§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and Kinross, Perth)
I beg to move, in page 6, line 12, at the end, to add:(c) there shall be a Committee of the Council, to be called the Cinematograph Films Advisory Committee (Scotland), to which all matters affecting films to be shown in Scotland shall stand referred. It shall consist of five independent members to be appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland, four members representing makers of British films and four members representing exhibitors of British films.
I would call the attention of the hon. and gallant Member to a statement which the Minister made last night, and in which he said that he was going to reconsider the Clause, and, probably, introduce a composite Amendment on the Report stage. In those circumstances, I suggest that there is not much use in debating the Amendments which are on the Order Paper in relation to this Clause or even discussing the 1831 Clause as a whole, because we do not know what the Clause will be on the Report stage.
I do not want to rule the hon. and gallant Member's Amendment out of Order by not selecting it. I only made a suggestion. If the hon. and gallant Member wishes to speak to the Amendment he had better do so now.
§ Mr. Willis (Edinburgh, North)
There are several Amendments on the Order Paper pertaining to this particular matter. Will the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) be the only one called?
I have called on the hon. and gallant Member for Perth to move his Amendment. The other Amendments can be discussed with it. There have been no other Amendments selected because they were covered by the Minister's statement last night.
§ Mr. Willis
There are other Amendments relating to Scotland. I should like your guidance to know whether they are to be called.
The answer is "No." They will not be called. They can be discussed on this Amendment.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
The object of the Amendment is to ensure that there shall be a body to consider the interests, tastes and wishes of Scotland in relation to the film industry of that country. With all the seriousness at my command, I tell the Committee that Scottish opinion and the Scottish film industry are deeply disturbed about this matter, and although, naturally, the community is more important than the industry, in this case both are at one. In view of our experience, I am convinced that unless we have an independent body of men and women fully qualified, not only in regard to the film industry but in regard to culture, taste and education from the Scottish point of view, we shall never get a satisfactory solution of the film problem.
I feel so sincerely about this matter that I say the Bill cannot work at all in Scot- 1832 land unless we have a body of this kind, whatever it is called, properly to represent the tastes, wishes and interests of Scotland. I need not remind the Committee how we have suffered from what are called Scots films. I warn hon. Members that there is another terrible one, called "The Swordsman," coming from Hollywood, and dealing with the Highlands of Scotland. It will put into the shade anything that has gone before. The hero is called Larry. I understand that hitherto he has taken no part in Scottish life and affairs in the film industry and has been concerned more with thuggery and the wild West, which happy things he is now going to bring into the peaceful atmosphere of Scotland. That is indicative of the dangers that exist unless films are properly examined before they are put out to the public. I do not want to use the word "censored" because that is a horrible word.
Oversight by an English committee or council is not satisfactory. I say that in no disparaging way. That committee should not be the arbiter of what Scotland shall or shall not take. Unless we have an independent body, such as I am proposing, to decide what is to be the quota for Scotland, and of what it shall consist, it will be an English body which will decide what the Scottish film industry has to take. The appeal will be only to that English committee. It is not a sufficient answer to say that there may be a good Scotsman on the committee who will see that everything is all right. The weight of opinion would be English, according to the English outlook and English taste, high and excellent as those are. They might not be, and they frequently are not, suitable to Scottish taste. It would be unjust that a film man in Scotland should have to take the risk of being run in, as we might call it, before the President of the Board of Trade by the English Council, who have decided what he should and should not take, simply because he could not sell his quota to the people of Scotland. There is a great chance of serious injustice to the Scottish film industry in this part of the Bill. It is very important that that should be avoided and that Scottish taste, opinions and culture should be properly safeguarded by a separate body of the kind I have described.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
I feel hesitant about supporting the Amendment 1833 and I think there are other hon. Members who will agree with me in my hesitation. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) has put very admirably the Scottish patriotic point of view, but the difficulties in the way of adopting his proposal are enormous. I did not have an opportunity of seeing the Amendment before, owing to my slackness this morning. I would like to give my views upon it, as they occur to me now.
The first point is that films are not produced to appeal to particular audiences in a particular part of the country, small or big. They are produced to appeal to a large audience. A film might be produced here which is suitable for Scotland but not suitable elsewhere, and vice versa. The second point is that if a committee is to be set up for Scotland, it is only fair that there should be similar committees for Wales and Northern Ireland. As one who is proud to have the blood of Northern Ireland bubbling in his veins, I say that Northern Ireland has as much claim to be consulted, if her people do not like the English taste, as have the people of Scotland. I should have thought that English taste through the ages had been fairly good.
Furthermore, would my hon. and gallant Friend apply his rather peculiar argument in other directions? Is Scotland to have performances only of plays or films produced in Scotland, which the somewhat anomalous body which he proposes has said are suitable for Scotland? I admit that pictures are produced in studios showing everybody in Scotland wearing a kilt, whereas everybody knows that the kilt only appeals nowadays to a few extreme patriots, and to the type of Scotsmen whom I might call the Mac-Smiths who desire to be more Scottish than the Scots. I have no doubt that they would be regarded in some parts of the world as representative of Scotland.
In a more serious vein, I appeal to the Committee to remember that it is very important that British films should have a universal appeal. There would be no objection to some form of advisory committee. I gathered from the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend—I was somewhat concerned at some portions of it—that he thought the proposed committee should have a power of censorship. I may be quite wrong.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I said that censorship was not a good thing, but that there should be some supervision as to what was being produced.
