HL Deb 04 May 1984 vol 451 cc743-87

12.45 p.m.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD AMPTHILL in the Chair.]

Clause 3 [Exempted supplies]:

Viscount Buckmaster had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 14: Page 3, line 13, leave out ("significant").

The noble Viscount said: I do not intend to move this amendment, nor Amendments Nos. 15, 16 and 17, since these are on the same lines as my Amendments Nos. 4, 5 and 6, to which I have already spoken.

[Amendments Nos. 14 to 17 not moved.]

Lord Aylestone moved Amendment No. 18: Page 4, line 6, after ("Authority") insert ("and has been transmitted by television or cable").

The noble Lord said: I should like first to apologise for the drafting of this amendment, which is not entirely clear. It was put down at the time when most amendments were tabled before the Committee stage, and sought to include cable with the BBC and the IBA productions which were not to be subjected to what is known as "double jeopardy"; that is to say, they were not to be considered by the designated body because they are already considered under statute by their own controlling bodies. However, since that point, the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, and the noble Lord, Lord Buxton, have been discussed, dealing with precisely the same point. In replying, the Minister made something clear, at least to me, which was not clear before—that really what he was after was what I may term a common classification to be applied to BBC, IBA, videos and cable. I would accept, if agreement can be reached, that that would be a very good way of doing it and would prevent double jeopardy taking place.

However, there is a problem arising from this which I think should be drawn to the attention of the Committee. During the period of about eight years when I had some responsibility for IBA productions, there were occasions when programmes were banned altogether. There were many occasions when words were taken out of programmes and other words were substituted for them, and there were occasions when advertisements were prevented from being transmitted. But if we do reach general classification my fear is that, assuming classification remains as it is at the moment, with Classification 18 being the most avant garde of all, it would be possible for the BBC and IBA to transmit programmes that I am quite sure, even under the heading of "adult programmes", they would not be transmitting at the present time. So there is that danger. I realise the Minister may not have an immediate answer, but it is something which should be looked at. Otherwise, you will have the position that you cannot buy a classified 18 video in a shop unless you are over the age of 18. But because the new body, under the new chairman—who will have a terrific job, anyway—may have agreed that classification 18 is about as high, or as avant garde as you want to go, you could then get on the air, transmitted by the BBC and the IBA, programmes which you would not see at the present moment, but which you could readily see in any cinema, anywhere, so long as they are classified 18. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

I am grateful to the noble Lord for pointing out what might be a difficulty arising from the correspondence between the certification system for broadcast and cinematic material. I think, in fact, I was talking about correlation rather than a common classification system, but there will be very close consultation on this and the noble Lord's remarks will be very relevant to it. I do not think I can say any more than that, except that I should like to thank the noble Lord for bringing it to our notice.

Lord Aylestone

I thank the Minister for his reply. I am quite sure that both the BBC and the IBA will, in a sense, keep their end up when these discussions take place. With those words, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Nugent of Guildford moved Amendment No. 19: Page 4, line 6, after ("or") insert ("for the purpose only of the sending of any video work contained in the recording as part of a service authorised by a licence granted or having effect as if granted under section 58 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 (power to license cable programme services) or, until the coming into force of that section").

The noble Lord said: This is a purely technical amendment consequential on the passage of the Telecommunications Act 1984. As presently drafted, Clause 3(8) provides that the supply of a video recording is exempted if it is for the purpose only of the broadcasting of any video work contained in the recording by the BBC or the IBA, or its distribution by a cable operator licensed under Section 89 of the Post Office Act 1969.

As your Lordships are aware, the Telecommunications Act 1984, which deals with, among other matters, cable programme services, received the Royal Assent two or three weeks ago. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that once Section 58 of that Act is in force, cable services licensed under that section fall within the scope of Clause 3(8). I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 20: Page 4, line 8, at end insert—

("( ) Without prejudice to the generality of section 3(8) above, the supply of a video work between any or all of the following persons:

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

The noble Lord said: This amendment, and a few amendments in my name which follow, are all to do with exempted supplies. The purpose of exempting supplies is to avoid unnecessary traffic in video recordings as between individuals, companies or corporations and the censorship authorities. This amendment seeks merely to exempt the broadcasting authorities from any of the provisions of supply in connection with the interchange of video recordings between one and another, and these are all listed.

It may be that this question is being taken care of in the discussions that are taking place between the broadcasting authorities and the Home Office on other aspects of the Bill. Either it is desirable, or it is not. There is nothing contentious about it. It is merely to relieve some public authorities from unnecessary trouble, if it is not needful to put them through the mincing machine. It is as simple as that. I shall wait to see from the responses whether there is any difficulty about it and any need for it, or whether or not it is something that should be done. I beg to move.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

I am glad to say that on this occasion, in principle, there is nothing between the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, and myself and that, in principle, we are with him. In form, the answer is that we are not yet quite ready. There have been a number of discussions with officials of the BBC and the IBA to try to deal with this rather complicated matter, and they are not yet completed. I think it is enough for me to say at this stage that it looks fairly certain that there will need to be some amendment at Report stage, if for no other reason than that to do with references to the Complaints Commission. We think that there is a necessity. But these conversations are continuing. When we have been able to settle precisely what the amendment should be, we shall put it down for the Report stage. I hope that with that assurance, the noble Lord may be willing to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I am satisfied with that reply, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)

Are Amendments Nos. 21, 22 and 23 not moved?

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 21:

Page 4, line 11, at end insert— ("( ) The supply of a video recording by any person which has been imported from a member State of the European Economic Community ("EEC") or from a European country with which a free trade treaty between it and the EEC is in force, provided that the work embodied in such recording has been approved by a classification body in the country of export for exhibition or sale to the public, is an exempted supply.").

The noble Lord said: Yes, the amendments are to be moved, since they deal with quite separate matters. However, I do not think that they need take very long. Naturally, when we have a Bill of this kind, with all its restraints and restrictions, from which one is inclined to exempt certain interests, we must, for a few moments study what it is that we are trying to do. Amendment No. 21 relates to our connection with the European Economic Community. There are other aspects of our membership of the EEC and of the provisions of this Bill which are important but which have not received very much attention in the course of the discussions on the Bill either in another place or here. However, they are not dealt with in the amendment.

The amendment relates only to imports of video works from member states of the EEC, or from a European country with which a free trade treaty between it and the EEC is in force".

Of course, a great deal can be said about imports, as well as about exports, of video recordings which people may not like. This is an attempt to spare exporters from Europe and importers in this country from having to go through the machinery of the Bill, if the recordings being brought here from the EEC, or a related country, have been approved by a classification body in the country of export as being for exhibition or sale to the public. This may raise immediately the question as to what classifications there are in Europe, and whether the classifications that are in existence are of comparable character to the ones that we propose to have. These are important matters in connection with this amendment.

I am not sure where all our imports come from. Some of them may come from EEC countries, and others from outside, or some may come from a country such as Spain, which has yet to enter the EEC. But no matter; this amendment is restricted to the import of video recordings upon which some acceptable classification has already been placed in the country of origin. That is really what this is all about. It may be not very helpful in present circumstances, because of the lack of classification in other European countries.

I understand that very few restrictions are put on video recordings in other countries. Ireland has some censorship. Sweden is not in the EEC. They have the same classification for video recordings as they have for films. Other countries do not have either, or they have no classification for videos. However, I am sure that this matter has been studied by the importers of video recordings from other European countries.

I stress that this is not an attempt to open the door to a great deal of unclassified material which may be imported and which may be outside the scope of our own classification. It could be as bad as that, with recordings being imported for which there will be no classification from our censorship authorities. This is not intended to provide a back door; it is straight-forward and above board. It is intended to relate like with like when material passes between EEC countries and this country. I hope I have made that point clear. I shall look forward to the verdict on this suggestion. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, for having misunderstood his intentions regarding the moving of the amendments.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

I appreciate the spirit in which the noble Lord has moved his amendment. He has made it plain that he does not wish to create a back door which would upset the system of classification which we wish to set up here. The fact is that a good many imports come from Europe. I understand that a number of imports come from Italy and Spain; and Spain will shortly be a member of the Community. The situation relating to classification in Europe is very variable.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, may have seen from his comprehensive study of the subject a draft report which was commissioned by the European Parliament. It is a survey of video viewing, particularly by children throughout the member countries of the community, and it sets out what action should be taken about it. Among other matters, the survey reveals that the standard of classification, if any, varies a good deal from one country to another. If, therefore, we accepted the noble Lord's amendment, we should expose ourselves to a situation in which video recordings of any standard, or which lacked any standard, could be imported. There would be no control whatsoever over them, and it would knock the bottom out of a classification scheme in this country. It is clear that the noble Lord does not wish to do that.

Looking to the future, if the European Parliament were to propose a regulation arising out of the report—which in very cogent terms deals with the dangers particularly with regard to video viewing by children of violence and obscenity—there would be a common standard and it would then be time to look at the matter again. However, this is several years off. In the meantime, I hope that the noble Lord, having given this important point an airing, will be willing to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I am very much obliged to the noble Lord for his comments. It may be that I am a little premature. If the EEC felt that harmonisation in this area might be attempted, this kind of difficulty would be removed. I am very strongly in favour of as much harmonisation as can be achieved by EEC countries. It would make for interchange of trade and for the acceptance of common standards. No area, from my point of view, is so important as the harmonisation of the treatment of animals, particularly in the laboratories of Europe, so that people are not able to go from one country to another conducting experiments as they become frowned upon or forbidden in one country as distinct from another. Therefore I am all in favour of harmonisation.

I hope that fairly soon we shall be able to harmonise whatever arrangements we may have with our partners in the EEC, especially since I am advised that many members of the public have the mistaken idea that all the undesirable video recordings come from the United States. Whenever we have been involved in a Bill of this kind we have been threatened with an avalanche from the United States. But that avalanche has never arrived because it has never existed in the first place. I understand that many of these undesirable films are made in English by producers in both Italy and Spain. Italy is in the EEC and Spain is hoping to join it. They are therefore two very important countries from the point of view of the exchange of video recordings with this country. In the circumstances, I shall not let that fact stand in the way of the progress of the Bill. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1.8 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 22: Page 4, line 11, at end insert—

("( ) The despatch of a video recording from outside the United Kingdom to a person within the United Kingdom for the latter's private use, not being a supply within the United Kingdom is an exempted supply.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 22, which relates to transactions between individuals. It concerns, the despatch of a video recording from outside the United Kingdom to a person within the United Kingdom for the latter's private use".

I had hoped that this personal and private exchange between a citizen in one European country and a citizen in this country could be exempted from having to go to wherever this material will have to be sent—Blackpool, Cumbria, or wherever it may be that these new premises will be established, with an enormous staff. There will be special transit arrangements day by day for all the videos which will have to be labelled. That is a light-hearted comment; I feel in need of a light-hearted comment while we are discussing this Bill.

I want there to be protection, if possible, for the purely private exchange between two individuals of a video recording. It seems to me to be reasonable that a video recording should be able to be sent by Mr. A in France to Mr. B in Britain for the latter's personal use, bearing in mind that if Mr. B in Britain were to attempt to put this video recording in circulation without a classification label, he would come up against the provisions of the Bill. It seems to me to be 100 per cent. watertight. Therefore, I now ask my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford—we are rapidly getting into that state of relationship, though we might part company later in the day—whether he feels that he can accept the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

If I may shyly join in this festival of amity, perhaps I may say that I find myself to some extent in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, on this issue, because obviously there are limits to the extent to which we can control activities undertaken overseas. In general, our law applies only to conduct in this country. There are, it is true, certain exceptional cases in which it applies to offences committed overseas, but it would be inappropriate to make this an exceptional case and deem it an offence to supply video recordings to people in this country when the supply takes place abroad.

Moreover, that would be impracticable because it would, after all, be virtually impossible to bring an accused person operating abroad to court in this country—let alone assemble the necessary evidence. In any case, I can tell the noble Lord that the effect of Clause 23(3) is that the Bill extends to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but it does not apply overseas. The noble Lord's amendment is therefore not necessary, because the situation is as he would wish it to be.

