HC Deb 09 July 1982 vol 27 cc564-78

Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 2, line 1, at beginning insert Subject to subsection (1A) below

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Mr. Peter Lloyd (Fareham)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 3 to 9.

Mr. Lloyd

All of these amendments are important because they substantially revise clause 2, which is the central part of the Bill. They appear complicated when set out separately from the main Bill on the Amendment Paper and it may help the House if I explain the background, purpose and effect of each.

Shortly after the Bill went to another place, anxiety was expressed, notably in a letter to The Times from Mr. David Fisher, the editor of Screen Digest, that clause 2 might be construed much more widely by the courts than any of us intended. It was suggested that point of sale video in a shop might be regarded as an exhibition promoted for private gain because the end in view would be the profitable sale of goods. With my layman's respect for the courts, I found it hard to believe that they could contrive to come to such an unhelpful conclusion, but as the possibility could not be discounted and the worry was sincerely felt it seemed right to find new words that would make our intention clear beyond argument.

Initially, the words took the form of a narrower definition of an exhibition for gain. It was to be an exhibition for which admission was charged or where sums were paid that could reasonably be regarded in whole or in part as an admission charge or a contribution to an admission charge. The effect of that was to open a new realm of argument. Those connected with the industry and some noble Lords feared that a new loophole would thus be provided for unscrupulous exhibitors who are currently evading the law—the very people with whom the Bill seeks to deal. For example, they could change their businesses to catering establishments that offered food and drink at very profitable prices while the exhibition was given ostensibly free.

Fortunately, it has been possible to devise a solution that succeeds in giving a more precise and reliable effect to the Bill's original intentions and which was able to win the approval of all the parties who made representations on the suggested changes. I have pleasure in paying tribute to my noble Friend Viscount Colville of Culross, who sponsored the Bill in another place, for his skill and wisdom in accommodating the various legitimate worries that were expressed by their Lordships. I extend that tribute to their Lordships on both sides of the Chamber in another place, and to those on the Cross Benches, who sought to help my noble Friend reach the constructive, successful and acceptable conclusion that he has bequeathed us.

I cannot forbear to mention my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Home Department, and his officials and draftsmen, who lent their invaluable expertise to ensure that the amendments would achieve what I and my noble Friend intended. Finally, I appreciated the persistence and good sense that was displayed by the representatives of the interested organisations, especially the British Board of Film Censors and the Cinematograph Exhibitors Association, in presenting their case.

Thanks to all concerned, we now have a set of amendments before us that will help to target the Bill—it is a measure that the great majority in both Houses wish to see on the statute book—more precisely on those exhibitions it is meant to catch, and thus make doubly certain that those to whom it is not meant to apply will not inadvertently be affected.

In Lords amendment No. 3 subsection (1A) specifically excludes from the Bill's provisions an exhibition the sole or main purpose of which is to demonstrate any product, to advertise any goods or services or to provide information, education or instruction". The intention is to ensure that shops, banks and trading companies will not, for example, find themselves subject to licensing as a result of using video or film as part of their normal commercial activities.

Subsection (1B) of Lords amendment No. 4 defines what is meant by an exhibition "promoted for private gain". It has three limbs. The first concerns sums paid for admission to an exhibition. That is simple and straightforward. The second is somewhat more complicated and concerns sums that are paid that can reasonably be regarded as payment for admission. It covers exhibitions for which no overt charge is made for admission but at which everyone has to purchase an expensive programme on entry. The third limb is intended principally to block the potential loophole mentioned earlier of catering establishments offering free exhibitions. It provides that an exhibition is promoted for gain if it is advertised and if sums are paid for facilities or services"— for example, food or drink— provided for persons admitted to the exhibition.". If an establishment goes to the length of advertising exhibitions, it seems right that it should be regarded as promoting that exhibition for private gain, even if no charge is made for admission. On the other hand, I believe that the House will agree that it would be unreasonable to apply cinema licensing laws to arrangements for exhibitions that are purely incidental in, for example, a pub, bar or hotel. The requirement that an exhibition must be advertised would ensure that such incidental exhibitions would not be subject to the Bill.

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Lords amendments Nos. 5 and 6 make consequential changes to the deeming provision in clause 2(2). The purpose of the subsection is to make the task of the prosecuting authorities a little less difficult than it otherwise might be. It would not always be easy to prove that the proceeds had been applied only partly for the purpose of private gain. The amendment provides that, if the prosecution could prove that an exhibition had been advertised and that sums were paid for facilities or services, there would be a presumption that the proceeds had been applied wholly or partly for private gain. The Bill, as it did in its original form, leaves it open to the defence to prove the contrary.

