§ House again in Committee (according to Order): The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.
§ Clause 1:
§ Provisions as to cinematograph entertainments.
§ 1.—(1) The authority having power, in any area to which this section extends, to grant licences under the Cinematograph Act, 1909, may, notwithstanding anything in any enactment relating to Sunday observance, allow places in that area licensed under the said Act to be opened and used on Sundays for the purpose of cinematograph entertainments, subject to such conditions as the authority think fit to impose:
Provided that no place shall be allowed to be so opened and used unless among the conditions subject to which it is allowed to be so opened and used there are included conditions for securing—
(b) that such sums as may be specified by the authority not exceeding the amount estimated by the authority as the amount of the profits which will be received from cinematograph entertainments given while the place is open on Sundays, and from any other entertainment or exhibition given therewith, and calculated by reference to such estimated profits or to such proportion of them as the authority think fit, will be paid as to the prescribed percentage thereof to the authority for the purpose of being transmitted to the Cinematograph Fund constituted in accordance with the provisions of this Act, and as to the remainder thereof to such persons as may be specified by the authority for the purpose of being applied to charitable objects;
and for the purpose of any conditions imposed by an authority as to the payment of sums calculated by reference to such estimated profits as aforesaid, the profits shall be computed in such manner as the authority may direct.
§ (3) If, in any place allowed under this section to be opened and used on Sundays for the purpose of cinematograph entertainments, any person is employed on any Sunday contrary to the conditions subject to which the place was allowed to be so opened and used, and it is proved—
- (a) that the employment was solely due to an emergency caused by a mechanical breakdown, or to the unavoidable absence of a skilled worker due to attend on that Sunday for whom no substitute could readily have been obtained; and
- (b) that the emergency was notified, within twenty-four hours after it occurred, to the authority by whom the place is licensed under the Cinematograph Act, 1909; and
- (c) that the person employed on that Sunday contrary to the said conditions received a day's rest in lieu of that Sunday;
§ (5) This section extends to every area in which places licensed by the authority having power in that area to grant licences under the Cinematograph Act, 1909, were, within the period of twelve months ending on the sixth day of October, nineteen hundred and thirty-one, opened and used on Sundays for the purpose of cinematograph entertainments, in pursuance of arrangements (not being arrangements relating only to specific occasions) purported to have been made with the authority, and shall also extend to any borough or county district to which it may be extended by an order laid before Parliament in accordance with the provisions of the Schedule to this Act, and approved by a Resolution passed by each House of Parliament.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM moved in paragraph (b) of the proviso in subsection (1), after "percentage thereof," to insert "if any." The noble Viscount said: This Amendment is one which I think will meet with general approval. The purpose of the Amendment is to make it quite clear that there will be no obligation upon the Secretary of State to prescribe that any percentage shall be set aside for the purposes described in Clause 2. It was never intended that it should be obligatory on the Secretary of State to set aside a sum of money in any one year. The maximum limit was prescribed of 5 per cent., but it was always intended that he should only have power to prescribe such a percentage as seemed to him, after consultation with the authorities and the Privy Council, could be usefully spent. If it turned out in any 653 one year there were no useful means of spending the money the percentage would be annulled.
It was not quite clear in the Bill, or at least it was thought it might not be, that it was open to the Secretary of State to say that there should be no percentage and the words "if any" are proposed to be inserted so that the paragraph will read:
calculated by reference to such estimated profits or to such proportion of them as the authority think fit, will be paid as to the prescribed percentage thereof, if any, to the authority for the purpose of being transmitted to the Cinematograph Fund.
I have to explain that there is another Amendment down with regard to Clause 5. Those two Amendments read together make it certain that the Secretary of State will not be under any obligation to prescribe any percentage at all in any year unless he thinks it useful so to do.
§ As I am mentioning this Fund I do not know whether it would be convenient to your Lordships if I were to answer the questions raised by the most rev. Primate yesterday. The most natural place would be on the question that Clause 2 stand part and perhaps the Committee would prefer it to come then. I was only wondering whether we should not approach that discussion a little more intelligently if I were to give now an answer to those questions.
§ LORD ASKWITH
I think it would be more clear if it were done now—certainly with regard to my own Amendment.
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
Before the noble and learned Viscount continues there is one point I should like to mention. I think the noble and learned Viscount stated that the amount to be taken from the profits and put into the Fund was in no case to exceed 5 per cent., but in lines 3, 4 and 5 of page 2 the Bill says:such sums as may be specified by the authority not exceeding the amount estimated by the authority as the amount of the profits,and there it would seem they could take the whole of the profits. Perhaps the noble and learned Viscount will explain how those two things work in.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
If my noble friend looks through the clause carefully he will see that he is dealing with two different things. Where it is said that 654 the authority may take away the whole of the profits that is the sum which they may insist on being paid over to charitable purposes. Lower down in the part we are now discussing, where we are dealing with the percentage, that is where the amount must not exceed 5 per cent. of the total taken away. The 5 per cent. will be found in the Definition Clause which states that the prescribed percentage "means such percentage, not exceeding 5 per cent." I hope that point is cleared up.
I will now just answer the two or three questions which the most rev. Primate was good enough to address to me yesterday with regard to the Cinematograph Fund and its application. The most rev Primate summarised his questions at the end of his speech in column 630 of the OFFICIAL REPORT. He asked first: "Is this Fund to be earmarked specially for a proposed film institute or available for all concerned in the development of the industry?" The answer is that it is not to be specially earmarked for a proposed film institute and that it is to be available for all concerned in the development of the industry. As the most rev. Primate told your Lordships, there is at present no film institute. There is no reference to it in the Bill. It is true that in the debate in the Committee stage in another place the mover of the original Amendment moved it largely on the ground that a very influential committee had made a report which suggested the creation of such an institute. If such an institute be created it will be eligible to apply for a share in the Fund. Whether it will get any such assistance will depend on the nature of its constitution and the nature of the work it is performing. I think therefore I can answer that first question in a way which will be entirely satisfactory to the most rev. Primate.
The second question addressed to me was: "If a film institute is contemplated and if it is to have any public character, before any money is given to it will its constitution and powers be submitted to Parliament?" Quite obviously if the film institute is constituted and if it is to have a public character it will be necessary that its constitution and powers should be submitted to Parliament, because you cannot set up a public body without public assent through Parliament. I cannot 655 answer whether the film institute will ever be created. It exists at present only in the report of the committee which has only just been made and has not even been considered by the Government as a whole. Whether or not any such institute will be created and, if it is, whether it will be given a public character are matters which rest with the future. If it is to be given a public character obviously it will be a matter for public discussion.
Then the most rev. Primate, although I do not think he refers to it in his summary at the end, asked whether this film institute was to have any kind of censorship over the films? As I understand, there is no suggestion that it is to have a censorship and so far as I am aware there is no sort of idea that any such duplication of censorship powers is desirable in the public interest or likely to be created. I can assure any of your Lordships who are concerned about the matter that we are not in any way committing ourselves to a film institute whose existence, powers and character are at present unknown, and I am glad to give those assurances which I think would have been satisfactory to the most rev. Primate had he been here, because he said they would largely influence his mind in deciding how far the establishment of the proposed Fund was desirable or not.
The position is that under Clause 2 a Fund is to be administered by the Privy Council for the purpose of the improvement of films and of the character of cinema entertainments, an object which I am sure, after some of the speeches that we have heard from Lord Danesfort and others, will commend itself to your Lordships' House; and we provide by Amendments that we are coming to presently for the most careful audit and for account being given to Parliament of any use that is made of the money paid into that Cinematograph Fund. We are not in any way proposing to give this money to the film institute, if such Fund comes into being, nor are we pledged as to the character that the film institute, if it ever exists, will assume. I am much obliged to your Lordships for allowing me to explain that now, and it will probably be more convenient to discuss the nature of the institute when we come to Clause 2. Possibly, also, my explana- 656 tion will make it easier to concentrate upon relevant points, rather than debate something which is not mentioned in the Bill and is not now in existence, and of the nature of which your Lordships possibly have no more definite idea than I have. My explanation will make it clear that there is no obligation on the Secretary of State to prescribe any particular percentage.
