§ [Progress, 18th May]
§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]
§ Clause 1.—(REDUCTION OF ENTERTAINMENTS DUTY.)
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 5, at the end, to add: (3) As from the thirty-first day of July, nineteen hundred and fifty-four, no entertainments duty shall be payable in respect of any entertainment consisting solely of a stage play or a ballet.
§ The Chairman
It might be for the convenience of the Committee if, with this Amendment we took that in page 2, line 5, relating solely to a performance of music; that in line 5 relating solely to a lecture; that in line 5 relating solely to a recitation, and that in line 5 relating solely to a puppet or marionette show.
§ Mr. Wyatt
The Amendments which stand in the names of myself and my hon. Friends raise the whole question of the relationship which we think that the State should have with the living theatre. We are today moving into the age of mechanical boxes. We have to ask ourselves whether we want all our learning and entertainment to come out of tin cans, and whether we are prepared to accept the complete loss of living contact between the audience and the performers.
Should that be accepted then the quality, even of what comes out of the box when we push the button, will suffer. In America, radio, television and the cinema have already destroyed the theatre everywhere except in New York, where it lingers very expensively and precariously. The result is that the quality of the acting, even on the television and cinema screens, has become woefully bad, because there is no living theatre in America where actors can learn their craft and playwrights practise their trade.
So even if we surrender completely to the era of gadgets and do without the living theatre to train and supply actors we shall get an increasingly lower quality from the machines that take their place. The Government, with their Television 212 Bill, are levering us a further step forward into a pre-recorded future. It is their responsibility to see that the mass production standards, which they are assisting to promote and which we cannot avoid, are kept as high as possible.
That cannot be done without a strong base of living theatrical performances not only in London but throughout the country. The very fact of an audience's participation in a theatre makes towards creative art. Without an actual and genuine response one cannot have the same atmosphere and feeling. One cannot get it from the hand-picked studio audiences provided by the B.B.C., which are instructed before the performance to applaud very loudly even if they do not like what they see and hear. This does not create a satisfactory association between audience and performer.
In Britain today the state of the theatre has become lamentable. One-third of our actors—many of them very good—who belong to Equity, the actors' trade union, are unemployed. Theatres are closing, and 30 well-known theatres are up for sale for any purpose whatever, not merely for continuing their life as theatres but for use as storage places, dance halls—in fact, anything other than theatres.
Four of those theatres are in London and the remaining 26 are in the provinces. The Grand Theatre, Derby, has already closed. The Opera House, Leicester, has gone and so has the Empire, Shepherds Bush. The Stoll Theatre Company is to-day trying to dispose of its theatres at Wood Green and Hackney. The Hippodrome, Dudley is about to close, as is also the Chiswick Empire. In the North of England, during the last year 29 out of 46 repertory companies have closed down—an alarmingly high proportion. Many theatres are now closing for the summer because they cannot possibly afford to keep open during the summer months.
In the Arts Council Report for 1952–53 it is stated quite emphatically, without ambiguity, that with the competition of television and the cinema it is quite impossible for theatres to charge any more for admission. They have no possibility of surviving by increasing their prices. We have now reached the stage where any commercial theatre company which has to pay entertainments tax can put on nothing but a very modest production. 213 In a theatre paying entertainments tax any play which hopes to make a profit must be confined to four or five characters and to one set—with no change of scenery throughout the play. Today the position is that neither Shaw nor Shakespeare can be performed by other than a non-profit-making company enjoying entertainments tax remission. The reason is that in both Shaw and Shakespeare, two of our greatest playwrights, the changes of scenery and the numbers of actors required are too great to allow an ordinary company to put them on.
Without doubt the reason for the present plight of the theatre—or one of the major reasons—is the payment of Entertainments Duty, which is collected whether the theatre makes a profit or not. It makes no difference if the theatre is running at a loss, the duty still has to be paid. It amounts roughly to 14 per cent. or 15 per cent. of the gross takings and frequently that amount is the margin between survival and bankruptcy.
One good example is a repertory theatre at Bristol, the Little Theatre, which is lucky if, at the end of the year, it can show a profit of £50. Sometimes it does. But it has paid many hundreds of pounds in Entertainments Duty. This theatre is more fortunate than most because many are actually running at a loss, which would not be the case were they exempted from the payment of the tax.
It could be argued, and no doubt it will be, that non-profit-making companies do not have to pay Entertainments Duty and, therefore, why do not these repertory theatres become non-profit-making companies and so exempt themselves? One reason is that the qualifications which the theatre or the company has to satisfy before the Commissioners will grant a certificate of exemption are both severe and erratic. Even if a company complies with the non-profit qualifications it cannot be certain that remission will be granted.
Entertainments Duty paid by a West End theatre may well amount to several hundreds of pounds a week. The figure may be as much as £500 and it is often about £300 or £400. In the provinces it is less, but certainly it can amount to as much as £100 a week or more. In each case it may be the margin which makes all the difference between success and failure.
214 As I have said, drastic economies have been made in the theatre by reducing the quality of production, but that cannot be taken any further and people still be expected to come to the theatre. Forty years ago the price of a seat in the stalls in a London theatre was 10s. 6d. Even today it has gone up only to 15s. or 16s., out of which 2s. 4d.—or more if the seat costs more than 15s.—represents Entertainments Duty. So that the real price of a seat in the stalls of a London theatre has gone up by only 25 per cent. in the last 40 years, while costs have gone up probably four or five times as much in the same period.
An indication of the difficulties confronting theatres today is the fact, as recorded in the report of the Arts Council, that if all the seats at Covent Garden were sold for every performance there would still be a loss of £450 on each performance. I daresay that many hon. Members think that Covent Garden prices are quite high enough already, but that is an indication of the difficulty of making ends meet in the theatre.
The Government have long recognised that the living theatre is in a special position as compared with other entertainments. That is why the Entertainments Duty in the living theatre is paid at the rate of the first or the lowest scale. That is also the reason why subsidies are paid by the Government to such organisations as the Old Vic theatre and many other similar organisations up and down the country.
3.45 p.m. But even the Old Vic, despite its subsidy and the fact that it pays no Entertainments Duty, has until recently, as the Chancellor knows, made substantial losses. Only by effecting large-scale economies—which means that it is not possible to put on the sort of productions for which it was originally designed—will the Old Vic be able to make ends meet. It was because of the recognition of the need for a special preference for theatres, and the special position which they occupy, that Section 8 of the Finance Act, 1946, allows non-profit-distributing companies to claim exemption from Entertainments Duty, provided that certain qualifications are met.
That is also the reason why, in this Budget, a tiny concession is made to the living theatre by allowing a remission of 215 Entertainments Duty to the extent of a ½d. on each seat. But that amount is simply not enough to save the living theatre. If the Chancellor thinks it worth while to try to do something to save the living theatre, it is worth doing something more than allowing a remission of a ½d., which is completely derisory. In small provincial theatres this remission will amount to a saving of perhaps 15s. a performance, or £5 or £6 a week.
In the really small theatres there will be a saving of only £2 or £3 a week, which will not have the effect of rescuing them from bankruptcy. This concession costs the Chancellor only £175,000 a year. At the same time that he is making this derisory concession to the living theatre he is conceding 20 times as much to the mechanical boxes of the cinema and relieving them of £7 million a year in Entertainments Duty.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I worked the 20 times out first, but I am sure that the Chancellor and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury are much better at figures than I am.
If the competition of television and rising costs are a menace to the cinema, and a menace which is recognised by the Chancellor, they are far more of a threat to the living theatre. Every theatre employs far more staff than does a cinema in order to keep going. A theatre must also pay actors which a cinema does not. Cinema actors are paid by the producing companies—although the Financial Secretary appears to find it surprising that there are no living actors on the cinema screen.
On the average, it costs about half as much to run a cinema as a theatre, and because human endurance is limited, the number of performances given during the week in a theatre must necessarily be far less than the number of times a handle may be turned to show a film in a cinema to different audiences. A cinema can be kept open all day and every day and even the Sunday Observance Act hits the theatre more severely than the cinema by preventing the living theatre from being open on Sunday, though apparently allowing cinemas all over the country to be open on Sundays.
216 I am not blaming the Chancellor for the effect of Sunday Observance Act on the longer hours during which cinemas may be open. I am merely pointing out that the difficulties under which the theatre labours are far greater than those affecting the cinema. If the right hon. Gentleman proposes to consider the one he ought to lend support to the other.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. R. A. Butler)
I do not propose to reply to the speech of the hon. Member now, but I would point out that theatres are on a much lower scale of Entertainments Duty than cinemas.
§ Mr. Butler
I thought it would help if I repeated one of the few accurate parts of what the hon. Member has said.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I do not know whether the Chancellor is disputing the general accuracy of what I am saying. If that be so, he has been more than usually badly briefed by the Treasury.
It is because of these longer hours of opening for cinemas that they can exploit side-lines such as the sale of ice cream and chocolate. I understand that cinemas in the Rank Organisation, Gaumont and Odeon, are kept alive today only by the sale of ice cream, cigarettes and chocolate and not by the actual showing of films, which is not a practice open to the theatre.
The theatre is also the subject of another form of unfair competition in that the Chancellor allows restaurants to provide live entertainment and yet does not try to collect Entertainments Duty from them. They are completely exempt. There are many restaurants, cinemas and night clubs in London which put on these shows every night, but pay no Entertainments Duty on them at all. If the cinemas are to be allowed a relief of £3½ million a year, it is very unfair discrimination to allow the living theatre only £175,000 relief, particularly as this is not enough to make any difference.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
When the hon. Member quotes those figures, surely he will be fair enough to recognise that they are exactly in the 217 ratio of yield between the total of the Entertainments Duty on cinemas and the total of the Entertainments Duty on theatres and music halls.
§ Mr. Wyatt
That may be so. I have no doubt the Chancellor will be able to grasp that, as he is much better at mathematics than I am. I am saying that what must be done, if the theatre is to be saved at all, is to remove all Entertainments Duty from it. The total of Entertainments Duty paid under this particular Schedule is £2,300,000 a year. Perhaps the Chancellor will interrupt me if I am not correct on that point, as it is rather an important figure.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Will my hon. Friend say what is the grand total of all Entertainments Duty?
§ Mr. Wyatt
I am told that it is about £44 million for all classes. These Amendments do not cover the whole field of Entertainments Duty on the lowest scale. I should like to see music halls and variety entertainments also included in the relief of Entertainments Duty, but I did not dare put that down as well.
§ Mr. Wyatt
Because the Chancellor is in parsimonious mood, and I thought we should be lucky to get him to take the Entertainments Duty off the living theatre, and the other classes of entertainment which I have put down in my Amendments. I did not think that we could get him to release as much money as, in fact, the total would cost him. The Amendments cover all the items listed in Section 2 of the Finance Act, 1952, as being on the lowest scale, except music halls and circuses. If music halls and circuses are not included, the cost of these Amendments will not be more than £1; million or £1½ million a year at the very outside.
There are about 300 theatres in the United Kingdom. About 200 of them are for the most part, but not entirely, used as music halls for some part of the year. So we are not even asking the Chancellor to go the whole distance this time. I do not think it is very much to ask for £1 million to save the living 218 theatre in this country. It is no use pointing to the West End and saying, "They are doing very well there," because it is not entirely the West End that counts so far as the theatres in the country are concerned. They should be spread throughout the country in all the large provincial centres and not merely be confined to a small group of people able to live within a short distance of the West End.
The removal of the Entertainments Duty would also remove the anomaly now created by Section 8 of the 1946 Finance Act. It is common knowledge that nonprofit distributing companies have been run in conjunction with profit-making companies in order to make a greater profit for the profit-making companies. An unfair advantage is given to companies in that way over the ordinary commercial companies. I think that some people connected with these non-profit distributing companies do not want the Entertainments Duty to come off, because they have at present so much advantage over their ordinary rivals.
The Customs and Excise officials are also put in a difficult position in trying to decide whether or not a programme of plays produced by a non-profit distributing company is partly educational or not, and we know that sometimes very strange plays creep in under this heading. I do not blame them for that. They have to look at the programme as a whole and it is very difficult from the vantage point of the Customs and Excise desk to judge accurately the merits of a play put before them.
Many of the plays now produced by non-profit distributing companies could be equally well produced by the commercial theatre, and ought to be put on up and down the country if the theatre is not to die. If the Chancellor accepts these Amendments, the non-profit distributing companies will still have an advantage over their commercial rivals of not having to pay any Entertainments Duty, and that ought to be sufficient to enable them to carry on with high-quality productions. There is a danger that the theatre will be turned into semi-monopoly, and it cannot be healthy for the theatre for one type of man or producer to be making the selection all the time.
On every ground, the remission of Entertainments Duty on the living 219 theatre can only do good. It can be done I think at trivial cost. It would not really cost as much as £1 million if this were done. At the moment, the Chancellor has reached the point of diminishing returns. It is no use his trying to collect Entertainments Duty on theatres forced to close because of the payment of the duty. The more theatres driven out of business, the less Entertainments Duty there will be, and the more actors there will be without incomes on which to pay Income Tax.
§ Mr. M. Follick (Loughborough)
Does my hon. Friend agree that if the theatre dies out, we shall be robbing the cinemas of the actors who come from the theatres to the cinemas?
§ Mr. Wyatt
Then we may have a situation in which only mechanical devices are used, and the quality of the acting on these mechanical gadgets is bound to suffer because there is no living theatre in which the actors can be trained. This is happening in America where the living theatre is dead, except in New York, and the quality of the acting on the screen and on television is rather bad. That is why they are always taking in people from this country where the quality of acting is so much higher.
I have nothing more to say on this point now. I have kept the Committee for a long time, but I only intervene on one occasion on the Finance Bill each year by permission of some of my hon. Friends, who will be glad to know that I am now drawing to a close. I do, however, ask the Chancellor to look at this matter very seriously and, if it gives him pleasure to correct my mathematics, I hope that he will do so with vigour and, at the same time, use the same amount of energy in studying the situation and directing his attention to keeping the living theatre alive. It is no good giving a derisory remission of ½d. on a seat in order to try to keep the ailing patient alive when the patient is likely to die unless a good, positive tonic is given at the right time, which is now.
§ Mr. J. E. S. Simon (Middlesbrough, West)
I do not dissent from the plea which the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) has made in favour of those parts of the living theatre to which his Amendments are directed, but I should very much deprecate their being dealt with by 220 way of concession to the exclusion of the music hall. It is on behalf of the music hall that I venture to put in a plea now. That is a particularly English form of theatrical art. It is a homely form of art which deals with kippers and mothers-in-law and the simpler personalities of politics—the sub-intellectual stuff, as an hon. Member opposite said. I think hon. Members in all parts of the Committee will agree that it has a raciness, a vigour and a genuineness which is part of English life—very different, as the hon. Member for Aston indicated, from the artificial celluloid civilisation which is portrayed in the cinema.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon
If I used the word "English" instead of "British" and offended the hon. Member, I gladly apologise.
It is a great tradition in British life. The sad ballad of the death of Samuel Hall on the gallows was sung in the Victorian music halls of the early part of the last century and is still sung in various versions throughout the country, some repeatable in the Committee and some not. I do not suppose many hon. Members present saw the great McDermott although the Prime Minister may well have done so in his time. McDermott was an important political figure at one time with his ballad,We don't want to fight, but, by jingo if we do …I do not know whether hon. Members realise that that eventually brought him such political celebrity, for he was admitted to the confidences of Lord Salisbury and subsequently had a ballad, which I commend to the attention of my right hon. Friend and which went like this:'What would you like to do my Lord?,' I asked Lord Salisbury. 'The great election's very near, And where will then you be?'He was followed by a very different type of music hall era but equally a part of the tradition—an era which many hon. Members will have seen and which brought Albert Chevalier and Marie Lloyd, whose funeral was second in impressiveness only to that of the Duke of Wellington—since, unfortunately, exceeded by that of Rudolph Valentino. 221 We had Dan Leno, Vesta Tilley and Little Tich. I remember seeing the placards of Ella Shields and George Robey. I suppose many hon. Members will have seen and enjoyed these artistes.
What is more, the tradition is continuing. I think we all obtain great pleasure from the performances of Flanagan and Allen, Naughton and Gold, Nervo and Knox and a whole host of lesser artistes who travel throughout the land and give great joy to innumerable audiences. It is for such artistes that I hope my right hon. Friend will spare consideration.
The living theatre, particularly the music hall in the provinces, cannot compete with the cinema at the present rate of taxation. I can understand hon. Members who argue that competition should be absolutely free and that if the costs of the cinema are less, very well, let the people enjoy their entertainment, if they wish, at a lesser cost in the cinema. But I do not understand that to be the view of my right hon. Friend and the Treasury, because already there is discrimination in favour of the living theatre, presumably because my right hon. Friend considers that the living theatre has an important contribution to make to British life.
In the first place, the cost of running a cinema is approximately half that of running a comparable theatre. I obtained the figures of two very similar buildings—the Hulme Hippodrome—a living theatre—and the Princes Cinema, at Wigan. The weekly cost of running the Hulme Hippodrome is £410 and that of running the Princes Cinema is £196. That is a very considerable disadvantage with which the theatre has to start.
In addition, the period during which the theatre can remain open and earn its living is only half that of the cinema. That is partly because of the physical limitations of the artistes and workers, the stage staff and orchestras. The theatres can open for only up to 26 hours a week. What is more, as the hon. Member for Aston pointed out, they have not the opportunity of sharing in the week-end money on Sundays because of the provisions of the Sunday Observance Act. The cinemas stay open for approximately 54 hours in the week—twice as many as do the theatres.
222 Since the theatre employs live performers, it has to pay high charges for transport and accommodation and its entertainment costs are at the very least 55 per cent. of the door receipts after the deduction of Entertainments Duty. On the other hand, as far as I have been able to ascertain, very rarely does a cinema pay as much as 50 per cent. By virtue of the longer showing time there is also a far greater opportunity in the cinema of exploiting such profitable sidelines as the sale of ice cream and chocolates and sales at the bar.
I venture to offer one further consideration to my right hon. Friend. Of the money spent in the live theatre, a substantial proportion remains in this country, whereas a substantial proportion of the money spent in the cinema goes abroad. For all those reasons the theatres today are in a parlous plight, particularly the provincial theatres. Within the last few months about 30 theatres in the country have been placed on offer for sale. A large number of theatres have already announced that they will close during the summer. The hon. Member for Aston mentioned the Hippodrome Theatre, Dudley, as one which was about to close. In fact, it has already closed and others have gone, too, such as the Palace Theatre, Preston. That has been under the same management for many years, but has now closed.
The tax remissions which have been given this year are not sufficient to make any substantial difference. I have the figures of four theatres under the same management. In one case—and these are the capacity figures—the remission amounts to just over £2 10s. a week; in another case, it is just over £2; in the third case, it is just under £2; and in the fourth case it is £2 15s. It is obvious that this sort of concession will not reverse the trend towards driving out the living theatre and the music hall.
I do not expect my right hon. Friend to give an answer today, but I hope he will carefully consider the position of the provincial music halls, which mean so much to the workers in the provinces, and will see that, if possible, a concession is made to them. I hope he will see that any concession which is made to one form of the live theatre is extended to the music hall.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
Does the hon. and learned Member not agree that the parlous plight of these theatres will be made worse by the introduction of commercial television?
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I propose to limit myself to the Amendment dealing with music. It asks that no Entertainments Duty shall be payable in respect of entertainment consisting solely of a performance of music.
I hope that the Financial Secretary will bring to the notice of the Chancellor the fact that there is a good case to be made for the Amendment. I have done my best to find out how much revenue is produced by the charge, but I have not succeeded. I do not know whether even the Financial Secretary knows how much it is, but I gather that it is not a very large sum.
The Amendment uses the word "music," and it is not intended to distinguish between different forms of music. It may be chamber music, orchestral music, symphonies, brass bands, and so on. I think we were right not to limit ourselves to any form, whether so-called low-brow or high-brow, because there is no such thing as low-brow or high-brow in the arts. The arts really cater for every type of person according to his tastes; it is nonetheless art for that.
We feel that there are some specific reasons why the Chancellor might give way. In the main, it can be argued that European civilisation has given the world three gifts. One is Gothic architecture, another is our modern form of music—Western music, starting 600 or 700 years ago—and the third is mathematics. Of these, perhaps the greatest, most pervasive and most persuasive of all is our concept of music, our forms of melody, harmony and point-counter-point, which have spread over many parts of the world.
If we speak of the Western attitude towards music, we have to include both 224 the United States and the Soviet Union because they have both accepted the forms that we invented in this part of Europe, the Soviet Union through the religious melodies of the great Orthodox Church a long time ago, and the United States later on when settlers went there.
To say a word en passant about mathematics, from the time of Descartes to Einstein we have evolved a form of thought mathematically that no other civilisation has been able to offer.
§ Mr. Follick
Surely my hon. Friend will agree that the foundation of mathematics was laid by the Arabs in Cordoba under the famous mathematician, Maimomides.
§ Dr. Stross
I was always under the impression that Spain was in Europe, although I admit at once the influence of Arabian thought on algebra. The point which I am making is that if we take the Euclidean or the Pythagorean concepts of mathematics, they could not even visualise zero and anything called a negative was to them something absolutely impossible to consider. We have gone a long way beyond that.
This musical concept of ours, which I have said is the greatest of our contributions to the world, is a form of inspiration and education as great as anything that we have available. It is really an instrument of civilisation in each and all of us. Every other item dealt with in this series of Amendments is a little narrower than this one, and it is this one of all of them which should receive first attention for the reasons which I have given and because even the Financial Secretary does not know whether it is anything but a derisory sum which the charge in this respect produces. I am sure that the Treasury does not want to collect money from this source.
4.15 p.m. There are one or two arguments to be put in favour of my contentions. I shall deal first with the experience of people living in North Staffordshire. About 20 years ago we began to bring in the Hallé Orchestra to play to our school children four, five or six times a year. It played to the children in the afternoon. In the evening it gave orchestral entertainment to the adults. The children paid a very small amount to listen to it because the education committee subsidised them, but 225 the adults had to pay the full fee. As time has passed we have discovered that more than half the adults under 30 who now attend evening orchestral entertainments by the Hallé Orchestra, the Liverpool Philharmonic or similar orchestras were first influenced when they were at school, when they paid their 3d. to listen to an orchestra. If they were hard-up, we found a scholarship for them and provided the money.
This is a very important matter. It is apparent that an appreciation of great music is not something which can be claimed as of right by any type or class of person; it is claimed in the main by those who had a chance of hearing it and appreciating it when they were children.
The Financial Secretary will be fully aware of the amount of money which has to be poured into the great orchestras through the Arts Council, and directly by municipalities, in order to keep them going. I am sure that he is aware of the difficulties which were experienced by the Hallé Orchestra a few years ago.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) is not in the Chamber at the moment. He once did a remarkable thing of which the Treasury ought to take note. The Hallé Orchestra was in great financial difficulty at the time. Manchester proposed to withdraw its subsidy, which was a considerable one, My hon. Friend asked Mr. Barbirolli, as he then was, and myself, for some strange reason, to speak to the delegates at the annual meeting of the Lancashire and Cheshire Trades Council, an organisation representing about two million workers, about the need for municipalities to support the the Hallé Orchestra.
At the meeting were 104 delegates. There was some objection to the proposal, and at the end a vote was taken. One hundred delegates voted in favour of supporting the Hallé Orchestra, and four were against the proposal. I vividly remember the able chairmanship of my hon. Friend. One real criticism against supporting orchestras like the Hallé or the Liverpool Philharmonic came from a well-known delegate who said, "I do not ask for a subsidy when I go to a boxing match. I do not ask the Government to put their hands in their pockets to assist me. Nor do I do so when I go 226 to a football match; indeed, I then pay tax. I am now being asked to report back to my municipality and to urge that a subsidy should be given, which means that I tax myself and my family."
The answer given to him immediately by another delegate—this is a fragrant story—was, "If the alderman thinks that he is going to have my children brought up at the same musical level at which he has been brought up, namely, the mouth-organ level, he is very much mistaken." As I have said, the voting was 100 to four in favour of the proposal. Through that action by my hon. Friend, an additional sum of well over £20,000 a year was produced for some time, which kept the Hallé Orchestra going. If workers, through their representatives, think so deeply of this instrument of civilisation, surely the Treasury might take note of the fact.
Not a single orchestra in the country is up to the pitch at which we should like it to be. The Hallé Orchestra would like to have a strength of 130 so that it could use 100 members at a performance if necessary, have reasonable time for rehearsal and have people to spare to teach the next generation. I feel that the amount of money that is brought in is so small that the Treasury could well say, "It is true that it is not very much, but we will gladly remit it for all forms of musical entertainment." In doing so, they would give a stimulus not only to our municipal orchestras, like Bournemouth, but to our great national orchestras which work much too hard and of which we are extremely proud. I therefore hope that the Financial Secretary will be successful in persuading the Chancellor on these lines.
§ Squadron Leader A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
Although there may be a good case for certain of the Amendments which we are now discussing, I should like to address myself to the remarks made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr Simon) in connection with the theatre. There, I do not think a case is made out at all. In fact, if there is one branch of the entertainment world to which no concession should be made at present, I should say that that is the live theatre.
Why are so many of these theatres closing down, not only in London but in various parts of the country? They 227 are closing down because, as was said in the national Press at the beginning of this week, there is a complete lack of artistes. I refer not simply to lack of numbers, but to the lack of good artistes of sufficiently high calibre to attract a discerning public.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
The reason is that they have not got the opportunity of developing their talents by doing the tours.
§ Squadron Leader Cooper
I do not know how detailed the hon. and gallant Member's knowledge is of this subject, but I assure him that he is quite wrong. There are many of these tours going on all the time, but—and this is not just my opinion but the opinion of the profession as such—the general standard of the theatrical profession, and especially the variety section, at the present time is lower than probably at any time in the history of the profession, and we must face that fact.
§ Squadron Leader Cooper
I should have thought that that could hardly be so, because if there is one profession in which the remuneration is greater than any other it is the variety profession.
§ Squadron Leader Cooper
I am very glad to have that information from the hon. Gentleman. He and I have put down Questions on this subject within the past few weeks.
§ Squadron Leader Cooper
Would it be in order, Mr. Hynd, if I were allowed to continue my speech?
In the theatrical profession today we find that large numbers of the top line artistes receive salaries between £200 and £1,000 a week, and they receive entertainment expenses far beyond those which would be permitted for any businessman and which a Member of Parliament could certainly never get by the Inland Revenue inspectors.
If the theatre wishes to reduce the price of its seats to attract more custom, then 228 the first thing it should do is to put its own house in order. The variety section of the theatre, in my opinion, is not a long way short of a racket, and it is certainly controlled in a very few close hands. It is high time that somebody took the lid off this profession and had a good look inside and saw what it was all about. We might not like what we find, but the probability is that at the end of the day we should get the prices of our seats substantially lower than they are today, and we might get a much higher standard of performer than we have at the moment.
It is interesting to recognise that where there are top line performers, the theatres are always packed. The example to be seen is in the London Palladium and in certain of the other musical shows now running in London. Again, where there are top class performers, the theatres are packed and it is very difficult to get seats, but for any of the second-rate performers there are plenty of seats available. The fact is that we are becoming more discerning in our taste, and we look for a higher standard of performance; we are not getting it and the theatre suffers, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
The Treasury has certainly got to look at this profession, and it should ascertain why, in a profession which is now calling for reductions in Entertainments Duty, some of its performers year by year go bankrupt owing the Treasury several thousands of pounds in unpaid tax. So long as that situation is allowed to exist, we must resist this sort of Amendment.
§ Mr. Anthony Crosland (Gloucester, South)
I do not want to speak only about the variety section of the theatre. Two hon. Members opposite apparently disagree on that subject, and I do not wish to intervene in their own debate. I want to speak mainly about the straight theatre, which engaged the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt).
Before I introduce one or two arguments, I should like to answer an intervention of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) who, rather unfairly, tried to catch my hon. Friend out merely because of his inadequate knowledge both of taxation and of mathematics, and succeeded in doing so. It is true, as the hon. Gentleman said, that 229 the concession in the Budget to the theatre is proportionately about the same as the concession in the Budget to the cinema, but the fact that these two are proportionately equal does not necessarily mean that they are both right. One could still argue that the circumstances of one or the other demanded particularly favourable treatment.
For my part, I think it is possible to exaggerate the disadvantages under which the cinema now suffers as compared with the theatre. Certainly, no arguments that I might put forward for more favourable treatment to the theatre would rest entirely on some alleged greater disabilities that the theatre suffers as compared with the cinema.
§ Mr. Nabarro
My intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) rested solely on fiscal verity and not upon moral considerations.
§ Mr. Crosland
It is certainly right, and in line with the difference between the two parties, that the fiscal superiority should lie upon the benches opposite and the moral superiority upon this side of the Committee.
