HL Deb 01 July 1982 vol 432 cc384-99

7.2 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 2 [Exclusion of exhibitions promoted for private gain from certain exemptions under the 1909 and 1952 Acts}:

Viscount Colville of Culross moved Amendment No 1:

Page 2, line 7, at end insert— ("(1A) An exhibition is promoted for private gain if, and only if,—

  1. (a) any proceeds of the exhibition, that is to say, any sums paid for admission to the exhibition; or
  2. (b) any other sums (whenever paid) which, having regard to all the circumstances, can reasonably be regarded as paid wholly or partly for admission to the exhibition,
are applied wholly or partly for purposes of private gain.").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I think that the House may find it convenient if we had a fairly general discussion about the amendments that stand in my name, all of which are interlinked and part of a complete scheme. At the same time we may consider Amendment No. 4 in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins and Lord Birkett. As I understand it, that is intended to be an alternative method of achieving something of the same end as my amendment seeks to achieve. Perhaps I may paint in for a moment the background for those of your Lordships who may not have followed the whole of this Bill.

What we are seeking to deal with in Clause 2 is the cinema club which, by virtue of a certain exemption in earlier legislation, has by a pretext been able to set itself up in effect as a public exhibition of pornographic and violent films but without either safety or censorship licensing provisions at all. The first part that I must paint in is the common ground that I fancy I shall find all round the House, that we want at all costs to stop that, and this Bill effectively does so. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, was perfectly clear about it at all earlier stages of the Bill. I doubt whether he has changed his mind now, and I feel that it would be a completely common cause throughout the House that we want this legislation soon in order to deal with this loophole that has been found.

The way that the Bill has been drawn and the matter we discussed on this point at Committee stage, was whether in so describing the type of exhibition that needed to be licensed under the cinematograph legislation we had gone rather too wide. Again I think— and I hope that this is right—that it is common ground all round the House that we do not wish to catch the perfectly ordinary high street retail shop which is demonstrating for the purposes of its customers what its video tape machines, if they buy or hire them, will do in the way of providing home entertainment, or indeed is giving a demonstration of what the tapes that it has on hire or for sale contain, these being, by hypothesis, respectable and wholly acceptable material that anybody would wish to see.

The point is that although no doubt all of these shops would readily be licensed, there are really a very great number of them and the local authorities concerned, primarily the district councils, would have a perfectly enormous and quite unnecessary burden put upon them if they were required, as it were, by a side wind to license this kind of exhibition of films, particularly video tape.

]n the process of considering this matter—and the purpose of my amendment is to exempt exhibitions of that sort—it is necessary to consider what else would be exempted as well. What I imagine is exercising—and I believe this to be right because 1 have had considerable discussions about this following upon the Committee stage—the minds of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, and his colleagues in this is that there are, for the sake of argument, ordinary public houses which show for their customers, either behind the bar or—to take a more sophisticated version—in a separate room in the course of the evening as a completely separate exhibition, a whole film either on film or video tape. It may very well be that there are hotels which have a channel on a television in all the guests' rooms where one pushes a button which says "Movie"— and I was in one the day before yesterday where it said just that—and there are a succession of films shown on different nights of the week. It so happens that the hotel 1 was in gave the British Board of Film Censor's rating for each film. They were all either A or A-A. It does not necessarily follow that they always are in that category.

When there is an amendment, which is my series of amendments, which lets off the high street shops, inevitably in the process—and I do not attempt to deny this—one also lets out of the cinematograph system of licensing a certain number of other things as well. The question is, how do you succeed in drawing a line between what is desirable and what is, frankly, impossible?

My honourable friends and myself have considered this matter, and we have come to the conclusion— and I have had advice on this in terms of drafting—that the amendments that I have put down will exempt the high street shops. It is perfectly true that they will very probably also exempt a number of other things. One alternative to preventing that happening was to look at a list of things that were not to be exempted under this new subsection, the difficulty there being that the more you looked at the list, the more things there were that were not on it and, imagining further into the future, the more things there would be that would still not be on it and there was no power to deal with the possibilities that lay in the minds of people.

