HC Deb 18 November 1954 vol 533 cc547-9
19. Mr. Oliver

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to be in a position to make a statement on the proposals made to his Department by the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, Booksellers and Stationers to prohibit the sale and distribution of horror comics in this country.

29. Mr. Dodds

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on his discussions with the deputation led by the Archbishop of Canterbury concerning horror comics, giving details of the progress made in dealing with the problem.

31. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will state the result of his consideration of the problems arising from the importation into Britain and the distribution of horror comics, and the steps he is taking in this matter.

34. Mr. Janner

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

14. Mr. Shepherd

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware of the influence of American-type comics on children in this country; and whether he will consider seeking powers to exercise some form of supervision over the type of literature produced for juveniles.

Major Lloyd-George

The deputation led by the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested that in addition to voluntary action by parents, teachers and the publishing and distributing trade, legislation was necessary on the lines of that which has been passed in other Commonwealth countries. I am considering the proposals put forward by the deputation, and the other proposals I have received, but I do not expect to be able to make a further statement before the end of the present Session.

Mr. Oliver

Will the Minister say whether, before he comes to a final decision, he will receive some of the representatives of the bodies which have manifested an interest in this matter?

Major Lloyd-George

I am always ready to meet anybody who is able and willing to help on this very difficult problem, but I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate that a large number of deputations have asked to see me, and that it is a question of whether there is time.

Mr. Janner

Has the Minister considered or seen the exhibition dealing with this matter arranged by the National Union of Teachers? Will he take action very speedily, because there is a considerable amount of anxiety about it, particularly in towns like Leicester, where some of these things are published?

Major Lloyd-George

I am fully aware both of the difficulty and the extreme importance of this matter. I am also aware of the contents of a good many of these publications, but I think the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that this is an extremely difficult matter to decide. I should like to remind him that a rapid decision is not necessarily the right one.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Will my right hon. and gallant Friend agree that the use of the word "comic" in connection with these things is entirely wrong, and detracts from the seriousness of the situation? Will he therefore do everything possible to discourage the use of the word "comic"?

Major Lloyd-George

Yes, Sir. I certainly will, and I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that this is a very bad use of the word.

Mr. Dodds

Will the Minister state if consideration has been given to having a test case in the courts, rather than making a decision about legislation; and, if that has been considered, is there any hope of such a test case being undertaken?

Major Lloyd-George

It is not for me to decide that. This matter is being looked into as a matter of urgency, and no time will be lost.

Mr. Edelman

Is it not the case that the sadism of horror comics is essentially and inherently of the nature of pornography, and, that being so, would it not be desirable to accept the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) for a test case, in order to establish whether sadistic pornography of this kind does, in fact, come under the existing law of obscenity?

Major Lloyd-George

That is a matter which we are looking into, but I would remind the hon. Member that it is not for me to institute proceedings.