§ 8. Mr. Bernard Jenkin
To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what recent representations she has received concerning violence on television and in films. 
§ Mrs. Virginia Bottomley
My Department has received 65 letters about screen violence during the past three months. I shall meet the chairmen of the BBC, the Independent Television Commission and the Broadcasting Standards Council again shortly to consider how they are responding, and might respond further, to the public's concern on the issue, which, as I have often made clear, I share.
§ Mr. Jenkin
I thank my right hon. Friend for her initiatives on the matter. Does she agree that there is no doubt that the constant screening of television violence permeates society and affects people's behaviour, especially that of the more vulnerable children in society? Will she disregard such bits of propaganda as the survey produced by Sheffield university, which purports to have produced an analysis showing a reduction in the depiction of violence on television? We all know that it is not so much the timing and content of violence as the insidious nature of portrayals of violence that causes so much concern and damage to society.
§ Mrs. Bottomley
I totally endorse my hon. Friend's comments. The problem is not only the number of violent incidents, which has fallen, but the quality of their portrayal and how powerful they are in influencing behaviour. I congratulate my hon. Friend on the way in which he pursues the cause—representing, as I know he does, the National Viewers and Listeners Association, whose headquarters are in his area. We must be determined to achieve further progress, and that is the message that I shall reinforce to the regulators. I shall congratulate them on some encouraging signs so far, but tell them that the people of Britain will not be satisfied until they see that commitment translated into practice.
§ Mr. Maxton
Will the Secretary of state and all Conservative Members who are so concerned about violence in society, instead of worrying about Violence on television, take the first active Step this evening by voting for a total ban on handguns?
§ Mrs. Bottomley
The position on that matter is clear. I hoped that the hon. Gentleman was going to say that we should be worried not only about what we see on our television screens, but about what young people do with their time. That is one of the reasons we have been so anxious to change the lottery rules to enable more 686 investment in sport, training and coaching. Later this week, the Arts Council will make announcements about arts for everyone, to encourage our young people to be involved in worthwhile activities. I am pleased that we are able to fund initiatives to take that forward.
§ Mr. Simon Coombs
Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the fact that the BBC has recently published new producers' guidelines on such issues as sex and violence on television?
As most young children are now so computer-literate that they can decode the V-chip with the greatest of ease, does my right hon. Friend agree that the main responsibility for keeping children away from violence on television lies with parents?
§ Mrs. Bottomley
Parents undoubtedly have a key responsibility. The worrying development of children having televisions in their own rooms means that they can watch television in an isolated way, and I would suggest that, in such cases, the messages of violence are more powerful. I congratulate the BBC on its statement of promises and on its revised producers' guidelines; the House will watch with great care to ensure that they are translated into action.
I share my hon. Friend's concerns about the V-chip. We must learn from Canada's experience and ensure that it works in practice. My Department is examining the V-chip, but I suggest—as does my hon. Friend—that it will not be a substitute for parental responsibility.