Finally, clause 2(3), to which the consequential Lords amendments Nos. 7, 8 and 9 relate, affords protection to non-commercial societies, organisations and clubs where proceeds are applied solely for the benefit of the organisation concerned.

I believe that these amendments clarify and improve the Bill. As I said earlier, I am grateful to my noble Friend Viscount Colville of Culross, who so ably steered the Bill through another place. It is with great confidence that I commend the amendments to the House.

Mr. K. Harvey Proctor (Basildon)

I have participated in the debates on Second Reading, Report and Third Reading, and throughout its stages most right hon. and hon. Members have been happy to give the Bill a fair wind. We thought it very much in the best interests of everyone other than the operators of bogus cinema clubs, which in large measure the Bill sets out to outlaw. Those in another place have considered the Bill and have made some amendments. The amendments can be placed in four groups. The first group contains, in my opinion, by far the most important and crucial amendments to the Bill. They go to the heart of what the Bill is about.

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lloyd) in congratulating my noble Friend Viscount Colville of Culross on sponsoring the Bill in another place and on being so understanding of the various interests and pressures that were applied in that place once the Bill had left this Chamber. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his patience in putting up with the amendments and listening to the arguments that have been adduced. He has devoted a great deal of time to making sure that the Bill is right in its final form and has worked extremely hard. As he has said, he has had the assistance of my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Home Office, and his civil servants.

I supported the Bill from the outset and I continue to do so. I hope that the Lords amendments will be agreed to and that the Bill will shortly receive Royal Assent and take its place on the statute book. However, it is worth while spending a little time considering this group of amendments, which is vital and goes to the heart of the Bill. We do not want anyone reading the report of our debates this morning to get the wrong idea about why the amendments have been introduced or to have any idea that they weaken the Bill or open up loopholes or boltholes through which bogus cinema proprietors may escape. I shall deal with the background to the amendments in rather more detail than my hon. Friend.

Section 5 of the 1952 Act exempted from licensing those exhibitions to which the public are not admitted. It is clear that in the 30 years since then, bogus cinema clubs have exploited that loophole. No one knows exactly how many there are, but the best information available is that there are 70 or 80 such clubs in Greater London and a substantial number in other big cities. Not only do such bogus cinema clubs not fall within the licensing provisions for the purposes of censorship, but they are not subject to the scrutiny afforded to other cinemas with regard to safety. The House will wish to take a view as to the strength of the arguments relating to those twin planks—safety and the nature of the material exhibited by such clubs.

When the Bill left the House of Commons, clause 2(2) provided for a test to be applied with regard to what constituted private gain in order to curb abuse without catching the bona fide film society or club or the charitable, sporting, political organisation or society which does not use the proceeds of exhibition for private gain. The latter would be excluded, but clubs putting on exhibitions for private gain would be caught. That might be regarded as a fairly wide catchment, but there seemed to be unanimous support for the widest possible coverage to ensure that no bogus club could get around the legislation.

The difficulties were not apparent at that stage. Certainly they were not articulated at any length in the House of Commons. After the Bill had left the House of Commons, however, certain people raised objections that the Bill was drafted too widely in this respect. I draw attention to the words of Viscount Colville of Culross, who said in the debate in another place: I say 'arguably' because of the point I am just coming to—because if there is one criticism which has been drawn to my attention and that of my honourable Friend in another place about Clause 2, it is that it might catch what is on all counts a perfectly legitimate activity". That perfectly legitimate activity was the display in high street shops up and down the land of the video tapes that they have available for sale or hire and whose contents cannot possibly earn the rebuke or dismay of anybody. It is a problem and it is one that certainly requires to be considered". Viscount Colville of Culross continued: I am not, at the moment, sure that there is any grave need for apprehension about it, although it has been to some extent expressed in the newspapers and in correspondence, because an exhibition under Clause 2 has to be promoted for private gain and these particular exhibitions will be only incidental to the ordinary business of the shop, which is, among other things, the hiring or selling of video tapes. But I see that there could arguably be said to be an element of private gain, in that the person or the company owning the shop would hope to make some money out of the sale or hire of the tapes".—[Official Report, House of Lords, 9 June 1982; c. 255–6.] That must be so, as that is presumably the purpose of the high street business activities of shops such as Radio Rentals or Visionhire. I mention the latter firm, from which I happen to rent, in the hope of getting a discount next time I pay my bill in return for that extra plug in the House of Commons.

