§ Mr. Peter Lloyd
I beg to move amendment No. 13, in page 5, line 23, leave out from 'licence' to end of line 25 and insert 1111`under section 2 of the 1909 Act is not in force are used for an exhibition which requires such a licence;(aa) any premises in respect of which a consent under section 4 of the 1952 Act is not in force are used for an exhibition which requires such a consent;'.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
With this we may take the following amendments: No. 15, in page 5, line 35, leave out from 'offence' to end of line 36.
No. 17, in page 6, line 12, at end insert—
'(3A) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) above shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding—
§ No. 18, in clause 7, page 6, line 27, leave out 'section 6(1) above' and insert 'this Act'.
§ Mr. Lloyd
These are important amendments. A number of hon. Members emphasised on Second Reading and in Committee that it was vital to ensure that the penalties in the Bill were an effective deterrent. It was pointed out that those who run bogus clubs are engaged in a lucrative business and are unlikely to be deterred unless the fine is substantial.
Similar arguments have been voiced both here and in another place about the maximum penalties for unlicensed use of a sex shop or sex cinema under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. The Government have already proposed a maximum fine of £5,000 in that Bill and I understand from my right hon. Friend the Minister of State that they intend to table an amendment on Report in another place to increase the figure to £10,000. Therefore, it is only sensible to ensure that the penalties in my Bill match those that are expected to be provided in the miscellaneous provisions Bill. I believe that my right hon. Friend supports that view.
Amendments Nos. 13, 15 and 17 increase from £1,000 to £10,000 the maximum penalty for giving on premises in which no cinematograph licence is in force an exhibition that requires such a licence. However, there is no similar justification for increasing beyond £1,000—the usual upper limit in a magistrates court—the maximum penalty for the remaining offences covered by clause 6. For example, it would be extremely harsh if a minor breach of the safety regulations or of a minor condition attached to a licence attracted a higher maximum penalty.
The purpose of amendment No. 18 is to ensure that the provisions in clause 7 concerning offences by bodies corporate should apply to the obstruction offence under clause 5(3) as well as to the principal offences in clause 1. If, say, the manager of a company plays a part in obstructing the exercise of the powers conferred by clause 5, it seems right that he, as well as the company, should be liable to prosecution.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lloyd) for moving the amendment, which increases the penalties available to courts dealing with this kind of abuse. There is the usual problem that arises when one anticipates the passage of a few years and the possible, though I hope not, consequential inflation and the possible increased benefit to unauthorised or illegal operators of the establishments with which my hon. Friend wishes to deal. I should be grateful if he or the Minister of State could say whether 1112 the level of penalties can be kept under review and whether some guidance can be issued to those imposing penalties on those found guilty of offences to the effect that the imposition of a very high penalty would be expected by the public and would be the intention of Parliament.
Bearing in mind the spread of these establishments through London and other cities, it is clear that substantial profits are being made. Many establishments previously in other trades are being converted into unauthorised cinemas and video lounges. If the profits are high enough, people who cannot get licences may decide that they are willing to pay, in effect, the tax of penalties imposed by the courts. I hope that we can be confident that people who are convicted will suffer substantial penalties for trying to avoid the licensing provisions in the Bill.
I shall be interested also to know whether the provisions about forfeiture are adequate. I recognise that they are not touched directly by the amendments. However, we are concerned in the amendments with the penalties on operators. Is the definition of items relating to the offence which are to be produced in court sufficiently tight to make sure that the forfeiture provisions are adequate? Will all the equipment have to be produced in court? I have in mind video screens and the machines which project the material for which there is no licence. Does that have to be produced in court? In the case of a large-scale establishment with 40 or 50 video screens, will it be possible to make a court order for the forfeiture of all the equipment, or are the words in the Bill drawn too tightly? I should be grateful for some guidance on that.
In general, it must be right to provide for substantial penalties when there is greatly offensive abuse. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham has got it right in the drafting of the Bill, but I should be grateful for some reassurance both about keeping the penalties in line with possible profits to illegal or unauthorised operators and, if possible, about giving attention to the forfeiture provisions which, in my view, can be just as important in deterring abuse.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)
Mr. Alex Lyon. I beg the hon. Member's pardon—Mr. Edward Lyons.