Baroness Hornsby-Smith

There are a great many exchanges of children from France coming to holiday in this country, and children from this country going there for holidays. To me, this amendment seems to be driving a coach and horses through precisely what we are trying to prevent; that is, these "video nasties" being seen by children. If a child who has visited this country sends an English friend a video, what is to stop the English child having a party and showing it to loads more children if he has received it by this means? These are the very people we are trying to protect. I fear that this amendment would leave the door wide open for such videos to come into this country, against the interests of the children we are trying to protect.

Lord Swinfen

I believe that this amendment is unnecessary because customs regulations already cover the import of obscene and unpleasant material. The customs have wider powers than the police. If they find something—in the post or anywhere else—that they consider to be obscene, I understand that the recipient then has to prove that it is not obscene to prevent it being confiscated. I feel, with respect, that this amendment is not necessary.

Lord Elton

I believe that I have answered the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, and that one of my noble friends has answered the other.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

Then I am quite content. If this amendment is unnecessary, then it is unnecessary. If the matter is taken care of, then okay. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 23: Page 4, line 11, at end insert—

("( ) The supply of a video recording being a person's own video work for exclusive use by him for professional education, research or therapy is an exempted supply.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment concerns another small point that has been put to me: that a person may make a video recording for his exclusive use, for professional education, research, thereapy or whatever, and that it should be an exempted supply. As far as I can tell, this is a kind of do-it-yourself video. This amendment is intended to guard against the smaller moonbeams in what I would describe as the larger lunacy.

It is only when one gets down to this kind of point that one wonders whether there are absurdities in the provisions of this Bill and whether, when the Bill becomes an Act, people will say, "What a lot of nonsense all this is. It is a lot of bureaucratic tripe", and so forth. I believe there will be a lot of backlash over this Bill, one way or another, and I am trying to protect both the sponsor of the Bill and the Government from unnecessary criticism. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

I am bound to say that there are three aspects of this amendment which puzzle me. First, can the noble Lord say whether the word "professional" is intended to qualify the word "education" only, or is it intended to qualify also "research or therapy"?

Secondly, although the noble Lord says that such a video shall be for the person's exclusive use, if that person is going to use it for professional education then presumably it is not for his own professional education but for that of somebody else. Thirdly, can the noble Lord explain how a "video nasty" or any other salacious material can be in any way therapeutic to anyone of any age?

Lord Nugent of Guildford

From the terms in which he moved his amendment, it appears that the noble Lord wishes to provide exemption for the person who makes a video for his own exclusive use, for professional education, et cetera. First, if the video is simply for the individual's exclusive use, it is clearly exempted because there is no supply involved. If he uses it for professional education, then there are exemptions, first, under Clause 1, and, secondly, if he comes within the categories mentioned in Clauses 3 and 4, under their subsections as well.

It would appear that the exemptions which already exist under Clause 2 will be adequate to meet the noble Lord's anxieties in this matter. If there is any aspect of his anxieties which I have not covered by those references, I am quite sure he will tell me. I believe that his anxieties are sufficiently met in those clauses as drafted.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I am not sure that this has not become a little too complicated for me. I apologise for that. By way of explanation, may I be permitted to say that some interests which are concerned with this Bill find that I am the only Member of your Lordships' Committee likely to take up the points they have in mind. They realise, as I do, what an unfriendly atmosphere we are all in—those of us who seek to probe, to reform and in certain circumstances to resist.

Noble Lords


Lord Houghton of Sowerby

But we are doing our best. To save the further time of the Committee, I had better beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

Before the noble Lord does so, may I remind him that at the Report stage at another place, my honourable friend Mr. Bright did move amendments covering Clause 2(2) and Clause 3(5) in order to widen the exemptions—particularly in this respect. It may be that the representations made to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, did not fully take on board what that widening achieved. Neither Mr. Bright nor I are as unsympathetic as the noble Lord makes out. We are very happy to hear any representations he has from his own lips.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I still want to withdraw the amendment. I may add that I have read through the Official Report of all the Standing Committee proceedings and debates in another place. It is now a very difficult job to find out exactly what they were doing. The new method of having the Motion, the "Amendment made" in the record of another place means that one sometimes has to refer back to the previous sitting to know what the amendment was that is to be made. We do not conduct our business in such an obscure way as they do in another place. I beg leave—and in fact I insist—to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 3, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I wish to make one comment about Clause 3 stand part. I regret that in Clause 3 we are creating a new offence. The offence we are creating, as I understand the Bill, is that while in the relationship between neighbours, friends and relatives one may pass on unclassified video recordings which are not for reward and not in the course of business, if there is reward or it is done in the course of business, then it is an offence.

Many households throughout the country already have video recordings. They are not classified. After the Bill becomes an Act, new recordings, or the same recordings issued from suppliers, will have to be classified, but the recorded works in our homes will not be classified. If I say to a neighbour, "I have a very nice collection of video recordings, all opera", or whatever they may be, "and if you would like to buy them from me I shall be very glad to sell them to you for a nominal sum", I understand that that will be an offence. The fine would be level five of the standard scale, which is a maximum of £2,000. I repeat, £2,000. If I am right about that, I guess that the first conviction for that will be regarded as an absolute outrage.

The clause also refers to transactions in the course … of a business". So you go to Clause 22 to find out that: 'business'… includes any activity carried on by a club". There is a dangerous one. Will we have court cases on what are clubs? We may have some case law on what are clubs. But I am thinking of groups on housing estates, in pubs and in other clubs who may wish to have exchanges among themselves, paying into a kitty, or paying for part of the hire, or some other transaction that might be regarded as an activity of a club. I understand that this will also be an offence. Here we have offences being created under our very eyes for transactions which in the ordinary course of human relationships have hitherto been free of any guilt or charge whatsoever.

It is almost as if video recordings are now on the same footing as cannabis or heroin. We are regarding the video recording as something undesirable. The smear that has stretched over the whole of this industry is quite deplorable. It is a thriving industry. It is bringing a lot of employment, and is satisfying a widespread demand in the homes of the country. We have to pause, in putting Clause 3 into the Bill, to ask ourselves: is this necessary? Is this out of proportion to the evil that the Bill is intended to deal with?

I shall say no more about it. If I am right in my opinion on what we are doing in Clause 3, I think that the public should know about it. We should fully understand what we are doing, and in our minds we should justify doing it for the greater good. I would strongly dispute that, but other people may hold a different view. That is all I want to say. It arises directly on the question, whether Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill.

1.23 p.m.

Lord Mishcon

In regard to what the noble Lord has just said, I wonder whether I might make just a couple of comments. Again, I repeat to him and to the Committee that I am expressing a personal point of view. He said in regard to Clause 3 that it is a slur upon the video manufacturers of this country, and indeed that the whole of the Bill constitutes such a slur. I felt that I ought at once to rise to say that I have before me a document issued by the British Videogram Association in regard to this Bill. It says proudly that it has 58 members ranging from relatively small companies (and it gives instances) to the giants in the industry. This is what it has to say about this Bill, which includes Clause 3: The BVA led the initiative in seeking to outlaw video nasties and in developing a uniform system of classification for all programming. The classification system of UPG 15 and 18 was recommended to the BVA as a result of an independent working party established by that association over two years ago. Clearly the BVA believes it is essential to get rid of the so-called video nasties whose very existence has begun to sully an otherwise wholesome type of family entertainment. It is in the interests of the BVA, of parents, consumers and retailers that a clear and simple indication of the content and suitability should be marked on every video cassette or video disc offered for sale or rental. If a video recording cannot satisfy such requirements it should not be on the market". I complete the quotation from the association representing all the manufacturers of repute, I believe—certainly the majority of them—in the industry to which my noble friend has just referred.

On the other point he raised, I say just this. In almost every single Bill which creates an offence one can point to the minimal offence committed within that circumference and try to make a hard case of it. As the saying goes, by making the hard case you make bad law. Everybody who has read this Bill knows that there is Clause 13, which deals with the offences that my noble friend is talking about in regard to supply. He gave the instance of a neighbour selling a video collection, non-classified, to the neighbour next door. The answer to that one is Clause 13(2): It is a defence to a charge of committing an offence under this section to prove that the accused … neither knew nor had reasonable grounds to believe that the recording, spool, case or other thing (as the case may be) did not satisfy the requirement concerned". In my view, the very facts that the noble Lord gave to the House would come absolutely square within that wording.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

I do not think that the Committee wishes to hear a long speech from me about Clause 3, especially after the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has so ably made out the justification for it. I think it is only necessary for me to say that it would be a mistake for the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, or indeed for the trade, to think that either I or, indeed, the Government, who give such substantial support to this Bill, are out to persecute the trade. We recognise that it is a vast and important trade, serving the country most valuably, and that the very large majority of all the trade it does is perfectly legitimate, wholesome and helpful in every way.

It is a little unfortunate—and this, I am sure, the noble Lord will take to heart—that the trade has managed to get itself into a position of some opposition to the Bill. I really do not think that it need have done. The amount that this Bill will affect its trade is very small indeed. Classification will of course be an elaborate business; I accept that. But if you are to classify you have no alternative but to make it universal. If the trade is in favour—and I believe it is—of seeing that the trade is wholesome and that children are not exposed to danger in seeing videos, classification seems the best way of ensuring that. That being so, the burdens of classification just have to be accepted by what is, after all, a very vigorous trade. I think they will carry it all right from the figures that I hear, without too much strain. At the end of it all this will give the trade the confirmation, which it does generally have now, that it is a legitimate trade serving a useful interest, in the interests of the whole community.

In order to give the necessary exemptions the Bill has become extremely complicated. I do sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. Even with the assistance of briefs from the Home Office I find it very difficult to understand some of it. It is very complicated but that is the product of continuing attempts to make all the exemptions which should properly be there to avoid interfering with matters that do not need to be covered by classification. So I hope the noble Lord will take some comfort from what I have said: that we are not out to persecute the trade; we are out to confirm the trade in the general image that it has of a legitimate trade serving the main interests of the country.

Lord Elton

I only intervene lest my silence should be misconstrued on one point, and that is to put myself full square with the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and my noble friend on our view of the trade. It is an honourable trade. It wishes to disembarrass itself of dishonourable allies. This Bill is a means of doing it. We are not impugning the industry, for which we have a high regard.

Lord Monson

I entirely appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, says about the classification and about new video works. But we are talking not only about new material but about material that is already in existence. I should like to lend some support to what the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, says, particularly with regard to transactions between neighbours. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Elton, could confirm the accuracy or otherwise of what I am about to say.

Supposing somebody's lawnmower breaks down at the beginning of a summer weekend and he leans over the garden fence to his neighbour and says, "Bill, I know you have never liked lending your lawnmower to anybody but I am rather desperate, my grass needs cutting rather badly; I happen to have some rather spicy video cassettes which I got many years ago before the Bill became law and if you would stretch things just this once and lend me your lawnmower, I will lend you my video cassettes for the week-end". Is it not the case that he could be fined £2,000 for doing so? However, if the first man, who was borrowing the lawnmower, invited the neighbour into the privacy of his, the first man's home to watch the video cassettes then there would be no penalty attaching. Is that correct or not?

Lord Elton

If the supply is a supply for reward, then it is caught by the Bill.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I will not keep the Committee more than a couple of minutes or so. I am grateful to my noble friend, Lord Mishcon, for reading out what of course I have already read. Nobody is perhaps receiving more communications at the present time than I am from the British Video Association. I try to read all that they are saying.

All I am talking about is the video cassettes which are in our homes at the present time. If we did not buy a single additional video, or hire anything, from now on, we may have videos in our homes. This is the unfortunate situation when one tries to catch up. They are already there. What this Bill is saying to the people of Britain is, "Those video recordings in your home may not be sold to anybody else without a classification on those recordings, without the risk of a charge under this Bill". As I understand it, that is the legal position. Also it says that if you form any association with your neighbours or your work mates or people that you may meet socially, to have videos you already possess circulated among the group or association you form, if there is any payment for so doing, then that will be in the course of business because you are indulging in an activity of a club.

This is what I am saying. I hope that the people outside realise how the hand of bureaucracy and of the law has come down every chimney of every home to deal with this situation. I think they must understand this is what is happening. It may be defended on the ground "Unfortunately we cannot fulfil the purpose of this Bill without putting this restriction upon you". If that is so, they must understand that they submit to this intrusion into their private activities for the sake of the regeneration of Britain. But I think, quite honestly, that this is an appalling situation. However, there it is. If this Bill goes forward in its present form with no alleviation then it will be the law.

