§ Lords Amendment: In page 43, line 7, column 1, leave out "15," and insert "20."
§ 6.53 p.m.
I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
I do not know whether it would be for the convenience of the House to discuss this series of Amendments which deal 1703 with renters' quotas for long films together with the Amendments which deal with exhibitors' quotas for long films. In another place the Amendments on the exhibitors' quotas were considered to be consequential on the Amendments to the renters' quotas. A good deal of the argument will be applicable to both, and it might be for the convenience of the House to discuss them together and, if necessary, to take the decision on them separately.
§ Mr. T. Williams
While we are dealing with renters' quotas we ought to deal with the exhibitors' quotas as well. One debate will cover the two.
This question was debated at considerable length at various stages in the passage of the Bill through the House of Commons. I do not deny that it is a difficult and debatable matter, but I have on various occasions told the House why I have come to a decision as to the fixing of the renters' quota for the first year at 15 per cent. Despite the arguments and the Amendments in another place, I still remain of the opinion that the figure I then chose was right, and I still believe that, especially at this very late moment—a moment which, after all, is only three days before the renters' quota begins—an increase from that figure to 20 per cent. would have disastrous consequences. It might be as well to explain—and I am induced to do this by an examination of the Debate in another place—although hon. Members who have followed the Bill closely will need no explanation, what is meant by the renters' quota, because only by knowing what it is can we see exactly what burden is borne by the renter.
Take the case of a quota, as it was in the Bill when it left the House, of 15 per cent. That does not mean, as some people appear to think, that a renter who wants to acquire 100,000 feet of foreign films has to provide only 15,000 feet of British films. The percentage is not a percentage on the foreign films that may be acquired, but on all the films that he acquires. Therefore, if a renter acquires 100,000 feet of foreign films he has to acquire 15,000 feet of British films against that, and then, like a sort of compound 1704 of interest, acquire further British films against that addition. To allow a renter to acquire 100,000 feet of foreign films, therefore, he would need to take 18,000 feet of British films. Similarly in other proportions, if the renter's quota was 20 per cent., he would need not 20,000, but about 25,000 feet of British films. It is only right that that should be made plain because it is obvious that there are certain people who have not grasped it and who do not, therefore, understand the extent of the contribution that the renter has to make. This question was considered by the committee sitting under Lord Moyne, which gave most valuable service, but which, we must remember, reported in 1936, and therefore sat through circumstances which were not always the same as those with which we have to deal to-day. They recommended that the initial quota for the renter should be 20 per cent., and I accepted that for subsequent years. The percentage in the second year of the renters' quota is the percentage which was laid down by Lord Moyne. But in the first year I did reduce the renters' quota from the 20 per cent. recommended to 15 per cent. I should like to tell the House exactly what were the reasons why I made that alteration.
The Moyne Committee recommended a viewing test. For reasons which I have several times explained to the House I could not accept that, and we have now in the Bill a cost test, which means an expenditure of at least £7,500 in labour costs; that is, probably about £15,000 in all expended on the film. For a great many American renters that represents a complete reversal of everything they have been doing for the last 10 years. It is just as if a factory which had been making the very cheapest class of goods suddenly turned over to making the most expensive type, and everybody would expect that during that change-over there would be some slowing down in production until the change-over was complete, until the readjustment and reorganisation had been made, and until they had settled down in the new conditions. What were the conditions? The conditions were that there was no cost test at all. Films could be made for the smallest sum possible without any real regard to their merits, or to the possibilities of their getting the money back.
All that, I believe, has been abolished by the new test we propose. It has, I 1705 believe, set for the renter a new standard of production, and a new standard of cost means for him a new standard of care and a new standard of organisation. Another thing, it means that some of his old sources of supply are no good to him any longer. Every one of us who has taken an interest in this business knows one or two producers in this country who have been turning out quota quickies at £1,000 apiece, or whatever it may be. The renter was always able to go to them and order a gross or a thousand—as many as he wanted. That sort of source of supply is no good to him any longer when he has to make this more expensive type of film. I felt that this complete reversal of the demands which were laid upon the renter did mean that during the first year of the existence of these new requirements he was entitled to a temporary reduction of the quota which he had to meet, to enable him to settle down to the new conditions.