Now we have Amendment No. 4 which, if I may respectfully say so, is a valiant attempt to curtail the extent to which one does not need to have cinematograph licensing. If I may come back to that in one moment, I should like to make this point: if one does not have licensing under the Cinematograph Acts— and this legislation will become part of the Cinematograph Acts code—it does not mean to say that you do not have any other licensing. I should like to rehearse for a moment the other licensing material which there is on the statute book.

I do not think there has remained a great deal of worry about the question of safety, but of course it is, as safety always is, an important matter. I mentioned this to your Lordships' Committee earlier. The licensing justices under the licensing Acts have certain powers. They have most powers when they are granting a new licence, and they have less powers— I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, is very familiar with this—when they are dealing with the renewal of a licence. But if the whole style of the public house has changed at the time of coming to the licensing justices' sessions, and it has become known that the way in which this public house is being run is that it is being made over on one or two nights a week substantially to the showing of a major film or a video of some sort, then the licensing justices are entitled to be addressed, and would be likely to be addressed, by the fire authority—because although the fire authority are not going to insist on rows and rows of fixed seats and the standard number of staff who would attend in the case of an ordinary cinema, nevertheless, they will take account of the actual use of this public house and they will be prepared, if the publican does not agree, to make the necessary representations to the justices that the licence should not be renewed unless steps are taken to improve the safety precautions. That would deal with the question of darkness, emergency lighting and so on. In the ultimate, although the fire authority advises, it is the police who are the custodians of the conditions imposed by the licensing justices; and the police, as your Lordships will know, have the power to object in the case of the renewal of a licence. So there is that ultimate precaution.

Then there is a wholly different code under the Fire Precautions Act, and if this became a major menace there are regulatory powers which could be used by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and which could deal specifically with this, as they can with any other fire danger. In addition, there are also the provisions of the Offices, Shops and Railways Premises Act and orders made under it, which have the same effect. I really would suggest to your Lordships that when it comes to safety, even if you do not do it under the regulations with which the cinema operators are familiar—that is to say, the 1955 regulations— there are copious powers on the statute book to make sure that people who are exempted from cinematograph licensing under this provision are nevertheless caught to a perfectly adequate state by a number of other provisions with which people are very familiar and which are widely used.

Then we have the further point that these exhibitions are going to be dealt with by means of the censorship sanction. At the moment, that is almost entirely run by the British Board of Film Censors. It is plain that somebody who wishes to run an exhibition of this sort does not necessarily have to show a film or a video which has been properly examined and, if necessary, excised and censored by the British Board of Film Censors and which therefore does not carry their coding that we all know about. But, if for the sake of argument, a publican were to show a film that had not been so dealt with, sanitised, or whatever the right word is, by the board, there is other legislation which can deal with this.

It is not the Cinematograph Acts again. I went through this at the Committee stage. There is the broad power under the Obscene Publications Act, and people know full well that there are difficulties of definition and difficulties in trials under this Act. Nevertheless, it is there. There is the Indecent Displays (Controls) Act 1981, under which the test is very much less difficult to establish for the purposes of getting a conviction, and which leads to an individual prosecution for an individual offence in the case of any display of this sort which is considered to be obscene— and a public house and many other things that fall into your Lordships' imaginations in this connection would be caught by that.

Finally, there is, of course, the third schedule to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which has been discussed in this section of Parliament. If a publican wished to show blue films, films with a major sexual content—and I would invite your Lordships to consider the fairly nauseating description of a sex cinema in Schedule 3 to that Bill; a pretty broad description—he would be able to apply for a specific licence for that purpose to the district council. I just wonder how many publicans are going out of their way to apply to be licensed to be a sex cinema as well as a public house. I would have thought that even if they got the licence, it might not necessarily be of advantage to them. It is completely within the powers of the local authority to say that there shall be none in their district or, if there is to be one, under what conditions it is to be controlled.

My Lords, that is the background. I concede that the amendments I have put down will leave a number of operations to be dealt with under different legislation and not under the cinematograph licensing system, which is so well known and so well tried. For one moment then, may I, in a preliminary way, look at the amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, because I entirely understand that it has been put down out of good will and in order to be helpful. I do not wish to look any gift horse in the mouth, and I hope he will not take anything that I say by way of criticism as an imputation of any sort against him for being difficult about it.