§ Earl Winterton
That is a rather more involved way of saying that the Council should decide what films should be shown, which in another way is censorship. I do not think it is desirable that in a matter of this kind this nascent industry, which is making great efforts towards ensuring a universal appeal, should be called upon to adopt this slightly parochial position. The Government cannot possibly agree to this Amendment, unless they set up a similar council for Wales and Northern Ireland. I suggest, however, that they should give an assurance that Scottish interests will be represented on the Films Council.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I would ask my noble Friend whether I come under the heading of a patriot or a "MacSmith," because I wear a kilt? Is not my noble Friend aware that Scottish representation on advisory councils has had singularly little result in the past, and that we see no reason why there should be a greater result in this case?
§ Earl Winterton
I would not like to answer the personal point which my hon. and gallant Friend has put to me, except to say that I am sure he is a patriot, and that I was not referring to him when I talked of "MacSmiths." I, too, have Scottish blood in my veins. As to my hon. and gallant Friend's second point, I happen to be sympathetic to the views he holds, in common with other Members representing Scottish constituencies, about a greater amount of devolution to Scotland. That, however, is a bigger question which I cannot discuss now, as I am sure, Sir Robert, that you would Rule me out of Order.
§ Mr. McAllister (Rutherglen)
I could not agree more with the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) when he expressed his admiration for the enormous developments and improvements in British films during the last decade. What the British film industry has accomplished during that period is little short of a miracle of organising and productive genius. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) that there have been, 1835 and may still be, some very deplorable Scottish films—and I make no reference at all to one which I had some part in producing—but I think he will agree that this growing British industry has produced some excellent Scottish films. I am thinking of "The Silver Darlings," and "I Know Where I'm Going." They show that even the British film industry, which is much too centralised in the South of England, can, nevertheless, on occasions, do justice to Scotland's story and scenery.
The noble Lord rather missed the point, however, if he will forgive me for putting it that way, because this is not a question of Scottish patriotism or Scottish national feeling that we are being ousted by England in any way. I ask the noble Lord to think of the position of the small independent exhibitior in one of the wards of a large city like Glasgow. The managing director owns only one cinema; he is hemmed around not solely with great circuits, but all circuits, big and little, and he has to find his quota of British films under this Bill. If he fails, he has to go before the Cinematograph Films Council and offer such explanation as he can. The Council, if they find that he has been wanting in judgment, may inflict upon him very heavy penalties. It would be beyond a United Kingdom Council to consider that case properly on its merits.
§ Earl Winterton
Surely, we should deal with the question by getting an assurance from the Government that there will be adequate representation of Scottish interests on the Films Council.
§ Mr. McAllister
I will come to that in a moment. Whether or not Members representing Northern Ireland or Wales have taken sufficient interest in the Bill to put down Amendments, or whether they think that the right course for Northern Ireland and Wales is now being adopted in the Bill, should not deter Scottish Members from doing what they think is right in the interests of Scotland. We must reiterate, until at last even the House of Commons begins to believe it thoroughly, that Scotland is a nation, not a parish, not a region, not a section of Great Britain. It is a nation, with national rights and national traditions. When I rose last night, on a modest point of Order, to elicit some information from the Minister as to what 1836 he might do about Scotland, I received no reply—which not infrequently happens when a Member raises a question about Scotland. There were, in many quarters of the Committee, slightly derisive titters and laughter at a Scottish Member of Parliament having the temerity to raise a Scottish question on the Floor of the Committee. We do not want to be put into that position, because most of us are not ultra-nationalist in that way. All we want to ensure is that Scotland's case is considered on its merits.
I should be happy if the Minister would accept the suggestion put forward by the noble Lord, that there should be adequate representation of Scottish exhibitors' interests on the Cinematograph Films Council. That would go a long way to meet all the difficulties I have in mind, but at the same time I should not like the Minister to dismiss without thought, the idea that there might be some kind of entertainment organisation for Scotland, as well as additional representation. The need to increase the exhibitors' representation on the Council has been acknowledged, and part of that increase ought to be Scottish representation. The Minister should not dismiss lightly the idea that there is a case, and that there should be some kind of Scottish body acting under its own authority.
§ Lieut.-Commander Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, West)
I listened with great attention to what my noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) said a few minutes ago, but I was not entirely convinced. I feel that there is a case for a separate committee or council to look after Scotland. This is a matter which has caused a good deal of concern among exhibitors in Scotland, and on which hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies have received a number of communications. The exhibitors feel, and, I think, with good reason, that a United Kingdom Films Council will inevitably be composed of a majority of people living south of the Border, who cannot, in the nature of things, be fully conversant with Scottish tastes and opinion. As I do not go to the cinema a great deal, I cannot speak from much personal experience; but I am advised that relatively few British films enjoy a good run in Scotland. The reason advanced is that, however good they may be—and some are excellent—they have an English 1837 background, accent, and acting which does not appeal to a large section of the Scottish people. It may be our fault, but, nevertheless, that is the fact.
§ Lieut.-Commander Hutchison
No, a Scottish background. I feel it would be helpful to the President of the Board of Trade and to the film industry if they had a body which spoke authoritatively for Scottish opinion in this matter. There should not be any objection to this course, because it has been customary when dealing with legislation of different kinds to provide separate boards or councils for Scotland, for example, the Scottish Milk Marketing Board, the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board and numerous advisory committees. There is, therefore, no departure from precedent in having a Cinematograph Films Council for Scotland, and as was signified last night, since it is the intention of the President of the Board of Trade to look at this whole Clause again with regard to representation, I hope he will take this matter of a Scottish Council into close consideration, and will decide that it is desirable to have a separate council or committee for Scotland.
§ Mr. Willis (Edinburgh, North)
I rise to support the proposal that there should be a separate Films Council for Scotland because throughout the Second Reading Debate and also throughout the Committee stage, the necessity for this has repeatedly been shown. As has been said already by my hon. Friend the Member for Ruthergl[...]n (Mr. McAllister) and others, there is the point of view of exhibitors. The small independent exhibitor, in any case, fears his position under this Bill, because of the fact that the Bill dispenses with the renters' quota. In the case of Scotland, he fears it even more, because the Films Council, which will advise as to the fixing of the quota and will also advise as to whether there are good reasons why an exhibitor cannot meet his quota will in the main be an English Board.
