HC Deb 16 March 1984 vol 56 cc629-48

Amendments made: No. 5, in page 2, line 8 leave out from 'to' to 'or' in line 9 and insert 'inform, educate or instruct'.

No. 6 in page 2, line 9 leave out `or'.

No. 7, in page 2 line 10 at end insert 'or (c) it is a video game.'.—[Mr. Bright.]

Mr. Denis Howell

I beg to move amendment No. 58, in page 2, line 10, at end insert— '(c) it exclusively contains material broadcast over the transmitters of the Independent Broadcasting Authority or the British Broadcasting Corporation in respect of which the programme contractors to the Independent Broadcasting Authority under the Broadcasting Act 1981 or the British Broadcasting Corporation own the copyright or otherwise are the makers of the film within the definition contained in section 13(10) of the Copyright Act 1956 and which is material previously approved for broadcasting over such transmitters by the Indepedent Broadcasting Authority or the British Broadcasting Corporation respectively.'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we may take the following amendments: No. 14, in page 2, line 19, at end insert— '(3) Nothing in this Act shall apply to any work intended and supplied solely for the purpose of reporting and commenting on current affairs.'.

No. 59, in clause 3, page 3, line 42, at end insert— '(8A) Without prejudice to the generality of Clause 3(8) above, the supply of a video work between any or all of the following persons:

  1. (a) Independent Broadcasting Authority ("The IBA")
  2. (b) British Broadcasting Corporation
  3. (c) persons appointed to be programme contractors to the IBA under the provisions of the Broadcasting Act 1981, or any amending or superceding enactiment
  4. (d) Channel Four Company Limited
  5. (e) Welsh Fourth Channel Authority
  6. (f) Broadcasting Complaints Commission
  7. (g) any other persons concerned with the making or provision of programmes, or parts of programmes broadcast by the Authority or the BBC, which is a video recording of a work broadcast or intended to be broadcast by the IBA or the BBC shall be an exempted supply.'.

Mr. Howell

The amendments raise matters of considerable importance, but I shall be brief because we all want to ensure that the Bill gets through today.

The amendments deals with the work of the BBC and the IBA and its associated companies. I am grateful to the IBA for supplying me with a great deal of information.

I can sum up the issue by asking whether all the news programmes and other videos put out by broadcasting authorities after being seen by the public will have to go before the new authority. If so, the authority will be swamped. Is the BBFC really to be expected to look at 2,000 episodes of "Coronation Street"? Heaven forbid! Such a suggestion shows the absurdity of not protecting the broadcasting authorities. Without the amendments, a considerable bureaucracy would have to be built up and enormous costs incurred. The broadcasting authorities are entitled to protection.

The IBA has made an excellent case, especially in the letter sent to a number of hon. Members on 2 December. Because I wish to be brief, I shall not read out the letter, but I know that the BBC shares the IBA's view.

The IBA also referred to its late night shows and suggested that its own self-imposed censorship, especially on bad language, is likely to be more stringent that the new classification arrangements of the BBFC. I do not think that the IBA has managed to reach any sort of agreement in its discussions on that aspect.

Many people are concerned with problems arising from late night viewing on television programmes. The television authorities have adopted stringent standards for themselves. If those standards were to be relaxed in any way, that would be a cause for concern. I hope that we shall shortly agree to include in the Bill standards of classification for the showing of videos in the home. Television is, of course, viewed in the home. Much as we might regret it, large numbers of very young children stay up late at night—far too late in many cases—to watch television programmes. This problem must be thoroughly considered and I confess that I do not know the answer to A. I have tried in my amendment to answer it as well as I can. If the Minister thinks that I have not got it right, I hope that he will consider the matter and come back to it in another place.

I said in Committee that in television news programmes I see more violence, killing and obscenity than can be seen on most videos. That is now a fact of life because of the sort of world in which we live. Television news programmes are seen in almost every home in Britain frequently during the day. No one has suggested that those news programmes should be censored in any way. I suppose that the television authorities are doing their job to the best of their ability.

Over many years I have been concerned with the problem of football hooliganism. Unfortunately, when instances of it are shown on television there is an immediate increase in the amount of football hooliganism. Obviously there is a direct relationship between the showing of such news items and the incidence of football hooliganism.

I have always taken the view that we cannot reasonably censor the television authorities, which have to show in their news programmes the sort of world that we live in, but a dilemma arises. Having allowed the television authorities to show their news programmes, we now have the problem that those programmes will be produced on videos. That will happen increasingly as cable television comes into operation. It would be absurd to subject such news programmes, which have already been shown on television, to some form of classification or censorship once they are in video form. That would be unnecessary bureaucracy and would create two different standards.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

If the copyright of a film such as "Straw Dogs" is acquired by television companies and is then shown late at night on television, it may be recorded on video. That video will be exempt for the purposes of the Bill. But if the film "Straw Dogs" is distributed as a video in the video hiring shops, it will probably be given the worst classification. As a result, it may not be available unless the shop is restricted to adults only. But if a home video copy of "Straw Dogs" is made, the copyright having already been acquired by the television company, it will be a totally exempt work. Does my right hon. Friend agree?

11.15 am
Mr. Howell

I do not think that my hon. Friend is correct, but I shall not go into the matter now because we are trying to make progress. I said earlier in our proceedings that very few people will be prevented from showing anything in their homes. We are talking here about classification, and that is very important. The films that will be prohibited will, as I understand the position, be prohibited in the cinema and on television and elsewhere.

Mr. Fraser

If the film to which I have referred gets a classification certificate, it can be shown in the home. I understand that. The difficulty is that one version, prerecorded at home, where the television company has the copyright, will be exempt, whereas the identical copy, purchased or hired through a video shop, will need a classification certificate. Does my right hon. Friend agree?

