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Film Industry (Legislation)

Volume 13: debated on Monday 16 November 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is satisfied with the working of existing legislation affecting the film industry.

In general, yes, although there is the possibility of some duplication of effort between the two advisory bodies of film matters namely, the Cinematograph Films Council and the Interim Action Committee.

Is the Minister aware that the Films Act 1980 and the reduction in the quota have greatly lowered morale in the film industry? Does she agree that we have some of the best film makers in the world, and that their work, among other things, means hard cash in exports? Will she, as a matter of urgency, convene a meeting of all concerned in the film industry, including the unions, so that she may hear of the difficulties that the legislation is causing?

I agree wholehearedly that we have some of the best film makers in the world at every level and in every sphere. I frequently meet them to discuss the various problems of the industry and am always impressed by their constructive approach.

There is no point in setting a quota at a totally unrealistic level in terms of the number of British films available and the number of people going to cinemas. That leads only to widespread and legal evasion.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I was advised at one stage to abolish the quota altogether. I decided that that was going too far. I have instead set the quota at what I believe to be a realistic level which the vast majority of cinemas in this country can meet. I intend to keep the matter under review and to take any further action which may appear to be necessary and valid.

Does my hon. Friend consider the existing system of collecting the film levy to be equitable?

I do not believe that the present method of collecting the levy is equitable; or as equitable as it might be. In recent years, as my hon. Friend will be aware, a multitude of multi-screen cinemas have opened. As a result, the main burden of paying the levy has fallen on those least able to pay. I shall shortly be considering a new formula for collecting the levy on a much more equitable basis. The formula, which will adopt a more even-handed approach, will bring all classes of cinemas into liability for the levy. It should, therefore, be far more equitable.