HL Deb 18 May 1984 vol 451 cc1620-63

12.21 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 8 [Requirements as to labelling etc.]:

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 43:

Page 7, line 10, at end insert— (" (2A) Regulations under this section shall also define the considerations, criteria and standards of judgment to be applied by the designated authority in carrying out their responsibilities under section 7 of this Act.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the amendment standing in my name. It is possible that this amendment is not really relevant to the clause but I am seeking some elucidation of where things which may be dealt with otherwise are going to happen. I assume that this clause, Clause 8, is dealing solely with regulations which govern labelling and similar activities after the classification has been given. But it is not an interference or a direction to the designated authority as to how they are to do their classification. What it does, as far as I can tell, is ensure that whatever classification is given, then it is a matter for the Act, and regulations under the Act, to decide how they shall be displayed, labelled and drawn to the attention of the dealers and to the public.

So if I am right about that, then my proposal here for regulations on standards and criteria will not be relevant to this clause. I may ask whether what is in my amendment is likely to be in the guidelines which I understand are to be made at some time. I am a little vague about these guidelines because I am not sure whether they are going to go from the DPP to the designated authority, or whether they are going from the Home Office to both, or what. I understood from the Second Reading, which now seems so long ago, that some guidelines were going to be issued and the question was whether they were going to be made public, whether they would receive the approval of both Houses of Parliament, or what. If the noble Minister can just clear up the confusion in my mind about this aspect, we might make progress on this clause.

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

Perhaps I can help the noble Lord rather more briefly than I had intended to, if those are his concerns. His anxiety appeared to be the reversal of the burden of proof. But in Clause 8 we are making provision for the labelling of classified material and how it is to be done. Therefore I feel that his interest in standards is not relevant to his amendment, as he rightly says. The noble Lord referred in a somewhat imprecise way to the question of the publication of guidelines. I sympathise with him over the distance, lending confusion to the view about the beginning of our proceedings. I take it that he is referring to the guidelines which it was suggested might be prepared by the Director of Public Prosecutions, as to the basis of prosecution of material on the bounds of acceptability in the 18 year-old group.

Therefore, it might be as well if I now said to the Committee, as I said in the earlier exchanges, that our discussion of this is based on correspondence which was private and not intended for publication between the DPP and the British Board of Film Censors.

Of course it is not for me to say whether this guidance should be published but I can tell the Committee that I recognise the strength of feeling in the House, which was expressed at an earlier stage on this matter. I will draw to the attention of my right honourable and learned friend the Attorney General the Committee's concern about it and there will be found an opportunity to make a further statement in the light of my right honourable and learned friend's further consideration of this matter. I am not sure whether I have in fact taken care of the noble Lord's concern over two amendments. If so, I will make no apology because it will expedite proceedings.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

That is probably so. I think the noble Lord was probably referring to my later amendment, Amendment No. 77, which is on a similar point. So far as this amendment is concerned, I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Supplying video recording of unclassified work]:

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 45:

Page 7, line 18, leave out ("unless") and insert ("if).

The noble Lord said: This is a proposal to reverse the provisions in the Bill regarding the onus of proof. It is not the only clause where this matter arises, but I thought the Marshalled List would look far too formidable if I spelled all these out for the several clauses that might be concerned. I think Clause 10 would certainly be concerned, and possibly Clauses 11, 12, 13 and 14, but I may have more clauses in my list than would be directly affected.

I am bound to say that the more I study this Bill—and I have never before lived with any Bill for so long and so closely—the more I am convinced that it was drafted by Big Brother—with great big capital letters! It really does tie everybody and everything up. We have here, in Clause 9, a provision that a person is presumed to be guilty of an offence if he has in his possession a video recording which does not contain a classification certificate and which he may have for the purpose of supplying it to somebody.

On Clause 9 particularly, may I ask the question: who exempts a video recording? Provision is made, under Clause 2, for exempted works. It is part of the defence under Clause 9 that—I am quoting from line 18 now: the supply is, or would if it took place be an exempted supply, or the video work is an exempted work".

Who exempts the work? Is it self-exemption or does it have to go to the designated authority to be classified as exempt and bear a label that it is exempt? Can the noble Lord please clear up this point? I think it is very material to the amendment because if a person can be lawfully in possession of a video recording for which no classification has been given, he may say, "In my opinion, it is exempt. It falls within Clause 2 of the Act. Therefore I have decided it is exempt and it is now up to the police, or a court or somebody to decide to the contrary".

How is a citizen to know whether he is lawfully carrying about an exempted video film, or whether it is a matter of his own judgment, which might be upset if the police are not content with his explanation?

Lord Elton

Clause 2 describes an exempt video. If you have a video of such a description, it is an exempt video. That is, of course, open to testing in the courts but if you are about to be dealt with by the law for having what is not an exempt video, the clause allows you to protect yourself by convincing the court that you thought that it was an exempt video and had good reason for so thinking.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

Dear, oh me! I really think that it is making life very hard for possibly innocent people. This really relates to the main proposal of the amendment. It is the long traditional basis of our system of jurisprudence that a person charged with an offence has to be proved guilty. The onus of proof is not usually put on the accused person. It has been done, I believe, on previous occasions in a similar connection to this. It seems as if we have one system for one classification of offence and another system for a different classification of offence.

I think that we have to be careful before we go on extending the device of putting the onus of proof on the accused person instead of proving guilt against him. I understand that if a person is accused, it is usually not a good defence on his part to say that he did not know or that he was in ignorance. The clause does at least say what his defence may be. That line of defence is for him to prove that, although it was in his pocket, it was not in his pocket for the purpose of supply, but if it was in his pocket for the purpose of supply, it was in his pocket for an exempted supply.

My advice to the citizen is "Don't carry videos in your pocket" because, if you are accosted by a policeman, subsequent clauses of the Bill might come into operation. Is this not crazy? Is this really a rational procedure in connection with non-indictable offences and solely to do with what you have in your possession? This is not heroin. Even if it is heroin, it might be exempted heroin under the provisions of this clause. Your defence will be that, although you have heroin in your pocket, you did not know, or if you did know, it was an exempted heroin. Really, I am getting speechless on this Bill.

Lord Elton

A condition I would not altogether regret under certain circumstances. But the noble Lord mentions heroin. I dislike hypothetical cases because lawyers seize on them and one has a debate as if the court were sitting. Let us suppose that the noble Lord did have a controlled drug in his pocket which he did not know was there because it had been planted on him. He would be defending himself to the policeman who said that he was carrying a controlled drug in his pocket by saying that it was not put there by himself. That would be a defence that was reasonable if the court would accept that that might well have happened.

Equally, if he had some heroin in his pocket and he suffered from a condition that required treatment by heroin, if such there be. or by another controlled drug—and there are many to be had on prescription—he would have two defences. One was that he had a prescription, which would be equivalent to having a label on the cassette. The other would be to say that he did not realise that it was a controlled drug and he thought it was aspirin and that was what he had been told when he had been given it. That would be the equivalent of having a non-exempt cassette in his pocket. It would be a defensible line. I think that the noble Lord would follow that line in court and I would have thought it was appropriate to do so in this case.

There are precedents, as the noble Lord has suggested. They have been recognised for a long time. I can perhaps give one or two examples. When an enactment prohibits an act without a licence, I can refer to Section 101 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 which clearly provides that where a defendant relies for his defence on any exception, exemption, proviso, excuse or qualification, he must make it out on a balance of possibilities.

If I can go to ground more familiar, I suspect, to the noble Lord, I refer to Section 67(a) of the Animal Health Act 1981, which reads in part: A person is guilty of an offence against this Act who grants or issues a licence, certificate or instrumen… which is false in any date or other material particular, unless he shows to the court's satisfaction that he did not know of that falsity, and that he could not with reasonable diligence have obtained knowledge of it". I think that it is not very unusual and not altogether unreasonable. I hope that the noble Lord will be content.

Lord Mishcon

I wonder whether I might be allowed to add a word or two while my noble friend remains speechless, in the hope that he will also be in the unusual condition of being content in regard to this Bill. If one deals with this practically, as I know that my noble friend Lord Houghton wants to do, this is the situation. Any police officer, any person reporting the matter for prosecution, any counsel for the prosecution, if a prosecution eventually takes place, will have to open his case as a matter of practicality by saying that the person concerned was either dealing under Clause 9 or in possession under Clause 10 on the basis of an article that was not classified; furthermore, that he was not exempt under Clause 2 and that on the evidence of the prosecution, or on any matter properly placed before the court as evidence, he could not reasonably have thought there was exemption. It would then be for the defendant to say. "I have got a defence in spite of what the prosecution has said. I say that I did have reasonable cause for thinking that it was exempt".

However, from the point of view of practicality there would be no prosecution, and the prosecution could not possibly succeed unless the prosecution itself could first satisfy the court, I repeat, that not only was it not exempt but no one reasonably could have thought that it was exempt. There would otherwise be an immediate submission that there was no case to answer and any such submission would be bound to succeed. I hope that my noble friend will take it from me, as a humble lawyer, that that is the practical situation, and that he will therefore be content.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I have never met a humble lawyer yet, least of all my noble friend. I shall not take more than a minute or two because we want to get on. However, I do draw the attention of the Committee to the allied Clause 10 in the same context. This states: Where a video recording contains a video work in respect of which no classification certificate has been issued, a person who has the recording in his possession for the purpose of supplying it is guilty of an offence unless he has it in his possession for the purpose only of a supply which, if it took place, would be an exempted supply, or the video work is an exempted work". That person may have it in his pocket to give away. If he gives it away, that is an exempted supply. I cannot imagine circumstances in which this is a justifiable way of employing the police. In present circumstances, surely, they have something better to do. But, having decided that a video work may be so heinous and so dangerous that a person must in no circumstances get away with having one, unless covered by the various provisions of the Bill, this brings one to the conclusion that the whole tenor of the Bill is out of all proportion to the nature of the offence.

I find it difficult to believe that we should have come to this point in administration and application on such a narrow issue as we had at the beginning of the campaign to tidy up the video industry. That reminds me of something Sir Harold Morris, one time chairman of the Civil Service Arbitration Board, said: "If you give a simple idea to the Civil Service, they'll make it very complicated indeed before they've finished with it". Here we are—every loophole, everybody walking down the street with something in his pocket! Why do we not distinguish between his jacket pocket and his trouser pocket, and he can have an exempted supply in one, but he is in peril on the other? What evidence is there to be that a person is about to supply a video unlawfully?

But I shall not go on. I can only regret that this kind of thing apparently finds acceptance in your Lordships' Committee on a matter of such importance to civil liberty. I propose to leave it there. I am not able to withdraw the amendment because I feel so strongly about it, but I do not wish to take up time by dividing the Committee on this matter. I may ask for the opinion of the Committee on a later clause. I admit this one has certain respectable precedents, but one does have to look very closely indeed at the extension of them.

On Question, amendment negatived.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 46:

Page 7, line 19, after ("is") insert ("not").

The noble Lord said: I shall not move Amendments Nos. 46, 47, 48 and 49 because they are all related to the main issue that we have just been debating.

[Amendments Nos. 46 to 49 not moved.]

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clauses 10 and 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Supply or possession of video recording on certain premises]:

12.41 p.m.

Lord Nugent of Guildford moved Amendment No. 50:

[Printed earlier: col. 780.]

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment and also to Amendments Nos. 51, 52 and 53. It might be for the convenience of your Lordships if the four amendments are taken together. I propose that these four amendments be agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

If Amendment No. 50 is agreed to, I shall put en bloc Amendments Nos. 51, 52 and 53.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 51: [Printed earlier: col. 780.]

Amendment No. 52: [Printed earlier: col. 780.]

Amendment No. 53: [Printed earlier: col. 780.]

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 53A not moved.]

Lord Nugent of Guildford moved Amendment No. 54:

[Printed earlier: col. 781.]

