- `(1) The Secretary of State shall draw up a plan within one year of this Act receiving Royal Assent with the aim of reducing the amount of violence depicted on television.
- (2) The Secretary of State shall present to Parliament in the form of a White Paper the plan drawn up under subsection (1).
- (3) The Secretary of State shall make a report to Parliament annually concerning the amount of violence depicted on television and progress towards achieving the objectives mentioned in subsection (1).'.—[Mr. Dafis.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Geoffrey Lofthouse)
With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 10—Duty of the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC) to carry out research into use of 'V' chip to regulate portrayal of violence on television—`.—It shall be the duty of the BSC to carry out research into the effects on viewers of the level and frequency of s of violence contained in television programmes and into the feasibility and desirability of requiring the installation in all new television sets of 623 an electronic device designed, subject to an override power, automatically to block the reception of programmes whose violent content falls within a predetermined classification as being unsuitable for viewing by persons under the age of eighteen.'.
New clause 11—Duty of the broadcasters to classify programmes according to violent content—`.—(1) It shall be the duty of every broadcasting body to establish a common system of classification for all programmes containing material of a violent nature.(2) The system established under subsection (1) shall provide, whether by the use of symbols or some other means, for the differential classification of programmes containing different levels of violent material.(3) It shall be the duty of the appropriate regulatory body, or in the case of the BBC the Board of Governors, to ensure that the requirement in subsection (1) is complied with and that steps are taken to publish both before and during transmission of the programme in question the classification which has been applied to it.(4) "Broadcasting body" in subsection (I) includes the holder of a licence under this Act or the 1990 Act, the BBC and Channel 4.'.
§ Mr. Dafis
I shall start with the presumption that what people watch, listen to and read influences their attitudes, values, psychological make-up, behaviour and the quality of their spiritual life—particularly during their formative years. This statement is nothing more than common sense, but it is a position that is often lost during sophisticated argument.
If what I have said is true, if great skill, creativity, major investment and the deployment of technological resources are brought to bear on what people watch and listen to—as happens with television—the influence will be significant, if not enormous. In this context, we need to bear in mind the extent to which television is driven by commercial considerations and by the profit motive.
Society has the right to require those who prepare and deliver television services to exercise that influence with responsibility and to consider the general welfare of the community. Freedom of expression is an enormously important consideration—I believe that passionately. I have studied Aereopagitica. I was horrified by the attempt to silence the great writer, Salman Rushdie, who wrote the inspired and profoundly modern book The Satanic Verses. Like all freedoms—freedom from violence, freedom from attack, freedom from sexual exploitation and from oppression—freedom of expression must be exercised so as not to damage the freedom of others and of society. The depiction of violence and sexual activity or pornography together is particularly pernicious.
We are in a difficult area when talking about freedom. There is a real danger that we may muzzle artists in the name of conformity and respectability and that we may prevent the truth from being told. I draw hon. Members' attention to the fact that my new clause applies specifically to violence and to the amount of violence that is shown on television. We all recognise that art must depict the reality of the human condition, including violence and depravity. No one would advocate—I do not—sanitising television programmes or art. However, there are legitimate questions to ask about, first, the quantity of violent depictions; secondly, the nature of those depictions; and, thirdly, the motivation for depicting violence on television. Those issues must be addressed.
We must recognise also that we face an unprecedented situation with the scale of television and the electronic media. Great artists have always been fascinated by what 624 happens to the human character in extremis: they have always been fascinated by murder and sex and the relationship between the two. That is particularly true of two great artists, Sophocles and Shakespeare. However, it is misleading to compare their depictions with what we see on television.
Theatrical depictions were always highly stylised—the most horrifying events would often occur off-stage. Oedipus's self-blinding occurs offstage, as do the murders of Duncan, of Macduff s children and of Cordelia.
§ Mr. Dafis
I was coming to that—"Out vile jelly"; I know the play well. Even more vivid and terrible is Othello's murder of Desdemona, which also occurs on-stage. A great artist's depiction of such events in a tragedy fulfils a vital function: Aristotle talked about the process of arousing pity and terror to achieve a catharsis of the emotions. That has been my experience of such plays. Even when terrible events were depicted on-stage, it was done in a highly stylised manner: the horror was more in the words that in the s. My point is that the crude props of the Elizabethan stage could not portray those events with the totally convincing realism and intimate detail that are possible on television and film. The electronic media is a different ball game.
Another consideration is the frequency with which one sees violent events depicted. The typical Elizabethan would visit a London theatre—at the zenith of theatre's popularity—a few times a year, at best. When I was a boy, I managed to get to the pictures once a week—assuming that I gathered enough empty jam pots to take to the grocer and raised ninepence for a ticket. I did not see television until I was 16—and I thank God that I grew up free from its influence. The situation is altogether different today. We cannot compare what occurred in the past with the presence of television in the home—we are told that people watch it for four or five hours daily. Televisions can be found not only in the family room but in the bedrooms of children and young people.
§ Mr. Dafis
I do not differentiate between the depiction of violence on the news and on fictional programmes. The material consideration is the sheer quantity of violent depictions. I do not argue that violence should not be depicted on television, but I raise the issue of quantity. It is well known that many people fear that even the presentation of violent scenes on the news can have an inuring effect and can desensitise people to violence. We must be aware of that danger—as must news editors when they select footage to show on the news. I am viewing the issue in the round and considering the total number of depictions of violence.
We face a new situation and, in that context, the fondness of artists and authors for depicting violence must be viewed differently. We must bear it in mind that much violence is depicted in the pursuit of ratings—that is the 625 great motivator. Many hon. Members will have seen the report on teachers' views and concerns about the matter. The findings of a survey of teachers conducted by the Professional Association of Teachers—a union about which I am not particularly enthusiastic—correspond with the experiences that I gained while working as a teacher and with the views that I sought from other teachers.
That survey points out that schoolteachers are profoundly concerned about the influence of violence on television on their pupils. They believe that children's viewing habits are not monitored sufficiently by parents and that the current safeguards which are designed to protect children from exposure to adult entertainment are not working. Most important, teachers believe that children are profoundly affected by the television programmes and the videos that they see. As children's value systems are not fully formed, there is consequently a strong tendency for them to assume that what they see portrayed is normal. They may try to imitate or to emulate such behaviour. Mimicry is one manifestation of an influence, but the most damaging influence is more deep-seated and subtle than that. Teachers believe that, in some cases, children who spend a great deal of time watching violent programmes may suffer behavioural consequences.
I have spoken tonight about children, but no one is immune to the influence of violent material. No one is immune to that exposure, but the danger to children is clear. I believe that there is too much violence on television and that we, as legislators, have a responsibility to try to reduce it. That is what my new clause would do. It takes a different approach to the problem from new clause 10, which is the V-chip proposal. I support that idea, but it involves parents intervening and accepting their responsibilities. I am emphasising the responsibility of the programme makers, including the authors, producers, commissioners and the channel operators. Their responsibility needs to be recognised. I am inclined, when the time comes, to force new clause 7 to a Division.
§ Mr. Michael Alison (Selby)
I have much sympathy with new clause 7, tabled by the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis), but I wish to follow his general introduction to the theme of violence by associating myself with new clauses 10 and 11. Those two new clauses were tabled by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) and it is only by chance, and the way that the turn to speak, like a tennis service, goes backwards and forwards across the Floor of the House, that he is not speaking to the new clauses first.
I wish to express my appreciation to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the interest and concern that she has expressed about the problem of violence, not least in the letter that she sent to me last week, from which I shall quote later. I also thank my right hon. Friend for her courtesy in referring in that letter to the report entitled "Violence, Pornography and the Media", which has all-party support and which was prepared and presented on behalf of the Family and Child Protection Group, which is chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight).
My right hon. Friend Secretary of State has seen the report, studied it and made helpful comments about it. I hope that she has noted the public opinion survey results, from an adequately large sample of more than 1,000 people who were questioned by a reputable professional 626 research organisation. The summarised data from that poll show that 65 per cent. of those questioned or interviewed—a high proportion—are "concerned" or "very concerned" about the level of sex and violence used as entertainment in the media nowadays. Those 65 per cent. contrast with the figure of only 27 per cent. who are "not very concerned".
In the same poll, the summarised findings show that 58 per cent. of those questioned agreed with Dustin Hoffman's now notorious attribution of screen violence as one of the contributory causes of the Dunblane and Tasmanian massacres. That is a remarkable result. Some 58 per cent. of those polled agreed with Hoffman that screen violence was a contributory factor in the Dunblane and Tasmanian massacres and only 16 per cent. of those polled disagreed with that.
§ Mr. Brooke
There is a hazard in quoting such documents in a debate. I am sure that my right hon. Friend did not intend to mislead the House, but he has quoted a figure of 16 per cent. and it should be 28 per cent.
§ Mr. Alison
My right hon. Friend is correct. Some 28 per cent. disagreed with Dustin Hoffman and 58 per cent. agreed with him.
