both producers and exhibitors were included in the proposals, there being a treble quota for the renter and a double quota for the exhibitor. The producers turned down the proposals, and the right hon. Gentleman said that he would have nothing more to do with the matter. He has not consulted the exhibitors about this partial application of his central scheme. He has placed part of the scheme on the Order Paper, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has moved it without telling us anything about the possible reactions and what those most interested think about the proposal. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has moved an Amendment which not only puts the general scheme out of balance, but apparently has not to stand or fall as a whole, but to stand by itself, without regard for what may be the reactions to it.

I commend to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's notice one other observation made by the President of the Board of Trade. On the same day, the President of the Board of Trade presented to the Committee a careful calculation that had been made for him by his very competent officials at the Board of Trade. He was dealing with the question of how many films might be produced to fulfil renters' quota and the number that might be produced by independent producers, and he reached this conclusion: I do not regard this as any matter of principle. Whether it is 10 or 12½ or 15 per cent. is entirely a question, in the first year at any rate, of fact, a question of how many films are going to be available. On the calculations that I have made—and we have gone into this with the very greatest care—I can only tell the Committee that I believe for the first years, especially in view of the delays in the passing of this Bill and the longer period of uncertainty which has meant postponement of production, that to put the figure higher than 10 per cent"— that is exhibitors' quota— would lead to a serious default among exhibitors."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee A), 8th February, 1938; cols. 448–460.] In the same speech, the right hon. Gentleman informed us that although 220 British films were produced last year over 200 exhibitors had to default—they could not help themselves. That was the warning which the right hon. Gentleman had taken. But at the next meeting of the Committee he increased the exhibitors' quota from 10 to 12½ per cent., although previously he had said that 10 per cent. was the maximum which the exhibitors would be able to fulfil. Now he produces this Amendment. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman rightly said that hon. Members in all parts of the House would prefer that high quality films rather than mediocre films should be produced. We have it on record that when good British films are available, exhibitors are willing to show them. In every year, I believe since 1930, British films exhibited in this country have very largely exceeded the exhibitors' quota. When the films are available and of good quality, there is no disinclination on the part of exhibitors to show them. What is the treble quota likely to do? If, as the right hon. Gentleman anticipates, those who produce to fulfil renters' quota take advantage of this opportunity, clearly they are bound to produce fewer films. That seems beyond argument. The first effect of that will be less employment, and the second effect will be fewer films available for exhibition. That is the cause of the fear and anxiety expressed in the telegrams received by hon. Members yesterday and the day before.

Let us make the best calculation we can. I am now taking the exhibitors' figures, which may be exaggerated, but we can allow for some exaggeration. They say that 550 imported films would require approximately 97 British films for the quota. If the producers produce £30,000 films and obtain treble quota for each film, they need produce only 33 films. The President of the Board of Trade told us in Committee that he did not expect more than 50 British films in the first year—and 33 and 50 make 83. But the right hon. Gentleman himself in another passage of his speech in Committee, declared that 100 films was the minimum which would be required to fulfil a 10 per cent. exhibitors' quota. Is there not, then, a reason for the anxiety and fear which have been expressed on the part of those who may be made to default, because the films are not available to enable them to fill their quota?

Captain Wallace

I understand that what the hon. Member is saying arises from the assumption that all foreign renters who have British quota to fulfil, will fulfil it solely and exclusively by producing treble quota films?

Mr. Williams

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman will remember that I said I was taking the exhibitors' figures. They may be exaggerated. Let us then reduce the calculation to what we would regard as the normal proportions. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman and his right hon. Friend will be terribly disappointed if the renters do not produce higher quality films. That is the object of their Amendment. If the renters are not going to produce films which will qualify for treble quota, there is no point in the Amendment. To the extent, therefore, that use is made of this treble quota, it is bound to reduce the number of films available for exhibition. Assuming that 97 films are required, they will only produce a proportion of good-quality films under the terms of this Amendment. Suppose that instead of reducing the number of films from 97 to 33 we reduce it to 45 or 50 or whatever figure the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would consider reasonable. The President of the Board of Trade when referring only to £7,500 films, anticipated that only 50 films would be produced to fulfil renters' quota—not 97, the suggested requirement.

I would say that the exhibitors figures are not only not an exaggeration but a hopeless contraction in view of the right hon. Gentleman's own calculations, made with the assistance of the Board of Trade officers. He says he requires 50 normal £15,000 films to fulfil renters' quota and that 50 will be produced by independent people. That makes 100 and he thinks that justifies a 10 per cent. exhibitors' quota. Taking the right hon. Gentleman's figure of 50, let us suppose that the renters produce 10 films of the better quality and claim the treble quota, making those 10 films equal to 30 and that they also produce 20 £15,000 films. There are only 30 films, in that case, instead of 50. Unless the President of the Board of Trade proposes to take power in this Measure to compel somebody to produce sufficient films to fulfil the exhibitors' quota, I do not know what he proposes to do. This seems to me to be an Amendment which is designed to compel people to default.

