HL Deb 27 June 1984 vol 453 cc967-1021

6.38 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 1 [Interpretation of terms]:

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 16, leave out from ("manner") to ("and") in line 17 and insert ("by persons engaged in business")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the amendment standing in my name. I shall not take up any length of time on this, but I want to probe a little more deeply into the implications of a reply given by the noble Lord the Minister in column 754 of the report of our proceedings on 4th May. I want to ask him whether it is really true that Clause 1 is a kind of Portuguese fishing net which catches all the sprats as well as the mackerel and, if that is so, who are the sprats. One can guess who are the mackerel. But I was rather horrified when the Minister gave a short and succinct reply to the hypothetical case raised by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, of the man who wanted to borrow a lawnmower from his neighbour. He knew that his neighbour was a bit of a skinflint and so he realised that he had to offer him something in order to borrow the lawnmower. He offered to lend him a videotape which he had had at home for some little time. The noble Lord, Lord Monson asked whether that person was likely to be caught by the Bill. In reply the noble Lord the Minister said: If the supply is a supply for reward, then it is caught by the Bill".

I then followed with some comments of my own and finished up by defining in my terms what I thought this meant, to which the noble Lord—and I forgive him—said nothing.

So I do not think that we can just leave the clause with a one line sentence which says, in effect, "You are all in it. If you sell, exchange or supply an unclassified video, even if it has been on your shelf for years and you do so for reward, then you are within the mischief of this Bill." That is an incredible state of affairs. It means that this is not a Bill to curb illicit trading and the undesirable activities of those in business. It brings the whole citizenry of the country within the reach of this Bill. If that is so. I think that the Minister would like to make it clear and probably also say why it is necessary.

This amendment restricts the effect of the clause to those in business, and that is really what we are after. We are after those in business, not those who casually exchange or dispose of for reward a tape recording that they have had in their possession for some little time and which does not have on it a classification label. I do not know whether the full implications are fully appreciated, if that is the position. So I await with interest and some apprehension what the Minister may say. If he can define as clearly as possible the culprits who are likely to be caught by this clause, that will assist a better understanding of the Bill. My Lords, I beg to move.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, I am very pleased to do what I can to help clear the confusion from the noble Lord's mind. First, if I may, I shall correct his definition. He used the words "within the mischief of this Bill." This is not a mischievous Bill. This is a Bill which will confer considerable benefits on parents up and down the country. It is a Bill to curb illicit trading and it does not bring all citizens within its scope. If we accepted the noble Lord's amendment—while I quite understand what he is about in limiting this matter to those who are in the trade—as I am sure he will know, his definition of "in business" would cover anybody in any business, and I do not suppose he really intends that.

The way in which Clause 1 is drafted is intended to cover anybody who trades in video work for reward. If we accepted the noble Lord's amendment, assuming that it was put in a form which referred to the business of the video trade, which I think he is driving at, the effect would be that if an amateur who was not in the trade decided to start trading in video nasties—the most extreme kind of trade, which would be illicit anyhow—he would not be covered because he would be an amateur. That is not the intention of the Bill.

The intention of the Bill is to cover anybody who sets up in trade in this business and that is the way in which the clause is drafted. I am sure that it is the intention of noble Lords throughout the House that that should be so. So I hope that the noble Lord will see that the way in which this is drafted is right.

What it does exempt is a loan or a gift between friends which is not for reward. If the noble Lord had some interesting video work which he thought I would be interested to see, he could lend it to me with impunity and neither he nor I would be accused of any offence. But if, on the other hand, I gave him a case of whisky for it, we would both be in trouble. We would be in trade. It is the matter of reward.

I think I have said enough to show that this will not affect the average citizen who borrows or lends a video tape to a neighbour, friend or relative. That is exempted. But once a reward is received, then it is covered. That seems to me a perfectly reasonable way for the Bill to be drafted, and I hope the noble Lord will see that that is so. He may therefore be willing to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I do not understand the logic of the analogy with the lawnmower as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. If I want to borrow a lawnmower from a skinflint neighbour who happens to like "pot" and he asks me to give him cannabis, that is contrary to the law and if I do so, I have done wrong. I can give him tobacco, I can give him whisky, or I can give him anything lawful. Classified videos fall not within the same category, but within the same analogy of prohibitied goods. I cannot see where there is injustice to the citizen.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I wonder whether I may press the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, a little further on this point. As I understand it from the Bill, 'Supply' means supply in any manner, whether or not for reward"—

Lord Mishcon

Look at Clause 3(2).

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My noble friend says that I should look at Clause 3(2), but there is no reference here to Clause 3(2). What this says is, 'Supply' means supply in any manner, whether or not for reward and so on. The later qualification states: The supply of a video recording by any person is an exempted supply if it is neither

  1. (a) a supply for reward, nor
  2. (b) a supply in the course or furtherance of a business".
Those are the exempted supplies. What we are talking about here are not exempted supplies. What we are talking about is the definition in the Bill itself. Therefore, so far as the definition in the Bill is concerned, 'Supply' means supply in any manner, whether or not for reward". I fail to understand the view which the noble Lord has expresssed that, in spite of that statement being in the Bill, it is nevertheless not caught by the Bill if there is no reward. There must occur to us the question: what is reward? Is it the exchange of cash? Is it a friend who says, "I will give you this, if you give me that", or is barter a part of the reward? Let us suppose that one form of reward is greater than another. Does that constitute a reward, because the receipt is greater than the expenditure? It seems to me to need a little further explanation.

I understand my noble friend's worry about the wording as at present constituted, which does not seem to me to be entirely clear and, as my noble friend on the Front Bench has pointed out, it is to some extent almost contradicted by what appears in Clause 3(2). It does not seem to me that the two statements in Clause 1(4) and Clause 3(2) are consonant with each other. Therefore, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, will be kind enough to clarify the matter a little further, because I must confess that at the moment I have not understood him very clearly.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, all I hope is that my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey arrives in time to deal with the point concerning human sexual activity. I should not like to be left on my own with that.

Surely the answer I have received shows how absolutely absurd the Bill is in this particular respect. I hope that large numbers of law-abiding citizens of common-sense and understanding will have nothing to do with this nonsense. It really is ridiculous. Does the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, really believe that the man who borrowed a lawnmower and disposed of his video tape in exchange should be hauled before magistrates for being in breach of this Act? If it happened I should hope that he would go home laughing and that the magistrates would be fuming with rage at having wasted their time on such ridiculous stuff.

I am not a person who urges disobedience of the law or resistance to it. I have never taken that view. All I can say is that the noble Lords who are sponsoring this proposal do not understand the world they live in; they do not understand the relationships between people; they do not understand what goes on over the garden fence; they do not understand that large numbers of people of common-sense and respect for the law will say. "The law is an ass; I will have nothing to do with it". That seems to me to be the complete answer to a damn silly clause.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I do not believe that rhetoric, even when it comes from my noble friend whose rhetoric is so powerful, will get us anywhere. The use of superlatives and exaggerated language really will not help us. Those of us who support the Bill are said to be not realistic: that we do not understand people who engage in conversations and transactions over the garden fence, that we do not understand our neighbours or what happens in the real world. As one who prides himself as living in the real world, understanding it, and very often seeing people with real problems, I am going to tell my noble friend that I regard it as possibly the figment of a Lewis Carroll imagination, or somebody like him, to picture the scene that my noble friend asks us to picture in terms of the real world.

The man next door desires to borrow his neighbour's lawnmower. The neighbour, being a skinflint—this takes us into the realms of Dickens, not necessarily of Lewis Carroll—expects, presumably, to he lent something in return. One of two things can then happen. Either he says, in this real world, "I will lend you my lawnmower, provided you lend me a video", which video happens to be unclassified as a result of some unhappy event, or he says nothing at all but looks, with an acquisitive gaze, at the person to whom he is just about to pass the lawnmower. That person says, "You have lent me your lawnmower; I am going to lend you a video", which happens to be unclassified.

If it were the second transaction that was carried out, I make so bold as to say that that is not a transaction for reward. What happens is that one party decides to lend to the other party a video. He is not doing it in consideration for the loan of the lawnmower. There happen to be two separate transactions, one of which is initiated quite independently of the other. So we are left with the real, live world that my noble friend envisages, of the gentleman on the other side of the fence who says, "You have the loan for half an hour of a lawnmower, provided"—he being an acquisitive person—"I have the loan for one hour of a video". And I repeat that the video is unclassified. If this is the real world that my noble friend envisages, after all the experience that he has had, to which I pay tribute, I would say only this to him: that this Bill is much more real than is his imagination.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Mishcon has criticised my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby for giving unreal examples. Recently I happened, in the real world, to be with some people who, for the most part, were young. One of them said, "Can I borrow your video?" The other one said, "Yes, you can borrow it if you give me a lift home". I should have thought that that was one transaction which was real. My noble friend Lord Mishcon cannot sweep away the examples of my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby. I have not spoken before on the Bill, but I have read carefully the stages upon it. I do not wish to use any superlatives—I reserve those for other Bills—but I would say that some of the arguments my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby has advanced to your Lordships have, on occasion, been swept aside somewhat summarily. I apprehend that what my noble friend Lord Mishcon said about lawnmowers is absolutely right. I follow him through in thinking that it was not one transaction. But there are many occasions when a simple transaction between ordinary people could easily be one transaction made for reward, as that is normally understood in law. That, surely, is right and is in the real world.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Alport)

My Lords, before I put the amendment to your Lordships, perhaps I should draw attention to a mistake that I made earlier in not calling for voices when I put the Third Reading. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me for my mistake and accept that we did, retrospectively, accept that this Bill be now read a third time.

On Question, amendment negatived.

Clause 2 [Exempted works]:

6.56 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 2: Page 2. line 9, leave out ("human sexual activity or").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I wish also to speak to Amendment No. 3. Amendment No. 3: Page 2, line 10, leave out ("such") and insert ("human sexual").

I suppose that this is the last opportunity I shall have to express my very strong feelings, of which I am sure many of your Lordships are aware, about this, to my mind, extremely undesirable, unnecessary and restrictive extension of the scope of the Bill.

The origins of the Bill lay in perfectly properly discussed video nasties. The research which was carried out by the parliamentary group concentrated entirely, I understand, on video nasties. The whole emphasis of the Bill was upon the classification of video nasties and preventing them from being shown to children. With all of those objectives both I and my noble friends Lord Houghton of Sowerby and Lord Jenkins of Putney, as well as others who have taken part in these debates, concur. What I cannot accept is that we should go from there to including in the scope of the Bill human sexual activity.

Human sexual activity is of a different type from video nasties. Video nasties are unpleasant things which certainly ought not to be shown to children. But human sexual activity is not unpleasant, and under certain circumstances it is not an unpleasant activity to be portrayed in works of art, whether those works of art be paintings, sculpture, books, films, or videos, which are only films that are accessible in a different form.

I make this last plea, although I know that there is a strong majority against it: will somebody in this House please recognise that there is a qualitative difference between human sexual activity and the other activities which are covered by the Bill? And will somebody please stand up and say that it ought not to be treated in the same way; that people ought not to be deprived of the representation of human sexual activity in video form any more than they should be deprived of its representation in the form of books, which noble Lords may have on their bookshelves, or of sculptures which one may see in the Uffizi Gallery or anywhere else in the civilised world, or of paintings which throughout the ages have portrayed human sexual activity? There is no qualitative difference between the representation of human sexual activity in those media and its representation in film and on video. It ought not to be in this Bill. I had to say it, and I have said it.

Lord Ardwick

My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend has ever seen a sex film. There are sex films which portray wholly human activities but which are pure pornography. I went to see one once in either Denmark or Holland, and I was absolutely amazed. There was nothing of film art in it. There was nothing but the depiction of the most curious forms of human sexual relationships, which were pornographic by any standards. They bore no relation at all to anything one can see in the Uffizi Gallery.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, I must thank the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, for putting a very cogent point. I feel a certain sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, because I understand what he is driving at. I understand his point that there is a difference in kind between normal sexual relationships and these other matters mentioned in subsection (2). It seems that what offends the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is that normal human sexual relationships should be included in this category together with abnormal sexual relationships, as if to do so were an offence against loving human relationships. We are not talking about that. We are talking about what is put on a tape for entertainment, and that is to what this particular subsection relates.

As has been explained several times before, Clause 2(1) sets out the three major categories which will be exempted. Their exemption will be qualified by subsection (2) if they contain matter of that kind. That still does not mean that they will not be classified. It means that the manufacturer of a video work of this kind will be under an obligation to submit his work to the classifying authority—the British Board of Film Censors—because he is warned that if he has material containing scenes of normal human sexual activity then he must, to protect himself, submit his material to the classifying authority to ensure that it is properly classified.

The practical point that has just been made by the noble Lord. Lord Ardwick, is surely one that all noble Lords and noble Baronesses can well understand. There are what may be called "blue" pictures showing men and women copulating together, but they are far from being works of art such as those to which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has referred; they are disgusting. It is a matter of taste as to how such material is presented as to whether it will be classified at all; whether it will be declared obscene; or, if it is classified, into which classification it will fall.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, should not feel offended, because the normal human relationship of sex between a man and a woman—which he rightly says can be and is the glory of married life—simply does not come into it. Unless we included this particular category in the subsection, we would be opening a door through which professional pornographers could pour with their particular wares, which would then be sold at a high profit in order to corrupt, especially the young. That is what this classification scheme is about; it is to try to sift the good from the bad and the acceptable from the unacceptable.

It is no more than that. This particular subsection is for clarity. All it means is that the manufacturer is warned that if he has material of a certain kind in his video works then he should submit it to the classifying authority to ensure that it is put into the proper classification. It still remains for the classifying authority to classify the material. The noble Lord should feel consoled by what I have said. I can assure him that we are not going to lose any great works of art in this way. All we shall do is protect the public from something that is unacceptable.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, the noble Lord's charm and sweet reason is so persuasive that for a moment I almost lost sight of my noble friend's objection. Thinking this over, I believe there is substance in my noble friend's view. Placing ordinary sexual activity into one group together with the mutilation and torture of humans and animals, and urinary and excretory functions, as being all of a kind, is, I quite understand, offensive to him. I should like to assure him that he is not alone in feeling that offence. There is a widespread feeling that to include all those activities together in a single category is somehow wrong.

As the noble Lord has pointed out, we are dealing here with an exempted category. We are saying that we are exempting some of the exemptions, as it were. We are saying that material which would normally be exempted shall nonetheless not be exempted if it does these things, and shall then have to go for classification. The noble Lord is persuasive in that respect, but when he says that this would open the doors to the pornographers he is rather less persuasive. We seem to have forgotten the fact that, to begin with, material will only be exempted if it were designed "to inform, educate or instruct". It seems to me highly improbable that the kind of pornography which worries the noble Lord will pass the stoppage that exists in Clause 2(1), let alone arrive satisfactorily in Clause 2(2).

