HC Deb 04 December 1952 vol 508 cc1751-3
46. Mr. Edelman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has studied the case of a child in the Midlands, particulars of which have been sent to him, accidentally shot dead by a companion while reproducing a scene of violence observed in an American-style comic; and whether, arising out of this case, he will set up a Departmental committee of educationists, magistrates and child psychologists to study the effect of such comics on children, with a view to making recommendations for the benefit of parents and teachers.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

Yes, Sir. I have studied the case and I find that the children in question were not imitating a story they had read in an American-style comic. I have carefully considered the hon. Member's suggestion in consultation with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Education, and I am not satisfied that the creation of a committee as proposed would achieve the end the hon. Member has in view.

Mr. Edelman

Whatever the interpretation of this particular case—and there may be other interpretations than that which the Home Secretary has given—is it not now generally established that these publications feed the imagination of children? Do they not tend to poison the minds of many young children? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman not aware that many people, irrespective of party, are beginning to believe that his Department are showing a supine and complacent attitude to this very grave problem?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I cannot be responsible for views held. In the case in question, as far as the game was consciously based on any source, it seems to have been derived from confused recollections of a harmless British comic and a British Broadcasting Corporation programme.

The hon. Gentleman's second point is a very serious one. I have come to the view that reading is primarily a matter for parents, and that parents ought to deal with it. It is a matter for parental discipline and for public opinion, and I want everyone's help on it.

Mr. Edelman

While I agree that this is primarily a matter for parents and teachers, is it not precisely the purpose of the Question to show that the Home Office has a responsibility to give guidance to parents and teachers? Unless some agency is set up for so doing, how can that guidance properly be given?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I can only say that it is a difficult point. There are two different schools of thought. But I shall willingly consider anything that the hon. Gentleman puts forward as a practical proposition.

Mr. Legh

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider setting up a Departmental committee of cranks to investigate the effects upon children of nursery rhymes such as "Ding Dong Dell"?

Mr. Manuel

"Mother Goose"?

Dr. Summerskill

Would not the Home Secretary agree that it is quite impossible for parents to exercise control over the reading of adolescents? Will he therefore look at the matter again?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I will look at it.

Mr. S. Silverman

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain how it is possible to reconcile the strong police action which is often taken, and quite rightly taken, in the case of alleged obscene literature, with the refusal to take any action whatever with regard to this mischievous rubbish, which does incalculably more harm?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman, even impliedly, supports the action that he has described. As he knows very well there is a long course of precedents on that matter which make the law relatively easy to carry into effect. I have studied the legislation of other countries, and one meets great difficulties when trying to legislate on this point.