§ 25. Mr. St. John-Stevas
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, in view of the increase in the number of pornographic titles produced recently, he will introduce early legislation to amend the law relating to obscenity.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
May I make it plain that my Question refers to the book trade and not to the other place. In view of the Government's concern for the environment, would it not be appropriate for the Home Office to direct attention to this particular form of moral pollution, about which the patience both of the public and of hon. Members is just about exhausted?
§ Mr. Carlisle
Although I have a great deal of sympathy with what my hon. Friend says, I would remind him that he of all people has considerable knowledge of the history of this matter and of the real difficulty involved in finding a proper definition to take the place of that which at the moment exists in the Obscene Publications Acts of 1959 and 1964.
§ Mr. Hamling
In view of what the hon. Gentleman said about the difficulty of defining obscenity, does he not agree that, if there is to be a change in the law, it should be towards making it more liberal and that, because the lawyers cannot define what obscenity is there ought to be more freedom?
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Has my hon. Friend observed Early Day Motion No. 10 which has been on the Order Paper for many months? That Motion was signed by 85 Members of his own party, including myself. Would it not be a good idea if my hon. Friend were guided from time to time by the wishes of his own party?
§ [That this House rejects the recommendations of the Working Party of the Arts Council that the Statutes of 1959 and 1964, Obscene Publications, and Theatres, 1968, should be repealed; deplores the definition of the permissive society as the civilised society by the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, the Right hon. Member for Stechford; notes with concern the decline in moral standards in recent years, manifest by disseniination of increased pornographic and obscene material, pace Julian Press circulars, increased drugs consumption and other undesirable social trends; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to resist all legislative proposals which may tend further to derogate moral standards and to strengthen wherever practicable legislative safeguards against the depredations of drugs, obscenity and pornography in all its forms, and the permissive society.]
§ Mr. Carlisle
I thought that I had made it clear that the present Government have no intention of going the way we were asked to go by the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) in the last supplementary question, but the fact still remains that it is difficult to find any suitable definition. The Obscene Publications Acts of 1959 and 1964 were based on the recommendations of a Select Committee of the House of Commons. The Government at this stage do not feel any justification for amending them.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
In view of the thoroughly unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I ask leave to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.