Page 2, line 13, after ("thereof") insert ("if any").—(Viscount Hailsham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD LAMINGTON had on the Paper an Amendment, in paragraph (b) of the proviso in subsection (1), to leave out "to the authority for the purpose of being transmitted to the Cinematograph Fund constituted in accordance with the provisions of this Act." The noble Lord said: I do not know if your Lordships would discuss this now.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
I quite agree, and I do not know whether your Lordships would wish to discuss this Amendment now or wait until we reach Clause 2, which I hope will be deleted from the Bill.
§ LORD IRWIN
Might I suggest that the Amendment should not be moved at this stage? Then, if we are successful in moving out Clause 2, no doubt the House would be willing to accept this Amendment, as consequential, on the Report stage.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM, who had placed on the Paper an Amendment in the same terms, said: I quite agree with the suggestion which has just been made.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
There seems to be complete unanimity, and I was going to make the same suggestion. I am much obliged to Lord Irwin for his suggestion.
§ LORD GREVILLE moved to omit from paragraph (b) of the proviso in subsection (1), "to such persons as may be specified by the authority for the purpose of being applied." The noble Lord said: My object in moving this Amendment is to ask the noble and learned 657 Viscount if, under this Bill, the authorities have power to delegate to an outside body the distribution of the Fund for charitable purposes. My reason for asking this question is that on Tuesday there was a meeting of a great many charities of London—about 190 were represented—and they were asked which of three bodies they would like to have the power of distributing the Fund. The bodies mentioned were, I think, the London County Council, the Cinematograph Proprietors' Association and the Cinematograph Exhibitors Association. I do not know whether your Lordships are aware how at present charities obtain their share of the money from the Sunday performances. It is left to the charities themselves to go round and visit the various cinemas in their district, and anywhere else, and endeavour to get their names on the list and obtain a share of the profits. This may or may not be a very good way of doing it, but what I want to be assured of is that if these powers are delegated by the local authorities to outside bodies, there should be some proper rule and method for allocating these profits. At present it is rather in the nature of a cat and dog fight as to which charity can get to the door of the cinema first and get a share of the profits. That is the reason for putting down the Amendment.
Page 2, line 16, leave out from ("thereof") to ("applied") in line 18.—(Lord Greville.)
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
This is obviously a matter very proper to be raised and considered. I am not at all sure that the noble Lord's description of the present position is quite complete. No doubt it is true that the charities go to the cinemas and try to pursuade the cinemas to allocate some of their profits to them, but before that takes place the council itself has to draw up a list of approved charities. What happens then is that there is a list made up by the County Council—I am speaking of London, because that is what principally matters now—on which certain charities are placed, when the County Council has satisfied itself—or themselves, whichever Lord Bertie pleases—as to the position and objects of the charity. The County Council also assign for each charity on its list a maximum sum beyond which it 658 may not receive any moneys out of this Fund. When that has been done the approved charities can obtain from the different cinemas any sums not exceeding in the aggregate that maximum. As I understand it, and as my noble friend has told your Lordships, there has been some discussion as to the best plan for the future, and I gather that that discussion has not so far resulted in any agreement.
As I understand it, under the Bill there will be one of two different methods which will be open to the licensing authority. Firstly, it will be open to the licensing authority to require all the payments by the different cinemas to be made to certain persons nominated by the London County Council who will be responsible for the distribution. I suppose they will set up a committee which will deal with it themselves. The other plan is to require each cinema to make its payments to persons specified, who would presumably be the secretaries of the charity or charities which are to benefit from the Sunday opening of the particular cinema or cinemas. So that under the terms of the Bill it is open to the licensing authority to keep the distribution in their own hands and it will be possible for the charities themselves to urge the authority to adopt that plan. Personally, if I may express an opinion, I think it would be a very great pity if the distribution of the money were not kept under the more direct control of the London County Council or the licensing authority, and I very much hope that agreement between the cinema industry and the local authorities and the charities may be reached on those lines. My noble friend put down the Amendment in order that the matter might be discussed, and not with a view of pressing it to a Division. Therefore I am not dealing with the technical difficulties of form to which the Amendment would give rise.
I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Viscount for his reply. My only reason for putting down this Amendment was to draw attention to the fact that when a charity got on this list it was entirely at the good will of the various cinema concerns. The actual authority did not place any charity on the list, but accepted the list of charities from the Cinema Association, or whatever the body was. 659 Having drawn attention to that, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved, in subsection (3), to leave out "it is proved" and insert "either (i) it is proved." The noble Viscount said: This Amendment and the following Amendment go together. If your Lordships are good enough to accept them, the effect will be to give an employer a good defence who not only genuinely believes, but also has reasonable grounds for his belief, that the person whom he is charged with employing contrary to this Act has not been engaged by somebody else during the six previous days. He will have to prove to the satisfaction of a Court two things: (i) his genuine belief, and (2) that he has reasonable grounds for it. I think in many Acts there are similar provisions, and I hope on this occasion that the suggestions that such a provision should be inserted will appeal to your Lordships; otherwise, however unwittingly an employer has acted, he may find himself convicted quite unjustly on technical grounds, and such conviction will always stand on record against him, which would be manifestly unfair.
Page 2, lines 36 and 37, leave out ("it is proved") and insert ("either (i) it is proved").—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
The Government agree that it is reasonable that an employer should not be mulcted if he can prove that he did not knowingly contravene the Statute in question. I understand that the noble Viscount's words are calculated to protect the employer to that extent, and the Government are therefore willing to accept the Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved, at the end of paragraph (c) in subsection (3), to insert:
or (ii) it is proved—
§ The noble Viscount said: This Amendment is consequential, and is the one to which I referred.
Page 3, line 7, at end insert the said paragraphs.—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD FAIRFAX OF CAMERON moved, in subsection (5), to leave out "(not being arrangements relating only to specific occasions)." The noble Lord said: The object of Clause 1 of the Bill as it originally stood was to enable the practice of granting licences for Sunday entertainments to continue where licences have been granted in the past. The Bill has been so amended that past practice cannot be taken into account where permission granted to cinema owners has related only to specific occasions. The alteration has been made by the insertion in subsection (5) of the words "(not being arrangements relating only to specific occasions)." If these words were allowed to remain subsection (5) will not operate in the West Riding of Yorkshire, on whose behalf I have the honour to move this Amendment, unless a Special Order is made pursuant to the latter part of subsection (5) and the Schedule of the Bill, for the reason that all Sunday openings of cinemas in the West Riding are under arrangements relating only to specific occasions. The general rule is not to grant more than one permit per month. As there is no difference in principle between the conditions on which Sunday permits are given in the West Riding for specific occasions and the conditions included in subsection (5), there would appear to be no satisfactory reason for the retention of these words in the Bill. In fact, if they are left there they will interfere with a good many charities getting a considerable amount of money which they are now obtaining.
Page 31, lines 32 and 33, leave out from ("arrangements") to ("purported") in line 34.—(Lord Fairfax of Cameron.)
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I am sorry that the Government cannot accept the Amendment, but in fact the words which are in brackets are put in for the deliberate purpose of preventing what the 661 noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, would like to see happen. The position is this. This Bill is in the nature of a compromise and the purpose of the Bill is primarily to preserve the status quo; that is to say, that in areas in which Sunday openings have taken place regularly in the past without apparent objection by the people Sunday opening shall continue, but that in other places it shall not take place unless the procedure is gone through which is set out in the Schedule and under which it will be necessary to ascertain that the people of any fresh district really desire a change and really desire to adopt Sunday performances.
It so happens that there are three or four areas in this country—the West Riding seems to be one; I believe Birmingham is another—where there has not been regular Sunday opening but where occasionally, for some particular charitable purpose, the authority has seen fit to license an opening. The best instance., I think, is Birmingham where there is known what is known as Cinema Hospital Sunday and on one Sunday in the year all the cinemas are open in order to raise a fund for charitable purposes. If these words which my noble friend seeks to delete are omitted the result will be that in such a place as Birmingham—which I take as a very convenient instance, because once a year the people do not mind, they probably approve of, the practice of opening cinemas to provide a fund for hospitals—it would be possible, without the people being consulted at all, to open the cinemas every Sunday of the year as a regular thing. It may be desirable, of course, to open cinemas all over the country, but that is not the scheme of this Bill. The scheme is that it shall only be done in places where it has commanded assent up to the present, and if any new area wishes to adopt the move of opening on Sunday that shall be done by at first ascertaining that the people of the district want it.