But I would suggest to him that the problem is this. Take the two ends of the scale—and let us concentrate for the moment on the public house which shows films or videos behind the bar. If it has simply a little television set up behind the public bar and it shows films on it, and it is not a main feature of the place but simply happens to be there; and if the films are not necessarily shown every night, and people may or may not be able to see the set, that is one end of the scale. At the other end, there is the public house which advertises that every Tuesday or Thursday, or indeed every night of the week, it is going to show a full feature film in comfortable accommodation, with drinks being brought round, or whatever it may be. I would have thought it was the latter operation that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, was primarily trying to catch.

But if you look at the wording of his amendment-there are technical difficulties about it that I will not go into—and at the essence of what he is saying, the more a publican advertises the style of his public house as being one of beer and films—regular feature films, together with good entertainment in the bar— the more it is going to be possible for him to say that that is an essential or integral part of the promotion, presentation or marketing of the services of that pub. Therefore, under the wording of this amendment, the more likely he is to be able to persuade somebody that he does not need to be licensed under the cinematograph legislation. The more insignificant the thing is, the less essential and integral it becomes and the more likely, therefore, he is to fall outside the exemption and to need a licence. I think that is the opposite of what the noble Lord intends to achieve.

I am fully aware that there will be people who will try to get round this legislation. They will use the same sort of ruses that have been used to circumvent the previous Act, and Parliament may have to come back to this again. I shall finish with this. I have always said that, in order to succeed, a Private Member's Bill must be comparatively modest. It must not try to be over-ambitious and to deal with every possible criterion, every possible contingency, that anybody can think of. This Bill—I concede it—does not deal under the cinematograph legislation with every possible contingency. What I believe it does, and, with the aid of this amendment, does quite safely and satisfactorily, is to deal with the major abuse that has been shown up. I hope that I have demonstrated that there is a substantial amount of other legislation available to local authorities and to the police, to deal with fringe and further sophisticated developments of the sort of things that we have been complaining about for quite a long time.

Therefore, I hope that your Lordships will accept this amendment, even if it is not necessarily, in itself, complete in all respects, because this is the way forward, this is the way in which we shall get this Bill on to the statute book and this is the way by which, come the Royal Assent, when I hope that it becomes law, we shall be able to deal with cinema clubs. If we do not do that, we shall have missed this Session, we shall have got ourselves into arguments about grave technicalities which have proved terribly difficult to deal with in terms of drafting, and we shall not really have achieved what this House was, in principle, trying to cope with on Second Reading, as approved all the way through. Therefore, I hope, although there may be defects in it, that on the sort of arguments that I have put forward, and with the safeguards that I have described, this group of amendments that I have put down will take away the danger of laying a tremendous and unnecessary burden on the district councils, but, at the same time, will leave a proper protection for those who wish to control other improper and abusive methods of exhibiting either film or video. My Lords, I beg to move.

7.22 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, as I understand the position, we are to have a general debate on the two amendments. I shall be prohibited from formally moving my amendment, and am not only entitled but encouraged to speak on both of the amendments—the one in my name and in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, and the one which has been so persuasively moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville. In the Committee stage of this Bill, which I attended though I did not speak, because I felt that everything that needed to be said at that stage had been said most adequately by those already taking part in the debate the noble Viscount—if he will forgive me for saying so —displayed rather less certainty in moving his amendment than he displayed this evening. It seems to me that his faith in his own amendment has firmed up a little during the interim period—

Viscount Colville of Culross

My Lords, I have done some more homework.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

—and one wonders why that is, because the contrary has happened so far as everybody else is concerned. He said in the Committee stage that he wanted to see what he could do to come up with a formula. He was dissatisfied with what he was proposing and he thought that we could see whether we could do something better. My noble friend Lord Mishcon said that we should have consultation with the Cinematograph Exhibitors Association and other experts in the trade, to see whether at Report stage we could come forward with something more definite and comprehensive. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, who spoke from the Government Front Bench on that occasion, suggested to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville: But if my noble friend sees fit to delay putting this amendment into the Bill, I for my part will welcome it as an opportunity to clarify my own mind and that of the trade on this issue".— [Official Report, 21/6/82; col. 874.] The mind of the trade has been clarified, in the sense that they do not want, or like, the amendment which the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, has so persuasively put before us this evening. Therefore, we need to ask ourselves why it is that an amendment, which has been put before us this evening in a way which, if I were not reinforced by people whose lives are spent in the trade, I would have found great difficulty in countering, or would have lacked the courage to stand up and disagree with the noble Viscount about, is disliked so much, although the noble Viscount believes it to be the right way of dealing with the Bill.