During the Second Reading Debate on the Bill, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade said he would be pleased to consider the appointment of a Scottish representative on that Council. 1838 One representative out of a membership of 19 is quite inadequate, and is really an insult to Scotland. We want a council of our own. The fears of the exhibitors are intensified by virtue of the fact that, as an hon. Member said yesterday in the Debate, as a result of this Bill the Films Council will be given teeth. That being so, an even greater necessity for more adequate safeguards for the Scottish exhibitors arises.
There is a second reason, which was raised during the Second Reading Debate by the hon. and gallant Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan), and that is the question whether all British films are necessarily suitable for Scottish audiences. We cannot see that position being safeguarded except by the setting up of a Scottish Films Council. There is a third aspect of this question—that we shall be able we hope in the course of time to build up our own film industry. I notice that in the Schedule dealing with the functions of the Films Council—if I might refer to those functions because they are relevant to what I am saying—the first isto keep under review the progress of the cinematograph film industry in Great Britain, with particular reference to the development of that branch of the said industry which is engaged in the making of films, and to report thereon to the Board of Trade at such times as the Council thinks fit.One cannot expect to get much consideration for Scotland in this respect from a British Films Council on which there will be one Scottish representative out of a membership of 19. Therefore, from that point of view we need a Scottish Films Council.
During the Debate on the Second Reading the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade said this—and I think it is rather significant:The matter of Scottish taste may be left to the film producers who will no doubt have an eye on the Scottish market, though what its value is compared with the English market I do not know."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st January, 1948; Vol. 446, c. 334.]It is quite obvious that the film producer who is producing films will have his eye mainly on the 40 million people of England and not on the 3 or 4 million people in Scotland. Scotland has no more desire to be Anglicised than it has to be Americanised. For those reasons I would plead with my right hon. Friend the President 1839 of the Board of Trade seriously to consider the proposal to set up a Scottish Films Council. So far as I have been able to find out there has been no argument against this proposal. In other aspects of our economic and social life we have separate committees for Scotland because of what are admitted to be different conditions, a different culture, a different outlook and, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) said yesterday, a different sense of humour. Because of that I trust that when my right hon. Friend is considering this matter he will find it possible to set up a separate council for Scotland.
§ Lord John Hope (Midlothian and Peebles, Northern)
It is easy to overdo this business of patriotism which I always try to avoid. The noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) missed the point in this case, when he ascribed all this to Scottish nationalist feeling which, in fact, is simply nonsense. This Amendment is based on the fears of the past. Those whose livelihood depends on the showing of films in Scotland know—it is not a question of opinion but one of fact—that certain British films are flops in Scotland. They may be successful in England and other parts of the world, but they are not in Scotland. Scotland has a culture of its own. Again that is a fact and not a question of opinion.
I cannot see how anyone can argue that any other committee or council other than a Scottish one is fit to decide what films out of those available at any time should be shown by Scottish exhibitors to earn their livelihood and also to Scottish people to enjoy themselves. The noble Lord the Member for Horsham said that British films were intended to have a universal appeal. Of course, they are so intended, but it does not work out that way. If a British film has not a universal appeal it would be very much better in the interests of the public if that fact were accepted by the Government—
§ Earl Winterton
The noble Lord is not quite correct, and I am sure he would not want to do me an injustice. It is a fact that British films have made a greater overall appeal in foreign countries than they have ever made before and that is what I meant when I referred to a universal appeal. That does not mean that they should not appeal to the people 1840 of Scotland any more than they appeal to people in other parts of the world.
§ Lord John Hope
I follow the noble Lord, and I am obliged to him, but I still think it is not fair, and it will not get one anywhere to assume that this universal appeal of British films will necessarily include Scotland. It would be perfectly easy to satisfy the Scots by the inclusion in the Bill of this Amendment. Finally, as far as Wales and Northern Ireland are concerned they have not asked—
Northern Ireland does not come into the Bill, and Wales is not covered by the Amendment.
§ Lord John Hope
I am obliged to you, Sir Robert. They did arise in the speech of the noble Lord, but I was only about to say that as they are irrelevant, let them remain so.
§ Mr. Reeves
I feel that our Scottish friends will not get the recognition through this Amendment which they expect. First, they are suggesting that there shall be established what might be called a sub-committee of the Films Council on which they will have exclusive representation. This Committee will presumably have to report to the major body, which is itself an advisory committee to the Board of Trade. Let us analyse what they wish the Committee to do. The Amendment says that it is—to be called the Cinematograph Films Advisory Committee (Scotland), to which all matters affecting films to be shown in Scotland shall stand referred.
§ Mr. Reeves
All matters affecting films in Britain are not referred to the major body. That is not its job. We are not establishing a great censorship, but a Council which is to advise the Government how best we can guarantee that British films which we believe are worthy of a showing on our screens have opportunities of getting there.
It seems to me that our Scottish friends have misunderstood entirely the functions of the Films Council. It is not intended to do a task of that kind. If this were to be a precedent, then I should be very much against it so far as its application to England was concerned. We have quite sufficient censorship now, without adding 1841 to it. If every film that is to be shown in Scotland is to be referred to a special Scottish film committee that committee will have its time occupied from morning to night every day of the year. It will have a very onerous task. Then, having seen all the films, how are they to prevent them from being shown in the cinemas of Scotland? They will have no power to do it. They will be able to make recommendations to the Films Council, but the Films Council itself cannot make proposals to the Board of Trade that certain films shall not be shown in England, let alone in Scotland.