In Committee my colleagues and I always regarded this as a non-party Measure. We cannot find anything comparable with this industry. Its multifarious ramifications and conflicting interests compel us to face it as an isolated problem, unlike any other problem in the country. Therefore we were willing to go with the right hon. Gentleman as far as he could take us upon a basis of sensible calculation, whether as regards renters' quota or exhibitors' quota. We were willing to go with him all the way on that basis, but we shall hesitate to legislate into default the people who cannot help themselves. We do not want to find the exhibitors at variance with the Board of Trade or the Board of Trade at variance with either the exhibitors or the producers. If this Bill passes we want it to start on a solid foundation and with some hope of a measure of co-operation. But if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman or his right hon. Friend put on the Order Paper and endeavour to pass an Amendment which adversely affects major interests in this industry, then it would appear that there will not be co-operation and I am afraid there will be the exact opposite.

If we take the right hon. Gentleman's own figures there can be no justification for this Amendment without other Amendments that will prevent people having to default against their will. The calculations are there for every Member to see in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Standing Committee. I stand on those figures and I do not think anyone can question them. I may be asked, "How is it that you never complained about the double quota?" That is a challenge which I wish to anticipate. It is generally conceded by the Board of Trade that a film, the labour costs of which amount to approximately £7,500, will cost £15,000. It has also been calculated that no matter how high you go up the scale the same proportions remain. That does not follow at all. For a £15,000 film it is necessary to hire a studio and to have lighting and effects and the rest, and it has been calculated that a film the labour costs of which are £22,500, instead of costing £50,000 may cost only £35,000. A £35,000 film for which the producer got double quota will cost him £5,000 more than two £15,000 films. It is argued that there is no advantage there to the producer in claiming doubt quota and there is not much likelihood of selling the £35,000 film in America. But if you lift the labour costs from £22,000 to £30,000 and give him treble quota for it, it is thought possible, despite all the terms of this Measure in regard to labour costs, that the cost may be not £60,000 but £45,000, and for £45,000 there is treble quota plus the chance of selling a well-made £45,000 film in America.

We want to see as many British films sold in America as possible, but we cannot do one thing in this curious industry without noting the reaction on other parts of the industry. I submit that I have given sound, logical reasons for inviting the Parliamentary Secretary to withdraw this Amendment. I am certain that if all hon. Members who vote—if a vote is taken—could listen to all the arguments in favour of and against the treble quota, the Minister would lose easily. I have an Amendment down to the Minister's Amendment on Clause 26, the object being to defer the application of this for 12 months until the council have had an opportunity of examining it. If hon. Members will look at the principle and the possible effect of the application of this and subsequent Amendments, I am convinced that, if they want to do themselves justice and to keep the Minister out of serious trouble, they will not hesitate to vote against the Amendment.

7.2 p.m.

Mr. H. G. Williams

I would like to congratulate the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) on the great lucidity with which he explained this most difficult point. I am certain that hon. Members who did not serve on the Committee upstairs must be finding our Debates to-night a little difficult to follow, and I do not think I am under-estimating when I say that this is a sort of subject about which in the Committee we were never certain whether we came to the right conclusion. I support the hon. Member for Don Valley. I was against him on his new Clause, but on this matter I am very much with him, with one qualification. His justification for supporting the double quota which he gave at the end of his speech was that it did not matter because it could never happen. That was not a justification on merit. The chances of it ever being used were so remote that he did not mind whether the words appeared in the Bill or not. I opposed the double quota upstairs, and I oppose the treble quota even more strongly.

Let me put the matter in other terms so that hon. Members who are not familiar with the problem may appreciate it. The renter is the wholesaler, the exhibitor is the retailer. We are passing a Bill to provide that out of every 200 oranges the retailer sells in the first year 25 must have been produced in the British Empire. We are also saying that the wholesale importer or merchant must see that out of every 200 oranges he imports 30 shall be of Empire origin. The reason we demand that the merchant shall have more than the retailer is to ensure that the retailer will have some choice of the oranges he buys before he offers them to the public. The President of the Board of Trade, however, says that if the wholesale merchant buys only big oranges, or if some of them are big, and if the Empire oranges are three times the size of the others, each of the big oranges shall count as three. Therefore, to take an extreme case, the wholesale merchant will then have only 10 oranges on his shelves and the poor retailer has to buy 25. That is, in different terms, the proposition which the Parliamentary Secretary, for reasons I do not understand, is asking us to accept.

Captain Arthur Evans

Would my hon. Friend's point be met if a consequential Amendment were made to Schedule I to increase the renter's quota?

Mr. Williams

You might treble the renter's quota and make everything equal, but that in essence would leave us only where we were.

Captain Evans

What I meant was that we could increase the renter's obligations under Schedule 1 to produce films, so that, instead of reducing the quota in the first year, you should put it up to 20 per cent. and make it permissive to increase that quota as the Board of Trade deemed wise. Then you would provide enough films for the exhibitor to place on his screen.