As the Second Reading debate in another place continued, the concern about the Bill as it had left the House of Commons was made clear by Lord Mishcon, who quoted the letter in The Times to which reference has been made today. It seems that the power of The Times is still great when a single letter published in it can virtually bring to a halt legislation before Parliament. Certainly it can be brought to a halt for second thoughts and further consideration.

As that letter, from the editor of Screen Digest, Mr. Fisher, is so important and material to the Lords amendments before us, I hope that it will not be considered amiss if I quote it at length. Mr. Fisher was unhappy with the wording of clause 2 because, he said, A shop displaying the video programmes which are there offered for sale would become a 'cinema' with all that entails in terms of licensing, fire regulations, British film quota and Eady levy requirements. Moreover, by extension, any point-of-sale display using film or video, whatever the commodity being sold, is in furtherance of private gain and thus open to classification as a cinematograph exhibition. Similarly affected would be industrial training courses (even when run in-company they are intended to enhance private gain), conferences, sales representatives' portable audio-visual desktop kits, the front-of-house video displays now appearing outside some cinemas, even videotext terminals and receivers". In the last sentence of his letter, Mr. Fisher makes a plea that it should not be left to a succession of lengthy and costly lawsuits to re-define the meaning of 'cinematograph exhibition for private gain' by means of case law". Having read that, I rather agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham and my noble Friend Lord Elton about the strength of that objection to the Bill.

Lord Elton said: I would only like to confirm that it is certainly not the Government's intention that the Bill should operate to bring licensing controls down on the head"—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)

Order. If the hon. Gentleman is quoting from debates in the other place, I must remind him that it is only in order to quote a Minister. If he wishes to quote another lord, he must paraphrase.

Mr. Proctor

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am now quoting Lord Elton, Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office. Previously I quoted a letter that appeared in The Times. For ease of reference, I quoted it from the speech made in the other place.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is in order to quote from The Times.

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Mr. Proctor

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. No doubt a copy of The Times would be provided if I wished to make a further quotation. However, I have dealt with that point sufficiently well and I do not propose to return to it. Nevertheless, I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your advice.

To continue, Lord Elton said: I would only like to confirm that it is certainly not the Government's intention that the Bill should operate to bring licensing controls down on the head of someone who, for example, is innocently showing a demonstration video cassette as part of his shop's normal commercial operation. Nor do I think—and here I entirely agree with my noble Friend—that the Bill does have this effect. Viscount Colville of Culross then said: it is all too well known that those who wish to evade the provisions of this brand of legislation could well use their ingenuity so as to take advantage of them. Therefore, anything that does go in has really got to be very carefully examined indeed."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 9 June 1982; Vol. 431, c. 264–265.] That refers to amendments that might be made in the other place to deal with the point raised by Viscount Colville of Culross, which was summarised in the quotation from The Times.

I certainly share the original view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham that there was no need to change the Bill, as then drafted, to meet that point. He said that he trusted the courts to act sensibly. I certainly share that view. However, initially, it would be for the local authority to decide whether to take action against someone whom it thought had transgressed the licensing laws by not applying for a licence. Therefore, in an extreme example, if Visionhire, Radio Rentals or any other high street firm did not apply to the local authority, it would be the local authority's job to inform the company that it did not have a licence and, if it felt strongly enough, to take the company to court if it was reluctant to apply for a licence. Therefore, I rely on the common sense of local authorities.

I accept that there are many local authorities and that they are not all Conservative-controlled. In many ways we fundamentally disagree with, for example, Labour-controlled authorities, but even a Labour-controlled authority or an extremist authority such as the GLC would not be so stupid as to take Visionhire or Radio Rentals to court under this legislation. However, there is an exception. If a firm—not a firm as respectable as Visionhire or Radio Rentals—tried to promote the sale or rental of television sets, video recorders or tapes by showing blue movies in the high street, the authority would naturally take action against it. However, all hon. Members would agree that the authority was right to do so. Therefore, I rely not only on our trust in the courts and on their good sense, but also on the good sense of local authorities. In saying that, I may be on dangerous ground, because perhaps not every hon. Member would agree with me about the amount of trust that can be given to all local authorities. However, I am trying to be my usual charitable self this morning.

