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British Film Industry

Volume 391: debated on Tuesday 13 July 1943

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asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the serious concern which has been expressed by the Films Council and others regarding the tendency towards monopoly in the film industry, he has any statement to make?

Yes, Sir. I have discussed this question with Mr. J. Arthur Rank, who is chairman of two of the leading cinema-owning companies and controls a number of other film enterprises, including several production studios. I informed Mr. Rank that the Government could not acquiesce in the creation of anything like a monopoly at any stage in the film industry. He has assured me that he fully understands this, and has been good enough to give me an undertaking not to acquire additional cinemas or studios without the prior consent of the President of the Board of Trade. I am circulating in the Official Report the exchange of letters in which this undertaking is confirmed. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of the public-spirited manner in which Mr. Rank has responded to the Government's wishes in this matter. Mr. Rank has already done much for British films and will, I do not doubt, play a great part in their development in the years to come. I have also received undertakings from the chief shareholders in the Associated British Picture Corporation—the other large cinema-owning company—that they will not dispose of their shares without first consulting the President of the Board of Trade, and I should like to thank all those concerned for their co-operation.

In view of the satisfactory termination of these negotiations, will not the right hon. Gentleman approach the same gentleman in respect of the milling combines?

I am afraid that that is not within my departmental responsibility.

Following is the exchange of letters referred to:

28th June, 1943.

"My dear Mr. Rank,

During the course of our recent discussions, I explained to you that the Government, who desire to see the development of a vigorous and successful film industry and look to you to play an important part in achieving this aim, have lately been much concerned at the appearance of certain monopolistic tendencies in the industry. I emphasised that the Government could not acquiesce in the creation of anything like a monopoly at any stage— production, distribution or exhibition. I was glad to learn that you fully appreciated this, and to have the assurance that you had no intention of securing for yourself, or the companies with which you are associated, any undue measure of control.

You were also good enough to say that, to prevent misunderstanding, and to make sure that no action should be taken which might be contrary to the Government's wishes in this matter, you would undertake that neither you nor the companies which you control would take any steps to secure control, directly or indirectly, of additional cinemas or their booking arrangements, or of production studios, without the prior consent of the President of the Board of Trade, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld.

I should be very glad if you would confirm this undertaking, which will, I believe, go far to allay the anxieties expressed in many quarters.

I understand that you wish to conclude some negotiations which are already far advanced for the purchase of certain cinemas and you were good enough to send me a detailed list. In cases in which bids already made are accepted I raise no objection, but I should like you to agree to make no new bids and not to increase any bids which prove unacceptable to the vendor. The total number of cinemas operated by Odeon and Gaumont-British Companies would therefore be something less than 607.

I shall be most happy to discuss with you at any time any problems which may arise out of this undertaking, or, indeed, any other questions concerning the British film industry, to the progress of which you have already contributed so much.

Yours sincerely,

(Sgd.) Hugh Dalton. "


Reigate Heath, Surrey.

30th June,1943.

My dear Mr. Dalton,

Thank you for your letter of the 28th instant, in the second paragraph of which you set out the undertaking which I gave you verbally, and which I now have pleasure in confirming.

I can assure you that I have no desire to see anything in the nature of a monopoly created in the film industry; but I believe you appreciate that some degree of rationalisation was required if the British Industry is to be built on a sound basis, and given sufficient solidarity to compete in fields where powerful elements were already established.

It is with very real pleasure that I have received your assurance that I can come and discuss with you any problem which affects the British Industry.

Yours sincerely,