§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. Charles A. Howell
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
I did not say, when I was speaking earlier, that I had the assistance of the town clerk of Birmingham on the new Clause with which we have just dealt. The matter which I am now raising, however, is a human one of general interest and it does not relate to any particular constituency.
First, I should make clear—this is a point which the Press was a little concerned about when I tabled the new Clause—that I have no intention or desire to restrict the activities of the Press. If a child is criminally assaulted—I think that I might as well use the ordinary straightforward expression and say"if a child is raped"—this is public news. It is not a matter of"man bites dog". It is something which the newspapers have a habit of making into placard news.
There is an anomaly here. From the moment when someone is charged with such an offence, it is not permissible to give the name, the address, the school, or any details by which the child concerned can be identified, but until that stage it is permissible for the child's name, address and particulars of identity to be given. This is important. It has been said that I must be rather naive if I think that such an incident could occur in a little village without everyone knowing about it within an hour or two. This may be so, but the whole country is not all one little village.
I know from personal experience how harrowing such cases can be. A member of my own family was, at 12 years of age, raped by a soldier, and I remember still how awful the feelings were among my wife and my family and her family. Incidentally, the child was on my wife's family's side. She is dead now so I do not mind saying these things. She was my wife's sister. I ask the House to forgive me if I am a little emotional in putting this case. I had to have the child taken into our care and protection for months afterwards because of the 765 emotional disturbance which she suffered. Subsequently, she died in a mental hospital. Hon. and right hon. Members will, I know, appreciate my very great concern.
I ask the House to imagine what happens to a girl of 12 in a case like that if her name is divulged in the Press and everybody knows about it. The family feel terribly embarrassed. Even today, in an enlightened age, people feel embarrassed if it is known that a member of their family has T.B. Many parents feel embarrassed if it becomes known that their daughter is getting married suddenly because she is pregnant; it is felt to be a form of disgrace and embarrassment to everyone in the family concerned. It is far more embarrassing if people write letters, telephone, or stop one in the street and say how sorry they are about what has happened. Their sympathy becomes unbearable. And all this is due to the fact that the child's name has been divulged.
It is a quite simple matter to say that a child has been criminally assaulted in such and such a place at such and such a time and that the police are searching for a man dressed in a certain way, of such and such a height, blond, brunet, bald, or whatever is may be. There is ample opportunity to give sufficient identification in order to apprehend the person concerned, without giving details of the child. We know that, at times, people who are no better than ghouls write letters to people who have suffered a bereavement. This sort of thing can happen in the circumstances to which I am now referring. It is obvious that, if the law now recognises that, from the moment a man is charged and comes into court, the girl's identity must be kept secret, this practice ought to be extended in the way I propose.
The hon. Lady the Joint Undersecretary of State will recall that there was a similar case only a year or so ago in Croydon. I hope that she will not tell me that the Croydon case was unique. We know that it is not unique. I seek not to restrict the powers of the Press, but to protect the interests of the child. I think that it is a matter of decorum on the part of the Press, but sometimes it is not realised what can happen.
A child of 12 is raped. What happens in the years to come if someone has a 766 feeling of grievance against the girl and she starts courting? If she has not told the young man at the beginning of their courtship that she is not a virgin, but that she was so unfortunate as to be raped as a child, someone could cause great shock by telling this news. This is the kind of thing which can lead to blackmail, by threats to reveal the facts, not, perhaps, at the time, but years afterwards. People can sometimes find these things out in a library, looking back in the newspapers for something else, and find a report of the incident."That is remarkable; I never knew that", they may say.
I am seeking to ensure that secrecy always for the identity of the child who already has had enough misfortune thrust upon her. I have no other motive whatever. It is a very narrow point. The law has recognised it, and the House has recognised it, by providing that a child's identity should not be revealed as from a certain time. I ask that the child's identity should never be revealed.