It seems to me that the essential case for the theatre and for greater relief to the theatre rests quite simply on the state of affairs in the theatre at the moment. More than one speaker this afternoon has already mentioned what a very serious slump the theatre is going through, and it is one that cannot possibly be denied. Most of the references to the effects of this slump tend to be drawn from London and the West End, but I am at least as much interested in what is happening in the large provincial cities.
In the City of Bristol, which is the one I know best, and which was mentioned by my hon. Friend, the position is very serious indeed. We have one small and delightful repertory theatre where the standard is consistently high—the Little Theatre, which has already been referred to—and it is on the point of bankruptcy. I do not know where my hon. Friend got his facts, but he said that they thought themselves lucky if they made a profit of £50 a year.
They have just made their budget forecast for the coming year, and they think they are almost certain to make a loss. If that theatre in Bristol were closed it 230 would be a serious cultural loss. It is a theatre supported by a small group of loyal adherents who go regularly week by week with their families, and it maintains the best traditions of the English repertory theatre.
4.30 p.m. Catering for quite different tastes, there is a larger theatre in Bristol, the Hippodrome, which is not wholly a variety theatre or music hall. "Anna Lucasta" is being performed there this week, and I think that hon. Members will agree that that is at any rate not strikingly other than a straight play. Yet the management has announced that it may find that in the coming year it will have to cancel all the matinée performances. So we find a state of affairs in which not only are theatres being closed, but the number of performances in the theatres kept open are being restricted.
Add to those considerations the unemployment that exists in the theatre. My hon. Friend put it at 30 per cent. on the basis of Equity figures, which seem to me probably to understate rather than to overstate the extent of the unemployment. Adding the unemployment to the state of affairs it seems to me that conditions in the theatre are so serious at the moment that they ought to engage the Chancellor's attention. Although a case can be rested on an elaborate comparison between the conditions of the theatre and the cinema the case for the theatre does not rest on that comparison. A comparison could be made between the costs incurred by the theatre and the costs incurred by the cinema, and so on, but the case for the theatre stands on its own.
When a case of this sort is put up to them the Government can always reply that they cannot be expected by way of tax reliefs to help any and every industry that finds itself in temporary financial difficulties. I entirely acept that. Of course, they cannot always come to the aid of every hard case. They have a perfect right in many cases to say to the industry, the trade or the profession concerned, "First, you have to show that you are of some national interest and national importance, and, secondly, you have to show that you have made every possible attempt to increase your efficiency."
I would not go so far as my hon. Friend and talk contemptuously of the 231 cinema as a "mechanical box," in distinguishing between the theatre and the cinema, but I do not think that there would be any difference of opinion in the Committee about our wanting to preserve the living theatre; and, therefore, the theatre does fulfil the first of those conditions: it is of some national interest and national importance.
As to the second condition, the theatre differs from any ordinary industry. It obviously is no good to say to the theatre, "Before we can offer you any tax concession you have to increase your efficiency." None of the methods open to ordinary manufacturing industry of increasing productivity are open to the theatre. Theatrical people cannot work indefinitely harder, and cannot start putting performances on in the mornings, or installing ever more elaborate machinery, in the way that an ordinary industry can. So in general terms I should have thought that the theatre had made out its case for some budgetary concession at the present time.
The answer that is always given when we begin to speak about the cultural importance of the theatre, as my hon. Friend pointed out, is, naturally, that the concession is already made through the non-profit distributing scheme. Although this was, when it was started, an imaginative attempt to deal with this part of the problem, we must, I think, recognise that it has produced so many anomalies so irritating to so many people that we are bound to reconsider the whole matter now. Even when it was first introduced it was bitterly criticised by Sir Alan Herbert, who was then a Member of the Committee, on the very ground that it would produce the anomalies it has.
In Bristol, we have the Bristol Old Vic, whose standards are about as high as the standards of any repertory theatre can possibly be. It has the most extraordinary record over the last few years in the brilliance of its productions. Side by side with it we have another repertory theatre, the Little Theatre. If we were to take the whole of the annual programmes of the Old Vic and compare them with the whole of the animal programmes of the Little Theatre, and if we were to apply the rather conventional 232 definition of what represents culture in the theatre, and count the number of Shakespearian productions, for instance, in proportion to the total of the productions, then we might conclude that the Old Vic, in a very conventional sense, contributed more to the culture of Bristol than the Little Theatre.
That kind of comparison, however, does not get us very far. There are no agreed definitions of this sort, and at the Little Theatre there are constantly put on plays of the greatest importance and interest, whereas at the Old Vic there are sometimes—not often, but occasionally—extremely poor performances. Yet the people concerned with the less ambitious, the less pretentious of the two theatres are in a state of perpetual anxiety because they have to pay Entertainments Duty whereas the Old Vic does not. It is the sort of anomaly they do not like.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Has the Little Theatre company applied for and been refused the advantages of the non-profit making company?
§ Mr. Crosland
It has not applied and not been refused for the reason that was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Aston before my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) came in. Obligations have to be fulfilled that are both sever and erratic, and the company prefers not to apply.
§ Mr. Silverman
I have no doubt it does, and I would not question for a moment its right to do so, but if it is possible for the Bristol Old Vic to claim those advantages and so to keep its head well above water, and the Little Theatre, for reasons of its own, decides not to do so, is the fault in the law or in the running of the theatre?
§ Mr. Crosland
The position, of course, is complicated by the fact that there is a subsidy as well as an Entertainments Duty concession, but my view is that the fault can be shown to be in the law if a theatre like the Little Theatre is compelled by its financial considerations to accept certain obligations it would prefer not to, in order to obtain a concession. I am not saying that it would be wrong that it should accept or not those obligations, but it seems to me wrong that it 233 should no longer have, because of financial stringency, any free choice in the matter at all.
It seems an absurd anomaly that under our Entertainments Duty system the great bulk of the straight, living theatre pays the tax and professional cricket does not. It seems to me an indefensible anomaly. It seems to me also an indefensible anomaly, one to which my hon. Friend drew attention, that the straight theatre pays Entertainments Duty whereas entertainments in certain restaurants, that are equally theatrical shows, pay no tax of any kind at all. These various anomalies establish a very strong case for revising the duty as it falls on the theatres.
I do not want to take up the time of the Committee with rather minor points, but as there is an Amendment on the subject of lectures I would say a word on it, because surely nobody could say that it is not an extraordinary contradiction in terms that a lecture should be thought so much of an entertainment that it attracts Entertainments Duty. It is very hard for one in the first place to believe that such a curious paradox should be in the law at all.
§ Mr. Crosland
Yes, I agree. An Amendment on the subject of recitations was considered, but I think we could not find a person who had either heard or given a public recitation in his life.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
When I was very young I heard "The Fireman's Wedding" recited with great effect.
§ Mr. Crosland
It is quite obvious that the debate will continue rather longer than one had anticipated. However, I shall leave the recitations to my hon. Friends and say something on the subject of lectures.
It seems to me an odd thing that lectures should be subject to the tax. When Mr. McKenna introduced the tax, assisted by Mr. Montagu, the Financial Secretary, it was a tax on amusements, and I do 234 not think they had lectures in view. Certainly, nothing was said on the subject of lectures in the original discussion in the Committee in 1916, when the tax was introduced. What kind of lectures attract the tax? There are various exemptions for educational purposes and non-profit making objects, and so on. Lectures at universities are totally exempt, and so are W.E.A. lectures. It would be interesting to know what lectures attract the tax and what sort of people they are who give them, and how it is decided whether they should be considered entertaining or not, and so, whether or not they should be exempted.
It sounds like a trivial, trifling piece of taxation which does nobody any good, which brings in little or no revenue and brings minor irritations to perfectly harmless and respectable bodies dotted round the country who invite people to lecture for £5 or £10. It would be a good thing if we had some information on this subject. I saw a week or two ago, produced by Foyles Lecture Society or a body with some such name as that, a list of lecturers who went round to various places for small fees. It included a number of hon. Members in this House, including the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) and some others a good deal less amusing and entertaining than him. Looking at some of the names it seemed to me almost incredible that they could come under a scale that was originally intended to apply to amusements which are, therefore, taxable.
I hope that the Financial Secretary will devote the main part of his speech to the living theatre, because its condition at the moment really demands attention.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I do not think that there is any hon. Member who will be lacking in sympathy for the plea made by the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) on behalf of the living theatre. What I am sure many of my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee quarrel with is his interpretation of the causes of the financial embarrassment experienced by the living theatre, notably in the post-war period. I believe that it is quite wrong to attribute that financial embarrassment must largely to the Entertainments Duty.
I wrote down the exact words that the hon. Member employed. He said, "A 235 major reason for the plight of the living theatre today is the Entertainments Duty." I do not believe that t hat is a true statement of fact. Surely what has occurred in this country in the last 30 years is that the cinema, first silent films and then talkies, has greatly increased in scope and in its penetration and in the quality of the performances that it is able to offer. First, in the silent days then leading on to the talking films and in the last few years to coloured films, the march of science as applied to the cinema and the technique of making films has been a major contributory factor in the decline of the living theatre.
4.45 p.m. A second major contributory factor surely is the incidence of television to which the hon. Member for Aston referred in rather too slighting terms. What is the evidence of the last few years with regard to the televiewing public, if I may so call it?
§ Mr. Nabarro
The visual evidence is sitting behind me in the shape of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby). The increase in the televiewing public during the last few years has been quite phenomenal. In 1951, the number of television licences in this country was just over one million. The number today, a little more than three years later, which is a relatively short time, is 3½ million. That must have a profound effect upon the amount of money that members of the public are prepared to spend upon admission to the theatre. A television set costs, on an average, £70, and the overwhelming majority of those who buy these sets buy them on hire-purchase. That is a weekly demand on their available financial resources and television is, therefore, a form of direct competition with the living theatre.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I have no television set of my own because I am never at home in the evenings and, therefore, never have the opportunity to look at television, but I have no complaints from my constituents about the quality of the plays that are produced.
236 I apologise to the hon. Member for Aston if he felt that in the course of my short intervention that I was trying to correct him. All that I was trying to do was to put on record the exact fiscal position and the finances involved in our discussions today. The hon. Member did not pursue his inquiries in this matter very diligently. We are today concerned with the Finance Bill, 1954, and in column 135 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for 20th May he would have found that the Financial Secretary, in answer to a series of my Questions on Entertainments Duty, set down the precise anticipated yield from the various scales of Entertainments Duty during the year 1954–55 including, under the lowest scale, a sum of £2,525,000 as the estimated revenue this year from the theatres, circuses, music halls, and similar enterprises.
A second criticism of the argument that was put forward by the hon. Member for Aston is that he sought to apply his relief first to the living theatre. He was contradicted by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon). Why should one form of entertainment receive a discriminatory relief at the expense of some other form?
§ Mr. Wyatt
Because this House decided that it should do so by making the lower scale under which the living theatre, among others, pays and secondly by giving subsidies to such places as the Old Vic. Surely the hon. Member is a little late in trying to persuade the Government to depart from a course that we adopted years ago.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Member was pleading for discriminatory relief for the living theatre as opposed presumably to the circus and the music hall. Surely a case cannot be made out for extracting one form of entertainment from the first scale of Entertainments Duty and giving it discriminatory relief at the expense of other forms of entertainment which are included in that scale. That, in my view would be quite wrong. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about cricket?"] An hon. Member asks, "What about cricket?" We dealt with sport last week and I was quite unequivocal about that. I carried hon. Members opposite with me when I referred to the crazy structure of Entertainments Duty on sport. I support abolition of all Entertainments Duty on sport, in the second scale—
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. H. Hynd)
I hope the hon. Member is not going to pursue the whole question of Entertainments Duty on sport.
§ Mr. Nabarro
—and a straightforward and compensatory increase of 5 per cent. on the pool betting duty. That was only in response to an intervention. and I have no intention of pursuing the point.
Finally, I want to deal with what I thought was an ill-informed comment on the Budget proposals made by the hon. Member for Aston when he suggested that the amount of abatement in Entertainments Duty which my right hon. Friend has accorded to the cinema was disproportionately greater than the amount of abatement he had applied in the case of the first scale of Entertainments Duty, including the living theatre. In fact the hon. Member's deduction is quite wrong. If he looks up the total yield of Entertainments Duty he will find that under the third scale that is on the cinema, the anticipated yield for 1954–55 is £34.5 million. The yield under the first scale for the living theatre, the music hall and circus is £2,525,000. One is approximately one-fourteenth part of the other.
If the hon. Member will apply that ratio to the amount of respective revenue reductions that my right hon. Friend will suffer as a result of the Entertainments Duty concessions he announced in his Budget—albeit they are very small—he will find that the ratio is almost precisely maintained. In fact, what he has done is to treat with perfect equity and accord exact equality of treatment to, the living theatre and to the cinema notwithstanding that the living theatre falls within the first scale and the cinema within the third scale of Entertainments Duty.
I am opposed to Entertainments Duty in all its forms, in present circumstances. I believe that a tenet of sound taxation is simplicity, but, by amendment year by year, we have created this crazy structure of Entertainments Duty, of which the duty on the living theatre, the cinema and all the anomalies which exist are various facets. The proper solution, in the long run, is surely a simplification of the whole position by abolition of Entertainments Duty and recovery of revenue by a simple and straightforward system of taxation, along the lines I previously recommended.
238 Apart from all the considerations I have mentioned today, we would at least, year by year, on the Committee stage of the Finance Bill save ourselves these endless wrangles on relatively minor points upon the Entertainments Duty and the innumerable complaints and pleas which come from every part of the Committee for discriminatory treatment for one or other branch of entertainment, and the recurring anomalies created by repeated amendment of the Finance Statutes.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
While, in some degree, I welcome the remarks of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), I would ask him to be a little more consistent than he has shown himself to be. He is opposed root and branch to Entertainments Duty; so are many of us. He now has the opportunity of abolishing Entertainments Duty in some part of the field. Why does he not take advantage of that and support the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt)? In that way he would help to clear the ground of this clutter about which he has been complaining, so that when the time comes for us to scrap Entertainments Duty altogether there will not be quite so much to scrap as if we did not have a nibble at the problem from year to year.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I will tell the hon. and gallant Member why I shall not vote for the Amendment. It is simply because none of the Amendments would reimburse my right hon. Friend for loss of revenue.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
The hon. Member for Kidderminster is trying his best to put me out of order, but I refuse to be tempted by his too transparent devices in that regard. I am very sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Ilford, South (Squadron Leader Cooper) is not present. He delivered himself of a violent, irresponsible and ill-informed attack on the music hall profession, about which I wish to say a word or two. The fact that he is absent will not, I trust, deprive me of the opportunity of doing so.
He seemed to think that there was no merit in the Amendments now under discussion and no merit in the plea which 239 has been made by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon). He suggested that there were some members of the variety profession, the English music hall profession, earning £1,000 a week. I should like to know who they are. He also suggested that because one or two of them had not paid tax that was a reason why Entertainments Duty should be continued to be levied on music halls. He suggested there was no talent in the music hall profession. For all those reasons, he argued that nothing should be done to preserve what has been described as an integral part of the British way of life.
It is unfortunately the case that the music hall as we understand it is dying. am not going to be fobbed off by people who quote the example of the Palladium. The Palladium long since ceased to be a music hall. If we look at the theatrical advertisements which appear in the London evening newspapers we find that the Palladium does not advertise in the same category as variety theatres—
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
The Victoria Palace is no longer a music hall. It does not advertise with the London variety theatres in the London evening papers.
§ Mr. Follick
Will my hon. and gallant Friend agree that large numbers of actors and actresses who otherwise would be on the music hall stage are now in restaurants and clubs?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I am quite prepared to admit that the music hall profession has been, so to speak, milked of its best talent for providing other forms of entertainment in other directions. The fact remains that at present in the London area, according to the evening papers, I can find only four variety performances going on at present—four music hall shows. In the other so-called variety theatres there are shows, revues, and one which I see is called "Strike a New Note." I do not consider those to be in the tradition of the British music hall. The fact is that at the moment variety shows are viewable only at Brixton Empire, Chelsea Palace, Finsbury Park Empire and Chiswick Empire. The hon. Member 240 for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby) does not know the difference between the music hall and the kind of show which is provided at the Victoria Palace. The Victoria Palace is no longer a music hall, and I wish he would get that into his head.
§ Sir R. Boothby
The hon. and gallant Member will be telling us that Nervo and Knox are no longer Nervo and Knox, but they seemed quite unchanged to me two or three nights ago.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
They do not appear in a variety programme at a music hall at present. They represent a type of entertainment which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) pointed out, has been taken out of the music hall and put into other forms of entertainment. If we are content to allow the British music hall to die altogether the Committee will. of course decide that nothing is to be done; we shall allow it to die out and concentrate on radio, the cinema, television and other forms of entertainment, or watch tax free cricket, or whatever individuals like to do in their spare time.
It would be a pity if we allowed this form of cultural contribution to die out. These Amendments make provision for stage plays, ballets, lectures, receptions, puppet and marionette shows, and in a good variety programme it is possible to find one or all of these various forms of entertainment provided in short snippets. A situation has now arisen in which it is no longer commercially possible, except by Government aid, to put on first-class ballet performances or stage plays or complete puppet and marionette shows.
The only way in which these can be continued and provided for large numbers of people is in the form of an item in a variety programme. That is why I regret very much that my hon. Friends the Members for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) and Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Crosland) seemed to think that the worthy objects which they have in mind can be served by the kind of Amendments they have put down after deliberately disregarding the claims of the British music hall as we know it.
I want to see this linked up, because I do not think it would be good if these music halls were to disappear. It would 241 not be a good thing if the various forms of entertainment covered in the Amendments before us were left to commercial promotion as separate entities, because even in London it is not possible to put on stage plays, ballets and puppet shows without some form of subvention. Incidentally, some of the best lectures and recitations I have heard have been given on the music hall stage. That is an additional reason why I hope that my hon. Friends will add their voices to mine in asking the Chancellor to make a provision which will prevent the complete disappearance of the British music hall and the music hall profession.
Never at any time in the history of that profession in this country has there been such a high percentage of unemployment as exists now. The material is there, and all that is required for the profession to display its talents is for the necessary facilities to be provided. So I hope that my plea will not fall upon entirely stony ground and that something will be done. The music hall profession, by and large, consists of not very highly paid but extremely hard-working men and women. It must not be completely submerged by the avalanche of cinema, radio, and television competition provided by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire—all those various forms of competition which will make it more and more difficult for the muisc hall to survive.
In those circumstances, I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will find one soft place in his stony heart for the British music hall and the profession which tries to serve it.
§ Sir Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
I rise merely to make one plea, but, before doing so, I should point out to the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) that it must be clear to him now that he has not done his homework properly before attending this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) made that quite plain to the hon. Gentleman who, in future, would be well advised to take the figures away and work out the ratios, which, it is clear, he had not done on this occasion.
Following the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton), I want to refer to the music hall. Wherever 242 music halls may be advertised, it is no good the hon. and gallant Gentleman telling me that the Palladium and the Victoria Palace are not music halls, because they are the two best in the world. If he doubts what I am saying, let him go along to them. I could also talk at enormous length about television, concerning which a great deal of nonsense has been talked this afternoon.
I rise merely to say that I was moved by the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), and the plea I want to make to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, who is bound to reject all these Amendments, is that he should give special consideration to orchestral performances in this country. We have almost certainly the three best orchestras in the world, although it would be invidious to draw comparisons; and one of the most encouraging features in the cultural life of this country since the war has been the growth of musical appreciation.
Certainly we are the only country in the world that imposes a tax on those who listen to first-class music. It is incredible that if I want to go over to the Festival Hall in the evening—as I often want to but cannot—and listen to a great concert given by a great British orchestra, I shall be charged Entertainments Duty by the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot see any justification for this. I would increase Entertainments Duty on all lectures and all recitations—I do not know whether that would make up the gap—because they are an American infliction which should be stamped out in this country. Lectures outside universities should be discouraged by every possible means.
So I appeal to my right hon. Friend to give an undertaking to consider the position of music, which occupies a separate category from that of the living theatre or the dead theatre, and which deserves special consideration because it is of the highest quality in this country.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
What the Committee is being asked to consider in these Amendments, which we are discussing together, is what contribution, if any, should be made by the State towards the maintenance of educational and cultural and creative artistic activities in this country. 243 This is obviously not a subject which is capable, or which has ever been debated on strictly party lines. The division of opinion about it runs right across ordinary party divisions. Nothing could illustrate that more clearly, though perhaps a little paradoxically, than the fact that this series of Amendments is moved by every party when in Opposition and rejected by every party when it has the responsibilities of Government. I suggest that this is not the way in which the State can best make a contribution towards the cultural activities of the country, which are mainly in the minority. There is absolutely no way of discriminating between different forms of entertainment, so far as they attract tax, which is not invidious and anomalous.
I heard with great interest the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross). He quoted an incident that he heard at a meeting in Manchester, and apparently quoted it with approval. I do not share his approval. I understand very well the objection of the man who says, "Why should I pay a higher rate of duty on the kind of entertainment which I prefer to amuse me in my leisure hours than another person pays because the kind of thing which amuses him gets greater approval, and, perhaps rightly greater communal approval, than mine does?" I do not believe, from what I have heard of the debate today or previous debates which we have heard for so many years, that the complete removal of Entertainments Duty from any one of the activities enumerated in this series of Amendments would save any one of these activities from the financial and competitive straits under which they now suffer.
Does any Member of the Committee really believe that to relieve the commercial theatre from Entertainments Duty altogether would relieve it from its financial difficulty? I certainly do not think so, and I do not believe that my hon. Friends who spoke to the Amendments think that it would. They are treating the Committee stage of the Finance Bill, as we all always have treated it, as a convenient peg on which to hang a plea to the Government for greater assistance to cultural and creative activities than the Government give, and it is done in this 244 way because this is the regularly recurrent opportunity in which it can be done.
But this is not the way to do it. I do not believe that one can at one and the same time argue, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) argued, in favour of removing Entertainments Duty from the live theatre altogether, and at the same time wish to put greater difficulties on the non-profit-making companies, which are exempt from Entertainments Duty. I should like to see a concerted all-party plea made to the Government for direct assistance by way of subsidy or in any other way that is practicable to the living theatre, to ballet, to opera—which is unaccountably missing from this series of Amendments—and most certainly, as the hon. Baronet the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) said, to music and orchestral music.
§ Dr. Stross
I hope my hon. Friend will take into account the very large subsidies to opera that are available through the Arts Council.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am grateful for the interruption, because it proves my point. I suppose the reason that there is no Amendment to exempt opera from Entertainments Duty is that it has a subsidy.
§ Mr. Silverman
If that is right, if a subsidy is paid to opera and it is right to pay it, after it has been decided to pay a subsidy to opera it is no longer necesssary or right to discriminate in its favour in Entertainments Duty. The same argument ought to apply, surely, to all the other matters which are the subject of the Amendments.
§ Mr. Crosland
My hon. Friend, I think, is mistaken in his analogy. Practically none of the opera companies in this country at present pays Entertainments Duty, whereas these other organisations do pay it.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not quite follow that. Is there any opera company, except when it is run by a non-profit-making company, that is exempt from Entertainments Duty? I thought not. I do not quite see the purpose of the intervention. The living theatre too can run itself by non-profit-making companies, as some 245 opera companies do; and if they do, they will be exempt from Entertainments Duty.
What we are considering is the comparative case of the commercial opera and the commercial theatre. There is a subsidy to one and not a subsidy to the other. Therefore, in the one case it is proposed to exempt from Entertainments Duty, and in the other case it is not. I should have thought the proper approach to these matters is to consider which of these cultural or artistic activities merits State assistance. Having decided which of them ought to be assisted in this way—we are almost the only country in Europe that assists them hardly at all, and some of them not at all—and having decided what the degree of that State assistance should be, it should be given on that basis and we should not try to assist them indirectly by discriminations in Entertainments Duty, which it is difficult to justify, difficult to explain, and absolutely impossible to render free from anomalies and injustices of many kinds.
§ Mr. Crosland
My hon. Friend is making a powerful case against what most hon. Members on this side think. He has just pleaded for discrimination. He said that the Government should decide which of these entertainments should be State-aided and which should not be State-aided. In other words, he wants discrimination. In that case, why object to us merely because we want discrimination also?
§ Mr. Silverman
I agree with all my hon. Friends that I want discrimination. I want some things to be assisted because some of them need and deserve assistance. I want other things not to be assisted because, whether they deserve it or not, they are quite plainly not in need of it.
§ Mr. Silverman
In my view. Obviously, I got up to explain my view.
The difference between my hon. Friends and myself is not on the principle of discrimination. There ought to be discrimination, especially in favour of the very activities which are the subject of these Amendments. My only quarrel with the Amendments is that I do not believe that discrimination in Entertainments Duty is the right way to provide 246 the discriminatory assistance which we all agree they ought to have. I should like the subject to be approached from that point of view.
Everybody knows in advance that these annual discussions will be sterile and profitless. The hon. Baronet the Member for Aberdeenshire, East made the admission in his speech which all of us had silently made. We know perfectly well that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will refuse these requests and will give us some great generalisations of sympathising with our ultimate aspirations and will express the hope that some day or other somebody may be able to do something or other.
If all the energy and Parliamentary ingenuity that has gone into the framing of these Amendments year after year were pooled on a non-party or all-party basis, to see in what practical way the State could financially aid these cultural and artistic activities which we all agree ought to be aided, we would get a far better result and would have a far more practicable and fruitful discussion.
§ Mr. Keenan
I have waited a long time for the opportunity to speak in this debate. I want to emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has said. I have slistened year after year to the plea for all the different exemptions that were needed for entertainments of one kind or another, and for sports in particular, but we are concerned this afternoon largely with the living theatre.
If there had been no Entertainments Duty, in my opinion it would not have saved the living theatre from the difficulties now facing it, any more than it would have saved from their present difficulties any of the other forms of entertainment, to gain exemption for which we have made such great efforts. I do not think that, if there had been no tax on football, the team which is very popular in my constituency would have been saved from the Second Division. I blame somebody else for that, and not the Entertainments Duty, although I think the latter may have affected it in other ways.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Southgate)
In Hungary, there is no tax on football Matches, and look at the result there.
§ Mr. Keenan
I should like the opportunity of joining with the hon. Gentleman in making some criticisms of that.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
My hon. Friend will also realise that none of the present series of Amendments would have assisted him in that matter, either.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
None of these Amendments has anything to do with football at all.
§ Mr. Keenan
We are concerned largely with the theatre, but also with the effect of Entertainments Duty on lectures and one or two other things, and it was on an Amendment relating to the theatre that the discussion began this afternoon. It has been stated that, because of the Entertainments Duty, which so penalises the theatre, some theatres are having to close down or are having great difficulty in carrying on. It has also been urged that there is a certain volume of unemployment in the theatrical profession, and that I think is true.
I think the theatrical profession must realise that there is a limitation on the numbers that can be absorbed, and I want to say to them what we have had to say to the people engaged in ship repairing and shipbuilding—that when changed circumstances arise, everybody cannot expect to stay where they are when it is obvious that all of them cannot get a job out of the industry. That is the position in regard to the theatre.
The profession must realise the changed circumstances of the entertainment world. The fact is that there is greater competition with the cinema, which has drastically altered the value of the theatre from the point of view of entertainment. We also have 3 million television licence holders, and I heard one hon. Member say something about the kind of play which is seen on the television screen. I must say that these plays compare very well with the living theatre, and the living theatre must recognise that and do something other than put forward this annual request that the Entertainments Duty should be removed from their activities.
I agree wholeheartedly that we must have another approach, because I think 248 it is folly for any of the societies interested in this matter, or for any members of the theatrical profession who are seeking an easement from the burden of Entertainments Duty, not to realise that that is the solution of their problem, and the sooner they realise it the better.
In regard to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who has suggested that we should make up our minds what we want to do for certain of the arts and branches of culture, I want to say that Liverpool makes great provision for its orchestra, and does not plead for exemption from the tax. I know that there are many Liverpudlians who could not care less about these concerts, and who do not see why they should be paying for somebody else's benefit.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I am sure my hon. Friends will agree that the kind of person who objects to the corporation subsidy for Liverpool music which has shown a very good return over the years, as he will agree, is exactly the same kind of person who would object to paying a subsidy for the museums and libraries.
§ Mr. Keenan
That is perhaps the case, but the objectors are there in large numbers. As a matter of fact, I believe that the majority of citizens, both in Liverpool and in other cities, do and will object to that being done. It may be that they are wrong. The time has arrived when we should cease trying to blame the failure or the partial failure of different kinds of sports or of activities such as those of the theatre and cinema on the Entertainments Duty, because there are other factors in the situation, and the sooner we recognise it the better.
§ Mr. Baxter
I know that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a Minister who is most susceptible to any appeal concerning the arts, and it must be a hard experience for him to sit there realising that he cannot concede what he would like to do in a great many directions.
