HC Deb 27 June 1984 vol 62 cc1014-6 4.45 pm
Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make it an offence to be a member of any organisation, association, society, religious sect, club or the like that holds meetings at which support is given to encourage, condone, corrupt or entice adults to have sexual relationships with children; to make it an offence for the members of any such body, previously described, to possess, receive, distribute, exchange, produce, sell, solicit or advertise any material describing or suggesting sexual relationships between adults and children, where such material is an indecent or obscene print, a drawing, a painting, a photograph, a lithograph, an engraving, a cinematograph film, a video film, a book, a card or written communication or an indecent or obscene article. Notice of presentation of the Bill was given on 6 June 1984. During my short speech, I shall not give way to any hon. Member.

It is difficult to understand that in our midst we have evil adults who are obsessed by the desire to have sexual relationships between themselves and innocent children. It is a sickening fact that many of these like-minded adults form themselves into groups for ease of communication and to advertise, recruit and contact. These groups produce disgusting publications in the form of newsletters and contact magazines, and circulate child pornography. This distressing material is clearly designed to satisfy and stimulate their lust for the bodies of little children and to corrupt others to join their circle.

I have actually seen publications advertising holidays abroad in Commonwealth countries with children provided and an application form too distressing to describe in this House. I understand that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is investigating this at the moment.

These are sad and distressing matters. I speak with public opinion behind me and I know that the Prime Minister is fully aware of the extreme distaste felt by the general public for the the organisations which I wish to proscribe. She has written to tell me so.

With thousands of letters of support, and well over 1 million signatures on petitions from all over the United Kingdom, why do we have to rely on the ten-minute Bill procedure?

Three years ago I used parliamentary privilege to name a titled former British diplomat involved with child pornography and a member of an organisation such as I have described. There were a few in the House who accused me, wrongly, of misuse of our privilege. When the man I named was recently charged and convicted of gross indecency in a public toilet, there was a conspicuous silence in the House.

When I asked the Prime Minister at Question Time whether the spy Geoffrey Prime was involved in child abuse a few months before his trial, the very question drew laughter in this Chamber. When it was revealed at the spy trial that Geoffrey Prime had been detected as a spy through child offences, there was no laughter. I know exactly what I am up against, for I know that within the Establishment there are those who would not wish to see a change in the law.

I hope that Members of this House will now accept that we need legislation to protect our children. I shall explain how my Bill will operate. The purpose of the Bill is to make it an offence to be a member of organisations such as the Paedophile Information Exchange. To proscribe such an organisation, the Bill takes account of the obvious possibility that organisations like PIE and others which exist—believe me—would, if named, simply reassemble under a different title. The Bill reflects and recognises the fact that if such evil organisations are to be permanently abolished, it has to be an offence simply to be a member. In this way, for such organisations to exist, the management is forced to ask people to risk committing a criminal offence.

The Bill is constructed to protect children from adults who are obsessed with, or condone, corrupt, entice or encourage the interest in sexual relationships between adults and children. In order further to protect children, the Bill has wider powers than the Protection of Children Act 1978. For example, it shall be an offence to possess, receive, distribute, exchange, produce, sell, solicit or advertise any material describing or suggesting sexual relationships between adults and children. The Bill makes illegal any indecent or obscene act or suggestion of one between adults and children that is written or illustrated by a print, drawing, painting, photograph, lithograph, engraving, cinematograph film, video film, book, card or written communication or indecent or obscene article.

Sadly, many parents have had their little child abducted, some never to be seen again. Other parents have been faced with the discovery of the body of their murdered child. It is a painful and terrible cross that such parents must bravely bear for the rest of their lives. Against that background, it would be inexcusable if Parliament failed to act.

It is difficult for many of us to contemplate the fact that, in our midst, we have evil people who sharpen their desire for the bodies of innocent children by access to the kind of material which the Bill seeks to eliminate. It is a fact that adults in every walk of life are to be found involving themselves in paedophilia. They range from some of the highest in the land to misfits in society. If we really wish to protect innocent children, my Bill is essential.

If the demand for paedophile material dries up, the benefits will be considerable. Children who otherwise would need to be procured to produce filthy, offensive child pornography would be spared. The continued corruption of adults who have ready access to material involving gross indecency, or worse, with a child will be halted. The Bill will also destroy ease of communication and the ability to advertise, recruit and contact.

I give notice that if it is the will of Parliament today to give the Bill its First Reading and then, next month, the Bill is frustrated through lack of parliamentary time, it will be my intention to reintroduce another Bill in the next Session of Parliament, if I have failed yet again to encourage the Government to act.

I used to be a regular listener to "Children's Hour" as, no doubt, were most hon. Members. I remember with great affection Uncle Mac's closing words every night. He said, "Goodnight children everywhere." For the sake of children everywhere, I hope that the House will accept my Bill.

4.54 pm
Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)


Mr. Speaker

Order. Does the hon. Lady wish to oppose the Bill?

Ms. Short

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

The House and the country are united in wishing to introduce any measure that will protect children from sexual abuse. That is not in contest in the House or in the country, but we must ask whether the Bill would afford children increased protection. We must answer honestly that there is nothing in the powers for which the Bill calls that would increase protection for children. We must also ask why the Bill is being presented. It is difficult not to conclude that the reason is publicity for the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens). This is too serious a matter to be the subject of cheap publicity stunts.

Right hon. and hon. Members are united in their support for every possible action that prevents sexual assaults on children. The Bill will do nothing to protect children, so we oppose it, although we shall not detain the House by voting against it now.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Geoffrey Dickens, Sir Bernard Braine, Mrs. Jill Knight, Mr. Peter Bruinvels, Mr. Joseph Ashton, Sir John Biggs-Davison, Miss Janet Fookes, Dr. Brian Mawhinney, Mrs. Ann Winterton, Rev. Martin Smyth, Mr. Jonathan Aitken and Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith.