HC Deb 24 October 1952 vol 505 cc1455-92
Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I beg to move, in page 2, line 39, to leave out other than children's cinema club exhibitions. If the Committee will allow me, Sir Charles, I should like to speak not only on this but on two subsequent Amendments, which fall into the same category. They are all drafting Amendments and, when read together, I hope they will clarify but not alter the sense of the Clause. Perhaps hon. Members will refer to the two Amendments to page 3, on page 2250 of the Order Paper, as follow: to leave out lines 24 and 25, and insert: (2) For the purposes of this section an exhibition shall not be treated as an exempted exhibition if. In line 28, to leave out "except that it does not include," and insert: so however that this subsection shall not apply to. As the Clause is drafted there is a possible ambiguity in the meaning of the term "exempted exhibition" which might or might not be held to be qualified by the words "other than children's cinema club exhibitions," and this might lead to difficulty in the interpretation of subsection (3). The Amendments first avoid this ambiguity and, secondly, make the Clause slightly shorter and less complicated than the original. For those reasons, I hope that the Committee will accept them.

Amendment agreed to.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I beg to move, in page 3, line 10, at the end, to insert: and regulations made by the Secretary of State under that Act, being regulations made by virtue of paragraph (a) of the said section two, shall not apply in relation to an exempted exhibition unless given in premises in respect of which a licence under the Act of 1909 is in force.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

May I interrupt for a moment, Sir Charles? We have an Amendment on the Order Paper to line 8, to leave out "paragraph (b) of." Do I understand that you do not intend to call it?

The Chairman

I thought it was a little wider than the one which has just been moved, but so near that they could be discussed together if that will suit the right hon. Gentleman. Therefore, I purposely called the one in the name of the Home Secretary.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Thank you, Sir Charles.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I want to call the attention of the Committee to the words shall not apply in relation to an exempted exhibition unless given in premises in respect of which a licence under the Act of 1909 is in force. The Committee will remember that on the Second Reading I announced my intention of taking out of the Bill the power of the Secretary of State to apply safety regulations to exempted exhibitions given elsewhere than in premises licensed as cinemas.

The reason for continuing to apply the safety regulations when an exempted exhibition is given in a licensed cinema is that the risks involved are greater because the audience is likely to be larger. Therefore, we believe it is desirable that the safety precautions required when commercial exhibitions are given in licensed cinemas such as I mentioned—the continuance of safety lighting and special precautions against fire, particularly when inflammable film is used—should continue to operate even when a non-commercial exhibition is given. It is for this reason that Clause 5 (1, d) already provides that the safety conditions contained in the cinema licence may be applicable when an exempted exhibition is given in a licensed cinema.

I want to point out one or two matters which I hope will help the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), because I know his concern and I would like to meet it. There is no question of a separate licence having to be attained before an exempted exhibition can be given in a licensed cinema. The Bill is drafted so that the only regulations or conditions of the licence which can apply when an exempted exhibition is given are those relating to safety.

The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that Clause 5 (1, c) provides that health and welfare regulations made by the Secretary of State are not applicable to an exempted exhibition wherever it is given. Clause 5 (1, d) provides that no condition or restriction contained in the licence shall apply except insofar as it relates to safety. There is, therefore, no need for an organisation which gives an exempted film show in a licensed cinema to go to the appropriate body for a licence to show the film. All that is necessary is that they should ensure that the safety precautions which have been laid down for the premises, either in the licence or whatever regulations the Secretary of State may make, are complied with.

It might be convenient if I said a word more directed to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman than my own, because I am trying to give the picture of these facts. The effect of the Amendment is that the regulations made by virtue of paragraph (a) of Clause (2) shall not apply in relation to an exempted exhibition unless given in premises in respect of which there is a licence, that is really, a cinema. The alternative to that is not to apply them at all, and the regulations would not be applicable to an exempted exhibition wherever the exhibition is given and whatever the means used for showing the pictures.

I have indicated why I think it is desirable that the safety regulations should apply to an exempted exhibition given in a licensed cinema. Everyone would agree it is essential that the regulations should apply if inflammable film is used. Although it is true that noncommercial organisations do not usually use inflammable film, I would remind the Committee that it is sometimes done by film societies showing old films on the 35 mm. stock. Therefore, I am not inventing a hypothesis in order to remove a difficulty, but dealing with a point which might arise. If they do it now, they have to comply with all the regulations of the 1909 Act, including censorship. I am putting them in the more favourable position of limiting it to safety.

The pith and substance of the point is that I am removing the need for an exempted exhibition given in a licensed cinema to comply with anything except safety, and I hope that the Committee will allow that to go forward and that the right hon. Gentleman will believe that I have considered carefully the points he has made.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

We have listened with great attention to what the Home Secretary has told us, and I am satisfied that he has carried out sincerely the promise he made to us last Tuesday night. If I am correct, it means that an Amendment in the names of my hon. Friends and myself, to which we shall come presently, automatically falls because those points are covered. I have, however, some reservations to make, and I should like to ask some questions.

12 noon.

My first request is that it seems to be advisable that the Home Secretary should make the decision quite clear to all the licensing authorities. When exempted exhibitions are being given in licensed premises, they should be given to understand clearly the position as now outlined by the Home Secretary. They should then make the position clear to all holders of licences. This would be the way to prevent confusion arising.

I hope I may be forgiven for saying that the Bill, which at first seemed simple, is indeed a tricky matter, and we shall have to be most careful otherwise injustice may be done to some section of the community. As we are proving this morning, and as was shown the other night, that is the very thing that we wish to avoid.

I now come to a more serious reservation and am wondering whether in making it I should be in order in referring to line 16, which comes at the very end of the words we are discussing. We are contemplating changing the words so that paragraph (d) is to have words added to it referring to the admission of children.

The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hopkin Morris)

That, I understand, is the subject of a later Amendment.

Dr. Stross

I shall not refer to it specifically now, but I should like the Home Secretary to give an assurance that in the concession he has made to meet the points that we have put before him he does not intend that there shall be any specific reservation about the admittance of children into these organisations—that is to say, new any reservation that we did not discuss on Tuesday and which has not appeared until, possibly, this morning upon the Order Paper.

If we were to find that the concession which has been made, which gave freedom of entry to all exempted exhibitions, was, as it were, suddenly taken away from us so that censorship now is to be applied wherever a child may go, even if it be to an organisation such as an ordinary film society which shows very often on licensed premises on a Sunday, we would find ourselves nearly as badly off as before any concession was made. I know that the point is difficult, but I can leave it at this for the moment because we shall have another opportunity presently of speaking more fully on it.

We welcome every word that we have heard on the point so far, and we believe that there is no need for the somewhat more radical Amendment which appears in the names of my hon. Friends and myself.

Sir Richard Acland (Gravesend)

In welcoming the Amendment, I should like to describe a particular form of activity in relation to which the Amendment is so very welcome. I am thinking particularly of meetings, supported by cinema showings, organised by missionary societies, although the same set of considerations would apply to a number of other educational or religious instructional bodies.