§ Sir B. Janner
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Charles A. Howell) has put his case in an emotional way—and I am not surprised. I ask the Joint Under-secretary of State to take the whole matter very seriously and to regard the circumstances of which my hon. Friend spoke as in no way exceptional. My hon. Friend did not say that that case had been reported. If it had been, how much more intense would have been the feelings of the relatives and of the girl herself.
We have to balance the considerations on one side and the other. Nothing is entirely black or entirely white. I believe in the liberty of the Press. By and large, the Press fulfils its obligations for the preservation of decency in a remarkable way, and it is certainly very much better than the Press in most countries where the Press is free. Therefore, I speak without any prejudice at all.
I follow the example of my hon. Friend in making clear that, however seriously we regard the matter now before us, the object of the Clause is not in any way to pass censure generally on the Press. But even the Press should, at times, be protected to some 767 extent against the legitimate or understandable mistakes which can be made. We should lay down that what is already provided for under the law in respect of proceedings in court should apply in these cases before proceedings are taken.
§ 1.0 p.m.
§ I am associated with the Association of Municipal Corporations. I am amused sometimes at the arguments which are put forward when a responsible body, with a tremendous amount of information at its disposal, comes to conclusions which are obviously not in any sense connected with vested interests. This kind of thing does not affect the vested interests of such organisations. They arrive at their conclusions in a responsible way. The Association of Municipal Corporations represents the various municipal bodies throughout the country and it makes decisions to which it believes effect should be given.
When a child or young person under 17 years is the victim of a sexual assault, and someone is arrested and charged with the offence, there are provisions for concealing the name of the victim. If the offender is tried in a magistrates' court or a higher court, Section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, provides that
the court may direct that no newspaper report of the proceedings shall reveal the name, address, or school, or include any particulars calculated to lead to the identification of any child or young person concerned in the proceedings,
whether as a defendant or as a witness. There are similar provisions relating to juvenile courts in Section 49 of the same Act.
§ The trouble is that there is no provision about publicity in the period between the commission of the offence and the appearance in court of the offender. Sometimes it is impossible to trace the offender. An incident occurs and sometimes that is the end of the matter, because the police have not been able to charge anyone with the offence.
§ The Croydon case was a very good example of this. A 12-year-old Croydon schoolgirl was assaulted on 26th January, 1962, and on 1st February, 1962, a man was charged in the Croydon Magistrates' Court with raping her. The magistrates heard the prosecution's case on 7th 768 February and the man was committed for trial at the Surrey Assizes. During the hearing on 7th February the magistrates made the usual direction in order to prevent the girl's name from being published, but on 27th January a London evening newspaper, circulating in Croydon, published a paragraph with the girl's name and address stating that she had been assaulted and that the police were searching for her assailant. Obviously, that defeated the whole purpose of the Act.
§ I do not suppose that there is one hon. Member present who cannot realise the effect of publishing the name of the individual who has been attacked on that person and on the family of that person. It is bad enough that the incident has occurred and that some people know about it. It takes a very great deal of doing by the victim to erase the attack from her knowledge, if it is at all possible, but to make it public is a criminal action on the part of society. I speak in strong terms because I believe that the effect which this can have on the mind of the person is such that society must do its utmost to heal the wound and not to make it possible for that wound to be enlarged.
§ There is only one conceivable reason for revealing the name or some particulars of the individual attacked, and that is to bring the offender to justice. Even then the matter should be considered with the greatest care. I would go very warily on this matter. Although the Clause leaves it in the hands of the chief constable to say whether this information should be published, I would say that a caveat should go from the Home Office or from the authorities to the chief constables to the effect that the name should be given only in the most extreme circumstances when they are thoroughly satisfied that that is the only way in which the offender can be brought to justice.
§ I do not see how the hon. Lady the Joint Under-Secretary of State can possibly resist this Clause. I cannot conceive of any possible excuse—it is not a question of reason—which either she or those advising her can put forward for rejecting it. I know the hon. Lady very well. She is amenable to reason. This is not a party matter. I ask the hon. Lady, in her own interests, not to 769 expose herself to the accusation that she would not raise a finger to help those who have so much need of her help and whose case is unanswerable. We should not and we must not expose the victims of these incidents to aggravation of the terrible experience which hangs over their heads.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Charles A. Howell) proposed this new Clause in a speech which moved some of us very deeply. I do not want to follow the arguments of my hon. Friend and of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) in supporting the unanswerable case for the Clause in so far as it seeks to give further protection to the innocent victims of crime. I wish to put forward other reasons for supporting the Clause.