§ Mr. Edward Lyons
None of the remaining 240 Labour Members have bothered to be present for this important series of debates, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
On Second Reading, there were demands from some right hon. and hon. Members that there should be inserted into the Bill a provision for a custodial sentence as well as for a financial penalty. I opposed that view, and I am pleased to see that there is no reference to a custodial penalty in the amendment.
I said on Second Reading that where the motive for the kind of operation that the Bill sought to catch was financial, the best way of dealing with any culprit was to punish him in his pocket. The amendment increases the penalty for one offence from the originally proposed £1,000 to £10,000.
That is important for two reasons. First, it achieves the target of punishing in the pocket rather than by incarceration when our prisons are already very overcrowded. Secondly, the maximum penalty is seldom imposed. What magistrates look at is the maximum laid down in the statute as an indication of the gravity with 1113 which the legislature regards an offence, and then, particularly for a first or second conviction, they impose considerably less than the maximum.
Therefore, if one envisages a fine of £1,000 one is more likely to achieve its imposition if the maximum is £10,000 or a higher figure. It is absurd to pretend that maximum fines are frequently given for any offence. They hardly ever are. Seldom do we even approach in the courts a figure anywhere the maximum permitted.
I welcome the way in which the promoter of the Bill has met the criticisms made on Second Reading. I am glad that he is sticking to financial penalties, but is making them more realistic in the circumstances of today.
§ Mr. Proctor
I fully support what the hon. and learned Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Lyons) said. He told us that he was the sole occupant of the Opposition Benches. That makes a change. Usually it is not the Labour Party that is absent but the SDP or the Liberals. At least we have one hon. Member on the Opposition Benches to look back at us, and it is nice to see such a friendly face.
§ Mr. Edward Lyons
In percentage terms the SDP has been represented to a far greater degree than the Conservative Party throughout this debate.
§ Mr. Proctor
That may well be, but in the recent important debate about new towns—I am a new town Member—I was astounded that we managed to get through all parts of the New Towns Bill, dealing with hundreds of millions of pounds of public money, without a single representative of the Liberal Party or the SDP being present.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
Order. Will the hon. Gentleman kindly return to the amendment?
§ Mr. Proctor
I welcome the amendments increasing the penalties for contraventions of the provisions of the Bill. On Second Reading a number of right hon. and hon. Members expressed their concern that the maximum penalty of £200 under the 1952 Act had not been raised for 30 years. That proves the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) about the inroads of inflation on fines. I would not hazard a guess at the inflation between 1952 and 1982, but it must be considerable.
§ Mr. Proctor
I am not an advocate of the indexation of anything to the rate of inflation, if we can avoid it, because that is the route to continuing to live with inflation. I would rather see us bring inflation under control and get it down to single figures, as the Government are doing. That, and not indexation, is the correct way to go about the matter.
However, we must be aware of the erosion of fines by inflation over the years. To increase the maximum from £200 to £1,000 and now to £10,000 goes some way towards meeting the strength of opinion expressed on the subject on Second Reading.
My hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Home Office, intervened in my Second Reading speech to say that there was no limit to the level of the maximum fines that we could put into the Bill. However, in Committee my hon. and learned Friend said: 1114the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 applies to the general power of magistrates to impose fines for breach of the criminal law.Apparently there is a power that for summary offence conviction magistratesshall be limited to a maximum fine of £1,000.My hon. and learned Friend added:Whether that maximum should be raised is an issue that goes beyond the scope of the Bill."—[Official Report, Standing Committee C; 3 March 1982, c. 15.]It may be an issue that goes beyond the scope of the Bill, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will explain the inter-relationship of what we are doing. If the amendments are passed, as I hope they will be, they will increase the maximum fine to £10,000. Is there any bar under the 1980 Act that will stop fines of over £1,000 being imposed?
Secondly, is there a possibility of having minimum penalties or is it felt that one has to leave discretion with magistrates from 1p to £10,000?
I support the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lloyd) and I hope that it will receive the support of the House.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
When my right hon. Friend the Minister replies, I hope that he will tell us how the figure of £10,000 was arrived at. I realise that it is consistent with the fines set out in the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, but I am not aware of any other legislation which has provided for fines of quite this level. I take the point of the hon. and learned Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Lyons) that it does not necessarily follow that a court will impose the maximum fine. It is a great deal of money, but it is consistent with the offensiveness of the practices that we are discussing. As the Bill is directed to those who make considerable gain from obnoxious practices, I see no reason why they should not suffer in the pocket. It is the only way to get at them. On the other hand, there needs to be a measure of consistency in penalties in our legislation.