Things came to a grinding halt in the other place, because there was a pause between Second Reading and the Committee stage, on 21 June. Viscount Colville of Culross made it clear that he was perfectly happy to hold talks with all the interested parties and said that he would try to meet the objections that had been made. In Committee, on 21 June, he brought forward, I believe, six amendments to meet the points raised and to make exemptions for high street shop displays of perfectly harmless video tapes. He said: The argument has always been that, if you said that you should not without a licence exhibit cinematograph material for private gain, you could argue that this included a shop which was attempting to persuade its customers to buy or hire a video tape or film". He mentioned that there were 300 licensing authorities around the country anyone of which might take it into its head to say that such a shop should be licensed". I have already made my view clear. I do not think that that would happen. Nevertheless, Viscount Colville of Culross continued What I therefore wish to seek advice upon is this. Shall this House, looking at a problem which is known to exist whereby we could completely clog up the district councils if there was any question of them having to license all the high street shops having point-of-sale displays, try to put in something that will exempt them, even if it means that we have to rely on other legislation in order to deal with the slightly more recondite but, nevertheless important exhibitions of a different sort?"—[Official Report, House of Lords, 21 June 1982; Vol. 431, c. 870–72.] That provoked further discussion and debate. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham is interested in training films. Time was allowed for second thoughts, including thoughts on training videos. That subject was not adequately covered in the House. However, there has been a great boom in them although, the House does not intend to catch them.

Problems arose over the choice of words in the amendment of Viscount Colville. There is the problem of the pub, bar or restaurant showing a full length film, perhaps one or two nights a week, for which there would be no charge or perhaps only a small charge for entry. those establishments would have been exempted by the first set of Viscount Colville's amendments. They should not be exempted.

Viscount Colville argued that other legislation was available. He admitted that the exemptions created by his amendments went wider than exemptions to deal with high street shops but argued that the other establishments would still be caught. On safety grounds, public houses or restaurants that showed video films would be caught by legislation covering the licensing justices and inquiries about exits and fire precautions. There was also the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act. The material that the restaurants or hotels might show would be controlled by the Indecent Displays (Control) Act, or by schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill currently going through Parliament. If those Acts did not apply, there was the obscenity law.

Members of the Upper House were, rightly, not happy with that position. They felt that it was clumsy to have to rely on other legislation relating, for example, to public houses, to achieve the necessary control. They believed that the control should be contained in cinematograph legislation. I agree very much with the point that they put forward.

It was suggested, first, I think, by Lord Mishcon, relying on advice that I also received yesterday from the Cinematograph Exhibitors Association, that a way out of the difficulty might be to set out in the legislation those areas that one wants to exclude. As a layman, I consider that eminently sensible. If one wants to exclude something in legislation, one should say so. However, that fails to take into account the parliamentary draftsmen with their rules, precedents, skills, expertise and professional wisdom, with which hon. Members wrestle at their peril.

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The association suggested that four areas might be exempted. These were promoting the sale of equipment for the display of moving pictures, promoting the sale of goods or services in premises used for the purpose of selling such goods or services, commercial or industrial training purposes—that would certainly have suited my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham—and displaying statistics and other data increasingly used in commerce and industry.

Concern has also been expressed by others in the film industry. One would not wish to include in the Bill anything that harms the British film industry. The reverse is the case. I see this measure as helping substantially the legitimate cinema proprietor or operator. I do not wish to become involved in an argument about the state of the British cinema industry. Lord Elton remarked that while he accepted the view of the Cinematograph Exhibitors Association, he did not wish to see the Bill used in an attempt to balance one part of the market operation with another. He wanted to keep his eye on bogus cinema clubs.

Lord Elton, referring to the association's concern, said: It focused on the fact that the amendment defines an exemption for private gain strictly in terms of sums paid, directly or indirectly, for admission, and they felt that thereby a significant area of operation which they had supposed would be caught by the Bill in fact would not be caught by the Bill".—[Official Report, House of Lords, 21 June 1982, Vol. 431, c. 874.] Notwithstanding my noble Friend's view, I happen to think that a fair point is made. It is important, given the state of the British cinema industry, that the regulations should be fair and applied equally to all. That factor should not be ignored in this Bill.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

Can we buy a video of this?

Mr. Proctor

The hon. Gentleman asks from a seated position whether it is possible to buy a video of these proceedings. There would not be much sale for such videos.

Mr. Fraser

That is what I mean.

Mr. Proctor

I have no doubt about that. I would not suggest that a video is made. I am very much against the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings. This morning's proceedings demonstrate why I take that view. Perhaps not even everyone who is here knows what is afoot and if our proceedings were broadcast there might be wide misunderstanding about what is taking place.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

The proceedings of this morning and similar mornings may not be suitable material for broadcasts, but does my hon. Friend think that such material might be suitable for clubs?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor) will not be tempted away from the amendment.