I have in mind not the organisation of a single meeting, but the organisation of a tour of meetings. What frequently happens is that a society of this kind, with a speaker, who may be a missionary on home leave, attempts to arrange a tour of meetings through villages and towns, in, say, north-west Kent, East Anglia, or anywhere else.

It is rather difficult to fix up a tour of meetings economically on successive days, so that the speaker, with his apparatus, does not have to chase across country and have blank days and then two evening showings on the same day. But with contacts with local secretaries of the society, with vicars, rural deans, and so on, the job can be done if it is simply a question of saying. "Can our speaker come to you on Thursday and can you arrange the hall and the advertising and the giving of notices, and for somebody to be there to serve tea afterwards, and all the rest?"

When we first looked at the Bill it seemed to be rather alarming, because on top of all those other difficulties there appeared to be superimposed the problem of getting a licence or of making sure that in relation to a village hall all the necessary safety precautions would be observed.

The Amendment is very satisfactory as it stands—provided that we are very cautious about another Amendment later—precisely because it removes from such an organisation all the headaches which appear to be involved in the subsection as it was originally drafted; simply because if in a tour of meetings some of the showings take place in a hall which is licensed, as far as structure is concerned—alternative lighting systems, doors opening outwards, unobstructed gangways and all the rest—these physical precautions will have been satisfied already. Therefore, the missionary society will not have to worry their heads about it.

There may be some provisions about the number of staff to be in attendance, but those will be provisions which will be very easily satisfiable by the local people; and I understand that there will be no need whatever for such a missionary society or other similar body to make any separate application to anyone in relation to a showing in such a hall, whereas if in the course of the tour they were to include a church, a parish hall, a village hall or whatever it may be, where there was not a licence in force, because of the Amendment the safety precautions would not apply.

That is quite reasonable, because for many decades such societies have been giving showings of this kind in these unlicensed halls without there having been on record a single fire or a single panic in any way attributable to the use of 16 mm. films. Therefore, provided that the suggestion about ensuring that the licensing authorities and the licence holders fully understand the position is carried out, the Amendment as it stands seems to be most satisfactory, and I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for putting it down.

Mr. Reeves

As one who is interested in the exempted societies, I ought sincerely to thank the Home Secretary for making this significant concession in connection with the certificate on films. Very often a film society or one of the exempted societies have films that they wish to show and which normally would meet the requirements of the British Board of Film Censors, but they do not necessarily have a certificate to cover the film.

Under the new arrangements, they will be able to show in an ordinary cinema or in licensed premises without the certificate. This shows that the censorship is not being imposed for censorship purposes. It is a very significant concession and one which conforms to the general principles outlined by the Home Secretary when he introduced the Bill, when he said that it was not the intention nor the desire of the Government to see a State censorship. This is a small addition to our liberties, and we ought to thank the Home Secretary accordingly.

Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)

From my point of view, I am well content to leave the general question of the supervision of what we are discussing in the capable hands of my hon. Friends who have just addressed the Committee. I have been watching the position, of course, from the viewpoint of the temperance societies and of the churches, who are also developing considerable activity through film propaganda.

I entirely agree about all the insistance on regulations concerning safety and the necessity for those bodies conforming in the way that other bodies must conform. I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Reeves) has said. We are beholden to the Home Secretary for a very favourable consideration.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I am most grateful for all that hon. Members have said and I rise simply to say that I shall comply with the two points which were made by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stress) and see that administrative steps are taken to make the position clear to all licensing authorities and request them to make the position clear to licence holders.

Amendment agreed to.

The Deputy-Chairman

The Committee might find it convenient to discuss the next Amendment, in page 3, line 16, at the end, to insert the words on the Order Paper, with the Amendment in the name of the hon. Lady the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet) on the next page of the Order Paper, to line 31, at the end to insert: (3) For the purposes of this section an exhibition shall not be treated as an exempted exhibition if any child is admitted thereto unless the exhibition is given—

  1. (a) as part of the activities of an educational institution or of a religious organisation; or
  2. (b) by an organisation or person who has obtained a certificate of exemption from the licensing authority.
(4) Subject as hereinafter provided, the licensing authority shall grant to any organisation or person who applies therefor a certificate of exemption and may attach to such certificate such conditions or restrictions as that authority are obliged or empowered to impose by section three of this Act. (5) If any organisation or person to whom a certificate of exemption has been granted fails to observe any of the conditions or restrictions attached thereto, that organisation or person shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds, and the licensing authority may revoke the certificate and may thereafter refuse to grant a further certificate of exemption to that organisation or person.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I beg to move, in page 3, line 16, at the end, to insert: or to the admission of children. Hon. Members, will remember that, in introducing the Bill, I said that the Government would be prepared to consider putting down an Amendment to give licensing authorities power to impose conditions relating to the admission of children to non-commercial exhibitions given in licensed cinemas. I have had the debate checked up and, apart from an intervention by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), which the Committee will remember, no one in the Second Reading debate suggested that it was desirable that licensing authorities should be given this power. But, as you have indicated, Mr. Hopkin Morris, the position is rather changed today by the Amendment which has been put down to Clause 5, page 3, line 31, which you mentioned.

I understand that there was difficulty: hon. Members who are also members of the London County Council were not present at the Second Reading, because there was a meeting of that Council. I fully understand that and I am not complaining about their not mentioning the fact upon Second Reading. However, attention has now been directed to the point and I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee to have before them the possible Amendment to which I referred in introducing the Bill.

There is an important difference between our Amendment and the other Amendment to which you have referred. Under this Amendment licensing authorities would be empowered to impose conditions relating to the admission of children only when an exempted exhibition was given in a licensed cinema and would not be able to impose such conditions when an exempted exhibition is given elsewhere. I have considered the matter and do not feel that it would be right to give licensing authorities power to control the admission of children to exempted exhibitions when they are given elsewhere than in a licensed cinema. I wish to put that point to hon. Members who, I know, have considered this matter very carefully.

An example which came to my mind is this. Suppose a local film society gives shows to its members in a village hall and the members bring their children with them. It would be a considerable burden on the society to have to apply to the licensing authority for permission to allow children to attend their exhibition. Moreover, I think, difficulties might arise if members of the society brought their children with them without the society knowing it was their intention to do so. I hope I am being practical and hon. Members opposite, I hope, will tell me if I am not. The Government feel, therefore, that the Amendment in the name of the hon. Lady the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet) would interfere too much with the activities of film societies and other non-profit making organisations.

12.15 p.m.

I am very anxious to try to gather opinion with me on this matter and to meet what seemed to me the general opinion. That is why I said on Second Reading that I thought there might be a case for giving licensing authorities power to control the admission of children to exempted exhibition in licensed cinemas in view of the public nature of the performances. In fact, I am told that many licensing authorities take the view that under the 1909 Act the licensing conditions are applicable when a cinema is being used by a non-commercial organisation which has hired the cinema for the purpose. The power which this Amendment proposes to confer on licensing authorities is, therefore, one which is already exercised by many licensing authorities.

On the other hand, as I have indicated, when a non-commercial organisation gives a cinema show in premises not licensed as a cinema, using non-inflammable film, the licensing authority has at present no powers of control. That is the position at the moment and we have no evidence that this has had undesirable results or that there is any need to confer this additional power of control on licensing authorities.

