HC Deb 19 May 1953 vol 515 cc1963-95
Mr. Ellis Smith

I beg to move, in page 3, line 38, after "society," to insert "club."

Before we proceed to discuss this Amendment, may I make a submission to you, Mr. Bowles, with regard to procedure, and some suggestions with a view to facilitating the easy consideration of the matter which will be under discussion?

It would be better, in my view, if we could discuss the three Clauses relating to Entertainments Duty together, each of which is dependent upon the other. I know that the rules do not provide for that and, therefore, I do not intend to pursue that point, but will you, Mr. Bowles, consider this. I believe that by discussing this Clause we shall get the best results from everybody's point of view, and that it will assist the Chair if we have a wide discussion on this Clause. Let hon. Members who wish have a say and then, when we come to the Amendments on the other Clauses, I propose that you should then limit the discussion by saying that we have already had a wide discussion. In that way, I think that we should get better results. Will you consider that, Mr. Bowles, before I proceed?

The Temporary Chairman

The hon. Gentleman will understand that I am only the Temporary Chairman and that the Chairman of Ways and Means should decide what to do. His proposal is that it would be for the benefit of the Committee if we proceeded as follows. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) should move his Amendment which might be considered together with the Amendment at the top of the next page in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison)—Clause 5, page 4, line 4— and the one in the name of the right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice)—Clause 5, page 4, line 10. The rest of the Amendments on that page are out of order. The main discussion I should think would come on the second Amendment on page 1358 in the name of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell)—Clause 6, page 4, line 24, leave out "cricket matches," and insert "All entertainment which consists of games or other sport." These are the Chairman's views, and I am rather bound by them. We have two of a more distinct type, one relating to football and the other to boxing.

Mr. Smith

If this Clause is passed as it is worded in the Bill it will prevent us from dealing with our different problems later. I remember very clearly what took place in our last Finance Bill debate on the subject. To be sure about what I am saying I have looked up the debate. First of all, we had a very wide discussion to dispose of the subject and then we took the Amendments which the Chair decided to call. I suggest that it will be far better if we have that procedure, taking the wide discussion now, for then everyone will have his say and there will be complete satisfaction. Afterwards, we can move our Amendments but the Chair will limit discussion on them to what it considers is within reason in relation to time.

The Temporary Chairman

My first difficulty is, obviously, a personal, representative one. I cannot really go back on what the Chairman has told me to insist on the Committee doing. I do not know at what time the right hon. Gentleman is resuming the Chair, but perhaps the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South will start and I will leave the Chair at eight o'clock and make it my business to see the Chairman of Ways and Means about this. I am advised that he has already considered it. Perhaps it would be as well if he came back and heard the hon. Gentleman's submission. I was not present at the conference this morning with the Chairman of Ways and Means, but he apparently decided that the main, wide discussion should take place on the second Amendment on page 1358.

Mr. W. Nally (Bilston)

With great respect to the Chairman of Ways and Means and to you, Mr. Bowles, and your wide knowledge of the procedure of the House, which I would not venture to dispute, you are in the Chair. It is perfectly proper for the Chairman of Ways and Means to give you advice, but the Chairman of Ways and Means, for whom I have the highest regard, is surely not entitled to say that if you are face to face with the business-like proposition put to you by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) the matter is not for your decision. If it is a decision for the Chairman of Ways and Means, obviously we must have the Chairman of Ways and means here.

The Temporary Chairman

The Chairman of Ways and Means has been in the Chair for at least two and a half hours non-stop this afternoon and has considered the matter. When I am in the Chair my duty is, first, to obey his selection or non-selection of Amendments and, secondly, to keep the debate relevant to the Amendments before the Committee. Beyond that, my powers are limited.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

I appreciate that the Chairman of Ways and Means has decided that the main debate should come on the second Amendment to the next Clause, and we cannot, and would not, and do not, raise any objection to that, Mr. Bowles. What my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) has in mind is that if certain arguments are put forward on this Clause that should not prevent the same arguments being put forward on the next Clause.

In one way this Clause is a narrow one, for it deals almost entirely with amateur sport, and, therefore, in a sense we can isolate it from the larger debate which will take place on the next Clause. At the same time, it is obvious that the two interlock. In view of that, will it be in order to continue, without being charged with repetition, the same kind of argument on the next Clause as I understand will undoubtedly be put forward by my hon. Friend and other hon. Friends of mine and perhaps hon. Gentlemen opposite on the Amendments to this Clause?

The Temporary Chairman

There is no rule against repetition. There is only a rule against tedious repetition. In those circumstances, as the position is that we have a different Chairman every hour, I expect the Committee will be able to look after itself quite well.

Mr. Mitchison

On a point of order, Mr. Bowles. You mentioned the Amendment in Clause 5, page 4, line 10, which seeks to insert certain words after "capacity." I wish to safeguard the position. There are four Amendments which hang together and one would like to discuss them together, perhaps with a manuscript Amendment if the Chairman at the moment saw fit to accept it.

The Temporary Chairman

The Amendment selected by the Chair is in the name of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice), which will cover the others, and, therefore, the discussion will be as wide as the hon. and learned Gentleman desires.

Mr. Ellis Smith

May I make it clear, Mr. Bowles, that I am making no complaint about, or casting any reflection in any way upon what you have said. It is unfortunate, because the Clauses are interdependent, and we are put in great difficulty. I shall confine my observations within very narrow limits, which, I understand, is the Chair's desire, but if the Chair suggests that I should do that then it is only right that everyone else should do it.

