21. Mr. H. Wilson
asked the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has received from representative bodies in the film industry about his decision to increase the number of cinemas which circuits can control; and what reply he has made to these representations.
§ Mr. P. Thorneycroft
The Cinematograph Exhibitors' Association has represented to my Department that the policy regarding the size of the circuits mentioned in my answer to the right hon. Gentleman on 3rd March is not adequate to protect independent exhibitors. The Association asked that the policy should be reconsidered. Its request is being examined.
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware, despite the misleading information given by his Parliamentary Secretary, that there has been a substantial change of policy in this connection since Sir Stafford Cripps announced in April, 1946, that the policy 2254 was to freeze the status quo? Why has the right hon. Gentleman made this great change in policy without consulting the statutory Cinematograph Films Council first?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary would never approve of "freezing the status quo." What the right hon. Member himself said about these powers was that he did not think they ought to be used in a restrictive way but only for the strictly limited purposes of holding the balance even between the large circuits. We are still pursuing the same policy as he followed in that respect, but I will examine the representations made by the Cinematograph Exhibitors' Association.
Since the right hon. Gentleman has quoted some words of mine—with which I am well familiar—out of their context, will he inform the House that I prefaced them by saying that my policy was the same as that of Sir Stafford Cripps, which I have just quoted? Is he aware that my reference to the question of not using the powers in a restrictive manner was in response to a request from Sir Arthur Rank that he should be free to sell certain cinemas and replace them within the figure that had been agreed?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
We seem to be going along the same lines, but I will look into the representations.