HC Deb 01 December 1983 vol 49 cc976-7
6. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to implement the recommendations of the Williams committee report on obscenity and film censorship.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Mellor)

It is clear that there are very wide differences of opinion on the direction and the form any new legislation should take. These differences were reflected in the public reaction to the Williams report and we are not satisfied that its recommendations, taken as a whole, constitute a sufficient basis of agreement for the purpose of comprehensive legislation in this field.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Lord Chief Justice, when presenting the Darwin lecture, gave it as his opinion that there was a direct link, albeit imitative, between the sex and brutality depicted in pornography and films and the rise in the number of sex crimes and crimes of violence? If the Lord Chief Justice is right, is there not a moral imperative on the Government to take further action?

Mr. Mellor

Since the Government have been in office they have taken action against sex establishments. We have supported private Members' legislation against sex shops and fake cinema clubs. During the present Parliament, the Government have already given the strongest support to a useful measure proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright) to curb video nasties. We will give the most serious attention to any similar proposals.

Mr. Lawrence

As one of the main drawbacks in this area is that juries persist in acquitting defendants because of the unworkable legal definition of "obscenity", will my hon. Friend consider redrafting the obscenity legislation to contain a list of actions which the most reasonable people in the world would consider to be obscene?

Mr. Mellor

Problems arise in the listing approach. I have already said that we take the matter seriously and are open to suggestions.

The Obscene Publications Act 1959 is in no sense a dead-letter. Last year 234 people were convicted of offences under section 2 of the Act. In the Metropolitan police area alone, more than 22,000 obscene video tapes were confiscated and destroyed.

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