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 54. Similarly, this amendment has already been spoken to, as have Amendments Nos. 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60 and 61. Therefore it may be for the convenience of your Lordships if those amendments were taken en bloc. Meanwhile, I beg to move that Amendment No. 54 be agreed to.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Nugent of Guildford moved Amendments Nos. 55 to 61:

[Printed earlier: col. 781.]

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 13 [Supply of video recording not complying with requirements as to labels, etc.]:

[Amendments Nos. 62 to 64 not moved.]

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 [Penalties]:

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 65: Page 11, line 20, leave out ("summary conviction") and insert ("conviction whether summarily or after trial on indictment").

The noble Lord said: This is another question of legal procedure. In Clause 15(1) the Bill provides that on summary conviction a person shall be liable to a fine not exceeding £20.000. When monetary fines of this magnitude may be involved it seems to me that the question of guilt is a matter that should be decided, if the accused person wishes, by taking the case before a jury. I quite understand that in this great moral upsurge for the cleansing of the body politic and the social life of Britain not even juries shall be allowed to stand in the way. There is nothing more unscrupulous than moral fervour and here we see all the signs of it. The normal scale of fines has been written up and there is a proposal before the Committee this morning to write it up still more. There is a proposal to send people to jail, but so far that has been resisted. This is an offence not subject to a custodial sentence. Nevertheless, if it is to be taken out of the conventional realm of financial penalties, then the size of them justifies giving the opportunity of going to a jury. That is my case.

Again, one has to be very careful about depriving the citizen of the right to go to a jury. It does not really raise questions about the jury system, but it is what many people would choose to have. Before I sit down let me just add that there is evidence that the discontent which many people have with the Obscene Publications Act arises because they cannot get juries to see matters in the same light as the prosecution. That is the real grievance about the Obscene Publications Act—that the juries have got more common sense than the prosecutors. Of course, that is dreadful. The jury system was never intended to produce that situation, so the attitude is, "Get rid of it if you can. If you have enough noble Lords in the Committee who don't care either way, then you can get rid of the jury in this case, too".

I am really suggesting that we should restore some semblance of justice to this outrageous outfit and give the poor accused person, with the possibility of a £20,000 fine up his shirt, at least the opportunity of putting his case to a jury. I should like to ask whether the noble Lord has any intention of accommodating this Bill to any different point of view, or am I wasting my time for the third Friday running? My wife says, "You're expected home at a reasonable hour today". I beg to move.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

I should like to say a word on this point in support of my noble friend. He asked for a sense of justice and I would ask for a sense of proportion. It is the case that some people take the view that these nasty films do no actual harm. Personally, I do not share that view, but it is a view that is held. I think there is a possibility that they may do harm.

What undoubtedly is the case—this is why I ask for a sense of proportion—is that there are people who are doing actual harm to children. There are drug pushers in Glasgow, and so on. If one could have a little more enthusiasm in regard to the people who are known to be harming and even killing children and less enthusiasm about punishing those who conceivably may be doing harm, but who some people would now argue are not doing harm, I think we would get the matter a little more in proportion. I take my noble friend's view that in order that it shall be seen in proportion, it is highly desirable that anybody proceeded against under this Bill shall have recourse to a jury, if he so desires. If the case is a particularly obvious and bad one, he will have the good sense, presumably, not to exercise his right to elect for trial by jury. But that he should have that right, I should have thought there can be no reasonable doubt.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

In this centenary year of the NSPCC I am sure that we are all very conscious of the responsibility of society to do what we can to protect children. I am quite certain that noble Lords opposite read the report in the paper today of the serious upward trend in harm to children which so often occurs in the home. But I do not think that we should delude ourselves into thinking that children cannot be damaged by seeing some of these unpleasant videos. They undoubtedly can be harmed and there is plenty of evidence of that. So the two matters really are in the same realm; we are concerned, particularly in this context, with the protection of children.

However, I come to the noble Lord's specific point about whether someone charged with this particular offence should have the option of trial on indictment or summary conviction. The point is that the actual offence involved in all these clauses—that is, Clauses 9 to 13—involves a simple technical issue; indeed, an issue with which the magistrates' court can very easily deal. There are here no obscure legal points which need careful elucidation and which would be matters for argument before a jury. Of course magistrates' courts normally—certainly in the country—comprise anything between six and 10 people, and therefore there is quite a spread of opinion in reaching a conclusion. So from the point of view of getting justice, I do not think that any of us can doubt that a magistrates' court would be well able to make an adequate judgment on the particular issues that will be brought in front of it.

There is a very practical point to be borne in mind from the point of view of making this Bill workable when it becomes an Act, and that is that the Crown Courts are enormously congested. I discussed with the Metropolitan Police their problems in dealing with sex shops—and this was at the time when Soho still had between 60 and 70 such shops—and I made a quick inspection of the sex shops with some of the police. It was clear that the law was being breached in every kind of way. I asked why it was that no action was taken and was told that they did make regular raids on a type of rota basis but the congestion in the courts was such that it took about two years before they could get a case brought before the courts. So there is a very strong practical point to be borne in mind here.

When we are dealing with offences which, by their nature, are limited technical offences then I would urge noble Lords that the magistrates' court is a very adequate court for dealing with such cases. Indeed, it is for that reason that the Bill has been drafted in the way that it has been. I would hope that your Lordships would feel that it has been drafted in a reasonable and practical way and that the alternative put forward in the noble Lord's amendment would not be a very practical measure and would not be justified in the light of the type of offences with which we are dealing.

Lord Mishcon

I venture to say that what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, has just said constitutes rather a dangerous precedent if it be followed. Indeed, it is only for that reason that I rise to my feet and find myself supporting the amendment that has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, and supported by my noble friend Lord Jenkins. It would be extremely dangerous if ever we in Parliament used the excuse that, because Crown Courts are crowded, therefore the very elementary, just and traditional right of trial by jury should for that reason and that reason alone—or even because it was an accompanying reason—be denied. We are all speaking personally in this debate and I cannot personally ally myself with any such consideration.

What the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, said was perfectly correct in regard to the technicality of several of the offences under the Bill. However, I spoke before in answer to my noble friend Lord Houghton on the question of exemption and defences in regard to exemption. One of those defences is the reasonable ground for belief that the video itself was exempt, the reasonable ground being that it was thought to be concerned with sport, religion, education or whatever is contained in the description in Clause 2 and which would therefore be a defence.

I can see that a perfectly bona fide defence could exist, which is capable of argument before a jury, as to whether there was reasonable ground for thinking that the video concerned was an exempt video coming within the description of exemptions in Clause 2.I can well see that somebody would want to have that issue tried by jury, and the person concerned ought, in my view, to be given that right. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, and indeed the noble Lord the Minister, to consider that aspect of the matter. But whatever be our decision, I hope that the noble Lord the Minister—and I say this with great respect, as he knows, to the noble Lord. Lord Nugent of Guildford—will dissociate himself from any consideration that jury trial be not given by Parliament because our Crown Courts are crowded. The answer to that view is: let our Crown Courts not be crowded, by some reform of ours; but even if they are crowded, please do not remove the right of jury trial because of it.

Lord Monson

I strongly support every word that the noble Lord. Lord Mishcon, has just said and I warmly support the amendment.

Lord Elton

I obviously cannot speak as briefly as the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and put so much effect into it because I wish to advance an opposite view. I wonder if I can briefly help your Lordships on this matter. I take absolute note of what the noble Lord. Lord Mishcon, has said. Although I suppose good management requires one to have regard to the loads that one puts on courts, that is not a prime consideration. The prime consideration is access to justice.

Let me remind your Lordships that the offences to which this amendment refers lie in Clauses 9 and 10 which deal with requirements as to labelling and so on and the supplying of unclassified work. It seems to us that the issues to be tried will, in the great majority of cases, be extremely simple and that there will be no great difficulty because magistrates are perfectly capable of deciding whether or not a video work has a certificate under the Bill: either it has or it has not. The Magistrates' Association and the Justices' Clerks' Society were consulted during the drafting of this Bill and they similarly saw no difficulty about this. The weight that I put into my argument is in large part the view of those people who are much closer to this question of the approach to the appropriate court than I am and than many of your Lordships are, although I accept that that comment does not include the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon.

Therefore, I hope that your Lordships will consider that this is a matter which should not be reversed at the Committee stage and that you will also bear in mind that of course in the rare cases where there is a difficulty—or where the defendant, when he loses a case feels that there is such a difficulty—the defendant will in any case have access to the higher court by appeal. So he does have an approach to a jury by that route. It would seem to be a mistake to send all business that way in order to cope with the—I think your Lordships will agree—small minority of cases when the attention of the jury, the elaborate prepara-tion and the time taken by so many people, might be expended, in most cases, to no good purpose and when the case could have been dealt with swiftly in a magistrates' court.

1 p.m.

Lord Mishcon

I know that the noble Lord the Minister would never mislead the Committee—his reputation is much too good. But if there were an appeal from a summary matter, it would not come before a jury. That is my belief and I think that I am correct in saying that. I have obtained approval from a certain quarter, at whom I am not supposed to look, but I did so out of concern to see whether I was in fact right. Therefore, there would be no chance of a trial by jury. I know that the noble Lord the Minister would want me to make that perfectly clear.

Lord Elton

I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, for the very courteous way in which he has put me right on a very important point of fact on which I was wrong.

Lord Mishcon

the noble Lord has done that for me on many occasions in just as kindly a way. There is a very short point here, but I think that it is one of principle. If trial by jury is given as a matter of right, I do not think that it would hold up the passage of the Bill. I hope that this can be one of the concessions which the noble Lord can make. The Committee has been told that the Magistrates' Association has been consulted, and it is very right that it should have been consulted for it is a very worthy body. But presumably what it was really consulted about was: does it think that it is capable of dealing with this matter? I imagine that its answer was, "Yes"; and I should have thought that it would be. If somebody had told me that the judges had been consulted and that they thought that this was not a matter that should, in any circumstances by way of the right of the defendant, go before a jury I should have been more impressed; but presumably the judges have not been consulted. I hope that this concession can be made or that at least the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, can say that because of what has been said in this Committee—I believe rather effectively and from many quarters, quarters that are very sympathetic to the Bill—he will give favourable consideration to this amendment.

Baroness Phillips

Before the vote is taken, as a mere magistrate, I should like some clarification of this point because it is becoming more and more confusing. I understand that on summary conviction a person guilty of the offence will be liable to a fine not exceeding £20,000. A magistrates' court cannot impose a fine of that kind, so the case would have to go to a higher court, in which case surely the appeal would be against the higher court and not against the magistrates' court?

Lord Elton

On the question of precedent, two years ago your Lordships passed the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982. I am not at all sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, did not assist us in that; I am sure that my noble friend did. With effect from 1st May this year, offences under that Act will carry penalties of up to £20,000, and offences under that Act are also triable only summarily.

I have been invited to comment on whether we should look at this amendment again. I am reluctant to encourage your Lordships to think that that would be a profitable course to take. We have the precedent of which I spoke: we have the appeal although not to a jury; we have the consideration that 99 per cent. of the time I think your Lordships will agree that the issues to be tried will be very simple. I wonder whether it is wise to magnify the difficulty of the legal procedure and the time that it will take. However uncrowded the Crown Courts may be, and however uncrowded other courts are, if we keep manufacturing work for them, they will become more crowded. I do not wish your Lordships to interpose yourselves between the common man and common justice. I do not think that the provisions of this Bill will do that.

If the fine imposed by magistrates was to fall at the higher end of the spectrum of the fines available —which admittedly is very high—I do not think that the offender (if that is what he is) would not appeal his case, and therefore I do not think we are denying justice. Nor do I think that the complexity of the cases is such that juries suddenly become necessary for this when they are not necessary under the closely analogous arrangements of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which as I recall related to sex shops.

