§ 20. Sir Jocelyn Lucas
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his attention has been drawn to the recent action of a common informer in Portsmouth leading to the cancellation of a number of amateur theatrical performances; and, in view of the fact that this action has been taken under an old Statute and has no regard to modern conditions, particularly in those towns which were subjected to heavy bombing, if he will consider introducing legislation to make the police responsible for prosecution and not the common informer.
§ Mr. Ede
I understand the performances have had to be cancelled because the halls in which they were to be given are not licensed for the public performances of stage plays. There is no provision in the Theatres Act enabling a common informer to sue for penalties, and legislation confining the power of prosecution to the police would not enable unlicensed halls to be used in contravention of the law.
§ Sir J. Lucas
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the police are compelled to act in such cases, in view of the fact that application has now been made for the licence?
§ Major Bruce
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the city of Portsmouth the majority of the theatres were, in fact, destroyed during the war, and that for the last two or three years plays have had to be performed in these small halls; and, further, that if they are no longer held it will be a great detriment, not only to the public, but also to amateur theatrical societies, and even small repertory companies?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore
Is it not a fact that in 1943 a departmental committee was set up to consider all Acts of Parliament over 100 years old to see whether they were applicable to modern conditions? Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether anything was done as a result of that committee's report?
§ 28. Major Bruce
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation amending the Theatres Act of 1843, to enable plays to performed in buildings not licensed as theatres, in view of the number of theatres destroyed in the war.
§ Mr. Ede
There is nothing in the Theatres Act to prevent justices from licensing premises which have not been built as theatres. In the absence of any requirement as to licensing, there would be nothing to prevent abuses, such, for example, as the use of unsuitable premises which present special risks in case of fire.
§ Major Bruce
Will my right hon. Friend say what is the definition in the 1843 Act of "unsuitable premises"? Is he aware that circumstances do arise where common informers can prevent performances taking place in perfectly suitable buildings, to the detriment of the inhabitants?