§ Mr. Denis Howell
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would it be for the convenience of the House to consider with amendment No. 20 the following group of amendments?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Does the House have any objection? No, then we may proceed along those lines.
Amendment proposed, No. 20, in page 4, line 6, after 'suitable', insert
'in relation to those matters referred to in section 2(2) above'. —[Mr. Parris.]
No. 21, in page 4, line 6, leave out 'viewing' and insert
'classification certificates to be issued in respect of them, having special regard to the likelihood of video works in respect of which such certificates have been issued being viewed'.
No. 22, in page 4, line 6, after 'home', insert
`in accordance with such conditions as may be specified in the classification certificates described in this Act'.
No. 25, in page 4, line 31, leave out 'showing' and insert
`a classification certificate to be issued in respect of it.
§ No. 26, in page 4, line 2, leave out 'showing to' and insert 'viewing by'.
§ No. 30, in clause 5, page 5, line 21, leave out 'showing to' and insert 'viewing by'.
No. 31, in clause 5, page 5, line 23, leave out from first `the' to 'children' and insert
`viewing of the work by'.
§ No. 32, in clause 5, page 5, line 24, leave out 'showing to' and insert 'viewing by'.
§ No. 33, in clause 5, page 5, line 27, leave out 'showing only to' and insert 'viewing only by'.
§ Mr. Bright
In discussion of the Bill in Committee, we had a very full and important debate on whether the classification of 18R material on video should be permitted under the Bill. As the House will be aware, members of the Committee voted in favour of the view, which I personally shared, that the designated authority and its examiners should be able to make use of this classification. But, during this same debate, we also considered an amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) which added the words "viewing in the home" to clause 4(1)(a) of the Bill. This amendment was agreed unanimously by the Committee, and underlined that, despite differences of view on the question of 18R videos, we were united in our view that the Bill should make express provision to recognise the central purpose of the Bill, namely, the classification of videos supplied for viewing in the home.
In supporting this amendment, my hon. Friend the Minister advised that some tidying up of the provision would be necessary. As members of the Committee, including the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) pointed out, some videos are made for places other than in the home. Certain of them would not be exempted under clause 2 of the Bill and nor would they necessarily be suitable for viewing in the home. I am thinking, for example, of certain videos produced for use in family planning clinics or marriage guidance counsellors' offices and certain videos showing scenes of violence designed for use in the training of social workers or psychologists. Under the Bill there must, at least, be a risk that such material could not be classified and that its commercial supply would effectively, therefore, be banned. That is not, of course, the intention of the Bill, nor, I am sure, was it the intention of hon. Members who supported the amendment in Committee.
This batch of amendments fulfils the undertaking to tidy up the earlier amendment and it also carries through the earlier amendment to other provisions of the Bill, notably in clause 5.
Clause 5(2)(b) of the Bill in effect describes 15 and 18 certificates and clause 5(2)(c) 18R certificates. As the House will know, we shall be discussing later an amendment—to which I shall be giving my full support 650 —from my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), which will confine the supply of 18R videos to licensed sex shops.
As my hon. Friend the Minister has said, this Bill is not intended to roll back the video industry to the days of the Ealing comedies. Material in the 15, 18 and 18R videos will continue to be available once my Bill comes into force, as my hon. Friend the Minister has said. If the amendments which stand in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point and myself are accepted today, the designated authority's examiners will be required, however, to have special regard to the likelihood of video works that they classify being seen in the home, and that certainly reflects the intentions that lay behind the original amendment.
I have to advise the House that amendment No. 22 tabled by my hon. Friends the Members for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris) and for Gravesham (Mr. Brinton) is defective. If refers to conditions which may be specified in a classification certificate, but neither clause 5(2)(b) which deals with the 15 and 18 certificates nor clause 5(2)(c) which deals with 18R certificates makes provision for conditions to be imposed.
In the context of the issue of a certificate, I am not at all persuaded that conditions would be appropriate, given that a breach would not lead to a certificate being withdrawn.
§ Mr. Parris
My amendment No. 22 reads:in accordance with such conditions as may be specified in the classification certificates described in this Act".The classification certificates are described in the Act. It is not necessary to find the part of the Act in which the conditions that may be specified in the classification certificates are themselves described. The Act describes the classification certificates and my amendment refers tosuch conditions as may be specified in the classification certificates".
§ Mr. Bright
I have been advised by those who have considered the matter carefully. My hon. Friends' amendment and mine go the same way; I do not think that we dispute that. I know that my hon. Friends believe that their amendment is probably simpler than mine, but mine was drafted by legal people—which necessarily makes it complicated. I believe that my amendments will stand up and that they spell out exactly my intentions.