Lord Mishcon

I promise to detain the Committee for one minute and one minute only, and then I shall sit down. Again, I believe that we are walking into very dangerous language if we say that if a fine happens to be very high, no doubt there will be an appeal. We are dealing with a question of conviction in regard to a criminal act, and it is a criminal court that will make that conviction. I am not interested so much in the question of the fine; I am interested in the question of a conviction and the right to go to a jury, if it only be on the one matter of whether there be reasonable grounds for thinking that the article concerned was exempt, and in my view that is very much a matter for a jury to consider, if the defendant wants to take that course.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

I hope that this matter will not be pressed to a Division; but, if possible, I would urge that the matter be kept open for consideration until a later stage. I do not think that the noble Lord. Lord Houghton, would lose anything in taking that course. There seems to me to be great force in what the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, says, that the issue of reasonable belief is eminently a matter for a jury and is normally a matter for a jury. I should like to raise just one further point. The noble Lord the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, are quite correct in saying that subsection (1) applies only to Clauses 9 and 10, and that, apart from the issue which the noble Lord. Lord Mishcon, raised, the issues are likely to be very narrow. The same point arises on subsection (3).

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I do not know whether the Minister wishes to say anymore on this?

Lord Elton

I was about to have a word in the ear of my noble friend as to the response, but I am quite happy to utter those words via the Floor, as it were, and to say that I recognise the weight of authority which has now been brought to bear on this issue. I do not have the experience to come head-on in collision with such notable authorities as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. Therefore, I should say to my noble friend that it would be prudent to look at this matter between now and the Report stage, though from this Box I could not give encouraging noises as to the result. I was about to suggest that my noble friend might like to say that, but I have now put the gloss on it and 1 hope he is taking the point rather than the reverse. Therefore, if the noble Lord does not press his amendment further this afternoon, we shall undertake to look at it again.. However, I cannot give him any encouraging thoughts as to what might happen at the next stage, but it is for him to find that out then.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

Before the noble Lord replies, I should like to associate myself with what my noble friend Lord Elton has just said. I recognise the perspicacity of the noble Lord. Lord Mishcon, in picking the most effective issue on which a jury should deliberate. I think that we should look at this amendment between now and the Report stage. There are problems about it. Without being able to indicate the kind of answer that we shall arrive at, we shall certainly look at the matter most carefully and return to it again on Report, if the noble Lord is willing to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

Yes, I shall readily do that. 1 should not spend the time of the Committee commenting further, except to say that I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Mishcon. When he comes out on my side, my case is strong indeed and I have no need to presume to add words to the case that he has made. I am very grateful to him. I was hoping that somewhere during the passage of this Bill the lawyers would take up these very important questions of civil rights. However, I am beginning to digress. What shall I do? I think that I shall withdraw the amendment so that we are free to come back to it at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 66:

Page 11, line 21, leave out ("£20,000") and insert ("£10,000").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 66. This is esentially a probing amendment, though no less important for that. Perhaps I may take this opportunity of apologising in advance to the Committee for the fact that I may possibly have to depart before the end of the debate on this series of amendments as, unfortunately. I have to leave for a funeral in just over 20 minutes' time.

Clause 15 prescribes a quite unusually high maximum fine by the normal standards of magistrates' courts. It is important that we should preserve a sense of proportion in fixing maxima".

These are not my words. They are the words of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, speaking for the Government on 1st July 1982, at column 423. At that time we were debating an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill designed to raise the maximum fine for breaches of the straw and stubble burning by-laws from £200 to £1,000, instead of the £500 to which the Government had reluctantly agreed. Three weeks later we succeeded by a two to one margin, but that is another story.

The Government's view was that only in exceptional circumstances should magistrates be empowered to impose maximum fines of as much as £1,000. let alone anything larger. Since that date the retail price index has risen by no more than 8 per cent. We have of course what I consider to be the unfortunate precedent set by the indecent displays legislation: but two wrongs do not make a right.

It is important to remember that this Bill covers not only professional dealers who make large sums of money and for whom a high maximum fine might well be appropriate: it also of necessity covers amateurs. We must remind ourselves that there must be many tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of video cassettes already in circulation in people's private possession which were acquired quite legally before this Bill becomes law, if indeed it does, and of which many—perhaps most—may well not be eligible for classification at all.

Let us suppose that, in order to supplement his somewhat meagre unemployment pay, an unemployed factory worker, or lorry driver decides to let his neighbours and his friends—his adult neighbours and adult friends. I stress—borrow his cassettes in order to earn an extra few pounds a week. Is it right that he should be liable to a fine of as much as £20,000, especially if he is to be deprived of the right of trial by jury? I beg to move.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

I readily acknowledge that £20,000 is a heavy fine, but it is applicable in only two instances. The other offences will be subject to a fine of up to £2,000 with the recent upward adjustment. These offences are not comparable with stubble burning, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, would be the first to acknowledge that.

While the small operator described by the noble Lord may not be in a position to stand, or indeed to have levied on him, fines of that order, in this field there are many traders for whom a fine of this size is not a serious burden. It was this consideration which moved us in the legislation referred to by my noble friend Lord Elton on sex shops two years ago—the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act—to fix the top level fine there at £20,000.

In fact, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Monson, knows this particular level was fixed on Report in the Commons. So the matter had a fairly general consideration before the House as a whole when the fine was raised from £10,000 to £20,000. It is notable that among those who spoke with apparent approval on it was the spokesman of the BVA in the House of Commons. So there was general approval of this level of fine as being appropriate in these circumstances.

Of course, it is a matter of judgment as to what should be the top level of penalty, but the fact that it is set at that high level does not mean that courts would always impose the highest level of fine. I am sure they would not. If there was involved a small trader of the kind the noble Lord describes, I do not doubt that the court would use its judgment in the normal way to impose a fine that was suitable for the particular offender.

At the top level I should not have thought that this was out of line. I would be inclined to commend to noble Lords here the judgment of the other place that this figure is probably about right in the circumstances at the top level. I shall shortly be answering another amendment with regard to custodial offences, and it is necessary in this field to set a high level of penalty because we are dealing in many cases with big operators. I hope that the noble Lord will be convinced that this is the appropriate level at which to set it and that he may feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Monson, would agree that perhaps this question could be linked with the matter that is to be given further consideration. What was the origin of this heavy fine? It was due to the fact that in the Standing Committee in another place a group of Members wanted there to be prison sentences. They were discouraged from that by the Minister himself. Then they said, "Well, if we can't send people to prison, we can put up the fine". They had a figure of £10,000, and so they said, "Well, double it."

When you read the proceedings of the Standing Committee in another place you realise how some of these matters come to be where they are. I link in my own mind beside the maximum fine the mode of dealing with the case. I would limit the magistrates' power to impose fines exceeding a reasonable sum. It seems that fines have to be put higher and higher as a substitute for a custodial sentence, because that is really what this £20,000 is. They gave way on it when they did not get their custodial sentence. There is an amendment on the Marshalled List, to follow in a moment or two, to restore the idea of a custodial sentence.

It seems to me that questions about the method of trial, about whether there should be summary proceedings or a jury, and whether there should be a custodial sentence, a fine, or monetary fines only, need sorting out in regard to how the cases are to be dealt with and what the penalties may be. Then we can see the situation in better perspective. Having had the grudging offer of further consideration from the noble Lord the Minister, we ought to leave him with this as well. We can let him have a look at the wider issue and then come back at Report stage and see whether some rationale can be introduced into the method of dealing with the offences and the penalties incurred.

Lord Wilson of Langside

I would have thought it inappropriate to link this question with the other matter that the Minister was good enough to say he would consider. I find it difficult to believe that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, in suggesting this, has reflected on the careful answer of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, to the very deliberate point of the noble Lord, Lord Monson. In particular, although theoretically a person charged in the circumstances outlined by Lord Monson might be liable to a fine of £20,000, no court would consider imposing a fine approaching that figure. In the part of the country where I have my legal being, before fixing a fine the courts are bound (and they are very conscious of the obligation) to take into account the means of the accused.

Baroness Phillips

I should like to underline what the noble and learned Lord has said. I think one can reassure Lord Monson that no magistrates' court would impose a fine on an unemployed lorry driver—the sad story of course that we always hear. I have always understood that hard cases make bad law, and I think that it is wrong to legislate on the basis of a rather remote case. We all know the kind of people we are considering and discussing in this Bill. I think it would be totally unreal, from my knowledge of the courts. Magistrates always have to take into account—sometimes, in the opinion of some of us, far too much—the means of the offender; so I see no possibility of a heavy fine being imposed in the circumstances outlined by the noble Lord. I think we can give him that reassurance.

Lord Mishcon

It is only because I do not want anyone North of the Border (superior though many parts of their law are to ours) to think that in this respect we are deficient that I tell the Committee what I think noble Lords most likely already know, which is that there is a statutory obligation upon the courts to take into account the means of the defendant. Some of us who know a little about the sort of sums that are being earned by the trade that we are trying to hit at in this Bill will know that it is completely lacking in deterrence, let alone any other thought that might have been in anybody's mind, to have a maximum fine which is less than the amount in this Bill.

Lord Cornwallis

Can we just for a moment, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has said, think about the people we are dealing with? These films that we are trying to ban have no artistic merits of any kind or description. They are made because people can make very large sums of money out of them. They are made for no other reason whatever. Even the people who act in them are not very highly paid for doing it; and why they do it I cannot imagine. But, surely, we must have a fine that is a deterrent to those people who have been making millions out of it, and to whom it may perhaps act as a deterrent in the manufacture of these things, and not only the supply.

Lord Monson

May I first thank the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, for tactfully correcting me. It was of course the sex shops legislation, and not the indecent display legislation, which set up the precedent for unusually high maximum fines, at any rate as far as magistrates' courts are concerned. If the right to trial by jury is agreed to at the next stage, or if there is a possibility of such an agreement, then the maximum stipulated in this Bill is somewhat less objectionable, although I should still prefer a lower maximum for a first offence, which I think would cover the sort of example I had in mind. While I reserve the right to return to this matter at the next stage, for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1.25 p.m.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 67: Page 11, line 21, after ("£20,000") insert ("or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, or both.").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, which at this stage I would say is a probing amendment, I should like to refer to the Protection of Children Act 1978. The Bill we are discussing today is basically for the protection of children, and under the Protection of Children Act imprisonment is available on summary conviction up to the maximum normally given in a magistrates' court of six months. I feel that it should be available under this Bill as well. When Mr. Gareth Wardell pioneered action on videos in 1982, he included imprisonment in his Bill, which lapsed with the dissolution of Parliament. But possibly even more important—a point that was brought out in discussion on the last amendment—are the vast sums of money that are earned by some of the suppliers or potential suppliers of videos that are neither exempt nor will gain a certificate.

I am not saying that the more responsible end of the market will necessarily supply these videos, but there is always a temptation because where there is a demand and a lot of money changes hands, temptation must be present. I understand that it is possible for a sex shop—which could well be the supplier—to earn as much as £30,000 a day gross. In these circumstances, a fine of £20,000 is really "peanuts". I think that serious consideraton should be given to adding imprisonment to the punishment, particulary where there are subsequent offences after someone has been found guilty for the first time. I beg to move.

Lord Wilson of Langside

I have great sympathy with this amendment and with what the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, has said in support of it. Like the rest of your Lordships, I greatly enjoy the good-humoured scorn which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, delights to direct upon what I think is coloquially called the "morality lobby". Throughout history, since the Labouchere amendment, and before that, no doubt, we as a nation have made ourselves look a little absurd from time to time with these great urgings which beset us to get after the evildoers; and in the light of history we can see the absurdity of it.

