§ Read 3a.
§ Clause 55:
§ Power to contribute to entertainments.
§ (2) The net amount of any payments or expenses made or incurred by the Corporation under the provisions of this section after deducting any moneys received by them under the provisions thereof shall not in any one year exceed a sum equivalent to that which would be produced by a rate of one penny in the pound levied on property in the borough assessable in that year to the borough rate.
LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM moved to leave out subsection (2) and insert the following new subsection:—
(2) Provided that if the Corporation themselves provide stage plays or cinematograph performances in any pavilion or other building on the pier under the provisions of this section they shall (unless otherwise authorised by Act of Parliament) either—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the subsection which I propose to leave out was inserted by the Committee to limit the liability of the Corporation to a penny rate. I notice that the Corporation have issued a statement to your Lordships directed against my Amendment. They say that it is understood "that Lord Banbury is acting in the interests of certain associations of entertainment producers." As a matter of fact, that is not correct. I am not acting in the interests of any particular section of the community. It is quite true that I have on one or two occasions seen a gentleman who, I believe, is connected with some theatrical association, but I am acting in what I believe to be the interests of the whole country. I have always opposed municipal trading, because I believe: (1), that the money of the ratepayer should not be used to interfere with private enterprise; and (2), that as a rule the only result of municipal trading is that the municipalities lose money. I object to both these results. So far as theatrical people are concerned, I have been in a theatre only once in the last thirty-five years, so that your Lordships will see that I have no great interest in or knowledge of the theatrical profession.
§ The authors of this petition also say that the only precedent for this proposal is the Buxton Corporation Bill of the present Session. There again they are mistaken, because a similar clause was inserted this Session in the Fleetwood Corporation Bill. One of the reasons advanced by the Wallasey Corporation against my Amendment is that Wallasey is a pleasure resort. I do not see what that has to do with it, and I do not see why the money of the ratepayers, either in a pleasure resort or anywhere else, should be used to compete with private enterprise. I have not been there, but I am informed by a very high authority that Fleetwood also is a pleasure resort, and therefore, since your Lordships have agreed to a similar clause being inserted in the Fleetwood Bill. I think that this argument falls to the ground.641
§ I have nothing more to add, except that those of your Lordships who are against municipal trading should, I venture to say, stand firm against any small attempt to introduce the thin end of the wedge. It is quite easy to say that this is only a matter of a few performances on a pier, but once this sort of thing is done it will be held as a precedent for going on and for authorising future and larger enterprises in the shape of municipal trading. If I am right in believing that it is not advisable to use the ratepayers' money against private enterprise, I hope that your Lordships will agree to pass the Amendment which I now move.
Clause 55, page 49, leave out lines 13 to 19, and insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Banbury of Southam.)
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE)
My Lords, you are, of course, aware that there are precedents for and precedents against this clause. The matter starts with the clause of the Public Health Act, 1925. This clause, which was very much discussed in this House, laid down a model clause which I think I am right in saying very nearly all authorities were entitled to follow. To that clause your Lordships have repeatedly recognised that there should be exceptions and there are, I am informed, about thirty authorities which have the powers for which Wallasey, in this clause as printed in the Bill, now asks. My noble friend quoted the Buxton Corporation clause of this Session, but I am sure that many of your Lordships will recognise that the situation in Buxton is quite different from that in Wallasey. In fact, if you look at it in any detail and not cursorily you will see that Buxton presented a very special problem which had to be dealt with in a very special way by Parliament.
I think I can state the matter in about three sentences. It related to the purchase of the Buxton Gardens, one of the oldest enterprises in the country. I believe that your Lordships' ancestors have played bowls there for the last hundred years. The Gardens had fallen into bad ways, but the Corporation recognised that as they were an essential part of the prosperity of Buxton they must purchase the Gardens; but the 642 Gardens included an opera house and the purchase of an opera house by a municipality is one of those things always regarded by Parliament with disfavour. Therefore this new and special clause was thought out and inserted in the Buxton Corporation Bill. It says, in effect, that they may own the opera house but may only let it either for rent or on the basis of a share in the profits; they are not allowed to finance a loss out of the rates. The situation is very different in Wallasey, where they merely ask to give entertainments on the pier, such as are given in about thirty other seaside resorts, many of which are well known to your Lordships. My noble friend was too modest in quoting the Fleetwood precedent. It is true that this Amendment was put into the Fleetwood Bill by the promoters, but it was at the suggestion of my noble friend himself and he must have the credit for having caused that alteration in the law. I ought, perhaps, to tell your Lordships that this Bill has had a very lengthy progress through Committee. It was I do not know how many days before Lord Younger's Committee.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
But this clause was not actually raised in any Petition before the Committee. It was therefore unopposed in Committee. I am glad that my noble friend has called attention to it, but in leaving the clause in the Bill as now printed I think your Lordships will be doing nothing unusual or improper. I therefore hope he will not press his Amendment.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, as a rule I like to divide, but I feel quite certain that after Lord Donoughmore's speech it would be absolutely useless to take a Division, and I therefore shall not press my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.