HL Deb 19 December 1984 vol 458 cc686-718

5.24 p.m.

Lord Lloyd of Hampstead rose to call attention to the White Paper on Film Policy (Cmnd. 9319); and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the White Paper on policy appeared last July, and this is the first opportunity we have had to consider its proposals and their implications for the future of the film industry. I hope therefore that your Lordships will welcome this chance to explore some of the wider aspects of this important issue.

I should like to begin by quoting very briefly from the White Paper itself. First, I refer to the rather inspirational opening in the first two paragraphs where it is stated that the British film industry has an importance and influence both in our national life and internationally out of all proportion to its size. In the next paragraph it says: The year 1983 was one of considerable optimism in the production industry. The signs of renaissance were clear". Then we turn to the resounding conclusion from which I make a further brief quotation. It is in the concluding paragraph on page 18: The film industry can be a matter of great national pride. And through its ability to project the national culture and way of life to a wide audience overseas it can thus enhance a country's international standing. We believe that Britain has already a film industry of which it can be justly proud, and that there is potential for more growth and for greater achievements". Then we have the last sentences: The policies set out in this paper are designed to set free the creative talents and business skills of those involved in the providing of entertainment by way of feature films and to ensure that new talent is encouraged to come forward. They are policies of freedom and challenge. We are sure that the challenge will be successfully taken up. When one turns to the contents of this White Paper, one is perhaps entitled to expect great boons conferred upon the film industry to warrant such euphoria. I am quite aware that very long consultations took place before the White Paper was issued, but, in substance, most of the advice tendered from leading personalities in the film industry was rejected, as indeed were most to the recommendations of the House of Commons Select Committee on the Arts.

The solutions put forward by this White Paper have been substantially condemned by virtually all sides of the industry, as is exemplified by a rather remarkable expression of view on behalf of practically all the leading associations connected with the film industry which was published only yesterday or the day before, and which represents a dramatic picture of the impact that these proposals have had. Of course from these associations I except the exhibitors, who have been understandably exhilarated by the abolition of the Eady levy.

When one looks at the recommendations of the White Paper one finds that they are largely negative. Perhaps I may take up part of my time by going through some of the main recommendations. First of all, we have the abolition of Eady. If I may say so, I am delighted to see that Lord Wilson of Rievaulx is in his place for this debate, as it was to his ingenious mind that we owed the Eady levy, which served the industry so well for so many years. I think it is universally recognised now—and he, I know, recognises it too—that it has outlived its usefulness. The real gravamen of this point is: what have the Government put in its place? The answer is what they describe as "outline arrangements" with certain film, television and video interests whereby they are to put up between them £1.1 million for three years. We now know, of course, that the interests in question are: Rank Thorn-EMI, Channel 4 and the British Videogram Association. The Government will contribute £1½ million a year for five years to that fund. Much play has been made with the fact that thereby the fund available is doubled from what was derived from the Eady money. But this overlooks the hopelessly inadequate base which ultimately resulted from the reduction of Eady over the years.

Secondly, the White Paper totally rejects the idea of a levy on feature films provided for television or for video tape. This is a matter to which I will return, if time permits, in a few moments. The National Film Finance Corporation—which has made such a long and impressive contribution to the film industry, having supported some 750 feature films over the years and at the same time supported an impressive array of new talents in the industry—is to be wound up and is to be replaced by a rather ill-defined company which is generally referred to at the moment as "Son of NFFC", though I have heard it mentioned in rather more uncomplimentary terms.

This body is to be wholly commercially oriented except that there is to be an independent chairman, and apparently there will be one Government nominee on the board. So all trust is placed for this purpose substantially on Rank and Thorn-EMI—I have nothing to say against those bodies. But the fact remains that no safeguards are being given to ensure that this new company will serve the public interest. After all, to whom is it accountable? It appears to have no duty but to serve its own commercial interests.

If new talent is to be fostered, as we are told by the Government it is, what assurance have we that such a body will give us this benefit? At the same time not only do the Government make over this annual sum of £1½ million for five years, but also the portfolio of rights which was vested in the old NFFC apparently becomes a free gift for it to do with what it will—though no doubt with the intention that it shall be used to serve the film industry.

Next we know that capital allowances have been discontinued. It is true that the White Paper refers to certain arrangements to be made in the tax field to assist the industry, but I think the industry is universally of one mind that those are relative sops, such as the application of the Business Expansion Scheme, compared with the considerable tax incentives which derived from the previous arrangement and which the Government had given promises to continue.

Then, if we turn to the cinemas, of course we can understand the relief that cinema exhibitors feel as a result of the abolition of Eady, because, as we know, there has been a catastrophic decline in the admissions to cinemas. Many important areas throughout the country are now totally bereft of cinemas, but we must ask what will the White Paper do about this? It is true that pious hope is expressed that the removal of Eady will encourage refurbishment. But is this enough? If we compare this with what is being done in other countries—for example, in France, where substantial funds are available (£4 million last year) to assist new cinemas, refurbishment and re-equipment and where admissions have increased by six million—we can see that this is small beer.

The BFI production board is to be put off with a final handout of £125,000 and nothing more in future years. I say that with some feeling as an ex-chairman of the BFI who is fully aware of the admirable work that that body, which owes its inception to no less a personage than Sir Michael Balcon, has done in fostering new talent.

Lastly, I want to refer to the National Film and Television School. Here I must disclose my interest as the chairman of that body. It would be churlish of me not to welcome the glowing tributes that have been paid to the school both by Ministers in this House and another place and in the White Paper. But the school has lost a steady income. One-third of its income has gone with the abolition of Eady and in its place, we are told, there is an arrangement with cinemas, Independent Television and the BBC, to provide £600,000 a year for five years. But all this is shrouded in great vagueness.

We do not really know what this agreement is and how it is to be enforced; in what proportions contributions are to be made; what is to happen if suddenly the parties decide not to go on with it; and there is no safety net. Nor is any statutory sanction given to the school such as was contained in the Films Act 1970. We have a situation where the income of the school is somewhat more precarious than it has been in the past and nothing has been done to improve it. To some extent, its status has been diminished, despite the glowing tributes that have been paid.

On the whole, we have what seems to me to be a rather sad and ironic script for a Government claiming to be so concerned with the future of the film industry. The Government have placed virtually their whole faith in commercial investment. The whole history in the United Kingdom and European countries shows how much more is needed. It is a high cost, high risk industry. Of course market forces have a principal role to play in feature films, but one must remember that this is something which involves losses as well as profits. One flop can be enough to make the commercial money dry up. It is no good comparing the position with America, because America has a vast domestic market quite unlike our own market.

Again the Government say that we must free the industry from Government intervention. They see salvation in this course, but what has harmed the industry is not Government intervention. The industry is not going around begging for relief from interference. It is failure of adequate support, as has been found in other countries such as Australia, France and so forth.

As for talent, we have vast quantities of talent in this country. I have referred to the contribution, which is fully recognised, that the film school has made to the deployment of that talent. but opportunities have to be given and that is where there is a need for funds. There is a great danger that indigenous films of quality will be extinguished in the next few years. It is this situation rather than a renaissance that the Government may be presiding over.

I wanted to say a few words about the levy on films for television and video tapes but, keeping my eye as carefully as I can on the clock, if I were to discuss that I should exceed my time. I shall therefore leave that to others who I am sure will have certain observations to make on the need for something of this sort to create adequate funds.

In conclusion, I shall mention a remark of Mr. Trippier, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, on the Second Reading of the Films Bill now before the Commons. He said: "Everyone says that the film industry is special, and in many ways they are right". The Government can be said to have understood many of the problems of the industry in their White Paper. What they show is a lack of imagination in exploring the solutions. That is why we have this rather sad little Bill. It will be a sad day for the country and the Government if their unimaginative approach leads to their presiding over not a renaissance but a steady decline into an industry which is no more than an ancillary service to American blockbusters, and at the same time is simply filling in gaps on television screens which even the massive flow of United States material may be unable totally to accommodate.

Therefore, I conclude by asking the Government to heed the voices from all informed quarters in the industry which have called for more positive action by the Government if we are to have a film industry that is worthy and capable of doing the great things to which the White Paper hopefully looks forward with a degree of euphoria which, if I may say so, I and many others like me find some difficulty in sharing. I beg to move for Papers.

5.41 p.m.

Lord Layton

My Lords, I must ask your Lordships' indulgence for this, my maiden speech. My only claim to expertise in the field covered by the admirable White Paper on the film industry is my considerable experience in other industries in the effects of restrictions, restraints, private cartels and Government restrictions, and particularly in the area of the effects of restraint on prices, fixing of quotas and the like. I must also confess to having a minor connection with another media item—namely, the printing industry—but I think that this is only a relatively small part of the very important field of communications which we are talking about tonight.

The film industry has gone through a terrific number of revolutionary changes over the period of the post-1950s. It has gone through those changes because basically we have had an enormous revolution in technology of all kinds. When I think how much has changed in the period we are looking at, I look back on a few of the major technological changes that one knows about. It is somewhat interesting to realise that the Eady levy was imposed, I think, in 1950, and that that is now 34 years ago. Yet the first passenger jet flight across the Atlantic was in 1959, 25 years ago and therefore that is much more recent. I think that it was at that time that the first commercial use of a computer came in; and in those days the computer had valves. The revolution which has taken place in communications, however, has been very much affected by the introduction of the computer and now much more recently, even only in the past three or four years, the microchip. We are going through a tremendous technological revolution in the communications industry.

