HC Deb 09 May 1944 vol 399 cc1705-6
72. Mr. Colman

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that, despite the requisitioning of the Scala Theatre for urgent national reasons, the theatre is now to be de-requisitioned for the largely amateur London Co-operative Society's pageant during one month, part of which time was held under option by Mr. Donald Wolfit, the actor manager, who is now producing Shakespearian plays but whose occupation is to be forcibly terminated on 15th May; and whether Mr. Wolfit was consulted as to this favoured treatment before it was sanctioned.

Sir J. Grigg

It was intended, originally, to requisition the Scala Theatre on 1st March for the training and recreation of troops. On 22nd February, I promised to reconsider the question, and, as a result, a considerably less suitable place was taken temporarily for the troops and the Shakespeare season has been able to continue for some three months. Mr. Wolfit has naturally been brought into the discussions, and, by not taking the theatre until 16th May, the Army will enable Mr. Wolfit to complet his original contract.

In the course of these discussions, I found that the Co-operative movement had made arrangements in February to use the theatre for a month in the summer for the pageant to celebrate the centenary of the movement. The efforts made by the Co-operative Societies to find an alternative theatre were no more successful than the War Department's earlier efforts made to avoid requisitioning the theatre, and it seemed that these celebrations, for which considerable preparations had been made, would have to be cancelled. This would have caused disappointment to very many people, and I decided that the Army should release the theatre for a very limited period in order to enable the celebrations to take place.

Mr. Colman

Does the Minister realise that, by denying the use of the theatre to the whole of the theatrical profession and making it available to the co-operative society, 11e is showing favourable treatment to a great business organisation— [Interruption.]

Sir J. Grigg

What I would like to say about this is that I thought, at one time, in my inexperience, that I could satisfy everybody. Now, it seems that I have satisfied nobody, and I am not sure that this is any encouragement to try again.

Mr. Maxton

Did the right hon. Gentleman get the approval of his Cabinet colleague Lord Beaverbrook?