HC Deb 22 May 1972 vol 837 cc989-91
28. Mr. Edelman

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what consultations he had before the bid for British Lion Films' properties was accepted; what advice he gave through the National Film Finance Corporation and received from the film trade unions to what extent the original guarantees given in relation to disposal have been adhered to; and what request he has made to ensure that the Government investment and the profit from it is being reapplied to promote the interest of the British film industry.

Mr. Emery

While I thank the hon. Gentleman for his letter to my right hon. Friend on 5th May, I am sorry that I have nothing further to add at this moment to the replies given to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) on 18th May.

Mr. Edelman

In spite of that stalling reply, did not the Prime Minister himself pladge in 1964 that Shepperton would never be sold off to property speculators and should not the £3 million of profit arising from the sell-out to Barclay Securities, entrepreneurs only marginally concerned with film production, go to the National Film Finance Corporation and not into the pockets of the directors of British Lion?

Mr. Emery

The hon. Gentleman should, perhaps, consider the criteria necessary in considering this whole matter. As these are fairly detailed—] am sorry to have to refer him elsewhere—I suggest that he turns to the Written Answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) last Friday, 19th May. The criteria are there spelled out in full.

Mr. Gorst

Will my hon. Friend agree, however, that most, if not all, of the original British Lion losses have been recovered through the profits earned by the efforts of the directors of British Lion—that is to say, those who were directors both before and after the sale of the company in 1964? Second, will he agree that it would be extremely unwise and undesirable far any profit which may have been made to be confiscated by some mean policy such as is suggested by hon. Members opposite?

Mr. Emery

We want to see benefit to the film industry and through the proper development of the site. The NFFC is now in consultation with British Lion.

Mr. Benn

In view of the Prime Minister's statement when he was the responsible Minister in 1964, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) referred, as the forecast which my hon. Friend made at that time that this might happen has now been fulfilled, and in view of the public investment involved and the requirement to safeguard the industry and the interests of the unions, together with the clear certainty that land values have played some part in this deal, do not the Government have to say rather more than just refer us to a Written Answer?

Mr. Emery

The right hon. Gentleman ought to know that I was referring to a long and detailed Written Answer. I am certain that the House would have been annoyed if I had read it all out. The criteria are stated clearly there, and the right hon. Gentleman himself knows what they are.