§ Mr. Proctor
Does my hon. Friend agree that they are inconsistent because the other penalties are too low?
§ Mr. Griffiths
That may be so.
We must examine the impact of inflation on penalties over recent years. However, as recently as 1977, when as a Minister I was involved in a number of Bills that became Acts, high fines were provided. It proved extremely difficult for fines to go as high as £5,000 for serious offences, particularly for transport and pollution offences. The House was right to be a little cautious about advancing by a high amount the levels of fines. I am not cavilling with the amount of £10,000—perhaps it will be appropriate in the circumstances—but I reiterate that there must be consistency about the way in which we apply the penalties of the criminal law to our citizens.
Therefore, I would value some advice from my right hon. Friend the Minister on why the figure of £10,000 was thought to be appropriate. I hope that he can give us a sideways look at some of the other legislation that has been recently passed or is in prospect of being passed—for example, the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill—in which that level of fine is to be levied.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
Many of the provisions in the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill deal with offences that are not likely to be copied by others. For example, if an illegal sign is displayed, thousands of people are not likely to try to make vast profits. Another 1115 example is when someone serves bad food. Not many people are likely to copy that, so the punishment would be straightforward. This penalty, however, must be a deterrent as well as taking away the profits made by people who are running unauthorised establishments.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I take my hon. Friend's point that the penalty is a deterrent. It is there to dissuade wide boys from entering into an obnoxious business for private gain. Faced with a possible fine of £10,000, they will think twice before taking that high risk. The £10,000 would in most cases amount to a terminal penalty. It would close the business, which is what is intended. However, that does not answer my question, which is not a criticism. We need some consistency in the criminal law in the levels of penalties. Granted that the penalties are a deterrent in this case, they may need to be a deterrent in other cases.
I shall give a specific example. I have been involved in penalties that are imposed for polluting the environment. That was in respect of the pollution of our water supplies by discharges to rivers, and noxious emissions to the air that could damage public health. It took a great deal of doing to raise the fines to as much as £5,000 for those who noxiously pollute the general environment.
We are dealing here with another kind of pollution, seeking to impose another sort of deterrent. I support what is intended. None the less it is right to ask my right hon. Friend the Minister to reflect, by looking at other areas of the law, whether £10,000 is consistent with the Government's general philosophy.
§ Mr. Edward Lyons (Bradford, West)
I am impressed by the hon. Gentleman's argument about the need for consistency in the penalties. However, the Bill contains a maximum fine of £ 1,000 which is considered to small. The only proposed amendment seeks to raise it to £10,000. If one rejects the amendment, one is back to £1,000. One has to make a choice.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I have no intention of rejecting the amendment. I am asking my right hon. Friend the Minister to tell us of the origins of the figure of £10,000 and to say whether he thinks that it is consistent with other penalties for offences of similar or comparable character.
§ Mr. Farr
I am glad to have the opportunity to make a short contribution to the debate on this important group of amendments.
I am concerned about amendment No. 17 and the level of penalties. Earlier in the debate I made it clear that I felt that the House would be doing no good unless we related the Bill, which we hope will be passed, and its penalties to the twentieth century, particularly to the 1980s, and to what is happening about cinematograph exhibitions and home videos. I have already stated that the home video business today had a turnover of £160 million a year, of which over £100 million is pirated material. This is important when we are discussing penalties. We cannot discuss penalties in a meaningful manner unless we know the figures involved in the profits that are made.
I live in Northamptonshire. A Northampton couple the other day handed back £750,000 profit which they had made from pirated video tapes. They are not regarded by the experts as major operators. There are reckoned to be 1116 bigger operators than those who were apprehended by what I call the gang of three—the three companies engaged in tracking down the pirates. The couple were not regarded as one of the bigger fish in the pool. Yet they were required to return no less than £750,000. When one considers that this sort of figure reflects what is happening in real life, it makes the level of penalties proposed by my hon. Friend look farcically low. The average profit to a pirate for one video tape is reckoned to be about £30. With a turnover of £100 million a year, there is tremendous scope for a large illicit profit to be made.