Where the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, is quite wrong, and where the scorn which he directs against most of us who support this Bill is quite misdirected and irrelevant, is illustrated by the reality of the fact that this is a trade which has an extremely undesirable end. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, suggested that the violence of the video nasties is more important than the sex of them. I have heard it suggested that we were trying to abolish sex. or something like that. This is a trade with a very bad end, and it has got to be brought under control.

Let me assure the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, that most of us who support the Bill recognise that sex is readily distinguishable from justice, because justice has to be done and has to be seen to be done. Most of us who support the Bill take the view that sex is something that must be done, of course, but which should not be seen to be done by any other than the participants. I wish the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, could appreciate that this is the outlook of most of us, and that voyeurism is a perversion which should not be encouraged as, particularly among younger people, that sort of thing tends to be stunting of emotional and intellectual growth. That is why we are against it.

So far as violence is concerned, I do not think that I need give any kind of explanation but it is because of an awareness of the reality of the dangerous end of this trade that so many of us support the Bill. I hope that the Government will have looked carefully at the question of penalties and will tell us what their approach has been.

I shall just detain the Committee for one more minute. I have not said very much about it throughout the sittings, but I have seen this end of the trade in operation and I see a number of similarities to the drug problem and to "pushers". We always say, both inside and outside the courts, that the people we want to get at (so far as punishment contributes to the solution of the problem, which is only part of it) are the "pushers". I do not see why we should not take the same view about the "pushers" at the dirty end of this trade. That is why I would be disposed to support this amendment.

The Earl of Gainsborough

I too should like to support the amendment. I think something of this nature is absolutely essential, because I do not think anybody would deny that when monetary punishments are imposed on the "front men" selling the videos these fines are simply paid by the people in the background who are making the videos and are making fortunes. We have heard what very big figures are involved. So even £20,000 is really "peanuts" when it comes to a fine which will be paid by somebody who is dealing in very big figures. The only way to influence the man at the front is either to put him in gaol or into some form of community service. Any form of fine is absolutely useless.

Lord Cornwallis

I too should like to support the amendment. I think that throughout the Bill we have been just a little over-anxious to direct our attention to those aged 16 or 18 and under. I have had family experience of somebody damaged by these video nasties—somebody over 18—which were taken and shown to them late at night. I can tell your Lordships that the effect does not last just for a week or two but that it takes two or three years to pull somebody back from a situation in which they have been subjected to this sort of repetitive filth. I would beg your Lordships seriously to consider this amendment.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

I have much sympathy with noble Lords who have supported the amendment. I recognise that there is great weight in what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, by my noble friend and by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside. Sometimes I feel that I should like to speak more freely on these matters, but time is important and therefore I cannot do so. But I certainly sympathise with his expression of view about the bad end of this trade.

It is a fact that in the sex shop world, when offences under the Obscene Publications Act were prosecuted from time to time and when the case was taken summarily before magistrates, where the usual penalty would be a fine, and probably forfeiture, this really had no deterrent effect at all; but latterly there have been one or two successful prosecutions before the Crown Court leading to imprisonment. There is really no doubt that this has had a very big impression indeed.

Let us be clear, to be fair, that we are not dealing with that issue here today: we are dealing with a classification scheme. My noble friend and I have taken pains to explain that there is not an element of censorship in the Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, has frequently alleged: it is a straight classification scheme, even including 18R. The only video works which will be excluded are those which go well beyond the standard of the 18R. So it is essentially a classification scheme. Therefore, in the main we are not dealing with the same kind of offences as, indeed, were conceived under the Obscene Publications Act, where, before a Crown Court and jury, a custodial sentence can be given. It is because we feel that this is a more limited Bill in every way that we feel we should stick to penalties of fines and probably the summary process for dealing with them.

I should think that a fine of £20,000 would have its impression and would have a deterrent effect even at the top end of the trade, although I agree that very large sums of money are being made there. But this is all a matter of proportion, and again it is a matter of judgment whether one thinks a custodial sentence is justified. I am sure that we would all recommend a custodial sentence with the greatest of reluctance. It is the last thing to do if one can avoid it. I hope that we shall find, in practice, that a £20,000 penalty will be adequate for dealing with even the strongest end of the trade. I would rather hope that the strongest end of the trade is a respectable end of the trade, and it may be that they will have some influence on it, too.

While I greatly sympathise with the strong words of support which have been expressed on the amendment of my noble friend Lord Swinfen, I feel that we would be throwing this little Bill out of perspective if we introduced a custodial sentence into the punishment for these particular offences. I hope that my noble friend will be persuaded that he should withdraw the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I would prefer not to rise to the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, if only because to do so would be to repeat arguments that have already been made in the course of the Committee. I will confine myself to saying—I am sure that my noble friend Lord Houghton will agree—that those of us who oppose the Bill on libertarian grounds are under no illusion that the supporters of the Bill do so from the deepest of feelings and the strongest of concern for the protection of others. There is no doubt in our minds on that point.

I want only to say that I wish that the noble Lord had his noble friend Lord Donaldson with him on the Benches today, because I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, would wish to say, as I wish to say, that at a time when custodial offences have already gone too far, and when all movement in penology is away from custodial offences, particularly from long custodial sentences, it would seem to be a great tragedy to be adding new custodial offences to the statute book. I hope that, on that general ground alone, this amendment will be resisted.

Lord Elton

If I may put in but one sentence, I would remind your Lordships that this Bill in no way sets aside the provisions of the Protection of Children Act 1978 or the Obscene Publications Act 1959, under which of course custodial sentences can be given if a case warrants it.

Lord Swinfen

May I first thank all those who have supported my amendment? I must admit I was extremely disappointed with the reply of my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford. He seemed to be under the impression—although perhaps I may have got it wrong—that this particular subsection is concerned with labelling. I was under the impression that this was a penalty for offences committed under Clauses 9 or 10 which concern the supplying of a video recording of an unclassified work or the possession of a video recording for the purpose of supplying, and not for mere errors in labelling. I wonder whether my noble friend could help me by undertaking to give this matter further consideration before the next stage. I realise he may find hmself in some difficulty but I think it would help me and those who have supported me in the Chamber, if he could give me that undertaking.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

I sympathise with my noble friend's trying to get what he can out of me; but this matter has been given very careful thought both here and in the other place, and I really cannot encourage my noble friend to think that if we took it back we would be likely to take another view. I must say that, although I do not always agree with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, I entirely agree with him in this instance. We must approach the matter of adding to the number of custodial sentences with the greatest caution; and I think that in this case, with the high level of penalties, we should try and see how we get on.

Lord Swinfen

I thank my noble friend for that rather discouraging reply, but as I said at the very beginning that this was a probing amendment, I feel that, as a matter of honour, I must beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1.43 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 68:

Page 11, line 22, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this amendment, and this is a friendly act on my part because I want to spare the Government the humiliating confession of the possible failure of their economic policy. When I read what this provision does and that the Secretary of State may take power to uprate the already very high fines which are provided for in the Bill, justified by a change in the value of money appearing to him to have taken place",

I imagined that he would know when there had been a change in the value of money; he would know that the Government's policy has failed and would hand in his resignation at the time he uprates the fines, regretting that he has ever had anything to do with them! I hate to see Governments blatantly display their confessions of failure in this way!

There is already a power for uprating which the Home Office take from time to time; I have the latest in my hand. Is this clause necessary in the Bill because the uprating powers of the Home Office do not extend to fines of this magnitude? I am a little puzzled that I should see a writing-up of the fines in Circular 19 of 1984 and it is apparently necessary to put it into this Bill—not that it matters a great deal, and I certainly do not want to hold up the Committee. If the Government want to go on record that they are wrong in their economic policy, who am I to stop them?

Lord Mishcon

I must intervene immediately to tell my noble friend that I had not read this provision in the same way as he did. I thought that it was put in deliberately by this Government in anticipation of a Labour Government coming to office, where the value of money would have increased. Therefore, it gives power to a future Labour Government, having increased the value of money, to minimise the penalties charged under this Bill. I read it quite differently, and therefore I hope that he will at once agree to remove, withdraw and expunge his amendment.

Lord Elton

I look into the crystal ball from the opposite side. It seems to me that the power to increase is what is most likely to be required if the friends of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, ever triumph at the polls; otherwise of course the provision may not be used for a very long time.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

Very well. Let us forget it as quickly as possible. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 69 not moved.]

Clause 15 agreed to.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 70: Before Clause 16, insert the following new clause:

("Amendment of Obscene Publications Act 1959 with respect to Video Recordings.

—(1) In section 2 of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (prohibition of publication of obscene matter) at the end of subsection (3A) there shall be inserted the following subsection— (3B) Proceedings for an offence under this section shall not be instituted except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions in any case where the article in question is a video recording in respect of which a classification has been issued under the provisions of the Video Recordings Act 1984.

(2)In section 2 of that Act. after subsection (4 A) there shall be inserted the following subsection— (4B) Without prejudice to subsection (4) above a person shall not be proceeded against for an offence at common law in respect of a video recording for which a classification certificate has been issued under the provisions of the Video Recordings Act 1984.

(3)In section 3 of that Act (which among other things makes provision for the forfeiture of obscene articles kept for publication for gain) at the beginning of subsection (3) for the words "subsection (3A)" there shall be substituted the words "subsections (3A) and (3B)" and at the end of subsection (3A) there shall be inserted the following subsection— (3B) Without prejudice to the duty of a court to make an order for the forfeiture of an article where section 1(4) of the Obscene Publications Act 1964 applies (order made on completion), in a case where by virtue of subsection (3A) of section 2 of this Act proceedings under the said section 2 for having an article for publication for gain could not be instituted except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions, no order for the forfeiture of the article shall be made under this section unless the warrant under which the article was seized was issued on an information laid by or on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

(4) In section 4 of that Act (defence of public good) at the beginning of subsection (1) for the words "subsection (1 A)" there shall be substituted the words "subsections (1 A) and (IB)" and at the end of that subsection there shall be inserted the following subsection— (1B) Subsection (1) of this section shall not apply where the article in question is a video recording, but—

  1. (a)a person shall not be convicted of an offence against section 2 of this Act in relation to any such recording, and
  2. (b)an order for forfeiture on any such recording shall not be made under section 3 of this Act,
if it is proved that publication of the recording is justified as being for the public good on the grounds that it is in the interests of drama, opera, ballet or any other art, or of literature or learning.

(5)At the end of section 4 of that Act there shall be added the following subsection— (4) In this section video recordings shall be defined by reference to section 1 of the Video Recordings Act 1984.".").

The noble Lord said: We now come in this amendment to a more substantial point. I think I can explain it quite briefly. All this amendment proposes to do is to apply to video recordings what I understand already applies to films. There was the matter of whether films which had been given a classification by the British Board of Film Censors should also be open to proceedings under the Obscene Publications Act and, in order to get rid of what would appear to be a rather ridiculous confusion, provision was made for any prosecutions that might be contemplated against the exhibitors of films which had been given a classification by the British Board of Film Censors to be subject to approval by the Director of Public Prosecutions. It was probably assumed that in certain circumstances there might be a classification given for the exhibition of a particular film which somebody could satisfy a court was obscene and should be caught under the Obscene Publications Act. They wish to prevent private prosecutions being launched against the exhibitor, which would in the normal course be open to a private person.

We are aware of prosecutions which have been instituted under the Obscene Publications Act; so this was a protection to the exhibitor in that if he exhibited a film that had been given the appropriate classification and he showed it in the approved conditions, he would not be caught by the Obscene Publications Act unless the Director of Public Prosecutions decided in exceptional circumstances that he should be.

In the case of video recordings, classifications are to be given for them too. It has been stressed in various debates on this Bill, to the comfort of some people, that behind the classification of the designated authority will be the right of prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act. It seems to me, if I am correct so far, that a person selling a classified video recording in the proper way ought to be given some protection against being proceeded against under that Act. I do not think one can have it both ways all along the line.

