HL Deb 14 May 1984 vol 451 cc1198-212
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 WELLS-PESTELL in the Chair.]

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

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 33: Page 5, line 24, at end insert ("and for the total waiver of fees for registered charities and non-profit-making organisations.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 33 which stands in my name. This amendment deals with the subsection in Clause 4 which relates to fees. It is an ugly worded subsection. It says: No fee shall be recoverable by the designated authority… unless the fee is payable in accordance with a tariff approved by the Secretary of State". It seems to me to be a negative way of saying that fees may be charged provided they are in accordance with a tariff approved by the Secretary of State.

We know very little about the finances of this Bill. No reference has so far been made to the likely burden which may be placed upon the industry (if that is where the burden is to be placed); what may be charged for labelling tapes that are already in the hands of retailers and others in the trade; what type of charge may be made for classifying new works; and what may be the subsidiary charge for labelling copies of new works. All these matters are obscure. Yet this is really a form of taxation. It is as much a form of VAT as regards the industry as VAT itself. There is nothing voluntary about it. Indeed, I am surprised that we have not heard more about it.

This amendment seeks to give the authority power to waive fees altogether in certain cases. It may be, however, that the whole scale of fees will be variable and adjusted to different circumstances; it is very difficult to say. The industry itself believes that the charge that is likely to be made for labelling tapes that will have to be sent to them for classification will be about £3 or £5 a time; but that may be just guesswork. However, it will place a considerable burden upon many people in the industry and many people who may have to pay this charge. For the average retailer, if the fee were £3 for classification it would probably mean a total of between £3,600 and £4,500. It could mean a total of up to £7,500 if the fee were £5. I hope that the Minister will be able to give some idea of what the financial burden is likely to be. Is the designated authority to be self-supporting? Is there to be no charge on public funds at all? If not, then some estimate surely has been made of what all this will cost.

Another alarming figure which I have had from the trade, which is trying to keep me informed on these matters, is that there are about 11 million tapes already on the shelves and in the possession of the industry. I repeat: "11 million tapes". Presumably they will all have to go through the machinery of classification and labelling and a fee will be charged for doing that. We are speaking now of course of very large sums of money indeed if the figures are anything like correct and if the estimates of the fees are anything near the mark.

The owner of a small firm on the Isle of Wight has written to me to say that it works just for the islanders. It is in the field of video recordings for local organisations. It is totally harmless. The videos cost only a few pounds to make and yet under the Bill it will have to go for classification at an assumed cost beyond the resources of the small business on the Isle of Wight in order to be able to pay the bill and at the same time continue to render its service to the community. It produces films of church pantomimes and children's plays which contain no sex or violence that will have to be certificated. There is probably no way in which innocent work of this kind can escape the full rigour of the censorship procedures and no way, presumably, on the face of it, of exempting them from the cost of so doing. Therefore, it looks as if quite a number of comparable businesses may be forced to close down.

As mentioned in my amendment, there will be non-profit organisations and charities producing video films about their own work for circulation and showing. They will have to be classified too. This amendment seeks to provide some possibility of relief from the charge that would otherwise fall upon them. I hope that the Minister will be able to throw some light on the great mysteries of the money involved in this scheme; how it will be found; and what burden may be placed on all types of producers and distrib-utors of video tapes who may be caught without adequate resources to meet the bill. On the face of it, it is very difficult indeed to see how the whole scheme will be worked out. But that is probably unavoidable with a Bill which has been rushed like this one. Private Members' Bills in another place seem to be either obstructed or rushed, and this Bill was certainly rushed. A great many aspects of the Bill received no attention at all in another place. That is why in your Lordships' House it is necessary to spend a little longer on some points than was spent on them in another place. I beg to move.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

As the noble Lord will recollect, he moved an earlier amendment to exempt video works produced by non-profit-making organisations and charities. After some discussion the Committee was not in favour of that amendment and the noble Lord withdrew it. The same principle really applies to the amendment that the noble Lord has just moved. However, he has asked a number of questions which are somewhat outside the amendment and, as far as it is possible, I will do what I can to answer them. The first major question he asked was: is there to be a charge on public funds? My noble friend and I have both explained that there is not to be a charge on public funds. This is to be self-financing so that the cost of the process of classification will be borne by the industry. I am sure that the noble Lord will agree that, in the main, the industry is not without finance. The noble Lord gave an example of a small producer on the Isle of Wight making pictures of children's pantomimes and religious works. I should think that that very likely falls within the exemptions in Clause 2, which we have already discussed at length. However, we shall have to see just exactly what those films show.