I do not find any comfort at all in what my noble friend has reminded me of. That is that if you are charged, then you can plead ignorance; it will be a legitimate defence, then, to say that you did not know or you had no reason to believe, or you had no idea; you were a poor innocent and therefore you just walked innocently into the transaction and came upon the wrong side of the law. I would like to see that reported in the local paper and see whether people feel that they have been advanced in the prestige of the community in those circumstances—perfectly innocent people. However, it is enough. I have said it. It is there and it has not been contradicted. So this is what we do in the Lords as we now move on to the most controversial clause of the Bill, which is Clause 4.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4: [Authority to determine suitability of video works for classification]:

1.36 p.m.

Lord Aylestone moved Amendment No. 24: Page 4, line 14, after ("person") insert ("knowledgeable in the film and video recording industry").

The noble Lord said: Clause 4 deals with the designated authority. We understand that the British Board of Film Censors are likely to be the nucleus of the body which will have the job of designating videos in addition to films and classifying them. At the present time the BBFC, under their very distinguished chairman, have for many years done an excellent job, but it will be nothing in comparison with the work that they are going to have to handle in the future when they will be concerned with the videos in addition to films.

I say that because I think it would be essential in the first place for the newly designated authority to, as it were, catch up with the thousands of videos that are now available, which have not been classified, in addition to those that are being made. So there will be a considerable amount of work in front of the new authority.

In my view, the Secretary of State will be required to appoint a much larger body than the present BBFC, which will meet much more regularly because they will have many, many times more work to do, and indeed so will the chairman. In this amendment all I suggest is that, to make the work easier, the Secretary of State should have in mind that it is not just a question of appointing someone here and someone there, one from England, one from Scotland and one from Wales, but in the main, in the early stages, to appoint people who are knowledgeable within the film and video industry to assist the chairman in the early parts of what is going to be a very considerable job. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

In view of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, I think it might save the time of the Committee if I now express the doubts that I have about what appears to be the intention with regard to the appointment of the designated authority. I have given notice—it is on the Marshalled List—of my intention to oppose the Question that Clause 4 stand part of the Bill. If I speak now, I can avoid speaking then. I think it is a good thing that the Bill leaves open the question of who shall be the designated person. I must say that I have very grave doubts about the desirability of the British Board of Film Censors being appointed for that purpose. My noble friend Lord Harlech is a very old friend of mine and a parliamentary friend for whom I have enormous regard. He has a great and eminent record of public service. However, I feel bound to say what I am now going to say about the British Board of Film Censors.

It is a non-statutory body. It is appointed as a voluntary body by the film industry. It is an agent of the film industry. Some of the films that it has allowed to be shown should never in my opinion have been shown. I give the example of "Caligula" as one film. Other noble Lords may have in mind other films that have passed the British Board of Film Censors. If the board was to apply the same standard to videos to be shown in the home, or to any videos, as it has sometimes applied when acting as film censor— because that is what it is supposed to be—this would make a nonsense of the Bill and we shall have wasted our time, in my humble opinion.

In any event, I would suggest that far from what the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone. has proposed, we ought to have a censorship that is entirely detached from the film industry, from the video industry, and from any vested interest whatever. I hope therefore that the Government, or my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford—to whomever it falls to take the responsibility; perhaps both of them—will give an undertaking that neither the British Board of Film Censors, nor any other commercial body, will be the designated authority under the Bill.

Lord Mishcon

We all listen with great respect to what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has to say. I can recall past debates when I have always enjoyed listening to him. He has with some strength made the debating point that if you find, on one side people who say that the body has gone too far and, on the other side, people who say that the body has not gone far enough, you can usually judge that you have got it just about right—and I use his favourite phrase, which I remember so well. It is all very well to have an onslaught on the BBFC and to think in terms of not having it. We have not said in the Bill that it should be the BBFC. This will have to be left to Parliament and to another discussion in both Houses, I have no doubt.

The point that I want to make is this. Many years ago, for five years—and they were five interesting years in my life—I was chairman of the Public Control Committee of the old London County Council. It fell to my lot, and that of my colleagues, to examine those films in regard to which exhibitors wanted to appeal against the ruling of the voluntary body (as the noble Lord has correctly described it) the BBFC, or where the local authority itself felt that, quite apart from any appeal, it ought to look at the film itself for reasons of public policy and other considerations. In going back over those five years, I remember that there were very few occasions indeed when we found ourselves—and we were a very broad committee—differing from the BBFC.

The board accumulated a great deal of experience. There has to be some balance about this. Indeed, if one has set up an entirely new body without any past experience at all, then one wonders whether the experience of the BBFC is not wasted, bearing in mind especially that there have been certain undertakings about an appeals procedure. We shall come later, I hope, to an amendment of mine that tries to embody in the Bill the setting-up of an advisory council. With all those safeguards, I should have thought that the Government's thinking is about right on this question.

We shall come across phrases that deal with the question of the applicability of the board's work to the fact that this showing is in the home as against the cinema. It will be interesting at that stage to hear the views of various Members of your Lordships' Committee. We shall be concentrating very much on certain thoughts. To think in terms of excluding the BBFC would be wrong. To exclude its experience would be wrong. All can point to examples where some of us would think that it went too far, while others of us would think that it did not go far enough. One of the main reasons that I have chosen to intervene—and after this I promise to sit down—is to remark that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, made what was for him an unusual mistake. Although he is right in calling the BBFC a body of censorship, because that is within its name, he talked the whole time in terms of the powers of this body being the powers of censorship. I emphasise again that this is possibly one of the minimum duties of that body. Its authority will be to guide by way of definition and description. That is not censorship; that is guidance.

Lord Beswick

I usually find myself in agreement with what my noble friend Lord Mishcon says, but on this occasion 1 have some reservations. I think that if one scratches one's head, one can often say that it is rather an easy assertion to argue that if there are criticisms on both sides, the centre man is necessarily right. That is not always the case. I share some of the doubts expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I can see that the British Board of Film Censors has a certain expertise and knowledge in these matters, which should be utilised. However, if the intention of the amendment is to ensure that people with knowledge of video and film work are the only people on this board—the wording of the amendment would appear to indicate that this is so—I should certainly be against the amendment.

I share the respect that has been voiced by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, to the noble Lord who happens to be the president of the British Board of Film Censors; all of us do so. I hope that what I now say is not taken as criticism of him. I think, however, that I have found in my experience that if one is concentrating on a particular line of activity, one can become blasé, inured, and—I shall not say insensitive—lacking a little in sensitivity. I do not want only people who have knowledge and experience of the film and video industry. I should like someone from the educational world, someone with experience of social welfare. I should like the man or woman on the Clapham omnibus, and the housewife. I want them to be represented. I do not rule out the British Board of Film Censors, with their technical expertise in these matters. I hope, however, that nothing that has been said so far means that we shall not have other people, with wider interests, also having influence on the board.

Earl Attlee

I am not sure that I go quite so far as the noble Lord, Lord Renton, but personally I am worried about the British Board of Film Censors. One of the video nasties that the police showed to us was part of a film that had been passed for public showing by the British Board of Film Censors. It may have been all right as a film in the cinema. When you translate a cinema film to a video, and when a nasty part of the film can be played time and time again, that is another matter. What worries me is that a well-meaning man, who was very much an expert, could pass a certain film with a certain category, for viewing in the cinema and then turn round, put on the other hat for the video, and say, "I have passed it to be seen at the age of 18 in the cinema. I shall therefore do the same for the video". Whoever is responsible for the classification of videos must appreciate the wide range of things that can be done with a modern video which cannot be done in the cinema.

Lord Renton

Before my noble friend replies I wonder whether I may reply very quickly to the point made by my noble friend, Lord Mishcon, about the designated authority not being a censorship body. It is true that it is not described in the Bill as a censorship body but it would be quite incapable of carrying out its classification, which it has got to carry out, unless it exercised de facto censorship. I am very surprised at the noble Lord saying that it is not to be a censorship body and at the same time saying that its work should be done by the British Board of Film Censors.

Lord Ardwick

My thinking on this occasion happens to be the same as that of my noble friend. Obviously standards must be established and the great difficulty is how on earth does one lay down those standards? One cannot do it by Act of Parliament; one cannot do it by ministerial guidance; one cannot make hard and fast rules. This is a question of hunch, of feeling, of people who are engaged continuously in this kind of judgment and who are responsible to public opinion, the experience of public opinion.

One of the reasons I was immediately reconciled to this Bill was that this was going to be in the hands of the BBFC, with their profound experience. It is no argument against this body to say that they have made the occasional error. Any body that one appoints would make the occasional error. I consider that they have given a very good example of liberal tolerance throughout the years. My noble friend talked about the danger of insensitivity. There is only one way of guarding against this danger, and that is to give the responsibility to people who have no experience at all in this matter, which is absolutely absurd. I am talking about innocents who have never seen films or videos or watched television programmes. We must have experienced people.

In this Chamber we ought to have a sense of humility about our own ability to lay down these standards. We are a number of white-haired senators. Perhaps there is nobody in this Chamber today who is under the age of 45; perhaps there is one person.

Noble Lords


Lord Ardwick

There is one.

Lord Swinfen

I apologise to the Committee for getting up. I am 45; the noble Lord is perfectly right.

Lord Ardwick

I happen to be right.

Lord Beswick

As there has been a break, may I ask the noble Lord to make it absolutely clear that he is not saying that I have suggested that we should have people who have never seen a video?

1.55 p.m.

Lord Ardwick

This was the logical consequence of the noble Lord's argument about people being desensitised by experience. The question then is how much experience they are allowed to have to guard against the danger of insensitivity. That is the problem. I was talking about people under the age of 45.

Over the years there has been a revolution in sexual standards. At present the Sunday Times is running a series on this very subject. It is quite obvious that people under the age of 45 think and feel entirely differently about these subjects. Most of us were brought up in an age of shame and guilt and secrecy, and these people have an entirely different outlook as laid down in the frequency charts and things like that. They have different ideas of what is suitable for their children to see. I hope that the censors, the BBFC—I do not hesitate to call them censors—will operate in this matter.

So that there is no need for me to speak on a later amendment about advisory councils which is down in the name of my noble friend and myself, may I say, too, that I hope that those censors will be chosen from people who are largely under the age of 45.

Lord Beswick

Before the noble Lord sits down, may I pursue him on that point? If he will be good enough to look at the amendment to which I referred, he will see that it refers to people with expert knowledge in the video recording industry. I should like to ask him to believe, please, that it is possible to have a considerable knowledge in the influence of videos, considerable experience in looking at videos, without being concerned with the recording industry.

Lord Swinfen

As a youngster in your Lordships' Committee I should like to say a few words. I do not agree with this amendment. Basically I think that, if one is going to make those who are knowledgeable in the film and video recording industry responsible for checking on their own work, they can be far too close to it. I may be wrong but I believe that the vast majority of the British Board of Film Censors do not actually make films. They look at them to judge how fit they are for the general public to view. We do not want those who make the videos—at any rate, not all of them—to judge their own quality. It is like having an artist act as his own public critic; it is worthless. I believe that we should have ordinary people from all walks of life.

I agree entirely that the expertise the BBFC have in actually carrying out the process of examining films can be usefully employed in setting up the organisation to vet video recordings. But it does not mean to say that they are necessarily the best people or the best organisation to do it. The Government have indicated that they are likely to use the British Board of Film Censors. I am not sure in my own mind that they have come down firmly on that particular bench. I sincerely hope not; I hope it will be far wider. Their expertise is in looking at films for showing in public, not in the home. We do need housewives, mothers and parents of young children, not, if I may say so, those who are no longer responsible for young children but can look on their children being responsible for their grandchildren.

In a debate some years ago on the Second Reading of the Indecent Displays Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said that we might as well turn ourselves into a committee of grandparents. That irritated me, so as a mere parent I got up and joined in. Younger people of all ages can be useful as well but they should not be entirely from the film or video world. We need people from all walks of life.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

I will not take up too much of the Committee's time. We are not discussing just pornography. All those in this Committee today who have seen these films will know what I am talking about. We are not being old-fashioned. We are not necessarily having to be brought up to date. These are videos which are new on the market. They are new even to the British Board of Film Censors. I doubt very much if that board has seen many of these films, but those of us who have would certainly think, as my noble friend behind me has said, that the board which classifies these videos for home viewing must be made up of people from all walks of life, including parents.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

This has turned into a very interesting debate so innocently started by the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, with his relatively small but important amendment. It was my noble friend, Lord Renton, who broadened the debate because he then started the debate on the Question, That the clause stand part. So we have been introduced to a number of very interesting views about the designated body, who they should be and how they should operate.

