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Clause 1—(Amendment Of S 4 Of The Cinematograph Film Production (Special Loans) Act, 1949)

Volume 477: debated on Tuesday 4 July 1950

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Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

11.54 p.m.

I rise to put one question to the President of the Board of Trade, but before I do so I should like to congratulate the Government on their management of public business so that this matter of relative importance is brought on at this time of night. The question I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman is—how long does he anticipate that this £1 million will last? In an earlier Bill we provided £5 million, but it only lasted one year. Are we to assume that the £1 million provided under this Bill will last something under three months, and can we, before we part from this Clause, have a specific assurance from the President of the Board of Trade that there will be no return, at least this year, for any further sums of money for this purpose?

It would be extremely difficult to answer that question. I agree with the hon. Gentleman's analysis of the first sum of money voted, although as he knows, £3 million of it was an immediate loan to one particular company which was in grave danger of passing out of production. The hon. Gentleman would be quite wrong to base any calculation relating to the £1 million we are providing here on that analysis, because this money will be used for loans direct to individual productions. I should not like to give any assurance of the kind he asks for, and I think it is quite wrong to expect any from me, because as I mentioned on a previous occasion, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) did enunciate the principle that for special measures of this kind it was desirable that the Government should ask for relatively small sums of money, and if necessary to come to the House for additional sums.

The reason why we are asking for £1 million, and not £5 million, or £10 million or £15 million as the hon. Member for Nottingham, North-West (Mr. O'Brien) has suggested—apart from general arguments against such large sums of money—is that we require a further period to enable the Film Finance Corporation to help the industry get on its feet once again. Various steps have been taken by the Corporation, and there are many things the industry can do to put its house in order, and this sum will enable the beneficent activities of the Corporation to continue. I do ask for this further £1 million, but I would find it difficult to give any estimate of the period for which it would be required.

I take it the period which the right hon. Gentleman thinks this will last is going to be extended as a result of the arrangement over Entertainments Duty which we have passed. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not always trot out the statement of mine to which he has just referred, and think it applies to all occasions. I am in favour of Ministers coming more often for smaller sums, and very seldom for large sums, but there must be some relation to time. We cannot have the President of the Board of Trade popping up once a month and asking for £1 million. I do not think he is likely to do that, and I think that we should pass this amount.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the Third time Tomorrow.