Skip to main content

Obscenity Laws (Committee Of Inquiry)

Volume 933: debated on Thursday 16 June 1977

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now announce the names of the chairman and the other members of the committee of inquiry into the obscenity laws.

I am glad to be able to tell the House that Professor Bernard Williams has accepted my invitation to be the Chairman of the Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship. I shall announce the names of the other members shortly. I will, with permission, circulate the Committee's terms of reference in the Official Report.

I welcome the considerable advance that has been made in the past six weeks from nobody to at least the chairman of the Committee, but what are its terms of reference to be? When does the right hon. Gentleman think that it may have its first session?

The hon. Gentleman talks as if setting up a committee of this nature is a matter of conscription and no discussion. That is not the case. We have announced the name of the chairman and the terms of reference on a subject that needs to be examined in depth. There are two schools of thought. There are the "fors" and the "againsts". It seems that they have clear answers, but these are matters that need to be investigated. The terms of reference are

"to review the laws concerning obscenity, indecency and violence in publications, displays and entertainments in England and Wales,"—
except broadcasting—
"and to review the arrangements for film censorship in England and Wales; and to make recommendations."
It will not be next week that the Committee will report.

In addition to film censorship, will the Committee consider the forms of obscenity that are now coming forward in the shape of gramophone records and cassettes? Is that a matter that will be covered by the committee?

Certainly, yes. I feel absolutely sure that that will be covered. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing the matter to my notice.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House why broadcasting is excluded from the terms of reference?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have been talking about the Annan Report, and there are statutory arrangements in that sector. That is why we kept it separate.

In completing the membership of the Committee, will my right hon. Friend give consideration to the fact that some years ago, as he will recall, there was a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament that considered censorship of the theatre? When my right hon. Friend is considering who to put on the Committee, perhaps he will consider the membership of the Committee to which I have referred, which may give him some inspiration.

I shall read the report first to see whether that is the case.

The following are the Committee's terms of reference:
"to review the laws concerning obscenity, indecency and violence in publications, displays and entertainments in England and Wales, except in the field of broadcasting; and to review the arrangements for film censorship in England and Wales; and to make recommendations."