§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (VISCOUNT HALL)
My Lords, the main purpose of this Bill is to amend and continue the provisions of the Cinematograph Films Act, 1938. That Act, as your Lordships are aware, succeeded the first Film Quota Act of 1927. This Bill is designed chiefly to continue the system of exhibitors' quota, to encourage and protect the production of British films, and to restrain any growing tendency of monopoly in the industry. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, with his usual conspicuous skill, piloted the 1927 Act through another place when it was felt that the application of the system of quota had become necessary, for at that period American distributors supplied no less than 95 per cent. of the films exhibited in this country. Even now, the showing of British films occupies only about one-fifth of our screen time in some 4,500 theatres in this country. It is not a good thing for a country such as ours to have almost all the films shown made in another country for, as the Films Council have often pointed out, the cinema industry cannot be regarded as just one business among others. Its possibilities are vast as a vehicle of expression of national life, ideals, tradition and instruction.
This industry touches our national life at many points, and while the scope of producing films is limited at the present time, the public demand for seeing them 1236 is immense. I saw a statement a short time ago that in 1937 the number Of seats bought weekly was about 15,000,000. According to estimate, the present weekly rate is nearer 30,000,000. Some 30,000,000 persons per week use the cinema as a means of relaxation and amusement, while tens of thousands of workpeople in various sections of the industry—production, distribution and exhibiting—are dependent upon it for their livelihood. This industry is confronted with many problems at the present time, and while this Bill will be of some assistance it cannot alone solve either the short-term or the long-term problems. We must look at this Bill against a background of the present difficulties which the industry is experiencing, not only on its productive side but as the result of the cessation of the import of films from the United States of America. It is true that if this embargo on the supply of further films continues indefinitely, the effect on the choice of films open to the public, and therefore on employment and box office earnings, will be considerable.
While this is not the occasion to debate the attitude of His Majesty's Government in relation to the embargo and to the import duty on American films, I think your Lordships would like to know the attitude of His Majesty's Government in relation to this matter and I can do no better than refer to the statement made by the President of the Board of Trade in another place on the Second Reading of this Bill. He said:We ourselves stand by the import duty and I do not think I need labour the point that we cannot continue finding dollars to meet the payments due on American film earnings here. We are prepared to make any reasonable arrangement, and we have stated that we are prepared to work out a scheme which would allow extra earnings for foreign films to be taken out of this country to the extent that our British films earn more money overseas. We are not interested merely that British films be ' taken ' by overseas distributors; we want to see them really effectively shown and actually earning dollars.So long as we secure the required dollar saving, we are prepared to agree to some modification of the duty. This, I think, is the attitude shared by the Opposition, for Mr. Oliver Lyttelton, after making suggestions for the removal of the deadlock said on the Second Reading in another place:I do not suggest—I want to make this very clear—that in our opinion, His Majesty's 1237 Government should retire from the main position they have taken up. I express the hope that with certain good will and flexibility the present problem can be satisfactorily solved.That is the attitude of His Majesty's Government at the present time.
I have no doubt, my Lords, that many people have asked why, after twenty years of protection, the industry needs a continuance of such assistance. The answer must be that, mainly because the war intervened, the 1938 Act never had a fair run. The extension of the industry for which the Act provided has been seriously impeded, not only by the late war but also by the dislocation which followed it. It may be said that during this period there has been a striking advance in the quality of British films and achievement: which reflects the greatest credit on all concerned with their production. This progress was made in circumstances of great difficulty, partly through shortages of studio space and skilled personnel. Nevertheless, the volume of output has fallen short of expectations; and, as I have already pointed out, British films are still filling only a small space of our screen time. Moreover, the market here is only about one-quarter as large as that for the product of Hollywood. It is clear that a continuation of some form of protection is required. That is the view of all sections of the industry on the need for the continuance of this Act.
