HC Deb 16 April 1964 vol 693 cc576-7
15. Mr. Holland

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has been the result of his consideration of steps to prohibit the import of low-grade pulp magazines containing articles or stories of an erotic nature.

Mr. Woodhouse

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer considers that the powers of enforcement relating to the importation of obscene matter under the Customs Act are adequate. Difficulties, however, arise on account of the volume of undesirable books and magazines sent to this country, and representations have been made to the authorities of the United States, which is the principal exporting country.

Mr. Holland

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Since at the present time the courts and the Customs—despite their valiant efforts—seem to be fighting a losing battle, will he bear in mind the possibility of increasing the penalties on the importers to such a degree as to make this trade wholly uneconomic?

Mr. Woodhouse

I will certainly give consideration to my hon. Friend's suggestion. The most important thing, if it is achievable, is to stop the imports at their source.

Mr. Fletcher

The fact that there is a great volume ought not to prevent the Home Office from taking effective steps to deal with the matter. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the volume ought not to be an excuse for leaving it to the exporting countries?

Mr. Woodhouse

I am glad to have the opportunity to add to my previous reply this further point, that the United States Government, which is the Government of the country from which by far the greater part of this literature—if I may so call it-comes, is inhibited by the difficulty that this is in part a matter not of Federal but of State law. That is not a difficulty which we at the Home Office can overcome.