HC Deb 22 June 1939 vol 348 cc2548-74

8.5 p.m.

Mr. George Hall

I beg to move, in page 5, line 25, to leave out from "shall," to the end of the Sub-section, and to insert: cease to be charged in a case where all the performers whose words or actions constitute the entertainment are actually present and performing, and the entertainment consists solely of one or more of the following items, namely, a stage play, a ballet (whether a stage play or not), a performance of music (whether vocal or instrumental), a lecture, a recitation, a music hall or other variety entertainment, a circus or a travelling show. The purpose of this Amendment is to repeal the Entertainments Duty on stage plays and entertainments by living performers. When the Budget Resolutions were passing through the House last year the Chancellor of the Exchequer promised to make certain inquiries in regard to the operation of the tax upon this form of entertainment. We realise that he must have given a great deal of consideration to it before proposing in this Clause a reduction in the duty. He admitted that the duty imposed aggravated the disability from which the living theatre suffers and he has made this concession, which he said in the Budget statement would cost something like £290,000 in a full year. We think he should have repealed the whole of the duty upon this kind of entertainment. Far be it from me to say a single word derogatory to the concessions that have been made to certain branches of the cinema industry. I think Members in all parts of the Committee will agree with the attitude that the right hon. Gentleman adopted there, but in dealing with an industry which we are dealing with an industry which has developed very rapidly and has caught the interest and the attraction of the bulk of the people of the country, and it has become a very substantial entertainment industry. Unfortunately, at the same time the living entertainment has shown a tremendous decline. It desires and deserves the Chancellor's consideration, and I think he should go the whole hog and repeal the duty altogether. I have no figures as to the actual amount of tax involved, but it would be a very small proportion of the Entertainments Duty that is charged.

I am sure there is no one who does not deplore the tremendous falling off, not only of stage plays but of operas and concerts and all entertainments where it is necessary to have living people taking part. Much concern is given to it by all interested, not only those financially interested but those interested from the point of view of art itself. There is no town or village of any size where there has not been a tremendous change as the result of the introduction and growth of the cinema and the form of entertainment that it gives. Stage plays, concerts and operas have almost entirely disappeared in many of the smaller towns and villages and the cinema has taken their place. In South Wales and many other similar areas there are great centres for the development of talent in music and art, and it was done very largely as the result of the form of entertainment provided by the person himself or herself taking part in amateur dramatic or operatic performances. It is not only the professional who is concerned but amateurs as well. The basis of a good cinema industry depends very largely upon opportunities which must be given to young people who have the necessary talent for acting and singing and other arts, and unless you encourage this form of entertainment I have no doubt that not only the living theatre but the cinema will suffer in exactly the same way. In my own district we have 12 to 14 workmen's institutes, built years before the Miners' Welfare Fund came into being, and they were centres for the development of art and music of all kinds, vocal and instrumental, and also amateur dramatic and operatic societies and we have made a substantial contribution to the theatres and the arts as a result of the work done in those institutes. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman seriously to consider the effect of this tax upon the form of entertainment to which I refer.

The rival attraction to the living theatre is the cinema. I would not say a word derogatory to it. I can enjoy a film almost as well as a play, but sometimes one wants to see the real thing. It is rather deplorable that there is this tremendous decline in the theatre. One can see its effect even in London but in provincial centres you see theatres which have been converted into cinemas and it is nothing but cinemas without a single opportunity being given to those interested in art for art's sake. They get no opportunity of seeing a live or living entertainment. I recently saw a play, the author of which is an old friend of mine, which is now being staged in the West End of London. I have never seen a play which characterised mining life in the valleys of South Wales as well as this. I have no doubt that some thousands of people will see it in London but if it was put into a film, instead of thousands, millions would see it. At the same time there are many people who like to see the live entertainment. This would not cost the Chancellor very much and it would have very little effect on the cinema, because people will go to the cinema, but the concession, if granted, will certainly render very valuable help to a form of entertainment in which I feel sure every Member of the Committee and millions of people outside are keenly interested.

8.16 p.m.

Mr. Benson

It is true that in this Clause the Chancellor of the Exchequer is proposing to give a concession to the living theatre, but, while we are moderately grateful for that, it must be stressed that the concession is not a very generous one. When we take the rates proposed in the Schedule after the concession has been given, and compare them with the rates when the Entertainments Duty was first put on in 1916 as a War tax, we find that, even despite this very moderate concession, the taxation on the living theatre is nearly double what it was in 1916. For example, in 1916, it was not until we came to the 2s. 6d. seat that the duty was over 2d., and now we are to pay 2d. on a Is. I0d. seat in the living theatre. Over and above those two figures, during the War, the Government took 10 per cent. of the price of a seat, and now, after the concession, they are to take 20 per cent. of the price of a seat. Those figures give an opportunity for a very much greater concession than that which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already conceded. The concession is going to cost something under £300,000, and to abolish the Entertainments Duty entirely on the living theatre would cost another £900,000. We have just withdrawn a proposed tax of £800,000 on the cinema industry, which is in a far stronger position financially and far more capable of bearing taxation than the living theatre. To begin with, its gross income is enormously greater than that of the living theatre, and, secondly, in spite of the concession the incidence of taxation upon the living theatre is very much higher than it is on the cinema.