The industry, and the Cinematograph Films Council, in their valuable report published last July, agreed that the general framework of the 1938 Act was soundly conceived and should be retained, with amendments to meet present-day conditions. The Council include representatives of both sides of the trade, together with a number of independent members, and have been fortunate for the last three years to have as their Chairman the Earl of Drogheda, who has deserved no small share of the credit for the Council's businesslike discharge of their functions. In that space of time the noble Earl has acquired an extensive acquaintance with the industry's problems and leading personalities and has the esteem of all those associated with the industry.
I turn now to the Bill itself. Its clauses are only ten in number, and the rest of the print—from page 9 onwards, consists of two Schedules. The clauses 1238 replace and amplify certain provisions of the existing Act of 1938, and entail some consequential amendments to various other provisions of that Act. These and some other amendments are effected by the First Schedule, which amends or repeals various provisions of the Act of 1938. Part I of this Schedule deals with amendments and Part II with repeals. The latter includes the repeal of the renters' quota provisions, enacted in 1938, and also the formal repeal of the now obsolete Act of 1927. The Second Schedule sets out the revised text of the 1938 Act as it will read when amended accordingly. The new quota regime prescribed for the exhibitors in this Bill will differ in three main respects from the 1938 arrangements under the present Act. As these provisions are the kernel of the Bill, I will, with your Lordships' permission, dwell briefly on each of them.
In the first place, there is the provision in Clause 1, subsections (2) and (3), for separate calculation of the quotas in respect of "first feature" films and the films which go to make up what the trade call the "supporting programme." The 1938 Act draws a distinction, for quota purposes, between "long" and "short" films—films respectively over and under 3,000 feet in length. First and second features are not, however distinguished. This created the anomalous position whereby films of one class could be offset, foot for foot, against films of the other, although in the normal double-feature programme there is generally a wide difference in price and quality between first and second feature films. Clause 1 of the Bill proposes to correct this anomaly by abolishing the "long" and "short" film quotas, and substituting separate quotas for the "first feature" and the "supporting programme." This latter—the supporting programme—will cover the items other than the first feature, except for news-reels and advertisement films., which are outside the scope of this Bill.
By Clause 2 it will be possible under the Bill to appoint different quota percentages for different classes of cinemas. Some cinemas are much better placed than others for booking a satisfactory proportion of good British films—sometimes because of their geographical position and sometimes because they are units in powerful cinema "chains" or 1239 circuits. Any exhibitors' quota with a uniform incidence on all cinemas is likely to bear too hardly on some and too lightly on others. The Bill therefore includes provisions which in future will enable the obligation to be varied between three main categories. The first class includes the circuits comprising more than 200 cinemas and the pre-release cinemas—often called "shop-window" theatres—in the West End of London. The second comprises the general body of the cinemas—that is to say, all the cinemas without the special advantages of the first class and without the disabilities of the third. This third group will consist of any cinemas where the exhibitors concerned have satisfied the Board of Trade that their local competitive situation justifies some measure of relaxation of the normal obligation. Within this group the Bill also gives effect to what was substantially the Films Council's suggestion, that cinemas in competitive situations with average takings of less than £100 a week should enjoy total exemption from the ' operation of the quotas. Their importance in this respect is not considered sufficient to justify the amount of work which enforcement of quotas for them would involve.
The third significant new feature of the exhibitors' quota provisions of the Bill lies in the new and flexible provisions for determination of the quota percentages. In accordance with the expressed wishes of all sections of the industry, the quotas will be fixed in future by Board of Trade Orders, made after consulting the Cinematograph Films Council and requiring affirmative Resolutions of both Houses of Parliament. The Orders will aim, on the one hand, at assuring for every worthwhile British film the widest possible exploitation in this country's own cinemas, and at the same time will avoid imposing an excessive burden on any exhibitor. No statutory minimum percentages are laid down in the Bill, but my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade has given assurances in another place that it is, in fact, his firm intention never to let the quotas fall below the levels prescribed next summer.