Mr. Proctor

I would not dream of being tempted away from the amendment, which I am addressing with loving care and to the best of my ability.

It was accepted that the amendments of Viscount Colville would not meet the point and they were withdrawn so that the matter could be considered again on Report on 1 July. Further representations were made and soundings were taken. Among the bodies that made representations was the British Board of Film Censors, and its views were quoted by Lord Jenkins of Putney. I know that there are difficulties about quoting what is said in another place, but perhaps I may quote the part of Lord Jenkins' speech in which he quoted the views of the BBFC.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that, as I said earlier, it is not in order to quote speeches made in another place, except those made by Ministers. The hon. Gentleman may paraphrase what was said, but he must not quote.

Mr. Proctor

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I misunderstood your earlier ruling.

The BBFC said that the original amendments would create substantial loopholes and it feared that they would be used by video clubs, restaurants and bars and by disreputable bogus cinema operators. The board raised the important point that there would be no resriction on children seeing films in such establishments. It is possible for children, even those under 14, to go into such establishments and the current law would not prevent children seeing X-rated video films.

The BBFC imposes licensing conditions and ratings for films shown by reputable cinemas. It feared that video cinemas could charge for food, drink or programmes and get round the law in that way. The view of the board was put forcefully by Lord Jenkins who proposed amendments to the Bill.

Lord Birkett said that if there were a separate room in a pub where a video film was being shown children under 14 could be admitted. He warned that we should not leave in our legislation a gap that could be exploited in that way. Lord Birkett said that the words for admission to the exhibition in Viscount Colville's amendments could cause difficulties.

My noble Friend Baroness Hornsby-Smith outlined three ways in which a bogus operation could be set up. First, people could be required to pay for admission to the films. I believe that that route would be ruled out by the Bill. Secondly, charges could be made for food, drinks or programmes, but not for the film. Baroness Hornsby-Smith felt that would be a way of getting round the Bill, but I am not so sure.

The third possible method was that on a slack night for bar trade, say a Monday or Tuesday, a pub could put on a film, and not increase any charges for drink or impose any hidden charges. The advertised attraction of a video film could bring in more customers and thus increase the pub's revenue. The original amendments tabled by Viscount Colville would not have caught such an operation.

There was still considerable doubt about the state of clause 2, even on Third Reading. The sponsors of the Bill must have been worried, because time was running out and the Bill was needed. With that in mind, I am keeping a careful eye on the clock. Until Third Reading it had not been decided what to do about the amendments. A final agreement and compromise was reached after all interested parties had been consulted and after hours of consideration. The compromise was in two parts as set out in the Lords amendments before us.

The first part contained a list—back to the layman's approach—of which areas should be excluded for the purpose of the Bill. Lords amendment No. 3 states: (1A) Subsection (1) above does not apply to an exhibition the sole or main purpose of which is to demonstrate any product, to advertise any goods or services or to provide information, education or instruction. My hon. Friend the Member for Fareham made it clear that the intention of that amendment is to exclude the rental shops in the high street that have been mentioned, banks and other commercial operations, and the use of training videos which is growing rapidly with the new technology available. We are pleased to see amendment No. 3.

It was more difficult to define "for private gain". An attempt to do so is contained in Lords amendment No. 4. That amendment contains the word "advertise" and defines whether an exhibition that has been advertised should be construed to be for private gain.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Bristol, North-West)

There are two forms of advertising. There is the advertising of the film, and advertising that is increasingly carried upon the film itself. It is now the practice of video manufacturers to cover some of the cost of the production of their films by selling advertising space on the video film. Does that come within the definition of "private gain"? It covers some of the cost of the film and adds to the profit. It raises the serious question whether advertising products that are covered by other codes of practice—for example, the promotion of tobacco products—shown on X films in a home contravene that code of practice.

Mr. Proctor

My hon. Friend has raised some interesting points. I cannot deal with them all, but I should like to talk to him about them.

With regard to advertising on a film cassette that might be shown to an audience—

Mr. Colvin


Mr. Proctor

—in a person's home, that would not be private gain and would not be caught by the legislation. The private gain in those circumstances—the courts would have to decide the matter—would not necessarily be to the operator of the exhibition of the film. There could be private gain to the manufacturer or distributor of the video cassette who would gain extra revenue by selling advertising space on such a video. The private gain would be to him and not necessarily to the exhibitor of the film, although, in certain circumstances, that might be one and the same person. That may be caught by the legislation. It is an interesting point and I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister will comment upon it.