The Temporary Chairman

I am advised that it is the desire of the Chairman of Ways and Means that the main debate shall be on the next Clause. Hon. Members will thus have a very wide debate followed by the Amendments dealing with football and boxing.

Mr. Smith

That has made it clear, Mr. Bowles. Now we know where we are.

The purpose of the Amendment is to provide that all clubs, no matter with what sport they are concerned, shall have the same right in the matter of taxation as amateur clubs have. We should have liked to delete a number of words in order to be consistent, but the Chair has decided not to call the Amendments. We are not complaining, but it has added to the difficulties. It is the result of the draftsman, whoever he was, deciding upon the form of words which appears here and introducing it into the Finance Bill in this way. In spite of my very great regard for the draftsmen, having had some experience with them, I must say that whoever has been responsible for this has not done it in a way that enables the Committee to give the whole problem involved the consideration that it should have done.

There is no doubt that this will not be the end of the matter. It will be brought up next time in the same way because great feeling is developing in the country about it. As sure as I am standing here, it will come up again in an even bigger way still when we discuss the next Finance Bill. I hope that the draftsmen will in future prepare the Clause so that we can discuss the matter in a way which everyone will understand. For the time being, I content myself with moving my Amendment.

8.0 p.m.

Miss Elaine Burton (Coventry, South)

I desire to support the Amendment. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) I do not propose to take up the time of the Committee unduly on this Amendment. We all want to get on to the wider subject. I agree entirely with what has been said, and I hope that the Government will be able to insert the word "club" into the Clause.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. R. Maudling)

I share the desire of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) to get on with the Bill, and I am confident that as our proceedings advance the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South will find plenty of scope for deploying the main argument on this matter. At the moment, he is suggesting that the word "club" should be inserted in this Clause. The object of the Clause is to cover clubs. Obviously, it is entirely designed to help amateur clubs, and I am advised that the words society, institution or committee … include clubs. Therefore, the addition of the word "club" would not be necessary.

Mr. Ellis Smith


Mr. Maudling

I know what the hon. Gentleman wants to say and if he will allow me I will answer it. What he would like to say is that if this word does not make any difference and is not necessary why not insert it in the Bill. The answer is that the wording used is taken from a Section of the Finance Act of 1946, which uses the same words. It did not use the word "club" but it has always been interpreted as covering clubs, and if we were to use the word "club" it might suggest a different intention on the part of Parliament in the two cases, whereas, in both cases, the wording was intended to cover clubs.

Mr. Smith

We want to safeguard our position and to get an understanding about is so that the ground will not be cut from under our feet when we come to other Clauses. I am not a legal man, but I have learned that the courts have always said that what matters is not the intention of the Minister but what is in the Act. Therefore, the Economic Secretary has the benefit of legal advice which we have not got, and I want to be assured on this point so that when we come to deal with professional clubs later we can be sure that these words also apply to clubs.

Mr. Maudling

I can assure the hon. Member that the word "society" includes clubs.

Mr. Nally

The Economic Secretary is relying on the fact that these words were included in the 1946 Act. But in 1946 we had a very different situation. We had been at peace for only 12 months, and in my industrial constituency there were only a few clubs run with voluntary labour. The position is vastly different now, because it has been greatly extended since that time. From what the Economic Secretary says, it is quite clear that there is no objection at all to inserting "club." The word "club," particularly north of the Trent, has a connotation not in the legal sense but in the ordinary sense which the word "society" has not got. Therefore, will it do any harm to insert the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend?

There is no reason at all why the Economic Secretary should not accept this Amendment. We accept his assurance that the word "society" also means clubs but in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cheshire and a whole lot of places north of the Trent we would prefer to see "society, club" and I invite the Economic Secretary to accept that Amendment and so save a lot of trouble. He said there was no legal objection to it. Why not insert it?

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

I am bound to say for once in a while I agree with the Government spokesman. It seems to me that the Minister makes a perfectly valid point when he says that we must have regard to the actual words used by Parliament and not the intention, and that it is well to use the same words in a Clause as were used formerly when they are meant to be the same thing. It might have been a good idea to put in the word "club" in the 1946 Finance Act, or it might not have been. It does not matter now, but if the Clause, in 1946, covered societies and clubs and we mean this Clause to cover societies and clubs, then we would only be introducing an element of confusion if we were to express that intention differently today from the way that Parliament expressed it the last time.

Mr. Nally

I am sure there are a good many clubs in Nelson and Colne. Is the hon. Member now asking Labour clubs in Colne and in Nelson to use the word "society"? Is that the same thing as a club, and if the hon. Gentleman thinks so would he conduct an inquiry among these clubs to find out whether they agree with him?

Mr. S. Silverman

I am sure that the many clubs in my constituency will continue, and will prefer to be called clubs. They will never call themselves societies, but I think they are perfecty satisfied that they are covered by the 1946 Act and that they will be covered by this Clause in the same circumstances.

Mr. Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)

I would not have intervened in this debate but for the fact that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) raised a point about interpretation. There is a possibility of a misunderstanding, because a subsequent interpretation might be quite different from what was intended by the Minister in Committee here. In view of the fact that the Minister was so categorical about the term "society" including club, I would ask him, with his legal adviser, to consider the matter carefully between now and the Report stage to see where there is any doubt at all about it, so that if something is needed to cover the word "club" it could be inserted at a later stage. This is extremely important, because one does not want litigation over these matters because of interpretation that might be entirely different from what was in the mind of the Minister.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I realise that the Committee does not want to waste much time on this question because we have an extremely interesting debate to come, but the Economic Secretary did mention the Finance Act, 1946, and as one of the Ministers who helped to put the criticised words into that Act I should like to reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith). The wording which was there used has worked extremely well in the six or seven years which have elapsed since. I agree entirely with what the Economic Secretary and my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) have said to reassure my hon. Friend. If there should be any doubt about the inclusion of the word "club" perhaps between now and next year the hon. Gentleman will look into, and, if necessary, take the necessary steps to regularise the matter.

