§ Mr. Gerald Howarth
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many indecent or obscene items have been seized by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise under the Customs and Excise Act 1952 and the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 in each year since 1979.
§ Mr. Lilley
The number of indecent or obscene items seized by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, under these Acts, in each year since 1979 was as follows:
Number 1979–80 98,300 1980–81 66,600 1981–82 83,500
Number 1982–83 172,000 1983–84 170,000 1984–85 43,400 1985–86 53,100 1986–87 33,000 1987–88 29,000 1988–89 24,000
The European Court of Justice ruled in 1985 that the prohibition on the importation from the European Community of indecent or obscene articles imposed by section 42 of the Customs Consolidation Act 1876 is not lawful under article 36 of the treaty of Rome, unless the domestic manufacture and sale of these articles was also prohibited by United Kingdom legislation.
The effect of the ruling was that:
- (a) Customs could continue to seize obscene material but not, with the exception of material involving children, seize indecent material; and
- (b) Customs could no longer seize items such as sex aids which can be legally sold on the home market.
Although the decision of the European Court of Justice related solely to material imported from the Community, Customs and Excise consider that it would be inequitable and impracticable not to apply the same standards to all imports. The changes following from this ruling account for the decline in the number of items seized since 1985.