HL Deb 10 September 1941 vol 120 cc69-73

had given notice that he would ask His Majesty's Government what happens to the profits derived from Service films produced under the direction of the Government after all the necessary expenses have been paid, and whether such profits go to the Treasury; and also move for papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to rise to propose the Motion that stands in my name. I have very little to add to that. I am referring particularly to the film Target for To-night, but I include all films produced under those conditions. I understand that the original cost of making the film Target for To-night was borne by one of the Government Departments. I am not suggesting any exceptional measure for this particular film, but I think it would bring to the notice of the public what is the procedure in regard to cases like this. I am asking what happens to the profits after all the expenses are paid.

I would like to point out that I look upon it as very similar to the Military Tournament at Olympia or the Royal Air Force display at Hendon. The Military Tournament at Olympia is paid for and run by the Government, by Government Forces. All the expenses of that Tournament are paid out of the takings at the gate and the profits go to the Service charities. It is the same with regard to the Air Force Display at Hendon, with which I have had to do in the past. The profits go to the Air Force after all the expenses have been paid. The public go only in their thousands to see the Military Tournament at Olympia and they go only in their thousands to Henden, but when you have a film, a new method of showing what goes on at Olympia all over the world in every cinema to millions, the principle is no different. Of course, in producing a film the expenses may be greater, but I should doubt it; I should think they are a good deal less. They have to have that film shown and they have to make a contract with the people who show it. I do not know what profits they are allowed. But that is not relevant to the point I am making. Pay all that; but beyond that what happens to the profits? In my opinion they should go to the Service charities. This is not a method of raising taxation. If this has become a method of raising taxation it should not be so. I do not think His Majesty's Government should show films in order to raise taxation. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, my noble and gallant friend has raised a very interesting question, and has raised it with brevity. He has made it plain that he is not suggesting that one particular film—say Target for To-night—could be taken by itself with the idea that if there are profits made in the case of that film the losses which have been incurred in other films should be disregarded. He takes the matter, as he explained to us, as a whole. I have made inquiries and they confirm what I am sure is the impression of your Lordships that a good many films have been produced which would be called Service films—that is to say, films for which Service facilities were provided, films which deal with welfare, films which deal with intelligence, films which deal with war records and with training. Quite a large number of films have been produced with the assistance of Service facilities and are used for all kinds of purposes and shown in many places. The fact is that up to the present, whereas, of course, the taxpayer has paid all the expenses—it is entirely a Treasury matter—the receipts have not met the outlay, still less has there been a profit made which would overset the expenses of production and distribution. Indeed I understand that the present situation is one which would show a very considerable loss.

It is true that after a large number of films had not had a profitable run the film that is now referred to has much better prospects. The more that film can be seen the better. I have not had the advantage of seeing it myself, but I believe it is a most interesting and stimulating film, and I hope it will have the widest possible circulation. I have no doubt it will do a great deal of good. But I do not think it could be regarded as reasonable that after the taxpayer—it is all very well to talk about the Treasury, but really it is the taxpayer—has had to bear all the burden of the production and distribution of a series of films, when one of them does ultimately make a profit that film should be taken by itself and the profit should go to some different recipients than the public Exchequer.

That view has already been expressed in the House of Commons, and that is the view that the Treasury has felt obliged to take. An answer was given to a question in another place by the Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Information which said that any profit which might be derived would accrue to the Exchequer, on which fell the cost of production. I must say that I cannot think that that is an unreasonable view. I will take note of what my noble friend has said about the Military Tournament at Olympia and about the Air Force Display at Hendon, and I will see that those cases are brought to the notice of the Treasury. I had not previously heard the analogy suggested. All that I can tell your Lordships is that I have made inquiry of the Treasury and that the view at present taken is the view which was communicated to the House of Commons. To repeat the matter in a sentence, the Exchequer—that is the taxpayer —has had to bear the cost of films which have been made, and whatever be the loss the taxpayer must shoulder it. Therefore it is not unreasonable that, if profits are made by a particular film, they should go to relieve the burden which the taxpayer has incurred.

I would only say, in conclusion, that there is nothing abnormal in profits, if they should happen to accrue, going to the relief of the taxpayer. Every Chancellor of the Exchequer in every Budget has certain things which come in for reasons of that sort. There is therefore no departure from constitutional principle. While I sympathize very much with the good work that is being done by the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund—which I know my noble friend had a good deal to do with starting after the last war, and of which I think he is now one of the trustees—it cannot be forgotten that there is an enormous burden being thrown upon the country in connection with these very Services, and I am not myself convinced that if this film does ultimately make a profit, there would be anything wrong in saying that that profit should fall into the Exchequer.


My Lords, I hope the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack will not be hurt if I say I am not altogether satisfied with his reply. I hope he will bear in mind that this is purely a Service film. It is not a film made for propaganda. I have seen the film Target for Tonight and I have had the privilege of visiting the squadrons concerned. It shows the exact action that goes on every night and every day. It is not made up into a story. There ought to be very little cost of production. The cost of distribution is another matter, but that is really not relevant to my point. This film is not like ordinary films. When I asked for special treatment, I was not referring to any film which may be considered as propaganda. I was referring to films showing the action of the Services without any outside accessories brought in whatever. I feel that a number of people will be surprised at the answer given by the noble and learned Viscount, and I would earnestly ask the Government to look again into the question in cases where films are purely Service films and not made for propaganda. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.