§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF DEFENCE (LORD MANCROFT)
My Lords, there are three Amendments down in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, on the Third Reading of this Bill. I do not doubt that your Lordships will wish to follow the normal procedure—to agree to the formal Third Reacting of the Bill, discuss the noble Lord's Amendments, deal with the Privilege Amendments, and then, on the Motion that the Bill do now pass, make such valedictory remarks as seem proper. If that is your Lordships' wish, I will now formally move that the Bill be now read a third time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.—(Lord Mancroft.)
§ On Question, Bill read 3a.
§ Clause 4 [Power of Commissioners of Customs and Excise and their officers to obtain information]:
LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved, in subsection (1), to omit all words from "power" down to and including "Act", and to insert instead:
so far only as it may be required to enable them to discharge their duty of collecting or recovering the levy from exhibitors.".
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I must apologise for troubling your Lordships with these three Amendments—I know them by heart, and perhaps your Lordships will also know them by heart—but on Clause 4 there is still an issue 1050 between us, not on principle but on machinery. Her Majesty's Government, thyself and my noble friend Lord Archibald are all trying to do the same thing, and have not yet succeeded. I want to be explicit in laying down what are the functions of the Customs and Excise under this Bill. I have made two attempts to persuade Her Majesty's Government to accept Amendments and the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, put down on the Report stage an Amendment to which the House agreed and which he thought cleared the matter up. The best legal advice open to me is that there is still genuine doubt. I am told that the courts would decide one way or the other but nobody knows which. I have put down these Amendments to try to make it absolutely explicit.
With your Lordships' permission I will take the first two Amendments together. I ask that Clause 4 (1) shall read:
The Commissioners of Customs and Excise shall have power, so far only as it may be required to enable them to discharge their duty of collecting or recovering the levy from exhibitors, by notice in writing served on an exhibitor, to require him—
Then, leaving out the noble Lord's words "for that purpose", I go on to say:
and for the purposes aforesaid"—
that means all three of the purposes—
any officer of theirs may at all reasonable hours
do this or than. Without my first Amendment the Bill reads:
and for that purpose any officer of theirs.
The best advice open to me is that the words "for that purpose"—in the singular—can refer only to the purposes set out in paragraphs (a) and (b). I try to make it specific by saying: "the purposes aforesaid", that being the purpose of the Customs aril Excise to collect the levy. That is the simple issue. That is what the noble Lord wants and what we want. There is no question between us. I do not think it worth while to detain your Lordships to go into a lengthy exposition why we have put it in that way, but my advice is that the noble Lord's wording as it is in the Bill at the present time does not gel away from the disadvantage I have mentioned.
§ If your Lordships will look at the last two lines of Clause 4 (1) you will see that the Customs and Excise officer may do a number of things. He may require the exhibitor to produce, for examination by the officer, such books or other documents relating to the exhibitor's business as the officer may specify. The only function which the Customs and Excise have in this Bill is to collect or recover the levy. That levy is levied upon the admission price per seat. But the showing of films is only part of the business of a cinematograph proprietor. He sells chocolates, sweets and ice-cream, and it has been said that those are the only things on which he makes any money. He lets out advertising space the levy has nothing to do with that. My legal advice is that as the clause is now worded it would entitle an inspector or an officer of Customs and Excise to examine any books relating to any section of the exhibitor's business when, in fact, the function of the Customs and Excise is in regard to only one matter. I cannot find more simple words than that.
§ I say, let us sweep away all ambiguity. I hope the noble Lord will accept this Amendment because there is a genuine feeling on this side of the House, fortified by the best legal advice open to us, that it provides the only way to do it. As that makes the point crystal clear, I cannot see any reason why the noble Lord will not accept my Amendment, which I now beg to move.
Page 4, line 2, leave out from ("power") to ("by") in line 3 and insert ("so far only as it may be required to enable them to discharge their duty of collecting or recovering the levy from exhibitors,").—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)
§ LORD ARCHIBALD
My Lords, I shall not detain the House for more than a minute or two, but I want to say a word in support of my noble friend's Amendment. I think we should all agree that there are many cases as between the proprietor of a circuit of theatres and the inspector, or between the proprietor of a big urban theatre and the inspector, in which there would be no difficulty. But what we have to look at is whether the matter is so clear as between the humble proprietor of the little cinema and that admittedly rara avis the over-officious inspector as to be beyond any doubt. I 1052 venture to suggest that there will be the rare case of an over-officious inspector who is dealing with a small cinema proprietor in which the inspector will say: "My reading of the Act is so-and-so." And I think it is important that the Act should be so clear that, in such a case, the small exhibitor may be able to understand and assert his rights in the matter. For that reason I ask that careful consideration should be given to the Amendment.