Mr. Williams

That is, obviously, a proposal to treat every one alike, and I do not think it is a solution. What is even worse about this proposal is its ultimate effect upon British films. We are going to have, theoretically, as a maximum, a shortage of 7½ per cent. taking the worst possible circumstances. The exhibitor, if he is not to break the law, has to get some kind of film at all costs, and the only result will be a series of perfectly deplorable cheap films which will bring discredit to the British film-producing industry. It must be remembered that our test of quality imposed by price affects only the renter's quota. It does not affect what the exhibitor may show. The exhibitor will be forced to buy rubbish, and perhaps to buy dearly, and to exhibit it with the knowledge that it is British rubbish, and we shall have a worse state of affairs than ever.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will reconsider this matter. He is in a difficulty. His President is in bed and the distinguished right hon. Gentleman by his side is there in order that the Cabinet may be represented; but I doubt whether, with all his intelligence, the Minister of Health knows anything about this Bill. I do not blame him; it is not his fault, for he is not a superman. I am not reflecting upon him, but I doubt whether there is a Member of the Cabinet, apart from the President of the Board of Trade, who is in a position to give any serious advice to the Parliamentary Secretary. We have to come to a decision without the advice of the only Member of the Cabinet who knows anything about it. In these circumstances, since the shepherd is away, the flock will have to come to a decision, and I hope, without any disrespect to His Majesty's Ministers who are present and to the distinguished persons who are known as the Whips, that we shall vote against the proposal which ought never to have been made.

7.10 p.m.

Mr. Mander

I feel that I must defend the Minister of Health against the attack which has been made upon him by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams). The right hon. Gentleman is one of the most quick-witted Members of the Cabinet, and I feel sure that in the short time he has been present at our discussions he has grasped the intricacies of the points that have been put before us and is capable of seizing the Parliamentary situation. I was surprised to see this extraordinary proposal placed on the Order Paper, and I join in the appeal to the Government to withdraw it. The President used clear and definite language on the Committee stage when he said that if the whole thing were not accepted it would be dropped, and it is difficult to understand why he should have suddenly picked upon this proposal and tried to incorporate it in the Bill. It shows how difficult it is to try to legislate 10 years ahead in an industry with the complications of the film industry.

I can well understand that there may be merits in this proposal, and that it may really assist the British film industry in some way, but nobody can say clearly at this moment that it will do so. It is the sort of problem that requires to be considered in all its intricacies by the experts who will be sitting on the Films Council. If the Government had proposed that this was a matter which was not to be put into operation at once, but was to be considered by the council and recommended to the Board of Trade if they thought it wise, and put into force after a certain number of years, that might have been a wise way of dealing with it. We are not given that option; we have to take it or leave it. I would say leave it, because we cannot see what difficulties we may be getting into. There will certainly be reactions in all directions which will cause great dissatisfaction. There is an important point in connection with this proposal. If this is to be incorporated in the Bill the renter's quota must be raised, for the two things go together. If that is not done, there will be no assistance to the 10,000 people in the industry who are now out of work. Of the 130 films that were made in this country last year and that were above the cost test, quite a number fulfilled the double and treble quota obligations.

Let me give an example of the way this scheme would work out in practice in decreasing productions in this country. I will take the case of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Company. They have just made a film at Denham, "A Yank at Oxford," and we shall look forward to seeing it in the near future. They have in contemplation the making of four other films. One is "The Citadel," based on the well-known book by Dr. Cronin, and it will be a treble quota film. They are going to make a Royal Air Force film, which will again be a treble quota film; one called "The Finishing School," a double quota film; and another called "And so Victoria," which will again be a treble quote film. They may not be making them all this year, but contemplate doing so during the next year or two. As the Bill stands, they would have to make two of these films. If we pass this Amendment they need make only one in order to comply with the obligations. You are, therefore, relieving these people of the expenditure of an enormous sum of money which would give a great deal of employment in this country. What are you going to get in return? It is clear in the example I have given that one treble quota film would not be made under the Amendment, but would almost certainly be made as the Bill stands.

Take the case of the Twentieth Century Fox Film Company, that made "Wings of the Morning," a film that cost £150,000. It is clear that in that case, if they had any schemes for producing on this, scale, they would produce fewer films than at the present time, and, therefore, there would be fewer available to exhibitors and less employment in this country. There is no reason why the percentage of the quota should not be raised. There is ample opportunity in this country, and there is a large number of different concerns. There are those I have already mentioned, and there are the C. M. Woolf, General Film Distributors the Maxwell concerns, and Warner Brothers, all capable, with sufficient stimulus, of turning out the films that are required in this country for distribution to the various cinemas. But you are taking a step now which, so far from encouraging the use of those facilities, will do the direct opposite. I urge strongly that unless the Government can see their way to couple with this proposal an increase in the quota percentage, they should at this stage drop the proposal altogether. The only alternative that I can see to that is that the scheme, which may have merits, should be remitted to the Films Council to be brought into operation a year or so hence if they think it has advantages which outweigh its disadvantages.

7.17 p.m.