We have had the explosive growth of television and on top of that, we have had the invention of the video, and what in fact is extremely important is that whereas in the 1950s recorded pictures were all recorded pictorially by camera, today pictures are frequently recorded on electronic tape. These are all major changes in the position. We are inclined to forget just how many there are and how frequently. Equally, we also forget that this country has an immense talent for invention. Our invention in these technological areas is remarkably high. The really sad thing is the failure that we have had to implement them and to exploit them. Our level of exploitation is appallingly bad and we are beaten to the push time and again. The record of inventions, patents and so on is high; the record of achievement on them is low. And very often this is due to the extension of ancient restrictive practices of one kind or another—some by Government, some by labour relations and some by sheer inability to appreciate how far these new inventions can be implemented.

As I have said, the communications industry is changing rapidly. It is essential, as I see it, that this great communications market be derestricted in every way possible; in other words, that it be made possible for this country not only to keep abreast but to encourage risk capital, so that it can take over the opportunities that it has undoubtedly partially missed up to date. For this reason we have to take off all possible restraints. The White Paper is admirable in its analysis of that part of this great industry concerned with film production and distribution. It reveals a lot of the changes that I have mentioned. I refer not only to the Eady levy when I talk about restraints and restrictions but I also agree entirely with the White Paper for the need for abolishing the licensing system, the quota system and the various other interferences which have been left hanging around, which are an anachronism today and are long due for abolition.

It is interesting to see what the levy in fact has done. When it was introduced the number of cinema attendances was I think 1.3 billion per annum and the levy per head of attendance was a very important and noble contribution to helping develop the industry in films. In the 1960s, television had had its beginning and its impact and the total volume of attendances had fallen to about 300 million. By 1983, attendances were down to 66 million; and it is quite clear that this had made a catastrophic change in the Eady levy and had left the industry with a lot of rigmarole, a lot of bureaucratic requirements, that were totally ineffective in carrying out the objectives that were required. The volume of the income was clearly inadequate and to a large extent was going in the wrong direction, if the White Paper is correct.

The markets changed radically and the market for films has changed in direction. Television has something like 4 billion viewers per annum, if the figures are to be believed. This is an immense growth in watching but a totally different area of effect; in other words, the cinemas which had been penalised by the levy have been helping private development in the film area which is largely marketed elsewhere. I am not sure whether it is better to see the abolition—and I believe this to be right—of all these restrictions and restraints; to cut them out, to dispose of them and to allow the industry to settle down in a much freer situation. I believe that what the Government have suggested in the Bill which is going through Parliament is sensible and related to the White Paper. It allows for financing some of the admirable objectives that were included under the Eady levy. But it does also open the door to a much greater freedom of action within the industry and it places on those who are in the industry much more responsibility by taking the Government hand off the wheel, if I may use that expression.

My own feeling is that it is vitally important, on the other side, that the Government keep their eye on the business and be prepared and not wait another 25 years before moving. But, if it is found necessary because, for example, of problems arising from the excessive pirating of video tapes or other similar actions, then yes, the Government should take action. However, it is very important that there should be at least a period when the film industry has a chance to find its own feet without this Government restraint.

5.52 p.m.

Lord Willis

My Lords, it falls to me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Layton, on a very eloquent and persuasive maiden speech. I do not think he would expect me to accept all his arguments but I hope we shall hear a great deal more of the noble Lord, not necessarily on films but on other subjects.

I should like to begin by saying that we shall be having the Films Bill before your Lordships' House some time in the New Year and therefore I will confine myself to some rather general remarks about the White Paper and the prospects of the Films Bill. I have to start by declaring an interest. I have had 40 years in the film industry as a film writer. In fact in 1944 I made my debut as a writer for films when I wrote a great romantic drama for the War Office, entitled "How to look after your Bren gun". Four years later I attained my first feature film credit with a film called "Holiday Camp". It is interesting to note that a certain Mr. Jeremy Hanley, who is now the honourable Member for Richmond and Barnes, played a very small part in that film. It had to he small because he was only 18 months old at the time. And now, while your Lordships are relaxing during the Recess, I shall be engaged in writing my 31st screenplay—for, contrary to some notions of the public, even noble Lords have to earn a living. The only sadness I feel about this is that I shall be writing the screenplay for a German company.

At any rate, I think I may lay claim to some experience and inside knowledge of what is loosely, and I think sometimes very inaccurately, called the British film industry. Quite often during the last 40 years I have felt as though I were riding on a giant roller-coaster, as the film industry rose for a while full of hope, only to go down in one of its recurring crises. And I ask myself this question: why in all these years has it proved possible for us to develop what is recognised as some of the finest talent in the world—directors, actors, writers and technicians—and yet we have not been able to establish a stable and crisis-free film industry? Why is that?

The answer—one which, to my mind, a lot of people seem to overlook—lies for the most part across the Atlantic in the United States. Let me stress here that I am not anti-American in any sense. I am a fervent admirer of the marvellous entertainment that has come out of Hollywood over the past years: but over those same years the American film moguls have followed a policy of self-interest and protectionism to the highest degree. When the talking picture arrived in the late 1920s, the American producers were shrewd enough to see that the main international threat to their virtual monopoly of the English-speaking market might come from Britain. Clearly, France or Germany, with their different languages, posed no danger; but Britain did. So the United States and the film industry in Hollywood virtually put up a blockade against the British product. while at the same time they flooded our cinemas with their own films.

I can tell your Lordships—indeed some of you may know this—that the Rank Organisation spent a fortune in the early 1950s in an attempt to set up its own distribution organisation in the States and thus get its films into American cinemas. It was frozen out and had eventually to withdraw, licking its financial wounds. If it had not been for a deal with Xerox, the Rank Organisation would have gone broke. Others, notably the noble Lord, Lord Grade, tried it later, with the same result. The Americans just would not allow the distribution.

The truth is that, in film terms, Britain is a virtual colony of the United States. Hollywood producers are happy to exploit, in the best colonial terms, our talent, our resources and our market; but, like all colonisers, they do not want to see a strong local industry develop and they have been successful over the years in preventing the British industry from developing.

I have no doubt whatsoever that much the same thing would have happened in British television if it were not for the fact that there is an agreement between the unions and the producers which limits the use of overseas programmes to 14 per cent. of the material transmitted: otherwise we should have been flooded with American shows on our networks. And I can tell your Lordships that when satellite and cable come, as they will inevitably, unless we have the same kind of restrictive practice—and I hate restrictive practices—we shall be murdered by the Americans. Satellite and cable will be flooded with the American product. I am not saying that the whole American product is bad: do not get me wrong. But what I am saying is that there will be no market there for the British product.

That the British film industry has survived at all is almost entirely due to certain protective measures which were introduced by successive Governments. In particular, we ought to pay tribute here to the noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, who was responsible for introducing measures which enabled the British film industry to survive in very critical times. We had the Eady Fund—a levy on the price of each cinema seat sold, the proceeds of which went back in the main to the film producers. We had the Quota, which made it obligatory for cinemas to show a certain number of British-made films each year. We had the National Film Finance Corporation, which invested in production; we had the British Film Institute, with its small but valuable production fund; and we had, until the last Budget, certain capital allowances which made film investment more attractive. That was very, very small protection against the vast force of the Hollywood invaders, but those measures did at least give us a base.

Without the Film Finance Corporation, half the British films of the last 20 years would never have seen the light of day. Without capital allowances, firms like Goldcrest, now one of the most successful film and television companies in our country, would probably never have got off the ground. Certainly, new companies are going to find it tremendously difficult to raise the necessary investment finance.

In the new Bill which is now going through the other place, the Government are proposing to follow up the abolition of capital allowances by abolishing most of the other measures which have helped British films to survive; and what they do not propose to abolish they intend to hand over to private hands. I hope, in parenthesis, that your Lordships will notice that I have avoided that barbaric word "privatisation", which does not exist and which should never be used.

I recognise, as do most of my colleagues in the industry, that things have changed. There is much more home viewing; cinema attendances are down dramatically and they continue to decline. All this is a process that we have to recognise. I think it is right, therefore, that the Eady levy should go and I hope that some, at least, of the money saved by the cinema owners will go towards making our cinemas more welcoming and comfortable. There are many reasons for the decline in cinema attendances, and one of them lies in the standards of the cinemas themselves, many of which have all the warmth of an empty warehouse.

But, while I support the abolition of the Eady levy, I do not like the proposal to transfer the NFFC to private hands. The funding is inadequate; the control is uncertain; and the five-year lease of life merely extends that uncertainty. The point I want to make is that the British film industry must have support from the Government. It cannot stand up against the onslaught from Hollywood unless it has that support. The Americans are quite ruthless about this—absolutely ruthless. If they can take over our cable network, our satellites, and anything else, they will do so. I do not blame them. They are in the game of making money and in the game of business. We have to fight back but we have to fight back on very inadequate ground. The Government are cutting that ground away from us. That is why we must have more support.

I hope to be able to come back in more detail when we discuss the new Films Bill. But for the moment I want to content myself with two final thoughts. I am an optimist and I still hope that some more imaginative use could be made of this new legislative opportunity. For example, as the noble Lord, Lord Wilson, has pointed out many times, responsibility for films is at present spread very thinly over no fewer than five Government departments. That is a nonsense. Why cannot we have one Minister in charge and with him a British Film Authority operating like the Arts Council, at arms length, which has been the recommendation of the working party of the noble Lord, Lord Wilson?