If hon. Members will compare the two Schedules, their first impression will be that the living theatre pays a less proportion of its receipts in taxation than does the cinema, but in actual fact that is not so. The living theatre pays a very much higher proportion of its receipts in taxation, notwithstanding the different Schedules, than does the cinema, and for this reason. The cinema has a continuous performance. The performance may start in the morning, as it does in the Tatler theatres and in some of the ordinary cinema theatres in London, and run on until nearly midnight. They have a 10 or 12-hour day, and there is a continuous influx and outflow of patrons. A 6d. seat in one of these cinemas on which there is no taxation may be occupied four, five, six, or even more, times during the day. As far as revenue is concerned, that particular seat may produce to the cinema 3s., 4s., or even 5s. during the day, but because the revenue is composed of sixpences not a single penny is paid in taxation. You do not get that sort of thing in the living theatre. Apart from an occasional matinee, there is only one performance, but the overhead expenses of the theatre, rent and the like, are the same. Each individual seat in the living theatre has to take more or less the same amount of money as the individual seat produces in the cinema, with the result, broadly speaking, that the prices in the living theatre are very much higher and therefore bear a very much higher rate of taxation. The 6d. seat in the cinema may produce a revenue of 3s., 4s., or 5s. a day and it pays no taxation, but a similar revenue from a seat in the living theatre will be subjected to a charge of I0d. or Is. in taxation. Right throughout the whole scale the prices of seats in the living theatre have to be high because of the single performance as against the continuous performance and the larger number of shows run per day in the cinema.

This is a very important factor, and hon. Members should realise that it is not true to state that, merely because the scheduled rates differ, the incidence of taxation upon the seats in the living theatre is lower than in the cinema. It is not. On the contrary, it is very much higher. Unfortunately, the living theatre is nothing like as powerful as the cinema. It is not as high organised and it has not the vast resources of the cinema. Although I would be the last man to suggest that any Chancellor of the Exchequer gives way to pressure, and I would accept the explanation of the Chancellor that he realised, as a result of argument and information, that his film tax was undesirable, it is an undisputed fact that an argument, if it is stated sufficiently prudently and backed up with sufficient capital and vested interest, seems to penetrate the mind of a Chancellor of the Exchequer more easily than if it is whispered mildly by an unorganised interest.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has rather a look of Shakespeare about him, and I appeal to him to realise that the living theatre, as compared with the cinema, is not getting a square deal, and will not get a square deal even after the concession embodied in this Clause has been granted. The incidence of the tax is far higher, and, owing to the undoubted degeneration of public taste in regard to the appeal of the theatre, it is far less capable of bearing the tax that is put on. Quite apart from any question of art which was ably stressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) in moving this Amendment, on the pure ground of financial equity, this tax ought to be abolished. If it cannot be abolished, then the rates of taxation should all be reduced to a very much greater extent than is suggested in the Schedule in order to bring the real incidence of taxation more on to a level of equity with the cinema.

8.25 p.m.

Mr. Silverman

I should like to support the Amendment, but on somewhat different grounds from those which the hon. Member has chosen. Everybody will agree that in these days taxation is a very powerful weapon of social change. It has very great social influence quite outside mere matters of revenue and expenditure. We are living in days which are dark for the finer things of human civilisation. There have been happier times, happier days, in which the better things had a better chance than they get now. This is due, I suppose, to two causes. One, that there is a kind of Gresham's Law in connection with artistic and cultural things as well as economic, and just as in currency it used to be said, when we still had a metal coinage, that bad money tended to drive out good, so in matters of this kind the quick and easy and widespread rendering of more or less spurious artistic things makes the task of the better ones harder. The other cause may be that the days are so difficult and dangerous. There is a sort of impending tragedy weighing down people's' minds, and they do not like in their hours of leisure to have their minds made tenser than they are when they have to deal with the difficult day-to-day affairs of the world.

The result of all this has been that this generation has been the poorest of almost any generation in artistic development. I read the other day in a book by an American journalist—I do not know whether he is right or wrong, but it was interesting that he should say it—that the standard of taste in these matters was lower in this country than in any country in Europe. I hope that is not true. I do not think it is, but I am certain that it is lower than it used to be, and that its tendency is downward rather than upward. I suggest to the Financial Secretary that it would be a very grand gesture in these days for the Treasury to do something to help these things. The Amendment would cost the Treasury very little. In a Budget of the size which we now have the Treasury will not know whether they have got a mere £300,000 or not, and it will not make any difference whether they have got it or not. If you go the whole hog at a cost of £900,600, it would make very little financial difference to the Treasury, and it might easily make so much difference otherwise.

As against the gloomy picture I have drawn, I would like to point out one or two more encouraging things. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment spoke about what was happening in South Wales. That is happening in working- class circles throughout the country. You have in London the very remarkable development of what is called the Unity Theatre, where a number of young people, who earn their living in quite ordinary humdrum ways during the day, nevertheless have developed as amateurs a theatre which I think compares more than favourably with some of those which draw large audiences and make large profits in the West End. That kind of thing is going on throughout the country. In my own constituency a man who has spent the greater part of his life in a mill has found it possible in his spare time to write plays well worth performing, and a group of people whom he has organised have performed them. Cannot the Financial Secretary do something to help such movements by relieving them of a burden which weighs very heavily upon them and which brings into the Treasury an amount so small in character? The advantage which it brings to the Treasury is very small in comparison with the extent to which it forces down just those things which, above all others in these days, we ought to be helping and encouraging. This is one of those occasions on which by a small sacrifice the Government could do a great deal to lighten the gloom which is settling in places and quarters where the gloom ought to be relieved.

8.33 p.m.

Mr. Hubert Beaumont

I desire to support the Amendment on two grounds. The first is that I think any taxation upon education is something to be decried, and I regard the theatre as one of the most educative institutions for the people. That being so, taxation of the theatre even in the form of an Entertainments Duty, does affect that particular form of industry. It is true to say that if the cinema industry is to continue to progress it will of necessity have to draw its authors and its actors from the living theatre. It can be proved that the living theatre has been, is, and will be, the recruiting ground for the cinema industry, and that being so it is very essential that there should be a flourishing theatre and concert industry in this country. We have witnessed during the last few years the closing down of a number of theatres because of the fact, so we are told, that the Entertainments Duty is pressing so hardly upon them that they have not been able to pay their way. These theatres have been transformed sometimes into cinemas, sometimes into warehouses, and sometimes into stores, but the closing down of any theatre in any town is bad for the arts of that town and bad for the education of that town. It means that the younger generation have little or no opportunity of seeing living art.

