§ 21. Mr. Parkin
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what fresh instruction he has given to Customs officers with regard to the importation of foreign publications containing scandalous allegations; and in what circumstances permission was given to distribute the issue of Libération of 18th June, which makes such allegations.
§ Mr. Maudling
The importation of indecent and obscene books or other articles is prohibited by law, but the Customs have no power to stop importation of a publication on the grounds that it may contain defamatory matter. No instructions of the kind referred to in the Question have therefore been given, and permission was neither required nor given for the distribution of Libération.
§ Mr. Parkin
Is the Minister aware that, although there were colourful Press stories of 30,000 periodicals being destroyed or mutilated by the Customs, after I put down the Question information reaching me led me to expect the Answer which I received, but I thought it right to leave the Question on the Order Paper in order that this matter could be clarified. Will he bear in mind that the most interesting thing in the periodicals mentioned was not the graffiti, in respect of which people have their own means of seeking a remedy, but the analysis of the somewhat inglorious position of the Home Secretary, who appeared to be unable to use information available in his own Department—information he had not been asked to get? I am sorry that the supplementary question is rather long. What I am asking the Chancellor is to make sure, when inquiries reach a more dispassionate stage, that he looks into the question whether there ought to be better co-ordination not only between himself and the Ministers, but between various semi-autonomous inquiry organisations such as the Vice Squad, the Customs and the Security Branch.
§ Mr. Maudling
I think that the hon. Member is confusing defamatory and obscene publications. I think that there 1119 is a pretty good control over the obscene but there is no control at all, and should not be, over the defamatory. I am grateful for his help in giving me a chance to make the position clear, but I am sorry that he rather spoiled it by giving further currency to what he has described in his Question as "scandalous allegations".