§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
I beg to move, in page 4, line 24, after "Cricket," to insert "and football."
If hon. Members are true to their constituencies today, the Government are now risking defeat on this question. Yesterday they narrowly escaped defeat by four votes, and today, if we have the loyal support of the Liberal Party, as we should have, and the support of the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) and of the Members for Edinburgh constituencies—because the Rangers, Glasgow Celtic, the Hibernians and other clubs are keenly interested in this matter—the Government may be defeated. Hon. Members representing large industrial areas in England also should support us on this Amendment.
As the Government are in great danger of defeat, I hope they will consider this matter, because it is rather too near the Coronation for any change to take place. Therefore, I want to avoid striking any controversial note this afternoon, and I hope the Committee will consider the matter as a non-controversial issue. Yesterday afternoon I stood with my back to the Central Hall admiring the very fine work that was being done by the workmen. While I stood there a beautiful big car rolled up, driven by a well-dressed, smart-looking chauffeur. A gentleman in the back of the car, who had been leaning back and relaxing, got out, the police saluted him and another man helped him get out the car. The gentleman was the Leader of the House.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)
I do not know why I have been dragged into this. I hope the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that I was going to play football in the Abbey.
§ Mr. Smith
No, but wherever I go I try to draw the lessons from what I see. Fundamentally the issue behind this Amendment is this: are we all to be parts of a machine, carried about in a machine, or are we determined to remain fit men? I propose to produce evidence on a matter in which the Chancellor takes a personal interest. My hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater), Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) and myself have received our instructions on how we must speak. I wish to quote from a letter which was sent to us by the Stoke City Football Club. It is true that, for the time being, we are in the second division, but we have produced the greatest outside right that this country has seen for many years.
The letter says:At a meeting of my Directors on Thursday last, the recent Budget proposals were discussed, and as suggested by the Football Association, it was agreed to ask you and your colleagues to raise the matter in the House when the Finance Bill in respect of Entertainments Duty is being discussed.I believe that had there been more time, the Members for Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stockport and Blackpool would have received communications. Incidentally, where are the Blackpool Members? Surely we are entitled to call upon these Members to support this Amendment.
I want to produce evidence which will convince the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove that he should use his influence in support of this Amendment. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about football finance and management. The Football Association regulations stipulate that the maximum dividend payable in respect of any one year should be 7½ per cent. The workers would be more satisfied if that applied to the whole of industry. The same regulations apply to preference shares, mortgages and loans.
Twenty years ago Manchester United were down and out, and were saved by a public-spirited and respected man who put £40,000 into the club. In the last few years of his life that man lived to provide the people of that area with the best possible sport. Although he was a very rich man, his riches counted for very little compared with the delight he received from seeing 50,000 workmen and women from Trafford Park and the large industrial area of Manchester enjoying themselves on Saturday afternoons.
2091 The directors are not allowed to receive any remuneration. Most of them are public-spirited gentlemen, in the best sense of the word. Mr. Gibson—to whom I have referred—Mr. Henshall and others I could mention lived just for the joy of the game and the encouragement it gave to young people by providing them with real relaxation and joy on Saturday afternoons. We all get some satisfaction from seeing thousands of people, every Saturday afternoon, deriving great relaxation and enjoyment from this very fine game.
If the Chancellor accepts my line of reasoning, why does he propose this discrimination against football on this occasion? He used to be president of a football supporters' club. If that club organise a match to finance playing fields for the Playing Fields Association or for club or benefit funds, and in order to increase the attendance they engage a professional for the afternoon, how will they be affected by this proposed discrimination?
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. R. A. Butler)
I attended this club's annual dinner about a fortnight ago. They were gratified to know that under the terms of this Bill amateur sport is exempted from tax. They were very pleased with what I proposed and unwittingly they were very pleased with me.
§ Mr. Smith
That is good as far as it goes, but let us pursue the matter a little further. Let us suppose that this club, of which the Chancellor is still the president—I did not know he was still president; he must have received no remuneration or he would have had to give up his presidency when he became a Cabinet Minister—engaged a professional for a certain game. How will this Bill apply to them?
The Chancellor knows—because he has been following my point—that in order to attract large numbers of people to the game many clubs bring along some outstanding professional. According to my reading of the Bill, they will not be exempt from tax. I have before me a letter from the Kent County Football Association, and I hope that all hon. Members who represent Kent constituencies will have regard to this extract, which urges that they 2092… should bring the greatest possible pressure to bear on the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the forthcoming committee stage of the Finance Bill in the House of Commons to extend to all football clubs and similar non-profit making sports organisations the exemption from Entertainments Duty which he has already granted to Cricket in its entirety as well as to amateur football and other amateur sports.The reason they feel very strongly about this matter is because of the evidence which I shall produce later on.