I wish to add only one point, and it is purely for the purposes of clarification—I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, will help me upon this. Whether we take the present wording of the Bill, or the wording as proposed in my noble friend's second Amendment. I should like to be clear, whether the words are "for that purpose" or "for the purposes aforesaid", that the phrase covers not only the entering of the premises but the requiring of the exhibitor or his employee to produce books and documents. I think my noble friend would agree with me that we are not particularly concerned with the purpose for which the inspector enters. What we are very much concerned with is the purpose for which he requires the production of books, documents and papers. If I am assured that the wording covers both the entering and the requiring, I shall be satisfied. I ask that, either at this stage, or when the Bill goes somewhere else, it should be made so crystal clear that the small exhibitor in the small town may be assured of his rights.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
My Lords, I should like to support, very briefly, what my noble friends have just said. After all, we are trying to improve this clause; I think that both the Government and we, on this side of the House, have that idea in view. It seems to be a question of the wording. I think that the Amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth would make a distinct improvement in the clause, because it would make it much more clear. I had the impression during the Committee stage that possibly the Government were thinking often in terms of the big circuit owners, and of counsel in London and so on.
I am very much impressed by what Lord Archibald has said, because I think 1053 we must bear in mind the smaller exhibitor. The big circuit owner has a professional secretary and a legal adviser, and he is in a pretty strong position to interpret the Bill as it should be interpreted. But we must bear in mind the small man in some country village, who owns a small cinema and who is often at the mercy of an over-officious Customs officer. I have the highest regard for the officers of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, but there are exceptions to every rule and in every profession. So I think we must bear in mind that some of these officers possibly will be over-officious in interpreting their duties. I can see nothing wrong in expanding the Bill by inserting these extra words so that it will be perfectly clear, not only to the legal profession, but also to the layman. For these reasons I hope that Her Majesty's Government will accept the Amendment.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, let me begin by giving the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, the assurance for which he has asked me. I can give it to him specifically. The words do cover both entry and inquiry. There is no doubt about that at all; I can state it quite firmly.
Now let me turn to the major point. I agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has said, except his argument and his conclusion. I agree wholeheartedly with the purpose of his Amendment. We do not want to give an inspector of Customs and Excise the chance of taking any powers which we do not intend him to have under this Bill. We do not intend to give him the right to inspect either the marriage lines, which we discussed during the earlier stage of the Bill, and which, of course, are right outside the scope of the Bill, or figures about the sales of ice cream—which, again, have nothing to do with the Bill. The cinema proprietor may rightly take exception if an over-zealous Customs and Excise officer should take it upon himself to look at such matters, but in our opinion the Bill specifically prevents him from doing that.
Let me, if I can, make it quite clear, beyond all possibility of doubt, that the noble Lords' fears are ill-grounded. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, of course, that this should be clear to the small cinema proprietor as well as to the owner of the big circuit who has an adviser to tell him how the 1054 law stands. I took the precaution this afternoon of putting the question to the proprietor of my own small local cinema. I asked him whether he understood the clause, and he said that he understood it only too well. He proved conclusively that he did thoroughly understand it, and I am sorry to say that he went on to say some decidedly harsh things about the Bill, which, however, are not material to our discussion here to-day.
Clause 4 states that:The Commissioners of Customs and Excise shall have power, for the purpose of enabling them properly to perform their functions under this Part of this Act; …let us stop there. We are giving them power only to perform their functions under this Part of the Act—that is under Part I. These functions are set out clearly in Clause 2 and are specifically confined to the Levy. Customs officers would have no right to ask about anything to do with other matters than the Levy. I ask your Lordships to note particularly the wordsfor the purpose of enabling them properly to perform their functions under this Part of this Act.A little further on we come to these words:for that purpose, any officer of theirs may at all reasonable hours enter any premises. …For what purpose? For the same purpose that we have been discussing—the legitimate purpose set out at the beginning of Clause 4 and mentioned in Clause 2.