I believe that the Clause raises one of the fundamental problems of the child in society—his possible corruption by the Press. The publicity and glamour which has surrounded two girls during the past few weeks may have made a fortune for them out of the tragedy which they brought on other people, but it cannot have helped to educate morally the young children of England who read the Sunday newspapers which have exploited the events of the past few weeks.
It may be that this Clause will not tackle that problem—I hope some day that we will tackle it—but I believe that we are rapidly moving towards the time when if we do not do something about this matter the young boy in a school who has gone wrong will be invited by one of the cheap Sunday newspapers to write his memoirs. He will not even have to write them. They will be written for him. All that he will have to do will be to put his name to them. For that he will receive more money than a sixth former who slaves his way through his sixth form studies and wins a scholarship to university. Surely no rational human being can contemplate that prospect with equanimity.
I want to deal with only one aspect of the Clause, that part of it which suggests that the names of schools should be kept out of Press reports in the circumstances described in the rest of the Clause. Perhaps I may weary 770 the House with an example. I know a fine grammar school, the headmaster of which is an old pupil of mine. At any moment, it is educating about 1,000 children. Year by year, it turns out boys and girls of integrity and calibre. It sends them to the universities and to the various professions. It sends them into all walks of life with a sound intellectual and moral training. Some years ago, it was visited by one of the many Ministers of Education whom we have had in the past few years and he spoke highly of its achievements. There can be no question of its quality as a great school.
This grammar school has, however, never hit the national newspapers except once. This was not, for example, when one of its boys topped his final year at Guy's. It was not when one of the boys, having failed at 11-plus but later being transferred to the grammar school, got an open scholarship to Oxford University. It was not because a boy played for his county at cricket, or because one of the girls became a nurse or matron. All these things appeared in the local newspapers. They were duly recorded at speech night. I pay tribute to the local papers, which certainly do not have the vices of the worst national newspapers, and which do report worthy happenings as well as crimes.
The one occasion when the school did appear in the national Press was when a boy was found drunk on the playing-field. That was news. That the school had succeeded with 99 pupils did not matter. That it failed over the hundredth gave joy to the Press Lords of Fleet Street, a joy which is the reverse of that which, as most of us remember, occurred over the lost sheep in the parable.
It may be that newsmen and cynical old Rochefoucauld are right in imagining that people take a strange delight in the misery of others, but at least we ought to try to keep the nation's children and the nation's schools out of this one-sided quest for ugly truth. The example which I have given is not unique. When I speak about it at meetings on education throughout the country, I find it paralleled again and again. If a school goes right, that is not news. If a boy goes wrong in the school, the school is news.
771 Fortunately, we can bury most of the tragedies that happen to schoolchildren if they happen in school. We bury them in the heartbreak of the parents or in the bitter disappointment of teachers who fail to win a young boy or girl for decency; but if the odd one gets out, it is plastered in the Press.
This publicity cannot do any good. It can do harm to the family, to the school and to the thousands of youngsters who read it. I remember my own shocking experience in America, when I had been lecturing at a university to fine and upright young men and women, and walked out and saw the hoarding outside the local news and drug store,"Sex Life in an American University".
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ This picking out of what is bad and spreading it from one end of the country to the other as typical cannot do anything but harm to schoolchildren. It makes the work of redeeming the one who has gone wrong much harder. It gives him the adventitious, unhealthy glamour that has recently made some girls, only a little older than schoolgirls, hire themselves literary agents, business managers and public relations officers. It cannot help the police. Indeed, I seriously suggest that this kind of publicity makes, in the long run, extra work for the police.