The official view of the Football Association is given in this extract from one of their documents:These concessions"—meaning the proposed concessions for cricket—are patently unfair for they not only discriminate as between one sport and another, but, as in the case of Association football, there is further discrimination within the sport itself. The Football Association has an equal responsibility to both amateur and professional football, and naturally it welcomes Tax concessions which might benefit any of its members. In this case, however, it must point out that there are many professional clubs whose financial position is far less favourable than a number of amateur clubs which may benefit by the concessions. It should be remembered, too, that even these concessions as they affect amateur clubs are not as valuable as they may appear as they only apply where admission charges are more than 1s., and only a few clubs charge more than 1s. and then, usually, for seats in the stands.But, in addition to the Entertainment Tax remaining to be paid by the professional clubs, the Treasury receives more than £20.000 a week from the Football Pools without any return to the clubs whose matches are so used.Here is the official view of the Football League:The League Competition has always had as its aim the provision of football matches of the highest possible standard to the public, as cheap as possible…. As a result of this steep rise in costs, the majority of clubs are now finding it increasingly difficult to pay their way, particularly having regard to the fact that attendances since 1948 have shown a gradual decline. The season just ended shows a decline of 2 million spectators compared with the previous season.I shall risk incurring the wrath of my hon. Friends by saying that if the Chancellor will give an undertaking that during the next 12 months he will treat football as he treated cricket in the last Finance Bill debates, we shall consider withdrawing this Amendment. If not, it should result in the defeat of the Government.
2093 I should like to have the Chancellor's replies to the questions I am now going to ask him. One Saturday night I was travelling home from Euston to Manchester, returning from the Arsenal-Blackpool match. On the way I met a respected and rich man from Manchester. He had been to Twickenham. The game to which I had been would be taxed under the Chancellor's proposals, while the rich man's game would be exempt. This is discrimination of the worst kind. An international match played at Twickenham under the auspices of the Rugby Union is exempt from tax because the players are amateurs, but an international match played at Wembley or Hampden Park—we must bring in our Scots friends—under the auspices of the English or Scottish Football Association will receive no such concession. It is difficult to see any valid reason for this discrimination. The Cup Final at Wembley is the game of the people.
Here are two or three further points made by the Football Association:Entertainments Duty was first levied on Association football in 1916. The then Chancellor of the Exchequer assured the Football Association that this was only an emergency measure, and he asked the Football Association to enlist the support of the clubs to carry it into effect. Now that the present Chancellor is in a position to lift this burden on sports organisations he is discriminating between clubs that employ professional players and those restricted to amateur players.I should like the Chancellor to give us answers to these questions. In spite of all the talk about amateurs benefiting by exemption from the duty, the only benefit, according to our reading of the situation, is where admission charges are more than 1s., and I think few amateur clubs charge more than 1s., and then usually for seats in the stands. If that is correct, does it mean this? A man who travels in a bus in an industrial area to watch a football match pays 1s. in tax, while a man who travels in his own motor car, and who has had his car tax reduced, and who pays over 1s. to watch an amateur game, pays no tax. Is that discrimination? [An HON. MEMBER: "He pays Petrol Duty."] And so does the man on the bus pay Petrol Duty.
Here is a concrete anomaly. There are 800 amateur Association football clubs in Kent. Let me remind all hon. Members from Kent that there is little industry in 2094 Kent; but a few people live there. Many of them have retired, but a few others work in the mines in the Dover area, some in transport and many in agriculture. The result is that even they require sport and relaxation in that area. There are not enough people, however, to keep the clubs going, and so the 800 clubs remain amateur. To assist the clubs in Kent each Easter two professional clubs play a game to raise funds for the amateur clubs. How will that game for those clubs be affected by this restriction? Already, according to correspondence I have received, they are in very serious difficulties because they are already in that area being charged the duty to too great an extent. Therefore, I hope that that may be looked into.
Professional cricketers receive benefits of anything between £1,000 and £14,000. They do not pay a penny in tax. Does the Economic Secretary doubt that? I would remind him that although we have admired Washbrook as much as anybody, and have played our part in our area in giving him that very fine benefit of £14,000, there are great footballers who have played as great a part in national sport and who also deserve reward. The average professional footballer's life as a professional is eight years. He can receive benefit of about £800, and he must pay tax on it. Now the Chancellor is carrying this kind of discrimination a step further, for under this Bill more discrimination is introduced. Cricket can provide sport for six hours a day and pay no tax, while football provides an hour and a half of sport and pays tax. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will reconsider this matter.
We are all concerned about the development of our mechanical life. It is realised by all public-spirited people that we want to encourage people to keep as fit as they possibly can. The Duke of Edinburgh spends much of his time flying about the country appealing to organisations to raise funds in support of the National Playing Fields Association. There is no section of the community that contributes more to the development of the youth of this country than the professional footballers and the Football Association. There is no section of the 2095 community encouraging more the education authorities and our young people, the boys and girls of the working class in particular, to take an interest in the need for the development of their physique.
Instead of discouraging them, as we are by this Bill, we ought to be encouraging them to go ahead with this kind of work. The Chancellor stresses that this is an inventive Budget. We want him to remain consistent and apply the same incentives to the encouragement of football and of the development of the physique of our people.
§ The Chairman
I would respectfully remind the Committee that I know that there are 15 hon. Members on the Opposition side alone who want to speak to this Amendment, and that it will facilitate all taking part in the debate if speeches are kept reasonably short.
