HC Deb 21 July 1955 vol 544 cc546-7
26. Mr. J. T. Price

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to make unlawful the public exhibition of wax effigies of convicted murderers.

Major Lloyd-George

No, Sir.

Mr. Price

I hope the Home Secretary does not think he is the lineal descendant of Molotov. Does he realise that British public opinion has been shocked and scandalised by the gross commercialism of certain showmen in Blackpool who put on exhibition an effigy of Ruth Ellis one day after she was hanged in Holloway Gaol? Is not this an element in our public life which is degrading Britain in the eyes of many foreign visitors and also demoralising young people who are taken into these disgusting exhibitions? Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman reconsider the matter and take some action about it?

Major Lloyd-George

If public opinion is really shocked, it would have been better served if the public had not gone to see the exhibition. They need not go if they do not wish to. It would be hardly practicable, if indeed desirable, to make every departure from good taste in this country the subject of legislation.

Dame Irene Ward

Does not my right hon. and gallant Friend agree that it was a most unfortunate thing? May I say, speaking personally, as a member of the public I disapprove entirely of such an exhibition?

Mr. Shinwell

May I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether the Blackpool case, which is a most unflattering commentary on the present state of morals, is not a matter within the prerogative of the chief constable of that area? Could he not use his good offices to prevent this kind of exhibition?

Major Lloyd-George

That, of course, is a matter for the police authority of the district, for which I have no responsibility. All I was asked was whether I was prepared to introduce legislation. While I share the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), I hope she does not think that because she disapproves I approve. The Question was whether I would introduce legislation, and I must repeat that it is ridiculous to think we can by legislation do away with exhibitions which are in execrable taste.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Why does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman talk about execrable taste when everyone knows that he is less enlightened and humane than his colleague the Secretary of State for Scotland, who reprieves people and does not execute them?