That arrangement, which is really a compromise accepted—I will not say agreed to—by each side, is completely destroyed if the Amendment is carried, because the result then is that without any such consultation of the people of the district, without any inquiry such as is prescribed by the Schedule, wherever it can be shown that once a year, for 662 example, a cinema has been licensed to open for a special purpose, hereafter it may be possible under the terms of the Bill for every cinema in the district to open every Sunday in the year. I am quite sure that is not a proposal which would commend itself to your Lordships because, quite irrespective of whether or not any of us think that it is a good or bad thing to open cinemas on Sundays, the whole scheme underlying this particular Bill is to ensure that you shall not upset the existing arrangement under which cinemas are regularly opened, without giving the people power to be consulted. It will still be open for West Riding, if it sees fit, to take advantage of the Schedule, and if the people desire regular openings they can get them by the machinery of that Schedule without any great loss of time and without great expense; but if this Amendment is carried, then, without the people being consulted, it will be possible to open not merely occasionally but regularly, and to make the Sunday opening of cinemas a regular practice in districts where hitherto it has been the practice for them to open only occasionally. On those grounds the Government hope that this Amendment will not be carried.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD CLWYD moved to add to the clause:
(6) This section shall not extend to Wales and Monmouthshire.
§ The noble Lord said: The Amendment which stands in my name seeks to exclude from the provisions of the Bill Wales and Monmouthshire so far as they relate to the granting of licences on Sunday. When I ventured to express the views of Wales upon this measure on Second Reading the noble and learned Viscount who leads the House, with his usual courtesy and fairmindedness, said he was quite prepared to listen to any arguments I might be able to bring forward to-day in Committee, but he indicated that there were elements of doubt in his mind whether those arguments would finally convince him. I think the Committee will, however, allow me a few moments to express as briefly as I can the position of Wales in regard to this Bill.663
§ I begin with legislative precedents. I will remind the Committee once more of the two precedents which I adduced on Second Reading, the passing of the Welsh Sunday Closing Bill and the passing of the Welsh Intermediate Education Bill. All I wish to say in regard to those precedents is this. It seems to me that they are an evidence of the fact that Parliament has, in the past, recognised the special conditions and needs of Wales in legislation. Another thing I should like to say in regard to both those special Welsh measures passed by Parliament is that there is not a shadow of doubt as to the value, the benefit and advantage of those measures to the public life of Wales.
§ Another point which I might be allowed to mention in connection with those Parliamentary precedents is this. When we are endeavouring to appraise the importance of Parliamentary precedents in a case of this sort, I think we ought to remind ourselves that these special precedents made in the case of Wales are only incidents in a long-continued demand for a certain degree of devolution of Parliamentary powers in relation to strictly local affairs. That is a big question, and I will not attempt to go into it to-day, but I think the time must come when, in the interests of the public business of the nation, some form or degree of devolution in regard to the treatment of local affairs must be carried into Parliamentary practice, and in that Wales has a very distinct and vital interest.
§ In the meantime, what are we in Wales to do? The only thing we can do when a Bill like this is presented, which has behind it undoubtedly the general assent of the majority in England and is passed against the majority view of the people in Wales, is to move, as I am doing, to exclude Wales. Here we come to the crux of the situation in regard to what we have for a long time regarded in Wales as a Parliamentary injustice—namely, that in relation to a great deal of the legislation passed by Parliament, it must be passed with the support of the majority of the representatives of England but against the wishes and views of the majority of the representatives of Wales, and this has happened in this case. As I reminded the House on Second Reading, in regard to the first form of this measure in the House of Commons twenty-five Welsh Members voted against it and five 664 for it, and when the second form of the measure came up for discussion—the Bill which we are to-day discussing here—in Committee eighteen voted for the exemption of Wales from the operation of the Bill and only two were found to support its inclusion. That, I think, will show the House what the position is. It does seem to me that it is a case which ought, at all events, to receive some consideration.
§ There is this further point in considering the situation of the Bill in regard to Wales. This Bill is not the result of a long-continued demand from the electorate of the country. It is not the result of the verdict of any Parliamentary Election. This Bill, as it comes before us to-day, is the result of what might be termed almost an accident—the wrong interpretation placed upon the law of the land by a certain number of local authorities. Because of that the necessity has arisen for dealing with this legal difficulty. Let me say at once that I recognise the necessity for dealing in some way with that legal difficulty, but the question that is raised in my Amendment to-day—namely, the exemption of Wales and Monmouthshire from the operation of this clause—is not whether that is necessary or not, neither is it a question of whether it is desirable or not that there should be some amendment of the law to meet the undoubted changes which are taking place in public opinion in regard to Sunday observance. The sole point which is raised in my Amendment to-day is whether it is desirable, whether it is right, whether it is just to force the consequences of this special legislation, which has become necessary owing to this accident in the legal position, upon Wales against the views and wishes of the great majority of the people.
§ I am not going to detain the Committee longer. I think I have stated, in outline at all events, the main reasons why I move this Amendment. The people of Wales open this Bill and they see in it the words: "This Act shall not extend to Scotland or to Northern Ireland," and they ask the question: "Why should it extend to Wales?" I think I may be allowed to say this much. The people of Scotland have every right to their views in regard to Sabbath observance, and I recognise the strength of the feeling they entertain with respect to that matter. The feeling in Wales 665 upon that point is at least as strong as it is in Scotland, and I venture to submit to the noble and learned Viscount and to noble Lords behind him that if it is right that the feeling of Scotland upon this point should be regarded, what is right for Scotland, it seems to me, should not be denied to Wales. I therefore move the Amendment which stands in my name.
Page 3, line 39, at end insert ("(6) This section shall not extend to Wales and Monmouthshire.")—(Lord Clwyd.)
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
I really do not appreciate what the grievance of the noble Lord is. He says this Bill is being forced upon Wales. Nothing is being forced upon Wales. Nothing can happen until the local authorities with the approval of the inhabitants of those localities ask for a draft order. There is a complete safeguard for Wales, and home rule.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
Nobody can doubt the sincerity with which this Amendment was moved, or fail to appreciate the moderation of the language in which the argument was couched. I venture respectfully to agree with my noble friend Lord Mount Temple that if this were forcing Sunday opening upon Wales it ought not to be allowed. I see no reason why Parliament should compel any part of the country to open its cinemas on Sundays when that is repugnant to the wishes of the inhabitants. The noble Lord dealt with the necessity of devolution, and for a wider power of local government in Wales. I will not enter into that topic, but in fact this Bill gives it to him because he will no doubt be aware that at the present moment there is no area in Wales which satisfies the condition of Clause 1 (5) of the Bill, and there is only one district in Monmouthshire—Bargoed—which, so far as we know, has Sunday opening. With that solitary exception of the district of Bargoed there is nowhere in Wales where there will be Sunday opening. The only effect of the Bill as far as Wales is concerned will be that if the majority of the people in a particular district of Wales want Sunday opening they will be able to get it by means of a draft order after public inquiry instead of by more expensive and cumbersome means of a Private Bill.
666 My noble friend says the people of Wales do not want Sunday opening. Then they will never get it. The Bill only provides in a case like Wales, where there is no Sunday opening, that if the people of a district make up their minds that they want Sunday opening, and if after all these precautions have been taken of inquiry and investigation by the Secretary of State it is determined that the people really want Sunday opening, it shall be possible for them to get it by an order approved by both Houses of Parliament instead of by a more expensive Private Bill. Why should Wales be denied this privilege which is being extended to England? I think the noble Lord is really getting the local option which he so earnestly desires. If Wales does not want Sunday opening she will not have it, but if she wants Sunday opening it seems very unfair that we should make it snore expensive for her to get it than the rest of the Kingdom.
