HC Deb 02 May 1955 vol 540 cc1459-60

Lords Amendment: In page 1, line 6, after "which" insert: is of a kind likely to fall into the hands of children or young persons and

9.1 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The object of the Amendment is to make it clear that the scope of Clause 1 is restricted to works of a kind likely to fall into the hands of children or young persons. The House will see that at the end of the Clause there occur the words: into whose hands it might fall. and "it" refers to the work in question.

Doubts have been expressed about the interpretation of those words and it has been suggested that they may be equivalent to others into whose hands the work might conceivably fall. The same words were used in the Hickling Judgment, which has been referred to in our debates, and recent judgments show that they are to be interpreted in such a way that the question whether the work in question is likely to fall into the hands of a particular class of person is a relevant consideration in deciding the case. If such an interpretation were applied to the words in the Bill, it would mean that the question whether the work concerned was of a kind likely to fall into the hands of children or young persons would be a relevant question in proceedings under the Bill.

Of course, the Hickling Judgment was dealing with the common law offence of publishing an obscene libel, that is to say, it is not the same offence as that constituted by the Bill and the words were not included in the Statute. There have been doubts and it is certainly desirable to remove any conceivable doubt. Therefore, the Government have accepted the Amendment and I hope that this House will agree.

Sir Frank Soskice (Sheffield, Neepsend)

During the course of our discussions on the Bill, on both sides of the House anxiety was expressed about its possible scope. Endeavours were made to ensure that works that obviously were not intended to be within the scope of the Bill would not be accidentally included.

Speaking for myself, I think that the Amendment, which I hope we shall support, provides an additional safeguard by excluding from the Bill the kind of work against which the Bill is not aimed at all. Many examples have been given, such as that of pictures of atrocities to which grown-up people should have access because it is necessary from time to time to remind people of the sort of atrocities committed in concentration camps, and so on. They would be excluded by the insertion of these words. I believe that this Amendment provides a necessary and useful safeguard by limiting the purpose of the Bill to the kind of publication envisaged, which does, in fact, constitute the mischief at which we aim.

Question put and agreed to.