The making of films is a unique operation. I beg those noble Lords who are in business not to make any attempt to compare it with ordinary manufacture or to apply the same rules. Such a course will end in failure. If one manufactures a marvellous sausage according to a certain recipe and it sells well, one will go on making that sausage for the next 10 years according to the recipe and it will sell well. But if the producer makes a good film and it sells well, it is a one-off. There is no way he can repeat that success with the same product. He has to start all over again with something new and take an entirely new risk. Believe me, my Lords, it costs more than making a packet of sausages.

The plea I want to make to the Government is to show some imagination and to understand that the film industry needs to receive special treatment and help if it is to survive, and is not to succumb to an onslaught from overseas. It needs the same sort of help—no more—as they give to our great theatres. The film industry is just as important to this country as the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and all the other theatres. It is worth it for in every good British film that sells overseas there is a hidden bonus to this country.

For example, a few years ago people thought that Australia was a land inhabited by kangaroos and koala hears. The international success of Australian films in recent years has transformed that outlook and brought enormous benefits to that country. Those are hidden benefits; one cannot measure them; one cannot put them on a balance sheet; but they made an enormous difference. That transformation was made possible by generous Government help and imaginative planning.

The British film industry asks not for a lot but only for similar help and imagination. Give us what the Australian Government have given to the Australian film industry and we shall give you something that will excite the whole world. We have the talent, we have the technicians—all we beg of this Government is the opportunity to do the job.

6.4 p.m.

Lord Marley

My Lords, in congratulating my noble friend on this excellent maiden speech I should like to say that I totally agree with almost everything he said and that he has taken the first part of my speech away from me. That is all right—it does not matter—but times, we all agree, must change. The new technology that is coming into the business must be taken into consideration. To emphasise this point, perhaps I may just read a quotation to your Lordships: Times have changed a bit since your mum and dad's day, you know. There's electric light now and the telephones and a little invention called moving pictures. Nobody wants to see the Red Peppers for three bob when they can see Garbo for ninepence". That was written by Noel Coward in 1933 or 1934 and it shows the beginning of the change into the first stage of the film industry.

My experience of the industry over 40 years is totally in the past now because I retired about 10 years ago. I will call it the "steam cinema". We had three main aids in those days. We had the quota film, which was abolished, quite rightly, in 1983. When first introduced it was very helpful but very quickly it became disastrous. It enabled, or maybe I should say forced, British film producers to make cheap, quick films. They were known as the "quota quickies". They were made solely to conform with the law and were mostly distributed by the big American organisations to which the noble Lord, Lord Willis, referred. These films tended to be shown at 10 o'clock in the morning when nobody went to the cinema, and at 11 o'clock at night, long after everybody had left.

The Eady Levy and the NFFC helped enormously over the years the small producers with whom I was mostly concerned. Many of the films with which I was associated could not have been made without such help. Once in the 1930s—long before the Eady Levy and the NFFC—money ran out in the middle of the making of a film with which I was connected. Not until the early 1950s did the American producer, when he finally came back to this country having been deported, pay us in full. This film starred Buster Keaton. A very amusing incident occurred when he came on to the set with a large bunch of feathers in his hand. He solemnly gave one to each of the crew saying, "in lieu of your salary".

Film making was an enormous amount of fun and hard work. I am sure that the hard work still exists but I wonder if there is much fun with the microchip.

6.7 p.m.

The Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham

My Lords, I too should like to begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Layton, on his maiden speech, but like the noble Lord, Lord Willis, I find that I am unable to agree with much contained in it. Many noble Lords will already have studied the Government's White Paper, having followed parliamentary debates and various helpful research papers, and will be familiar with the figures which show such a drastic decline in cinema attendance from an average of 1 billion, at the introduction of the voluntary levy, to 900 million in 1957 when it became statutory, thereafter falling steadily until we are faced now with a figure of 66 million. The reasons for this trend are obvious. With the growth of home television, the introduction of colour television, satellite communications, the development of the video industry and the advent of all the new information and communication technology, it was clear that the film industry would suffer and its income threatened and put out of balance.

This vicious circle of decline has not been hepled by the sharp increase in admission prices to cinemas which have risen in the country over the past 10 years by no less than 312 per cent. in contrast with the United States of America where they have risen by only 70 per cent. It is clear that the complex legislation which has built up around the industry would have to be reconsidered in the light of these drastic changes. Many of those involved in this field have been studying the problems and making recommendations over the past 10 years—which seem not to have made much impression on the present Government when they were gathering their evidence for such reconsideration. This turning of the blind eye and the deaf ear, with which we are becoming painfully familiar, is very evident in the Government's relationship with the film industry. Indeed, the indifference of Her Majesty's Government and of the Opposition over a very long period has added to the demoralisation of the immensely talented film artists working in production, performance and technology with which we are blessed in this country.

Wherever we turn, it is as plain as a pikestaff that this industry has been neglected by governments past and present in a most shameful way and that the persistent success of British films over this long period, while acknowledged, can never be attributed to anything but the stunning and dogged endurance and single-mindedness of members of the film-making industry. We are singularly blessed, but do not deserve to be, by gifted artists in film who are second to none.

This immensely popular art form has deeply influenced, and has been influenced by, our British way of living. Much of this—both art form and life—is deeply admired across most cultures, earning an outstanding export income. There is hardly a household in this country which would not acknowledge its debt of enjoyment, enlightenment and comfort to our film artists—whether performers, producers or technicians. If you speak to anyone, my Lords, anywhere, you will find devoted fans. So what do we do? We take away the foundation of those people. This demolition job is something akin to deliberate uprooting—when what was necessary was expert pruning, grafting, and nurturing.

The dangerous duopoly of exhibitors—namely, Thorn-EMI and Rank, while having served the industry well over a long period—are, it might be fair to say, strangling its development by restricting public access to films of artistic merit. There has been much evidence available that many stalwart supporters of the film industry—many gifted people—have despaired of its organisation and have given up in total disillusionment. This stifling of the independent spirit and talent to experiment and initiate new ideas would seem quite contrary to the stated convictions of the present Government. How are we to reassure the industry and those people in it, when we see that the Government's White Paper proposes handing over the public assets of the Eady Levy income to a private sector company—a consortium of Rank, Thorn-EMI, Channel 4 and The British Videogram Association—with a little help from on high?

Is not the fear expressed in every quarter of the industry and by interested parties, and by the Government's Back-Benchers also (let alone both Oppositions), something to contemplate? With American interests built into such a consortium, is not their suspicion quite understandable? It is plain that, as a nation, we are painfully guilty of ignoring the needs of the arts in this country. We have impoverished them and are ourselves impoverished. But by comparison with the subsidy to the BBC, the theatre, opera, and museums, and with the recent reforms connected with public lending rights, the film industry has been woefully underfunded. This is especially so when one considers its potential for earning export income.

In the four years 1980–83, net overseas earnings of United Kingdom film companies averaged £634 million a year. As well as helping the balance of payments, British films are vital for their ability to project and express British culture and values. Over the years, British films have probably achieved more in terms of good will for this country than all the combined efforts of the Foreign Office. In short, British films are excellent ambassadors.

In this highly-talented but high-risk business, what alternatives are there to handing British business over—lock, stock and barrel—to exclusively commercial "free market" interests, albeit helped along for the next few years by public funds and vague "assurances" that what the Government say they want to happen will happen? That is putting risks on top of risks; playing with fire in a dry forest.

We must retain the mechanism of Government—or, rather, national—"intervention" or investment; call it what you will, my Lords. If this precious British asset is to grow securely, we cannot allow one levy to be removed without a supporting stake. Ordinary consumers do not wish to be swamped by the second rate, and nor do they want their young to be exposed to any more violence or soft pornography—which will most certainly come about if we allow market forces to rule the camera totally.

The solution is plain for all to see, and has been so for 10 years. It is pure common sense. The Government themselves are considering the question of recouping losses to producers, artists and musicians which have been suffered through home-taping and through the explosive growth of the retail and rental video sector, and the application of a levy to restore the balance—to be applied to blank video and audio tapes. This in itself will go a long way to help the situation and is long overdue.

The overwhelming case for a levy on films shown on television is plain to most people. Films are purchased very cheaply compared with the cost of in-house productions by TV companies. We all know that films on television are watched by immense audiences—except when they are televised for the twentieth time, as some will be this Christmas, proving how depleted the old film library has become. Television companies owe the film industry a large debt, and now is the time for all good TV companies to come to the service of their country. A 10 per cent. levy from this source would yield about £10 million on current figures, rising considerably when cable and satellite broadcasting finally gets going.

The Association of Independent Producers, British Film Institute, Federation of Film Unions, Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians, and many well-known individual artists and members of the film industry, endorsed this simple solution to the problem of film finance. If we do not act promptly, we shall lose more talents to other countries who know how to treat creative people. Most of our partners in Europe give substantial support to their film industries by either direct subsidy or tax incentives—or both. Once again, we are very backward in coming forward to use our people's God-given talents.

My Lords, 1985 has been chosen as Year of the British Film. What better way to celebrate it than by giving our own film industry a future? Please support the independence of this vital and creative force in our national life; a film industry independent of the state, independent of monopoly finance, independent of overseas interference, and independent of crippling financial constraints. It would be a thoroughly liberating forward leap. Let us make it.