§ LORD MANCROFT
The words "for that purpose" refer back to the only purpose hitherto mentioned in the clause. They refer back to the purpose referred to in the second line of the clause. Grammatically and in drafting that is the only purpose which has so far been mentioned—that is the one I have just described. I have been given to understand—and I have had the highest legal advice on this—that there can be no other meaning to this than the one which I have put upon it. No other interpretation can be put upon the clause which would enable a Customs and Excise officer to claim the right to look at ice cream figures. As the noble Lord's Amendments really march together, I 1055 must point out that his second Amendment, which would substitute "the purposes aforesaid" for "that purpose" will not do, because by his first Amendment he would strike out "the purpose aforesaid." There would therefore be no purposes left at all for him to refer to.
I can assure the noble Lord, on the best advice of the advisers of the Government, without contradiction whatever, that that is the construction to be placed by the law upon that clause, and it is exactly the construction both the noble Lord and I want. I ask him to take that assurance. I shall be glad to talk it over with him quietly in the cool of the evening outside, and explain it to him, syllable by syllable, but I think that both these march together and refer back to the same thing—that is, to Clause 2—and contain only such a demand on the Customs and Excise as we ought to put on them and is strictly applicable to the levy. I hope that the noble Lord now has his mind put firmly at rest.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I do not believe a word of it. I am not saying that the noble Lord has not put that story over in perfectly good faith, but my legal advice, which I expect is just as good as his advice, is that the words "for the purpose" can refer only to (a) and (b). I do not know why the noble Lord called to aid his own little cinema proprietor. Poor fellow! It is as much as I can do to withstand the blandishments of the noble Lord, and I am certain that no cinema proprietor could withstand them. The noble Lord could convince him about anything. I am informed that my drafting is better than his, and that there is not a shadow of doubt of the purport of my drafting. But since I cannot persuade the noble Lord to accept it, I will not worry your Lordships any more, and I am not going to divide the House. The two sets of legal advisers can argue this matter now to their hearts' content. We have fulfilled our function on this side in trying to make this a better Bill. I regret very much that the noble Lord cannot accept this Amendment, but it can be argued in another place if they so desire. With that expression of regret, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1056
LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved, in subsection (1), after the last word "may" to insert "reasonably". The noble Lord said: My Lords, I just want to hear the noble Lord's argument again on why he will not accept the word "reasonably". I was prepared not to move this Amendment if he had given me the first two, but now I am afraid that I have to press him very hard. My Amendment would require an exhibitor
… to produce for examination by the officer such books or other documents relating to the exhibitor's business as the officer may reasonably specify.
If the noble Lord argues with me, as he has done in the past, that "reasonably" is one of those words about which no lawyer can make up his mind, and of which two lawyers will always give a different definition, how does he reconcile that with the fact that earlier in the subsection it says
… and, for that purpose, any officer of theirs may at all reasonable hours …"?
If someone is going to define a "reasonable" hour, why cannot he define what the officer may "reasonably specify". If this word is in the Bill once, why does he object to having it in a second time, when it is highly desirable in both contexts? Perhaps the noble Lord is going to relent at this fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour and accept my Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 4, line 14, after "may" insert "reasonably".—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I think the noble Lord is being a little naughty. He knows perfectly well what the difference is between a "reasonable" hour and what an inspector may "reasonably" specify, if an inspector arrives at three o'clock in the morning and knocks up an exhibitor and asks to see his books, a child in arms can tell—and possibly will do so at the top of his little voice—that that is not a reasonable hour. But an inspector cannot tell whether books may be reasonably specified until he has taken them down, opened them and seen them. If we put in the word "reasonably", an exhibitor can say, "No; you cannot see any of these books because they are not concerned with the business at all." Nobody is able to tell unless he is able to take them down and look at them. We have 1057 to give an officer the right to do this, Perhaps the first book has to do with ice cream, and does not relate to the exhibitor's business. He has no right to see that. The second, perhaps, deals with the exhibitor's private affairs; and the officer has no right to see that. The third book may have to do with the exhibitor's business, but how on earth can the officer discover that until he has looked at the books? It is obvious that the officer must be given the right to examine such books as he may specify without this dubious and nebulous word. I think that when the noble Lord considers this calmly, he will agree that putting in the word "reasonably" would be a great handicap on an officer reasonably carrying out his duties.
