HC Deb 11 March 1948 vol 448 cc1435-8
The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I am glad to be able to inform the House that the negotiations between His Majesty's Government and representatives of the American motion picture industry have resulted in an agreement. The details of the agreement are necessarily complicated and certain technical points are still being worked out. The whole agreement will be published as soon as possible. Mean-while I should like to give the House a summary of the essential features:

The ad valorem duty on imported films will be withdrawn as quickly as the necessary Order can be made, and the normal export of American films to the United Kingdom will be resumed as soon as possible thereafter. While it is the intention of the parties that the main structure of the agreement shall be for four years, it is divided into two periods of two years, with provision for review at the end of the first period. It will come into operation from 14th June. From that date and for the first period of two years an amount of 17 million dollars a year is fixed for the remittance of earnings in the United Kingdom from the showing of American films. This amount will cover, not only the earnings of new American films, but also the earnings of such films as are already in this country. Additional remittances, in dollars, of sums equivalent to the earnings of British films shown in the United States will be permitted.

The agreement provides for permitted sterling uses of the revenues of American films which are in excess of the amounts that may be remitted across the exchanges. These permitted uses will be under the supervision of a joint control committee composed of representatives of His Majesty's Government and the American motion picture industry.

Finally, the agreement contemplates that any residual balances which are not eventually disposed of by the above means may be cleared by agreed transactions not involving any strain on the foreign exchange position of the United Kingdom or creating a further claim on sterling. Such transactions might take the form of charitable or public uses, including the encouragement of the arts and sciences.

Both sides have approached these difficult negotiations in a fully co-operative spirit, and I should like to pay my tribute here to Mr. Johnston, Mr. Mulvey and their colleagues representing the American motion picture industry for their understanding of our problems and for the manner in which they have approached and conducted these negotiations.

Mr. Oliver Lyttelton

The fact that an agreement has been reached over this deadlock will give satisfaction in all parts of the House. At the same time, the arrangements, as the President of the Board of Trade said, are complicated. One part of them I find obscure, and I cannot judge what the effect may be upon our dollar position. Therefore, I think it would be better to refrain from further comment until the President is able to publish the full details.

Mr. Mallalieu

Can my right hon. Friend say how the amount we are to pay in dollars under this agreement compares with the amount we are now paying out in dollars for re-issues?

Mr. Wilson

At present we are paying out as remittances on re-issues on films in this country at the rate of 50 million dollars a year and under the new arrangement the total will be 17 million dollars a year both for new films and re-issues.

Mr. Scollan

When the negotiations were going on, what was the estimated income in America from British films to make up the balance?

Mr. Wilson

It is very difficult indeed to form any estimate of what British films will be earning in America, but the fact that the American motion picture industry can absorb the dollar earnings of our films in the United States means that there will be the maximum possible inducement to the Americans to push our films in the United States.

Mr. Lyttelton

The right hon. Gentleman will agree that at present the earnings of British films in America are free, but under this arrangement they will not be free.

Mr. Wilson

They are free, but extremely small, because of the difficulty we have in pushing our films there, but, with the good will and incentive provided by this agreement, we hope to see a much better showing of our films over there.

Mr. Piratin

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that this agreement will not in any way deter efforts to improve the standard of films produced in this country?

Mr. Wilson

Whether we got the agreement or not it would have been a cardinal point in our film policy to push ahead with the maximum number of films in this country, and to produce films of the finest quality possible.

Mr. Marlowe

Would not the amount of dollars involved in this agreement have provided a substantial petrol ration?

Mr. Wilson

It will have appeared from the figures I have given that the first result of the agreement will be to save and not to lose dollars.

Mr. Beswick

As there appears to be some misunderstanding, would my right hon. Friend say whether we are now remitting 50 million dollars or 15 million?

Mr. Wilson

Figures recently given to this House about remittances on re-issues show that the recent rate was of the order of £12 million per annum, which amounts to 50 to 55 million dollars a year.

Mr. De la Bère

Why not buy food instead?