There are a number of towns in this country where, at the present time, there is no theatre, with the result that children and young people have to get their artistic impressions from the cinema screen, and sometimes, unfortunately, they are rather distorted. Therefore, theatres have become bankrupt, and the touring companies which used to go round the country week by week have not been able to carry on. We have heard that the effect of the Entertainments Duty on theatres has been that they have not had sufficient money even to pay the touring companies for their services. It is possible that the removal of the tax might provide a sufficient margin not only to enable the theatres to be maintained, but to enable touring companies to go round the country. This would have an indirect benefit, for it would benefit the railways and other forms of transport, and the maintenance of theatres would benefit many artists, carpenters, electricians, and so forth. Anything that can be done to ensure that theatres are kept open, and that those which are closed are re-opened, is something that ought to be encouraged.

Therefore, I support the Amendment for three reasons. First, from the point of view of the public. It is very desirable that people should have an opportunity of going to theatres, and it is well that everything should be done to see that the theatres are kept open and that no barriers are placed in their way. Secondly, from the point of view of actors and actresses. At the present time, a large number of actors and actresses cannot find jobs, and it is tragic, after the years they have spent in making themselves proficient in their art, that they should not be able to practise it before the public. I submit that if the tax were taken off, and it resulted in the opening of theatres that are closed or the continuance of theatres that are now hard pressed, it would be of tremendous advantage to the actors and actresses. Thirdly, from the point of view of the theatre proprietors. A large number of them have not been able to pay dividends because of the obnoxious and deterrent character of the tax. If that be true, I am sure it would rejoice the hearts of the proprietors if an announcement were made to-night that the Entertainments Duty was going to be abolished altogether, as it has rejoiced the hearts of the cinema proprietors to hear that they are not to have further burdens placed upon them.

If the removal of the duty would mean an increase of employment, as I believe it would, it is possible to conceive that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find great fields in which to pursue his ways of securing money from the public. If these people were employed instead of being unemployed, a number of them would come within the scope of the Income Tax, and therefore, what the Chancellor secured in the shape of Income Tax from those people might reimburse him for any losses sustained in removing the duty. I believe that it would be possible for the Chancellor to gain on the roundabouts what he lost on the swings. Furthermore, by removing the duty he would do a great service to the theatre industry, to art and to the people of the country, because, as my hon. Friend has said, in this world of difficulty and doubt and darkness, let us get what joy and pleasure we can, and let it not be taxed.

8.39 p.m.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

I have great sympathy with the Amendment, because I have a close family interest in the stage. I rather agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. H. Beaumont) in his most persuasive and well-informed argument. I think that the tax on the living theatre could be reduced, but in fairness to the Chancellor, and I think in justice to the theatre, I think there is another side to the story. It is not true that the main reason the theatre has fallen on hard times is the weight of the Entertainments Duty, although that may be a factor of equal importance. The stage, as compared with the film, has not advanced with the times. That is true not so much of London as of the provinces. I know something about the performances at theatres in the provinces, and I say that, on the whole, they are not nearly good enough. The theatres in which the performances takes place are very often most uncomfortable barns of places, with seating accommodation that is very hard when compared with the seating in the cinemas. They are awful places in which to sit for two or three hours in a night.

If hon. Members have been behind the scenes at these theatres, as I have on many occasions, they will know that in these old-fashioned theatres the conditions offered to the actors and actresses are sometimes deplorable. The rooms in which the actresses have to change and make up are cold, draughty, miserable holes. It is no wonder that many of our leading actresses decline opportunities offered to them to tour in these companies that would otherwise go round the country. While we recognise the necessity for encouraging the living stage by every means, I think we should let it go forth from the Committee that we expect of the living stage a very considerable advance in their methods, a great improvement in technique, and a greater effort to meet the legitimate modern requirements of the average citizen. I believe that the average citizen prefers a living performance to a "canned" one, but he is not prepared to accept it save in reasonably comfortable conditions, nor is he likely to be satisfied with a performance which he knows is carried through on the part of the actors and actresses in conditions sometimes of great discomfort. Therefore, while I am sympathetic to the Amendment, I feel it is necessary for the Committee to bear in mind that the stage must play its part.

8.42 p.m.

Mr. Denville

I had no intention of taking part in the Debate until I heard the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) and some of the remarks made by those who have supported the Amendment. I am at variance with my hon. Friend's statement that the cause of the decline in drama is not the incidence of the Entertainments Duty.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

I did not say that. I said it was one of the factors.

Mr. Denville

I have no complaint to make against the Chancellor. I am grateful for what he has done this year and in previous years, and I hope that the agitation that is going on here to-day will have the result of removing this tax altogether at a very early date. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman), who, spoke about the theatres being closed because of the incidence of the Entertainments Duty, might have mentioned the number of theatres that have been closed in his division. In the Nelson and Coln Division three theatres have closed down, and in the Batley and Morley Division two have gone. There are 13 counties in which there is no theatre of any description. To say that the duty has nothing to do with the decline in the strength and size of companies in the provinces is wrong as it is also wrong to say that it has nothing to do with the discomfort in theatres. As an example, I will refer to the Gaiety Theatre in London. That theatre would have been open now had it not been for the tax. I might have gone as far as to say the same tiling of the Lyceum Theatre, except that, in any case, that theatre could not have stayed because the London County Council want it, and we all know that whatever the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) fancies, he likes, and whatever he likes, he collars. In the case of the Gaiety Theatre, however, a sum of about £20,000 was wanted for alterations in order to bring it into line with modern conditions. If the tax had been off that theatre four years previously sufficient money could have been earned to make these alterations.

