asked the Secretary for the Home Department whether he has considered the resolution passed by the Coventry Federation of Parent-Teacher Associations on 13th June, 1952, a copy of which has been sent to him, expressing concern at the circulation of sensational American-style comics among British schoolchildren, and urging the Government to follow the example of Canada and Sweden in prohibiting their sale and distribution; and, following this resolution, what action he now proposes to take.
Yes, Sir. The considered view of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education and my right hon. and learned Friend is that the best hope for a solution to this problem is for parents and teachers to discourage children from reading these magazines and to direct their attention to more suitable reading matter. My right hon. and learned Friend is not satisfied that any action by the Government would be effective short of censorship, which would be unacceptable to public opinion in this country.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this type of reading matter, stimulating the appetite for undesirable violence, is proved to have been the favourite reading matter of many juvenile delinquents who have been convicted of crimes of violence? While utterly opposing any form of literary censorship, may I ask whether the Government are not of the view that children should be protected against publications of this kind?
Of course, my hon. and learned Friend would agree with the hon. Gentleman in deploring this type of literature, but it is fair to say that there is no evidence at the moment to show that the reading of these publications helps to cause juvenile delinquency, one way or the other.
Would the hon. Gentleman discuss this problem with any juvenile court magistrate to see whether his last remark is not completely at variance with the facts? Will he also discuss with his colleagues proposals for prohibiting the importation of these comics?
No, Sir, there is no question of dollar expenditure for bulk import from the United States. Nearly all the examples which have come to our notice have been printed either in this country or in other European countries from American material. Since 11th March we have not been allowing bulk imports from European countries either.
Since the Government proceeds against the dissemination of obscene literature to adults by statutory action rather than by relying on persuading people not to read this stuff but to read something better, how does the hon. Gentleman reconcile that with believing that we should take persuasive action and not effective action with regard to the sale of undesirable literature to children?
Is Lot the hon. Gentleman aware that reading matter of this kind, printed in America and exported to this country, is, in fact, on sale in London shops and that I have comics of this kind in my possession—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—which I have bought in order to establish from my own observation the facts indicated in this Question? In those circumstances will not the hon. Gentleman consult with the President of the Board of Trade and the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a view to restricting the importation of this literature?
Of course, I cannot guarantee that individual publications of this kind are not brought into this country. It may be that the hon. Member has seen such examples. If he has any evidence to show that there have been bulk imports from America, I should be glad to have it.