Mr. Howell

I suppose that theoretically my hon. Friend may be correct, but he seems to be suggesting that the television companies will show an offensive film of that nature.

Mr. Fraser

They do it all the time.

Mr. Howell

I do not believe that they do, therefore I do not think that there is any substance in my hon. Friend's point. He is right in saying that the Bill does not deal with original material made for the purposes of television showing, but I do not think that there is any substance in his main point.

I hope the Minister will agree that, although film programmes are often horrific in the sense of showing scenes from wars and conflicts throughout the world, they should not be subjected to the new procedures outlined in the Bill.

Sir Paul Bryan (Boothferry)

As one who did not take part in the Committee stage, I congratulate the Committee on its achievement in maintaining the objectives of the Bill and improving it to a great extent.

When I spoke on Second Reading I touched on the subject of this amendment and said that at present it is not of very great practical importance, in that there are only about 100 tapes on the market which originated in the broadcasting field. But that is only because the BBC and ITV companies have not yet come to an agreement with the trade unions on videograms. Once such an agreement is reached, it is likely that their share of the market will increase considerably. The problem that we are discussing is therefore potentially an extremely important one.

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) has cited the absurdities which will arise — for example, the censoring of 2,000 copies of "Coronation Street". Equally absurd will be the fact that if one misses a programme on BBC or ITV and later purchases a videogram of it, that programme will have had to be passed or classified by yet another authority.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to a possible lowering of standards in the BBC and ITV. The people who work in those organisations know perfectly well how to categorise their programmes. They know the audience that they are aiming at. They know what sort of programmes should be shown after 10 or 10.30 pm. Once this measure comes into force, the problem may arise that a programme produced by the BBC or ITV for showing after 10 pm could be given a much less severe categorisation and eventually could be widely seen in the home. That would be bound to lead people in the television companies, in deciding on their categorisation, to be more lax and less disciplined.

The Minister, in Committee, mentioned the masterly simplicity of the categories laid down in the Bill. In other words, anyone going into a shop knows exactly what he is buying or renting because of the category displayed on the package. That is a strong argument. However, I do not think that it would add to the complication very much if we had one additional category, "TV after 10.30."

Mr. Mellor

Everyone picks the example of "Coronation Street" because obviously it is both popular and good, easy, family entertainment. Even if it went to the British Board of Film Censors, I do not suppose for a moment there would be any difficulty with it. But what about such programmes as "The History Man" or "The Borgias"? Are we to say that, whereas a film which dealt with exactly the same material would have a 15 or an 18 certificate in the cinema, the mere fact that it had been shown by the BBC, rightly or wrongly, should mean that it could be circulated without any kind of classification? Can that be right?

Sir Paul Bryan

I have just suggested that there should be a classification. That classification should be "TV after 10.30." That would be easily understood.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

I see no reason why in principle the BBC and the IBA should not be covered in the Bill.

I am a strong believer in the Bill. In some respects it is very late. We have delayed for a long time in operating on this menace in our lives. A great deal has already passed through the BBC and the IBA which would not have passed had we got the higher standards that we now seek to impose. The BBC and the IBA have got away with murder in that they have portrayed on television scenes which most of us would not wish to see ourselves, let alone want our children to see. I do not believe that any provision such as that suggested in the amendment and by my hon. Friend the Member for Boothferry (Sir P. Bryan) is sufficient. The amendment will not improve the Bill or benefit us generally. I oppose it.

Mr. John Fraser

I have not previously spoken in any debates on the Bill. I start from the proposition that the burden of introducing censorship lies upon those who want to introduce it rather than the other way round, and in my view we should be highly critical of any measures that introduce censorship or supervision. From experience we know that a great deal of nonsense and inconsistency has been introduced into our law whenever there has been any censorship. But let me make it clear that I do not want to see the minds of young children corrupted. There has been a recent case reported in the South London Press of the most appalling depravity and crime committed inside a family, and the evidence pointed strongly to the corrupting and depraved video recordings shown to young children in the home.

Having stated my own position I must point out that the amendment is introducing inconsistency and nonsense into the law. There is a good deal of controversy about what is shown on television. I was once a member of the advisory committee of the Independent Television Authority. From time to time, we saw and discussed highly controversial programmes. Whenever we decided that they ought only to be shown very late at night since they were a danger to children and on the borderline of whether they should be shown at any time on television —my conclusion often was that they were appalling bits of television—they had mass audiences as a result of the notoriety attracted to them by the discussion of their classification. What is more, they guaranteed a massive child audience when the children would otherwise have been in bed. We have to be very careful when classifying these matters and giving not an imprimatur but the opposite of an imprimatur — a warning about the classification of material.

That is why I am deeply concerned about a classification being attached to material which, according to the Bill, is suitable for viewing in the home but is only suitable for hiring from a sex shop or from a shop which admits only people over the age of 18. That seems to put a gloss on material of that sort and it gives an attraction to productions which should not be seen by children at all. Either it is suitable for seeing in the home or it is not. If it is so depraved and corrupting or so likely to shock if it gets into the hands of children, it should not be produced at all. The idea that it should be hired only from a shop to which adults have access is a mistake. It will invite more attention to that type of production.

I return to the narrower point — [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I will not say very much more about this. I have no intention of delaying the Bill. But it seems to be slipping through on the quiet, and in my view some of these comments should be made.

This amendment illustrates the danger of classifications which go beyond what is suitable for viewing in the home. I am wholly in favour of having a look at all video productions and giving them a classification certificate. That is right. It provides certainty for those who hire videos. I know that it would be out of order to table an amendment to try to link this Bill with the Obscene Publications Act. However, once material has been given a classification certificate, it should be exempt from prosecution under the 1959 Act.