Dr. Park Dietz, the chief psychiatrist of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, claimed that the factual worldwide portrayal of the massacre at Dunblane was a causative factor in the Tasmanian mass killing which followed soon after. That view, expressed by a professional psychiatrist—admittedly in the United States—suggests that the scenes from Dunblane had a direct effect on the weird criminal in Tasmania. I am not trying to persuade the House that news reportage is not inescapable and inevitable, but the portrayal of violence has a curious and unpredictable effect and the benefit of the doubt should always, when possible, be given to those who seek to restrict it.
§ Ms Eagle
The right hon. Gentleman has made an emotive, and debatable, connection between one event and another. Can he tell me why Dustin Hoffman should be considered an expert on such matters? Was not the easy availability of firearms much more of a problem in those appalling tragedies than how they were portrayed in the news media after they had happened?
§ Mr. Alison
I certainly would not claim that Dustin Hoffman is an expert. I am merely suggesting that he expressed a vivid viewpoint that is significant because the public were asked their opinion about it. The viewpoint stands on its own merits and, for a large proportion of those questioned for the survey, it was crystallised by the association with a prominent public figure. That screen violence was a contributory factor to real violence was an expression of the popular view and, if not demonstrably proven, that is what many people think.
I shall quote a sentence from the letter from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to me:To assume that violence may have an effect on some vulnerable individuals seems to me to be sound commonsense.I entirely support and endorse my right hon. Friend's comment, and that is exactly the view that was expressed by the 58 per cent. who believed that Hoffman had expressed a rational and credible viewpoint.
627 Question No. 6 in the poll—I shall give the figures carefully, because my right hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke) is clearly shadowing me—asks:Do you think the current safeguards to protect children from seeing violence and sex in the media, either through TV or video are too little, too much or about right?Some 68 per cent. thought the safeguards were too little, 5 per cent. thought they were too much and 24 per cent. thought they were about right. I hope that my right hon. Friend will allow me not to bother to quote the "None/Don't know" figure. I hope that the House will have noted that 68 per cent. of those questioned in that substantial poll thought that the current safeguards were inadequate.
A significant paragraph on page 13 of the report, on the alleged effect of media violence, says:An American account of the effect upon children stated that the average child watches 12,000 violent acts annually including 1,000 rapes, armed robberies and assaults, and concluded that 15 per cent. of all violence was television induced. Professor Comstock"—the author of the research—has found 'a very solid relationship between viewing antisocial portrayals or violent episodes and behaving antisocially'.That, too, is a common-sense observation and it is endorsed by what my right hon. Friend said in her letter to me.
The views of the New Zealand psychologists who examined the matter are particularly significant because of the ghastly tragedy that occurred in the antipodes. The views of the New Zealand Psychological Society related to the watching of television, and are set out on page 12 of the report. It noted a causal relationship between the amount of film violence viewed and subsequent aggressive and anti-social behaviour among both children and adults. It found thatconstant exposure has a desensitising effect with less physiological and psychological reaction",thatspecific films may provide models which are directly imitatedandthe more realistic is film violence, the more likely it is to lead to aggressive behaviour.
A striking and deeply disturbing response to the inquiry appears on page 40—those colleagues who have the report can follow the plot—which quotes a survey by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in February 1995 dealing with playground accidents and copycat play. It was conducted by post and addressed to the head teachers of 250 schools, of which 91 replied. The replies received showed that 91 per cent. of the responding head teachers felt that violent television programmes were linked to aggressive behaviour in schools; 79 per cent. said that there had been examples of injuries linked to copycat play; 96 per cent. thought that educationists, safety experts and broadcasters should produce a code of practice specifically to deal with violence in children's television; and 52 per cent. mentioned Power Rangers by name. Given that the poll was sent to 250 schools, 91 replies was not as full a response as one might have wished for. Nevertheless, it is not an insubstantial number. The fact that the response showed a direct linkage 628 between injury and pain caused in playground bullying or violence and television violence must give profound cause for concern in every part of the House.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State concedes that the public feel profoundly about this issue. Their common-sense view is that too much violence is particularly damaging for children, who have much readier access to it than they are meant to have under current efforts to restrain their viewing. The 9 pm watershed is clearly ineffectual because late-night programmes can be taped on video recorders once children have gone to bed and watched at a later date. That common-sense reaction, endorsed by my right hon. Friend, shows that there is a direct link, and we want the Bill to do something practical in response to public anxieties and misgivings.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider the facts, suggestions and proposals made in this parliamentary report.
§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)
I am happy to follow the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) and to support new clause 7. Taken together, new clauses 7, 10 and 11 demonstrate the partnership that is required between Government, Parliament, broadcasters and parents. No one would be naive enough to say that the only factors that create a violent society are violent or disturbing s, or that every person who sees violent scenes will necessarily be tipped over the edge. Nevertheless, there is widespread support for the view that the amount of violence on television is now spiralling out of control. That view must be reflected and action taken.
It is therefore important to point out what the new clauses would actually do, rather than what some have suggested that they might do. New clause 7, which calls for an annual report and a White Paper, is reflective and suggests that we take a deeper look at the problem. New clause 10, which stands in my name and is supported by the right hon. Member for Selby, the hon. Members for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton), for Batley and Spen (Mrs. Peacock), for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam), for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall) and other Conservative Members, and by the hon. Members for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) and for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth). shows the spectrum of support within the House.
New clause 10 calls on the Broadcasting Standards Council to carry out research into the effects on viewers of the level and frequency of violent s contained in television programmes, and into the feasibility and desirability of requiring the installation in all new television sets of what is popularly known as a V-chip. It does not go so far as some of us advocated on Second Reading, when we said that manufacturers should place a V-chip in all new sets. It recognises that we have yet to have a debate on that matter. Incidentally, that debate did not take place in Committee, so let us have that debate to reflect on the further action to be taken.
New clause 11 says that in the meantime we should get on with classifying programmes so that parents can decide what might be suitable for viewing in their homes and have some idea of what will be broadcast. If that can be electronically classified, as will be possible in the future, that will be all to the good.
§ Mr. Miller
The hon. Gentleman has praised new clause 7. Does he agree that new clause 10 pre-empts the outcome of the research suggested in new clause 7?
§ Mr. Alton
No, it does not. New clause 10 refers toresearch into the effects on viewers of … violence".It then refers to the "desirability" of the V-chip as one weapon in the armoury. No one is saying that it is the only solution. However, given that 2 million people petitioned the Canadian Parliament, given that members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, supported the new law signed by President Clinton to introduce the V-chip in the United States, given that the European Parliament has said that there should be a Europe-wide system of V-chips—that argument may not commend itself to some hon. Members—given the widespread debate in Europe and North America, and given the fact that action has already been taken, it would be absurd for us to deny British viewers the V-chip.
There is wide all-party Back-Bench support for the proposal. More than 200 hon. Members signed an early-day motion that I tabled in 1993 calling for a royal commission on the causes of violence. In 1994, more than 250 hon. Members signed an early-day motion calling for the increased regulation of violent videos. The House will recall that the determination of hon. Members of all parties led the Home Secretary of the time, albeit reluctantly, to introduce changes in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
This year, more than 250 hon. Members have signed an early-day motion which condemns the British Board of Film Classification for certifying "Natural Born Killers" as a video suitable for home release and calls on the Government to implement the law as changed in 1994. Sad to say, there has been no response to that call as yet. However, in the context of this debate, it is not without significance that as part of a package of films, "Natural Born Killers" has been purchased by the BBC for possible broadcast on British television. John Birt says in a letter to me that no decision has yet been taken on whether that broadcast will go ahead.
I draw hon. Members' attention to this morning's edition of The Daily Telegraph, which says:Oliver Stone sued for £20 million by victim of copycat film violence.John Grisham, the well-known novelist, is taking Oliver Stone to court because a friend of his was killed in a copycat killing based on the film "Natural Born Killers". There is no doubt that litigation, which is so popular in the United States, may lead to enormous downward pressure on the industry. Hollywood is looking at the outcome of that case, which may have far more long-term consequences than any debate about V-chips in the House today.
Only last week, the Press Association reported a case in Canada under the headline:Youth Killed and Skinned Young Playmate.In Saskatchewan, a 14-year-old boy was influenced by a horror film he saw at least 10 times. There is often the problem of people videoing films, watching them again and again, and becoming obsessed by them. The report says that the boy 630cooked his victim's flesh on a stove".According to the defence lawyer, Barry Singer, the boy was under the delusionafter repeated viewings of the horror movie 'Warlock' that he would be able to fly if he drank boiled fat from his victim, 7-year-old Johnathan Thimpsen.
We are not talking about fantasyland; these things are actually happening. We need only think back to the case of Suzanne Capper, who was tortured to death while her torturers played a recording of the words and music from the "Child's Play III" video, to which the right hon. Member for Selby referred in the context of the Tasmanian killing. It was a film that the killer's girlfriend said that he had watched again and again.
§ Mr. Alton
Categorically no. I do not think that there should be censorship of news. The hon. Lady may find more common cause with me than she imagines, as I am not suggesting that anyone other than the parent or person at home should censor anything. If any of us wished to have a V-chip installed in our television set, we would be free to do so. If we did not want a V-chip, we would not have to have one. People would decide what they wanted coming into their home. The Government rightly talk about putting more power in the hands of individual viewers and giving them more responsibility for themselves. That principle is entirely in accord with the idea of providing parents and viewers with these rights.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell
That is not what new clause 10 says. It refers to thedesirability of requiring the installation in all new television sets of an electronic device".