6.18 p.m.

Viscount Mersey

My Lords, 40 years for my noble friend Lord Marley and 40 years for the noble Lord, Lord Willis. I am quite a stripling and have managed only 28 years, mainly scrubbing around on the cutting-room floor. I must congratulate my noble friend Lord Layton on a quite splendid maiden speech. Once again, I agree with pretty well everything he said. In my hook, there has been altogether too much doom and gloom about the state of the British film industry so far. I certainly welcome the White Paper, in that it is basically a de-restrictive paper. There are necessary subsidies. The NFFC is one, albeit privatised, and there is of course the extremely important film subsidy from I TV's Channel 4 which, if not in the Paper. is in evidence.

I welcome the White Paper because it removes a great paraphernalia of Government controls on film; in particular the Eady Levy, which I believe noble Lords on all sides of the House agree is now outdated. There are of course people who ask for new levies. I want to ask a rather basic question: do we actually need a film policy? This question occurred to me the other day when I asked myself whether we need a book policy. Surely we do not need a book policy. It would be wrong for the Government to intervene in literature, other than in respect of VAT—that is a Treasury matter. It would be wrong for us to have a subsidy for a certain type of book given to a printer or an author, and that sort of thing. I wonder whether the same might not apply to films. I know that it will be argued that films and books are totally different and that books cost a lot less than films. It will also be argued that the British film industry is doomed without extra money. No, I think that both those arguments are wrong and that is what I should like to demonstrate.

The British film industry is not doomed. It is alive and it is thriving. The cutting rooms and the dubbing theatres, the transfer suites and the studios of London are humming with activity; as are the film laboratories that make the film stock and those who supply the tapes, the cameras and the lighting equipment. What is in danger is the quality, big budget British feature film. Some people may feel that that is the British film industry, but I do not. I believe that it is a small part of the British film industry. I happen to work in documentaries. That branch of the industry is thriving, as are commercials. So they should be, because we make the best commercials in the world. I believe that we win 10 times as many awards for our commercials as do the Americans.

The greatest growth area of all, which I have only just come across, is what is called the video promo. This is a pop video tape. We are world leaders in this field, which is expanding very fast. Technology is changing all the time, as my noble friend Lord Layton said. Therefore, I see, by and large, a healthy industry. If we take the whole gamut of film, tape, television, everything, the situation looks healthy. The strength of it comes from our excellence. Let us not be too modest about this. We are very good technicians. We are very good writers. It is true that we do not make multimillion pound epics, as do the Americans, and nor should we. However, what we do which is most profitable is service such epics. For instance, in the great "Star Wars" series the highly sophisticated special effects and model work in those films were done by us. Why?—because we do them better than anyone else. Even more dazzling to me were some extraordinary special effects—I do not know whether any other noble Lords saw them—on a recent German series about a U-boat.

With all due respect, I do not know what is wrong with servicing films. It is good work and it is skilful work for our technicians. It earns us millions of dollars, or Deutschemarks. Your Lordships may notice a curious emblem on my tie. It is, in fact, a Dutch cutter suction dredger. I am often paid nowadays in guilders. I do not see anything wrong in that. It is foreign exchange.

The noble Lord, Lord Willis, used the argument, as I thought someone would, about Big Brother America,—the huge disadvantage we have of sharing a common language with the Americans and, of course, that they will beat us at that game because they have a bigger home market. He also mentioned Australia. Australia has the same language problem and a small population. The Australians created huge tax incentives—I believe it was 150 per cent. in some cases. But what happened? It was good, certainly, but bad, too. Initially they made excellent, inexpensive films, one of which was called "Mad Max" and cost £300,000. But then there seemed to be so much money around that the Australians went on to make "Mad Max II" which was a £15 million film that was truly awful. Therefore. I do not think that huge tax incentives necessarily mean a healthy home film industry.

We are a small country, but I believe that we are a good size to support our own industry as long as we do not overreach. I do not think 15 million dollar epics are for us. We should make low budget films which can gross just as much. The most shining example of the brilliant low budget film must remain "Gregory's Girl". Of course we can dream about the big film and now and again it comes off. "Chariots of Fire" is the obvious example. More power to David Puttnam's elbow for that magnificent achievement; although I would point out that some of the backing money was foreign. However, I believe it was a one-off. David Puttnam has now made another brilliant film called "The Killing Fields". It is not as British as "Chariots of Fire" because it is not about the British. It is about an American and a Cambodian fighting the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. It was shot on the island of Phuket. It was Thailand, to a certain point, that serviced that film.

When we say that the British film industry is in trouble what we actually mean are films made with British money, using British actors and technicians, shot in Britain about Britain. Fair enough, we should make those films, but my point is that we should not make those films expensively. "Gregory's Girl" mark II certainly, but "Chariots of Fire" mark II probably not. There is a witty and perceptive new film by Alan Bennett called "A Private Function". This is halfway between two extremes. It thrives on the peculiarly British brand of humour in the North of England. I wish it luck, but I feel that the humour is extraordinarily British and I have slight fears that this film might not export very well. Incidentally, it is the funniest film I have seen in years.

Another film which is difficult from the box office point of view, but equally brilliant is "The Ploughman's Lunch". The problem with that film is there is not one pleasant character in it. There is no ray of sunshine and no sense of humour. It is a brilliant film hut. I think. an elitist film for film specialists such as myself. I enjoyed it. I am sure your Lordships will feel that that sort of film deserves a subsidy. It is, after all, a very talented film. However, one is now coming down to something extremely basic; subsidising the elitist films. That sort of subsidy is all over the place. I listen to Radio 3 and I am subsidised by Radio 1. When I saw "Nicholas Nickleby" I was subsidised by the Arts Council. We who watch elitist television are subsidised by those who watch "Crossroads" or "Blankety-Blank". Let us at least be frank about what we are doing. We are taking money away from working men, or even pensioners, to subsidise elitist entertainment. I know that this is a big argument. I am a beneficiary. It is argued that the proverbial man on the Clapham omnibus should like, say, Matisse or Michael Tippett, and that it is all in a good cause. It is also argued that he is perhaps enjoying them a little more. I just wonder how realistic all this is. It is the subsidy of the excellent. Perhaps I am going wide of the debate and I shall narrow down my arguments, but may I just finish this section by asking: is Euripides really a starter in Brixton?

However, I hope I have so far painted a more realistic picture of the entirety of the British film industry than have other noble Lords. It is dependent on the excellence of its membership. I mentioned also that a film need not cost more than a book, and I shall explain that. The cheapest films made at the moment are the video promos—only a thousand or two pounds each. They are cheap because they are made outside the confines of my union, the ACTT. Whatever my union's merits, it has, I am afraid, certainly kept film costs up. Therefore, the gauntlet I throw down to it is, "Open your gates. Let anyone who makes a film popular enough for the public, and which the public might like, be allowed to show it to them". I do not throw the gauntlet down to my union direct because I have already done so. On 4th December I wrote to the secretary:

"Dear Sir

I wonder if you could tell me our union's position regarding recent legislation, viz: 1. All elections to union executives to be by direct secret ballot. 2. The closed shop to be sanctioned by at least 80 per cent. of the members voting in a secret ballot.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Mersey, Membership No. 21736".

I have not had a reply to that letter. That is why I took the liberty of quoting it here.

I am saying to the ACTT that it has nothing to lose if it stops the closed shop. I would say, "Open your gates to all-corners. You have nothing to fear". The technicians in our union are so experienced, so talented and so artistic that they will continue to dominate the main international market and the newcomers will come to new jobs. They will not take away old jobs. There will perhaps be new jobs in the new outlets, like cable in the future and DBS, but at the moment, of course, mainly in cassette.

I welcome the White Paper, but I must point out that I do not feel that film is a sacred cow, and I am glad that it is to have only a modicum of Government control. The British film industry is active and thriving. The proof of that is in the numbers. When I joined it, comparatively recently in 1958, there were 16,000 of us, and now there are 75,000.

6.31 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest in that I enjoy the confidence, but not membership, of the Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians. I declare that interest as I shall be speaking in this debate with its approval and support. In view of the earlier remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, I think that we may have a useful discussion after the debate on the points that he raised.

I certainly wish to join with others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Layton, on what I consider to have been, by maiden speech standards, an impressive maiden speech. He said a great deal of interest, some of which I agreed with and some of which I did not. I think that is probably par for the course with maiden speeches. Also, like other noble Lords, I am enjoying very much the opportunity which has been given to the House by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, not only to have the debate but to listen to what I consider was a masterly overview of the problems and dilemmas facing the British film industry at this time. I echo many of the solutions which he posed in questions to the Minister who is to reply.

We have been given many of the basic facts and statistics during the debate. I certainly do not intend to repeat them. In my view, time after time, whenever these matters have been discussed in either House, on any occasion and on any aspect, on a careful reading of the situation the Government have failed to allay people's strong feelings that they cannot view the world of the film as other than a business and an industry. Those it most certainly is, but it is also a major cultural dimension. There can be no other country in the world which so diminishes the national imperatives or fails sufficiently to elevate them.

The ACTT's response to the White Paper, besides making much valuable comment, spent a great deal of time in analysing the support given to film industries in many other countries. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, fairly and impressively illustrated the disparity beween the way that Governments in other parts of the world assist their film industries and take on board as a national imperative their right to support them and what we do. I wonder whether the Minister cares to comment on the disparity between the way in which we collectively—I do not talk of governments—view our national imperative to support our film industry and what happens in other countries.