§ LORD ARCHIBALD
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, before he has finished, since he thinks that it is possible to specify what are "reasonable hours", whether it is quite so simple? Three o'clock n the afternoon may be a reasonable hour from the normal point of view, but if at that time an exhibitor is handling the queue for his matinée, it may not be reasonable for him; and if "reasonable hours" can be open to argument, surely the "reasonably" that my noble friend suggests cannot be any more open to argument.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, one can tell what is a reasonable hour because one can see the queue. I should have thought that, in the circumstances, the inspector would see that the hour was not reasonable when the exhibitor was doing a roaring business—that it was "all hands to the pumps", and the exhibitor would not want to be bothered by producing books for the inspector.
§ LORD MANCROFT
The onus of proving that the hours are reasonable would lie, I imagine, upon the inspector, because he has the right to come only at reasonable hours. But an inspector cannot tell whether books may be reasonably specified until he has got them down and seen them. Do not let us argue further about this; if the noble Lord is not happy about it, the matter can be discussed again in another place. On Third Reading, I do not think that we 1058 should be arguing this minor point. The last thing we want to do is to penalise the small cinema proprietor, or ask him to reveal his innermost private affairs to an inspector.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I only wanted to hear again the noble Lord's argument. The noble Lord has made one thing clear—that is, that the Customs and Excise inspector may make a thorough examination of all the things he thinks he has a right to see, at any time he thinks reasonable. If the noble Lord wants it that way, I suppose the noble Lord will have it that way. I do not want to worry your Lordships by going to a Division. Now we have it crystal clear, that the sole arbiter of what it is reasonable to see and do is the Customs and Excise inspector. With those words, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I rise to move that this Bill do now pass. It is an important Bill, and we have given it a long and thorough examination, but I should not like it to leave your Lordships' House without dealing briefly with one or two points that have arisen and possibly clearing up one or two doubts that may still be in your Lordships' minds.
This is not a Bill that covers every problem of the film industry. It is aimed primarily at helping the producer, and we intend, if we can, to secure the maintenance of a reasonable level of film production, bearing in mind always the economic circumstances of the exhibitors and, indeed, other and wider considerations. We are trying to implement this policy by doing three things: by ensuring to producers the maintenance of financial support from the levy; by extending the lending powers of the National Film Finance Corporation, and by continuing the protection of the film quota legislation. I think these measures have been generally approved by your Lordships, but there has been dissatisfaction over one or two of the details which attach to them.
1059 First, there is the amount of the levy of course, there is room for endless argument as to what the top and bottom figures should be, or, indeed, whether there should be any top or bottom figure. The only thought on this matter that I should like to leave with your Lordships is that I think it would be untidy and undesirable to leave a nebulous or nonexistent figure in the Bill, and to have lack of precision in future which would lead to endless argument and confusion. Our aim and hope is that we shall possess a flourishing industry, independent if possible, of Government support. I think—and we have argued this point also—that our best hope lies in the steady development of our exports.
The next point that we worried about is the ability of the exhibitors to pay the levy; and the question of entertainments tax has been widely canvassed. All I would do is to repeat the pledge that I have given to your Lordships: that I will make certain that my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who I know has this point actively in mind, will be given, and asked to study carefully, all your Lordships' observations on this point before finally making up his mind upon the inquiry, which your Lordships know he is now holding. Clause 4 has given us a great deal of trouble over a small point, and I hope that before the Bill becomes law the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, will have been persuaded by his legal advisers, or by me in private conversation, that he need not worry along the lines that he has done—quite naturally, as I think.
The next point is the difference in the treatment given to the producer and the exhibitor. I promised the noble Lord that I would look into this matter when we discussed it, on both the Committee and the Report stages. Under the Bill, the exhibitor is liable to a penalty. The reason for this is that there is no provision of general law which would enable us to obtain the information from the exhibitor in regard to his levy liability. That is why we provide for it in the Bill. No penalty is stated in the Bill to be held against a producer who does not produce his books, if required to do so by the authorities who will place money at his disposal, because, as I have said on several occasions, if he fails to provide necessary information he will not get 1060 the money. If he does anything wrong, then, as I told the noble Lord on the Report stage, the producer is liable in criminal law. If he deliberately makes false statements and gets money thereby, he is liable to a maximum penalty for obtaining money by false pretences of five years' imprisonment. If he has done it by means of a statutory declaration, which might well happen, for the purpose of getting money, then, under the ordinary law of the land, he may find himself liable to two years' imprisonment under Section 5 of the Perjury Act, 1911—that is, if he has done it with criminal intent. If he has accidentally got more than he ought to have done and no fraud is involved, then Clause 3 (2) (e) provides specifically for the recovery of over-payments. That is the reason for the difference between the two classes.