I hope the Committee will realise that there are two things here and that I have tried to find a middle course which, I hope, will meet the position. I am putting forward this Amendment as a via media between the two schools of thought. I think there are hon. Members who consider it unnecessary for me to put down this Amendment and unnecessary for licensing authorities to have a power of control even of exhibitions in the cinema.

Nevertheless, one has the London County Council point of view that it should be more generally applied. Naturally, one wishes to consider the views of one of the most important licensing authorities. Therefore, I hope that the Committee may feel that my via media is viable, to use the modern jargon, and will think it is a way of meeting the two different views.

Dr. Stross

We have listened carefully, as we always do, to the Home Secretary and are very grateful for the way in which he put the case. The vast majority of us—I think almost all of us—feel that the Amendment in his name will not improve the Bill. We do not like it because, even though it goes not nearly so far as the suggestions of the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet), it still is not necessary as, indeed, the Home Secretary himself knows.

There is not one scrap of evidence which has been given up-to-date to show that this is needed. To legislate purely for legislation's sake, knowing that we may well find complications arising as a result of this step in future, giving rise to some grievance or hardship to people, seems to be totally unnecessary.

I know that my colleagues, including the hon. Member for Peckham, will not mind me saying that their Amendment as drafted would have brought great complications and difficulties because, in practice, it would have meant the introduction or re-introduction of licences for all exempted exhibitions, if any child were admitted, other than those organised by educational or religious organisations. That would have been a bad thing, and I am sure that, on reflection, my hon. Friends will not press their point.

But the middle road suggested by the Home Secretary will also give rise to complications of a type which he himself has suggested. I will merely follow for a few moments what he has said to us. It means that parents cannot take their children, if the parents, are members of a cinema club, and have a boy or a girl aged 14 or 15 years, and if by any chance, through ignorance, they do take them, they will subject themselves to certain difficulties, and I take it that there would be some penalty.

At all events they would be breaking the law, although the Home Secretary does not add, and I am sure would not add, the penalties mentioned in the Amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friends, which would mean the possibility of loss of licence, apart from a possible fine of £20. The possible loss of the certificate of exemption and a refusal to grant it again seem to me a savage and most unusual penalty for Members sitting on these benches to propose. That is why I am sure they will not press the Committee to accept their proposal.

I beg the Home Secretary to understand—I am sure he does—that having given us, a few minutes ago, concessions with which the whole Committee agrees, he is, in attempting to meet pressure which has been applied, taking away a good deal of that concession. He has said that no child may go to an exempted exhibition if it is held on licensed premises. That is a severe blow at film societies all over the country.

We feel strongly about this matter. We did not see this Amendment until this morning, but we have had our consultations and we beg the Home Secretary not to force us to spoil the very amiable tenor of our discussions. We feel that this is a principle which should not be introduced. We wish him to withdraw it.

He has between now and the Report stage to consider the point of issue. When hon. Members on all sides of the Committee have spoken the Home Secretary will find that the bulk of opinion is roughly that which I am putting to him, however inadequately I may be doing so. But I know I am putting it in a way which reflects his personal view after his personal examination of the matter, and I sit down confidently saying that we expect him to put this unfortunate matter right.

Mr. Reeves

I wish to point out the implications of this Amendment, which, I feel, has not been fully appreciated. It means, for example, that a film society, when it held a show in licensed premises or a cinema, would have to arrange for all the films to be shown to be viewed by the British Board of Film Censors and for those films to receive certificates for their respective categories, as they affect the attendance of children.

The cinema authorities themselves would have to give publicity, as they are now forced to do under the law, on the kind of film which is being shown. That would be a very great disability for a film society. Such a society not only shows classical and historical films but very often foreign films, and may import a foreign film for special exhibitions or even for a single exhibition. There is a special arrangement with the Customs for that to be done.

It would be difficult administratively if every film shown in a cinema by such a society was required to have its category defined for the purpose of legislatively protecting children. The nature of a film society, the fact that it is such a society, provides all the protection necessary. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) in that although I appreciate the desire of the Home Secretary to assist the L.C.C. in respect of their point of view, I hope that both he and the L.C.C. will think again before they press this and the other Amendment, to which I am not at the moment permitted to refer.

It would help us very much if that were to happen, and I appeal to the Home Secretary——

The Deputy-Chairman

If the hon. Member is referring to the Amendment in the name of the hon. Lady the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet), he is in order in discussing it.

Mr. Reeves

Thank you, Mr. Hopkin Morris. I hope that my hon. Friends who support this Amendment will think again, because if it is carried it will mean that henceforth all local authorities will have the power to censor films shown by a great variety of organisations which now have freedom to show films. Those organisations have all done their job in a most responsible way. No one has ever complained about the films shown. No one has ever suggested that there should be any censorship of this type of film. For the last 30 years this state of affairs has continued unhindered. It would be a good thing if the Home Secretary were to withdraw the Amendment.

Mrs. Freda Corbet (Peckham)

I appreciate that I have a very difficult task here. We must bear in mind something which has perhaps not been realised, namely, that the new type of film will be very much superior to the old "nonfiam." 16 mm. type. Anyone who has been to a film show organised by a voluntary society will have experienced the annoying lack of clarity of presentation usually associated with its showing.

In addition, the body giving the presentation has, I understand, to make a copy of the original film and, in addition, has to use a special projector. The result has been, in the experience of the L.C.C., that there has not been a very great demand for the use of these facilities. That may be a reason why there is no evidence to suppose that there has been abuse.

One has to bear in mind that the very much superior facilities which will now be afforded to voluntary organisations will encourage a great many more organisations to come forward and make use of them. Indeed, there is no limit to the numbers and kinds or organisations which will seek to use them for their own purposes.

Mr. Reeves

The instrument which is used almost universally for this purpose is the 16 mm. projector, which is in use in all the schools of the country and in respect of which the Ministry of Education provides facilities not only for advice on manufacture but for servicing and the whole apparatus of exhibition. In the category which we are considering, it is the 16 mm. projector with which we are primarily concerned. It may have been an adequate instrument 20 years ago, but today it has a first-class competitor in the 35 millimetre projector.

12.30 p.m.

Mrs. Corbet

That is the view which my hon. Friend may hold, but which I am credibly informed is not so correct as he might seek to suggest. In fact, there are these difficulties which would no longer exist, and I submit that voluntary organisations or any other set of people will have a first-class instrument for conducting their propaganda.

Mr. Reeves

Will my hon. Friend tell us about this first-class instrument? I would like to know about it and I am sure the Committee would.

Mrs. Corbet

I understand that the new type of film will be equally useful for showing in a licensed cinema for commercial or non commercial purposes. I understand it will be a thoroughly satisfactory film and, therefore, will be used by voluntary organisations. The "non-flam" films were not subject to any control, but there were these difficulties.