I should like to touch briefly on the quota provisions of the Bill as they affect the British producers of so-called "specialized" films—that is, films not primarily 1240 intended for exhibition as first features. The Government are particularly anxious to support this section of the industry, and there are two respects in which I believe this Bill will prove to be helpful. In the first place, I am hopeful that the separate quota for the "supporting programme," taken as a whole, will bring about some improvement in the demand from exhibitors for these types of film, since it will enable exhibitors to use British short films to offset not only foreign "shorts," as they can under the present Act, but also to offset foreign second features. In the second place, Clause 3 (6) of the Bill, by the imposition of a cost test, accepts the view that it is now desirable to protect the producers of "specialized" films from the very cheap competition to which they are at present exposed. It is now considered reasonable to prescribe a minimum production expenditure on labour costs of 10s. per foot—the figure which was recommended for short films by the Films Council. For exhibitors' quota purposes, therefore, any film which fails to comply with this test will fall into a neutral class, and will be ignored in the 'quota calculations.
With regard to the major cinema circuits—the groups of 200 cinemas or more—Clause 5 (7) of this Bill will now provide a statutory basis for the implementation of the Government's policy of preventing any further expansion of these powerful groups, subject only to the qualification that it is not the Government's intention to give one group a permanent advantage over another. This places on a statutory footing the position established since 1943 by undertakings given by the chief representatives of the circuits. Clause 5 (2) of the Bill will also make statutory the existing arrangement whereby each major circuit can be called upon by the Board of Trade to book up to six British films a year for exhibition as first features on the recommendation of the special Selection Committee. This will ensure that a circuit booking is available to the independent British producer for all his pictures of the requisite standard, up to a total of eighteen pictures a year (plus, of course, whatever pictures the circuits book on their own accord). The Selection Committee, which were set up in 1946, have as their Chairman the noble Earl to whom I have already referred, and, besides one representative of each of the 1241 three circuits, the Committee, include a preponderance of independent members of widely representative character.
Clause 8 of the Bill alters the composition of the Cinematograph Films Council—the body set up under the Act of 1938 to discharge certain advisory functions. Persons who are not members of the Council may also now be co-opted as additional members of any committee of the Council. The Council's responsibilities are enlarged under previous clauses. The Government are most anxious that the Council should now become an even stronger and more effective body. The altered composition originally proposed in the Bill has been significantly modified as the outcome of discussion of this Clause 1n another place. The Government confidently recommend it to your Lordships as striking a fair balance between the claims of the various interests—including, not least, the claims of the general public. Although the independent members will no longer preponderate in numbers, I would like to assure your Lordships that there is No 1ntention of diminishing their influence. The Council remain an advisory body, not taking executive decisions on the basis of counting heads, but presenting reasoned recommendations to the President of the Board of Trade.
I should like, finally, to say a word about the prospects of British film production. There is a danger that the un-settlement in the industry as a result of the American film embargo will lead to some slackening of the tempo of film production. There are, indeed, already signs of that. The principal British producers, however, have stated that they have every confidence in their ability to maintain full production in the studios which they control, and the Government have done their best to see that the maximum amount of studio space is available. It is now more than ever necessary that this space, and the man-power which it employs, should be used to the best advantage and with the maximum efficiency. I would remind your Lordships that, in order to keep under review the measures taken to promote all aspects of production efficiency, and to enable the Government to take steps to remove any avoidable obstacles, my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade is inviting the interested parties to nominate representatives to serve on a 1242 National Joint Production Council of which he will be the Chairman.
It can be said that this Bill was discussed in another place in an atmosphere of good will, the Minister making and conceding many Amendments. What is remarkable for a Bill of this kind is that it was carried through all its stages without a Division, and it can now be accepted by your Lordships' House as representing the collective opinion of all Parties in another place.