Mr. Emery

As one who has been a cinema exhibitor for 20 years, I want to say how sorry I am to see this Amendment introduced, if only for the fact that, in my opinion, it cuts right across the spirit of fairness and tolerance which characterised the efforts of the Minister in dealing with the matter upstairs. The Parliamentary Secretary has told us that the object of the treble quota is to encourage the production of more ambitious pictures in this country. In my opinion, what it certainly will do is to cause the cost of producing the films to rise, particularly films produced by American companies, and the number of films actually produced will correspondingly be less. That is a certainty. It is only to be expected that the American companies in particular will look upon the treble quota as a heaven-sent opportunity to them for acquiring their quota of British films with very little difficulty. For the purely British firms, it provides no incentive at all, in my opinion, for them to produce ambitious films, because, of course, they are in business solely for the production of British films, without being saddled with any corresponding liability of handling foreign productions. We can be quite sure that the big American firms will not handle any more British products than they are compelled to do, so that if they are to receive this concession of a treble quota, it means also at one stroke removing the advantages, if they are any, of the slight increase in the renters' quota requirements as compared with the exhibitors'.

By way of illustration, you can take the quota obligation which commences on 1st April next. There the renters' quota is 15 per cent. At the present time, as the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) said, the number of films imported into this country is about 550, which would mean the acquisition by those importers of something like 100 British films if they were to comply with their quota. Assuming that only one-half of that number came within the category of the £30,000 film, it would mean that approximately 66 British films would be necessary to comply with the Act. Let us take the position of the exhibitor who only counts such a film once for his quota requirement, and let us assume that he is one of four exhibitors in the same district. By that I mean that he is in a district with three competitors, none of whom show the same film. There are scores and scores of such instances all over the country, and in most of these cases—this is one point that I wish to emphasise— these cinemas are known as twice-weekly-change houses; that is, they change their programme on the Monday and again on the Thursday. In such a case an exhibitor would require 16 films for his quota, and so would each of his three competitors, with the result that they would be completed among them to show every British film that was produced, without giving any one of them any margin of selection.

The position is infinitely worse in those areas where there are six or seven cinemas in direct competition. I can give the instance of Manchester, where I have practical experience. Last year, in the centre of the city—and when I say "the centre" I mean within a radius of half a mile from the Manchester Town Hall— there were seven cinemas in business, all in direct competition with each other and unable to show the same films. If the position had been as I have indicated, it would have been mathematically impossible for the quota requirement of each of those exhibitors to have been met. The treble quota in particular pays no regard at all to the local conditions or the insufficiency of supply of British films for the competitive centres in large areas of population, and I submit that this Bill, when it becomes an Act, will only be successful according to how it meets the conditions and the needs of the large and competitive centres.

May I again particularly emphasise the difficulty which the treble quota would bring to those cinemas, easily the big majority in the country, which are compelled to change their films twice weekly? In many other cases as well, apart from changing films twice weekly, they change two films twice weekly; in other words, they are showing four films in one week. As against what the Parliamentary Secretary referred to, namely, 104 films in a year, they are showing 208 films. It is true, I know, that the quota is calculated on the basis of footage and that in their case they would probably show no more footage than the particular cinema which showed only one film a week, but there is this vital difference, that the twice-weekly-change house calls for twice the number of British films in order to enable the exhibitor to meet his quota; and it is this large reduction in the number of films which is bound to be produced that will bring difficulties to a great number of exhibitors in this country, difficulties which, in my opinion, will be insurmountable and, as the hon. Member for Don Valley has said, will only bring them into conflict with the Board of Trade.

7.25 p.m.

Major Procter

As one who has been actively engaged in the production side of this industry, I did not desire to take any part in the Committee stage of this Bill, and in this Debate, apart from this small contribution which I am about to make, I propose to take no part on any question that may arise, as I believe that those of us who have a financial interest in this matter should not take part in Debates such as these. I should have liked, of course, to have dealt with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for West Salford (Mr. Emery), and I would just say, in passing, that, he as an exhibitor has no complaint whatever in so far as the exhibition of pictures in this country is concerned.

Mr. Emery

I have been prosecuted.

Major Procter

That may be, but in so far as the exhibitors are concerned, they are the prosperous side of this industry; it is they, and they alone, who are making profits in the industry. Also we have the problem of redundancy, which in itself has helped the exhibitors very much indeed. It is not on that side, of the problem of production, it is not the recital of the great losses which every British production company has made during the past years, that I wish to speak. I approve of the treble quota because of the interests of the workers in this industry, and I speak as the President of a trade union connected with the industry that has been very hard hit. Many of the workers have found no employment whatever during the past year, and one of our members during the whole of last year had only eight days' work and this year nothing at all. The speaker for the Opposition said that this Amendment would mean the production of the cheaper kind of films. That is perfectly true. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) spoke about the foreign production firms that had produced films like "Wings of the Morning," and he said that that is the kind of film which, if this Amendment is passed, would be made in this country. If the British film industry is to recover its prestige, that is the kind of film that must be made in this country, if we are to compete against the American productions.