There are organisations who might wish to show films unsuitable for children and I am sure that no one would wish to deny them that opportunity. I am just as anxious that there should be freedom for adults. The London County Council are rather afraid that commercial showings could be put on of very good films, and no charge made, or a collection made afterwards. They might be attended by a large number of people such as has not been the case in the past, because of the less satisfactory nature of the show, and there would be complete lack of restriction. Children may well be subject to the ordeal of seeing films which, as one hon. Member has said, they ought not to be allowed to see. The London County Council take the view that there may well be exhibitions which children ought not to be allowed to go.

This is a difficult problem. It is difficult for voluntary organisations to go ahead with the showing of films if they have first to get a licence. That is the reason why the L.C.C., in drafting this Amendment, felt it might be reasonable to allow the exemption of bodies such as are mentioned including educational and religious bodies. That deals with the objections raised by my right hon. Friend about the difficulties experienced by missionary organisations and educational bodies, who obtain a certificate of exemption from the licensing authorities.

It was felt that youth clubs and certain other bodies could be trusted to see that children came to no harm, and the London County Council would be quite willing to trust those people. The Amendment also said that the licensing authorities shall grant certificates of exemption to which shall be attached conditions. All that anyone would need to do would be to apply for a certificate, which would automatically be granted with the conditions which would be such as to relate only to the welfare of children, and would seek to obviate the possibility of a show being given for adults accompanied by children which would be unsuitable for the children.

I would emphasise to the Home Secretary, if he feels that children should run no risk of seeing undesirable films such as were referred to on Tuesday by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) or films dealing with venereal disease, that we on the London County Council dealt with a film called "The Birth of a Baby," which showed the objectionable results of venereal disease, and the delivery of a baby——

Mr. Reeves

That was a commercial film.

Mrs. Corbet

Never mind, the County Council were able to exert control and see that the objectionable parts were cut out.

Dr. Stross

I think it only fair to make a point that that film was a commercial film and has no relation to what we are discussing. Has the hon. Lady any evidence of anything at any time to suggest that parents take their children to unsuitable exhibitions of the type we have in mind in discussing this Bill? If she has no such evidence I hope she will not press her point.

Mrs. Corbet

I referred to that film as an example of the kind of film which it is desirable children should not see. I am not prepared to admit that because no one has any evidence that children have attended such films they have not done so in the past. This is an opportunity for correcting any deficiency in the law to protect children——

Mr. Reeves

May I——

The Deputy-Chairman

The hon. Gentleman has made several interruptions. I think it would be better for the hon. Lady to finish her argument, and then if he wishes to make further observations he can do so.

Mrs. Corbet

I have not a very great deal more to say, except that it has been found in the past experience of the London County Council that it is quite simple for them to license such people as the New London Film Society and the London Scientific Society who, though they mostly use 16 mm. films, have sometimes used the other film and, therefore, would be subject to control. They have a kind of block licence which imposes certain obligations which are readily accepted.

The London County Council would be glad if the Minister would look into the matter and try to find some way in which the welfare of the children could be safeguarded. The Council would be only too happy to make every possible concession provided they could obtain this safeguard. I would assure the Committee that the Council is not seeking to exercise further licensing powers. They are not anxious to gather licensing power. They have only one thing in mind, which is to seek to protect the welfare of the children. They are not tied to the Amendment and it is not my intention to press it; it was put down so that it might be discussed and the Minister be provided with an opportunity to consider the matter.

Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)

May I ask the Committee to consider the combination of the two Amendments—the one put down by my right hon. and learned Friend and the other which has been moved by the hon. Lady the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet). It is 43 years since we had an Act on this subject, and what we are dealing with today is not only the development which has taken place in those 43 years, and particularly in relation to the activities of film societies in the last 20 years, but we must also project our minds towards the development that will undoubtedly come in the next five or 10 years, during which time it is likely that we may have another Cinematograph Bill before us.

There is also the question concerning the film societies, which have done very excellent research work in the last 20 years, in which direction they have done a great service to all of us who are keen on the cinema as entertainment, and it must be borne in mind that this work is growing every day in size and importance. I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that we are not concerned with the technical character of the film, and whether it is a public film, a private film or one made for commercial purposes.

We are not concerned with the question of whether it is a film being shown only from the point of view of research, and we are not concerned either whether it is being shown to members of a film society. This particular Amendment deals with the health and welfare of children, and I submit that the health and welfare of children is the same, no matter how the film may be regarded as entertainment. It does not matter what is the purpose of that entertainment.

Side by side with that, in fairness, we should presume that, if these members of film societies are intelligent enough to wish to belong deliberately to such a film society, they will be thoughtful and intelligent enough not to wish to take children to an unsuitable society film.

I think the position is different from public entertainment, where there are cases in which children are taken, because parents cannot always leave their children at home, and unfortunate circumstances do arise. Nevertheless, I am concerned by the fact that, in dealing with a technicality, and in giving all the assistance that we want to give to film societies, we might, at the same time, expose children going with their parents to certain danger regarding their health and welfare in the type of film that is shown, even where the parents are members of these societies.

There is another point I should like to mention. It has been the fact in the past, and still is, that a large number of these films shown by film societies are shown by reason of the fact that they may not necessarily obtain a censorship certificate for public entertainment, which underlines the remarks which have already been made as to the suitability of children going to such shows.

I should like to ask my right hon. and learned Friend if his Amendment and perhaps that of the hon. Lady opposite might be taken back for further consideration, and brought up again on Report. I believe that there is good in both of these Amendments, and I think that we want to have a discussion on the prohibition of children attending film society shows, even if accompanied by their parents.

At the same time, there is undoubtedly a good case for a concession to the missionary and such societies, and I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend may consider these suggestions, bearing in mind that we want to look towards the future, as well as deal with what has happened in the past.

Sir R. Acland

I should also like to ask the Home Secretary if he will withdraw his Amendment and consider whether anything, and if so what, might be put in its place on the Report stage, because it does seem to me to draw back, almost at the last moment, a very great deal of the help which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has generously given on the earlier Amendments.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to suggest that all sorts of organisations showing films, including the missionary societies, in which I have a particular interest, must show their films to a censoring body. If they want to be free from risk and if they find out at the last moment that the showing was to take place in a hall to which children were not supposed to be admitted, and some parent comes along and takes them in, they may be breaking the regulations and they will be "for it." All this imposes a burden of administrative effort which seems to me to be out of proportion to the mischief against which the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the hon. Lady the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbett) are trying to provide a safeguard.

12.45 p.m.

If I might refer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment, I should like to quote a particular example. One might ask if it is conceivable that any film shown by a missionary society could possibly fall foul of any licensing authority. There are certain points on which I would prefer to accept the somewhat elastic but highly conscientious judgment of the missionary societies, rather than the somewhat inelastic rule which a censoring or licensing authority is rather apt to apply.

Let me give a particular example. In the course of a film which tries to demonstrate missionary activity in a certain country at the present time, it is quite possible that there will be a sequence showing the work of a missionary surgeon conducting an operation. I would prefer to trust such an organisation as a missionary society to have that sequence shot in a way that could not possibly be alarming or terrifying or in any other way nasty, rather than trust a licensing authority, which might lay down a rigid rule which will keep out the whole thing.

