HC Deb 01 December 1969 vol 792 cc910-3
35. Mr. Dudley Smith

asked the Attorney-General if he will refer to the Director of Public Prosecutions the pornographic leaflets, advertising a book published by the Julian Press, which have been posted to residents of Warwick, Leamington Spa and Kenilworth in the past few weeks.

The Attorney-General (Sir Elwyn Jones)

As I said in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) on 21st July, the Director of Public Prosecutions has considered this circular and I agree with his opinion that it does not offend against the Obscene Publications Acts or against any other legislation.—[Vol. 787, c. 266.]

Mr. Smith

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that these leaflets were posted indiscriminately to 14,000 of my constituents, causing great offence and embarrassment to many of them, particularly elderly people, who apparently do not share the same degree of sophistication about worldly matters as the Director of Public Prosecutions? How are these people to be protected in future from such intrusion, now that apparently anything goes under the increasingly permissive society?

The Attorney-General

I appreciate, of course, that receipt of these pamphlets by persons who have not asked for them can cause offence and embarrassment. But, in view of the conclusion that they are neither obscene nor indecent, they just do not come within the ambit of the criminal law. The problem which the hon. Member has mentioned is easy to state, but its solution is far more difficult to find.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that many hon. Members have had complaints about this particular publication? While appreciating my right hon. and learned Friend's difficulties under the Obscene Publications Acts, may I ask whether he would have a look to see whether there is a case for prosecution under the Trade Descriptions Act?

The Attorney-General

Whether the product comes up to the preparatory blurb is not for me to judge.

36. Mr. Iremonger

asked the Attorney-General whether the Director of Public Prosecutions has made a decision about the pornographic publication advertised in a circular sent to several constituents of the hon. Member for Ilford, North, of which he has received a copy.

The Attorney-General

As I said in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), on 13th October, after careful consideration of all the circumstances of the publication and circulation of this book, and on the basis of the information at present before him, the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided not to take criminal proceedings in respect of the book. I agree with this decision.—[Vol. 788, c. 39–40.]

Mr. Iremonger

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman make it clear that this was a decision not that a prosecution could not be brought, but that, as a matter of policy, it should not be brought? Would he not consider that it might be better to let the courts decide this, and not make it an administrative decision?

The Attorney-General

Unless there are reasonable prospects of securing a conviction, I do not think it is proper to bring prosecutions in any given case.

Mr. Bidwell

Would my right hon. and learned Friend arrange for all hon. Members to have copies of these publications so that we know what we are talking about?

The Attorney-General

If there is overwhelming pressure for this request to be carried out, I shall see whether a copy can be placed in a place of security in the Library.

Sir G. Nabarro

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that, whereas I first complained to him about this matter as long ago as last November, very often hundreds of thousands of these circulars are directed to areas such as Malvern in my constituency, where there is a special concentration of schools and thousands of schoolchildren from all over the country, and also an especially high concentration of elderly people? Would he not, therefore, look at this entire matter again with a view to taking powers to prevent this highly undesirable practice?

The Attorney-General

If there were any evidence of a particular campaign of publicity directed to a particular school, I would certainly be willing to look at that form of publicity. But all of us—Members of Parliament perhaps most of all—are the unwilling recipients of many circulars. It is awfully difficult to decide how the flood can be stemmed.

Mr. Heffer

Is my right hon. and learned Friend not aware that the Home Office has urged hon. Members to urge their constituents to complain? I have actually asked my constituents to do this and they have had further leaflets and books. This is extremely distasteful, and it is not good enough for the Government to say that nothing can be done. Is it not time that some positive action was taken over this rather distasteful business?

The Attorney-General

The problem is a very difficult one. Of course, the Government, the police, the Customs and the Post Office are not inactive in this field and hundred of thousands of these publications—not the particular one which I have mentioned—are confiscated each year.