Several hon. Members have referred to the amount of employment which is given by the theatre. The case of the Gaiety Theatre in London could, I am sure, be multiplied all over the country. Hon. Members from Wales know that Glamorgan was once a great theatre county. I think that they have about three theatres in that county now. There used to be something like 70 theatres in Wales, mainly in Glamorgan. There was a theatre in almost every small village in Glamorgan at one time. The amount of labour which is involved in the closing down of the theatres has never been taken into full consideration. The average small provincial theatre employs at least 50 people, directly or indirectly. If we take the number of theatres which have been closed down, and if we also consider— keeping in mind modern progress—the new theatres that might have been opened but for this tax, it will be seen that a very considerable amount of employment is involved. If we take it that 400 theatres have been closed down and multiply that by 50, it will be seen that a very large number of people have been deprived of employment in this way. I went recently into a small town in the county of Durham where there is a theatre. Out of sheer curiosity I made some inquiries, and I found there were seven landladies there on the dole, who used to make a living out of the theatrical companies visiting that town.

I do not think it fair to say that the profession, generally, is failing in its duty. It is impossible for it under present conditions to carry on fighting against the cinemas. The cinemas are able to sell their seats three or four times every day. I am not saying anything against them; I am only pointing out the difference. They can carry the whole production about in a tin can. The leading lady never has her jewels stolen and the low comedian never falls down the back stairs and breaks his leg. The company is brought along in a small tin can, the production is put on the lamp, and there is an end of their trouble. As I say they can fill their theatres three times a day. Where in an ordinary theatre, a company would play to an audience of 5,000 people, in a cinema of the same capacity the pictures would be presented to 15,000 people. Those are some of the points which can be put forward in favour of total abolition of the tax. I have only risen, however, in order to correct one or two errors which might otherwise be spread around as a result of this Debate, and I certainly have no intention of reproving the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of what has been done.

Mr. Jagger

Would the hon. Member explain how landladies, who are not in an insurable occupation, managed to get on the dole, in the case which he mentioned?

Mr. Denville

I beg pardon, I should not have said the dole. But there is such a thing as Poor Law relief.

8.49 p.m.

Captain Crookshank

I am sure that the Committee is indebted to me for not having intervened before the hon. Member who has just spoken, because we always like to hear those who have expert knowledge upon these matters, and I was also glad to hear that with his expert knowledge he appreciated the concessions which have already been made. It is often the case that, on these extraneous matters, we have very interesting discussions and in this case we have gone over a very wide field. I must say that I do not take such a gloomy view of the artistic development of the generation in which we are living as does the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman). It is, of course, a matter of opinion and it was interesting to hear the hon. Member's view. I might be prepared to give my own view privately, but I do not think this is the occasion for doing so. We also had references to a variety of matters such as the position of the Gaiety and Lyceum Theatres in London and the accommodation provided for actresses behind the scenes—a subject on which I am unable to confirm what has been said by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). I take it from him, however, that he is speaking with some knowledge in describing those conditions. The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) very cunningly brought in a reference to a play which has attracted some attention in London and I hope that his reference to it will increase the number of people to go to see it. Perhaps that is why he referred to it.

The underlying assumption in all these various speeches of hon. Members was that the living theatre was not, in the words of the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson), getting a square deal and that it was very important to do something for it at once. But hon. Members seem to overlook the fact that this Clause is in fact doing something for the living theatre. This is one more example of what almost inevitably occurs on these occasions. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes a concession, at once everybody concerned asks why it is not a much bigger one. The Entertainments Duty has been discussed on previous Finance Bills and I think it was last year that my right hon. Friend said he would look into it. It is with great pleasure that the House as a whole learned, when he opened his Budget this year, that it had been found possible to do something. The whole point of the criticism now is whether my right hon. Friend ought not to do a great deal more. That is the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Aberdare, who asked us to "go the whole hog." One or two of the speeches seemed to imply that the concessions involved in this Amendment were nothing very much from a financial point of view. I am afraid that is not the case. The hon. Member for Chesterfield had the figures pretty correctly. The concession which we are already making by this Clause represents about £190,000 this year and £290,000 in a full year. That, I put it to the Committee, is a considerable sum for the area of entertainment with which we are dealing. The additional cost which would be involved by this Amendment— which would have the effect of sweeping away all Entertainments Duty on these "living" entertainments would be £630,000 this year, and £960,000 in a full year. I think if the Committee reflect on these figures and bear in mind what my right hon. Friend has said, that it is impossible to make concessions of considerable magnitude this year, they will realise why the Amendment cannot be accepted. Obviously, this is a time when it is difficult to make any concessions at all in any direction, since the whole outline of our Finance Bills is being determined by the necessity for finding the

money to meet increasing expenditure. I think it will be clear to all who have heard this Debate, that it would be impossible for us, in these circumstances, to accept an Amendment with these very considerable financial implications.

Mr. Benson

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman says that the complete abolition of the tax would make a difference of £960,000. In saying that, was he including only theatres and music-halls, or was he including various other forms of entertainment?

Captain Crookshank

I was dealing with exactly what is in the Amendment. The Amendment contains a list of entertainments the duty on which it is proposed to abolish. I say that if this Amendment were adopted, the additional cost beyond the concession which we have already made, would be £630,000 this year and £960,000 in a full year.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word ' for,' in line 25, stand part of the Clause."

The Committeee divided: Ayes, 201; Noes, 138.