I find myself still rather worried by the inclusion of all these activities in a single category. I understand why it is done, but I am not at all happy about it. Some way ought to be discovered of not putting in a single category that material which is generally recognised as being undesirable together with that material which depicts an activity which I believe is practised by all of us—at least, I hope by most of us.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, it has been one of the features of our debates that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, and the noble Lord the Minister have been in complete harmony throughout, while on this side my noble friend and I have been in almost constant conflict with our own Front Bench. I am glad that I never deposited my conscience with the Labour Party; it is far too precious for that.

I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, brought out the full import of the combination of subsections (1) and (2), because my noble friend (I am still friendly) Lord Ardwick seemed to convey the impression that he was talking of human sexual activity anywhere and any time, not connected with the rather restricted categories enumerated in subsection (1), which can come in the exempt class. In an earlier debate, I wondered in what circumstances human sexual activity would form part of a religious film or a musical film, although one could perhaps conceive it as a possible item in a sporting film. As my noble friend Lord Jenkins pointed out a moment ago, to come within subsection (2) at all the video has to satisfy the conditions of (a), (b) or (c) in subsection (1). That is the first condition it must satisfy, and it must he a genuine film to inform, instruct or educate. It is only if it satisfies that condition that the manufacturer may take any risks with the contents of the film.

The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, says that it does not mean to say the film under one of the paragraphs of subsection (1) would necessarily fail to get a classification if it contained portrayal of human sexual activity. What he said was that that portrayal of human sexual activity would have to go to the censor to see whether he liked the look of it, and if he did not he would say, "We are not having it as part of the exemption given to the film that you have submitted for our consideration. You must either make the human sexual activity more acceptable to us or you must cut it out altogether", or something—I do not know what censors do. They sometimes say that something must be cut and I am wondering what might he cut in a case like this.

I am sure that a humorous book could be written about this, and probably one day it will be; but for the moment we have to be serious, notwithstanding the difficulties. Human sexual activity does not deserve to be put in this category. It is a strange ambivalence that we all have on this question of human sexual activity. I will not enlarge on it. We are in the final stages of the Bill and there is probably no flexibility and no open minds left on either side of your Lordships' House. In that case one might as well go outside and blow it into the wind. Nevertheless, some of us feel that we have to do something on this Bill at the very last moment, and my noble friend has turned up in time. Having listened to him, I warm to the subject and therefore I have offered these few comments for the benefit of your Lordships.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, my noble friend's comments are always welcome and he knows it, even if on some occasions they are extended in time.

I feel that one ought not to finish the discussion here because it could be very misleading. If my noble friend Lord Jenkins—putting his individual view as I put mine—is concerned about the juxtaposition of human sexual activity and acts of force or restraint associated with such activity, I have an idea that if one had an A for human sexual activity, or a B for acts of force or restraint associated with such human activity, and B to C and C to D, there would be no difficulty whatsoever, and his point would be met. Nobody has mentioned this aspect.

Most of us in this House have grandchildren and may be thinking of the age group of which I am thinking in this connection. As a grandparent—and I know that this applies to my children as parents—I should like to have some guidance before purchasing a video film and allowing a grandchild of eight, nine or 10 to see that without knowing beforehand that it did have on it—artistically it may be, graphically it may be. wrongly it may be—the depiction of human sexual activity, and all that this Bill does is to see that a classification is given. In the case cited by my noble friend Lord McIntosh I am absolutely sure that such a case would be suitably categorised and most likely would be seen by those over 16 or whatever the age may be.

Next, it is argued: what is the situation regarding those who would obviously know that that is not designed to inform, educate or instruct? I happened to have been a member of the Wolfenden Committee. The Wolfenden Committee had to consider, as your Lordships may remember, not only homosexual offences but also prostitution, and we had to become a little versed in an industry with which some of us claimed to have no knowledge at all. If you only knew what we found out of the people who wished to "instruct" in French as we wandered along Curzon Street and who offered that "instruction" in the windows of Curzon Street! Your Lordships will know that there is often a claim to instruct which is not genuine. I can assure your Lordships—and some members of the committee made the experiment—they did not find a tutor in French when they entered that establishment.

7.15 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

My Lords, I wonder whether I can briefly respond in precise terms to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. I hope that this will satisfy him as to the way in which the amendment would be objectionable and how it is incongruent to the Bill. There are two main objections in principle. The first is that if the amendment were accepted pornographers would be able to take advantage of exemptions by marketing a video purporting to be, say (as the noble Lord has said), a sex education programme or a current affairs programme on striptease practices, provided they did not depict to a significant extent the human genital organs. Secondly, it would exempt certain bona fide material which was unsuitable for children: for example, a marriage guidance video which depicted straight sex might be unsuitable for children and could be freely provided to children if the amendment were accepted.

This brings me to a rather important theme which was introduced by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, and echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby—and I would not want either of them to think that I or others of your Lordships were turning a blind eye to it. It is certainly the case that human love expressed by sexual activity is a central, essential, and very often a beautiful part of the human experience and necessary to the continuation of the human race. It is important therefore that children should appreciate it as it is. and a function of the Bill is not merely to prevent them or anybody else seeing a video "nasty" that is so disgusting and unpleasant that it ought not to be seen; it is also to enable the purchaser of the video to know whether the video which he is purchasing actually bears on this subject in a way which may affect a child. In other words, it is something on which guidance may be needed. The purpose of the Bill therefore is not merely to exclude some—the most exteme—but to label or identify the rest. The noble Lord will forgive me if I put him in the position of a purchaser and say:

Human sex is not always nice; At times it encompasses vice. The buyer should know When it does do so Before he has shelled out the price.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords. I believe that there have been three themes in this debate, and one of them can be disposed of very readily. That is the argument of my noble friend Lord Ardwick. He is concerned about pornography. I believe it might be accepted that some of us have different views about pornography. I am not personally opposed to pornography although I respect his right to be opposed to it. If he is concerned about pornography, there is the Obscene Publications Act. There are perfectly good ways of dealing with pornography in this country in all media. The reason why the Bill includes these elements is rather straightforward.

Lord Ardwick

My Lords. may I correct my noble friend? I was not opposing pornography. I was simply saying that human sexual activity can be pornographic—can be.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

That, my Lords, is a statement of fact with which nobody could disagree. Those who seek by legislation to increase the restrictions on pornography do so not because there is no legislation; the Obscene Publications Acts are there. The fact is, our fellow citizens sitting as jurors have consistently said that they do not find certain kinds of pornography deprave and corrupt; which, I presume, is supposed to be the danger of pornography. It is because our legislators are out of touch with ordinary people who sit on juries that we have this attempt to bring human sexual activity into a Bill which is supposed to be about something else.

The second issue in this debate is whether it is a matter of classification or a matter of guidance to parents as to what to bring home and what should be shown to children. The reason I feel so strongly about this particular phrase in the Bill is that, once one has acceded to that and introduced prior censorship for human sexual activity on videos, what is to stop the same argument being used for films, theatre, books, works of art and for sculpture?

Books are brought in to the home. When I was a child under the age of 10 I was reading my father's copy of the works of Petronius, and other books, because I thought they were sexually exciting. Why, if we do this for videos, should we not start censoring our own book shelves and the book shelves in homes with children? The argument is extremely dangerous. One starts to introduce pre-censorship rather than use the provisions of the Obscene Publications Act which provide for a jury of 12 persons to say whether something has a tendency to deprave or corrupt. Once you start you are on the slippery slope.

I very well appreciate that I am in a very small minority on this matter. I appreciate that a number of noble Lords, from their expressions apart from anything else, feel very strongly that what I am saying is wrong. I cannot withdraw the amendment but I will yield to a cry of "Not-Content" if I have to.

On Question, amendment negatived.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved. ]

7.22 p.m.

Clause 3 [Exempted supplies]:

Lord Howard of Henderskelfe moved Amendment No. 4: Page 4, line 19, after ("the") insert ("relevant").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 4 I shall, perforce, have to refer, with the leave of the House, to a large number of other amendments because they nearly all hang together. These are Amendments Nos. 5 to 17, and Amendments Nos. 26, 28 and 29.

Amendment No. 5: Page 5, line 3, after ("responsible") insert ("in relation to each of the classes of video work mentioned in subsection (1A) below").

Amendment No. 6: Page 5, line 6, after ("works") insert ("of that class").

Amendment No. 7: Page 5. line 22, at end insert— ("(1A") The classes of video work referred to in subsection (1) above are—

  1. (a) video works other than those mentioned in paragraphs (b) and(c)below;
  2. (b) video works of the kind described in paragraph (c) of subsection (2) below:
  3. (c)video works of the kind described in paragraph (d) of that subsection.")

Amendment No. 8: Page 5, line 26, leave out ("and").

Amendment No. 9: Page 5, line 29, at end insert— ("(c) to designate the British Broadcasting Corporation as the authority responsible for making those arrangements in relation to video works of the following class, namely those consisting exclusively of material comprised in one or more television broadcasts made by the British Broadcasting Corporation where the broadcast was of an event or occasion occurring simultaneously with the broadcast or was made by broadcasting material comprised in a cinematograph film of which the maker was, or the making of which was commissioned by, the British Broadcasting Corporation, (d)to designate the Independent Broadcasting Authority as the authority responsible for making those arrangements in relation to video works of the following class, namely those consisting exclusively of material comprised in one or more television broadcasts made by the Independent Broadcasting Authority where the broadcast was of an event or occasion occurring simultaneously with the broadcast or was made by broadcasting material comprised in a cinematograph film of which the maker was, or the making of which was commissioned by, the Independent Broadcasting Authority, the subsidiary formed by them for the purpose described in section 12(2) of the Broadcasting Act 1981, the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority or any person entitled under a contract with the Independent Broadcasting Authority to provide television programmes to be broadcast by them, and (e)to require each person designated as the authority responsible for making those arrangements to consult with every other such person as often as may appear to the Secretary of State to be appropriate with a view to establishing, so far as circumstances permit, uniform criteria for the making of determinations for the purposes of this Act. ( ) In subsection (2) above "television broadcast" and "cinematograph film" have the same meaning as in the Copyright Act 1956; a cinematograph film shall be taken to include the sounds embodied in any sound-track associated with the film; "the maker", in relation to a cinamatograph film, means the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the making of the film are undertaken and "material" includes any series or sequence of visual images (with or without sound).").

Amendment No. 10: Page 6, line 4, after ("the") insert ("relevant").

Amendment No. 11: Page 6, line 11, after ("classes") insert ("types").

Amendment No. 12: Page 6, line 14, after ("the") insert ("relevant"):

Amendment No. 13: Page 6, line 17, at end insert ("in relation to the class of video work to which the transaction relates").

Amendment No. 14: Clause 6, page 6, line 39, after ("authority") insert ("in relation to each class of video work").

Amendment No. 15: Clause 6, page 7, line 1, after ("Act") insert ("in relation to video works of that class").

Amendment No. 16: Clause 6, page 7, line 2, leave out ("the") and insert ("that").

Amendment No. 17: Clause 7, page 7, line 10, after ("the") insert ("relevant").

Amendment No. 26: Clause 19, page 13, line 37, after ("the") insert ("relevant").

Amendment No. 28: Clause 19, page 14, line 25, after ("the") insert ("relevant").

Amendment No. 29: Clause 20, page 15, line 29, column 2, after ("the") insert ("relevant")

I think it will be for the convenience of the House, as well as for the quicker dispatch of our business, if I make only one speech to cover all these amendments, rather than refer to each individually.

First of all. may I say a word about the Marshalled List which greets us today looking somewhat different from the usual Marshalled List. I understand there have been a few hiccoughs in certain quarters which have prevented us from getting the Marshalled List in its usual form. That has resulted in the omission of certain names from attachment to my amendments. I will let noble Lords refer to this themselves when they speak but it does not mean that they disapprove of my amendments and have removed their names from them.

The significance of the word "relevant" in Amendment No. 4 will become apparent as we go along. I shall not delay the House by repeating at length the arguments which I used at an earlier stage in relation to the way in which the BBC and the IBA control the material which emanates from their transmitters. I think I gave a fairly long explanation of what is a little understood process and perhaps we can take that as read on this occasion.

In common with every member of this House, I am bitterly opposed to the real video nasties. I am as much opposed to them as anyone else. I do not think it is suggested by anyone that the BBC or IBA have themselves commissioned or made video nasties. That they have shown, on occasions, films made by other people which have not been entirely proper and which have been called video nasties is an entirely different matter. The principle, however, remains the same; that broadcasters should retain control and be responsible for the material which they themselves originate.

On this occasion, however, I have adopted a completely different approach from that which I adopted on previous occasions. Previously we asked for exemption for material made by the BBC and IBA companies and the various subsidiaries attached to them. On this occasion we are not asking for any form of exemption, except the exemption which already appears on the face of the Bill for certain categories of video material.

I have been fully persuaded that the process of certification is entirely necessary for the protection not only of children, but of those who sell or hire videos—shopkeepers and the like—and also the purchasers of these videos—parents and others. I must be one of the only Life Peers in this House who is not a grandfather, and so I do not have the protection of my grandchildren to consider. Nevertheless, I should like to know what categories these cassettes fall in if I happen to wish to purchase or hire one of them. Therefore, certification seems to be a process which helps everyone. It is not a process to which I object. It is censorship, of course, but we have had censorship for years on films.

Whether the right body to censor is the British Board of Film Censors is another matter entirely. What people see when they purchase or rent a video is the equivalent of a broadcast programme in their own home. Whether it be a nasty or not, it is still equivalent to watching a programme in their own home as broadcast over the television aerials. It is not like going to a cinema, where one has to make a special effort to go out. You see it in common with a great many other people other than your own family, and so on. It is a different matter. That is one of the reasons why we believe that the correct people to censor this material, to classify it and say whether it is suitable for certain age groups, are those who originated this material.

There is another point I wish to emphasise at this stage and early on in what we are discussing. The powers to be given to the Home Secretary are permissive or enabling rather than mandatory. They allow him to do certain things but do not in any way compel him to do so. If every one of these amendments was accepted the Home Secretary, if he chose, need not do anything. He could still proceed to designate the British Board of Film Censors as the only body which he would allow to classify video cassettes.

This is a very important point because it depends on how things develop as to whether or not he made that decision. But to allow a Bill to emerge from this House, which prides itself on getting Bills as good as they can be, without such a power—believe me, he would not have such a power if we did not do something about it—seems to me to be something about which we ought to think very seriously. How are we to achieve this? How do my amendments seek to achieve this? I will speak as briefly as I can but there are many of them and they deserve a word of explanation.