Again, I would say that the position of the British Board of Film Censors is crucial to this situation. But allow me to draw the distinction that in the case of films the British Board of Film Censors is not a statutory body. It is not accountable. There is no Minister responsible for it. It is financed entirely out of the funds of the industry. So one can see the justification of not allowing an unofficial body, such as the British Board of Film Censors, the power to give a classification which would render the exhibitor immune to prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act.

But if the designated authority for video recordings is a statutory body, which is accountable and has to make an annual report to Parliament—which the British Board of Film Censors does not at present have to do—and which is subject to directions by regulations made by the Minister on various matters, particularly labelling and so on, then it seems to me that not only should some immunity be given from the risk of prosecution, but there should be exemption from the provisions of the Obscene Publications Act altogether.

But the amendment does not go as far as that. The amendment merely reproduces in this connection the safeguard already provided to the film industry. This seems to me to be a perfectly justifiable protection to be given to those who are selling video recordings. There is confusion enough already on this question of the relationship between the Obscene Publications Act and the selling or exhibition of matter which can be caught by it.

I understand that only two days ago cases were started in Leeds where a prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act is being taken against a producer of a video recording of a film which has already had a classification and has been shown in over 180 cinemas. So the film exhibitor cannot be proceeded against under the Obscene Publications Act, except by authority of the Director of Public Prosecution, but the video producer is up in court because he has no similar protection; and the prosecution is being undertaken by the police.

To add to our problems, an article in the Sunday Times of last Sunday stated: At the moment, there seem no clear guidelines as to what is obscene. What makes the potential for confusion even greater is that the Video Recordings Bill currently passing through the Lords aims to set up the BBFC as the statutory body with responsibility for certifying all videos. It is believed that the police have indicated unofficially that they want to retain the power to prosecute videos. But provided that the Board does not adopt what they consider to be a too liberal attitude they have said that in practice they will rarely prosecute.

I think we ought immediately to move a vote of thanks to the police for being so lenient in their approach to the decisions of the designated authority.

One can ask the question: who is the real censor? After all, I read in an articles in New Society recently that the British Board of Film Censors takes the view that its job is to protect exhibitors from being taken to court. It is a safeguard against transgression of the Obscene Publications Act, and probably other Acts as well. The designated authority will be in a similar position. Surely its job in giving a classification—assuming that the Obscene Publications Act is held in reserve—is to ensure that those people to whom it gives a classification will not be put in court under the Obscene Publications Act. My amendment proposes to give them at least the protection that they cannot be proceeded against by the police alone, but only on the authority of the DPP.

There are other things which I shall not stop to quote now, but which give the impression that the censor here is not the British Board of Film Censors and that it will not be the designated authority. The real censor will be the Director of Public Prosecutions, and that is one stage removed from the police. Can any of this be denied? Can any of it be cleared up? Surely, we are not going to leave the video industry at the mercy of police prosecutions under the Obscene Publications Act, if people are selling a video recording, which they are free to do under the provisions of this Bill, and are in the clear so far as the contents of the recording are concerned. I look forward to the Minister doing something which will clear up this situation, because left as it is, it is absolutely indefensible and is a confusion of authority.

I am dealing with what I understand is known by the lawyers as double jeopardy. You cannot have it both ways. If a classification is to be given by a statutory body according to the discretions which have been vested in it by Act of Parliament, then surely, having done that, the citizen can rest assured that he is not open to prosecution at the caprice of some chief constable who says, "We are going to go for this, because we do not like it and we think we may get a conviction." That is not the way to run matters. There are already enough differences between police authorities on censorship of books under the Obscene Publications Act. I have said enough to make my case, which I believe is a very powerful one indeed for the Minister to answer, since the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, has temporarily left his responsibilities to the Minister. I beg to move.

1.58 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

I should like to say a word in support of my noble friend's case on this matter. He has quoted one or two precedents for such a clause being in this type of legislation, and they are not the only ones. There are other precedents under which the agreement of the appropriate authority is required before a prosecution can by launched. For example, I recall the Theatres Act, under which a prosecution cannot be launched without the consent of either the Attorney-General or the DPP. In other words, there is a safeguard against irresponsible private prosecution.

It is very necessary in this area that there should be that safeguard. Otherwise, in any area of the presentation of dramatic performances of any kind, unless there is some protection against private prosecution, hardly anything would ever take place at all because somebody, somewhere, would prosecute. For example, Mrs. Whitehouse has exercised her very considerable ingenuity in this matter and, despite the intention of Parliament, she has succeeded in resusci-tating an Act of 1361, causing considerable concern and mayhem down at the National Theatre about a production which, in my personal view, was not a terribly good production, but which certainly did not deserve the treatment which it received. Therefore, some protection of this kind is necessary. Perhaps I may amend what I said, because I have a very great regard for the director of that production, which would be fairly easy to identify. It was the play that I was not very keen on, rather than the production. I withdraw any aspersion upon the director, who is a very distinguished one.

This amendment seeks to drive some sense into a Bill which is rather scarce in that commodity. My noble friend is seeking to ensure that there is a certain degree of continuity and of relativity. I may have missed the point, but at the moment I do not really know what is to be the relationship—perhaps the noble Lord will tell us—between the designated authority and the British Board of Film Censors. Is the designated authority to be the British Board of Fim Censors? Or is it to be a parallel authority? Or is it to be a sub-committee? This is a very important question. As my noble friend has pointed out, the British Board of Film Censors is not a state authority. It has in itself no authority. This body will have authority. It will be a designated body. Authority will be given to it under Act of Parliament.

So how is the relationship between, on the one hand, a voluntary, self-censorship body and, on the other hand, a state designated body to be worked out? If there is no relationship between the two bodies, some tremendous absurdities will be perpetuated, since one body will take different decisions from the other body. There must be a relationship—this has been recognised by everybody concerned with the Bill—but I have not heard spelled out precisely what that relationship is to be. In case I have missed it, I should be grateful if, in reply to the debate, the noble Lord felt able to clarify this important point. If it is not clarified, it seems to me that the amendment is absolutely vital. Unless there is a safeguard against the possibility of prosecutions taking place at different points on entirely different grounds, there could be absolute havoc. A video which is acceptable in one area may be unacceptable in another. There must therefore be some degree of confidence in the decisions of the designated authority, and the designated authority must have some confidence that when it makes a decision that decision will have some force. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will be able to reassure us on these points. Without that reassurance, it seems to me that my noble friend's amendment becomes absolutely essential.

Lord Robertson of Oakridge

May I say a word about the banning of private prosecutions. All I need to do is to remind the Committee of the wise words spoken by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, in 1977. At col. 493 of Hansard of 21st July 1977 he said: The right of the private citizen to invoke the criminal law is an important constitutional right and constitutional safeguard". I can understand that that right may have to be diminished when national security is at stake, but this is not such an area. I should have thought that it was the last kind of area in which one would want to take away the right of the citizen.

On the question of double jeopardy, may I remind the Committee of what the Minister said during the Second Reading debate in the other place. I quote from col. 562: Anyone who deals in 18-rated videos knows that among them will be some that are towards the outer edges of acceptability. If people take the risk of dealing in such titles for commercial gain, they must understand that the mere possession of a certificate under the Bill does not guarantee that a court, under the Obscene Publications Act, will not legitimately take a different view".

Lord Elton

The effect of this amendment would be to put video material classified under the Bill on the same footing as films of a width of 16 millimetres or above—that is. films designed to be shown in cinemas. Therefore the amendment relates to the Obscene Publications Act 1959.

It has been suggested that there should be a complete immunity from prosecution under the Obscene Publications Acts for video material which has been classified under the Bill. That is a view which we reject. It is the role of the courts to decide whether or not something is obscene, and theirs alone. It is right that we should give the designated authority and their examiners proper powers to perform the tasks which this Bill proposes for them, but it is not their function to be the final judges of what is or is not obscene in our society. It is an important safeguard against the powers and responsibilities which the classification authority will be given that it will not be them but the courts who will remain the ultimate arbiters of whether or not a video is obscene. Your Lordships may wish to know that the British Board of Film Censors have said that they would not want to see the Obscene Publications Act disapplied to articles containing works which they had classified.

This amendment seeks to treat video material which has been classified under the Bill in the same way as, in practice, films designed for showing in the cinema. It is proposed that prosecutions and proceedings for the forfeiture of obscene videos should only be undertaken by or with the Director of Public Prosecution's consent. Your Lordhsips will appreciate that proceedings are only seldom and in exceptional circumstances made subject to the Director of Public Prosecution's consent. There are significant differences between proceedings against a cinema owner and proceedings against a supplier of videos.

In most cases, the cinematograph exhibition concerned will take place on premises which, under the cinematograph legislation, need to be licensed by the local authority concerned. The terms of the licence may impose conditions on the calibre of films to be displayed. Failure to adhere to the conditions may result in revocation of the licence and the consequent shutting of the cinema, and may render the publisher and distributor liable to prosecution under Section 7 of the Cinematograph (Amendment) Act 1982. With possible sanctions of this nature, there is, it seems to me, a justification for a consent provision—consent by the Director of Public Prosecutions—for films of a width of 16 millimetres and above which does not exist for video.

Nobody, of course, wants to see video works classified which may be found to be obscene. I explained at Second Reading that steps have been taken to minimise the risk of that occurring but that I did not think it would be appropriate for any proceedings under the Obscene Publications Acts in respect of classified videos to have to be channelled through the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Local prosecutors, who have discretion to initiate prosecutions in respect of almost all offences, are, in my view, perfectly capable of taking decisions in this area also which depends—as is clear from the definition of "obscene" in the 1959 Act—on the particular circumstances in which the publication was or was likely to be made.

It is of course the case that offences under the Obscene Publications Acts are imprisonable, but so are a great many other offences. The system simply could not cope if no such prosecutions could be mounted without the agreement of the Director of Public Prosecutions. In his introductory remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, said that his approach would be different if the designated body were to be a statutory body and not the kind of body envisaged in the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, asked what kind of body that was going to be, anyway. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, may be reassured when he recollects the parliamentary scrutiny of the designation of the designated body in Clause 5. When he said that it would be particularly reassuring to have a requirement for a report to be laid by the statutory body before Parliamant, I may remind him that Clause 6 requires the designated authority to make a report to the Secretary of State, as soon as it is reasonably practicable to do so after 31st December, on the carrying out, in the year ending with that date, of the arrangements. In other words, it must make an annual report—and in subsection (2) it is stated that, The Secretary of State shall lay a copy of any report made to him under this section before each House of Parliament". So a good deal of the reassurance which the noble Lord said he required is in the Bill.

As to the relationships between the BBFC and the designated body, I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, was in the Chamber during our earlier proceedings when we went into this matter at some length; but it is the senior officers of the Board who will be designated. I do not believe that I need elaborate further on that point.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I am sorry that I do not regard that very carefully explained justification for keeping this anomaly in the Bill as being satisfactory. It seems to me that if we leave this matter as it is, it will prejudice the independent judgment of the designated authority in the discharge of its task. All the time, it will have to consider what the reactions are of the police up and down the country to classified material already in circulation. Indeed, I read out the passage from last Sunday's issue of the Sunday Times, which reported the police as saying that this point will depend on how soft the designated authority is in deciding whether or not they will prosecute.

This brings us back to my earlier remarks. The censor, eventually, will be the court; the police will have the right to prosecute, even on classified material. A private citizen will have the same right to prosecute on classified material. In other words, both the police and the private citizen will be able, off their own bat, to take proceedings to convince the court that the designated authority has been guilty in passing and allowing to be circulated obscene material. I regard that as an absolutely ridiculous position for the designated authority to be in.

It seems to me to undermine the whole structure of the Bill. One hands over to the independent authority the power to make the classifications, and then exposes the authority to the caprice of the police authorities and private citizens to go for those who thought they were protected.