To turn to what fees will be charged, at present we are a very long way from deciding what they will be. As the noble Lord has observed, they are to be charged on the basis of a tariff which the Secretary of State will approve. But subsection (6) of this clause allows for variations of different fees to be charged for different classes of video works, and obviously one of the variations which would be considered would be a charity; and possibly if a non-profit-making organisation could prove exactly what it was doing, that might very well fall within the same bracket. But until the complicated process of labelling and classification—which, as the noble Lord observed, is very big business indeed—has been worked out in detail, it is not possible to give a precise indication of what the fees will be.

With regard to the huge number of existing tapes, clearly they have to be taken up gradually. It has already been stated in Committee and previously in the House that the Secretary of State will give power to proceed by stages, as it were, dealing with new works first and then gradually catching up with the very big backlog. Therefore, it is not possible to give the noble Lord precise answers to his questions; I can only give answers on general principle. However, I hope that I have said enough to indicate that there is provision for variations in the scale of fees according to the nature of the particular video work; and, of course, there is quite a good range of exemptions in Clause 2, which will take a number of video works for charitable purposes out of the Bill altogether. I hope that the noble Lord is satisfied with that reply and would be willing to withdraw his amendment.

Lord McGregor of Durris

I wonder whether the noble Lord would say what the proposed charge for classifying a video will be and also tell us what the present charge is for classifying a film?

7.23 p.m.

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

My noble friend has made it clear that we cannot tell what the precise fee will be. I would reassure noble Lords that, although there may be 11 million tapes around, it is not necessary to view 11 million tapes in order to classify them. One only needs to see one example of each. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, exaggerated the difficulty of labelling; but I do not wish to pursue that because it does not fall within his amendment. As to the present cost of classifying films, I can now tell the noble Lord, Lord McGregor, that I do not know what it is, but I will write to him on it.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

All I can say is that I am astonished that a Bill should be introduced making provision for this extensive system of chargeable services without any idea being given as to what they are likely to cost. I should have thought that this was an essential part of a Bill that is imposing burdens of an unknown amount upon individiual traders, and under which consumers may be threatened by increases in charges of an unknown amount. If this had been a charge on public funds—and I assume that there is to be no charge on public funds—we should have heard a great deal more about it. Some estimates would have been made, the matter would have been gone into, and much more information would have been available as to the cost of the scheme. But we have been given nothing at all; it is all to be on trust.

If we pass the Bill just as it is, the designated authority will be appointed by regulations subject to the approval of both Houses of Parliament. The authority is then sent away to get on with the job. It has already advertised for staff; it has already indicated the qualifications that it wants for the work; it has already indicated the amount of money that it is prepared to pay for that work. All these matters are in train. Yet no information is available as to the fees. Five or six lines in the Bill is all that is devoted to this very important subject. I must recognise the possibility which the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, mentioned, that the example I gave of a firm on the Isle of Wight might find some escape in an earlier part of the Bill. But I should not like to stop and examine whether those films will fall within the classification of information, education, or whatever. They certainly will not fall within the classification of music—but perhaps they might fall within the classification of religion. However, that is not a matter on which I wish to dwell because it relates to a particular case and those films will have to find their own level when the Bill becomes law.

I am dissatisfied with the reply that has been given. But on the narrow point of my amendment, some relief may be granted by the designated authority arranging its tariff of fees. However, that seems to be by no means certain. My amendment does not require exemption for these bodies; as I understand it, it would give the designated authority power to grant the relief. Therefore, the amendment is really permissive and not mandatory. However, on this as on so many other matters related to this Bill, I could get neither satisfaction nor accommodation; nor has very much progress been made on matters of importance, though they might be regarded as matters of administration or detail. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, and there will be no need for me to refer to the matter again on the question whether the clause shall stand part.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 4 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I shall detain the Committee for no more than two minutes. I am still not reconciled to Clause 4(l)(a), which sets out the directions which are to be given to the designated authority in approaching its task. As I said when we discussed this clause earlier, I believe that it is a clause of administration and not a clause of direction or of policy. However, the Committee decided to retain the indication which the words give to the designated authority. So my comment on them is that they are loaded, that they are intended to be loaded, and that they are against the independent judgment of the censors. This is worse than trying to nobble the jury; it is really leaning on the judge. I do not think that the judge needs to be leant on, or would wish to be, in this particular clause. I am trying to help the Committee and those responsible for the Bill by giving notice that I shall return to this matter at a subsequent stage of the Bill with an offering which I hope will be acceptable.