§ Mr. W. G. Bennett (Glasgow, Woodside)
Notwithstanding what the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) has said, Glasgow is the centre and hub of football. It is our national game in Scotland. I, personally, cannot understand why one particular ball game ought to have preference over others. If it is true to say that cricket is the national game in England, it is also true to say that football is the national game in Scotland. On a Saturday we have in Glasgow a minimum of 100,000 people, and very often 200,000, watching first-class games alone. We have hundreds of clubs, and it is the ambition of the boys in the elementary schools some day to play for one of the first-class clubs. We do our very best to encourage that in the elementary schools. Anything which will embarrass the larger clubs will put a check on that development.
There is a feeling that there is plenty of money in football. It is quite true that there are a number of first-class clubs that have money to spare and that are wealthy, but three out of every four of the professional clubs are practically bankrupt at this time and are living on bank overdrafts or wealthy directors. Occasionally they have to sell players. Scotland exports to England in this respect. Perhaps for that reason it is a good thing we keep our football going.
I cannot see why in the world cricket is regarded as the national sport in 2096 England. The Chancellor of the Exchequer described it in these words:Cricket occupies a special place among sports, not only as forming part of the English tradition but as a common interest helping to bind together the various countries of the Commonwealth."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 14th April, 1953; Vol. 514, c. 55.]There is no foreign country that plays cricket; some of the Commonwealth countries do; but they all play football.
At the moment we are trying to encourage international relations. Surely it would be better to encourage the national game of football rather than to build up cricket, which merely gives a sun tan and provides a social oasis of from five to six hours for 1s. 6d. or 2s. If there is to be preferential treatment, it should be the other way round. We ought not to tax the one which gives three times as much value. The majority in Scotland will feel a sense of injustice if only cricket is exempted from the tax.
There seems to be a form of isolation in trying to engender the cricket spirit, because we know that overseas it is not popular. Football was played much farther back in the history of Scotland than cricket. It dates back to A.D. 700. I ask the Chancellor to look at it again from every angle, including that of equity and fair play. There is not much money in it. If it costs £36,000 per annum to give the cricketers what they are asking and £1,500,000 to give the footballer fair play, obviously there are more footballers and they have, therefore, a bigger claim on the Chancellor which he ought to consider.
§ Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)
Last night we discussed this question in general terms and many references were made to football. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) said we were seeking certain preferential treatment for sports spectators and that as we must pay for the Welfare State, if we press our Amendment we should bear in mind alternative sources of revenue. That argument could also apply to people who support cricket. We are arguing that it is unfair to discriminate and that, if there is to be any relief, it should be generally applied to all sports. I am certain that is the view of my hon. Friends, and that is why each one of us in his own way has already pressed for reliefs for certain sports.
2097 I want to argue the case for football, not only Association Football but also that fine game which is played in the North, Rugby League. One hon. Gentleman opposite last night made a rather priggish speech about football followers, referring to the mass hysteria of football matches. I prefer mass hysteria over Stanley Matthews to that over a demagogic political leader, and that is the lesson of our games in this country. They are a healthy outlet. While it could be argued that in these days of television we are becoming passive watchers of a machine, we must never forget that there are far more people playing games than ever before.
It is wrong to assume that because of the influence of the radio and television there is less playing of the many games which are peculiar to our country. I play many games, but I also like to watch them, and the criticism which came from the hon. Gentleman last night on this issue is answered by the fact that if one watches games one invariably tries to encourage young people to play those games. The success of a good professional Soccer or Rugby club in an area is often an inspiration to the schoolboy who watches that game and seeks, on the school playing field, to emulate his favourite. I believe that if we encourage the professional clubs their influence is felt on all games played, right down to the school level.
I appreciate the argument of the hon. Member for Woodside (Mr. W. G. Bennett) that it is wrong to pick out cricket and to argue that it is the traditional English game. That was answered fully by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) in moving the general Amendment last night. He argued that in England football has an old history and, more than that, that it is a traditional game. It is wrong to argue the merits of one game as against another. Cricket is a traditional game, Soccer is a traditional game. Rugby League in the North is also a traditional game. Often cricket spectators in the summer are football spectators in the winter, often cricket players are football players, and so it is wrong to put one game against the other as the Chancellor has done. We are asking that there shall be no discrimination.
2098 The other main argument concerns the giving of exemptions for amateur clubs, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) has argued, the minor professional clubs have been hard hit and I regard these as the backbone of our football organisation throughout the country. I was born in the County of Durham where football is virtually a religion, and there the minor clubs in the eastern part of the county who employ professionals are the very inspiration of the game. They are facing great difficulties. While that does not apply to the Arsenals, the Newcastles and the Blackpools, it does apply to our third division and minor clubs. In my constituency there is a club which has been in the third division for two years. Their administrative costs have increased and if no relief is given they will face great difficulties in the seasons ahead.
Why should we make any differentiation between a rich amateur club and a smaller professional club which is struggling? If we do, we shall have the absurd position in the F.A. Cup competition next year that in the early round of that competition two amateur clubs may be playing against each other, while a few miles away a minor professional club will be playing against an amateur club. Where can we make the distinction? It is absurd when looked at from that point of view.
Rugby League is a traditional game in Lancashire, in Yorkshire and in Cumberland. In my own constituency we have a good Rugby League side which has achieved distinction. Rugby League clubs are facing tremendous difficulties, and I have been informed that three important ones will not function next season unless they are subsidised by their parent organisation.