I believe that if the House accepts the amendments, my Bill will be a stronger and better measure and will make it clear to all who read it that the primary purpose is to provide for the classification of video material that is likely to be viewed in the home.
The amendments will also ensure that the Bill does not have the unwanted effect of preventing the classification of material that it was never intended to ban.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
I support the amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright) mentioned our debate in Committee about how we should control 18R material—films that can be shown only in licensed sex cinemas and to persons over 18.
We were faced with a dilemma. Such material cannot now be shown in public cinemas, and young people under 18 are not allowed to enter sex cinemas. We had to decide what to do about such material that was purchased by adults in ordinary video shops and taken home for private 651 viewing. Not only is there a strong possibility of children and adolescents seeing such material and being disturbed, confused or even desensitised by it, but there is a difference between viewing in the home and in the controlled environment of a public cinema. In the privacy of the home, it would be possible to slow down a video, dwell on particular scenes and experiment, in a palpably unhealthy way.
Accordingly, with the support of the Magistrates Association and a wide range of reputable voluntary organisations throughout the country, including representatives of teachers and parents, I sought an outright ban on 18R material.
I did not carry the Committee with me. My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South has explained that one reason for that was the feeling that one of my earlier amendments, to add the words "viewing in the home" to clause 4(1)(a) effectively required the designated authority to have specific regard to where a video might be shown.
I have concluded that my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South is right. As it is the subject of the next batch of amendments, standing in my name, I shall not argue the case now. I hope that the House will accept my hon. Friend's amendment.
§ Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye)
We give our full support to the amendments, particularly No. 20. If we are to control video nasties in the home, it is surely right that the authority should have specific terms of reference by which to control those videos. Clause 2(2), which spells out what we are trying to get at, is strongly supported by me and by my hon. Friends the Members for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) and for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes).
§ Mr. Brinton
I support any attempts to define in more detail the amendment that the Committee resolutely pushed through. The inclusion of the words "viewing in the home" worried me and the British Videogram Association.
The lawyers have got me confused by amendment No. 21, though I have read it many times and I listened carefully to the explanation of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright). Many people criticised the original amendment, because it could conceivably result in the designating authority defining all homes in Britain where there were five-year-old children and thereby limiting the supply of classified material. [Interruption.] I exaggerate, as my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) knows, but that is the sort of situation which could have occurred, conceivably or inconceivably.
If the lawyers who have advised my hon. Friend the promoter can confirm and if he can assure me that the words in amendment No. 21—classification certificates to be issued in respect of them, having special regard to the likelihood of video works in respect of which such certificates have been issued being viewed"—put the matter right and made the designated body look to all the areas of classification, I shall be happy.
§ Mr. Parris
I have a couple of amendments to speak to but, as the House realises, my amendment No. 20 has been linked with the group of amendments that we are now discussing. I shall start with my amendment No 20.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. It might clarify matters if I remind the House that together with amendment No. 652 20 we are discussing amendments Nos. 21, 22, 25, 26, 30, 31, 32 and 33. The question before the House is, That amendment No. 20 be made.
§ Mr. Parris
Starting, then, with my amendment No. 20, the existing regulations providing for the classification of films for display in the public cinema are all derived from the Cinematograph Act 1909. The long title of that Act made it clear that the purpose of the Act was to prevent fires from breaking out in cinemas. It had no other purpose. Subsequent to that purpose, the Secretary of State was allowed to empower county councils to issue licences to people to display films, and it is from the issue of those licences that the whole apparatus of cinema censorship has arisen. So the House will see how easily a broad censorship measure can sometimes be based on what may seem to be very narrow legislative powers.
The Bill as presently drafted is far less narrow. It simply empowers the British Board of Film Censors to ask itself whether films are suitable. A board of censors which wanted to decide whether films were politically suitable would not be prevented from doing so by this Bill. A board of censors which wanted to decide whether films were heretical from the religious point of view would not be prevented from doing so by this Bill.
It did not seem to me to be an impossible task to lay down, in the broadest possible way, the sort of terms of reference that we thought the British Board of Film Censors should be taking into account when doing its censorship. I thought that the terms of reference were fairly well laid out in clause 2(2), which attempts to define all those ingredients which, should a work contain them, would result in its not being exempted on the ground of being educational, or whatever else it might claim to be. In other words, the subsection attempts to put its finger on those ingredients which may be so offensive to the public as to require classification of some kind. I understand that clause 2(2) must provide a fairly exhaustive list of those ingredients. If it does not, and if some element or other might be deeply offensive to the public but was not listed in the subsection, it is perfectly possible that a film containing that element, and claiming to be educational, would be regarded as an accepted work under the terms of the Bill, should it become law.