They are intended to implement the principle to which I have already referred—that broadcasters should be self-regulating in relation to video works consisting of programmes broadcast by them where they are the originators of the programmes. This will result in a very great proportion of their material having to go for classification or certification to the BBFC only because they are not the originators of the programmes. In other words, they are not the people who originally made them. It will also mean that if by any chance in the future the BBC, the IBA, or the companies decide in their commercial wisdom that they should make video cassettes and have not broadcast the material previously, that material will have to go through the BBFC in the ordinary way.

Because there has been some misapprehension about this question, I should also tell your Lordships that so far as I am aware, having done a certain amount of checking on it, no IBA-originated programme and no BBC-originated programme has ever been shown as a film in the cinema. Therefore there would not be this back door which some people have suggested would be available for material. It is far more likely that any cassettes which the BBC, the IBA, or the companies put out would be of films of material which they had already broadcast.

As I have already hinted, the amendments propose that the power of the Secretary of State under this clause should be extended to permit him to designate the BBC on the one hand and the IBA on the other as the authority responsible for making the necessary determinations of classifications in relation to video works of this kind. In our amendments we introduce a new subsection (Amendment No. 7) which divides video works into three separate classes. There are those described in the new Clause 4(2)(c)(Amendment No. 9) which, very broadly speaking. consist of BBC programmes. There are those described in the new Clause 4(2)(d), which, again broadly speaking, are those broadcast by the IBA and originated by one of the various ITV companies. Then there is a residual category which in practice, as I have said earlier, will probably be the principal category, which consists of all the video works other than those which we have just described. It will consist of films such as "Dallas", made for television, films such as "Scum", not made for television, and a whole host of other kinds of works which have been bought in.

Then, as I say, the classes having been established, the powers of the Secretary of State will be extended to permit him to make his designation in relation to each of the three classes, and this is the effect of Amendments Nos. 5 and 6. As I said before, that is not compulsory, but is something which can be done at any time. Again, the pattern of permitting, rather than requiring, is followed. It is a declaration that the Secretary of State's powers include the power to make these designations. It does not commit him to do so; it creates a framework within which self-regulation is possible.

There has been some difficulty in defining in the language of legislation the broad concept of broadcast programmes which have been originated by the broadcasters. This is particularly difficult where you do not have the assistance of parliamentary draughtsmen. The amendments are therefore somewhat technical. It had originally been proposed that it should relate to copyright. We found certain difficulties in copyright ownership being a proper way of defining it, partly because different copyrights are owned by different people and partly because they can be transferred between one person and another. So the amendments have relied upon the tests established by the Copyright Act 1956 for the first ownership of copyright in a film.

I am sorry if I sound a little technical at this stage, but I think it is essential to explain what are the underlying features of these amendments. The maker is defined as the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the making of the film are undertaken. This amendment adopts that definition, as well as others derived from the earlier Act, in specifying that the films which will qualify for classification (if at all) by the broadcasters are those of which the broadcaster is the maker. As I said earlier, they will also have had to have been broadcast by either the BBC or the IBA, which reflects the principle to which I previously referred.

One objection that has been raised is that if there were more than one authority, different criteria might be applied b.), them in making determinations in relation to a particular class of video work. To some extent different criteria may be necessary if the material is different. However, to avoid having these kind of problems the amendment proposes that the Secretary of State's power of designation under Clause 4(1) should include, pursuant to new Clause 4(2)(e), the power to require each person designated as the authority responsible for making the arrangements for determination in relation to a particular class of video work, to consult the others as often as may appear to be appropriate, with a view to establishing, as far as can be done, common or uniformed criteria for the determination. Again, we adopt the principle that these powers should be permissive and not compulsory on the Home Secretary.

I think all the other amendments which we have are consequential upon those described above, though perhaps I shall say a brief word on Amendment No. 11. Having introduced the notion of different classes of video work for the purposes of Clause 4(1), it seemed appropriate in the Bill to avoid referring to classes in any other context or to convey any other meaning. However, we ran into a problem here. There was already one reference to classes of video works in Clause 4(6) which permits the Secretary of State to approve tariffs for fees for different classes of video works under different circumstances. That reference was quite obviously intended to convey the idea of a type or kind of video work. So we have in effect substituted "type" for "class", since the two words appear in this context to be interchangeable. We have retained the reference to clauses. It seems not inappropriate that the Secretary of State should have the power to approve different tariffs in relation to the different class of video work that these amendments propose to establish.

I know that I have already spoken for some considerable time. If I may sum up, these clauses which I am seeking to write into the Bill are permissive. They are not mandatory. They leave the power to the broadcasters to determine how cassettes should be classified if those cassettes are of material which has been originated by the broadcasters and has already been broadcast by them. They preserve the distinction between going out to a cinema and watching a cassette at home. Perhaps I should again reiterate that the BBC has never made, and I do not think ever will make—I cannot see any circumstances in which it would make—a video nasty. I do not believe that in a Private Member's Bill your Lordships should be concerning yourselves with the classification of material by another body, which would disturb the whole relationship between broadcasting and the state—broadcasting which has resulted over the years (I have said this before, and I do not hesitate to say it again) in the best TV in the world. I beg to move.

7.40 p.m.

Lord Buxton of Alsa

My Lords, with the consent of my noble friend the Minister, I am following the noble Lord, Lord Howard, because my name should in fact be on the amendment. It was on the single sheet yesterday, but I have somehow disappeared without trace in the Marshalled List. I should also declare an interest as chairman of ITN and a director of Anglia Television.

Having spoken four times on this subject I do not need to add anything, and certainly I do not need to repeat what I said before. The amendment has been very carefully, clearly and concisely explained by the noble Lord, Lord Howard. I do, however, still differ from him in one respect, and I should like to have it on the record. I still consider, in spite of all that has been said on the four occasions that I have spoken, that the output originated by the BBC and the IBA should in fact be exempt. This Bill, hastily prepared to meet an emergency, which I entirely support, was conceived to control video nasties. Since it is impossible under the charter and under the Broadcasting Act for either service to produce video nasties, it seems to me an infringement and an impingement on their traditional integrity and independence for them to be dragged into this Bill at all.

But since the Government—and I have to respect them and use the word—have been utterly obdurate on that point, this amendment is the next best thing. As the noble Lord, Lord Howard, said, it would enable the Home Secretary, or a Home Secretary in the future, if the truth ever dawns, eventually to achieve exemption by enabling him to designate the BBC and the IBA as the agents to classify their own material. That would certainly satisfy me in the long run. It would thus keep them clear—and this is the point that I keep coming back to—whether it is 10 years ahead, 20 years ahead, or whenever, of any conceivable influence in the future by any outside quango or second tier of bureaucracy which could be subject to government or other influence. In spite of everything that has been said, I still remain convinced that it is possible and conceivable that some sort of censorship or control could develop.

A small point that I should like to mention for the record is that it was implied in an article in The Times on Friday that the noble Lord, Lord Howard, and myself were consistently pressing this subject concerning the broadcasting services perhaps to delay the Bill and to cause difficulty when it goes back to another place. I feel sure that my noble friend the Minister would refute the fact that that could possibly be true. It would imply, contrary to all the great traditions of your Lordships' House, that we must not interfere with bad legislation so that bad legislation can get through when it goes back to another place. We remain utterly convinced about the wisdom of what we are trying to persuade the Government and your Lordships about.

Finally, may I express the hope that no Government will ever again allow a hastily prepared Private Member's Bill, albeit entirely justified to meet an emergency, to impinge upon and tamper with the public broadcasting services—and I think that this is quite right affecting anything so sacred as the independence of our services—without, first, a Government White Paper, carefully prepared over a great deal of time, and allowing many months, and perhaps more, for public debate to consider the whole issue and what it implies; and, finally, a Government Bill, carefully conceived and making it quite clear what the implications and effects are on the broadcasting services. In my view it is totally inappropriate, and, frankly, unacceptable, that a Private Member's Bill should intrude, as an ill-conceived side effect, into the proper and traditional practices of the BBC and IBA. That is how I still see things at present. I therefore hope and pray that my noble friend the Minister will have a great deal to say to reassure us on that point today.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, there are two matters on which I at once want to express my sympathy with the two noble Lords who have already spoken in support of this amendment. I shall not repeat speeches that I made before. They may not even have been acceptable in their original form, and they would become far less acceptable if repeated. But I did say, and I repeat shortly now, that I have the greatest of sympathy with those who say that the matters dealt with in this Bill are of such consequence that in a proper way they should have formed a Government Bill, which we could have properly discussed without the threat of the Bill being lost if we introduced anything like a major amendment. I have the utmost sympathy with that point of view, and I say so at once.

Secondly, I think it is absolutely right that your Lordships—otherwise, you would not be doing your duty. if I may say so humbly—are considering the question of the BBC and the IBA, and doing so in some depth. I have the greatest sympathy with that, and I am very glad that we shall have had those discussions before this Bill moves on apace.

Having said that, I say that I have looked with the greatest of care at the amendments, and I deal with them in this way. It is foolhardy to think that if you put into an Act of Parliament extensive permissive powers for the Secretary of State you will not produce a situation where the Secretary of State will be nagged (if that is the correct term) as to why it is that he has not exercised the powers which have been given to him. That is obviously a situation that we have to contend with. Therefore, we would have to be satisfied beyond a peradventure that we were giving correct powers to the Secretary of State which he would be pressed to exercise.

To me, the issue here is a very simple one. It was expressed at previous stages of the Bill. We have as responsible an authority as the BBC, respected throughout the land, respected, indeed, throughout the world, and certainly respected, I am perfectly sure, by all responsible Ministers, and certainly by all spokesmen for the Opposition. We equally have the IBA as a much respected authority, bound and limited in its powers by Acts of Parliament and behaving with the greatest of responsibility. We have a third authority, the British Board of Film Censors, which we know will be the designated authority. It is a matter of complete amazement to me that the opportunity has not been taken, as I indicated previously, for those three bodies, with the assistance of the Home Office, to get together to use the powers contained in this Bill, which are as follows.

Under Clause 7 of the Bill the designated authority is enabled to make arrangements for classification. It has not itself to classify. The words "make arrangements" are in the Bill. I find it impossible to believe that the three responsible authorities, with the guidance of the Home Office, could not get together while this Bill was going through its various stages to see that a plan was made for arrangements for classification by the BBC and IBA of certain types of video, which classification would be on the same lines as the BBFC intends to use under this Bill, and that in respect of certain classes of video those classifications would not be accepted by the designated authority as though they were its own classification.

If they have not done it, they are to blame and not your Lordships. And if they have not done it by Third Reading then we had better get on with the Bill and ask them—I do not say this offensively—to be grown-up people and to get round a table and arrange it as soon as possible after this Bill is on the statute book. But in my humble submission it is not possible for your Lordships to agree these amendments in this way, in a manner which quite obviously will not be carried in another place. In my judgment it would mean merely—we have been faced with that throughout—that this Bill will not become law and the whole of the effort that so many of us have made will be rendered abortive.

Lord Aylestone

My Lords, during the Second Reading of this Bill, which now seems to have been a very long time ago, I was unwise enough to believe—I now know, wrongly—that the system that had obtained for many years whereby the BBC and the independent television companies under the IBA were responsible for their own programmes no longer completely—I say "completely" —exists.

Government after Government have come to the Box in this House and in the other place, time and time again, with the argument, "The Government are not responsible for the content of these programmes; it is a matter for the authorities". To some extent, that responsibility is being taken away. I can see the need for some sort of unification in the method of classification of videos. I can see the need for the videos that are to be sold in the open market place, that are not being transmitted, to be classified completely, even if they were made by a subsidiary of the IBA or of the BBC. But I find it very difficult, under a Private Member's Bill, to agree, as we shall have to, to take away from the IBA and the BBC the full powers that they have had for many years over the control of their programmes.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I regret that my noble friend on the Front Bench felt it necessary to intervene in the manner that he did. I appreciate entirely that he would not have done it unless he had felt it to be necessary. But it seems to me to be unfortunate that he did so.

I should have thought that what we are seeing here is something the Government will be moved to accept, because it seems to me to be the right and proper solution to the problem, in so far as there is a right and proper solution to the problem. We are faced with a Bill which, quite frankly, is not a right and proper Bill. We ought not to be in the situation we are in, but since we are in it, what is the best thing we can do? It seems to me that the best thing we can do, in order to avoid seriously damaging our two corporations, which we all respect, is to create a position in which the Home Secretary can be pressurised. The consequence of pressure upon the Home Secretary will be that the parties will get together, will evolve. Therefore, this pressure which my noble friend seeks to prevent is a desirable thing. It is desirable that the Government shall open up the Home Secretary to the possibility of seeing reason on the question.

I am sure that The Times would disagree with me. Those of us who have sought to examine this Bill in some detail have been chastised as being (what was it?) incontinent and repetitious because we wanted to do so. The speeches which have just been made and the amendment which is now before us show exactly why it was proper and right to examine the Bill in some detail. We have not yet seen the end of the consequences of this Bill; we have been seeing just the start of what the consequences of this Bill might be. That is why it was necessary to look at it in some detail.

A few weeks before that The Times urged delay, very careful examination and no hurrying in respect of a Bill which sought to prevent glue sniffing. Now it says that although it is possible that some children might be injured in some way by this Bill, nevertheless this Bill must be hurried on to the statute book. This is a very peculiar thing, because what The Times seems to be saying is that it is all right for children to be killed but we have to be careful they are not corrupted. Of course, there is a good ecclesiastical precedent for this. At the same time, it is something rather odd to find today in the columns of The Times.

I am afraid I have been led astray and away from the amendment. Therefore, I will bring to a close what I want to say by expressing the hope—the not entirely unconfident hope—that the mover of the Bill and the Government will both see the force of the arguments that have been put forward this evening and will say, not necessarily that they accept the clause as it is—I hope they will do that; I see no reason why they should not, because, as I say, I think it is entirely proper—but something that will enable us to go away from the proceedings this evening in a happier frame of mind than I shall leave with if the House receives an entirely negative response from the Government and from the mover of the Bill.

7.56 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I will do what I can to make your Lordships happy. I readily acknowledge that these amendments are different from those which were tabled at earlier stages. The principal difference is that they are permissive. Their purpose is to empower the Secretary of State to designate the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Independent Broadcasting Authority to classify works comprising certain material which has been broadcast: that is, material which either was broadcast live or which the broadcasting authorities made or commissioned. Thereby, they make provision for the BBC and the IBA, in effect, to classify their own material. No doubt they would operate in much the same way as the British Board of Film Censors. And the criminal sanctions in the Bill would apply in the same way.

However, the question is whether the Bill would be improved if these amendments were to be accepted. The noble Lord, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, very competently, if I may say so, condensed his proposals, and in so doing explained the concerns which have prompted him and those who support him to table this amendment. Essentially, they are concerned about possible long-term implications for broadcasting if the BBFC were to classify material put out by the broadcasting authorities. We listen with great respect and great care to the views of those who have served with the broadcasting authorities in such eminent positions as, for instance, the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, himself, my noble friend Lord Buxton and the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone.