In conclusion, I am sure that your Lordships will join me in paying a tribute to those who stood by the industry during the very difficult war years, and who spent much time and money in bravely attempting not only to re-develop the film industry on the productive side but in raising considerably the general standard of the product. The enhanced reputation of the quality, character and educational value of British films is an excellent testimony to the success of their efforts. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Hall.)
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, I seem always to be lending my cordial support to every Bill introduced by the First Lord of the Admiralty. If we go on at this rate of mutual disarmament, we shall tooth be getting sadly out of practice. However, on this occasion I feel that I must lend my support to the Bill, not only because I think that this is, on the whole, a very good Bill, but also because I take a grandfatherly interest in it. This Bill is the direct descendant of, and is in many respects like, the Bill which I introduced more than twenty years ago. Therefore it may not be irrelevant to a consideration of this Bill to recall briefly the circumstances in which the original Act came to be, produced and passed.
Before the First World War, the young' British film industry was fairly successful; during that war it suffered, and after that war it had almost faded out. As the First Lord of the Admiralty has said, by 1925 5 per cent. or less of the films shown in this country were British films. I felt that that was an intolerable situation. If we had been entirely dependent upon foreign books for what we read everybody would have agreed that 1243 socially and educationally, it would be an impossible position. Yet almost as many people see films as read books. Indeed, I am not at all sure that if one applied a test it would not result in films coming out on top. Economically the situation was equally serious. I remember being greatly impressed at that time by a statement by Mr. Julius Klein, who was the Secretary for Commerce in the United States. He said that in his considered opinion the value to American export trade of American films which dominated the screens of the world was worth all other direct advertisement put together. I was then President of the Board of Trade, and reports which were coming from commercial counsellors and consuls from all over the world were very much to the same effect; and yet the position had been tacitly accepted.
It was superficially supposed that here was an industry or craft in which we had not either the talent or the capacity to compete. Yet in the United States some of the best actors and producers were British. We certainly had the authors—past, present and future. There could not be any doubt about that. Then it was said that we could not make films in England because it is full of fog, and what is required in order to make a satisfactory film is the clear, pure air of Hollywood. The question then arose: Why is it that in Germany, which is at least as foggy as England, admirable films are being produced with beautiful photography? The answer was simple. These films were not produced in the open air at all; 90 per cent. or more of them were produced in air-conditioned studios under artificial light. It also appeared to me that this question was of just as much—or almost as much—interest to the Dominions as to ourselves; therefore I brought the subject before the Imperial Conference.
All the Dominions and all the Commonwealth countries warmly endorsed the proposition. I would like to read to the House the resolution passed by the Imperial Conference in 1926. It was this:The Imperial Conference, recognizing that it is of the greatest importance that a larger and increasing proportion of films exhibited throughout the Empire should be of Empire production, commends the matter and the remedial measures proposed to the consideration of the Governments of the Empire, with 1244 a view to such early and effective action to deal with the serious situation now existing as they may severally find possible. Any action it might be possible to take in Great Britain would undoubtedly be of the greatest assistance to the other parts of the Empire in dealing with the problem.Fortified by that we went ahead. I tried, in the first instance, to secure a voluntary agreement between the "three estates of the realm" in this industry—the producers, the renters, and the exhibitors. There was plenty of good will, but they said at an early stage "We cannot possibly agree." Nevertheless they all gave me the greatest possible help in drafting the Bill.
The main features of that Act—and they are virtually reproduced here—were these. We went out for a progressive quota. The films to be treated as British were not only films produced in this country but, provided they were British in character, films produced anywhere in the British Empire. We introduced a separate and higher renters' quota. Perhaps for good reasons that quota has now been eliminated, but at that time the exhibitors were extremely anxious to have it, because they said, "The renter or distributor will always have to have more films than we must take." We abolished blind booking—a system whereby exhibitors had to book up films that nobody had ever seen. We said that in future the film must be "trade" shown before it could be booked, and we restricted what was called "block booking." Finally, as all sections of the trade wished, the administration of the Act was vested in the Board of Trade, with the assistance of an advisory council, to-day the Films Council, to which such a deserved tribute has been paid. I would like to remember a noble Lord who, alas, is no longer with us, namely, the late Leader of the House, Lord Moyne. He also contributed a great deal to the administration of the Act.