If anyone can think of anything so offensive that a work should not be exempted just because it is educational, it should go into subsection (2), because the Bill could be incomplete without it. If the subsection is made watertight in the way that I have suggested, the wording of the subsection can be used as the broad remit for the terms of reference of the British Board of Film Censors.
I have suggested in my amendment No. 20 that after the word "suitable" we should insert the wordsin relation to those matters referred to in section 2(2) above.It seems to me to be a fairly unexceptional amendment. In Committee, it was registered fairly strongly, and the Minister seemed to suggest that it would be impracticable to list those things that the British Board of Film Censors should take into account, but I do not think that it is impracticable. As I said in Committee, I think that it is a matter of the Home Office being rather lazy.
We are not saying what decisions the British Board of Film Censors should take. We are not trying to lay down the criteria so precisely that we know what decision the board will reach about each film. We are only trying to say what the broad, approximate terms of reference of the 653 board should be, so that it could never take it upon itself under another Government or under another Home Secretary to be a political or a religious censoring body. That is the reason for amendment No. 20.
In amendment No. 22 I suggest that after "viewing in the home" we insertin accordance with such conditions as may be specified in the classification certificates described in this Act.I wanted to make it clear what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State suggested in Committee and again this morning was already the case. I wanted to make it clear that the term "in the home" did not mean in the home in the sense of the log fire burning and the toddlers around the hearth. If that is what "in the home" means, the phrase will be unduly restrictive in the Bill. But my hon. Friend has made it clear that he regarded the term "in the home" as purely declaratory. I think that that phrase is a lawyer's way of saying that it adds nothing to the Bill.
There are two views about what the phrase "in the home" means. My hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), other hon. Members and a number of people outside the House think that by inserting the phrase "in the home" they have changed the Bill substantially. They think that, bearing in mind that phrase "in the home", the British Board of Film Censors may adopt a different set of criteria for classification than it might otherwise have adopted. I probably do my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point no service in saying that he thinks that he has achieved something and changed the Bill by the insertion of that phrase. The Minister says that nothing has been changed and that the phrase is purely declaratory.
The Under-Secretary of State also says that almost the entire mainstream of cinema work will be viewable on video and that, to the extent that there are any dual standards, they will affect only work at the margins. By that, he said, he meant that they would still be subject to the Obscene Publications Act 1959, and that when judging any work under the Obscene Publications Act the jury had to take account of where the work might be seen and by whom it might be seen.
It is not necessary in the Bill to list all those Acts of Parliament to which the British Board of Film Censors is still subject in making its decisions. It knows that it is still subject to the Obscene Publications Act. If dual standards, to the extent that they exist, are only to be set up by the operation of the Obscene Publications Act, if the Act already operates, as it does, on the Bill, and if the term "viewing in the home" will not make any difference to the standards that the British Board of Film Censors adopts, the term "viewing in the home" is otiose. It does not need to be included. It adds nothing to the Bill. We shall get all the mainstream cinema except, as my hon. Friend said, that which falls foul of the Obscene Publications Act. We always knew that, and we do not have to tell the British Board of Film Censors that.
For that reason, it must be made clear that "viewing in the home" does not mean viewing in the sort of cosy and decent circumstances which might exclude certain material. In Committee, I asked my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point whether he thought that Penthouse was suitable for viewing in the home. He replied that he did not and that he did not associate 654 Penthouse with the home. According to one interpretation of the word "home", certain video works will not be suitable for viewing in the home.
We should direct our attention to the other interpretation of "viewing in the home"—viewing in the home in accordance with such certificates as the British Board of Film Censors may have laid down, certificates about 18, PG, 16, and so on. It is in that context of viewing in the home that the board can issue its certificates and make its decisions.
I have looked at amendment No. 21, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright). That seems to achieve 60 per cent. or 70 per cent. of what I want to achieve, but it leaves the British Board of Film Censors with the final decision about whether children are likely to see the work in the home. The board has to decide the likelihood of children seeing any work.
Taking as my text Luke, chapter 17—It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!"—I look, for example, at the liquor licensing laws and I see immediately that the off-licensee who sells the liquor does not have to consider the chances of that liquor eventually getting into the hands of a child. The law accepts that, the liquor having been sold, what happens to it is up to the parent.
I should like the law to accept that, an 18 category video having been sold only to a responsible adult, what happens to it is up to the parents. It is not for the BBFC to try to arrive at a calculation of the chances of that video falling into the hands of children and to classify accordingly. For that reason, I prefer the wording of amendment No. 20 to that of amendment No. 21. However, I shall accept the latter amendment with ill grace and hope that no one will take exception to amendment No. 20.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
I support what the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris) has just said, Many of us have struggled hard to reconcile the duty not to impose undue restrictions on adults with the duty to uphold the rights of the responsible parent, the parents' function to be responsible for what their children do and, in the case of some of us, clear Christian or similar beliefs that young people should not be harmed by the type of material which the hon. Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright) is trying to prevent going into their hands.