Particularly, it seems to me to be a little weak, when thinking of regulations which will restrict a number of very worthy organisations, when there is no evidence of any evil to be safeguarded against—though, for certain technical reasons, we have a slight suspicion that, a few years hence, there may be—and, therefore, we must impose these somewhat restricting regulations in case our fears should be fulfilled.

We have not yet seen fit to find means of safeguarding our children from the great evil influences of certain of the "comics" which are imported into this country from other places, and this just means that we are rather straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel if we pass regulations to safeguard them against a hypothetical evil of which, up to now, we have no concrete evidence.

For this reason, I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not press this Amendment, but that, if necessary, it may be discussed between now and the Report stage with a view to discovering if anything constructive can be done.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I am quite willing to withdraw the Amendment so that there may be discussions afterwards, if hon. Members of the Committee feel that to be the proper way of dealing with it.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman actually does so, may I say, on behalf of some of my hon. Friends, that we are very much opposed to the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. Lady the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbett), for reasons which have been given by my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) and Greenwich (Mr. Reeves), as well as by the hon. Baronet the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland). We think it would be a retrograde step.

We realise that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has tried to find a form of words to suit all of us, but the only result of his efforts has been that many of us are violently opposed to it. My hon. Friends below the Gangway prefer their own Amendment, while, to box the compass, one hon. Gentleman on the Minister's side of the House prefers an amalgam of both. The only thing for the Government to do, if it wants to be sensible about the matter, is to take the Amendment back, not only to look at it again but to cut its throat

I would remind my hon. Friends that the right hon. and learned Gentleman promised earlier this morning to consider with the interests concerned the possibility of another Bill. The L.C.C. is a very important body and has a point of view which was originally put by two noble Lords in another place, and it is possible that there is something in what my bon. Friends have said. That being the case, would it not be better not to raise this issue again on Report, when we shall have the argument all over again, but to consider it with other matters which will be raised when the right hon. and learned Gentleman fulfils his promise, as I am sure he will. This matter and others concerning the industry could then be considered together, and something a little more suitable and reasonable to all concerned would, I am certain, eventuate.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

If the way of the transgressor is hard, the way of the mediator is much harder. With the intention of giving everyone the chance of thinking over the matter again, and in view of the spirit in which the Bill has been discussed, I will withdraw the Amendment, and, if a convenient time arrives, perhaps I may be told what views are held. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: In page 3, leave out lines 24 and 25, and insert: (2) For the purposes of this section an exhibition shall not be treated as an exempted exhibition if.

In line 28, leave out "except that it does not include," and insert: so however that this subsection shall not apply to."—[Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe.]

Sir R. Acland

I beg to move, in page 3, line 31, after "educational," to insert "or religious."

I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman would indicate whether he is minded to accept this Amendment.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

We do not think it is necessary but, like the patent medicine in the story, we do not think it does any actual harm. If the hon. Gentleman is anxious that it should be included, I am prepared to accept it.

Sir R. Acland

In that case, having moved it formally, I express my gratitude to the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

Amendment agreed to.

Dr. Stross

I beg to move, in page 3, line 31, at the end, to insert or by any organisation which has been approved by the Education Authority and in respect of which the Commissioners of Customs and Excise have certified that the organisation is not conducted or established for profit. There is one short point behind this Amendment. Not only in Stoke-on-Trent, but in other parts of the country, types of children's organizations have been set up, and in particular I have in mind the Northern Counties Children's Cinema Council which, like the Council in Stoke-on-Trent itself, is an organisation of teachers, parents and children who are enabled to put on special cinema shows and have regular meetings for the benefit of young children. We thought it would be sufficient if we included the words in the Amendment which allow the education authorities to approve, and on that approval an exemption could be obtained.

The Northern Counties Children's Cinema Council—I find it difficult to say the N.C.C.C.C.—is very well known to some hon. Members, including the Minister of Food, who has taken a great interest in its organisation. I think we should do well to give them the type of exemption referred to in the Amendment.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would make the Amendment clear. If an organisation is not established or conducted for profit, does that mean that it cannot make a profit? This type of organisation may make a profit, although the money would be used for the collective benefit of members and not for distribution as dividends in any way. Under the Companies Act, a large number of companies in this country have no share capital in the ordinary sense; there is merely a guarantee if they are wound up. They are entitled to leave the word "limited" out of their title. But many such bodies do make a profit—they may run an exhibition for which they charge an entrance fee—but they are debarred from distributing the profit to the individual members. I wonder whether the words "conducted or established for profit" cover the form of organisation which we are discussing, because this could be a matter of substantial importance.

Dr. Stross

The point we are dealing with is narrow, although the form of words may appear to be broad. No new principle is admitted. The type of organisation which I have in mind is an organisation of teachers running a junior film club on experimental lines. At present such clubs are not covered by any of the exemptions in Clause 5, because they would be classed as children's clubs, according to the wording of the Bill. They are essentially educational, and that is why they should be granted some exemption.

Sir H. Williams

I think the hon. Gentleman has missed the point. Suppose they publish a handbook and sell it, receiving in revenue more than the cost of the printing, in that case, they would have made a profit, and this Amendment would not benefit them.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) is labouring under a misconception. He has been in the House for a very long time, on and off, and he should know that the phrase to which he takes exception has now become almost a term of art. We all know, and the Inland Revenue know, exactly what is meant by an organisation of this kind which is not established for profit. It does not mean that the organisation will not make profit.

As the hon. Member knows, the Customs and Excise issue a certificate in these cases. If the Amendment were accepted, it would mean that such organisations as have been mentioned by my hon. Friend would have to get a certificate from the Customs and Excise, and that is what organisations of this character, which are exempt from Entertainments Duty, normally have to do. If there is any ambiguity in the words, and if the right hon. and learned Gentleman is willing to accept the Amendment in spirit, we are quite willing to withdraw the Amendment on the understanding that a form of words would be proposed on the Report stage which would meet the intention of my hon. Friend.

1.0 p.m.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I hope that on consideration the hon. Gentleman will find that he need not press this Amendment, because it does not seem necessary to myself or to those who have been advising me. I think it will be convenient if I deal with it in this order.

The object of subsection (2) is to ensure that children's cinema clubs run by commercial exhibitors do not escape licensing control because the public are not admitted. If an organisation such as the hon. Gentleman has described—the example I had in mind was a youth club, a film society, a church organisation, or, of course, the organisation he mentioned—gives cinema shows for children, such shows would not be subject to licensing simply because the children are members of a club, society, or association, provided that its objects are wider than attendance at cinema exhibitions. I should have thought that the example the hon. Gentleman had in mind would have the wider object. In that case there would not be the need which has been suggested for the approval of the organisations by the education authority.

I wondered whether the hon. Gentleman had in mind that they might have to go through the other procedure of going to the Commissioners of Customs and Excise. I do not think they would. There is no need for them to have the certificate from the Commissioners, because clearly the education authority would not approve a commercial organisation, and if the children are members of a club the exhibition cannot be one for admission to which members of the public pay, so that in both ways I do not think the certificate is necessary. Therefore, I do not think there is the difficulty here. We have considered it very carefully, and I hope that on that assurance the hon. Gentleman will not press his Amendment.