Division No. 191.] AYES. [8.56 p.m.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Cruddas, Col. B. Hopkinson, A.
Albery, Sir Irving Davidson, Viscountess Horsbrugh, Florence
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) De Chair, S. S. Howitt, Dr. A. B.
Apsley, Lord De la Bére, R. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)
Aske, Sir R. W. Denville, Alfred Hume, Sir G. H.
Assheton, R. Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F. Hutchinson, G. C.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Doland, G. F. Jarvis, Sir J. J.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Dugdale, Captain T. L. Jennings, R.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Duncan, J. A. L. Joel, D. J. B.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Eastwood, J. F. Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)
Beechman, N. A. Eckersley, P. T. Jones, L. (Swansea W.)
Beit, Sir A. L. Ellis, Sir G. Keeling, E. H.
Bernays, R. H. Elliston, Capt. G. S. Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)
Blair, Sir R. Emery, J. F. Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)
Boulton, W. W. Entwistle, Sir C. F. Kimball, L.
Bower, Comdr. R. T. Fildes, Sir H. Lamb, Sir J. Q.
Boyce, H. Leslie Fleming, E. L. Latham, Sir P.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose) Fremantle, Sir F. E. Leech, Sir J. W.
Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness) Furness, S. N. Levy, T.
Brass, Sir W. Gledhill, G. Lewis, O.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Gower, Sir R. V. Liddall, W. S.
Broadbridge, Sir G. T. Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral) Lipson, D. L.
Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.) Gridley, Sir A. B. Little, J.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Grigg, Sir E. W. M. Llewellin, Colonel J. J.
Bull, B. B. Grimston, R. V. Loftus, P. C.
Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L. Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake) Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)
Butcher, H. W. Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.) MacAndrew. Colonel Sir C. G.
Cartland, J. Ft. H. Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. McCorquodale, M. S.
Carver, Major W. H. Hambro, A. V. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)
Cary, R. A. Hammersley, S. S. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hannah, I. C. McKie, J. H.
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Manningham-Buller Sir M.
Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Maxwell, Hon. S. A.
Conant, Captain R. J. E. Herbert, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Monmouth) Medlicott, F.
Crooke, Sir J. Smedley Higgs, W. F. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Hogg, Hon. Q. McG. Hills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Cross, Ft. H. Holdsworth, H. Moreing, A. C.
Crowder, J. F. E. Holmes, J. S. Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)
Morris-Jones, Sir Henry Salt, E. W. Tasker, Sir R. l.
Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Samuel, M. R. A. Tale, Mavis C.
Munro, P. Sandeman, Sir N. S. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Nall, Sir J. Sanderson, Sir F. B. Taylor, vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. Sandys, E. D. Thorneycroft, G. E. P.
Nicholson, G. (Farnham) Schuster, Sir G. E. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Scott, Lord William Titchfield, Marquess of
O'Connor, Sir Terence J. Selley, H. R. Tree, A. R. L. F.
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar) Turton, R. H.
Peake, O. Shepperson, Sir E. W. Wakefield, W. W.
Perkins, W. R. D. Simmonds, O. E. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Plugge, Capt. L. F. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen) Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Smithers, Sir W. Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Radford, E. A. Snadden, W. McN. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Rankin, Sir R. Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie
Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor) Wells, Sir Sydney
Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J. Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury) Spears, Brigadier-General E. L. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Reid, W. Allan (Derby) Spens, W. P. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Rickards, G. W. (Skipton) Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool) Storey, S. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Rosbotham, Sir T. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich) Wragg, H.
Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge) Strickland, Captain W. F. York, C.
Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h) Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Russell, Sir Alexander Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Salmon, Sir I. Sutcliffe, H. Major Sir James Edmondson and Captain McEwen.
Adams, D. (Consett) Green, W. H. (Deptford) Noel-Baker, P. J.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Oliver, G. H.
Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford) Grenfell, D. R Paling, W.
Adamson, W. M. Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Parker, J.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Parkinson, J. A.
Ammon, C. G. Groves, T. E. Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Banfield, J. W. Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.) Poole, C. C.
Barnes, A. J. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Price, M. P.
Barr, J. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Pritt, D. N.
Batey, J. Hardie, Agnes Quibell, D. J. K.
Beaumont, H. (Batley) Harris, Sir P. A. Ridley, G.
Bellenger, F. J. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Ritson, J.
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Hayday, A. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Benson, G. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Bevan, A. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Rothschild, J. A. de
Broad, F. A. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Seely, Sir H. M.
Bromfield, W. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Sexton, T. M.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Hopkin, D. Shinwell, E.
Buchanan, G. Isaacs, G. A. Silkin, L.
Burke, W. A. Jagger, J. Silverman, S. S.
Cape, T. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Simpson, F. B.
Charleton, H. C. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Sloan, A.
Chater,D. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Cluse, W. S. Kirby, B. V. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Cocks, F. S. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Collindridge, F. Lathan, G. Sorensen, R. W.
Cove, W. G. Lawson, J. J. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Leach, W. Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Daggar, G. Lee, F. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Dalton, H. Leonard, W. Thurtle, E.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Leslie, J. R. Tinker, J. J.
Day, H. Lunn, W. Tomlinson G.
Dobbie, W. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Viant, S. P.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) McEntee, V. La T. Walkden, A. G.
Ede, J. C. McGhee, H. G. Watkins, F. C.
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) MacLaren, A. Watson, W. McL.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Maclean, N. Welsh, J. C.
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Mainwaring, W. H. Westwood, J.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Mander, G. le M. White, H. Graham
Foot, D. M. Maxton, J. Wilkinson, Ellen
Frankel, D. Messer, F. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Gallacher, W. Milner, Major J, Wilmot, John
Gardner, B. W. Montague, F. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n) Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Gibson R. (Greenock) Muff, G. TELLERS FOR THE NOES. —
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Naylor, T. E. Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.

9.4 p.m.

Mr. T. Williams

I beg to move in page 5, line 25, after "if," to insert: in the Second Schedule to the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1931, for the words 'three halfpence ' there were substituted the words 'one penny' and as if. We are very grateful for the concession which has been given by the Chancellor to this industry, but I think it will be agreed that it will have no effect upon the present Entertainments Duty. The Amendment affects exclusively exhibitors in the film trade. It is not generally known that on the exhibition side of it the cinema industry is one of the most heavily-taxed industries in the country. Those engaged in it pay not only Income Tax and National Defence Contribution but a tax of approximately 16 per cent. on their total turnover as Entertainments Duty. Any seat up to 6d. is tax free. Immediately the charge for a seat exceeds 6d. a tax of 1½d. falls upon it. We have had some experience of what a penny means to the type of cinemas I have in mind, namely, those in working-class areas, and patricularly in small industrial districts with a population of from 4,000 to, say, 7,000. There was a time, not long since, when a 1d. tax was imposed on a seat where the total cost was under 6d., and, because film-goers refused to pay this duty, many cinema theatres had to be closed, and it was proved to the present Prime Minister, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, that nothing short of abolishing the duty on seats up to 6d. would enable these small cinemas to carry on.