I know that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has had a memorandum from the Rugby League organisation. The Rugby Football League argued their main case on five grounds. One, in an endeavour to maintain income clubs have been forced to raise their admission charges; two, that this has led to a reduction in attendances; three, the benefit derived by the Treasury is small compared with the clubs' loss of income; four, many clubs were not financially stable even before the increased Entertainments Duty was imposed, and, five, that it will lead to a possible reduction 2099 in the assistance for schoolboy and amateur football.
That case has been presented to the Treasury in great detail, backed up by statistical evidence from each club. The costs of Rugby League administration since 1946 have increased by 100 per cent., so that many clubs are facing great administrative difficulties. If no exemption is made, I am afraid that not only will the professional Rugby League club, like the professional Soccer club, feel the hardship, but other organisations of an amateur character, and other ancillary football organisations which are helped financially by these clubs will suffer accordingly.
It has been stressed that the Rugby League, the Football League and the Football Association give generous support to the National Playing Fields Association. I used to be a member of the executive of that organisation, and I know that their campaign for increasing the development of playing fields for all our children has been helped by the Rugby League, by the Football League and by the Football Association. In the end, that real help is actually given by each individual club. So if we are anxious to support that very important organisation, which has sought for many years to develop playing fields for our children, it is vital that we should give that necessary support to each individual football organisation.
There is one other important argument. The Chancellor stressed in his need to discriminate in favour of cricket the Commonwealth aspect. I would remind the Chancellor that the Rugby League also has branches in the Commonwealth. We have touring sides which go to New Zealand and Australia. In fact, in Australia the Rugby League attracts better gates than cricket. At Sydney, which is a great rugby centre, when a British side plays there approximately 70,000 spectators attend. Rugby League has Commonwealth links, whilst Association Football has worldwide links. Thus the argument of the Chancellor simply does not hold on the Commonwealth question. It is unfair to make a discrimination and use that argument.
In the Chancellor's speech and the definition which he applies to the question of amateurism, he argues that 2100 we should consider the purpose of the clubs and organisations concerned. It is wrong to assume that the Football Association and the Rugby League are profit-making organisations. It is wrong to assume that the vast majority of football clubs, whether concerned with the Rugby League or soccer, are there to make profits. In nearly every case the dividends or profits made during a successful season are ploughed back into the game itself, either for improvements in the game, or extra ground, in fixtures, or improvements in grants to schoolboy organisations.
So I appeal to the Chancellor to reconsider this matter and to bear in mind that it is wrong to make a discrimination. He should look at this matter again. I hope that he will because I am certain that if no assurance is given we shall divide the Committee on this Amendment.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Reading, North)
I shall undertake, Sir Charles, not to give cause for grumbling on account of the length of my speech. I failed to understand the indignation of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) and of other hon. Members on the ground of discrimination in Entertainments Duty. We have discrimination in taxes throughout the whole range of our fiscal policy and it seems to me extraordinary that we should get so excited about discrimination in Entertainments Duty when we do not get excited about discrimination in Purchase Tax or other taxes on various types of products.
The only point I wish to make is whether discrimination is based on fair and reasonable grounds. It is on that one point that I wish to address two or three remarks to the Committee. I do not place a great deal of stock on what the Chancellor said about cricket being a traditional game or on the Commonwealth aspect of it. Surely the only test to apply is, first, whether the tax is worth collecting and, second, whether if we go on collecting it is it going to bring an end to that industry, sport or enterprise whatever it may be. I believe that the Chancellor has produced convincing figures to show that cricket simply cannot 2101 stand the tax and that it is not worth collecting because of the small amount.
The only thing I should therefore like him to consider is whether he would apply the same discrimination test of whether it is worth while collecting the tax and whether the game can stand it or not to the small third division football clubs. I believe that the wealthy football clubs might stand the tax, but I also believe on the same ground as I have outlined, which I think is a fair one for discrimination, that he should apply that test and the same method of judgment to these third division clubs, the figures of whose losses are to my mind equally convincing as those of cricket clubs.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
I cannot allow to pass the remark of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) who said that he had no sympathy with clubs like the Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion. I can understand that because, having visited West Bromwich once, he has since retired to the more comforting district, for him, of Kidderminster. It is not sympathy that clubs such as Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion want—they want justice.
I should like to support the argument of my hon. Friends the Members for Workington (Mr. Peart) and Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) in saying that these clubs do not pay vast dividends. There really is in the minds of hon. Members opposite and of some people in the country a quite wrong conception if they think that all these clubs pay big dividends and make vast profits for directors and others. They do nothing of the kind. It cannot be too often repeated that this is a fact.
I do not want to say anything more about the clubs, but I do want to say a word about the spectators. In spite of what an hon. Member opposite said yesterday, it is not yet a crime to watch a football match, and the spectators should not be treated as criminals but as people who need some help. In West Bromwich —and the same applies to many other places—people are not so well off as they were a year or two ago. People are not working overtime, they are working short time, and they have not as much money to spend on going to football matches or, indeed, on many other things.