It is simple, I shall not stop to argue it, and I shall not invite comment, but what I am trying to do on this Bill should be understood as having a considerable amount of helpful motive behind it. I want to insert the word "privately" before the words "in the home" at line 21. That is the notice I give, and that is the amendment that I shall put down for the Report stage of the Bill. In the meantime I can draw my comments on Clause 4 to a conclusion and leave the Committee to proceed to the next clause, if they are so minded.

Clause 4 agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

The Question is that Clauses 5 and 6 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

Is the Lord Deputy Chairman putting the two clauses together?

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

If it is not the desire of your Lordships to take them together, I shall certainly put them separately. The Question is that Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill?

Clause 5 [Parliamentary procedure for designation]:

On Question, Whether Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

Again, I think we are entitled to a little information about the process of appointing the designated authority. There seem to be a lot of matters that are uncertain. We have been told, though it is not in the Bill, that the designated authority will be the British Board of Film Censors. That body is an unofficial body appointed by, and financed by, the industry, and it is to be brought into commission for the video work. Little has been said about who will be on it, how it will be composed, and generally how the suitability of that body for this work commends itself to all concerned.

I know that at a later stage the Secretary of State is required to lay before Parliament proposals about the designated authority, but we all know that at that time there is little scope for discussion on matters of personnel and the suitability of particular appointees, and so forth. We are perfectly entitled to ask for some indication of what the procedure is to be.

Both the Government and the sponsor of the Bill have had an opportunity to look at how it is all going to be, and yet we are asked to pass Clauses 5 and 6 as though it was all literal, all fully explained. I cannot account for why there is so little interest in this Bill, except in order to get on with it, and I apologise to the Committee if I am being a little obtrusive in my approach to the matter. Anyway, I should welcome a few comments from whoever may be able to give information which will help us to understand better the processes behind Clause 5.

Lord Elton

It might save the time of the Committee if, in acknowledging the noble Lord's proper concern with this aspect, I refer him to columns 576 and 577 of Hansard at Second Reading. I went into this in great detail, and as the noble Lord has not challenged it with an amendment, I presume he understands what I then said. I stand by everything I said at that stage.

Clause 5 agreed to. Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Classification certificates]:

7.35 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 34: Page 6, line 37, after ("certificate") insert ("being either fifteen or eighteen").

The noble Lord said: I understand that there are some difficulties about this clause, but I do not think that my amendment relates to one of them. My amendment relates to line 37, where there is a reference in Clause 7(2)(b) to, a statement that the video work concerned is suitable for viewing only by persons who have attained the age specified in the certificate and that no video recording containing that work is to be supplied to any person who has not attained that age". That is rather indefinite on the age factor, and yet as I understand it, there are certain ages already in vogue relating to the classification for film purposes. I think that those ages are conventionally 15 or 18.

The point of the amendment is to be a little more precise about this, especially as the whole arrangements connected with classification, if they are to have relation to age, will be inconvenient if the age is not known, or the ages are variable, or the designated authority can fix what age they like. We ought, so far as possible, to follow what is conventional practice in this particular field in regard to the film industry.

I do not say that it will be coterminous at every point, but obvious problems will arise if there are different ages as between films and video tapes, and there will be greater difficulties still if a classification is to be given to films which, in video form, are likely to be subject to prosecution or proceedings under the Obscene Publications Act. According to the Sunday Times yesterday there are cases coming on in Leeds where some of the nasties which have been referred to time and time again in relation to this matter are to be the subject of proceedings under Section 2 of the Obscene Publications Act. At least one of them has already had a classification from the British Board of Film Censors as a film. We may have to deal with these confusions in a later clause when we come to the question of what is known as double jeopardy.

However, it might be possible to explain why ages under 18 are left vague in this way when the age of 18 clearly is defined partly by practice and partly by the fact that persons over the age of 18 are adult and not children any longer. Therefore, we are dealing with ages below 18 and I should think that the ages that have been used so far might very well be stated in the clause. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I think that in his amendment my noble friend is seeking information from the sponsor of the Bill or possibly from the Government about how the age limits are supposed to work in practice. My question—and at this stage it is only a question—goes somewhat further, and it may simply be an expression of my ignorance. I cannot find anywhere in the Bill a restriction which says that the ages specified should stop at 18. The intention of the Bill, and all the publicity on it, has been concerned with the protection of children, and yet the Bill does not actually say so.

