HC Deb 26 January 1967 vol 739 cc1746-7
6. Mr. Thorpe

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proposals he has for legislation to amend the Obscene Publications Act.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

I am considering the need for amendment but am not yet in a position to make a statement.

Mr. Thorpe

Is it within the recollection of the Home Secretary that when the hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford, as he then was, to his great credit, introduced the Obscene Publications Bill, the Conservative Law Officers of the day gave an undertaking that, wherever there was a question of literary merit and possible forfeiture because of the basic freedoms involved, there would be a right to trial by jury under Section 2 of the Act? In view of recent private prosecutions, Section 3 procedures have been adopted, and there have been summary trials. Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that that defeats the purpose of the Act?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Hon. Members must keep their supplementary questions short.

Mr. Jenkins

I am aware of the difficulty which has arisen, and it is precisely for that reason that I am considering the position.

Mr. Hogg

Would the right hon. Gentleman accept that that legislation would be less uncontroversial than that to which I promised a welcome on the last Question?

Mr. Jenkins

I accept that it might not be entirely non-controversial, but it might not be entirely controversial in the strict party sense.

Mr. St. John-Steyas

Leaving aside what the Conservative Law Officers may or may not have said, would not the Home Secretary, who has responsibility in this matter, agree that, in all cases where a substantial issue of liberty is raised, there should be an opportunity of trial by jury?

Mr. Jenkins

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for underlining the truth of the latter part of my reply. I accept the fact that there is considerable force in that argument.