§ LORD CLWYD
I do not of course intend to put the Committee to the trouble of a Division. I fully recognise the force of what the noble and learned Viscount has said, that there is no coercion in the Bill on this matter and that if local authorities wish to take advantage of the Bill they can do so. The view, however, of those whom I represent to-day is that a change would be made by the passing of this Bill in regard to the law governing Sunday entertainments. It will bring Wales at all events within the possibility of being involved in, that change. Those whom I represent to-day hold very strongly the view that no such change should be made and that Wales should not be brought within that possibility until the people of Wales have had an opportunity of saying that they wish it.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
LORD RHAYADER moved to insert the following new subsection:
(6) This section shall also extend to every county area in which places licensed by the authority having power in that area to grant licences under the Cinematograph Act, 1909, were within the period of twelve months aforesaid opened and used on Sundays for the purposes aforesaid for occasional performances conditional upon the profits being applied to charitable purposes provided that no licences for such occasional performances shall be granted in excess of twenty-four in any one year.
§ The noble Lord said: I desire to move the Amendment standing in the name of the Earl of Strafford, but not exactly in the form in which it appears on the Paper. I propose to put in the word "county" and move it in this form: "This section shall also apply to every county area" and so on. The purpose of the Amendment is to deal with the point which was raised by the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax. The cause of the Amendment is the insertion of the words in subsection (5) "(not being arrangements relating only to specific occasions)". Those words were not in the Bill as originally introduced in the House of Commons. They were put in, I think, on the Report stage in the other House. The effect is to deprive the West Riding of Yorkshire and the County of Middlesex of the power to allow cinemas to open on specific occasions on Sundays for charitable purposes.
§ I move this Amendment on behalf of the County of Middlesex. I do not think that when the Bill was introduced it was intended to interfere with that County, where the County Council have kept the licensing of cinemas in their own hands. They have not delegated the power of licensing to the magistrates or to anyone else. They have kept the licensing of cinemas in their own hands and they have on rare occasions allowed cinemas to open in certain places in their area on not more than twenty or twenty-four Sundays in the year. There seems no good reason, when you are sanctioning what has been done in London in the matter of Sunday opening, for depriving the County of Middlesex of the power to continue what they have been doing. If this Amendment or some Amendment to the same effect is not made in the Bill the result will be that the County Council of Middlesex will be quite unable to allow an occasional Sunday cinema opening for charitable purposes. It will have to be all or nothing. Either they must allow cinemas all over the County to be opened on Sundays or none at all. They wish, and I think rightly wish, to have this discretionary power, which they have certainly not abused. If the Government cannot accept the Amendment in the exact form in which I move it, I hope they will take the matter into careful consideration and see whether 668 they cannot meet the wishes of the County Council on the Report stage. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 39, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Rhayader.)
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
This Amendment, I think, raises the same point as the one we dealt with on the Amendment of Lord Fairfax a little while ago and I really said most of what I had to say on that Amendment. I would like, however, to point out that the proposal which the noble Lord puts forward would put the County Council in a very invidious position. They are to be allowed, if his proposal is carried, to license twenty-four performances in any one year. I gather that that does not mean twenty-four performances in every cinema in any one year. I observe that he agrees that it does not mean that. It means therefore that the County Council would have the very invidious task of selecting a certain limited number of cinemas. The Amendment does not even meet the point which my noble friend said he wanted to meet—namely, that of allowing in some cases occasional performances for charitable purposes. I will take again the instance of Birmingham, where the practice is to license every cinema on one Sunday which is called Cinema Hospital Sunday and to give all the proceeds to charity on that occasion. Obviously that could not be done under this Amendment. There are many more than twenty-four cinemas in the City of Birmingham. I think the simpler course is to adhere to the principle which has been laid down in the Bill—that is to say, where Sunday opening is a regular thing it should go on and where it is not then the neighbourhood must be consulted before it is adopted as a practice. I am sorry I am not able to give a more encouraging answer, but that is the view which the Home Office has formed after considering the merits of the proposal which my noble friend has brought forward.
§ LORD ARNOLD
May I take this opportunity to make a very mild, but still a firm objection to the use of the term which the noble and learned Viscount has just employed? The noble and learned Viscount did the same yesterday. Technically, the Home Office has no place under the Constitution at all, and if I may say so with great respect I do not 669 think it is in accordance with Parliamentary practice to quote Government Departments in that way. Quite properly we are not allowed in this House to criticise civil servants and I do not see why they should be quoted against us. Surely the noble and learned Viscount could either say "the Government" or "the Secretary of State."
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I certainly did not mean to quote a civil servant. That would be most irregular. The reason I referred to the Home Office or the Home Secretary rather than to anybody else is that I am here speaking on behalf of a Minister whose Department is not in my charge, and I thought "the Home Office" was a convenient expression to cover that Department. I am obliged to the noble Lord for suggesting that we should not use any language which could be construed as invoking the opinions of civil servants, who do their work most excellently and certainly ought not to be drawn into any sort of controversy. If any word I used could be so construed I unhesitatingly withdraw it.
§ LORD RHAYADER
I confess to some disappointment with the answer which has been given to me. I was led to hope that some more favourable opinion would have emanated, if I may use the expression, from the Home Office. The noble and learned Viscount has not met the point of the Middlesex County Council who are not in the same position as Birmingham. The only course open there is to get some local authority in a given area to make application and that application can only be, not for a specific, but for a general performance. I will not press the matter now, but I will put down the Amendment again on Report and I do ask the noble and learned Viscount to give the matter further consideration because I think he has not really met the difficulty which confronts either the West Riding or the Middlesex County Council.
§ LORD DANESFORT
May I support the appeal of the noble Lord opposite that, the noble and learned Viscount will give this matter further consideration before Report? This is regarded as a subject of great importance by some very important local authorities in the country. There is the Middlesex County Council and I am also asked to support 670 it on behalf of the West Riding County Council. As to the dislike of the Home Office I have some hesitation in always accepting a view put forward by a particular Department, and I venture to urge that before this Bill comes before us again the noble and learned Viscount may not merely take the view of the Home Office, who do not seem very favourable to any change in the law however reasonable, but will possibly consult some other members of the Cabinet with a view to meeting the opinion of important local bodies which he must be anxious to conciliate in order that the Bill may work smoothly.
§ LORD RHAYADER
In the circumstances I will withdraw the Amendment. I intend to put it down again on Report when I hope it will receive more favourable consideration.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ Provisions as to Cinematograph Fund.
§ 2.—(1) There shall be established under the direction and control of the Privy Council a fund, to be called the "Cinematograph Fund," and all sums paid to an authority in accordance with conditions imposed by them under the last foregoing section for the purpose of being transmitted to that fund shall be so transmitted at such times and in such manner as may be prescribed by regulations made by a Secretary of State and laid before Parliament.
§ (2) The moneys from time to time standing to the credit of the Cinematograph Fund shall be applied in such manner as may be directed by the Privy Council for the purpose of encouraging the use and development of the cinematograph as a means of entertainment and instruction.
§ (3) The accounts of the Cinematograph Fund shall be audited annually by an auditor appointed by the Privy Council, and his report thereon shall be laid before Parliament.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM moved, in subsection (2), after "shall," to insert, "subject as hereinafter provided". The noble Viscount said: This Amendment, and the one a little later in my name, at line 11, are both part of the same plan. Their object is to ensure that both the creation of the Fund and the administration of it shall not involve any burden on the taxpayer. Your Lordships will appreciate that that is an object which is important at any time and imperative at the present time. It is not anticipated that the cost of administration will be 671 other than negligible but, whatever it is, clearly it is desirable that it should be met from the Fund itself. The method deducting from the Fund a contribution in aid of the Privy Council vote is the normal method prescribed by the Treasury in such cases. I move this Amendment in order to make intelligible and feasible the proviso which I shall presently move.
Page 4, line 7, after ("shall") insert (",subject as hereinafter provided,").—(Viscount Hailsham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD ASKWITH moved, in subsection (2), to leave out "encouraging." The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment and the two succeeding ones standing in my name is to give a free hand to the Privy Council. To follow out what the noble and learned Viscount has said, this would leave it open for the best man to come in and win. If a film institute ever exists it may apply for a grant; if there were a particular branch of research it might be made available for it to have some grant for that. Again, if schools desired to purchase projectors and hire films they could become applicants whose claims might be considered. The Fund would be open. On the other hand, if the Fund was to be devoted entirely to an institute which may come up later on I should feel grave doubts about considering any Fund at all. But the noble and learned Viscount, in answer to a question of mine on the Second Reading, convinced me that the Privy Council would not have powers under the Bill to appoint a Board which would absorb all the Fund for objects which could not possibly be developed with the money that would be available. Research costs vast sums if properly conducted and it is being conducted in America and in this country by the industry itself.