I beg to ask the Government and the sponsors of the Bill what would be their attitude to, for example, the depiction of sexual activity other than sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex? It is known that male homosexuality in this country is illegal under the age of 21. Within the terms of the Bill as it is at present formulated, what is to stop the Secretary of State or the British Board of Film Censors saying that video recordings showing sexual activity other than intercourse—it might be only kissing— between men and men or women and women should not be available to those under the age of 21 since that is the age below which the prohibition exists? Is there not a risk, with the Bill as it is at present formulated, of extending censorship beyond the age of 18? Is there anything in the Bill which makes that impossible?

Lord Nugent of Guildford

The noble Lord has a good point. It is desirable that this classification should, in the main, run on lines similar to the classification of films. That is why the British Board of Film Censors is to be designated in the first place as the authority to be responsible. It has a great deal of experience in classifying films, and the classification of videos is a similar matter. Therefore, the intention is, to start with, that it will follow the same classification as the noble Lord has said, taking the age limits of 18 and 15. But we think—that is to say, I think as promoting the Bill, and I understand the Government have a similar view—that it is not desirable to limit the scope of the designating authority to age limits put in the Bill because at some time in the future it may wish to vary them. I understand that in the not far distant past it raised the lower limit, now at 15, from 14. This is the reason we prefer not to put ages in the Bill; but the intention is that they will commence by using the same age limits and the same classifications as are used for films. This should make it relatively simple to deal with existing films.

The answer to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, as to sexual activity, about which he asked, occurs in Clause 2. He will see the limits set out fairly clearly there in subsection (2). It will then be up to the designating authority to make the classification which it thinks is suitable; or, if it thinks the work to which the noble Lord is referring is not to be classified, it would say so. It has to take a view of what the law is in terms of the Obscene Publications Act. That is not easy for it, but it has been successful up till now. The fact that something the authority has designated may be prosecuted, especially in the 18R category, is always a possibility because it is clearly on the boundaries of what is within or not within the law. I think those are the answers to the noble Lord's point. The intention is to follow the same age classifications as are used now for films. That will probably be the general practice.

On the whole, it seems better not to write it into the Bill but to leave the authority, possibly in consultation with the Home Secretary of the day, free to vary the age limits if experience and practice indicates that such is desirable. Those are the age limits we shall start with and probably run for some time. I hope that the noble Lord will be reassured and will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Monson

Before the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, sits down, I should say that I entirely appreciate the reasons why he opposes this amendment and I understand his explanation about the possibility of the ages being varied for films in the future, and therefore why it is undesirable to write specified ages into the Bill. However, does he not agree that it will lead to serious practical difficulties for video retailers if there is an enormous proliferation of possible age classifications?

Lord Nugent of Guildford

It certainly would, but I do not anticipate that that will happen. We are dealing with a very experienced body which will understand that that would be totally impracticable. Therefore, we can be confident that we shall start on the same classifications as already exist for films.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, for the attention he gave to my questions. I have no doubt in my mind that there is and will be the back-up protection of the Obscene Publications Act, but I should like to persist in asking whether there is anything in this Bill which would prohibit the British Board of Film Censors or any other designated authority from specifying an age higher than 18. I gave the example of homosexual activity because the age of 21 is significant in the legality of homosexual activity, but the age could be 21, 25 or 65. As I understand it, there is nothing in the Bill which could prevent a designated authority going for an age higher than 18. If that is the case, the whole pretence of the Bill, that it is primarily for the defence of children, falls. I should like a precise answer to my question.

Lord Mishcon

I wonder whether I might participate in this discussion, nevertheless hoping that it will not be too long extended. We are on an important point. For myself, I can see advantages—and it may well be that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, and the Minister might care to consider this—in seeing that the proliferation of ages, to which the noble Lord, Lord Monson, referred, is undesirable, and that one could have a situation (I know it may be unlikely) in which the designated authority may decide that for videos, bearing in mind that it is in the home, it will have a whole series of ages which it would feel competent to deal with. It might be sensible to have the ages of 15 and 18 with a power in the Bill by a statutory instrument to vary those ages. There would not be any great difficulty in relation to that.

