§ Mr. Llwyd
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many representations he has received over the last six months on videos available to children and containing pornographic material and scenes of violence; and if he will make a statement;
(2) what recent representations he has received on reform of the laws relating to obscenity; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Maclean
We have received a number of representations from hon. Members and others about the availability of pornographic and violent videos, and also about the law relating to obscenity in general. We have made clear our determination to act firmly against those who trade in obscene material, especially those engaged in the deplorable traffic in child pornography. We intend shortly to invite this House to approve legislation which will make child pornography offences under the Protection of Children Act 1978 and offences under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 serious arrestable offences—thereby giving the police increased powers of search and seizure as well as assisting them to break up child pornography rings by arresting those involved. We propose to extend existing legislation so that it will cover simulated child pornography manufactured on computer and to make other important changes to the law as it affects computer pornography. We will also be proposing that courts should have a power of imprisonment for those convicted of possessing child pornography and that the validity of search warrants under the Protection of Children Act should be extended from 14 to 28 days. In addition we propose to extend the powers of local authority trading standards officers and magistrates' courts to enforce the Video Recordings Act 1984.
Our controls on obscene materials and, in particular, on video recordings are already the toughest in Europe, and we will continue to seek suitable ways in which they might be further strengthened. Nevertheless, the final responsibility for what children watch inevitably rests in the home, and it is important that all parents and guardians should ensure that their children are not exposed to unsuitable material.
§ Mr. Alton
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what consideration he has given to162W appointing a body other than the British Board of Film Classification to undertake statutory responsibility of the classification system under the Video Recordings Act 1984;
(2) when was the last time he met members of the British Board of Film Classification to discuss the operation of the Video Recordings Act 1984;
(3) if he will publish the details of the research project being carried out by the British Board of Film Classification into the impact of violent videos on children; and when he expects to receive a copy of the report.
§ Mr. Maclean
The Government keep the arrangements for the control of video recordings under constant review, but we have no plans to designate any other persons to undertake the classification of video works currently carried out by the British Board of Film Classification. We believe that the BBFC fulfils its role conscientiously. My officials maintain frequent contact with them. I met Lord Birkett, a Vice-President of the BBFC, to discuss the operation of the Video Recordings Act 1984 earlier this year.
The BBFC, together with the BBC, the ITC and the Broadcasting Standards Council, commissioned research into the viewing habits of young offenders and other children of comparable age. It will be for the sponsor bodies to arrange publication of the results of this research; but I understand that this is likely to be early next year.