One can understand the trade's opposition, because they are in business and are commercial exhibitors of films, and if a measure is to be taken which will place them all, as it were, on the same line, they do now want to see any holes left whereby somebody will squeeze in round the corner. From their point of view, that is understandable. But what confirmed me in thinking that there is something not quite right about the present amendment is the conviction not only of the trade but of the British Board of Film Censors and of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities. When they came down on the side of the trade, I began to think for the first time that there must be something wrong with this, so I read very carefully what it was that the British Board of Film Censors had to say, which was: ' It is the view of the British Board of Film Censors and also of the trade associations of the film industry that this amendment"— and this is the noble Viscount's amendment, not the one in the names of myself and my noble friend— would create a loophole which would come to be as significant as a means of escaping control by licensing as the bogus sex cinema clubs are today. Video clubs, video restaurants and video lounges in hotels, which would never even need to let the shabby bedrooms which they maintain upstairs, would be able to show unlicensed films to their patrons without even the benefit of classification to restrict the audience by age, since there is no law barring children from seeing X films but only the licensing conditions imposed on the cinema by the local authority. We believe that the catering trade would begin to provide an easy excuse for the operation of covert video cinemas with charges made for food and drink with the excuse of showing video films for which no admission charge is made, and it would be up to the law to prove that the profit margin allowed on food and drink was more than could be justified in the circumstances". That is what the British Board of Film Censors thought and their view was endorsed by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities.

In those circumstances, I began to worry a little about the amendment in the noble Viscount's name, and I was a little more worried when I understood that the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, who takes an interest in these matters and has long done so, was also a little concerned about it. Now the noble Viscount says that if our amendment were substituted for his the consequences would be worse than with his. If that is the case, why is it that, between us, we have been unable to come up with something which will do what we all want to do; that is, to draw a line which will admit that which is admissible, and which will exclude that which is not admissible?

It is surely not beyond human ingenuity to devise a form of words which would allow that which ought to be allowed, and would not allow that which ought not to be allowed. It seems as if we are both saying to each other: "The consequence of the form of words that you are introducing will be that things which ought not to be permitted will be permitted."I suppose the consequence of that will be to forget both of the amendments and to say"Let us have the Bill as it originally was. Why are we worrying about this? Why don't we let the Bill stand as it originally was?" Unfortunately, there is a general consensus of opinion in that sense, which there is not in the other sense. The general consensus of opinion about the Bill as it was originally drafted is that it is over-restrictive: that things would be prevented which ought reasonably to be allowed to occur.

So we have a dilemma. Here is a Bill which is over-restrictive and here are two amendments which both sides say have the consequence of wrecking the reasonable protections which were laid down in the original Bill. I am not sufficiently expert in the matter to come up with a form of words. I come into it rather late in the day and apologise for being so late. I should not have intervened at this stage but for the fact that it seemed to me that those who had been with the Bill for so long had not found the right formula and I wondered whether or not, even at this stage, we might succeed in finding a form of words that would give us the answer which we want but which seems to me so far to have failed to produce the right result which everybody wants to get. I may have something further to say later, but at this point I think it would be of great benefit to me, and it might be of benefit to the House generally, to hear from my noble friend and from the noble Lords on the Front Bench before we reach a conclusion on this perhaps small but not unimportant and rather difficult matter.

7.32 p.m.

Lord Birkett

My Lords, the noble Viscount has been so enormously persuasive and so very clear that I find it rather difficult to oppose him as strongly as I actually do. Not only was he very clear about the purpose of the Bill, which I am sure is absolutely shared by every Member of your Lordships' House; he was exceedingly clear about the purpose behind his own amendments. And he was even clearer about the purpose behind the amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, and myself. He has put the matter so very clearly that it only remains for me to dispute with him the confidence he has in the effect of his own amendment and the doubts he has about the effect of ours.

If ours is a wee bit too wide in any direction and might let somebody through, as the noble Viscount suggests, the truth is that if ours is too wide by a centimetre his is too wide by a mile. I have no confidence at all that the other legislation to which he refers will cope with the abuses which I am absolutely confident will follow upon the passing of the Bill if the noble Viscount's amendment is included.