I should like to address the Committee on the position of the theatre as being different from any other form of entertainment in the country. If no printing press had ever been invented, still the living theatre would have taken the story of this country through the ages, keeping 249 alive the traditions of speech and telling the customs of the time and, in this respect, perhaps, some of these plays make more accurate history than the history books themselves.
I feel that the position of the theatre should be considered very urgently. It has been challenged by its own children, for, after all, the film is the progeny of the theatre. So with television, and thus the theatre—this great form of art carried to the highest degree—is now facing this severe competition. If we allow the theatre to go down, the standards of all the arts of the spoken word in the acted play will decline, and we shall get, more and more, an averageness which means, in the end, a steady decline of judgment and culture.
We must remember that the films are directed for the great mass of the people, while the theatre must be and should be insular if it is to be any good. The theatre must belong to the country of its origin. The plays of this country should be British and the acting should be British. We should import the successes of Paris and New York from time to time, but when we surrender to them we become untrue to the traditions of the past.
Think of this matter a little further, from the political standpoint. In my country, Canada, they took some time to discover that they had a Stratford in Ontario. Some fellow who had been over here, a bright young chap, had the idea, "If there is a Stratford-on-Avon in England, why cannot we have a Stratford-on-Avon in Canada?" Apparently the river on which the town stood had been called "Avon," but nobody had noticed it for some years. Now Canada has her Shakespeare season. Mr. Alec Guinness was out there last year and established a Shakespeare season that was such a success that it is sold out for this year, and it looks as if, forever and ever in the future, Canada will have a Shakespeare season, as we have.
From the standpoint of propaganda, the linking of the diversified peoples of the British Commonwealth and Empire is achieved, not merely by speeches by the leaders on either of the two Front Benches. What binds these nations together is Dickens, Shakespeare, the 250 Philosophers—[An HON. MEMBER: "and Robbie Burns."] I have never had enough time to acquire a good knowledge of Burns. We must not ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to speak on Burns.
The London theatre is pretty sick at the present time. The cost of production is high, and the cost of tickets, with Entertainments Duty, makes it difficult for people to spend money instead of looking at television or going to the cinema. I would like the Chancellor to give the theatre back some of its health. I would do away with the nonprofit concession. I am sorry that that suggestion should seem amusing to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. There are many things about it that are bad. Prices are too high; Entertainments Duty is too high. I will not go into the question of non-profit, because that has been argued before. I ask the Chancellor to consider the theatre as the parent art and to give it a chance to recover some of its youth and vigour.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
We have had a very useful discussion on these five Amendments, which I assure the Chancellor we have not put down in any captious spirit. We have no desire to waste time in this direction. We feel that something should be done to assist the living theatre. There is no time like the present.
I should like to follow up what was said by the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Baxter). I take it that the Chancellor is more likely to accede to a forceful and sincere plea from a Member on his own side than to any number of similar pleas from this side of the Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) put the matter concisely in moving the first of this series of Amendments. There is no doubt that the living theatre is in very great difficulty at the moment. We have to ask ourselves why. A number of reasons has been given. I think I summarise them accurately in saying that costs have increased, including overheads, scenery, salaries and almost everything which goes to the production of a living play or ballet. The theatre has to compete not only with rising costs but with television and the cinema. It is obvious that, if the living theatre 251 is to continue, something of an extraordinary kind must be done to assist it.
The main difficult—to which some hon. Members on that side did not address their minds—is that the Entertainments Duty does not bite on the profits made by the living theatre but on the gross amount collected at the box office. This makes an enormous difference. We are told by our friends in the living theatre how time after time it is the Entertainments Duty which makes all the difference to a production breaking even or being carried on at a loss. This difficulty has been recognised since the end of the war, and from 1946 onwards various measures have been taken to temper the wind to the shorn lamb. These measures have given rise to a certain number of anomalies, but in spite of, and some people might say because of, them, the theatre is in a bad way.
Theatres now pay on the lower scale, and although this helps them it does not prevent their being in difficulties. We hear stories from all over the country of theatres being closed down because they cannot afford to carry on. Some people may think that it does not matter whether the living theatre survives or not and would sooner see Entertainment Duty taken off football than off the living theatre. There can be very few hon. Members who take that view. If the living theatre sinks and dies it will be a great tragedy for this country, for the British way of life and for culture throughout the world.
I sometimes wonder what effect it would have had on Shakespeare's output if there had been a similar Entertainments Duty in Elizabethan times. It is quite possible, and not at all unfair to argue, that Shakespeare might not have produced all his wonderful plays, because it would not have been profitable for the Globe Theatre or for other of the companies of players of that period to have produced them. What a terrible loss that would have been to the world. That there is now such an impost on the living theatre today may be robbing posterity of another Shakespeare or another Ben Jonson.
When dealing with the theatre we are therefore dealing with something very different from many other activities 252 which pay Entertainments Duty. We cannot just say that the living theatre must pay its share of the duty and that nothing can be done about it. As has been pointed out by almost every speaker so far, the theatre is a great cultural force as well as good entertainment.
My experience in the House has been that it is normal for the Chancellor or for the Financial Secretary, when winding up debates of this kind, to say that while the Government have every sympathy with the pleas that are made, nevertheless, because of the cost, nothing can be done. It is abundantly clear that if the whole of the Entertainments Duty were abolished on the living theatre the cost could not be more than, I think, £2 to £2½ million. I ask the Chancellor to consider the great benefit he would confer on the theatre and—I almost said the music hall, and I see no reason why that should not be included—but certainly music as performed at the Festival Hall and other places where first-rate music is heard.
When Purchase Tax was first introduced during the early days of the war the then Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to impose it on books. There was very strong feeling in the House then that, whatever else Purchase Tax bit on, it should not bite on books, and the Chancellor of the day eventually agreed that they should be exempt. The reasons are obvious. Books are necessary to the vast majority of us. I hope, too, that to the vast majority of us music and the theatre are equally essential.
It is wrong that Entertainments Duty should be levied on such essentials to the art of living. I therefore hope the Financial Secretary will not close his ears to the pleas which have come from every quarter of the Committee. The incidence of the duty on the theatre is unfair. It bites not on profits but on takings. The theatre is in a class of its own, and there is no doubt that it is in a parlous state. Many theatres are in grave difficulty, and something should be done to assist them. Such assistance in the way suggested would not cost the Exchequer much. It is an expense which I venture to say the Chancellor of the Exchequer can afford. In every quarter of the Committee there is the desire, I am positive, that the Chancellor should see his way to abolish this particularly iniquitous tax.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)
This afternoon the gentler voice of culture has replaced the rather more boisterous accents on sport when we had a very similar debate last week. Indeed, I think that nobody can say that the various aspects of Clause 1 of the Finance Bill—with which the Committee may be almost surprised to reflect it is still dealing—have not, in their different angles and aspects been very generously, not to say fully, explored. The theatrical atmosphere of this afternoon's debate was admirably expressed by the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), who, I understood, adopted the technique of the theatre by announcing that he appeared by kind permission of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell).
If I may say so, I do not think that the Committee has fully appreciated the very curious effect which would be created by the enactment of this series of Amendments. They would take out of the first or lowest scale of Entertainments Duty a very large amount of its contents and leave alone in it, with the gloomy distinction of being taxed on the first scale, a rather heterogeneous batch. There would be left in it eisteddfods—I apologise for my pronunciation, Sir Rhys, but no doubt you will keep me in order on that, as on other matters. There would also be left in that category—as the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) and the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) pointed out—music hall and variety entertainments, circuses, travelling shows and menageries. They alone would remain.
Furthermore, were the Amendments accepted the five forms of entertainments specified would escape duty only if each stood alone. If one took place with any other they would be taxable. That inevitably follows from the use of the word "solely" in most of the Amendments.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am most appreciative of the interjection, but I am 254 pointing out the effect of the Amendments which have been tabled by the hon. Member and his hon. Friends. I am the last person in the world, I hope, to take a drafting point in an Amendment. I know the difficulties too well. I am trying to clear up what, on the initiative of the hon. Member, the Committee has been discussing for the last 2¼ hours.
Those are the proposals. Before dealing with what is clearly, to adopt my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's phrase, the main crunch of the matter, I will deal with one or two separate issues to which hon. Members have referred, and then come back to the main issue of what is called the living theatre.
I thought, if I may say so, that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) made a most agreeable speech in support of the charms of music. He was supported in that by my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby). I did not follow the mathematical prelude in which the hon. Gentleman indulged, but I do not think that it was really necessary that I should understand it in dealing with the Amendment.
The point of substance is that, of the orchestras with which the hon. Gentleman was concerning himself, the great majority can claim exemption under Section 8 of the 1946 Act, with which the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) will be familiar as he took the Bill through Committee. Whatever view may therefore be taken of abstract principles, in point of fact very little ill consequence flows from the present state of the law, inasmuch as a very large number of orchestras claim exemption under the Section to which I have referred. I do not wish to quote individual cases, because there is some objection to referring to the tax position of individual taxpayers. But that is the position, and whatever may be the difficulties of music in this country, I do not think that the incidence of Entertainments Duty has much to do with it.
I now wish to say a word about the speech of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Crosland), who, naturally, made a professional defence of the lecture. The hon. Gentleman is a distinguished academic figure, and he may be surprised to learn that 255 from a taxation point of view lectures are often regarded as at least partly educational, and as such are, of course, able to obtain exemption.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I must not be tempted by the hon. Member to mention universities.
The type of lecture which, broadly speaking, attracts tax is one given for profit by some person who has attained distinction or notoriety and is describing his experiences in one direction or another. If, for example, the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South lectured in public for profit, on "My experiences in the Committee Room upstairs during Labour Party meetings," then I think that probably Entertainments Duty would be attracted.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Let me assure the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South, in view of one or two things he said, that in the administration of Entertainments Duty in this country we have never attempted to base it on the test of whether the persons attending a lecture were in fact entertained. I suggest that would impose an excessive task upon the officers of Customs and Excise, and I suppose that entertainment has been presumed.
Let me now come to the main point which undoubtedly relates to the living theatre. Before dealing—I hope at no undue length—with one or two points which have been raised, let me sum up the position generally by pointing out that the cost of this series of Amendments, were they accepted, would be a little more than £1½ million and a little less than £1¾ million. In the context of this year's budget, with the very moderate revocation in taxation which it has been possible for my right hon. Friend to allow in any direction, that is a relatively substantial figure and would, of itself, seem to me to constitute an insuperable obstacle to accepting this series of proposals.
It is material in this context to reflect upon two things. First, that this is a form of entertainment which has borne tax since 1916. The tax has been maintained 256 in varying rates ever since that time. It is also material to reflect that the Clause to which this Amendment relates embodies some reduction in the rate of tax on these activities. One or two hon. Members took the view that this reduction was so small as not to be worthy of consideration. I am not so sure that those outside this House will take the same view. It amounts to something in the nature of ½d. per admission. When that is set against the background of the net receipts remaining after the costs of entertainment has been paid, though I am not suggesting that it will have any drastic effect, it is a contribution which I think should be taken as an indication of our acceptance in difficult circumstances of a good deal of what has been said during this debate.
It is the fact that Entertainments Duty over this and the connecting spheres shares with one alteration in Estate Duty the distinction of being the only reduction of tax incidence this year, which is an indication of the attention given by my right hon. Friend to the effect of taxation on entertainment, and particularly on the living theatre with which the Committee has been concerned this afternoon. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of receiving a very distinguished deputation of representatives of the theatre and theatrical interests, and I was impressed by the very moderate and helpful way in which they put their point of view.
As the Committee has been told time and again, it is the fact that certain establishments, though not all, are faced with considerable difficulties in these days. It is a matter more of personal opinion than of precise statement when estimating what is the cause of those difficulties. Various causes other than Entertainments Duty have been suggested by the hon. Member for Kirkdale (Mr. Keenan) and one of my hon. Friends; and it would be a mistake—and here I agree with the hon. Member for Kirkdale—to concentrate attention upon Entertainments Duty as being the sole cause of the difficulties.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I hesitate to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, because he did not interrupt me, but may I say about what he has now said that, in our view, the abolition of Entertainments 257 Duty would go some way towards meeting the difficulties which have arisen because of these various causes to which he and other hon. Members have referred?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman and I are sufficiently in disagreement for it to be worth while arguing about. No one would deny that it would be a help to anyone to have more money. That is an elementary proposition with which no one would disagree. I was seeking to disabuse hon. Members of the idea which exists in certain circles that all the troubles either of this or any other activity can be attributed to the existence of Entertainments Duty, because I do not think that is so.
Once again, when one talks of the more cultural and valuable performances, it is the fact that they are not all subject to the incidence of Entertainments Duty under the present law. Indeed, as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne pointed out, in the course of a speech by one of his hon. Friends, there are conditions not particularly difficult to achieve during performances of this sort which would ensure exemption from Entertainments Duty. I do not argue that the present system of exemption is perfect, in fact I do not believe that it is. Taken broadly, however, it does enable exemption to be given to a good many performances and types of performance which it is generally agreed are particularly valuable and should be helped to continue.
We can all look at the precise working of this system to make sure that it works as well as possible. It is an inevitable consequence of introducing exemptions of this sort that there will be anomalies. Probably the only way to prevent such anomalies would be to have no exemptions at all. But I think that the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) who introduced this in 1946 did a very sensible thing in introducing this kind of demarcation which has helped to give assistance in this direction.
The hon. Member for Aston devoted a large part of his speech to an unfavourable comparison of the treatment given in this Clause to the living theatre as compared with the cinema. I began to think at one stage that he was proposing to 258 argue that we ought not to have made a concession to the cinemas—an argument which would get him into trouble with his right hon. Friend the hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson). The hon. Member seemed to carry his argument too far. Figures have been given, and I do not wish to weary the Committee by repeating them, but simply to say that the net gain to the cinema is some 20 times that of the theatre, without adding the qualifications which arise both from the different rates of tax applicable to the two and the different yields, is, of course, to carry simplicity to the point of obscurity.
It is the fact, although I do not place much weight upon it, that whereas the living theatre pays 12 per cent. or 13 per cent. of its gross takings in tax, the cinema pays some 36 per cent. Therefore, an adjustment which has made a reduction of roughly that proportion has something to be said for it; though I agree with the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South that I do not think that the fact that this has been kept roughly in line is necessarily a conclusive one on which to argue that there should have been discrimination more one way than the other.
It is a little unfair to take the line suggested by the hon. Member for Aston that, because the net yield of concessions to the cinema is so much greater in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, the theatre has had the raw end of the deal.
The object of the Amendments would involve broad remissions of duty for the larger part of those entertainments which fall to be taxed at the lowest rate of tax. Apart from anything else, the modest concessions that it is possible to make this year make it impossible for my right hon. Friend to accept them. On the other hand, the debate has been very valuable in enabling the difficulties that face many of these most admirable activities of our national life to be explored in Committee and consideration given to them.
I would ask the Committee to consider that the small but not wholly insignificant concessions which are made in the Clause are, in the circumstances of the day, as far as my right hon. Friend can be called upon to go. I hope that in the light of that, the Committee may be prepared to 259 pass on to another part of its deliberations.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
The right hon. Gentleman said, a few minutes ago, and in the debate on the Entertainments Duty on sport a week ago, that the various constituents of Clause 1 had been fully debated. But it is true to say—and I think that he would be the first to admit it—that there has been virtually no debate on tax changes in respect of cinemas.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The right hon. Gentleman will recall that we had an interesting debate on the Amendment moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Sir L. Ropner) on the mobile cinemas, which enabled us to explore the small cinema aspects quite fully.
§ Mr. Wilson
The right hon. Gentleman was a little hasty. I had not finished my sentence. I was going on to say that with the exception of the small but interesting debate in which he and I took part on the problem of the mobile cinemas, the debate did not enable us to explore the position of the small immobile cinemas.
I do not propose to spend any time in dealing with the general issue of the Entertainments Duty on cinemas. I think that the right time to do that in any detail will be when we come to debate the Schedule. I have given notice to the Committee that we propose at that time to put forward an Amendment, quite a modest, but, nevertheless, a useful and constructive Amendment, to carry the work which the Chancellor has done in his Budget a little further, particularly with advantage to the smaller cinemas and the cinemas with the lowest price seats.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that he will move an Amendment to the Schedule in relation to cinemas?
§ Mr. Wilson
Yes, in relation to the cinemas and in relation only to certain of the seat prices there. I am not pressing anything sweeping, but I think we have constructive and useful proposals to make and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman 260 will see our proposals on the Order Paper in the near future.
I think that it is right, in debating Clause 1, that I should say a few words about what the Chancellor has been and is doing in relation to cinema taxation in general. It was two years ago that I first said in the House that I felt that the exhibitors' case was beginning to be proved. The exhibitors have made many pleas for reduction in Entertainments Duty over past years. Two years ago, I think it became clear to the House that falling attendances and rising costs were putting many cinema proprietors into a serious position, and at the same time putting my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North-West (Mr. O'Brien) in great difficulty in relation to wage negotiations for which he is responsible from time to time.
Last year, the Chancellor showed a great deal of sympathy in the debate which resulted from our tabling an Amendment on the Entertainments Duty on cinemas. He seemed then as if he were almost about to make some concession, but, in the end, he said that he had listened with even more sympathy than usual to what had been said, and he held out some hope that if the trend in cinema attendances continued as it was then continuing he might be able to make proposals to the House this year. That he has done.
In fact, as the Chancellor would be the first to admit, the concessions in cinema entertainments tax do not go anything like so far as were pressed upon him by representatives of the cinema industry. I think that the industry were pressing for a reduction in tax of about £7½ million a year, that being the figure which they calculated to be necessary to deal with the problem of such falling attendances as had occurred—I know that that fall has been slowed up over the last year, which gives us all satisfaction—and also the figure which they calculated to be necessary to take account of the rising costs of cinema exhibitions.
The Chancellor has done about half as much as the exhibitors asked for. I know he will be the first to admit that he has not done everything that is necessary. It may well be that he feels that he has done as much as he possibly can this year, and, subject to the small Amendment which we intend to propose 261 to the Schedule, I think there is a great deal to be said for his argument that he cannot go very much further this year.
I hope he will give us an assurance that the Government will watch very carefully over the next year the trend of cinema attendances and of cinema costs so that when the next Budget comes along, if this Government are still responsible, which we trust will not be the case, they will then be able to give such further justice as may be called for by the needs of the cinema situation.
I want this afternoon for a few minutes to deal with one or two of the wider aspects of the proposed reduction of taxation on cinemas. One reason that I want to do this is because of the interchange that took place with the Financial Secretary during the Budget debates. For some weeks before the Budget, the cinema industry and the cinema trade had been pressing on hon. Members on both sides of the House their case for a reduction in Entertainments Duty. I believe that hon. Members opposite had meetings not only with the exhibitors but also with the producers; certainly, many of us on this side of the Committee also had an opportunity of discussions of that kind.
It is a fact that this year the cinema industry was united in pressing on the Chancellor that there should be reductions in Entertainments Duty. I think that they showed more unity this year than they have sometimes shown in the past. I think that they showed more unity before the Budget than at the present time in their discussions about the consequences of the Budget.
Nevertheless, the producers made it clear—and I think that they made it clear to the Government—that they were supporting the exhibitors in their claim for reduced Entertainments Duty. One reason they were doing so was the understanding which, they claimed, had been made with the exhibitors that some part of the improvement would be passed on to the producers in the shape of increased contributions under the film production levy, sometimes called, or miscalled, the Eady levy scheme.
The day after the Chancellor had opened the Budget, the Financial Secretary, in the debate, made a brief reference to Entertainments Duty and dealt with a point put to him by my right 262 hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell). My right hon. Friend had asked about the connection between the Entertainments Duty concession and the film production levy. The Financial Secretary said:As he knows, there is no direct connection between the Eady Levy and Entertainments Duty. They are, and under the previous Government have been, kept quite separate. It remains a fact that the greater resources which this tax change will make available to the cinema industry will enable it to pay contributions under the Eady Plan with greater ease than otherwise would have been the case.The right hon. Gentleman went on to emphasise that there was no connection between the two. It is obvious that if the exhibitors were having difficulty—as many of them were—in maintaining the existing rate of contribution under the film production levy arrangement, then any improvement in their position as a result of a change in Entertainments Duty would make it easier for them to maintain those payments; but that did not deal with the question of the understanding which we had been told had been reached in the industry before the Budget was opened by the Chancellor.
That was why I interrupted the right hon. Gentleman, who courteously gave way, and dealt with the suggestion that the Eady Levy was kept rigidly separate from Entertainments Duty. I do not think there is any argument between us about that. I went on to say, however:We understand, also, that there was a proposal as between the exhibitors and producers that if they got a concession in the Budget a certain fixed proportion would go to the producers. Would the right hon. Gentleman say whether he understands that these agreements will now be honoured as a result of the Chancellor's proposals?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 387.]The right hon. Gentleman repeated that there was no connection between the two matters, apart from a certain historical connection arising from the original introduction of the film production levy.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be a little more forthcoming tonight, because we on this side of the Committee, and perhaps some hon. Members opposite, want to know whether there was any understanding within the industry on this question and whether any pledges had been given to the Government before they reached their decision about these Entertainments Duty remissions. If, as the producers clearly believe, the exhibitors had 263 given an assurance that the Eady Levy was to be increased to a total yield of £3 million, of course that understanding, presumably being reported to the Government, might have had a bearing on the Chancellor's decision to make these tax reductions; and I think it right that the Chancellor should say something tonight about his intentions concerning the effect of his tax concessions.
We all know that at present, following the introduction of the Finance Bill, a great dispute is going on in the film industry. At present, that dispute is between the exhibitors and the renters. The renters claim that because of the improved financial position of the exhibitors they should have a cut out of what is now available. I do not intend to enter into that dispute, but I gather that it has reached fairly alarming proportions and that some extremely distinguished legal gentlemen are being brought in for the arbitration between the exhibitors and the renters. Until the renters and the exhibitors are in a position to settle their part of the dispute, it looks as though the producers will have to wait in the queue, because not until the first dispute is settled will it be possible for the distributors and exhibitors to agree on what understanding existed between them.
I do not think it would be particularly helpful tonight if hon. Members were to probe too far into what is going on in the arguments in the trade between the exhibitors and the renters, or into their consequential effects upon the producers, but I hope the Government will say whether, in the discussion which they had with the industry, it was reported to them that there had been an understanding that any increase in the money available to cinemas, any improvement in their financial position, would be partly passed on to the producers. It is right that we should be told that.
Secondly, we should know whether that fact was in the right hon. Gentleman's mind when he brought this proposal forward or whether, on the other hand, it was conceded as a flat rate improvement in the level of Entertainments Duty. His answer will have an important bearing on the financial position of the film production side of the industry this year.
264 I think the Committee will agree that, compared with the desperate situation with which the film industry was placed in 1948, after the boycott, there has been some improvement in the security of the industry as a result of measures which have had the blessing of both parties—measures including the creation of the National Finance Film Corporation and the National Film Production Levy, and various other measures which have been taken. I do not think my hon. Friend the Member for Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever) is here to enlarge, as he is capable of enlarging, on various aspects of film finance, but, apart from my hon. Friend and possibly from some reservations by the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd), I believe both sides of the Committee feel that over the last few years there has been a significant improvement in the financial prospects of the film producing industry.
Even after one has made every allowance for costs, which are still too high, the film producers believe that those prospects are in jeopardy unless there is an improvement in the rate of the Eady Levy, and that is one reason why we must ask the Chancellor what understanding exists in his mind.
I have made it clear that for my part I do not want to take part in the dispute which is going on about the apportionment of this £3½ million. By the time those disputes have gone on much longer there will be very little left for anybody, particularly if the legal gentlemen get a large cut out of it, as appears likely. There are important and, if I may say so, prior claimants. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North-West (Mr. O'Brien) has a very heavy responsibility for the workers in a large section of the industry, and on a number of occasions, in the House and outside, we have heard him stress the wages problem which his members face. I know he will have strong views about any proposal that too great a proportion of the £3½ million should be pre-empted either by exhibitors or renters.
Nevertheless, if we are to envisage a more hopeful period for British film production, particularly in view of some of the dangers into which we understand it may be running in the near future, any understanding which may have been 265 reached between exhibitors and producers should be honoured at this time. We should like to know whether the Chancellor understands that there was such an agreement and, if so, how far it was in his mind when he made this tax concession.
I do not intend to take the debate further on the position of the film industry. We had a rather full series of debates on the industry last November, including the debate which was adjourned because of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheetham, and in the course of them many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee were able to say what they thought about the position. If all one hears about the film industry's position today is true, it may well be that further debates will be taking place before very long.
However that may be, this debate enables us to put a question to the Chancellor about his views on the financial position of both the exhibiting and producing sides of the industry in relation to the concession which he has made. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us anything about the plans for the future of the Eady scheme. He rightly says that that is a matter for the President of the Board of Trade. This must be almost the first time since the war when we have debated Entertainments Duty on cinemas in a Finance Bill that the Board of Trade has not been represented during the debate. But I do not intend to press that point. Certainly, I will not press the right hon. Gentleman about the future of the Eady scheme, for that is a separate point, but I hope he will tell us what assumptions there were in his mind when he came forward with his proposals. The details can be debated more constructively on the Schedule.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Hirst (Shipley)
I agree with the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) that any discussion on the Eady scheme would be better on the Schedule.
I have previously declared my extremely modest, indeed nominal, interest in this matter. I am one of those who take a sincere interest in the industry and wish it well. That brings me into contact with a great number of the bodies which make up the industry. I should like to say how grateful the industry is to my right hon. Friend for what he has done this 266 year. It was a year in which he felt that he could not give much away, and, therefore, the industry appreciates all the more that he felt that there was a need to meet in some measure the very urgent requests that it made.
Although I do not claim any great knowledge of the subject, I have made sufficient study to assure myself that the industry's claim for about £7½ million is not unreasonable, and I hope that the time will come when its need can be further met. Even after the proposed reduction, the industry will still be carrying £34 million to £35 million of Entertainments Duty, and no industry can exist perpetually with that load of taxation on its shoulders.
I join with everyone else in regretting the arguments which are now going on over the spoils. With the right hon. Member for Huyton I feel that it would not be wise to go into that matter in any detail at present. I hope the trade will come to amicable arrangements because, in the last analysis, all that counts in all sections of the industry is the well-being of the industry as a whole, and if the industry creates an atmosphere of efficiency and keenness, puts its house in order and gets on with its work, it will have the sympathy of right hon. and hon. Members more than it has had in the past. It is because I want the sympathy of the Committee for it that I make this modest appeal, If we know that everything is going on as well as possible in the industry, my right hon. Friend will feel better able to meet the demands which the industry is right to make if we are to have a sound British film industry.
My main purpose in rising is to thank by right hon. Friend for the great attention which he has paid to the representations which have been made and for the extent to which he has met them. Although he has by no means been able to go the whole hog, what he has done is undeniably appreciated.
§ Mr. T. O'Brien (Nottingham, North-West)
I make no apology for taking part in the debate as a supplicant. The obligations of courtesy in respect of the Chancellor of the Exchequer oblige me to cover my poverty in the garb of my best suit. The mediaeval mendicant friars went around showing their poverty both inside and out. I am a modern mendicant who believes in disguising my own 267 poverty and the poverty of my industry as far as I can in the garbs of elegance, believing in the simple principle of any experienced entrepreneur in the entertainment industry that the duller the show the more lights are put on outside.
The entertainment industry can no longer be regarded as a wealthy industry. That is why I represent so many people in the industry who are poor and are sincerely appreciative of the crumbs which have fallen from the table of the Chancellor in the concession which he gave in his Budget. The sum of £3½ million is not to be despised; it is a lot of money in anybody's language.
I am going to jump where angels fear to tread. I deplore the miserable wrangling which is going on between two comparatively wealthy sections of the industry over the disposition of the spoils. Between 70,000 and 80,000 technicians and other employees working in cinemas, artisans of all grades and professional graders in film studios, and administrative staffs and others in film production, who are represented by my association, are, by comparison, receiving a miserable wage. Yet these two sections of the industry are wrangling over £3½ million. I have already indicated to the industry that I am claiming the lot for my own people and that I have great justification for doing so.
I appeal to the Chancellor to use his fullest influence in this respect. I know that he cannot do it by legislation, but by means of the great prestige of his high office he can in some way indicate to the trade—I know his difficulties and the great limitations upon the Treasury and upon the Government in this matter—that the first pick out of the £3½ million bag, if not the lot, should go to the underpaid employees in film production, distribution and exhibition who are represented by my association.
The negotiations continue tomorrow. It would be excellent if the Chancellor would send a telegram—I myself am an expert in sending telegrams—to the leaders of the industry acquainting them with the fact that his concession was intended not to be the subject of argument and wrangling between the two employers' sections but to be put into the pockets of those who need it, and they 268 are the workers in the cinemas and ancillary occupations.