In those early days there was a great deal of Parliamentary opposition, and the atmosphere was very different from the placid atmosphere which now prevails. The Socialists opposed the Bill, not, I think, because they really objected to it. I believe that in their hearts they really liked it, but it was a principal Government Bill; and so, as a right thinking or right acting Opposition, they had to oppose it. The Liberals opposed it hotly. They said that it was contrary 1245 to all the dogmas of Free Trade, and we shall perhaps see to-day what is their attitude now. Perhaps it will be characteristic. However, the Bill went through and once through it worked well. In a few years the exhibitors were showing more than three times as many films as the compulsory quota laid down, and then, ten years later, as the First Lord has said, Parliament had to approve or reject my Act. And, as experience showed to be desirable, it was renewed by general consent, with certain amendments.
There was one question which did not figure in our Bill, and which does not, I think, figure in this—although I am not quite sure about one Clause 1n which the wording is a little doubtful. I was greatly pressed from some quarters to set up a film censorship in the Board of Trade. Some worthy people, although perhaps not well acquainted with the film industry, wanted the Board of Trade to be a judge of quality and æsthetics. Some others even went so far as to say that we were also to be a judge of morals. I should have been very good at that; but even so I set my face against that idea. I thought there ought to be one arbiter of taste or of morals and that was the British public, and a very good arbiter they proved to be, too. That matter came up again when certain ingenious people, largely foreign, thought they had found a way round the Act by an unpleasant thing called the "quota quickie," which is well-known to those of your Lordships who are acquainted with the industry—something which is cheap and nasty.
We had to consider then how we were to meet that, and again we met people who said "Let the Board of Trade be the test of what is a good film and what is not." The only real test of what is a good film and what is not is the box office—whether people will go and see it. We decided against a kind of aesthetic quality test by the Board of Trade, and came down in favour of what I may call a means test, which was not always popular but was certainly a sound test in this case—that in order for a film to qualify a certain amount of money had to be spent on it. I think in those days it was £1 a foot. I am not quite sure why it has gone down to ten shillings, when every other price has risen. The minimum labour cost was set at £7,500. An excep- 1246 tional case, of course, could be specially met. If somebody produced quite cheaply a good film which the public, would like to see, there was no difficulty in admitting it.
From what I have said, your Lordships will see how closely this Bill, the third of its kind, follows the original Act, and I naturally welcome the present Bill as a lineal descendant. In this case I join with the Government in support of the hereditary principle. We shall have to consider in Committee the provisions of the Bill. I agree with the noble Viscount, the First Lord, that they raise no Party issues, and we shall find, I am sure, as we have so often found in this House, that in both the general and special experience of members of this House we have just what we want for the rapid and effective consideration of the Bill. I would only direct attention on Second Reading to some questions of principle to which we shall have to revert in more detail during the Committee stage. We are legislating not or a temporary emergency, but for a more normal future. But we are in a temporary emergency with regard to films—at least, I hope it is only temporary; I trust that this American impasse will be satisfactorily resolved. But let me make it quite plain now that we on this side of the House stand solidly behind the Government in the general position which they have taken up in this matter. If that is clearly understood, I am sure that it will be much easier to reach a solution advantageous to both countries. British films are getting better and better, and it is not only we who are suffering in this matter; it is the Americans who are suffering too. I am sure that if they take account of our difficulties and fairly meet the situation it will be to the 'benefit of both sides. But let us remember that we are legislating how for a permanent condition.