§ Mr. Alton
We should consider whether it is desirable. My view is that the installation of a V-chip should be left entirely to the consumer. As I said earlier, I have drawn back from the idea that we should require every manufacturer to install a V-chip, and that is why I have not tabled such an amendment today. New clause 10 says that we should look at the feasibility and desirability of installing V-chips. I accept the hon. Gentleman's point that the matter should be entirely one on which each person decides. He has my assurance on that.
§ Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)
The hon. Gentleman has talked about parental responsibility. I am the father of three young daughters. I am very concerned about violence at 9 o'clock in the morning in cartoon programmes, not violence at 9 o'clock at night. I am a little worried that the V-chip proposal could be seen as a panacea and could thus take away parental responsibility. Just as one lets the children watch the cartoons in the morning because one wants to do other things, so one might leave the room and assume that the V-chip has 631 solved all the problems although there might be things that are totally inappropriate for three-year-olds or seven-year-olds to watch.
§ Mr. Alton
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I, too, have three young children, from seven years down. Any parent who uses a television set and computer games as electronic baby sitters is being downright irresponsible. They can never take the place of parents. It would equally be absurd for us to suggest that the flickering box in the corner which has taken the place of the hearth, as the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) said, can be ignored and that we can somehow turn back the clock.
Television is part and parcel of modern life. The issue is how we can regulate it in a way that is responsible and reasonable. If one can scramble signals coming into one's home by electronic means rather than by the parent having to be there day and night, one has some limited control. The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) is right: I am not suggesting that the V-chip is a panacea; I see it as a tool, as a weapon in the armoury, no more and no less.
§ Mr. Alton
I have said that I do not see the V-chip as a panacea. It will be a tool for parents who want to exercise responsibility. In addition, we would put a downward pressure on those who make films that contain ridiculously high levels of gratuitous violence. New clause 7 provides that an annual report should be made to Parliament concerning the amount of violence depicted on television. I said at the outset that new clauses 7, 10 and 11 should be taken together. I agree that the V-chip is not the only solution.
The hon. Lady will know of people on the great sink estates, such as those in our conurbation on Merseyside and elsewhere, who live in situations where there may be relative economic prosperity, but where there may be deep levels of spiritual poverty in the sense of lack of love, lack of parenting and lack of help, where children are often left to fend for themselves. That is the situation into which we pour an unending diet of violence and that, in turn, creates the violent society in which we live today.
On 23 June, The Sunday Times found that two thirds of children aged between nine and 11 had watched 18-rated movies such as "Silence of the Lambs", "Basic Instinct" and "Pulp Fiction". That touches on the point that the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) has just made. There is a need to tackle the problem universally, not just through the V-chip. More than half the children covered by the survey had televisions in their bedrooms and more than a quarter had VCRs in their bedrooms. In my opinion, that is as potentially dangerous as allowing a stranger in a child's bedroom.
Mention has been made of the survey by the Professional Association of Teachers. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has called for more controls on screen violence, as has the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Over the years, the 632 Government have expressed their concern about screen violence through statutory provisions giving powers to the British Board of Film Censors, the Independent Television Commission and the proposed Broadcasting Standards Commission to maintain standards of taste and decency, specifying gratuitous violence as a particular concern. However, those safeguards have failed to halt a culture of screen violence that is spiralling out of control.
The right hon. Member for Selby mentioned the comments of Dustin Hoffman. Recently, Ben Elton has been writing and stating publicly that far too much violence is broadcast on television and it should be curbed. Charlton Heston has also spoken against screen violence. David Puttnam, who many hon. Members greatly admire and respect because of his contribution to British film making, said last year that the railway company does not wait until a child has been run over by a train before deciding to put up a fence along the railway line. That is all the House is being asked to do tonight.
New clauses 10 and 11 represent modest proposals in tackling screen violence. V-chip technology is at the cutting edge of the battle against screen violence. Its application has been thoroughly researched and tested in Canada, where it was agreed that it should be a feature of all new sets. V-chip technology is not limited to new sets; it can be installed in old sets for about £2.
The main benefit of the V-chip is not the extra control that it gives parents who choose to use it—although that is a significant bonus—but its impact on broadcasters. The obligation to classify programmes would not only force broadcasters to develop a working code on violence, but would confront them each day with the implications of including gratuitous violence in their programmes.
The Minister will know from the extensive lobbying that she has received from broadcasters and advertisers that the V-chip will mean that broadcasters cannot guarantee the advertisers particular audience levels for programmes that contain gratuitous violence. Surely that is good as it would put pressure on those who make such programmes. It always strikes me as slightly ironic that the same advertisers who are against the curtailment of outlets for putting their advertisements into programmes spend £4,000 million every year trying to sell us their wares on television. If they did not think that what we saw had any influence on us, presumably they would not spend so much money on television advertising.
Who is opposed to our modest and reasonable proposals? It has been suggested that the V-chip would encourage broadcasters to show more violence. That is incorrect for the following reasons. First, none of the proposals dismantle existing controls on broadcasters or negate their responsibility to respect standards of taste and decency. I expect that the Secretary of State will tell us that the ITV companies and the BBC have become more sensitive to violence. However, I would expect that to be the case whether or not parents are given extra controls.
Secondly, commercial pressure from advertisers seeking verifiable audience figures would be brought to bear on the broadcasters, who would be less likely to opt for increasing violence to grab high ratings. Thirdly, the evidence of the regulation of screen violence in the film industry is that although some directors continue to test and exceed the limits, the majority seek to produce films with a lower rating in order to guarantee a wider target audience—for example, a PG rating rather than an 18 rating.
633 It is further argued that although the United States has opted for the V-chip technology, it has had little effect on the mounting levels of horrific violence shown on American television. That is a specious argument which misunderstands the nature of broadcasting in the United States. United States broadcasters face strict regulation on sex and language, but they operate in a far more permissive regime with regard to violence. V-chip technology has yet to be introduced in the United States. Until that happens, it is ridiculous to brand it ineffective. There is no watershed in the United States and broadcasters can show violent programmes at any time.
The principal argument against the V-chip comes from the advertisers. It is not without significance that the Advertising Association arranged for opponents of the V-chip from the United States to attend a seminar at the Department of National Heritage. According to the Advertising Association's public relations office, civil servants made the arrangements and the same opponents also had meetings with the Secretary of State. If the Advertising Association was asked to bring in opponents of the V-chip from the United States, why did it not fly in supporters of the V-chip and hear from the people who are in favour of it before today's debate?
In Britain, the watershed is now being used as a fig-leaf to cover the increasingly gross content of broadcasting into the early hours. That is a more fundamental concern than any theoretical question about the effect that the V-chip might have on broadcasters in future. The Sunday Times demonstrated the ineffectiveness of the watershed in the figures that I have already given the House.
Those who believe that it is all a matter of parental control should reflect on what these surveys tell us about the capacity of the majority of parents to control what their children see, let alone what they see when they are outside their parents' control—for instance at friends' homes.
The amendments represent a modest but useful step in the right direction. They reflect the concerns of hon. Members on both sides of the House as well as those of the electorate and I commend them to the House.
§ Mr. David Mellor (Putney)
I shall make only a brief contribution to the debate so eloquently introduced by the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis), whose knowledge of Shakespeare I envy and admire.
We should all be concerned about violence on the screen. However, the idea that the V-chip can contribute to the control of that violence is completely untenable and unsustainable. To illustrate that, I shall expand briefly on the points that I made on Second Reading.
I am something of a veteran of these encounters, having started as a Home Office Minister with the Video Recordings Bill 1984—which established video classifications—introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Sir G. Bright). One of the tragedies of such debates is that they tend to polarise opinion, largely because the case for change is overstated. It is impossible not to have the highest regard for my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison), but to suggest that the Dunblane massacre is relevant to the debate was profoundly misleading. Thomas Hamilton had many problems in addition to being warped by television 634 violence. If we wanted to do something positive about Dunblane, we would not wait until Lord Cullen produced his report before taking action.
As a Home Office Minister, I remember trawling endlessly through research on screen violence. Frankly. it is an abdication of our responsibility in the House to ask researchers to tell us whether such s are damaging. Researchers cannot tell us that. However, research has made it absolutely clear that damaged personalities can be further damaged by exposure to extreme violence. Most of us can watch scenes of extreme violence and merely feel repelled that we live in a society which produces such entertainment. It does not make us want to go out and hack somebody to bits. Although we should not underestimate the common sense of most of our fellow citizens, there is no doubt that some people are deeply warped and damaged by screen violence. It probably inflames their imaginations and causes some of them to go over the edge—it may be a precipitating factor.
Although it was interesting to hear about some of the curious responses to opinion pollsters—perhaps to satirise the whole process of opinion polling—nevertheless, one of the problems of addressing screen violence is the ambivalence of the public response. The very members of the public who say how much they deplore screen violence will watch it. Why are those films made? Why are those television programmes shown? Many of them are high-audience programmes. They are shown because they attract an audience and because sensationalism attracts people. That is why we can place very little faith in public opinion surveys. Surely we must place faith in our own common sense and the structures that Parliament has established to control those elements and ensure that those controls are exercised effectively.
The hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) referred to television news. There is censorship of television news. It is not applied externally, but by the editors of television news programmes who—perfectly honourably—often choose to reject footage that would be sensational because it is too awful to be seen. We should encourage them to do that. Scenes of a massacre are not made that much more attractive by close-ups of bodies and glorious technicolour shots of wounds.
By the same token, we must accept that, although television is in the firing line tonight, the real problem with extreme screen violence lies with Hollywood and our obsession with American culture. What Dustin Hoffman said is relevant because he is representative of an increasing trend in Hollywood, which should have begun before, of people who, having made millions and millions of pounds out of films, are suddenly becoming repelled by the very industry in which they have been involved.
I am glad that we have moved on to talking about violence. Years ago, when I started in the business, if one may so describe it, we talked about sex. Violence has rightly moved to the centre of the stage, and for that at least we can be grateful because we ought to be particularly concerned about violence, and certainly about extreme sexual violence.
Every film that a director makes, he makes to establish a certain notoriety; to push the frontiers forward. He also makes it on the basis that someone else will come along and do something more extreme. We do not need to add new clauses to do something about that. We have the British Board of Film Classification, which has the power to neuter 635 such products by refusing to grant them a licence. We should encourage it to do so, but not in order to present some fairy-tale vision of the world or to suggest that the world outside may be awful but what will be shown will be only what would pass for entertainment 50 years ago.
One cannot turn the clock back. We should encourage the BBFC to take action if it sees a film that plainly and simply wants to reproduce exploitative violence to attract and create sensation and to draw people in to do nothing more profound than shock them more deeply than they were by what they saw the previous month.
§ Mr. John Whittingdale (Colchester, South and Maldon)
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that—I believe—only two films have been permanently refused certificates for video release by the BBFC? One was "The Exorcist" and the other was "Straw Dogs" which, of course, starred Dustin Hoffman?
§ Mr. Mellor
That is not quite true. It is probably true of films that were given a cinema classification but were then refused for home release. There is a restricted category that was taken out of any classification, which was introduced by the Video Recordings Act 1984. Indeed, I had to watch some of those films, such as "Faces of Death" and "Driller Killer". Does anybody want to join me on this trip down memory lane? There is nothing new under the sun—we were into all that sort of stuff 12 years ago.
One of the reasons why I disagree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) is that he sells his own case short by using all the profound points that he made about the damage done to already damaged lives to suggest that the V-chip has something to contribute. The V-chip is a piece of escapism. Does anyone understand what its introduction would mean? It is a crude piece of equipment. It operates only on a scale of one to five. It does not have a mind of its own. If five represents extreme violence, it is triggered and shuts off only because the material has been pre-censored and said to be of category five.
Although I agree with what the hon. Member for Mossley Hill said about sink estates, they are precisely the areas in which nobody would bother with the V-chip. Middle-class parents who do not have to worry that their child will turn into some teenage werewolf are probably the ones who will have their V-chip humming away. With the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, the V-chip is a sad delusion.
We must say that good people sit on the Independent Television Commission, that good people are governors on the board of the BBC, that—one hopes—good people sit on the Broadcasting Standards Council, or whatever the wretched thing will he called now that it has been amalgamated with another equally wretched body whose purpose has never been particularly clearly established in my mind, although I think that I was responsible for some of the legislation that created it.
Leaving that aside, there are mechanisms of control and—on a sensible, all-party basis, one hopes—we must encourage and support them, to create not Toytown but a sane world within which people can be exposed to powerful and even shocking entertainment out of which 636 we take the kind of extreme violence that has no place in our society and that we know is damaging. We do not need some fellow from Essex university to conduct a survey for five years to tell us what is damaging. We know in our own minds that such stuff is not needed.
With respect to those who propose the V-chip, there is no technological answer to the problems that we face. Above all, there is no answer which, in effect, goads people who want some adult entertainment into feeling that they must defend some extreme things to get away from some of the quite impossible arguments that are raised against it. Surely we can reach some kind of common-sense consensus based on the principle that we in this House charge the broadcasting authorities with responsibility and it is up to them to discharge such responsibility and not escape through technology if they do not do so. It is for us to hold them to account for the powerful tool that we have put in their hands.
Dr. John Cunningham
I congratulate the right hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) on bringing some clarity to the debate. I should say straight away that I sympathise with the aims and objectives of the hon. Members for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) and for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton). Parents and, indeed, many people who are not parents, would be generally sympathetic to what they have said about gratuitous violence or explicit sex and its potential impact on young people.
I share the view of the right hon. and learned Member for Putney that to seek a solution in technology is almost amusing. The idea that parents know more than their children about how to use electronic gadgets is—I speak for myself, at least—somewhat amusing. The idea that children would not find which of their friends' parents did not have a V-chip in their television and be off round the corner to watch programmes in their friends' homes should also be borne in mind. Children and young people are extremely ingenious and will find ways around such things, even if the solution is practical.
I am not particularly against the V-chip proposals. If people want to be able to buy such technology, they should have the right to do so and there is no reason why it should not be marketed either as an option in new television sets or to be retro-fitted to existing sets. I am not opposed to that, but when we realise that there are about 36 million television sets in the country it becomes clear that retro-fitting the V-chip would be quite a long job even assuming a significant number of people wanted to do it.
There is also the problem of V-chips in video recorders and the need for them in personal computers. The number of pieces of equipment that, in theory, would need a V-chip to protect young people is colossal. To talk about the V-chip as a permanent solution or even as a readily available solution is to raise false hopes. Such a solution will not happen on anything like the scale that is necessary to have much of an impact.
I agree with another point that the right hon. and learned Member for Putney made. Responsible parents—parents who want to exercise some control and guidance—are the ones who would be most attracted to the V-chip, and the very parents who abdicate parental responsibility and do not exercise it in any way are the least likely to invest in the technology.
§ Mr. Alton
Although I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman's point, does he not accept that he is inviting the House to tilt at the wrong windmills? Nobody is saying that the V-chip is a panacea. All we are arguing for is the right for people to have the technology if they so wish. Does he also accept that all the arguments that he has just advanced could be applied to the United States of America or Canada, where legislators have arrived at conclusions that are different to his.
Of course it is true that those arguments could be applied on both sides of the debate, but just because the V-chip is being adopted in Canada or the President of the United States of American has decided that it should be introduced in his country does not mean that it will work or deliver the goods. I am saying that it is dangerously misleading to suppose that such an introduction will have a major impact. I agree with the hon. Gentleman to the extent that if people want to be able to buy the technology, and either retro-fit it to existing television sets or buy it in new television sets or videos, there should be nothing to stop that, but I am not sure why we need to legislate, because nothing prevents that from happening now.
That brings me to perhaps a more important point that the hon. Member for Mossley Hill did not spend much time discussing—who will rate the programmes? That will be an enormous bureaucratic exercise. Who will be responsible? Who will pay for it? I may be wrong, and I hope that I am not misreading the hon. Gentleman's intentions, but I understand that he wants to leave it to the broadcasters. Is that correct?
§ Mr. Alton
The right hon. Gentleman is exactly right. Broadcasters classify programmes at the moment, and that is why there is a watershed at 9 o'clock. Broadcasters must determine whether a programmes is suitable for transmission before and after that time, so no extra work would be involved. The House must take action, because the broadcasters will have to tag material electronically to allow the V-chip to be of use. Even if everyone buys a V-chip, it will be of no use unless we require the broadcasters to tag programmes.
Exactly, but who would be responsible for tagging the programmes? The hon. Gentleman suggests that it should be left to the broadcasters, but there would be a natural tendency on their part to put the lowest possible rating on a programme they could get away with to ensure that more people had the opportunity to see it especially where advertising and commercial pressures were involved. The problem with selling these ideas separately is that all programmes must be vetted, tagged or rated before the V-chip can be effective.
I suppose my hon. Friend has broadcasts such as that of Prime Minister's Question Time in mind. I do not know the answer to her question, and she has raised an important point.
638 I am not opposed to people having the technology, but I am doubtful about legislating on the matter and leaving it to the broadcasters. The Bill proposes a new Broadcasting Standards Commission; the Opposition support that proposal strongly. Far from requiring the Secretary of State to produce a White Paper or requiring other organisations to do more research, we should let the new body—which will be responsible for standards and complaints—have a look at the situation. It could then report to the House on what it believed to be the way forward.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
Many hon. Members will agree with my right hon. Friend's remarks about technology, but does he agree that the general concerns in the nation and in the House are that there is too much violence on television, that too much of it is unnecessary and that too much of it is too violent? The Government recently initiated a change from one standards body to another, but it seems not to have done the trick. How can we be reassured by the creation of another body? Is not the recommendation in the new clause at least a move in the right direction?
I am not saying that research should not be done or that these matters are not important. I am saying that there are other ways in which to deal with them, and I have proposed some.
I am as concerned about censorship as I am about some of the other issues. I do not believe that it will be helpful or beneficial to a better understanding of life or an appreciation of art and culture if people can use technology to block out important parts of plays. The hon. Member for Mossley Hill referred to civil actions in the United States on the basis of films. It seems incredible to me. If film makers are to be the subject of civil litigation, why should that not apply also to books? If people can carry out alleged copycat actions after watching a film, why can they not do so after reading a book? "The Silence of the Lambs" was, after all, a book before it was a film. We are getting into dangerous ground.
