HC Deb 08 May 1957 vol 569 cc963-5
34. Mr. Benn

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why the Northern Rhodesia Native Film Censorship Board prohibited the showing of "The Lavender Hill Mob" to African audiences; and if he will now reconsider the whole system of film censorship in Northern Rhodesia.

Mr. Profumo

The Governor informs me that the film was declared unsuitable for African audiences because it contained scenes judged likely to encourage disrespect of law and order. With regard to the second part of the Question, local film censorship is a matter for the Northern Rhodesia Government, but I am bringing the hon. Member's suggestion to the Governor's notice.

Mr. Benn

Might I congratulate the hon. Gentleman upon running a ban on "The Lavender Hill Mob", which was paralleled only by Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the only other countries in the world which took a similar view of the dangers of that film? As the film was shown in South Africa without the slightest difficulty, will the hon. Gentleman examine this absurd business of censorship, particularly as there is a new multi-racial cinema in Lusaka and the proprietor of it has complained that one of his films was banned only 24 hours before it was due to be shown? It is quite impossible to get any multi-racial system of that kind working if the Censorship Board is to exercise that sort of control.

Mr. Profumo

There are Africans on the Film Censorship Board, and it is important to recognise that. It is also important that we should leave matters of this sort to the discretion of the people on the spot. I cannot add to what I have already said, which is that my right hon. Friend will bring the hon. Gentleman's suggestion to the attention of the Governor.

43. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies on what basis decisions are reached by the Northern Rhodesian African Film Censoring Board as to which British, United States or other films are considered to be suitable for African audiences.

Mr. Profumo

The Board is required by local Film Censorship Regulations to withhold approval of any film which in its opinion depicts any matter which is contrary to public order and decency, or the exhibition of which would for any other reason be undesirable in the public interest.

Mrs. Castle

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that under this censorship not only films like "The Lavender Hill Mob" have been banned but so also have newsreels by Gaumont-British and Paramount? Is he suggesting that the newsreels contain matter contrary to public order and decency, or does he think that truth in the news of the world is unsuitable for African audiences? Will he not seriously look into this matter again, in view of the danger that censorship may be used to impede and perhaps close down the work of this multiracial cinema?

Mr. Profumo

I am sure that there is no intention of that sort. I do not think that I can add anything to what I have already said in answer to an hon. Member earlier, that this matter will be considered.

Sir L. Plummer

In view of the recent defection from the Government, would the hon. Gentleman consider recommending to the Board that the film "Kind Hearts and Coronets" is unsuitable for African exhibition?

Mr. Profumo

I found it very suitable.

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