I am in favour of advertising. I believe that the more advertising we have the better it is. I do not want to go down that path because it might be the subject of another debate, and I shall comment upon it at the appropriate moment.

The word "advertise" is dealt with in Lords amendment No. 4 and is covered by subsection (1B), which states: An exhibition is promoted for private gain if, and only if… (c) where the exhibition is advertised (whether to the public or otherwise)". What do the words "or otherwise" in that part of Lords amendment No. 4 mean?

Mr. Peter Lloyd

I can help my hon. Friend on this, and if I am wrong I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister will correct me. It could be argued whether the words "advertised to the public" were sufficiently precise. A notice outside a pub or hotel that could be seen by anybody would be advertising to the public. A note sent to selected patrons or regular customers would not be regarded as advertising to the public, but that would be caught under the heading "otherwise".

Mr. Proctor

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that explanation. We should make sure that there are no loopholes through which operators of bogus clubs can escape. My hon. Friend has explained that this closes an escape route for the bogus club or cinema operator.

May I ask my hon. Friend a hypothetical question? If a bar—even for one night—had a poster placed in a window or inside the premises to advertise, not to the public but to its patrons, will that be caught under the heading of advertising the event? It might advertise that there is to be the showing of a film on a Thursday night. Let us be non-party political and call it "Reds".

People in the bar know that there is likely to be a film on Thursday night. The patron asks the barman what it is to be; the barman surreptitiously leans across the bar and says in a non-provocative way "'Reds', sir". Would a verbal acclamation of the film constitute advertising?

In the final analysis, it will be for the courts to decide and they cannot read our debates to go behind the legislation, but it would help to have clarification now. That hypothetical situation may occur frequently.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

As my hon. Friend has said, it will be for the courts to decide. In all legislation, there is a grey area where we have to rely on the common sense of the courts. The only way in which the exhibitors could with certainty avoid the possibility of the law falling on them is if they served food and drink and provided other services on that evening completely free. If they did not do that, it would be possible to argue that there was advertising in the hypothetical situation described by my hon. Friend. In the unlikely event that it ever came to prosecution, I believe that it would be difficult for a court to regard a communication such as my hon. Friend describes as advertising. But it will be for the courts to decide. We have to rely on their common sense, which they will exercise with due regard to all the circumstances.

Mr. Proctor

My hon. Friend has clearly considered the situation. I am grateful to him for giving me a full answer.

If, say, at 11 o'clock when the time for drinking had come to an end the person behind the bar shouted at the top of his voice that next Thursday "Reds" was to be shown, that would clearly be advertising.

I shall support the Lords amendments. I do not wish to put at risk the Bill and its principles. It contains eminently sensible provisions. I have supported the Bill throughout, although not uncritically. I still doubt whether it is right to place different criteria and problems before the courts about what is for private gain. When cases at the margin come before them, the courts will have the difficult job to decide what is advertising. It might have been better to have left the Bill as it was before it went to the House of Lords, but I understand the pressures. I understand the desire for certainty about the operators of high street shops, training films and the other exempted categories. I accept that the parliamentary draftsmen have the right wording.

I am pleased about Lords amendments Nos. 7, 8 and 9 for the further protection of non-commercial societies. There was some anxiety in Committee on that subject.

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This is an important Bill. I hope that I have done the Lords amendments justice. We have another Bill for discussion this morning which perhaps raises more important issues for the film industry. I hope that that Bill will be carried. I await with interest the comments of my hon. and learned Friend the Minister and of my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham.

Mr. Greenway

I wish to ask for an assurance from my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lloyd) on one point and shall be grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for anything that he can add to reassure me. The issue is important for the health of the nation. I spoke on Second Reading and have a great interest in the Bill. I wish, too, to associate myself with one or two of the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor).

Many people in responsible positions and all responsible parents are anxious about the Bill as it affects children. They are currently allowed into clubs and certain areas of pubs where drinks are not served. The Bill does not alter that. However, children will be free to go into clubs and pubs and see video presentations without parental consent. Their parents will not need to accompany them and may have no idea of what they are seeing. If the Bill does not alter that, parents will not be involved in the proper upbringing of their children: they will not know what they see, hear and learn. We should not promote that sort of society. We need parental involvement at all stages of a child's life.

In their formative years and during adolescence young people need to know what they are seeing and to converse about it later. I speak from long experience. They need to put what they see on video or any other medium in context. Violence taken out of context is the most damaging to the mind of the child. Contextual violence is not more excusable, but it is more comprehensible. Scholastic research shows that contextual violence can be more readily appreciated by, and less worrying to, children who see it on film.