The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North referred to Shakespeare. I am a lifelong supporter of Shakespeare, and I watch the Royal Shakespeare Company at every opportunity—particularly its season in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Are we saying that if Shakespeare's plays are made into films and put on television that people will V-chip the murder of Julius Caesar or the emergence of Coriolanus from the city after he has slaughtered people? Is that what we really want? That is a cause for concern.
If, through the Independent Television Commission and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission, we can take action along the lines that I hope the Secretary of State will announce, we can far more realistically—and, I hope, without raising false hopes—create the climate of opinion necessary to reduce some of the violence that we are talking about.
One of the things that worries me about the proposals relates to the current and agreed 9 o'clock watershed. Critics say that that watershed simply pushes violence on television into the early hours of the morning, but if proper parental control is exercised, children—the people about whom we are most concerned—ought to be in bed by 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning. The fact that they are 639 not tells us a lot about what is wrong with parental control. There is a real danger that the introduction of such technology will create the excuse—although it may not see it through—for the erosion of the 9 o'clock watershed. People might say that violent films can be broadcast earlier because they can be coded, allowing the V-chip to be used.
Yes. I have said that more than once, and I am happy to confirm that that is my view. I share the concerns of the hon. Gentleman, and those of the hon. Member for Mossley Hill, but I do not share their views on the potential solutions. Above all, I do not want to raise false hopes that, by making technology available, the problems can be solved and will go away.
§ Sir Timothy Sainsbury (Hove)
I sympathise strongly with the objectives of all the new clauses, and there is no doubt that there is widespread sympathy in the country for them. I wish to reinforce the point made by the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) about the difference between television and other media. Television is not only in the home, we do not have to pay anything to watch it. It is not like hiring or buying a video, or going to the cinema—even if that costs as little as nine pence, as the hon. Gentleman said. No transaction is required; we are required only to turn it on. In addition, the number of hours of viewing per day and per week that numerous surveys show to be the average—particularly among the young—make television different. Also, we can video record and replay what we see on television.
It is not only the vulnerable who are at risk from violence, particularly the gratuitous and realistic violence that we see too much of. If such violence is continuous, almost anybody will be affected by it. However, I am far from convinced that any of the new clauses address the problem. A number of reasons why they fall short of meeting that objective have already been expressed, so I shall not repeat them.
I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) that prime responsibility rests with broadcasters to moderate the amount and type of violence. Of course, there are important responsibilities for parents, teachers and government. I hope that I will hear from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that the Government are concerned, are giving the issue attention, and will continue to do so.
§ Mrs. Virginia Bottomley
I have rarely heard a new clause introduced in a way with which I felt such strong agreement than when the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) introduced the new clause. His description of the effects of television on children, his concern that that is in many ways uncharted territory, his description of the influence of film in encouraging imitative and mimicking behaviour and his concerns about inuring and desensitising children are all views with which I strongly agree.
640 8.45 pm
I shall explain to the House why it is not appropriate to support the new clauses, but I hope that I may offer some assurance—in the way that my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) suggested—that these are matters that the Government take extremely seriously, albeit we believe that we have set in place mechanisms, through the regulators and responsibilities on broadcasters, to ensure that there is further action.
I also commend the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), who has consistently ensured that we pay proper attention to the effects of violence on young people. It is impressive that, in a Bill of such complexity, covering many areas, the House has chosen to speak at length on this subject. That in itself is a demonstration of the fact that hon. Members regard it with great importance. It may not be of great concern to the press and others, but we, as Members of Parliament, take it extremely seriously.
I was concerned by the comments of the hon. Member for Mossley Hill about the number of nine to 11-year-olds who have watched material that is quite unsuited to their age. Many would agree with his concern that so many of them have televisions in their own bedrooms, where they are able to watch unattended. Rosalind Miles spoke forcefully the other day about the dangers of children watching television in an isolated way. Children need an adult's interpretation of television. About nine years ago, I chaired a Dicey trust conference on the media and the rule of law. Many people from television, including Will Wyatt and others, were there, as well as Mary Whitehouse. At the time, it was fashionable to sneer at those who were concerned about the effects of violence on the young. Things have now changed substantially. At that stage, my worry was that about one third of children aged between five and eight had televisions in their bedrooms. That figure has now risen substantially.
As is often the case, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) and the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) challenged the presumption that we could tackle some of the issues in the way that is set out in the new clauses. That is a view that I hold. The only aspect that has not been properly covered is the fact that many people find so much violence frightening, whether or not it influences behaviour—I take the view that if the independent television companies make their money by persuading people that showing advertisements on television influences behaviour, it is extraordinary to say that other television programmes have no influence on their behaviour. Fear of violence is common in our society, although actual levels of violence are low. Anyone who is afraid of violence has that fear exacerbated by the amount of violence that they see on television.
As the right hon. Member for Copeland made clear, the Bill establishes the Broadcasting Standards Commission on an enhanced basis with greater authority. In addition, it will have the power to commission research in many areas, including on violence, which makes new clause 10 unnecessary as it already has that power. The BSC will have strengthened authority because, if the regulators and broadcasters fail to act on its recommendation, it will be required to follow the matter through and ensure that a statement is made saying what happened to the complaint in question.
641 Only recently, the House debated the new royal charter and agreement for the BBC. Again, that strengthens the authority and clarifies the responsibilities of the BBC's governors, as the regulators. Many hon. Members will commend the remarks of the new chairman, Sir Christopher Bland. When asked recently whether more needed to be done about violence, he said:It is an area where all broadcasters need to be permanently vigilant. The burden of proof should lie with the producer who wants to include violence rather than the other way round. There's legitimate public concern.In years gone by, we would not have had such a strong response from the chairman of the BBC. At present, its producers' guidelines are under review. One of the assurances that I can give the House is that, following today's debate and the strength of feeling and authority with which comments have been made, I intend to have further discussions with the chairmen of the BBC and the ITC, as the regulators, as well as the chairman of the new BSC so that I can be sure that the many points raised today are recognised and given the weight that they deserve.
§ Mr. Michael Lord (Central Suffolk)
My right hon. Friend is sounding a little tougher and I am pleased to hear that. Does she appreciate, however, that members of the public who are watching this debate will probably feel exasperated? Most people now know that there is far too much violence on television and that it is doing a vast amount of damage. They look to this House to do something about it. If we do not accept the new clauses, which may have their faults, the public will expect action that will bite quickly, not long-term reviews, hoping, wishing and supporting. That will not do. Children are being damaged daily and we need much more dynamic action.
§ Mrs. Bottomley
I appreciate my hon. Friend's comments. Of course, some of the evidence is conflicting. I take a strong interest in the report to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby referred on violence, pornography, and the media. Many people of distinction contributed, not least Professor Andrew Sims, the professor of psychiatry at the university of Leeds. The fact that two thirds of the population said that they were concerned about levels of sex and violence shows that we must give that matter careful consideration. At the same time, however, the ITC reports that only 4 per cent. of the complaints that it receives concern violence, so there is a gap between the general perception that there is too much violence and the number of complaints received, which has fallen—it used to be nearly 6 per cent. and now it is down to 4 per cent.
Another piece of evidence that gives ground for encouragement was the research published last summer by Sheffield university, which showed that whereas in 1986 about 1.1 per cent. of material on television contained scenes of violence, it is now down to about 0.61 per cent. Also there has been a change in the public's tolerance. The public have become progressively more concerned.
Professor Philip Graham—formerly a child psychiatrist at Great Ormond Street and now president of the National Children's Bureau—said that although less than 1 per cent. of a football match is made up of goals, which is 642 indeed true, it is the goals that one remembers. Although the amount of violence may be diminishing, none of us should disregard the power of the volume that remains.
§ Mr. Spearing
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for giving way because this is a non-party issue. In resisting new clause 7, is she saying that it is the Government's view that the amount of violence, however one measures it, is okay and that there is no statutory requirement for an aim to reduce it? If she is, surely that is a refusal to intervene, as is often the case with the Government, in matters that affect broadcasting as distinct from film, books and other publications.
§ Mrs. Bottomley
I do not think that new clause 7 is appropriate, because it undermines the authority already provided through the BSC—which has been given strengthened powers, and responsibility—and the regulators and broadcasters. The Bill gives the BSC authority to commission research on violence, and I have just reported one of the changes that has been made on the basis of information from Sheffield university. I believe that we need an annual statement on the amount of violence that features on television, and that is precisely what is now happening: the BBC, the ITC and the BSC are ensuring that material is made available annually enabling us to measure the effect year on year.
A number of hon. Members have referred to the watershed, a system adopted by the regulators as a guide to programme content. It is a further and effective means by which parents can make decisions about their children's viewing. I think that hon. Members throughout the House have re-emphasised that it is ultimately the responsibility of parents to ensure that children watch appropriate material.