§ Mr. Willis
Is not the point that so far as the independent exhibitor and the Scottish Films Council are concerned, the committee would decide whether a particular film should be included for quota purposes. It is not a question of censorship at all.
§ Mr. Reeves
I think some hon. Members have misunderstood the purpose of this Amendment. The Council does not analyse the nature of a film and whether the dialogue in the film is suitable for Scottish and other audiences or not. Certain conditions are prescribed which enable the film to qualify as quota, and these apply to films whether they are made in England, Scotland or Ireland. I am sure that if the Amendment were accepted it would be entirely unworkable.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Reeves) who has taken exception to this Amendment has given rather a caricature, perhaps unintentionally, of our attitude as Scottish Memlast thing I would wish to do would be to turn this innocent Debate into anything like a Debate on Scottish nationalism in general. As my noble Friend the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winter-ton) said, that would be quite out of Order at this stage. In the 17 years in which I have had the honour of being a Member of this House I have seen similar Amendments put down to many other Bills of major importance in order that Scottish interests should be more adequately safeguarded than would seem to be the case when the Bills came before the House. Never once, in my experience, were we successful in having any of those proposals incorporated in any Bills. That is why am not hopeful that the Parliamentary Secretary will be in a position to grant our modest request this afternoon.
1842 I do stress—and here I am perhaps in slight disagreement with my hon. Friends who represent Scottish constituencies—that there are difficulties in the way, as my noble Friend the right hon. Member for Horsham has pointed out. I join with him in hoping that the Parliamentary Secretary will pay due heed to what has been said, and will do all in his power, as he has been pressed to do, to see that as full attention as possible is paid to the kind of films which are desirable from the point of view of their exhibition in Scotland. I did not know, until I heard my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) that so many films had been shown with considerable success and a large public following south of the Border, which had not met with the same reception, or had not been patronised by the same large audiences when they were shown north of the Tweed. I did not know that and I am sorry to hear it, and it is an additional reason why the Parliamentary Secretary, if he is not disposed to accept this Amendment in toto, should pay due respect to what my noble Friend has urged.
After my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Edinburgh had made that observation I asked him if he could tell me of any particular films which had not met with approval n Scotland, judged by the audiences they have had. He assured me that "Henry V" was one. I am a lover of Shakespeare, and I had no idea there were so Many of my fellow countrymen and women who did not enjoy to the full the works of that eminent dramatist, even when they were shown on the films. But there it is; there are these difficulties. You, Sir Robert, as a Scotsman, will be the first to appreciate what we feel about this matter.
Although I have partly supported what my noble Friend has said, I should be glad if the Parliamentary Secretary could see his way to incorporate the Amendment in the Bill. There are, however, reasons in the way which I fully appreciate. I hope he will pay due heed to the points which have been made, and appreciate the fact that many audiences in Scotland do not always appreciate films which are shown successfully in London and South Britain, and that he will do his best to do something in the future to see that these audiences are catered for in a better way than they have been catered for in the past.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Belcher)
When we are discussing these technical matters I always feel that the Minister is in a somewhat unfortunate position because he may be discussing them within the hearing of people who have a much greater knowledge of the subject than he has. This afternoon I am in a doubly unfortunate position. I am a Sassenach, confronting Scottish Members who are anxious to do right by Scotland, with the additional factor that we have a Scottish Member in the Chair. However, in view of your well known impartiality, Sir Robert, I am sure that I have nothing to fear there. I had hoped these Amendments would not have been pressed, in view of my right hon. Friend's statement last night of his readiness to consider this matter very carefully and to put down on the Report stage a considered Amendment dealing with the matters raised last night and these matters which have been raised this afternoon.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
It was stated that the matters discussed last night would be considered, but Scotland was not specifically mentioned.
§ Mr. Belcher
I will deal with that point as we go along. When I am able to reassure the hon. and gallant Gentleman and the other Scottish representatives who have spoken, it may be that they will reconsider the question of pressing this Amendment. With regard to the suggestion that the British films are no less foreign than the films of other countries to the people of Scotland, the information at our disposal suggests that that is not the case. The time occupied on Scottish screens by British films varies very minutely from the time occupied on English screens by British films. It may be said that that is because there is no alternative, but nothing has been said which will make it possible for Scottish exhibition time to be taken up by Scottish films. Recently there was an attempt to set up a film production unit in Scotland, and it will be within the knowledge of hon. Members that it had a rather unfortunate ending.
I agree that there is something to be said for the Scottish exhibitor in regard to the question of the quota defaulter, particularly the type of Scottish film 1844 exhibitor referred to by one hon. Member. Such an exhibitor may be in a very strong competitive situation. He may be an independent producer, surrounded by large circuits. It may be felt by Scottish people to be unfair to a Scottish exhibitor if he has to make his explanation to a British Film Council which is exclusively English, or dominated by an English element. It is not true, as was suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison), that the exhibitor can have penalties imposed on him by the Films Council.
§ Mr. Belcher
I am glad to find that he did not mean that because he said in his speech "subject to penalties by the Films Council"—
§ Mr. Belcher
I am afraid I have the wrong Member. I am now informed it was the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis). The Films Council cannot impose any penalties upon the quota defaulter. The Council can hear his case and make recommendations to the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade itself cannot impose any penalties. The exhibitor must be proceeded against in the court and, in the case of a Scottish exhibitor, the case must be heard in a Scottish court. I feel sure that will be regarded as a certain safeguard by the representatives of Scottish constituencies.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) that the implied suggestion that the purpose of the Scottish Council should be to have some sort of supervision over the type of films to be shown in Scottish cinemas, is an extremely dangerous one. I would never assent for one moment to a Government sponsored body concerning itself in the picking and choosing of films, or books, or any other expression of opinion or culture. I think that is extremely dangerous, and I am glad that some hon. Members who have spoken dissociated themselves from that point of view.