And do not let anybody underrate the burdens which are put upon the renter by the new conditions. It is, after all, a very considerable thing if you have to spend a minimum of £15,000 on your quota film in future. I heard the other day of a quota film being picked up for something under £300. This therefore means a very much increased burden. It is significant that the Amendments made in the Lords do not extend beyond the first year. I could have understood it if they had said "The whole of your renters' quota is too low." I should not have agreed to it, but I should have understood it. But they leave the second year, just as I do, at 20 per cent. All that they do is to disagree with me when I say that in these new circumstances, under the revolution that has been taking place in the film industry, the quota in the first year should be lower than it is to be in the second. We have to remember that when we are talking about this renters' quota we are talking about the renters' quota for the coming year, and that year starts in three days, and the Bill is not yet through. It is only within the last few minutes that we have agreed with the Lords over the treble quota. It is only in the last few minutes that we have agreed with them on the alterations in reciprocity. What real possibility has there been for the renter in these months, with all these alterations being made, all these uncertainties, to plan the way he 1706 is going to meet even his existing 15 per cent. quota, if he is going to meet them in the way I hope he is going to? The uncertainty has been created by the fact that during the course of the Bill there has been a large number of Amendments and suggestions made which were not in the White Paper, some of which have only finally been brought forward tonight.
I make no secret of the fact that I hope that the renters' quota is going to mean the production of a more expensive type of film, the films suitable for the world market, and I want to see the renter planning his production, or his purchases, on that basis. If you are going to produce that kind of film you cannot do it at the last moment. I am sure even those hon. Gentlemen who speak for the producers will agree with me that a film which is intended for the world market is not a thing that you can turn out in a few weeks, or even a few months. It means a lot of very careful preparation beforehand. It means first of all a good story, it means the preparation of a number of these films over the course of a year, it means very careful organisation and planning of your studio work, and of the use of your staff. If at the very last moment you raise that quota from 15 per cent. to 20 per cent. nominal—or, as I have shown to the House, from 18 per cent. to 25 per cent. in practice—I believe that there is only one possible way in which the law can be carried out and that quota can be filled, and that is simply by making a new type of quota quickie. It will simply mean that the renter, in addition to a carefully planned programme of decent films, worthwhile films of the sort that I want to see under the new Bill, will have to add a certain number of hastily made films which will be just the old quota quickies again, although of course they will cost more money. I do not believe that this addition to the renters' quota at the very last moment can be filled in any other way. I myself should regard that as the most disastrous thing.
I am not a prophet, I have not got second sight, but I nevertheless have a good idea of the speeches that will be made by hon. Gentleman who are going to oppose me on this question. I do not bet, but if I were betting I should be prepared to gamble quite a large sum on the fact that first of all they are going 1707 to say that this extra 5 per cent. can quite easily be met. And then they are going to prove it to the House, and to prove it in this way. They are going to reel out to hon. Gentlemen who have had no previous warning a long list of names, which will mean nothing to hon. Gentlemen, of films which have already been finished and which are waiting for registration and which will all be there ready for the renter if he wants to meet this additional quota.
You will see whether I am or not. Anyhow, I am afraid I am going to be without honour in my own country. But I do warn hon. Members against that argument, because it is not enough just to read out the names of a number of films which have been made and are ready for the renter, unless we know who made them and to whom they belong. Because hon. Members will realise that if those films have been acquired by certain large firms of British renters—as I believe in so many of the cases which they will read out they have—those are not available for anyone else. There are several British renters who habitually rent quite a small number of foreign films, and habitually have a large number of British films surplus to their renters' quota, but they do not give them away to other people. They have bought them because they are going to make money out of them themselves; and to say to the American renter "My dear fellow, it is quite all right for you, because the British renter round the corner has got a couple of extra films," is not of very much comfort unless he can get hold of those films. And he cannot do it, because particular renters have acquired the films for their own purposes. It is not even certain that in any of those cases they will be able to fulfil their quota by getting hold of the foreign rights of those films. I should be prepared again to have a little gamble that among the list of films whose names are going to be read out will be at least five which have been acquired by a renter or a renting organisation which does its own distribution in America, and which, therefore, is not prepared to part with the foreign rights to any other company. I have made the closest possible inquiries as to what really matters, and that is the 1708 films which we know to be available now for the foreign renter, and I confess I do know of two which have been made, and which are available.