Having said that, I do not want to appear to the Chancellor to be indulging in any votive act of thanksgiving. I share the views of the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst), who said that he hoped for more. I certainly endorse all that has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson), in his survey of various sections of the industry. I beg the Chancellor to realise that, while this concession is definitely a help—it is marred, as I have said, by inter-trade wrangling—I hope that during the year he will be able to continue his close examination of the tendencies of the industry and that next year—if he is Chancellor next year; if one of my right hon. Friends is Chancellor next year I shall certainly press him—he will be able to bring about a further improvement.
It is true that film production is slightly on the upgrade, and it is hoped that the concession will result in the freeing of money for the encouragement of active and progressive forms of British film production. There is little more for me to say, for the ground has largely been covered by my right hon. Friend, so I shall conclude by making it clear to the Chancellor that the position in the film industry, the cinema side in particular, is still a very serious one notwithstanding the concession. If exhibitors had to refurbish their buildings, if they had to rebuild them, reseat them, and so on, it would cost several millions of pounds.
There are also the new technique of Cinemascope and other forms of technical presentation of films that would require an outlay of considerable sums of money. My own executive have estimated that if the cinemas were equipped with the bare necessities for the modern technique of presentation it would cost between £20 and £25 million. That is a lot of money, and thousands of the small exhibitors in Britain could not afford their proportion of that sum.
Later, we shall table a small Amendment to see what we can do to help the smaller exhibitors, but the fact that this debate is free from the Amendments that were on the Order Paper last year is an indication to the Chancellor that the trade, and certainly the workers in the 269 trade represented by myself, are most grateful for what he has done, and hope that he will be able to do even better next year.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
I do not want to detain the Committee because there is no need to make long speeches, but I want to reinforce the plea of the hon. Member for Nottingham, North-West (Mr. O'Brien) on the wages paid on the exhibition side of the industry.
The other day I had a letter from an exhibitor who said he was ashamed at the wages being paid in his business. Very few hon. Members realise how poor are the wages paid to workers in this industry, and I hope that the workers in it will not be overlooked when the £million is shared out. The hon. Gentleman said that we hoped for more, but I think he ought to have added that we probably expected less. The Chancellor has been more generous than opinion on both sides of the Committee thought he would be.
I agree that the industry is not yet out of the wood, but I think we can say that there is in the next two or three years a chance of much more stability for this industry than it has enjoyed in the past few years. Therefore, while we may disagree with the method by which this remission is given—I think it should have been given in such a way that the small exhibitors would benefit more—I hope that the Committee will agree that this remission will be of some beefit to a deserving industry.
§ Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)
I feel that in the past the case for this reduction in Entertainments Duty has not always been so convincingly presented as it has been this year. In fact, this is the first year in which I personally have been wholly convinced by it. This year we have evidence of increased costs, declining attendances and the impact of television on the box office, which all points to some need for alleviation. I am glad that the Chancellor has found it possible this year to go some part of the way to meet the requests of the industry.
The person about whom I am most concerned, and about whom I have always been very concerned, is the producer. I have taken part in many film debates, and it has always been the unanimous view of hon. Members that a healthy film production industry is 270 essential. When I say "unanimous" I should perhaps add that my hon. Friend the Member for Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever) might have been in a minority of one, but I think that for social and economic reasons we all feel that we need a healthy indigenous British film industry.
I do not claim to be able to thread my way through the jungle of financial arrangements of the British film industry, but I understand that in some circumstances the producers will automatically get a share of this concession. The Committee will remember that the British film industry has only been kept alive in recent years by means of expedients. One is the Eady Levy about which my right hon. Friend spoke, and the other is the National Finance Film Corporation. I am very concerned, as is my right hon. Friend, whether the exhibitors will be prepared to operate the Eady scheme in full, following this concession by the Government. We are worried about this because of the hesitation that was shown some months ago when the scheme was coming to an end, and the obvious reluctance of the exhibitors to come to an agreement with the other sections of the industry. There was at that time a threat of a statutory scheme by the President of the Board of Trade. It was of great interest to us, because we always understood that there could not be a statutory scheme, but it is good to know that there can be if necessary.
I am not sure whether this reduction of tax ought not to have been tied in some way to an increase in the Eady Levy. I think we are entitled to know from the Chancellor or the Financial Secretary just what pledges were given by the industry about the Eady Levy when they came along cap in hand before the Budget for this concession. We are all disturbed by the rumours which are rife at the moment. I understand that a minimum of £2½ million a year, through the Eady Levy, is necessary to keep the British film industry going in present circumstances.
I do not know whether the Financial Secretary can tell us how much this levy was producing during the last financial year, but I understand that it was considerably less than £2½ million. It is desirable, and it should certainly be possible, to step up the Eady Levy to £3 million which would be a considerable 271 help to production and to the industry in general. If only we could get the industry to get together and agree to an equitable share of these fairly meagre spoils, the result would be better films, which is what we all want to see.
§ Mr. George Jeger (Goole)
I do not think we ought to let this Clause go without voicing our views still further about the activities of the Chancellor regarding sports. I have had an opportunity during the past weekend of consulting various sporting interests in my constituency, and they deplore the discrimination exercised by the Chancellor between cricket and football.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Member cannot repeat arguments which were adduced on the Amendments.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The Amendments to which the hon. Gentleman refers were defeated, and, therefore, that issue cannot be discussed.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
I should like to say a few words about the position of the film industry in answer to this short debate. Before I do so, however, may I draw the attention of right hon. and hon. Members to the fact that we are now nearly half way through the second day of the Committee proceedings and that we have not yet dealt with Clause 1 of the Bill. We have all the other issues, some of which have excited some interest today and many of which will excite interest tomorrow, and then there are various other issues dealing with industry, Estate Duty, post-war credits, and so forth. If we are to keep our sense of proportion, we must make progress today; otherwise, there will be no alternative to sitting very late indeed, and, as the Committee knows from the last two years, I do not want to ask the Committee to do that unless it is absolutely necessary. I hope hon. Members will exercise some 272 restraint; otherwise we shall get into trouble.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) represented the truth when he said that, judging by the statements made even in the trade journals before the Budget, the trade did not expect as much as I gave. The request was for about £7 million. Nobody underestimates the difficulties of the film industry, but I do not think anyone expected so much as it got. I was only too glad to do something, and the fact that this was the only major concession in the Budget by way of a tax relief, in a year when I did not desire to give reliefs owing to the financial position, shows that there must have been good reason for it.
I hope that it indicates the care with which particular industries are examined by the Government of the day in trying to help them when they are in trouble. The previous year we tried to relieve certain trades that were in trouble, especially with employment, by a relief through Purchase Tax. This year there was obviously a case for relief for the cinema industry. It was put to me by the President of the Board of Trade. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) that the Minister of State, Board of Trade, is with us. I feel fortified, as he must be, by the Board of Trade atmosphere in the debate.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, North-West (Mr. O'Brien) referred to his habit of sending telegrams and asked me to send one. If he will send me a telegram wishing me well in my office and congratulating me on all I have done, as, indeed, he seems to from time to time, I can assure him that my term of office will be much extended and fortified. So he had better send me a telegram first. Then I shall consider sending him one. I shall enjoy the exchange very much.
On carefully reviewing the debates last year I found that one of the few outstanding undertakings to which I had to pay attention in framing this year's Budget was, that I would review the trend of attendances. I did, and that is one of the reasons this concession was made. On the whole admissions have kept up a little better than they did a year ago, and while the trend is not upward, as it should be, the decline is very 273 much less than it was when I spoke last year. I hope that the modest concession in the Budget will help, but, at the same time, the trend is now definitely more favourable, and the admissions are very considerable. Nevertheless, costs have been rising, and to keep up the standard of service the industry wants to maintain, and also the employment, to which the hon. Member for Nottingham, North-West referred, this concession is needed.
I am a little concerned to hear that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) is to put down an Amendment to the First Schedule, because I should have thought that it would have been better this year to have left the concession as it is and not to have gone any farther. I do not want to give any undertaking to the industry that I can go any farther this year. I have not been able to go any farther for so many other sections of the population that it is difficult to do any more for the film industry. I say that quite definitely so as to raise no false hopes. Of course, I shall examine the Amendment which, the right hon. Gentleman says, will relate to certain adjustments, when I see it on the Notice Paper, but I make this general observation so that there may be no doubt in anybody's mind in looking ahead.
One or two hon. Members asked whether, when I gave this concession, there was any understanding on my part about how the proceeds should be shared within the industry. My answer to that is quite clear. There was no understanding in my mind when I made the concession. I took the view that the concession should be made on relief of tax to this extent, and I really must rely upon the industry to share out the proceeds. There are limits to what the Government can do.
The position as I see it is that I have made available the maximum amount I could. I certainly do not wish by any words I use to prejudice the efforts to reach agreement among those concerned as to how that amount should be shared. If there is a later report to me about the trade's agreements or disagreements, I shall listen to it, but I do not think any words of mine today should prejudice the efforts of those in the trade to reach agreement between themselves, and to reach it in the most sensible way.
274 I hope that attention will be paid to what hon. Members have said. One hon. Member said it was a pity that there should be wrangling. It is not for me to make any observations, but I do think that, if a concession has been made, we should expect the trade, through its machinery and its personalities, to come to an understanding and thereby use this money in the best interests of the industry, of production, distribution and employment.
This concession will be split up. There will be about £3½ million in a full year. It will be split between 4,000 cinemas that pay duty. That will mean an extra £850 or £900 per cinema on the average. The average will be higher on the whole for the larger cinemas, £1,500 or so, but it will bring about £300 a year in benefit to cinemas seating up to 500 people.
During the last few years we have had representations made by hon. Members in favour of the very small cinemas, and one hon. Member said today that it would have been better to have done more for the small cinemas. My answer is that this small concession does do something for the small cinemas. I do not believe that it will be easy through tax relief to make the difference between failure and survival. That is due to many other deeper causes facing the industry at the present time, but this relief will at any rate be some help and some consolation to the small cinemas, and to the cinema industry as a whole.
I hope, therefore, that with these few words of good will to the industry, and satisfaction that the President of the Board of Trade and the Government have been able to recognise the industry's difficulties, the Committee will now be able to pass this Clause.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
I should like to thank the Chancellor for what he calls his few words of good will to the industry, and to reassure him about the attitude that we on this side of the Committee take. It should be clear from the speeches that we have made on the Budget and the Bill that we have been disappointed at the Chancellor's failure in the Budget to do many of the things we felt he ought to have done, particularly for the old-age pensioners, and it should be clear that that precludes us from pressing for any 275 further large-scale concession to the cinema industry or anyone else similarly situated. The right hon. Gentleman need have no fears, therefore, that we shall press for large concessions.
Our concern is for the small cinemas. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that his concession applies more to the more expensive seats than to the cheaper ones, and in consequence, I think, without generalising too much, his concession will probably prove rather more of a concession to the large circuits than to some of the small cinemas. However, I shall not take up the points he has made on that because they can be dealt with more appropriately when we debate the First Schedule.
As to the understanding I asked him about, I thank him for his answer. It was a very clear answer. He said he was leaving the apportionment to the industry. I think we should all agree to that. I said earlier that we did not want to prejudice the efforts now going on to make this difficult apportionment. In so far as there was misunderstanding—and I believe there was misunderstanding about it—it was well that the Committee and the industry should know whether the Chancellor, in making his concession, had any idea how it was to be divided, or about any consequential effects on the film production scheme.
Personally, I hope that the industry, in dividing it, will pay due regard not only to the distributors and those who work for them but also to the production side of the industry, which is absolutely vital if the Chancellor's revenue from Entertainments Duty is to continue to be forthcoming. If we see any further decline in the production industry we shall be, if not completely dependent, much more dependent on American films, and that would be a very bad thing for all of us, and, in particular, a bad thing for the Chancellor. I agree with him that this is a matter for the trade and that the amount offered is more than many of them expected. I hope that they will approach this apportionment of the sum given with statesmanship and speed, so that when we are debating this question on Report we shall know what the industry has done.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I am sorry to detain the Committee, but I rise to a point of 276 order, Sir Gordon. In doing so I want to say to the Chancellor that Clause 1 is very important and is a matter of great concern to all Members of the Committee. If it is any consolation to the right hon. Gentleman, moreover, he will find that we have gone faster than we did last year on the Entertainments Duty.
My point of order is in relation to the speech begun a little earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Mr. G. Jeger). I understood you to stop him, Sir Gordon, because he was speaking about Entertainments Duty on theatres—
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I understand, however, that he would be in order, would he not, since we are discussing the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," and this relates clearly to all the Entertainments Duty, in commenting on that duty as a whole? Otherwise, the discussion would have no purpose.
§ The Temporary Chairman
We are discussing subjects which have not been dealt with in the Amendments, which have been fully discussed. The hon. Gentleman could not repeat that discussion.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
If you are taking my hon. Friend the Member for Goole up on the point of tedious repetition, that is clear, but I remember many occasions when we have had discussions on certain Amendments, some hon. Members have been called while others have not, and later there has been a discussion on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." Although one does not want repetition, if there are fresh points it is surely permissible for them to be put.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Further to that point of order. Is there not perhaps a slight confusion? If, in the course of an Amendment to a Clause, an Amendment has been made, then, clearly, when the discussion comes on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," the discussion of that Amendment would be out of order because the matter would have been decided and the Question before the Committee then is, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the 277 Bill." Where, however, an Amendment has been negatived, so that the Clause is in the same form as it was on Second Reading, and the Motion before the Committee is, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," anything in that Clause would be properly discussable even though it had formed part of a discussion on an Amendment which had been negatived.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I should have thought that if a decision had been made on a certain issue, it could not be discussed again on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Silverman
Certainly, but the very fact that it is necessary to put from the Chair the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," makes it a new Question, and the Committee has to decide a Question which has not been decided previously. And in deciding whether the Clause shall stand part or not, everything in the Clause is relevant to the discussion.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I do not think that hon. Members can repeat the debate on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. G. Jeger
I had no intention of repeating any discussion which had already taken place, Sir Gordon, nor had I any intention of repeating the rather exhaustive arguments which had been put forward in respect of one Amendment or the other. However, I had hoped to be able to say a few words on the general imposition of Entertainments Duty, which I thought was germane to this question.
I wanted to draw the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the fact that over the week-end in my constituency there had been some unflattering remarks passed about his discrimination between cricket and football. If the right hon. Gentleman does Goole Town the honour of visiting it in the near future, or in the foreseeable future, he may be faced with the difficulty that on a Saturday afternoon there will be no football for him to watch, because the football team will probably be wound up owing to the imposition of Entertainments Duty.
In that case it may well be that the "Radio Times" prophecy of 2nd April may come true, and I would 278 draw the attention of the Chancellor to the fact that, by a happy editing of that paper on Thursday, 8th April, when the Chancellor was televising his Budget speech to the nation, he was preceded by a programme entitled "Down You Go." In contrast to that, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell), who came in on television the following day, and replied to the right hon. Gentleman, was preceded by a programme entitled "Buried Treasure." I hope that these will be happy auguries for the future.
With regard to the general imposition of Entertainments Duty, I have to declare an interest so far as theatres are concerned. That gives me a general specialised knowledge which I think might be of some value to the Committee in its deliberations. The point was made in the discussion earlier this afternoon that the imposition of Entertainments Duty on the theatre did not really make much difference to whether the theatre made a profit or a loss or broke even.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. The hon. Member is trying to re-argue a question on which the Committee has come to a decision.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Member cannot draw a distinction between an argument and a point made.
§ Mr. Jeger
Then may I pass on to giving the Chancellor a reference to the general question of Entertainments Duty? As has already been mentioned, it was first imposed in 1916 by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Reginald McKenna. It was laid down quite definitely then that it was a temporary tax, and the Chancellor told the interested organisations that the war must be paid for, but he gave them his word that the proposed tax on entertainment would be abolished at the end of the war. That pledge and promise was never honoured.
It may well be that this being 38 years ago the present Chancellor may repudiate the responsibility, and the right hon. Gentleman may say, too, that the then Chancellor was not of the same party as 279 himself. Yet there runs a thread of continuity through the activities of Chancellors, all of whom impose taxation for the good of the nation, and all of whom should bear some responsibility for the pledges given by their predecessors. I am aware that I may be touching on a soft spot with regard to the present Chancellor and pledges that were given. For example, he may remember that he gave a pledge about food subsidies which was never honoured—
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
On a point of order, Sir Gordon. We have now had not only a speech from the hon. Gentleman upon the point on which you gave your Ruling, but he is making a speech quite beyond the scope of the Question, to which I shall ask for liberty to reply at length if the hon. Gentleman persists.
It is not an easy position for the Committee. The position is that we have not yet finished Clause 1 of the Bill. We have many important subjects to cover. We are now warned by the Opposition that they will raise those subjects on the Schedules and they will undoubtedly be raised on new Clauses. I must, therefore, put frankly before the country that the time for the Finance Bill is being taken up on entertainments and is likely to be taken up more on entertainments than on any other subject, with two more days to discuss it. I must appeal to the Committee to come to a decision on this matter.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I am surprised at the Chancellor, so early in our proceedings, getting into such a petulant frame of mind. He is usually so calm and so friendly. I do not think he has any occasion to be irritated. We have had an interesting debate on Clause 1. Certainly, we have had a long debate but, I repeat, not as long as the one we had last year. It is a debate which concerns very many Members of the Committee. 280 The Chancellor knows perfectly well that there are other parts of the Bill which are much more specialised and of much less interest. I must tell him that if he starts in that bullying, threatening way, far from producing the result that he seems to want, he will get the opposite result.
§ Mr. Butler
If I may answer, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman. Sir Gordon, it does not impress me when the right hon. Gentleman—
§ Mr. S. Silverman
On a point of order, Sir Gordon. May I ask who is in possession of the Committee at the moment? [An HON. MEMBER: "You are."] I had not gathered that my hon. Friend had concluded his speech.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I understood that the Chancellor of the Exchequer rose to a point of order, that then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) replied to him, and that now the Chancellor wishes to reply to the right hon. Gentleman on a point of order.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Butler
I have been given permission to rise on a point of order and it is for the Chair to decide. If I am out of order I will certainly resume my seat. I take it, Sir Gordon, that I have your permission to rise.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Perhaps it would be helpful if we knew what point of order the Chancellor is raising.
§ Mr. Butler
The Committee did not take exception to the right hon. Gentleman rising to a point of order, but if hon. Members object to my intervening I shall certainly not intervene and the Committee can take as long as it likes.
§ Mr. Jeger
May I protest against the Chancellor's attitude towards a humble back bencher and ask for your protection, Sir Gordon? I thought I heard the 281 Chancellor say that either I should shut up or that you should ask me to sit down. On your asking me, on the point of order raised, to terminate my speech on the matter with which I was then dealing I did so, but on my continuing with further remarks which you allowed me to make, and which, I submit, were in order, the Chancellor threatened the Committee that if I continued to speak for the few moments which would have elapsed long before this if the Chancellor had been patient, he would prolong the debate by means of a lengthy reply.
The Chancellor has a right to reply to me, but I have no right to reply to him. Therefore, I submit to you, Sir Gordon, that back benchers need your protection against the Chancellor in his present mood, because he is showing an impatience and intolerance which is most unusual and must betray either a guilty conscience or perhaps a bad night last night.
If I may resume the remarks that I was making when I was interrupted by the Chancellor, I was about to conclude with a reference to taxes on entertainments which have been condemned year after year by various people, including the present Prime Minister who, in 1939, signed a memorial to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer asking that the Entertainments Duty be abolished. That memorial was signed by 320 Members of Parliament. I do not know whether the Prime Minister prevails very much with the present Chancellor, but I hope that in any consideration of this matter in the future the Chancellor will consider the views that have been expressed from his side of the Committee in the past and from his own Front Bench against this bad tax.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to assure the Committee that even if he cannot see his way this year to a complete abolition of the tax he will give his mind in the coming year to some modification of it in the future so as to iron out anomalies and create a better situation for the entertainments industry. At the moment, various forms of entertainment are doing very badly. Both sport and indoor entertainments are in a very sick way. It is iniquitous that tax should be levied on a dying industry when, with a small relief of taxation, the Chancellor could help to put it back on its feet. I 282 hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give a little calmer consideration to this question in future and will iron out the anomalies and improve the situation.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins (Birmingham, Stechford)
When the Chancellor spoke earlier there were several points which I wished to put to him and which I decided not to put in view of his appeal to the Committee to come to a conclusion on this Clause, but in view of his new attitude I have changed my mind. The Chancellor must realise that he cannot exude moral disapproval over a Committee whenever he is in a rather bad temper and have everybody doing exactly what he wants.
It is only three years since the Labour Party was in office and the Tory Party was in Opposition. On the Finance Bill in those days there were not alternate speeches, as is the case now, but Opposition back bencher after back bencher got up and the Labour Party remained silent. That went on Clause after Clause and Amendment after Amendment. The Chancellor has been treated far more considerately by us than his predecessors from this side of the Committee were treated by the Tory Party.
We are in an extraordinary position in relation to the question which is now before the Committee. As the Chancellor has himself said, the concession of £3½ million to the film industry was the one concession that he made this year. As the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) said, he has been more generous than informed opinion on both sides of the Committee expected him to be. Yet when we ask the Chancellor what exact objects he intends to pursue by this remission, he says nothing at all and exudes an air of disapproval and tells us that we must not ask questions. It is important that we should know what moved the right hon. Gentleman in making this one solid concession and refusing all others.
I welcome the concession, but I Should welcome it a good deal more if I was sure that the producing side of the industry would obtain something substantial from it. In his Budget speech, the right hon. Gentleman said that he hoped that some people might reduce the price of admission. He said that his object was to help exhibitors have more money and also to help the producing side. Is it 283 the producers that he has finally in mind? Does he think that this concession will help the film industry, that it will guarantee its future and that it will go to the film producer? In a situation in which the Chancellor has given us practically no information at all it is peculiarly unsatisfactory that he should object to anyone continuing the debate.
§ Mr. Richard Adams (Wandsworth, Central)
I apologise to the Committee for not having been here earlier owing to another engagement and, therefore, missing the opportunity of hearing the Chancellors' reply to the debate on the Question now before the Committee, though I gather that anyway his reply was not in a very good humour.
I rise because of the invitation which was issued by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury when Amendments were being discussed last week. In the course of the debate on 18th May the Financial Secretary said:It is, therefore, for those who suggest this abolition to discharge the very heavy burden of satisfying us why, suddenly, in 1954, it has become wrong to impose taxation on activities which have been taxed since 1916."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th May, 1954; Vol. 527, c. 2013.]I should like to touch upon one or two reasons why we ought to accept the burden of proving that the tax should be removed in 1954.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Mr. G. Jeger) reminded the Chancellor, this tax was originally imposed in war-time as a temporary measure. It was frankly stated by the then Chancellor that it was imposed upon the poorer classes which were escaping the high rates of Income Tax. That taxation has continued ever since 1916. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) took the opportunity two or three years after the war of reducing the tax, and we should have expected the present Chancellor to go some way towards reducing it still further because it was originally introduced as an emergency measure to secure more money by taxation of the poorer classes. Now the Entertainments Duty should be removed altogether.
Another reason why we think it should be removed is that when it was originally introduced in 1916 by the then Chancellor it was an all-embracing duty on 284 all forms of entertainment. It was worked out in the First World War much in the same way as Purchase Tax worked in the last war. The Chancellor felt he had mopped up all the money he could in the form of direct taxation such as Income Tax and Super-tax and then asked himself how he could secure additional revenue in order to sustain the war effort.
The Chancellor decided that if anyone went to any form of entertainment he should be called upon to make an extra contribution to the Revenue to sustain the war effort. But that is no longer true. All kinds of anomalies have crept in. One form of entertainment is taxed at one rate and another form at another rate. The Chancellor relieved certain sports and pastimes last year.
For the reason that the tax is so full of anomalies and no longer serves its original purpose of an extra tax on those enjoying any form of entertainment we feel it is time the Chancellor took the Clause back for reconsideration. He is not prepared here and now to take it away, I am sure, but between now and next year's Budget he should consider whether he can either remove this tax altogether, or remove all the anomalies by starting from scratch and imposing a fairly nominal duty on all forms of entertainment.
Unless he considers the problem in that light he will have these special pleadings on behalf of different sports and pastimes and entertainment and there will be no easing up until he establishes sound principles again.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
Fortunately, the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Adams) did not appear during the disturbance and, in replying to the debate, I think I was perfectly calm. The difficulty of removing the Entertainments Duty altogether is that it would mean a loss to the Exchequer of about £40 million which would have to be put on the taxpayer in another way.
When I made this concession deliberately to the film industry I was aware that it would raise the whole of the Entertainments Duty and probably take a great deal of Parliamentary time. Otherwise, it would not be necessary to raise the tax in a special Clause. But if, in helping the film industry, I had to do 285 something for other forms of entertainment, I am afraid we would have to put the tax on in another way to balance the Budget. Therefore, I saw no alternative to these very difficult debates, which raise so many detailed points.
However, if hon. Members want to take future opportunities in the spirit of the last two years' debates, we had better conduct our debates on the give and take principle. If we do not adopt that principle we shall have to sit up late. Let us have the give and take principle and carry on as before. I hope that we shall get this Clause in that spirit.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 2.—(CHICORY (CUSTOMS DUTIES AND DRAWBACKS).)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I wish to speak about this Clause because, quite clearly, it is the root of the Finance Bill. The Economic Secretary td the Treasury is well aware that that is so, although, on a previous occasion, he commended it to the House under the mistaken idea that it was the foliage of the Bill. It is a matter of interest that on this fundamental Clause, the one radical and revolutionary Clause of the Bill to which the Economic Secretary thought it worth referring in his speech, he should, in fact, have been discovered by his colleague the Financial Secretary to have been talking about the wrong thing altogether.
When he spoke the Economic Secretary thought he ought to declare an interest in that he grew a particular form of vegetable which he used in his salad. Because of that he thought he had some interest in this Clause, which deals with import duty on root chicory. But he has never grown the root at all and he does not eat that in his salad. Either he had not been briefed at all, or for once he had not read his brief, or—perish the thought—the Government had put the tax on the wrong thing.
I have known the Economic Secretary for quite a time and I do not believe that he had not read the brief and it is still less likely that he did not understand it. It seems more likely that the Government set out to put a tax on leaf chicory, 286 by mistake put it on the root chicory, and that it was not discovered until the Bill was published and in the hands of hon. Members. That may appear to be a small point, but it is a rather important point and we should like to be clear that the Government intended to use the Finance Bill for this purpose.
§ Mr. Arthur Holt (Bolton, West)
This is a most confusing business and I should like to have it cleared up. Do I understand that there is a difference between leaf and salad chicory? If there is not, the Economic Secretary already has his protection under the Statutory Instrument No. 1736, which came into effect on 1st December, 1953.
§ Mr. Brown
That is another possibility. Leaf chicory is, of course, salad chicory. It is possible that if the Economic Secretary failed to declare an interest in the original Statutory Instrument, he was taking a retrospective opportunity of doing so on Second Reading of the Bill.
This question opens up endless possibilities as to how this complete misunderstanding of the Bill by the Treasury Bench has arisen. I refer to it simply because I think that when we have a Finance Bill which does so little but which highlights Clause 2 as being the most radical thing the Bill does, it is a sad thing if the Treasury Ministers between them cannot get right exactly what has been done. We may have an intervention by the Financial Secretary on where a tax is to be put and also an intervention by the Economic Secretary to make sure that it is doing the job he wants it to do—even though he did not understand what he wanted it to be put on.
Assuming for the moment that the aim of the Clause is to protect the growers of root chicory—that form of chicory that is commonly taken by consumers in the form of an addition to coffee essence—I think we ought to discuss that question briefly before we hurry away with the Clause. So far, we have had no explanation from Treasury Ministers of the purpose of, or reason for, this Clause. In his Budget statement on 6th April the Chancellor said:I am also raising the Customs duty on imported chicory by 5s. 9d. a cwt.…This increase in duty is not concerned with revenue considerations. It is to give support and protection to the chicory growers in this country 287 which have been shown to be necessary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 222.]Full stop and end of the argument as far as he is concerned. He may be wrong or right, but it is roughly a 50 per cent. rise in the existing rate of duty. It goes up from 13s. 3d. to 19s., which is getting on for a 50 per cent. rise. It is not good enough to say that this has "been shown to be necessary" to raise this duty on what we once called a breakfast table item. It is not sufficient to say that it has "been shown to be necessary," full stop, and no more words about it.
Obviously, the Financial Secretary felt that there had been an omission and he turned to it on the Second Reading of the Finance Bill on 3rd May. Beyond administering, somewhat lightly, a reproof to his colleague for having got it wrong, he told us no more about the reasons than the Chancellor had done. He told us why it gets into the Finance Bill instead of being dealt with, like all other tariff adjustments, by Statutory Instrument. I gather the real reason for this was not the reason which he gave; it goes a little beyond that reason. The real reason was that this is one of those things which was dealt with originally when the present Prime Minister was Chancellor of the Exchequer and, as so often happens when the Prime Minister turns his hand to things, it got into the wrong Bill and so is now in the wrong Department.