It is films of a high character, of high class, that need encouragement, and if you give encouragement to the production of the cheaper kind of film, it will be impossible to find finance to make pictures which will be a credit to the British industry and to our national name. It is in pictures of good value that the greatest employment is given to members of my trade union, the Film Artists' Association, affiliated to the Trades Union Congress. I am proud to be a member of it, and I speak on behalf of those of its members, men and women, who are out of jobs at this moment. If you produce cheap pictures in this country there is no work for the crowd. How can you have a crowd of 1,000, say, at 1,000 guineas a day, if you produce merely cheap pictures? The cheap picture means the elimination of the members of my trade union from films. Again, a cheap picture means that much of the work will be done in the open, away from the studios altogether. If a picture is taken in the Strand or in Hyde Park that will mean that the technicians and electricians, who are members of our union would be out of work. It is the good pictures that demand the highest-trained technicians, receiving a high rate of pay, and high wages cannot be paid and these men cannot be employed if you do not encourage those better pictures. I hope, therefore, that the President of the Board of Trade will stand firm for this Amendment, which will enable us to get the finance to pay the wages of the 8,000 men and women who are now unemployed.

7.32 p.m.

Mr. G. Strauss

I listened carefully to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Accrington (Major Procter), but I could not understand his suggestion that if this proposal were adopted there would be more work for the people employed in the film industry. The factor which he seemed to forget was that, although the films produced might be more expensive, there would be one-third less film produced under this proposal, and I should have thought that, if it had any effect on the number of working people employed, it would have the effect of reducing it. I cannot see why more people should be employed in producing more expensive films if the films produced are a third less.

Major Procter

Because the cheap pictures do not occupy the studio time. They may be in the studio for just a few days, whereas a large picture may take 12 weeks. As you step up the costs so you increase the employment in the industry.

Mr. Strauss

The hon. Gentleman, I know, is an expert on this matter, but I understand that it usually happens that in the production of an expensive film a less proportion of money is spent in the wages of technicians and others, compared with a cheaper film. I was surprised by the argument of the hon. Gentleman that it is necessary to provide statutory encouragement of the film producers in order to induce them to produce good films. Surely the film producers naturally want to produce good films.

Sir Adrian Baillie

The foreign renter is an importer of foreign films, and the obligation is on him, not on the film producer.

Mr. Strauss

The argument of the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington was that this proposal was desirable for the production of good films. I suggest that that is a ridiculous argument, because the producers have, anyhow, every inducement to make good films. The Minister admitted that the proposal was brought forward at the last moment, although there was considerable opposition outside, and I submit that in such circumstances we must be careful that the underlying reasons for such a new proposal are carefully considered. As I understand it the position of the Government is this. If you hold out as an inducement a treble quota of films on which the labour costs amount to £30,000, then it is possible that such good films will be produced as will be able to enter the American market. Is that really a sound argument? Let us pursue it to its logical conclusion. Suppose the Government go further and offer a quadruple quota, when labour costs amount to £40,000. According to the argument for this Amendment, British films would then have even greater success in America. Or why should not they quintuple the quota, with costs of £50,000? Such a proposal would establish British films in every country in the world.

I suggest that this underlying principle is ridiculous. You cannot make producers in this country produce first-class films which will be a success in America by trying to induce them to spend more money on their films. I believe that, with the artists and the talent and the technicians available in this country, if the British film industry is properly organised, and if it is not handicapped by mad finance and is conducted on cooperative lines, it will be able to produce films as good as those produced in any other part of the world, and which will be successful in America. I suggest that the Government's proposal, therefore, is a fallacious one and, as the principle of this Amendment is extremely doubtful, to put it no higher, and it has caused consternation in the industry, the best course would be to withdraw it.

7.40 p.m.

Commander Bower

It is very difficult for anyone who was not on the Committee upstairs to understand all the intricacies of this Bill, but, after all, the Bill is one which interests almost everyone in the country. Yesterday morning I, as usual, read the organs of the Left wing Press, and I saw that Members on this side of the House had been overwhelmed with telegrams. Consequently, when I opened a large number of telegrams it was with some trepidation, because I thought that the League of Nations Union had been getting busy, but I found it was these telegrams which have already been referred to, coming from film exhibitors. My feeling is that this proposal has been brought forward at the last moment, it is very distasteful to an enormous number of exhibitors, and those exhibitors are the nearest people in the industry to the general public. I think that is a factor of the greatest importance. If the exhibitors object to it, there must be something in that objection.

I think we should give due weight to the argument of the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Procter); at the same time, he represents a very small number of people compared with the cinema-going public. It is the cinema-going public, after all, whom we have finally to consider in all these matters, and that comprises almost everybody in the country. Indeed, I think the mere fact of these telegrams having been received, whereas, so far as I know, practically no other telegrams of any sort arrived—despite the imaginings of the correspondents of the Left wing Press yesterday—shows where the real interests of the people lie. I am sorry the Prime Minister is not here to-day because it might perhaps have enabled him to get a sense of the matters of real importance to the people of this country. But I received one telegram worthy of attention from the President of the Cinematograph Exhibitors' association in which, after saying that this proposal would cause the greatest setback the industry has ever received, he suggests that it should be rejected until it has received consideration by the Cinematograph Films Council. I believe that the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) has an Amendment down roughly to that effect, and I suggest to the Minister that, in view of the strong feeling expressed in all quarters of the House, he should accept that suggestion and drop this proposal, at any rate for the present.