I wonder whether even now the Government have grasped the fragile nature of the prospects for survival of the British film industry. I take heart from the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey. I, of course, accept completely his optimism which is based on his day-to-day involvement in the industry, but, as I shall retail to the House, and as other noble Lords have, others take a different view, I assume looking at exactly the same facts. The prospects for survival of the British film industry were cogently put by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, in an excellent speech. He not merely pointed out the inhibitions that the British film industry has suffered from under the wing and stewardship of the American industry but foretold—I believe fairly accurately—the catastrophic damage that could be done to our film industry in the future, when DBS, satellite, cable and all the other paraphernalia come along, unless we can retain something like the quotas that now exist.

The British film industry has to reckon on a major share of the American market to be viable, perhaps relying on 35 per cent. of its take coming from the American market. The position is different for the American producer. He plans to recoup his costs internally in America or does not make the film at all. Selling films to the British market provides the icing on the cake at a marginal cost. It provides a bonus and acceptable earnings to boost home sales.

I believe that in this House we all want a film industry which provides British jobs—and I believe that this is the message that the Minister should take on board—hut also one which produces films for showing in Britain and throughout the world, depicting themes, values and aspects of British life, which are all of great interest and satisfaction to British audiences and to a world-wide audience, too.

What message are we to give the Government tonight? It will be heard not only by the British film industry and the British people but by others abroad and foreign film makers. We have been given a depressing catalogue of the Government's abandonment of the industry in a short space of time. Some of the factors have been referred to: the suspension of the quota; the phasing out of capital allowances; the proposed abolition of the Eady levy; a policy of urging private funding for a successor to the NFFC; and cutting further the Eady subvention to a range of other worthwhile bodies. What message should we ask the Government to take from the debate? It is surely that this Government are weakening and diluting the longterm protection for our film industry at a time when it has never been in more need of help, encouragement, hope and financial support.

What is wrong with the White Paper, the subject of this debate? The replacement mechanism for the doomed Eady levy is woefully inadequate. The aspirations for refurbishing our cinemas are laudable but there is a lack of clarity about ability to deliver the promises. The lack of concern for the real renaissance of the British film is worrying. The failure to elevate the saving of our film industry is also worrying. At the same time we know that the Government, with our support, spend large sums of public money on subventions to the live theatre, opera, music and ballet. This week further sums are being given to support authors' public lending rights. All those things are laudable and will have our support, but we are asking for at least comparable support for our film industry.

I am strongly attracted by the prospect of a properly thought out central body to preside over the destiny of a revitalised British film industry. We can call it an authority or whatever else we like, but it should seek to unify the present widely dispersed powers. The noble Lord, Lord Willis, referred to the nonsense of five separate departments of state which in one way or another have a hand in this. Such a body would unify administration, regulation, supervision, monitoring and advice—all functions which are at present scattered throughout Whitehall.

There is a difference—perhaps it is ideological—between the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, and myself. I think that he was indicating not merely deregulation but that the Government should in a large measure remove their control of the film industry, whereas what we say is that the Government should recognise that they have a responsibility to play a greater part in the film industry. In my view, if the Government want these functions carried out at all—and that begs the question—they would join me in wanting to see a film industry which is properly administered, properly supervised and properly provided for, and with the drive, commitment and recognition of its cultural values that we so desperately need.

I keep an eye on the clock. There are other things that I want to say. I want to make a reference to the sad decline in the number of cinemas in the country. Of course, this is borne out by the statistics we have seen. Certainly the maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Layton, pointed out the colossal difference: over 1,000 million viewers in the 1950s down to less than 100 million viewers today. All this has a bearing on the matter.

I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Willis, is in his place because I want to refer to the Regal Cinema at Edmonton. Coming from Tottenham and Edmonton, he must well know about it. I have very sad news: in the very near future the Regal Cinema—the Regal site as such—will no longer be. I want to say that the Regal has provided entertainment for more than 50 years for the people in that part of North London. The Regal was the heart of Edmonton entertainment. From the days of the Wurlitzer organ, through to the best in world and British entertainment talent, the Regal fulfilled its functions with distinction and success.

As cinema audiences declined in the 'sixties, the last of the big screen cinema entertainments were shown. Then bingo became the money-spinner of the 'seventies and the Regal lived again, at least fulfilling its role as an entertainment centre of sorts. Now it has been sold by Rank. It has gone to the knacker's yard so far as being an entertainment centre is concerned. It has closed its doors to a paying public for the last time. It will be gutted and transformed into something else—who knows what?—probably offices or a superstore, adding to the depressing column along the North Circular Road, where once there were thriving factories and institutions. They are dying and are being resurrected as do-it-yourself stores and hypermarket operations.

As late as 1974 there were 1,590 cinemas. That number has been reduced to 1,300 in 1984. I happen to believe that it is a good use of taxpayers' money to strive to keep that total from declining even further. When I did a bit of research, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, and others will know, I looked around at what has happened where I live, in Enfield, in the last 30 years. Within five miles the Premier Cinema on Freezywater—you know where I mean—has gone to bingo. The Capitol at Winchmore Hill has gone to offices. The Florida in Enfield Town has gone. The Embassy in Enfield Town has gone. Cinemas in Palmers Green have gone, too. One cinema out of a total of 14 is now still operating as a cinema: the Savoy in Southbury Road, which is divided into four. So I raise the question of the future of our cinema industry in that context.

Finally, I want to comment on the reference that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, to the, I think, unique declaration by a number of disparate interests which was publicised yesterday. I have here a copy of it. It is a declaration issued by six separate organizations. They are the Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians; the Association of Independent Producers; the British Film Institute; the British Film and Television Producers' Association: the Directors' Guild of Great Britain and the National Film and Television School. What does that declaration declare? I think the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, will be pleased to hear that it says: The British film industry is in many respects thriving and contributing to the commercial and cultural life of the nation". We all say, "amen" to that. Then: It also contributes to our exports and our image overseas". But it then says: It is the impending reduction in investment which presents a very serious danger". What do these people fear? They fear that the Government acknowledge in their White Paper the importance and present achievements of the industry but are removing the institutions and fiscal incentives which have made this success possible.

If the Minister is in any doubt as to what is required and what these bodies are hoping for, it is an appropriate body to replace the existing NFFC; the continuation of a redistributive mechanism to which, if it is appropriate, a levy can be attached at the point of exhibition. They are also hoping for the re-establishment of fiscal incentives for film production and a continuing acknowledgement of the diversity of film culture. They are further hoping for a continuing recognition of the vital importance of training; an appropriate revised statutory definition of "a British film" and consolidation of the present scattered responsibility of Government throughout Whitehall. If debate in this Chamber is to have any purpose, I believe that such poweful expressions, and other expressions so eloquently conveyed by your Lordships, must be listened to by the Minister with both care and concern. There is still time to act to save the British film-making industry: but time is short.

6.46 p.m.

Lord Auckland

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, for initiating this valuable debate whilst the Films Bill itself is going through its stages in the other place. I made my maiden speech at the end of 1957 on the Cinematograph Bill in this House. My noble friend the Minister's late father wound up for the Government on the opposite side of the House. It was a very eloquent speech, too.

As has already been pointed out by those far more qualified than I, since those days there have been many changes in the industry. The White Paer seems to me to be on the whole an agreeable document. It is interesting statistically to note that 101 persons and organisations—film stars, technical organisations and you name it—have given evidence as to the relevance of this particular Bill, and that 35,000 people are employed in the cinematograph industry on the film-making side.

Like everything else, the film industry has become very international. British films now have a greater share of international stars and of course our own actors, actresses and directors are working more overseas. I speak in this debate purely as a consumer, knowing little about the technical side of it because I have never worked in the cinematograph industry, though some years ago I paid two fascinating visits to Pinewood Studios. It is interesting to note that as far back as 1940 there were distinguished British actors well berthed in Hollywood. If one takes, for example in the film "Rebecca", leaving aside Sir Laurence Olivier, there were Judith Anderson, C. Aubrey Smith and George Sanders, all British actors who were well established in Hollywood.

Why was that? I do not know. Bearing in mind that this was in the early days of the last war, was it due to problems within our own industry of either under-capitalisation, or the lure of Hollywood, with the admittedly very much larger amount of money available being the attraction at that time—and, indeed, even before that time? As far as I can ascertain, there has always been an exodus of British actors and actresses to Hollywood, and one wonders whether, in the event of this or any other government putting more money into the film industry, this exodus would be completely contained.

The British cinema industry has had a long and distinguished history. There have been many outstanding films in the last 10 years. Among them was "Gandhi", with British actors, a British producer and, largely, British technicians. It was a very fine film.

Lord Willis

My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to intervene, I should like to ask him to bear in mind that "Gandhi" was financed one-third by America and a little more than one-third by the Indian Government, and it took Sir Richard Attenborough something like 15 years to raise the finance to make that movie. Moreover, it has had a restricted showing in American cinemas simply because of the point I made earlier—that the Americans are not interested in allowing a film industry in Britain to develop.

Lord Auckland

My Lords, I think the noble Lord, Lord Willis, with his considerable knowledge of this cinema industry, has made a very cogent point, which one hopes the Government and those connected with the industry will take on board.