Beyond telling us that and administering the reproof, the Financial Secretary merely went on to say:Actually, this very small provision is simply one of the series of adjustments of the tariff upon horticultural goods which are being effected as a result of the successful negotiations of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade at G.A.T.T."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1954; Vol. 527, c. 27.]Full stop; that was the end of that.
The Committee and the country are entitled to know what it is that the Government are about. Why should we have this comparatively—by itself, that is—steep imposition placed upon the import of this commodity? Root chicory is not a very old form of agriculture in this country. It is of comparatively recent growth. It does not go back beyond the First World War; it developed very greatly in the Second World War and has 288 been grown chiefly in East Anglia and by small farmers.
It is all grown on contract. All the processing factories—there are very few; about three—are owned by the processors, who issue the contracts to the farmers. It has come to assume quite an important place in the economy of those farms. I should be loath to see the growing of chicory for this purpose made impossible for these farmers in that area, for I believe that, although it is a recent growth, it is important to them. It has a rather important place in the rotational farming now being carried out on the light sandy soils of some parts of East Anglia. It takes the place of other root vegetables and it is clearly important to be able to introduce it in place of sugar beet or potatoes in the rotation.
It has another important reason: many of the fields in that part of the country are creating a problem because of the difficulty of growing sugar beet or potatoes because of the incidence of eel worm, which affects those two crops and very much reduces the yield. This makes it proper and wise to rest those fields from those crops, which throws up a great difficulty of how the farmer is to maintain the rotation, to give the soil the various ingredients which it needs and to maintain its ultimate production over the cycle of years.
Even though there used not to be a claim for the growing of chicory, and even though ample supplies of it can be fairly cheaply obtained on the Continent, it seems to me, for the reasons which I have given, that we should maintain the home production of chicory at any rate at something like its present level. Even though I accept that agriculture ought to have a regular underwriting by the community—which is necessary to keep the production of British agriculture in good health all the time, in so-called bumper years as well as in years of world scarcity—I have never taken the view that that entitled us to claim protection for everything which any farmer thought he would like to grow. That would be carrying it a little too far.
If the case for protecting the growers of chicory rested on no more than the general claim for British agriculture to be maintained in a productive and healthy state, I should think that the case 289 was very weak, but on the special ground that something is needed on those farms in that part of the country to maintain the general economy, to maintain the rotation and to replace sugar beet and potatoes when the fields are affected by eel worm, there is a case which has not yet been deployed and which I assume—although I can only assume it—is in the Chancellor's mind in making this proposal. I hope the Financial Secretary will say that that is the basis of the case. If he does, I can go that far with him.
But I think the argument must be taken a little further. It is not enough simply to say that the agriculturists have convinced the Chancellor of the importance of this crop, either agriculturally or to the farmers of East Anglia. We want to know whether by snapping on a 50 per cent. duty the Chancellor is getting at the bottom of their trouble—and I am not sure that he is getting there. For example, how much of this increased duty does the Chancellor think will find its way to the grower of chicory? I understand that the contracts for the acreage have already been handed out for this year.
§ Mr. Brown
Whatever it is, I understand that the whole contract has now been handed out. Either one has a contract or one has not; and if one has no contract, one cannot grow the crop. The contracts have been handed out at prices lower than those at which they were let last year, according to my information. Perhaps the Financial Secretary can check it. The duty is put on with the intention of giving a protection to the grower to make it more attractive for this production to continue, but if the contract has been let and the price fixed—at a lower price than that paid last year, without the additional duty—what benefit will the grower get out of this additional protection this year? It seems to me that he may well get nothing at all Moreover, there is no assurance that he will get it next year.
We ought, therefore, to be told by the Financial Secretary what steps the Government have taken, concurrently with their decision to accede to the National Farmers' Union's case here, which I think 290 is a justifiable case, to ensure that the contracts and the prices are reviewed by the processors and those who place the contracts with the farmers in order to see that the benefit of the increased duty passes right down the line. If it does not pass down the line, there is not much point in it.
I wish a representative of the Ministry of Agriculture were here for this discussion. Admittedly this is a Treasury Bill, but it is an agricultural matter. The Financial Secretary's abilities have never taxed my admiration to the utmost limit, although I have a certain degree of admiration for him; and I doubt whether his abilities extend to understanding the agricultural argument and the agricultral case here. The Minister who should have undertaken the inquiries to make sure that something was being done to take this benefit down the line was the Minister of Agriculture.
At the moment, the Minister of Agriculture seems to be in hot water and trouble everywhere and in a variety of ways. There was never a Minister with so many inquiries on his hands all at once. We ought to know whether he has spared the time to deal with this problem. I register regret that neither the Minister nor the Parliamentary Secretary has been able to attend the debate. I hope the Financial Secretary will tell us something about it.
My information is that nothing has been done, that this case was in the Department and has been there for some time, and that it was under consideration some time ago; but that it has been considered in isolation as a tariff adjustment. It has been agreed but nobody has recognised that there is a difference between raising tariffs on horticultural produce, for example—which is a free—growing and selling arrangement, with no contract price involved—and raising a tariff in a case like this, where chicory is grown only on contract at a price fixed at the beginning of the season for which the contracts are let.
There obviously had to be an arrangement to review the price to the British grower this year, and, if that is not done, it will be very difficult for me, feeling as I do a bias towards agriculture, genuinely to ask those who feel a consumer bias that it is right for them to stand the additional imposition, since I will not be able 291 to say that I am sure that it will be passed on to the agricultural people. I think there is a weakness here which nobody has looked into.
The other thing I want to ask the Financial Secretary is what is happening about the ultimate price of the chicory that is being sold. I gather that the Ministry of Food is fixing the maximum price, because up to now it has controlled the price at which it is sold. Is it doing anything as the result of this additional imposition or not? A number of other Departments also come into this business, which is a much wider matter than merely snapping on this 50 per cent. duty.
I am told by those who claim to know about this matter—and one has to rely on the information one receives from people who actually grow the crop—that one of the problems about getting this crop grown on as wide a scale as is really desirable in the interests of agriculture in East Anglia is not merely the price, but the question of the limitations of packing materials, of tinplate and of bottles, which, in fact, limit what the processor says he can put through. What is being done about that?
The Financial Secretary said earlier in the debate that this was regarded as something that might bring a lot of innocent fun to hon. Members. The Treasury Ministers would not risk that unless they thought that this was a rather important matter for a limited group of people. I agree with them about that; it is a very important matter indeed in the agricultural economy of East Anglia, but, if it is so important that it could be elevated to this high level in the Finance Bill, it really must be of sufficient importance to deal with all the various blocks which, at the moment, are hampering the growing of chicory on the scale which is desirable.
We also ought to have from the Financial Secretary not only some evidence that he has mastered the agricultural brief but also the Ministry of Food brief, because we ought to know whether they are dealing with this question of the limitation of other supplies, which is clearly holding up the processing of sufficient chicory in this country to enable us to let rather larger contracts to our growers than we are able to do at the moment.
292 What this tax does is simply to bring up, as far as it can do it, the present price in this country of Belgian chicory, which, I believe, is now £37 per ton, by the imposition of an additional duty, to the price at which the processors have let the contracts, and that is roughly what it seems to do. My feeling about that is not that we should not help the grower of chicory, not that the adjustment of the duty is the wrong way of doing it, although until now we have protected the industry by quota arrangements which have now been withdrawn, and I say here that I fully accept the view that, if we withdraw that arrangement, we must deal with the matter in some other way, and it may well be that this is the only other way.
I have never dodged the responsibility for saying that, and I repeat it now, but, when we have done that, we are bound to ensure that, in fact, we are dealing with the real interests and the real needs of the industry. Frankly, I am not convinced that, though the case is good, and even though this is the way to do it, very much is going to pass to the growers as a result.
I am so doubtful about it that, when I indicated my acceptance of this case in principle, I said I should feel very doubtful about letting it go when what was being done was, to a large extent, an illusory benefit to the agriculturist. I am told that the additional impost on the consumer will be a very tiny one indeed, and, indeed, here is an interesting case in which the processors and the agriculturists are at one.
The Government show in nearly all their agricultural dealings a most incredible capacity for avoiding all the big issues and tackling all the tiniest ones. I have said it before, and I say it again. I therefore hope that the Financial Secretary can put forward a serious and logical argument to show whether I am wrong, but I have a feeling that what they have done is simply to give way to the case on the duty and not examine the real problems—pand they are very real—of this most important section of our highly important East Anglian section of the agricultural industry. We should question the Government very closely on what they are really doing in this very important matter.
§ Mr. Denys Bullard (Norfolk, South-West)
I was not able to be present in the Chamber when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) began his speech, but I was very glad indeed to know that he gave his general support to this proposal.
I intervene now only because my constituency happens to be the one in which a very large part of the chicory crop in this country is grown, and I want to say that, as the right hon. Gentleman himself said, this Clause is justified on agricultural grounds. I do not know whether these grounds are quite clear to the Committee, and perhaps I may explain that this crop is of particular significance on the light, black, fen soil. The farms on the poorest of this land were not in very good shape before the war, but many of them were drained, new roads were laid and the country generally opened up during war-time. The soil, however, is of such a nature that it requires a root crop in rotation, and because partly of the tendency for potato and sugar beet worm to develop there and partly because of the sour nature of the land, it is difficult to get an alternative root crop to chicory which is suitable for growing on these farms.
For that reason, I believe that the benefits of this Clause, and the encouragement to the chicory industry which it will give, will flow outside the chicory crop itself and will spread to the farming system generally and enable a good deal of that land, which otherwise might be difficult to keep in a high state of cultivation, to be kept up to the highest possible level. Unless one has a root crop in the rotation, it is difficult to grow corn crops on that land, and, therefore, a special case can be made out for chicory in this instance.
This Clause is an extension of a process which I am glad the Government have carried forward when they substituted for the horticultural quotas certain tariff increases. The House considered and gave approval to these a short time ago, and I regard this as a further extension of that desirable process in the substitution of a more adaptable tariff mechanism for the very hard and arbitrary method of the quota, which caused a lot of trouble with those countries overseas with which we have to do business.
294 The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) made the point that the grower does not get direct benefit from the increased tariff, but there is evidence that he will get benefit from the increased acreage. I quite agree that the benefits of higher prices should filter through to the grower, and that is very important. I already have a certain amount of evidence that the acreage will be increased as a result of this proposal.
I know that one firm had contracts in Norfolk for 200 acres in 1952, and that in 1953 they put out no acreage at all on contract in the county because of the falling away of the demand. This year they put out contracts on 180 acres, but they have been able, as a result of the announcement of the increased duty, to increase their acreage to 270. The grower is having the benefit of the increased acreage, more growers will be able to participate, and a larger chicory crop will be produced than if the tariff increase were not put on.
The increase in duty will enable the home growers to compete on terms equivalent to those on which the peasant growers of Europe market their crop. I understand that there is a possibility of the export trade growing in chicory, particularly to South Africa. Unless we get more help for the industry, the factories will not be able to keep going, contracts will not be issued and the chicory just will not be grown. That is why I welcome very much this Clause, and I feel sure that the Committee will support it.
§ Mr. Holt
I have interested myself in this matter of chicory. I have noticed what the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) pointed out, how little has been said from the Treasury Bench about this Chicory Duty and that even what was said was slightly inaccurate. The representatives of the Treasury do not seem to know exactly what the duty is about. I have endeavoured to inform myself as far as possible on this subject, but there are still many points on which I would like to hear something, particularly about the background to this duty and the purpose of it.
I have discovered that chicory runs through history and that the Greeks and the Romans had a word for it. No less 295 a horticultural authority than the "Financial Times" says:Chicory is the product of the root of a perennial European plant, which sometimes occurs in this country as a weed.If we have reached the state where we have to increase a tariff duty on a weed, this Committee should examine the position a little more closely. I have been unable to find in my copy of the "Complete Gardener" whether chicory is in fact a weed or not. That shows the confusion which surrounds this subject. I have made inquiries from other authorities. I understand that chicory needs an exceptionally tender type of soil, as the roots have to be pulled out by hand. On those particular soils it is, I am told, very profitable to grow chicory. If that is so, why does chicory need this large increase in protective duty?
In point of fact, hardly any chicory was grown in this country before the war. Most of it came from Belgium, and to a lesser extent it came from Germany. Apparently its cultivation was encouraged here during the war, and that encouragement may now even be an important part of our agricultural policy, although I must say there is no reference to it that I have been able to find in any document on agricultural policy published under the authority of the Government. Possibly there may have been some burst of activity by the Treasury to undermine the policy of the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry has not dared to defend it.
We are entitled to know something about the extent of home production which is so much worth protecting. What is the acreage? Is it extensive, or is it not?
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Holt
I understand that in 1952 the production was worth some £7,500. The right hon. Member for Belper and the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Bullard) mentioned the desirability of using chicory as a rotational crop because it is immune from attack by eel worm. I hope they are right. I am an innocent abroad so far as agriculture is concerned, and I merely want to get at the truth of the matter.
296 When I made inquiries from a gentleman on this matter I was informed that this immunity was probably the reason for its being cultivated. After further inquiries, particularly in Suffolk, I was told that the type of soil which is good for chicory, the tender soil, is light and black, and is not the soil which is most suitable for sugar beet, which I understand attracts a lot of eel worm. I was informed by a county agricultural executive officer in the Suffolk area, by the British Sugar Corporation and by a very prominent chicory grower in the Lincolnshire Fens that they were rather surprised at the argument that the duty on chicory should be put up to encourage its growth as a rotational crop for sugar beet. That was something that was not considered possible. My informant further goes on to tell me that there is no increase in eel worm infestation in Suffolk.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Is the hon. Member aware in making all these statements, that the National Farmers' Union, representing most of the chicory growers in the country, has for the last 10 years been making representations to the Ministry of Agriculture and for the Treasury to increase the import duty on chicory? That is exactly what Clause 2 does. Why should these other folk object?
§ Mr. Bullard
The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) was referring to the sort of land I was talking about. The position is that to cultivate it at all there has to be a root crop, perhaps every other year. A lot of farms grew potatoes every other year, but then the soil got filled up with potato eel worm. If we grow beet as an alternative to potatoes, the soil gets filled up with beet eel worm. Chicory is a root crop which is immune to eel worm, and that is one of its advantages to us.
§ Mr. Holt
Do I understand that there is no other root except chicory which will do this job? I am merely asking for information. I have quoted the information I have been given to demonstrate how confusing this is and how necessary it is that the facts should be aired. The Committee should know why the duty has been increased and perhaps the Economic Secretary will be able to enlighten us
§ Mr. Nabarro
My constituency does not grow chicory but, as a result of the 297 levity with which the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) greeted the Chancellor of the Exchequer a few weeks ago with the cry of "chicory chicory dock," a number of farmers in my constituency, and elsewhere, who are members of the National Farmers' Union, came to seek support for Clause 2 of the Finance Bill, and to counter the move made by the Liberal Party opposite to oppose this additional measure of protection for British farmers.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Bullard) made a very good technical case in regard to the agricultural importance of this small specialised but valuable root crop. I intervene because the incidence of the duty on chicory is of some importance and I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) brought out the figures sufficiently in his speech.
In pre-war days the incidence of the ad valorem duty on chicory amounted to between 115 per cent. and 170 per cent. Although most of the chicory consumed in this country was imported, the average ad valorem duty was as high as 140 per cent. The extension of growth of the home product, of course, took place mainly during the war years as a result of the restrictions then placed on imports.
The interesting thing is that at present, and before this provision under Clause 2 of the Bill becomes effective, the rate of ad valorem import duty is only 35 per cent.—in other words, only one-quarter of the pre-war incidence. When, as part of the Finance Bill, Clause 2 reaches the Statute Book, the effect will be to raise the ad valorem incidence of the duty to approximately 70 per cent. That will make it roughly half the pre-war ad valorem incidence.
I believe that increase is wise. I cannot believe, technical reasons apart, that it is a good thing that we should have to pay, often in gold, for European imports while neglecting opportunities for growing in the United Kingdom every possible crop we can. We should take every opportunity to obviate as far as possible importing these specialised crops which, with a little care and application, can be very successfully grown at home.
In response to the inquiry of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) about the size of the crop, I 298 am informed by the National Farmers' Union that at present there are 4,000 acres under cultivation. If that acreage were increased by as little as 20 per cent. over the next year or two—a relatively easy matter given this additional protection—the total of about 4,800 acres would supply the needs of the whole of the United Kingdom market. This Clause is therefore an important measure of protection. The speech of the hon. Member opposite was that of a free-trading Liberal, although he was elected by the votes of protectionist Tories.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) will not misunderstand me when I say that he did not get to the root of the matter at all. Although he had a good deal of fun with the Economic Secretary, the answer to his observations is that while, as an economist, my hon. Friend is extremely able and profound, loyalty will not enable me to say the same of him as a botanist. That is the fact of the matter, and we may leave it there.
Nor, indeed, was the right hon. Gentleman's ingenious attempt to bring in the Prime Minister any more successful. The Prime Minister did not introduce the taxation replacing the import duty on chicory. Chicory has been subject to import duty since 1832. I do not think that it was actually part of the Reform Bill of that year, but it has in fact been subject to taxation since that time. And I may add that the Finance Act, 1924, which amended this duty, was the first Finance Act introduced by the party opposite.
The right hon. Gentleman of course, after his bit of fun, admitted—or at any rate failed to conceal the fact—that he fully understood this matter. This crop is not one of the major agricultural commodities with which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is concerned. Nevertheless, as my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Bullard) said, it plays quite an important part in the agricultural economy, particularly in the East Anglian counties.
As the right hon. Gentleman himself indicated, the eel worm, which can and does attack both potato and sugar-beet crops, is suitably dealt with when it infests the soil by the growing of a crop of root chicory. Therefore, although the 299 amount of root chicory grown is not one of the largest crops, it is not without its importance.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what actually happens to the eel worms? Do they eat the chicory and die of it?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I think that they find it as unappetising as I sometimes find the arguments from the benches opposite, and therefore lunch elsewhere. The chicory root seems to the eel worm so singularly unattractive that it fails to obtain the necessary nutriment. It prefers a diet of sugar-beet and potatoes and, being denied this, it loses support.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I must say that I have little more faith in the right hon. Gentleman's biology than in his hon. Friend's botany.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
It is, of course, the fact that chicory does play quite an important part. It is used, of course, as an ingredient in coffee, being added in comparatively limited proportions. That is its main use.
The fact that we are dealing with this with all the solemnity of a Clause in the Finance Bill, derives purely from the fact, as I indicated on Second Reading, that this is one of the old breakfast table duties and, as such, cannot constitutionally be altered by a Statutory Instrument under the Import Duties Acts or by other powers. It is necessary to effect the change by legislation. That should not delude the Committee into looking at this wholly separately. It is, in point of fact, one of a number of Measures of additional agricultural protection which have been effected during the last few months.
The major packet of this was included in the Additional Import Duty (No. 3) and (No. 4) Orders of 1953, Statutory Instruments 1736 and 1760 of 1953, which the Committee may remember that the House debated on 10th December last. The general argument in favour of this increased measure of agricultural protection was deployed in that debate in which, I think, the right hon. Member for Belper took part. This is, as it were, a straggler from that debate which, for the purely technical and legal reason I have described, has given to it the solemn 300 dignity of a separate Clause in the Finance Bill.
None the less, it should be treated with the same seriousness as the other items concerned. Like many of the other items, it was put up in the ordinary way by the National Farmers' Union and was one to which no objection was received from the general sections of the trade under the procedure with which the right hon. Gentleman is familiar. It was considered, in view of the rise in prices generally, that the margin of protection was insufficient. It was also part and parcel of the general picture in respect of the substitution of tariffs for quantitative restrictions which has been taking place in recent months with, I think, the approval of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee.
Quota restrictions on imported root chicory were withdrawn on 7th April, the day after the Budget, which is the day from which this Clause takes effect under the Budget Resolutions. Therefore, when we are talking of protection given to this industry, it is important to realise that the tariff increase is operated at the same time as the withdrawal of quota restrictions in precisely the same way as with quite a number of products.
That is the argument with respect to this commodity. But the right hon. Member for Belper went further and asked What steps were being taken to disturb existing contractual arrangements this year to ensure increased benefit to the growers. If I may say so with respect, I thought that disclosed some misunderstanding of the purpose of a protective tariff on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. The purpose is to give general security to the producers. It is true that contracts covering this year's crop have already been made between private persons and we have no intention of interfering. But it is essential to the general security of the industry if we accept—as I think the right hon. Gentleman does, though the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) does not—the general protectionist argument in this context.
The basis of the tariff and of its substitution for the quantitive restriction is to give general security for the future and not to interfere with existing contracts made during the coming year. To put it in another way, it is of course 301 clear that if the duty on imported chicory is raised so far as next year's contracts are concerned the producer will be in a much better position to bargain with the purchaser than if, to take an extreme case, imports free of quantitive restriction and tariff were allowed to enter.
There is no intention on the part of my right hon. Friend to interfere with contracts which have already been made. The purpose of this substitution is to give general security to the industry for the present and for the future. Its value has been indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West, who is familiar with these matters and represents one of the areas mainly concerned. He said that the acreage had been showing signs of increasing, which is an indication that the security being given to the industry is playing a useful part in its prosperity.
The hon. Member for Bolton, West referred to this commodity as a "weed." He reminded me of another commodity even more heavily subjected to duty which is also known as a "weed," and there would seem to be good precedent for not wholly removing the import duty on a commodity merely because it is so described. In a curious but small way this agricultural commodity has a considerable history. It has been used for a long time in order to dilute and to some extent, to alter the flavour of coffee.
We come to a point which was touched upon by the right hon. Member for Belper and referred to directly by the hon. Member for Bolton, West, namely, the effect upon the cost of living. I understand that it will be negligible. Although imports have fluctuated, they have been on a small scale, and in the future, as in the past, we shall be concerned mainly with the home product. The effect on the cost of living of this increased duty is so very small in proportion that I doubt if the statistical experts which I have at my disposal could place any appreciable quantification upon it.
I do not think that we need concern ourselves with any possible effect upon the cost of living. I mention this because it is a matter with which we are properly concerned, and one which sometimes has to be weighed when one is talking of 302 measures of protection. Fortunately we need not bedevil our discussions with that consideration this evening because it does not arise. We are concerned with one of the smaller items in the adjustments of agricultural and horticultural protection which this Government, in their desire to place British agriculture and horticultural production on a firm basis, have been making in these last few months.
The general argument was deployed last December, and I have concentrated my arguments solely upon this particular issue. It comes to this, that in a comparatively small degree in certain localities this commodity plays a useful part in our agricultural economy. It seems to us therefore that it would be wrong to deprive it of protection when the quantitive restrictions are withdrawn. It is regarded by the National Farmers' Union as being one of the commodities to which it would be helpful to give protection and one to which, under the procedure laid down little objection was taken by anyone.
It has the advantage of having no appreciable or practical effect on the cost of living, and therefore it is a proposal which the Committee can—though it has had a bit of fun about it from time to time in the past—regard as a sensible contribution to the stability of British agriculture.
§ Mr. G. Brown
I am sorry to speak again, but there are some things which are still unsaid. I pass over the blanket with which the Financial Secretary, in all charity, endeavoured to cover the ignorance of the Economic Secretary about the Finance Bill. The right hon. Gentleman accused his hon. Friend of not understanding botany. One does not absolve a man from one crime by pointing out that he is guilty of another. The Economic Secretary may overcome his lack of understanding of botany by persuading his wife to do the gardening in future. But he cannot get over his lack of understanding of the Finance Bill because, for the time being—though it is to be hoped that it will be a short time—he will have to continue to bear responsibility for it.
I accept the general case as put by the Financial Secretary, but I do not stop where he stops in arguing about the purpose of a protective tariff. It is not only, as the right hon. Gentleman gaily says, to give a general sense of security. Surely 303 it also is intended to ensure that the price which the growers can obtain for their product is such as to make it worth while to go on growing it. There is a difference. If this were a tomato that we were talking about, the tariff would go on at that period of the year at which otherwise there would be a risk of the imported product coming in in great quantities and reducing the price which the home grower can get. By taxing it and pushing up the price the home grower is enabled to get a higher price for his goods. That is the immediate result.
I want to protest once again at our having to discuss the matter without the presence of the Minister of Agriculture or his Parliamentary Secretary. That is not very fair. If the two sides of the Committee were reversed and we had been putting this through without the attendance of any agricultural Minister, there would have been a great to do. The Financial Secretary would long before now have moved to report Progress for the attendance of the Minister or his Parliamentary Secretary.
This is an agricultural argument. If it were tomatoes, it would have the effect that I have described. If it were chicory, grown for sale in the ordinary way, it would have the same effect. The only reason why it does not have the effect in the case of chicory is that chicory is grown on contract for prices fixed in advance of the season. When the contracts were put out this year the producers did not know whether this Belgian chicory would be coming in at a very low price. Because they did not know that, they had to ask the grower to accept lower prices.
That being so, when the Government comes round to putting on the tariff in order to prevent Belgian chicory from coming in at the lower price, it is not unreasonable to say to an intelligent coordinated Government that the Minister who is to be responsible for putting on the tariff should say to his colleague at whose request he is doing it, "I accept your case that this is wanted for the grower. Will you go about your business and see if you can ensure that the benefit for which you are asking goes to the grower?"
I am not asking the Minister to interfere with the contract. But that is not to 304 say that the Minister cannot have a conference with the growers' organisations who have asked for the tariff, and the National Farmers' Union and the processors who also want the tariff for their own reasons. The processors own the plants. They have sunk a good deal of capital into them. The Belgian chicory comes in unprocessed and the processors will then find that they have an expensive processing plant on their hands. So they want the tariff for their own reasons.
I do not see why the Minister should not say, "This is really wanted for the growers. You have reduced the contract prices at the beginning of the season in case we did not do it. In fact, we are now going to do it—what do you suggest?" I am certain that any such conference would have come to the conclusion that what the tariff is intended to do is to raise the price to the home grower. I am complaining that the Minister put the case up to the Treasury on the basis that it would help the grower, that the Treasury has gone ahead on that basis, and no one in the Government has set about trying to produce a situation in which it will help the grower.
I agree that it is up to the National Farmers' Union to use its influence and resources to bring that about. I hope that the N.F.U. will do that. But I say that the responsibility is on the Government. I think the Financial Secretary ought to take it up with the Chancellor that, having got the authority of the House for doing this, with the one dissenting voice of the hon. Member for Bolton West (Mr. Holt) he should go to the Minister of Agriculture and say, "Had not you better call a conference?"
The Financial Secretary said nothing at all about the Board of Trade and its obligations to see that limitations on tinplate and packing materials did not go on limiting the increased acreage which these duties are intended to achieve. Perhaps if he has mastered the Board of Trade brief as well as he has mastered that of the Minister of Agriculture he will tell us about it.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I do not think that there is very much between us. The purpose of a protective tariff is to create conditions in which the home producer is. 305 among other things, in a position to obtain a better price for his commodity than would be possible if the person to whom he sold it had also had free or freer access to cheaper foreign supplies. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will go this far and leave this year's contracts out of the picture. It must be clear that the bargaining position of the grower when he comes to negotiate next year's contracts will be very much greater than if the Committee did not pass this Clause. That goes for as many years as this provision lasts.
Therefore, we narrow our discussion to the question of whether or not on a matter of agricultural policy, in the light of this position, some attempt should be made to re-negotiate this year's contracts. On that I will certainly see that the views which the right hon. Gentleman has expressed are conveyed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. I cannot go further than that. It seems to me that it is perhaps a matter which calls for very serious consideration before we should suggest that contracts made ought to be revised. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me there. I will certainly see that his view on this matter is conveyed to my right hon. Friend.
On his subsidiary point of packing materials and so on, he will have observed that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade has been sitting on this Bench and that, in the light of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, my hon. Friend will certainly look into the matter.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I did not know that the hon. Gentleman wanted to speak; I did not intend any discourtesy.
§ Mr. Holt
I must say that I am still not satisfied about the basis upon which this chicory duty has been introduced. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) made some very disparaging remarks about the Conservatives in Bolton, West who helped to send me to the House. As they knew my views on many subjects over a long time before the last election, I should have thought that their doing so was a great credit to 306 the intelligence and hard-headedness of the Conservatives of Bolton, West.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I think that the hon. Gentleman must imagine that the House is less well-informed than it is. Surely the real reason why the Conservatives voted for him was because they wanted to keep the Socialists out.
§ Mr. Holt
The right hon Gentleman can put it as low as he likes. That does not alter my opinion about the intelligence and hard-headedness of the Conservatives of Bolton, West.