7.42 p.m.

Mr. Duncan

I was on the Committee. I tried to see this Bill with the eyes of an ordinary human being, and I supported, and still support, this proposal for that reason. I think the last 10 years of the old Act roughly gave us in this country a British cinema industry which could produce an ordinary second-class feature film. What is wanted in the next 10 years is a British cinema industry which will produce first-class feature films, and here is a proposal which in my estimation will encourage the British film industry to do that. That is the first reason why I support this proposal. The second is this: One of the reasons for the almost complete collapse of the British film-making industry at the present moment is lack of funds and enormous sums of money have been completely wasted in the British film industry in the last 10 years. The situation has got so bad that no one with any money will put it into the film industry until some confidence can be restored. Now there will be an opportunity to put money into the industry for the production of decent pictures, such as will not only have a sale in this country and in America but such as decent people can be proud of and such as will put British production really on the map in England and America.

I shall not go into details of the figures which were given to us by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) but in his deductions from them he left out one item which ought to be taken into consideration—the voluntary films. Last year, although the exhibitors' quota was 20 per cent., the actual percentage of British films produced and shown in British cinemas was about 29 per cent., which is well over the quota, and shows that there is a considerable surplus of voluntary film production; and there is no reason why that situation should not continue. Therefore, any anxiety which exhibitors may have about being able to get films is much exaggerated. The hon. Member for Don Valley says that the Board of Trade should have power to let exhibitors off if they are unable to get the films. Already Clause 13 gives that specific power. For the three reasons I have given I suggest that this proposal for a treble quota should be supported.

Mr. T. Williams

The hon. Member said that I omitted to mention the independent films. I do not think I did, because I gave the estimate of the President of the Board of Trade, which will be found in the report of the proceedings of the Committee: It is not easy to assess the number of British films outside the renters' quota, but the Federation of British Industries put it as high as 50."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee A), 8th February, 1938; col. 459.] The President went on to remark that perhaps that might be regarded as an optimistic estimate.

7.48 p.m.

Captain A. Evans

The House must long ago have come to the conclusion that this is a difficult and complicated question, and after the arguments put forward during the last hour or so I think the hon. Member for North Kensington (Mr. Duncan) is to be congratulated on bringing the House back to the real objects of the Bill. What is the object of the Bill, and what is the desire not only of the Government but of the interests which are affected? It is to encourage the production of British films, and thereby give employment to British people employed in that industry, and to encourage the exhibition of good British films not only in this country but in other countries, particularly America. If I understand it aright the purpose of the treble quota is to encourage the exhibition, in this country particularly, of British films which have a high standard of quality. When the first quota Bill was introduced, in 1927, I think, the great criticism was that it might well be that though British films might be available for exhibition they would not be of a sufficiently high quality to gain the support of the British public. That is one of the main criticisms to which this Bill has been subjected. It is said that in nine cases out of ten the British films exhibited under the requirements of the last Bill were of such poor quality as not to encourage exhibitors to show them, because they did not command the support of the public.

I think it is admitted that the particular proposal before us will encourage the production of high quality British films, but I feel that the Government are in a little difficulty through not having carried their policy to its logical conclusion, and one way out would be for them to accept the Amendment standing in the name of certain hon. Friends of mine and myself to amend Schedule 1 and thereby to encourage British producers to produce more films. It is agreed that we want to show better quality British films, and it must also be agreed that we cannot do so unless we give practical encouragement to the British producer to produce more films of that character. I should like to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Amendments on the Order Paper, because there he will find the way out of the difficulty. The first Amendment is: Schedule 1, page 40, line 21, column 1, leave out "12½" and insert "15. That is a proposal to increase the exhibitors' quota at the beginning from 12½ to 15 per cent. Then there is a further Amendment— Schedule 1, page 40, line 30, column 1, leave out "25" and insert "40. That would increase the quota at the end from 25 to 40 per cent. The, object of those two Amendments, which must be considered in conjunction with the proposal of the Government, is to raise the exhibitors' quota from a 12½—15 per cent. basis to a 25–40 per cent. basis. With such elasticity the Board of Trade could, in their discretion, increase the quota to the higher percentage as the production of British films permitted. In response to all the complaints of producers about the inadequacy of this Bill the only crumb of comfort which has been offered up to date by the Board of Trade is to raise the initial exhibitors' programme from 10 to 12½ per cent., but we have to bear in mind that the quota as it obtains to-day is not 12½ per cent. but is, in fact 20 per cent.

