HC Deb 20 July 1965 vol 716 cc1334-6
Q2. Mr. Hamling

asked the Prime Minister what is his policy with regard to the introduction of legislation to abolish the Lord Chamberlain's functions relating to censorship.

The Prime Minister

I have no proposals for legislation on this subject at this stage.

Mr. Hamling

Is my right hon. Friend aware that theatre-goers do not need the protection of censorship in these days, and that in any case the Lord Chamberlain is the last person to impose it?

The Prime Minister

I am well aware of the very strong feeling that exists on this question, and to the extent that this aspect of our national life needs some degree of modernisation I should have thought that there was a very strong case here. How it is to be done is a matter which we need to think further about. It might be a fitting subject for my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor to study, now that he has facilities for studying law reform.

Captain Litchfield

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Lord Chamberlain's powers are being widely evaded already by the device of turning theatres into clubs? Ought not the regulations to be further tightened up?

The Prime Minister

I gather that there is evidence to suggest widespread evasion. When there is such evidence in a case like this, it is, of course, an argument which pushes either way—either to tighten up the regulations to cut out the evasions or to abolish the regulations on the ground that they are not workable.

Mr. Thorpe

Will the Prime Minister refresh his memory by reading the admirable speech of the right hon. and learned Solicitor-General in the last Parliament, when he introduced a Bill to abolish these powers, of which I was happy to be a sponsor? Would he not agree that the existing laws of defamation and obscene libel are quite sufficient to control the content of plays without having to have a royal governess thrown in as well?

The Prime Minister

There is a lot to be said for this. As the hon. Member says, it was an excellent speech. I think that we had better leave this matter in the hands of the Lord Chancellor, with the law reform facilities which he has, to consider whether this aspect of our law and practice should be modernised.