First, let me answer the noble Lord's amendment because I fear that we have strayed some way from it. My noble friend Lord Swinfen dealt with the essential point; namely, that the Secretary of State has indicated whom he is going to designate in the British Board of Film Censors. That is not an incorporated body, and therefore he is going to designate individuals—my noble friend Lord Harlech, the president; two vice-presidents; probably the secretary, and perhaps one other—as the people responsible. They will enlarge their staff of examiners as necessary in order to cope with the very considerable extra load. All those people will be—to use the term which the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, emphasised—expert in this very expert field. Clearly that is the whole justification for my right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State deciding that the British Board of Film Censors is—at any rate in the first place—the right body to designate for this purpose. It is a very expert function and there is no question that it is very similar to the classification of films.

I should like to deal with the very cogent point made by my noble friend Lord Renton and supported—especially in this context—by my noble friend Lord Beswick that the British Board of Film Censors have slipped a bit as regards some of the films to which they have given certificates. My noble friend Lord Renton mentioned "Caligula". What we must recognise, as I am sure most noble Lords and in particular the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, recognise, is that the British Board of Film Censors are primarily acting as an agent for the local authorities. They are the ultimate authority in this matter, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, reminded us when he functioned—obviously very efficiently—for the GLC.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, will the noble Lord please retain my sense of honour? It was the London County Council.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, what a lot of experience the noble Lord has! In carrying out this function, the British Board of Film Censors must be guided by the law. The law in these matters comes under the Obscene Publications Act 1959, and there have been a good many occasions in this Chamber when I have had something to say about that, and I have expressed my opinion about the Act's weakness and vagueness and the urgent need to have something clearer and stronger. Nevertheless, it is the law.

As we all well know, in the past 20 years prosecutions have occasionally come before the courts and before juries. But the juries have been endlessly confused, especially by able defence counsel, on the meaning of the words, "corrupt and deprave". Those words do not mean very much to the man in the street—certainly not on the subject of obscenity. As a result, prosecutions which I and many others might have felt ought to have succeeded—and indeed my noble friend Lord Renton might have felt ought to have succeeded—have not in fact done so. Each time that has happened, producers—mostly for the live stage but followed by producers for the cinema—have produced what they would call more adventurous productions. But I would call them more obscene productions. The British Board of Film Censors has had to judge—sometimes I suppose with guidance from the Attorney-General or from the Director of Public Prosecutions via the Attorney-General—the standards or tests that the DPP were applying before he took action against the live stage which, in particular, has led the way down. The effect has been that year after year the standards have gradually become lower. That is not the fault of the British Board of Film Censors; it is our fault. We made the law but we just have not tightened it up.

Two years ago my noble friend and I brought what we thought was an excellent little Bill in front of your Lordships. The House was good enough to give the Bill a Second Reading, but the splendid Home Secretary of the day, (who is now my noble friend Lord Whitelaw) shook his head over it and said that he could not take responsibility for it in the House of Commons because of the enormous difficulty of handling this kind of legislation. I sympathise with him. Maybe we will have another shot at it some other time. But the fact is that that is the law. It is the law, the actions and the decisions of the courts, which have been the guidance for the British Board of Film Censors. Moreover, the board would have been completely wrong and would without any doubt, have been challenged if they had tried to refuse classification approval or certification as regards films which they thought had gone too far if, in the eyes of the experts, there would not be a conviction if the matter were taken to court.

That is the perspective in which my noble friend, with his great knowledge of the law, must well understand we must view the British Board of Film Censors. I take my hat off to my noble friend who has had this very difficult job all these years and who is now willing to take on the enormous load of classifying these video films with all the difficulties that that entails. But the fact is that they are an expert body and they have shown very good judgment. They are the people best able to do it and we should be grateful to them for doing so. I hope that my noble friend Lord Renton will see the matter in that perspective and will realise that it is the law and the weakness of the law that he is criticising; indeed, perhaps he will support me when I have another attempt to amend the Obscene Publications Act 1959.

However, in this context we are not out to change the law; we are out for a system of classification, and that is the basis of the Bill. We will all have read the debates in the other place as to whether 18R should be classified or should not be classified. The other place decided, after two full days of debate in Committee, that it should be classified because it is now within the law, even though viewing in the home is different from viewing in the cinema. They put in what safeguards they could, but they still felt that this was not a Bill for censorship—although the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, keeps so calling it—but a Bill for classification. It is in that context that we should view the particular problem about which we are talking.

Let me conclude by referring to the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone. In my judgment the right place for the trade is on the consultative council, and I think that the Secretary of State has already undertaken that they will be there. Indeed, it is most desirable that they should be there. Of course, as regards films, at present it is only those who are in the film industry. But in the future the consultative council is to be a much broader body, which will include local government, trade unionists and, as far as possible, the man on the Clapham omnibus and housewives—people who would have the feeling of the man in the street. However, undoubtedly it is most important that the trade should be there, because they will have a most valuable contribution to make.

In that context, I think that their view will certainly have the influence which it ought to have. But we are looking for a body which is certainly semi-professional, and as far as possible independent, to do this very difficult job. In the light of that reply to the noble Lord's amendment and this rather lengthy debate on it, I hope that the noble Lord might be willing to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am anxious to intervene as little as possible in these debates in order to secure expedition, but the question was specifically asked whether the Government were committed to approaching the British Board of Film Censors to be the designated body. The answer is: yes, we do propose to do that. I would remind both my noble friends that, of course, that is subject to parliamentary procedure under Clause 5; so we are not actually taking from your Lordships any say in the matter at this stage. We think that it is a very proper body, for the reasons which my noble friend has given.

Therefore, I shall not go over the ground again, but I will remind your Lordships that the board has itself acknowledged that it will have to learn a somewhat different role for this purpose. It has agreed that it will need to strengthen its management to meet the increased workload and that it will need to take on additional examiners, and in recruiting them no doubt it will want to take in wider interests, such as my noble friend Lord Swinfen and the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, who precipitated this rather long debate, have suggested. I do not think it would be wise to restrict the membership of the designated body to those with experience, as the noble Lord suggests, because we need a wide spread, as indeed will be provided by the consultative council which it is proposed to appoint.

The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has also referred to the appeals body. I believe that enough has been said in reassurance about the appropriateness of the British Board of Film Censors for this purpose, but I thought I ought to say that it is the Government's intention that it should be the designated body.

Lord Aylestone

In moving this amendment I am very sure that I used the word "nucleus", and Hansard will prove whether or not I did so. I am sure I said that the nucleus of the body should be knowledgeable in the film and video industry. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, who has widened the debate. I do not think that there is any need for me to say any more, because I am quite sure that the Secretary of State will get the message. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne)

The next amendment is Amendment No. 25, but perhaps I may say that if that amendment is agreed to it will not be possible to call Amendment No. 26.

2.11 p.m.

The Earl of Lauderdale moved Amendment No. 25: Page 4, line 17, leave out from ("suitable") to end of paragraph (a) and insert ("for viewing in the home").

The noble Earl said: I think that this amendment—

Lord Nugent of Guildford

I wonder whether my noble friend will agree that, as his amendment and Amendment No. 26, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, deal with two different sides of very much the same point, they might be combined in one debate.

The Earl of Lauderdale

Speaking for myself, I should be very happy to agree.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I certainly agree that that would be most convenient. Amendment No. 26: Page 4, line 18, leave out from ("them") to end of paragraph (a).

The Earl of Lauderdale

One does not want to prolong this Committee stage, but it has emerged from the debate that we have just had on the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, that there is a sense of some anxiety about the kind of people who, following the designation of the British Board of Film Censors, will do this work. I am sure that there is agreement throughout the Committee that they must be people who are technically fit to do it. Of course, we are very glad that my noble friend Lord Harlech is listening to this debate, and blushing only occasionally.

The purpose of this particular amendment in my name is to try to tighten up the terms of reference of those who will do this work. The amendment does not mean to suggest that the present members of the BBFC are not excellent people. I, personally, agree with my noble friend Lord Nugent that they are the obvious body to be invited to take on the task of finding people to do the work. But so far as I am aware, the board does not have any published criteria by which it at present judges films for public showing. From what has already been said I believe that there is general agreement in the Committee that there has been a certain decline in standards, no doubt partly as a result of competition with the television medium itself. What it is important to get clear is that the standards of the cinema are not, and should not be, the standards that are used for judging video films to be shown in the home. They are quite different. The purpose of my amendment is to bring out that distinction.

It is in any case worth recalling that the BBFC's decisions have not always been approved by the local authorities who look to them for guidance. Something like 50 per cent. of X films have in a particular year been rejected, repudiated, by local authorities. This means that even where judgment of what is suitable for public showing is concerned there is a wide range of opinion, and indeed of anxiety, about what has been happening.

A number of noble Lords will have read that appalling story in the press a week or two ago where at a conference a schoolteacher described how a young laddie was allowed by his mother to look at horror films, but she also supplied him with tranquillisers so that he could sleep afterwards. Here we come up against the point that what is suitable for viewing in the home is not necessarily what particular parents would approve. One can envisage a situation where if an R18 sexy film—so labelled—was shown, we might be told, "it is important that young people should have these problems brought to their attention so that they should study them seriously." There might be all sorts of excuses used for letting through the net video films which, according to our general consensus, are not really suitable for home viewing.

Whatever may be said about the decline in standards, the decline in family life, the decline in parental responsibility and the decline in respect for authority, the fact is that whatever our position, we all uphold the existence of the family; we uphold its necessary function in our society; and there is a broad consensus about what is decent and what is indecent. It is true, as my noble friend has said, that we are limited by law as to what will pass muster in the courts, and that is a different problem which is, in a sense, at the back of our minds; but we all are concerned here with viewing in the home.

The shape in which the Bill has reached us after a most extraordinary performance, one has to say, in Committee in another place, is a rather muddled one. The wording of the clause to which I draw attention is not clear and is not satisfactory. By deleting the words that I propose to delete, and inserting the words: for viewing in the home we would have a much simpler directive for the work of the excellent people that the BBFC will recruit. They are all kinds of people, and they must know what their purpose is. Therefore, the object of this amendment is to try to narrow down and make more explicit the function of the classifiers—we shall not call them censors—and I beg to move.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

As the noble Earl who has just spoken has mentioned, this matter received a great deal of attention in the Standing Committee. As a matter of fact, one half of the total time spent by the Standing Committee in another place was spent on this clause. This question of the functions of the censorship authority went almost to and fro in the committee in various phases of tolerance, or extremism, which came under review from time to time.

When the Bill was first introduced by Mr. Graham Bright, this clause merely referred to the function of the designated authority being to determine those video films that were: suitable for showing". That was changed in Committee to, suitable for viewing in the home". Then the Home Secretary intervened on 21st January of this year to say that the Government were going to support something much stiffer in the Committee stage of the Bill. He said that it was intoler-able that videos which at present could be shown only in sex shops or club conditions should be made available for showing in the home. What he was proposing—the amendment to give effect to this was debated for a very long time in the Standing Committee—was to deny any classification whatsoever to what is known as R18 material. That would have been censorship, if you like. It would have been more than classification. It would have been to ban from lawful sale, subject to the Obscene Publications Act, videos that had received no classification at the hands of the British Board of Film Censors. The sponsor of the Bill, Mr. Graham Bright, opposed this move, as did the majority of the Committee. By 11 votes to five that extreme line was rejected.

Then the Committee turned its attention to some form of words which might bring consolation or comfort to those who felt that the Bill should go further; and the words at present in the clause were the outcome. It is largely verbiage, and opinions seemed to differ in the Committee as to whether all these words which the noble Earl wishes to take out were what the lawyers call "declaratory"; that is to say, they have no real meaning. I think that it is a lawyer's word for flannel. So it was argued that if these words comfort you, put them in. But other people were saying, "Oh no. They are not being put in for comfort, they are put in to do business, and the business is to tell the censorship authority that, all the time when they are doing their job, they must bear in mind that the videos will be shown in the home." That is how we come to the position today.