I always believe that it is just as well to deal with these fallacious arguments beforehand, rather than later. I would therefore press on the House that the mere fact that one particular renter has available more films than he needs is no help at all to the American renter who has been given this limited time in which to obtain those that he requires. I do believe there is a real chance now of the American renters, through the American producers, making a genuine effort, which they never did in 1927, to meet both the letter and the spirit of the law. I believe there is a genuine intention on their part to see whether it is not possible to make over here worthwhile films which can also get into the American market and out of which it is possible to make money even though a large sum has to be spent in producing them. I believe that this last minute addition to that quota could, in the case of a large number of renters, be filled only by hasty improvisations of the "quota quickie" type, which would be the worst possible advertisement for the beginnings of this new Bill. I believe, too, that it would have the worst possible effect upon the co-operation which I feel we are going to get from this section of the industry during next year, and therefore, I ask the House to disagree with the Lords.
With regard to the exhibitors' quota, that was raised almost as a consequential Amendment, the idea being that because the renters' quota went up the exhibitors' quota should go up too. That would be all right if I thought the renters' quota could be put up and filled with good films, but I thing this extra 5 per cent. on the renters' quota would be filled with bad stuff, and I do not see why, if the renters are forced to produce a certain amount of bad stuff, the exhibitors should be forced to take it.
1709 I have given this matter the most careful consideration, and have tried to appreciate to the full the arguments on the other side, but I still remain of the opinion that it is right, in the first year of a big turnover of this kind, to reduce the quota from the more permanent level at which it will stand in the next year. To add to it at the last moment could only mean a filling of the quota by the production of a new and perhaps more expensive, but still undesirable, form of "quota quickie." I therefore appeal to the House to reject the Amendment. I know that hon. Members opposite think that I am always concerned with the renter or with the exhibitor and am thinking nothing of the producer, whereas, as anybody else in my position would have to do, I have to think of all who are concerned in this industry. I cannot concentrate upon one link in the chain, I cannot try to get everything for the producer at the expense of everybody else, or everything for the exhibitor. I have to look at the whole chain, which starts with the producer and does not even end with the exhibitor, but goes on to "the man in the street," who is to see the pictures. I have to try to get a balanced Bill which will build up a sound and solid industry. I do not believe that any section really will gain by securing some temporary advantage over other sections at the expense of efficient production and the entertainment of the public. It is because I think that in the concessions made in the Schedules as the Bill left this House we have reached such a balance that I am not prepared to see an alteration. Therefore, I ask the House to disagree with the Lords in this Amendment.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
So that the council of state shall continue I am obliged once again to agree with the right hon. Gentleman and to disagree with another place. There is such a thing as an Amendment designed to provide more employment for displaced employés, and this is the sort of Amendment one would like to pass to bring them back to their previous occupations. To that extent I should like, if I could see wisdom in it, to support their Lordships and to bring the quota to the highest possible point, but for one or two reasons I am bound to disagree with their Lordships. The right hon. Gentleman has truly said that this renters' 1710 quota affects only the first year of the operation of the Bill, because on the actual results of that year the Films Council will be able to determine what shall be done in subsequent years. In view of the fact that this Bill has been on the stocks for many months and that we are within two or three days of the opening of the first operative year it would be very unwise, and perhaps unfair, now to alter the quota and create more confusion in an industry already pretty well confounded.
As the President has pointed out, if a certain quota has to be fulfilled stories must be found and developed ready for the screen, and an expenditure of £15,000, perhaps £45,000, even £75,000 per film contemplated. If producers are to get a return on their outlay they must devote time and thought to a film or series of films. We cannot turn out films as sausages are turned out of sausage machines, and we ought not to impose impossible conditions on any section of the industry, whether they represent British or American producers. I see no particular reason why I should want to kick American producers in the pants. For many years the cinemas in this country have had to depend upon imported films for 80 or 85 per cent. of their films, and to that extent there is no reason for wanting to do an injury to America or any other country which supplies our needs. Whether the terms and conditions have been fair or unfair during the past 10 years makes no matter. We hope that this Measure will open a new chapter. It is no use hon. Members who represent the point of view of the producers telling the House that last year 220 films were made and that 27½ per cent. of British films were shown on the screen while the quota was only 20 per cent., because even last year there were defaulters. It is not merely a question of the number of films made last year or the number of studios we have to-day compared with the number we had in 1927. What we require more than anything else is films, and not figures, and apparently films in the numbers and of the quality required have not been available. One thing, however, can be said, and it is an argument which those representing the point of view of the producers have used, that if British films of the right kind and with the appropriate entertainment value are available, exhibitors have never been adverse to 1711 showing them on the screen. If that had not been so we should not have had the 27½ per cent. last year while the quota was only 20 per cent.
