HC Deb 30 July 1963 vol 682 cc342-6

Lords Amendment: In line 4, leave out "having regard".

Mr. Bevins

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

This is purely a drafting Amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In line 8, leave out "shall—(a)" and insert"—(a) shall"

Mr. Bevins

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

It would be convenient to discuss with this Amendment the next five Amendments on page 2:

In line 10, after "guidance" insert "(i)"

In line 13, after "and" insert "(ii)"

In line 17, after "code" insert and in considering what other matters ought to be included in the code in pursuance of sub-paragraph (ii) shall have special regard to programmes broadcast when large numbers of children and young persons may be expected to be watching;

In line 18, after "(b)" insert "shall"

In line 19, leave out "such programmes" and insert programmes (other than advertisements) broadcast by the Authority

The first three are paving Amendments to the fourth, in line 17, which is the main Amendment, and the last two are consequential.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That will be satisfactory if it is agreeable to the House.

Mr. Bevins

These Amendments are designed to give particular emphasis to the point that the Authority may cover in the code objectionable matters other than violence, not only in general but in particular, at times when children and young persons are likely to be watching.

Mr. Mason

In general the House welcomes the Amendment, but there is danger of taking the stifling of the I.T.A. too far.

To some extent the main Amendment is guilty of tedious repetition, for the same words are used— when large numbers of children and young persons may be expected to be watching the programme. What other objectionable matters has the right hon. Gentleman in mind? Subsection (2) mentions, particularly, violence. Has the right hon. Gentleman also in mind sex, and films or plays of a low moral content? Is this what he is thinking about, in particular?

I am no fanatical lover of I.T.A., but in my view it has gone through a testing period over the last few years. It has been subject to a great deal of criticism by Pilkington, Parliament and the public. It would be dangerous to take to the extreme in every Clause of the Bill the stifling of I.T.A.

I say that because it is to go through a more difficult period quite soon. The B.B.C. will be granted a second channel. It may quite soon be experimenting with colour television. The Bill puts financial strictures on independent television. By taking these codes to the extreme we may be spoiling any competition which exists between the I.T.A. and the B.B.C. I therefore ask if the Postmaster-General can explain in more detail what he has in mind and that there should be no danger of applying these rules too rigidly.

Mr. W. R. Williams (Manchester, Openshaw)

Before the Postmaster-General replies to my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), I wish to make quite clear that my hon. Friends and I believe that we can never over-emphasise something which is good. Their Lordships have underlined and emphasised what we have been trying to say, both on the Floor of this House and in Committee, that very severe codes are required if we are to improve the standard of television. Anything which contributes towards that objective meets with our fullest approval.

Throughout discussions in Committee my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) and others emphasised the question of violence portrayed on television, violence in an exaggerated form, which no doubt was having an adverse impact, influence and effect upon children and young persons. My hon. Friend was quite justified in placing emphasis on the question of violence, but some of us, including my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) and I, felt that violence was not the only thing we had to try to obliterate from viewers, particularly young persons and children. We felt that vulgarity, sensuality and the portrayal of loose living as an apparent example of the ordinary lives of our families were something which must be stopped.

We agree with their Lordships that, in addition to trying to prevent this portrayal of exaggerated forms of violence, we should do all we can to take away from the screen and the minds of young people vulgarity, sensuality and excessive portrayal of the worst features of sex in many of its forms. I am glad that the code will be strengthened. I do not mind how much we repeat good things. To strengthen and make more effective the code was exactly what we wanted to do. We are glad that their Lordships have found a form of words which have been accepted by the Government.

We sincerely hope that when we have a better, more substantial and strengthened code and higher standards in relation to these things, the Authority, which under the Bill will have more power vested in it, will make sure that our children have not to watch some of the filth which is disgusting even to adults and which is having a very adverse, detrimental effect on the attitude of young people. This Lords Amendment has our strongest, possible approval.

Mr. Bevins

With your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and that of the House, I shall make a few short comments on what has been said.

This is not a Government-inspired Amendment. It was suggested by a noble Lord who is a member of the party opposite. Strictly speaking, I do not think this form of words is necessary in view of the wording of Clause 2(2) as it stands, but it has the advantage of making more explicit what I think hon. Members on both sides of the House would wish. That is that the Authority should include in its code, not only rules governing portrayal of violence, but also other unsavoury features of television which might have a harmful effect on children and young persons. We all know, without going into any detail, what those features of television are, and I hope that the House will be content with that.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)

Throughout the proceedings on the Bill the Postmaster-General has shown himself to be fully seized of the importance of increasing the restriction and discipline in the sense indicated by these words. These words can no doubt be regarded as tautological to some extent. However, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) that nothing is lost by repeating, even in the final form of the Bill, the intention of the House that both obvious violence and the more subtle type of violence in the minds of the young must be kept within bounds. One cannot forbid and censor. One would not wish to do so. This is a message to those responsible for these programmes that the House and, I believe, the public expects a more balanced approach to programmes of this type. I want to express my appreciation of the manner and spirit in which the Postmaster-General from the start has approached this very difficult and vital question.

Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)

This is the first time I have ever agreed with a Lords Amendment. I was delighted to see that the Government were to insert these words into the Bill— and in considering what other matters ought to be included in the code in pursuance of sub-paragraph (ii) shall have special regard to programmes broadcast when large numbers of children and young persons may be expected to be watching". These words will strengthen the Bill. It is what we have asked for.

I thought that the right hon. Gentleman had weakened his position when he altered the Clause. It is not only violence. Many thousands of parents are deeply concerned about moral behaviour and the other matters affecting the behaviour of the community, about which Pilkington reported. My natural tendency is to say we do not want to accept Lords Amendments. However, on this occasion I am bound to admit that it is not only violence. I hope that there will be a code, that it will be stronger than that which the B.B.C. has, and that it will cover not only violence but other forms of behaviour. The Lords have done well to suggest this Amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to.

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