Mr. Nally

Why not now?

Mr. Maudling

I have tried to explain to the Committee that the wording in the 1946 Act has been interpreted consistently for the last seven years to include the word "club," and that that is the intention of this Clause. If any doubt should arise certainly I will re-examine the position, but I am quite certain that there is no doubt about it, having received the best legal advice that there is about it.

Mr. Ellis Smith

In view of the advice which I have received from the Economic Secretary, from my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) and from my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Mulley

I beg to move, in page 4, line 4, at the end, to insert: Provided that referees, umpires or judges shall be deemed not to participate in any game, race or other sport. This again is a drafting matter, but I think it has some substance, because it might well be that because of a certain interpretation the intentions of the Government will be entirely frustrated. It is a matter of general knowledge that in almost every case in Association football some payment—and I am bound to add that in most cases it is very small —is made to the referee who officiates at a game. If it were held subsequently in the courts that a referee was a participant in the game, very few Association football clubs, if any, would benefit by the concession that is intended. In the same way I am informed that the umpires at Wimbledon receive payment and, therefore, if the umpire was held to be a participant in the game, it would mean that the relief intended for the Wimbledon lawn tennis tournament would not be available.

It is a matter of argument as to whether or not a referee is a participant in the game but, before I discuss that, I want to make it clear that the word "judges" is not intended to include Her Majesty's learned judges who sit in courts of law, although I am informed that sometimes the proceedings of a court tend to follow rules that are not dissimilar to some games and in some cases certain entertainment ensues. I say that to avoid any doubt there may be in the minds of hon. Members because I do not wish to be controversial. I would not, however, wish to prejudice the right of any hon. and learned Gentleman who wished to tell us some entertaining stories about judges.

The question of the participation of the referee might be best compared, Mr. Hopkin Morris, with your function in our debates. It is quite clear, and I think many of my hon. Friends regret it, that the Chair rarely participates in our debates, but it would be incorrect to assume that the Chairman played no part in them.

The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hopkin Morris)

It looks as though it will be necessary for the Chairman to take part soon.

Mr. Mulley

That was not exactly the line of my argument. The function of a referee is such that the game could not take place without his participation. Therefore, in order to give effect to what I am sure are the intentions of the Government, these words should be inserted. While I do not wish to bring you again into the discussion, Mr. Hopkin Morris, you will have noticed that our Amendment has the backing of two hon. Members who serve the Committee from time to time with distinction as Temporary Chairmen, and I am sure that this consideration will also weigh with the Government.

Finally, there is the question of the unpopularity of the referee. If it should happen that because the referee was paid the club had to pay Entertainments Duty as well, it would make the position of the referee very difficult. From time to time when witnessing Soccer matches I have been interested in the references that are made to the spectacles of referees. For a long time I did not appreciate the full subtlety of that, but when I learned that a referee is barred from refereeing if he needs to wear spectacles, I realised that the comments had great force behind them.

It is perhaps a little wide of this Amendment, but I have often wondered if, in formulating the National Health charges there ought not to have been some special concession to exempt referees from them. I shall not elaborate that point, but the question is sufficiently serious for the Economic Secretary to assure us that, if he will not accept the Amendment, there can be no question of any club in the future being ruled out of the concession which the Government want to make simply because a payment is made to a referee or some other official who is there to control the proceedings.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

I hope that the Government will give due consideration to the comments of my hon. Friend, but I sincerely hope that the hon. Gentleman will not accept this Amendment in its present form. Take the case of a game of football between two amateur teams in which there is a referee and two linesmen. If the Amendment were accepted that game would not qualify because the linesmen are paid. Similarly in the case of races. It will be all right if the judge is paid, but what will happen if the starter is paid? The idea behind this Amendment is sound and the Government would be well advised to assure the Committee that the intention of my hon. Friend is met by the existing form of words or will be met by a form of words which the Government will put down after careful consideration, but these words should not be accepted.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Mandling

There is no doubt that the intentions of both sides of the Committee are the same, namely, that referees, judges, umpires and so on shall be excluded. If, however, we seek to do that, as the Amendment does, by enumerating certain categories to be excluded, we shall fall into the difficulty pointed out by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), that linesmen, and so on, are ruled out. That was why we decided to act by definition, by the question of whether people participate in a game. I suggest to the Committee that it is fairly clear who participates and who does not.

For example, the object of a game of football is to kick a ball into the goal and the referee cannot do that. [An HON. MEMBER: "You do not know."] Nor can the referee be a member of either team in the game although he is sometimes accused of partiality. It is quite clear that any official of this kind who, by his position, is neither a member of a competing team nor able to participate in the game which, in the case of football, is to propel the ball or, in the case of boxing, to punch an opponent, cannot be a participant and is therefore excluded. It is better to exclude the people concerned in this way by general definition than to try to enumerate them. I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept my assurance that this is the intention of the Government, and that we are convinced that the words in the Bill will cover the point he has in mind.