§ As my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr has pointed out so poignantly, what makes it even more tragic is that in some cases the child has done no wrong whatever and is merely the victim of wrong. My hon. Friend has wisely drawn his Clause.
§ I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West about one thing. There are, obviously, occasions when public interest demands publicity for the offence, for the offender, for the family and for the school. A school itself may be in need of it. In the past, when some of us were persuading Dame Florence Horsbrugh, then Minister of Education, to put into operation Part III of the Education Act, which gives us tremendous power over the unsatisfactory private school, we had to call attention to the existence of bad men wandering about uncontrolled and setting up bad schools from one end of England to the other. We have remedied 772 that by putting Part III into operation. There may be occasions when it is necessary to pillory a school, an individual, a child or a family. And so the Clause gives the authorities power, if they consider it in the public interest, to do this.
§ Publicity given to a crime and a criminal may be in the interest of society and it may be that some day our newspapers will give the right kind of publicity, not the glamorous publicity that they give today, but showing crime, beastliness and cruelty for the selfish and sordid things they are and giving some account of the punishment for the crimes instead of wrapping them up in glamour, as they do.
§ The publicity, about children and about schools, however, should be an instrument in the hands of the law, and if the law thinks that a crime should be published I would yield to the opinion of the legal authorities. The Clause would prevent senseless, cruel and often unhealthy publicity, which itself militates against all that a school is trying to achieve and all that we wish to achieve for the nation's children.
§ I know that my friends in the National Union of Journalists, men for whom I have profound respect, are anxious about the freedom of the Press and might regard the Clause as tampering with that freedom. I believe, with them, that the end of what they and all the best journalists, like ourselves, deplore—the end of the cheap and shoddy sensationalism and the meretriciousness of the worst parts of the Press—can be solved finally only by the journalists themselves. The code which the Union is setting up is, I believe, something which will tackle that problem.
§ Mr. Charles A. Howell
I was telephoned by newspapers, who asked my motive in putting down a proposal which amounted to a restriction on the Press. When I explained the case to them, without exception they all approved what I was doing.
§ Dr. King
I am happy to have that intervention. That is what I would expect. I would expect that in the end this great profession of journalism will clean itself up.
There are, however, occasions on which I would be willing to tamper with 773 freedom. I believe passionately in freedom, in individual freedom and in the freedom of the Press, but I am willing to forgo a certain amount of freedom when children's well-being is concerned, and I hope that the Minister will accept the Clause, which would be good for our schools and for our children.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Miss Mervyn Pike)
I feel at a great disadvantage in replying to the debate, because, like everyone else present, I agree whole heartedly with the motives behind the Clause. I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Charles A. Howell) on the way in which he moved it. We are all aware of the present worrying situation and deprecate some of the abuses which have taken place. I do not wish to base my argument on the fact that there has not been much abuse and that there have not been many cases of names being bandied about unnecessarily.
The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) made the point—and I need not stress it again—that there are instances where, in the cause of justice, it is necessary that names and occasions should be made known. My great difficulty, and I hope that the House will believe me, is that I am having to stand on a quite narrow point. I am not doing that because I wish to pose simply the practical difficulties. We all recognise that this is a very large question.
This is a very small part of a very large question and a very large principle. I am quite certain that hon. Members feel that the time is coming when, as a House of Commons, we shall probably have to debate this matter much more fully and that as a community we shall have to look at it much more responsibly than we have done in recent times. I do not think that at this late stage, in this Bill, we should pass into law anything which does, as it were, strike at the main principle of the freedom of the Press, unless we are absolutely certain that in doing that we are not running into any real, practical difficulties.
I assure the House that in this case we are running into practical difficulties, apart from the principle as to whether we would restrict the freedom of the Press. Hon. Members have mentioned 774 the fact that once a case comes before a court we have powers to ensure that these things are not published. What we are being asked to do now, however, is to put the onus not on the court, as it is at present—on the justices who say that this must not be done—but on the newspaper people to judge whether it is a case in which it could be against the public interest.