The nub of the noble Lord's concern was brought out more fully at an earlier stage. The noble Lord, considerately, did not repeat the whole of his theme, but it was that a designated authority other than the broadcasting authorities themselves might impose upon their video product standards which differed from those which they themselves wished to observe in their broadcast product. He felt that the effect of this, indirectly but unavoidably, might be to impose the same standards on either the scheduling or the material of their broadcasts, and that this would be an intrusion upon their constitutional independence.

That is the first essential point. He elaborated beyond it, and it was echoed in those who followed his speech, certainly in the remarks of my noble friend. I understand that there is also a feeling, not only that this would be unacceptable in itself, but that it could give some future Government an influence over the broadcasting media which on constitutional grounds they ought not to have. I have to say that I find it a little difficult to share the whole of the noble Lord's apprehensions, because I do not myself see that the video activity of either of the authorities is ever going to become so commercially important to it that it will dictate the conduct of its broadcasting activities.

Since we are on constitutional grounds, I doubt if we should forget that it was specifically because of their broadcasting activities and not because of any ancillary commercial activity, that the two broadcasting authorities were given such a carefully protected independence in the first place. I am sure the intention was not to subject them to different requirements, or accord them distinctive treatment in any other field, or give them a discipline that differed in any statutory way from the disciplines of others competing in the same commercial market, other than broadcasting.

However, let me consider for a moment the noble Lord's worst hypothetical case before addressing the rest. Let us imagine that some future puritanical and interventionist government have it in for libertines everywhere, and in Portland Place especially. What protection does the noble Lord's proposal offer the broadcasting authorities then?—none, my Lords. The noble Lord merely invites the present Government voluntarily to avail themselves of permissive powers which any of their successors could as lightly cast aside. If any government wanted to exert over the authorities the pressures which the noble Lord fears, they could do so to exactly the same extent as they could under the Bill as drafted.

Let me assure the noble Lord and my noble friend as well, that I do not take lightly the fears which have been expressed. One cannot take lightly the anxieties expressed so cogently by people with such wide and relevant experience. My noble friend has voiced the same fears as the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, and I think that he may have shown himself more amenable to reassurance, but that remains to be seen. We do have to ask ourselves whether the anxiety at the back of the amendment is a little alarmist. We have to do so because what is proposed is not neutral in its other effects which do not touch the independence of the broadcasting authorities.

If these amendments were to be accepted, and the authorities were to be designated, I believe that the procedures would be made more, rather than less cumbersome and bureaucratic. It would be difficult to ensure that uniform standards were applied across all three authorities. A great deal of time could be taken up in seeking to reach agreement. It is not clear what would happen if agreement were not reached—the removal of a designation would no doubt be judged an inappropriately heavy-handed response. At the same time, if the broadcasters were content to abide by the criteria employed by the BBFC and to conform to them, it is difficult to see how they gained anything by not allowing the BBFC to undertake the classification itself.

Under the amendments, each authority would need to publish an annual report, and it would no doubt be appropriate for each to be represented in the consultative council that it is proposed to establish. Furthermore, the police and the courts would need to approach each authority when it was necessary to ascertain whether a video work alleged to be unclassified had received a classification certificate. I do not want to go into the minutiae because they may seem trivial; but they are important because they are practical. For that reason we have to ask whether all—or indeed part—of the noble Lord's concern is well founded. I have already made it clear that we do not think that it is well founded. But what strikes me with very great force—more force than the advice of my colleagues and officials—is that the other broadcasting authority, the IBA (not the BBC, with which the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, has such a distinguished association) does not wish to be designated under the Bill in the way in which this power would enable the Secretary of State to designate it. So we have to conclude that the protection or privilege which the noble Lord seeks for both of the authorities is not wanted by one of them and that must seriously weaken the appeal of what he has said.

Moreover, as I have said, the proposals would create duplication, uncertainty and expense which we are anxious to avoid. So I cannot offer to support the amendment, but I do not want to leave the noble Lord with nothing; nor do I wish to leave my noble friend with nothing; nor indeed the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone.

If I may recapitulate the events, the noble Lord, Lord Howard, withdrew his amendment at the Report stage on the basis that he was to discuss the matter with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The noble Lord and my noble friend duly met my right honourable friend on 14th June and he was very glad to have the opportunity to discuss the issue with them. My right honourable friend explained that the Government did not favour amendment to the Bill on this issue, but he suggested a possible way forward. This would be that the Government would use their good offices with the British Board of Film Censors to encourage them to establish arrangements with the broadcasting authorities so that. in recognition of the fact that their products have already been approved and broadcast by those well-trusted authorities, they can be classified quickly and appropriately. I can add that he would go further and would include this in the letter accompanying the notice of designation he would propose to send to the principal officers of the BBFC in due course.

In my view that is the best way forward. I am glad to say that in practice the British Board of Film Censors will need little or no encouragement from us. They accept the need for arrangements along the lines that I have suggested. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, will be glad to know that they have already had successful preliminary discussions with the IBA and that they hope to meet the BBC shortly.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, by leave of the House, it is very comforting to know that one individual speaking from this Front Bench individually is agreeing with another and very noble Lord—the Minister—sitting on another Front Bench, but speaking officially.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am grateful for the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, in everything, except that he has undermined the balance of my peroration. because there is little more for me to say.

8.7 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, we have come to a pretty pass—have we not?—when the noble Lord, Lord Howard, and his friends have tried from the Committee stage onwards to meet every conceivable objection that could be raised by the Government or by the sponsors of this Bill to what I should have thought is almost universally accepted to be a necessary provision which they are proposing. They fell foul of the wording of their amendments at the Committee stage and that was recognised. They fell foul again of the wording of their amendments at the Report stage. But we now have an amendment which is so permissive and so conciliatory—if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Howard—that it is virtually impossible to think of any way in which they could go further and still achieve any of their objectives. But the noble Lord, Lord Elton, turns round and says that it is too weak.

It is surely the responsibility of the Government, who also have responsibility for the BBC and the IBA, to have done something more before this stage to help the noble Lords who are moving these amendments at this time. We are now at the Third Reading stage and there will be no other opportunity. The noble Lord the Minister has spoken of a letter which is supposed to reassure noble Lords. I am bound to say that I think that they ought not to find that letter adequately reassuring. Let me take one particular case—that of educational broadcasting.

Educational broadcasting is covered by Clause 2(1) with the exemptions in Clause 2(2). There have been genuine educational broadcasts both by the BBC and the IBA which would have fallen foul of Clause 2(2). The BBC gives to educational bodies the right to copy off air from its own educational broadcasts. The IBA—and the Government ought to have thought of this beforehand—has a licensing agreement for a fee which constitutes "supply" under the Bill. It is only a recent licensing agreement and I speak about it with some knowledge because my wife is responsible for more than half of the IBA's educational output and was responsible also to a considerable extent for the licensing agreement. However, it is a supply because there is a fee being charged for it.

The whole purpose of these licensing agreements is that educational programming should be made available immediately on a private basis for timeshift to make programmes available which were missed, not just to individuals but also to educational groups; and also IBA programmes for which a fee is being charged. They are part of the programmes which have been validated by the Educational Advisory Committee set up by the IBA. The whole intention is that these programmes should be available immediately for repeat in video form because the whole of the educational backup system of educational television requires that. At the end of the day we cannot have the British Board of Film Censors intervening to classify—let alone not to classify—something that has already been broadcast and is intended for repeating to groups. It would destroy the whole way in which educational television works. The Government ought to have thought of this long before now. We ought not to have reached this fifth amending stage of the Bill (there were two stages in another place and three in this House) without those issues having been fully resolved.

It is not good enough for the Secretary of State to write a letter saying that the British Board of Film Censors will be instructed to deal with these rapidly. They must be dealt with immediately, and this can only be done by the BBC and the IBA being, as they would be in this amendment, their own validating and their own classifying bodies. My noble friend Lord Mishcon spoke about a grand getting together of the BBC, the IBA and the British Board of Film Censors; he was perhaps talking about some sort of super-censor. But I do not think that even he recognised, with all his experience, the damage that would be done to educational broadcasting if these amendments were withdrawn or rejected.

Lord Ardwick

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, from his special knowledge could he tell us what percentage of BBC or IBA educational films would require classification?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, of course I cannot, and neither can anybody else. There has never been a classification system. That has been the glory of our public broadcasting.

Lord Ardwick

My Lords, under Clause 2(2) of the Bill the noble Lord cannot say how many?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, of course not.

Lord Ardwick

My Lords, I suggest that it would be insignificant.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, of course I cannot. Not only can I not say, but no one can. The fact of the matter is that undoubtedly there will be some. If there have not been, there will be some in the future which will fall foul of Clause 2(2). It would be quite wrong if there were not to be and if educational broadcasters were to be deprived of the right and the duty, within their remit of informing, educating and instructing, to do what appears proper to them.

The Lord Bishop of Norwich

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, might I just press him to look once again, coolly, at subsection (1)(a) of Clause 2 and subsection (2)(b)? There must surely be very few educational films—and it was not quite clear from what the noble Lord was saying whether or not he meant educational films in relation to schools, which is one of the wide areas of the BBC's work—which would not be non-classifiable under subsection (1) (a) which refers to films and videos: designed to inform, educate or instruct". There must be very few under subsection (2)(b) which would contain: mutilation or torture of, or other acts of gross violence towards, humans or animals". Therefore, a handful of such works might be caught by the classification net and that is one of the gentle purposes of this very narrowly-drawn Bill. I should have thought that the noble Lord had rather overstated the case when there is such a wide use of subsection (1)(a) concerning videos and films: designed to inform, educate and instruct".

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is tempting me to stretch the rules of order at Third Reading. I shall simply say to him that the words of Clause 2 are graven on my heart. I know every one of them. Of course the right reverend Prelate is right to say that schools broadcasting would not under any circumstances come under Clause 2. But what about the Open University? Is the Open University to be debarred from programmes which might show human sexual activity or human genital organs as part of anatomy, psychology or sex education? This is what it would mean if these amendments were to be rejected.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, it is a painful experience to sit here and see men of the distinction, honour and authority of the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, and the noble Lord, Lord Buxton, virtually crawling to the Government to sustain the prestige of the broadcasting authorities which Parliament has created and through which such estimable services have been given in this field.

The truth of the matter is that the Government have got us into this wretched mess through grasping the opportunity of taking a Private Member's Bill as a substitute for their own promise to introduce legislation as a government measure in government time. They are now scared of the possible implications of the timetable for Private Members' Bills in another place, because if this Bill returns to another place and gives rise to any difficulty, it is at risk of falling through lack of time.

This is a situation of the Government's creation, and how stupid they have been to put us in this unnecessary predicament. It is the arrogance of the Government that has brought us to this situation. It is really lowering the dignity of the House that we have to sit here and see authorities like the BBC and the IBA trying to come to terms with this stubborn and frightened Government over the procedural complications of their own making. I, for one, protest most strongly against it. I marvel that there is not more wrath thrown upon the heads of this wretched Government for their incompetence and their arrogance in thrusting a Bill like this upon us and creating a situation of such painful import.

It is a wretched situation. I do not know how it will be overcome. The Government do not want the amendments; the authorities do not want anything but the amendments. They do not want to receive their authority by the grace and favour of the British Board of Film Censors, estimable though it may be. But in Heaven's name why should authorities like these two have to go crawling to the British Board of Film Censors to get their dispensation in order to do a little work on their own behalf in this particular field of classification?

We find ourselves in a disgraceful situation. I do not envy either of the noble Lords who are sponsoring these amendments in deciding what course they should take. But the Government do not deserve to get their Bill if they can not handle the situation better. At least the Government could take more time to do it. There is no sanctity about the timetable of Private Members' Bills—none whatever. Governments that want Bills can get those Bills, and have done so in the past.

When I was in government we decided that no Private Member's Bill which received its Second Reading under its own steam and which concerned a matter of significant public interest and was of public concern, should fall through lack of time. We said that time would be given, and time was given to Private Members' Bills that found themselves in this dilemma. No Private Member's Bill fell under a Labour Government through lack of time, however controversial the matter was.

Here the Government are pleading that they are helpless, or are suggesting that they are helpless, to take over this Bill at this stage and provide time for a Bill that has reached the end of such a lengthy examination in detail. Let us not pretend that they cannot deal with the situation. Goodness me! a government that is run by the arrogance of presidential edict can do something about this if they cannot do anything else.

Lord Howard of Henderskelfe

My Lords. I rise after what I can only describe as a diatribe, to say that although there may be many things on which I disagree with the noble Lord, on this matter I have more than a good deal of sympathy for him. This Bill should never have been a Private Member's Bill; it should have been a Government Bill. With all due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent—and perhaps on this occasion I may be allowed to describe him as my noble friend Lord Nugent because I have known him for many years, although we do not sit on the same Benches—he has piloted this complicated, difficult, problematical Bill with considerable skill through this place. But he has had, it is true, enormous help from the Government in its drafting, and the Government should have taken it over.

It is no good a Government saying, "We are making a rule that a Private Member's Bill shall never, under any circumstances, get extra time in order to go through because the Lords, in their wisdom"—and there is a good deal of wisdom concentrated on these Benches—"have seen fit to amend that Bill". With this Bill the Government ought to have accepted my amendments tonight, and they could then have given extra time in the Commons, if necessary, for the Bill to become law in due course.

Lord Elton

My Lords, will the House permit me to interrupt and will the noble Lord give way? I do not want to enter into an exchange of salvoes on the question of how the Bill should be handled, but it is worth reminding your Lordships that we are addressing ourselves to a particular amendment. At no time have I said that it is the constraints of time that make us take a view of this amendment. If there were all the time in the world, I would spend more time congratulating the noble Lord on the persuasion of his oratory and the painstaking detail of his draftsmanship, but it would not make me take a different view as to the amendment itself. I have, with regret, to take that argument from him.

Lord Howard of Henderskelfe

My Lords, if I seemed to be verging on a Third Reading speech I apologise, but, frankly, the whole of this business has made me very unhappy indeed. We do not seem to have made any progress at all. I have taken the whole of my amendments together, so that we can have a general discussion. It has been a discussion in which, on the whole, there has been more endorsement of what I have had to say and the position I have taken in regard to the amendments I have moved, than there has been opposition to it.

I must answer the points that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, raised from the Front Bench, even though he raised them as an individual. Why on earth could we not have got together earlier and discussed with the IBA and the British Board of Film Censors a sensible solution to our problems? I shall tell him why we could not do that. Not only is the British Board of Film Censors at present not a statutory body; it does not exist. It has no corporate existence. So far as I know, it is not a company, limited or unlimited, or a corporation established in any way known to your Lordships. It is simply a body of men who have come together, without even the rules of a cricket club, to earn out a job which formally belongs to local authorities, who are the people who at the end of the day can say whether or not a film should be shown.