Dr. Stross

I wonder whether I might ask one question of the Home Secretary before asking the leave of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment? I thank him for the courtesy and consideration he has given to this matter. As I understand it, there are not many of these clubs in the country. We are hoping to see them extended, because they are specifically educational, and of an experimental nature. Their one purpose is to show films in which only children are interested, and they have nothing to do with adults in any way. Would it be fair to say that, from the very virtue of their being of an experimental nature, there will be no difficulty about the question of licence? Has the Home Secretary covered that point?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I cannot see any. I am told there would not be. I do not want there to be any doubt about it at all, and if the hon. Gentleman would care to put down an Amendment again for the Report stage I will look into the matter specifically. At the moment I do not think there would be.

Dr. Stross

I am most obliged. With that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I beg to move, in page 3, line 32, to leave out from the beginning, to "an," and to insert: Subject to the provisions of the last foregoing subsection. This Amendment hangs, if I may use that phrase, with the following Amendments: In page 3, line 33, leave out from "by," to "shall," in line 34, and insert: an exempted organisation in any premises"; in line 34, after "treated," insert for the purposes of this section and in line 35, leave out from "thereto," to end of line 40, and insert: Provided that an exhibition shall not be treated for those purposes as an exempted exhibition by virtue of this subsection if on more than three out of the last preceding seven days the premises in question were used for the giving of a cinematograph exhibition which fell to be treated as an exempted exhibition by virtue of this subsection. (4) In the last foregoing subsection the expression 'exempted organisation' means a society, institution, committee or other organisation as respects which there is in force at the time of the exhibition in question a certificate of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise certifying that the Commissioners are satisfied that the organisation is not conducted or established for profit. Perhaps, Sir Charles, you would allow them to be discussed together, if that meets the convenience of the Committee, because they all turn on the same point. It has been necessary, in order to make two Amendments of substance to subsection (3), to make extensive drafting alterations which include the division of subsection (3) into two parts. I am therefore asking the Committee to consider these Amendments together.

The two alterations of substance are, first, the proviso to the first new sub section. The effect of this is that if premises are used by a non-profit-making organisation for the purpose of giving exhibitions which members of the public pay to attend and the number of such exhibitions is more than three a week, a licence for the premises will be required. There is nothing in subsection (3), as it appears in the Bill, which would prevent a non-profit-making organisation with objects not connected with the showing of films from establishing a cinema and giving daily performances of ordinary entertainment films, which members of the public could pay to see, without having to obtain a cinema licence. It is obvious that that might be a method of raising funds for the organisation.

But it is our view that if the premises are used as frequently as three days a week for cinema performances at which the public pay, there is the same need for licensing authorities to have powers of control over safety and other matters as there is to have control over commercial cinemas. The proviso applies only to exhibitions for which the public pay for admission, and it would be open to any organisation to give performances to which the public are not admitted, or to which the public are admitted without payment, more often than three times a week without having to obtain a licence.

With regard to the new subsection, the Government's Amendment follows, with very minor alterations in wording, the proposal contained in the Opposition Amendment put down to page 3, line 35, to leave out from "if," to end of line 40, and insert: the Commissioners of Customs and Excise have certified that the organisation is not conducted or established for profit. It does not seem likely that the difficulty will arise in practice, but it is recognised that if it did it might place some non-profit-making organisations concerned with the showing of films in difficulties. I have therefore decided to accept the method proposed in that Opposition Amendment for avoiding this possibility.

I think that one ought to emphasise, as I did in dealing with the last Amendment, that it should not normally be necessary for film societies and other non-profit-making organisations to apply to the Commissioners of Customs and Excise for a certificate under this Clause. As I indicated when dealing with the other point, if the public are not admitted, or if the public are admitted without payment, no certificate is necessary. I hope that hon. and right hon. Members opposite will think that I have met them on this point, and that they will be able to accept the Amendment in the form which we feel would be most appropriate and suitable for the Bill.

Sir H. Williams

I find some difficulty in understanding this Bill. I think it is very obscurely written, if I may say so. It may be because it is amending an earlier Act. Frankly, I am not quite clear where we are at the moment. The Home Secretary seems to have had a change of thought or heart.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

May I put the point to my hon. Friend, because I do not think he was here when we discussed it? The point that was put to me was that if one made the exemptions by reference to a Finance Act and there was a change in fiscal policy and the Finance Act was changed, that might make changes here without the mind of Parliament being adduced to it. Over the long years I have had the pleasure of knowing the hon. Gentleman, I have heard him say something on legislation by reference. This was considered by various hon. Members in different parts of the House as being a vicious example of that, so I decided on consideration to meet that point and to substitute for a certificate under the Finance Act a certificate given ad hoc by the Commissioners, if I may put it in that way. I am afraid the way in which I dealt with the matter was rather following on our discussion on Second Reading, and if my explanation was not too clear to the hon. Gentleman, I do not blame him; I blame myself, and I apologise.

Sir H. Williams

I still find it a little difficult to follow. For reasons beyond my control I could not be here during the Second Reading, so I missed the earlier part of my education on this subject. I take it that we are considering these Amendments together. The Home Secretary once said "four" and he now says "three." I have an Amendment down saying "two." If the Home Secretary has travelled part of my journey, perhaps he will decide to travel the rest of the journey.

I should like to come back to the point about organisations established for profit. Quite a number of manufacturing concerns have a cinema in their factory for certain purposes. The business as a whole is clearly conducted for profit, but the cinema may be used for all sorts of purposes for which people do not pay to attend. Educational films may be shown, for the education of the working people, and the firm may say, "You can bring: your wife along as well." The organisation is established for profit but the cinema is not. I want to make sure that we are clear that establishment for profit means that the film portion is non-profit making, although the organisation as a whole may be profit making.

I see no reason why a cinema conducted on those lines should not have the same advantages as a cinema conducted by some organisation which does not seem to make any profit at all. I tried to raise that point when the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) was speaking, because I thought it was one of substance.

1.15 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

We are very grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for accepting the point which had been put on Second Reading, not only from this side of the Committee but also from the benches behind him, and which has been described as the fiscal point. This Amendment, however, is in two parts. It is the part dealing with the three days a week to which we take exception. I ask him whether he would be willing to reconsider that part of the Amendment.

As we see it, there is not only no need for it but, in our view, it will lead to a large number of difficulties which I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman, as well as the party to which he belongs, would not care to see. To begin with, is there not a Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents running an almost permanent film show somewhere in Knightsbridge? Surely these words—the Home Secretary will correct me if I am wrong—would prevent that very useful body from carrying on the magnificent work to which it is dedicated.

Then we might find in rural areas one society, say a missionary society, giving a film for one night in the village hall, or perhaps for two or three nights. Another society, just as much entitled to give a performance, may find that because the hall is booked for three nights in a particular week, it is completely barred from giving a performance. A film society may want to crowd into one week a festival of Chaplin comedies or French or Polish films, and it seems to us that, as drafted, this Amendment has great objections. Therefore, we should like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to look at it again.