Paragraph 9(2) of the White Paper contains the very important announcement, which was mentioned earlier, of the promotion of British films overseas. This is fine; much of this is already going on. What one wonders is whether the revenue returning to this country will be adequate, and which countries will be involved. We cannot escape video, but I think it is worth pointing out that not every family has video. We do not have it and, quite frankly, I do not think we want it. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, with his experience of the industry, made mention of the cinemas which have closed. Those of us who live out of London, as I do, can all name, whether it is in Surrey, where I live, or in Shropshire, cinemas which have closed. This is a very sad commentary on our times. One hopes that now, with the White Paper, there will be more funds available for more cinemas to open or reopen.

I question whether people really want to sit beside their television sets and watch films, particularly when the weather is reasonably favourable, rather than go to a cinema. Those of us who remember the cinemas of the 'Thirties and 'Forties, as I vaguely do, know that many of them were very comfortable. They had character, and, rather like seeing cricket at the Oval rather than on the television screen, one got the impact of the film concerned.

Time is getting short. The Films Bill is to come before us, but the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, has given us a very good hors d'oeuvre before the main course comes on.

6.55 p.m.

Lord Granville of Eye

My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, not only for initiating this very interesting debate on the film industry but for the great part that he has played in giving the service which he has to the film industry in the past. I hope very much that he will continue to do so. Like other noble Lords who have contributed to the debate, I have tried to understand the Government's White Paper, which is to precede the Bill which will be going through another place. It seems to me, certainly from listening to the speeches that have been made here tonight, that what the Government have to decide is: do they really want a viable film industry or do they not? I hope very much that they will listen very carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Willis, said in his speech. He put the whole case, because he is in the industry and he knows what is happening. It was completely realistic.

It is no good living in cloud cuckoo-land in this business of the film industry. It is worth while to remember, as he said in his speech, that the film market in the United States and Canada numbers 200 million people. The film market in the United Kingdom is 15 million people, and this is the basis of investments and capital which go into the industry. Of course, the British market is vital to Hollywood. They break even on their own home market. They bring their films over here. There is no dubbing required as in Paris or anywhere else; it is an English-speaking version. They make their profits on the United Kingdom film market.

The Government cannot leave this matter as it is now and say, "Well, get on with it". There is a history attached to this; it has happened before. It is absolutely vital, if we want the British film industry to continue as a source of first-class entertainment, to make some kind of an agreement with the United States television and film circuits. I remember Dr. Leslie Burgin, as President of the Board of Trade, introducing the quota Act in another place after long discussions with Hollywood and the film industry; and it did give a certain amount of benefit to the film industry in this country. But now that has gone, and what they call the Eady levy, which went into production costs, has gone, too.

Those were the great days of film production, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, well remembers: Gaumont British; Shepherd's Bush, now a TV studio; Elstree; Islington; Pinewood; Denham—all great dubbing, colour film production studios. There were people like Alexander Korda, who produced great films; Michael Balcon, Hitchcock, Tom Walls and Ralph Lynn, with films which were successful. The trouble in this industry, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, said, has always been finding the "angels"—the people who are willing and ready to put up risk capital without having to depend upon the United States, as we did with the quota Bill. As he said, Australia gives tax concessions. They are setting up a great film industry there which one day may challenge even Hollywood. Other countries are doing it. Ireland is following suit, and France gives considerable benefits as well.

According to the White Paper, the Government are making a suggestion about Channel 4. I suppose there is some kind of poetic justice in this, if television has closed cinemas. But a tie-up between the United Kingdom cinemas and TV and the United States circuits might work. It is no good the Government washing their hands and saying, "We are going to leave this industry free to go on and develop". They have got to take this up with Washington. We shall not get the television and cinema moguls of Hollywood to agree to this; they want their profits. They want an English-speaking non-dubbed film market. The Government must say to them—as Leslie Burgin tried to tell the other place—"You have got to give a fair deal to British films on the American market"—an English speaking market. There is no future without that. This White Paper will never produce a good Bill.

I was astonished to read about an American film mogul who was visiting this country. He said that the BBC was destroying the English language and that unless someone could talk common, he would not get a part on British television. I hope that the Government are not going to leave the situation like that, because it really is not good enough. We must get some kind of arrangement with Washington—and why not? We are great allies of Washington. But the power of Hollywood—and noble Lords can read the whole story of Hollywood to see what it is—should not prevent the British film industry from standing on its own two feet.

7.1 p.m.

Viscount Falkland

My Lords, I, too, should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Layton, on his maiden speech, There was not much with which I agreed in the speech, but in the spirit of Christmas I would have wished him a larger audience than he had tonight. It was perhaps marginally better than the audience in a cinema on a wet afternoon in a town such as Hartlepool—if, indeed, they still have a cinema in Hartlepool. I should also like at this stage to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Willis, on an excellent speech. The noble Lord summed up the whole business. He summed up the historical background of the American dominance of our film activity. I use the word "activity" advisedly because I do not believe that we have a film industry in this country; I believe that we have three quite separate film activities.

The activity upon which the Government have concentrated in their White Paper is the commercial activity, the historic background of which has been so admirably sketched for us by the noble Lord, Lord Willis. The other activities are, unfortunately, very separate, but they are linked by one very important factor, and that is that they all to some degree use the same pool of expertise, the same technicians, the same men in the lighting team, the same editor as could work for an American company producing a film at Pinewood Studios. Indeed, they could well be working on one of the rare—and I emphasise "rare"—successes in the middle to low budget area of British films.

Moreover, such people might well be employed on the third level of activity which is equally important and which has been almost totally ignored by the White Paper; namely, that area of the low budget—one could almost say "hair-string" budget—films which are made often under extreme hardship in regions of our country by small groups of hungry, emaciated and admittedly rather left wing young men who produce what is known as "workshop cinema".

All the areas which I have described should form part of a film industry of which we could be justly proud. But, unfortunately, I do not think that there is much at the moment of which we can be justly proud. I use the phrase "justly proud" because the Government have used it in their White Paper. Indeed, there is a great crescendo of emotion which arises in the conclusion of their White Paper. I felt that it was rather like leaving a cinema, puffed up with false emotion after seeing a rather bad Hollywood film, and it is only afterwards that one is left with rather a nasty taste in the mouth. I think that I have sketched the three activities and I should now like to move to the White Paper itself and what it actually suggests.

It suggests that the only part of the industry which encourages the low to medium budget film—namely; the NFFC—is to be dismantled and passed over. I hope again that I am not showing a lack of Christmas spirit but the Government are washing their hands of responsibility in the area of supporting the low to medium budget British films which are the only part of British cinema which can produce a picture of British life, make a contribution to our culture and can help to produce the creative and innovative talent which exists in this country in those areas—and I stress this point again—which have been totally neglected by the White Paper. I am referring to the workshops, the small regional areas which are supported on very low finance and very low contributions by way of grant and very small contributions by way of dole-outs from the NFFC and so on.

I am totally losing track of the intended direction of my speech. However, the excellence of the words of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, leads me on to the extraordinary way in which responsibility is spread over a number of departments. Channel 4 has agreed to come into the new NFFC, which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, referred to in somewhat uncomplimentary terms. Indeed, one critic rather wittily described the son of NFFC as being definitely on the wrong side of the blanket. The participation of Channel 4 might well not have been so enthusiastic if Channel 4 had realised that the grant which is given to the British Film Institute for production purposes had been completely whittled down. Indeed, I do not think that, under its present financial circumstances, the British Film Institute will be in a position to finance any local or regional films. From the way in which the new son of NFFC is constituted, Channel 4 will get much more by way of interesting, innovative material from the British Film Institute than it will from this new body which is totally dominated by large interests—EMI, Rank and so on—which will not have the incentive to produce the kind of material which will be suitable for Channel 4. I would not be at all surprised if Mr. Jeremy Isaacs was not kicking himself for being talked into contributing so generously or undertaking to contribute so generously to this new company.

That is really all that the White Paper intends to do: it intends to wash its hands of the British film industry. I have heard the speeches from noble Lords on the other side. I was entertained and in a way encouraged by the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, who I understand is part of the pool of expertise and talent which exists in this country and which is currently being used. He is quite right when he implies that the film studios at present are absolutely packed with productions. But they are packed with American-financed productions—they are not packed with British productions. What comes out of those studios will have no relation whatever to British life, British standards or British culture. We are left to rely on a contribution to British culture by way of "the moving image", because "the moving image" is the phrase which has been chosen to name the new museum, the foundations of which will be laid in British Film Year. That is something of which we can be justly proud.

That enterprise, together with other events which are planned for next year, will surely give us something which may persuade noble Lords on the other side of this argument. I suspect that they could see that what appears to be a healthy activity is in the end only pushing this country into total domination by television. I do not decry television at all and I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Willis, being an experienced contributor in that field as well, would not wish the influence of British television to wane.

However, I suggest to your Lordships that it is not a good idea to put the whole of our cultural effort in the moving image into television because the product of television is more ephemeral - often it is like a newspaper. I do not mean to take anything away from the value of some very high-class productions in recent times on both the BBC and the IBA, but what we lack in television and what we have in cinema is the concentration on texture, the development of ideas, and the introduction of elements of ambiguity which encourage the use of imagination.

