HC Deb 22 June 1950 vol 476 cc1600-4

(1) Where an entertainment held after the fifth day of August, nineteen hundred and fifty consists wholly or partly of the exhibition of a cinematograph film, being a film registered as a British film, then the entertainments duty chargeable in the case of any payment for admission to the entertainment shall be subject to whichever of the following deductions is appropriate in that case:—

  1. (a) if the entertainment includes as a first feature film the showing of a film registered as a British long film one-half of the duty chargeable at the full rate;
  2. (b) if the entertainment includes the showing but not as a first feature film of a British long film or includes the showing of a film registered as a British short film such proportion of the duty chargeable at the full rate as may be prescribed in respect of the long film or the short film (as the case may be);
  3. (c) if the entertainment includes the showing of more than one film registered as British films whether they be long films or short films the aggregate of the proportions of the duty which are to be deducted under paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection.

(2) The amount of entertainment duty remitted under the provisions of subsection (1) of this section shall be divided between the maker and the exhibitor of the films in respect of which the deductions are made in such proportions as may from time to time be laid down in regulations made by the Treasury.

(3) In this section the following expressions have the following meanings respectively: full rate" and "prescribed" have the same meanings as in section eleven of this Act; maker" and "exhibitor" have the same meanings as in the Cinematograph Films Act, 1938; registered" means registered under the Cinematograph Films Act, 1938.—[Mr. Shepherd.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Shepherd (Cheadle)

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

It was considered likely that there would be a long discussion upon this Clause but, as hon. Members will have seen from the Press, certain negotiations have been taking place during the past few days which may make it possible for the Clause to be dealt in a shorter time than was originally intended. I hope that those negotiations which are taking place will come to a successful conclusion, and furthermore, that what the Government are intending to do will be adequate to meet the needs of the film industry. I hope that when the issue is raised finally the House of Commons will look very carefully at the proposals which are submitted, because nothing could be worse from the point of view of the industry or the country than that we should have some halfway measure which not only would not get us out of the present difficulty but as a result of which we should find ourselves in a short time back in almost the same position.

Those of us who take an interest in the film industry did not expect to have to put this new Clause on the Order Paper because we thought that the Government would have been forced by the sheer pressure of events and by logic to do something before now. This industry—

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Stafford Cripps)

I am sure that in view of the negotiations which are taking place the hon. Member will appreciate that it would be wiser to say as little as possible about this matter at the moment. There are, of course, people in other continents besides our own who are concerned in these negotiations. We are very anxious that nothing should be done to upset the negotiations, which at present appear very favourable, and it looks as if we might be able to come to an agreement very shortly. It would be a great help if we did not discuss this too long tonight.

Mr. Shepherd

I accept the point which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made, but at the same time it will not weaken our case in other quarters if the whole country, the House of Commons and other people are aware of the extremely difficult position in which the industry finds itself by virtue of the intolerable burden of taxation. Whilst I do not wish to make a long speech, and while I have the anxiety of every hon. Member to get out of this place as quickly as possible—

Hon. Members


Mr. Bracken

Shepherds sleep by night.

Mr. Shepherd

—I think it is fitting that the Committee should learn something of the intolerable burden which the Government have put upon this industry which has resulted in its getting into its present plight.

What is the position of the film industry as far as taxation is concerned? In 1938 the burden of taxation was £5 million. By 1949 it had risen to £38 million. I suggest that is a burden which the industry could not possibly bear. The British film industry has to compete against great difficulties. It has to compete with the Americans who have a big market which we have not got, yet we have a taxation which is twice the level of American taxation. In the circumstances I do not wish to make a long speech, because we do not want in any way to prejudice the negotiations which are taking place.

Sir S. Cripps

As I have already indicated, I am certainly not in a position to say anything on this Clause at the moment. It would be wrong, in the circumstances, for me to say anything. I could bring forward all sorts of arguments, but I do not think that they would help towards what we want to get, which is the conclusion of a satisfactory arrangement. Therefore, I hope that the hon. Gentleman, having made his point, will be able to withdraw his new Clause

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

It is, I think, not improper to say that the Chancellor, myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) have had some private discussion about this matter. My hon. Friend and I are privy to the discussions that have taken place because, although we are not great popular figures like the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Seretse Khama or the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers), we do have some slight influence in the cinema world. Perhaps I ought to say in parenthesis that I should disclose, not for the first time, that I have a personal interest in this matter. I have never quite been able to understand what is the purpose of the disclosure of personal interest, because everyone has a personal interest in almost every aspect of the Finance Bill. But, as hon. Gentlemen opposite are always very pleased to raise points of order where I am concerned, perhaps someone would like to get up and ask whether the noble Lord should speak on a question in which he is interested.

It is no use the Chancellor waving his hand at me. I will sit down in a moment, in any case. In all seriousness, I should only like to support what my hon. Friend has said and to point out that there is a very grave question at issue here. I should like to say to the Chancellor that we hope that the discussions to which he has referred will reach a fruitful conclusion and that he will be in a position to make an announcement on Thursday of next week when we have the Films Debate. In the circumstances, with the greatest possible humility, I beg to ask my hon. Friend to withdraw this new Clause.

Mr. Shepherd

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Mr. Maclay (Renfrew, West)

I apologise with the utmost sincerity for inflicting myself on the Committee, but there is a great difficulty. Later on the Order Paper there is a new Clause relating to Duty on cinema entertainments, in the name of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) and other hon. Members which I had heard rumoured might not be called. I wish to ask whether the appeal I heard from the Chancellor, and the pressure put upon me in the last few moments to sit down, means that what the Chancellor implies might also go a considerable distance towards covering the substance of the new Clause in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland. If I can take it that that is so, I will certainly not inflict myself on the Committee any longer.

Question put, and negatived.