§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The Lord MERTHYR in the Chair.]
§ Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
§ Clause 5:
§ Exemptions for non-commercial exhibitions
§ 5.—(1) The following exemptions shall have effect in the case of cinematograph exhibitions (hereinafter referred to as "exempted exhibitions") to which the public are not admitted or to which the public are admitted without payment, other than children's cinema club exhibitions, that is to say:—
- (a) a licence under the Act of 1909 shall not be required by reason only of the giving of an exempted exhibition, and for the purposes of subsection (2) of section seven of that Act (which exempts premises used only occasionally for cinematograph exhibitions) the giving in any premises of an exempted exhibition shall be disregarded;
- (b) section four of this Act shall not apply to an exempted exhibition;
- (c) regulations made by the Secretary of State under the Act of 1909, being regulations made by virtue of paragraph (b) of section two of this An, shall not apply in relation to an exempted exhibition;
- (d) in connection with the giving of an exempted exhibition in premises in respect of which a licence under the Act of 1909 is in force no condition or restriction on or subject to which the licence was granted shall apply except in so far as it relates to the matters specified in paragraph (a) of section two of this Act:
§ Provided that (without prejudice to the operation of paragraph (a) of this subsection) paragraph (a) thereof shall not have effect in the case of exhibitions where the pictures are produced by means specified by regulations or the Secretary of State under the Act of 1909 as means involving risk such that it is inexpedient that the said paragraph (a) should have effect.
LORD BURDEN moved, in subsection (1) after "children's cinema club exhibitions" to insert:
and which are given as part of the activities of educational institutions or of religious organisations or as part of the activities of such other institutions or organisations as may be certified by the licensing authority as exempted.
The noble Lord said: On the Second Reading of this Bill I ventured to submit some considerations which I thought worthy of attention. I have not had an opportunity since then of consulting with the noble Earl who is in charge of the Bill. I am not making any complaint of that, but I felt it desirable, in order to keep before the Committee the points which I thought worthy of consideration, that I should put down this Amendment on the Order Paper.
§ Let me say at the outset that I am in no way wedded to the precise terminology of this Amendment; but I would again venture to urge upon the noble Lord that the exemptions provided for in Clause 5 of the Bill are far too wide, and that these nation-wide exemptions under the conditions as described in Clause 5 do need serious consideration. Broadly speaking, the purpose of my Amendment is to bring the licensing authorities into the picture. The local authorities have functioned well in the past. The very high standard, mentioned by the noble Earl himself during the Second Reading debate, attained in this country is due in no small measure, I think, to the local licensing authorities. It is due also to the way in which the industry has responded to every reasonable demand made upon 566 it. I do not want anyone to think that these licensing authorities are just a set of "busybodies," interfering with matters which are best left to the discretion of the trade or the public, because, after all, the first and supreme consideration, as in other matters, should be the interests of the public and not of the trade itself.
I have before me a copy of a typical licence issued by a country borough council. It runs into some fourteen pages. I am not going to inflict upon your Lordships any lengthy quotation from this document but there are just two of these clauses which I should like bring before your notice. This is one:
No poster, advertisement, sketch, synopsis, or programme of a film shall be displayed, sold, or supplied, either inside or outside the licensed premises which is likely to be injurious to morality, or to encourage or incite to crime or lead to disorder, or be offensive to public feeling or contain any offensive representations of living persons.
That is pretty wide. Here is the other clause which I wish to bring to your Lordships' attention:
No person shall be permitted to enter or continue within the licensed premises in a state of intoxication, and all persons who may be guilty within the licensed premises of any breach of the peace, tumult, or disorder or of any violent language or demeanour calculated or having a tendency to incite any breach of the peace, tumult, or disorder, or any indecent, obscene, or blasphemous matter shall be forthwith removed therefrom.
I know that the Secretary of State is taking power under this Bill to issue safety regulations, but so far as I understand the Bill there is nothing in it which would allow the Home Secretary to issue any regulations of the type which I have read out from these typical licences. What I am asking is that the licensing authorities shall, as I say, be brought back into the picture.