A number of my hon. Friends, and also, I believe, the hon. and learned Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Lyons) have expressed the hope that the Minister will make some effort to keep the level of penalties under constant review. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, with his expert knowledge, will no doubt say whether the provisions of my hon. Friend's Bill fall within the scope of successive Criminal Justice Acts that have lifted the level of penalties in Acts passed in earlier years. I should like to know whether the proposals in amendment No. 17 will be subject to this periodic scrutiny, which leads to subsequent action in a Criminal Justice Act. A number of penalties have been altered at regular intervals by such Acts.
Hon. Members, especially those who were here at the time, know the major part played by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) in making the polluter pay. When my hon. Friend was a Minister, his role was recognised by hon. Members as a leading and valuable one in trying to provide an appropriate penalty for the many types of environmental pollution that were taking place but which are now, I am happy to say, much less frequent. There is no doubt that that is due largely to the activities of my hon. Friend when he was all too briefly in office.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds touched on an important matter when he said that maximum penalties were not often imposed by the courts. Very often, courts are reluctant to use the range of powers given to them by Parliament. That has never been fully recognised or properly discussed in the House. Parliament may, in its wisdom, decide the proper fines and penalties to be imposed and hon. Members go home and believe that they have done their job for society, but how many of us look back a year or two later and compare the level of penalties imposed by the courts with those that Parliament believed to be correct? We never do that, but if we did the result would shatter my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lloyd) and probably my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds.
I did that exercise, with some difficulty and much research, in relation to the 50 offences laid down in the Firearms Act 1968. Those offences range from trivial offences heard by a magistrates' court right up to serious triable offences such as shortening a weapon. The penalties in the 1968 Act rang from fines of £50 to imprisonment for an indefinite time and a maximum fine of £400. Some of the offences are the most serious that one can imagine, such as shortening firearms and using them in a public place.
An analysis was made of all the convictions under the Firearms Act 1968, from 1970 to 1974. The percentage of the maximum fine imposed by courts was so derisory as to be beyond belief. It was not even in double figures. In 1117 the table that I compiled, the average penalty was no more than 7.5 per cent. of the maximum laid down by Parliament five or six years earlier. The statistics were not easy to obtain. The avenue that I used to obtain them has since been blocked by the powers that be, and I cannot obtain the the information by way of questions on the Order Paper, as I could at that time. It is difficult to know the up-to-date position.
In 1968 Parliament expressed its wishes about a whole range of serious offences relating to public law and order and laid down maximum penalties for the various offences. The discovery years later that the courts had regularly been imposing fines well under 10 per cent. of the maximum required that the whole matter be examined in a different light. When we talk today of a maximum fine of £10,000 and wonder whether we are being nasty to the people who may be subject to it, we should live in the present and find out how often the courts choose to give any recognition whatever to what is said in the House—never mind what is put on the statute book—about penalties of this nature.
What can we do about this situation? I and a number of others were so concerned about the way in which the courts were ignoring the wishes of both Houses in relation to the 1968 Act that we approached the Home Secretary and invited him to call the attention of both upper and lower courts to the wishes of Parliament. We did not think it right to lay down a maximum structure of penalties for firearms offences, only to find that it was regularly being ignored to the tune of 90 per cent.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, understandably, was reluctant to issue any form of guidance to the courts. We suggested that a letter or an article in the Magistrates' Association magazine illustrating some of the features of the 1968 Act might be of interest to the general public and certainly to magistrates discharging their obligations with regard to summary offences under that Act, but my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary felt it inadvisable to issue any form of public guidance to those imposing the penalties. A similar approach to the Lord Chancellor, suggesting that the 1968 Act provided a good network of penalties but that the upper courts were perhaps not paying as much attention as they should to the maximum penalties laid down by Parliament, received an equally dusty answer.
In this respect, a few years ago, in response to an outcry about a particular crime involving a firearms offence, the Home Secretary announced the addition of a new clause to the 1968 Act, to be accompanied by a maximum fine, which at that time was quite substantial, of £800 or £900. The House and the country were satisfied that an energetic Home Secretary and the Government had recognised the public interest and seemed to have done something. They never knew, and the statistics were never revealed, how persistently the not extravagant penalties provided for serious offences in important measures such as the 1968 Act were ignored by the courts, both high and low.
I felt that this was an opportunity to point out to my right hon. Friend the sorts of figures that have been produced by persistent questions on the Order Paper over a number of years, in a way that would be impossible now. I hope that when he replies to the debate he will bear this in mind and consider whether the level of fines in amndment No. 17 is adequate.
§ Mr. Petr Lloyd
Once again it is penalties that have concerned the House, as they did on Second Reading and in Committee.