I have a particular worry about it. The noble Viscount has spoken, again with admirable clarity, about the nature of the pub and possibly the separate room. The separate room where the video can be shown in a pub has a particular significance. It means that children under the age of 14 can be admitted. So long as they are not in the bar they can be there. They could be subject to films which not merely have not been censored but which are well outside what the censor would give a certificate of any sort to. I happen to be the chairman of the Children's Film Foundation, which has a small relevance this evening. We aim to make entirely suitable—indeed, exciting films for children and to distribute them. We have never regarded it as part of our function to protect children from unsuitable films. Nevertheless, I have a particular stake in the matter, because it seems to me that children are a very important element, and they have not been mentioned.

The reason I am not confident that the noble Viscount's amendment will not be subject to instant abuse is because he has put into the amendment the words "for admission to the exhibition". For a moment, I must weary your Lordships with a reference to another place. During the Third Reading debate in another place the proposer of the Bill was congratulated by the entire House for the timeliness and importance of the reforms which it would bring about. In the course of the debate he had given his assurance that the Bill would deal with all manifestations of moving pictures exhibited for gain, including the showing of a video film in a club or a pub. He went on to explain that in his view the question for consideration was whether any charges are made. If so, even if they are purported to be for other services or for drinks, it will be up to the courts to decide whether the total enterprise, including the video display, is for gain. The passing of money will be a prima facie suggestion that it is for gain and it will be up to those charged with an offence to rebut that evidence.

With this amendment before your Lordships I do not believe that they will need to do so. They will need merely to say that the money which passed was not for admission. You have only to look at the difference in the price of a drink between an ordinary pub and a very expensive hotel to know that if a man charges a fiver for sandwiches and a drink and happens to throw in a video it will be appallingly difficult for a court to say, "The video was an integral part of it, and we assess it at £ 2 out of the £ 5". It will be almost impossible.

So far as licensing is concerned—the mere safety aspect—I wish I could be reassured on that score also. Of course there is other legislation, but will it be used? In a cinematograph amendment Bill surely it is the cinematograph licensing which should be invoked. The noble Viscount has seen quite clearly that the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, and myself in putting down our amendment was to say that we believe the noble Viscount's amendment is far too wide and should not go through, but that if it does not go through there are still two elements which should be protected: the ordinary shopkeeper and the training film.

The noble Viscount believes that we have gone too far and allowed a loophole, though I am sure he shares our view that the normal shopkeeper and the training film should be allowed through. So our worry is not the protection of the ordinary shopkeeper and the training film, a worry which I am sure would be shared by every member of your Lordships' House. Our worry is that this goes far too far in allowing other things through. The noble Viscount himself admitted that things might get through, but he relies upon other forms of legislation to stop the tide when it is flowing through that gap. I simply do not believe that they will. As the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, said, we are all so much at one upon the matter that it seems a shame that we cannot, somehow, agree upon it. I firmly believe that to reject the noble Viscount's amendment and to accept ours, embattled though that sounds, is the sensible thing for the Bill, for the cinema industry, and, above all, for the protection of the public. That, therefore, is the course which I suggest we should take.

Baroness Hornsby-Smith

My Lords, may I apply myself to the amendment moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, which I feel I must oppose. On the face of it, his amendment seeks to permit the reasonable and legitimate use of film for promotion, or training, or genuine leisure facilities, with which we all firmly agree. But the traffic in pornographic films, often in unlicensed and sleazy premises and, unhappily, often in very unsuitable, uncontrolled and unsafe premises, has been a highly profitable exercise for the exploiters. These gentlemen are not going to give up these easy pickings without a fight.

The opinion—here I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, has said—of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, of which I am proud to be a vice-president, is that it will be so easy for these gentlemen to drive a coach and horses through the Bill, if we accept the amendment, by the simple method of turning their film club into a source of food and drink for which charges are made and by providing, as an allegedly free additional service or amenity, the video film.

I know that, very fairly, the noble Viscount mentioned the pub which might have a free showing once every week. Any intelligent publican who wished to have one night a week with a film show would very obviously keep within the law by choosing his two dullest and least patronised nights, Monday and Tuesday. On Friday and Saturday he does not have to worry. The film would draw in sufficient of his clients to give him the bar takings which he requires to pay for the film. While I have the profoundest respect for the legal expertise of my noble friend, I should dearly like to see him in court trying to charge a publican who had not increased the charges on a Monday night with the charges he made with no film show on a Saturday night.