§ Your Lordships will remember, from a speech made by my noble friend Lord Ammon, that the most important local authority in the country, the London County Council, is already gravely perturbed at some of the provisions of this Bill and is making the most urgent representations in connection with some of them. While I would not for one moment venture to prophesy when the somewhat slow-moving legal machinery of the local authorities will get moving, I venture to think that there will be further urgent representations from the local licensing authorities on some of the provisions in 567 this Bill. I do not want the noble Earl to think that I am condemning this Bill as a whole. It has a number of useful provisions. Neither am I against a reasonable flexibility for certain organisations which we all agree should have that flexibility. But I think your Lordships, on reflection, will agree that a Bill ought not to create grievous anomalies.
§ Let me give your Lordships just one example of what I have in mind. Within the last few years, holiday camps have increased in popularity. Every year they draw large numbers of holiday-makers. Some of these very enterprising concerns have a theatre, and it would be possible for them to run cinematograph shows also in that theatre. As I am sure the noble Earl knows, to-day there are buildings of that type which hold a considerable number of people. I speak subject to correction but I believe that a theatre, built as such and owned for that purpose, if used for stage plays to which people were admitted, would require licensing; but, on the other hand, if the people who were enjoying the amenities of the holiday camp were admitted without any charge to a cinematograph show, then for that purpose the theatre would not have to be licensed. So that on one day for one hour it would be licensed, and for another hour it would come under some other direction.
§ These points, which are really Committee points, are, I believe, capable of adjustment. The Minister and the noble Earl in charge of this Bill can come to some understanding with the people who are interested, both those who wish to exhibit educational and religious films and things of that kind, and the local licensing authorities who do not wish to see an arrangement of a dual sort within their area, one building being licensed under their conditions while another building within the same area, possibly holding the same number of people, because it conforms to the wide conditions in Clause 5 would not come within their purview. With those few remarks, I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name on the Marshalled List.
§ LORD BURDEN
If one goes, of course all four go; but if the noble Earl 568 has something which would be comforting for me on one Amendment, I shall be happy not to prolong the work of the Committee unduly.
Page 2, line 40, after ("exhibitions") insert the said words.—(Lord Burden.)
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I am glad to find that we are in a high degree of agreement on this Bill. In fact, the points which the noble Lord has mentioned are, if I may say so, minor ones. We agree that we want to strengthen the safety regulations, we want to strengthen the provisions for the protection of children and we want to provide, in certain circumstances, limited public censorship of films for commercial exhibition. We all agree on that. There are only two points at issue. One concerns the borderline cases which might affect children and others (films which I think we may call contra bonos mores), and the other relates to holiday camps and a few other things of that sort. I agree that those points need consideration. I will say straight away that we are further considering this clause in the light of some of the remarks of the noble Lord and in regard to other matters, but I must say that I have no evidence that the London County Council are gravely perturbed about this Bill. I think it is a pity to suggest that in any sense of the word, because what we are really doing is greatly to strengthen the licensing power of the London County Council.