My reply to the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, who spoke a moment ago, is that the unclassified material will not be protected anyway. It will be exposed to the Obscene Publications Act from the word "go". It will have no protection under this Bill. It will be a matter between those concerned, the police and the courts. Bear in mind also the severe penalties for peddling unclassified material, of the kind we were discussing earlier. Consider also the offences that will be committed if one sells material properly classified but with an age limit on it to a person outside the age limits prescribed. That, too, is an offence. Having surrounded this subject and the people operating within it by all the safeguards against abuse and disregard of the legislation, we are not exposing them to the proceedings of the police or of private citizens.

1 am astonished that the Minister cannot see the absurdity of this situation; how unfair it is that people can be shot at twice. This is a double-barrelled gun. After the British Board of Film Censors, as the designating authority, has shot its barrel then another barrel can still be pointed at them—in the hands of either the police or the private citizen. It is not good enough. If there is no possibility of yielding on this point—which I would have thought would be fully justified—then I cannot even agree to this amendment being negatived without a Division. I feel strongly that this is the crowning infamy of so much in this Bill that is unfair to people.

My final comment is this. At the end of this story this part of our new technology will have a smear upon it which is bound to do harm and take some time to remove. I think that is a great shame. Anyone who wishes to see the possibilities that lie ahead should read William Deedes in The Listener this week, and see the phase that we are embarking upon in the use of new technology in communication. We are bungling it as we go along. It is a great shame that we cannot at least give protection to the industry when it is observing the law and the rules. When the British Board of Film Censors, as the designated authority, is doing its job, for heaven's sake let us protect the industry from further proceedings on the same material except with the sanction of the Director of Public Prosecutions. I would not leave it to chief constables because they are a very queer lot. I am sorry, but I must press this amendment.

2.15 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 70) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 3; Not-Contents, 59.

Houghton of Sowerby, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
[Teller.] [Teller.]
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Gisborough, L.
Ampthill, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Ashbourne, L. Haig, E.
Auckland, L. Hailsham of Saint
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Marylebone, L.
Bessborough, E. Halsbury, E. [Teller.]
Beswick, L. Hanworth, V.
Caithness, E. Hayter, L.
Coleraine, L. Hooson, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Hornsby-Smith, B.
Cornwallis, L. Ingleby, V.
Davidson, V. Jeger, B.
Dormer, L. John-Mackie, L.
Elton, L. Killearn, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Kinnaird, L.
Feversham, L. Lawrence, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Longford, E.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Lothian, M.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Selkirk, E.
McFadzean, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Marley, L. Soames, L.
Merrivale, L. Somers, L.
Mishcon, L. Stone, L.
Molson, L. Swinfen, L.
Napier and Ettrick, L. Swinton, E.
Nugent of Guildford, L. Terrington, L.
[Teller.] Trumpington, B.
Phillips, B. Underhill, L.
Robertson of Oakridge, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
St. Aldwyn, E. Westbury, L.
St. Davids, V.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Entry, search and seizure]:

2.23 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 71: Page 12, line 26, leave out ("justice of the peace") and insert ("circuit judge")

The noble Lord said: This is to replace a justice of the peace by a circuit judge as the person having the required authority to permit a search of premises to be made. There have been disputes from time to time as to where the authority should reside. It concerns entry, including entry by force if necessary, in order to seize goods and other material which might be of an incriminating character for it to be used in any proceedings against the person concerned. There has been a tendency of late to uprate the authority from that of a justice of the peace to a circuit judge. There are precedents for both. I do not know whether there is clear guidance in previous Acts of Parliament as to when it should be a justice of the peace and when a circuit judge. What I do know is that one year, when dealing with the Finance Bill, there was a revolt in another place against a justice of the peace being used as the authority for that purpose, and it was another place which upgraded the responsibility to the authority of a circuit judge.

In Clause 17 we are obviously authorising a very serious step. The right of forcible entry into a citizen's home or premises is being extended all the time. The authority for this rests in the hands of magistrates or circuit judges. I think it is time, when we are again extending this field of power to raid a person's home or premises, that we should look at who gives the necessary authority.

In line 33, there is a small point which I have not included in my amendment because it was only yesterday that I discovered it. It is that the warrant under the hand of the authorising person permits "any constable to enter and search the premises". I notice that in the case of the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955 the phrase was, Authorising any constable named therein".

I am not quite sure whether the warrant by a magistrate or a circuit judge would omit the name of the constable authorised to undertake the task, but at least it is not provided for in the clause as it stands. That is a comparatively minor matter.

However, we must bear in mind that in subsection (2) the constable may seize anything found there which he has reasonable grounds to believe may be required to be used in evidence in any proceedings. It is a very wide reference indeed to the powers of seizure. Under the Protection of Children Act 1978, what may be seized was enumerated, was classified: but here, it is "anything found". It is really an act of gross intrusion into the affairs of a citizen. In many many cases—for example, in the case of books—the amount of material that has been taken away is very large indeed. In fact, you can ruin a trader by taking so much away that his stock is so heavily depleted that he cannot carry on business. Also, he cannot get the stuff back without an order of the court, or whatever. There is that part of the matter still to come.

I hope one can agree to put this responsibility on a circuit judge instead of a magistrate. It will appeal to the judgment of noble Lords one way or the other, but I hope they will come down on the side of the circuit judge.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

I take the point that the noble Lord makes: that he wants to be assured that this decision is taken by a completely responsible person; that this is an important power which is being given, to search for evidence, and that it should be granted only in proper circumstances. Of course, as the noble Lord well knows what we are talking about are circumstances in which the policeman believes that there is evidence that an offence has been committed. We are really talking about the video shop which is for the purpose of supplying. It would be most exceptional for this to be in anyone's home; that someone should have transformed his home into a trading operation. So we are talking normally about trading premises. If the police believe that an offence has been committed, it is essential that it should be possible to collect the evidence for it.

With regard to this responsibility of magistrates, I would have thought that there cannot be any doubt that a magistrate is entirely competent to judge, when a policeman makes such an application to him, whether or not it is justified. The issue is simple. He would ask a few simple questions of the policeman. He would naturally ask what his suspicions were founded upon and, if he thought them justified, he would grant the request. That it is needed, there is no doubt. The noble Lord agrees. All he is saying is that you must have a circuit judge. But a circuit judge is not always available. It may take a considerable time to gain access to him. A magistrate is normally available and it is therefore to him that we feel that the application should go.

I would have thought that this is not an unreason-able process. The magistrate would certainly not grant the warrant unless he was satisfied that there were reasonable grounds to persuade him that there was at any rate a weighty suspicion that an offence was being committed. I would have thought that this is reasonable if the Bill is to work at all. I hope that the noble Lord will feel that while a circuit judge adds even more weight, a magistrate is quite capable of carrying out this function, and that he will be satisfied with the Bill as it is.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

I have listened with great care to the response of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, to my noble friend's amendment, but I do not feel happy about it. A justice of the peace is possibly not the right person to make this kind of decision. It can be an individual justice of the peace. The Bill does not require that a bench of magistrates takes the decision. If it did I would feel happier. There are a number of justices of the peace, or at least one, who voted against the last amendment. This seems to me not to demonstrate the sort of independent judgment that I would like to see brought to bear on the question.

The Earl of Longford

I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend. I have not spoken today and I made a vow not to speak. However, had one of the justices of the peace voted on his side, would he have thought that that showed more independence of outlook?

Lord Jenkins of Putney

Yes, I would have thought that. I am sorry that I have done the very unusual thing—I am sure that it has never happened before—of persuading my noble friend to break a vow. It is a unique occasion, and I hope it will not occur again.

In general, I think that my noble friend Lord Houghton is on the right ground in wishing to take this decision-making process to a higher level. I hope therefore that, on further consideration, the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, will say at least that he will give consideration to the possibility of substituting, as my noble friend's amendment suggests, a circuit judge for a justice of the peace.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I intervene with the greatest hesitancy as a non-lawyer in the company of many lawyers. However, since the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, that would have introduced a custodial sentence for this offence was not pursued, we are now talking about the right of entry on the warrant of a justice of the peace for a non-imprisonable offence. I would simply ask the lawyers whether that is normal practice in our law. Is it not more normal for this right of entry, authorised by a justice of the peace, to be restricted to imprisonable offences?

Lord Mishcon

I did not intend to enter into this discussion because it is only right that there should be an authoritative reply and not one from me. But to emphasise how it is that we are all expressing personal opinions, may I beg to differ from my noble friends in regard to this amendment, for two short reasons? First of all, Parliament was either right or wrong to give an appointed justice of the peace, by his or her decision, the right not only to convict of quite serious offences but also to send citizens to prison. That right was given as a result of our faith in their judgment and impartiality. Parliament was either right or wrong about that. If Parliament was right about that, then is not a justice of the peace able to be trusted to make a decision about the question of search of premises? In my view that must be right.

The second point I make is one of practicality. Normally the right of search will be useless if it is long postponed. Normally it is of value if expeditious action follows. While it may and should be perfectly easy, in any locality in our realm to find a justice of the peace before whom an application of this kind can be made and proper explanations given, it may not be very easy to find a circuit judge as a matter of urgency. Therefore, on the grounds of expediency and that Parliament has already vested in a justice of the peace far more serious powers than this, I do not think this amendment should be acceded to.

Baroness Trumpington

I should like to follow on from what the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, was saying. It is an inevitable implication of this amendment that somehow a magistrate confronted by an application for a warrant under Clause 17, supported by an information on oath, is likely to be no more than a rubber stamp and that he would endorse automatically the police request. We do not accept this implication.

We must look also at the safeguards which apply to the granting of a search warrant under Clause 17. These safeguards are in the Bill now before us and will be added to the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill which was recently received from another place. Of course, we do not under-estimate the extreme seriousness of power of entry, but what we have in mind here is the granting of warrants for entry to places where an offence itself was committed—the video shop where possession is for the purpose of supply. The Police and Criminal Evidence Bill will add additional important safeguards and the search itself will be subject to a code of practice issued under that Bill. I feel that perhaps it would be more suitable for this amendment to be approached under that Bill, if it was felt necessary at the time. I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My noble friend Lord Mishcon has now deserted me and the Government have put up the noble Baroness to trample on me, so what chance do I stand? Especially in view of the result of the last Division, I stand very much alone and my noble friends who supported me then are the heroes of the day.

However, if it comes to having a raid on my home or premises I suppose I would as leave have it done on the authority of a magistrate as that of a circuit judge; it would not matter much. I think there are probably only two Members of your Lordships' Committee who have appointed magistrates—the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and I myself when I was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. So it ill becomes me to give the Committee my opinion about magistrates.

The Earl of Longford

May I interrupt the noble Lord? I am sorry to break again my vow of silence, but I also have been Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I beg my noble friend's pardon. There have not been very many of us. Probably he will join me in having some views on the present subject, but they do not matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Arrest]:

2.40 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 72:

Page 13, line 7, leave out subsection (1).

The noble Lord said: I am not certain how Clause 18 comes into this Bill at all. I should have thought that this concerned police powers in regard to which some very controversial proposals have just finished their passage through the House of Commons. I noticed that yesterday's edition of the Financial Times referred to the police powers Bill that is coming up here, and it said: The Bill now goes to the Lords where civil liberties lobbyists are confident of mobilising significant support among Tory and independent peers for amendments to strengthen safeguards for the public".

May I respectfully say, What a hope! There is no indication so far in this Bill that your Lordships' Committee has given any real protection to the public in matters of legal and court procedures. I know that one can justify drastic measures on the ground that the end justifies the means. But in matters of this kind we are really considering the interest of the citizen, notwithstanding the importance of what lies behind the proposals in the Bill.

The clause begins: If a constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting".

I do not know whether I heard the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, aright, but I think he probably said, "If a constable has reasonable grounds for believing". I am not sure that I want to split hairs about whether "reasonable grounds for believing" equals "reasonable grounds for suspecting", but, anyway, the clause says, "reasonable grounds for suspecting". In such circumstances the constable, may require him to give his name and address".