I turn now to the National Film Finance Corporation. I should like to emphasise that the provision of risk money for films will remain their primary task, and nothing in Clauses 10 and 11 will alter this. As to the quota law, I agree that some sections of the 1938 and 1948 Acts have not worked well. All I can do is to repeat the promise that I gave to your Lordships and the industry at an earlier stage of the Bill: that my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade intends to consult the industry this autumn on possible amendments, with a view to introducing amending legislation, if that proves necessary, as soon as possible thereafter. As a result of this Bill, the producers now have the confidence that the quota protection, in some form or another, is secure for another ten years, They are, therefore, helped by this Bill.
It only remains for me to thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, both of whom have an unrivalled knowledge of the Bill, for the assiduity and skill with which they have addressed themselves to its fairly complicated provisions. Nobody can accuse them of lacking in thoroughness. We have attempted to meet them whenever we thought they had a good point, and have met every point that we thought deserved to be met. I do not think they would take it as a compliment if we accepted a bad Amendment, just for the sake of giving them an Amendment. That would be a poor 1061 compliment to them for the trouble they have taken and the skill they have shown. We have listened carefully to what they have had to say, and whenever we have thought that they had a good point to make, we have done our best to meet them. I hope noble Lords will take that, as it is meant, as a compliment from me. It is the joint wish of both sides of the House to see ultimately an independent, healthy and thriving British film industry which will throw away with relish the crutches with which this Bill provides it. I come back to this point: no amount of legislation can turn a bad film into a good one; only the industry can do that. We have tried here to give the industry all the help in our power to turn out as many good British films as they possibly can. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord m1ancroft.)
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, my first words must be of thanks to the noble Lord for his courtesy during all the strenuous debates and discussions we have had upon all stages of this Bill. I must confess to being surprised that this Bill has not excited more attention, not only in your Lordships' House but throughout the country. We have been trying to legislate for the next ten years for one of the most vital industries in the entertainment world of this country. From the end of the war until about 1950 we saw going into the cinemas of this country about 4 million people every day, and even last year it only dropped to 3 million a day. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, ended his speech by saying that no Bill will turn a bad film into a good film. The British film producing industry can turn out all the good films it is capable of turning out, but it will never be a success until it can get into the markets of this world; and it will never get into the markets of this world while the dice is loaded aganst it as the Government persist in loading the dice against it.
I read—I expect the noble Lord did, too—a somewhat informed article in the Economist. It made one or two of the usual mistakes made by the Economist, but the one great mistake it made was the same mistake that so many people make, it said:The oldest armour in this policy1062 that relates to the policy of various Governments—is the quota system under which a prescribed percentage of the films that British cinemas show have to be made in Britain.A film can rank as a British film when not one foot of it is shot—that is the technical term—in Britain, and not one person in the United Kingdom employed in making it. That is one of the principal deterrents that has been imposed on the British producer.
The industry is now up against this particular problem: how to compete with S million private cinemas. There are now 8 million private cinemas in this country, one in every home where a television set is installed. Neither the producer of the entertainment that is provided for television, nor the owner of a television set—which, in effect, is run as his own private cinema—has to pay one halfpenny entertainment tax, while the Government take £33 million a year out of the film industry. That is one of the big problems. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said it was no good our not putting specific figures in this Bill. I can tell the noble Lord quite bluntly that, unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his next Budget makes a substantial reduction in the entertainments tax, he has no more chance of getting £3¾ million of levy out of the exhibitors of films in this country than he has of becoming a film star. You cannot get that amount out of the industry. This Bill, and every other scrap of legislation, is to-day wrapped up inextricably with the tax that has been put on many things in this country, principally in the world of entertainment, the cinema. For every £1 that is collected at the box office, 6s. 5½d. goes to the Government and 5½d. to the exhibitor.
The great surprise to me is that the Government still persist in this fanciful fiction that the levy which this Bill endorses as statutory for the next ten years is not a subsidy. It is nothing more than a subsidy, and the Government will not admit it. By far the best way for the Government to treat this industry is by a reduction, and a substantial reduction, of entertainments duty; but if they want to make it a subsidy, why the dickens do they not give it a straight subsidy and be done with it? This levy has to be found out of State money, Government 1063 money, taxpayers' money, by way of a reduction and a pay back of entertainments tax.