I am surprised to find that the noble Earl who has moved the amendment considers that stripping the clause of the declaratory words to which I have referred stiffens it up. It was with the intention of stiffening it up that the words were put in—and that shows how disagreements can arise on the meaning of words.

Lord Mishcon

I am sure that my noble friend will not mind if I intervene only for one moment, since it may affect the whole tenor of his future remarks. As I read it—my noble friend may care to look at it again—far from the words being verbiage, declaratory, or whatever other term which, with a smile, he cares to put upon them, they are in fact mandatory. They are words which say that the authority must have regard. It may very well be that my noble friend has an even stronger argument as a result of that, but at least I know that he would want to base his argument on correct facts and on correct interpretation.

2.24 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

If my noble friend does not let me get on, I shall be accused of filibustering, which is the furthest thing from my mind. What I wish to say to the Committee on this matter is, first, I do not believe that this kind of directive is appropriate in this clause. This clause deals with the authority to determine the suitability of video works for classification, whether or not they are "suitable for classification".

I hold the view that it is enough to say that the Secretary of State, may by notice under this section designate any person as the authority responsible for making arrangements—

  1. (a) for determining for the purposes of this Act whether or not video works are suitable for classification certificates to be issued in respect of them".
There really is the functional part of this clause. The rest is merely telling them to bear in mind what I should have thought was going to be there all the time. But, in any case, I think that it is in Clause 7 that we come to the closer direction on the classification certificates. That is where the different qualities of videos are analysed for the classification certificates. I am arguing that this is not part of Clause 4. We started to discuss the composition of the censorship authority. We have taken a great deal too much for granted on that and I believe that we want to know much more about it. This is a functional clause and it is out of place altogether to introduce an indication of any kind. I think we get that in Clause 7.

If the noble Earl is to regard the words "in the home" as of some importance—indeed more, if he is to regard the words in substitution of the existing words as tightening it up—I may be permitted to examine for a moment or two what the significance of the words is. There are two opinions about "the home". One is that people are entitled to greater licence or liberality in what they see in the privacy of their own homes and may indulge their tastes a little more in the privacy of their home than they would expect to do in the cinema. That is the inference of greater freedom. I cannot believe that the noble Earl intended that inference to be drawn from a reference to "the home". Thus, I assume he is taking the opposite line which is that, because of the likelihood of young children or adolescents being around, viewing in the home imposes the need for greater care and therefore for restricted freedom to choose. Those are the two inferences. The noble Lord has made it clear that he favours the second. It is restrictive; it is not liberalising; it is not conceding anything to the privacy of the home.

When I see the words "in the home" I ask: "Whose home"? There is no such place as "the home". There is only our home and other people's homes and they are very different homes. There is no standard nuclear family in this line of vision. That is where the central dilemma of the whole Bill rests. What are we trying to do? It is the children whom we are always out to protect, and we attempt it by taking away some of the responsibilities of parents. The moment one enters this field in this way one assumes the responsibility of parents to some extent. When we talk about "the family" with sentiment we tend to surround it by a censorious bureaucracy. To protect children in the home we have to impose restrictions upon the home where there are no children. So we legislate for families with children by imposing restrictions on people without.

I give two figures about the home which may surprise the Committee. I have taken the trouble to obtain a few figures about the composition of the home. I find that out of 6,500,000 households in Great Britain 33.7 per cent. of the total contain children under the age of 16. About 64 per cent. of the households in Great Britain have no children under the age of 16. I was surprised at the large proportion of the total households without young children under the age of 16. That is the first figure. So that the "home" that we are talking about is, as to 64 per cent., the home without young children.

I think that we need to know a great deal more about the "homes" before we can legislate for the "home" in general terms. There is a great deal of information that we do not have. We do not know the proportion of homes, with or without children, that have videos. There is another figure that I can give, which is an indication of the condition of some of the homes with young children. Out of 3 million households on social security benefit some 850,000 have young children; so that in 850,000 homes young children are living under conditions of (what shall I say?) some hardship, on social security. We have to take that into account, too.

Lord Elton

I wonder if I may help the noble Lord. This is not a Bill only about children. It is a Bill about the home, whether it has children in it or not. It is a Bill to enable people to know what it is they are buying when they are purchasing a cassette which will throw a picture and sound on to a screen in their house. It is a Bill that excludes some material from going through that medium altogether—not because it is offensive or dangerous only to children but because it is offensive and dangerous to all human beings. The noble Lord will sympathise at least with the instance that I gave at the last day of Committee of a prolonged viewing of the live depiction of the torture of an animal. I say all this to remind your Lordships that these are Second Reading points. What we are now discussing is how to implement what your Lordships, by giving the Bill a Second Reading, have decided should be implemented. I do not seek to rebuke the noble Lord who, if I may say so, has been very restrained in some of his interventions this afternoon; but it is important that we should try to stick to our last now that we are at it.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

It seems to me that supporters of the Bill shift their ground. When this Bill was introduced, to headlines of a dramatic character about the proportion of young children who were seeing "nasties", it was to protect the children. That it was that was behind the wave of moral indignation at what was believed to be going on in the homes of Britain. Indeed, in the earlier stages of the preparations for this movement the organisers of the campaign were stressing, "If we can make it children, it will make this legislation irresistible". So the children were put in the forefront of the campaign.

I have assumed that the children are still in the forefront of this Bill but if we are now told that it is in order to regulate the viewing of adults, then the scope of the Bill and the intention of the Bill are widened. I am not disagreeing with classifications for everybody's benefit. I think we are all agreed upon that. The question is as to how that classification should be brought to the attention of those who buy or hire these video recordings so they will know what they are getting. That is most important. But a Bill of this kind is not necessary for that purpose. It can be dealt with by alternative means. Nevertheless, I think if we are going to do it by statute and surround everybody by restrictions and limitations of their freedom in order to regulate, or to assist them to regulate, their viewing, then it is an entirely different presentation of the Bill.

I am sorry to say that, in all that has been happening in connection with this Bill, I see a reflection upon a certain section of the community. In paragraph 8.1.5 of the first report of the self-styled, self-appointed, parliamentary video inquiry group, these words appear: Working-class children, especially those from large families, appear most at risk in watching the nasties". There are also other derogatory remarks about working-class children in that report. It seems to me that the whole bias of the approach to the protection of the children, quite apart from all else, is a bias which is reflected in the use of the words "working-class". I have not used them: it was the campaign committee which decided they would refer to the "working- class"; and that explains why the disruption took place behind the scenes in connection with this inquiry, because there was no evidence at that time in support of those words.

The Television Research Unit had not collected data on family size; yet the committee reported that the "larger" families were most at risk. The answers to questions on socio-economic status had not been analysed at the time that report was made, and so these words which reflected upon working-class people and upon the homes of children were unsupported by any evidence. Yet that was put forward as the basis of a campaign behind this Bill. It is not surprising that Mr. Nicholas Coote, who represented the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Reverend Brian Brown, who was a representative of the Wesleyan Church (he himself being in charge of much of the statistical work and the collection of data at the Oxford Polytechnic) both disowned the report and refused to have anything more to do with it.

The Earl of Longford

May I ask a question of the noble Lord? The noble Lord, I assume, would not argue that the Roman Catholic bishops were on his side in this controversy, would he?

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I have not said anything about the Roman Caholic bishops. I have said that any person representing the Catholic Church, being an honourable man like Mr. Nicholas Coote, would disown a report which he believed was constructed upon either no evidence or "cooked" evidence. That is what I am saying, and I hope that my noble friend would not wish to infer that Mr. Nicholas Coote would leave the proceedings of this committee on any other grounds than his discontent with the way it was being run. I think—

Lord Swinfen

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. He has mentioned the report on video and violence, and I happen to have been chairman of the working party. He has suggested that this Bill came about as a result of this report and of the research into it: that is what I understood him to say. That is totally and completely inaccurate. The research project was set up before the last general election, the whole idea of it was started before the last general election. The right honourable Member in another place, Mr. Bright, did not have the opportunity to bring forward this Bill until after the election had taken place, by which time the research was already under way. The noble Lord has suggested that the research was already under way. He has suggested that the report is inaccurate, and has quoted Mr. Brian Brown, the head of the Television Research Unit at Oxford Polytechnic. I can assure the noble Lord that the vast majority of the analysis of the data that came in was carried out not at the Oxford Polytechnic but at other places after the work had been taken away from Oxford. The report is reliable and there have been a large number of honesty checks carried out. I am very satisfied that the work of the research team is highly accurate and is to be relied upon.

2.40 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I do not want to get involved in close analysis of what is alleged about the work of the inquiry group. But straight away I will say that when the Government announced in the manifesto that they would proceed to legislate on this matter, it was quite understandable that a group came together on 27th June 1983 to consider what they should do to prepare the way for legislation, or to support it when it came about. Three days later, on 30th June 1983, Mr. Graham Bright drew first place in the ballot for Private Members' Bills. It was then known that the Second Reading of his Bill, which he said would be on video recordings, was down under the sessional order for 1lth November. That is when the Second Reading took place and the Committee stage was due to start on 23rd or 24th November.

What the so-called Parliamentary Video Inquiry Group did was to decide that they must have an interim report out by the time the Committee stage of that Bill began. That is the programme to which they worked, and that is why they scuttled through a great deal of the work that was in hand. I have the fullest documentation here in my possession of every date and almost every hour of the proceedings at that time which led to getting the report, Part 1, out in the headlines by 24th November, which was the day after the first meeting of the Committe stage.

Lord Swinfen

I do not think the noble Lord has heard what I said. The Parliamentary Group Video Inquiry started before Mr. Bright set down his Bill and, indeed, before the Government's manifesto was published. I think I am right in that. Part 1 of the report stated that it was on raw data; it had not been completely analysed. The noble Lord should look at Part 2, which has been fully analysed. If the noble Lord is relying solely on Part 1, I recommend him to read Part 2 so that he gets all his facts accurate. But I do not honestly think that we should be spending this afternoon discussing this report. We should be spending more time on the Committee stage.

Lord Elton

May I officially endorse what my noble friend has said? It would be foolish to be led into a long exchange on the report, since I think the majority of your Lordships are convinced that this Bill is needed, whatever is in the report. That may not be a very placatory thing to say to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, but it is a statement of the balance of opinion in this Chamber and we should respect it.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I shall not pursue the matter any further on that line, because I have full documentation and there are steps being taken to publish a full account of what transpired. No doubt noble Lords will in due course be able to read it for themselves. All I want to do is to come back to where I ought to have finished earlier on. I do not think that the words "in the home" are relevant to this clause. There is no need for direction. We are dealing with function and the overriding task is to decide what is suitable for classification for certificates.

We ought to leave until we come to Clause 7 what are to be the directions regarding classification of the various qualities of video recording which the censorship body will be asked to undertake. Therefore, I prefer to take out the words altogether, rather than leave in the words, "in the home", even stripped of the declaratory words which the noble Earl wishes to remove. He wants to tighten it up. I do not want to do anything one way or the other in this clause, and that is the difference between us.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

May I first answer my noble friend Lord Lauderdale on his point about leaving out these words, which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, defined as "flannel"? They are not "flannel". They were put in at the Committee stage in the other place specifically in order to widen slightly the words "viewing in the home", the history of which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, has rightly described.

The other place thought that it was necessary to widen somewhat the phrase "viewing in the home" because some video works, which are not designated for viewing in the home, would not otherwise be exempted as they should be. Perhaps I may give my noble friend some examples. I refer to certain videos produced for use in family planning clinics or in the offices of marriage guidance counsellors, and to certain videos showing scenes of violence designed for use in the training of social workers or psychologists. These videos are specifically not made for viewing in the home. Under the clause as originally drafted, they would not be exempted. For that reason these words were put in, and I hope my noble friend will consider that they are properly there. They will exempt material which has a perfectly good justification.

Perhaps I may turn to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. It would leave out viewing in the home and all the widening words to which I have just referred. This very important point was put in by the other place, largely in the wake of their great debate about R18. The point they made was that videos are for viewing in the home—just as simple as that. Therefore, they were recording exactly where videos were going to be shown. They knew already that the British Board of Film Censors would be the body to carry out the classifications. There is a difference between a film and a video. A film can be controlled in regard to the age of entry into the cinema. This goes for 15s, 18s, and, more specifically, R18s, which are limited to film clubs and sex shops. Therefore a very careful age limit is applied to the classification of films which cannot be applied to the classification of videos which are going to be seen in the home. For that reason, the other place put in this amendment. The noble Lord, who has, I know, studied the debates in the other place as closely as I have, will I am sure have recognised that this is specifically what they wanted to do.