I plead with the Chancellor not only to think about the football clubs and the 2102 benefits that may or may not be brought to the clubs, but to think of what it means to the spectators, many of whom earn very little money and for many of whom football is their one great pleasure of the week. There is no reason why they should not have that pleasure; it is a harmless pleasure, and one that may well do them good. I hope that for their sake, as well as for the sake of the football clubs, the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider his decision and grant a reduction.
§ Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)
There was a great deal of force in the arguments eloquently put forward by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith). Although his political home may be in Stoke-on-Trent, I believe his football home is in Manchester. It is right that something should be said by someone who comes from the county of Lancashire which, although it may not be the first home of football, certainly provides its finest exponents at the present time.
I cannot help feeling that if it is right to exempt cricket clubs from Entertainments Duty because they find it hard to make both ends meet—I am sure we all agree with the Chancellor's action in doing that—the argument applies with equal force to football. Although most first division clubs may be doing reasonably well, I know that third division clubs and small professional clubs which are not in any of the three main divisions of the Football League are doing extremely badly and finding it very hard to make both ends meet.
My right hon. Friend has been able to say that he can afford to forgo the revenue from Entertainments Duty on cricket matches because it is very small, but he cannot forgo it in the case of football matches because then it is relatively large. That is not a very fair argument to football clubs. Why should they be penalised because they provide a more popular entertainment than cricket? Furthermore, football clubs make a very great indirect contribution to the Treasury through the medium of the football pools, which would not exist if it were not for the football clubs.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) said, quite rightly, that those who advocate the 2103 abolition of Entertainments Duty on football matches should be prepared to make a suggestion for raising the revenue from some other source. He asked whether anyone would go so far as to suggest that it could be raised by means of increased tax on the football pools. I believe there is a great deal in that suggestion. The football pool promoters can well stand it. Even if they cannot and they pass it on by reducing the dividends, the people who win will not grouse a great deal if they get a little less because some has been taken in tax, and those who lose—and they are the great majority of the customers—will not be affected in any way at all. I urge my right hon. Friend to look into the suggestion, for it is a good one.
I honestly believe that Entertainments Duty is one of the least objectionable forms of taxation. It is certainly less objectionable than Purchase Tax on necessities. However, like everyone else, I want to see all forms of taxation reduced and I welcome any step along that road. I realise that my right hon. Friend cannot reduce all taxes at once, and it says a great deal for the policy of Her Majesty's Government that he has been able to go as far as he has, and although I would not press him at present to bring football into line with cricket this year, I support the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South in the hope that my right hon. Friend will at least be able to give the Committee the assurance that he will do his best to give some help to the professional football clubs in his next Budget.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
We are all agreed that Entertainments Duty has been a very obnoxious tax from the beginning in 1916. For 37 years the working people, not only those who attend football matches but also those who go to cinemas and other places of amusement, have felt very keenly the levying of Entertainments Duty. No other tax has caused so much controversy and opposition since the days of John Hampden, when the Window Tax was applied.
I know that many pleas are put to the Chancellor and that it is difficult for him to respond to them all. I know that before and since his Budget representations have been made to him to concede this on the one hand and that on the other, and no doubt he has a headache, and maybe a heartache, as to what is the 2104 best thing to do. However, on this occasion we have at least a case for the sporting world, which plays a very important part in providing relaxation, particularly in the industrial areas.
I want to put a plea to the Chancellor on behalf of the Rugby League. Rugby is not my favourite game—cricket and Soccer are my favourites—but I represent a part of Lancashire which has some very famous rugger teams, such as Wigan, St. Helens, Warrington and Bellvue Rangers. Many of these teams have found it very difficult over the last few years to remain in existence. Doncaster, Bellvue Rangers and Liverpool Stanley have been heavily subsidised by the Rugby League Association during the last few years, having found it extremely difficult to keep themselves in existence because of the incidence of taxation upon admission charges.
The Rugby League consists of 30 clubs in the three most important counties of the country, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumberland. Rugby is a week-end sport. To a miner, particularly at week-ends, rugby is almost as good as his tobacco when he is working in the pit; he likes the enjoyment of watching a rugby match every week-end. Much has been said during the Committee stage about amateurs and professionals. There are some professional rugby footballers in all the teams in the Rugby League, but there is a vast difference between the professional in Rugby League and the professional in soccer or cricket. Many of the professionals in Rugby League are drawn from the pits; they play in the forward line; they play as professional rugby footballers on Saturday afternoon but they produce coal five days of the week.
I contend that Rugby League games, along with the other football games, should be exempt from Entertainments Duty. One of the factors which caused me to speak on this important point is that not only do the clubs create relaxation for the industrial workers in those three counties, but they also provide the wherewithal to produce the younger players who will in time play for the clubs, and that is a very important matter.
The Rugby League Association assists many amateur and schoolboy clubs. They assist them in every conceivable 2105 way in the form of large grants which they make for purchasing ground for playing fields and paying the rent of fields used; and it is estimated that the Rugby League assist over 20,000 young men to participate in the game of rugby in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumberland. When a League of that character, with these ambitions and this programme, is playing a very important part in the communal and national life of sport, then I say it should be within the realm of possibility for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to wipe out completely the Entertainments Duty on sport, and he should do it at once.
