Clause 53 - Sections 50 to 52: interpretation

Sexual Offences Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 18th September 2003.

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Amendment made: No. 92, in

clause 53, page 27, line 35, leave out 'moving or still'.—[Mr. Heppell.]

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Sandra Gidley Sandra Gidley Liberal Democrat, Romsey

I seek clarification on the interpretation clause. The definition of ''prostitute'' does not pose any problems, but the definition of ''pornography'' gives rise to certain questions in my mind. The Bill seems to deal solely with images. There is a certain amount of written material that clearly describes child pornography and could put ideas into somebody's head, if they were minded to read it. I am particularly mindful of some of the more sadistic child pornography. Will the Minister clarify whether there is any way in which we could tighten up on the sort of written material that promotes the very activities that the Bill seeks to reduce?

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Citizenship and Immigration), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism)

I am not quite sure what the hon. Lady is referring to, but if she would like to elaborate outside the Committee, I am certainly willing to consider whether we need to firm up on that. I thought that she was going to return to the definition of ''indecent'', which is part and parcel of subsection (1).

Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Conservative, Mole Valley

I back the thought of the hon. Member for Romsey, who has queried the clause. I raised the matter on Second Reading. It is well known that many paedophiles have written material of a nature that would shock most, if not all, of the people on the Committee. Paedophiles use such material to stimulate themselves and others and they spread it. I accept that that is an exceptionally difficult area in which to apply the law and I suspect that the Minister will have extreme difficulty in dealing with it. That was the response before.

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Citizenship and Immigration), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism) 11:00 am, 18th September 2003

We also have to remember that we are discussing images. That is the point that the hon. Member for Romsey makes when she asks whether we need to go beyond images. We define pornography as images. Other legislation makes indecent or obscene written text a prosecutable offence. We have covered those different situations in existing law and, in the definition of pornography in the Bill, for the specific situation in which the real image of a child has been made into pornography. That is the distinction. I am happy to check with officials to ensure that the existing legislation, primarily the Obscene Publications Act 1959, covers the situation that she has raised.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield

The 1959 Act covers the situations raised by the hon. Member for Romsey, but it is archaic. I do not know how many prosecutions for written text there have been under the 1959 Act in the past 12 months, but the Minister will find that it is a statute that, in that context, has fallen into disuse. Perhaps the Minister will tell me about a bold Government, who are going to grasp that particular

nettle, and produce an obscene publications Bill for the 21st century.

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Citizenship and Immigration), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism)

No, I certainly was not going to say that. I gave the hon. Member for Romsey a commitment to consider, within the scope of the Bill, and taking account of the point just made, whether there is anything further that we can do to address the situation that she identified. I do not think that there will be, but I will consider that point for her.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 53, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 54 to 57 ordered to stand part of the Bill.