The point which I tried to make, but which perhaps I did not make clear, was that I was advised that root chicory was grown only suitably on fine, light soil and that then it was a very profitable root crop. My inquiries were confined to Suffolk but they were fairly extensive, and those who understood agriculture and the growing of sugar beet were surprised by the argument that it was necessary to have an increased duty in order to ensure that there was rotation when sugar beet had been damaged by eelworm. I am sorry that the Minister of Agriculture blew in and blew out again; it is a pity that he was not here to answer what struck me as a perfectly reasonable, although I agree technical, question. I do not profess to know the answer, and I submit that I have not been given the answer.
If the argument is true, it raises all kinds of things, because sugar beet did not start to grow naturally in this country without a protective duty. Over a period of time, as a result of protection, the growing of sugar beet has been increased—and the result has been eel worm; and probably the expansion of the potato crop after the war may have had some connection with it. The net result is that we now have to increase the chicory duty in order to deal with this wretched eel worm which has been brought in by the original protective duty.
§ Mr. Holt
The argument asks whether these crops are the right crops to be grown here, but it also raises another point. In Bolton we are more concerned with factories than with sugar beet or chicory. In a factory a man knows very 307 well that the machine will stop unless he oils it. Apparently if we grow sugar beet we eventually get eel worm, which will destroy the sugar beet, and then we come to the Government to get an increased protective duty on chicory in order to deal with our own troubles. I should have thought that that was a question for the growing of sugar beet. If it were not economic, it would be offset against the cost of sugar beet, and it would certainly not be proper to come to the House and ask for higher protection on chicory.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
May I ask the hon. Member whether he has any connection with Bolton Wanderers?
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 3.—(FIVE-YEAR EXTENSION OF KEY INDUSTRY DUTY.)
§ Mr. Holt
I beg to move, in page 2, line 39, to leave out "fifty-nine," and to add "fifty-five."
I hope hon. Members will not anticipate the whole of the speech which I am about to make, although they will know that it concerns the Safeguarding of Industries Act, 1921.
I have put down the Amendment largely to call the attention of the Committee to this matter and to consider whether the time is not approaching for us to do some hard thinking about whether some of these duties are necessary. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) made some comments about my free trade views. I am no doctrinaire or dogmatic free trader; I am quite prepared to consider every matter on its merits and to consider the arguments for and against. When I do that I generally come to a free trade conclusion, whereas doubtless the hon. Member for Kidderminster comes to a protective conclusion.
The Safeguarding of Industries Act has a Preamble to which I would draw attention. It reads:An Act to impose duties of customs on certain goods with a view to the safeguarding of certain special industries and the safeguarding of employment in industries in the United Kingdom…This Act was passed in 1921 and the Schedule gives a list of the goods chargeable with duty. It is difficult to find out 308 exactly what the present position is, because some of these old Acts have been so amended, with additions to and deletions from the Schedule—amendments by Statutory Instrument and otherwise—that it is difficult to trace the present position. Originally, under Section 1, the duties in the Act were to be equal to one-third of the value of the goods, but I think that varies—the Economic Secretary nods his head in agreement—between 10 per cent. and 50 per cent.
My hon. Friends and I have put down the Amendment to seek that this Act should be reviewed after one year instead of after five years. The original provision in Section 16 of the Act was thatThis Act shall come into force on the first day of October, nineteen hundred and twenty-one and shall continue in force until the expiration of five years from the passing of this Act and no longer.There is no reason why we should go on renewing it for five years. If we renew it for only one year, that will be an extra impetus for the Government during the next 12 months to consider their whole policy towards this and related matters. Nearly a year ago the Government appointed a committee to go into the duties on engineering products and machinery—a committee under Sir Henry Wilson Smith—and to consider whether some of these duties might be removed or reduced.
If one is considering these matters, as it is evidently the intention of the Government to do, it is very difficult to consider some in isolation. As the Government have removed a lot of the more obvious restrictions, quotas and the like, surely at some time in the future it must begin to review its policy on the question of the high tariff barriers.
Among the considerations which are relevant are the use which industries which have been protected under the Safeguarding of Industries Act have made of the protection which they have received, and whether they have improved their competitive position. Was it a case of nourishing a tender plant which has taken full advantage of the protection and is now able to stand on its own feet? If those industries have taken advantage of the protection and are able to stand on their own feet, what is the object of continuing this protection, especially at its present high level? Would it not be a good thing to reduce it?
309 8.30 p.m.
On the other hand, if industries who have now had protection for 33 years have not made any use of it—I can think of one or two—and are still inefficient and unable to stand up to European and world competition on anything like an equal basis, is not that also a reason for reviewing their protection and for saying that our economy can no longer afford to have its resources wasted in this respect and that, in view of full employment, the workers in that industry could more efficiently and more usefully be employed elsewhere?
On either count, there seems to be a sound case for reviewing the position within the next 12 months. If the Government wish to make it 18 months, I should not jib at that. I would be wrong to let the Committee part with this matter for five years and forget all about it. The Government ought to let us know when they intend to review the matter. They have to go to the G.A.T.T. conference in a few months' time. Other nations have made suggestions for generally lowering the barriers to trade. The Government must have some policy on this matter. This is an opportunity for hon. Members to ventilate their views, helping to guide Government policy, and it is also an opportunity for the Government to say on what line its mind is running in this matter. I hope that the Economic Secretary will have something to say about that.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I support what has been said by the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt). The Opposition feel that specific answers ought to be given to several questions before the Committee accepts the Clause.
As the hon. Member said, the Clause deals with the extension of Part I of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, 1921. That Act is 33 years old. This part of the Act was passed to protect and help certain infant industries which, on the grounds of defence, it was felt desirable to encourage. These included the industries making sextants, optical instruments of various kinds, field and opera glasses, microscopes and a fairly wide range of other precision instruments of that kind, and the Schedule extended to colouring matters, dyes and chemicals.
The hon. Member for Bolton, West is right to inquire why 33 years after these 310 industries were first given protection the Government should be asking for an extension of a further five years. Part I has had a very uneasy life. It was first put into operation for five years. It was then extended for 10 years. In 1936, it was extended for a further 10 years. After that, it was extended for two years, and when that period ran out it was extended for another three years. When I was at the Treasury we extended it on at least two occasions. Finally, in 1951, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Helens (Sir H. Shawcross), as President of the Board of Trade, extended it for another three years.
When my right hon. and learned Friend asked the House to agree to the last extension, he made certain promises which I think should now be inquired into. What he then announced as the policy of the Board of Trade was not a policy which was particularly Labour in its incidence, outlook or purpose; so far as I remember, it was the kind of policy which any Government would attempt to pursue on this matter.
What my right hon. Friend said then was that the Government were moving for this extension for a limited period so that, while that period was running and before it ended, they would be able to come to this House and make proposals to marry this part of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, 1921, with the Import Duties Act, 1932. What I want to know from the Economic Secretary is this. What has happened in the interval? When are we to have some integration of the provisions of the Import Duties Act, 1932, with this part of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, 1921?
The hon. Member for Bolton, West put a question, and I gather that the Economic Secretary indicated assent, when he said that the incidence of one-third of the value of the goods has in some cases been altered. I think that is true, but surely rates can only be altered, as between Governments, under Section 8 of the Finance Act, 1948. The Government cannot unilaterally alter the incidence of any duty in favour of a given industry within our own borders. If it is altered at all, it must be by a specific Act between countries and not between Government and industries. If that is so, I should like to have confirmation of the fact, and if it is not so, perhaps 311 the Economic Secretary can let us know what the position is.
What is obvious is that the matter cannot go on in this way all down the years. If the present proposal is agreed to, it means that this part of the Act will have been on the Statute Book in a temporary form for nearly 40 years. We think the time has come when the whole matter should be cleared up. We should also like to know the extent to which many of these industries have been helped, and whether, in the view of the Government, they still need such help. If they do, the matter should be regularised and, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Helens intended when he was at the Board of Trade, they should be brought within the ambit of the Import Duties Act, 1932.
§ Mr. Crosland
The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt), who is better informed about the Safeguarding of Industries Act than he is about eel worms or chicory, has done a service by putting down this Amendment. It seems to me that the case for this Amendment is a good deal stronger even than he suggested and than my right hon Friend has suggested.
The record of temporary extensions to this Act is now positively astonishing. It was passed in 1921. It was renewed in 1926 for 10 years, renewed in 1936 for a further 10 years, renewed in 1946 for two years, renewed in 1948 for three years, renewed in 1951 for three years, and now, toady, it is being renewed for five years. This seems to me to be an excessive number of temporary extensions to any Act.
The original intention of the Act when passed in 1921, under a Liberal Prime Minister, though not by an entirely Liberal Government, I would add, was to safeguard certain industries which were of obvious defence or security importance, and the deficiency of which in 1914 had been found to be a great handicap to the war effort. It was passed, so far as I can make out, with practically no opposition. Everybody assented to the main defence and security purpose, and the thing went through with general approval.
So far as I can gather from people who have had experience of the workings of the Act, particularly in its early days, 312 it did substantially fulfil its purpose. It served, especially before the Import Duties Act, 1932, to give protection to a number of industries of obvious defence importance to this country which might otherwise not have grown up. It appears to be agreed that a great number of those industries became highly successful and grew till they were able to stand on their own feet.
All this, so far as I know, is common ground, but when we discuss whether to renew the Act for a further five years there are other points to be considered. The first complication, which has been recognised for many years, is that the Safeguarding of Industries Act, 1921, is only one of two Acts under which import duties can be imposed, the other being the Import Duties Act, 1932. There appears occasionally to have been a certain amount of confusion through having two Acts, both concerned with import duties.
In 1948, when the Act was renewed for three years, the then Paymaster-General asked for a three years' extension to enable a study to be made of the possibility of simplifying the system. In 1951, the then President of the Board of Trade based his entire argument for a further three years' extension of the Act on a virtual pledge that within three years the Safeguarding of Industries Act and the Import Duties Act, 1932, would be brought together and the whole system codified. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Helens (Sir H. Shawcross) said:We hope that within the next two or three years, if we manage to avoid the calamity of war, trading conditions may perhaps become nearer to normal"—and the present Government claim that they have become normal—and the Government of the day will be able to take decisions about the continuance both of the key industry duty on the one hand on a long-term view, and also of the other duties that it may be necessary to maintain, and will be able to embody them in a single Measure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th June, 1951; Vol. 488, c. 1032.]That was a perfectly clear promise, given in 1951.
We should like to know whether there is now any intention to bring forward that single Measure which was then promised. In the light of the pledge given in 1951 it does seem, to say the least of it, 313 very curious that the Financial Secretary, on Second Reading of the Bill, spared only a sentence for this Clause, saying:Clause 3 continues the Safeguarding of Industries Acts for a further five years …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1954; Vol. 527. c. 27.]No mention of the legislation that was promised in 1951, no mention of whether any attempt has been made in the meantime to bring the two Acts into one.
The then President of the Board of Trade was quite clear when he said:it is certainly our intention … to go ahead with this objective of arriving at a single tariff code and of assimilating the key industry duty system with the import duties system."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th June, 1951; Vol. 488, c. 1032.]It is not right that we should pass this Clause with no word of explanation of it by the Financial Secretary, and no word whether this tariff code is to be introduced in a few weeks' time or whether it has been completely forgotten.
That is one difficulty which the Act has raised over the last few years. The second difficulty, for which no one can be blamed, is that the list of goods which, after 1945, were obviously the kind of goods which required to come under the Safeguarding of Industries Act, were in many cases quite different from the ones which were originally important when the Act was introduced in 1921.
So it was natural that a large number of changes should have been made after the Second World War as a result of the rapid technical and scientific developments which took place during the Second World War. On the last but one occasion when this was discussed here, in 1948, my right hon. Friend who was then Paymaster-General promised that the list would be gone through carefully in the light of those scientific and technical developments. We want to know whether this process is now complete.
It is curious that we have discussed the renewal of the Safeguarding of Industries Act on three separate occasions since the end of the war, namely in 1946, 1948 and 1951. I regret to say that it was my right hon. Friends who were responsible then so that this is not a point against the Economic Secretary. On none of those occasions did the Government spokesman give a really clear idea of 314 exactly what that Act was achieving. It was clear what it was meant to achieve in 1921 and what it achieved in its early days, but on those three occasions it was not clear what part the Act was then playing in the industrial life of the country. I therefore want to ask the Economic Secretary a number of questions which will enable the Committee to judge exactly how important a part the Act plays.
First, are the duties imposed under the Act still related almost wholly to defence and security considerations? Are they designed to encourage the home production of goods which have a specifically strategic importance? Or have these duties become just part of our general tariff system, not very different from the kind of duties that we imposed under the Import Duties Act, 1932? When we are asked to renew the power to impose these duties for another five years, it is important that we should know whether we are being asked to renew what is mainly a defence measure or whether it is part of the economic tariff system of the country.
Secondly, how far do these duties fall mainly on products, and how far do they fall on materials? In the original list of 1921 they fell on a number of metals and chemicals. I want to know whether there is still a substantial raw material content in these duties and, if so, is there any point in imposing them on imported materials which may be used for the manufacture of goods which will subsequently be exported?
This important point was mentioned by the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) during the Second Reading debate. On the face of it, when there is a system of quantitative import controls, under which we can keep out any materials that we wish, it seems curious and contradictory to have a tariff system on top of that. Because, if we then want to reduce the import of certain materials, that can easily be done under the ordinary system of quantitative import controls and, having thus kept them out, if we then impose a duty on them, we merely put up their price. So that one would think that users of those materials in this country, particularly where they were concerned to export, would be put at an unnecessary disadvantage from this point of view. 315 Therefore, it would be interesting to know, before we make up our minds on whether the power should be extended for another five years, how far these duties fall on imported materials and, to the extent that they do, whether there is any point in keeping out materials by a tariff rather than by quantitative import restrictions.
Thirdly, how many articles bear these duties? The last time this was debated, in 1948, we were told that 3,600 articles bore these duties. I imagine that was a far larger number than any hon. Member had expected from the phrase "key industry duty"; one rather thinks in terms of a very small number of highly important products or materials, whereas apparently at that time between 3,000 and 4,000 articles attracted duties under the Act. Is the number still as large or has the list been pruned and the number reduced to a much smaller figure?
In particular, I should like to know whether a number of these duties have been taken off as a result of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, because a special Section was included in the 1948 Finance Act giving the Treasury power to abolish the particular duties, which my right hon. Friend mentioned, in consultation with other Governments. I believe that it was as a direct result of the conclusion of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade that the Section was inserted in that Act. Therefore, we should like to know what number of articles are subject to these duties and on what number of articles the duties have been abolished since 1948 as a result of the powers taken under that Act.
It would be helpful, also, if the Economic Secretary gave us an idea how essential these duties are now for protective purposes. This is a more general question. It is difficult not to have some sympathy, even if one is not a free trader, with the argument of the hon. Member for Bolton, West, that in the case of duties imposed 30 or 40 years ago one assumes that the industries which originally required protection have now reached the point where they can stand on their own feet and are perfectly competitive. At any rate, we have often heard it said that in consequence of the passing of the 1921 Act 316 industries which otherwise would not have grown up in this country have grown up with great success. If that is so, why are they not now perfectly competitive and able to compete with imported goods without these substantial tariffs being imposed on imported goods?
I do not suppose that any individual could possibly know the answer to these questions when so many different products are involved, but obviously we cannot decide on a five-year extension of so all-embracing a Measure as this without having some idea from the Government whether or not these articles can be produced competitively in the country today, and if not why not. If it is still the case that all these duties are essential to the protection of these home-produced articles then, for goodness' sake, let us make this Act permanent and not constantly have extensions of it for two, three or five years. Surely it would be better to admit that it is permanently required and to embody its provisions in permanent legislation.
I do not think that the Government have any right to ask for the continuance of the Act for five years without full explanation and without answers being given to these and similar questions. They might have every right to ask us for a five-year period had it not been the case both in 1948 and in 1951 that three years were specifically asked for as an interim period which was required to make these matters permanent.
It may be that some of my right hon. Friends are guilty of not having made them permanent in 1951, but it is fair to say that the then Labour President of the Board of Trade said in 1951 that every effort had been made between 1948 and 1951 to embody these provisions in permanent legislation. He asked the indulgence of the House because three years in the troubled conditions at that time had proved too short. He said that in 1954 the House would be presented with permanent legislation, including, in particular, the bringing together of the Import Duties Act and the Safeguarding of Industries Act.
Unless the Government say—y might have had the goodness to say on Second Reading—that they have permanent legislation waiting round the corner 317 to be brought into the House of Commons, it seems to me that the Amendment deserves support, although the fact that we support the Amendment does not mean that we share the free trade views of the Liberal Members of the Committee. I, personally, do not share them very largely. I envy the hon. Member for Bolton, West who, every time he examines a particular question, comes down on the free trade side of the question. I think it is a wonderful kind of certainty to know on which side one is coming down before one examines a question—
§ Mr. Crosland
The hon. Member says "as often as not" he comes down on the side of free trade, but the Committee has not yet heard of an example where he has come down on the other side. His free trade views are not shared by hon. Members on this side of the Committee. We are not a free trade party, even though perhaps we are not quite so much a protectionist party as hon. Members opposite. If we support this Amendment, as I think we should, we do not do so on the grounds of free trade, but simply on the grounds that these constant periods of temporary extension are not justified now, nine years after the war.
After all, this situation has been going on ever since the Import Duties Act, 1932, and we have had these two Acts running side by side and creating confusion. We think this is too long a period and, unless the Government give a very convincing answer, we think they should be given one year in which to bring in a final code.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I want to say something in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt). I shall be brief because most of the arguments have been already very ably deployed by him, by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) and the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Crosland). Our case is that the long promised inquiry into these duties should take place within the next year or so.
It may be some relief to the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South if I say 318 that I am not a doctrinaire Free Trader. I think there are accasions when a tariff may be justified, but equally I think that trade is a good thing. In the normal state of human society, we should allow trade to pass as freely as possible. It is for those who want a tariff to make a case for it. The hon. Member may be chary of associating with Free Traders, but personally I am by no means an out-and-out enemy of every tariff, every time.
I think that this Amendment should appeal to the present Chancellor who has been likened to a reincarnation of Sir Robert Peel and who talks much about the liberalisation of trade. All we ask the Government to do is to examine the Act passed in 1921, to look at the 3,000 articles and to correlate these duties with others in the same field, and let us know whether they are satisfied that the case for continuing them is made out.
If we look at the Preamble of the original Act we find that not only was it passed, as the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South said, after the First World War, to protect some defence industries, but it said that the safeguarding of those industries is necessaryagainst the effects of the depreciation in foreign currencies, and the disposal of imported goods at prices below the cost of production.Things have changed a great deal. The field and opera glasses manufacturing industry in Europe, for instance, has changed a great deal. I understand that we have a strong branch of that industry now in this country. I am not very expert on barometers or electroscopes, but perhaps the Economic Secretary will tell us what industry will be killed or what vital British interest will be destroyed if the duty is taken off.
There is one argument which is frequently used when we question the need for protective duties. It is that no one has protested about them. I reject this argument. To begin with, it is the ultimate consumers or users who find that prices are made higher by protection and, naturally, they are sometimes unable to trace all the ramifications of the price structure to find out why the price is that much higher. Secondly, I do not think that these protective duties are simply a matter for hole-in-the-corner negotiation between the Government and the industry concerned. The public have a right to 319 know the reasons for granting special consideration to these industries. As has been mentioned, if these duties are essential they should be made permanent by, so to speak, substantive legislation.
My last argument reverts to the old question of the growing, or tender, industry. I always find that the Committee on the Finance Bill has a very soft spot for what are called small firms. There is nothing which more readily brings tears into the eyes of Members, in all parts of the Committee, than the mention of small firms. But many of these duties are protecting some of the largest firms, highly efficient and well established firms, who, I believe, would say themselves that they can stand on their own feet.
Therefore, I reinforce what has already been said, that the Government ought to take these duties away and look at them again, and should ask no more than that they should be continued for one year or two years, or whatever period may be required to carry out the investigation; and then, if need be, come back to the House and say that some of them are required and some of them can be abolished.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will strenuously resist the Amendment, and not only for the reasons advanced by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Crosland). The hon. Member made, I admit, an academic case for a more frequent review of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, which is now nearly 35 years old. But I want to touch shortly on something which is of much greater practical importance to the engineering industry of this country.
§ Mr. Crosland
Let the hon. Member be quite clear as to the purpose of this. We are asking not for more frequent reviews, but for less frequent reviews. We say that the Government should have one more year and that they then should bring something fresh to the Committee.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I apologise for a slip of the tongue. Of course, the hon. Member wants less frequent reviews—a review at an annual interval instead of after a five years' interval as is provided. [HON 320 MEMBERS: "No."] Well, a review in one year's time, instead of at a five years' interval. The original Act referred to a five years' period. I am perfectly prepared to admit that in the space of 33 years that have elapsed, there have been reviews at irregular intervals; but the purpose of the Amendment is merely to reduce the period of review to, in effect, one year, as opposed to the original provision of five years. That is, in my view, an academic argument.
What I am concerned with is the practical application. The right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) read out a list of the industries that were made the subject of special protection under the Statute of 1921. I am not sure that he did so purposely, but he omitted two very important parts of the First Schedule of that Act both of which relate specifically to the engineering and associated industries.
The first of the two parts omitted by the right hon. Member is the third in the Schedule, which refers to:Galvanometers, pyrometers, electroscopes, barometers, analytical and other precision balances, and other scientific instruments, gauges and measuring instruments of precision of the types used in engineering machine shops and viewing rooms, whether for use in such shops or rooms or not.The second very important part is:Metallic tungsten, ferro-tungsten and manufactured products of metallic tungsten, and compounds (not including ores or minerals) of thorium, cerium and the other rare earth metals.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I did not intend to mislead the Committee by pretending that I had given all the items which were included in the Schedule. Even the hon. Member himself has not included quite a number of items which are listed, such as magnetos, crucibles, wireless valves and all sorts of things. My time was too short to give everything.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I merely drew attention to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman omitted, whether purposely or not, those two parts of the Schedule which are of special importance to the engineering industry and of overwhelming importance to the machine tool industry. Partly as a result of the measure of protection given in the Act of 1921, the machine tool industry developed and multiplied enormously in this country, in the ensuing 18 years, until the outbreak 321 of the Second World War. Indeed, I go as far as to say that the expansion of the engineering industry and the production of armaments in this country, in the Second World War, would not have been possible had it not been supported by a precision instrument, jig, gauge and tool industry of the size and scope that grew up and multiplied so greatly in the 18 years between 1921 and 1939, and certainly partly as a result of the measure of protection given under the Act of 1921.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The industries were built up at the expense of importing instruments, jigs, gauges and tools, many sources of supply of which were cut off from us in the Second World War. After all, the momentous expansion of the engineering industries, particularly between 1939 and 1942, would not have been practicable or possible without a very generous flow and supply of these very precision instruments, jigs, gauges and tools. Moreover, one vital category for which we had to go to the United States of America under Lease-Lend, in order to match the rate of expansion of our armament production called for by the Armed Forces, was in the very matter of precision small tools, jigs and gauges and the supply of ferro-alloys, notably tungsten, molybdenum, chrome vanadium and a wide range of other ferro-alloys to meet the expansion programme of the armaments and the engineering industries.
Today, even in spite of all the expansion which has taken place in the engineering industries, this country is still not able to produce for herself all the wide diversity of machine tools needed for engineering industries, including certain highly specialised types.
I ask the Committee to take their minds back to 1951, when we launched the re-armament programme on such a large scale. Very large sums of money had to be authorised for the purchase of machine tools from the United States and else-where in order to support engineering expansion and the re-armament programme. I claim that if we terminate the Act of 1921, or even if we limit its 322 remaining life to a period of just one year instead of five years, that would have the effect of undermining the growth, the expansion, the versatility and the stability of the engineering and associated industries, on which we are dependent equally in time of peace as in time of war.
§ Mr. Richard Adams (Wandsworth, Central)
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that he is merely developing and reinforcing the argument which was put by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Crosland)?
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am sorry to say that I had to leave the Chamber and that I did not hear the whole of the argument of the hon. Member, but I emphasise that this Amendment, if carried, would do a very grave dis-service to the whole of the engineering industry, and notably to those sections which manufacture precision instruments, jigs, tools, gauges, and associated precision products, with which I personally have been associated for many years past.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), whose interventions in the Finance Bill debates we very much appreciate, though I doubt very much if they are quite as much appreciated on the Government Front Bench, always seeks to blind the Committee with technical science, of which I am myself sometimes guilty, but on this occasion I could not see the relevance of any of his remarks at all. If they were relevant at all, they were so in the entirely opposite sense to that in which the hon. Member thought he was arguing.
What this Amendment is asking is not that we should abolish any form of control over the import of the types of goods specified, or any other types of goods necessary in modern conditions, but merely that we should re-examine the list to see how much now bears relation to the specific protection of industry introduced by the Conservative Government in 1932.
Nobody in this part of the Committee, no member of the Labour Party, is a free trader in the sense that some hon. Members are who sit with the Liberal Party. I noticed a considerable difference between the tone in which the Clause 323 was supported by the Liberal Chief Whip and the way in which it was moved by the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt). Like my hon. Friends, I am no free trader. We have to look at the methods which are now available to the Government to control imports, and we have to ask ourselves whether the method which the hon. Member says puts up the price of some materials and articles has any value for our export trade.
The Liberal Chief Whip said that among the industries now protected by these duties were those of rather large firms. One of the main objects of the Government of the day at the time these duties were incorporated in the Act was to develop in this country the production of dyestuffs and chemicals. I do not know whether we could argue now that the manufacture of dyestuffs and chemicals is carried on by small industries needing protection. The industry which the Government built up at that time as a great aggregation protected by these duties, has become one of the most substantial parts of our economy.
I am not suggesting that we should remove the duties on dyestuffs and chemicals. To argue that they are necessary in order to create an industry in which this country has no skill and knowledge would be complete nonsense. There are new technical and stategic requirements, and of course there are new methods of supporting industries which for strategical reasons have to be supported. It is true, as the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) said, that in spite of these duties there are things of which we are bound to be short and which we were incapable of producing for ourselves during the war. They include certain types of instruments and very small ball-bearings.
After the war we set about remedying those defects, but we did not do so by the method of duty. In the instrument industry we have given support to various types of organisation. In the case of an important industry which in other countries has been the basis of the manufacture of fuses, the watch and clock industry, we gave a direct subsidy for the purchase of plant and equipment in order that the industry should be built up. In view of the difficulties in which we found ourselves during the war by our lack of 324 skill and knowledge, we must use other ways in which we can establish the industries which are needed for strategic or economic reasons.
The hon. Member for Kidderminster mentioned the machine-tool industry. It is true that in 1951, when we had suddenly to expand our defence programme and our armaments industry, our machine-tool industry, as has been pointed out very cogently by the Select Committee on Estimates, was incapable of providing us with the machine-tools that we needed. Many of us feel that the machine-tool industry is still inadequate. Although it has had protection it still does not seem to produce what is required. One might very well argue, therefore, that under modern conditions this Act cannot fulfil its original purpose and that it need not be considered separately from the Import Duties Act.
As has been pointed out by those supporting the Amendment, it would be far better were all duties reconsidered in one list. They could then be changed under one Act and given consideration at one time. That is all that we on this side of the Committee ask. We think that, in accordance with the promise made time and time again, the list should be revised, or, better still, that the whole Schedule should be abolished and those commodities and articles which it is still desired to protect should be incorporated with the articles on which duties are imposed under the Import Duties Act.
We ask that that be considered and the promises given fulfilled. One cannot believe that since the last promise was given nothing has been done by the Board of Trade. One would have thought that in a full year one could have had a completely new Bill, or even a Clause in the Finance Bill which would incorporate the changes. Nothing we on this side of the Committee have said in any way implies that we wish to abolish duties and controls on imported goods or that we stand for a free trade economy, which at present is impossible for this country. We only ask that the promise should be fulfilled.
§ Sir Victor Raikes (Liverpool, Garston)
I support the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). I appreciate that the party 325 opposite are not of necessity a free trade or a free import party. The Committee must bear in mind, however, that, what-ever may be at the back of the minds of those supporting this Amendment, we must deal with what it actually says and not with certain of the reasons given for putting it forward.
I am afraid of the effect that this Amendment, if carried, would have upon the very industry which the hon. Member for Kidderminster had in mind. If we were to switch over now and say that under this Act we propose another examination next year of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, the natural feeling would be that the House of Commons was considering making the most sweeping alterations, particularly in all the producing industries. The very fact that Members opposite have produced as alternatives all these arguments with regard to subsidies and quantity restrictions would cause great concern.
