HC Deb 29 June 1950 vol 476 cc2485-8

Order for Second Reading read.

4.33 p.m.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Harold Wilson)

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

After the discussion we have just had about innocent and uncontroversial one-Clause Bills, I hope that the House will give a Second Reading to this Bill providing an additional £1 million for the National Film Finance Corporation. The first Report of the National Film Finance Corporation, which we shall be discussing later this afternoon, shows clearly how much the Corporation has achieved in its first year of operation. I do not propose at this stage to go into the details of its achievements, as we shall be discussing them in the later Debate, but there are two main things arising out of that report which are relevant to the consideration of the Bill before the House.

The first is, as the Report says and as the whole House is aware, that many films have been produced which could not have been made had it not been for the existence of the National Film Finance Corporation. Including those films associated with the British Lion Company, some 63 films have been made, or are being made, which probably would not have been made but for the Corporation. These include, as the House well knows, films of very great value and prestige for this country.

The second main point I want to make is, as the Report also shows—I hope to discuss this in more detail later this evening—that the Corporation has done a great deal to improve the standards of commercial costing and budgetary control in the industry, and to improve its accounting practice. The Corporation, of course, is by no means satisfied with what has been done in this direction, and it could not hope to achieve miracles in the course of a single year, but I am sure the House will agree that what has been done already is a very important development.

When the National Film Finance Corporation was set up, I described the need for it as "a regrettable necessity," and the need for an extension of its finances is, by the same token, also a regrettable necessity. I had hoped originally that the £5 million would have been enough to enable the industry to get afloat once again, and to meet its financial requirements through normal channels, although I do not think that any of us felt any great confidence that that would be the course of events. I hope that the various measures which the Government are now taking and which the industry must take—I shall have something to say about that later—will help in the process of getting the industry once again financially afloat. But it is quite clear that there is a need to go further and to provide the Corporation with an additional sum of money if the industry is not to get into worse troubles while the results of the actions of the Government and the industry are making themselves felt.

The amount proposed in this Bill is a small one—much smaller than the original figure. I do not say that it will be enough. But it will be enough, I think, to enable the activities of the Corporation to proceed on an undimished scale, and to give time to see the effect of the other measures taken by the Government and the industry regarding the industry's finances. In coming to this House for a further sum of money, I am fortified by what the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) said in a somewhat different context when we were debating the Export Guarantees Bill on 2nd February, 1949. He referred to complaints which he had received about my coming to the House rather often for additional sums of money. He said: He will get no criticism from me on that score. I much prefer Ministers to come back to Parliament frequently for these sums and to give us an opportunity of debating the objects for which they are to be used, rather than to go into the painful over-frequent process of taking powers and getting sums voted which are sufficient in all contingencies and in all circumstances."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1949; Vol. 460, c. 1689.] As I say, we began with £5 million, but for the reasons I have mentioned it is essential to have a further sum in order to keep the Corporation in being and to enable it to continue its beneficent work in the industry until the various measures which I shall be indicating in more detail later this afternoon and the measures which the industry must take can put the industry on a sound financial basis.

4.38 p.m.

Mr. Oliver Lyttelton (Aldershot)

It seems a little unfortunate that the Debate in the House should take place in this particular form because we are left in an anomalous position which, I think, makes the House look rather ridiculous. We are more or less precluded from making speeches on the general subject by the way in which the Second Reading has been moved by the President of the Board of Trade. The House is left in the position of voting the money and afterwards considering why it should do so.

I do not think it is any secret that we shall advise our hon. Friends on this side of the House not to divide against this Bill. We believe that, in the circumstances, another £1 million is necessary, and I only say that it is unfortunate that the Debate should take place in this order. Therefore, I reserve my other remarks, which will no doubt be poignant to hon. Members, but entirely ineffective, to the later stages of the Debate. We shall let this Second Reading go through and await our opportunity.

4.40 p.m.

Mr. Butcher (Holland with Boston)

I should like to reinforce what the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) has said. Some of us, perhaps, do not share the satisfaction of the President of the Board of Trade with the way earlier sums of money have been used, and we would wish to say so before we make further sums available. I cannot help feeling it is rather a pity that the Debate has been handled in the way that it has been. However, it may be that, in the peculiar circumstances of planning that now exist, this new way, by which we regularly have the cart preceding the horse, is the appropriate method. I agree that on this matter we should not seek to divide the House but should pass on to the consideration of the activities of the Corporation.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Committed to a Committee of the whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. Royle.]