HC Deb 22 December 1983 vol 51 cc357-8W
Mr. Coombs

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will designate the film-making industry as a qualifying activity for regional development grants.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

Film-making is not at present a qualifying activity for regional development grants, which are currently concentrated on manufacturing industry. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently published a White Paper, "Regional Industrial Development"(Cmnd. 9111), which made proposals for a new structure for these grants, and suggested that they should extend to parts of the service sector. The Government welcome views by 31 May 1984 about which sectors should qualify for regional development grants under the new arrangements, and I will ensure that my hon. Friend's view regarding film-making is taken into account.

Mr. Fox

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action has been taken on the report of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission on the supply of films for exhibition in cinemas.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

When the report was published on 11 May, my predecessor announced that the Government would be giving careful consideration to this important report with a view to announcing measures to be taken. The Government have considered the report, and I am now in a position to announce the action which we have decided should be taken to implement the commission's findings.

The commission found that a number of monopoly situations existed in favour of both exhibitors and distributors. It found that the system of alignment and barring (which restrict distribution and showing of films) were against the public interest. The only effective remedy to the adverse effects of the system of alignment that the commission could identify would require the divestment by EMI and Rank Leisure Ltd. of substantial numbers of cinemas. It concluded that this was impracticable and not to be recommended. It recommended that the present system of barring should be ended, and that instead provisions for exclusive showing of films should be negotiated on a case by case basis.

The commission also found that delays in releasing popular films were against the public interest. It recommended that arrangements be made to ensure that a popular film would not be exhibited for more than four weeks in any cinema unless the film had been made available to competing cinemas.

In addition, the commission recommended that the film industry's trade dispute committee and appeals tribunal should be merged, and it made a number of recommendations regarding the terms of reference. procedures and membership of the new body.

Finally the commission recommended that the undertakings relating to trial runs for films of limited appeal, which EMI and Rank gave following the commission's 1966 report. should be allowed to lapse.

The Government accept the commission's report, and I am asking the Director General of Fair Trading to take a number of steps with a view to implementing it. I propose that as an initial step the Director General should arrange for an experimental regime based on the recommendations on barring and on a four-week limit to delays in the release of popular films to be applied in selected locations for a period of six months, to enable him to assess their effects. He will then be able to report to me on the results of the trial scheme and make recommendations for measures to be implemented through Great Britain.

I am asking the Director General of Fair Trading to discuss with appropriate bodies the implementation of the commission's recommendations regarding changes to the membership and procedure of the trades disputes committee and appeals tribunal. I am also asking him to arrange for EMI and Rank to be released from undertakings on trial runs for films of limited appeal given following the earlier report, and to look particularly carefully at any future merger proposals within the provisions of the Fair Trading Act concerning film distributors and exhibitors, since the commission expressed concern at the possibility of further concentration in the Industry.