I wonder whether I might be allowed to address my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey for a moment, only because he talked in terms of something being legal and something being illegal over the age of 21 in relation to homosexual acts. As one who had the burden, but nevertheless the privilege, of sitting on the Wolfenden Committee, I would say that no one ever suggested that we were walking into the realms of anything other than the criminal law when we advocated that certain reforms should be made in the criminal law as between consenting adults in private. The criminal law is the one that is being invoked here. There is no question of conscience, or anything else. In relation to the video Bill and films, and the protection of the public and young people, and so on, what I imagine the designated authority will consider, in exactly the same way as the British Board will have under consideration, is whether the depicting of certain things, whether or not they are subject to the criminal law, is suitable at all or suitable for certain age groups. I cannot therefore see the difficulty that he presents, bearing in mind, as I have said, that we are dealing with what is a criminal act and not what is necessarily desirable from the point of view of depiction on film or in regard to videos. The noble Lord will very well know that heterosexual intercourse is certainly not a matter which is illegal but the depiction of heterosexual intercourse may very well be a subject for classification or, indeed, no classification at all.

7.50 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am sorry. I yield both to the experience and to the professional expertise of my noble friend. But he has missed the point. The point that I am making is that the Bill, as worded, permits the British Board of Film Censors or any other designated authority to set ages for classification higher than 18. I cannot believe that it was the intention of the sponsors of the Bill to make that possible but the possibility cannot be ruled out that a designated authority with a strong moral feeling about the encouragement of homosexual activities, for example, would say that sexual activity not involving intercourse between persons of the same sex should not be depicted on video for persons under the age of 21. Does the Bill allow for classification for ages higher than 18 or does it not? That is my question.

Lord Elton

Maybe I should intervene because I sat down for the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, because I thought that the honeyed tones of somebody on a noble intervener's own side might be more persuasive. I think that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has left two points that need answering. The first is that there is a pretence that this is a Bill in defence of children. That is a very major part of its work but we have never—I do not think that my noble friend has ever said so—sought to conceal the fact that it is to protect people such as myself, the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. from certain unspeakable things which some of us have seen and agree that we should be protected from.

As to the upper age limit, the noble Lord is technically correct; but the British Board of Film Censors has not so far seen fit to deal with age groups above 18. I think that my noble friend is quite right to leave them the freedom to alter the ages should it appear in the efflux of time to be appropriate so to do—and there will be the annual reports and so on that we have discussed before, which will enable the noble Lord to comment then if he disapproves.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am grateful for that answer. It was the answer that I expected. I give notice that at a later stage I shall move an amendment which will seek to ensure that there shall be no limit of age older than 18.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I point out that the clause that we are dealing with is not only a classification clause but one which creates an offence if a video tape is supplied to a person under the age specified. Your Lordships will see that upon the paper. If ages are to be at the discretion of the designated authority, it can alter the whole scale of retail trade by altering the ages. Indeed, I think that we all realise the difficulty at the present time that many establishments have in being able to distinguish between a person who is under 18 and a person who is 18 or over. Anybody in pubs and off-licences and elsewhere will tell you that. Similarly, when we look at the age of 15 or thereabouts, there are equal difficulties in deciding who is 14 and who is 16.

Those difficulties should not be aggravated by having unduly discretionary powers to begin changing age values, and certainly not the age of 18 which my noble friend Lord McIntosh has referred to. If the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, can say, "We do not want to put in ages which might have to stick for all time. We may wish to change them", but can also say that, as of now, there is no expectation that the ages would differ from those which are conventionally used in this field to discriminate between younger people and older people as regards seeing things on films and elsewhere, I think that might help.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

If I may help the noble Lord, I can say that with absolute confidence. If my noble friend got up from the Front Bench, he would say the same. That is the intention and is likely to remain so for the time being.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

That is most helpful. Nevertheless. I shall not be deflected from the final comment that I was going to make. I constantly hear from the noble Lord the Minister about those of us who have seen these horrible things and those who have not seen these horrible things, the inference being that those of us who have seen them really do know what this is all about and those who have not, by their own choice, have in some way contracted out of an experience that they ought to have gone through in the interests of knowing the reality of the problem.