Mr. Mitchison

I ask the Economic Secretary to have another look at this because I am not certain that it is quite as clear as he has been advised it is and as he thinks it is. I am not referring to cases of involuntary participation by the referee because, after all, this Bill does not apply to the Argentine, but I feel some doubt as to whether it is clear that in the case of referees who are paid it does not make a difference.

It is true that the referee does not play the game of football. It is equally true that even outside the Argentine there could be no game of football without a judge, umpire or referee of some sort. I should have thought it was a matter about which one ought to be certain and it could do no harm to make sure. So far as I know, there is no precedent for this and even in the subsection we are coming to there are questions in a different field which are not wholly dissimilar, the question of amateur entertainment and so on.

In view of what he has said I do not ask the Economic Secretary to accept this Amendment though I appreciate what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). He might, however, have another look at it in order to make sure that something is not put into the Bill by accident.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I, too, share the view of my hon. and learned Friend and of all of us on this side of the Committee. It would be a pity to exclude by enumeration and then find that by so doing we have made a muddle of this concession which we all value. I do, however, ask the Economic Secretary whether the Treasury have consulted the Law Officers and whether they have assured the Government that the wording in the subsection is watertight in the direction which, I am sure, both the hon. Gentleman and the rest of us desire.

Mr. Maudling

We have obtained the best legal advice and are convinced that the wording is watertight. I will, however, certainly reflect on what hon. and right hon. Members have said, because it is most important that there should not be room for doubt.

Mr. Mulley

We are obliged for the hon. Gentleman's assurance that as far as he knows, the matter is quite clear, but that he will have another look at it. It is rather different to the previous discussion and the precedent of the form of words that had been unchallenged for seven years. I believe that this is the first time that the word "participate" is being construed in exactly the form that in this case is required. In view of the assurance of the Economic Secretary that before the Report stage he will look at the question and, if necessary, introduce an Amendment, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. S. Silverman

On a point of order. I do not know whether this is the proper way to raise the point, but I have been in the House for a number of years and I do not think I ever remember an occasion when we had proceedings on the Committee stage of the Finance Bill without a Law Officer being present.

The Deputy-Chairman

That is not a point of order. It has nothing to do with me.

Mr. Nally

Further to that point of order—

The Deputy-Chairman

There cannot be any "Further to that point of Order." It is not a point of order at all.

Mr. Ellis Smith

In view of our agreement on procedure, I do not propose to move the Amendment in page 4, line 5, leave out subsection (2). We will retain our right to speak on later Amendments.

Mr. H. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)

I beg to move, in page 4, line 10, after "capacity," to insert: or as a conductor, or member of an orchestra taking part together with other persons in the entertainment.

The Deputy-Chairman

There is a manuscript Amendment to be discussed together with this Amendment.

Mr. Rhodes

By this Amendment we seek a more generous definition of an amateur performance than the one contained in Section 10 of the Finance Act, 1949, and in the Clause. We welcome the amendments in the Clause as far as they go, but we contend that the provisions do not go far enough to cover the need of amateur dramatic and operatic societies throughout the country.

This is a more important matter than may at first sight appear. The Committee know full well the interest that was taken in the matter last year and the number of Members who spoke on it, and hon. Members cannot have been unaware of the interest taken in it in every constituency during the last 12 months.

The definition in the 1949 Act of an amateur performance says: For the purposes of this section an entertainment shall not be deemed to be an amateur one if any payment is made or reward given for the appearance of any of the performers whose words or actions constitute the entertainment or any part of it, or for any person's services in connection with the entertainment as instructor, producer, manager or conductor or in any advisory capacity. The improvement which is set out in the Clause reads: For the purposes of section ten of the Finance Act, 1949 (which exempts certain amateur theatrical and other entertainments from duty) an entertainment shall not be deemed not to be an amateur entertainment by reason only that any payment is made or reward given for the services of any person as instructor, producer, manager, or in any advisory capacity. It will be obvious to the Committee that the amateur dramatic societies who require the services of a paid conductor or paid orchestra are still deprived of these facilities.

The form of definition in the 1949 Act and in the Clause are the all-important factors. The definition determines the ease or difficulty that a society may have in obtaining exemption. We know that a society can, according to its constitution, claim exemption under one of the many forms laid down in various Acts, such as that contained in Section 12 of the Finance Act, 1916, which lays down that if the performance is purely educational and is attached to an institution such as a polytechnic, evening classes or something of that sort, exemption can be claimed on that account.

The other important form is in Section 8 of the Finance Act, 1946, which is partly educational and has as one of its conditions that the performance must be non-profit making. We know that that facility is granted to professionals as well as to amateurs, but it is not with that type of society or the one that I mentioned previously that I wish to deal: it is with that large number of societies which produce musical shows and need a paid conductor or a paid orchestra, or both.

Those societies exist in every constituency. They are working under almost impossible conditions owing to the strict limitations and definition and the consequential difficulty in obtaining exemption from tax. These societies come under the heading of societies, permanent bodies, with solely or partly charitable objects. They come under Section 6 (4) of the Finance Act, 1924, and this is the only form of exemption we know of. The working rules are contained in Notice 96 of the Customs and Excise Department.