Another point, which I am sure the noble Lord also took, is that Section 1(1) of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 sets out the offence, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances …". I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, is listening closely. These are very significant words, which would undoubtedly cover the circumstances of viewing in the home. Therefore it is only right that the designated body, the British Board of Film Censors, should have regard to them. These are the justifications for using the words "viewing in the home" and these slightly widening words so that, when the British Board of Film Censors comes to look at this, even with the restriction on the outlet of the R18, it will pay some regard to the fact that there will be viewing in the home. I understand that this will not affect the classification of the mainstream of films which are going to be on video. But it will have some relevance when it comes to R18, and it may impose a marginal restriction in that respect.

I know that the noble Lord will not wish me to follow him in his interesting comments about the report of the parliamentary group, but the Committee may be interested to know that we are dealing with a problem that is essentially a European problem. I will read just two or three sentences from the Explanatory Statement which appears in the draft report recently submitted, in March of this year, to the European Parliament Committee on Youth, Culture, Education, Information and Sport, which had commissioned this review. The report comes out very strongly in favour of the European Parliament taking action.

In so far as the noble Lord doubts the validity of the parliamentary group report to which he and my noble friend Lord Swinfen referred earlier, the figures in the draft report tend to confirm it: At least one-fifth of the market in sales and hirings of video tapes is of violent and pornographic films". One-fifth, in Europe. The amount of viewing is related directly to the number of video recorders in the home. In this country we have nearly double the highest number in any other country in Europe. We have about 40 per cent. and others (except for Germany, with slightly over 20 per cent.) have fewer than 20 per cent.

This report records very much the same picture. The report states in its opening comments: Recent experience of the passage of legislation in the United Kingdom Parliament has proved how difficult it is to restrict the availability of all but the very worst of these films, as most people will argue that what adults do in the privacy of their homes is their own business. However, it appears that a substantial proportion —even the majority—of such cassettes which are hired out are viewed by minors. Your rapporteur believes that there is a demand for legislation to restrict their availability to young people". When one is looking at this very difficult equation, which the noble Lord put very fairly, concerning the privacy of the home, where we should at least be allowed to please ourselves, and come to the aspect of the care of children, then there is a point where injury to children becomes a legal offence, as the noble Lord well knows. The assessment of injury to the mind of a child is not as easy to make as the assessment of injury to the limbs of a child. But the mind does get injured by some material.

The underlying thought is that there is a point where Parliament has a responsibility and, indeed, where parents look to Parliament to take some responsibility. We are in this field, and we are trying to achieve a reasonable balance. I, personally, do not object in the least to the noble Lord making out the case as strongly as he does for the other side of this argument, to ensure that we get the balance right. I believe that we are achieving about the right balance in this Bill, which, for all that anyone has said, is primarily a matter of classification.

In this particular context, "viewing in the home" is a phrase of basic significance. I hope that the noble Lord will be convinced that it is justified to have this wording in the Bill, as I also hope that my noble friend Lord Lauderdale will be satisfied that the slightly widening words are also justified on technical grounds.

2.54 p.m.

Lord Robertson of Oakridge

May I take the opportunity to ask the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for clarification of the Government's position on one point in connection with Amendment No. 26? I think that your Lordships' Committee is almost unanimously clear that there is a huge difference between classifying a film for viewing in a cinema or club and classifying a video which can be viewed anywhere, including in the home. This point must be made by the Bill, as indeed it is made in Clause 4(l)(a) as it stands. It seems to me that this is essential so that the designated authority and the trade should be in no doubt that they may very well have to apply different standards for video and cinematograph versions of the same work.

It so happens that yesterday I received a letter from the chairman of the National Television Rental Association which said that the association had been led to understand that it was not the Government's intention that the Bill should be so interpreted. I should be very grateful to the Minister if he can clarify the Government's position on that point.

Lord Elton

That is a nice point. I have not seen it in writing and I shall certainly respond to it in due course. But I would not wish to commit myself now or further to delay proceedings on this amendment. If it requires something on the record, which I suspect it does, I shall arrange an opportunity between the noble Lord and myself to see that that is done.

Lord Ardwick

I should like clarification on the exact meaning in this clause of: for determining for the purposes of this Act whether or not video works are suitable for classification". I take it that the designated authority gets a video work and what it first of all has to decide is whether this is to be classified. If it is not to be classified, there are two possible reasons for that. One is that it is an exempt category (a teaching film), and the other is that it is utterly beyond the pale. Is that the prime meaning of the provision, or does it also mean that every film which is then classified should be subject to the reminder that this is to be shown in the home? That is the way in which it has been interpreted in a number of quarters.

Some of the video interests fear that the phrase: having special regard to the likelihood of video works … being viewed in the home", means that all video works will qualify for classification only if they are suitable for viewing by young children. That is a ridiculous fear. It is the kind of exaggerated fear which is peddled by interested groups on almost any Bill. We cannot take it seriously, and nor can we take my noble friend Lord Houghton seriously when he advances that as a reason for deleting the phrase—that it will have a wider effect than intended. Such an interpretation would be totally unacceptable to the people and to the courts.

There is one class of video work which is totally unacceptable.—the so-called nasties. Then there is the second classification of R18—to be seen only in sex shops. Then there is the next category which is the circle 18 category. I think that this is where the difficulty occurs, particularly because there are marginal cases where in a permissive climate the censors may decide not to put a film in the restricted category which some people think should be in the restricted category. It has been suggested—rightly or wrongly—that the object of this provision is to persuade the censors when they have a marginal case which might be marginally acceptable in the cinema, that it is marginally unacceptable in the home, and that is the meaning of the clause. Certain films that could be seen by 18 year-olds in an ordinary cinema should not be available on video and should be classified as R l8. Is that the meaning and intention of this provision?

Lord Elton

Let me briefly reply to that point and at the same time return to the matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson. This clause must be seen in the light of Clause 2 and our debates thereon, in that in those debates it became clear that we are dealing primarily with video films to be seen in the home and that video works for other specific purposes will be exempt unless they have certain characteristics, which means that they will require to be classified, although they are not intended for use in the home. That is why it is not possible to use the phraseology, the terminology, my noble friends suggest, which relate only to viewing in the home. It is necessary to have in mind the fact that they are likely to be seen in the home. That enables the board to look at both sides of the margin.

The noble Lord has asked about various fears. He is right that some of them are unreasonable. The intention is not to prevent wholesome material being seen by adults or, where suitable, by children. It is merely to give guidance as to what audiences that wholesome material is suitable for. For the most part it is expected that the same classification will apply to film as to video but that there will be variations on the margin. I think the noble Lord has accurately depicted what sort of variation that may be. I hope that will suffice to illuminate the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, and his correspondents when they come to read it in Hansard. If it does not, I am sure he will return to it.

The Earl of Lauderdale

I think we have had an interesting and useful debate on these two amendments together. I am greatly obliged to my noble friend Lord Nugent for the points that he has made in clarification and likewise to my noble friend Lord Elton. I still think the amendment that I put down is worth pressing, though I have no intentions of doing so. In my experience the best can too easily become the enemy of the good. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 26:

[Printed earlier].

The noble Lord said: The noble Earl has retreated on his amendment. I would have been willing to support it, had he pressed it, because I would regard the words as perhaps more neutral than he would wish them to be inferred. But since he has now left the field of battle, I feel that I have to stay in it.

I am going to say that I regard the word that I propose to take out as being unnecessary and almost irrelevant to the purpose of Clause 4, Moreover, although my noble friend Lord Mishcon said that the words are mandatory, I would like to know what court would say that the designated authority had not had special regard to the likelihood, et cetera, if they asserted in good faith that they had. This is the old story of whether somebody is acting in good faith. You cannot say that someone has not had special regard to something if they say they have. That is probably why more knowledgeable people than I, in the Committee stage along the corridor, have said that these words were declaratory, they were comforting but meaning-less.

I do not want to give any comfort and I do not want to have any meaningless words in this clause. So I am afraid that I think we must decide whether we want these meaningless words in the Bill, whether we want the bias which may be inferred from them to be in the Bill at this stage, or whether the whole of the bias shall come, as I think it should, when we come to deal with the classification certificate. I think that is the proper place and I would wish it to be that way. So I am afraid I cannot withdraw my amendment.

Lord Monson

Before the noble Lord sits down, may I just make a point partially in support of him? The sponsors of this Bill seem to be a little uncertain as to whether the purpose of the words contained in subsection (l)(a) of Clause 4 is meant to protect the one-third of homes in which there are children under 16, or the two-thirds of homes which, as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, has pointed out, do not have any children under that age.

So far as children are concerned, I do feel that people are perhaps unwittingly being rather disparaging about the parents in this country. Is it not the case that anyone who can afford to spend £400 on a video set can easily manage to spend another £20 or so on a lockable single drawer filing cabinet in which explicit material suitable for viewing by adults can be kept out of the reach of children?

So far as adult viewing is concerned, I noted with some disquiet the contention of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that adults should be prevented from seeing harmful or disturbing material. I do not know that those were his precise words, but that is what he was getting at. On harmful material, yes, I would agree, but in regard to disturbing material, surely not, provided that the adults in question know beforehand what they are about to see. Surely, adults should be permitted to see on their video sets exactly what they are permitted to see on the cinema or television screen.

Lord Elton

I am anxious that we should not fall back into Committee stage debates—

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

Second Reading debates.

Lord Elton

Second Reading debates. The purpose of the clause is what I have already reminded the Committee it is. The people we are trying to defend are of all ages, including children. The children have the most immediate appeal, I suppose, because they are the most vulnerable to the largest number of products. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, spoke to the amendment, I think, 55 minutes ago, probably for the first time. We have certainly been going over 50 minutes on the two amendments together. I detected in his tone of voice an anxiety to bring the matter to a conclusion. If he wishes to divide the Committee, I suggest that someone now presses the button that makes the bell sound and we should not then have to debate the amendment further.

On Question, amendment negatived.

3.7 p.m.

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 27: Page 4, line 42, after ("that") insert ("(i)").

The noble Lord said: I wonder whether, with the permission of the Committee, I can speak also to Amendment No. 31. Amendment No. 31: Page 5, line 9, at end insert ("; and (ii) the setting up by the designated authority of an advisory council whose membership shall include representatives of local authorities.").

I believe that I shall have the permission of the Committee to be brief. In an earlier debate, when we were talking about the designated authority and the appropriateness or otherwise of that authority being the BBFC, all who spoke expressed the view that we should like to have as broad an experience as possible in dealing with these matters, but also the benefit of the expertise that had been accumulated. That was reflected very much in the deliberations in Standing Committee in another place. I am looking at this moment at the comments of the Minister, Mr. Mellor, at columns 163 and 164 of the fifth sitting of Standing Committee C on Wednesday, 18th January 1984. I believe that if I may read just those two excerpts and then utter a couple of sentences, I can move my amendment in that way. At column 163, the Minister stated: It is the wish of the BBFC that there should be real accountability in carrying out its video work and that it should have the benefit of advice and help from the wider community in carrying out what we know to be a difficult function".

Then, at column 164 the Minister stated: That proposal, for a consultative council, would have the great benefit of allowing a wider public, through such a broadly-based body, to express a view on the way in which the BBFC was carrying out its video function. It would be a focus for discussion about decisions taken or about vexed questions affecting the mood of the day. It would also give the BBFC a formal body to which it could report in setting out what it had done, so giving it, as well as the public, the protection of knowing that if it kept in line with that representative body, it would be able to take on the slings and arrows"—

not of outrageous fortune— of the few people who, however representative the body might be, would still feel that things were not being done according to their likes. In this area, as in others, however hard one tries to get every view represented, somebody will feel outside the camp and make a fuss about something". I end the worthy quotation at that stage.

