Public Entertainments (Restrictions).

Oral Answers to Questions — National War Effort. – in the House of Commons on 12th March 1942.

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Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelly

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the Government's policy in regard to public entertainment?

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

asked the Home Secretary when the Government propose to introduce regulations restricting the amount of horse-racing, dog-racing, boxing displays and other activities not considered in accord with the true spirit of determination of the people in this crisis?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

The Government's war-time policy with regard to entertainments has been to permit them to continue on a restricted basis in the belief that, within reason, popular entertainments act as a lubricant rather than a brake on the war machine. Limitations on attendance have been imposed, and entertainments attracting large crowds, such as horse and dog racing and football matches have been mainly confined to days and times least likely to affect essential work. Special measures have also been taken to avoid additional burdens on transport services or the delay of workers going to or from their place of duty. All forms of public entertainment have been subject to immediate cessation should security circumstances require. The power to prohibit or restrict public entertainments has, in the past, been confined to imposing restrictions where they are necessary to minimise risk in consequence of war operations, but further appreciable restrictions have been obtained by agreement with the controlling bodies of the various entertainments concerned. I should like to express my appreciation of their helpful attitude. The Government are taking additional powers to provide control of public entertainments where needed to avoid interference with the national effort.

Horse-racing meetings have already been cut to about 20 per cent. of the pre-war figure, and it is proposed further to restrict horse racing to a few courses selected with a view to economy in the use of public transport. Greyhound racing will be restricted to one day a week for each track, and will be permitted only on Saturdays and public holidays. No new tracks will be allowed to be put into operation. Professional boxing shows have already been reduced to about 10 per cent. of the pre-war figure, and the question of further restrictions arises mainly in respect of large and spectacular events. Professional football has been largely confined to Saturdays, public holidays and local early closing days. Local competitions have been formed for area groups of clubs in order to avoid travelling. It is not proposed to apply any further restrictions at present. The same remark applies to theatres, cinemas and dancing. There remains the question of large accumulations of cars at sports functions which has undoubtedly been offensive to public feeling. My hon. Friend the Secretary for Petroleum will, I understand, be making a statement to-day which has an effective relationship to this aspect of the problem.

These restrictions represent an appreciable reduction in the amount of public recreation. In the exercise of their new powers the Government will not impose more restrictions than war requirements render expedient, but such requirements must obviously be the first consideration and there will be no hesitation to impose such further restrictions as may be needed in the interests of the war effort. On the other hand there is no intention of imposing needless hindrances to recreation or of carrying restrictions so far that total war unnecessarily becomes total misery.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

Is the Minister also giving attention to the beastly blood sports of coursing and stag.hunting?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

That is a new one on me.

Photo of Mr Robert Morrison Mr Robert Morrison , Tottenham North

Will my right hon. Friend say when mid-week greyhound racing will cease?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

As soon as arrangements can be made, but obviously certain things have to be worked out. I am in consultation on the matter, and I hope there will not be very much delay in bringing out the new programme.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelly

May I express appreciation of the statement made, and will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that those who have raised this subject have not had any desire to curtail the recreation of the workers? What has disturbed them are the people who flock in thousands to these places who are not workers but idlers.

Photo of Sir Charles Lyle Sir Charles Lyle , Bournemouth

Is it not a fact that a lot of people are trying to stop every form of sport which they do not happen to patronise themselves?

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

What provision is going to be made for recreation during the long summer evenings when people leave their ordinary work? Is there any reason why they should not be allowed to go to any entertainment they care for?

Photo of Mr Robert Morrison Mr Robert Morrison , Tottenham North

I think my answer covers that point.

Photo of Captain John McEwen Captain John McEwen , Berwickshire and Haddingtonshire

Will the Minister bear in mind the desirability of curbing the masochistic tendencies of certain sections of public opinion?

Viscountess Astor:

Is the Minister aware that the country would be in a far better position to-day if these restrictions had come about 18 months or two years ago?

Photo of Mr Robert Morrison Mr Robert Morrison , Tottenham North

I have noted all these various points, and I will do my best in the course of my administration to reconcile the conflicting views which have been expressed.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

In regard to the licence which has been recently granted to the Birtley track, may I ask whether that track will be allowed to be opened?

Photo of Mr Robert Morrison Mr Robert Morrison , Tottenham North

There was a licence granted by the local authority for a new greyhound-racing track in County Durham, and the hon. Member can be assured that I will not permit that track to function.

Viscountess Astor:

How many of the idle rich would go to this track?