§ The noble and learned Viscount has convinced me on that and still more he has convinced me by the answers he has given to the questions of the most rev. Primate. Those answers show that this Fund could not possibly be devoted to a film institute in the manner which has been foreshadowed in another place and elsewhere throughout the country. In those circumstances I suggest that the Privy Council be given the fullest oppor- 672 tunity of giving to all who come, according to their deserts and according to the decision which the Privy Council may arrive at, without any restriction saying that it shall be devoted specially to the use of the cinematograph for entertainment or instruction.
Page 4, line 9, leave out ("encouraging").—(Lord Askwith.)
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I really do not think there is any difference between us as to what we want to do in this clause, or the purpose for which this Fund is to be devoted. Really, I think, what we are discussing in this Amendment is a matter of language rather than of principle.
§ LORD ASKWITH
I entirely agree, and I thought the best way of attaining our object was by cutting out the words which I suggest should be omitted by this and my other Amendments.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
Then it really is only a question as to which words are most apt to carry out the object which we both have in view? If the noble Lord's Amendments are carried Clause 2, subsection (2) would then read:The moneys from time to time standing to the credit of the Cinematograph Fund shall, subject as hereinafter provided, be applied in such manner as may be directed by the Privy Council for the purpose of the development of the cinematograph,whereas at present the moneys are to be applied "for the purpose of encouraging the use and development of the cinematograph as a means of entertainment and instruction." The reason why we suggest that it is wiser to keep the language as it is drafted in the Bill is that one wants to indicate the sort of direction in which this development is to take place. I think that it is not only as a source of amusement, but also as a source of education and improvement, that one of the main uses of the cinematograph lies, and we think that by keeping in the words "entertainment and instruction" we place no undue limitation on the Privy Council, because it is difficult to think of any use of the cinematograph which would not fall within one or other of those two words.
The fact that we mention instruction as one of the things which we have in mind does give an indication to those 673 who administer the Fund that they are to use it in the direction of raising the tone and increasing the usefulness of the cinematograph, and gives them a better lead and a better signpost as to the sort of way in which Parliament expects the money to be spent, than if we were merely to leave the language as "for the purpose of the development of the cinematograph." That might be taken to mean only the perfection of the instrument mechanically, which none of us intends. It is because we think that the subsection as it stands carries out what the noble Lord desires a little better than the words which he proposes, that we prefer to keep the subsection as it is.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
The trouble is that the words in the Bill do not conform to the speech made by the noble and learned Viscount. If his speech governed the matter I should be quite satisfied, but his speech is quite different from the phraseology of the Bill. He says that it is merely a matter of words, and that Lord Askwith wants the money to be used for the development of the cinematograph. How can the Privy Council develop the cinematograph? That is being done by people who have millions in their pocket, and how is the Privy Council to do it with only a few thousands in their pockets and no knowledge of the matter whatever? Then, it is "to encourage the use and development of the cinematograph as a means of entertainment and instruction." What business has the Privy Council got to encourage the cinematograph for entertainment? It is being done for us already. Lord Hailsham says that the object is to raise the tone, and earlier on he said that their object was to improve the character of the entertainment. There is nothing of that in the Bill. I look upon Hollywood as one of the most corrupting influences in the world, and if they would try to take up cinematograph censorship and try to stop what is a growing scandal I would support them, but to give them power to spend money "for the purpose of encouraging the use and development of the cinematograph as a means of entertainment and instruction" seems to me to be really farcical.
§ LORD ASKWITH
It seems to me to be really a matter of words, and I am prepared to bow to the legal opinion of the noble Viscount. On the understanding 674 that the clause carries out my object I shall be prepared to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
VISCOUNT HAILSHAM moved, at the end of subsection (2), to insert:
Provided that a sum equal to the amount certified by the Treasury as the amount of the expenses incurred by the Privy Council in the administration of the said Fund shall be deducted annually from the Fund and applied in accordance with directions given by the Treasury as an appropriation-in-aid of the moneys provided by Parliament for the purposes of the Privy Council.
The noble and learned Viscount said: This is the Amendment which I explained to your Lordships a little while ago, and I beg to move.
Page 4, line 11, at end insert the said proviso.—(Viscount Hailsham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM moved, in subsection (3), to leave out "audited annually by an auditor appointed by the Privy Council and his report thereon," and insert "kept in such form as may be directed by the Treasury, and an account showing the revenue and expenditure of the Fund shall be transmitted annually to the Comptroller and Auditor General, who shall certify and report upon the account, and the account and report." The noble and learned Viscount said: This is an Amendment designed to ensure that there shall be effective control over the Fund, and that the audit shall be kept in such a way that it shall satisfy both the Treasury and, what is more important, Parliament itself through its servant and steward, the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Page 4, line 13, leave out from ("be") to ("shall") in line 14, and insert the said new words.—(Viscount Hailsham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
I beg to move that Clause 2 be deleted from the Bill. Clause 2 says:There shall be established under the direction and control of the Privy Council a Fund to be called the Cinematograph Fund.Then, on page 4 of the Bill, it says:The moneys from time to time standing to the credit of the Cinematograph Fund 675 shall be applied in such manner as may be directed by the Privy Council for the purpose of encouraging the use and development of the cinematograph as a means of entertainment and instruction.If I may be allowed to say so, I agree with what Lord Crawford said—namely, that the Privy Council, great body as it is, is not the body, nor has it the means, to decide the best way of developing the cinematograph. It is a novel and dangerous principle to introduce, to give power to the Privy Council to use money which, as I understood, was originally intended to be given for charitable purposes, for assisting and developing an industry—for that is what it really comes to.
I am informed that in another place the proposal was introduced on the Report stage, and was carried only by a very small majority. The Government, as I am informed, took no part in the matter, but left it to a free vote of the House, and it seems to me that it is utterly outside the purpose and scope of the Bill. The Title of the Bill is this:An Act to permit and regulate the opening and use of places on Sundays for certain entertainments and for debates, and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid.There is nothing there which says that it is an Act for enabling the Privy Council or any other body to use funds for the development of the cinematograph, and it seems to me, therefore, that it is outside the Title, besides introducing a very dangerous precedent.
The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham, replied to the criticisms of the most rev. Primate yesterday, and said that the most rev. Primate, in thinking that there was to be a Fund given to a certain body, was really anticipating something which could not occur at present, because before such a body could be created Parliament would have to be consulted. But that has nothing whatever to do with this clause. The clause gives to the Privy Council power to spend certain money. There is no need to go to Parliament for its consent. The clause would give to the Privy Council power to take money which was originally intended to be devoted to charitable purposes, and use it for the development of an industry. As Lord Crawford said, what knowledge have the Privy Council of the cinematograph industry? They know nothing about it. I think my noble 676 friend is a member of the Privy Council, but I do not know whether he knows anything about the development of the cinematograph. I am a member of the Privy Council, and I know nothing about it. If the clause is passed the result Will be that the Privy Council will have to set up a new body—more officials, more inspectors, more spending of money; and apparently all because a certain private Member in another place chose on the Report stage to introduce this clause. I shall certainly go to a Division if I can get anybody to tell with me against the insertion of this most iniquitous clause.
Leave out Clause 2.—(Lord Banbury of Southam.)
§ LORD LAMINGTON
I trust that this clause will disappear from the Bill. It was only introduced at quite a late stage in another place, and in a House of over 300 members there was a majority of only eighteen. I had hoped that after the very incisive remarks made by the most rev. Primate the noble and learned Viscount would have withdrawn the clause altogether. I think it would do nothing but mischief. Why should we have a new taxing authority created to get such an amount of revenue for the purpose of a film fund? My noble friend Lord Crawford asked what was going to happen to this money. How much is to be collected? What will be the real authority to deal with it, and to what purpose is the money going to be devoted? I know nothing about cinemas. My noble friend suggested the other day that I was a great frequenter of films. Any attraction they had for me disappeared when they became "talkies."