Under the provisions of that Act the whole of the net proceeds must be devoted to charity and the net proceeds must exceed 20 per cent. of the gross takings. These societies are under a tremendous handicap. They have to think twice before putting on a musical show as they know full well they will have to work with whist drives, American teas and the rest to pay even the net amount they need in order to put the show on. I ask the Minister, is it revenue that prevents the Treasury from granting this very needed and small request? I do not see how that can be so because the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said in a speech on this matter during the Report stage last year: we are not perturbed by the financial implications of the proposal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th June, 1952; Vol. 502, c. 1122.] He went on to say that the cost to the revenue if the whole of this duty was remitted or the obligation to it was remitted would be in the region of £10,000. We know he has made some concessions in this Finance Bill through amateur dramatic societies in that producers are now allowed and managers are now allowed under the definition of an amateur performance. So it must follow, if these concessions mean anything at all, that the amount with which we are concerned at present must be something less than £10,000 a year.

It was contended during the last Finance Bill debates that the cost to the Treasury in collecting this sum of something like £10,000 would be equal to the amount they received. Therefore, if they claim that they have done something for amateur societies and yet at the same time say that the amount is still somewhere round about £10,000 the concession must be meaningless to dramatic societies.

8.30 p.m.

Does the hon. Gentleman believe that amateur performances compete with professional performances? I do not think anyone could possibly argue that they do. I am certain that the production of an amateur performance in a small town or village does not do any harm whatever to the livelihood of a professional actor, a professional singer, or a professional musician. It may be argued that the advent of the local amateur dramatic society in the local theatre or local hall might do some damage to shows put on in adjacent towns, but we know that is not so.

We know very well that all over the country when an amateur society puts on a show in a local theatre it often has difficulty in recruiting an orchestra of sufficient quality, even among the professionals available, to enable it to put on the performance. In any case, if the hon. Gentleman does believe that amateur performances compete with professionals, the professional musicians have a very good organisation in the Musicians' Union, which looks after their interests very well. Another safeguard which is quite conclusive is that the theatre managers associations insist that in all publicity for amateur societies the words "performance by amateurs" shall be billed.

Would the hon. Gentleman think that a paid orchestra might be the main part of the performance of a musical play? We must admit that the orchestra is a very important part of the performance put on by an amateur operatic society, but it is really an ancillary assistance. Those who perform in the orchestra are usually drawn from a wider field than those who constitute the society. Members of the society are local people who bring in their relatives. During the week of the performance there is no question that it is a town affair—I very nearly said "a family affair," which it is in many cases. It is a domestic effort. There is really no interest in the personalities of the people who comprise the orchestra. The only time they are mentioned or criticised is when the usual comment is made, that they are playing too loudly. That is as may be.

Does the Economic Secretary believe that there is no difference between payment to instrumentalists or to principal actors and singers taking part in a performance? There might be a little bit of substance in that point. Therefore, I plead with the Minister to think in terms of a concession. We are asking for indulgence in this matter, but above all else what we want is to exempt from duty the whole of the people who actually take part in plays or musical performance on the stage itself.

These people are interested in putting on a live performance. There is so much today which is against the putting on of a live performance. The Treasury has given assistance to the Arts Council for the furtherance of musical performances and shows of all description. Very often the accent has been in favour of London where the assistance is not needed so much as it is in the provinces. This is a matter which affects the social and cultural life of the people in the provinces more than it does the life of those who live in or visit London.

I earnestly plead with the Minister to find the means to excuse the payment of this small amount of money, a means whereby scores of thousands of people may be relieved of a very heavy burden. If he does that he will give happiness not only to the members of the amateur societies but also to the communities in which they exist.

Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)

In this matter of amateur performances and Entertainments Duty successive Chancellors of the Exchequer must have taken as their motto festina lente, because this problem has been before the country for many years. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne referred to the fact that in 1916 the first concession was given in Section 12 of the Finance (New Duties) Act of that year. There was a benefit granted to societies of educational establishments.

During the years that have followed further concessions have been made. In 1949 the Chancellor clarified the matter considerably by setting out the entertainments which could be considered as amateur entertainments, but unfortunately in that Act the definition of the word "amateur" was drawn too closely. Consequently, last year we tried to have it extended. We did not succeed, although I think that the Financial Secretary gave us some hope that this year something might be done. Of course, something has been done and we are grateful for that.

However, I am certain that the Chancellor did not intend to discriminate against amateur operatic societies in favour of amateur dramatic societies. When I spoke in the debate on the Second Reading I made that point because it seems out of keeping that there should be this discrimination against one form of amateur entertainment. No doubt, the Chancellor's thoughts are on other things.

I am glad to see that the Chancellor is with us again, because there was a time when his spirit traversed higher paths than the sordid avenues of finance. It is not more than eight years ago when he was the Minister who was responsible for our educational, spiritual and cultural development. Now, we begin to be worried about his own cultural development, because it seems to me that his vocabularly is becoming limited to such words as "pound sterling," "dollars" and "convertibility."

I would suggest to the Chancellor that he should put the problem of convertibility away for six months, then take it out, look at it, dust it and put it back again, because, if he does that, it will give him some time to let his thoughts soar to higher things, and will allow him to consider the problems of the amateur operatic societies of Saffron Walden, Kingston-upon-Thames and Barnet, not to mention the more important societies of Stalybridge, Hyde and Dukinfield. I am certain that no Chancellor would wish to discriminate against amateur operatic societies in favour of other organisations.

It cannot possibly be a question of finance, for the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, speaking on 17th June last year, said: … we are anxious to encourage these societies to the full, and we are not perturbed by the financial implications of the proposal. It is difficult to estimate what the amount would be; probably of the order of £10,000 a year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th June. 1952; Vol. 502, c. 1122.] I would call the attention of the Chancellor to those words— … we are anxious to encourage these societies to the full, I am sure that, if the Chancellor will look again at this Clause, he will agree that he is not encouraging to the full the amateur operatic societies, and these are the societies, even more than the dramatic societies, which need financial help, because their expenses are much greater.

