HC Deb 03 December 1959 vol 614 cc1365-6
30. Dr. A. Thompson

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will investigate the circumstances under which Her Majesty's Customs and Excise opened a crate of personal effects addressed to Mrs. Viet Wilson, a Swedish citizen residing in this country, and confiscated two books, "Lady Chatterley's Lover", by D. H. Lawrence, and "Tropic of Capricorn", by Henry Miller; whether he will explain the reasons for the removal of the books; why the shipping agents were not informed of the seizure as is normally done; and why no certificate of seizure was placed in the crate from which the books were removed.

Mr. Barber

This matter is being investigated and I will write to the hon. Member.

Dr. A. Thompson

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the controversy over Lawrence has been dead for over twenty-five years? Lawrence is now recognised as a major English novelist. His works are prescribed reading for university students in every reputable Department of English literature in this country and America. It is absurd that in 1959 Customs officials should be rummaging through the luggage of British or foreign citizens looking for copies of "Lady Chatterley's Lover".

Mr. Barber

One has to abide by the law, and as recently as 1955 this book was ruled to be obscene by a magistrate at Bow Street.

Mr. Grimond

Is not one of the books in question in the House of Commons Library?

Mr. Barber

I have not found it yet.

Mr. Jay

If a magistrate gave that ruling, does it not show that there must be something wrong with the law and that it should be altered?

Mr. Barber

That is hardly for me to answer.