Every calculation which has been made has been made, apparently, on the basis of a 15 per cent. quota for the first year. On top of that the right hon. Gentleman has made one or two important concessions to British producers. The treble quota is certain to provide a bigger margin for British producers, perhaps a margin of 20 or 30 extra films. So far as the right hon. Gentleman has given us any information on this point he has not yet been able to tell us that British producers will fill in that margin, but in all probability the British producers will not lose. There are those who produce films in Britain to meet renters' quota, those who produce films in Britain to supply their own circuits, and those who produce films in Britain for independent sale, and it may very well be that between the treble quota, the double quota, the reciprocity proposals, the £15,000 films, and the films that may be produced which do not cost £15,000 but can sell on their merits the interests of all can be reasonably met in the first year. In that way the relations between all sections of the industry might be improved.
It is too late in the day to disturb the balance which had been obtained by the new proposals made in another place. There are opportunities for those who make "shorts," for those who make films of not less than £15,000, and for films of £20,000 or £30,000, and the costlier and, I hope, higher quality films. If the obligation to make more films were imposed upon producers it might mean in the next 12 months another flood of "quota quickies" which, though possibly of higher quality, would not reflect credit on the British industry, and I prefer that we should await the experience of the next 12 months to add to that of the previous 10 years and then re-examine the whole position. If we take full advantage of the facilities afforded in this Bill I think it will be possible to lay foundations upon which a solid industry may be erected.
§ 7.30 p.m.
The President of the Board of Trade took upon himself the 1712 role of prophet. He was quite certain, he was prepared to bet large sums—[Interruption]—well, I thought so—as to what speeches would be made by myself and my hon. Friends who support the Lords Amendment. We were going to roll off the titles of films, and so on. I am extremely sorry to disappoint him. Nothing that he said was anything near the facts so far as my speech is concerned.
My hon. and gallant Friend does not disappoint me at all. If only he and his hon. Friends would drop what has been an unsound argument—
Very well. The President of the Board of Trade will remember that in dealing with this question in Committee he brought forward, as the basis of the whole of his argument for the reduction of these quotas, that it was almost entirely a question of mathematics. To-night he is telling the House that that does not matter. It does not matter what was produced. It is something else now. In Committee, the President of the Board of Trade cited the example of 50 films being produced—
The hon. and gallant Gentleman must be aware that we were then discussing the exhibitors' quota. Now we are discussing the renters' quota.
Excuse me, but it was not so. If the right hon. Gentleman will refer to the Debate he will find that it was the renters' quota. He said that 50 would be reduced voluntarily, and that there would be 100 altogether. He expected to get 450 from America. Was that the exhibitors' quota? I need not go through the whole argument, but I remember it very well. Now the right hon. Gentleman comes to the House and says: "All that does not matter at all." That does not seem to me to be a very sound position. Under the Act of 1927 the renter is required to fulfil a quota of 20 per cent., but that percentage is on the footage of all films, long and short, exhibited. There is a general idea that under that Act there was no short film quota at all, but that is erroneous, because the renter had to fulfil a 20 per cent. quota for long films and short films. He could, under that Act, set against a short film a long film, if he desired to do so, and in many cases he did so. On the other hand, in many cases he acquired 1713 short films and set them against short films, but he had a quota both for long and for short films.
The difference under the Bill is that long and short films each have their own separate and distinct quota, 20 per cent. for the long films and 15 per cent. for the short films. It is being argued that this arrangement will be a burden upon the renter which he ought not to be asked to undertake because the exhibitor will not find sufficient films to fulfil his quota. Let me take the case of a renter who, to fulfil his 20 per cent. quota last year, acquired 20 long films, that is, for the whole of the 20 per cent. of films, long and short, but 15 of those long films he set against the long films, and five of them he set against short films. Under the Bill with a 20 per cent. long film quota, the renter will now fulfil his long film quota with 15 long films. He is not permitted to fulfil any of his short film quotas with long films, as he was under the Act of 1927.