For 37 years this Entertainments Duty has been paid. For 37 years there have been growls and grumbles about it. and I say it is about time that we took a definite step in the direction of wiping out once and for all the Entertainments Duty which is so obnoxious to the sporting world, and also in the field of entertainment, such as theatres and cinemas. I beg of the Chancellor to respond to the very modest request contained in our Amendment.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North)
I recognise the need for brevity on this occasion, but what we are talking about is the life and death of some of the clubs, particularly in the third division, and I feel that if the Chancellor were able to institute an inquiry into the financial circumstances, particularly of the clubs in the third division, he would find that many of them are in a very serious plight indeed. I am a kind of amateur footballer, but very much in the past, and I appreciate the action of the Chancellor in helping the amateur football clubs. On the other hand, I am most anxious, if possible, that unfair treatment should not be meted out to professional clubs as against amateur clubs in regard to Entertainments Duty.
In my own constituency—and I think it is inevitable that we should all discuss our own particular constituency in this matter—there is the famous football club of Crystal Palace. Crystal Palace have had a very difficult fight, particularly during the last few years, to keep away from the bottom of the third division, so I think it is worth five or ten minutes of the time of the Committee to refer to that particular club.
2106 I understand that the Entertainments Duty on Association football was first levied in 1916, when the Chancellor of that time said that he was only bringing it in as an emergency measure. Since then, of course, all the clubs have cooperated in the free collection of the duty, and now that the Chancellor has reached the position of being able to lift some of this burden, it would appear that he has discriminated as between amateur and professional football clubs.
Like everyone else I am wondering about this suggestion of discrimination. There is a definite feeling that the Chancellor has broken faith with the promise that was made to the F.A. as far back as 1916, because relief, when it came, should have been of a general character. There have been 37 years of a so-called emergency duty. As has already been mentioned, the Chancellor has got a benefit of some £20,000 a week from the tax on the betting pools, which is, of course, a direct result of the efforts of the professional teams on whose behalf we are speaking this afternoon, and of whom Crystal Palace are one.
Unfortunately, many professional clubs are showing considerable trading losses each year and, as has been rightly suggested, those losses are made up by the directors of the clubs or by other supporters who may come to their assistance. There cannot be any dispute at all that the duty or the higher price of admission resulting from the paying of the duty has had a tendency to reduce the attendances at these matches where money is any sort of a controlling factor. In fact, when football matches are played there is always some duty to go to the Treasury, but often that match may result in a financial loss to the club concerned.
I am distressed to learn that the present board of Crystal Palace Football Club are involved to the extent of £80,000. This liability is entirely incurred because of their sporting instincts without any hope at all of gain to the people concerned. Furthermore, Crystal Palace, like other clubs, gives pleasure and enjoyment to the people locally who need and rightly earn the relaxation which is provided.
I feel that if only the Chancellor would treat the professional clubs the same as the amateur clubs larger attendances must be forthcoming. The clubs could then 2107 try to get on to their feet again, so that if that cannot be done at an early date for all professional clubs it could be done, as has been suggested, with third division clubs for a start. In many cases the prices would be lower, and the attendances at matches would increase so that the whole atmosphere generally would be improved.
Finally—and I have been rather quick —I remember that last year my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) made a most impassionate plea on behalf of amateur football clubs, and in as much as he was appealing to the Chancellor as the president of one of these amateur football clubs he was on a good wicket from the start. He appealed very strongly for the amateur club obviously, at that time, bearing in mind Wimbledon. That appeal has been successful in this Budget, and I only make the point that if there were a strong enough approach to the Chancellor on this occasion it may well be that he would consider meeting this problem, if not before then, certainly in the next Budget.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Is the hon. Member not aware that the matter is now no longer in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer but in those of his hon. Friends and himself who have spoken so fervently in favour of the Amendment, because, if they vote with us in the Lobby tonight, sport will be saved and the duty will be lost?
§ Mr. Harris
We on this side of the Committee are very reasonable people. Once we have stated our case we know that it will get very sympathetic consideration.
Miss Elaine Barton (Coventry, South)
I am very glad to have the chance of supporting this Amendment. I have played most games, but football is not one of them. I do not think that football is a game which necessarily shows a woman off to the best advantage. However, what I wanted to say to the Financial Secretary was this. As he knows, the Finance Act, 1952, imposed an increase of Entertainments Duty of slightly more than 100 per cent. as from 13th September, 1952, and I should just like to give him these two concrete examples. When Coventry City played Swindon Town on 23rd August, 1952, the duty that they 2108 paid on a gross "gate" of £2,017 was £210. When Coventry City played Aldershot on 27th December, 1952, the duty then paid on a gross "gate" of £1,932 was £410. This increase in duty places professional football clubs in a real dilemma.
I wonder whether the Financial Secretary is aware that the average club in most divisions of the Football League in previous seasons had earned an operating profit of less than the increase in the Entertainments Duty which faced them in the ensuing season. I hope that information has been given to him because it is quite correct, and, as a result of that, a large proportion of the increased duty had to be added to the admission charges.