§ Mr. Belcher
My right hon. Friend said last night that he would consider the 1845 whole Clause, and would put down a composite Amendment. I should like to go further, and say that we will consider especially the position of Scotland in relation to the Films Council. I shall indicate to the Committee some of the things which might be reconsidered. The Committee should understand that I am not now proposing that these things should be done. I am merely suggesting the kind of things which might be considered as a subject of a composite Amendment. For example, we might put in the Bill that one of the exhibitors' representatives must be a Scottish representative. It would not be the case, as has been suggested, that Scotland will get one representative out of 19 on the Council. It would certainly be one representative as against 19 in toto, but actually it would he one exhibitor representative out of five exhibitor representatives. There are representatives of producers on the Council, and there is no producer in Scotland. Therefore, if there is one Scottish exhibitor represented Scotland is getting representation of one in five. The Board of Trade might undertake, also, that one of the seven independent members must be a Scottish representative.
We might go further in these considerations. One of the most important duties of the Films Council is that of reviEwing quota defaults. It may be considered worth while, from the Scottish point of view, to ask the new Films Council to arrange that any Scottish default should be reviewed by a sub-committee of the Council before the full Council reviewed it, and reported to the Board of Trade. The composition of this committee could include the Scottish exhibitor, and provision could be made for the addition of another Scottish exhibitor by giving the Council general power to co-opt additional members to serve on any Council committee. I do not think that the full Council ought to be deprived of its final jurisdiction. I do not suggest that the sub-committee should report direct to the Board of Trade. I think its report should go to the parent body.
That is the kind of thing which may be considered to be the subject of a composite Amendment. I assure hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies, that both the President of the Board of Trade and I are anxious to do all we can to enable Scottish people to express themselves, and to enjoy to the utmost extent 1846 that type of cultural entertainment—if I may use that term—which they really want. I recognise, of course, that there is a difference in taste. There is bound to be a difference of taste between members of different nations, and I quite understand the desire of the Scottish people to have that amount of say in their own affairs, and that they should have the opportunity of enjoying the things to which they respond, as nationals of Scotland. Having given that assurance, I hope that hon. Members will not press this Amendment because, I think that, in doing so, they would make it rather more than less difficult for us to come to some accommodation on the specific subject of the Bill.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
In view of the rather general line the Parliamentary Secretary has taken I hope, Sir Robert, you will allow me to go beyond the rigid terms of the Amendment. I think that would be following the lines adopted by the Parliamentary Secretary. When moving this Amendment my hon. and gallant Friend referred chiefly to the actual control, or "vetting," of the type of film that was shown. That touches only one side of the matter. As the Parliamentary Secretary has rightly said, an exhibitor may find himself in an impossible position if he has to show something which is unpalatable. We are concerned—and I speak as a full-blooded Scot—with the question of the representation of the form of life of the Scottish people. One reason why certain English films are unpalatable in Scotland is because, in them, Scotsmen are represented as living in a way completely impossible for any good Scot. That is the sort of thing we wish to stop.
§ Earl Winterton
I should have thought that that occasionally applied to the English way of life, as represented in Hollywood films.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I agree with the noble Lord, and I hope that what I am going to say will help to solve that unpleasant position. I am glad that his Northern Irish blood boiled in his veins when I referred to it—
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
This question of misrepresentation of the way in which people 1847 in Scotland live today is resented most deeply. That does not apply only to the showing of English films in Scotland. It applies in a more serious degree to the way that Scottish life is misrepresented overseas. It appears that the Amendment does not go far enough.
We cannot discuss the control of films overseas. Hon Members must keep to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I thought in view of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said that we might have been allowed to mention the right type of film representing Scottish life. If you would prefer me to defer the argument to the Motion, "That the Clause sand part of the Bill"—
I do not wish to be too strict on this particular Amendment. In view of the Minister's undertaking, I do not think that there will be need for discussion when we come to the question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." But if the hon. Member is asking to control films shown abroad, that is another question and not in order.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I will keep my remarks strictly within the rules in this matter. May it not be possible to give power, such as is suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend, to some officially recognised body which could apply its stamp of approval to any film representing Scottish life, so that it could be stated that that film had been passed by a Scottish council? It may or may not be the same body as that suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend—
§ Mr. Belcher
Does the hon. Member think that it would be possible to find some body, some committee or some council, who could fix a stamp of approval on films depicting Scottish life which would meet with the general assent of the people of Scotland? We might find all sorts of schisms.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
We might find all sorts of divisions, but in Scotland we are an extraordinarily commonsense type of people. For a long time there has been growing, hour by hour, day by day, an urge for better Scottish representation in all Parliamentary procedure. Scotland is unanimous on that issue. Surely, therefore, one can find some sort of representative body of four, five or six people who could agree whether or not a film repre- 1848 sented life in Scotland today. Will the Parliamentary Secretary give some sort of undertaking that something of this nature will be considered when the whole of the Clause is being reconsidered by the President? A great deal of damage has already been done to Scotland. It is all very well to say that a great deal of tartan has been sold in the States, but does the tartan that has been sold mean anything? My hon. and gallant Friend talked about tartan that has been sold to be made up into skirts. But let us attach some name to that tartan. Let it be sold by all means, but let the people who buy it take an interest in the tartan and what it means in Scotland. Let us get the thing across. Do not let us see a film of some Highland clan clad in entirely the wrong clothes, in the wrong way, and doing the wrong things. Will the Parliamentary Secretary give some undertaking that his right hon. Friend will consider a body such as I have suggested?