I shall sum up briefly. Cinema is not only a means of entertaining the masses; in fact, it has ceased to entertain the masses in this country, and noble Lords have given the figures. Cinema attendances have declined from 1½ billion in the 1940s, just after the war, to just over 60 million now. People do not go to the cinema any more. But they can be won back to the cinema. We are seeing a trend develop in the major cities at the present time. There are one or two clever new cinema owners who realise that there is an audience to be captured, albeit a minority audience; it is often an audience of young people. I believe that the average age of people who go to see films in major cities is well under 25, but the number is increasing because people want something different from television. Television came about at a time when the cinemas became unattractive; they ceased to produce the product which people wanted; they became rundown. We had the housing boom and people stayed at home. Now we are seeing coming out of universities a new type of potential audience for the cinema which can be compared more with audiences in France and other continental countries, and Australia, which was mentioned by other noble Lords. Time prohibits me from going further into that.

I should like to conclude by saying that I wish the Government would look again at the whole area of films. They do not mention anything about documentaries in their White Paper, or anything about industrial films or, as far as I am aware, commercials. They seem to have their mind fixed on only the commercial cinema, the commercial blockblustertype cinema, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, said, is totally American-dominated. If at this time the Government abdicate their position and their ability to control and balance the funds available to regenerate the film industry, we shall have lost out against almost every country in the developed world and even some countries in the developing world.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, for having provided us with the opportunity to discuss the Government's White Paper on film policy, (Cmnd. 9319). Your Lordships are, of course, well aware that at the moment there is going through the other place a Films Bill which is already in Committee. Indeed, I believe that there have been some unexpected developments during the Committee stage and so we do not really know at this stage what final form the Bill will take. For that reason, and because we shall have an opportunity of a Second Reading, as well as a Committee stage, of the Films Bill when it comes to this House, I should prefer to deal with the broad generalities that are implicit in the White Paper itself.

Before I pass to that I should like to offer my felicitations to the noble Lord, Lord Layton, on his maiden speech, which, being someone who believes in controversy as a health-giving and sometimes healing process which both Houses of Parliament can occasionally accommodate with advantage, I found most agreeable in its controversial content. The noble Lord is a distinguished industrialist and he has a wide knowledge and experience of both industry and commerce. We have many such members in this House and their contributions are always of considerable value in looking at the industrial and commercial aspects of our lives. I am quite sure that the House would wish me to say, as indeed I gladly do, that we shall look forward with very great interest to the future contributions which the noble Lord will undoubtedly make.

I think that the White Paper has been dealt with most adequately by my noble friend Lord Willis. In fact, to go over the ground that has been covered by my noble friend and which requires answers from the Government would be redundant at this stage of the debate. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, expressed some anxiety that the Government might abdicate responsibility for the film industry altogether. His fears are fully justified. That is precisely what they intend to do; that is precisely what they are bent upon doing. They wish to abandon all responsibility for the industry. They stated that quite clearly in the White Paper itself and, indeed, it is in the Bill. In this House we have to pass judgment on this.

The noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, paid the most eloquent tribute to the development and prosperity of the British film industry. He reminded us, if we needed reminding, that we have some of the finest script writers, producers, directors, technicians, people in the cutting room, editors and so on to be found anywhere in the world. Perhaps one ought to remind the noble Viscount that had it had not been for my noble friend Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, the industry today would probably not have existed at all. One of the most eloquent testimonies that the Government have given to the measures taken by my noble friend when he was Prime Minister was to refer to them in such glowing terms. Had it not been for the support that became available through the policies pursued by the then Government—and I wish they had gone a good deal further—then about half the films which have been made over the past five or 10 years would never have been made. That is what we have to face.

We are all agreed that we have the artistic talent, we have the technical talent, and the organising talent within the realm of film production. I propose to concentrate on film production. There are the other parts of the industry such as the distributors—as my noble friend has already said, largely under the control of the United States—and the exhibitors. Also, owing to the advance of technology, about which the noble Lord, Lord Layton, was kind enough to remind us, we have the transmitters in the form of television augmented presently by direct satellite broadcasting, and also video and cable.

We have some new ancillary commercial operatives who are purveying the original goods that are made. There have undoubtedly been great technical advances. But all distributors, exhibitors, transmitters, whether they be television companies, media or DBS, depend on the original product. The original product, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, reminded us—as if we needed to be reminded—is a one-off job. It is not something which is produced like sausages off a sausage machine. It does not lend itself to the normal commercial treatment which has now become so much in vogue in Government circles. It is one off.

There is always the problem—it has been the problem of British manufacturing industry since 1950—that it has invariably been the fortune of our country that although we have the innate skills and possibly in some fields the genius, they have to be married up with capital resources before anything can be done about them. We are in an area in the film industry of risk capital. Even in manufacturing industry, which is possibly less risky in those terms than the making of a film, we have had a grosser shortage of private investment in this country than in any other country of our industrial status in the world.

The question that the Government have to answer is what happens if, under their privatised arrangements, the capital is not forthcoming? What happens if the same thing happens to the film industry as happened to the whole mass of manufacturing industry over the past 30 years? What happens if private enterprise decides not to provide the capital? It is a simple question and it can have a simple answer, and I want the noble Lord to tell us.

There is of course one answer to the problem. It may be said, "Well, of couse capital would become available if one were able perhaps to make the film a little more amenable to what we consider the public want". We could take it down to the store level, as it were. They could say, "Well, we will provide the money for a film but we do not like this particular one. You have got to go down market. People don't want this particular type of product".

If industrialists and people in commercial life will forgive me, they may be good at reading balance sheets; they may be good in organising affairs of commerce; they may be good at making profits; they may even be kind to their dogs; but they are not universally acknowledged as having been some of the most distinguished patrons of the arts. They are not universally distinguished for being able to appreciate cultural requirements. The Conservative Party itself certainly is not. The Conservative Party itself has only one particular aim in life, and that is the making of profits, and the privatisation for private gain of everything it can lay its hands on.

The late Dr. Goebbels in Germany was very frank. He said—and noble Lords who were alive at the time will recall this—"When I hear the word culture, I reach for my gun". I am not saying that the Conservative Party are anything like that. No. They would not be so indelicate as to say anything of that kind. They probably do not even feel it. But I shall say without fear of contradiction, that so far as concerns them and their support of the arts and culture of the United Kingdom outside the pursuit of private pelf, they do just the minimum sufficient to sustain a veneer of regard for culture. Just sufficient to maintain a veneer, and no more. They are past masters at that art of knowing how far they can go. Therefore, we have these ridiculous cuts in the grants to the Arts Council which have been commented upon quite widely today.

If there is to be any future for British film production—I am not for the moment talking about the exhibitors, the transmitters, and the distributors—the actual production of film, there has to be among those 73,000 people in that particular section of the industry some reasonable expectation that their films are going to be financed. The Government do not like subsidies. They have agreed to contribute £1.5 million for five years to the reconstituted NFFC. Well, they paid Lazard Frères £1.5 million for the services of Mr MacGregor. I suppose one can say that that is the roughly cultural equivalent. At the same time they have cut their grant to the Arts Council.

They do not like subsidisiang. They talk about the international cultural uses of the British film industry and of its international significance. Exactly the same Government cut the overseas services of the BBC by £1 million. This is their regard for culture. I have to tell the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, that his fears are already there. They are not going to do it. They are going to get out of it.

Whether they will be able to sustain that over the passage of years is another question altogether to which they might care to address themselves, particularly in the circumstances of the rather creaky nature of Conservative Party unity in another place and indeed in this place at the present time. You know, my Lords, they are not there for all eternity. The question for them to ponder is this: do they want to be known as the Government of an artistic appreciation equivalent to the sound of a cash register? This is really all that is at issue. They are willing to spend £3000 million on selling British Telecom shares at half price. That is really cost effective stuff! What they are now trying to do is to make art cost effective; one of the most sordid exercises in which any government could ever be involved.

The Government say that they do not like subsidies, yet when it comes to subisidising, they subsidise agriculture up to the hilt without the slightest hesitation. So they have a divided philosophy on this matter. They like sturdy independence free from government paraphernalia, not the paraphernalia which their farming friends enter into when they fill up their long and complicated forms in order to receive money for not producing milk or not spoiling the countryside. This is the level of priority to which the Government have succumbed.

I am sorry to be so terse on this matter with the noble Lord opposite; he is a most amiable noble Lord with whom I frequently discuss these matters; but he must accept his responsibility as a Minister. The British film industry is not going to be sustained by this kind of privatisation mania upon which the Government are bent. It is not going to be able to have a full and constructive life, particularly in the light of the American situation which has been so graphically described by my noble friend Lord Willis. It is not going to be sustained on the basis of this completely Philistine attitude. Either the Government believe that the production of a film is a matter of art, not only a matter of commerce, and therefore deserves the people's contribution to the enhancement of a very successful cultural expression of the activities in the United Kingdom, or it is going to lead in the end to the arbitrament of the cash box.

7.34 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I should like first of all to thank the nobe Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, for introducing this subject and remind the House that the noble Lord was the moving force behind the establishment of the National Film and Television School and is of course one of its governors and also a member of the Interim Action Committee on the film industry which is chaired, as noble Lords have pointed out, by the noble Lord, Lord Wilson. I have little doubt that his influence will still be felt throughout the industry, and I think that this will be for the benefit of the industry.

I also join other noble Lords in congratulating my noble friend Lord Layton on his speech. May I say to him that, contrary to the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, who felt the speech was somewhat controversial, that I thought his speech was eloquent and straightforward? I thank him very much for that.