I do not take that view. I see no reason why I should degrade myself or submit myself to a torture which I probably should not be able to stand, when my imagination is a very good substitute for that experience. May I just put that on the record and may I also say this? It is a well-known tenet of sane judgment on these matters that when one sees something one should see the whole work. Mr. Justice Stable, a very wise judge, dealing with an obscenity case over a book years ago, said that the jury must see and decide upon the work as a whole and not only part of it. What noble Lords and noble Baronesses saw when they went to see the clips upstairs were merely extracts from horrible scenes. They did not see the whole of any of the works. It may have been that the whole work would have been just as horrible as any clip from it, but one must bear in mind that, when I moved an amendment that videos of current affairs should be exempted work, I was met (I think from the noble Lord himself) with the response, "If you clip together a lot of things in current affairs, it will make a pretty horrible film". Indeed, sometimes one can say, "Why look at a video when you can look at the news?" Certainly, the news, clipped together, would produce a horrible stream of difficult and horrible experiences.

I am rather impatient of this reflection that I find thrown about that, if you have not seen it, you do not know anything about it. If I may say so, one of the principal problems of any noble Lord who tries to take a stand on principle or on matters of administration on a matter of this sort is what he has to face. It is the feeling of guilt that noble Lords want him to feel about taking the stand that he does. I resent that and I reject it. I am not trying to filibuster the Bill, either. Nothing is further from my mind. But the sloppy way in which this Bill has gone through Parliament, has been scrambled together at the last minute in another place and is being dealt with now in a spirit of some impatience. I think, from the Front Bench opposite, makes me extremely angry.

On Question, amendment negatived.

Lord Nugent of Guildford moved Amendment No. 35:

[Printed earlier.]

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 36 not moved.]

Lord Nugent of Guildford moved Amendment No. 37:

[Printed earlier: col. 780.]

The noble Lord said: This, too, has been spoken to.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 7, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

May I ask the Minister a question? I understand that there is some flaw in the clause. Indeed I hear that as it stands it is unworkable. Can the Minister throw any light on this? Is he in difficulties about this clause? Ought we to know about the difficulties that have arisen?

Lord Elton

I am not aware that the clause is unworkable. If the noble Lord is able to tell me afterwards why it should be, I will reply to the points he makes. But in general terms I am confident that the Bill as amended is workable in this clause.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

No, I was merely asking the Minister whether he had heard anything about this problem.

Lord Elton

I am afraid that I cannot regale the noble Lord with any rumours to that effect.

Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 8 [Requirements as to labelling, etc.]:

[Amendment No. 38 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Aylestone moved Amendment No. 39: page 7, line 5, after ("manner") insert ("in letters in not less than 3 millimetres in measurement")

The noble Lord said: Clause 8 refers to requirements as to labelling video works—labelling the works themselves and the container of the works. In the case of a disc, it would be the sleeve; in the case of the video work that we normally see these days, it could be either a spool or a box.

I think it would be of advantage and perhaps would help to speed up matters generally if I spoke to this amendment, No. 39, and Amendment No. 42: Amendment No. 42: page 7, line 7, leave out first ("or") and insert ("and"), both of which stand in my name and that of my noble friend Lord McGregor, and Amendment No. 63. Amendment No. 63: page 10, line 6, leave out first ("or") and insert ("and"). which we certainly will not reach this evening but which is consequential.

Clause 8 deals with requirements as to labelling. The Secretary of State is required in regulations to describe the manner in which the video works shall be labelled. If the Committee would be good enough to look at my second amendment, No. 42, it will see that I propose to take out the word "or" in line 7 and substitute for it the word "and", because in my view it would not be sufficient for the certificate, or whatever it may be called, to be attached to the video work only and not to its container as well. So the amendment proposes that not either but both should be so labelled.

Amendment No. 39, to which I am speaking, is really in the same field and simply requires that instead of the certification wording being so miniscule that one can hardly read it—while I am sure that the profession would not wish to do anything of that sort, there may be cowboys in that field who would be prepared to put words in that could only be read with a magnifying glass—a figure of something like 3 millimetres should be put into the Bill to make sure that the words are readable.