It is unfair and ungracious for hon. Members to suggest that our attempts to do what I have outlined when we are trying to legislate for the country are not done with the best motives. All of us, including the Minister, are trying to tread a difficult line. I pay tribute to the work that has been put into the Committee stage by those who have tried to balance the concept of liberty with their duty to young people. It is important that we support amendments Nos. 20 and 21. Amendment No. 20 ensures that the BBFC does not have the word "suitable" as a wide and potentially over-wide definition, but relates it to the mischief with which the Bill is intended to deal.
Video nasties are not and never will be a large proportion of the total. We must ensure that we do not take a sledgehammer to crack a nut. We must deal with the problem but not impose a draconian measure. I hope that the House will accept amendment No. 21, because it helps us to be more clear that, when deciding how to certify videos, the BBFC or designated body will bear in mind the likelihood of children seeing that video. It is not necessary 655 to imagine that such videos are going into homes in which five, 10 or 15-year-olds live. If a video is sold legally to an adult, that adult must take the responsibility for his conscience and the consequences of allowing youngsters to see such material.
There is no doubt that there are families and adults who are not exercising that responsibility properly. Our method of influencing them to do so is persuasion and argument and to give responsible parents support, rather than prescribe what they can do. These amendments help us in that regard. I support that and hope that the House will help those hon. Members who are trying, by amendment, to make the Bill better each time it comes before us.
§ Mr. Pike
I took exception to some of what the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris) said about the addition of the words, "viewing in the home" being of no consequence. That was not the intention of the Committee when he agreed that addition. He has misread what the Minister and others have said today if he believes that those words are of no consequence.
The addition means that when the British Board of Film Censors judges these videos for viewing in the home it may get a slightly different classification than it would have received in the cinema. I also understand from what the Minister said earlier today that small cuts or adjustments may be made in recognition of the fact that the material is for viewing in the home. However, it does not mean that these videos will not be able to be shown in the home.
Since we voted on this matter in Committee I have received many letters expressing a variety of views on it. One strong organisation in my town has told me that its members will not vote for me again because I voted the wrong way on the 18R classification and supported the addition of "viewing in the home" as a better compromise.
This is a difficult area. It is a grey area. It is not the intention of the Bill, as I see it, to impose rigid censorship. The Bill is designed to impose a classification system so that people will understand what they are getting. It is not designed to take away people's civil liberties — their right to see what they wish. I accept what the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said. In an ideal world, all parents would be responsible and reasonable people. We know that that is not necessarily always the case, but we cannot legislate to cover the behaviour of every parent. If we did so, we would have to act on very stringent lines and restrict the freedom of the vast majority of people in this country in order to deal with those who are not responsible and reasonable.
We have debated today the problems connected with recording material from the television. My children—who are now rapidly growing up—can preset the video recorder to record programmes at 11 o'clock or 12 o'clock at night far more easily than I can. I do not have the time to fiddle around with buttons, but they know how to do so. It is surprising how children aged 10, 11 and 12 know how to pre-set the video recorder to record the programmes that they wish to see. How can even responsible and reasonable parents prevent their children from recording programmes? This is a difficult area. I believe that the Bill and the amendments are on the right lines, but we must try to ensure that the Bill remains basically a measure 656 designed to ban the video nasties, which is what it was on Second Reading, and that we maintain people's right to see the films they want to see.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
We are discussing an important amendment which gave rise to a great deal of concern in Committee. It is not clear that the amendment of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris) is necessary. Clause 2 deals with exemptions. It states that a video should not be exempt if, for example, it portrays human sexual activity, human genital organs, mutilation, torture or acts of gross violence. Nothing in that clause has anything to do with the general classification of what should be seen in the home. I acknowledge at once that amendment No. 21 achieves what we tried to achieve in Committee. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and presumably to the Minister for having given their attention to the matter.
§ Mr. Parris
I shall try to explain what I mean. If the right hon. Gentleman can think of anything that he believes should not be seen in the home, it should be referred to in clause 2(2), because if it is not referred to there, it can appear in any work purporting to be educational or instructive and will not need a certificate.
§ Mr. Howell
The hon. Gentleman is wrong about this, and there is a fundamental misconception in his thinking. I am sorry about that, because he was extremely helpful in Committee, although he did not always take a line similar to that of other Members, which is to his credit. The material that I wish not to be seen in the home will not be seen anywhere, because the BBFC or the designated authority will not give it a certificate. If such material is distributed without a certificate, its producers face substantial fines and, indeed, we had a long argument in Committee about whether they should be imprisoned.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that, even if amendment No. 20 is not accepted, something that was regarded as politically unsuitable by the BBFC could be denied a certificate and banned from sale except in special outlets?