The position will be therefore that the renter will be acquiring only 15 long films, five less than he was acquiring before. The introduction of the separate quotas will therefore have the effect upon the renter that he will acquire fewer long films than he acquired under the Act of 1927, and that is a very strong argument, not for reducing the renters' quota but for increasing it. It is very important to remember that under the Bill as it stands the total footage on which the renter has to work out his percentage is less than it was under the 1927 Act, because the renters' quota is 20 per cent. and the exhibitors' quota is now only 15 per cent., whereas it was 20 per cent. under the Act. There is a reduction of 5 per cent. For those reasons the argument which has been brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman is not an argument for a reduction in the renters' quota but rather for an increase in the renters' quota.
One other point relates to the cost test, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. He said that the effect of it had been to make the cheapest class of goods, but it was now going to have the effect of making expensive goods. During that turnover from cheapest, to expensive goods there was to be an interim time, and we had to consider the man who was running the factory and give him an 1714 opportunity to adjust himself to the new conditions. It was always the intention of the 1927 Act that the renter should acquire films at a reasonably good price. He did not do so. He got round the Act and deliberately defaulted. Having found that out by bitter experience, and he having produced the abominable quota quickie which has done so much to discredit the British film industry, we are by means of the Bill, introducing compulsion on the renter by putting on a cost test in order to make him do by law what he ought to have been doing during the whole of the last 10 years. Because we are now forcing the American renter in that way, the President of the Board of Trade says, "Poor man; we really must consider him." That is not a very sound argument. A man has evaded the law, and we are now forcing him to do what we intended he should have done all the time, and we are told that in consequence we should consider him. That is the argument of the President of the Board of Trade, and I thought it was rather a poor one, with all respect to the right hon. Gentleman.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman a question. Suppose, when this Bill becomes law, the renter finds ways and means of evading the intentions of the law once more; will the President of the Board of Trade come to this House again and say, although we have endeavoured to put in something to prevent such evasions, we have failed, "We are now imposing further restrictions upon the renter, and so we really must consider him again"? Are we to give way to him once more? That is hardly an argument which can find favour with the House, but it is one of those put forward by the right hon. Gentleman. As a matter of pure argument the right hon. Gentleman has made out no case for a reduction of the renters' quota.
With regard to the exhibitors' quota, this was raised in another place from 12½ per cent. to 15 per cent., and the argument is that the exhibitors' will default, and will not be able to satisfy the quota of 15 per cent. The answer I would give is that if the exhibitor can fulfil a 12½ per cent. quota when the renters' quota is 15 per cent., he can more easily fulfil a 15 per cent. quota, as suggested in another place, when the renters' quota is 20 per cent. The reason is that you are increasing the ex- 1715 hibitors' quota by 2½ per cent. and increasing the renters' quota, from which the exhibitor draws his supply, by 5 per cent. The exhibitor is therefore better off under the Amendment moved in another place than he is under the Bill as it stands. The President of the Board of Trade would, therefore, make the position of the exhibitor more difficult in the first year than it will be made by the Amendment which was moved in another place, and for that reason I strongly support that Amendment.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I wish to raise a question on some of the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman has put forward. He seems to want the best of both worlds. He repeats his own argument in order to convince us, and, if that will not do, he attempts to destroy our argument in advance. It is somewhat similar to what happens in another sphere of life with which the right hon. Gentleman is conversant and in which an owner runs two horses both from the same stable. With one he declares to win. This afternoon the right hon. Gentleman has brought out two horses and he has declared to win on his own argument part of which he put to us in Committee. In asking us this afternoon to reject the Lords Amendment he bases his argument on the position that, owing to the short time the renters have had to forecast their requirements, there will not be enough films for either exhibitors or renters to call upon in the forthcoming year. In the Committee, as the hon. and gallant Member for South Padding-ton (Vice-Admiral Taylor) has said, the right hon. Gentleman based his whole argument on mathematics. Perhaps I may be allowed to quote his words. He said:As far as the first year is concerned, it is largely a mathematical question.
The hon. Gentleman must know that I was talking about the first year of the exhibitors' quota.