Although the desirability has been expressed and although many of us—and possibly all of us—feel that it is essential in all the circumstances to have an advisory body, there is nothing about it in the Bill. I see no harm—and those who support this amendment agree with me—in ensuring that it is written into the Bill and that at all events one does see that the people who have the responsibility in law for dealing with films—namely, the local authorities—should at least be represented on this body in order that we might have the benefit of their opinion as well as of their experience. If I spoke at greater length I would add nothing to the cause that I am trying to put forward and in which I have a lot of confidence. I beg to move.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

I should like to say a few words about my noble friend's proposed amendment, especially as on this occasion, although unhappily it has not always been the case, I find myself in agreement with him. But before I know whether or not I am in agreement with him I have to understand what the amendment is about. I am sorry to say that at the moment I do not understand.

My difficulty is this. As I understand it, what my noble friend proposes is that on page 4, at line 42, we insert "(i)". We divide subsection (3) into two parts, as it were, so that it reads: The Secretary of State shall not make any designation under this section unless he is satisfied that (i)…", and then everything follows after that until we come to page 5 where we insert: (ii) and the setting up by the designated authority.". What I do not follow is this. I do not see how The Secretary of State shall not make any designation … unless he is satisfied that …". It seems to me that the words, and the setting up by the designated authority follow. Unless I am gravely mistaken—and if I am, I hope my noble friend will correct me—the amendment as it is proposed does not seem to make any sense.

Lord Mishcon

I knew something would go wrong if my noble friend Lord Jenkins supported me. Obviously I am most grateful to him for supporting me in principle. Although the meaning of this amendment is perfectly clear, the precise wording of it may not be in accordance with what the Minister, with his expert guidance, feels should be the case. No one would be more happy than I to see that it was altered or, if it was accepted in principle, to withdraw the amendment.

What I am trying to secure is that one does not go ahead with appointing one's designated authority until one is satisfied that that designated authority, if so appointed, would set up the advisory council, such advisory council to include local government representatives. That is what I am anxious to secure. That is the principle of the thing.

I agree that if the principle is agreed it might very well lead to rather happier wording in regard to the stages to be reached before one gets the designated authority and then the consultative council set up afterwards. All I am trying to ensure is that one gets a consultative body, an advisory body, together with the original designated authority. I am sure my noble friend agrees with that principle.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

I am very grateful to my noble friend for explaining the position. I am surprised, because I have never before known him to fail to carry out in practice what he intends to do in principle. On this occasion it is obvious that even the most expert in these matters must occasionally slip. I am very grateful to my noble friend for his explanation.

We know what he is about, and what he is about seems to be right. I have some little experience of this absurd matter. At one time I was a member of the London County Council. Among its duties at that time it had the job of carrying out some form of censorship of films. It seemed to me that at that time we had it the right way about, because the British Board of Film Censors was, in fact, an advisory body; it had no actual powers; it certainly did the designation. However, the actual compulsion and the legislative power rested in the hands of the local authority. The LCC did rather an unpleasant job rather well, and the reason that it did it rather well was that almost invariably—but not every time—it followed the advice that it received from the British Board of Film Censors. There were occasions when it differed, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, will confirm, they were very rare. By and large the local authorities—not merely the LCC, but the local authorities generally—followed the advice which was tendered to them by the British Board of Film Censors.

The trouble with this Bill is that it has got the whole thing upside down. It is the state-appointed body which is to be the functioning body, not a body which emanates from inside the industry itself, as the British Board of Film Censors has done and will do until this Bill comes into law and turns what is a voluntary piece of censorship carried out by the industry on itself, into censorship by a state body to impose the ideas of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent.

Therefore, I support the amendment to the extent that for the first time it introduces representatives of the electorate onto the scene—even though in my view it is upside down—in an advisory capacity, rather than as the deciding body. The Bill is topsy-turvy in this respect. It is thoroughly bad in concept, and that is why I have been quite vociferous in my condemnation. It is not that I am against what the British Board of Film Censors has been doing all these years, because, by and large, in a quite difficult field they have done a fairly good job. I should have liked to see that job extended into the video field and not substituted by this new idea of a state-appointed body.

Having said all that, I believe that what my noble friend seeks to do is an amelioration of the position and because of that I find that I can support it. I hope that noble Lords generally—and in particular the noble Lord, Lord Elton—will be in a position to accept the amendment.

Lord Elton

To ease my noble friend's path I should like to put on the table something which may reassure the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, before he replies. It is simply that I can confirm that it is our intention to set up such a body and that it is also our intention that there shall be representatives of the local authorities on it. If that is the assurance that the noble Lord seeks, then he has got it, regardless of which way up his noble friend thinks the Bill should be. If he seeks something in print on the face of the Bill, then that is another matter. But I can tell him that what he appears to want is already available to him.

Lord Mishcon

I am most grateful to the noble Lord the Minister. Of course I did know that to be the case judging from the declarations that were made in the other place by the noble Lord's honourable friend. I sought to have this on the face of the Bill for a reason that I can put very briefly, so that the noble Lord the Minister can answer it if he has any objection to it being on the face of the Bill. It may be the intention that such an advisory council should be set up and that it will work with the designated authority. That does not give it any permanence whatever and Parliament, it seems to me, would have no power at all hereafter to enforce the appointment of the advisory council unless we had it in the Bill. If the noble Lord the Minister would kindly give me his objection to it being included in the Bill, bearing in mind that the Government intend to do it anyway, I would naturally know better where I stand.

Lord Elton

Again with deference to my noble friend, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, will recall that Parliament can actually exercise its authority over the designation procedure under Clause 5 by the negative procedure—if that is the correct way to put it. It will have ample opportunity to satisfy itself that the Government have actually done what I have told the noble Lord they intend to do. If the noble Lord's anxiety is about a later stage, then I am not sure that I can be so specific.

Lord Mishcon

Obviously, I do not want to take up a great deal of time over this, but I am sure that other noble Lords who are anxious about the personnel of the designated authority and the advice that they receive, will feel for me and with me. I am afraid I am not satisfied with the Minister's answer when he merely refers me to Clause 7—

Lord Nugent of Guildford

The noble Lord means Clause 5.

Lord Mishcon

Yes, Clause 5; I am most grateful to the noble Lord. I am not thinking of the draconian measure of sacking a designated authority because it has not appointed an advisory council when, in fact, the other advisory council may have ceased. What I want to try to do is this. It is not just to legislate for a very benevolent Goverment in this respect—and may I emphasis that only in this respect alone would I regard them as benevolent. I am not thinking only in terms of this Government and of the present right honourable and learned gentlemen who is the Home Secretary, and the assistance that he has received so ably from the noble Lord, Lord Elton. We are legislating, and I think we want to see that the advisory council is there.

If the noble Lord the Minister says that he cannot accept the spirit of the amendment which is on the face of the Bill now, I shall understand him. But I hope he will add that, in view of the feeling expressed in this Committee on the other amendment about personnel and advisability, and the fact that the Government proposed to do it anyway, he will consider his position between now and the Report stage and let me know. That may be the answer. If that is the answer that he gives, I shall take a certain course.

Lord Elton

If my noble friend is content for me to continue, I would say that between now and the Report stage I shall of course consider what the noble Lord has said. I shall of course have to consider what would follow legislatively, as it were, from what he proposes; that is to say, having said that there shall be a consultative committee with representatives of local authorities, will it not be necessary to say more about its composition? Then having spoken about its composition, will it not be necessary to say more about its remuneration and powers, and so on? I am anxious not to make a meal of this, and I am sure the noble Lord is as well. We both want the same result. The question is whether Parliament can be assured that that result will flow from what I am saying.

I would remind the noble Lord that Clause 5 actually sets out a parliamentary procedure for designation, and Parliament could prevent designation until it was satisfied that arrangements made for this particular aspect were satisfactory. The noble Lord may think that that would be a draconian action to take, and I can see that. Therefore. I shall consider what he said without expressing too much optimism in my voice as I do so, so that he will not be unduly disappointed if the answer does not entirely suit him.

Lord Mishcon

Over a period of a long time I think I have learned to differentiate, from the intonation in the voice of the noble Lord the Minister between whether I and the rest of the Committee can feel optimism from it or whether we ought to be pessimistic. On this occasion I find myself in the middle of the two feelings. Upon that happy basis on a Friday afternoon, I beg to leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.24 p.m.

Lord Nugent of Guildford moved Amendment No. 28: Page 5, line 8, leave out ("on any premises").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 28, and with it I should like to move 15 other amendments, which will shorten the Marshalled List a little. They are Amendments Nos. 30, 35, 37, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60 and 61. Amendment No. 30: Page 5, line 8, after ("than") insert ("in"). Amendment No. 35: Clause 7, page 6, line 42, leave out ("on any premises"). Amendment No. 37: Page 6, line 42, after ("than") insert ("in"). Amendment No. 50: Clause 12, page 8, line 34, leave out ("on any premises"). Amendment No. 51: Page 8, line 34, after ("than") insert ("in"). Amendment No. 52: Page 8, line 35, leave out from ("who") to ("a") in line 36 and insert ("at any place other than in"). Amendment No. 53: Page 8, line 37, after ("enactment") insert ("(a) supplies a video recording containing the work, or (b) offers to do so"). Amendment No. 54: Page 9, line 1, leave out from ("accused") to first ("a") in line 3 and insert ("believed on reasonable grounds that the place concerned was"). Amendment No. 55: Page 9, line 11, leave out ("on any premises"). Amendment No. 56: Page 9, line 11, after ("than") insert ("in"). Amendment No. 57: Page 9, line 12, leave out from ("who") to ("has") in line 13. Amendment No. 58: Page 9, line 15, leave out ("anywhere other than on premises which are") and insert ("at any place other than in"). Amendment No. 59: Page 9, line 24, leave out from ("accused") to ("a") in line 26 and insert ("believed on reasonable grounds that the place concerned was"). Amendment No. 60: Page 9, line 41, leave out ("on any premises"). Amendment No. 61: Page 9, line 42, after ("than") insert ("in").

I apologise for the clumsy way in which this has all been presented, but this is inevitable in order to pick up the point throughout the Bill. The point primarily refers to Clause 12, which is the clause which sets out how 18R classified videos are to be supplied; that is to say, the intention is only in sex shops. The words used are "on any premises", and those words run through-out the Bill, first appearing in Clause 4, on page 5 at line 8, then appearing again in Clause 7, and so on.

The point is a fairly simple one. A video recording is quite a small thing and it may be sold anywhere, anyhow, and an enterprising trader who had a suitcase full of 18R, or indeed any sort of video tapes, might decide that he would get some good trade if he stood at the gates of a factory and sold, or hired, these as the chaps came out. Or alternatively he might take a van round an estate where he thought he might get some trade.

The Bill, as drafted, does not cover that, and it is to cover that technical loophole in the Bill which is now contained in the words "on any premises" that I wish to move this series of amendments. This is without in any way restricting the debate which may take place later on Clause 12, where there are other amendments, but this would get the technicality right. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

I have felt very sorry indeed for my noble friend Lord Nugent for having to pilot through your Lordships' House a Bill which has so many obscurities and difficulties in its drafting. He is doing extraordinarily well in difficult circumstances. Obviously we must accept this large group of amendments. I have only one small complaint, and it is due to ignorance. When my noble friend stands up and talks about 18R I have no more idea what he is talking about than if he were talking about 18B. There is nothing in the Bill or in the Explanatory Memorandum about it at all.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I think the classification comes in at Clause 7. The Bill is not bound to follow the jargon of the British Board of Film Censors in this connection related to the film industry. It will probably have to find its own descriptions, and they may or may not be the same. A great many people are hoping that they are going to be the same because it will then mean that films shown in the home will at least be of a type that one can see in the open cinema. That is what most people are hoping. Otherwise a fresh sense of grievance will occur that people would be forbidden to view in their homes what they can go up the street and see in the cinema. I was not sure when I interrupted the noble Lord whether or not he had finished, because I am just about to make a comment and then finish myself.

Lord Renton

I am grateful for enlightenment, especially always from the noble Lord, Lord Houghton.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

Because the words "sex shop" come here in Clause 4, all I wish to say is that so far as I am concerned it will be without prejudice to our bringing before the House, probably at Report stage, a scheme which a number of people are working on at the present time to substitute "licensed video shop" for "licensed sex shop". I shall not go into any detail about that because I know what conditions would have to be satisfied in the circumstances. I just enter a caveat against the words "sex shop" at the moment, because lawyers are at present at work on this alternative and it is receiving a considerable amount of support.