May I advert, briefly, to what I think are the general principles which experience has shown to be necessary, and which were present in the original Act? First I would say there must be certainty—certainty for all. Secondly, the Bill should be fair both to the producers and to the exhibitors. Thirdly, it should be fair as between the different classes of exhibitors. Fourthly, it should stimulate production of good films—and by good 1247 films I mean films that the general public will want to see. Finally, administration should be simple and elastic—the Board of Trade working with the different sections of the trade, producers and exhibitors, and the invaluable independents on this Council. I hope the. noble Viscount, who will not, I realize, be answering in Committee at first hand, will not be put off or misled by the bogy of complicated administration. It is not at all complicated to administer an Act of this kind. I venture to be a little dogmatic about that, because I wrote every word of the earlier Act myself, and I administered it for a year or two. I administered it practically with two men and a boy, and the good will of all sections of the industry. Vast returns of the most complicated kind are not required. We administered the Act quite simply with test checks, and if a thing is right and reasonable (as I suggest this is) I beg the Government not to be bamboozled by an idea that an enormous staff is called for to make the thing work efficiently. It is not. Indeed, I go so far as to say that the smaller the staff the better this measure will work.
If those principles are sound, we should apply them all through, and in particular to the following points. First, I would ask: Ought there to be a minimum quota? Without that certainty it is difficult to plan ahead and to finance. I know that the Government say: "What we fix as the first quota will, in fact, be the minimum." I would have been inclined to put that into the Bill. I believe that it is to the interest of exhibitors, as well as producers, to have this certainty. I am sure we need not be afraid that in practice the minimum will become a maximum. As I say, within a year or two of the old Act coming into operation, although the quota was relatively low, exhibitors were showing three times the amount of the compulsory quota. Then there is the question of the progressive quota. That is entirely sound, and perhaps it is better to have it fixed by the Board of Trade in an affirmative Resolution, in the light of knowledge gained from year to year. But give as long notice as possible, and make the quota period for as long a time as possible. That is in the interests of both the producer and the exhibitor.
The noble Viscount has explained to us the rather complicated provisions 1248 about separate treatment of the smaller theatres which have takings of £100 a week or less. I thought the original provision in the Bill was very bad: they were all excluded. That would have meant something like 1,000 of them in the aggregate and it would have represented a good deal of money to the producer. And the Board of Trade can always relax or exempt. We had that power under the old Act, and we exercised it quite frequently if for some reason or other a man could not get films. I am told by all sections of the trade that that worked smoothly and well. Clause 3 has been amended, as I understand, so that it exempts only those small cinemas which meet with competition and which have real difficulty in getting British films. That is probably right. But what about the converse of this—as I may call it? The converse I find in the provision in Clause 5 about the extra quota for the big circuits, the circuits which own 200 theatres or more.
I am not quite sure that I understand the principle on which that provision is based. It seems to me that it is based on the principle that a large company must bear a heavier burden than the smaller ones. That may be all right. If it is, I would only say in passing—I hope that I am not bringing a slightly controversial element into the discussion—that it would be a more appropriate application of that principle if the great nationalized monopolies accepted heavier burdens themselves and put rather lighter burdens upon us. But perhaps that suggestion would be more relevant to another debate. Still, I must send that down to the noble Viscount; I cannot bowl in half-volleys all the time. I am all in favour of these big circuits showing the maximum number of British films, but why is the obligation confined to this arbitrary number of theatres?—I know, of course, that there are the "big three." Surely the purpose of the Bill is to have as many good British films shown in as many cinemas as possible. It seems to me that different quotas are justified only if some theatres would have genuine difficulty in obtaining the requisite number of British films. But if a circuit with under 200 houses has not that difficulty, I do not see why it should have a smaller obligation. I have mentioned the matter on Second Reading as I do not want to take the Minister by surprise at a later stage. I 1249 think he will agree that it is a new point which was not considered before, and I think we ought to discuss it in Committee.