§ LORD BURDEN
Will the noble Earl forgive me for interrupting? Perhaps my remarks were too wide. I was referring to one or two clauses of the Bill, not the whole Bill.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I hesitate to say that they are even perturbed about that. Be that as it may, I want to emphasise this point: that when licensing authorities decree that no poster shall be put up which in injurious to morality, and they do that under the provisions of an Act passed in the year 1909 which was designed to secure safety from fire in cinemas, all it does is to show the infinite flexibility of British judicature. The powers under which the licensing authority have done that in the past have now been put upon a proper basis. The only question on Clause 5 is really a 569 question in a few marginal cases between liberty, which might be licence, and the proper control of commercial films. I must say that, whilst the words used by the noble Lord are interesting, from a practical point of view I do not think they quite achieve the object he has in mind. I should like to explain what he is doing. He is suggesting not only that exempted exhibitions should be those for which either there is no payment, or, alternatively, the public are not admitted, but that here should be an additional hurdle, and that additional hurdle is that they should be given by either educational or religious bodies or such other bodies as are certified by the licensing authority as exempted. On the face of it, it looks as though the procedure would be for the London County Council or the local licensing authority to certify such bodies as film guilds. It would exclude holiday camps, but it would still avoid that type of thing. Look at the words "educational institutions." It is a very wide term. May I remind the noble Lord that it certainly includes certain sections of the Communist Party.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
In some cases, certainly they are certified as such. From what he said, I am sure the noble Lord did not mean to include that type of thing.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I suggest that the Amendment as drafted would not meet the case at all, and that it is an open question whether, for instance, you would call a political Party an educational institution.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
That is a matter of opinion, of course. I am suggesting that we are actually seeking to leave political Parties free to show exhibitions without any licensing authority at all. We think they should do that. That is part of our object in the Bill as it stands at the present time. I think the noble Lord's first Amendment goes too far. Our main objection is that it is too vague as to what it does or does not cover. In any case, film guilds might be brought in 570 under Clause 5 (3), which excludes nonprofit making organisations. I do not know whether that is what was in the noble Lord's mind.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
The phrase "educational institutions" might include something much wider than the noble Lord has in mind.
By the second Amendment in the noble Lord's name, we are asked to delete paragraph (d), which would mean that in licensed premises where an exempted exhibition was taking place the full licensing permission would apply, not only in regard to safety but for all matters. I am very uncertain what the effect of removing this paragraph would be. It may be that it would remove from the licensing authority the power even to exercise safety precautions. If the noble Lord looks at the clause, he will see from subsection (1) (a) that a licence is no longer necessary. But the position is restored in limited terms in subsection (1) (d), and if you delete paragraph (d) you revert to the position under paragraph (a). On another reading of this you find that under the Act it is not required by reason only of giving an exempted exhibition. If it is read in that way, it means to say that in licensed premises, even in regard to an exempted exhibition, the full licensing conditions, including censorship, would apply—in other words, that you could not have an exempted exhibition in licensed premises. I suggest that that is going much too far. For that reason I do not think that this is a very happy Amendment. It means merely that no exempted exhibition can ever be shown in licensed premises.
The next Amendment, I think, is intended to be consequential, but in point of fact it is not. It means that censorship would apply with regard to inflammable films, whereas it would not apply in regard to non-inflammable films. I think we agreed on Second Reading that that is completely illogical. The final Amendment is consequential. I would submit that the drafting of this clause is not easy, and I assure the noble Lord that we have these points actively under consideration, in order to make quite certain that, so far as possible, we do ensure the fullest liberty where it should be properly exercised, retaining only those 571 controls which the licensing authority should exercise in the proper execution of their duty. In conclusion I would say just this: that there is really no question of throwing over the experience of the licensing authorities. It is being maintained much more strongly than hitherto. Only in a very limited sphere are we excluding them. In my view, a film organisation should be left free to carry on such exhibitions as they think wise and, therefore, I should be grateful if the noble Lord would withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD BURDEN
I am exceedingly grateful to the noble Earl for the explanation which he has given. It shows the unwisdom of my venturing into the province of Parliamentary draftsmen, and also how one can be led astray in criticising Parliamentary draftsmen on a particular clause. From what the noble Earl has said in regard to these attempts to frame what I had in mind, quite clearly it is a skilled art. The noble Earl has been quite forthcoming and candid in his reply. He has said that the points which I have ventured to submit to the Committee are being considered and, where it is legitimate, attempts are being made to meet them within the framework of what the noble Earl has indicated. In those circumstances, and on the assurance that these negotiations and considerations will be continued—perhaps the whole matter will have to be dealt with in another place—I again thank the noble Earl for his consideration, and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 5 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses and Schedule, agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.