HC Deb 28 June 1979 vol 969 cc629-31
6. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to receive the Williams committee's report on obscenity.

Mr. Brittan

Towards the end of this year.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Will my hon. and learned Friend take it that publication of the report is eagerly awaited? May we have an assurance that, as soon as it is in the hands of the Home Office, no great time will be allowed to elapse before legislation is introduced to make some sense out of the muddle and tangle of laws which at present cover pornography and indecent displays, in order to bring them into line with a proper sense of morality?

Mr. Brittan

The first step necessary after publication of the committee's report is to consider carefully what it says and the reactions of interested people, and thereafter, in the light of that, to consider what legislation, if any, is required to deal with the present position in law.

Mr. Allan Roberts

While awaiting publication of the report, will the Minister investigate the growing practice of police constables and police forces raiding book shops and impounding publications but then not following up those raids with prosecutions? Does he agree that, if a police force raids a book shop and takes away publications, it should prosecute or quickly return the publications?

Mr. Brittan

I am not sure that I necessarily agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I am not entirely clear whether he wants more prosecutions or the books back.

Mr. Cormack

My hon. and learned Friend will be aware that our hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) is seeking to introduce a Private Member's Bill very similar to the Indecent Displays (Control) Bill which was frustrated during the term of office of the last Labour Government. May we have a promise that he will give that Bill a fair wind?

Mr. Brittan

I do not think that it will come as a surprise to my hon. Friend to know that I personally view that form of legislation with considerable sympathy. I think that there is a difference, in that, whereas in the last Session the prospect of the Williams committee reporting was rather distant, the report is now to come very soon, and the House will have to consider whether it is wise to legislate in advance of it.