§ Mr. Charles A. Howell
No. My Clause does not give them any discretion. It says quite simply that this will be only an extension of the law which says that over the age of 17 the particulars may be published. The laws says that when a child under 17 gets to court, or when a man is charged, they must not be published. I want to extend that so that they can never be published. I do not want the newspapers to have any discretion in this, unless they get from the chief constable or the Home Secretary permission to publish it.
§ Miss Pike
I understand that, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will go with me in realising that at the moment an offence takes place, and the facts happen, it is not possible to judge what the subsequent events will be. The hon. Gentleman is really saying that in no case must there be any reporting in any circumstances. Although no particular instance comes to mind, he is putting a very wide prohibition on the reporting of facts and the reporting of news.
§ Mr. Charles A. Howell
The hon. Lady is quite wrong. I am not asking to seek a restriction on reporting. I am asking deliberately for restriction on identity, and I base my argument on identity. Give it all the publicity that we can. Let us catch these criminals. I do not want to prevent reporting, I encourage reporting, but, for goodness' sake, let us keep the identity secret.
§ Miss Pike
I accept what the hon. Gentleman says. Even so, in reporting, names may well come in quite innocently, because the whole picture has not been laid open and cannot be judged by the person reporting at that time. It may well be that subsequently it is found that because of the events that have come to light as a result of the investigations, and the court proceedings, people have 775 fallen into error and against the law possibly because of a very understandable error of judgment.
I know that the hon. Gentleman thinks that I am standing on a very small point.
§ Miss Pike
It must be very small—but I assure him that it is the practical difficulty of identifying the circumstances in which prohibition would apply.
It is not just a drafting difficulty—of putting this into a form of words—but the practical difficulty of identifying the circumstances in which this prohibition would apply.
It is for that reason as well as for the fact that I believe, and wish to say to the House, that this is not the occasion for us to tackle the whole principle of the freedom of the Press, that I believe on this occasion we should leave this and that the whole problem should be tackled in the much wider context of society's responsibility. I think that the hon. Gentleman has done a very great service in bringing this forward today even though I hope that the House will not accept his Clause, because I think that the real sanction is the sanction of public opinion in society and that we must debate this a great deal more. No matter how much legislation we bring in, or how much we try to tie this thing up, the real sanction is the fact that society itself will reject this type of reporting and sensationalism.
I accept wholeheartedly the object behind the hon. Gentleman's new Clause, and the responsibility that we as a House of Commons have in this matter, but I urge on hon. Members that in this instance we are not dealing with this in a practical way and that if we pass this new Clause we shall be running into great difficulties. This is a matter which must be dealt with in a much wider context.
§ 1.30 p.m.
§ Miss Bacon
I think that the speech of the hon. Lady has been most disappointing and probably the most unconvincing speech that I have ever heard her make.
The hon. Lady says that there are practical difficulties. All that my hon. Friends are desiring to do is to extend, before the court case, exactly what 776 happens when a man is charged—that and no more. I want to make perfectly clear that in supporting my hon. Friend's new Clause, I do not want to restrict the freedom of the Press—but the child must be paramount. Let us not forget that there is such a thing as Press competition, and I believe this Clause will protect the reputable Press.
Let me"recap" very shortly—because I know that the House wants to come to a decision on this very quickly—exactly what my hon. Friend is seeking to do. An offence takes place, a girl is raped, but perhaps an arrest is never made and the man is never caught. But there is nothing to prohibit the Press publishing the girl's name and address and school, as the law stands. An arrest may be made later, but between the offence and the arrest is a gap and in that period there is nothing to prevent the name and address and school of the girl being published. Immediately an arrest is made, and a charge is laid, there is prohibition on the Press reporting the identity of the girl. But by this time the harm has been done, and it makes nonsense of the proceedings afterwards if already the girl's name, address and all the particulars are known.
I believe that in this matter the welfare of the child is paramount. I believe, like my hon. Friends, that this kind of thing can bring profound distress to most girls throughout their lives. But we have also to remember the point which was touched upon by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) that there may be a few girls who would enjoy the publicity of this kind of thing. Indeed, in recent weeks we have seen that prostitution has become glamourised, and we cannot really grumble if we find young girls thinking that prostitution leads to fame, fortune and films, not forgetting V.I.P. treatment at airports.