Mr. Denis Howell

My hon. Friend will have realised that in these amendments I am not trying to introduce a new classification. I am trying to exempt material from classification. I am trying to exempt television material, although I understand and to some extent share my hon. Friend's views.

Mr. Fraser

In case it is thought that there is any difference of opinion, let me stress that I support my right hon. Friend's amendment. I am in no sense being critical of a long-standing colleague. I am not in any sense attempting to create any cracks or fissures. However, the fact that my right hon. Friend has to move the amendment and to provide in the Bill for an exemption from classification for those works which are shown on television illustrates, underlines and emphasises that the only form of classification should be whether material is suitable for showing in the home. In other words, the test which is to be applied to the production of video works should be almost exactly the same test as that applied by the governors of the BBC and the Independent Television Authority. That is my view. I shall say very little else about the Bill, but I wanted to put that on the record.

Mr. Brinton

Some of the very real difficulties to which I alluded earlier are beginning to come out of the woodwork.

I support the two amendments tabled by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell). I hope and pray that I have understood them correctly. They seek to exempt programmes which have already been transmitted into the home by the BBC and the IBA.

If, after consultation, Parliament does not accept some notion of that kind, the real danger which is emerging as a result of the laudable attempt by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright) in his Bill is that the ultimate censor of good taste on the screen in broadcast television, in the cinema, ultimately in cable television and in direct broadcasting by satellite will be the standards set in the Bill for the viewing of videograms in the home. I believe that that would be unacceptable to many right hon. and hon. Members if they thought about it properly.

The BBC and the IBA have their system of pre-censorship. It might lighten the hearts of right hon. and hon. Members slightly to learn that many years ago, when my stomach was not so large, I was the first nude newscaster on commercial television. It was a horrifying sight. That programme went out at 6.45 in the evening. Although it was a slip of the hand of the picture mixer which caused this awful scandal, there were meetings of the IBA and its board of directors to decide whether it was suitable for showing. They displayed great courage, and that is why I can claim that record. If my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) were here, he would be shocked beyond belief, but it happened.

In a different way, the IBA, the ITCA companies and the BBC all take immense care. The programmes selected for late night viewing are viewed very carefully, and it is a sensible proposal that there should be a record on the videogram of such a late-night programme of the fact that it has been transmitted by one of the networks after 10.30 at night. That would be in line with the suggestion of my hon. Friend for Luton, South that classification should be a guide to the customer. That guide would then be available on the tapes of television programmes which had been broadcast.

11.30 am

The amendment in my name seeks to achieve the same aim in the case of news and current affairs. Thankfully, on the occasion all those years ago to which I referrred, I was not reading the news. But as a crumpled old newscaster, I am conscious that, except in wartime and in times of international emergency, news in this country is not subject to censorship. Film newsreel has never, I believe, been subject to the British Board of Film Censors. However, I believe that, under the Bill as it stands, any legitimate attempt at a videogram version of the Spectator, the New Statesman, the Daily Express, or the Daily Worker would have to be presented to the designated body. In practical terms, that would mean that it would probably be out of date when it [...] because the designated body would [...] it for many weeks at a cost—I am informed-[...] £4 a minute, and would decide whether or [...] Material was suitable for distribution.

Genuine news can [...] indentified and separated from some material [...] claimed to be documentary. Hon. Members will [...] seeing a brief clip of a poor monkey being decapitated in the name of documentary, when an attempt was being made to stimulate our interest in the Bill. My amendment would cover only legitimate news and current affairs that could be identified as such.

I do not intend to press my amendment too far, but I hope that my hon. Friend and the Minister will reconsider these issues.

Mr. Parris

The Bill is designed to outlaw video nasties such as "Driller Killer" and "Zombie Neck-Eaters". However, we find ourselves discussing whether programmes that have appeared on television should be subject to a second round of censorship. That shows what a quagmire such legislation can lead one into.

In Committee I put forward an amendment designed to do almost exactly what is proposed in the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Health (Mr. Howell). It was not clear to me at that time that I had the right hon. Gentleman's support. I am glad that I have that support now. It was the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) who expressed the matter best in Committee when he said that unless we exempt televised material we shall establish a dual standard. There will be those who have video recorders in their homes and can record anything on television at any time and play it back to anyone at any time, and there will be those who do not. They will have to buy that material as it is packaged by the broadcasting authories, and it will have been censored.

Nobody believes that material put out late at night on television will not be seen by children. We all know that it will be seen by a great many children, although perhaps by fewer than may watch earlier in the day. The television authorities therefore take great care over what they broadcast. They would not broadcast the sort of thing that would be covered by a cinema X certificate, except with considerable cuts.

The hon. Member for Boothferry (Sir P. Bryan) was right when he said that we should exempt television material from the ordinary classifications such as "PG" and simply ask the broadcasting authorities to attach to cassettes that they sell the same advice about showing them as would be given when the material was shown on television—for instance, "Not to be shown before 10.30 at night" or "Not for people of sensitive disposition." If we do that, we will achieve all that is necessary.

The right hon. Member for Small Heath has repeated three times that the Bill is not designed to stop people from seeing things at home, but is simply about classification. He is wrong. The Bill is about stopping people from watching things at home. There is to be a dual standard, and there will be some things that one cannot see at home but one can see in the cinema.

Mr. Denis Howell

What are they?