§ Mr. Bellenger
No, Sir. I shall show that the right hon. Gentleman connected the two subjects. True, when he made that statement he was dealing with the exhibitors' quota, but he related the exhibitors' quota to the renters' quota, and the exhibitors' quota was based to some 1716 extent on the renters' quota. He went on to say:You can make a fairly exact calculation of the number of renters' films which will be available, and then you have to make the assumption of the number of films which will be available independently of the renters' quota. I am assuming, on past statistics, that during the year, apart from specialised films, there will be some 450 films imported from abroad, and those would require against them, if there were no provisions for either reciprocity or double or treble quota, 80 long British films."—[OFFICIAI. REPORT (Standing Committee A), 8th February, 1938; cols. 455 and 459.]Then he went on to say how those films should be produced. With regard to the renters' quota, the right hon. Gentleman said:If I may deal on that basis with the renters' quota, I am of opinion that it is impossible to make any alteration in it. The reason why for the first year it was dropped from 20 per cent. to 15 per cent. was … that you are introducing a new set of conditions. The cost tests, the certainty that every quota film the renter makes or buys has to be a film on which money and trouble have been spent, in comparison with the 'quota quickies,' which require no organisation, cash or intelligence—these things do create a new circumstance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee A), 10th February, 1938: col. 480.]In other words, the whole argument of the right hon. Gentleman is that the time has not been long enough for the producers and renters to make up their requirements, because they have to change over to a cost basis, which is going to make them produce more costly films. If we take the right hon. Gentleman's figure of 450 imported films next year, then, as I think the right hon. Gentleman himself said, on a 15 per cent. quota, 80 films would be required. I will read to the House a list of those films about which the right hon. Gentleman has given us some intelligent anticipation—I will not call it prophecy. I am going to read it because it will enable the right hon. Gentleman to say whether those films are already there to be registered or not, or whether they will fulfil the requirements. If they do fulfil the requirements and are already there, then, I submit, a good deal of his argument is destroyed.
I hope the hon. Gentleman will not omit to tell the House to whom they belong, and whether the owners are prepared to dispose of them to American renters.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am going to read the list of films so that the right hon. Gentleman may have an opportunity of saying whether they will fulfil the requirements or not. If they will, I maintain that his argument is destroyed; if they will not, it will support his argument. There are nine treble quota films, which will count as 27 under this Bill, available for registration. One is "A Yank at Oxford," which the right hon. Gentleman himself has already admitted would qualify. Then there are, "He was Her Man," "The First and the Last," "The Drum," "The Challenge," "Over the Moon," "Conquest of the Air," "Vessel of Wrath," and "St. Martin's Lane." Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman cannot give the answer to my question at the moment, but at any rate he will be able to see whether these films will be there in the first year for registration. Then come the double quota films, with regard to which it will be interesting to see whether the right hon. Gentleman's prophecy turns out to be correct. They are these: "Strange Boarders of Palace Crescent," "Convict 99," "Kate Plus Ten," "A Spot of Bother," "Alf's Button Afloat," "Lost Lady," "Lover's Knot," and "Star of the Circus." If all of these films will qualify—
I am afraid there is some misunderstanding. It is not a question whether they can be registered for renters' quota, but whether, being in the hands of certain producers and renters, they are available for acquisition by American renters. Unless the hon. Gentleman gives the names of the organisations that have already acquired these films, he is not really giving the House much guidance.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I think I am right in saying that all these films that I have read out are in the hands of two organisations, and I venture to suggest—I am open to correction—that they are available for registration. It is for the right hon. Gentleman to say that they are not available for registration.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am reading this list because I believe, as the right hon. Gentleman does not, that some renters have intelligently anticipated the provisions of this Bill. After all, they have 1718 been in close touch with the right hon. Gentleman's Department, and, although they could not guarantee that this House would pass what the right hon. Gentleman put before it, or what would eventually be passed by the other House, they could get just as good an idea of what was in the minds of the right hon. Gentleman and his supporters as we could in Committee. If these films are available for registration—it may be, of course, that they are not—I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman's own mathematical test is very largely answered by this list, which includes 43 of the 80 films that he says are required. Whether I am right or wrong in my contention that at any rate a good number of these films are available, I have given the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of testing his own prophetic powers. I think, myself, that the reduction of the quota from 20 per cent. to 15 per cent. in the first year was unwise, and, although we are told that this is a non-party Bill, I personally am in favour of the Amendment which the Lords have sent back to this House. I am not prepared to go so far as to divide the House on the issue, but I am not prepared to accept without question the calculations which the right hon. Gentleman has made and the arguments which he has put before the House this evening.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Sir A. Baillie