As has been said time and again in the House, there is no room for complacency, but we should consider the new clauses in detail. I have explained why new clause 7 would undermine the present position; as for new clause 10, my Department is already reviewing the way in which the V-chip might work. We attended a seminar in which Dr. Arthur Pober spoke about the chip. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Mossley Hill could not be present, but I know that he was invited at relatively short notice. I shall visit the United States later in the year, and hope to talk not only to Dr. Pober but to those who are persuaded that they have overcome some of the perceived disadvantages. Indeed, I shall ensure that I talk to those people.
I do not need to rehearse some of the disadvantages that have already been identified by my colleagues—for instance, the danger that parents will have a television with a V-chip downstairs while the children will have one without a V-chip upstairs, and the danger that programme makers will believe that they are discharged from responsibility because a V-chip is in place. Many reservations have been expressed. I believe that they may all be surmountable, but that it would be inappropriate at this stage to make this the subject of primary legislation.
§ Mrs. Bottomley
That is a good point. The question of classification, which was also raised by the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), would cause considerable difficulty.
§ Mr. Alton
The Secretary of State should kill two points once and for all. First, I cannot think of an instance in which a V-chip would be relevant in the context of a live programme. We are talking primarily about films, many of them part of the Hollywood culture. Secondly, I think that the Secretary of State will accept that classification already takes place. She has just mentioned the watershed; how can we have a watershed unless someone is classifying the material?
§ Mrs. Bottomley
As the hon. Gentleman will know, viewers are increasingly warned about the likely content of a programme, and responsible broadcasters frequently say that a programme contains material that may be offensive to some. On the other hand, reservations have been expressed by Mary Whitehouse and the National Viewers and Listeners Association in relation to the danger of a perverse effect. Channel 4 tried to identify programmes of a particularly unsavoury character, only to find that the audiences for those programmes increased. I am afraid that the rating identified by the hon. Gentleman can have a perverse effect. I anticipate that, as the years go by, alerting and informing parents and the public will become more widespread, but the point is that it is not appropriate today to require that as a matter of primary legislation.
I hope that the House will feel that the Government take television violence seriously. The responsibility must be shared between regulators, broadcasters, parents and the public in general. I believe that the Bill provides enhanced powers for the safeguarding of standards and the protection of young people. While urging hon. Members not to support the new clauses, I assure them that I will make it my personal responsibility to follow up all the proposals contained in them with those directly responsible—and I am one of those directly responsible.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell
It is interesting to note that massive changes affecting the whole structure of television and its ability to sustain quality are being passed in a more or less empty Chamber, but that, as soon as we come to an emotive issue such as violence, the Chamber begins to fill up. As the right hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) pointed out, it is interesting that it is violence this time rather than sex; but I suppose that we are all tired at the end of a long Session. Chamber rage has built up, and we are turning our attention to violence.
Most of the discussion of violence on television strikes me as irrelevant. Violence is part of life, and therefore it is part of television. The problem, when it comes to public perceptions, is the generalised denunciation of violence—violence in the news, for instance. It is sometimes necessary to show violence in news broadcasts. Had the first day of fighting on the Somme, 80 years ago today, been shown on television—20,000 were killed on that first day—would the British generals and Field Marshal Haig have been able to continue to sustain the deaths of wave upon wave of British youth under the machine guns' ragged rattle for months until the rains started in October or November? It might be necessary to show some violence in such circumstances. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said in his admirably balanced speech, it is sometimes necessary for artistic purposes—in performances of Shakespeare, for instance.
644 The case becomes enormously emotive and exaggerated, but there is an argument behind it. There is a problem that extends beyond the Chamber. The problem is that violence has become almost a quota of productions—part of a formula that is necessary for the making of a successful second-rate, or third-rate, television programme. The formula involves getting a big-name actor or attractive actress—preferably one who will take her clothes off—and to include a certain element of violence and a car chase. Violence thus becomes built into many of the factory-produced television programmes that we watch, produced by the great production house in California.
That means that the quota can increase, and people can bid higher and include more violence to maximise audiences. Unless we control it, we may end up with casts of thousands tortured, dying or murdered. If that becomes part of a culture—as it has on television—people will be inured to violence. It leads to an acceptance of violence as a natural response. The drip-by-drip conditioning to violence, which is a real danger, produces the kind of concern that we have heard expressed tonight. It is a conditioning process which we should be able to control and stop.
Two basic propositions need to be stated. The first is that we should have the power to decide for ourselves what comes into our houses. If the V-chip did that, it would serve a useful purpose. As part of that power, we should have the information on which to decide. That is what one of the new clauses in this group seeks to provide.
Secondly, we should have the power to penalise violence as a production feature and, therefore, reduce it and cause the producers of routine programmes for television to discount it. On both those grounds, there is a case for the new clauses before us today. I am not enthusiastic about them. New clause 7 is impractical. New clause 10 would not do what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) said that it would. It asks for an inquiry, but if that inquiry produces the verdict that the V-chip is acceptable, all new television sets will include a V-chip. There is no choice in that.
The V-chip is a doubtful piece of equipment. It is almost science fiction. It is a pity that the right hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) is not here. He gets hooked on the science fiction of technology so he should be speaking on this matter. I am doubtful. There is general concern. For those reasons, and in the spirit of Blackburn—not as a reservoir dog but as a Straw dog—I am prepared to support the new clause.
New clause 10 merely asks for an inquiry, which we should have. New clause 11 merely asks for the provision of information. I will support them.
§ 9 pm
§ Mr. Brooke
Contrary to what the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) said, I believe that the concern of the nation on this subject is such that it reflects well on the House that the Chamber is fuller for this debate than it was for earlier debates. I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) that Parliament cannot abdicate responsibility for these matters to researchers, although I would disagree with him if he were to argue that research was not helpful to our understanding of the problem.
645 I was grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) for sending me the report from which he quoted. I know that he will forgive me if I say that I found the report somewhat parti pris. My intervention in his speech was partly intended to make sure that the evidence was accurately quoted. I was worried because some of the evidence was somewhat dated. The New Zealand report that he quoted was drawn up in 1976—now 20 years ago. The children in the United States watching scenes of violence on television were studied at least five years ago. The report was written in such as way that one might have thought that Professor Comstock had done that research, although if one looks at the report closely, it is clear that his views are separate.
Like my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Putney and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, I have had some responsibility for these matters myself. I can remember bringing the broadcasters in. I am delighted that the monitors now report some evidence of a reduction in the incidence in violence.
We as a nation are good at spotting precipices and avoiding going over them. The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) quoted Greek tragedy in his scholarly opening speech. It was a convention of Greek tragedy that violence took place off stage and that messengers reported the violent events as part of the drama.
As the exchange between my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State underlined, common sense sees a link between these events, whatever that link may be. Personally, I hope that I do not take a Panglossian view, but I have confidence in the combined good sense of the nation. The nation clearly has a view on these matters. Broadcasters are just as capable as the rest of mankind of reading the nation's concern and the nation's evidence. It is important that we maintain up-to-date research, but no one in the nation will let us lose sight of the problem.
§ Ms Eagle
I wish to register a few notes of caution, particularly around the use of the phrase "too much violence on television", and to emphasise some of the problems with the V-chip that many hon. Members have brought to the attention of the House in this extremely important debate.
Every hon. Member is extremely concerned that we should properly debate the issues around violence, and whether violence on television is a cause of more violence in society; and come to some reasonable assessment.
Likewise, we also have a duty to remember that it is easy to blame television violence for the violence in society. There was a great deal of violence before broadcasting began, and there are all kinds of causes of violence. We do our debates no good at all if we try to put all the blame for the violence we see in society on the broadcasting media. It is a bit like blaming witches for crop failures, which used to be a favourite practice in mediaeval times. It was much easier to blame witches for crop failures than to blame the weather or an incompetent farmer.
That fact may explain the difference between the large percentage of public concern quoted by the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) from his research and the figures cited by the Secretary of State of the low number of complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Council about violence in television programmes.
646 How much easier to blame something appalling like the Dunblane tragedy on a television programme or the influence of television violence than to have to look into the nature of humanity and try to search for the reasons for that kind of tragedy within and among ourselves and the society we have created. How much easier to blame television violence than to take some difficult and hard-nosed decisions about the state of our society.
In future, I hope that some important decisions will be made about the banning of handguns, so that we minimise the chance of such a tragedy recurring. It is important that we should not just make a scapegoat of the broadcasting media and try to blame them for all our problems.
New clause 7 refers tothe aim of reducing the amount of violence depicted on television.As hon. Members may have been able to gather from some of my earlier questions, the new clause makes no distinction between different kinds of violence or the context in which that violence is portrayed. Surely it is different to depict violence in television news when it is an actual event, albeit portrayed, we hope, responsibly.
The example cited by my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) about the Somme was ingenious and thought-provoking. One example much closer to home is the stark photograph from the Vietnam war of the young girl who had been burned by a napalm bomb, running naked down a road. That was one of the most startling s to be reproduced during the Vietnam war, and I believe that it led to much of the agitation that subsequently developed to get that war stopped. We must think carefully about how we portray actual events. We must be sensible about that.