For their own convenience they have handed over that power to an entirely non-statutory, virtually nonexistent, body whose views may or may not be correct, but which nevertheless have no kind of firm backing behind them. That is precisely the reason why we have been unable to get together with them before this stage of the proceedings. I have no doubt that when this Bill becomes law—indeed, possibly before it becomes law, while it is travelling between here and another place—there will be a meeting which will discuss a common means of getting together.

So far as the IBA and its unwillingness to be designated is concerned, I do not purport to speak for the IBA. I should be very wrong to speak for the IBA. Furthermore, the IBA situation is complicated in the extreme by the fact that it does not originate any programmes itself. It depends upon the companies, the subsidiaries in Wales, and the fourth channel to produce programmes which it then transmits. It comes into this matter only because it does the actual transmitting and owns the transmitters. The IBA position is very different from that of the BBC.

I certainly do not intend to draw upon any background knowledge which I may have of these matters, but I am sorry that certain people in the IBA have seen fit to indicate that they do not want to be designated. I am sorry about it, but it is something I can do nothing about. I can speak unofficially for members of the BBC because I have discussed this at great length with them.

We have been made an offer by the noble Lord whose courtesy is always, shall I say, proverbial and who has a knowledge of these matters and an ability to cope at one moment with police questions and at another moment with broadcasting. Heaven knows what other duties he has as well; he certainly has a great many. I do not think he will mind me saying that when I spoke to him on the telephone yesterday morning he said, "Would you mind being very brief? I have 35 amendments to look through before 3 o'clock this afternoon". Noble Lords on the Government Front Bench in this House are under great pressure. I am therefore grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and to the Home Secretary himself, for the time they have devoted to this.

It is perfectly possible that the line indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. will be one which can be pursued at a later stage. I believe that it will be possible to get together and to come to a sensible arrangement. Although I have not mentioned it in my speeches hitherto on this matter, I have always looked upon the word "arrangements" in the Bill itself as it came to us as being the last gun in my locker which I would not fire if I was able to achieve some measure of accord about the amendments themselves. I believe that the single word "arrangements" will enable us to arrive at what I think we all believe is a desirable situation.

I have throughout been deeply concerned regarding the principle about which I have spoken so many times that your Lordships will no doubt be sent to sleep if I mention it yet once more; that is, the independence of broadcasting, to which I attach paramount importance. I have always said that there is far more that unites the broadcasters than divides the IBA and the BBC. Here we have an example of it. I am not going to do something which will be represented —certainly by ill-wishers of this House, and also by many people who do not have the least idea about what we do here and the hard work that we put in—as an attempt to continue to allow video nastier to be sold in the shops.

If it is true, as I believe it to be true, that the Government are so rigid in their attitude about time that this Bill will fail if we put in this amendment, then I can only bow to what is an irresistible force. I do so with the deepest of regret. I do not like dividing the House—except when I am absolutely certain that I am going to win—and I do not propose to divide this House this evening. I accept the offer that the noble Lord has made, and I have no doubt that we shall have further discussions with the bodies concerned to try to work out some viable way of making this Private Member's Bill work. I beg your Lordships' leave to withdraw this amendment, and I do not propose subsequently to move any of the consequential amendments which stand in my name.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 5 to 17 not moved. ]

The Deputy Speaker (Viscount Simon)

My Lords, we now come to Amendment No. 18. I have to inform your Lordships that if Amendment No. 18 is agreed I shall be unable to call Amendments Nos. 19 to 122 inclusive.

Clause 7 [Classification Certificates]:

8.30 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 18:

Page 7, line 13, leave out paragraph (a) and insert— ("(a) a statement that the video work concerned is suitable for general viewing and unrestricted supply; or (aa) the statement mentioned in paragraph (a) above together with a statement as to the particular suitability of the work for viewing by young children; or (aaa) a statement that the video work concerned contains material which may make parental guidance or advice desirable as to the viewing of the work by young children; or").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, has tabled amendments to this clause and they follow on the Marshalled List on page 4. I have incorporated the amendments of the noble Lord in the revised version of my amendment that appears on the Marshalled List. There is only one small change in that I have used the word "advice" in a somewhat different context from that of his own amendments. This amendment divides subsection (2)(a) into three components which those of us who support this amendment think clarify and simplify the requirements that the certificate must contain.

While I am obliged to the noble Lord for introducing the amendment, he will probably say at an appropriate stage why he has felt unable to pull out the concertina of subsection (2)(a) in the manner set out in the amendment I am moving. What is the difficulty about unscrambling the jumble in Clause 7(2)(a)? We have items in brackets and three different and important and separate classifications all brought within one paragraph. This may appear to be only a point of drafting, but I am afraid that in all matters related to this Bill one has to look behind the drafting to see what problems lie behind a suggested simplification of the order given.

I can only say again that so much has been resisted on this Bill which I think is a matter of tactics rather than of merit, as if this Bill must not go back to another place with any amendments except the most innocuous changes that have not borne the imprint of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, and therefore can be recommended to the hardliners down the Corridor who may be laying in wait to savage him.

I cannot understand why this simplification and clarification is not acceptable. If the noble Lord can give me and my noble friends good reasons why his version is better than mine—looking at it from the point of view of what the Bill contains and what it is intended to do—and does not conceal behind that any fears about the timetable or the reception down the Corridor, then we can probably consider this in an independent spirit.

We are supposed to be a revising Chamber. That again is emphasised in an article in The Times this morning. We are to be given a new prestige now, apparently, because the opposition has been transferred from the other place to this. Cannot we do a little job like this without getting all mixed up with considerations of the kind that I have mentioned which have been in my mind, I am afraid, all the time? I beg to move.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if, in speaking to the noble Lord's amendment, I also speak to my Amendments Nos. 19, 20, 21 and 22, so that we can include in the debate the alternative amendment which I think will better meet the point with which the noble Lord was rightly concerned and raised on the Report stage. Amendment No. 19: Page 7, line 13, at end insert ("general"). Amendment No. 20: Page 7, line 14, leave out ("by persons of any age") and insert ("and unrestricted supply"). Amendment No. 21: Page 7, line 15, leave out ("qualification") and insert ("advice"). Amendment No. 22: Page 7, line 16, after ("by") insert ("young"). I start from the happy point that the noble Lord has made friends with The Times again, as indeed have I. I am glad he commends what was said about the House of Lords this morning, and feel that this is an auspicious start for us on this amendment. Let me assure him that his suspicion that his form of amendment would have been more difficult than mine to have had accepted in another place is unworthy of him. I have accepted at least one of his amendments and I do not expect that the House of Commons will catch on fire on that account.

Let me then deal with the point which the noble Lord raised: Why is his amendment not suitable? We see particularly a difficulty in his paragraph (aaa). In fact, my noble friend Lord Elton explained this in the debate on the Report stage. The paragraph in question does not mention suitability. "Suitability" is a key word in this context. The amendment merely states that: the video work concerned contains material which may make parental guidance or advice desirable as to the viewing of the work by young children". This is a description which will cover a very wide spectrum indeed, far wider than works which should properly be given a PG classification.

I wish to thank the noble Lord for raising the point of the difficulty which the BBFC found itself in over this clause as it was originally drafted. I do so because we recognise that a change has to be made.

The series of amendments which I have put down in the following four amendments I concede is extremely complicated. It makes it difficult to understand just what they mean. I have, for convenience of the House, put together the new subsection (2)(a) which I shall read because I think it helps to explain precisely what this rather complex little amendment does and to inform and reassure your Lordships, especially the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that this amendment has been drafted and designed in consultation with the BBFC which has expressed itself satisfied with it. It was the BBFC's original concern which the noble Lord expressed at an earlier stage.

If your Lordships accept my amendments, paragraph (a) will read in future: a statement that the video work concerned is suitable for general viewing and unrestricted supply (with or without any advice as to the desirability of parental guidance with regard to the viewing of the work by young children or as to the particular suitability of the work for viewing by children)". Then it goes on to paragraph (b). That puts all those amendments together.

I can assure your Lordships that this meets the problems which the British Board of Film Censors found in the clause as originally drafted and accepted—and, heaven knows, the draftsman's art is something which even the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, would have to bow to! I do. Whatever one puts down, invariably it is changed to some extent to meet the wishes of the draftsman. I would not defend this series of amendments as being a masterpiece of elegance but it meets practical needs and it meets the needs of the draftsman. Therefore, I hope that if the noble Lord feels happy with the explanation and assurances that I have given he will feel able to withdraw his amendment, and then, if it is your Lordships' wish, I can move my four amendments, which will amend the clause in this way.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, it would be an imposition on the time of the House to pursue this matter further. I am grateful to the noble Lord for the changes that he has made. I cannot really say that the distinction is as clear to me as to make any substantial difference of approach. If, presumably, the British Board of Film Censors are still going to be the designated authority—although I would think they are probably getting a bit fed up with the idea by now—then who am I to stand in the way? I think the best thing I can do is to ask leave to withdraw the amendment and enable the noble Lord to move his amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Nugent of Guildford moved Amendment No. 19:

[Printed above. ]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 19, to which I have already spoken, as I did to Amendments Nos. 20, 21 and 22.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Nugent of Guildford moved Amendments Nos. 20, and 21 and 22:

[Printed above.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Nugent of Guildford moved Amendment No. 23: Page 7, line 20, at end insert ("(not being more than eighteen years)")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 23. This is on a different point. In moving this amendment, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 24. Amendment No. 24: Page 7, line 23, leave out ("that age") and insert ("the age so specified")

I have put down these two amendments in order to meet points raised by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, at the Report stage with regard to limiting the scope of the designated authority, the British Board of Film Censors, to the top limit of 18 years. Noble Lords will remember that we had some debate about this, and I assured your Lordships that there was no intention to make any higher age than 18 and that I felt it was unnecessary to include it in the Bill. However, the noble Lord discussed it with cogency and pressed the point, and I said that we would look at it again. We have done so, and therefore have put down these two amendments which will give effect to the points that he was making and will write into the Bill that 18 years is the top age. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, may I express my deep gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, for having completely dealt with the questions that I raised at Committee stage and the amendment that I moved at Report stage. I suppose that in a Bill in which so little has been amended and in which virtually nothing has been amended other than at the instance of the sponsor of the Bill, there is the tiny consolation that we have this change. I venture to hope that on this matter this amendment will not cause rage in another place when it comes to be considered.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Nugent of Guildford moved Amendment No. 24:

[Printed above. ]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 14 [Supply of video recording containing false indication as to classification]:

Lord Nugent of Guildford moved Amendment No. 25:

Page 11, line 34, leave out ("qualification") and insert ("advice").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is connected with Amendment No. 22. I have spoken to it. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 19 [Evidence by certificate]:

[Amendment No. 26 not moved. ]

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 27: Page 14, line 2, leave out first ("certificate") and insert ("summons").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this will not take more than a minute or two. I may be under a misapprehension, but the question is this. What is the date specified in the certificate likely to be? Presumably, it could be the date of the summons. The point here is that it is the date upon which the alleged offence would have been committed, and, therefore, it would be the date upon which no classification had been granted to this particular material. Am I right about that? Would the charge be that on the date of the alleged offence, when the video had no classification, or the date of the summons? The specified date is the relevant date, whatever it may be, to the charge being made. That I would assume to be the correct position. I beg to move.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, I must congratulate the noble Lord on the care with which he has examined every word of this Bill. I entirely accept that his motive is to be helpful here. The fact is that usually the date of the certificate and the summons will be the same. It is preferable to leave the Bill as it is drafted because there may occasionally be cases where there is not a summons.

We find in Clause 18 a power of arrest to be exercised in certain circumstances. The noble Lord will remember that we had considerable debate about that at Report stage. In those circumstances, there would not be a summons because the offender would have been arrested. Then, it would rely entirely on the date of the certificate; so that the date of the certificate is going to be relevant in all cases. The date of the summons would be relevant in most cases, but not in all. I hope the noble Lord will be satisfied that by sticking to the date on the certificate we shall in fact have covered everything.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 28 not moved. ]

Clause 20 [Evidence by certificate in Scotland]: [Amendment No. 29 not moved.]

Clause 23 [Short title, commencement and extent]:

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 30: Page 17, line 6, after ("Recordings") insert ("(Distribution)")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, third time lucky, I trust! As your Lordships will know, there have been two previous attempts to get the Short Title of this Bill right. Many of us contend that it is most definitely not right as it stands. On 18th June, at column 91, the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, said that the shorter the Title the better, so long as it adequately describes what the Bill is about.

I have already intimated that we do not think the existing Title adequately describes the purpose of the Bill. So what about the question of the length of the Title, which after all we propose to lengthen only from three to four words? The year 1976 was one of the most prolific years on record for legislation. In that year no fewer than 86 Public General Acts went on to the statute book. The average length of the Title was four and a quarter words—in other words, longer than the Title we now propose. It may be of interest to your Lordships to note that there were two Titles containing eight words—the Food and Drugs (Control of Food Premises) Act and the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act—plus one title with no less than nine words—the Road Traffic (Drivers' Ages and Hours of Work) Act. So I do not think that the brevity argument holds much water.

The noble Lord, Lord Elton, put forward a proposition that some discourtesy might be involved; that the other place might be offended if we were politely to suggest this improvement in the Title. I am sure that the noble Lord was speaking in jest. The Commons might of course be offended if, after careful deliberation, they were to reject our constructive suggestion and we were then to insist upon it; but of course there would never be any question of our doing such a thing.

The strongest argument for our amendment is that advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, at a previous stage: namely, that there are certain to be many other Bills coming up before long with the words "video recording" in the Title, and that it is essential to get the Title of this one right at this stage so as to avoid difficulty and confusion for the public in general, and not least for the legal profession. Nor is it proper that a bland and low-key Title should give the impression that this is a bland and low-key Bill in its consequences. That would be positively misleading.

On 18th June the noble Lord. Lord Mishcon, explained to us that the word "regulation" would in his opinion be technically incorrect. He went on to say at column 92 of the Official Report that, This Bill regulates the distribution of video recordings". We have therefore deferred to his greater experience and substituted the word "distribution" for the word "regulation". I beg to move.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, I really must congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Monson, on his research. I did not know that 1976 was a bumper year for legislation, with 86 Acts. Even less did I know that the average length of the Short Titles was four and a quarter words and that two Short Titles had eight words. The noble Lord certainly did his homework. I remember 1976 best as being the great drought year, which caused me headaches of a different kind. However, I do follow his argument when he says that the brevity argument will not hold water—1976 was the year when there was not much water to hold.