We are very grateful for half of this Amendment but we very much object to the other half. While we do not want to hold up the proceedings this afternoon, and while I am not sure whether it is possible for half the Amendment to be accepted and for half of it to be withdrawn, I would appeal to the Home Secretary to consider, between now and Monday next, when I think we shall come back to this Bill on Report stage, whether the points which we have made have not some validity in them and, if they have, do something to meet them.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I will certainly consider the point. I always like to make clear that I am not making any promise; I cannot commit myself in any way, but I shall consider what the right hon. Gentleman has said. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the Court of Appeal used to say, at a certain time, with regard to complaints of counsel, "Are you suggesting the learned judge obtains silence by false pretences?" I do not want to do the same today, but I will certainly consider this matter.

Dr. Stross

May I say how grateful we are for the explanation which the Home Secretary has given us on this interesting and difficult point which we call the fiscal point, and which, for the sake of brevity, I will continue to call the fiscal point. It is an important one, and one which could have proved very embarrassing if it had not been attended to. We are very grateful, therefore, for what he has said.

Amendment agreed to

Dr. Stross

I beg to move, in page 3, line 32, to leave out "an." and to insert "a public."

It seems that private or non-public organisations have been completely covered so far as exemptions are concerned and, therefore, I think that by inserting the words "a public" it would make quite clear that what we had in mind was that any organisation which obeyed the regulations already mentioned in the Bill would be able to get the exemption which we have been discussing.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I appreciate what was animating the hon. Gentleman, but we do not think the Amendment is necessary. The only exhibitions to which Clause 5 (3) applies are those for which the public pay for admission. A private exhibition to which the public are not admitted is covered by Clause 5 (1) and there is no need for a certificate to be obtained under Clause 5 (1).

Dr. Stross

Having heard that explanation, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: In page 3, line 33, leave out from "by." to "shall," in line 34, and insert: an exempted organisation in any premises.

In line 34, after "treated," insert: for the purposes of this section.

In line 35, leave out from "thereto," to end of line 40, and insert: Provided that an exhibition shall not be treated for those purposes as an exempted exhibition by virtue of this subsection if on more than three out of the last preceding seven days the premises in question were used for the giving of a cinematograph exhibition which fell to be treated as an exempted exhibition by virtue of this subsection. (4) In the last foregoing subsection the expression 'exempted organisation' means a society, institution, committee or other organisation as respects which there is in force at the time of the exhibition in question a certificate of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise certifying that the Commissioners are satisfied that the organisation is not conducted or established for profit.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I beg to move, in page 3, line 41, to leave out subsection (4).

The subsection is no longer necessary now that safety Regulations are not applicable to exempted exhibitions since I accepted an earlier Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Sir H. Williams

I beg to move, in page 3, line 45, at the end, to add: (5) The exemption conferred in subsection (1) of this Section on cinematograph exhibitions to which the public are not admitted or to which the public are admitted without payment shall not have effect in any case in which

  1. (a) the persons present exceed one hundred in number, and
  2. (b) the primary purpose of the presence of such persons is to witness a cinematograph performance involving the showing of a film or films other than of a religious or educational character.
I move the Amendment on behalf of certain people who earn their living by means of the cinema and who believe that if they are not careful there will be too many concessions to exhibitions which are not for profit, and nobody will get any profit at all. Ultimately that will lead to a lot of unemployment, for if the cinemas become unsuccessful the type of film that most of us go to see will not be produced. There is a limit beyond which we should not go in providing facilities for those who exhibit films for educational and other purposes. The people who desire the Amendment are animated by their own self-interest and by the interest of those whom they employ. The Amendment is really self-evident. I have tried briefly to present the argument that the time may come when the ordinary industry will be threatened if there are vast numbers of free shows.

Sir R. Acland

I have never encountered such an un-Christian Amendment as this one. It does precisely what we accuse the Communists of doing. It treats people as means and not as ends.

Sir H. Williams

What does that mean?

Sir R. Acland

I deeply regret that the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) has not made the acquaintance of that characteristically and deeply Christian phrase so as not even to know what it means. It means that the Christian approach treats an individual as an end in himself for whose benefit the community and the laws that we pass exist. The totalitarian treats the individual not as an end in himself but as a means to somebody else's ends.

In his Amendment the hon. Member for Croydon, East is treating the individual as a means for making profit for the cinema industry and he wants to safeguard the situation in which it is sure that people shall be treated as this means to that end. What he is worried about is that voluntary societies, which have the approval and support of nearly all hon. Members, may be so successful in providing for individuals the entertainment which they desire that the individuals will cease to act as the means of making profits for cinema companies. He has thrown in a piece about unemployment to try to arouse a little co-operative sympathy for his case among the Opposition. I very much hope that the Amendment will not be proceeded with.

Sir H. Williams

After all that unadulterated nonsense, I must add a few more words. I shall get hold of a copy of HANSARD tomorrow and send it to Canon Smyth, who officiates just over the road, and I shall ask that learned scholar to let me know what the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) was driving at, for I have no idea.

It is just as well to bear in mind that the amount paid out in wages in most occupations is about 15 times the amount disbursed in profits. Naturally, the hon. Member for Gravesend does not know anything about industry, because he has never been concerned with it, but it is just as well to bear that in mind. As for those who think that profit is evil and anti-Christian, what is the difference between a Socialist and a Communist anyhow? They both believe in Karl Marx. It is no good the hon. Gentleman talking Christianity to me, because the Founder of his faith did not believe in it either.

Dr. Stross

I shall not attempt to address the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) on moral grounds, because he does not appreciate them. Perhaps I might appeal to him on other grounds in the hope of finding agreement. He asks that the exhibitions should be limited in two ways, that those attending should not exceed 100 and that the performance should be of a certain type. I observed a flash of lightning just then and now I hear thunder outside. That must be the result of appealing on too high moral grounds.

Is it not a fair presumption that the British Board of Film Censors or the licensing authorities will have to be called in to determine the character of the films which would be shown? Does not this establish a new form of censorship? If the hon. Member agrees with that, I am sure he will accept that there is little to be said in favour of his Amendment.

Mr. Reeves

The Amendment is in the nature of penal legislation in that it penalises a certain section of the community who wish to do work which, although it may not be described as religious or educational, may still come in the category of being socially beneficial. The hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) has said that he is acting on behalf of some of his friends. I hope they are Croydon friends. I am sure that the cinematograph industry would not like it to be said that the Amendment was being submitted in its name. The C.E.A. would feel very uncomfortable if it were thought that the hon. Member for Croydon, East was speaking on its behalf.

I hope the hon. Member will not press the Amendment. I am sure the industry is big enough if necessary to tolerate and encourage the educational, religious and other cinematograph activities which enrich the community and can by no stretch of the imagination be classified as competing with the industry. This is a supplementary activity which men and women are invited to undertake, and in most cases the cinemas are only too delighted to offer the facilities of their establishments out of business hours for the work to be done.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) will not press the Amendment. I am anxious that in connection with a Bill in which we have tried to keep the balance between all the interests concerned, the impression should not go out that the industry which serves this great source of entertainment to the public has been ignored.

1.30 p.m.