I hope that the Bill's promoter will express the wish that clubs should take a responsible attitude towards the admission of children. Schools' efforts to set standards could be completely undermined. Schools set standards for material designed for a child's sound growth. They do not want children to see material that can lead to misdemeanour and violence and future misery for themselves and society.

Children can be drawn into pubs to see presentations of the type described. That is undesirable, even if the material is presented in a room set apart. It is the thin end of a rather nasty wedge. It undermines a law that is frequently discussed, but which society ha's seen fit to maintain. Society has decided that children under the age of 18 should not be admitted to pubs. There should be no way round that by showing video material.

It is undesirable for children to see on video material that some adults most want to see because often it is sadistic or violent. There is no need to encourage sadistic tendencies in children. Education and the good society seeks to eliminate that tendency. Thomas Arnold, the great headmaster of Rugby school, said that his aim was to form Christian men, for Christian boys I can scarcely hope to make. He said that boys—and this applies to girls but to a lesser extent—sometimes behave in a totally uncivilised manner. I brought that out, I hope vividly, in my Second Reading speech in my reference to William Golding's book "Lord of the Flies" in which is described the gross violence that can come upon children of tender years, and of more mature years. We shall do all that we can, not to be too censorious, because that is clumsy in educational terms, to give children guidance and parameters for the way that they live and what they see.

Milton Shulman, a television commentator of distinction, said that violence on television is damaging, to children in particular, and to some adults. He was speaking in the context of advertising. A minute's advertising time can persuade people to purchase a great deal of material. People are influenced by advertising and large sums are spent on it because television is such an influential medium. If Milton Shulman is right violence on television can also have a strong influence on people.

It is absurd to try to clean up violence on television and then to allow it to be transferred to video clubs and pubs where it is available to children. We are trying to make a major reform in one area, only for it to be undermined in another. I hope that I can be assured about that fundamental and important matter.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Patrick Mayhew)

The amendments have the Government's full support. I thank the Bill's promoter, my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lloyd) for his generous remarks about those who have assisted him in bringing the Bill to this stage. I am sure that what he said about my noble Friend, Viscount Colville of Culross, officials in the Home Office, the British Board of Film Censors and the Cinematograph Exhibitors Association will be gratefully received. All involved have furthered the Bill's purpose, as expressed on Second Reading.

I remind the House that the Bill's purpose is to close the loophole represented by the bogus cinema clubs about which my hon. Friends the Members for Fareham and Basildon (Mr. Proctor) have spoken.

Operators of cinema clubs have for many years been able to say "I am not showing this film or making an exhibition in breach of the law because this is a club. Members of the public are not able to come in as of right. Therefore"—and this is the nub—"I am able to show films which have not been passed by the British Board of Film Censors because they do not have to be licensed by the local authority." We have had a satisfactory indirect censorship system in Britain for many years. Under the Cinematograph Acts we have provided for local authorities to license cinemas and the showing of films.

In practice, local authorities grant licences 'with conditions. The Acts give them the power to impose conditions. The most important condition normally applied is that no film should be shown where the public is admitted if it has not been passed by the British Board of Film Censors. Local authorities often apply their own standards of censorship, but frequently they insist that films carry the British Board of Film Censors' certificate.

With the ingenuity that characterises anyone who tries to make money out of sex, it was not long before the bogus cinema clubs were invented. They have caused considerable anxiety to many people for a long time. The Government of 1970–1974 introduced their own Bill—the Cinematograph and Indecent Displays Bill—which contained provisions similar to those in this Bill. Unfortunately, that Bill fell and did not get on to the statute book.

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That being so, the concept has been adopted in my hon. Friend's Bill, which was greatly approved by the House on Second Reading, that promotion for private gain should be the new criterion; in other words, it is no good just saying that premises are a club if it is shown that they are putting on exhibitions by showing films, video or whatever for private gain. If other circumstances also applied they have to get a licence and, therefore, the opportunity to censor is provided.

In the way that so often comes about when Bills are subjected to careful scrutiny, not only by parliamentarians in either House but also—and often more important—by people who will be affected by them and who know the details of the trade concerned, it became clear that the Bill would bite upon people, businesses, operations and activities which were never in the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham. Among those one might give as examples people who provide video exhibitions to help them sell their goods in the high street—what have come to be called in our discussions "point of sale exhibitions". It was never intended that the local authority should have to license that kind of use of a video and a screen whose purpose was solely to help the tradesman or retailer to sell whatever it was he was trying to sell in his shop.