A further problem is likely to arise in the near future. The ease of exhibiting video films is going to be a matter of the greatest concern to the commercial distribution of moving pictures. It will soon be possible to receive through a dish aerial a satellite transmission from the mid-Atlantic of the type of film which has only been recently referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and to transmit this through projection video on a big screen to an audience to which the film, through its membership, may well have been advertised. The film would not have to come through customs, nor would the police be able to seize any tangible evidence. Once police step in the door, one flick of a switch, and the evidence vanishes into the ether.

I make this point because of the very real and genuine concern felt by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, who have a great deal to do with the licensing and amenities of their districts, and who are deeply concerned about this. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, who knows far more about the commercial side of the film industry and those involved in it that than I do, the metropolitan authorities are deeply disturbed also by the latitude which this amendment would give to devious gentlemen to get around it by whatever means.

Lord Lloyd of Hampstead

My Lords, unfortunately I was unable to be present at the Committee stage of the Bill, but I do feel constrained to say a few brief words on this subject at Report stage, and to say those words in support of the view which has been put forward by the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins of Putney and Lord Birkett. Having had quite a considerable association with the film industry over many years—I hasten to say that my interest there has been a public one and not a financial one—I can remember few occasions, if any, when all the various interests of that industry have come together in a unanimous conclusion. It does seem a little unfortunate, since I understand that the Government have at earlier stages consulted with the industry in relation to this Bill, that is this instance when it comes to this seemingly comparatively small but nevertheless crucial amendment, the matter has been dealt with without fully taking into account the views of the industry.

There is no doubt that the industry and every branch of it is extremely perturbed about the effect of the amendment proposed by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross. Of course, the noble Viscount, with his customary candour and eloquence, has put the case for his amendment with great lucidity and persuasiveness. But the fact remains—as the noble Viscount himself concedes—that there is a substantial and, the trade feels dangerous loophole, which will nullify the whole effect of this Bill.

It is perfectly true that, if one scrutinises the amendment suggested by the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins of Putney and Lord Birkett, it, too, is subject to some valid criticism. This is no criticism of those two noble Lords, who have obviously done their best in a very difficult field. But, surely, however great the pre-sure of time may be, there is still time for the industry to be further consulted on this matter and for adequate drafting resources to be placed at the disposal of those who consult with the industry in order that there may be achieved what everyone, on all sides of the House wish to achieve; namely, that this excellent Bill, which has been moved with such eloquence by the noble Viscount, will achieve its objective.

In view of the fact that there is serious doubt as to whether it will do so, and that this view is so strongly entertained by all branches of the industry, I would make a plea to the Government to take the opportunity in the interval between the present stage of the Bill and Third Reading to make one further effort at close consultation, with the benefit of the admirable legal draftsmanship that they have at their disposal, in an endeavour to make this valuable Bill really effective— and not to let it become simply a piece of machinery through which the very skilful operators in this dubious and sordid trade will find a way of driving a coach and four in a way such as has been discovered on so many occasions in the past.

I hope that the Government will take account of the views which have been expressed from all sides of the House this evening. As things stand at present, this Bill, with the amendments proposed by the noble Viscount, is just not good enough to achieve its purpose, and one final effort should be made to close this crucial gap.

7.46 p.m.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I intervene to try to help. There is no doubt at all that the House is unanimous in its view, as the noble Viscount has said, that it wants this Private Member's Bill to go on the statute book as soon as possible. As the noble Viscount has said, it deals with something that befouls—and I do not in any way shrink from that word—many of our streets, especially in the metropolis and many areas other than the metropolis; cinema clubs which have, to repeat a phrase which has been used already, driven a coach and horses through existing legislation. This Bill attempts to bring them within the net and to see that this sort of horrible trade no longer continues.