If I may go back to the substance of the amendment of the noble Lord, I would say that the shorter the Short Title the better. There is no doubt about that. The fact that in 1976 the Short Titles became as long as that is greatly to be regretted. We should try to keep them short: the right place to put these other words is in the Long Title. What improvement to the Bill would have been achieved if the noble Lord's word "distribution" was included? It would have added absolutely nothing to it. I should say, "it would add", because your Lordships have yet to decide upon it. It would really not add anything. It is right to make it as short as possible.

The noble Lord thinks that we may have a stream of legislation about videos. I sincerely hope not. If we have, I hope even more fervently that it will not be me who will be conducting them. The noble Lord has argued his point most admirably, but to include this word would not add anything to the Bill. I hope that the noble Lord may be pursuaded that in the circumstances he should not press his amendment.

Lord Elton

My Lords, may I add just a few words. The noble Lord, Lord Monson. is of course to be congratulated on his research. but he actually conceded the principle in the examples which he gave. The reason that I hope your Lordships will be content with the Title is that we are following a clearly drawn parliamentary convention whereby the first or principal Act in any series carries the very shortest Title. We have a Road Traffic Act which is the principal Act for Road Traffic. The noble Lord aptly said that we also have a Road Traffic (Drivers' Ages and Hours of Work) Act. That is the way it goes. It will be for the next Act in the series, if there is one, to have the embroidery, as it were, added to it.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, I really was deeply surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, the sponsor of the Bill, saying that he was not willing to accept this amendment. I should make it perfectly clear that it was no surprise to me at all that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, did not want to accept it because he has not wanted to accept anything all the way through this Bill. I really do think that on a matter of this kind perhaps the time is coming when the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, ought to start digging their heels in.

I very much take the view which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, has taken in his speech earlier. I think—I choose my words very carefully after much thought—that your Lordships' House has been treated outrageously in regard to this Bill. I say that because here is matter that the Government acknowledge is one of the greatest importance and significance which ought to be dealt with, but they then say that it must be dealt with by a Private Member's Bill but a Private Member's Bill inevitably might have certain defects and those cannot be properly corrected because there is not time. That is not the kind of argument that your Lordships' House should accept. I am very sorry that we have been accepting it, day after day and week after week. I hope we shall stop.

I was greatly distressed to hear that the amendment moved so powerfully by the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, an amendment which was valid in every sense and which the Government more or less accept is necessary, was nevertheless not accepted. They promised us that something might happen after the Bill has left us when we no longer have any control over it. I understand that there may be changes in the procedures and the way in which the matter is dealt with. That was the statement made.

On this matter, I accept that we are making the Short Title longer by one word. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, last time trotted out the argument that somehow it was patently improper to amend the Short Title of a Private Member's Bill. Many years ago in another place I happened to be the second sponsor of a Private Member's Bill, a Bill that got further because Government time was permitted. On that Bill I dealt with all the medical replies on the medical aspects. It left another place with the Short Title "Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill". When it arrived back at another place it was called the Abortion Bill. I accept that that was shortening it, and we accepted the change, but at least it shows that there is a precedent for changing the Short Title of a Bill.

The Long Title of this Bill, which is a very short Long Title, is An Act to make provision for regulating the distribution of video recordings— then come the magic words— and for connected purposes". The magic words "and for connected purposes" are those which provide for all sorts of things to happen so that certain acts are not ultra vires, but words which refer to the whole purpose of this Bill—to regulate the distribution of video recordings—surely ought to be put in the Long Title. I think that the argument is overwhelming.

I certainly repeat the point that I made at an earlier stage. There is a very urgent necessity for the control of the pirating of videos, for the control of the copyrights of videos and for a whole number of matters of that kind. In other to avoid any kind of misunderstandings we ought to include this word in the Title so that this then becomes the Video Recordings (Distribution) Bill, which is precisely what it is concerned with and what it ought to be called. I do hope that at this late stage we shall not go on saying, "It was a pity. We could have improved the Bill but we must not because it is a Private Member's Bill and because there is not time". If we can improve it by doing this, and we think we can do that, then we should do it.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, not only for his support for this amendment but for his general comments upon our proceedings on this Bill, which I endorse wholeheartedly. Despite Lord Nugent's habitual charm, I am not at all convinced by his arguments. It is curious that he is so adamant about retaining this bland and innocuous Title: it puzzles me. Nor am I convinced by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. He cited the Road Traffic Act, but of course it is perfectly clear to anybody what a road traffic Act is about. It is not clear to anybody what something entitled the Video Recordings Act is about. To use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, last week, the Title would be all right if it adequately described what the Bill is about. But it does not do that, in my submission. Unlike my noble friend Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, I have no reluctance about dividing the House if I think it is necessary to do so. Naturally, I do not expect your Lordships to march through the Division Lobbies but I should like to have some verbal indication as to what you feel about this amendment.

Lord Elton

My Lords, before the noble Lord does that, with the leave of the House, I think I ought to respond to one or two things that have been said. I have not sought to dissuade your Lordships on this issue because of the peril in which it might put the Bill in another place. I have sought on entirely purist parliamentary grounds to explain that a Short Title ought to be an exact and accurate description of a Bill and that if it stands at the head of a succession of Bills, it ought to address itself to the generality.

On both grounds I think the noble Lord's amendment is misconceived. His amendment goes beyond the generality to the particularity—the particularity of distribution. It is also inaccurate, because the Bill is about not only distribution but also the connected matters; and most of our time has been spent in debating the connected matters, such as whether or not it is important to have labels on films before they are distributed, and so on.

I do not want to weary your Lordships. I do not feel passionate; but I think it is as well to regard parliamentary convention and precedent and, with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, I do not think that even his researches bear out that his amendment would do so. I wanted to put that on the record simply because, if I did not, it would appear that I was discourteously dismissing something about which he clearly feels rather more strongly than I had realised. I wanted to be quite clear that there are good reasons, and not merely flippant reasons, for my having done so.

Lord Monson

My Lords, with the leave of the House, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for that observation. I am grateful for his attitude. Nevertheless, I feel that the other place ought to be given the chance at least to look at this amendment. Therefore I do not intend to beg leave to withdraw it.

On Question, amendment negatived.

9.5 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 31:

Page 17, line 11, at end insert— ("( ) This Act shall continue in force until 31st December 1989 and shall then expire unless Parliament otherwise determines by resolution of both Houses, and upon expiration of this Act subsection (1) of section 16 of the Interpretation Act 1978 shall apply as if this Act had been repealed by another Act.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is the last amendment on the Marshalled List at this stage of the Bill, and I want to make a special plea to the sponsors of the Bill to look at it favourably. This amendment proposes to limit the duration of the Bill to five years, unless Parliament decides at the expiry of that time to renew it. That is why the amendment provides for the Bill to continue in force until the 31st December 1989.

I believe that this Bill is not in the condition in which we feel that it can be placed on the statute book with any indication that we think it can be permanent or that we want it to be permanent. As a matter of principle, I would say that a time limit should be imposed on any legislation which curbs, restrains or intrudes on the liberty of the subject. Of course in wartime and in times of crisis legislation may be introduced as emergency measures on which a time limit is placed. We cannot say that this is an emergency, although, with all the inspiration and haste behind this Bill, one might think that it was. It is a Bill which I think the House may feel could be regarded as "on probation", and the problems of administration, which will be difficult and complex, may be tried out and all the difficulties of classification and so on could be reviewed at a suitable time in the future.

The difficulty about legislation is to get it amended and it is still more difficult to get it repealed, especially when attempts to do so may well be left to the Private Member's Bill procedure. Those of us with experience of another place realise the problems that lie before anyone who tries to change statute law through the Private Member's Bill procedure.

I think there is another aspect, and that concerns the political circumstances in which any amendment or change might be sought. There may be evidence of the Christian spirit in imposing a censorship on evil, but certainly none is to be expected in any attempt to lift it. One can imagine the cry that would go up if anybody introduced a Private Member's Bill to repeal, or substantially to amend, a Bill of this kind. People would say, "So you are in favour of bringing back the nasties", and all the rest of the stuff which those who take this line are very familiar with.

I also think it would be unfair to have recourse to the Private Member's Bill procedure when, just as this Bill comes to us by the luck of the lottery, any attempt to change it might be dependent upon the luck of the lottery. It probably is not fully appreciated outside Parliament upon what a stroke of luck this Bill rests. It was simply that a name came out of the hat at the moment when the Government were ready to grasp it and hang on to its tail through all its stages in both Houses. If we do not put a limit to this Bill, we may well be stuck with it for a long time to come.

There are probably not many precedents for this, but there is the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955, which had a 10-year limit. It was made permanent by the Expiring Laws Act in 1969. I have not been able to discover what happened to it in the four years when it was supposed to have lapsed. There is another precedent going a long way back, and that is the Licensing of the Press Act 1662, which had to do with the censorship of books, in which it was stated that it should be in operation for two years and no more. It was very emphatic about that. But it lasted 33 years after that. It shows that, generally speaking, except in times of emergency, Bills that are as Acts of Parliament given a limit of time are found to be more acceptable as time goes on.

There are several other special reasons relating to this Bill as to why there should be a limit of time. It is highly experimental and an excursion into a very difficult and wide field of administration of delicate matters, such as deciding what kind of video recordings fall into different categories. I should imagine that it is far more complex and difficult than anything that the British Board of Film Censors has experienced so far in dealing with films. So it is on probation. There is really no experience that we can fall back on, apart from the existence of the British Board of Film Censors and its classification for film purposes, and if it were not the British Board of Film Censors who is to be the designated authority, we should be very anxious indeed as to the people who are going to do this job.

The danger in our legislative practices is that we put Bills on the statute book, especially those that are curbs on civil liberty, and merely add one Bill after another to a long, cumulative additional sum. How rarely are Acts of Parliament repealed, even though many years afterwards they cease to have any real value. For example, the Protection of Children Act 1978 has produced only 41 convictions since it became law. It may be thought that 41 convictions is not insubstantial, but 41 convictions over five years for an Act of that kind scarcely justifies keeping it on the statute book. But it is not subject to any time limit and is still there—

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, I agree that 41 convictions is not a great number, but 41 children damaged is a considerable factor in terms of the happiness of those children.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

Yes, my Lords, I do not deny that. But we have to keep a sense of proportion in all these matters. We are dealing with legislation affecting the whole community. However, I take the point that the noble Baroness makes. I am not running anything in. I am just suggesting that we take a long time to conclude that Bills are obsolete or no longer of the value that they ought to be to justify their retention on the statute book. I do not rest on that point particularly. I am just being quite candid with the House about what is in my favour and what is not.

Another point that is most important is that we want to get a great deal more information than we already have about the extent of video viewing, particularly in regard to young people. There is a wide field of investigation which at the moment is really a closed book to us, and which ought to be opened up with patient research and inquiry over a reasonably long period. Nobody could possibly pretend that the investigation undertaken by the misnamed Parliamentary Video Inquiry Group produced any evidence that could be relied upon as a basis for future judgment on the application of this Bill.

I am glad to hear that there are good prospects, in any case, of thorough monitoring of the Bill, when it becomes law, being undertaken by responsible people. This is a new dimension in the home life of the people of this country which needs to be looked at much more sympathetically and critically than it has been looked at so far. There are at least four years' work ahead on this task. The industry itself should be given an opportunity during the five-year period to come to terms with reasonable public opinion, to correct past errors and to organise itself so that it can properly discharge a system of voluntary control.

To impose statutory control in these circumstances is most unusual. Statutory control has not been imposed on the press or on advertising standards. There are numerous other directions in which voluntary control, effective and well thought out and applied, would be a substitute for statutory action. I doubt whether the Trade Union Bill which is now before your Lordships' House would contain anything like the provisions that it does had it been possible to achieve effective voluntary control and the observance of standards and codes of conduct by the trade union movement.

We pride ourselves on being able to do things voluntarily. A special value is attached to the word "voluntary" in all sorts of ways. We do not like compulsion. We are against compulsory this and compulsory that. Indeed, we have a reaction against compulsory military service that no other country in Europe has. The industry—which probably was too slow off the mark and did not concern itself as it should have done with the rising disquiet of the public—should be given an opportunity to devise something which would be effective and which would stick.

I should also like to make the point that some balance ought to be injected into the argument about the Bill. So far there has been none. The Government have been criticised by other noble Lords, besides me, about the passage of the Bill through the House. It has been a very frustrating experience, made worse because we felt that we were not being frankly dealt with on the matters which lay behind various points of view expressed on behalf of the Bill. The injection of a better balance into the argument on the Bill would be achieved by limiting its duration to five years, which would be beyond the life of the present Parliament, probably beyond the life of the present Government and almost certainly beyond the life of some of the Ministers in the Government. So it would be left to others to deal with the prevailing circumstances, mood and demands at that time.

I do not believe that in the present circumstances this House should allow the Bill to be made permanent on the statute book. We are perfectly entitled to put a limit to it without any affront to another place, having regard to what we think about the additional complications which have arisen while the Bill has been before your Lordships' House. After our proceedings earlier today on the BBC and IBA position, I should have thought that this was a dreadful state of affairs, yet we go on, apparently, and say, "Stick it on the statute book; let them come to some arrangement otherwise. It does not matter what the consequences may be." That is not the way to deal with the matter, and it is an additional reason why a limit should be placed upon the duration of the Bill.

Because of the harm done by the condemnation of video nasties it will take some years for the industry to recover its confidence—and probably for the public to strengthen its confidence, too. I am entitled to say that if there is any reasonable spirit among the forces which support the Bill—though I have every reason to doubt whether there is—this is the time for us to have some sign of it. The amendment merely asks for a limited time to be put on the intervention of the state without a fresh review by Parliament as to where we are going and how we are going to get there. I sincerely hope that I am not this time talking to a brick wall and that I will have some sign of understanding about the points which I have made. I beg to move.

Lord Kinnaird

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he talked about a balanced view—but how can one take a balanced view over a discussion that is totally unbalanced?

9.20 p.m.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to support the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, for two reasons. First, I welcome the opportunity to support this amendment. Secondly, it gives me an opportunity to say something else which is entirely relevant to this particular amendment.

At an earlier stage, I made certain complaints about the way in which your Lordships' House had been treated with regard to this Bill. I should like to make it utterly clear that I made no complaint whatsoever about the noble Lord. Lord Nugent of Guildford, who has treated the House with unfailing courtesy, as he does on every occasion. Nor did I wish to make any complaint at all about the treatment of your Lordships' House by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, or the noble Baroness. Lady Trumpington—who, again, have behaved on all occasions with unfailing courtesy and consideration. I was trying to say that the Government's behaviour had been both cowardly and inept. In other words, they found an area in which it was necessary to take action and then said, "We are not going to take action but we will leave this matter to be dealt with by a Private Member's Bill". I share the views of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. in that respect, and I make the same criticism again. But lest I may have been misunderstood, I assure noble Lords that there was no element of personal consideration in the remarks I made earlier.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has asked for a five-year term. When he said that the end of five years would see the finish of this Government, and perhaps the end of certain members of it, I was not quite sure whether that was a promise or a prediction. Be that as it may, by the end of that five-year period we would certainly be seeing a new Parliament. I believe that this matter is one for Parliament and not for the Government. At that time, a new Parliament might be able to consider the way in which the Bill has been working.