I am not competent to say whether the powers contained in this provision are different from the powers that the police possess normally when they stop a person in the street and say that they have reasonable grounds for suspecting that he has done something or other and they want his name and address. There are some distinguished members of the legal profession present and I must take their word for it. Have we in this Bill given the police greater powers than, and powers different from, those that are available to them for other purposes? Is this part of the police powers Bill, or should it be part of the police powers Bill? How does this Bill come to be dealing with the powers of the police to stop and demand a name and address and upon failing to get it or believing that they have been given a wrong one, the power to arrest without a warrant? Is that what the police can do normally?

I thought that the power to stop and search was one of the most controversial parts of the Bill that will be coming before your Lordships' and, therefore, I draw attention to this matter. In my view it is quite outrageous for this Bill to give powers to the police that they do not possess in other contexts. Therefore, we ought to look very critically at Clause 18, because we are getting very near the knuckle. This Bill, despite all its merits, does not justify this type of action by the police either being specifically lifted from wherever it may have been before, or being invented, if it did not previously exist, and put into the Bill. This is a very serious clause indeed and I beg to move that Clause 18(1) be removed from the Bill.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

In supporting my noble friend I venture to ask the same question as I asked a few minutes ago, but to which I received no answer whatever. Is it normal practice under the law for this power of arrest to be extended to non-imprisonable offences? It is important that we should know whether there is, as my noble friend suggests, a significant extension of police power here, or whether this is normal practice as regards comparable offences.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

I can certainly concede the noble Lord his point that Clause 18 is related to the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill, which will shortly come before this House. The position is that if noble Lords pass the Video Recordings Bill, and it receives Royal Assent before the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill, subsection (1) will be repealed by Clause 23 of the police Bill. This will mean that the offences provided by the Video Recordings Bill will become subject to the general arrest conditions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill. The arrest conditions will provide a power of arrest similar to that given in Clause 18. The presumption is that the process will be by way of summons, but if the suspect refuses to give a name and address, or gives false particulars, the police may arrest him. So the machinery is such that the noble Lord will have his wish that this clause will then disappear and be absorbed into the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill.

However, the practical point here is that, while most of this trade is carried on by reputable people in fixed premises, some of it can be carried on by mobile people—for example, by a man with a suitcase or a man with a van—and it is then necessary for the police to have powers to act, otherwise the offender will escape. So there is a practical need here.

Having said that, I think that the substance of the reply is that this clause was included in this Bill last autumn—nine months ago—before the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill was moving along as it is now and probably even before it was drafted. But the clause will be subsumed—I think that that is the correct word—in that Bill when it comes along. Therefore, the noble Lord's point will be met.

Lord Mishcon

I am a little worried about this and I believe that other noble Lords are too. I am just wondering where we are going. The Police and Criminal Evidence Bill is one of the most serious and important Bills in regard to the liberty of the subject and the powers of the police that will ever have come before Parliament. If it is debated by this House, now that it has come to this House, and, I have no doubt, each of its clauses examined with, it is to be hoped, a very full House in attendance, is it right and proper that we should insert this clause in this Bill so that it can be argued that this House—and indeed Parliament—in regard to a comparatively minor measure have passed a power in this clause which can be quoted to us as a precedent that this House has already approved the procedure, and therefore quite obviously it would be nonsense not to include it in the main Bill? In saying that I am not underestimating at all the need for this Bill.

In those circumstances, I am a little apprehensive. I have an idea that there are other Acts—and no doubt the noble Lord the Minister can give us this information—where this power has been given; that is, that if the name and address of the person is not given or if an officer of the law, a police constable, or whoever it may be, does not believe the particulars to be correct, there is a power of arrest. I do not believe that this is the first time that such a provision has been included in legislation, but that is something we need to know. In any event, I should have thought that this is not the time, and not the Bill—having in mind the attendance in the House—to create a precedent of this kind before we discuss the Bill and all its implications. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will consider that as a very proper point.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I noted with some pleasure that, in making those remarks, my noble friend Lord Mishcon did not make his usual disclaimer and say that he was speaking in a personal capacity. May I therefore assure him that there is general agreement among some of us on these Benches with what he says. It seems to me personally that to introduce into legislation something which is in conflict with the provisions in the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill, which is about to come before us would be a mistake for this House at this time. As I understand it from the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, there is the question of a summons in the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill, which was the point that my noble friend Lord Houghton was making.

Lord Elton

I rise to answer the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. I was trying to find precedents in the short time available to me, and I am not sure that I have been successful. I wonder whether your Lordships are addressing yourselves to the right question. Not very long ago it was suggested that the offences in this Bill were such that they should be imprisonable. Your Lordships decided not. The question surely is whether the Bill would work without this power.

Your Lordships will shortly be looking at a fairly technical amendment which recognises that the salesman with the suitcase outside the factory gate is a real source for this kind of material. The question then arises whether the police constable, seeing this activity in process, should be empowered to go up to the man at the factory gate with the suitcase and say, "Would you kindly give me your name and address because I believe you are guilty of an offence" under so and so. The chap replies with a phrase which I would not put on the official record, and departs, not giving his name and address. Should that be the last of the matter? If it should not, then the constable must have a power to detain him until he has his name and address, or until some other legal process takes place.

That is what is proposed here. That is what will be superseded by the proceedings in the other Bill if your Lordships agreed to them, which I trust that your Lordships will. Without it, it seems to me that your Lordships are in danger of making the matter unenforceable, and perhaps making your Lordships readdress the question of whether there ought to be an imprisonable offence in the Bill simply in order to prevent the man with the suitcase decamping from the factory gate without leaving his address. I think I have that right.

Lord Mishcon

I am right, I think, in saying to the Committee—I almost used the words "very humbly" but I am reminded of what the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said when he said that he had not yet met a humble lawyer, so I had better not employ that phrase—that we have to be extremely wary. There is another side to this coin. Is it right—and this is a small Committee to consider such an important point of principle—that we should give an officer the power to come up to any citizen (indeed any stranger to our country, and he may have a right in regard to certain restrictions on entry to do it) and say to him, "I demand that you give me your name and address"? It is something that we have been very wary about.

We have been wary about questions of identity cards. There are many who feel that it would never get by in any Parliament that we should suddenly introduce indentity cards in order possibly to be able to identify more easily in a way which is in fact carried out on the continent. People have said, "No, not in the United Kingdom, it won't stand for it. In wartime, yes, but not in peace."

Now is it right that we in this Committee should pass a clause which gives a police constable that right merely because he says, "I am asking that"—if he has to say it at all—"in pursuance of an Act which deals with videos"? It is an extremely important principle for us to adopt. I do not think that we ought to do it. I certainly do not think we ought to do it in the month of May 1984 when, on 4th June, in only a few weeks' time, we shall be debating the Second Reading of a Bill which is one of the most important Bills to come before this House—and before Parliament—and which is dealing with the whole question of police powers. The noble Lord the Minister was not able to give me any precendent when I asked him for one. I, myself, could not remember one; but there might be one or two Acts which obviously had slipped my memory. The noble Lord the Minister said that he could not think of a precedent at that moment. If he cannot think of a precedent at the moment, then this is not the Bill in which, and not the time when, this clause ought to be passed. I ask the noble Lord the Minister in those circumstances to say, at the very least, that in view of how seriously this Committee regards this clause at the moment, it will be taken back for further consideration.

Viscount Hanworth

I should like to make one brief point. I think that many of us feel that for the reasons already stated this is an important position in this Bill. But if we do not put the provision in the Bill now, we cannot, after a decision has been made on the police Bill, reasonably put it in. The other aspects does not apply, as we have been told. If in regard to the new Bill this kind of proposal is not agreeable, then it can come out, but I do not see how, in practical terms, it could be inserted later if at the moment it is not left in the Bill before us.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

I was proposing to rely on my noble friend on the Front Bench because nothing I could say would add to the authority of what he has said. But I must point out, in relation to what has just been said from the Benches on my right, that the consequence of carrying this measure at this time would be very peculiar indeed. I am not sure on which side I stand on this issue. I am not at all sure that intrinsically the clause is necessarily wrong. I should like to consider it at greater length and in context. This is exactly what we are not doing here this afternoon. The time to consider that is when the measure is before us in its fullness and can be seen in the generality of the Bill which is shortly to come before us.

Let us consider what would happen if we carry this Bill this afternoon. Here we have a clause which refers to where a constable has reasonable grounds et cetera. Let us suppose that in regard to the Bill which will be coming before us it is decided either that the clause should not go in or that it should be inserted in a different form. Perhaps it might be provided that the officer who must have reasonable grounds must be a superintendent or someone of similar rank. It might be changed in another way. Then we would be in the absurd position of having passed in this Bill a clause which would be different from, and possibly more severe than, the generality of the situation.

In these circumstances, I believe that my noble friend's request to the Government at least to say that they will look again at this question between now and the next stage of the Bill has enormous strength and power, I hope that the noble Lord in charge of the Bill will take note of what has been said in regard to the situation which would occur if we were to carry this clause in its present form at this time.

2.59 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

May I appeal to the Minister to reconsider his position? Perhaps I may say to the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, that if the forthcoming Bill does not contain something equivalent to this, then this clause will never be put back. There will be no authority to put it back. We cannot in a video Bill have powers given to the police that they may not possess in connection with their fight against crime. Parliament can speak with only one voice, it seems to me, on a matter of this kind.

After all, the man at the factory gates with the suitcase which may contain videos is not the only person with a suitcase in circumstances where the police would like to know what is in it. Let us bear this in mind. If the policeman says to the man at the factory gates with a suitcase, "I have reason to believe that you are selling videos which have no classification", the man will say, "Oh! and what are the grounds for your suspicion?". Then the constable will say, "Open that suitcase and then I might know." So then you have the power to search as well as the power to ask for a name and address. I think that that could be open to the gravest abuse.

If the Bill when it is passed depends on this clause, it seems to me that it will be in a bad way indeed. I think that the Minister must reconsider the relationship between this clause and what has still to be discussed and decided on the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill which is on its way. Moreover, are we going to be asked to send this Bill back to another place with this clause in it where they have been debating for the past month whether something equivalent to it should be in the main Act governing the rights of police? There is an inconsistency there, too. I am sorry to be so persistent, but I think we are probably on the gravest matter of all in this Bill, and if the Minister wishes to make progress he is not going the right way about it.

Lord Elton

The Bill came to us from another place with Clause 18 in it. So if there is an inconsistency it does not lie with us in that respect. But I accept that your Lordships have a great interest in this and that it is an important issue. Again, I never give encouragement from this Box to expect a happy issue out of a reconsideration, but I will look very carefully at what has been said. I also note what was said from the Liberal Benches. They have a good point and I suspect that I shall not bring comfort to your Lordships at the next stage. But I think that your Lordships would want me to look at this and at the linkage with the other legislation in the light of what has been said in this debate. That I am happy to undertake to do.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

In that case I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 73 to 75 not moved.]

Clauses 20 to 22 agreed to.

Clause 23 [Short title, commencement and extent]:

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Hayter)

Clause 23, Amendment No. 76, Lord Houghton of Sowerby.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

This is the Title of the Bill. Is that right? I have rather lost where I am.

Lord Elton

It deals with the Short Title of the Bill. Clause 23, page 16, line 32, Amendment No. 76.I do sympathise with the noble Lord. I have often before been in that position myself.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 76: Page 16, line 32, after ("Recordings") insert ("Censorship")

The noble Lord said: It seems to me that the Bill bears a neutral title where it ought to have a clear indication of what it is about. Although the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, keeps on saying that this is a straight classification Bill, he does not go on to say that the censorship authority will be able to refuse a classification to certain work on the grounds that it is not fit to be seen and that it will not authorise anybody to trade in it, and that it will be unlawful and an offence if anybody does. No protection is given on that. It can be any old obscene publication that anybody may hawk around and they will be exposed to exactly the same process of the Obscene Publications Act.