The only argument for a film institute is that every other country in Europe has got one. I should not mind a film institute, but let us know more about it. It may be a very good thing indeed, but, as this proposal comes before us, it is very nebulous, and I believe it will be a very great mistake to institute this Fund. If it is desirable to have a film fund, let the cinema companies develop it from within, do not let it be imposed by the Government from without. I trust the Government will withdraw this proposal. I do not believe it has any real support anywhere. Possibly theatres might be opened on Sundays: would you impose a special levy upon them in order 677 to have a better theatre atmosphere? Or, as Lord Marshall said the other day in The Times, you might have a special levy put on Sunday newspapers. Why not? Why should you have a special authority for this purpose? I will tell with my noble friend with great pleasure.
§ LORD IRWIN
Whenever I find myself disposed to differ from my noble friend Lord Banbury I always search my judgment with great anxiety, and indeed I have been in great doubt as to whether on this occasion he was not giving us the right lead. But on the whole I am not disposed, I think, to support him in the Division Lobby if he takes this Amendment to a Division. I think we are it some danger of being misled by the argument that was advanced with great force on the Amendment that preceded this by my noble friend Lord Crawford. It is certainly true, as both he and Lord Banbury have said, that neither I nor, I presume, many members of your Lordships' House are entitled to compete in the actual business of cinema production with those who are already engaged in that line of business. But that is not what I conceive that we are here concerned to do. The purpose of this Fund, if and when established under the Privy Council, is not, surely, to teach the cinema producers how to run their business for profit, but it is rather to use means, and exercise influence, for the creation of a public opinion that will demand a better type of film. If and when that public opinion is created, as those who know say that it can be created, then I think, and only then, are you on the track of getting better films than you in all cases get to-day.
That does not demand technical knowledge, but it does demand a form of propaganda, organisation, education and so on which will gradually give a commercial value to that which, for want of organisation, does not possess a commercial value to-day. On the whole I am inclined to think the case for such an effort as that has been made out. I am not greatly attracted—and in this I agree with my other noble friends—with the proposition for a national film institute. It may, or may not, be a good plan. I certainly do not know enough about it, and the whole project is too vague at the present stage. But that is not the proposal with which this Bill is concerned. 678 Your Lordships have heard what my noble friend the Leader of the House said at an earlier stage in reply to the questions of the most rev. Primate, that if and when it was proposed to set up any kind of statutory body analogous to that of the British Broadcasting Corporation the personnel and powers of such a body would properly be brought before Parliament for discussion.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
Might I ask my noble friend if he would read subsection (2)? He will see that the Privy Council can do whatever they like with the money as long as they use it for encouraging the use and development of the cinematograph. There is nothing about saying the films should be good, bad or indifferent. They can use the money in any kind of way they like to encourage the use and development of cinematographs.
§ LORD IRWIN
If my noble friend means they may in fact apply it badly for purposes other than those of improvement, I suppose the only answer is that the Privy Council on the whole may be trusted to improve rather than deteriorate cinematographs. If he means that under that subsection they can in fact ignore the undertaking that the Leader of the House gave to the most rev. Primate, there again I would venture to differ from him, because the question that my noble friend was answering was whether, if the proposal was to give power analogous to that possessed by the Broadcasting Corporation, that would require to be brought before Parliament. I think it would.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My point was that if this clause is passed we give to the Privy Council the power—Parliament has no control over the Privy Council—to spend a certain sum of money, not for good or bad films but for encouraging or developing the industry. That may be a good or a bad thing, but it is a new procedure that the Privy Council should be given power to do this sort of thing. It seems to me to be all wrong.
§ LORD IRWIN
My noble friend, if he will allow me to say so, is entirely at liberty to entertain the opinion that it is not right to give this power to the Privy Council, but he and I hold different views as to that, and his are as tenable as my own. I am arguing that on the 679 whole for general reasons it is a good thing to give the Privy Council the power. I was further arguing, and I understand my noble friend would now agree, that if they chose to exercise their power by working through something analogous to the British Broadcasting Corporation then they would come back to Parliament.
§ LORD IRWIN
I cannot carry the matter further with my noble friend. I am content to rely on the assurance given by the Leader of the House. I do not know whether your Lordships have seen the report that the most rev. Primate referred to in his speech yesterday. I have, and I fancy it must have been sent to a great many of your Lordships, and certainly for my own part, reading it as an outside layman, I am impressed both with the example in foreign countries of what has been done, with the potentialities of what might be done here, and generally with the case which is there established. From one point of view particularly I am not on the whole disposed to support this. We have heard a great deal about film censors and film censorship. That is only the negative side of our problem as I see it. Censors are designed to prevent anything too bad being put before the public. I want to see something a little more constructive. I want to see some positive effort made to improve the character of films, to counterbalance the negative effort that censors make to prevent films being too bad, and it is along that line, by development, by education and in other ways that I can see a good deal might be done by intelligent action on the part of the Privy Council.
I am impressed with it from another angle. A short time ago I had the privilege of paying a visit to Canada. There I found that a great deal of thinking opinion was greatly concerned by the degree to which Canadian film presentation was influenced and coloured by the film productions from the United States. I am very anxious indeed to try and get more film contact between the United Kingdom and the British Empire. It is difficult to do. I do not pretend to understand exactly how the machine works, but I cannot help 680 supposing that if you could get an intelligent directing central plan organised in this country, encouraging the production or the exchange of a better class of film, that would be an improvement.
There is one objection I might mention before I sit down in which I have considerable sympathy with noble Lords who are supporting the Amendment, and that is—I think Lord Lamington criticised it—that the method of financing this business is very illogical, and upon that ground open to attack. He said quite truly it would be possible on similar grounds to justify expenditure on films and to have a levy on Sunday newspapers and so on. I think that is true, and I think it is a fair logical argument, but I am not greatly affected by it, although I admit that I think the proposed action of the Bill of taking 5 per cent. of Sunday profits in order to improve the quality of films rather resembles the action of the village parson who, on the occasion of the death of a local notable, or the jubilee of a reigning monarch, or the termination of a War, calls a village meeting to collect subscriptions for the renewal of the church heating system. I admit there is no logical connection between the two but on the whole I am prepared to take things as they are. I definitely want to see the purpose achieved of improving the cinema level. I do not think that we can get the money for it at present in any other way. I would have preferred to see the Government, for example, put a duty on all foreign films, but I do not anticipate that is at the moment possible.
§ LORD IRWIN
A further duty on foreign films, and, therefore, being a practical politician, I am disposed to get the money where I can in order to achieve the object I have at heart.
§ LORD SNELL
The noble Lord, Lord Irwin, said that whenever he found himself differing from the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, he felt distressed. I hope the House will not think me discourteous if I say that whenever I find myself agreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, I have the very greatest misgiving as to my decision. He is a very old colleague of mine in the House of Commons, and 681 he has always rendered me the service of keeping me up to my own convictions. I am ready to believe that the method proposed is not the best way of dealing with this very great problem. As a noble Lord said this afternoon, the Hollywood influence is one of the major disasters of the world. Whatever it is, it is there and that is the problem before us. It is not something that we have to create, but it is there before us. We have to make up our minds whether we will allow that to go on or will in some way attempt by educational means to create another standard for film development in our own land.
I have reason to believe from letters I have received recently from cinema proprietors in this country, that they themselves are greatly distressed at the kind of film they are compelled to show in the places they control. One of them, writing to me only two or three weeks ago, said:As a matter of fact British pictures, instead of seeming to get better, are in most instances much worse than they were a year ago.In another phrase he says:In the last month I have trade viewed about.a dozen British pictures and there is not a single one of them fit, for showing in a decent hall.If that is true, we cannot meet the problem merely by saying that Hollywood is not all that it ought to be. In reality the question of film improvement is one of the very greatest urgency and importance. It is not only Canada that feels this question of the American film but it is our far-flung Colonies less able to protect themselves than Canada happens to be. I am not sure that this is the best method of doing it, but I have not the least doubt that your Lordships' House would be wise to pass this as the beginning of a great new development.