In Committee upstairs the argument was put forward by the Board of Trade that owing to the new conditions which will obtain under this Bill, and the additional cost of producing a certain class of British films, it would not be fair to ask the British producer to increase his quota of the market available up to a standard of 20 per cent. but, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Accrington (Major Procter) pointed out, the producer himself has some very practical difficulties to face. He has to obtain finance for his films and it is easier to get finance from the City of London if they are satisfied there that under a Bill passed by this House a certain high and fair percentage of an available market will be available for that particular class of films. The proposal of the Government is that that quota should be reduced, and instead of the British producer having 20 per cent. of an available market—unless the Amendments standing in the name of my hon. Friends are accepted—that available market will be reduced from 20 to 12½ per cent.

Mr. G. Strauss

On a point of Order. Are we entitled on this Amendment to discuss the question of the general quotas?

Mr. Speaker

The Amendment to which the hon. and gallant Member has been referring has a considerable bearing on this subject.

Mr. T. Williams

On the same lines would it be permissible to discuss an Amendment which I have put down to Clause 26, which would defer this proposal for 12 months, until after its examination by the Films Council?

Mr. Speaker

I think that would also be in order.

Captain Evans

I am grateful, Mr. Speaker, for your Ruling, because my argument was directed to showing that the Government's proposal would be acceptable only if they made the necessary consequential Amendments at a later stage to encourage the production as well as the exhibition of the films we are considering. I think I have made my point sufficiently clear to my right hon. and gallant Friend, and I hope he will give us some encouragement to believe that that aspect of the case will be taken into review.

7.56 p.m.

Mr. T. Smith

I would appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to withdraw this Amendment and to accept the one standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) to Clause 26, to defer the proposal for 12 months. I object strongly to the way in which this Amendment for treble quotas has been brought forward. One of the advantages of our Parliamentary system is that a Bill can be threshed out in Committee after it has received a Second Reading. In Committee upstairs Members of all parties considered this Bill for some 12 or 13 days, and the treble quota was never once mentioned there.

Captain Wallace

If the hon. Member will look at column 459 of the report of the Committee proceedings he will find that my right hon. Friend said categorically that he proposed to bring forward this proposal.

Mr. Smith

What I said was, perhaps, an overstatement, but the proposal for a treble quota was not examined there.

Mr. T. Williams

Surely the Parliamentary Secretary does not mean what he has just said. The President of the Board of Trade not only did not say that he was going to bring this proposal forward, but said in winding up his speech: I take that letter to be a rather roundabout way of rejecting this proposal, and, that being so, I have no intention of making any further move in the matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee A), 8th February, 1938, cols. 450–1.]

The Solicitor-General (Sir Terence O'Connor)

If the hon. Member turns to Column 483 in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the next day's sitting of the Committee, he will find that my right hon. Friend the President said: Those are the proposals with regard to reciprocity and with regard to increasing the amount of quota allowance for the expensive film. Both those proposals were recommended to me by the producers themselves in a considered statement which they made in October, and although they formed part of the general scheme for a double quota I shall propose on Report to proceed with these two items and ask the House of Commons to include them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee A), 10th February, 1938, col. 483.] I am not arguing the merits, but in view of that statement which must have been overlooked by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), it is not fair to say that my right hon. Friend did not give notice in advance.

Mr. T. Smith

I hope the House will understand that I had no intention of making a misstatement. I had overlooked it. It may be that there is some merit in this proposal, but I doubt it. Taking the long view, I hope that it may be for the best. Will it not be wiser, from the angles both of the Government and of the trade, not to discuss this matter now and pass it into law, but to refer it for consideration to the Films Council which is set up under Clause 39? There the proposal could be analysed, discussed, and examined by 21 people appointed for definite purposes, and if they felt that it merited sufficient consideration they could recommend to the President of the Board of Trade that he bring draft regulations before this House. That would be preferable, because the pros and cons could be discussed much more thoroughly. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will consider this suggestion. Whether he accepts it or not, I hope that the supporters of the Government will not, to borrow a film phrase, be yes-men. Many of them have indicated exactly how they feel about this matter, and if the Amendment is not withdrawn I hope that they will follow us into the Lobby against it.

8.1 p.m.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

The object of the renters' quota in the Bill, as in the Act of 1927, is to ensure to the exhibitor a supply of films to fill the exhibitors' quota. The renters' quota has always been greater than the exhibitors' quota, and the exhibitor has always been assured of there being more films in the renters' quota than were required to fill his own quota. Our object surely should be not to reduce the percentage of the renters' quota but to increase it to as high a point as possible. We are building up our industry on the renters' quota. The question revolves itself into this: Can the British industry supply the renter with sufficient films to comply with the renters' quota which we lay down, and can we obtain the finance?

I would like, first, to deal with the question of finance, because it has been mentioned in this Debate. The finance for films made to fulfil the renters' quota has had to be found by the renter, or he had to get it from somebody else outside. Otherwise he defaulted on his quota. There is no trouble whatever about getting finance for films specifically made for fulfilling the renters' quota, because it is supplied by the renter. He looks upon the films in his quota as a direct tax upon him for the privilege of importing films from America. The difficulty is in financing the voluntary films in the renters' quota. In Committee, the President of the Board of Trade estimated that 450 American films would be imported under the Bill next year. At 15 per cent. renters' quota, that would mean 80 single British quota films to fulfil the renters' quota, but the President of the Board of Trade estimated that we should require only 50. The reason he said 50, obviously, was that of the 80 films 30 were to qualify for double quota, leaving only 20 for single quota, making 50 altogether.

