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Cinematograph Films (Levy)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th May 1965.

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Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley 12:00 am, 13th May 1965

I wish with your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House to speak again and to reply, in particular, to the points raised by the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery).

As the hon. Gentleman rightly said, the Cinematograph Films Act became a statutory scheme in 1957. The levy is collected by the Customs and Excise and is one-ninth of the amount by which cinema seats exceed elevenpence after, under the new Regulation, takings of £350 in any one week. The exemptions are for educational and charity films. Providing that they are shown, these exemptions will continue. I cannot give the numbers. I do not think that they are even on record. They may be, but I am not aware of them. I cannot say on how many occasions cinemas show educational and charity films and therefore are exempt from the levy.

The hon. Gentleman correctly said that the levy goes to the British Film Fund Agency, a Statutory Board appointed by the Board of Trade. I should remind the hon. Gentleman and the House that the makers of British films benefit under the scheme. They are the main recipients. In 1962–63 they recieved £3·6 million from the levy. In recognition of the work done by the Children's Film Foundation last year, they received £137,500 from the levy. The yield of the levy in 1964 was a record £4·2 million.

There is one very interesting factor which has emerged recently. Cinema admissions have continued to decline. In 1964, they were 367 million as against 383 million in 1963. On the other hand, receipts increased. In 1963, receipts were £59 million, but by 1964 they had increased to £62 million—an increase of £3 million, in spite of the fact that cinema admissions were falling. The loss is an estimate. As I said in my opening remarks, initially it means a loss of £100,000 per year in the levy yield. But this is a small price to pay for helping to keep some of the small cinemas in business. Indeed, it is in the interests of the producers, distributors and exhibitors to keep open as many outlets as possible. This is precisely what the Regulation is designed to do.

The third point which the hon. Gentleman raised was on consultation. This has arisen because the smaller of the two trade associations representing exhibitors, the Association of Independent Cinemas, provided figures showing that costs had risen by 15 per cent. and requested that the exemption limit should be raised to £350. The main exhibitors' association, the Cinematograph Exhibitors' Association, expressed agreement with the proposal. The main producers' associations indicated that they could not support the change, and this was reflected in the speech of the hon. Gentleman. The renters' association was neutral. The Cinematograph Films Council, which represents all branches of the industry and includes several independent members which the Board of Trade is statutorily required to consult on changes in the levy regulations, recommended by a majority that the change should be made.

The fourth question the hon. Gentleman asked was, whether provision was being made to make the levy up to £5 million? As he knows, it is based on a minimum take of £2 million and a maximum take of £5 million. It has never reached that. As I said, last year it came to £4·2 million. But I think that the point should be made here that the British film producers have their income increased by 80 per cent. via the levy, so in that sense the levy is helping them tremendously.

Rising costs having brought about the erosion in the value of the levy over the past few years, it is essential to make the limit £350 now, and this will really be for the benefit and in the interests of producers, distributors and exhibitors.