HC Deb 26 January 1960 vol 616 cc96-8
The Solicitor-General

I beg to move, in page 8, line 24, at the end to insert: (5) Where a title, playing time or other particular of any film has been recorded in the register in addition to or in substitution for another, no renter shall, while section one of the Act of 1948 is in force, procure the giving by an exhibitor (whether for a consideration or not, and whether orally or in writing) of an undertaking which, if legally binding, would impose on the exhibitor an obligation, either actual or contingent, to take delivery of the film, unless the renter has supplied to the exhibitor a statement in writing setting out all the titles, playing times, and other particulars which have ever been so recorded in respect of the film; and if any renter procures an undertaking in contravention of this subsection, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds. The House will recollect that Clause 12 provides for the amendment of the register and the registration of alternative particulars in respect of a film or versions of a film. The object of the Amendment is to protect an exhibitor who might be persuaded by a renter to accept a film which he would have refused if he had known that it was no more than a different version of some other registered film.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Redhead) moved a similar Amendment in Committee, which we accepted in principal subject to redrafting. The hon. Member's Amendment differed from this one in only one respect. The hon. Member's Amendment made the acceptance as well as the procuring of an undertaking an offence. We feel that it would be inappropriate to provide that the acceptance by a renter of an undertaking which is freely given by an exhibitor should be an offence; but we accept the force of the hon. Member's Amendment, that any renter who persuades an exhibitor to accept a film virtually by suppressing the fact that it is an alternative version, a re-vamping of an old film, should be made liable.

The other point which we discussed in Committee was the maximum penalty. The hon. Member's Amendment proposed a maximum of £100, and I ventured to suggest that that was too high. I twitted the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) a moment ago with having changed her mind, and it is only right that I should say that, on reconsideration, we have come to the conclusion that the figure suggested by the hon. Member was right and not too high. The reason is that this is getting very close to fraud. It is a definite misleading of the exhibitor by the renter. On reconsideration, we felt that the offences could be more aptly compared with the offences under Clause 13, which concerns the use of an unregistered title by a renter. As the maximum penalty under that Clause is £100, we feel that hon. Member was right in suggesting that figure as the appropriate penalty in this case.

Mr. E. C. Redhead (Walthamstow, West)

As the hon. and learned Member said, this Amendment is in fulfilment of an undertaking which he gave in Committee in response to an Amendment which I proposed. I accept gladly that it adequately gives the measure of protection that I wanted. I am bound to say that the hon. and learned Member has gone a little further than I thought he was going to go in view of the very heavy doubts which he expressed about the penalty. He has forestalled me on this occasion, for I cannot twit him with having changed his mind. He has admitted that fact and I have no quarrel on that account.

6.30 p.m.

It is, however, right that I should draw attention to one aspect to which my attention has been drawn in the intervening period and which I think should be taken into account. I confess that I had not apprehended that it would be myself who would do so, but it has been suggested to me that this may bear a little harshly in what, I understand, is a fairly frequent occurrence in the change of playing time and film changes, of perhaps a quite minor character, which are of necessity made very shortly after the initial registration. It has been suggested to me that the necessity of applying the procedure proposed in the Amendment to such minor changes of playing time so soon after first registration would involve a rather unnecessary degree of work, and that to ignore such minor changes at that early stage would not weaken the protection which is otherwise provided by the Amendment.

The suggestion which has been made to me is that some little proviso might be made to the Amendment whereby these could be ignored in the application of the protective measures now proposed. I pass the suggestion on because I think it is fair to draw attention to that, particularly in view of the fact that the Renters' Society, I understand, is quite happy about the protective measures proposed but does apprehend a little difficulty and irksomeness in their rigid application to the type of adjustments to which I have referred.

Amendment agreed to.