The noble Lord, Lord Banbury, in criticising the Privy Council, seemed to imagine that the Privy Council would have control over a matter about which it had no experience. I have not the honour of being a member of the Privy Council but I believe it appoints and controls expert committees and research committees and that it is those committees that do the work. Yet, such is my faith in the Privy Council that I believe, in spite of all, the Privy Council would know a good film from a bad one if they 682 saw it. I beg the Committee to believe that this great new medium of the film, so potent for future good or evil, ought to receive the serious attention of your Lordships and that you ought not to reject this proposal without having something better to substitute in its place.
§ LORD JESSEL
I did not have the privilege of receiving this report which has been referred to. I see that it was referred to yesterday as the report of a Commission with the ambitious title of a Commission on Cultural Films. The noble Lord on my right has read it and he proposes that it should be sent to every member of your Lordships' House. No doubt the persons interested in this matter did not send it to the members of your Lordships' House and therefore we are at a great disadvantage in dealing with this matter. I agree with much that has been said as to the necessity of improving our films, and also of showing many things which interest people in the Empire and generally of taking a higher view than many of the films exhibited now. I cannot understand how that is to be done by the machinery which is to be set up. The Privy Council are to have a certain amount of money to develop the cinematograph film but it was calculated in another place that it would only come to about £8,000. If they are going to create a film, everybody knows what enormous expenditure films entail to make and to create. In some cases sums of no less than £100,000 have been spent in making a film. This money is not sufficient.
Another point has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Snell, who said that he believed there were certain committees of the Privy Council set up for scientific purposes. There are these committees dealing with scientific and medical research and doing very useful work. Why cannot some other means be adopted in this case? It is very wrong too that this clause should have been inserted in this Bill, which was originally intended to regulate a proceeding which had gone on for twenty years in London but which was challenged under the Sunday Observance Act and taken to the Court of Appeal, who decided that the system in London was a breach of that Act. This Bill was brought forward to remedy that state of affairs and was drafted so that 683 other parts of the country should have the same opportunity if they wished. It is not right from the constitutional point of view that another project, which is quite foreign to this Bill, should be put in on the Report stage in another place, especially when it was only carried by eighteen votes in a biggish House.
An excellent speech was made by a member of the Labour Party, Mr. Jack Jones, who knows the working classes as well as anybody in this country, and who said:As far as we are concerned, we have improved pictures. The pictures of twenty years ago used to entertain the people of my division but those pictures would not be looked at to-day by the same people. They want better pictures. They have been educated by experience. What was good enough for our grandfathers is not good enough for us. We ought to have a little more trust in the common people. Trust in the common people is gradually being brought about by educational methods, not only inside a cinema, but outside.Here is another argument for your Lordships' consideration from the speech of the hon. Member and it applies to putting a tax on certain newspapers so as to improve the general quality of the Press. He says:Public houses are open on Sunday. Some people do not like the idea. Why not make a fellow who uses the public house on Sunday pay an extra tax? If you have a levy, it should be on the principle that, whether you use a commodity on Sunday or not, it should be applied all round the map, and not laid down as a special principle confined to a particular industry.''That is the whole of the argument in a nutshell. The whole idea is that this should be a contribution to the hospitals by the cinemas for the privilege of opening on Sundays. You are taking away this sum—it is true it may not be a large sum—from the hospitals. To sum up, I think that there may be a good argument for improving the films but I cannot see how it is going to be done under this clause. We have still got to learn what is done in Japan, which has been quoted, in Italy, where the right rev. Prelate told us the other day an institute exists, and also in Russia. I think it is very dangerous for us to pass in this Bill at this very late period of the Session a far-reaching provision of this kind. If necessity requires it the Government of the day can introduce another Bill, although I personally think it is not necessary. I hope for these 684 reasons your Lordships will support the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Banbury. I think it is a pity the subject should have been introduced into a Bill which has nothing to do with it.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I agree with much that has fallen from my noble friend Lord Jessel. This proposal is entirely foreign to the Bill. It was introduced at the last moment in another place. It is an extemporised Amendment. It was not proposed by the Government, it was not supported by the Government, and in point of fact they took no responsibility for it. The Whips of the Government were not put on in the House of Commons and I assume that the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House will not put on the Government Whips this afternoon. As I say, it is an extemporised Amendment—a scheme obviously, on its surface, not thought out. My noble friend beside me, Lord Askwith, thinks the Amendment attains certain things and the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House claims that the clause attains other things. We have heard entirely contradictory speeches and entirely contradictory interpretations of the clause. The noble Lord, Lord Snell, said that at any rate it is a beginning. I think it is better not to make a beginning at all if the beginning is going to be a bad beginning. We are going to prejudice what may be a very fruitful and what I think is a very necessary instrument if we start off badly, and we are in prospect, with this muddle-headed, ill-defined clause, of starting this thing on thoroughly bad lines.
My noble friend Lord Irwin said: "Trust the Privy Council." Well, I do not trust the Privy Council. In a matter of this kind the Privy Council are not merely amateurs but they are ignoramuses. This is not a matter of scientific research. There is a regular organisation existing, the Committee for Scientific Research, upon which serious responsibility is placed, through votes, I may say, which are voted in the estimates year by year and not in a block scheme such as this clause indicates. Through the Royal Society and other accredited societies they are carrying out specific bits of work. There is no analogy here with the work of the Committee for Scientific Research. My noble friend Lord Irwin says that no technical knowledge 685 is needed for propaganda and organisation. Really propaganda and organisation are the two most intricate and delicate mechanisms of industry and commerce which exist.
§ LORD IRWIN
I do not want to interrupt but the purport of my remarks was not that no scientific knowledge was required for propaganda but that no technical knowledge was required from the members of the Privy Council who would select persons who had it.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I do not believe that for a minute. I do not believe that persons who have no interest in the matter and no knowledge can appoint proper experts. This is entirely different from the Committee for Scientific Research which is based upon very clear-cut methods. I should like this clause to be withdrawn and the matter given further consideration by the Cabinet—I do not want a Select Committee—so that the matter can be brought up in proper form at a later date.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
Of course, a Bill would be required, a Bill ad hoc, a. Bill the title of which would cover it—the title of this Bill does not—a Bill which does not take funds from the hospitals of the country either. If my noble and learned friend Viscount Hailsham and his colleagues will not agree to that, I at least ask them to accept the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Irwin, and regard this as a positive effort to be made. The suggestion I advance as to the best positive effort would be to accept the words from the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham's speech and insert them in the clause—that one object of this new committee shall be the improvement of the character of the films or raising the tone of the films. If he will do that, I will oppose my noble friend Lord Banbury of Southam when he goes to a Division. Failing that I shall support him and vote against the clause.
§ LORD DANESFORT
I am in entire sympathy with the desire expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Irwin, and other members of your Lordships' House that there should be an improvement in the character of the films exhibited not only on Sundays, but on every day of the 686 week. There is room for improvement. I think we are all agreed on that. But I am satisfied that this clause will not advance us one inch in the direction which is desired. In the first place the language of the clause, as the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, pointed out, does not indicate the object which we desire—namely, the improvement of films. The clause speaks of "encouraging the use and development of the cinematograph as a means of entertainment and instruction." If the real object is the improvement of films, why not say so in definite terms? That, however, is not my main objection because that could be got over by a change of words on Report. My second objection, and it is a very far-reaching one, is that the Privy Council is not a suitable body. The noble Earl, Lord Crawford, has already pointed that out and so have other members. The noble Lord, Lord Snell, paid what was no doubt intended to be a compliment to the members of the Privy Council when he said they could go round and judge the films themselves.
§ LORD SNELL
The noble Lord I am sure does not wish to misrepresent me. I said they might not be qualified to judge of the technique of a film, but I had faith enough to think that they would know a good film from a bad one.
§ LORD DANESFORT
I accept the explanation of the noble Lord, but I am not so sure about that. I am not sure they would know a good film from a bad one. I should be sorry to have a committee composed of my noble friends Lord Banbury, the Earl of Crawford and Lord Irwin deputed to go round the cinema houses of London and tell us what were good and bad films. To my mind the Privy Council are a totally unsuitable body. They have neither the staff nor the organisation for conducting such operations. There is a third objection, and that is that the amount of money they would get under this Bill is ridiculously inadequate. They would not be able to effect anything. Surely, it would be far better to postpone this matter of improving films until we can get a properly organised body supplied with funds—I hope not from the public Exchequer—to deal with this matter. If we start now with the totally inadequate machinery of the Privy Council we shall postpone the appointment of a really 687 effective body perhaps for years. We shall make a failure of the experiment and the experiment may not be made again.
