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3.39 pm

Mr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde): I object in principle to the Bill, but I promise to be brief. I have a great deal of respect for the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) and I support his aim to protect vulnerable people in our society, but I object in principle to the Bill because, in my view, its covert aim is to impose a form of state or political censorship on British filmgoers.

Although I have every respect for the Secretary of State for the Home Department, my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and for the Secretary of State for Scotland, my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Anniesland (Mr. Dewar), I do not want to see them as film censors. I reckon that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary--I hope that he will forgive me for this--confines his film viewing to old Hollywood musicals. I sometimes think that he sees himself in his dreams as playing the role of Gene Kelly in a British remake of "Singin' in the Rain". Heaven alone knows when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland last visited his local cinema--I am not sure that he even saw "Braveheart".

The British film board works well. Its members, under the stewardship of Lord Harewood, are not devotees of pornography or violent films. Perhaps unlike the hon.

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Member for Canterbury, I have not seen the film "Crash" and I have no desire to see it. [Interruption.] I understood from the way that the hon. Gentleman was speaking that he had seen the film.

The members of the British film board make the occasional mistake, but those are honest mistakes. I have more trust in the members of the board than I do in politicians.

My trust in the board is shared by members of my local council, the Inverclyde council. When a cinema was built on the Greenock waterfront, the members of the council, including the opposition members, decided that they had no wish to act as local censors as a condition for the granting of a licence to the cinema proprietor. They say that they are perfectly willing to rely on the British Board of Film Classification for advice on such matters. Among those local representatives are members of the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church. They are regular churchgoers, but--unlike the hon. Gentleman--they have trust in the men and women of the British film board.

I have always supported the statutory powers given to the board to license videos. That is particularly important where children are concerned. Indeed, I supported Gareth Wardell's Bill in the House as far back as 1984. Gareth earned our trust and respect for his Video Recordings Bill, which became the Video Recordings Act 1984. That Bill was strengthened by sections of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which I supported.

On films, we should put our trust in the members--

Mr. Brazier rose--

Mr. Godman: The hon. Gentleman must learn the procedures of the House. I cannot give way to him.

We should put our trust in the members and officials of the British Board of Film Classification, not in politicians.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 23 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business), and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Julian Brazier, Sir Teddy Taylor, Mr. Andrew Rowe, Mr. Edward Leigh, Miss Ann Widdecombe, Mr. Roger Gale, Mr. Andrew Robathan, Mr. Piers Merchant, Dr. Julian Lewis, Mr. Shaun Woodward, Mr. Oliver Letwin and Mr. Christopher Fraser.

Film Classification Accountability and Openness

Mr. Julian Brazier accordingly presented a Bill to make the British Board of Film Classification accountable to Parliament; to require it to publish each year a list of its members, a register of their interests, minutes of its proceedings and copies of the expert advice it commissions; to give the Secretary of State power to dismiss its president; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed [Bill 41].

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Orders of the Day

Local Government Finance (Supplementary Credit Approvals) Bill

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

New clause 1

Duty of Secretary of State to have regard to accessibility standards


'In section 55 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 there shall be inserted after subsection (3)--
"(3A) In determining the amount of a supplementary credit approval, the Secretary of State shall have regard to the strategy of the authority to ensure full accessibility standards in new build and in conversion or renovation of existing properties.".'.--[Mr. Sanders.]
Brought up, and read the First time.

3.45 pm

Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause would put some restrictions on the expenditure of moneys drawn down from the supplementary credit approvals. We believe that it presents an excellent opportunity to address the serious problem of the lack of accessible housing for disabled people. That problem has existed for many years.

According to the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation, a considerable amount of local authority housing is inaccessible to disabled people. That leads not only to disabled people waiting long periods for rehousing, and living in inappropriate accommodation, but to massive expenditure on building adaptions. In 1994-95, local authorities spent nearly £85 million adapting properties for disabled people. That is a considerable amount, and much expenditure is a direct consequence of not having a building regulation that makes the necessary arrangements should existing housing stock be required by people with disabilities.

Two years ago, the Department of the Environment issued proposals to extend part M of the building regulations, which ensures accessibility to all new housing. The Department has not moved on from that initial set of proposals. Unless part M is extended quickly, it will have no effect on the supplementary credit approvals and an opportunity will be lost.

New clause 1 would ensure that new build and renovated properties are accessible to disabled people. We hope that our new clause will be supported on all sides of the House so that people with disabilities will no longer have to wait for housing adaptions, and disabled people on housing waiting lists will be able to move into accommodation that is appropriate to their needs.

The Minister for London and Construction (Mr. Nick Raynsford): As the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Sanders) has said, new clause 1 would place a new duty on the Secretary of State to take account of each local authority's strategy to ensure full accessibility standards in determining the amount of any supplementary credit approval. Although he may not be aware of it, the hon. Gentleman's new clause would apply

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to the determination of all supplementary credit approvals and not just to those issued under the capital receipts initiative. Therefore, the new clause may go rather further than the hon. Gentleman intends.

I do not think that, in his heart of hearts, the hon. Gentleman sees the purpose of requiring that accessibility standards be considered when distributing supplementary credit approvals for composting, flood defences or for cycle lanes. However, that would be the effect of the new clause. While we cannot possibly accept the new clause because it would create a nonsensical position, the hon. Gentleman has nevertheless raised an issue which the Government take very seriously. The hon. Gentleman knows that because, when he raised the issue on Second Reading, I assured him that the Government were considering seriously part M of the building regulations and its extension to residential dwellings.

Under the previous Government, the Department issued a consultation paper on the subject. We have given careful thought to the many responses that we have received and I have been actively involved in bringing together the House Builders Federation and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which take slightly different views on how progress should be made. We are trying to find a sensible accord that will allow real progress without imposing unreasonable additional costs that might have an adverse effect on individual house buyers and the market. We are taking urgent action on the issue, which we take very seriously.

In the meantime, measures are in place to ensure that all new developments of special needs housing, and housing for the elderly and frail, are covered by Housing Corporation scheme standards, which specifically require that the housing design must provide for the access needs of older people and must meet a range of accessibility standards. Housing specifically for wheelchair users has to meet further guidelines agreed between the corporation and the National Wheelchair Housing Association Group. Any passenger lifts in new social housing must be able to accommodate wheelchairs.

Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley): Funnily enough, in a way I support the Minister's argument that the new clause would increase bureaucracy and work for the Department and local authorities. I am particularly conscious of that, because the Bill will already double their work load. Does the Minister agree that the Bill introduces a twin-track approach, bringing in a separate parallel procedure similar to those already existing for local authorities and the Department?


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