HL Deb 29 July 1980 vol 412 cc804-7

7 p.m.

Lord LYELL rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 17th July be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope it will be for the convenience of the House if, with this Motion, I speak at the same time to the second Motion which stands in my name. After I have made one short speech, I shall then be able to move the second order formally. When the House very recently gave its assent to what has since become the 1980 Films Act, one of the very modest but essential provisions was that which extended the film levy, which is commonly known as the Eady levy. This levy was extended for another five years from what would otherwise have been its expiry in September this year. What I am asking your Lordships to do is to consider two small, but equally essential, provisions that arise out of this extension of the film levy.

I hope the House will bear with me while I make a brief explanation of the Eady levy, in case any Members of your Lordships' House were not present when we recently considered the Bill. Since 1957, this levy has been imposed by the Department of Trade upon the receipts of cinema exhibitors, with some minor exceptions. It is collected by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise and the majority of the proceeds are then distributed to the makers of eligible British films by the British Films Fund Agency. This is a statutory body, which was specially set up in 1957 for the purpose that I have described. This distribution has proved to be a very powerful inducement for the making of films in this country.

Much of the detailed operation of the levy is laid down in the regulations, and there are two main sets of these. One covers the collection of the levy and the other covers its distribution. The House recently assented to the extension of the levy for a further five years, and your Lordships are today being asked to approve extensions to the life of one of the provisions in each of these two sets of regulations, in order that both sets of regulations may continue to operate concurrently with the extended life which the House has already approved for the levy itself.

I hope that the House will bear with me if I, first, deal with the collection of levy regulations. Initially, the Cinematograph Films Act 1957 imposed a duty on the Department of Trade to make regulations providing for a levy upon exhibitors for a limited period only. This period was extended in 1966 and, again, in 1970, and we have just extended it again by the 1980 Act. The regulations made to carry out this duty have always expressed the obligation to pay the levy in terms of a period corresponding with that in the current primary legislation. Thus Regulation No. 2 of the present collection regulations will expire at the same time as the levy itself was previously due to expire; that is, September this year.

We believe it is essential to extend the obligations upon exhibitors which are contained in Regulation No. 2 for a further five years, in step with the period referred to in the 1980 Act. That is all that this instrument seeks to do. It changes nothing and introduces no innovation. All that it seeks to do is to ensure the continued operation of the collection machinery. Without this extension, the machinery has to stop. I am sure the House will agree that this extension is necessary, given the House's earlier approval for the continuation of the levy itself.

In a similar way, the life of one of the distribution of levy regulations has also to be extended. I mentioned earlier that the majority of the levy is paid out to the makers of eligible British films by the British Films Fund Agency. Regulation No. 4 empowers the agency to make such payments, but, once again, this power expires in September this year and, now that the life of the levy has been extended, the life of this regulation should similarly be extended for a further five years to keep it in step. That is all that this instrument seeks to do. It does not change the way in which the distributions will be made, nor to whom they are made. It ensures only that the makers of eligible films will continue to receive distributions from the levy.

I should apologise for bringing these instruments before the House so soon after the consideration of the primary legislation. But I think your Lordships will appreciate that we are working to a deadline and, if the powers which are conferred by the regulations under discussion were allowed to lapse, this would cause a great deal of confusion and some considerable inconvenience. It would also negate the effects of the recent decision of the House to extend the life of the levy itself. For that reason, I commend these two orders for the approval of the House. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 17th July, be approved. —(Lord Lyell.)

7.7 p.m.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for moving this order. I assure him that it is with the entire agreement of the House that he should have spoken to both this order and the subsequent one which is in his name. The fact of these two orders being on the Order Paper is, as he said, consequential upon the passing of the Films Act 1980, and the House entirely understands the need for them to be brought before it this evening. The noble Lord should not feel it necessary to apologise for introducing these two orders this evening. The House is very jealous, as is Parliament as a whole, of its rights and duties in regard to approving orders such as this, and, if they were not laid, I am sure that Parliament would express its disapproval very strongly.

I thank the noble Lord for explaining in detail the implications of the two orders and, also, for reminding us of the definition of the Eady levy and of how it came to be known by that name. I am sure that the House will approve these two orders without having to go to a Division.

On Question, Motion agreed to.