HC Deb 15 July 1946 vol 425 cc948-50
Mr. Dalton

I beg to move, in page 4, line 44, at the end, to insert: (3) In subsection (3) of section one of the Finance Act, 1935, after the words "a performance of music (whether vocal or instrumental)" there shall be inserted the words "an Eisteddfod. This is designed to meet a very powerful plea, which was put up by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), far the inclusion, specifically and in terms, of "Eisteddfod." As I assured him when we were discussing this matter in Committtee, I am convinced that the insertion of these words is from the legal point of view unnecessary, but, nonetheless, particularly in view of the agreeable incident which came to me last weekend, it would be most inappropriate if I did not stretch a point in favour of the cultural glories of Wales. Therefore, I move this Amendment with great pleasure, and I am sure that it will place beyond the faintest flicker of 'doubt that an Eisteddfod is not to be treated as though it were same cruder form of entertainment, liable to tax at the very properly heavy rate. I was asked, on the last occasion, whether the "Mod" a Scottish ceremony, and the "Gorsedd," a Cornish ceremony—whether those two forms of musical festival are also safe. These are exempt from duty altogether. There is no question of the higher or the lower rate. The hon. Member for Torquay will hear me out when I say that there is no case in the past in which there has been an attempt to enforce Entertainment Duty on these cultural occasions. I think without putting any further words in the Clause, we can be assured that there will be no tax in the future.

Mr. McKie

I am grateful to the Chancellor for what he said about the Scottish musical festival. I feel sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams)—although he no longer represents a Cornish constituency, he is none the less always anxious to safeguard Cornish interests—will be glad to hear the Chancellor say that it is unnecessary to use the name of the Scottish and Cornish festivals in this Clause, and to hear the assurance that no inconvenience or hardship will result. However, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman—and I do not ask him in any spirit of being unfair to the Welsh festival—why he has singled out the Welsh festival for mention as distinct from the Scottish or Cornish festivals. I think both my hon. Friend who comes from Cornwall and I would like a little more assurance on this, because it is a point which may well rouse feelings of resentment both in Scotland and in Cornwall, unless the Chancellor gives a more lucid and thorough explanation. There is one other point to which I wish to refer. The Chancellor said he had been assured by the legal experts that the inclusion of this word "Eisteddfod" was unnecessary. Might I ask him whether it is strictly legal to use words of a foreign language, in a Statute of this House? I always thought if an hon. Member ventured to address you, Mr. Speaker, in either of the tongues which are used in common parlance in Scotland or Wales, you would immediately rule him out of Order. I, therefore, ask the Chancellor whether he has assured himself that, so far from safeguarding the Welsh national musical festival, he has not rather reached the point of being out of Order by introducing a foreign Word into this Measure.

Mr. Dalton

The reason for making provision for the Eisteddfod and not for the other two musical festivals was that initiative was shown in regard to the Eisteddfod and an Amendment was nut down by a Welshman. The Cornish and Scottish festivals were only brought in at a later stage in the course of oral exchanges during the Debate. I have satisfied myself that, as far as exemption is concerned, the three are all right. With regard to the use of foreign words, many words which originated in the Celtic fringe have passed into the common language of these islands. There are Scottish words, some of them very un-Parliamentary, which have passed into our common tongue, and in regard to singing there are after all such words as "psalms" and "canticles" which are not Norman-French, Anglo-Saxon or Welsh.

Mr. C. Williams

I was hoping that all I would have to do would be to say a few words of thanks to the Chancellor. But the right hon. Gentleman in what he said just now was inaccurate. He said that there was a lack of initiative in this matter in regard to the raising of the question of the Cornish Gorsedd. It was nothing of the sort. The right hon. Gentleman should not contradict himself so often. When I saw the Amendment on this matter in the Committee stage I said to myself, "Perhaps I had better be certain of this; possibly the Chancellor knows something more about it than I do." I got an assurance from the Chancellor and I thought that was good enough. It seems to me yet to be quite good enough, and it was not until later that I noticed this Amendment down in the Chancellor's name. I tried to get an Amendment down, but I was too late. I always believed that the position operating hitherto was right, and the Chancellor said just now that we had been completely covered all the time and there had been no duty to pay on these festivals. In other words, it is almost useless to have this Amendment and I am not quite sure whether I ought not to speak and vote against it as a superfluity of little help to the Welsh people. However, instead I will pass to another argument, and that is that the Welsh Eisteddfod as compared with the Scottish Mod or the Cornish Gorsedd is neither as musical nor as educational nor as dramatic. For that reason it is unnecessary to define these two, because they come within the category of being artistic and musical. Unless the Welsh Eisteddfod was defined by an Act of Parliament, Heaven knows whether anyone would know whether it was artistic or anything else. I should of course realise its value but to the ordinary Saxon or Scotsman it would not appear to be either musical or artistic, and so this Amendment was necessary. I thank the Chancellor very much for enabling the House to know the real reason why he put down this Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.