I take very much the point that we are in a changing scene, in which technical developments in this area are very rapid. No doubt we shall see immense developments and very great changes over the coming years. We will see the introduction of direct broadcasting by satellite—and who knows what kind of things will be beamed into our homes by that route? Who knows what controls may at some stage be needed or operated? We shall be seeing all kinds of new devices for copying and pirating material. We will see all kinds of new devices for recording material off-screen from other countries over which we shall have no control at all.

I mentioned at an earlier stage—and I am not trying to prolong my speech—my fears about this Bill. The matter which this Bill seeks to deal with is one of very great importance, but my fear is that at the end of the day we will find that all the Bill does when it becomes an Act is set up an expensive, time-consuming, tedious layer of bureaucracy which will cause immense trouble to responsible people doing serious, important and very valuable work but that the scoundrels whom it seeks to catch will take no notice of it at all. They will simply go underground.

Your Lordships may feel then that you need to seek some other remedy. In bringing forward this amendment, which will give Parliament in the broader sense an opportunity for looking at the Act again after a period of five years, the noble Lord is suggesting a very wise provision. In five years' time, we may find ourselves in totally different circumstances, where there are new factors which require control, and new methods of distribution which are not controlled and which ought to be controlled. We may find then that there are serious defects in the Act which make it operate in a way quite contrary to the wishes of the sponsors. At that time, a future Parliament may be very glad indeed that your Lordships' House had passed this particular amendment.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, I have listened with great care to the noble Lord's reasons for moving this amendment. He did in fact rehearse a great many of the arguments which he has expressed before about the Bill, and in which he has made it perfectly plain that he is fundamentally opposed to the Bill, and would wish it not to go on the statute book at all. Naturally, if he cannot stop it going on the statute book at all, to limit it to five years is, I suppose, a second best.

I look at some of the things which the noble Lord said about the harm that had been done in the debates here. He said his arguments had not been frankly dealt with in debate. I wondered what he meant. I have dealt quite frankly with any argument that I have had to deal with and I know that my noble friend Lord Elton certainly has. The fact is that the noble Lord really is so opposed to the Bill that his opposition is the major feature which has come out in his arguments.

When we look at the reason for limiting it to five years, to say that governments cannot amend or remove any Act they like at any time really is not a reason that stands up for one minute. If and when this Bill became an Act it was ineffective, as the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, has said, or was oppressive as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has said, undoubtedly the government of the day would either amend or remove it altogether. That can be done at any time; it does not have to proceed by Private Member's Bill. What is the need for limiting the Act to five years? There really is not one.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, if the noble Lord would allow me to speak before the next argument is advanced, if it is the case that the Government can act at any time why has the Government not acted now?

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, the Government are supporting this Private Members' Bill and it is a Private Members' Bill which will effectively classify this material. That is the need: it is generally seen as needed and receives very wide support. The reason why the noble Lord might have felt depressed from time to time in the course of the debates when he did not have much support, is that this measure does have wide support, and it does have wide support in the other place. It could not have been approved and passed by the other place unless it commanded support from all sides, and after a great deal of debate the form in which it came here has been achieved by getting a balance between the views of the different sides. It is thought of as something which really is needed and that is the reason why the noble Lord may have felt the debates here were pressing on him—because the majority of noble Lords on all sides of the House feel it is most desirable that we should get these video works classified just as soon as possible. That is a matter of fact. If this proves to be wrong, I am perfectly certain that the Government of the day—either this Government or the next—will act to introduce an amending Bill (or whatever Bill may be suitable) to make it an effective Act.

When one looks at the practical implications of putting a five-year limitation on the Bill, here we are proposing a system of classification for this enormous number of video works, which is going to be a very big job—the noble Lord is perfectly right there—for the British Board of Film Censors. They have got to be expanded in order to cope with it. It is a very big job for the trade. It is expensive and elaborate for them. To suggest to the trade as well as to the British Board of Film Censors that this is going to be limited to only five years is surely utterly illogical.

We are trying to set up a system of classification which is going to serve the community for years to come, and if in time it appears to be necessary to amend and refine the Act in any way, no doubt the Government of the day will introduce legislation to do so. It really would not be right to embark upon a piece of legislation of this kind which has such weighty implications for such a large number of traders, unless we thought there was really a future for it, there was continuity for it, and it was something which would be wanted over the years. I am sure it would give quite the wrong impression: certainly of what I want and, I believe, what most noble Lords here want, and Members in another place want.

We want to set up a system of classification which will be established and which will serve the community for years to come. If it needs amending in the course of time let us get it amended, but for goodness' sake do not let us suggest that we are setting up something as important as this which is of only a temporary nature. After all, it will take two or three years, at least, to get the classification done. That will be a major undertaking. I should have thought, for that practical reason alone, that it would be a mistake to incorporate in the Bill, which is setting up the whole scheme, a limited life of five years.

I do hope that noble Lords generally will be convinced. I know that I will find it very, difficult to convince the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, but I hope that noble Lords will agree that it will be utterly illogical to give the Bill a limited life of five years. I do hope that the noble Lord will be pursuaded that his amendment does not make sense and that he will be willing to withdraw it.

Lord Monson

My Lords, although my name is not down to this amendment I should like to support it. Furthermore, I cannot understand why the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, is resisting it. If the Bill is really as universally popular as he claims, and as the sponsors claim, there can be absolutely no doubt that before 31st December 1989 both Houses of Parliament would vote overwhelmingly for its continuation, and they can be secure in the knowledge that the censors can get on with their work of classification without having to look over their shoulders. The only reason for resisting this amendment, it seems to me, is a suspicion among the Bill's sponsors that the Bill may not, after all, turn out to be as popular as is claimed.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, may I add a word or two, if only because of the, as usual, useful contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, although it is one I do not accept. We ought to bear in mind the arguments that have already been advanced as to the setting up of this machinery and what we want to do by way of classification. I do not want to repeat the arguments but merely remind the House of the safeguards that are already in the Bill.

First, to take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, about the evolution in video, and so on, there is a fairly broad definition of video at the beginning of the Bill. Secondly, there is an obligation for an annual report. Before whom is that annual report to be laid? Not just the Secretary of State, but both Houses of Parliament so that they have an opportunity of commenting as representatives of the people in one place and, with your Lordships combined wisdom, if unrepresentative, in this one. Therefore, there will be that opportunity.

In regard to labelling and matters of that kind, regulations are to be made that come before the House. If a designated authority does not act properly, and therefore becomes unpopular, the Secretary of State has the opportunity of saying to that designated authority, "Cease your work. Hand over your papers. I am going to suggest to Parliament who the next designated authority ought to be". That has to be approved by both Houses of Parliament. So there is parliamentary control over many of the things, if not most of the things, and if I may I will tell the House, very humbly, my own view, which is this.

I do not want, and I believe Parliament does not want, video nastier in 5, 10, 15 or 20 years' time. This is the main subject of the Bill. I believe Parliament wants—and I say this individually—a classification for the guidance of people. I make the point (which I borrow, if I may say so, from my noble friend Lord Ardwick, who made it to me and who may want to develop it) that Europe wants permanent legislation, not legislation for five years, and has said so. I am proud that the United Kingdom is in the forefront of this. I believe that the rest of Europe may copy our legislation—and it will not be legislation for five years.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, the view may be taken that it is rather difficult to get legislation on to the statue book. It is even more difficult to remove it. I recall that fashions in this kind of issue change. For many years there was pre-censorship in the theatre. Every play had to be looked at before it could be approved, before being performed. This role was in the hands of the Lord Chamberlain. It was a role which became increasingly distasteful because people took the view. I think rightly, that there was no case for pre-censorship. There was certainly every case for pursuing rigorously those who had erred and bringing them before the courts. But the notion of looking at something before it had appeared and deciding that it should not be done this way but should be done that way gradually became unpopular, out of fashion and, indeed, derisory.

The examples which were given as a result of playwrights of the distinction of Ibsen, Shaw, and so forth, having to alter this or that word in order to meet the requirements of the Lord Chamberlain: the necessity for the Lord Chamberlain himself to deal with the obnoxious and difficult business of taking out or putting in this or that word, sometimes selecting a word which seemed more obnoxious than that which was taken out: brought the whole procedure into general public disrepute. That position remained for years until, eventually, a Joint Parliamentary Committee of people from every party and of all shades of opinion decided unanimously that this whole notion of pre-censorship was obnoxious, and that the proper way to deal with this kind of issue as far as censorship is concerned was to deal with the matter when the offence had been committed, to deal with it harshly and to make sure that it did not happen again.

That was the position on the statute book for very many years before a Joint Parliamentary Committee of both Houses of Parliament, finally, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord. Lord Strauss, of which I, Mr. St. John-Stevas and many others were members, decided unanimously to get rid of it. Eventually, legislation was brought in by Mr. Strauss, and finally we did get rid of it. My Lords, civilisation has not collapsed as a result of that. We now have no pre-censorship in the theatre.

Fashion has now changed, and we are going through one of our periods of public indignation about this kind of thing. We could deal with the problems exemplified in the issue of the video nasties without a single piece of legislation at all. Nevertheless, I recognise that there is a public feeling in this matter, and in order to meet that public feeling I believe it would be desirable to have some legislation. But the manner in which this legislation has been dealt with has already brought it into disrepute before it has started.

Therefore. I believe that a mistake has been made. I agree with the proposal put forward by my noble friend Lord Houghton, that some attempt should be made to mitigate the error which we are in the course of making by putting some sort of time limit upon the legislation so that we shall be forced to reconsider our position, in the light of the change in fashion, in the light of the public feeling and in the light of our own feeling. I believe that a set period of time would be a good idea, and I hope it is one which will commend itself to the Government.

The Lord Bishop of Norwich

My Lords, will your Lordships allow me to add a very domestic tailpiece? Coming down on the train this evening from Norwich the guard said to me, "Because I work such unsocial hours I find that video machines are most helpful. I can listen to and watch things that I would otherwise never have the chance of seeing because I am on the trains. However, when I take my children into a video library there are just the pictures on the covers to look at. I look forward very much to the time when the work that you and their Lordships in the House are doing, and then the Members in the other House, will make it possible for me to take my children to such a library where there is a clear classification which I and they can understand."

Despite all the very moving and persuasive remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, we are dealing with a small, narrow and very wretched moral issue concerning the provisions of Clause 2(1)(a),(b) and (c) on page 2. We cannot get beyond the fact that there arc videos of this type. They are set out very plainly in our parliamentary video report. I hope that we shall resist this amendment and allow the Bill to go back to the other place as soon as possible.

9.40 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I intervene briefly to raise two matters. On the first I shall refer to your Lordships' fairness and on the second to your Lordships' sense of determination. I rise because the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, was very courteous and kind in distinguishing between me and my noble friend, on the one hand, and the Government on the other—a distinction not easily made in constitutional terms. I am grateful to him for the innovation.

I think that it makes it relevant to this amendment and this debate, and it is certainly the case, that the issue which concerns him—which is the handling of the Bill—has been debated by your Lordships in almost every amendment that we have touched on. I therefore think that I should address myself to it very briefly now in the hope that your Lordships, in a sense of fairness, having all had several says and my not having previously replied, will not feel it necessary to debate the whole issue again on the Question, That the Bill do now pass. It is on the record indelibly and frequently.

I want to say only this. Of course your Lordships are entitled to have a view about the way in which the Government should run their business and the way that Parliament should pass enactments. That is perfectly fair. I want it to be understood that it is perfectly normal for a Government with a programme to seize, as it were, a passing and complaisant private Member who wishes to pick up a part of that programme. to allow him to do so, and to profit thereby to expand the time available for other business. That has advantages and disadvantages.

The advantages for the Government have been frequently referred to, and so have the disadvantages for your Lordships and Parliament. But it is clear, as my noble friend said, that Private Member's Bills have to have a much greater degree of consensus in another place than Government Bills, because they are not put through on a Whip. Where a Government have a large majority, that is a consideration of substance, and that is the case now. It is also the case that every piece of legislation has to he agreed by both Houses of Parliament before it is signed by Her Majesty and becomes law.

The process by which the two Houses get into accord with each other is rather different in this case than it would be in another. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has quite rightly, courteously and firmly aired his own feeling that that is unfortunate in this case because it has cheated him, as he feels, of an amendment that he would have liked to put in the Bill. Whether that amendment would have survived the more robust exchanges that follow the passing of a public Bill, I am not at all sure. If the Government were opposed to it, it would be a very difficult thing to do. I think that the difference between the two proceedings is not quite as traumatic perhaps as your Lordships have suggested. I say that only in the most (I hope) unprovocative terms I can find, because I feel that your Lordships have expended so much powder, shot and time on this that we should not continue it at the next stage.

I now turn to the amendment itself. My noble friend was persuasive and full. I agree with him that we ought to persist with the Bill as it stands. Parliamentary time is, as I have already said and as your Lordships have agreed. at a premium. It is not our business to preempt the time of a Parliament which is not yet elected by saying that it shall consider a piece of legislation, particularly when, like the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, so many of your Lordships feel that it ought to be on the statute book.

If the noble Lord says that it is so important that it ought to find time, I would point out that, if the pressures of time are so great, what he is inviting us to accept—and when I say "us", I speak for the movers of this private Bill—is a danger that the time will not be available to review the Bill; and to accept that into the Bill is actually to signal to everybody that his heart is not in it. I believe, like the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that we want no such lacuna to be risked. Therefore my own view—and I speak individually—is that the amendment ought not to be agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, this debate has developed into what otherwise might have been a debate on the Motion, That this Bill do now pass. If I intervene now, I do so promising your Lordships that I will not intervene again on the Motion, That the Bill do now pass.

Lord Denham

My Lords, the noble Lord is putting my noble friend in this difficulty. My noble friend has spoken for the Government. It is usual for noble Lords who wish to come in at this point to come in before the Minister speaks; otherwise my noble friend will have to ask the leave of the House to speak again. Of course, the noble Lord is quite entitled to speak, but it would have been marginally better if he could have done so before my noble friend replied.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, of course I accept the wisdom of the Chief Whip, but I did not know it applied in the same way on a Private Members' Bill. Noble Lords can very readily indicate assent or dissent. In fact, we have had a debate which covered many aspects of the Bill other than this amendment, and it would be tedious to the House if many of these things were to be repeated on the Motion, That the Bill do now pass. I would hope that, with the leave of the House, it might be possible for me, despite my unintentional and ignorant discourtesy, to save the House time by speaking in the debate in which my remarks are applicable.