It is ridiculous to suggest, with the large number of sound film studios and technicians that we have, that we cannot more than fulfil a renters' quota of 15 per cent. We could fulfil one of 20 per cent. or more quite easily. We have 80 studios in this country, at least 40 of which are capable of turning out six good films apiece a year, that is, 240. The studios have the best possible equipment in the world. They are equal to the best in the world. We have first-class technicians in this country, equal to any in the world. We have more than sufficient in this country to fulfil a quota of 20 or more per cent. There is no argument, from the production aspect, for reducing the renters' quota.

I agree that we need to produce films of good quality and that this suggestion will improve the quality of our films, but I would point out that we shall never get good quality films in this country unless we also have quantity. It is undeniable that America produces about 100 good films a year, but only because the total production is 500 or more films a year. If America did not produce a quantity of films there would not be the quality. You cannot have quality without quantity. It is also a fact tha an American film-producing company is extremely satisfied with itself if, out of every ten films, they produce four which are successful. Therefore, if we wish to have good films made in this country, we must make them in quantity; otherwise we shall never get quality. If we accept the suggestion that because the labour cost of a film is not less than £30,000, the film is to count three times the renters' quota, we reduce the production of British films at once in this country, unless we say at the same time that because the film is to count three times the quota we raise that quota in proportion. By doing that we should increase the quality of our films, and ensure the quantity.

There is an absolute necessity for encouraging the production of films in this country. If we do not encourage production by one means or another, the industry must die. We can build up an industry in this country, a film industry or any other, only through the production side. Every industry we built up last year has been given protection on the production side. The same applies to the film industry but we are not protecting and encouraging film production in this country by saying to a film producer: "If you produce a film of a certain quality you reduce the amount of production in this country because your film will count three times to fulfil the renters' quota, instead of once." I am in agreement with the production of these films and that they should count three times, but only on the condition that if they count three times for renters' quota the renters' quota is raised in proportion.

8.10 p.m.

Mr. R. C. Morrison

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health has just returned to the Front Bench, because I want to make an appeal to him that may be of some interest to the House. Hon. Members may recall that the official Opposition adopted a somewhat unusual course upon the Second Reading of the Bill by discussing the Bill without moving any Amendment and allowing it to be treated as a nonparty Measure. During the Committee proceedings, that spirit was continued, and, so far as I can recall, no party Division took place, either in the Committee or on the Second Reading of the Bill.

It therefore surprises me that, after such a Committee stage, a bombshell should be sprung, and a new proposal introduced. It has been flung into the proceedings and is now holding up the Bill. It is obvious from the discussion that hon. Members find great difficulty in deciding where they stand in relation to a proposal which has been sprung upon them since the Committee stage of the Bill. Although the President of the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary have continued the consultations with the industry, no consultation of any kind has taken place on this proposal. It has been sprung. I do not think anyone has mentioned the fact, which appeals to me most, that the Measure is due, by the last Clause, to come into operation on 1st April, 1938, that is, in just over a month. The Bill will come into operation after it has passed through another place. If any Amendments are made there, the coming into operation of the Bill will probably be within two or three days of it getting to the Statute Book. Nevertheless, this proposal is put on the Order Paper by the President of the Board of Trade at this late stage, to come into force on 1st April.

Whatever the merits of the proposal may be in future years, it will be hopelessly impracticable to put it forward for the year which commences on 1st April. There is obviously a good deal of confusion, and I am sure the House would be grateful to the Minister of Health, although this is not his Department, and he is under a difficulty, if he had something to help the House into the position of being able to proceed with the Bill.

8.13 p.m.

Sir K. Wood

I know that hon. Members will appreciate the position in which I find myself, in the absence of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. I have listened with care and attention this evening to the speeches from all sides of the House on this matter, and I can judge and appreciate the spirit in which this Bill has been debated during the Committee stage. There has been little or no division of opinion, and certainly not on party political lines.

What I feel I ought to do—and I hope it will meet with the assent of the House —is to tell the House that the Government will withdraw this Amendment. I tell the House, however, that I must reserve the position of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in this matter. If he feels that this is a matter of considerable moment to the industry and that the proposal must go forward in another place, it must be understood that the proposal will come back again for the consideration of this House. In order that we may make progress with the Bill—naturally I want to meet the general wishes of the House on the Bill—I will withdraw the Amendment on behalf of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. T. Williams

May I express our profound thanks to the right hon. Gentleman, and commend to his notice the Amendment on the Order Paper—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)

If the hon. Member wishes the Amendment to be withdrawn, he must not make a speech.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made:

In page 2, line 33, after "cost," insert: then, subject to the following provisions of this Part of this Act.

In line 34, leave out "said purpose," and insert "purpose of that paragraph."

In line 34, after "twice," insert "or, as the case may be, three times."— [Captain Wallace.]