The right hon. Gentleman, realising that in some cases the attendance at small cinemas fell by no less than 75 per cent., was induced to abolish the Entertainments Duty on seats costing 6d. or less. Some experience has been gained of what happens where the total charge for the seat slightly exceeds 6d. If, for instance, the cost of providing a decent seat in a theatre which, although it may be small, provides a good entertainment, is something slightly over 6d., say 6½d., the proprietor has not only to charge the 6½d., but also an extra 1½d. for the Treasury. That has caused havoc in the cinema industry in many industrial areas. If the right hon. Gentleman could be persuaded to change the duty on seats costing from 6d. to 9d. from 1½d. to Id., it would be found that in many cases the programmes would be better, the accommodation would be better, and the attendance in seats costing no more than 8d. would be larger than it is at the moment. The 8d. seat, as the result of this 1½d. tax, has completely disappeared, and, when the small cinema is competing with the large, modern, up-to-date cinema where the charges are divided between 6d. without duty and Is., where the tax is 2d. the small man is up against a good deal of competition which he is unable to meet. For the cinema proprietor to be compelled to charge slightly more than 8d. for some of his seats, namely, 7½d. for himself and 1½d. for the Treasury, is not only not good business, but is not good sense.

Since the crisis of last year, the patronage of many cinemas in different parts of the country has fallen by no less than 25 per cent., and in some cases even more. Bearing in mind the fact that London is not Britain, the Treasury ought to meet cinema proprietors as well as they can, so that the Treasury, the cinema proprietors and the cinema-goers may all have a square deal. I know that in my own area, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that in his area. there are many small districts where a penny one way or the other makes the difference between bankruptcy and carrying on, and I hope the Chancellor will not turn a deaf ear to the appeal I am now making. The effect of the Amendment would simply be that, where the net charge is between 6d. and 9d., the Entertainments Duty would be Id. instead of 1½d. We fully appreciate the Chancellor's difficulty, and his need for more money.

I may be told by the Financial Secretary that this would cost the Treasury £400,000, and they cannot afford it, but I would submit to the right hon. Gentleman that the cinemas in this country are paying between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 annually. They are the most heavily taxed industry in the country, and it is a great tribute to the exhibitors that they have carried this burden for so long. I trust that the Government will be able to see their way to give sympathetic consideration to this change, which will not have nearly so adverse an effect on the Treasury as they think. In doing so they would be serving the small cinemas and helping the cinema-goers in those areas, while they would not affect the Treasury as much as they think, for it is quite conceivable that, if the small man could arrange to charge 6d., 8d. and 9d. instead of, as at present, 6d. and 9d., the immediate loss to the Treasury would be recouped on the 8d. and 9d. seats. I did not rise to move this Amendment bursting with optimism, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman is going to give sympathetic consideration to the intent and purpose of it, and that sympathetic expressions will be forthcoming from him when he speaks.

9.12 p.m.

Captain Crookshank

I am relieved to think that the hon. Gentleman was not bursting with optimism; I am afraid the answer I am going to give will not be satisfactory to him. He is quite accurate in his forecast of the cost of the concession. He said it would be about £400,000, and that is the same estimate as I have. The cost to the Exchequer is estimated at £250,000 this year, and £400,000 in a full year. But there is a further reason which I would like to put before him, apart altogether from the expected loss of revenue, why my right hon. Friend cannot accept the Amendment. It is that the Amendment would not do what the hon. Gentleman wants. At present the rate of duty is 1½d. on seats costing between 6d. and 7½d., and the hon. Gentleman wants to make it 1d. Then you would get this position, that mathematically you could never reach the figure of 9d., because the Amendment would not alter the range of prices, and on seats costing 7½d. and over the duty would remain 2d. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that it would be

found very inconvenient to charge such a funny sum as 8½d., and, therefore, you could never get a seat at 9d., because, at 7½d. or over, the tax would be 2d., so that the cost of the seat would be 9½d. or I0d. The acceptance of the Amendment would, therefore, have a very awkward effect on exhibitors, and anyhow—

Mr. T. Williams

The right hon. Gentleman is explaining, if I understand him aright, that the actual wording of the Amendment is not quite what it might be, but I hope he will not make that an argument against accepting the principle.

Captain Crookshank

Principle or otherwise, in order to achieve what the hon. Gentleman wants we should have to recast the general schedule of these Duties. I was only pointing out that we are discussing an Amendment on the Paper, and not a principle. What the hon. Gentleman is after is to try to get some reduction to the inclusive price of these classes of seats in cinemas; and my short, and, I hope, conclusive, answer to that— an answer which I have already given several times—is that the cost involved is too great for my right hon. Friend to agree to.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 138; Noes, 204.