§ Mr. Alton
I agree with the hon. Lady. Is she aware of the story of Malcom Muggeridge, when he was a broadcaster covering the Biafran war? He was filming an execution that was about to take place when the batteries on the camera ran low. The execution was stopped so that the batteries could be recharged in order to film the execution. Is it not the case that the medium itself often becomes more important than the events going on around us? We must therefore exercise responsibility when we discharge our functions, whether as broadcasters, parents or Government.
§ Ms Eagle
People should act not only responsibly, but with integrity, and it is up to the journalist to exercise that quality.
Had we not seen some of the shocking scenes of the famine in Ethiopia, we might not have been able to react as we did. We must admit that the broadcasting media are powerful, but we must be much more subtle in our response to their s, especially if they depict real events rather than fictional ones. When we talk about the quantity of violence on television, it is our absolute duty in a democracy to draw that distinction.
The second key distinction is that between fictional violence which is realistic and that which is clearly fantastic. What is its context? Some of it will be more damaging than others. I do not believe that it is acceptable to say that we must stop the portrayal of violence in all circumstances in a film or a play on television. We must take account of that.
New clause 7, which talks about the quantity of violence, makes no distinction between the context in which it is shown or how it is shown. Many people think that the 647 "Tom and Jerry" cartoons are appallingly violent, but most children can draw a distinction between cartoon-portrayed violence and the violence in "Rambo III".
Another emotive issue is the depiction of rape. Again, that depends on the context. The depiction of rape in "Straw Dogs" is far more offensive and potentially dangerous because of how was it was depicted than the depiction of rape in "The Accused". We must make some of these distinctions; we cannot talk about quantity in a gross way without appreciating the context in which these scenes are depicted.
We must also draw a distinction between adults and children. Children obviously need protection, especially when they are young; adults less so. New clause 7 takes little account of that. I shall not remind the House of the many valid criticisms of, and questions about, the V-chip's suitability. The main problem is that, even if we could get the V-chip into the 36 million existing television sets, it would give broadcasters a chance to say, "You have that system of classification, so we can produce what we want, and it is up to consumers to decide whether to watch it."
The results of introducing the V-chip on that scale, even if it were possible, would be the reverse of what those who are pushing the idea intend. It would be difficult to argue that it was necessary to have the V-chip and a series of extra systems of censorship. We either let people choose or we try collectively, as we are doing in this country with our very good regulation systems and classification systems, to control the problem as it should be controlled—with the maximum consensus.
We have talked a lot about children. It is incumbent on us, as a national Parliament, to mention the millions of households without children, which may want to have access to adult entertainment of a sort that we would not want children to watch. We must take account of the views and interests of those households.
New clause 11 is much more onerous than the hon. Member for Mossley Hill suggested, because all our deliberations on the Bill have been against the background that we are on the threshold of a massive extension of channels. We shall have 50 or 100 channels in the not too distant future. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that all those should be classified, however large their audience, for everything they do, including advertisements and live programmes? I have already mentioned the problems in trying to classify live output.
We must be pretty clear in our minds that the V-chip is not the way forward. We must support the institutions we have introduced, which on the whole do a pretty good job. I do not always agree with every decision by the British Board of Film Classification, but it does a pretty good job, as do all the other institutions that we have created to try to recognise the importance of the broadcasting media and of influencing people, and to establish a reasonable, consensual way through some of those difficult problems.
I oppose all the new clauses, because they add nothing to the institutions as they have developed, but threaten to undermine them.
§ Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)
I agree with the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) up to a 648 point, but only up to a point, because in this debate we have failed adequately to confront the problem of violence. With great respect to those who eloquently supported their new clauses, they are only touching the periphery; they are dancing around the edges of a significant social problem.
The hon. Member for Wallasey talks about society and television. Television is a central aspect of our society, and there is a real feeling among many thinking people in this country that, in the past decade or more, we have witnessed the progressive erosion of childhood innocence, largely at the hands of television.
It is pointless to talk at length about books and television. We choose books to buy to read, to take down from the shelves. Television is there in almost every home in the land, is watched indiscriminately in many homes, and does a great deal of damage—for a simple reason. The aim of everyone who utters, as I am seeking to utter now, is to influence. Why do people write books? Why do they write plays? Why do they produce television programmes? The answer is: to influence people.
Shakespeare has been quoted this evening. The difference with him is that, when people go to a Shakespeare play, they are deeply moved, and they come away with a clear message and a clear moral. The difficulty with so much modern television is that it is thoroughly amoral; there is no sense of right or wrong, of good or evil. But there is often a gratuitous depiction of violence and an explicit description of sex. All people—young people particularly—are vulnerable to these messages, and they are manipulated by them.
The implicit message of this Bill is that television is set to proliferate—the advent of digital, the arrival of more and more channels, and so on. More, in my view, will not mean better, however. It will mean a proliferation of the tawdry—if we are not careful.
I do not for a moment impugn my right hon. Friend's sincerity or motives when she says that she takes these issues seriously—I am sure she does—but she must take them with more seriousness. She said that she would be talking to the new chairman of the BBC and others. I urge her to have them in very soon after we have completed our deliberations on this Bill. She must tell them that, although they are doing their best, it is not good enough. There is too much gratuitous violence on our televisions, and there will be more.
I do not like new clause 7, because it makes the Secretary of State into the grand censor. I believe that censorship is necessary, but that it should be done by the new standards body, the BSC. I want it to behave with a robustness that has been singularly lacking hitherto in those whose duty it is to examine and control. It should not be afraid of controlling.
In a way, there is no worse crime against humanity than the destruction of childhood innocence. It must be stopped. I believe that the depiction of violence in news broadcasting can be a positive good when it shows evil men doing terrible things to others. I remember, as a small child, being in a cinema when the first newsreel of Belsen was shown. My mother's instinctive reaction was to put her hands over my eyes, but my father said, "No, let him see it." 1 have never forgotten it, just as the young children 649 who saw the terrible scenes from Bosnia will never forget them. Nor should they. The evil that man can do to man is terrible, and we should know about it.
What we are really discussing today, however, is fictional, gratuitous violence without a moral. The hon. Member for Wallasey talked of the famous photograph from Vietnam, and said that it was very influential. I agree; but why? Because people saw something evil and terrible happening, and reacted against it.
So I accept my right hon. Friend's sincerity of purpose, but I want a greater firmness of purpose. I want her to give an unequivocal message to those with this enormous power over our lives—those who produce and control the production of our programmes. It is the very future of our nation that is in their hands, because they have the chance to ensure that our children see what is good, and know the difference between what is good and what is evil.
§ Ms Lynne
We are not saying that our new clauses will be the panacea for all ills. It was interesting that not one hon. Member who spoke in the debate said that there was not too much violence on television. We are proposing minor measures—they are small measures. The Secretary of State said that she is looking into research about the V-chip—that is all we are asking for; that is all new clause 10 asks for. We are not saying that the V-chip should be put into all television sets and that everyone has to use it—we are saying that parents should have the choice to use the V-chip or not to use the V-chip.
As far as classification is concerned, the 9 o'clock watershed already exists. The producers already have to classify, so it would not cause a great deal more work. The right hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) said that he spoke about this 12 years ago. What has happened? We are still seeing violence—the diet of violence is getting worse and worse on our television screens and in films.
Many years ago, when I first started acting, we did not have this sort of violence or this portrayal of violence—the skills and the techniques were not there. As in Shakespeare, a messenger would come on to say that someone had been killed, and there might have been a little bit of violence. We did not have the technical skills that we have today.
The hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) referred to live television. Few producers of drama programmes will produce live drama programmes: their joy is in the editing of the programmes—that is where we get gratuitous violence, where we get the cutaway shots, where we see a head come off a body or where we see someone have their arms or legs cut off. That is the sort of gratuitous violence we see on television at the moment.
These measures are not great measures, and we are not saying that they are a panacea. However, they are measures that we want to see accepted in the Bill. There are many other measures—such as those relating to gun licensing—that we can talk about on other Bills at a later stage. Tonight, we are asking hon. Members to vote for these small new clauses. They are a step in the right direction. I ask the Secretary of State whether Government Members will have a free vote on these new clauses—all Opposition Members will have a free vote. I hope that some Government Members will join us in the Lobby tonight.
§ Mr. Dafis
There is a growing consensus that there is too much violence on television, and that something must be done about it. That view is held in the country, among experts and among Members of Parliament—and I have been impressed by that. Hon. Members have said that there is far too much violence on television and that it is doing a huge amount of damage. Something has to be done.
I will not go into whether we can establish a direct connection between depictions of violence and specific crimes—although I dare say it happens. We have a constant diet of violent scenes—surely it coarsens the grain of society and increases the amount of low-level violence, such as threatening behaviour. I believe that there is also a connection in relation to the most horrific crimes.
The V-chip issue has been carefully and eloquently described, and I am not competent to consider the technical aspects of it. Parents who wish to prevent their unsupervised children from being exposed to pernicious material should have the opportunity to do so—I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) accept that principle.
I emphasise that my amendment is modest—it is not a huge imposition. It asks the Secretary of State to draw up a plan to reduce the amount of violence. Surely that can be done without sacrificing the need for realism and the need to depict violence to the extent that is appropriate. We can prevent the depiction of violence in newsreels. We are discussing reducing the quantity of violence that is shown on television—that is of the essence.