Coming back to this question of finance, if last year the granting of the whole of the concessions for which we asked would have amounted to only £10,000, the concession which we are asking for this year must amount to much less. Therefore, it cannot be on purely financial grounds that the Treasury would resist this Amendment.

These societies, I think everyone will agree, are a most important feature in the civic life of so many of our towns, and particularly of our smaller towns, and it is important that everything should be done in order to encourage them. When speaking in last year's debate, I called attention to the fact that, in these days, we seem to be losing something which was very precious in the life of this country in the past. So many of our entertainments are being provided for us, by the wireless, television and so on, and it is valuable when we find people endeavouring to provide their own amusement, and it is important that they should be encouraged.

Therefore, I sincerely hope that, in this particular case, the Chancellor will look again at the wording of the Clause as it stands, will realise that he has discriminated rather unfairly against amateur operatic societies, and will do something to put that matter right.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Maudling

This Amendment has been dealt with in such interesting and engaging terms that I am sorry to have to reject it for reasons which I shall try to put before the Committee. I am quite sure hon. Members will believe me when I say that there is no intention on the part of my right hon. Friend to discriminate against amateur operatic societies, and I am certain that, while he would not necessarily agree with the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) about the relative importance of convertibility of the £ sterling and of operatic societies, he attributes to all that full measure of importance to which they are entitled in our modern society.

The Clause, as drawn, gives some considerable further extension to the amateur concession in the matter of Entertainments Duty, because it says: An entertainment shall not be deemed not to be an amateur entertainment by reason only that any payment is made or reward given for the services of any person as instructor, producer, manager, or in any advisory capacity. Instructors, managers, and producers can be employed and paid a fee, and that does not undermine the amateur status for tax purposes of the performance.

The real question of this Amendment is the question of the conductor and the orchestra. There are, of course, the charity provisions and the partly educational provisions, to which reference has been made, which allow amateur societies to enjoy this concession subject to certain limitations. The object of this Clause is to provide amateur societies with an opportunity to avail themselves of the tax concession without necessarily having to go through the rather cumbersome processes which apply to the charitable and partly educational concessions.

We have, therefore, made a move in the direction of extending the conces- sions, but I suggest to the Committee that there must be some limit. It is not only a matter of the revenue involved. The figure of £10,000 was quoted, and that would probably be a fair estimate of the amount involved. But this is surely a matter of principle. Where a concession is given to people putting on one type of entertainment and not given to people putting on a different type of entertainment, we must draw a line between the two. Of course, whenever a line is drawn in these taxation matters there is always bound to be a certain number of anomalies.

The principle on which we have worked is that it shall be an amateur performance if none of the people participating in the performance is paid. The principle in the case of the entertainment is really the same principle that we are seeking to apply in the case of sport. There are two categories of people concerned with entertainment and with sport. There are those who actually participate and those who are essential for the putting on of the entertainment or sport and without whom neither can be put on, though they do not actually participate.

In the case of a sport such as football there are the linesmen, the judge and the man who makes the football boots. All of them are necessary in order that the game can be put on, but they do not participate. We think there is a clear line of distinction between the two, and in the case of a stage performance there is a clear distinction between the people who participate—the actors, the performers, the orchestra, or the conductor— and the stage manager or producer without whose work the play cannot go on, but who do not participate in the show.

It seems to us that such a line can quite clearly be drawn. If all the people who participate in the performance are amateur, then it is an amateur performance, but if anyone participating is paid then the line is crossed and the amateur concession has to be lost. I am afraid the difficulty is that if one were to go over that line and admit, say, the conductor, the orchestra, or the leading singer and allowed them to be paid there would be no other dividing line which in principle could be established to distinguish an amateur from a professional performance.

I hope that I have explained the reasons which underlie the very reluctant unwillingness of the Government to accept the Amendment. The point is that a line must be drawn if a concession is to be given to amateur performances, and a definition of amateur performance must be established in this Bill. It is a question of whether one who is actually participating in an entertainment is paid or not, and I am afraid that a conductor or an orchestra participates in the entertainment. If we extend the concession to performances where the conductor or the orchestra is paid it will be impossible to make a distinction for practical purposes between amateur and professional performances.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

We on this side of the Committee are very disappointed with the reply of the Economic Secretary to the Treasury. We had hoped that, at long last, we would have had a concession from the Government. I would remind the Economic Secretary and the Chancellor that we have spent some hours on this Bill and that we have not yet had a single concession from the Government on the very reasonable Amendments which have been put forward from this side of the Committee. It occurred to us that here was an opportunity which the Chancellor might seize with both hands, and I am very sorry indeed that he has not seen fit to do so.

We realise that an advance has been made. This matter has proceeded by stages. Last year my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes) moved an Amendment which was then rejected in much the same terms as those in which this Amendment has been rejected by the Economic Secretary. We have had to wait a year and now the Chancellor has given us the concession for which we asked last year and which was then refused to us. If the Chancellor remains hard-hearted I can only express the hope that, when we come to the next Finance Bill and if—and it is a very big if—the Chancellor and the present Government are still in office, the right hon. Gentleman will include in that Bill the very Amendment which has been moved today.