§ Mr. Howell
I cannot imagine the BBFC deciding something on political grounds. I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman's point is.
§ Mr. Howell
Even if it were on video, it would presumably be ancillary to the purpose of the film. It might be part of a story about the Jewish situation. The hon. Gentleman is taking us into the realms of fantasy, and I must not follow him. I am anxious to take issue with the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West about the meaning of "the home". I shall be brief, because I wish to finish the Bill and I do not want people to take up time by subterfuge to stop us concluding it.
In Committee the hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) put down an amendment stating that the Bill should be extended into what some of us regarded as the area of censorship. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, West did not agree, but he has since reconsidered the matter and I am delighted that he now believes that we probably got it right. We must have regard to standards set 657 for material shown in the home. All that we have done, rightly, is to say that there must be a difference in standards of classification between films that people can see by going into a sex cinema or into a cinema open only to people aged over 18, and videos that can be seen in the home by all and sundry. That must be right; if it is not, we have wasted our time. If this filth is shown in the home, rather than in a sex cinema, it must be considered differently.
§ Mr. Parris
The right hon. Gentleman may be right, but if he is, he was wrong earlier to say that the Bill would not stop anyone seeing at home what could be seen in the cinema. It manifestly will do that.
§ Mr. Howell
I shall give up trying to do anything with the hon. Gentleman, whose lack of comprehension is astonishing. I am right. Although many people would criticise us for having the 18R category, such films can still be shown in the home. The point is that they must be classified as 18R and must be obtained in a special way, but that will not stop the hon. Gentleman perverting himself and his family if he wishes to. He must understand what we are doing. We are introducing not censorship, but a sensible means of classifying videos to be shown in the home. For that reason, I support the hon. Gentleman and thank him for meeting our point.
§ Mr. Mellor
I agree with what the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) has said, so I shall not repeat it. There was a genuine debate, in which feelings rightly ran high in Committee, on whether 18R category material, which can be shown only in sex cinemas or shops, should be available on video cassette. The Committee decided that it should in theory be possible for 18R material to be available on video cassette, provided that it was sold in segregated premises. The Committee also decided unanimously that it was right to understand that there was a difference if the BBFC was looking at 18R material in relation to its public exhibition within a cinema club. That is different from looking at it with regard to its distribution on video cassette, where it could go anywhere. The effect of that, as the right hon. Gentleman made clear, will be that the BBFC will have to think extra hard before any 18R material goes on video cassette, because it will go into the home, and it would be nonsense if that were any different.
Before my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Brinton) emerges shouting "Woe, woe" once more, I should point out that this has nothing to do with the main argument about the mainstream cinemas, on which I have already made my position clear. I hope that it is surplus to requirement that I should have to do so again. I have the greatest respect for my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris), but on occasion his forensic talents are used to mischievous ends. Why he feels the need to stir up trouble on an issue on which most of us, after a painful debate, came together and agreed, thereby showing the essential unity of the House, I do not know. There is no need to turn over the apple cart.
My hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) made a most handsome and generous speech, which is entirely in character, and in which he warmly endorsed the Bill, coming together with the right hon. 658 Member for Small Heath and others. Why my hon. Friend now feels the need to say to the right hon. Member for Small Heath, "It is not what you think, you have got it completely wrong," I do not know. The Committee re-emphasised, in the words of the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy), that we were setting out in a declaratory way what we expect the BBFC to do, and if we do not expect any board designated to look at videos to have in mind the fact that videos will go into the home, it makes nonsense of the business. On that basis, I commend amendment No. 21 and that which follows to the House.
If we accept amendment No 21, we must negative amendment No. 22, proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West, and I hope that we shall do so. As to amendment No. 20, I agree with the right hon. Member for Small Heath that my hon. Friend is confusing, inextricably and to no advantage, two quite distinct clauses and two distinct things. Clause 2 deals with exemptions and is a way of ensuring that material which cannot, on any view, require a classification of 15 or 18 should not have to go to the trouble and fuss of going to the BBFC. We spent a lot of time working out how in making that as wide as is consistent with the aim of the measure, we could prevent it from being a Trojan horse through which pornographers and those who deal with this offensive stuff could escape the full rigours of the Bill.
Clause 4 sets up the designated authority and gives it, rightly, broad terms of reference. I should have thought that the last thing that someone with my hon. Friend's liberal position would want to see embodied in the law is the list system of approach to censorship, which is a crude mechanism for control. In the end, one should look at a film and say whether it is offensive and should not be allowed, or it is not and should be. What it depicts is difficult to define. Some films can depict something not explicitly or offensively, but somebody else could make a film on the same subject which was obviously out to titillate and to make people feel that they want to go out and commit a similar crime and so would plainly be offensive. I beg my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West to realise that nothing could be more damaging to the Bill and to the cause for which it stands than for amendment No. 20 to be introduced. I wish to save it from that fate, and I advise the House to do the same.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
Is it the case that there is an 18R category, but that certain 18R categories that will be allowed to go into the home are different from those 18R categories that will not be allowed in?