Division No. 192.] AYES. [9.17 p.m.
Adams, D. (Consett) Ede, J. C. Kennedy, Rt. Hon T.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) Kirby, B. V.
Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford) Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Lathan, G.
Ammon, C. G. Foot, D. M. Lawson, J. J,
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Frankel, D. Leach, W.
Banfield, J. W. Gallacher, W. Lee, F.
Barnes, A. J. Gardner, B. W. Leonard, W.
Barr, J. George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n) Leslie, J. R.
Batey, J. George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Lunn, W.
Beaumont, H. (Bailey), Gibson, R. (Greenock) Macdonald, G. (Ince)
Bellenger, F. J. Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) McEntee, V. La T.
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Green, W. H. (Deptford) McGhee, H. G.
Benson, G. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. MacLaren, A.
Bevan, A. Grenfell, D. R. Maclean, N.
Broad, F. A. Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Mainwaring, W. H.
Bromfield, W. Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Mander, G. le M.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Groves, T, E. Mathers, G.
Buchanan, G. Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.) Maxton, J.
Burke, W. A. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Messer, F.
Cape, T. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Milner, Major J.
Chater, D. Hardie, Agnes Montague, F.
Cluse, W. S. Harris, Sir P. A. Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)
Cocks, F. S. Hayday, A. Morrison, R, G. (Tottenham, N.)
Collindridge, F. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Muff, G.
Cove, W. G. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Naylor, T. E.
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Noel-Baker, P. J.
Daggar, G. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Oliver, G. H.
Dalton, H. Hopkin, D. Paling, W.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Isaacs, G. A. Parker, J.
Day, H. Jagger, J. Parkinson, J. A.
Dobbie, W. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Poole, C. O.
Price, M. P. Sloan, A. Walking, F. C.
Pritt, D. N. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe) Watson, W. McL.
Quibell, D. J. K. Smith, E. (Stoke) Welsh, ,J. C.
Ridley, G. Smith, T. (Normanton) Westwood, J.
Ritson, J. Sorensen, R. W. White, H. Graham
Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.) Stephen, C. Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens) Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng) Wilkinson, Ellen
Rothschild, J. A. de Summerskill, Dr. Edith Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Seely, Sir H. M. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Wilmot, John
Sexton, T. M. Thurtle, E. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Shinwell, E. Tinker, J. J. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Silkin, L. Tomlinson, G.
Silverman, S. S. Viant, S. P. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Simpson, F. B. Walkden, A. G. Mr. Charleton and Mr. Adamson.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Guest, Maj.Hon.O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.) Radford, E. A.
Albery, Sir Irving Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Rankin, Sir R.
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Hambro, A. V. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Apsley, Lord Hammersley, S. S. Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Aske, Sir R. W. Hannah, I. C. Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)
Assheton, R. Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Bartlett, C. V. O. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Rosbotham, Sir T.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Holy-Hutchinson, M. R. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Herbert, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Monmouth) Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Beechman, N. A. Higgs, W. F. Russell, Sir Alexander
Beit, Sir A. L. Hogg, Hon. Q. McG. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwin)
Bernays, R. H. Holdsworth, H. Salmon, Sir I.
Boulton, W. W. Holmes, J. S. Salt, E. W.
Bower, Comdr. R. T. Hopkinson, A. Samuel, M. R. A.
Boyce, H. Leslie Horsbrugh, Florence Sandeman, Sir N. S.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose) Howitt, Dr. A. B. Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Sandys, E. D.
Brass, Sir W. Hume, Sir G. H. Schuster, Sir G. E.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Hutchinson, G. C. Scott, Lord William
Broadbridge, Sir G, T. Jarvis, Sir J. J Selley, H. R.
Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.) Jennings, R. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Joel, D. J. B. Shepperson. Sir E. W.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n) Simmonds, O. E.
Bull, B. B. Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L. Keeling, E. H. Smithers, Sir W.
Butcher, H. W. Kerr, Colonel C. l. (Montrose) Snadden W. McN.
Cartland, J. R H. Kerr, H. W. (Oldham) Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald
Carver, Major W. H. Kimball, L. Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)
Cary, R. A. Lamb, Sir J. Q. Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Latham, Sir P. Spears, Brigadier-General E, L.
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Leech, Sir J. W. Spens, W. P.
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Levy, T. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Lewis, O. Storey, S.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Liddall, W. S. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Conant, Captain R. J. E. Lipson, D. L. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Little, Sir E. Graham- Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)
Cox, H. B. Trevor Llewellin, Colonel J. J. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Crooke, Sir J. Smedley Loftus, P. C. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Sutcliffe, H.
Cross, R. H. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Crowder, J. F. E. McCorquodale, M. S. Tate, Mavis C.
Cruddas, Col. B. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Taylor, G. S. (Eastbourne)
Davidson, Viscountess Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
De Chair, S. S. McKie, J. H. Thorneycroft, G. E. P.
De la Bére, R. Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Denville, Alfred Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Titchfield. Marquess of
Doland, G. F. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Tree, A. R. L. F.
Dugdale, Captain T. L. Medlicott, F. Turton, R. H.
Duncan, J. A. L. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Wakefield, W. W.
Dunglass, Lord. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Eastwood, J. F. Moreing, A. C. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Eckersley, P. T. Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge) Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Ellis, Sir G. Morris-Jones, Sir Henry Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Elliston, Capt. G. S. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Waterhouse, Captain C.
Emery, J. F. Munro, P. Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie
Entwistle, Sir C. F. Nall, Sir J. Wells, Sir Sydney
Fleming, E. L. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Fremantle, Sir F. E. Nicholson, G. (Farnham) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Furness, S. N. Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Gledhill, G. O'Connor, Sir Terence J. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G
Goldie, N. B. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Womersley, Sir W. J.
Gower, Sir R. V. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Wragg, H.
Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J. Peaks, O. York, C
Gridley, Sir A. B. Perkins, W. R. D. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Grigg, Sir E. W. M Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Grimston, R. V. Plugge, Capt. L. F. TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake) Pansonby, Col. C. E. Major Sir James Edmondson and Captain McEwen.

Resolution agreed to.

9.25 p.m.

Mr. Joel

beg to move, in page 5, line 28, at the end, to insert: "and as if Sub-section (3) of Section one of the Finance Act, 1935, were amended so as to include amongst the entertainments in respect of which such reduced rates of Entertainments Duty are chargeable, a bona fide zoo or exhibition of animals in respect of which His Majesty's Commissioners of Customs and Excise are satisfied that it is of substantial educational and scientific value. The object of this Amendment is to remedy the position created by the Finance Act of 1935. As hon. Members are aware, circuses and travelling menageries receive some benefit under the 1935 Act and receive further benefit under this Act by remission of Entertainments Duty. Zoological Gardens carried on for profit are excluded from these benefits. Nearly all the big zoological gardens already do not pay Entertainments Duty because they are run by societies which do not operate for profit, but there remains the case of those other zoos with which this Amendment is concerned—namely, the bona-fide zoological gardens which operate for profit and which still pay the full amount of Entertainments Duty. There are very few societies and their profit is likely to be small owing to their dependence on weather conditions and other factors.