My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) asked about forfeiture. He questioned whether it related to apparatus directly concerned in the offence that was liable to be seized. That is the case. It is apparatus and equipment that is used in the commission of the offence that is liable to be seized. It is right that it should be left at that. If there were a general power for the authorities to strip any building in which an offence took place, although there might be advantages in some cases, in most cases it would lead to many more problems and injustices than it would solve.
The second point raised by my hon. Friend was whether the items seized had to be shown in court. The wording in the Bill is "produced to the court". That is what I have intended. However, I leave it to my right hon. Friend the Minister to give the exact legal meaning of that phrase. If the authorities do not remove equipment at the time of the visit that results in prosecution, anything that they might have liked to lay their hands on would have assuredly disappeared.
It was suggested that the present fine may not be sufficient in several years' time, and index-linking was suggested. That was a problem that worried members of the Committee. It is a real problem with fines across the board. I hope that my right hon. Friend will confirm what I believe to be the case, that the provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill for adjusting fines generally from time to time will cover the fine in this Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor) suggested a minimum penalty. In practice, that would not get us much further—at least, not nearly as far as he would like. That penalty would need to be set very low if an appropriate penalty were to be found for those people found guilty of either a minor infringement or of a minor involvement in a major infringement. If it were set low enough to deal with those cases, it would not be relevant to more serious offences.
The hon. and learned Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Lyons) commended the fact that the procedure by summary jursidiction is being left in the Bill even though the penalty has been raised. He is right to say that this is the method by which we should proceed. It is important in cases like this that the court should be able to act speedily and effectively. The speedy and effective way of acting is in a magistrates' court by summary jurisdiction.
All three Conservative Members who have spoken today asked whether £10,000 is a high enough fine. My hon. Friends the Members for Woolwich, West and Harborough (Mr. Farr) suggested that the profits were so high in the business with which the Bill deals that the fine might be seen as a type of turnover tax or a parking ticket which is accepted in the normal course of business. I concede that there would be a danger if the £10,000 maximum were the only penalty available to the courts for repeated offences, but that is not so. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will confirm that. I promoted the Bill on the understanding that if there were repeated offences of a similar nature an injunction could be applied for and if that were not obeyed, gaol would be possible and even probable. Prison is the final sanction, but it would require an injunction first.
1119 1.30 pm
The only element of consistency that I sought was with the similar offences in the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. I am glad that the important consistency exists. I should be interested to hear the comments of my right hon. Friend the Minister.
§ Mr. Raison
This has probably been the most important debate of the day. The level of penalties is important and it is right to devote some time to considering it. Valuable contributions have been made.
However carefully legislation is drafted, and however watertight it is made, it will not be effective unless the penalties are severe enough to deter those who might otherwise be tempted to ignore the legislation. We have discussed whether £10,000 is the right amount. Ultimately we must make a value judgment. It is simply a question of assessing the right penalty for a particular set of circumstances. The considerations are clear. The deterrent aspect is crucial. It is vital that a high fine should be available, because those involved can make a lot of money from their activities. That is why we agreed to pitch the penalty higher than normal.
I confirm that if there are repeated offences an injunction can be applied for and, if it is broken, it is possible ultimately to resort to imprisonment. The only factor to make one think carefully about such a high penalty is that such cases are normally not tried summarily. Normally, the fines in magistrates' courts are lower than those in the higher courts. My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor) was concerned, and I should point out, that the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 refers to offences that are triable either way. The present offences are summary-only offences, and under that Act there is no bar to a higher figure than £1,000 in respect of these offences. Therefore, the Magistrates' Courts Act is not contradicted by the amendments.
Normally, higher penalties are thought appropriate for the higher courts, but speed is important when dealing with such offences. It is important to be able to act quickly, and that is the justification for allowing such cases to be handled by the magistrates' courts. I confirm that it is our intention to table an amendment on Report in another place to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill to increase the maximum penalty in schedule 3 in respect of the use of an unlicensed sex shop or sex cinema to £10,000. We have reached that decision in the light of the concern expressed in both Houses that the present proposed maximum penalty of £5,000 in the Miscellaneous Provisions Bill would prove an inadequate deterrent.