Another provision which I do not think is satisfactory is that under which British films can be shown only in the first half of the week. Again I beg the noble Viscount not to ride off on the administrative bogey. I am perfectly satisfied that it is not in the least difficult to administer this Bill on the basis of giving all films a fair chance throughout the week. We all have more leisure time at the end of the week—even noble Lords have, though I do not know about Cabinet Ministers—and anybody who knows about films knows that many more people go to the cinema on Friday night, Saturday and Sunday than during the first half of the week. If films are to be given a fair showing, they ought to be shown then. This is important from a takings point of view because I understand that films are generally paid for on a percentage of takings. If that is so, obviously what is wanted is a percentage when the house is full and not when it is half empty. Even I can appreciate that mathematical proposition!
This matter also has a bearing on exports. In the keen competition to show films abroad people in this industry are very quick not only to boost their own wares but somewhat to decry the wares of other people. Nothing could be worse for those who are trying to sell British films in the export market, where they will earn dollars and hard currency, than that the statement should go out that "This was a Monday-to-Wednesday film and not a Friday-to-Sunday film." I am sure that if this provision is not amended, that is the kind of thing which will be said. We shall consider that point in Committee in a quite unprejudiced way and see what is the right thing to do.
I would add one other word on finance. There is nothing in the Bill about it, but a good deal was said in debate in another place regarding the importance of this industry obtaining finance. A suggestion was made that some new finance corporation might be set up, or some new method of financing the film industry found. I am very doubtful about that. I do not like new bodies. If this industry is what I believe it can be and will be—a really sound proposition, an efficient industry—it ought 1250 not to have difficulty in getting its finance. There are already the great financial corporations which we set up, one for major finance and the other for small finance—which is very important; I always feel there is a great place for it—to help the fellow who wants £25,000 or £50,000. It is not the business of the banks; their business is to lend largely at call or on short notice, and this money may be locked up for two or three years. The amount required may not be big enough to justify making an issue, but the proposition might be a very sound thing. That is the kind of thing this existing corporation, which I may call the junior corporation, exists to handle. I certainly should have thought that the right channel of finance for this industry was through these existing and established corporations.
I repeat the general welcome which I have given to the Bill. I think it was greatly improved in another place, but that does not mean that we cannot make it still better here. I am sure that we shall go into Committee with the greatest good will possible and with the genuine desire on all sides to see if we cannot make this an even better Bill.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
My Lords, I shall speak for only one moment; therefore I am sure that I shall not be intervening at the wrong time. The noble Viscount who introduced the Bill, and the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, have both traversed the Bill fully, and I do not want to say anything about it beyond welcoming it and mentioning one or two points from the point of view of Scotland. We hoped we would have a Scottish Committee, but now, I am afraid, although we still think we ought to have a Scottish Committee, we shall not have one, though provision has been made for a Scottish sub-committee. There are twenty-two members of the Committee, but there are only two Scots on it, and even on the Goschen quota we are entitled to another member. Therefore I sincerely hope the noble Viscount will be backed by my noble friend, Lord Morrison, in obtaining for us another member.
§ THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
We get all we can. We never want to get less than our quota. I should like to make a 1251 point about the English quota for Scottish cinemas. I am not going to say anything about Scottish humour being better or worse than English humour, but there is no question about it that a certain number of English films are quite unsuitable for Scotland. Take a broad Lancashire film: people in Scotland hardly understand what the actors are talking about. As the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, said, we must consult the audience as much as the people who produce films. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has pointed out, rather to my horror, that many more people go to films than read books; therefore I think the people who go to films should be consulted. Some of the films unsuitable for Scotland should be allowed to be expunged from the quota and thereby the quota for Scotland be lowered. I have spoken in a hurry for obvious reasons, but I hope I have put these two points clearly to the noble Viscount. I say again that I hope very much that he will be supported by my noble friend, Lord Morrison, on the extreme right of his Bench.
§ LORD AMMON
My Lords, I think this would be a convenient moment to break off for the Royal Commission.
§ House adjourned during pleasure. House resumed.