§ Mr. Mellor
That is precisely the point. The 18R category is a hothouse plant which has around it a protective greenhouse of being shown only in the sex shop or the private cinema club. That is why—the BBFC accepts this—if it is shown in accordance with that certificate — a limited, greenhouse style certificate—it probably will not fall foul of the Obscene Publications Act. However, that does not give a guarantee more generally. That material cannot survive outside the greenhouse and will be in grave danger of being prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act provisions if it is more widely distributed.
It was the Committee's wish — I was defeated in Committee but, as a democrat, I accept it—that the 18R 659 material should be looked at on a case-by-case basis by the BBFC, having regard not to the fact that it will be shown in age-segregated premises, of which there are few in this country, but that once it leaves those premises it will go round on video cassettes to anywhere. That will mean material of a very different sort from that which is seen in cinema clubs at present.
§ Mr. Parris
I have made my point, and there is no point in making it again. If my hon. Friend the Minister does not understand the argument, he is a less intelligent man than I take him to be. I have sought to argue that 18R material certified for video viewing will have to conform with stricter standards than 18R material certified for cinema viewing. My hon. Friend the Minister has said as much, and so has the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell). As a consequence, there will be a good deal of 18R material of the type certified for cinema viewing that cannot be seen in the home. The first thing that the Bill will do will be to ban much of the 18R cinema material from viewing in the home. I do not say that that is wrong. I simply want to make the point that this is a censorship measure and that it will deprive people of seeing material in the home that they might be able to see in the cinema.
§ Mr. Mellor
I do not want to waste time, but it is mischievous to suggest that we are stopping people from seeing things which they can see in the cinemas, as though that referred to the local Roxy in their high street. This material can be seen only in a few specially licensed cinema clubs and sex shops. That is quite different from the mainstream cine material about which I was talking, and about which we all agree.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
From which people under 18 will be excluded. My hon. Friend has not grasped that.
§ Mr. Parris
So we move to the ordinary 18 classification. The right hon. Member for Small Heath suggested, although my hon. Friend the Minister has not done so, that in designating 18 certification we may want to take different standards into account for video viewing than we do for cinema viewing. There will be some 18-classified cinema films that people will not be able to see in that form in the home. I do not say that that is necessarily wrong, but we should admit it, and admit that to that degree this is a censorship measure. There is not much that I can say beyond that. It is clear that I shall not persuade the House of my view.
On amendment No. 20, I have tried, until I am blue in the face to explain the reason for the exemptions in clause 2(2) and why there should be a comprehensive list of the matters that the BBFC should take into account. If the House does not accept that argument, clearly I shall get not further with it.
My hon. Friend asks why I want to upset the apple cart. I do not want to upset the apple cart, and I intend to vote for the Third Reading of the Bill. However, I have one grave concern and I believe it is worth taking a little time to explain it. A set of dual standards will be set up and will cause people to believe that certification for video viewing is somehow softer than certification for cinema viewing. If that happens, we shall get a black market in videos which are the cinema versions of films, and they will be pirated and distributed for viewing in the home. It is therefore important for the two standards to be as close as possible.
660 My hon. Friend the Minister has said more than once that that is his intention. If I may say so, he had it both ways, both in Committee and with the Bill. When hon. Members questioned the judgment of the BBFC and suggested that it might not doing the right thing or doing it in the right way, my hon. Friend relied on what is no more than the truth—the statement that, in the Bill, we cannot tell the BBFC what to do. On other occasions, when hon. Members sought assurances about what the BBFC would do, my hon. Friend gave us those assurances and told us what he expected the BBFC to do and the standards that he expected it to maintain. I am sure that so long as he is the Under-Secretary of State those standards will be observed. However, we are dealing with an Act of Parliament and that is passed in perpetuity. Therefore, we must look carefully at the possibility of double standards and the emergence of a black market as a consequence.
§ Mr. Maclennan
Before the hon. Gentleman concedes that the House is not prepared to accept amendment No. 20, will he recognise that my hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) did support it? It deals with a matter of major importance that was dealt with inconclusively in Committee. I reserved my position, although I did not try to force a vote. This matter cannot be regarded as having been concluded today. The Bill will have to make progress in another place and there will be considerable interest in this matter. The absence of criteria, with which the hon. Gentleman's amendment is attempting to deal, is profoundly important and raises the issue, which I debated at length, whether the Bill could run foul of article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights on freedom of expression.