I venture to intervene for a few moments in support of the Lords Amendment, and particularly in support of the arguments adduced by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). The President of the Board of Trade was modest enough not to claim the power of second sight. On some occasions I may have been prepared to give him or his Department the benefit of the arguments I desired to put, but on this occasion I did not do so. While my hon. and gallant Friend was not in possession of the document which was read out by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, I must admit that I was—
§ Sir A. Baillie
If my right hon. Friend desires to use the argument that there will not be, or is not at present, a sufficient quantity of films which are available and will qualify for renters' quota, 1719 I think it is up to him to prove his case. Looking through this list, I have come to the conclusion that at least one-half, if not 75 per cent., of the films mentioned in it are obviously the property of American renters, but perhaps my information is not accurate. We share the same view about "A Yank at Oxford." "He was Her Man" was made for Fox Films; "The First and Last" was made at Denham. I do not know who has acquired that film but if is reasonable to suppose that it is available for renters' registration. Then there is "The Drum," which I understand has been acquired by United Artists—
§ Sir A. Baillie
United Artists will no doubt use the two pictures mentioned in this list for the purposes of acquiring quotas, namely "The Drum" and "Over the Moon." Fifty, or it may be 75, per cent. of these pictures will automatically qualify for treble quota, or will be acquired for that purpose. Therefore, I agree that it is unwise for the right hon. Gentleman to brush aside as of no account at all the. statement that quite a number of pictures are at present available for renters' quota. I do not intend to press the matter to a Division, but I must say that at no stage of the Bill have I or my friends been satisfied of the validity of the arguments used by the Government, and I cannot agree that these Amendments, which will merely re-impose the 20 per cent. quota on renters and leave them with the same requirement that they have to fulfil to-day, will place upon them too onerous a burden; nor can I agree with the argument that, having got to this stage, within three days of the year in which renters must operate under the new arrangement, it will really be too bad of this House to disappoint the anticipations which the renters have entertained up to date. Having uttered what may be considered as a mild protest, I must add that I have felt all along that the production side of this industry has not been given a square deal. It appears to me that the Bill has been influenced by other bodies representing exhibitors, and that it may even have been influenced by the foreign interests themselves. For these reasons I cannot but support the 1720 principle of the Lords Amendments, but, in view of the stage which has now been reached, I shall not press my view to a Division.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Day
This is another case in which I am in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps I understand the conditions of the trade better than some of those hon. Members who have spoken, but I must say that some of their arguments show that a little book knowledge of a subject is dangerous, especially on the question of what should be registered and what films are available for registration. Even supposing the films in question to be registered, that does not make them available for renting. If they are available for renting, that is not to say that the exhibitors are going to show them. And even if the exhibitors were to try to force them in some of their halls, that is not to say that the public are going to pay their money to go in and see something which they do not want to see. You cannot force people to buy something which they do not want. Throughout the discussions on this Bill I have been thinking how much better it would have been if, when the Bill of 1927 was going through, we could have had the advice that we now have. We know the mistakes that were made then, and for my part I thank the right hon. Gentleman for trying to remedy some of the evils which the trade has had to suffer while the Act of 1927 has been working.
I hope that when this Bill is passed into law, as it will be shortly, we shall see a great deal of difference in the trade. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down mentioned United Artists. Anyone who has the slightest knowledge of the film trade knows that United Artists have the finest British films for renting purposes. They have the sole production of Korda's films, the London Film Company's films, and those of various other companies, which give them one of the strongest hands as far as renting is concerned. I do not say that they are the finest renting organisation in the country, but they have some of the finest films. I hope that we shall see the Amendment disposed of without difficulty, so that we can assist the right hon. Gentleman to make this a good Bill.
§ Subsequent Lords Amendments, to page 43, line 21, column 1, agreed to.
§ Remaining Lords Amendments agreed to.
§ Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to certain of their Amendments to the Bill.
§ Committee nominated of Mr. Stanley, Captain Wallace, Mr. T. Williams, Mr. Mander, and Mr. H. G. Williams.
§ Three to be the quorum.—[Mr. Stanley.]
§ To withdraw immediately.
§ Reason for disagreeing to certain of the Lords Amendments reported, and agreed to.
§ To be communicated to the Lords—[Mr. Stanley.]