We have heard reference to the fact that the Bill based upon the White Paper is in another place now and will be here early in the New Year, when no doubt we shall go over some of the ground, so I do not propose to discuss many aspects of that Bill. I should like, in the main, to respond to what noble Lords have said. Before doing so, it will not surprise your Lordships if I attempt quite briefly to set out some of the fundamental conclusions of the review of film policy which are set out in the White Paper.

After all the representations we received, it was quite clear to us that the Eady levy on the price of cinema seats had become an unjustifiable burden upon the declining cinema industry. I do not think I dissent at all in round terms from any of the figures which have been given by noble Lords. I believe that the fortunes of the cinema industry have changed largely as social habits have changed: television programmes of good quality, widely available in the home, and now video, seem to have accelerated the decline by providing ready and inexpensive access to feature films at home.

The cinema must be freed from the levy as, indeed, the industry must be freed from very much quite obstrusive regulation. Consequent upon this decision to end the levy, I believe that the Government have made satisfactory arrangements for those bodies which have been wholly or partly dependent upon it. Firstly, the principal functions of the National Film Finance Corporation have been preserved, but will now be placed in the private sector.

I do not want there to be any uncertainty about this at all. Had the Government simply wished to get rid of the NFFC, they could have done that and it would have been very simple. What we have done is to find a group of very responsible people who were eager to adopt the ethos of the NFFC and encourage the production of British films using largely British talent and skill. The White Paper makes it quite clear that the Government will make available £1.5 million a year for five years. That is hardly walking away from the NFFC, as the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, suggested. The £1.5 million a year will be added to the £1.1 million coming from shareholders. I am going to return to that when answering a question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington.

We know about the portfolio of rights, the interest in which is being transferred to the new company. In addition, another £½ million for five years will be made available for script development probably with what is called "Son of NFFC". In saying that, the point I really want to emphasise is that, apart from ensuring the continuity of the National Film Finance Corporation functions, the structure we have in mind has, I think, the advantage of being fairly dynamic and flexible and could move forward; it is not static as was the old structure. It will be, I think, for that new body to develop the structure as it finds necessary.

There are two other organisations where the industry provided, through the Eady levy, minority funding. Both of these bodies are within the area of my noble friend the Minister for the Arts, who provides the bulk of their funding through the Office of Arts and Libraries. The first is the National Film and Television School, where we have secured a number of advantages over the existing arrangements for the Eady contribution. I can assure noble Lords that, so far as the British Film Institute is concerned, it has proved possible in addition to the payment from the Eady levy of £125,000 for the final levy year, to make an additional payment—a dowry payment so to speak—of £250,000.I think it might be worth setting the record straight because in an average year Eady funds provide only about 10 per cent. of the funding of the BFI production board. From what I have said, there can be no sense of the Government walking away from the industry; on the contrary, they are providing a basis for the future.

It is with some disappointment that I have listened to every speech other than part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Granville of Eye (for missing which I apologise) and it seems to me odd that, of those who have spoken about the White Paper, with one exception, all the criticism came from the other side of the House, despite the knowledge of the industry of some of my noble friends who spoke. The attitude seems to be, not surprisingly, because I have heard it before when we have discussed matters of this kind, that, provided enough Government money, which is taxpayers' money, is flung at the problem, it will go away. That is not this Government's attitude—

Lord Willis

My Lords, can the Minister quote one noble Lord from this side who made such a statement?

Lord Bruce of Donington

Yes, can he, my Lords?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

No, my Lords; I said my feeling was that their attitude seemed to be that. I did not say that I would quote anyone from the other side. When the noble Lord, Lord Willis, reads Hansard,he will see that I am right. I chose my words fairly carefully.

Perhaps the most important part of a debate of this nature, particularly when it is limited, is to turn to some of the points that have been raised. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, particularly spoke of the National Film and Television School. As your Lordships are aware, this school is principally supported by my noble friend Lord Gowrie. The school's budget of about £1.5 million is only partly funded by the Eady levy. In the last levy year ended last October the proceeds of that levy provided only £500,000. Of the balance, £140,000 came from television and £75,000 from fees, with the Office of Arts and Libraries providing the remaining £850,000. So the Government already support the school to a major extent.

The Government have no doubt about the importance of the school. We have announced—and we intend to accept the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Rievaulx—the special contribution next year of £250,000 to improve the television facility at the school. But it is important that the industry itself should substantially support the school because it is from that school that it receives its steady stream of fully-trained young men and women.

I have commented upon the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Layton, which gives support to the Government's aims contained in the White Paper.

I am sorry that somebody who has spent so long a time in the industry as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, should have found nothing but total criticism. When he said that what we want in the Bill is more imagination I read into his remarks that he really wanted further continuation of Government support. He made a special plea for the industry, as well he might. Every other industry in this country and every other service comes to Government cap in hand. They are special; they plead for special consideration. I do not think we can operate in that way because the taxpayers' purse is not bottomless though some noble Lords suggest it is.

That takes me to the earlier remarks which brought the challenge from the other side just a moment ago—

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, may I—

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I have so limited a time on a debate such as this that it would be unfair to give way. As the noble Lord, Lord Graham, has stood up, I should say that I thought that his speech was one that would seek to take us back from whence we have come. We have to move forward; we have to look forward, thrust forward, with new opportunities. It is the industry itself, and only the industry, that can provide that.

Both the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, and the noble Lord, Lord Willis, spoke about there being one Minister for films and one Ministry for films as well. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has considered this matter further, certainly since the publication of the White Paper. She had decided that there shall be no changes in the present responsibilities. As for the question of one department, as I understood it, it would be some sort of statutory body under the control of a single Ministry, but it would have to combine cultural considerations with commercial ones and play an advisory role with executive and regulatory functions as well. That seems to me to be fraught with more difficulties than would be worth while.

My noble friend Lord Marley apologised to me for having to leave early. I understand that he has an illness in the family and wanted to get away. He asked me to pass his apologies to your Lordships. I very much enjoyed his quote from the 1930s. He also believes that the industry has to stand on its own feet and move forward.

The noble Earl, Lord Winchilsea and Nottingham, spoke particularly of the neglect of the industry. I would ask him, rhetorically I assure him, by whom has it been neglected? In his speech he suggested that the Eady levy, which is considered by some to be a subsidy, should be replaced by yet another subsidy. That just is not on. He spoke, as did the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, about the NFFC being replaced by a private company. The noble Lord opposite asked what happens when the money dries up. He said: "I ask expressly that". Rank, Thorn-EMI, Channel 4 and the British Videogram Association have agreed to provide annual contributions totalling £1.1 million for a period of three years—Channel 4 has guaranteed its share for five years—to finance the new company. The new company I have described also has the NFFC portfolio. I have also said—and I repeat—that the Government have undertaken to establish this fund at £1.5 million a year for five years. The undertaking involves well respected people and companies in the industry. If I were asked to look six, eight or 10 years ahead, I would find it difficult to predict exactly the fortunes of any kind of company in any kind of industry. I think that is a reasonable basis with Government guarantee on which the new company can move forward.

I picked up one last point in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Granville of Eye. I take his point when he said that the British industry, notwithstanding Hollywood, must stand on its own feet. We are dealing with a commercial industry. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, made the same mistake as one or two other noble Lords in drawing together the cultural and artistic aspects of film making. In the White Paper we are dealing with the commercial industry. The artistic, experimental and cultural film making industry will probably need special support mechanisms. We have heard from my noble friend Lord Mersey that the commercial industry is thriving. It sells well abroad and we see its best prospects for success in building on its current strength. I encourage your Lordships to contemplate the strong position not just of feature films, where turnover as well as percentage finance from United Kingdom sources are both up, but in other areas as well: 3,000 television commercials are made here each year with a total turnover approaching £100 million a year; and the new area of pop videos now topping £10million a year. The injection of new funds by Channel 4 to the independent production sector for programmes has been considerable. The industry can attract private investment on its own merits, and in order to continue that it must, like any other industry, subject itself to the disciplines and the pressures of the commercial market place. It cannot survive on subsidy after subsidy for regeneration, as it is called, when the only result is flinging good money after bad.

I close by thanking noble Lords for their contributions to tonight's debate and the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, for having introduced it. I give him the assurance that he asked for in the opening part of his speech: I and my honourable friend the Minister in charge of the Bill in another place will take heed and note of what has been said this evening.

Lord Lloyd of Hampstead

My Lords, we have had a most interesting debate and I should like to thank all of your Lordships who have come along to contribute to it. Particularly I would mention the very interesting maiden contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Layton, even though, as he will appreciate, I did not altogether agree with all his arguments.

It would be most inappropriate for me at this late stage in this short debate to try to join issue with noble Lords who have expressed views perhaps contrary to those which I have expressed and which have been expressed by other noble Lords. I should like only to say that I very much appreciate the kind references to me which the noble Lord the Minister has made. I detected a common note of what appears to be complacency in contemplating the future of the film industry in the light of the recommendations of the White Paper, and I was somewhat grieved to hear him appear to draw such a rigid line of demarcation between the film in its commercial aspect and in its artistic aspect. The essence of this whole business is grasping that these two matters are so closely integrated.

However, if I continue in this way I shall find myself involved in other issues, and therefore I think it only remains for me once again to thank all noble Lords for their most interesting contributions and to beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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