I wish I could say that there is likely to be a formula which is going to satisfy the House; that those people who should be excluded from the provisions of this Bill are so excluded and that those people who should be caught by it are in fact to be caught. I say that as someone who has tried very hard to concentrate on the wording of the two amendments. For example, Amendment No. 4 unfortunately excludes those whom we would not wish to exclude. I remember that at Committee stage, there was a discussion about organisations perfectly innocently holding film exhibitions, and not doing it for the purpose of retail trade or anything of that kind. One had to give consideration to those people because obviously there was never any intention to catch them in the net.

The noble Viscount has said that his amendment most likely allows into the showing of films and videos people who we would not wish to be given permission without being subject to cinematograph legislation. He has pointed out that they would be subject to other legislation. I too wonder not whether there would be a solution to this problem which will satisfy everyone, but, with others who have spoken, whether it would not be possible to have further discussions between Report stage and Third Reading. I say this in addition to what has already been said. If it is not possible to reach a compromise solution by that time, I personally make a plea to the House not to continue argument which may mean that this Bill may never reach another place in time in order to become law.

So I concede, if I may—for I am not allowed to do it on behalf of the noble Viscount or anybody else— that there should be an opportunity for one more meeting, conference, be it called what it may, in order to see whether some compromise cannot be reached. But, if it cannot be, and the noble Viscount says so, those advising him say so and those from the Government Front Bench say so at Third Reading, I would beg of the House, please let this Bill become an Act. We need it badly.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, speaking on behalf of the Government on this occasion, we are extremely grateful for those few words from the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, In my previous employment the letters DDT stood for something rather different from their meaning in my mind now; DDT now stands for doing the decent thing, which was exemplified by my noble friend Lord Colville when he agreed in Committee to withdraw this amendment for further discussion. As your Lordships will have noted, we have it back.

There is general agreement that an amendment is needed. My noble friend has proposed that it should take the form of a definition of what is meant by the expression "promoted for private gain" so that one could be confident that other exhibitions would not be caught inadvertently. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, on the other hand, in an amendment to which he has spoken but has not yet moved, has suggested a somewhat different approach, that of a definition of the circumstances in which an exhibition is not to be regarded as being promoted for private gain. For all the reasons my noble friend Lord Colville has put forward, the Government do not accept that Lord Jenkins's amendment is the correct approach. The wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, are very much in my mind at the moment, as indeed backed up by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. But when my noble friend agreed to withdraw his amendment last time round he said that this would be for the purpose of future discussions with the industry. This discussion has been held, and try as we might we could think of no satisfactory way of modifying my noble friend's amendment in a manner which would be consistent with its objective.

There is no call, in the Government's view, to require premises, be they public houses or other establishments, to apply for cinematograph licences and to comply with safety and censorship arrangements drawn up specifically for cinemas simply as a result of the incidental use of a video cassette. We have been asked whether there is time for further consultations. The consultations have been long and hard, and the suggestions have been put to the draftsmen on numerous occasions. So, although there would be a very limited time for further discussions, I cannot see that we would have any different result than we have at this moment.

I should say a little about the respective advantages and disadvantages of my noble friend's amendment. The advantage, which I must tell your Lordships should most certainly not be under-estimated, is that it would achieve its objective in ensuring that a wide range of commercial premises is not caught inadvertently by the Bill, and this is important. How real though are the disadvantages. What would be the practical effect if free exhibitions in pubs and other premises were not brought within the ambit of the cinematograph licensing system?

In respect of safety, I confirm the advice which my noble friend Lord Colville has already given. I understand that, in the light of discussions with the Fire Service Inspectorate (which has also made enquiries of some fire authorities), the considered view is that safety matters in public houses can be controlled perfectly satisfactorily through the powers of the licensing justices and the general requirements of the Fire Precautions Act 1971. The licensing justices, prompted if necessary by the fire authority, are able to take into account whether premises are used for the giving of exhibitions and the circumstances in which such exhibitions are given. The latter would include the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, last time concerning exhibitions which may be given in darkness (although these must, I think, be very rare indeed). If—and I emphasise that we have no reason at all to think that this will be the case—it appeared that exhibitions in public houses gave rise to particular safety problems, provision exists in the Fire Precautions Act 1971 to make specific regulations.

Turning to censorship, around which has evolved most of tonight's discussion, I should like to stress that unlicensed cinematograph exhibitions are precisely for the reason that they are unlicensed subject to much stricter control under other provisions of the criminal law than exhibitions given in ordinary licensed cinemas.

