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British Board Of Film Classification

Volume 301: debated on Monday 24 November 1997

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4.15 pm

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 24, to debate an important matter that requires specific and urgent consideration, namely,

the conduct of the British Board of Film Classification.
I am most grateful for the opportunity to raise this issue, and for the support of the hon. Members for Nuneaton (Mr. Olner) and for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) and of some Conservative Members.

Since 1984, the BBFC has had absolute power to determine which videos are or are not legal to watch in the United Kingdom, yet it is accountable to no one, other than furnishing the occasional opaque and bland report. Lately, its director, James Ferman, has passed a series of extremely violent and unpleasant videos, including one depicting people gaining sexual gratification from serious motor accidents. Certification for that film was given against the advice of the child psychologist whom the board itself had consulted.

It has been widely leaked that, as a consequence of the passing of such films, the Home Secretary is contemplating sensible measures to appoint a stronger chairman to replace Lord Harewood and to take action to make the organisation more accountable.

I ask for a debate today because it appears that Mr. Ferman and his cronies are using what may be their last few weeks of freedom to rush through certification of a series of films that a Customs official has described as "hard-core pornography", undermining Government action to prevent pornography.

This is not simply a matter of taste. Such films are widely used by paedophiles not only to cultivate their own tastes but to corrupt children. As I have one of the United Kingdom's best special investigation units in my local police force, I am very conscious of that fact. Once a video has been classified as acceptable, we have removed the statutory power to prevent it from being shown.

The British Board of Film Classification exists to protect vulnerable people, particularly children, from becoming victims of those who swallow a diet of mindless violence and filth. The board is manifestly failing in its duty. The Government need quickly to appoint a new chairman, and Parliament needs an urgent debate on the matter.

I have listened very carefully to what has been said, and I have to give my decision without stating a reason. I do not consider that the matter raised by the hon. Gentleman is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 24. I cannot, therefore, submit the application to the House.