HC Deb 13 March 1930 vol 236 cc1467-9

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the character of many films now being publicly exhibited in London which have been passed by the trade censorship, he will consider the desirability of legislation setting up a Government censorship of films?


asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the dissatisfaction with the present unofficial trade censorship of films, he will be prepared to institute an inquiry into the question of censorship of plays and films with a view to considering the advisability of a national board of censorship?


As I explained in answer to a question put to me in November last by the hon. Member for the Everton Division of Liverpool (Mr. Hall-Caine), it is a mistake to assume that the censorship of films depends entirely on the British Board of Film Censors. The responsibility for deciding the conditions under which films may be exhibited rests by law with the local licensing authorities. Most of them, it is true, rely on the systematic examination of films made by the Board, and so far as I am aware have had no reason whatever to doubt its independence or the fairness of its judgments; but it is always open to the licensing authority, on the one hand, to intervene in regard to a film which has been passed by the Board or, on the other hand, to allow the exhibition of a film which has been rejected by the Board and I understand that such special consideration is not infrequently given to particular films by the local licensing authority.

Very few representations as to the character of films have reached the Home Office in recent years. Such complaints as have been made have referred mainly to the display of unsuitable films to children, and in nearly every case it was found on inquiry that the films in question were passed by the Board as suitable for exhibition only to adult audiences and ought never to have been shown to children. This matter was dealt with in a circular recently issued by the Home Office to all licensing authorities. As at present advised I can see no adequate reason for an inquiry as suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr. Horrabin).


Has the right hon. Gentleman taken note of the very strong views expressed at the meeting of the London County Council last week as to the utter folly of local authorities being put in the position of censors?


On the other hand, I think, if any steps were taken to take those powers away from local authorities, there would be even stronger protests.


Is my right hon. Friend aware that the cost of showing films to local authorities is prohibitive, and therefore the Board of Censors' view is practically always taken? Is it also not a fact that the present Board of Censorship is allowing American films which verge on the borders of indecency, while extraordinarily fine educational British films are being banned for political reasons by the censor?


The terms of that question are rather argumentative, but it must not be taken that I have no sympathy with them.


In view of the expressed opinion of the London County Council that the censoring authority should be taken out of the hands of local authorities and made a national concern, does not the Home Secretary think that it would be advisable to set up an inquiry into the matter?


I have already given my opinion on that point.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the appointment of a select committee to consider the whole administration?


I do not rule out further consideration of this question.


Is my right hon. Friend aware that the London County Council are now arranging for their own theatre so that the Committee can see these films for themselves? Does he not think it better that local authorities should do the same?


I express no opinion on that information, but I thank the hon. Member for giving it to me.