Mr. Parris

It was agreed in Committee that there will be two standards. If we take a film which would be given the 18-plus classification in the cinema and if, with our amendment "in the home" we have a different standard of classification for home viewing, what is given an 18-plus classification for home viewing may be different from what is given an 18-plus classification for cinema viewing. One may not be able to see in the home what one can see in the cinema. It may be that that is necessary, but the right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He cannot suggest that this is not censorship.

Mr. Howell

That is not so. The classification will have regard to what is seen in the home, but the only things that cannot be seen will be those films or videos which the board has decided may not be shown anywhere. Everything else will be subject to classification and may be shown in the home.

Mr. Parris

The right hon. Gentleman is wrong, but I do not intend to press the point.

The amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Brinton) seeks to do in a more limited way what the right hon. Gentleman seeks to do — to exempt broadcast material about news and current affairs. That is unexceptionable, and I wonder why the Home Office resisted such a measure in Committee, and seems to continue to resist it.

Mr. Mellor

I shall play my proper part in the debate by rising to do what my hon. Friend expects me to do. I hope that I shall carry the House with me, as my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright) and I carried the Committee. There are strong reasons of practicality against my hon. Friend's suggestion. The logic of the situation is directly contrary to the point that he has made, although in truth, and on the substance of the matter rather than the legal framework, I suspect that we are not far apart.

The essential starting point for these discussions is to understand the present framework of control in relation to broadcasting, the cinema and videos. Some material may be interchangeable between the three mediums, but there are crucial differences.

For 70 years the BBFC has carried on a task which by law belonged to the local authorities. It has done so with the minimum of interference from the local authorities. It has had to determine whether a film should be shown in the cinema at all. On a number of occasions it has rightly decided that certain material should not be shown at all. For 70 years the BBFC has acted to protect not only children but adults as well by deciding in some cases that a film is not even suitable for the 18-plus category.

A great deal of other material is classified according to whether it is expressly designed for children, suitable for children, suitable for children with parental guidance, or suitable for people who are over the age of 15 or 18. There is also a specific small category which can be shown only in licensed sex shops or cinemas. That is the 18R category, which was introduced in 1982. It has had the effect of very materially improving what is shown in those premises. That measure was not part of what some call the liberal backwash. It was a very valuable cleaning-up operation.

That is the framework for the cinema. It is important to recognise that if the cinema were doing rather better than I understand it is, and if the BBC or ITV companies decided that such was the success of one of their programmes that, rather than distribute it again free over the airwaves they would sell it for distribution through the cinema, the programmes would have to be categorised by the BBFC. If the cinema were in a happier state, I can imagine some of the more successful and widely praised programmes produced by the BBC and ITV companies being so distributed. The arrangement for such material to be passed by the BBFC has been in place ever since television was invented. No one has questioned that. I hope that the logic of why the same rule should not apply to video is recognised.

With regard to films, there is the overriding law embodied in the Obscene Publications Act 1959, which means that, in some circumstances, a film that has been given a certificate can be prosecuted, because nothing that the BBFC does can or should, in my view, give any exemption from that Act. The BBC and ITV companies, however, are not liable to the Obscene Publications Act, but, through their respective charters, which are enforced with great care by the governors of the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority, they are required to have regard to standards of taste and decency that are formally embodied in the arrangements that establish both of those bodies. Great care must be taken in deciding what should be shown. There is, of course, more laxity at one end of the time scale than at the other. One is likely to see late into the evening material that one is unlikely to see in the early evening. We all understand that, but the proposed amendments do not recognise that there will be such a distinction.

Perhaps I did not give my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Brinton) sufficient credit in my intervention. I apologise for that—I was trying to do two things at once and had not fully grasped that he was proposing a variation on the theme that he later expounded. He accepts that it is not possible to lump all television material into one category and that there should be a residual category to cover material that is suitable for showing only late into the evening.

With regard to video, at the moment we have only the Obscene Publications Act and all the difficulties of enforcement with which we are familiar. It takes a great deal of time to bring forward proceedings. They can be unduly delayed by going to trial and so on and offensive material can de distributed in the meantime. We know that the consequence of that is that much material is available in video form but would never be shown on television or in a cinema because it goes beyond anything that the BBFC would license, or which the television companies would allow to be shown, or it is such rubbish that no one would want to watch it unless he had gone through the entire gamut of available material at his local video shop and, in sheer desperation, had turned to some grisly piece of pulp celluloid to take home and be "entertained" by.

Because the video industry is becoming a significant part of entertainment, it must be subject to the same controls as those that determine what is seen in the cinema or at home on television. I do not believe that the case for that is diminished by the arguments that have been made. I have always tried to make it clear in supporting what my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South is trying to do that there are two crucial elements in the Bill. The first is that there should be a classification system that enables the true video nasty to be outlawed. That is a film which would never be shown on television and would never be acceptable to the cinema.

I have also tried to make it clear—I hope that this can be taken care of, because I know that it has given rise to some anxiety—[...] regard the Bill as in any sense an attempt to [...] mainstream cinema or television material [...] video form. Far from it. Indeed, we have [...] great care, with the help of Parliamentary [...] at the Bill says. My hon. Friend the Member for [...] South is proposing some amendments, but I am [...] that the Bill does not mean that mainstream cinema material cannot be shown. However, regard must be paid to section 1 of the Obscene Publications Act, which provides that the context in which such material is shown affects judgment about whether the material is obscene. That is why one or two of the borderline 18-rated films have found themselves in some difficulty on video cassette.