§ Mr. Parris
Yes, I recognise the help and support that I have had from the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends in Committee and now.
§ Mr. Bright
I was asked by my hon. Fnend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Brinton) to give him an assurance. I have now taken advice and can give him the assurance for which he asks. That is the purpose of the amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
Amendment made: No. 21, in page 4, line 6 leave out `viewing' and insert
`classification certificates to be issued in respect of them, having special regard to the likelihood of video works in respect of which such certificates have been issued being viewed'.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
No doubt the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris) heard the Minister's comments on amendment No. 22. In the light of those remarks, does he wish to move that amendment?
Amendments made: No. 25, in page 4, line 31 leave out `showing' and insert
'a classification certificate to be issued in respect of it'.
§ No. 26, in page 4, line 32 leave out 'showing to' and insert 'viewing by'.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
I beg to move amendment No. 27, in page 4, line 35 leave out from 'premises' to end of line 38 and insert`other than a licensed sex shop'.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 34, in clause 5, page 5, line 33 leave out from 'premises' to end of line 36 and insert'other than a licensed sex shop'.Amendment No. 42, in clause 10, page 7, line 31 leave out from 'premises' to end of line 41 and insert'other than a licensed sex shop, a person who supplies or offers to supply a video recording containing the work on premises other than a sex shop for which a licence is in force under the relevant enactment is guilty of an offence unless the supply is, or would if it took place be, an exempted supply.'Amendment No. 43, in clause 10, page 8, line 2, leave out 'this section' and insert 'subsection (1) above'.
Amendment No. 44, in clause 10, page 8, line 5, leave out from 'concerned' to end of line 8 and insert—
- `(b) that the accused neither knew nor had reasonable grounds to believe that the premises were premises other than a sex shop for which a licence was in force under the relevant enactment, or
- (c) that the accused believed on reasonable grounds that the supply was, or would if it took place be, an exempted supply by virtue of section 3(4) of this Act or subsection (6) below.
§ (3) Where a classification certificate issued in respect of a video work states that no video recording containing that work is to be supplied on any premises other than a licensed sex shop, a person who, on premises other than a sex shop for which a licence is in force under the relevant enactment, has a video recording containing the work in his possession for the purpose of supplying it anywhere other than on premises which are such a sex shop is guilty of an offence, unless he has it in his possession for the purpose only of a supply which, if it took place, would be an exempted supply.
§ (4) It is a defence to a charge of committing an offence under subsection (3) above to prove—
- (a) that the accused neither knew nor had reasonable grounds to believe that the classification certificate contained the statement concerned,
- (b) that the accused neither knew nor had reasonable grounds to believe that the premises on which it was his purpose to supply the video recording were not a sex shop for which a licence was in force under the relevant enactment, or
- (c) that the accused had the video recording in his possession for the purpose only of a supply which he believed on reasonable grounds would, if it took place, be an exempted supply by virtue of section 3(4) of this Act or subsection (6) below.
§ (5) In this section "relevant enactment" means Schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 or, in Scotland, Schedule 2 to the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, and "sex shop" has the same meaning as in the relative enactment.
§ (6) For the purposes of this section, where a classification certificate issued in respect of a video work states that no video recording containing that work is to be supplied on any premises other than a licensed sex shop, the supply of a video recording containing that work—
- (a) to a person who, in the course of a business, makes video works or supplies video recordings, and
- (b)with a view to its eventual supply in sex shops, being sex shops for which licences are in force under the relevant enactment,
§ Sir Bernard Braine
This group of amendments follows on naturally from those moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright). They confine the sale or hire of restricted 18 material to licensed sex shops. The amendments to clauses 4 and 5 deal with the change in the nature of the classification authority's determination and of the 18R certificate. The amendments to clause 10 deal with the offence of supplying, offering for supply, or possessing for supply, restricted 18 videos anywhere other than in a licensed sex shop.
662 The amendments have been drafted to ensure that 18R videos can be supplied to the public only in licensed sex shops. Therefore, it will not be possible to supply this material to the public in any areas in which the local authority concerned has not adopted in England and Wales schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, or, in Scotland, schedule 2 to the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.
The amendments to clause 10 will make it an offence to supply or offer for supply a restricted 18 video on premises other than a licensed sex shop and to possess a restricted 18 video on premises other than a licensed sex shop.