I welcome the Secretary of State's acknowledgment of the problem, and I am glad to hear that there will be an annual review, discussions with regulators and so on. Tonight we have an opportunity to put a useful process in motion without causing a huge dislocation of existing provisions, and without creating major difficulties for the Government. That is what the amendments do.
In the process, we shall send a powerful message to the Government—Conservative Members have heard it already—to the broadcasters and to the public. Tonight the Chamber has grappled with a serious problem in society, and the debate has been most impressive. We should take the opportunity to send that welcome message, so I shall press the new clause to a Division.
§ Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 137, Noes 352.654
|Division No. 160]||[9.25 pm|
|Adams, Mrs Irene||Canavan, Dennis|
|Alton, David||Cann, Jamie|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery)|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Chidgey, David|
|Barnes, Harry||Chisholm, Malcolm|
|Battle, John||Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)|
|Beggs, Roy||Clwyd, Mrs Ann|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Cohen, Harry|
|Blunkett, David||Connarty, Michael|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Cook, Frank (Stockton N)|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Corston, Jean|
|Byers, Stephen||Cox, Tom|
|Callaghan, Jim||Cummings, John|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Cunningham, Roseanna|
|Campbell-Savours, D N||Dafis, Cynog|
|Davies, Chris (L'Boro & S'worth)||Macdonald, Calum|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||McKelvey, William|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Dixon, Don||MacShane, Denis|
|Donohoe, Brian H||Madden, Max|
|Eastham, Ken||Maddock, Diana|
|Etherington, Bill||Mahon, Alice|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||Marek, Dr John|
|Fatchett, Derek||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Martin, Michael J (Springburn)|
|Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim)||Meale, Alan|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||Michael, Alun|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Fyfe, Maria||Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)|
|Galloway, George||Molyneaux, Rt Hon Sir James|
|Gapes, Mike||Morley, Elliot|
|Garrett, John||Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe)|
|George, Bruce||Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Gerrard, Neil||Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)|
|Godman, Dr Norman A||Mullin, Chris|
|Godsiff, Roger||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||O'Hara, Edward|
|Gordon, Mildred||Pike, Peter L|
|Graham, Thomas||Powell, Sir Ray (Ogmore)|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Grocott, Bruce||Randall, Stuart|
|Hanson, David||Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)|
|Hardy, Peter||Rogers, Allan|
|Hill, Keith (Streatham)||Ross, William (E Londonderry)|
|Hinchliffe, David||Rowlands, Ted|
|Hodge, Margaret||Sheerman, Barry|
|Hoey, Kate||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Home Robertson, John||Spearing, Nigel|
|Hood, Jimmy||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley North)||Straw, Jack|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport E)||Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strgfd)|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Illsley, Eric||Trickett, Jon|
|Jamieson, David||Tyler, Paul|
|Janner, Greville||Wallace, James|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)||Walley, Joan|
|Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)||Wareing, Robert N|
|Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)|
|Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)||Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)|
|Keen, Alan||Wise, Audrey|
|Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)||Worthington, Tony|
|Khabra, Piara S||Wray, Jimmy|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Wright, Dr Tony|
|Litherland, Robert||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Livingstone, Ken||Ms Liz Lynne and Mr. Elfyn Llwyd.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Banks, Robert (Harrogate)|
|Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)||Barron, Kevin|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Bates, Michael|
|Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan||Batiste, Spencer|
|Alexander, Richard||Bayley, Hugh|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Bellingham, Henry|
|Allason, Rupert (Torbay)||Bendall, Vivian|
|Amess, David||Bennett, Andrew F|
|Arbuthnot, James||Beresford, Sir Paul|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Bermingham, Gerald|
|Ashby, David||Berry, Roger|
|Ashton, Joe||Betts, Clive|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Robert||Body, Sir Richard|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Booth, Hartley|
|Baker, Rt Hon Kenneth (Mole V)||Boswell, Tim|
|Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)||Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)|
|Banks, Matthew (Southport)||Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia|
|Bowden, Sir Andrew||Fishburn, Dudley|
|Bowis, John||Forman, Nigel|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes||Forth, Eric|
|Brandreth, Gyles||Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)|
|Brazier, Julian||Fox, Rt Hon Sir Marcus (Shipley)|
|Bright, Sir Graham||Freeman, Rt Hon Roger|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||French, Douglas|
|Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)||Fry, Sir Peter|
|Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)||Galbraith, Sam|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Gale, Roger|
|Bruce, Ian (South Dorset)||Gallie, Phil|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Gardiner, Sir George|
|Burns, Simon||Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan|
|Burt, Alistair||Garnier, Edward|
|Butcher, John||Gill, Christopher|
|Butler, Peter||Gillan, Cheryl|
|Butterfill, John||Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair|
|Caborn, Richard||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Carlisle, John (Luton North)||Gorst, Sir John|
|Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)||Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs)|
|Carttiss, Michael||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Cash, William||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)|
|Churchill, Mr||Grylls, Sir Michael|
|Clapham, Michael||Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn|
|Clappison, James||Gunnell, John|
|Clark, Dr David (South Shields)||Hague, Rt Hon William|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Coe, Sebastian||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Coffey, Ann||Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy|
|Colvin, Michael||Hannam, Sir John|
|Congdon, David||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Conway, Derek||Haselhurst, Sir Alan|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)||Hawkins, Nick|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Hawksley, Warren|
|Cope, Rt Hon Sir John||Hayes, Jerry|
|Corbett, Robin||Heald, Oliver|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David|
|Couchman, James||Henderson, Doug|
|Cran, James||Hendry, Charles|
|Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John||Hicks, Sir Robert|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)||Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence|
|Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)||Hill, Sir James (Southampton Test)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)|
|Darling, Alistair||Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)|
|Davidson, Ian||Hoon, Geoffrey|
|Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)||Horam, John|
|Davies, Quentin (Stamford)||Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Day, Stephen||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Denham, John||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Deva, Nirj Joseph||Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)|
|Devlin, Tim||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)|
|Dover, Den||Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)|
|Duncan, Alan||Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Hunter, Andrew|
|Dunn, Bob||Hutton, John|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Ingram, Adam|
|Dykes, Hugh||Jack, Michael|
|Eagle, Ms Angela||Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)|
|Eggar, Rt Hon Tim||Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Elletson, Harold||Jenkin, Bernard|
|Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Jessel, Toby|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)||Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)|
|Evans, Roger (Monmouth)||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Evennett, David||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Faber, David||Key, Robert|
|Fabricant, Michael||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)|
|Knight, Rt Hon Greg (Derby N)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|Knox, Sir David||Richards, Rod|
|Kynoch, George (Kincardine)||Riddick, Graham|
|Lait, Mrs Jacqui||Robathan, Andrew|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn|
|Lang, Rt Hon Ian||Robertson, Fiaymond (Ab'd'n S)|
|Lawrence, Sir Ivan||Robinson, Mark (Somerton)|
|Legg, Barry||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Leigh, Edward||Rooker, Jeff|
|Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark||Rooney, Terry|
|Lester, Sir James (Broxtowe)||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Liddell, Mrs Helen||Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)|
|Lidington, David||Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela|
|Lilley, Rt Hon Peter||Sackville, Tom|
|Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)||Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Lord, Michael||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Luff, Peter||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas||Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian|
|McFall, John||Shepherd, Sir Colin (Hereford)|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|MacKay, Andrew||Shersby, Sir Michael|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Simpson, Alan|
|Maclean, Rt Hon David||Sims, Sir Roger|
|McLeish, Henry||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick||Skinner, Dennis|
|Madel, Sir David||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Maitland, Lady Olga||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Malone, Gerald||Soames, Nicholas|
|Mans, Keith||Spellar, John|
|Marland, Paul||Spencer, Sir Derek|
|Marlow, Tony||Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)||Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs)|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Spink, Dr Robert|
|Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)||Sproat, Iain|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)|
|Mates, Michael||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian||Steen, Anthony|
|Maxton, John||Stephen, Michael|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Stewart, Allan|
|Mellor, Rt Hon David||Strang, Dr. Gavin|
|Merchant, Piers||Streeter, Gary|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)||Sumberg, David|
|Mills, Iain||Sweeney, Walter|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Sykes, John|
|Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Moss, Malcolm||Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)|
|Needham, Rt Hon Richard||Thomason, Roy|
|Nelson, Anthony||Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)|
|Neubert, Sir Michael||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Thornton, Sir Malcolm|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Thurnham, Peter|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Touhig, Don|
|Norris, Steve||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|O'Brien, William (Normanton)||Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)|
|O'Neill, Martin||Tracey, Richard|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Trend, Michael|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Trotter, Neville|
|Ottaway, Richard||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Page, Richard||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Paice, James||Viggers, Peter|
|Patnick, Sir Irvine||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Patten, Rt Hon John||Walden, George|
|Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Walker, Bill (N Tayside)|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Waller, Gary|
|Pendry, Tom||Ward, John|
|Pickles, Eric||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Waterson, Nigel|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Watts, John|
|Portillo, Rt Hon Michael||Wells, Bowen|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Whitney, Ray|
|Whittingdale, John||Yeo, Tim|
|Widdecombe, Ann||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Wiggin, Sir Jerry||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Wilkinson, John||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Willetts, David||Mr. Patrick McLoughlin and Mr. Roger Knapman.|
|Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
§ Question accordingly negatived.