HC Deb 06 February 1975 vol 885 cc1539-41
8. Mr. Townsend

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the Government's policy regarding film censorship.

Dr. Summerskill

The Government have no present plans to alter the law in this field.

Mr. Townsend

Does the Minister agree that the present regulations concerning film censorship are very English and rather dotty? Is it not about time that the Home Office carried out a thorough review so that this important work can be done on a satisfactory and sensible basis?

Dr. Summerskill

I cannot agree that merely because something is English it is dotty. The present system entrusts ultimate responsibility to local authorities—which are representative of the wishes and needs of their particular areas—while making available to them the guidance of the British Board of Film Censors. The system is essentially flexible, but we are willing to consider any representations that may be made on ways in which its operation may be improved.

Mr. Strauss

It may well be that the initiative in a matter of this sort should come from back benchers rather than from the Government. Bearing in mind the active and invaluable support which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department gave to the passage of my Theatres Bill in 1968, will he give sympathetic consideration to a change being made in the film world, similar to that which took place in the theatrical world, which would enable adults to see films that they think desirable and want to see, on the understanding that the obscenity laws as stated in the Theatres Act will continue to apply?

Dr. Summerskill

There is a difficult line to be drawn between censorship and the protection of the public. I appreciate that strong and sincere views are held on both sides of the question. It is necessary that any alternative to the present system should be both effective and generally acceptable.

Mr. Marten

Should there not be a national line below which local authorities ought not to fall?

Dr. Summerskill

That is obviously an aspect of the matter on which there are different views. That view has been expressed strongly in some quarters, but others strongly object to such an approach.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the use of censorship in relation to only one branch of the arts is likely to be an exceedingly dangerous and difficult thing to administer? Before the Home Office launches forth into this complex sphere may we hope that it will consult not only the people working in the film industry but local authorities and medical authorities?

Dr. Summerskill

I assure my hon. Friend that the Home Office is actively in touch with all the different bodies and people concerned with film censorship.

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