This is a form of pre-censorship. Everybody that I have consulted on this matter says so. It is something which stops one seeing something under the process of the Act itself. Moreover, in order to get a classification, there will be authority to ask for deletions and changes in the form and content of a particular work. So it is a form of pre-censorship. We should not shrink from the use of the word "censorship" where there is censorship, unless we are ashamed of it and like to pretend we have not got it.

Of course, we are a little hypocritical about these things in this country: if we can find words which hide the stark reality and meaning of something, we prefer the alternative. That is why we talk about "industrial action" instead of "strikes". Many other obscurantist words are used to define things for which we would rather not use the normal phraseology. I think we should call this the Video Recordings and Censorship Bill. It seems to me that that is what it should be, because that is what it is. That is what its sponsors want it to be; I think the world should know that is what it is; and I move that it should be so.

Lord Wilson of Langside

I was going to say shortly that I would oppose this amendment. I think it illustrates what these Committee debates on this Bill have suffered from, and that is someone on the other side—not the non-Liberal side, but the side opposite to that on which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, speaks—with an equally vociferous voice in support of the reasonableness of the Bill, against that of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby with the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, in the altogether reasonable middle supported by the noble Lord the Minister. At least, that is how I see it: because, quite frankly, I do not care whether or not the word "censorship" goes into the Bill, but if the choice is between what the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, regards as censorship and the alternative, then I am for censorship.

Lord Mishcon

I will try, if I may, to abbreviate the discussion, not only to help your Lordships' Committee but also to see that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, obeys the dictates of his gracious wife and is able to leave, as he said he had been instructed to do, at a reasonable hour. This is the Short Title of a Bill of Parliament. It is not suggested that any Short Title encompasses all the things that a Bill is supposed to do. What the Short Title does is to give an indication of what the Bill is about, and this Bill is about video recordings. Therefore, it is an extremely accurate and uncontroversial Title. Once you start putting other words in it, you walk into controversy, or you walk, at the very best from the point of view of those who support such an argument, into one part of the Bill which many of us feel is possibly not the most important part. In those circumstances, I think it is the general parliamentary practice in relation to the Short Title to do what I have just indicated; and I hope that we shall follow that practice without further ado.

Lord Monson

On this occasion I am afraid I certainly cannot support the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. As the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, pointed out, this Bill not only provides for simple classification but also for outright banning; and what is outright banning other than censorship? If at some future date a Bill were to be introduced into Parliament to ban what I termed on Second Reading "folio nasties"—that is, books and magazines contain-ing descriptions of violence or erotic scenes—would it be termed, "The Books and Magazines Bill"? I think not. Let us get the Title right.

Lord Somers

May I ask my noble friend Lord Monson whether he has ever seen an Act of Parliament which has not banned something?

Lord Monson

All too few!

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

It may be thought that the matter of the Short Title of the Bill is trivial. But it has a meaning and a significance, as it shown by recent experience in another place, where on a number of occasions an honourable Member sought to introduce a Bill to allow for refreshments in licensed betting shops. He tried that several times and each time there was an objection. Then he changed the Title to the Specified Premises Amenities Bill and immediately got it through.

There is the possibility of the public being misled if the short Title is not as precise as it can be, within the obvious restrictions of the number of words involved, but an increase from two words to three words is not very dangerous. The fact that the Bill is about censorship is made clear by the fact that the designated authority is to be the British Board of Film Censors. Dr. Johnson said, "Clear your mind of cant". I would not dream of accusing any Member of your Lordships' House of cant. But I think that in the conception of the Bill, and in the way in which it achieved its Title in the first place, there is an element of cant which your Lordships' House ought to avoid.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

May I presume to endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said. The short Title of a Bill is its label, and nothing more than a label. It should not be used as an advertising title or an instrument of propaganda. The short Title of this Bill seems to me to represent exactly what it is about and to be a convenient one.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

It has been an interesting debate on this rather limited subject. May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon: my thanks, as ever. I do not think that I could give a better answer than he has. But I would make this point to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, who wants the short Title to be accurate. He has stressed many times how small is the amount of video nasties in relation to the total volume of video works, which run into 6,000 or 7,000. The video nasties number perhaps 50 to 100 at the outside. That is the only section which is in danger of censorship.

Therefore it would be completely out of proportion to call this a censorship Bill, when by far the major part of it is to do with classification. That is the purpose of the Bill. I have said it many times. The noble Lord opposite does not like it, but I am afraid that I shall have to say it again. It really would be throwing the descriptive value of the short Title out of perspective if we added to it the word "censorship". I hope the noble Lord will therefore be persuaded that on this occasion, once again, he should graciously withdraw his amendment.

Lord Monson

Before the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, sits down, will he agree that the British Board of Film Censors in its process of classification very often requires so many seconds, or scenes, to be cut out? Is that not censorship?

Lord Nugent of Guildford

Yes, but it is a very small part of it. The major function under this Bill will be classification and, as has already been said far better than I can say it, the present short Title is accurate and complete. I am sure that it would be wise to leave it at that.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I not only wanted the Bill to have a more literal description; I also wanted to bring some prejudice into it. The noble Lord could have brought prejudice into it by accepting this amendment. He could have waved his finger at all the nasties, and all these horrible people who are engaged in the trade, and said, "Now, you rogues, you have a censorship Act against you". But, no; he has now become tolerant at the end of this long debate and I am disposed almost to respond to that and to let it go as it is.

But my final shot in this locker is one that I have mentioned before. When your Lordships considered the Termination of Pregnancy Bill which had gone through another place, it was decided that abortion was not going to be hidden under the cloak of verbiage and that "Abortion Act" it should be. This had the merit of shortening the title of the original Bill. However, at this hour I have neither the energy nor the willpower to resist further those who do not want my amendments. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 77 not moved.]

3.16 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 78:

Page 16, line 38, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Lord said: I want to know why Northern Ireland is not included. Are they better behaved than are we? I thought that Northern Ireland was part of the United Kingdom.

Lord Mishcon

I would ask the noble Lord to refer to Clause 23(3).

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I thank the noble Lord. This is another amendment which I need not press. I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 23 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

According to subsection (2), the various provisions of the Act will come into force at different dates. Is the Minister able to say which will come into force first? He ought to bear in mind that the Bill, though it may be passed within a matter of days from now, will not in some respects be in operation before the police Bill has been through this House. Perhaps therefore the Minister will consider this point, together with the other matters he has taken back for further thought. As an act of courtesy, may I indicate that at Report stage certain of my noble friends and I will propose that the Bill should lapse five years from now, subject to renewal by both Houses of Parliament. There is precedent for this procedure.

Lord Elton

It is intended that the provisions of the Bill will be brought into force in three stages. Clauses 1 to 8 and Clauses 22 and 23 will be brought into force first. This would allow the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament his proposals to designate an authority to classify video works. It would also allow the Secretary of State to approve a tariff of fees to be imposed by that authority under Clause 6 and to make regulations on the labelling of video recordings and their cases or containers under Clause 8. The remaining provisions of the Bill are expected to be brought into force first in respect of new video works—that is, works in which no copyright subsists at the specified date: the date of designation under Clause 4 of the Bill—and at later stages in respect of video works in which copyright subsists at that date. This is to allow sufficient time for those works to be submitted for classification, for the classification procedures to be completed and for the labelling requirements to be met. This is a reasonable arrangement. I hope the noble Lord will find the information that he wants in it.

Clause 23 agreed to.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 79: Line 1, leave out ("regulating") and insert ("the censorship and regulation of)

The noble Lord said: As I have put down my name to this amendment, may I take over from the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, and speak to it? There may be some merit in keeping the Short Title of the Bill as short as possible, even at the risk of some ambiguity. But surely the same consideration cannot apply to the Long Title. Is it not right that we should change the Long Title, as the amendment suggests, because no one can deny that some censorship is provided for by the Bill, even if it is not likely to be very great—as the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, has suggested. Is it not normally correct to make the Long Title as long as is needed to explain the purposes of the Bill in detail?

Lord Mishcon

I again intervene briefly, and in the expectation (I hope not too optimistic) that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, will feel content that the amendment not to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, if he had his way, should not be moved by him, either. One point that is looked for in a Long Title is accuracy, so that by reading the description of the Bill one can know what it is intended to do. What this Bill will do without any question of doubt is regulate the distribution of video recordings. By regulating the distribution, one is saying either that something which has been classified should be distributed in a certain way, or that something which has been censored should not be distributed at all, otherwise an offence will occur. So the three words "regulation and distribution" accurately summarise everything in this Bill. I therefore believe that your Lordships should be content with the Long Title.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has said everything that I intended to say, except for this. Courts nowadays examine the Long Title in the construction of a statute—and rightly so. If the word "censorship" goes into the Long Title, it will colour the construction—and colour it in a way absolutely contrary to that which the noble Lord, Lord Monson, desires.

Lord Monson

I was very pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, concede that "regulation" embraces censorship and that therefore this Bill does involve a degree of censorship. We may return to this point at a later stage, but for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Ashbourne moved Amendment No. 80: Line 2, after ("recording") insert (" ; for the protection of children;").

The noble Lord said: My reason for proposing this amendment is to try to express the focus of deep public and parliamentary concern in a way that the stark wording of the Bill as it stands fails to convey. When the Bill was debated, both in your Lordships' House and in another place, the motivation of speaker after speaker was their concern for the well-being of children and young people. It seems to me that the Title of the Bill should accurately reflect its primary aim.

Without wearying your Lordships (particularly in view of the high gear into which the Committee has moved this afternoon, which has nearly caught me with my pants down on more than one occasion), I should like to offer one or two examples of this motivation—first, from another place.

The Member for Luton, South (Mr. Graham Bright), the sponsor of this Bill, observed: I have been spurred on by the need to protect young people".—[Official Report, Commons, 11/11/83; col. 523.]

At a later point he continued: One shudders at the impact that the type of material I have described could have on a child or on certain adults".—[col. 524.]

The Member for Gower (Mr. Gareth Wardell), who had his own Bill before it collapsed on Dissolution, said this: I feel confident that those hon. Members at the viewing"—

and here he is referring to a viewing of "video nasties" in another place— who are not now convinced of the dire necessity to protect children must be very unusual beings indeed".—[col. 533.]

The honourable member for Harlow, Mr. Jerry Hayes, said: Let us not forget the mischief that the Bill is designed to prevent. It is designed to protect young impressionable and corruptible minds."—[Official Report: Commons, 11/11/83; col. 570.)

The Member for Southwark and Bermondsey, Mr. Simon Hughes, stated: It is our duty to"—

The Earl of Swinton

I must interrupt my noble friend. I am afraid that he is out of order in quoting names of honourable members in another place. I also think that it is the feeling of the Committee that this is not an appropriate time to make a Second Reading speech. Therefore, perhaps my noble friend will quickly put his points to the Committee.

Lord Ashbourne

I apologise to your Lordships. I thank my noble friend for that correction. I was trying to give examples. May I say what the professionals think? I see that I cannot. I will continue. May I say what the press think?

Noble Lords


Lord Ashbourne

No? I seem to be out of luck today. May I finally state—and I think I may get the same answer but this is final so it is quite an exciting moment—what the right honourable member for Finchley said?

Noble Lords


Lord Ashbourne

I cannot? Misery! I think I must withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

House resumed: Bill reported with the amendments.

The Earl of Swinton

Before I adjourn the House it would be churlish of me, after the enormous length of time this Bill has taken, not to congratulate noble Lords on the speed with which they have got through the final day of this Committee stage. I do not see him in his place but the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby should be thanked, too. I beg to move that the House do now adjourn.