We on this side of the Committee are anxious to get on to the next Clause of the Bill, but I thought it only proper to register, on behalf of my hon. Friends, our great disappointment that the Chancellor has not seen his way to accept the Amendment. It is a very modest Amendment. It will put conductors into the same class as managers, producers and instructors of ordinary dramatic performances. Most of us are music lovers and it seems to us a pity to penalise such things as a Gilbert and Sullivan production purely on the ground that the conductor who is an integral part of the performance must not be paid. Therefore, we hope that if he is still in office next year the Chancellor will see his way to do what he will not do tonight.

Mr. S. Silverman

I know how anxious the majority of the Committee are to get on to what they regard as a more important matter. Nevertheless, it would be a great pity if the Economic Secretary were allowed to get away with so flimsy an explanation of a totally unjustified refusal, such as the one which he has just given. If he had said that this country cannot afford this concession there might be something to be said for what he had to argue. But to say that we can well afford it, that it is not the money involved that worries the Government but a question of principle, and then to go on to explain that the only principle which he had in mind was the necessity to draw a line somewhere, and it did not matter where, was to treat the arguments put before him with frivolity.

How the hon. Gentleman expects us to understand his argument I do not know. He concedes that many young people who are engaged as amateurs in producing a play may employ and pay a skilled producer without losing the benefit of the concession, but he says that that is quite different from the case of the conductor of an orchestra. Why is it? How does one distinguish between the functions performed by a producer in producing a play and those of a conductor in putting on a musical performance with an orchestra?

Mr. J. T. Price

One is behind the scenes and the other is in front.

Mr. Silverman

We see one and not the other. Is the principle that because we do not see the producer he is not participating, and because we see the conductor he is? Suppose that some people want to produce an amateur play in a reasonable style, and they belong to a cultural centre where amateur dramatics are not the only line? There might also be people who like music. Some of them will spend a long time in training themselves to put on a workmanlike amateur play, and others in training themselves to put on a workmanlike orchestral show. The day comes when they want to show the results of their work in a public performance.

Every member who takes part in the play on the stage does it because he likes it; everybody who plays an instrument in the orchestra does it because he likes it. They are all in the same category. A professional producer has been engaged to make sure that those in the play make the best of their efforts. They are not penalised in any way, but if the musicians do the same thing by employing a professional conductor they are penalised—and the Government call that a principle.

I see no reason why my hon. Friends should not press their Amendment. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), who said he hoped the Government would make a concession if they were still in office next year, but I see no reason why we should wait until next year. The explanation offered by the Government is wholly unsatisfactory. It does not make sense to anyone with any knowledge of these matters. If the Government do not want to make a concession we ought to do all that we can to persuade them.

Mr. R. E. Winterbottom (Sheffield, Brightside)

I want to register what I believe will be the disappointment of nearly all the amateur dramatic and operatic societies at the reply given by the Government to this request. They will feel most indignant at the continuance of the anomalies which now exist in law in respect of Entertainments Duty as between some fully professional theatres and amateur dramatic and operatic societies.

At present, it is possible for certain professional theatres to get complete exemption from Entertainments Duty. I do not know in which year the provision was introduced. I imagine that it was in or about 1947. I know that the late Lord Keynes was at the Treasury at the time. Certain theatres are completely exempt from Entertainments Duty on the basis of their educational value. The educational value was originally attached to the play or to the performance, but it has since been given to the organisation producing the entertainment.

Under that arrangement it is possible for a fully professional theatre, with a fully professional orchestra, playing for its patrons, to receive complete exemption from Entertainments Duty. If we have that set-up under the Treasury at present, can we wonder that amateur operatic societies throughout the country, feeling it necessary to have an orchestra to supplement their efforts to bring some form of entertainment in their localities, are denied the same right?

In drawing a line of demarcation between the one who is off the stage and the one who is on the stage, the Economic Secretary is making a false analogy. There are professional theatres in this country receiving exemption from Entertainments Duty when they have fully professional orchestras. Under the Treasury ruling at present they are completely exempt from tax. I ask the Economic Secretary to review the situation and to see whether on the Report stage, he can find a better explanation than that which he has given tonight.

9.0 p.m.

Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

I must speak in support of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), although it is not often that I do so. It is perfectly clear from Section 10 of the 1949 Finance Act that a stage play, a ballet, a performance of music, whether vocal or instrumental, a lecture, recitation or an eisteddfod can be treated as exempt from Entertainments Duty provided that the Commissioners of Inland Revenue are satisfied that the event is not conducted or established for profit and the entertainment is an amateur one.

The difference between those who support the Amendment and the Economic Secretary is a matter of degree concerning where amateurism ends and where professionalism starts. I should have thought that no one exercising a modicum of common sense could possibly imagine that an amateur operatic society putting on a show, with four or five professional players in the orchestra pit, had thereby rendered the whole show professional.

I do not believe that the answer which the Economic Secretary gave was written by himself. I believe it was prepared in his Department, who want no more difficulties in administering the 1949 Finance Act than they have already. I hope the Economic Secretary and the Chancellor will be prepared to look at the matter again so that the Government may move an Amendment on the Report stage to put the matter right.

I can appreciate that the present Amendment may not be satisfactory, because I believe there would have to be some limit on the number of professionals performing in an orchestra which was playing for a show produced by an amateur operatic society. There may be administrative difficulties in deciding how many that should be, whether not more than half should be professional or, it may be, not more than one-third.

But I am convinced from my experience in my own constituency that if it is not made possible for professionals to perform with amateurs in some of these amateur orchestras, sooner or later we shall find a difficulty which may finally end in the amateur orchestra or dramatic society having to close down. Instrumentalists are in a class by themselves, because we may perfectly well be able to give a lot of enjoyment to people by insisting that all those playing in a football or cricket match must be amateurs, but that does not apply to instrumentalists, for it is not everybody who can play a French horn, whereas everybody can enjoy themselves on a football pitch.