Mr. Brinton


11.45 am
Mr. Mellor

It might be helpful to my hon. Friend if I make my point and if he remains like one of those figures in a Frankie Howerd film on ancient Rome coming out from time to time, saying, "Woe, Woe." I shall have to let him do that. I hope that he will let me set out my stall, and that I might persuade him. Bearing in mind the recent state of the video market, the aim of the Bill is to exclude video nasties and to bring into the video shop the classifications that are commonly understood and respected in the cinema so that everyone knows where he stands. That should provide no difficulties. It might be that, at the outer edges of certan categories, the odd snip or a different classification will have to be made to take care of the fact that the material will go into the home, but broadly the same material that is available in the mainstream cinema will be available in the video shop. That is right, because in no sense should the Bill be used to pull back what has become the accepted standard for the mainstream cinema.

Television drama and light entertainment obviously differ in quality and in the types of scenes that are shown. Some are more violent than others. Although the BBC and ITV companies do their job well under the proper supervision of the board of governors and the IBA, some controversial material is shown. The proposition advanced by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) in perfectly good faith is that once material has been shown on the television it is not necessary to classify it in accordance with what would be required in the cinema and that it can be available on the basis that it has been shown on television. With the greatest respect to those who hold that view, I find that argument unacceptable because it does not draw the necessary distinction between a range of material from "The Wooden Tops" to "The History Man". I thought that "The History Man" was an excellent novel and a very good television series but I would not want my younger children to see it.

What is the real nuisance involved in requiring the BBFC to categorise that material on video just as it would have to do if it were shown in the cinema? My hon. Friend the Member for Boothferry (Sir P. Bryan) recognised that if material were shown late at night it is different from that which is shown earlier. Therefore, a blanket exemption of television material would not help the consumer to know what "The History Man" was—he might not have read the novel. We are merely saying that it should have the category 15, or 18, or PG, so that the customer knows where he stands.

Mr. Brinton

I have been somewhat encouraged by what my hon. Friend has said. He has gone a long way towards supporting the statement of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), in that people who buy videograms will be able to see everything that they could have seen in the public cinema. Is he prepared to go as far as that as that would imply, that everything that is seen in the public cinema will be available on videogram 18? I shall be interested to know if that is the case.

Mr. Mellor

I have made it clear that, although it is not for me to usurp the function of the BBFC, I believe that, with the minimum of difficulty on the borders of classification which it must consider, what exists in the cinema will be carried across into video. There will be some difficulties at the outer edge of 18, not because of this Bill, but because of section 1 of the Obscene Publications Act. I am more than happy to say—if it gives comfort I shall say it even more loudly, although I have said it throughout the passage of the Bill—that this does not interfere with mainstream cinema.

This is an important matter that deserves consideration. If the broadcasting authorities decide to market a product, they should go through the same hurdles as do Walt Disney Productions or any cinema company. The effect of asking them to do that will not be too burdensome, because I cannot believe that the BBFC will look through 200 episodes of "Coronation Street" to find out whether they contain a video nasty. That is nonsense, and it is almost as nonsensical to imagine that anyone would wish to hire 200 episodes of "Coronation Street". If they produced the best of "Coronation Street", or the least bad bits of it, in an hour-long video, that would be fair enough and could be handled with the minimum of fuss.

News is also important. No one wishes to interfere with current events, but I urge my hon. Friends to bear in mind a real problem. The most objectionable of the video nasties in many people's eyes was one called "Faces of Death", which purported to deal with real death rather than faked death, and claimed to be the better for it. When the Advertising Standards Authority took umbrage at a similar production about death and violence in Asia, the distributors reacted with some acerbity, suggesting that the film should not be objected to since it showed what was going on.

We must be sure that we do not create exemptions that enable people to ride roughshod over the Bill's provisions. We addressed our minds to the problem, and my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South will bring forward an amendment to clause 2 to ensure that responsible documentaries will be exempted. I hope that, on that basis, my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham will accept that if XYZ productions, the BBC or the ITV companies wish to enter a different market and sell or hire their programmes in cassette form, they should be subject to the same rules as everyone else. There is nothing magical about broadcasting. The broadcasting companies do not keep full records of everything that is shown, so they could not guarantee that what was being sold on video was exactly the same as went out over the airwaves. It is just as important to the Bill that if films are categorised 15 or 18, penalties are attached to selling or hiring that material directly to children. That cannot apply to "10.30" material and it would not be helpful to perpetuate those categories.

I hope that my response has been helpful. I did not wish to detain the House, but it is important and I did not wish it to be said, as my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West implied, that we are being perverse or that the stupid old Home Office is trying to be difficult with the BBC and the IBA. There are real grounds of principle in taking the stand with which I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South agrees, as he has until now.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Will the Minister deal with the valid point made by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris)? If a programme is shown on television and is videoed at home—that is the way in which most people acquire videos — will there not be a double standard? If one category of classification of videos purchased from a shop would ban that television programme, although it can be videoed at home because it is shown on television, is not the remedy to reform the Obscene Publications Act to cover television, as opposed to dealing with it in this way by resisting the amendment of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell)? Should we not ensure that there are no double standards?

Mr. Mellor

The hon. Gentleman is building his house on sand, because he believes that it is conceivable that the BBFC would ban something that had been shown on television. That is an utterly fanciful, incredible and nonsensical notion. Of course, the BBFC will not do that. It will do exactly what it would do if the material were submitted to it for showing at the Roxy cinema in the high street. The board would examine it and give it an appropriate certificate so that customers in the video shop, who had not videoed material off the television, could see the categories applying to every video on sale in the shop. That has a certain symmetry and fairness that should be appealing. Why multiply the categories by including, "To be shown before 9.15 pm" or, "To be shown after 9.15 pm"? There is no special magic in television material.

If the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) remains resolutely of the other view, I can do nothing to persuade him. However, I urge the common sense of saying that if we are set, as I hope we are, on having a sensible mechanism for showing the consumer in the video shop what he is getting by way of certificates that are widely understood in the cinema context, we must apply it to all material. There should not be exemptions simply because it is alleged that some special magic attaches to television material.