The Earl of Longford

I am under the impression that the amendments in my name could usefully be taken here but of course I have to have the permission of the Committee to do that. It will certainly save time. Amendment No. 40: page 7, line 5, after ("specified") insert— ("(a) at the beginning of the video work in respect of which the certificate was issued; and (b)") Amendment No. 41: page 7, line 6, leave out from ("work") to first ('"or") Amendment No. 62: Clause 13, page 10, line 5, after ("supply") insert— ("(a) a video recording containing a video work which does not satisfy any requirement imposed by regulations under section 8 of this Act; or (b)") Amendment No. 64: Clause 13, page 10, line 7, leave out from ("any") to ("is") in line 8 and insert ("such requirement") I have put down one amendment with others consequential on it which have the effect of making quite sure that when one actually sees one of these videos, one sees what its label is. That sounds so obvious that I do not think I need to say much more. It does seem to be covered by the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, but, if it is not covered, I should like to move it on its own.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

First, perhaps I may thank the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, and the noble Earl. Lord Longford, for bringing their amendments together. They do in fact cover the same picture—the problem of labelling. The position is that there is quite a major technical problem of labelling the existing video works. New ones, of course, will present no problem. On the video work, at the beginning, the classification will be stated and it will also be stated on the case in which the video work is placed. But the position is much more difficult with existing works. It could involve a very great deal of expense if it had to be spliced into every existing video work. There are also difficulties with the import of certain video works, especially from India, which have a particular ethnic value for certain groups in this country, where there would be only a few to be marked in this way. Here again we have a problem.

All I am authorised to say—if necessary I know that my noble friend on the Front Bench will support me—is that the Secretary of State does intend that labelling shall be comprehensive and obvious, that it shall be both on the video work and on the case. The present drafting of "or"—the amendment of the noble Lord. Lord Aylestone would make it into "and"—does give the Secretary of State the power to require labelling on both, and it is just the draftsman's skill, if you like, or his craft, that he has drafted it in that way. I am bound to say to the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, that if I had been drafting it, I should have written "and" rather than "or", but it does mean that the power is there, as the noble Lord with his great parliamentary experience will recognise.

The drafting, as it is, does give the Secretary of State power to require labelling both on the video work and on the container. That is indeed the Secretary of State's intention. The classification scheme, of course, would fail completely if it was anything else. Precisely how it is to be done with existing works has not yet been decided. I hope that noble Lords on all sides—because there is general anxiety about this—will accept my firm assurance that there will be effective labelling both on the tape and on the container, which will be obvious to anybody who is hiring or buying a tape.

Lord McGregor of Durris

I find it difficult to understand why the labels of existing videos cannot be overstamped. But even assuming that they cannot be, in respect of new videos, the clause as it stands certainly gives the power to require the package and the video to show its classification but it confers no power to require that the classification should be legible. That is the main purpose of the amendment put down by my noble friend in respect of all printed advertising. There is no requirement of a particular size of print because printed advertising varies so much in shape and size that it would be unrealistic to make such a requirement, but there is a requirement of legibility. That is enforced according to circumstances. It has been emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, and the Minister that a main purpose of this Bill is not to establish pre-censorship but to enable purchasers to know what they are buying. It therefore seems entirely in line with the intention of the promoters of the Bill to put in a requirement as to a particular size and type on the spool itself and on the package.

Lord Elton

I hope I can dispose of this quite quickly. It is the intention that the Secretary of State shall make regulations for this purpose. The only difference between us is whether or not the require-ments should be on the face of the Bill. Labelling is a fairly technical matter when it comes to dealing with cassettes. It is extremely technical when it comes to dealing with existing tapes. I think we would be wrong to go into the detail of labelling in the Bill, and that it is proper that the Secretary of State should deal with this in regulations, which of course will be subject to parliamentary veto and which I hasten to add will not be made without full consultation with the trade. But it is the intention of the Government, as it is of the sponsors of the Bill and of the noble Lord himself, that the labels shall be legible whether the material to be seen was produced before the date on which the Bill comes into effect or afterwards. I think that is the assurance which he wants, and he can certainly have it.

Lord Beswick

The noble Lord the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, are giving a lot of assurances, but there will be years in the future when other people will be in charge of these matters and I would have thought it is sometimes better to have things in the Bill so that it is the law of the land. I can understand the difficulty about putting details on to a tape or a carton, but I would not have thought that a requirement for it to be visible or readable was "going into detail". I would suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, might perhaps look at this again before Report stage to see whether he cannot meet some of the doubts that have been expressed.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

We will certainly do that, but without commitment as to what we shall come up with. We want the same end as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick.

Lord Aylestone

I think enough has been said on this for the Secretary of State, whoever he or she may be at the time, to realise what your Lordships want in this Bill. With that in mind, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 40. 41 and 42 not moved.]

Lord Denham

I think this is probably the stage at which we should go back to the main business of the day. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.