Amendments were moved in the other place to make it clear that that was not the intention. But then it again appeared—and my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon mentioned one of the people who brought the unintended consequence to notice—that we might, if we were not careful, create, instead of bogus clubs, bogus pubs and bogus catering establishments, which would be able to say "Despite the new Bill that, in its wisdom, Parliament has brought forward, we are not caught because we are exempted. We are not doing anything here for private gain. We are inviting people to come and buy our drinks and food, and it just so happens that in an adjoining room on the same premises a full-length film is being run." That would be an intolerable consequence if it came about.

There was uncertainty whether it would come about, but the point was made in the letter, referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and which appeared in The Times, that the matter would be put beyond doubt only after substantial litigation and that that surely was not what Parliament intended.

In consequence, lengthy consultations took place. My noble Friend Lord Colville of Culross said that he was prepared to withdraw his amendments and to consider what was said. After a great deal of consultation, in which I am glad that officials of the Home Office were able to play a valuable part, it became apparent that this problem could be overcome by making it clear that if an exhibition were advertised in the circumstances that I have tried to describe, the exemption would not apply to it and licensing would have to be obtained.

I am happy to say that all concerned recognised that the real worry was thereby overcome, and on Third Reading in the other place a further amendment to that effect was moved. That amendment forms the kernel of the group that we are discussing.

I have been asked a number of questions, and I shall try to answer them. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Colvin) asked what would be the position if there were advertising on the video itself and whether that would be caught. The Bill is concerned with the circumstances in which an exhibition is given and, with the exception of the subject matter mentioned in subsection (1A), not with what is shown. It is the circumstances of the exhibition which matter. Therefore, it is not a relevant consideration whether advertising is included on the video cassette. The critical question for the purpose of paragraph (c) of subsection (1B) is whether the exhibition itself is advertised. I think that that is the sensible way to frame the legislation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon asked what would happen if someone in the club wanted to know what was on next Friday and the barman told him. These are always matters of degree. One distinguishes at one extreme between the mere imparting of information—and that example would fall into that category, without doubt—and at the other extreme, the posting of information on the walls of premises and advertising in a way that falls fair and square within one's ordinary understanding of the word "advertising". No doubt there are cases in between. That is why we have to rely on the good sense of courts and prosecutors to arrive at a sensible and just result.

My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon asked what was meant by advertising whether to the public or otherwise". That was answered completely correctly by my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham, who said that if a note were sent to members of the club saying what was to happen on the following Friday that would not be advertising to the public but would be advertising in the sense other than to members of the club and would be caught by the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) asked some very important questions about children and stressed the need not to relax the protection for children that Parliament has for long insisted upon in legislation affecting cinemas.

The Bill will afford full safeguards for children. If a pub or a club advertises an exhibition and provides food or drink for payment, paragraph (c) of subsection (1B) will ensure that a licence is needed. If a direct or indirect charge is made for admission, the licensing arrangements will also apply. The licensing authority can then impose censorship conditions and, if they are contravened by, for example, a child under the age of 18 being permitted to see an X film, an offence will be committed. The position is a good deal more reassuring than my hon. Friend supposed.

I hope that I have said enough to answer the questions specifically addressed to me. I end, as I began, by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham on having played his part in the improvement of the Bill that is represented in the amendments finally passed in another place on Third Reading. My hon. Friend played a very important part in getting the balance right, as the Government believe that it is right. We have avoided some quite unintended and unforeseen pitfalls as a result of the scrutiny devoted to the Bill not only in Parliament but outside. For my part, I am grateful to everyone who has played a part in that process. I am sure that the Bill is better, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on having brought it to this stage.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

I do not wish to go over any of the ground that was so well covered by my hon. and learned Friend in his reply. However, I should like to reply to one question from my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor). He asked whether Lords amendments Nos. 8 and 9 would alter the exemptions and privileges that were to be enjoyed under the original Bill by non-profit making organisations. That position has not been changed. The amendments are consequential on others that have been introduced elsewhere in the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 2, in page 2, line 3, leave out from "which" to "and" in line 5 and insert section 7(4) of the 1909 Act (exhibitions in private dwelling-houses) applies

Mr. Peter Lloyd

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Apart from the amendments that have just been considered, the amendments made in another place are almost entirely of a drafting and technical nature and do not raise issues of substance. Amendment No. 2 is a drafting amendment which, in the light of amendments made in this House on Report, corrects a reference to section 7(4) of the 1909 Act".

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 3 to 9 agreed to.

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