Those are some of the great problems with which this industry is grappling, and we can do no more about it in this House. I thank my noble friends for the great help they have given me. My noble friend Lord Archibald has supported this argument about entertainments tax through thick and thin. I can tell Lord Mancroft that as regards the levy this Bill is so much waste paper unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to make it far more than £3¾ million. That will cover only the first instalment. The industry have put forward a figure in the region of £20 million. If that is not done there will be not 179 cinemas closed next year, but about double that number. These are the serious things with which we have been trying to deal. I believe that the cinema industry still provides for the masses of this country good entertainment, and it has a strong competitor which does not pay a tithe of taxation of the same kind or operate under the disadvantageous circumstances. This is to me—and these are my concluding remarks—one of the most remarkable things that has happened to me in this House—that the case for this industry, which has a capital investment of millions of pounds, has had to be defended minute after minute and hour after hour; its case has had to be stated from this side of the House, with Benches on the other side bereft of anybody. It is a remarkable thing, and I can only hope that the cinema industry of this country value the contribution that Her Majesty's Opposition have made.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ LORD ARCHIBALD
My Lords, I will not detain the House for more than a few minutes, but there are one or two final points that I should like to make. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said, quite correctly and obviously, that no amount of legislation will turn a bad film into a good film. He unfortunately went on to say that only the industry could do that. May I tell him that by the time a bad film has been made it is beyond the power even of the industry to turn it into a good one. Naturally, no producer ever sets out to make a bad film; they all set out to make good 1064 films. But even with the industry in the most efficient form that it is ever likely to be, there will still be bad films made; and that is something we have to accept.
What legislation can do, and what this Bill obviously sets out to do, is not to enable films to be good films—although we all hope they will be that—but to put films in the position of being able to get back the costs of production—I will not say to make profits, but at least to get back the costs of production, because that is one of the purposes of the Bill. Naturally, I support the Bill to that extent. In fact, I think we might say that on both sides of the House there is general agreement with the main purposes of the Bill, these being to provide a stable, solid and at least not loss-making British production industry. I must again return to the point about how that is being done. I am sorry to disagree with my noble friend on the Front Bench, but I do not think there is anything in the nature of a subsidy involved. What is being done is that some of the entertainments tax is being syphoned off (if I may use the phrase) for the benefit of production; it is still money taken at the box office which is going to be transferred to production.
Having made my main point, that I am in agreement with the main purposes of the Bill, I am sorry that I cannot entirely accept the view of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that whenever we have had a good Amendment it has been accepted. Far from it. In fact, to use his own words, I consider that on this Bill he has done a magnificent job of "stone-walling". I feel that some of our Amendments were worthy of greater consideration than was given to them. After all, this Bill is not a Party political issue; it is a practical issue, and not all the wisdom and knowledge is on any one side of the House. I think my noble friends and myself have made some worthwhile contributions, but they have not been accepted. I should have felt it necessary at this stage to register a protest against the rigidity which has been shown in the matter, but for the persuasive charm of the noble Lord in charge of the Bill, who at least, when he could not accept our Amendments, gave us, so far as he possibly could, assurances and explanations which went a 1065 long way to soften the blow of his consistent and definite refusals. With those comments, may I just add that I wish the Bill well in its subsequent passage, and I hope that it will lead to ten years of reasonable stability in the film industry of this country.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
My Lords, I shall detain your Lordships for only a few moments. I was pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, give a pledge that the question of entertainments tax is being reviewed at the moment by his right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Of course, the whole question of whether or not this very complicated Bill will work rests on the amount of entertainments tax which will be extorted from the film industry. At present, out of £40 million entertainments tax paid in this country, £33 million is contributed by the film industry. The discussions that we have had on this Bill will, I am afraid, he largely academic unless there is a substantial reduction in the, entertainments tax. The question of what is or what is not reasonable will not matter a bit, as there will not be any books for the Customs and Excise officer to inspect because the cinema will have dosed. Therefore, I hope that, when this question is being considered, the Government will think in terms not just of £1 million or £2 million, but of a really substantial reduction—something of the nature of £20 million. I am quite certain that this Bill will not work at all, that it will defeat its own object and that the amount of the levy will not be found unless it is balanced by a substantial reduction in entertainments tax.
§ On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.