But whichever it is—whether it is the 99 per cent, who would be profoundly distressed by this or the 1 per cent. of girls who might enjoy all the publicity which come from it—I believe that it is not in the best interests of the child that these details should be published.
I hope that my hon. Friend will not withdraw the Clause, and that my hon. Friends, and perhaps some hon. Members opposite, will follow my hon. Friend into the Division Lobby.
§ 1.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles A. Howell
When the Joint Under-Secretary sat down, I had almost lost faith in humanity. Since then I have had a chance to recover. The hon. Lady said that she held her case on a very narrow point. I can only hope that at some time in the future she will repent. I hope that she will read her speech in the Official Report and realise what she is doing to her own sex. I know that she is an hon. Member, like myself, and that sex should not come into this, but, without any disparaging of her right hon. Friend, I was not at all sorry when he went off for lunch and left this case to her. I thought that as a woman Minister she could not do other than support me.
But what does the hon. Lady say? She says that this strikes at the freedom of the Press. I interjected earlier to point out that when I tabled the new Clause the Press inundated me with telephone calls. They asked what my motive was in restricting the Press. One reporter whom I know personally said,"Are you taking part in the campaign against the Press?". But when I explained my motives all of them said"This is quite right. It is only right that you should do this. Often when we make reports of these things it is the sub-editors who put in the names, not us. Although we may have to put the names in, we do not want to do so". All of them applauded what I was doing.
Why does the law at present say that in the case of a child under 17 this information must not be published from the time the case comes into court? Is that not to protect the identity of the child? At some time someone realised what the child's life could be if the identity was revealed. We have enough cases today of obscene and horrific cards being issued with various foods, and so on, without a child having to go to school and be questioned by the children there—"What did you do?","What did you say?","What was it like?" and"What is the effect now?" Surely the hon. Lady and her hon. Friends have enough imagination to know what will happen.
I have read cases of this sort in the Sunday newspapers for years, and like most menfolk, I have thought that if I could catch the man concerned and I 778 was responsible for the law, I would see that he had treatment which would ensure that he would never do it again. Having had it in my own home and family, I would say with regard to my interjection earlier about never having committed murder, that if I could have been anywhere near the individual the weekend it happened in my family, I would have been guilty of murder, and would have done it willingly and knowingly.
One has to see this come into one's home. It is no good reading about it in the Sunday newspapers. One is disgusted about it when it is in the Sunday newspapers, but when it comes into one's home one is horrified. It is impossible to describe one's feelings. At least, I cannot do it.
I do not want these innocent children to be pilloried in the Press as having been assaulted in this way. I am not trying to prevent these cases being reported. I want them to be reported. I want every one of the offenders concerned to be caught. But giving the name of the child is hardly ever going to help in apprehending the person concerned. By all means let there be given a description of the man and his clothing and information about the time, and so on.
I am not saying that all this should never be reported. But what I am saying is that if the Clause is accepted and the chief of police or the Secretary of State are able to give such permission in exceptional cases, and only in exceptional cases, if a newspaper reporter is outside a doctor's surgery or a police station and obtains information about such a case he will know from the very start that he must not publish the name of the girl. The sub-editor would know that, and the editor would know it.
There is no excuse for the hon. Lady saying that this is not a practical method. It is the only practical method. She said that she was standing on such a small point that she could not see any other way out. But she said that the matter should be tackled in a much wider way. If this is a problem, as is admitted, let us deal with it in a small way here, and then let us deal with the wider problem when we get the chance. Here we are proposing to deal with a small, narrow problem. I should 779 hate to think that the hon. Lady would ever attend a meeting of women and have quoted to her what had happened later. If I may misquote something, God may forgive her, but there are thousands of families who have this horrible thing happen to them who never will. If the hon. Lady is not prepared to accept the Clause, I must ask my hon. Friends to vote with me against the Government.