Last night the Chancellor was kind enough to mention some remarks of mine last year about cricket and amateur sport, and I was particularly interested in the statement that the Chancellor made. I have been to the Library to look at that statement, and I think this is a fair quotation. He said that according to the information he had received if he had levied a tax on cricket it would have been impossible for this national game and the clubs concerned to live. There are two points the Chancellor has had to consider here. The first one must, naturally, be how much money he can afford to let go from his receipts. I quite recognise that. The second is borne out by what the Chancellor said, namely, whether or not the game concerned would fold up if the duty were levied.
I should like to give one particular instance here, because it is no use talking generally. This is one which I know of personally, and I should be very grateful if the Financial Secretary could reply to it, even if only in general. For the decline in receipts of my own club of Coventry City three reasons are given: first, the price increase necessitated by Entertainments Duty; secondly, relegation from the second to the third division; and, thirdly, the abnormally bad weather on match days.
In my time I have blamed the Financial Secretary for a good many things, but I would not blame him for relegation to the third division or for the bad weather —although I must say, in passing, that I thought the Labour Party used to be blamed for the bad weather when we 2109 were in power. What I would blame him for, of course, is the Entertainments Duty which is being levied.
Coventry is a fair-sized city, but increased wages and overhead charges necessary for running the club have risen so much that to cover expenditure first-team gates for home matches must be 18,000, although even with gates of 18,000 no provision can be made for ground maintenance or team development. In the 1951–52 season the average first-team gate for home matches was 22,536, and for the 1952–53 season to date the corresponding average is 13,633. The club is now approximately £7,500 in the red, or perhaps I should say is now operating at an annual loss of approximately £7,500. I am sure we in Coventry should all be very sorry if that were to continue.
Although I have cited Coventry City, I appreciate that similar figures are common to many third division clubs. The point was made last night by my hon. Friend the Member for Hudders-field, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu), and it has been stressed to me by my club, that if this position continues the only thing they can do is either to reduce the staff or to dispose of their players— something we do not want to happen.
The plea I make is not on the ground of favouring the amateur or the professional, but simply because if this duty is to be levied on third division clubs —I know it would be very difficult to make a distinction between first, second and third division clubs—I can see no alternative for many third division clubs but to pack up. For the same reason that the Chancellor abolished the duty on cricket matches, I hope he will be able to consider doing the same for football. It is necessary for the third division in order that many clubs may continue to exist.
§ Mr. Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)
I do not think that any charge of deliberate discrimination can fairly be sustained against my right hon. Friend the Chancellor if one examines his record during the time that he has been a Chancellor. Last year, he was the first Chancellor to undertake the difficult job of getting rid of the artificial discrimination between live and mechanical forms of sport. This year he has gone a step further and done what all other Chancellors since the war have failed to do; 2110 that is, to remove all amateur sport from the field of Entertainments Duty, and he is to be congratulated on it. At the same time, representing, as I do, a constituency with a third division football club, I can well understand the feeling which has been aroused by the varying treatment between professional football and the mixture of the professional and the amateur which is to be found in the game of cricket.
With the third division clubs I think there is a case for the Chancellors very serious consideration. I think it could fairly be argued that to provide special treatment for the different football divisions might multiply the distinctions which most of us would seek to avoid. Should it be impossible to accept this Amendment, I hope that between now and the next Budget my right hon. Friend will devote his attention to studying the peculiar position of those clubs in the third division. If he does not want to treat them upon a divisional basis, he might at any rate study the possibility of working out a sort of pay-as-you-earn system for football clubs, so that the amount of Entertainments Duty would be based more fairly on the size of the gate they are able to attract. I believe my right hon. Friend's past record shows him to be a fair and just Chancellor, and that it is quite inappropriate to make charges of discrimination against him when his own record shows exactly the contrary.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. David J. Pryde (Midlothian and Peebles)
It cannot be argued against me that I am biased against cricket because I hold a membership card of one of the most courageous cricket clubs in Scotland, which each year has a terrific struggle for survival. But that cricket club is very fair-minded, and it would not like to see its neighbours, the winter sports club, treated in a different fashion from itself.
I support the Amendment, although I cannot use to the Chancellor the threatening language of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith). I was interested in my hon. Friend's claim for Stoke's famous outside right. If he goes to Glasgow he will find at Ibrox Stadium the team with the man who played his outside right out of the game. But I am not here to plead for 2111 that team, which will always have a following. I am not here to plead for Celtic. I do not even plead for the Heart of Midlothian, who have the most loyal set of supporters it is possible to have in football, who go to Tynecastle every Saturday the Hearts are playing and take what they get for their money. Nor do I need to appeal for Hibernians, who must put the best team in the field. I direct the Chancellor's attention to the teams in the lower divisions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) told us of the size of gates for Coventry City— who, incidentally, would not have an earthly against some of our junior teams in Scotland. In the B and C divisions in Scotland clubs do not play to an audience of even 2,000; they have only 1,000. I direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the junior teams. Our football clubs in Scotland do not instruct us. That is the difference between my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, and myself. They rely upon me to state their case. Let me mention the Armiston Rangers, the oldest junior football team in East Scotland, who were told they would have to vacate the park on which they had played since 1870, although the landowner had told them that as long as he was living they would have the use of the park. However, redundant miners had to be moved from Lanarkshire and the Coal Board require the ground, so the club had to go across the road to a piece of waste ground to re-make their park, and they had to borrow £4,000 to do it. In one short year, so well managed was that team that they cleared off the £4,000 from the sixpences contributed by the miners of the nearby colliery. Would the Chancellor now ask those same men who contributed the sixpences each week from their pay packets to go along and support the club and be subjected to this tax?