I cannot literally say that we are aligning the provision in this Bill with the Miscellaneous Provisions Bill, because at present the latter contains a penalty of only £5,000, but it is our intention that that should go up to £10,000. I welcome my hon. Friend's desire to have the penalty in this Bill in line with that. It has for some time been our intention to reconsider the penalty proposed in my hon. Friend's Bill in the light of discussions about the Miscellaneous Provisions Bill. The case for making the two uniform is clear.
It is an exceptional penalty, but we are talking about the maximum. It is up to the court to make a judgment on what is right in the circumstances. I do not believe that to have a minimum penalty, too, is desirable. The law should provide penalties to deter people from committing 1120 offences repugnant to public feeling and morality, but we should avoid telling the courts in too precise detail how to deal with particular offenders. We go to the trouble of having a great system of courts, we take great care to ensure that our judges and magistrates are people capable of exercising justice, and we provide the apparatus of advice from social workers and others. If we then go too far in inhibiting the courts' freedom to make decisions on the right penalty in the circumstances, we are not serving justice as we should.
§ Mr. Proctor
I accept what my right hon. Friend says about minimum fines and interference with the courts, but is he aware of the widespread worry that magistrates and judges are not using their powers to the full to deter crime? Will he respond? I am not sure how he can lean on magistrates and judges, but will he advise them of the strength of public opinion, which is passed on to Members of Parliament, although perhaps not to magistrates and judges?
§ Mr. Raison
My hon. Friend is widening the debate beyond the amendment. I am aware that such views are held, but I cannot say that the Government are prepared to lean on magistrates. If the law sets a high penalty—we acknowledge that by the standards of magistrates' courts £10,000 is high—that shows that Parliament considers that these are serious offences and that those who commit them deserve to be hit hard.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I agree that it is wrong to prescribe how the courts should administer penalties.
Before the matter goes to another place will my right hon. Friend give a little more thought to the question of consistency? It gets the public's goat if a person is violently assaulted and knocked about in a ghastly way or a police officer in the execution of his duty is badly assaulted and the fine is only a couple of hundred pounds.
Equally, when there is some massive pollution of a river, affecting large numbers of people, the maximum fine which can be imposed on the firm in question is £5,000.
I am in no sense dissenting from the figure of £10,000, but it is of enormous importance that the Government should consider the relationship between the fine and the nature of the offence. Parliament is fully entitled to show its abhorrence of this particular iniquity by putting in a very high figure, but it is of enormous importance that offences of personal assault and violence against the individual should not appear to be treated by Parliament in a less severe way than offences of the kind dealt with in the Bill.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
As the Minister said in relation to a previous intervention, the discussion of such matters would widen debate well beyond the scope of the Bill. They may be very important, but they are not relevant to the Bill.
§ Mr. Raison
With your authority, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you have said what I was about to say.
We agree that the proposed penalty of £10,000 should be confined to the offence of giving an unlicensed exhibition. I am sure that legitimate cinema exhibitors and their employees would be greatly concerned—and rightly so—if they thought that some minor breach of the safety regulations or conditions in licensed premises could make them liable to a fine of this order. It would also be 1121 inconsistent with the penalties for similar offences in respect of other premises where public entertainment is provided.
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lloyd) was right in his comment that the Criminal Justice Bill will make it possible for the fines that we are discussing to be increased from time to time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) talked about forfeiture, which my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) had discussed in an earlier amendment. It is the case that the goods have literally to be produced in court. I gather that the courts have arrangements for handling large objects. I am not quite sure how large they can be; whether it would be possible to accommodate an elephant I do not know. But in any event, the sorts of things that we are talking about can be handled perfectly well by the courts.
We support the purpose of amendment No. 18, which will ensure that officers of a body corporate can be prosecuted if they bear responsibility for the obstruction of the exercise of the power contained in clause 5.
We have had an important and valuable debate on the group of amendments, and I strongly commend them to the House.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 14, in page 5, line 30, after 'held', insert—
`(bb) any premises in respect of which a licence under section 2 of the 1909 Act is in force are used for an exempted exhibition and are so used otherwise than in accordance with the conditions or restrictions on or subject to which the licence is held, so far as relating to the matters specified in section 2(1)(a) of the 1952 Act;'.
§ No. 15, in page 5, line 35, leave out from 'offence' to end of line 36.
No. 16, in page 5, line 42, after 'kind', insert
'or a licence under section 2 of the 1909 Act is in force in respect of the premises and the exhibition is an exempted exhibition.'.
No. 17, in page 6, line 12, at end insert—
'(3A) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) above shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not e xceeding—