HC Deb 11 November 1954 vol 532 cc1392-5
36. Mr. Dodds

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will give consideration to taking powers to place a ban on the printing and sale of horror comics, details of which have been sent to him by the hon. Member for Dartford, because of the possible ill-effect that can be caused to the morals of children and weak-minded adults.

39. Sir J. Crowder

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will recommend the setting up of a Royal Commission to consider the prohibition of the publication or sale of comics and other literature which is harmful to children.

52 and 53. Dr. Stross

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether he has now given further consideration to the publication in this country of illustrated literature of a sadistic nature from imported matrices; and whether he will make a statement;

(2) whether he has now given consideration to the desirability of appointing an advisory council on the problem of obscene or sadistic illustrated publications such as might be commonly seen by children; and whether he will make a statement.

Major Lloyd-George

I am not yet ready to make any further statement on this subject, but I can assure the hon. Members that the suggestions referred to in these Questions are receiving very careful consideration.

Mr. Dodds

Does the Home Secretary agree that public opinion has already gained a remarkable victory, in that three of the biggest British publishers have intimated that they are giving up printing these comics? But is he not aware that even if all the newsagents refused to handle horror comics, there are more than sufficient people who would be ready to carry on this profitable business, unless it is ruthlessly stamped out?

Major Lloyd-George

I share the apprehensions of the hon. Gentleman. There is no doubt that the most effective way of dealing with this matter in the long run is public opinion. It would be much more effective because, as the House will realise, there is a difficulty about legislating on matters of this kind. With regard to the question of people refusing to handle them, I have no more to go on than the Press reports. I was glad to see from one statement that it did not appear to be a very profitable business.

Sir J. Crowder

Has my right hon. and gallant Friend been able to get into touch with the chairman of the committee in America which is investigating the publication of these undesirable comics?

Major Lloyd-George

No, I have not been in touch with him.

Mr. H. Morrison

While I admit the difficulties, is it not the case that somehow the Home Office deals with extreme cases of obscene literature, and the courts pronounce upon them? Would it not be possible, either under existing law or under amended law, to be able to deal with these publications, which really are disgraceful? As some of them are imported, cannot the Board of Trade or somebody else stop their importation? Since we deal with obscene literature, on the whole I think rightly, ought we not also to deal with this beastly stuff somehow?

Major Lloyd-George

I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. It is something which should be dealt with. He will appreciate as much as anybody that there are difficulties. First, as I pointed out, there is the difficult question of differentiating between what is objectionable and what is not objectionable. There are four or five publications which are quite unobjectionable—one produced by a parson. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I have looked into this carefully. Tomorrow I am meeting a deputation from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and as soon as I have considered all the representations, I hope that something will be able to be done.

Dr. Stross

Does the Home Secretary accept that there is something to be said for the principle of trying to avoid legislation, and that a better method would be to have an advisory council which would publish its opinions from time to time and have on it representatives of other bodies and the trade? Also, is it true that, as we have read, he has been supplying the Prime Minister with horror comics? Will he tell us what reaction he has had from the Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister (Sir Winston Churchill)

I asked to see some specimens some weeks ago, but I have not yet had an opportunity to examine them.

38. Mr. Janner

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has yet received the deputation from the Archbishop of Canterbury in respect of the circulation of horror comics; and whether he is now in a position to state what steps he proposes to take to deal with this problem.

Major Lloyd-George

The deputation will be received tomorrow. I am not in a position to make any statement on the matter at present.

Mr. Janner

Before or after receiving the deputation, will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman consult the Minister of Education or the Board of Trade to see what can be done, because there is very grave concern about the matter?

Major Lloyd-George

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I share the concern. I shall be in consultation with all the appropriate people before any action is taken.

43. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware of the resolution passed by the Education Welfare Officers' National Association at their annual conference earlier this year urging that the publishing and distributive trades should set up their own council to ensure that publications of every description conform to standards of decency and good taste; and if he is prepared to take action along these or similar lines to deal with the horror comics.

Major Lloyd-George

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I will be interested to hear of any proposal on these lines which the trade associations concerned might see fit to put forward.

Mr. Rankin

When the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is considering all aspects, will be consider this proposal? Will he consider it in the light of the fact that considerable quantities of comics are coming into the country via American troops? Will he get in touch with the American High Command to see what can be done to prevent comics being resold through American troops to retailers in this country?

Major Lloyd-George

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his suggestion. I will certainly do that.

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