HC Deb 17 February 1921 vol 138 cc256-8
18. Major GLYN

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the increase in serious crime proved against juvenile offenders, he will consider the advisability of instructing the censorship authorities charged with passing or rejecting cinema films to prohibit the exhibition in the United Kingdom of any films representing murders, suicides, or robbery with violence; whether he is aware that the opinion of many law and police officers is in favour of such action; and that the present censorship of cinema films is unsatisfactory on account of the increase of work which devolves upon the officials concerned since the organisation was first established?


As this question refers to an institution for which I am responsible, though I did not get notice of it, I would ask whether it is not a fact that the Board of Censors, of which I am President, issued a year, if not two years ago, a statement to the members of the trade to the effect that they would not allow any film to be exhibited in which crime was the chief subject, and whether at the same time they announced to the trade that they would not allow any film to be produced in London in which methods of committing crime were exhibited and whether there is any instance in which the Board of Censors has departed from the rules which it laid down with the entire support and approval of the trade?


I believe the facts are exactly as stated by the hon. Gentleman. During the War there was a marked increase of juvenile delinquency, but I am glad to say that recent figures do not bear out my hon. and gallant Friend's assumption. The figures for 1919 showed a great decrease on those for the War period, and indeed, fell below those for 1913 and 1914. The censorship of films is conducted by a board appointed by the trade, and my right hon. Friend has no authority to issue instructions to them. Their last report shows that they are alive to the need for exercising a close supervision over films depicting crime. If my hon. and gallant Friend has any information as to objectionable films which have been approved by the Board of Film Censors, or which are being exhibited without their approval, the Home Office would be glad to communicate with them.


Is the hon. Baronet's meaning that the Home Office has no authority at all to forbid the exhibition of films of this character?


That is so. We have no authority at all. The censorship is imposed entirely by the trade and the cen- sors are a body of gentlemen who act on behalf of the trade.


Is the Home Office content with the censorship, or does it propose; to take any steps to get power to forbid the exhibition of these films?


I think it will be generally agreed that there is no call for any intervention. On the whole these voluntary censors have done their work, as we think, admirably. It would require legislation, and there are many other things which are more important at present.


Of course, if the question is raised in Debate, I shall be in a position to reply, but for the moment I will satisfy myself by asking whether it is not a fact that the decision of the Board of Censors has been received with such general approval that nearly all the public licensing authorities in the country accept its sanction as a reason for exhibiting a film, and its refusal to sanction as a reason for prohibiting it?


I believe that is the case.

Sir J. D. REES

Will all the pictures in the National Gallery be weeded out and all the nudes clothed?