The last thing we on this side want is to encourage industries by subsidies if we can have a more elastic and reasonable method. We had of course, to subsidise certain industries during the war, but when machinery exists which has worked over a period of years it is far better to stick to it. I fear that were such industries as the machine tool and tool precision industries to feel that there is likely to be a change in a year's time it would check a very formidable expansion which has taken place under the armament programme with which we are pressing forward.
I hope that the Government will make it clear that in any safeguards necessary for the purpose they will use the weapon of tariffs rather than quantitative restrictions, and, secondly, that they have no intention of sweeping over to an entirely different policy with regard to armament manufacture which may well be envisaged if we accept this Amendment which con-templates a complete change in a year's time.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
The hon. Member for Garston (Sir V. Raikes), like the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), has failed to understand why my hon. Friends are supporting this Amendment, or, if he does understand the reasons, he has misrepresented them.
326 May I briefly summarise the reasons why some hon. Members on this side of the Committee support this Amendment moved by the Liberal Party. It is not because, as the hon. Member for Kidderminster thought, we want more frequent reviews of the Safeguarding of Industries Act or because we want less. It is because we wish to know what the Government are doing regarding the assurances of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Helens (Sir H. Shawcross), at the instance of hon. Members opposite when they were in Opposition, about the undertaking given by the then Government that, within a period of three years from May, 1951, there would be an integration of the machinery of tariff protection both under the Safeguarding of Industries Act, 1921, and under the Import Duties Act, 1932.
In supporting this Amendment, I am not concerned to ask for free trade or for tariffs, but merely to support the case made out on the grounds of legislative tidiness. You yourself, Sir Rhys, took part in the debate three years ago, and it was either you or another hon. Member who pointed out what my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Crosland) has said, that the problem here is that when the Safeguarding of Industries Act was introduced in 1921 it was designed for a specific and limited purpose in a situation which no longer applies to the range of articles set out in the Schedule to that Act.
The Act of 1921 was never intended to be a permanent Act. We are not disputing that at the time, and since, it has served a valuable purpose. We are not denying that it may be desirable to put some parts of it on a more permanent basis. But, as was said in 1951 and in 1948, it is not very sensible to proceed in this makeshift fashion of having two different Acts providing import duties. The time has arrived, indeed it has passed, when they ought to be integrated. I think that every hon. Member was surprised—I was astonished—when we found that the Government were proposing to continue the Safeguarding of Industries Act for another five years.
We are supporting this Amendment to ask the reason for that five-year period. On the last two occasions, when there was great pressure of legislative and administrative machinery, it was only renewed 327 for three years. Why it is now being renewed for five years? Why is not one year long enough for the Board of Trade to finish the work introduced in 1951 when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Helens said that the Board of Trade were actually working on the business of assimilating the two Acts? What has happened in the last three years? Has that work gone on under the present Administration or has it been terminated? We have not been given a word of explanation either in the Budget statement or in the debate on Second Reading. We have had two ill-informed speeches from the Government back benches, but nothing has been said from the Front Bench. I think that the whole situation is very unsatisfactory.
I must remind the Financial Secretary that this was designed as a temporary measure in 1921. The argument then, when it was introduced, was not whether it should be levied periodically but for how long it was then necessary to provide protection for certain British industries to enable them to build themselves up to compete with what was then feared—German competition and the dumping of goods from abroad.
The argument in 1921 was whether three years, five years, seven years or 10 years was long enough for that purpose. The then Opposition told Mr. Baldwin that the five-year period which he had chosen was an arbitrary period. He defended the five years by saying that any figure chosen for a period must be arbitrary. Is that why the Government are proposing to extend it for five years? 1 regard the situation as most unsatisfactory, and I hope that my hon. Friends on these benches will support the Amendment.
§ The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. R. Maudling)
The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) complained that no explanation was given by the Government of this Clause, but, of course, we have not yet reached it. We are still discussing the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt). In the course of discussion on that Amendment we have ranged over a fairly wide territory.
Let me refer to the point made by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South 328 (Mr. Crosland), who asked whether the duties under this Act were designed primarily for the defence of strategic commodities or as part of the general tariff structure. The answer is that they are both. There is this important point that in 1921 when these duties were introduced to protect these specific industries we had not the general tariff protection of the 1932 Import Duties Act. If the 1921 Act had not been in existence the 1932 Act would have imposed duties of this kind.
The history of this particular set of duties has been described by other hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall). Initially, they were for five years, and they were extended in 1926 and 1936 for periods of 10 years on each occasion, and since then there have been three extensions the last in 1951 being for a period of three years. The effects of these duties have been very encouraging and hon. Members on this side of the Committee have called attention to one example. If we take, for example, the optical industry and the chemical industry these are industries which have furnished remarkably fine examples to this country in recent years.
On the contrary, I do not think that the imposition of this duty has harmed consumers of these articles in this country. There is a provision whereby the duties can be suspended at any time if it should be shown that home production is not sufficient to meet the demand.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Where is the authority for that? Under Section 8 of the 1948 Finance Act the only changes that could be made are those that are made or are negotiated between Governments. We are dealing now with the 1921 Act and not the 1932 Act.
§ Mr. Maudling
I was speaking of temporary suspensions, temporary shortage which cannot be met by home production. I will deal later with the important point which the right hon. Gentleman has raised, which is a separate one altogether.
The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South also made a point to which the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) referred—why did we necessarily regard a tariff as the appropriate method of safeguarding industry? My hon. Friend the Member for Garston (Sir V. Raikes) 329 also referred to this matter. It has been the declared policy of successive Governments for several years that tariffs are the appropriate method of safeguarding home industry and not quantitative restrictions. That is a principle upon which the Geneva Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is based. A fundamental principle of G.A.T.T. is that quantitative restrictions should be imposed and maintained only for balance of payments reasons. That is one reason why we consider it right to maintain this system of tariff duties as a protection for the industries concerned.
There are two separate questions with which the Committee has been concerned. The first is the structure of the duties and the second is the rate of the duties, and they are quite separate. The question of the structure is giving concern to those hon. Members immediately opposite me—the question of the structure of the legislation: is it right to have these duties still under the 1921 Act or should they not be assimilated with the general tariff structure of the 1932 Act? That point is quite separate from any suggestion that the duties should be removed or should be reduced. It is merely a question of legislative tidiness—an important question but far less important than that of the level and effectiveness of the duties.
It is a little hard that Her Majesty's present Government should be blamed for not carrying out undertakings which were supposed to have been given by their predecessors, particularly as their predecessors did not, in fact, give them. That is going a little too far. I have looked up what the right hon. and learned Gentleman who was then President of the Board of Trade said in 1951. He referred to the hopes which his party had cherished in 1946 and 1948 when they had renewed these duties for a short period—the hopes of being able to assimilate this two-tariff structure within a short period. But he went on to explain quite fairly the very great complexity of these problems and the fact that in the post-war world it had taken far longer than anybody had expected for economic, financial and fiscal problems to settle down.
What he said about the continuation for three years was this: 330What we hope is … that at the end of that period it may be possible for us to make a serious attempt to assimilate these two systems into one. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 6th June, 1951; Vol. 488, c. 1031.]That is not the same thing as undertaking to do it within three years, and the fact is that, although a great deal of work has gone on in the question of assimilating these two tariff structures, there are very great complexities. For example, the Brussels Convention on Nomenclature, which was signed in 1951, is still subject to a great deal of international discussion, and it is highly complex and bound to be taken into account in any question of the future structure of the tariff. I am talking of the structure of the duties, not of the rates of duty.
We feel, as our predecessors felt, that it would be a pity to do piece-meal this job of codifying our tariff structure. It is much better to make a good job of it, and to do that will inevitably take more time. That is why we suggested continuing this procedure for another five years. We do not want to come back to the Committee again with this request; we want to be able to present a codified structure embodying these two systems of tariff duty. We cannot be certain that we can do it, but I hope it will be possible to do it within a five-year period. In the meantime, it may be less disturbing to all concerned if the continuation is for a period of five years on this occasion.
Turning to the rates of duty, the general rate of duty under the Safeguarding of Industries Act is 33⅓ per cent., as the hon. Member for Bolton, West said. It was raised before the war in one or two instances—optical glass, for example—to 50 per cent., and in a number of cases it has been reduced to 10 per cent. The hon. Member for Edmonton mentioned the chemical industry, and it is perfectly true that the chemical industry in this country has expanded magnificently. Hon. Members will find that the duty in respect of some chemicals under the Act has been reduced from 33⅓ per cent. to 10 per cent. These reductions were made as a result of multilateral tariff negotiations under the Geneva Agreement. That is a point which the right hon. Gentleman made.
Power was taken in the 1948 Act to reduce these duties as a result of inter- 331 national bargaining on tariffs. The position of the present Government is the same as the position of our predecessors on this matter. We keep all the tariff rates constantly under review. There are from time to time international reviews and discussion and bargaining on tariff rates, and it is for that reason that we keep our tariff structure constantly under review.
In so far as there is still a very strong defence interest in any particular tariff, clearly there can be no question of bar-gaining about that tariff, but where it is clear that changing circumstances have made a defence interest less important, then there is scope for negotiation about a reduction of such a tariff. But if we are to reduce our tariffs, I should like to get something in exchange. I do not see any point in reducing our tariffs unless we get, at the same time, similar compensating reductions from other nations. That is why the procedure in the past has been to reduce the duties as part of a general agreement.
Any of the reductions which have been made in the duties from the 33ࡩ per cent. rate have been as a result of international discussion and have been under the Act of 1948 which hon. Gentlemen opposite introduced for the specific purpose of making that possible. We are constantly considering particular rates of duties, and in the next round of tariff discussions at G.A.T.T. no doubt some of these duties may be cards which we can play and on which we can offer reductions in exchange for similar reductions from other countries. I do not think that any hon. Member except the hon. Member for Bolton, West has suggested that this system of duties should be swept away altogether.
§ Mr. Maudling
I cannot give the exact number. There has been very little variation. There have been a number of additions to the original Schedule and a very few eliminations. There is a complete page of variations in the case of calcium, but I do not think the hon. Member would want me to read it out.
We recognise that it is very desirable to assimilate these two systems of tariff 332 duty into one as soon as possible. I would ask the Committee to accept that it is a very complicated and difficult task and that no economic advantage would be gained by rushing it. If the Committee agree that the duties should be continued for another five years, we will press ahead as fast as we can with the legislative tidying up and also continue the policy, which I have been explaining, of maintaining the rate of duties in every case Where it is necessary for defence purposes and where it is no longer necessary for defence purposes, being prepared to bargain a reduction in our case against reductions in the tariffs of other countries.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I have listened very carefully to what the Economic Secretary has said. I do not know how far he has satisfied the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt). The reasons which the hon. Member for Bolton, West gave for moving the Amendment were, as the Economic Secretary pointed out, not entirely the same as those given to show why we should support the Amendment.
So far as our reasons are concerned, the Economic Secretary did not seem to me to give at all an adequate reply. Indeed, he devoted very little time to the many arguments put forward by my hon. Friends. It is not good enough to say, "We are doing our best, but we want another five years" when, three years ago, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Helens (Sir H. Shawcross) went very far in saying that the matter would be looked at within the three years and the legislation brought into line with the ordinary tariff legislation. In those circumstances, if the hon. Member for Bolton, West desires to press his Amendment to a Division, I shall recommend my hon. Friends to support him.
§ Mr. Holt
It seems odd that the Economic Secretary should say in one sentence that it is the policy of the Government to keep the tariff structure constantly under review, and in the next that it requires five years to review the provisions under the Act. If it is constantly under review, surely this question could be dealt with in any year.
I should like to make a passing comment on some of the remarks that were 333 made about my attitude, and I would point out—and I am sure that HANSARD will bear me out—that I am not suggesting sweeping away in some violent fashion the duties under the Safeguarding of Industries Act. In fact, the two main points were whether industry had benefited from these duties, and whether it could stand on its own feet, and if so whether it was not time to consider whether it should no longer be protected. That question has not been answered.
The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Crosland) was very concerned to dissociate himself from any free trade inclination. I do not complain about that. But I think he is evidently a free trader. In fact, I think there are one or two free traders in his party, and I am glad to see the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling), who I know is also a free trader.
§ Sir W. Darling
On a point of order, Sir Rhys. The hon. Member has made a damaging assertion about me. May I not challenge it? Perhaps I may be allowed to explain that I subscribe to a paper called "The Free Trader," but I am not a member of the Free Trade Union.
§ Mr. Holt
The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South said that not only was he concerned about getting all this legislation in a compact unit, but he also said he thought the reasons why these industries were originally safeguarded should be examined and that we should see whether they ought to be safeguarded to the same extent or at all. If that is the view of the Labour Party, I do not see why they have been so concerned to try to show some difference between themselves and us on this matter. Certainly my hon. Friends and I will press this matter to a Division.
§ Question put, "That 'fifty-nine' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 239: Noes, 218.337
|Division No. 115.]||AYES||[9.44 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Colegate, W. A.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Harvey, Air Cdre, A. V. (Macclesfield)|
|Alport, C.J. M.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Harvie-Watt, Sir George|
|Arbuthnot, John||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hay, John|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Deedes, W. F.||Higgs, J. M. C.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Digby, S. Wingfield||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Barlow, Sir John||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Baxter, A. B.||Donner, Sir P. W.||Holland-Martin, C. J.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Drayson, G. B.||Horobin, I. M.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Drewe, Sir C.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)|
|Birch, Nigel||Duthie, W. S.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.|
|Black, C. W.||Erroll, F. J.||Hurd, A. R.|
|Boothby, Sir R. J. G||Finlay, Graeme||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A||Fisher, Nigel||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.|
|Braine, B. R.||Fort, R.||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Foster, John||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Bromley-Daveport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lansdale)||Jennings, Sir Roland|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Johnson, Howard (Kempton)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Gammans, L. D.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.|
|Bullard, D. G.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Kerr, H. W.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Glover, D.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Godber, J. B.||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. F. A. (Saffron Walden)||Gough, C. F. H.||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Carr, Robert||Gower, H. R.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Graham, Sir Fergus||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Channon, H.||Grimston, Jon Jon (St. Albans)||Lindsay, Martin|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Linstead, Sir H. N.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Llewellyn, D. T.|
|Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.||Harden, J. R. E.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C|
|Cole, Norman||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Longden, Gilbert|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Page, R. G.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Peake, Rt. Hon. C.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Perkins, Sir Robert||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|McAdden, S. J.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|McCallum, Major D.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Storey, S.|
|McCorquodate, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Pilkinglon, Capt. R. A.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Pitman, I. J.||Studholme, H. G.|
|McKibbin, A. J.||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Summers, G. S.|
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Powell, J. Enoch||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Maclean, Fitzroy||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Teeling, W.|
|Macleod, Rt. Hon. lain (Enfield, W.)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L (Hereford)|
|MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Profumo, J. D.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Raikes, Sir Victor||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Ramsden, J. E.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Rayner, Brig. R.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Redmayne, M.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Remnant, Hon. P.||Tilney, John|
|Marples, A. E.||Ridsdale, J. E.||Turton, R. H.|
|Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Maude, Angus||Robertson, Sir David||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Maudling, R.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Medlicott, Brig. F.||Roper, Sir Harold||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Mellor, Sir John||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Wall, P. H. B.|
|Moore, Sir Thomas||Russell, R. S.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Nabarro, G. D. N.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Neave, Airey||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Nicholls, Harmer||Scott, R. Donald||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Wellwood, W.|
|Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Shepherd, William||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Nield, Basil (Chester)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Wills, G.|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Soames, Capt. C.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Spearman, A. C. M.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Speir, R. M.|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)||Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith and|
|Osborne, C.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Mr. Kaberry.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hoy, J. H.|
|Adams, Richard||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Hubbard, T. F.|
|Albu, A. H.||Deer, G.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Delargy, H. J.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Dodds, N. N.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Edwards, Rt. Hon John (Brighouse)||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)|
|Baird, J.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.|
|Bence, C. R.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Benson, G.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena|
|Beswick, F.||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Fernyhough, E.||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Blackburn, F.||Finch, H. J.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Foot, M. M.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Boardman, H.||Forman, J. C.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Bowen, E. R.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Keenan, W.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Kenyon, C.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Gibson, C. W.||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Gooch, E. G.||Kinley, J.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Lawson, G. M.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Grey, C. F.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Burke, W. A.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Lewis, Arthur|
|Carmichael, J.||Hale, Leslie||Logan, D. G.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||MacColl, J. E.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Clunie, J.||Hamilton, W. W.||McGovern, J.|
|Coldrick, W.||Hannan, W.||McInnes, J.|
|Collick, P. H||Hargreaves, A.||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Cove, W. G.||Hastings, S.||McLeavy, F.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hayman, F. H.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S. E.)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Herbison, Miss M.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hobson, C. R.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Daines, P.||Holman, P.||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Holmes, Horace||Mason, Roy|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Houghton, Douglas||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Messer, Sir F.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Usborne, H. C|
|Mikardo, Ian||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Wallace, H. W|
|Monslow, W.||Ross, William||Watkins, T. E.|
|Moody, A. S.||Royle, C.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Weitzman, D.|
|Morley, R.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Mort, D. L.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Moyle, A.||Short, E. W.||West, D. G.|
|Mulley, F. W.||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Murray, J. D.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Nally, W.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Skeffington, A. M.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Oldfield, W. H.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgfield)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Oliver, G. H.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Willey, F. T.|
|Orbach, M.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Oswald, T.||Snow, J. W.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Paget, R. T.||Sorensen, R. W.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Palmer, A. M. F.||Sparks, J. A.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Pannell, Charles||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Stross, Dr. Barnett||Willis, E. G.|
|Parker, J.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Pearson, A.||Sylvester, G. O.||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Plummer, Sir Leslie||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Popplewell, E.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Porter, G.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Yates, V. F.|
|Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Proctor, W. T.||Thornton, E.|
|Rankin, John||Timmons, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Reid, William (Camlachie)||Tomney, F.||Mr. Grimond and Mr. Holt.|
|Rhodes, H.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 4.—(RELIEF FROM SILK DUTIES ON TEMPORARY IMPORTATIONS.)
§ Mr. Maudling
I beg to move, in page 2, 1ine 44, to leave out from "shall." to "apply," in line 2, on page 3.
This Amendment, and the next one to page 3, line 8, go together, if I might so deal with them, Sir Rhys?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Yes, it would be for the convenience of the Committee that they should be dealt with together.
§ Mr. Maudling
Clause 4 extends the operation of Section 12 of the Finance Act, 1951. That Section was designed to help exporters by giving relief from import duty on specific consignments of articles which were to be re-exported or which were to be used in the manufacture of goods for export. However, the relief was confined to duties chargeable under the Import Duties Act or the Safeguarding of Industries Act. This will apply the same relief to the duties relating to silk and artificial silk.
The purpose of the Amendment is to make a slight extension to the Clause as drafted, because the relief provided in the Clause applies only to goods imported or proposed to be imported after the coming into force of the Bill. Therefore, it would not cover the case of goods already in bonded warehouses in this country, and we have knowledge of at 338 least one example of goods already in bonded warehouses. This provision will apply to goods at present in bonded warehouses which are delivered after the commencement of the operation of the Bill and also to goods which have been imported before the operation of the Bill but in respect of which Customs entry is delivered after the coming into force of the Bill. The Amendments, therefore, are designed to extend slightly further the area of relief under the Clause as a whole.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
We on this side of the Committee do not oppose the Amendment, though it may well be that when we come to the Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," some of my hon. Friends may wish to make certain observations. I understand that the sole purpose of the Amendment is to assist the export trade—
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I understand from the Economic Secretary's nod that that is the case and we raise no objection to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
I feel some disquiet about the wording of the subsection after the first Amendment has been made. Leaving out the words in brackets it will then read:Section twelve of the Finance Act. 1951 …shall apply in relation to the silk and 339 artificial silk duties as it applies in relation to those duties.Can the Economic Secretary tell us what that means?
§ Mr. Maudling
The point is that the hon. Member has left out the part of the subsection that makes sense of the words which he finds difficult. The words in brackets refer to the Import Duties Act and the Safeguarding of Industries Act and the last words in the subsection which the hon. Gentleman read,… as it applies in relation to those duties.refer to those Acts.
§ Mr. Jenkins
Do I understand that the word "duties" in page 3, line 3, of the Bill refers back to "Duties" printed throughout in capital letters but printed with a small initial letter in the first place within the brackets?
§ Amendment agreed to.
Amendment proposed: In page 3, line 8, at end, insert:
(3) This section shall have effect as respects goods of which entry under the customs Acts on importation is delivered after the commencement of this Act or which are delivered from bonded warehouse after that time.—[Mr. Maudling.]
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out "delivered," and to insert "made."
This is a verbal Amendment which, I hope, will appeal to the Economic Secretary. This Clause is not very happily drawn up and one has to read it time after time to discover what it means. There are so many relative clauses in it that it is not made easier by the Amendments to the original Clause which the Chancellor has put on the Order Paper in the last two or three days. The object of my Amendment is to try to make a little clearer what is intended by what the Economic Secretary has just said to the Committee.
I should have thought that unless my Amendment is made the Clause will be very confusing and difficult to understand. The Chancellor's Amendment should refer to goods of which entry under the customs Acts on importation is "made" and not to 340… goods of which entry under the customs Acts on importation is delivered …Surely the verb is governed by "entry" and not by "goods." It goes on to say, "or which" and the second "which" must also refer to goods. To make sense it should read "in respect of goods made after the commencement of this Act or which are delivered from bonded warehouse after that time."
§ Mr. Maudling
The word "delivered" has a technical significance in Customs language. The Customs entry is delivered when handed over to the Customs officer and the entry is made when the Customs officer has accepted the document. There is little difference, but the word "delivered" was used because it is a technical word. However, in the interests of clarity and because there might be a certain example where, in fact, this might assist the exporter, I am quite willing to accept the Amendment to the Government's Amendment.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
Now we have cleared up these rather awkward little drafting points, which to me seemed rather clumsily done, I should be glad if we could have a little further explanation about this Clause. For example, I should be glad to have an assurance that under the Clause the Commissioners shall not automatically grant drawbacks on these articles of silk and artificial silk but exercise the power under Section 12 of the 1951 Actonly after consultation with the Board of Trade except in such cases as may be agreed between the Commissioners and the Board.That seems a rather odd piece of drafting, as presumably they would be consulted before it was discovered that they agreed, but I do not want to hold that against the hon. Gentleman.
It is important that we should have a clarification about artificial silk or rayon, and I am rather dubious whether this would be to the ultimate advantage of our export trade. Presumably, the point of the Clause is to make it possible for the persons who make cloth, either partly 341 or wholly from rayon, to import the rayon staple or yarn rather than to use supplies which they can obtain in this country. I fully appreciate that, as the Clause stands, it is restricted to goods which later will be exported. But, even in this restricted field, I cannot see that it is desirable to make it necessarily easier to import the raw material at the expense of the home industry unless it can really be proved that we shall be getting better quality or lower prices.
The experience, I am informed by those who have interests in this matter, is that when these imports were freely allowed in 1951. because of a temporary shortage or alleged shortage, which was very largely due to excess stocks having been held by certain manufacturers, the quality which was imported of rayon staple in particular was not equal to the quality of that which could be supplied in this country. Consequently, the goods which were made therefrom were also of less satisfactory quality.
I put it to the Economic Secretary and to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, who I am glad to see present, that it is not necessarily therefore in the best interests of our export trade to make it easier for certain manufacturers to import rayon filament or rayon staple which is of inferior quality and consequently to manufacture goods which are also of inferior quality, and then to export them so that we lower our reputation as exporters of finished textiles by something which is not as good as could have been made by using the staple or yarn which was in fact available to manufacturers here.
Apart from quality, I understand that the difference in price is so small as to be almost negligible. There is, therefore, no strength in the argument on that score. I quote from a trade paper, the "Textile Mercury and Argus," of 26th March, 1954. in which it is pointed out thatthere has lately been a good deal of nonsense talked about the position of imported rayon staple.This trade paper points out, and I think that hon. Friends of mine on this side who have close experience of the industry would support this view, that there is not in fact a shortage in this country for those who want the material for manufacture.
342 It is quite true that rayon staple is made by one firm only, Messrs. Courtaulds. In fact, it is made in my constituency. I have, therefore, a constituency interest, but this has meant that I have taken pains to go into the matter as carefully as I can. I am assured that no manufacturer who wished to have supplies for weaving has been held up. It is true that some who wished to hold stocks have had difficulty in obtaining the full quantity that they would wish to have; but I am assured that there have been no delays in deliveries for those who wished to use it immediately or in the very near future for manufacture.
Rayon staple in particular is being used more and more in textile manufacture, because it is proving a very satisfactory material to be used in combination with other materials. It is staple, as its name implies, in more senses than one, and also it is cheap. It is, therefore, to our advantage to encourage the provision in this country of this extremely useful material. As both the Economic Secretary and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will know, another factory is being erected in the neighbourhood of Grimsby to increase the manufacture of this material.
The capital cost of manufacture is very high indeed, and, therefore, it is important that when works are established in this country they should have every opportunity of working to full or near-full capacity. It seems to me, therefore, that it is a very doubtful policy, from several points of view, to have even this limited concession to manufacturers who, I believe, can if they wish obtain adequate supplies, and who, if they are encouraged to import an inferior quality, will be all too likely to lower the standard of British textiles for export. The whole tendency of the D scheme is to concentrate manufacture, in any case, on the lower quality range, and I suggest that there is all the more reason why it is a very doubtful policy to include rayon in this system at all.
I seriously ask not only the Economic Secretary but also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to go into this matter again with the industry, and not to pay attention to some of those who have been clamouring about this matter, until they have really satisfied themselves on the facts of the case. I have taken some trouble to go into the 343 question as far as rayon is concerned, and I hope that, before we are asked to pass this Clause, we shall have a much more satisfactory and fuller explanation of the need for it as it applies to rayon.
§ Mr. Holt
Some of the arguments which have just been developed by the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) are quite astonishing. The first point regarding poor quality of imports is an old one. If it is really considered to be a sound argument that the people who use these imports are unable to decide themselves whether a material is of an undesirable low quality or not, and if they have to be prevented from importing it by a protective duty which now amounts to 38 per cent., I must say that the trade is in a pretty poor state.
The hon. Lady went on to say that she had been informed that there was no shortage of supplies to users of rayon staple fibre, and, almost immediately after, she said that, of course, we all know that it is being used more and more. So much so is that the case that, only about a fortnight ago, Messrs. Courtaulds themselves announced plans for a completely new factory to be put up on the Humber, with an initial production of 100 million lb. weight of rayon staple fibre, which might eventually be doubled. If it is doubled, then the increase will equal the amount of rayon staple fibre that is now being produced by Messrs. Courtaulds.
§ Mr. Holt
The point that I am trying to make is that, if Messrs. Courtaulds themselves consider that more and more rayon staple fibre is being used, how can anyone say at any one moment—now, for instance—that the Courtauld supply is adequate? In spite of a very high duty, imports have still come into the country—
§ Mr. Rhodes
No wonder it took the hon. Member so long to give way. He was wandering, as my hon. Friend suggested he was before, and, if he accuses my hon. Friend of astonishing him, all 1 can say to the hon. Gentleman is that he is talking nonsense.
§ Mr. Rhodes
The reason why Messrs. Courtaulds have put up a factory on the Humber is because they are so aware of the situation, and are so much in advance of the need, that they have gone to the extent of putting up this factory because they are fully aware of what the trade needs. I will debate that point with the hon. Gentleman in a minute.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Holt
That merely seems to underline my point. There is bound to be a constant shortage of supply while that supply is limited by the output of Courtauld's, while there is a high duty, and while there is some rayon staple fibre still coming in over that duty. Is it not an indication that there is very seriously a shortage when it is admitted that the price of imported staple is very little lower than Courtauld's price—it is 23d. as against 24d.—and when some people still find it worth while to pay 23d. plus an import duty of 9d. and to import that stuff? I should have thought it perfectly plain and obvious that there was a shortage.
If this duty were lowered, Courtauld's would still go on supplying the same, or perhaps a greater, amount to the trade and there would be a total increase in the use of rayon staple fibre. I do not think that can be challenged for a moment. When this matter was briefly mentioned on the Second Reading of the Finance Bill I had some support from the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson). I am sorry that he is not in his place now. I am sure he would not mind my quoting him. He said:I think that now the duty should be brought to a level at which at least it would allow an element of competition, which would not affect our overseas market and would not unnecessarily add to the cost of living in this country by maintaining a high price for rayon goods in our shops.
§ Mr. Holt
He added:I am glad that Clause 4 puts the matter right, at least as regards the draw-back."—OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1954; 527, c. 128.]I do not know whether the President of the Board of Trade has yet received representations from the rayon converters' section of the Rayon Merchants' Association in Manchester on this matter, but it is referred to in their annual report, which has just come out. They quite reasonably 345 make the point that if they are allowed to import rayon staple fibre and use it and convert it into various cloths and re-export it, they are obtaining business that they might not otherwise obtain. I should have thought that it was in the interests of the country to do everything possible to facilitate that operation.