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. O'Brien (Nottingham, West)
I want to avoid the misunderstanding under which the hon. and gallant Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) seemed to labour. There are two points which I wish to make. It would he a mistake to think that Scottish cinema exhibitors as such, or as represented on the Films Council, have not an opportunity of expressing their Scottish point of view. There are between 350 and 400 cinemas in Scotland, and the exhibitors are all members of a national organisation—the Cinematograph Exhibitors Association of Great Britain. That association is responsible for maintaining its representatives on the Films Council. If there are not a sufficient number of nominees representing Scotland, or if the nominees proposed happen not to be Scotsmen, it is proper and sound that the Scottish exhibitors should make their presence felt within their own organisation. They should ensure that their divisional interests, whether economic, social or national, are adequately and sufficiently reflected in their own organisation. If they do not, there will be complications. There is no direct reference in the Amendment to the representation on this Council of workers in the entertainment industry in Scotland. If there are to be representatives of the employers in Scotland, we shall require representation for the workers in the same way.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I do not think that we ought to set too much store upon the actual figures mentioned in the Amendment. There are three things. There is the Council which would be in the same proportion as the one proposed for Great Britain and would include workers' representatives. Then there is the Committee of the Council which is the next best thing we can hope for; and finally there are the two or three extra members suggested by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). There is certainly no question of leaving out workers' representatives.
§ Mr. O'Brien
Thank you. There are adequate channels through which the Scottish exhibitors can work in order to put the point of view expressed by many hon. Members. However, there are practical difficulties in this matter. I am a lover of Scotland and the Scottish people. No one would be more pleased than I, if we could have the correct type of film depicting Scottish life in its fullness, its gracefulness and its ancient traditions. We shall "come a cropper," to use a colloquialism, if we think that this Bill will encourage Scottish film production as such in the way which some hon. Members want. There is nothing to prevent Scottish industrialists or financiers, even in these days of austerity, from reflecting in their more practical ways the views that have been expressed in this Debate. Why has not any Scottish financier or industrialist hacked the production of Scottish pictures? Why have they not got together the best script writers, advisers on Scottish history, art directors and so on, to prepare a film which will meet the severest criticism of the people of Scotland? I do not know of one such case. On the contrary, the one picture which I am told will meet with 100 per cent. satisfaction—
I must ask the hon. Member to keep within the terms of the Amendment. We are discussing the composition of the Council which is to be set up.
§ Mr. O'Brien
Reference was made to a picture about Scotland which came from the United States and about which a great deal of objection was expressed by Scottish people. I intended to refer to a picture not from the United States but from Shepperton. It is not made by a Scot but by a very distinguished naturalized 1850 Britisher, Sir Alexander Korda, who is sending to Scotland "Bonnie Prince Charlie" in which our late lamented friend Will Fyffe took part—
§ Mr. O'Brien
I am glad that one hon. Member sees the point.
I should be glad if the point I have tried to make is noted by Scottish financiers and industrialists. They could do a great deal for Scotland by educating the English in Scottish history. I hope that all hon. Members appreciate the practical difficulties and that they will not assume that by the establishment of a Scottish sub-committee of the Films Council, or the formation of a separate Scottish Council, they will cause the making of better Scottish films.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
I have read the Amendment with considerable care and I have listened to almost every word of this discussion. I ask the hon. Member for West Nottingham (M[...]. O'Brien) to excuse me if I do not follow him in his argument. I come back to what was said by the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). I do not think that he was quite fair. Perhaps he did not mean to be unfair, but I do not think that he fully appreciated the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) who spoke so excellently on this Amendment. The noble Lord admitted that his blood was boiling. He admitted that he had Northern Irish and Scotti[...]h blood in him; but he did not say which part was boiling. He took the view that the intention behind this Amendment was to have some form of censorship. I do not think that censorship, or even selection, will result from this Amendment. It says:there shall be a Committee of the Council … to which all matters affecting films to be shown in Scotland shall stand referred.That may be a purely Scottish term, but as I understand it, it does not say what will happen to Scottish matters when they have been referred to the committee. Probably the committee would be able to give advice, but there is nothing to say that they have any executive power. The idea that there should be a representative collection of Scots to put the Scottish 1851 point of view is simple and sound. That seems to be the idea. There seems to be no suggestion of censorship or selection. I understand that it would be a purely advisory body. In the same way, we might have an advisory committee to represent any other section of the community.
We have heard a great deal about Scotland in the last hour. I am not sure whether what is wanted is not an advisory committee to put fully the position of England. It appears to me that England may not come off very well in this matter. Apparently, under paragraph (a) there are to be five individuals, under paragraph (b), there are to be four, and then under the proposed paragraph (c), the Scottish one, there are to be 14. If all the representatives were sitting together, it would mean that the English would be hopelessly swamped by the Scots. I rather suspect that that is the real intention. I have a very strong suspicion that the Scots would like to get an overwhelming majority; but that will not happen, because I do not think that the Amendment will be passed.
It is absolutely essential if we are to build up a prosperous film industry in this country that there should be a wide representation of interests in order to depict the real life of the people whether Scottish, Welsh or English.
§ Mr. Williams
The real life of the people so that it can be understood. For that reason, I think that this discussion has been singularly appropriate. I do not know what will be the ultimate fate of this Amendment. I realise that we are in a rather difficult position because apparently this Clause—according to the ruling from the Chair—is to be replaced by a new Clause which the Minister promised us last night. He said that he would consider the whole question of representation and put in a new Clause on Report stage. Various points of view have been expressed. Many hon. Members have expressed the Scottish point of view. I have my own West Country opinions which I advanced yesterday. Apparently, this is the only time at which we can put forward our views on this matter. I hope that the Minister will give serious consideration to this matter. It would 1852 have been possible, for instance, to put in an Irish Amendment—
§ 5.30 p.m.
Last night the Minister stated that all such points raised in the Debate would be taken into consideration.