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
Before the noble and learned Viscount replies may I express the hope that, as in another place Government Whips were not put on, if he argues in favour of the retention of the clause he will leave the question to a free vote of the House?
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
The history of this clause which has been given by a number of your Lordships will have satisfied your Lordships that this was not an essential part of the Bill as originally introduced by the Government and nothing that has happened since makes it into an essential part of the Bill. The clause was introduced in pursuance of a suggestion made in Committee. It was left to a free vote of the House of Commons and the majority of the House of Commons were in favour of the insertion of the clause.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
The point is that there were eighteen less opposed to the clause than there were of those who wanted it in, and that was without pressure from the Government Whips. I think that the right method in approaching the consideration of this clause is not to see how large a majority was in a free vote in another place, but whether this is a desirable clause. If it is a desirable clause the fact that it is being passed at a late period of the Session or was inserted by the free wish of the House of Commons instead of by the dictation of the Government, seems in neither case a reason why your Lordships should reject it. If it is a bad clause out it ought to go. Therefore the question we have to consider is whether or not it is desirable that this clause or some clause substantially in this form should be part of the Bill.
It has been suggested that it is not within the Title of the Bill, but that is disposed of by the decision of the Speaker in another place. It is also suggested—and I am clearing away the things that do not matter in order to come to the ones that do—that this is a tax on the industry, but I am sure your Lordships appreciate that this money is a specified percentage with a moderate maximum of a fund raised before ever this Fund 688 comes to be created, and therefore it does not mean that the consumer, as Mr. Jack Jones seems to think, would pay more for seeing the cinema in the same way as he might be called upon to pay more for his beer.
The reasons why this clause was regarded as valuable were stated very fairly by the noble Lord, Lord Irwin, and were set out in the discussions in another place. There is no doubt, I think, that the cinema has become a part of the daily life of the nation. The great bulk of our people habitually go to the cinema. That may be a good or a bad thing, but it is a fact. There is no doubt, I fear, that the cinema and the sort of entertainment which is given there does not always tend to raise the moral sense or to have a salutary effect on the character of those who go to those places. It has been suggested that there should be a rigid censorship of films. There is a Board of Censors which does exercise a certain and valuable control, but I do not believe that you are ever going to get the cinematograph and the picture theatre to become what we should like them to become as instruments of good and not of evil by merely negative methods of censorship. You want some positive and constructive means of improving the cinema and those who support this clause think that there is here given an opportunity of trying an experiment.
I do not deny that it is an experiment. Just before this Bill came to be discussed in another place there had been a report of a careful inquiry to which the noble Lord, Lord Irwin, referred, in which a great deal of the information about what happens in foreign countries had no doubt been considered. I have not had the opportunity of studying the report myself, but I understand that in most other countries there is some organisation which is directed towards the purpose of improving the standard of films displayed. It was thought that here was an opportunity of seeing whether we could not do something of the kind in this country. Admittedly it is on a moderate scale. I think it was said that the amount available would be about £8,000. It would be done, if this remains part of the Bill, in a way that involves no cost to the taxpayer, and in these days that is a valuable provision.
689 I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, who said the Government should introduce some other Bill setting up some other plan, which I was not very clear about, and finding money from a source he did not certify, but which should not come out of the pocket of the Exchequer, in order to do what we are trying to do here. But it is difficult to see what other source of money and what other scheme can be suggested. It is true that individual members of the Privy Council are not experts on the subject of films any more than upon medical or scientific research, but the Privy Council habitually acts through committees in matters of this kind and it was thought that it was not an unwise choice to select a body which was accustomed to handling matters which are outside the ordinary scope of strictly business considerations for the duty of trying to administer this Fund and to achieve the object which I think appeals to most of your Lordships—the object of improving the standard and raising the tone of the films.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
As I gather, the noble Earl would approve of a proposal to use a Fund of this character to improve the tone of the cinematograph. That is exactly what this clause is intended to provide, but one necessarily finds rather wide language because you are dealing with a subject about which it is difficult to be precise. When you are handing over this comparatively small sum of money for the purpose of encouraging the use and development of the cinematograph "as a means of entertainment and instruction"—those words are retained because we want to make it clear what Parliament has in mind—surely any committee set up by the Privy Council to administer the Fund must see that the purpose is that which I indicated in the speech I delivered a little earlier.
It is suggested they may use the money in some undesirable way. We have done our best to make sure that a full control is to be kept over the administration. In the clause as amended at the instance of the Government provisions were put in to make it even more clear than originally. We have to have the Treasury satisfied, and also the Comptroller and Auditor-General who, as your Lordships know, is the watchdog and steward of the House of Commons. We have to have 690 from him a report as to what happens each year, and it is to be laid before Parliament, in order that Parliament may be satisfied that the money is being used in the way and for the purpose it intended. Surely, that does safeguard the position. We have provided that there need be no money given in any year unless a useful purpose can be found to which it should be devoted within the meaning of the clause. We have provided that the way in which the money has been spent shall be laid before Parliament each year, after audit by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and we have therefore, I suggest, an ample assurance that Parliament will be able to satisfy itself that the money is being used in the way it and the Government intend, if this clause stands part of the Bill.
As I have said, this is not in its origin a Government proposal. In another place it was left to the free vote of the House of Commons. Unfortunately, whether we put on the Whips in this House or not it does not have quite that effect which those of us who have sat in another place so rejoice to recognise when we are in the Government, but which we are not quite so pleased to see when we are in Opposition. It is not a matter of confidence in the Government, and it is for your Lordships to make up your own minds, but I beg of you in making up your minds not to be led astray by considerations as to whether or not this clause was passed by a small majority, whether or not it was introduced at a late period of the Session, or whether or not there has been exhaustive inquiry by the Government. I ask you to bear in mind also that this is at any rate an attempt, which has commended itself to a great many people, after a great deal of thought and after considerable examination by the Committee to which reference has been made, to do something to raise the standard of films in this country, which sorely needs raising—an attempt which, if it fails, cannot cost the country anything, which can annually be reviewed, and which cannot in my submission do any harm and can be easily productive of a great deal of good. With those words I leave the matter to the decision of the House.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 2, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 53; Not-Contents, 23.691
|Sankey, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Hailsham, V.||Heneage, L.|
|Mersey, V.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Snowden, V. (L. Privy Seal.)||Irwin, L. [Teller.]|
|Addington, L.||Latymer, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Alvingham, L.||Marks, L.|
|Askwith, L.||Marley, L.|
|Reading, M.||Barnard, L.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Salisbury, M.||Cawley, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Rhayader, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Rochester, L.|
|Buxton, E.||Daryngton, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Cavan, E.||Desborough, L.||Snell, L. [Teller.]|
|Halsbury, E.||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Somerleyton, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Stanmore, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Ernle, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Morton, E.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)||Templemore, L.|
|Poulett, E.||Forester, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Trent, L.|
|Gladstone of Hawarden, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoull.)|
|Bathurst, E.||Armstrong, L.||Joicey, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Banbury of Southam, L. [Teller.]||Lamington, L. [Teller.]|
|Mount Temple, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Bayford, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Remnant, L.|
|Allendale, V.||Clwyd, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Cranworth, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Danesfort, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Ullswater, V.||Jessel, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
§ Clause 5:
5. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, the following expressions have the meanings hereby respectively assigned to them, that is to say:
Prescribed percentage" means such percentage not exceeding 5 per cent., as may be prescribed by regulations made by a Secretary of State and laid before Parliament;
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM moved, in the definition of "prescribed percentage," to leave out "may be prescribed by regulations made by a Secretary of State," and insert "a Secretary of State may, if he thinks fit, prescribe by regulations made by him." The noble Viscount said: This is the consequential Amendment on the first Amendment I moved.
Page 5, line 23, leave out from ("as") to ("and") in line 25 and insert the said new words.—(Viscount Hailsham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.692
§ Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clause agreed to.