Those of us who have considered every Amendment relating to this Clause have probably appreciated that an effort is made in regard to licensing to bring in the equivalent of a commercial undertaking if it is disguised. Equally, in answer to requests from both sides of the House, I have undertaken that on any question of Regulations or the like I shall consult the industry. I should never dream of doing anything else. I want to make that point quite clear.

With regard to the personal difficulty in which my hon. Friend found himself, if he wants a quick and—if I may use a colloquialism—a snappy development of the statement made by the hon. Baronet as to the distinction between treating humanity as the means to an end and as the end itself, he will find it in Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" which takes only about 500 pages to make the point crystal clear.

Sir H. Williams

I should like to point out to hon. Members opposite, especially the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland), who objected to my reference to religious legislation, that he himself sought to put in the word "religious" in line 31. He should not make that funny kind of speech when he has done that. It is not a test of consistency.

However, having regard to what has been said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Peter Legh (Petersfield)

I do not want to delay the Committee for more than a few minutes in saying one or two words about this Clause. I think they will appreciate the difficulty I am in in that this is perhaps the only chance I may have to say some of the things I had hoped to be able to say a little earlier in to-day's proceedings.

The main object of this Clause is to define exempted exhibitions and to set out the concessions which are going to be made in respect of them. In my view, the most notable concession which my right hon. and learned Friend has made is contained in the Amendment which he moved himself earlier on and which the Committee agreed to accept. This Amendment provides that any safety Regulations which might be made under this Bill will not apply to exempted exhibitions using non-inflammable films on premises which are not licensed as cinemas.

In moving that Amendment this morning, my right hon. and learned Friend carried out the promise which he made during the Second Reading debate three days ago. When he made that promise, he said: … in view of the concern that has been shown about the possible misuse of the power to impose safety requirements by regulation, we have decided to move an Amendment in Committee to make it clear that where exempted exhibitions are given in premises which are not licensed as a cinema, these safety requirements will not be applicable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st October, 1952; Vol. 505, c. 885.] That promise has been fulfilled. I thanked him very much at the time when he made that promise and I should like to thank him again now for having carried it out.

I know that Church societies, missionary societies, and all the cultural and educational bodies which regularly give exhibitions using non-inflammable films in all sorts of buildings will also thank him. He will also be thanked by the inhabitants of remote villages. This concession is yet another example of the desire of this Government to make the people happy. At any rate we wish to let them see cinema exhibitions, if not to make them sing.

However, I do not think that this laudable ambition can have been the only consideration which my right hon. and learned Friend had in mind when he moved the Amendment to which I am referring. I think he must have reflected that it is still true, as it was true in 1939, when an expert committee advised the Home Office, that the risk of fire from non-inflammable films is negligible, or even non-existent. From a safety angle, the risk of fire is the only important issue and I submit that from the safety angle it is only the risk of fire which distinguishes a cinematograph exhibition in a village hall from a political meeting or a dance.

It is for that reason that I—and, I believe, some of my hon. Friends—think that the definition in this Clause of an exempted exhibition is not wide enough. If one is agreed that the risk of fire is negligible when non-inflammable film is used at an exempted exhibition, then one must agree that the risk is also negligible when non-inflammable film is used at exhibitions which are not exempted. It surely cannot be argued that in a material sense a non-inflammable film is less inflammable at an exempted exhibition than at any other kind of exhibition.

That is why I should like to see the definition of an exempted exhibition widened in order to include those occasional commercial exhibitions of noninflammable films—35 mm. or 16 mm.—which are given by small operators who, travel round the country from village to village, giving shows in village halls. Those shows are an enormous blessing to the inhabitants of remote villages who very often do not get the chance to see any other sort of film show.

I would ask my right hon. and learned Friend to consider, between now and the Report stage, putting down an Amendment in order to widen the definition of exempted exhibitions so as to include this type of show. Some of my hon. Friends and I are frightened that these particular exhibitions might in time become extinct. It may be that stringent safety regulations will be made under this Bill when it becomes law. I would ask him to consider saying something about the matter now and telling us whether he could meet me and some of my hon. Friends because it would then be very much easier to decide whether or not I should put down a new clause for consideration on the Report stage.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend said in the earlier part of his speech, but there are one or two points that I would ask him to bear in mind about the latter part of it. He referred to the 1939 Committee, which did not recommend that licensing control should be extended to 16-mm. films. I would remind him of the words of that Committee in coming to that conclusion. They said: … we have taken into account the facts as they were presented to us. If the use of slow-burning films were to develop widely, if for example a big entertainment industry based on their use were to grow up, we think that our conclusions would then call for review. That is nearly 13 years ago, and I think that the matter does require further inquiry, which I think we have had in the course of this very interesting debate.

I would point out one fact with regard to the commercial exhibitions in the village halls which, I believe, is the one remaining point which is really worrying my hon. Friend. It is already necessary for a village hall to be licensed in the case of public music, dancing or for a theatrical purpose. I do not think that a political meeting, even one of my hon. Friend's, would come within the definition of a theatrical performance. Therefore, they do not require a licence. The licence is required for public music, dancing and theatrical performances.

When they grant a licence for those purposes, the authority can impose safety arrangements. I am advised by those who are always considering these matters that it is most unlikely that the safety arrangements which will apply when cinema shows using non-inflammable films are given in village halls will be much stricter than the Regulations already imposed. I think that meets the point made by my hon. Friend.

We come down to safety. If my hon. Friend considers that no stricter requirements will be needed than those which are already there for a dance or some musical performance, I hope that he will consider that the point is met. It would create great difficulties if the licensing authority were unable to concern itself with matters connected with the safety of the audience. The arrangements which we can expect in this regard will not be a great embarrassment. I felt I ought to answer my hon. Friend. I hope that the Committee will now give us the Clause.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The opportunity should be taken for someone on this side of the Committee to add a few words before we part with the Clause. After all, there have been nearly three pages of Amendments to it and we have spent most of our time on it.

Two reflections arise from what has happened on the Clause. The first is that the Bill originated in another place. Normally it is considered that in the calmer atmosphere there it is possible to revise legislation, but we have had to go in for a good deal of revision of a Bill which ostensibly came down to us in a perfect state. The second reflection that comes to me is this. The hon. Member for Petersfield (Mr. Legh) said it was the object of the present Government to make people happy and that the changes in the Clause were an evidence of that. If that is so, most of the happiness that will arise in the Clause has come from pressure put upon the Government from this side of the Committee.

Mr. Legh

The right hon. Member may recall that I made that remark in connection only with a particular Amendment in the name of the Home Secretary, freeing exempted exhibitions from the safety Regulations resulting from the Bill. He will also remember that I made a point about it on Second Reading, and I believe that he agreed with it.

Mr. Hall

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, of course. I followed what he said on Second Reading and I felt there was everything to be said for what he put to his right hon. and learned Friend on that occasion. I felt that if the Amendment were called—there was no need for it to be called, as a matter of fact—the hon. Gentleman would have found considerable support for it on this side of the Committee.

My final remark before I sit down and we part from the Clause for ever is that if the Government had really thought about these matters before they produced the Bill, three or four hours' work this morning, as well as a lot of work in the Library between the Second Reading and now, would have been obviated, and all of us would have been in the same position as we are in now.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.