§ Mr. Brooke
I will not let my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary bear the whole responsibility for rejecting this Clause. I agree entirely with what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Charles A. Howell) has said. In those rare cases where a name is mentioned or particulars of identification are given in the Press and attention is drawn to some particular child or young person who has been concerned in attempted rape or something of that kind, I think it is foul and I should like to hit it as hard as I possibly could.
Needless, to say, I considered the hon. Gentleman's new Clause very carefully, and it did not seem to me that his proposal, coming along at this late stage of the Bill, was an effective way of doing what he sought. One must look at this from all points of view. It is all very well for the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) to say that nobody wants to restrict the freedom of the Press. Believe me, if this Clause were put on the Statute Book it would on many occasions put newspapers into an impossibly difficult position. They would have to use their judgment as to whether an incident, of which they might know relatively little at that stage, was an incident contrary to decency or morality.
I know that those words occur in Section 39 of the Act, but under that Section
§ the court itself gives a decision as to whether the incident is contrary to decency or morality, and everybody knows where he is. But under the Clause nobody would know where he was because all kinds of views might be taken as to whether some incident which had been reported to the news room of a newspaper was an incident contrary to decency or morality. Those words are of a general character until they have been denned and closely applied, as they can be closely applied in a court. But one is putting an impossible task on those who write and publish newspapers if one asks them to decide in advance whether an incident is contrary to decency or morality.
§ It is easy to see that some incidents are, and I am bound to say that in my experience the newspapers behave very well in these cases. But there is also a great no-man's-land where newspapers will know that if they publish what is genuinely news, it may nevertheless later be held by a court that the incident was contrary to decency or morality and the newspaper concerned will have committed an offence.
§ What I would put to the House is that in these matters of the freedom of the Press we should be as precise as we can. The right way to hit at evil in the Press is not to put words of a general character on the Statute Book which will leave people in dubiety as to whether or not a certain case falls within the prohibition. That is bad legislation. It is because I think that this would be bad legislation that I must advise the House to reject the Clause, although I am entirely in agreement with the purpose of the hon. Member.
§ Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 53, Noes 82.781
|Division No. 157.]||AYES||[1.42 p.m.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Fletcher, Eric||MacColl, James|
|Barnett Guy||Greenwood, Anthony||Mapp, Charles|
|Beaney, Alan||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Millan, Bruce|
|Bradley, Tom||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hannan, William||Mulley, Frederick|
|Cliffe, Michael||Henderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur(RwlyRegis)||O'Malley, B. K.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Holman, Percy||Oram, A. E.|
|Cullien,Mrs Alice||Hunter, A. E.||Prentice, R. E.|
|Dalyell, Tam||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Rankin, John|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Janner, Sir Barnett||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Diamond, John||Jeger, George||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Evans, Albert||King, Dr. Horace||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Fitch, Alan||Lubbock, Eric||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Warbey, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Snow, Julian||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)||Mr. Charles A. Howell and Mr. Redhead|
|Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Taverne, D.||Yates, victor (Ladywood)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Mills, Stratton|
|Allason, James||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Bingham, R. M.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Holland, Philip||Pitman, Sir James|
|Brooman-White, R.||Hornby, R. P.||Pott, Percivall|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Hughes-Young, Michael||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Iremonger, T. L.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||James, David||Skeet, T. M. H.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Tapsell, Peter|
|Cordle, John||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Teeling, Sir William|
|Corfield, F. V.||Kershaw, Anthony||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Cunningham, Knox||Kirk, Peter||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Dance, James||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Turner, Colin|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Eden, Sir John||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Finlay, Graeme||McMaster, Stanley R.||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Macpherson,Rt.Hn.Niall (Dumfries)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)||Mawby, Ray||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Mr. Peel and Mr. Hugh Rees.|
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)
The next new Clause to be moved is that in the name of the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon)—Revocation of Approved School Orders. With it, her new Clause—Committal to Approved Schools—can be discussed, but cannot be called to a Division.