HC Deb 20 May 1952 vol 501 cc243-5
11. Major Legge-Bourke

asked the Secretary of State for War the average fees paid to star artistes and others, respectively, who agree to travel to Korea and Malaya to entertain British troops.

Mr. Head

We pay all travelling expenses. The fees paid vary since some artistes will accept no fee and others will accept only a purely nominal fee.

Major Legge-Bourke

Is my right hon. Friend quite satisfied that the scale of payment made is not so low as to deter artistes who otherwise would be able to go, and will he bear in mind that many of them must receive a fair salary, if only to enable them to live?

Mr. Head

Yes, Sir. The fees vary between £10 and £50 a week, and I am satisfied that they are not being deterred for this reason.

12. Major Legge-Bourke

asked the Secretary of State for War what funds are made available annually for the entainment of British troops in Korea and Malaya; and from what source they come.

Mr. Head

Annual grants for this purpose are made by the Army Council from N.A.A.F.I. surpluses. The amounts vary from year to year in accordance with the needs of the Commands for live entertainment and other competing demands. This year £16,500 has already been allotted for Korea and £9,000 for Malaya. This is a considerable increase on last year.

Major Legge-Bourke

Whilst welcoming the increase, is my right hon. Friend quite satisfied, since this money comes from the takings from soldiers themselves, from all three Services through N.A.A.F.I. funds, that the needs of the men are being met and that they are getting the artistes they want?

Mr. Head

No, I am not entirely satisfied. It is my intention to improve this as much as I can.

Mr. Hoy

In view of the fact that a large proportion of the N.A.A.F.I. funds are contributed by the privates in the Army, what representations can they make as to their disposal?

Mr. Head

These come out of the Army share of the N.A.A.F.I. funds, and it is our purpose to attempt to provide the type of entertainment the troops will enjoy. At the moment, I am in the process of discussing these matters with stage authorities in order to improve the standard of artistes going out there.

Mr. G. Jeger

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are many artistes anxious to go out and entertain our troops who have been told that there is a restriction on the numbers being sent as this is worked out in conjunction proportionately with artistes going out from the Dominions?

Mr. Head

If the hon. Gentleman would let me have the names of any artistes who want to go out, I should be immensely obliged to him.

An Hon. Member

The hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers).

Mr. Wigg

Since the right hon. Gentleman states that the cost of sending these artistes comes from N.A.A.F.I. funds, would he be good enough to say where his responsibility lies, because he does not have to administer N.A.A.F.I. funds?

Mr. Head

That is perfectly true, but a certain quantity of the N.A.A.F.I. surplus is made available to the Army in central funds for things of this kind, and we are given this grant and we then make the arrangements to send out the entertainers.

13. Major Legge-Bourke

asked the Secretary of State for War how many artistes have travelled to Korea and Malaya during the last 12 months to entertain British troops; how many of these were stars; and how many applications have been received from stars and others, respectively, to undertake such work.

Mr. Head

During the last 12 months, 16 artistes have been sent to Korea from this country and nine from Australia: four artistes have been sent to Malaya. I am reluctant to distinguish between stars and artistes, but I can say that many of their names are well known to me. As regards applications from stars, very few have been received for Korea and none for Malaya. I should welcome wholeheartedly any offers made, particularly from well-known artistes.

Major Legge-Bourke

Is my right hon. Friend entirely satisfied that the number of those who have been going from the United Kingdom compares favourably with those from the United States of America? Will he do everything he possibly can to ensure that the closest possible relationship between himself and the leaders of the stage and of the variety stage is maintained?

Mr. Head

I am attempting to get in closer contact with the stage on this matter.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Is the Minister aware that better entertainment at less cost to public funds could be provided if he made direct contact with responsible representatives of the Variety Artistes' Federation, for example—top liners and others—who would be only too willing to co-operate with the Minister, and that this would be a much better way of providing entertainment than to leave it to his civil servant impressario, who has succeeded in establishing only the most unfriendly relations with this great public-spirited profession?

Mr. Head

I have already discussed this matter with Sir Laurence Olivier, Miss Vivien Leigh and other representatives of the stage.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

What is a "top liner"? Is it a man on the top line of his profession, or what we used to call "top of the bill"?

Mr. Head

I could not answer that without notice.

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