§ Mr. Williams
Thank you very much, Sir Robert, but I understand that there was a promise to look at the matter in a composite manner. We have now had a Debate which has emphasised very strongly the Scottish point of view, and I hope that, since the Scottish point of view has had, as it deserves, a very good run and has been put very fully—and I do not think there has been any real argument against it—the same fullness and fairness should be extended to other people who may have a case for consideration.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
This matter is much more important than the Parliamentary Secretary and many other hon. Members who have spoken seem to imagine. The Parliamentary Secretary said that there was a small production unit in Scotland, and he added, "We know what had happened to it." The hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. O'Brien) also asked why some Scottish financier did not come forward. That was the trouble; they could not get finance. Well, why does not some Scottish financier come forward? Because they have their eyes on London and there is no indication anywhere of a Scottish film industry. Arthur J. did not put his money into a non-existent industry. There was an industry built up at the centre, and it went through certain stages of corruption and graft and was almost destroyed. Then Mr. Rank came in to rebuild it. There has never been any encouragement of any kind given to the development of this business in Scotland. The Films Council would not give us film production in Scotland, but it would be the beginning of the recognition of the fact that Scotland has a definite contribution to make to this industry, and if it did not bring in Scottish financiers, it might possibly bring in the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has the power to direct finance.
This is very important, because when the Parliamentary Secretary says that they had a film production unit in Scot- 1853 land and then asks what has happened to it, he might also say that we had a motor car industry there, and ask what has happened to that. We had an aeroplane factory in Scotland, and what has happened to it? Now that we are discussing a Films Bill, surely this Committee will give it such a constitution that a Films Council will be able to spread the idea abroad that Scotland can make a great contribution to the development of this industry. I would say this—and I commend it to the attention of Mr. Rank—that if a film is understood and appreciated in Scotland, it will be understood and appreciated in every English-speaking country in the world. If a film is not understood and appreciated in Scotland, it will not be appreciated and understood in any English-speaking country in the world, including England.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Well, parts of it are. This is a fact, and it can be tested by the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who said they had to consider the overall world value of the film. Let us take the film "I Know Where I'm Going."
§ Mr. Gallacher
It is not a great film, but it was produced in such a way that it would make an appeal to Scotland, and it has made an appeal to every country in the world. Take one of our foremost productions, from the point of view of scenic effects, technical perfection and an admirable cast—"Henry V." It made no appeal in Scotland, in general, although in some parts it got through, and the same thing applies in England and America. Yet it was one of the greatest films produced in this country. So I say to the Minister and to the film industry that it is of the very greatest importance that Scotland should be brought into this film business and into the whole field of the film industry in a big way.
Mention has been made of the opportunities that there are in Scotland. Consider its traditions. There are no traditions anywhere like the Scottish traditions, from the film production point of view, though I do not know what they are going to do with Bonnie Prince Charlie. They certainly will not tell the truth about 1854 him or his forbears; they will avoid that. In Scotland, there is a tremendous tradition. Look at the great area of the Clyde and what could be done with it. There is nowhere where we can get such fine traditions, and such grand humour. I was asked last night by one of the Press men what I meant when I said that in Scotland we could not appreciate some of the English humour, and I said that Scotland likes humour that is humorous, clean, healthy and charming. Take the case of a Scotsman who is known the world over—
§ Mr. Gallacher
It is absolutely necessary that Scotland, because of its traditions, its culture and humour, should have this concession. Take Sir Harry Lauder, a genius from the point of view of humour and of the most charming type, and drawn from the people.
§ Lord John Hope
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the ideal medium is somewhere between West Fife and Will Fyffe?
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am quite prepared to take part in assisting anybody who is prepared to set up a unit in West Fife, because in West Fife they can also get—
I must ask the hon. Member to keep to the Amendment, on which we have already spent nearly an hour and a half.
§ Mr. Gallacher
An hon. Member on this side—he was a Sassenach, but I do not remember his constituency—said that the Amendment provided that all matters should be referred to a Scottish Films Council, but he suggested that that meant the Council would deal with matters which it would be impossible for it to handle. When we talk about all matters being referred to a Films Council, it is all matters dealt with in this Bill, and not matters outside the Bill. One of the matters dealt with in this Bill is that a Films Council shall interest itself in film production. We want a Scottish Films Council and, if we get it, I hope it will take into account the splendid traditions of West Fife as well as those of the Clyde, and that they will concern themselves with opportunities for developing the film industry. I want to 1855 impress upon the Minister the necessity of doing something like this at the present time. With a Films Council having only two representatives from Scotland, Sir Alexander King and Willie Quinn, there is very little that we can do, because, as the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. O'Brien) knows, when Sir Alexander King speaks, the other members, badly educated, gaze at one another in amazement—they do not know what he is saying.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The fact remains that these two representatives from Scotland can play very little part in the Films Council, because the business is in the hands of people who represent big film interests down here in London. I appeal to the Minister to recognise that Scotland, with its fine traditions and fine culture, can make an extraordinarily big contribution to the development of the film industry, which is what this Bill is intended for; and so I ask him to give us a Films Council for Scotland, which will be the beginning of the attraction of all kinds of support for the development of this industry in Scotland.
§ Mr. Neil Maclean (Glasgow, Govan)
As I understand this discussion, there is a request made to this Committee for the appointment of a committee of the Cinematograph Films Advisory Council to deal with all matters affecting Scotland. The first Amendment deals with the constitution, and the other two add particular items to the proposition set out in the first. I suggest to the Minister that with the representation which at present exists upon the Films Council, Scotland does not get, and cannot get, its proper representation from the point of view of the films that ought to be shown in Scotland. There are certain things that happened in Scotland of which the Minister ought to be aware.