Mr. Parris

Anyone can make bricks without straw. My hon. Friend the Minister can do so, and he has made an excellent job of his case on this amendment. I am heartened to hear him say that he does not believe that the BBFC would wish to examine every episode of "Coronation Street" because it already knows what is in them. The next time that I submit my car for an MOT, and the mechanic knows that it will pass the MOT because he works on it regularly and will need to do no further work before giving it the MOT certificate, I shall look forward to a reduction in his fee, since he will have taken no time or trouble.

My hon. Friend the Minister said that the BBC and the IBA are not subject to the Obscene Publications Act. Of course, had we been arguing about whether they should be subject to that Act, my, hon. Friend's argument that they should not be treated differently from anyone else would be a good argument in favour of the proposition that they should be subject to that Act. The reason why they are not subject to the Act is that my hon. Friend and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State have satisfied themselves that what will appear on television is unlikely to contravene the Act, so it is unnecessary to subject them to it. The reason for the exemption is not that anyone supposes that material that could contravene the Obscene Publications Act can be shown on television, only that it will not be shown on television. It will not be shown on television because self-censorship already exists and there is no reason for a second round of censorship.

My hon. Friend said that, were television material to be shown in the cinema, it would be subject to ordinary cinema classification. That is true, and the logic of that argument impels one to one of two conclusions: either television material should also be classified for video production, or television material need not be classified for a cinema showing. If television material were regularly shown in cinemas and if certifying it caused a nuisance to anyone, I suggest that it would be unnecessary to certify it for display in the public cinema.

I was greatly heartened when my hon. Friend said that in no way should the Bill be used to pull back what has become the accepted standard for mainstream cinema. If he and the BBFC will stick to that, a considerable victory has been won. I shall not press my amendment No. 14 to a vote.

12 noon

Mr. Bright

I add my point to what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has said, and I agree with him. I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Brinton) has accepted at last what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and I have been saying for weeks, not only in the House but in the media. I welcome him on board. Many of the programmes produced by television would be exempt anyway, because they fall into the educational category or are news programmes. I shall be moving some amendments to deal with news programmes in a moment and these will help significantly.

We have talked a lot about particular programmes produced by television companies, such as "Coronation Street", although I cannot imagine that anyone would want to buy a video of "Coronation Street" after having watched it on television. Nevertheless, the BBFC will not have to crawl over "Coronation Street" or "Dr. Who". I take the point made by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell). However, the BBFC will need to come to a sensible and pragmatic arrangement with the broadcasting authorities for dealing with their products. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with that, because that is the nub of the whole thing. I am sure that a specific arrangement can be worked out, and this important point will be looked at again.

I stress again that it is important to have an overall classification. Once we have other classifications, the simplicity of the Bill is taken away. To have classification, it is necessary to keep records; the television companies have not kept and do not keep the necessary records.

With those few comments, and the pledge that we shall look at this again to see whether some special, pragmatic arrangement can be brought about, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Denis Howell

As it is 12 o'clock, and I am anxious to get the Bill through and make progress, I shall not press my amendment to a Division. I am not happy with what the Minister said. I am more happy about what the hon. Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright) said about this being looked at again. I hope that they will do so, especially in the other place. On that understanding, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Simon Hughes


Mr. Deputy Speaker

I must put the Question if the objection is sustained.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House proceeded to a Division—

Mr. Denis Howell

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that this Division is taking a protracted time because people are deliberately holding up progress in the Aye Lobby, with the intention of frustrating the Bill by improper parliamentary means. Can you cause inquiries to be made, so that the Division can take place with due speed?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I shall have any necessary inquiries made.

The House having divided: Ayes 10, Noes 84.

Division No. 186] [12.02 pm
Brinton, Tim Skinner, Dennis
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Smith, C(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Wallace, James
Freud, Clement
Kennedy, Charles Tellers for the Ayes:
Knight, Gregory (Derby N) Mr. Robert Maclennan and Mr. Simon Hughes.
Parris, Matthew
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Lawrence, Ivan
Berry, Sir Anthony Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Best, Keith Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Major, John
Bottomley, Peter Mates, Michael
Braine, Sir Bernard Mather, Carol
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Bright, Graham Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Mellor, David
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Neubert, Michael
Bruinvels, Peter Newton, Tony
Buck, Sir Antony Nicholls, Patrick
Butcher, John Onslow, Cranley
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Ottaway, Richard
Cope, John Page, John (Harrow W)
Dykes, Hugh Paisley, Rev Ian
Emery, Sir Peter Powley, John
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Proctor, K. Harvey
Galley, Roy Rathbone, Tim
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Rhodes James, Robert
Goodlad, Alastair Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Grant, Sir Anthony Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Hanley, Jeremy Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Hayes, J. Silvester, Fred
Hayhoe, Barney Sims, Roger
Hayward, Robert Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Speller, Tony
Hordern, Peter Stanbrook, Ivor
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Stern, Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Hunt, David (Wirral) Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Key, Robert Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N) Watts, John
Thorne, Neil (Ilford S) Wheeler, John
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath) Wood, Timothy
Tracey, Richard
Viggers, Peter Tellers for the Noes:
Waddington, David Mr. Christopher Murphy and Mr. David Atkinson
Ward, John

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Bright

I beg to move amendment No. 8, in page 2, line 12 after 'any', insert 'significant'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

With this, we are to take the following amendments: No. 9, in page 2, line 12 leave out 'or otherwise deals with'.

No. 11, in page 2, line 18 leave out from 'any' to end of line 19 and insert 'significant extent to stimulate or encourage anything falling within paragraph (a) or, in the case of anything falling within paragraph (b), is designed to any extent to do so'.

