HC Deb 25 January 1979 vol 961 cc654-5
3. Mr. Andrew MacKay

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the present laws relating to the display of pornographic material.

Mr. John

The law in this field is under study as part of the wider review being undertaken by the committee on obscenity and film censorship under the chairmanship of Professor Bernard Williams, and the forthcoming debate on the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) will also provide an opportunity to consider the matter in depth.

Mr. MacKay

Is the Minister aware that there is such public concern about the increase in the display of indecent material in public that many hon. Members are now receiving considerable representations about it from their electors through the post? Secondly, is he aware that many of us have grave doubts about the composition of the Williams committee and particularly the balance of that committee?

Mr. John

I am certainly aware that hon. Members are receiving letters on the subject. There is legislation—admittedly of nineteenth century vintage—against indecent advertisements. If electors or others feel that a breach of the law has been committed, they can report it to the police.

I consider the hon. Gentleman's second point to be a quite unworthy attack on a committee which, after all, includes amongst its members a High Court judge. It is just the sort of snide attack that is likely to denigrate committees set up by the Government with the welcome of the Opposition and to prevent such committees from sitting in future.

Mr. Edward Gardner

May I ask the Minister about the Indecent Displays (Control) Bill, which my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) is introducing as a Private Member's Bill tomorrow? As the Bill has the limited and admirable objective of, to use the words of the Explanatory Memorandum, safeguarding. the public against being unwillingly exposed to indecent material", can the hon. Gentleman say whether the Bill will have the support of the Government?

Mr. John

I do not consider Question Time the proper time to rehearse a debate that will take place tomrrow.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

When does the Minister expect Professor Williams's committee to report?

Mr. John

The taking of evidence is almost complete and the report has been promised for later this year.

Mr. Grocott

Does my hon. Friend agree that, while we should be concerned with protecting children in particular from seeing indecent displays, we should be far more concerned about the affects of violence on children? Is it not something of a statement of the hypocrisy of our society that, judging by the mailbag, there seems to be far more concern about ensuring that children do not see pornographic displays than there is about trying to prevent handicapped children in particular from being beaten in special schools and community homes?

Mr. John

I understand and sympathise with my hon. Friend's depth of feeling at having Second Reading of his Bill on that subject objected to last Friday afternoon. The Government are certainly opposed to the foisting of indecent displays upon the unwilling public. The problem which affects us, and which affected the last Conservative Government, is whether the measure propounded gets to the root of the evil.