We have the big circuits, with headquarters in London, owning cinemas in Scotland, and consequently what is done in England, as in Wales, is done in their cinemas in Scotland. We have also to bear in mind that there is a very large number of small independent exhibitors, not merely in Scotland, but also in England and Wales, but they are not attended to in the manner in which the large 1856 circuits are being attended to, through this advice of the Films Council. Only the other week, I was shown by the manager of an independent cinema in a working-class area in Glasgow, how this question of British films works out. This cinema runs a double programme, with one feature film for the first three days of the week and another for the rest of the week. On the Monday night the drawings were up to the average, but on the second and third nights they fell by 50 per cent., and the reason was given to me by the manager, who said that he had had to show a British picture in order to make up his quota. If that is going to happen to a number of small independent exhibitors up and down the country—I am not actually referring to Scotland at the moment—then it is no wonder that there is some antagonism to the exhibition of quota pictures. The remaining three nights in the week were up to the average standard, because a good picture—not a quota picture—had been shown on those nights
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Belcher
I hope my hon. Friend is not suggesting that at the present time British quota pictures are, of necessity, bad pictures, because that is far from being the truth. The whole object of the Bill is to improve still further the position of British quota pictures, and, incidentally, it is designed to assist precisely those people about whom my hon. Friend is talking—the small independent exhibitors. In fact, it places a greater obligation on the large circuits than on the small independent exhibitors.
§ Mr. Maclean
It is all very well speaking in that manner in this Committee; it is quite a different matter going into a cinema and being shown figures by the manager. The same thing prevails in many other cinemas.
§ Mr. Belcher indicated dissent
§ Mr. Maclean
It is no use the Minister shaking his head. A lot of people shake their heads when they see some of the British films exhibited to make up the quota. It is surely necessary that some of the independent exhibitors should be represented on the Films Council in order to see that, when a quota is established, the films come up to a certain[...] standard. I am not objecting to the quota, and neither did the manager of this cinema. He only insisted on having films shown 1857 in his cinema which would attract the Scottish people; he objected to films being forced on him. That is the point one has to bear in mind, and it is there, I contend, that the Films Council has failed. Consequently, I hope that when the Minister is considering this matter he will also consider Scotland's interest in films and its desire to have good films. If he does so, he will bring on to the Films Council some at least of the representation suggested in the three Amendments we are now discussing.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I wish to stress, as has been done in all parts of the Committee, the importance of Scotland having adequate representation on the Films Council. I propose to speak from the educational point of view, because, in the Amendment, it will be seen that it is specifically stated that certain powers should be given to the Secretary of State for Scotland—who, I am glad to say, has just arrived—to appoint five members representing Scottish culture and Scottish education. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to nominate five members to this Council who would perform a very useful function in improving the cinema industry in Scotland.
A good deal of interest has been displayed by Scottish Members in this Amendment. One of the reasons is that the people in Scotland go to the cinema a good deal because they get shelter there. Housing conditions in Scotland are very bad, and people in the mining villages and towns go to the cinema simply because many of them have no opportunity of going anywhere else. It is either the pub or the cinema. I would prefer to see them going to the cinema than to the pub, and I would like to see this habit, which has been acquired in this way, being made use of for educational purposes.
I represent a constituency which has suffered a good deal from the film industry. My immortal constituent, Robert Burns, has been portrayed in a film which was produced by an hon. Member of this House, who is present at the moment. There is a danger from Scottish amateur producers in the film industry. I believe, for example, that if this film about Robert Burns had been submitted for advice to a council composed of Scots who really understood Burns, it would have been 1858 a better p[...]oduction. But we are tired of too much Burns on the films in Scotland, and I want to make an appeal for educational films.
§ Mr. McAllister
I should not have thought it was quite proper for an hon. Member to raise in this Committee the question of a film with which I was associated, but of which I was certainly not the producer, without giving me some notice that he intended to do so. May I say for the benefit of the hon. Gentleman, who, I know, tries hard, although he was not born in Scotland, to represent his immortal constituent, that the film was submitted to the President of the Burns Federation, and to a very distinguished former President, who was also at one time a Member of this House, Mr. John S. Clark, than whom there is no greater authority on Burns, and the script and outline of the production met with their entire approval.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I am sorry if I have done the hon. Gentleman an injustice. All I will say is that if there had been a Gallup poll of Scottish Members in this House, I think they would have endorsed my opinion.
To return to the Films Council, I think it will encourage the showing of educational films in Scottish cinemas. I saw another film produced by Scotsmen after the one about Burns, to which I have just referred, which was in marked contrast to it. It was a film produced under the auspices of Sir John Boyd-Orr. He appeared in that film, which was called "The World is Rich." I believe that if this Council were set up, we should get more educational films of this nature. It would mean that we should get films showing the real life of Scotland, and not the superficial romanticism which so often passes in its place.
The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing) complained that the world was not being shown on the films the real life of Scotland. I should like the Films Council to go into the mining villages, and to portray the life of a mining community—to go into the rotten old mining streets where 12 and 13 people are living in one room. If they did that, it would so educate hon. Members opposite that they would be prepared to cross over to this side.
§ Colonel Gomme Duncan
Does the hon. Member really believe that hon. Members on this side have not been into these places?
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
There were no visible signs of that in the legislation they produced. If I were put on to the Films Council, I could make certain suggestions which would result in a very realistic film of life in Scotland, which would act, in an educational way, in getting the social conditions altered and ameliorated. If we could get this Films Council going, it would be able to produce films which could be shown abroad, and would result in the improvement in the economic situation of this country. I believe it would help the President of the Board of Trade—who I see is now present—in his export drive. I believe that we are all—Welsh, English and Scottish Members—united, irrespective of class, party, or creed, in urging upon the Government to modify this Bill accordingly.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.