No. 15, in clause 3 page 3, line 5, after 'any', insert 'significant'.

No. 16, in clause 3 page 3, line 5, leave out 'or otherwise deal with'.

No. 17, in clause 3 page 3, line 8, leave out from 'any' to end of line 10 and insert 'significant extent to stimulate or encourage anything falling within paragraph (a) of that subsection or, in the case of anything falling within paragraph (b) of that subsection, is not designed to any extent to do so.'.

Mr. Bright

These amendments relate to the word "significant". In Committee, we had a lengthy discussion about the exemptions that the Bill gives and about the fact that they would affect, in particular, newsreels. Under the Bill as drafted, newsreels would have been in trouble and would have had to be classified if they portrayed violence or sex.

Mr. Brinton


Mr. Bright

We might have had newsreels put on videos and classified if they contained scenes of violence, even hooliganism at football matches, or if they contained the violence we see regularly on television in wars. This is particularly relevant at present, with the situation in the middle east.

I want to make a two-minute speaking rule. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The amendments deal with that problem, and I promised in Committee that I would deal with the matter. I have therefore moved the amendment.

Mr. Brinton

I rose a moment ago, but I failed to attract my hon. Friend's attention. The hon. Gentleman referred several times to the word "newsreels". Apart from a cinema newsreel, I do not know what my hon. Friend intends to embrace by the word. Does he mean news, as broadcast on television? Does he mean current affairs programmes, as broadcast on television? Does he mean features and documentaries, as broadcast on television? In other words, where does it start and stop?

Mr. Bright

Perhaps I should have said "straight news", because that is what the amendment is aimed at.

Mr. Brinton

I welcome my hon. Friend's attempts to exempt that, provided the conditions are fulfilled. The amendment does not go as far as I would have wished, and in the debate on the last amendment I exemplified my view on the matter. However, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he attempts to do.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I want to put one simple question, which I hope the Minister can answer. What, in practice, will the addition of the word "significant" mean? I welcome a move in this direction, but we need to know what difference the insertion of the word will mean.

Mr. Mellor

Very quickly, the best advice I have is that it will be possible—although, clearly, it is a matter for the courts, in the last analysis — to have news documentaries that cover, for instance, the war in Lebanon, and show people firing and other people being wounded, without having to be submitted for classification. It will not allow through films such as "Faces of Death". Indeed, we should be failing in our duty if we included an exemption that enabled people to pass around such material lawfully.

Amendment agreed to

Amendment made: No. 9, in page 2, line 12 leave out `or otherwise deals with'.

Mr. Bright

I beg to move amendment No. 10, in page 2, line 15 leave out 'torture or other acts of gross violence' and insert `or torture of, or other acts of gross violence towards, humans or animals;'. We discussed the matter of animals in Committee. I told my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) that we would look at this point, and we have. I believe that this amendment will satisfy those who are concerned about this aspect.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright) for having moved the amendment which, as he has rightly said, followed a lengthy debate in Committee. I also moved amendments in Committee to seek to ensure that cruelty to animals would be covered. The hon. Gentleman found a nicely phrased way to tackle what was a genuine omission.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 11, in page 2, line 18 leave out from 'any' to end of line 19 and insert 'significant extent to stimulate or encourage anything falling within paragraph (a) or, in the case of anything falling within paragraph (b), is designed to any extent to do so'.

Mr. Bright

I beg to move amendment No. 12, in page 2, line 19 at end insert— '(3) A video work is for the purposes of this Act an exempted work if it is designed for use in training for or carrying on any medical related occupation, or for carrying on the occupation of a clinical psychologist. (4) For the purposes of subsection (3) above, an occupation is a medical or related occupation if, to carry on the occupation, a person is required to be registered under the Professions Supplementary to Medicines Act 1960, the Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Act 1979 or the Medical Act 1983. (5) In subsection (3) above "clinical psychologist" means a person employed as a clinical psychologist by a health authority or in a special hospital; and in this subsection "health authority" and "special hospital" have the same meaning as in the National Health Service Act 1977.'. There was much pressure in Committee, and in recent weeks through the media, concerning the British Medical Association. One of the problems has been to get the wording correct. This amendment is a fairly lengthy one, which ensures that all medical videos that are made for doctors by doctors—we specifically name people who are within the medical spectrum—are exempted. I hope that the amendment will satisfy them. I should point out that some films, such as those on sex education, would require a classification because they are obviously meant not for the medical profession but for members of The public. I am happy to say that when the Home Secretary puts forward the list of charges to be made that will be taken into consideration.

Mr. Maclennan

Once again, I express gratitude to the hon. Member for Luton, South for tabling this amendment which takes into account several debates in Committee. I think that the hon. Gentleman has got it about right, but I want to ask him a couple of questions. Does he believe that, under the proposed amendment, films used for sexual therapy will have to be certificated by the authority? Secondly, have all the representative organisations, including one with which I have a family connection—the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists —given their assent to the clause? I am sure that he is right to exempt from the clause the films to which he has referred. He has judged it nicely, but I should like to be satisfied that the professional organisations and the paramedical organisations have been consulted and agree with the thrust of his proposal.

Mr. Bright

I am not certain whether we have had a reply from the organisation that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. The matter has been discussed in general with the medical profession and the medical organisations, and in particular with the libraries that are responsible for lending such films. They were the motivating force behind this amendment.

I am happy that any film or video that is specifically made for someone within the profession can be viewed by that person. I am also happy that under medical supervision the films can be seen without being classified. But, as I said, there are one or two areas, particularly sex education, in general areas outside medical supervision, which will have to go for classification. I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance for which he is looking in that respect, but I hedge specifically when he asks me about one organisation.