I am particularly interested because of a large zoo which opened in my constituency a few years ago. A great deal of money was spent in making up-to-date and well-laid-out zoological gardens. I have no hesitation in saying that it has proved a great blessing to the town of Dudley and has brought benefit not only to the people but to the trade, catering, shop, and entertainment interests in the town. It has also proved of great interest to educational authorities and schools over a very wide area, which have sent parties of school children. Because it operates for profit this zoo and similar zoos cannot claim exemption from Entertainments Duty, as, for instance, the London Zoo can do. It cannot claim even a reduced rate of tax as can circuses and menageries, because the directors of this enterprise are not willing to spoil its educational character by including acrobats and so forth.

It is a very thin line which divides the circuses and menageries from zoological societies. Large numbers of keepers and specialists employed in connection with such societies are mostly trained from the ranks of previous menageries and circus workers and they have obtained their animal-keeping experience in the travelling shows. I hope that my right hon. Friend may consider that such zoological societies should be entitled to this remission. The Committee will be relieved to hear that if this Amendment is agreed to it will cost the State very little—and when I say little, unlike the movers of recent Amendments on the opposite benches, I mean very little. From the figures that are available to me I believe that the cost would not be more than £4,000 a year and probably less. I think it will be generally admitted that zoological societies serve a useful recreational and educational purpose, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will give this Amendment favourable consideration.

9.32 p.m.

Captain Crookshank

The Committee will have appreciated the zeal with which my hon. Friend has approached this problem, which, as he said, is of considerable importance to his own constituency. He pointed out that the presence of the zoo had been a blessing to all the inhabitants of the district as well as to a great number of traders and caterers in the town. I am sure that no one would take exception to the fact that he has raised the issue to-night. His estimate of the concession which he proposes we should make is of a very modest nature. He puts it at £4,000. I am not sure whether that is the precise figure of the cost of the concession. It might be a little more, taking into account other zoos, but it is true to say that it is a problem of no great magnitude. Therefore it is not possible to say that we cannot consider it on financial grounds. I shall, nevertheless, ask the Committee to reject this Amendment, for this reason—that what the Clause we are discussing has been dealing with up till now has been trying to find some relief for the living theatre.

The purpose of this Clause has all along been to try to give some advantage to the living theatre as compared with the cinema. That has been the gist of all the discussion that has taken place and it is for that reason that the concession has been put before the Committee. The living entertainment reduction was not asked for by its supporters, its opponents or myself on the ground of the scientific or educational value of the entertainments; we were not dealing with it from that point of view. Incidentally it would be a very difficult test to apply to a zoo, but that is by the way. We were dealing with the main question of the living theatre versus the cinema. My hon. Friend wants to take the opportunity to bring in some zoos on the ground that they are of substantial educational and scientific value.

Beyond that, he pointed out that a zoo is at present not able to pay like a circus or a menagerie, and he stated that the line between a circus and a menagerie on the one hand and a zoo on the other is very thin. I should have thought there was a considerable difference between the two, but if this zoo is so very much like a circus or a menagerie, surely it might go the whole way and become one and have the advantage of the concession. [Laughter.] I must say one more thing. I am sorry that this is a matter which causes so much hilarity, but it is inherent in the topic. It is possible for exemption to be enjoyed by zoos, as in the case of the London Zoo, on the ground that it is run by a society not for profit. In that case it would come under a provision in Section I (5)(d) of the Finance (New Duties) Act of 1916, as the entertainment is provided for partly educational or partly scientific purposes by a society, institution or committee not conducted or established for profit. I understand that my hon. Friend's zoo is not that kind of zoo at all. It was no doubt established for the benefit of those who were in reach of going to see it, but it was established for profit. Therefore my right hon. Friend does not see why it should be exempted and have the benefit of the concession which we are making in this Clause to quite other classes, namely, to relieve what is called the living theatre as opposed to the cinema. I am sorry to have to disappoint my hon. Friend, because I know that this is a matter about which he has feelings from the point of view of those whom he represents here; but it is rather a small point, and perhaps the Committee will not delay very long upon it, because we have very important Clauses to discuss.

9.38 p.m.

Mr. Hannah

I represent a part of Dudley and I want to say a few words in support of my hon. Friend and colleague. The Government have no more loyal supporter than I, but my constituents are exceedingly anxious that the Government should support this zoo and I feel that I must do the best I can. Dudley Zoo makes a profit, but profit is a very small element indeed in relation to it. The great advantage of Dudley Zoo is that it is giving a splendid use to one of the finest medieval castles in the country. Where knights once rode animals now play. This zoo is a great resort for the whole of the Black Country, and Dudley ought to be supported if only because her zoo is very superior to that in Regent's Park. As a small boy I spent some time as a visitor in the zoo at Regent's Park; as a Member of Parliament I had to take a number of my constituents over that zoo a few months ago and, so far as I could see, no improvement had been made in the long interval between those visits.

While the animals at the London Zoo are merely accommodated in stables, those in the Dudley Zoo are as far as possible in their natural surroundings. Our Black Country is very much ahead of the Metropolis in many of its educational advantages, and I ask the Committee to do all that it possibly can to support the admirable work of Dudley in trying to give to the Black Country a really admirable zoo, far superior to anything which the Metropolis can show.

Mr. Joel

In view of the Minister's reply I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

The Chairman

Is it the Committee's pleasure that the Amendment be withdrawn?

Hon. Members


Amendment negatived.