An ordinary cinema may, for example, show an indecent film without fear of prosecution under the Indecent Displays (Control) Act 1981. But a public house without a cinematograph licence is subject to the 1981 Act. Similarly,premises with a cinematograph licence will be exempt automatically from the provisions concerning sex cinemas in Schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. This will not be true of the public house without a cinematograph licence. If such a public house attempted to put on, with any regularity, pornographic films, it would face prosecution and a fine of up to £ 10,000 on summary conviction for unlawful use of the premises as a sex cinema.

I think this is the point to which my noble friend Lady Hornsby-Smith was referring. These controls would, of course, be in addition to the general prohibition in the Obscene Publications Acts on the showing of obscene material.

I entirely appreciate that these controls are not as refined as those which apply to ordinary cinemas under the cinematograph licensing system, but they are clearly pretty substantial. What we have to ask ourselves in the end is whether—when one weighs these possible deficiencies (if they are deficiencies) against the clear need for amendments on these lines and against the real gains which will accrue from this Bill—these possible deficiencies are such as should force us to reject the provisions proposed by my noble friend Lord Colville, and to place the whole future of the Bill in considerable difficulty.

I think it was President Truman who had on his desk in the Oval Office a plaque which read "The buck stops here". I think it would be suitable to have it on the left shoulder of my noble friend tonight. The Government have decided that this Bill would be far better with the amendment than without it. Our sincere hope is that in all the circumstances your Lordships will support my noble friend.

Viscount Colville of Culross

My Lords, I am led to believe that I have two-and-a-half minutes to deal with this and that does not give me much opportunity to answer a very substantial debate. May I start by saying that, having heard all those who have spoken, I recognise that everybody has been trying to improve this legislation, and so may I express my gratitude to them for the constructive way in which they have approached this.

Secondly, may I say that whether we like it or not we are up against the parliamentary timetable, not only of this evening but of the whole Session, which means that unless this is dealt with on Friday week in another place we do not get this Bill at all this Session, and goodness knows when it will come up again.

I would respectfully suggest to your Lordships who have spoken that you may not have done as much of a study—I say this very humbly—of the other legislation that is available to deal with these things as I have. I withdrew my amendments on the Committee stage not because I was dissatisfied with them but because I was asked to do so to see if there were some better way of doing it. I have looked at this; I have been advised on this; I have taken account of the points that have been made. If I may say so to my noble friend Lady Hornsby-Smith, the satellite film is never going to be caught by the censorship provisions of the cinematograph legislation, not under this Bill or any other Bill, because, as she rightly said, the thing is not susceptible. It may have to be dealt with by some other means. But there are all sorts of aspects that may have to be dealt with by other means.

I put the following proposition to your Lordships. If your Lordships will accept my amendments as being the very best that I have been able to devise so far, I will gladly listen to all those interests who have made their views known to my noble friend and to those noble Lords who have spoken this evening. If they can come up with a better version, nobody will be more ready than I to put it into the Bill. But for the sake of the timetable I must ask your Lordships to accept these amendments tonight. I promise that I will change them, if we can get something better. But in order to make progress and on account of the timetable, I must insist upon moving Amendment No. 1, not because I am obstinate, pig-headed and will not listen, but simply because I want to get this Bill on to the statute book for the reasons that everyone has agreed with this evening.

8 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Alport)

My Lords, the Question is that Amendment No. 1 be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say "Content"; to the contrary "Not-Content"? I think that the "Contents" have it. Clear the Bar.

Tellers for the "Not-Contents" have not been appointed pursuant to Standing Order No. 50. A Division cannot, therefore, take place and I declare that the "Contents" have it.

8.3 p.m.

Viscount Colville of Culross moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 2, line 14, after ("that") insert ("the proceeds of").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is a consequential amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Colville of Culross moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 2, line 15, leave out ("provided for") and insert ("applied wholly or partly for purposes of").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is a consequential amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

Viscount Colville of Culross moved Amendments Nos. 5,6 and 7:

Page 2, line 24, leave out ("the proceeds of an exhibition") and insert ("an exhibition is").

Page 2, line 26, after ("undertaking") insert ("and sums falling within subsection (1A) above").

Page 2, line 29, leave out ("the proceeds") and insert ("those sums").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 7 en bloc. They are all consequential.

On Question, amendments agreed to.