I may disclaim any personal interest in this matter whatsoever. I do not want people to think that I have some kind of interest in this. I have none whatsoever. I am doing it purely because I think I have a modest contribution to make to a tangled and confused situation being handled by a lot of reactionary people.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

I do no think there is much for me to answer. I thank the noble Lord for almost everything he said, except the last crack. I beg to move my amendments.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Cullen of Ashbourne)

The Question is that Amendments Nos. 28, 30, 35, 37 and 50 to 61 be agreed to.

Lord Elton

On a point of order, there is a late amendment, No. 53(A), which falls between Amendment No. 50 and Amendment No. 61.

Lord Renton

It is a different point.

Lord Elton

It is indeed a different point, but the Lord Chairman put Amendments Nos. 50 to 61 en bloc, which would sweep this up, and happy though I should be to see it disappear I should not want it to reappear on the face of the Bill.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

We will say from Amendment Nos. 50 to 53 and 54 to 61.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Renton moved Amendment No. 29: Page 5, line 8, leave out ("other than a licensed sex shop").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment I suggest that we discuss Amendment No. 36 and my proposal that Clause 12 should not stand part of the Bill. Amendment No. 36: Page 6, line 42, leave out ("other than a licensed sex shop").

I can be brief but I am puzzled about the position which arises from the exemption of a licensed sex shop for the purpose of supplying videos. Of course, it is a very strange thing to find that there is no reference to this matter until we are asked in the Bill in Clause 4(3) to consider appeals by the Secretary of State against a designation made by the designated authority. Then we suddenly find that there may be an appeal against a determination that no video recording containing the work is to be supplied other than in a licensed sex shop. That takes account of the previous amendment by my noble friend Lord Nugent.

Therefore, this is a very important form of exemption because it is an exemption in favour of the supply of certain films to certain people or to anyone—we are not told—in licensed sex shops. I would be grateful if my noble friend could first of all say what kind of films will benefit from this exemption of supply in a licensed sex shop. Secondly, to what ages of people will it be lawful to supply those films? Thirdly, will it be lawful to show those films in the licensed sex shops? As well as sex shops having power to supply them, will they be able to show them? Fourthly, why is this exemption chosen at all? I think that we are entitled to be told.

The Explanatory Memorandum in its reference to Clause 12, which deals mainly with licensed sex shops, does not help us or give us any reason. It does not tell us very much but states the bald fact about the exemption. So there is no help there. I would be so grateful if my noble friend could explain this in answer to my questions.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

The answers to my noble friend Lord Renton—I thank him for his brevity—are as follows. The other place was discussing this subject and had decided the 18R classification of film, with which my noble friend may not be familiar. Those of us who are familiar at all with the film world understand what the 18R classification is. It is a film with a good deal of obscenity in it which nevertheless is not obscene to the point where it would breach the Obscene Publications Act. When classified as 18R the classification means that films can be shown only to people over the age of 18 and in cinema clubs or sex shops. So the viewing is very restricted.

Obviously when another place was debating this it looked at all sides of the difficult problem of how this was to be dealt with in regard to viewing in the home. It was eventually decided on balance that, this not being a censorship measure but a classification measure, it should still be available but it should be physically obtainable—which was the only physical control that another place could think of—only in premises where the age of the purchaser or hirer could be determined. That is a sex shop because no one under the age of 18 may enter a sex shop. That is the provenance, if one can give it such a spendid word, of this provision, that the sex shops should be the only outlet for the 18R video, which would ensure that only adults could buy them. Of course, it would be lawful to show it in a sex shop. The reason why the 18R classification was agreed to we have already discussed. I am sure that my noble friend will not wish me to go over that ground again.

I hope I have said enough to explain to my noble friend why the provision is there. I entirely accept that the drafting of the Bill inevitably is terribly complicated in the circumstances. But we are trying to provide for the working of a designated body which is not mentioned on the face of the Bill and for very good reasons cannot be. Thus it becomes so complicated to make the necessary provision that I hope my noble friend will be satisfied with that answer and may feel inclined to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Renton

I am most grateful to my noble friend for that explanation. It seems to come to this: that videos which are obscene, but not outrageously obscene, may be supplied to people over the age of 18 who visit licensed sex shops and the video can be carried away by them and then shown, presumably, in the home. Such films can also be shown to people over the age of 18 in licensed sex shops. I do not find that entirely satisfactory—

Lord Harlech

I am sorry to intervene. I have been very reluctant to intervene in the debate because I have an interest to declare as president of the British Board of Film Censors for the last 18 years: president of the sausage machine as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, likes to refer to it. But I think I am entitled to rise on a point where there is a misconception or a misunderstanding. We would not accept that any 18R certificate has been given to any film which is obscene in any degree.

Lord Renton

I am most grateful and I am sure that my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford will see, when he reads Hansard, that he may have given a slightly different impression.

In the nature of things, I cannot pursue this matter any further. I cannot say that I am entirely happy about it, but we shall have to see how things go. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 31 not moved.]

3.39 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 32:

Page 5, line 9, at end insert— ("( ) The Secretary of State shall specify that the arrangements made for an appeal by any person against a determination under subsection (3) above shall be held in public and the said person may be legally represented, and may be awarded the costs of the appeal if the appeal is granted.").

The noble Lord said: This deals with arrangements for appeal. Whether this is the best way to deal with it I am not very sure, but clearly the designated authority will under this Bill become a public authority in the sense that it will have accountability to the public. The British Board of Film Censors at present is account-able to the film industry. They are an industrial creation and they are financed by the film industry. They are not accountable in a direct sense to the public because there are two longstops behind the British Board of Film Censors. One is the local authorities, which have the right of independent judgment as to what shall be shown in their areas, and the other is the Obscene Publications Acts. They are in the background.

But now the British Board of Film Censors, the designated authority, will have a power over the land which they have never had before. They will have some accountability, I think, and they will also have great power over the various sections of the industry. Provision for appeal is already in the Bill. In fact, they are not to be appointed until satisfactory arrangements have been made for appeal. This particular amendment of mine provides that arrangements shall be specified about the conditions of holding an appeal and where the costs may come from. I presume that some consideration has been given already to the method of appeal, who shall hear the appeals, and so on.

I think that the organisational structure behind this Bill is nothing like clear enough yet. I do not like handing over so much authority to this largely anonymous body, the British Board of Film Censors, without knowing just what their powers are going to be, what the rights of appeal are going to be, and so on. There is also a specification about fees which is dealt with separately in the Bill: that the Secretary of State is to have control over the scale of the fees. This is an attempt to get the appeal procedure put on a firmer and fairer basis. Therefore, I beg to move this amendment in the hope that, if this is not the right form, some alternative to meet the underlying requirements of this amendment will be forthcoming.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

I should like to support what my noble friend has said on this amendment. It seems to me to be extremely important that adequate arrangements shall be made to appeal against the decisions of this body. Of course, there is no appeal against the existing British Board of Film Censors. They are a body which operates ultimately in an advisory capacity, they operate within the cinema and they have no powers at law. Consequently, the need for an appeals procedure is not there. The bodies which ultimately take the decisions are the elected councils.

Therefore, in this case, where we have the state interposing, the Secretary of State intervening in the situation and deciding to act from now on in this capacity—and I am not quite sure whether this alters the standing of the board in respect of films and cinema; I do not see that it does—we have there a rather curious body in which, in respect of films and cinemas the body is to retain its advisory standing but, in respect of films shown in the home, it is to become an organ of the state. That is why I described it earlier as the re-introduction of state censorship—and so it is, at one remove—because the Secretary of State is the man who will designate all these points which are set out in this clause and elsewhere. For that reason I think it is very necessary that this appeals procedure, or something like it, shall be established. It is my hope that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in replying will feel able to accept, at least in principle, the amendment of my noble friend.

Lord Elton

There are in general two sorts of appeal procedure and two sorts of appeal. One sort is that where arrangements are made so that points of law can be decided by a higher, presumably, judicial or quasi-judicial authority. In other cases, the arrangements will enable a person aggrieved by the decision of one group of people to have that decision removed and reconsidered by another. It seems to us pretty clear that the arrangements we are talking about here fall into the latter category. The subsection provides that a video dealer, refused a certificate by the classification authority, can take his case to the appeals tribunal and try to persuade them that, if he has been refused a certificate, it deserves one or, if it has been given a certificate which declares it suitable for one age group, that it ought to be granted a certificate for a higher one.

It also seems clear that in considering such an appeal the tribunal will not be measuring fine points of law on which distributors might well wish to be legally represented, but will have come to a view on whether the certificate granted by the classification authority was appropriate or whether the authority were right to refuse one, as the case may be. That raises matters very much in the realm of taste and decency. Accordingly, we do not think that one should necessarily look to the sort of procedure adopted by higher courts which consider appeals against decisions by lower courts and tribunals. But that does not put the appellant out of reach of legal help. I am sure there would be no objection to a distributor seeking the assistance of his legal advisers in putting together any written evidence he may think it helpful to submit to the appeals tribunal or in considering any points which the board may wish to make in support of that decision. In order for the appeals tribunal to decide an appeal, they will need to look at the video work itself; and that brings me to another point.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, suggested that the sessions should be in public. That seems to be a very strange treatment of a video nasty, aptly so called, which the designated body has decided ought not to be seen by anybody, if the public can then flock to see it before the curtain has finally come down before the appeal court. I think we should have some interesting sensations in court if we did that.

As to the questions of cost which the noble Lord raised, that is a helpful point. Consideration will certainly need to be given to the question of whether a successful appellant should have the costs of his appeal reimbursed. That is a matter which remains to be discussed between the BBFC and the Home Office and I am sure that both parties will take careful note of the views that have been expressed on this issue.

If I may say so, the noble Lord's amendment is permissive—although perhaps that is not the best use of the word in this context—on that question. It provides that appeal costs may be reimbursed. I am advised that the silence of the Bill on this matter is also permissive, so that it is open to us to arrange for reimbursement of costs under the Bill as it is so drafted. I hope that what I have said will have clarified the situation and to some extent reassured the noble Lord.

Lord Monson

As someone who put his name down to this amendment, may I say how glad I am to have the courteous welcome of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for that part of it dealing with the possibility of awarding costs if an appeal is granted. That is a most important point, and the most important part of the amendment so far as I am concerned. The Bill, after all, does not only deal with classification: if it did I would have far fewer reservations. It also provides for the possibility of total prohibition, out-and-out censorship. We are not talking about simple black and white. We are not living in the Victorian era, nor indeed in the Ayatollah's Iran. We are talking about infinite shades of grey and an infinite range of possible subjective judgments upon a particular work which is being viewed. There is also the additional possibility, let us remember, as the Bill is drafted, of there being banned outright material which has already been shown quite legally on the cinema screen or in BBC or ITV broadcasts.

Furthermore, in this Bill we are dealing not only with cassettes which are sold for hire or reward in the normal sense. Let me revert to the example of Iran which I gave just now. Let us suppose that the Bahá' is in this country wanted to publicise the fate of their co-religionists in Iran and made a cassette depicting atrocities perpetrated upon Bahá'is in Iran by the Ayatollah's men. Suppose they made no profit, but charged just enough to cover the costs of production and distribution. Their film would probably be refused classification, but it seems to me right that they should be able to appeal and to be awarded the costs of appeal if they succeeded. For that reason, I support the amendment while acknowledging that it may not be perfectly drafted as it is at present.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

The noble Lord the Minister has been very helpful and I accept what he said. I do not think I am slipping yet, but I would not have suggested an appeal being heard in public when the film itself should be shown. I thought that it was almost like a secrets case. They would see the dirt in private and come out and give their judgment in public. But that might be a misconception of how it should be done. I think that the open court is probably not as important as the composition of the tribunal, its procedures and its permissive power to pay costs. At the moment, I am satisfied with what the Minister has said, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Trumpington

I rise to ask the advice of the Committee. I believe that the Committee is expected to adjourn at four o'clock and it is now eight minutes to four. Is it the wish of the Committee to start another amendment or should we adjourn now? I put myself entirely in your Lordships' hands. Perhaps the mover of the next amendment will be good enough to tell me.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

If I can help in that way, I shall not move my Amendment No. 33 now and will defer that to another occasion.

Baroness Trumpington

In that case, I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at eight minutes before four o'clock.