Mr. Parris

This is an interesting amendment, because it deals with not only the subject matter of the material which may be exempted but also seems to lay down to what use that material may be put having been so exempted. It would clearly be an offence to use material which had gained an exemption on medical grounds for audiences, or in circumstances, other than those which the amendment has in mind. I may be wrong——

Mr. Mellor

I am sure that my hon. Friend is wrong. If he were not, that would be a difficulty at which we should need to look. The amendment says: A video work is for the purposes of this Act an exempted work if it is designed for use"— It does not insist that that is the only possible context in which it is shown. It has to be bona fide intended for that use. That is the happiest way that we could find to express the exemption which I think all hon. Members would want us to make to avoid that unnecessary complication.

Mr. Parris

I agree with my hon. Friend. I was wrong. There clearly is the slight outside chance that material that has been exempted because it was designed for use for those purposes may be used for other purposes, but I do not think that is something with which we need concern ourselves. Much concern was expressed in Committee and I know that many hon. Members have received representations since the Committee stage about this. I think that the amendment will be welcomed.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Parris

I beg to move amendment No. 13, in page 2, line 19, at end insert— `(3) A video work is not an exempted work for the purposes of subsection (1) above if, to any extent, it demonstrates or encourages the commission of crime'. This amendment is designed to widen the list of video works which may not be exempted under clause 2(2). As the House will be aware, video works which are basically for educational or instructional purposes are exempted, as are medical videos. It is made clear in the Bill that to the extent that such works may deal with sex or violence they are not exempted and must be submitted to the BBFC. It struck me and other hon. Members, and I think the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), that perhaps we should not extend this exemption to work which appeared to assist, encourage or instruct in the commission of crime in any way. After all, a video might be produced which was said to be educational about shoplifting, burglary or drug-taking, but which might in fact be designed to appeal to rather more prurient tastes on the part of the video-watching public and might be said to encourage those vices.

In Committee, I wondered aloud whether such work should be shown to the BBFC. After all, my amendment requires not that it should be banned but that it should be submitted to the BBFC for it to decide whether it needs to be classified. That is why I tabled the amendment. It is also associated with amendment No. 20, which stands in my name and which tries somewhat to restrict the BBFC's terms of reference to ensure that it is there only to censor for the purposes that the House has in mind and not, for example, for political purposes. If we restrict the BBFC to the terms of clause 2(2) we should widen that subsection slightly to provide for crime or anything that might seem to incite, encourage or assist in the commission of crime. In Committee, my hon. Friend the Minister did not seem to think that the amendment represented a helpful addition to the Bill. However, I think that the right hon. Member for Small Heath thought that it did. The whole thing was left in the air, and I hope that we can settle it now.

12.30 pm
Mr. Maclennan

I rise briefly to resist the amendment. It is mistaken, because if the Home Office wished to make an educational video recording showing people how to avoid the risk of having their houses invaded by burglars—I. believe that such films have been made in the past—it would under the amendment be required to submit it to the BBFC.

Mr. Brinton

On brief reflection, having listened to the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), I am quite certain that it would be a good thing for the Home Office to have its films censored too.

I support the amendment. Earlier, I reflected that it might catch anyone who tried to misuse the previous amendment about sex films. If videos designed for a certain purpose were then flogged in the corner shop as having come from, for example, the outpatients department of the hospital, that might encourage the commission of crime. It would be a crime to sell an exempted cassette.

I look forward to hearing the replies of my hon. Friend the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright), as it seems that the amendment might close a loophole.

Mr. Lawrence

I shall be brief. The amendment draws attention to the fact that clause 2(1) is not all that satisfactory. Some people might be forgiven for thinking that a reference to something being designed to provide information, education or instruction". was consistent with doing those things for criminal purposes. That subsection should therefore contain some reference to its being bona fide "information, education or instruction", if it is to have its real meaning.

I also agree with the criticism made of the amendment. In any event, the words "to any extent" would now have to be amended to take into account amendments that we have just made to clause 2, inserting the word "significant". Not to do so would leave two different forms of words applying to the same idea. I hope that between now and the Bill being considered in the other place my hon. Friend the Minister will consider just how useful clause 2(1) is, unless it exempts good information, good education and good instruction.

Mr. Mellor

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) has made a most helpful intervention. My mind was running on exactly those lines. I cannot for that reason accept the amendment, and I was going to use exactly the same example as has been given. My hon. and learned Friend may well have been thinking of the manuals which apparently circulate in some quarters showing how to sniff glue or how to inject drugs.

Even though I must advise the House not to accept the amendment, I still believe, as I did in Committee, that we ought to tighten up that provision slightly. Perhaps my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton has given us the answer. However, given the assurance that we have not finished thinking about the matter and that I would welcome the opportunity to discuss it, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris) will agree that there may he a case for withdrawing the amendment now.

Mr. Parris

With that assurance, I shall be happy to withdraw the amendment. I make nothing of the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) that the Home Office might have to submit its videos to the British Board of Film Censors. My hon. Friend the Minister has made it clear that he sees no reason why the Home Office's creatures, the IBA and the BBC, should not submit their work to the BBFC. Similarly, if the Department of Education and Science makes a film of sex instruction for sex educaton classes, it will have to submit its work to the BBFC. It will not be exempted under clause 2(2). Anybody who makes films that may fall within the catch-all of the phrase will have to submit that work. To submit work does not mean that it will be banned, but simply that it has to be looked at.

This matter should be examined with slightly broader terms of reference in mind than the clause is presently drafted to include. I accept the Minister's statement that my drafting may be not quite correct. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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