HC Deb 02 November 1998 vol 318 c388W
Mr. Prior

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will establish a body to classify the suitability of literature for children in the same way as films are classified. [56097]

Mr. Boateng

The Government recognise the importance of protecting children from unsuitable material. The criminal law, booksellers, publishers and parents all have a part to play. The criminal law, through legislation such as the Obscene Publications Act 1959 and the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955, protects children from material which is likely to deprave or corrupt them. Responsible booksellers generally place children's books in a designated area within the store, thus reducing the possibility that children—or their carers—would seek to purchase age-unsuitable material. In addition, publishers of teenage magazines have developed a binding set of guidelines dealing with the portrayal of sexual matters. It is also a responsibility of parents to guide their children's reading and to guard against their exposure to unsuitable material.

The Government believe that this offers the best approach and that the establishment of a body to classify works of literature would be likely to pose immense practical problems, given the number of such works which are available and which are produced each year.

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