HC Deb 02 November 1954 vol 532 cc204-5
38. Mr. Chetwynd

asked the President of the Board of Trade the estimated dollar expenditure on comic papers intended for children from the United States of America; and if he will take action to restrict the import of such harmful reading material.

39. Mr. Rankin

asked the President of the Board of Trade what licensing arrangements apply to the importation of United States horror comics.

Mr. Low

No licences are issued for bulk imports of comics from the U.S.A. Single copies of any periodical, magazine or the like may be imported through the post from any source, under open general licence, by persons who pay or have paid the overseas supplier direct. The value of imports of comics by post is not known but is believed to be negligible. Without postal censorship it would not be practicable to ensure their exclusion from the mails.

Mr. Chetwynd

But the point in the Question is concerned with the matrices from which the comics are printed in this country. Would the right hon. Gentleman deal with that point?

Mr. Low

If that is the point, I would say that there is another Question on the Order Paper which deals with it, and I will answer it then.

42. Mr. Malcolm MacPherson

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, pending a final decision as to action in connection with horrific comics, he will take steps to ban the import of matrices.

Mr. Low

I sympathise with the hon. Member's anxiety about these horrific comics. But I am afraid that it would be neither proper nor practicable for the Government to use their powers of import restriction as a means of imposing a form of censorship. These powers are used to safeguard our balance of payments.

Mr. MacPherson

Is it not the case that the importation in bulk of these comics is already prohibited, and can the right hon. Gentleman say what exactly is the practical difficulty about importing the matrices?

Mr. Low

The present position is that matrices, micro-films and other things like that which are used for printing comics, can only be legally imported from North America under specific individual licences. Such licences are issued freely in view of the small charge they make on our balance of payments, and some matrices would be quite unobjectionable to the hon. Gentleman. It would be difficult to distinguish.

Mr. S. Silverman

Surely the right hon. Gentleman would agree that in determining whether a licence shall be given or not, some regard must be had to the value to our economy of the imported article, and does he suggest that even a single farthing of British money is well spent on these articles?

Mr. Low

I think that the hon. Gentleman and the House are aware that the Home Secretary is considering the whole question of these horrific comics, including the question of importation. My answer referred to the existing powers of import control of the Board of Trade.

Mr. Ede

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any indication as to the actual money involved?

Mr. Low

It is a very small amount, and there are few applications.