HC Deb 08 March 1928 vol 214 cc1208-11
27 and 29. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Home Secretary (1) who advises him as to which cinematograph films coming from abroad he is to admit into this country or to prohibit from entering; and on what principle he acts when deciding whether to exclude or admit certain films;

(2) what steps he takes to prevent the importation into, and exhibition in, this country of cinematograph films to which he takes objection by reason of their being injurious to public morals, liable to cause a breach of the peace, or other reasons; whether, if so satisfied, he has ever made representations to the British Board of Film Censors or to chief constables, chairmen of watch committees, or other persons concerned; whether he, or any member of his Department or staff, had any part in banning the film Armoured Cruiser Potemkin, dealing with episodes which occurred some 23 years ago; and if he is aware that the film has been shown in many foreign cities, including Berlin and New York?


So far as they concern the general question of the censorship of cinematograph films, I can add nothing to the answers which I gave recently, especially a reply to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock on the 16th February. As the hon. and gallant Member is aware, I have power to prevent the importation of any film as of other matter which is injurious to the public interest or security. Such a power is very rarely exercised, and before taking any action I should receive the advice of the officials of my Department. The particular film referred to was rejected by the Board of Film Censors after it was submitted to them. The Board consulted me about it, and I told them that I agreed with their decision and would support it. I understand that the film has been shown in some foreign countries but prohibited in others.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

May I have an answer as to who advises the right hon. Gentleman in this matter. Does the same gentleman advise him who advises the Foreign Secretary?


No. The question is whether any of the powers which I exercise against the importation of foreign films are only in cases where the films are injurious to the public weal. In that, I am advised by my legal authorities.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

Has the right hon. Gentleman an official status with the British Board of Film Censors, and can he say whether they decide or he decides whether consultations should take place between their officers and his officers in these matters?


The responsibility for exercising the prerogative of preventing films coming into this country which I believe to be injurious to the welfare of the country, rests upon nay shoulders alone. I am not bound to consult the Board of Film Censors, who are a purely voluntary body. I am advised on this question by my own legal advisers.


The right hon. Gentleman refers to prerogatives. Will he say whether he acts under any Statute, or under what aspect of the prerogative, in keeping out these films; and whether he sees the films before excluding them, or who sees them.


The prerogative, as the hon. Member probably knows, is the old standing right of the Sovereign of this country to provide for the well-being of this country, and those powers, such as they, are exercised by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I do not see the films in question but I get reports on the films, and, after full consideration of the reports, I decide whether or not the films are of such a nature that I should prevent them from coming in.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman as Home Secretary is, in fact, exercising a political censorship?


That question does not arise.


asked the Secretary to the Treasury the reasons why a case containing films, brought by Mr. James Larkin from Moscow under bond, with the object of continuing under bond to Dublin, was held up by the Customs officials at Harwich, thus interrupting the journey of Mr. Larkin and the case to Dublin?


I have been asked to reply to this question. These films were detained on my instructions in order that they might be examined. As a result of the examination no objection has been raised to their delivery.