I am no expert on the instruments used in a theatre orchestra, but I know there are some instruments that are very much more difficult to play than others, and that often one has to look far afield before finding people able to play them. Because one or two of them may have to be paid to take part the amateur status of the performance is to be killed altogether. I therefore hope that the Government will have another look at this matter. I should be quite willing to accept an assurance that the Amendment as it is is unworkable, but I cannot be- lieve that a way cannot be found to over* come the difficulty, and of putting a limitation on the number of professionals who may take part in an amateur performance without destroying its amateur status.

Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)

I wish to support the Amendment because I believe that operatic societies particularly do perform a very useful function today and are an integral part of the cultural life of the rural parts. I can speak only for Cornwall, which is my home county, where we have many amateur operatic societies who put on shows regularly and have a high standard of performance, and have reached such a standard now that it is necessary to engage some professionals. It is hoped that as the revenue derived from the duty on these performances is so small the Government will see whether' a concession can be made.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brightside (Mr. R. E. Winterbottom) drew attention to the fact that some professional people in theatres can get complete exemption from duty. We should also remember that Government grants are made to enable professional actors, and so on, to get salaries in that way. To that we have no objection whatever. Amateur operatic societies are meeting great difficulties today because of rising costs, and I repeat that they fulfil an extremely useful function in rural communities.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I do not wish to detain the Committee because I think it is rather important that we should come to the main debate on these matters. This matter is very confusing, because there is a feeling about conductors, but the difficulty in which we have been, in considering this even before the debate, is that conductors and orchestral musicians, for example, are part of the actual performance, and once we permit payment to performers it is almost impossible to draw a line reasonably so as to include some paid performers and not others.

I honestly think that the best thing the Committee can do is to come to a decision on this matter now. If people feel so strongly about it that they think they must have a vote, we had better have a vote and settle it. That would be the best way. I cannot give an undertaking that I can find the solution before the Report stage. I should be deluding hon. Members if I told them there was an easy way out. We considered this question fully before the Committee stage. I will undertake to study the speeches that have been made, and that I know have been made sincerely. I have listened to the debate more than, perhaps, is realised, because I have been wandering about the Chamber for some time, and I know what has been going on. However, I would advise the Committee to come to a decision on this matter and leave it at this stage, because I am afraid I cannot give way tonight, because I am at present advised there is no way through the problem.

Mr. J. T. Price

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise the implications of this attitude he has conveyed to the Committee? Many of the most eminent and distinguished choirs, both male voice choirs and mixed voice choirs, are entirely amateur in composition with the exception of a professional conductor engaged by those bodies. I do not wish to enumerate particular choirs, but I should say that half a dozen of the most famous choirs, constantly winning awards, are in that position. It seems to me utterly nonsensical, if I may say so with respect to the Chancellor, that because of one particular individual the combined efforts of the many amateur performers should be outside the concession, and that is

something which needs his further attention.

Mr. Butler

In the short interval which I took out of the Chamber from this debate it was precisely the position of these choirs that I was examining, and the position of the choirs is easier than that of orchestras. The difficulty is that I cannot find a solution suitable for both.

Mr. Gaitskell

My hon. Friends have put forward a very powerful case in favour of this Amendment, or at least in favour of the substance of the Amendment, and they have been admirably supported by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke). I do not feel that the Government's reply was very convincing. It is true that we have to draw a line in these matters, but frankly it seems to us that the line is drawn in the wrong place.

This is clearly a matter which concerns a large number of people. We are not asking for any evasion; we are asking that these musical and operatic societies should be given the same sort of concession as the Chancellor clearly intends to give to amateur athletic societies, and in view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply I feel that there is nothing else for us to do but to divide the Committee.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 268; Noes, 272.

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

Sir Harold Roper (Cornwall, North)

I do not wish to detain the Committee, but I want to say that there is one form of entertainment which will be helped by this Clause, and that is the village gymkhana. It is an amateur sport and it is not ordinarily conducted for profit. Therefore, it is a sport which is covered by this Clause. In some cases any surplus revenue from these gymkhanas is devoted to charitable purposes and in my constituency, in one instance, it went towards meeting the cost of a children's Christmas tree. There is no question of commercial gain, but I am not sure what is the definition of the term "profit."

I should be grateful to my right hon. Friend if he will confirm that such a gymkhana will not be debarred from the benefits of this Clause by reason of any surplus funds being used for such purposes. If there is any doubt about it will he look at it again and bring in a suitable Amendment on the Report stage.

Lieut-Colonel Lipton

The meagre majority of four which the Government have just obtained on the last Amendment will no doubt be a powerful inducement to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give practical effect to the undertaking which he gave to the Committee to look at the position of amateur theatrical societies. I want to put one simple, brief and practical suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman which I hope will get him out of his difficulty.

I must declare an interest because I happen to be the president of an amateur operatic society. I suggest that in the case of an amateur operatic society of the kind with which I am associated, which puts on one performance of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera every year, it would be simple for the Chancellor to say that so long as all the performers appearing on the stage are amateurs, the can give us the concession we seek, namely, that in the case of such a performance, even though the orchestra and the conductor are paid, it does not derogate from the amateur status of the performance because the performance on the stage is all done by amateurs.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will keep that possibility in mind when, as is the expectation of all of us, he is able to tell us on the Report stage that he will make the concession we seek.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.