I should like to know from the Economic Secretary why exactly it has been decided to give this rebate under Section 12 of the Finance Act, 1951, and not through the normal and original provision of drawback. I think the Committee understand that both drawback and the provisions which we are now considering are not by any means satisfactory, because they create an awful lot of trouble. Section 12 (3) of the Finance Act, 1951, says:The Commissioners shall not exercise that power in the case of any goods except on a written application made by the importer before the delivery of the goods to him.That is a considerable restriction on trade. It does not enable the importer to snap up rayon staple fibre—or art silk which comes under these duties—from, say, the Continent and quickly import them. He cannot import them or even make a contract until he knows that the Commissioners will agree to the duty being forgone. The Committee should understand that while I agree that the provisions suggested are an improvement they are only a slight improvement and there is still very considerable objection to them.
§ Mr. H. Rhodes
What we have just heard from the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) is a typical cotton industry argument. It runs: "When you want something very badly get the Government to do something about it. When you are doing very well let the Government keep out." That attitude pervaded his whole argument. I do not blame him. It was purely a constituency speech. For myself, I support my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White).
What are the facts? We have here a big industry, a real monopoly, but one, possibly, which has a higher sense of public responsibility than many, or any, of our industries. The Committee will recall that prices went up when America restricted our crude sulphur imports. We were put on a quota of just over 300,000 tons a year as against our normal require- 346 ments of 450,000 tons. Prices all over the world went up.
I well remember trying to knock some sense into the heads of the Yorkshire woollen interests. They were separately bidding for Austrian rayon staple at about 65d. One industry was leading off and the Austrians were cute enough to play off one against another. What was the price of British rayon staple at that time? It was 28d. and it had been kept at 28d. for months and years. I say that industry which is so aware of its responsibilities at a time like that is worth supporting at any other time. In my opinion that is the guts of this question.
There is too much loose talk about the need for rayon staple, but when it went short before they were hoarding rayon staple in Lancashire and unscrupulous people were sending it over into Yorkshire at 6d. a lb. profit, while Courtaulds had been holding down the price for months. It has nearly been at that point again during the last six months, when the hoarders have come back again.
I would say to the Economic Secretary that I do not think that this will do any good. I am in agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East. There is no question that the foreign rayon which has been imported into this country during the last few months—it is an infinitesimal amount, not more than about 3 per cent. of the total rayon staple fibre used—has been of poor quality. It has been stuff which has not commanded the price when exported. In any case, it will not do us any good.
I am asking the Economic Secretary to take another view about this, because he can cause damage to this industry. The people running it have the needs of the users at heart. They can see further ahead than the people using it. When they began to sell this product in Lancashire years ago Lancashire would not use it, and they had to send the stuff to Bolton—the place represented by the hon. Member—and wrap it up in cotton bales and make it the same weight as cotton bales before the Lancashire people would even start using it.
§ Mr. Rhodes
I am all for backing the corporation which is doing it. I asked the Economic Secretary to bear these points in mind and to have another look at this question.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I take it that the Economic Secretary will say a few words before we part with this Clause and if he does I hope he will be brief, because we wish to make progress. However, I should like to put one or two questions to him before he replies to this debate.
This is a matter in which I have a constituency interest. Not so very long ago certain woollen manufacturers in my constituency were having to import rayon staple fibre and, naturally, it increased the price of their exports. They thought it was of poor quality and that something should be done about it. The curious thing is—or perhaps it is not so curious—that when I asked questions in the House they got the quality of fibre they needed. I have been told by my hon. Friend, who is knowledgeable in these matters, that in his view there was sufficient in this country being made by Courtaulds. It may have been that some manufacturers were hoarding it.
I wish to ask the Economic Secretary what powers, if any, the Government have, either actual or moral, to trace where hoarding is actually going on at a time when rayon staple fibre is needed, and to get those hoarding it to release it—if for no other reason than to assist the export trade of the country.
§ Mr. Maudling
I shall be glad to accede to the request of the right hon. Gentleman to be brief. In answer to his question, my impression is that the Government have no such powers, but I will cause inquiries to be made and inform him. But I do not think we can say that his question is relevant to this Clause 4, which has the narrow application that I will endeavour to explain. Although the discussion has ranged rather widely, the sole purpose of the Clause is to extend to silk and artificial silk special arrangements in certain individual cases which exist for the generality of duties under the Acts of 1921 and 1932.
I am glad that the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) and 348 the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes) have raised this point, for I welcome the opportunity to give the assurances for which they rightly ask. The new provision will not be used to undermine the present structure of protective duties in respect of artificial silk. I can categorically assure the hon. Lady that Clause 4 extends exactly Section 12 of the 1951 Act, and I can also assure her that it will be administered precisely in the same way.
The Act which we are now extending—the 1951 Act—has been administered very tightly indeed and exemptions from duty are given only subject to two definite conditions. The first is that the manufacturer concerned must show that he needs the exemption from duty in order to obtain exports. He must show that he needs it for an order and that he has a particular order in mind. Secondly, he must show that to obtain that order he must import the raw material. Both those conditions have to be met before the scheme comes into operation.
I should think that it would not be used often, but in some cases it will be particularly useful. The drawback on nylon yarn is very much less than the rate of duty, which means that the drawback system in that case does not work particularly effectively. There are certain new man-made fibres, like orlon, which I believe are not manufactured in this country and which it may be useful for an exporter to obtain in order to manufacture some new article for export.
The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) asked why this could not be dealt with by a general review of the drawback system. That is an alternative was of doing it, but we consider that it would be far more clumsy and far slower. We are here dealing with a problem which is urgent but is related to a fairly limited number of instances, and we think it more practical and more in the interests of both exports and the home trade—which, as the hon. Lady rightly said, must be considered—to proceed by an extension of Section 12 of the 1951 Act rather than by the cumbersome procedure of altering the whole drawback system.
§ Mr. Holt
I had not understood this before. I understood that anyone importing and then exporting, automatically 349 received the drawback, but as the hon. Member has explained it, under Section 12 of the 1951 Act the importer has to obtain approval for the individual case before he can be guaranteed that, having imported it and then re-exported it, the duty on the original import will be for-gone. It is not a general release from this import duty for anyone trading in the commodity, but is particular to every individual import and re-export.
§ Mr. Maudling
Surely the hon. Member is aware that there is a drawback system already in operation in respect of artificial silk. My point was that it was not adequate in certain instances and that this Clause deals with those instances.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 5.—(EXEMPTION OF WORKS OF ART FROM IMPORT DUTIES.)
§ Dr. Stross
I beg to move, in page 3, line 14, at the end, to add:and shall be further modified by omitting from subsection (1) the words 'specified in the order, being a museum or gallery the expenses of which are defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament'.
§ The Temporary Chairman
It would be convenient if the Committee discussed at the same time these two Amendments—the first in the name of the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) and the second in the name of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), both in line 14.
§ Dr. Stross
I should like to make it clear that we quite understand that Clause 5 is essential, in some part at least, so that we may be able to repair the gap—in words similar to those used by the Financial Secretary—and so that we can import lithographs, which otherwise were excluded. When we look at Section 4 (4) of the 1937 Finance Act we find that the works of art specified there aresculptures, whether in the round, in relief or in intaglio, and engraved or etched blocks, plates or other material and impressions thereof.This obviously includes drawings and etchings, but apparently cuts out litho-graphs. We do not want these cut out if they are of the right kind.
350 Attempts were made in the 1937 Act to see that all the works of art which we import are of the right type. It is made clear that the Treasury imposes certain safeguards, asking the directors of certain museums and galleries to certify that works of art are suitable to be brought into the country for this purpose. In Section 4 of the 1937 Finance Act we note tendencies which we think ought to be reviewed. They are out of date. They suggest that no one is suitable to make a review and certify that a work of art is suitable for importation unless he is a director or curator of one of those museums and galleries which are supported by money from Parliament.
That means that choice is limited to about 20 national collections, because Parliament does not support any other gallery among the 500 or 600 in the country. That is invidious. Therefore, we ask for the modification proposed in the Amendment. If the Amendment is accepted, the Treasury will be able to appoint anyone in the country. Why should we do this? Why should we be submitting a further Amendment which refers to local authorities having in their areas a population of more than 200,000, so that the directors or curators shall be fit and proper persons to certify works of art? We do so because we think it is a mistake to assume nowadays that only directors of national collections are fit and proper persons. We have no desire or intention to criticise the directors of the great institutions which we call national. They are among our most gifted citizens.
On the other hand, the men for these posts are recruited from among those for whom I am appealing. They come as a rule from the provincial art galleries and museums which they served before becoming heads of the national institutions. I see, sitting below the Gangway, the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham), who knows more about this than I do. I read with interest the book he wrote before the war, describing the condition of provincial art galleries and museums. I have a copy of it in my locker outside the Chamber. He pointed out that we had then some 700 art galleries and museums. They were privately and municipally controlled. They were very varied, but some were great institutions. 351 The purpose of the Amendments is to draw attention to the fact that there are in these institutions people whom we think could be nominated. They may not be nominated, and they will not grumble if they are not. We have, for instance, a fine institution in Stoke-on-Trent, where a new gallery is being built, thanks to the assistance of certain people attached to the Government; and I want to say how grateful we are for that assistance.
It is a mistake today to perpetuate the attitude that we used to have in 1937 and before that, and we must not go on repeating that sort of mistake. Among the national collections, there is the National Museum of Wales, in Cardiff. Cardiff is now the principal city of Wales. Before the war Wales had the extraordinary distinction of having a national collection, and 50 per cent. of the money towards its upkeep was found from the rates. Parliament found only half the money required for the Welsh national collection. I must not proceed further on this point because time is getting on, and the point may be a bit wide, but I could not help but note that it is a great pity that Wales should be treated like this.
The second Amendment deals with only a small matter. We request some information on this question of expenses. How can they be incurred? If we are told that directors and curators have to travel out of the country, that would be a different matter and we would not proceed with the matter.
With reference to the third Amendment, which is the main burden of my contention, I hope that it will be possible for the Financial Secretary to acquiesce in what we are asking for. The provinces are getting a bit tired of this invidious distinction between their capacities and those of the Metropolis.
§ Major Sir Frank Markham (Buckingham)
I appreciate the kindly words that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent. Central (Dr. Stross) has said about my connection with the museum and art gallery movement, but it is certainly not wider than his own, and I bow to a great authority on the opposite benches.
I support the gist of these Amendments without approving the words. The hon. Gentleman has made it clear that what 352 he wants to see is the certificating range extended, but, unfortunately, I do not think he goes far enough. He would extend it from the great national galleries to the great provincial galleries that are rate supported by local authorities of over 200,000 population. This wording would exclude some of the finest galleries in the country. The remarkable Bowes Museum, at Barnard Castle, would be excluded because it is situated in a locality with a population of well under 200,000. The Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, would be excluded because it is not supported from the rates, and most of our great university museums and art galleries would similarly be ruled out.
I should like the Financial Secretary and indeed the hon. Gentleman himself to consider alternative wording on the lines of, "any institution recognised by the Museums Association as being a competent authority." If something like that could be agreed between the two sides of the Committee, it would be of great benefit to art and culture in this country.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
I am happy to associate myself with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) on two of the Amendments which are being discussed, but I am not very happy about agreeing with him on the third of these Amendments. I agree very much with what the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham) said. I think it is quite wrong that we should confine this permissive power to directors or curators of museums or art galleries which are wholly paid for out of funds provided by this House.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has given certain examples of museums and art galleries which would be excluded. There are also other examples which occur to one, as, for example, the Ashmolean Museum. I brought with me the "Directory of Museums and Art Galleries" produced by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Buckingham, from which I find that the Ashmolean Museum is financed by endowments and university and Government grants. Therefore, presumably, it would not be possible for the director or curator to give one of the certificates provided under the Import Duties Act. 1932. 353 The Fitzwilliam Museum art Cambridge enjoys very much the same position. It is financed by several endowments. The Courtauld family apparently endowed it with £100,000. It is also supported by university funds and subscriptions raised by an organisation called the Friends of the Fitzwilliam Museum. That museum is most remarkable. It contains paintings by Titian, Rembrandt, Reubens, Hogarth, Turner, Constable, Corot, Degas, Cezanne, Matisse and others. It seems remarkable that we should give permission to various museums and art galleries supported by the State and yet put the curator of the Fitzwilliam Museum in a category in which he is not entitled to give these certificates.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
Will my hon. Friend not agree that the position is even more anomalous since the present curator was recently, while assistant at the Victoria and Albert, entitled to?
§ Mr. Greenwood
Yes, indeed. I thank my hon. Friend for his support of the case.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Buckingham instanced a number of provincial museums, and one that strikes me as fit to be included in the category is Leeds City Art Gallery, of which the present curator of the National Gallery was at one time the curator. It contains a most remarkable collection of paintings and, perhaps, one of the finest collection of modern paintings in the country. The Walker Collection at Liverpool, I should have thought, was another that could have been deemed suitable to be included in the Clause. Perhaps the most remarkable omission is the Courtauld Institute, one that should have had a considerable appeal for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It really does seem anomalous that Professor Anthony Blunt should not have power to give certificates prescribed in the Bill. He is not only the Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures but also Professor of Fine Art in the University of Liverpool, and is as well equipped as most curators and directors allowed by the Bill to give certificates. It seems the position is a wholly untenable and unjustifiable one.
On the other hand, the Amendment may be a little too restrictive in its scope. It is, perhaps, significant that my hon. Friend has fixed the figure at 354 200,000 when one realises that Stoke-on-Trent has a population of 275,000. The rather arbitrary figure he has decided on would exclude such provincial towns as Rochdale with 90,000 people, which has, nevertheless, a remarkably good art gallery; Huddersfield, with 129,000; Norwich. with 117,000, where there is a fine collection of works by Crome and Cotman; Colchester, where research has been carried out in recent years that has given it a distinctive character.
This idea that one can assess the importance of a museum or the qualifications of a director or curator by whether a town has a population of 200,000 is impossible to justify. Why should we thus say that Croydon may have the power and Stratford-on-Avon should not, that Harrow may do it and Canterbury not, that Monmouth is qualified and Merioneth is not, that Portsmouth can and Southampton cannot, that Manchester can and Salford cannot? As for Stoke-on-Trent, it is in a specially distinguishing position.
The general results of my hon. Friend's Amendment would be that 17 towns in England would have this power; four Metropolitan boroughs in London, including Islington and Lewisham, but not the City of London: that one town in Wales would have the power; that two Welsh counties—Glamorgan and Monmouthshire—would have it, and 37 English counties. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) suggests that perhaps I have overlooked Scotland, but I was not able to do the necessary research, so I hope our discussion will continue sufficiently long tonight to enable him to visit the Library and carry out the necessary research for himself. Then, perhaps, we may have the benefit of hearing from him at a later stage.
I think it is impossible to draw a hard and fast line of this kind. There is, I think, the additional difficulty that in the wording chosen by my hon. Friend, the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central it appears that even a token payment on the part of a local authority would qualify the curator or director to possess these powers. We might have the position in which, for example, Monmouthshire County Council, by a small donation or subscription to a museum or art gallery in its area, would thereby qualify the curator or director.
§ Dr. Stross
I do not understand that point because, as I understand, at present the situation is that only those galleries and museums which receive their assistance through Parliamentary funds qualify.
§ Mr. Greenwood
Yes. What my hon. Friend is asking the Committee to agree to is that we should include museums or galleries, the expenses of which are supported by any local authority having a population of over 200,000. My hon. Friend does not say contributed exclusively by the local authority, but actually uses the words "supported by any local authority," and I do not think that that wording is sufficient to justify us in giving it our support tonight.
We cannot draw a hard and fast line in matters of this kind. It must depend on the qualification of the curator or director as to Whether we are going to give him these powers, and I would like to support the plea made by the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham. I hope that the Economic Secretary will give us an undertaking that he will look into the matter before we reach the Report stage, because I am sure we can reach a more elastic solution of the problem than it looks as though we shall reach tonight; and any elastic solution will be a better proposition than that which has been made so far.
§ Mr. K. Robinson
I should like, briefly, to support the Amendment moved so very persuasively by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross). I think there is general agreement in the Committee that there is no argument whatever for limiting the issue of these certificates to the directors or curators of the national museums and collections. There seems to be little support for the third Amendment and I think it is generally agreed that this suggestion for local authorities with populations of 200,000 and upwards is not really acceptable.
I should like to join with the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham), and my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), in asking the Government to suggest some other form of limitation, because, clearly, we cannot leave this to any museum in the country, since there are some very small museums with a staff of only one. But I do not 356 think the Committee would want this limitation, as it exists, to continue.
Before we can decide what the appropriate limitation should be, it would be as well if the Economic Secretary could tell us just how this machinery works. Can he say whether a would-be importer of a work of art gets the certificate from the curator of the museum which he prefers, or, whether, as has been suggested by other hon. Members, the Treasury nominates a director or curator to which the would-be importer would have to go? If we know what the machinery is, we can probably decide what the best form of limitation would be. I hope that the intention of this Amendment will be sympathetically appreciated and carried out by the Government.
§ Mr. Maudling
I think there is a certain amount of misunderstanding about this question, because what is described as a power to issue certificates is not by any means a privilege or commendation. It is merely getting someone to do a bit of Customs administration on behalf of the Government.
There is no question whatever of suggesting that directors of any particular set of museums or galleries have any higher technical qualifications than those of other galleries. The fact that a director of a museum may be able to issue certificates does not make any difference to the position of the museum because the vast majority of museums have to present exemption from duty in regard to exhibits, or specimens, which they want to bring into the country.
The certification procedure arose under the Act of 1937, which gave the Treasury power to prescribe by order what directors of museums could give these certificates, provided that they were directors of museums the expenses of which are defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament. An order was made in 1937 and, in fact, the work of certification was given to the director of the Tate Gallery. That was the position until December, 1953, when the authority to certify etchings and engravings was transferred to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Those are the only people under these orders who have issued certificates.
The system has worked quite satisfactorily since 1937. We have had no complaints from importers that they have 357 been badly treated, or that the system has not worked properly. So far as expenses are concerned, I am told that the present expenses of certification are about £25 a year, which is not a large sum. But, because they are provided from public funds, statutory provision has to be made for their payment.
As I was saying, the orders provided that the Treasury may give this power of certification to a director of a museum, or gallery, if the museum, or gallery, is one, the expenses of which are defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament. In practice, these powers have been exercised by the gentlemen to whom I have referred.
All they are doing is doing for the Customs and Excise a job which the Customs are not qualified to do, because they have to decide whether etchings or sculptures can be certified as works of art. They are acting for and assisting Customs in this matter.
§ Dr. Stross
Supposing the port which is used by the importer were Hull or Liverpool, would it be necessary to send the works of art to town for certification even if he wanted it at Hull or Liverpool?
§ Mr. Maudling
This is a system which has been working quite satisfactorily.
I should like to say once again that there is no question Whatever of drawing distinctions of competence between different directors of different galleries. That would be nonsense. This certification procedure does give exemption from Customs duties imposed by this House and surely the constitutional position must be that anyone who has power to grant exemption must be someone employed in an institution, the moneys of which are provided by this House and therefore, to some extent, under the control of this House.
The reason the system works as it does is constitutional. It is not a technical reason at all and I would suggest it is a sound constitutional principle that when one is giving power to an individual to waive a legal duty or tax, then that individual should be a member of an institution which comes under the control of Parliament. That is the reason for the present position. It is for that 358 reason alone and for no reason whatever of trying to draw invidious distinctions between different technical experts that the Government cannot accept the Amendments.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Sheffield, Neepsend)
My hon. Friends have made it perfectly clear that the second of the three Amendments to make subsection (3) cease to have effect as from 31st July, 1954, was one on Which they did not feel very strongly. Indeed, they were asking for information upon it, which has now been supplied. They made it equally clear that they felt strongly on the first and third Amendments to page 3, line 14. They were joined in that feeling by the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham), who obviously spoke with great knowledge of the matter.
The only answer made to our pleas is that Section 4 of the 1937 Act does not convey a privilege. Nobody on either side of the Committee had said that it gave a privilege, but it gives power. The whole point of the debate is that that power should be given to more people than are at present qualified to hold it. Simply to say that power is a power and not a privilege is no kind of answer at all.
We have had a very informed debate and have listened to hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who, obviously, have studied this matter very deeply. It seems perfectly indefensible to limit the conveying of the power to the national museums only. Many hon. Members have given examples of museums and art galleries which it is quite indefensible to exclude from this power. After listening to the debate and the very inadequate and disappointing answer made to it I very much hope that my hon. Friends will carry the matter to a Division.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
Is not this a question of the choice, at the disposal of the Government, of the panel from which they select one or two assessors? Surely there is no power at all involved.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes. 177: Noes, 196.359
|Division No. 116.]||AYES||[11.4 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Hamilton, W. W.||Parker, J.|
|Adams, Richard||Hannan, W.||Pearson, A.|
|Albu, A. H.||Hargreaves, A.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Hayman, F. H.||Popplewell, E.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Porter, G.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Herbison, Miss M.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W)|
|Baird, J||Hobson, C. R.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Bence, C. R.||Holmes, Horace||Rankin, John|
|Benson, G.||Holt, A. F.||Rhodes, H.|
|Beswick, F.||Houghton, Douglas||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hoy, J. H.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Blackburn, F.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Ross, William|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Royle, C.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Boardman, H.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley|
|Bowen, E. R.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Snow, J. W.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Jones, T. W (Merioneth)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Carmichael, J.||Keenan, W||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Kenyon, C.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Coldrick, W.||King, Dr. H. M.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Coltick, P. H.||Lawson, G. M.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Lewis, Arthur||Thornton, E.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Logan, D. G.||Timmons, J.|
|Deer, G.||MacColl, J. E.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Delargy, H. J.||McInnes, J.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Dodds, N. N.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||West, D. G.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Marquand, Rt. Han. H. A.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mayhew, C. P.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mikardo, Ian||Whiteley, Rt. Han. W.|
|Fennyhough, E.||Mitchison, G. R.||Wigg, George|
|Finch, H. J.||Monslow, W.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Moody, A. S.||Willey, F. T.|
|Foot, M. M.||Morley, R.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Forman, J. C.||Mort, D. L.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Moyle, A.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mulley, F. W.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Murray, J. D.||Willis, E. G.|
|Gooch, E. G.||Nally, W.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R||Oldfield, W. H.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Grey, S. F.||Oliver, G. H.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Orbach, M.||Wyatt, W. L|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Oswald, T.||Yates, V. F.|
|Grimond, J.||Paget, R. T.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Hale, Leslie||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvile (Colne Valley)||Palmer, A. M. F||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Pargiter, G. A||Mr. Wallace and Mr. George Rogers|
|Aitken, W. T.||Braine, B. R.||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W H||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Alpert, C. J. M.||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Deedes, W. F.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Browne, Jack (Govan)||Digby, S. Wingfield|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G T||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Bullard, D. G.||Donner, Sir P. W.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M||Burden, F. F. A.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Carr, Robert||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Cary, Sir Robert||Erroll, F. J.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Channon, H.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Fort, R.|
|Birch, Nigel||Cole, Norman||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Colegate, W. A||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell|
|Black, C. W.||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollck)|
|Boothby, Sir R. J. G.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Gammans, L. D.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Garner-Evans, E. H|
|Glover, D.||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Godber, J. B.||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Scott, R. Donald|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Gower, H. R.||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Shepherd, William|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Maude, Angus||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Maudling, R.||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Speir, R. M.|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Mellor, Sir John||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Heath, Edward||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Neave, Airey||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Nicholls, Harmar||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Strauss, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Nicholson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Summers, G. S.|
|Horobin, I. M||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Nugent, G. R. H.||Teeling, W.|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Odey, G. W.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hurd, A. R.||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Osborne, C.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N|
|Jenkins, R. C. D. (Dulwich)||Page, R. G.||Tilney, John|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Perkins, Sir Robert||Turton, R. H.|
|Kaberry, D.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Vaughan-Morgan, J K.|
|Kerr, H. W.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Langford-Holt, J. A||Pitman, I. J.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Wall, P. H. B.|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Powell, J. Enoch||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Lindsay, Martin||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Profumo, J. D.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Ramsden, J. E.||Wellwood, W.|
|Longden, Gilbert||Rayner, Brig. R||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Redmayne, M.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Remnant, Hon. P.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|McCallum, Major D.||Ridsdale, J. E.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Roper, Sir Harold||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.|
|Maclean, Fitzroy||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Sir Cedric Drewe and Mr. Wills.|
|Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Russell, R. S.|
|Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood
I had hoped to have been able to move an Amendment the effect of which would have been that no order could be made in respect of more than 50 replicas or impressions of a work of art. In some ways I am relieved that I have not had the opportunity of moving that Amendment because, in matters of this kind, I believe it is unwise to be too precise. I hope that in this matter the Chancellor will proceed on Wordsworth's principle:Give all thou canst; high Heaven rejects the lore Of nicely-calculated less or more.I welcome the concession the Chancellor is making in Clause 5 in respect of lithographs, because I believe that that is an acknowledgement of a form of art which has added greatly to human enjoyment and had political repercussions of importance. For years the fight against greed and bigotry was carried on in two French papers, "La Caricature," which 362 was suppressed in 1835, and "Le Charivari," which survived into this century. On these papers, Charles Philipon recruited the services of Daumier, Gavarni and Gustave Dorée and the lithograph was mobilised as a political weapon.
While Gavarni concentrated on satire, Daumier and Doré pictured the mean streets and hovels that were the characteristic lot of most of the poor people in France. As a result of Philipon's efforts, the medium which Vernets and Raffet had used to publicise Napoleon's Grand Army of the Empire was used as a weapon against authority. The curious, ironical thing is that the process of lithography was discovered mostly by accident. It was discovered by a German, Alois Senefelder—
§ The Chairman
I cannot hear very clearly, but does what the hon. Member has said apply to this Clause?
§ Mr. Greenwood
Yes, indeed, Sir Charles. It has considerable relevance 363 to this Clause because one of the effects of the Clause will be to extend the concession to lithographs, which previously has been extended to other works of art and the Chancellor, as a man of great aesthetic perception, has decided that it shall apply to this form of art. I thought it right to explain to hon. Members who are not so well acquainted with the subject as the Chancellor how this form of art came into existence.
It came into existence as the result of an accident. The inventor was accustomed to experiment with various forms of copper plates for engraving, and his practice was to grind the ink which he used on a slab of stone called Solenhofen stone. [Laughter.] I am sorry that hon. Members do not seem to understand the full implications of what I am saying. The stone comes from Munich, and is capable of being highly polished to a smooth surface.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I had great hopes, Sir Charles, of being able to explain the origin of lithography and the general development of the art in the printing of music. I had also hoped to tell the Committee one or two remarkable and moving facts about the life of John Sebastian Bach.
§ Mr. Greenwood
Perhaps I should be going rather wide of the Clause if I went into details.
Lithography, when it had been discovered quite accidentally, for reasons which I have been unable to describe, was used very widely for the printing of music and in connection with textile manufacture. It was because of the great use to which it was put in the earlier years of the last century that it was officially used by Senefelder—
§ The Chairman
I have been very patient. I hope the hon. Gentleman will now come to the Clause that we are discussing.
§ Mr. Greenwood
The last thing I want to do is to trespass on your tolerance and good nature, Sir Charles. In view of what you say, I will conclude by adding that, this form of art having been 364 developed, it is certainly appropriate at this time that we should give it the protection which has been denied it too long, under the Import Duties Act, 1932, and the Finance Act, 1937. I extend my warmest congratulations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
I move this with the usual purpose of ascertaining from the Chancellor of the Exchequer the intentions of the Government. We have had a very interesting series of discussions, ranging from music halls and circuses to the eel-worm in relation to chicory, which I am sure the Chancellor found most interesting. It has ended with a most remarkable address on the origins and development of lithographs. The Chancellor will perhaps feel that, having covered such a wide field and having completed no fewer than five Clauses of the Finance Bill, this is a suitable moment to adjourn so that we can return tomorrow, refreshed, to tackle further complicated Clauses.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
It is a great pity that we could not add to the collection of curiosities and interesting subjects the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle), who intended to describe some of the difficulties of registration. If the right hon. Gentleman does not want to add that to his catalogue, it would be wiser for us to adjourn so that the hon. Lady may start fresh in the morning and may give us the benefit of her advice on registration.
We will certainly try to proceed in the spirit which has prevailed over all but about two minutes of today and will attempt to make some satisfactory progress. We have done one part of the Bill and we should at least achieve a second part tomorrow, which, I think is quite reasonable. Indeed, I should like to make even further progress. It may be necessary to sit a little later tomorrow, but I do not want to be unreasonable. Let us adjourn tonight and make progress tomorrow.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.