Take the case of their neighbours, the famous Newton Grange Star. They have won every cup for which they have entered and are in the happy state that they have always been able to collect the silver. If a club does not collect the silver in the Scottish Junior Cup competition, it has a struggle each year. Arnis-ton Rangers reached the semi-final of the Scottish Junior Cup and are, therefore, in clover. But what about the clubs 2112 below junior rank—the juveniles—for it is these which are the nurseries for the juniors and for the seniors. Famous Arsenal players have come from junior and juvenile teams in Midlothian. To give one particular instance, the greatest player in the annals of Scottish football, the late Bobbie Walker, never played for a junior club.
In the town where I reside, the juvenile team, Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic "A," save up in order to play their counterpart in London, London Albion. Every second year, one of these teams travels either to Scotland or to England. Having saved up by dint of scraping and saving, by hard work and abstinence, they are able to devote one week to playing football so that they can raise money for the old age pensioners. Are these lads still to be taxed while their neighbours who play cricket in the summer go free?
I ask the Chancellor to examine the game of football from the viewpoint not only of the richer clubs, but of the great mass of players who carry on the game and see that it is kept on that high standard which we all demand when we send our football teams abroad, as we have sent them recently and they have been severely beaten. My hon. Friends will all want to see a Scottish team come down to London and beat England. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I always like to see the finest English players come up to Hampden to play our players. It cannot be done, however, if they are taxed out of existence.
I therefore appeal to the Chancellor. I hope that his mind is not made up against the Amendment. Only yesterday a Scottish friend of mine who listened to the debate said to me, "You know, I had a feeling that the three Treasury Ministers did not belong to the Clan McGee: they have not given anything away all day." I want the Chancellor and the Treasury today to modify that attitude and to give some benefit to the players in the greatest game that Britain has ever played.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
It is, perhaps, only in debates on the Finance Bill that one realises how many of us are so keenly interested in sport. We have heard from both sides of the Committee many appeals to the Chancellor to 2113 remove, in effect, the whole of the taxation received from the Entertainments Duty on football. From one side of the Committee, at least, there have been no constructive suggestions as to where this money is to be obtained if the Chancellor should agree to those proposals. On the other hand, the case has been presented in terms which make one reticent to oppose it.
The sad stories which we have heard of the difficulties of so many clubs in constituencies represented by hon. Members have been such as to make it difficult for anyone to vote against the Amendment. There is, however, a duty incumbent upon us to find some other source from which to replace this taxation should the Chancellor concede the Amendment.
By far the strongest case has been made for third division clubs. In my case, the chief club in my constituency which is a professional club and is subject to taxation—Barry Town—is not even a third division club. It is a Southern League club. It is within my knowledge that the financial struggle of Southern League clubs is as desperate as that of any county cricket club. They have great difficulty in keeping their heads above the financial waters. Nevertheless, as I have indicated, it is our duty to suggest some alternative field of taxation should the tax on football be removed. By far the best suggestion has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who suggested that the Chancellor might recoup by increasing the tax on football pools from 30 to 32½ per cent., thus obtaining the £1,500,000 which might be lost by making the concesson on the Entertainments Duty.
Those who have painted a picture of the virtues of professional games have overlooked some features of professional sports. For my part, I am content to agree that the Chancellor has done the right thing in generally making his first concession to amateur games. I prefer the amateur sport to the professional sport, because the emphasis is largely upon the player.
§ Mr. Gower
I am sorry, Sir Charles.
There is one thing about these professional sports—about Soccer, for instance —which disfigures Association football; that is the practice of paying huge transfer fees. I ask my right hon. Friend the Chancellor whether there might be another source of revenue in taxing these transfer fees. There are three questions that I put to my right hon. Friend. First, are there any grounds for thinking that a basis might be found for relieving the small clubs—third division and Southern and Midland League clubs—in some way from the full impact of the Entertainments Duty? Second, do the Chancellor and the Financial Secretary believe that there may be some merit in the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster of raising the money from an increased tax upon football pools? Third, is it possible that a source of football taxation might be found in the realm of transfer fees, some of the huge ones amounting to £30,000, which are paid particularly by the first division clubs? I still feel, however, that the case for the removal of this taxation cannot be substantiated unless some alternative field for obtaining this money can be suggested to the Chancellor and to the satisfaction of the Committee.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
When I look at the careworn faces of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, I wonder how often they spend an evening at their village "local." Had the Financial Secretary talked to the football fans of Kingston-upon-Thames, he would have discovered what an awful amount of feeling there is about the differentiation between the summer sport of cricket and the winter sport of Soccer. It was touch and go, in fact, whether the professional footballers, because they felt so keenly about this, would turn out to play in the Coronation charity football matches this year, and they were only persuaded to do so by the players' union. So there is an enormous lot of feeling—