I am as anxious as every hon. Member to get the Bill through, but it might be helpful to hon. Members if I were to describe briefly how we came to the conclusion that such provisions are necessary. I want to say something complimentary to my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris). In Standing Committee he drew our attention to a valuable point, that the Bill was unclear as to where 18R material might be sold. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee were uneasy about that. In response, my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South urged that 18R material should be obtainable only from licensed sex shops. Indeed, that had been his intention from the outset. The ordinary video shop would be able to sell such material only if it obtained a licence from the local authority. Putting up a curtain or shutting off a corner of a video shop simply would not do. Anyone selling 18R material which was outside the mainstream supply of videos which were designed for the purpose of entertainment or education would have to satisfy the same requirements as a licensed sex shop. I completely reject the notion that that will somehow interfere with the rapidly expanding video trade. That point was put to us, so it must be dealt with. If the proprietors of video shops think that the loss of sales of hard pornography and video nasties of a kind that make normal people sick and which we know damage children and young people will ruin their businesses they are singularly lacking in vision. The general sale of video recordings will leap ahead.
I hope that no hon. Member will argue that ordinary video shops should be permitted to sell 18R material. To do so would be to undermine the Bill. There are powerful arguments in favour of the amendments, but I shall be brief. The restriction to licensed sex shops effectively means that there would be no sale or hire to anyone under the age of 18 since any breach of that requirement would attract not only penalties but very heavy penalties. Moreover, with such establishments there would be no outward advertisements and such premises would usually be sited well away from schools and churches.
The conduct of such businesses will be more easily monitored by an elected local authority. So, instead of centralised control of what is sold or hired, the decision to license or not to license is left with local communities and their elected representatives. If a community wants a sex shop, it can have it. If it does not, there is nothing to compel it to have one. As a result, we may restore something of that respect for decency which most communities used to enjoy. More importantly, the amendment will ensure that democratically-elected local authorities are able, for the first time, to control what many of us believe to be an obnoxious and dangerous trade, 663 thereby affording greater protection to our children and young people. From the very beginning, that has been the main purpose of the Bill.
§ Mr. Parris
I shall be extremely brief. The Bill would make 18R material unobtainable, for example, in my constituency which is coterminous with the district council of West Derbyshire. There are no sex shops in West Derbyshire, and there are unlikely to be any. I do not believe that West Derbyshire district council was, or should be, elected to tell my constituents what they should be able to see in their own homes. I shall oppose the amendment.
§ Mr. Brinton
I rise to support my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris). The notion that there is virtue in local authorities controlling the exhibition of 18R material is quite appalling. It introduces yet another censor. We have already discussed the terminal point of censorship——
§ Mr. Mellor
I should not like my hon. Friend to work himself up on a false premise. At present that is exactly what the local authorities do. They control sex shops and private cinema clubs, which are at present the only places in which that material can lawfully be shown.
§ Mr. Brinton
My hon. Friend has been of considerable help. That is why I should like the amendment to be opposed. I shall certainly oppose it.
§ Mr. Lawrence
I hope that East Staffordshire district council will not allow 18R material to be sold in Burtonupon-Trent or in the East Staffordshire district. That would be consistent with its policy so far not to allow sex shops either in the town or surrounding district. For that reason, I shall support the measure. The elected representatives of the East Staffordshire district council can be thrown out at the next election if the people of Burton-upon-Trent overwhelmingly believe that they ought to have the freedom to disseminate this filth in the towns covered by that district council.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 98, Noes 3.664
|Division No. 187]||[1.35 pm|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Ashby, David||Garrett, W. E.|
|Baldry, Anthony||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Grant, Sir Anthony|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Berry, Sir Anthony||Hayes, J.|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Bottomley, Peter||Hayward, Robert|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Hind, Kenneth|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Hordern, Peter|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)|
|Bright, Graham||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Jackson, Robert|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Key, Robert|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Kilfedder, James A.|
|Cope, John||King, Roger (B'ham N'field)|
|Dover, Den||Lawrence, Ivan|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Evennett, David||McWilliam, John|
|Forman, Nigel||Major, John|
|Gale, Roger||Mather, Carol|
|Galley, Roy||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Mellor, David||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Moore, John||Stern, Michael|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Nellist, David||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)|
|Onslow, Cranley||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Ottaway, Richard||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Page, John (Harrow W)||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Patten, John (Oxford)||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Pike, Peter||Tracey, Richard|
|Powley, John||Viggers, Peter|
|Rathbone, Tim||Wallace, James|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Ward, John|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Robinson, P. (Belfast E)||Watts, John|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Wheeler, John|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Wood, Timothy|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Silvester, Fred||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Sims, Roger||Mr. Christopher Murphy and Mr. David Atkinson|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Mr. Tim Renton and Mr. Matthew Parris.|
|Knight, Gregory (Derby N)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Mr. Bright
I beg to move amendment No. 28, in page 5, line 12, leave out from second 'to' to end of line 13 and insert`the person or persons designated under this section at the time of that transaction'.This is a modest drafting amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.1.45 pm