HC Deb 18 February 1971 vol 811 cc2105-7
19. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to give effect to the provisions of the hon. Member for South Worcestershire's proposed Motion, Obscenity, Pornography and the Permissive Society.

Mr. Carlisle

The Misuse of Drugs Bill is designed to strengthen my right hon. Friend's powers to prevent the distribution of drugs for socially harmful purposes. For the rest, he has no present proposals for legislation on those aspects of my hon. Friend's Motion which are susceptible to implementation by changes in the law.

Sir G. Nabarro

Has not the time arrived for this whole subject to be surveyed by an impartial committee, with a view to making recommendations for legislation to strengthen society against the insidious inroads of all the evil influences named in the Motion? Has not my hon. Friend observed that 102 members of his party, representing a substantial body of parliamentary opinion, have now signed the Motion?

Mr. Carlisle

I agree with my hon. Friend that there is a great deal of proper public concern about the matters to which that Motion draws attention, but I would point out to him that the Motion asks the Government not to legislate but to resist all legislative proposals, and that the Government propose to do.

Mr. Strauss

Is not the Motion ridiculous in other ways, too, in that it associates drug taking with the permissive society? Will the Government give an assurance that it will in no way curtail the beneficial effects of recent civilising permissive legislation, in particular the Theatres Act, 1968, which abolished play censorship?

Mr. Carlisle

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should say that there is no connection between drug taking and permissiveness. I thought that the words "permissive society" included that matter. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman's comments on a civilised society and I hope that all of us on both sides of the House wish to see a civilised society with civilised social legislation.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

While I do not go all the way with my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), whose Motion I have not signed, is there not a case for a Select Committee to investigate the whole question, so that we can have some guidance on how to preserve legitimate freedom and at the same time turn back the tide of filth which is becoming a major public nuisance?

Mr. Carlisle

I repeat that I believe that there is genuine public concern about these matters. My hon. Friend asks for a Select Committee, but I would point out that the Act at present in force, which he is criticising as inadequate, was itself the result of a recommendation of a House of Commons Select Committee.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, while he has the support of the whole House in defence of a civilised society, he does not have the support of the whole House in defence of pimps, ponces and purveyors of pornography? Is he not aware that large sections of the community are outraged at the flood of filth coming into the country, and is it not time that his Department did something about it?

Mr. Carlisle

The hon. Gentleman will know from previous Question Times that the Home Office is fully aware of public concern about the purveyance of filth, as he describes it, and of pornography. The fact remains that this comes under the Obscene Publications Acts of 1959 and 1964, which make it an offence to publish anything which tends to deprave and corrupt. It is difficult to find suitable words to put in the place of those words. That was the result of a recommendation of a House of Commons Select Committee. Although we are always willing to listen to suggestions for the alteration of the law, we must be sure that any alteration we make is to the advantage of a civilised society rather than the reverse.