If I may. I should like to cite a speech in this House on a previous, related occasion. I quote: It is not only a Bill, my Lords, of a very extraordinary nature, but it has been brought in at a most extraordinary season, and pushed with most extraordinary despatch. Such a law ought to be maturely considered, and every clause, every sentence, nay, every word of it, well weighed and examined, lest under some of those methods presumed or pretended to be necessary for restraining licentiousness, a power should lie concealed, which might be afterwards made use of for giving a dangerous wound to liberty…". Those were the words of the Earl of Chesterfield on the last occasion when this House debated a Bill for pre-censorship.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, it is not pre-censorship.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, it is a Bill of pre-censorship, which, before any work has been displayed to the public, provides for provisions where a penalty can be imposed in the court without even a jury. The last occasion on which this House debated such a Bill was the Playhouse Bill of 1737.

This Bill comes to this House on a false prospectus, not from the noble Lord. Lord Nugent, not from the noble Lord. Lord Elton. It comes out of a proper disgust against video nasties and a proper concern for the protection of children. Yet it is very much more than that. It is a Bill of pre-censorship and it is a Bill which applies to very much more than video nasties. It comes under a bad procedure. Because it has been introduced as a Private Member's Bill, it contains numerous defects which ought to be examined—here I refer to the amendment of my noble friend—by the House at regular intervals, and certainly not later than 31st December 1989.

For example, there is the issue of exemptions. I will not go over the ones which have been aired again today, but there is no exemption for works of current affairs. We have introduced in this Bill a form of press censorship—that is what it comes to; media censorship—which, for example, would provide the possibility of the censorship of some of the very necessary but very distasteful films of the Vietnam War. It raises the issue of the British Board of Film Censors. Even in its present form, the British Board of Film Censors has a far from perfect record. In the 1920s the British Board of Film Censors refused permits in their entirety to the Russian Silent Cinema. In the 1930s the British Board of Film Censors censored American newsreel which in its view was unduly critical of Germany and Italy.

Those days have gone past, but what is proposed now is a very grave extension of the powers and responsibilities of the British Board of Film Censors. It is now to become a Government-supported quango. It is to be a quango where those who have to submit their works to this board have no right of legal representation and where the only right of appeal is to an appeals tribunal, which also is set up by the Government, and which is in turn a quango. That must be a denial of the rights of the individual.

The Bill introduces not only rationing on principle, but rationing by price. The British Board of Film Censors will be charging fees for examining material which is commonly thought to work out, at present prices, at £4 a minute. That does not matter to the big boys, but it may well matter to the experimental cinema and those in the experimental cinema who wish to get further income and further distribution by video films. So the Bill introduces rationing by price. It also introduces rationing by place. Despite the cogent arguments of my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby, the Bill restricts certain kinds of classified video films—the 18R videos—to sex shops, of which the best estimate is that there are only 100 in the country. So there is rationing according to where one happens to live in the country.

The Bill introduces for the first time the denial of the right of the individual to trial by jury. The Obscene Publications Act is thought to be defective by many of those who approve of censorship because juries have failed to find as many works offensive as some people would like. It is an impertinence on the part of legislators to take that difference of opinion between legislators and people, and to introduce a new type of censorship which is only on summary conviction and against which there is no possibility of appeal to juries.

It is not as if there were no alternative to this. It is not as if the possibility of voluntary restriction as proposed by the British Videogram Association were not a very adequate supplement to the existing clauses and powers under the Obscene Publications Act. Up until quite recently that was the Government's point of view. Mr. Patrick Mayhew in November 1982 in another place said that should such a voluntary scheme by the BVA be introduced, the Government would wish to assess the scheme's effects before deciding whether any statutory controls were required. Those seem to me to be wise words. To rush into legislation of this kind seems to me to be foolhardy at the very least.

I began by quoting from the Earl of Chesterfield. He said that it was brought in at the most extraordinary season. I do not know what that means to your Lordships; perhaps it is like the Queen of the Fairies in "Iolanthe" threatening Strephon in regard to Parliament: You shall sit if he sees reason, Through the grouse and salmon season". I would not claim that this is an extraordinary season. The Earl of Chesterfield said that it was pushed with most extraordinary dispatch. I would not claim that this Bill has been pushed with extraordinary dispatch although I still resent the comments that have been made in the press and the pleas that have been made by noble Lords that it was somehow undesirable for noble Lords to give this Bill the kind of attention which the Earl of Chesterfield thought appropriate for the Playhouse Bill.

Finally, it is not just a question of speed; it is not just a question of the defects. It is a question of the nature of the procedures here. It was brought home to us very clearly by the fate of the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, this evening. Throughout this Bill he has consistently sought to do something which I think most noble Lords here thought was proper; namely, to provide that the BBC and the IBA—both well-established and well-respected bodies—should have the ability to continue not only to put out their products on the air, but to have them repeated in videos without the intervention of a third party. He went as far as anybody could possibly go in making his amendments acceptable to the Government. Because this was a Private Member's Bill he did not have the help in making his amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, has acknowledged from the Government for his amendments. All he had at the end of the day was a promise that there would be some further consideration after the Bill had passed here. The noble Lord. Lord Howard, withdrew his amendments not because he thought they were wrong, but because he was impressed by the argument, which has been put over and over again, that substantial amendments would damage the passage of the Bill, and damage the consideration of the Bill in another place afterwards.

The point I am trying to make—and I assure the noble Lord, Lord Denham, that this is my final sentence—is that if we are not to debate, consider and vote on substantial amendments, then we have no place whatever in this legislative system. If we are not to exercise those responsibilities without fear or favour, that is a diminution of the responsibilities and the powers of this House. Finally, I want to pay tribute—as I shall not speak again—to the courtesy, dignity and consideration of the noble Lords, Lord Nugent and Lord Elton.

9.56 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, we have now spent 52 minutes on my amendment which is before the House. I am very grateful indeed to my noble friend Lord McIntosh for the speech that he has just made. I am sure that noble Lords are getting very weary of this Bill, as we all are. Therefore, I, too, shall co-operate with the House by not making any further speech. However, I am sure that the House will allow me just a few minutes to reply to the points raised on this amendment and to make a concluding observation or two.

The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, rather overlooked the history of this matter. It is very important because at the end of December 1982 Mr. Gareth Wardell, Member of Parliament, introduced a Private Member's Bill on the lines of the present measure. But he was discouraged from going ahead with it in a long letter from the then Home Secretary (now the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw) telling him that there was a great deal more work which needed to be done on the matter before they could contemplate legislation. That letter is on the record. It is available in the Library in the reference notes that we referred to right at the beginning of this Bill.

Then in the early part of 1983 the then Home Office Minister, Mr. Mayhew (now Sir Patrick Mayhew and holding legal office) wrote to say that before any question of statutory control could be contemplated. it was desired to see whether a voluntary scheme could be formulated, and if so that they would wish time to see whether it was effective. All that was very reasonable in its approach to this matter at that time. But then something happened. What happened was the General Election and the decision of the Conservative Party to brush aside the attempts of the trade to get a voluntary scheme and to promise to go to Government legislation. That was in the Conservative Party manifesto. That was the history until then.

In the meantime, a scheme of voluntary control had been produced by the working party set up by the British Videogram Association, which had very distinguished membership, and it produced a very comprehensive and intelligent report. But all that received short shrift in the campaign on this matter to get a pledge from the Government for government legislation.

That scarcely suggests that there is no basis for our feeling that this has been hastily conceived, as The Times puts it, "in a moral fit". Therefore, a Bill introduced in these circumstances surely is a candidate for reasonably early review. It has not been a considered measure, based on proper research and information; it is not a measure that is replacing an ineffectual voluntary scheme. It is a Government action spatchcocked into a situation which was being reasonably approached by all the parties concerned, including the Government and the Home Secretary, during the early part of last year. I want to make it clear that of course classification would be a great help. Classification is there in the trade already. Apart from the formalisation of the voluntary scheme, traders have classifications of their own to a large extent.

But the purpose of this Bill is not primarily classification. The purpose of this Bill primarily is to get rid of the nasties. That is what it is all about. If there is any word that has become hackneyed, misleading, and full of opprobrium it is that word. If your Lordships asked me to classify this Bill, I would call it a "parliamentary nasty" because it revolts me to see the conditions, the environment, the whipped up public concern, and the rampage that there have been over this subject in months past. But there it is; we come to the end of the day and we have given this Bill a good deal more attention than it would otherwise have received.

It did not get half enough attention in another place. They were in a hurry. They wanted to scamper through it. They had last days, short speeches, grouping of amendments. Anyone who studies the proceedings of the Standing Committee must realise the conditions under which the Bill was considered there. Everything was tipped into the last day on 16th March. All the rest of the amendments on Report had to be scrambled through. One part of the Bill that had not been completed—namely, where 18R material was to be made available—had to be made good in a last-minute amendment to the Bill to put it all in the hands of sex shops. Until then sex shops had not been mentioned in the Bill from beginning to end. Who is going to say, therefore, that this Bill really has a valid base of permanence and satisfaction?

However, I shall forgo the kind of onslaught on this Bill that I had spent a long time in preparing. I am sure that that is good news all round. It is quite a relief to me, too. I have a bit of good news for the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, who referred to technological change that might come about. I was delighted to find in the Sunday Times of 3rd June under the heading, "Deep Throat of Video" an announcement that a new safety device is being put on video recorders by Grundig. This device is going to be the answer to Lord Nugent's prayer, and that of many parents throughout the country who are afraid, or believe, or are told, that their children are cadging looks at video nasties by going to the recorder in the home. It states: Parents going out for the evening can stop their children watching adult movies or, for that matter, any movies at all if there is homework to be done. With a hint of malice Grundig engineers have made a recorder so that it will gobble up and refuse to give back any cassette that someone has tried to play while it is locked, so parents will know what children have been trying to watch". And so the article goes on. It is a childproof video recorder. That answers many of the problems which it was suggested were a basis for this system of control.

My final word is that in all the discussions we have had so little has been said about parental responsibility. Parents must take responsibility for what they do with their children. They bring them into the world and they must take care of them. The state cannot do it all. Letters that I have received on this subject from distressed people are concerned about the children of other people. Their children, of course, are all right, but it is other people's children. This is a natural concern, but it does not indicate that they understand that each set of parents should be responsible for their own children as far as possible.

Then I turn to a well-known former colleague in the House of Commons for the concluding words. Sir William Deedes, now editor of the Daily Telegraph, writing on the memoirs of Sir Ian Trethowan and looking at the future for this—this is what we have to do; it is not the next five years but probably the next 10; we are doing things today which will look quite odd, if not ridiculous, in the years to come—said: It is television's misfortune that it goes into the heart of every home and now, in this third age, has acquired wings which will soon, via satellite, expose it to an international free market, benign and malign. We have had a first glimpse of difficulties ahead in the ineffectual groping around by Parliament to find ways of exorcising the video nasty". That is his epitaph, and mine, on this Bill.

On Question, amendment negatived.

10.6 p.m.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, I beg to move, That the Bill do now pass. I do not propose to recapitulate all the arguments which we have already heard on the other side. I only wish to thank those who have helped me deal with a very difficult little Bill. I thank, first of all, my noble friend the Minister and his experts who have been superb in their assistance. I could not possibly have managed without them. I should like to thank noble Lords from all sides of the House who have given me tremendous support on the Bill, not least by being here and not saying anything when they often would have liked to. I am afraid they have heard already far too much from me and I do not propose to recapitulate any arguments now.

I believe that by passing this measure of classification and sending it back to the Commons we have done something valuable which will be welcomed by parents throughout the country, as by many hundreds who have written to me. To them I should like to say that I believe this will be helpful to them and helpful to the whole country. I move that we send this Bill back to its promoter, Mr. Bright, in the other House, with the wish that it will soon be on the statute book.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Nugent of Guildford)

Lord Ardwick

My Lords, this Bill may have been hastily conceived, but it has had a very long period of gestation, or so it seems to me sitting here. I share in general the views of my noble friends who have been so critical in the Bill on the issues of censorship. When we began consideration of this Bill I was particularly unhappy that there had not been a voluntary scheme. But I must say that, as I have listened to the arguments of my noble friends and the critics of this Bill, I have found them unconvincing. I am finishing with fewer doubts about the worth of this Bill, its validity and its usefulness at the end of our discussions than I had at the beginning.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, just for one minute may I forfeit the claim of not having spoken at all—and this will be for one minute in spite of any frowns that come my way. I have been more connected with pornography than almost anyone over the years, and I am delighted that Lord Nugent and Lord Mishcon have carried the day so successfully that there was no need for me to intervene. That is somewhat of a reply to my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby, because at one point he said that all the arguments seemed to come from the critics. A great many of those who support the Bill have not felt that they would add anything by joining in.

I will make one point and then sit down. Lord Houghton and others—including Lord Winstanley, when he has time to turn round—have been critical of the way this has been handled. They said it was outrageous the way it had been handled by the Government. I disagree with that totally and if we talk about Private Members' Bills, Lord Houghton will remember (though he was not a Member of the House at that time) that the Abortion Bill was supported by the Government of the day and Private Members' procedure was being used.

I am going to end now by paying a tribute to Lord Nugent. I think we must do that. It would be wrong not to do it. He has carried through four Bills in this struggle against pornography. May he carry many more!

Lord Elton

My Lords, your Lordships will agree that we have gone on long enough. I would only say that my noble friend Lord Nugent has my unstinted admiration for the way in which he has borne this burden. Those of your Lordships who assisted him deserve much gratitude. I hope that nobody who follows me will speak for longer.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I promise not to speak for long. I join in the tributes that have been paid. The noble Lord the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, know my views about the question of the omission of exports from this Bill. I want to do something nobody else has done. I want to pay a tribute to my noble friend Lord Houghton, with whose views I disagree, and the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins and Lord McIntosh—and they know I disagree with their views. What they have been able to do is this. Instead of their having a nightmare in future that this Bill did not take many hours in this House and had not much discussion over each clause, they will have the pleasant dream in future of knowing how their contributions have made it possible for all to say that this Bill has been well considered and ought now to go to another place and he put on the statute book.

Viscount Buckmaster

My Lords, may I briefly support the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, in regard to works for export? I know that this matter has been fully debated, but I feel it relevant to tell your Lordships that after the Committee stage of this Bill I visited a very senior member of the United Arab Emirates. He told me that he had seen a programme on television which he found utterly repulsive, and that he hoped very much that we in this House would do all that we could to prevent such material reaching the Arab world. I am not concerned about the export of such material to Europe, but I feel there is a grave danger about exports of such material without classification to the Moslem world.

May I add my great tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, and to the noble Lord the Minister for the proceedings which I have listened to with great interest.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with the amendments.